Figment news

I put out chapters 1 and 2 within a few days of each other, and one mistake that I often make with these things is that I get all gung-ho for a while and then lose my enthusiasm. I want to avoid that and really make this into a thing, because this is a story I’ve been crafting for more than half of my life. So in that spirit, I’ll just be posting new chapters once a week. Chapter 3 is in the works, and it will come out on September 2nd and every Wednesday after that.

Happy reading!

A Figment’s Tale part 2

Joshua Peterson sat there on his cot as he heard a commotion begin outside of his room. His figment disappeared from view, but he could feel it in his mind. They were more connected than ever before, and he could tell that it was startled by what it just did and what resulted from it.

The night guard who talked to him before was the first to reach Joshua’s room. He looked at him with confusion and worry in his eyes. He silently mouthed, “Did you do this?” Joshua found it strangely easy to understand.

“I uhh . . .” He couldn’t think of a good response. Then he quickly laid down on his cot facing the wall.

Do you want me to show you what’s going on? the figment asked in his and Joshua’s mind.

Yeah, but don’t let them see you.

Two more guards and a man in a fancy black suit ran in and looked around the room. The first guard told them that Joshua was sleeping when he got there. They searched the room, and the man in the suit carefully shook Joshua’s shoulder to rouse him. It was strange to see it from outside of himself and feel it at the same time.

“Wha?” he said, trying to appear groggy. At least his difficulty turning over was genuine.

“Did you see what happened?” the suit-wearing man asked.

“Something happened?” Joshua looked over at the door and feigned shock. “Hey, my door is gone.”

“Yeah. It’s in the room across the hall. It was pushed from this side. We’re going to have to search your room for explosives.”

As if anyone could have brought explosives into a cell at Happy Place. Security there was so tight, the most likely result of the investigation would be that the night guard in that section did it somehow. There was no evidence of it, but the hospital couldn’t just let the incident go without firing somebody. Maybe even prosecuting.

“Will somebody take this straightjacket off at some point?” Joshua asked.

“Not before we move you to a room that has a camera. You might have to bunk with somebody. Hey, Larson! Come bring the patient to room 405!”

One of the guards, a tall, lanky man with deep-set eyes, abandoned the search of the room, which was mostly empty anyway. “Isn’t that the Nun’s room?”

“Yeah. When you get there, give him back his arms. Maybe we’ll get a show on the monitors.”

All of the guards chuckled. They were accusing Joshua of something he would never do. Room 405 was home to Maggie O’Malley, a deeply religious woman who had been the regular target of sexual abuse by the guards and patients since she first came to Happy Place nearly two years earlier. She prayed constantly and threatened her abusers with God’s wrath when they used her.

You want me to get us out of this? the figment asked Joshua in their now-shared mind.

Not yet. Maybe we can do something to help Maggie first.

Joshua walked with the security guard, whose nametag he noticed because it said his name was Leslie. When Leslie saw him looking at it, he said, “It was my grandpa’s name. He was a war hero.”

Joshua stifled the amused smile that had begun to form on his face. He didn’t approve of war, but he knew better than to belittle anyone who was thought of as a hero. Jingoism ran rampant in the country. He faced forward as they entered an elevator, went up 3 floors, and walked down a hallway to room 405.

“Stay away!” the woman screamed when they opened the door. She was very thin, and the contrast between her pale skin and black hair made her head look like a penguin with two blue circles on its chest. Years of abuse in the facility had stolen the youthfulness from her face.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Joshua said as Leslie unlocked and untied the straightjacket. His arms were sore, but it was a relief to be able to move them again. He held his hands in front of his face in an attempt to appear nonthreatening, as if the people who had hurt the woman even bothered to use weapons. Her nightly medication was enough to subdue her.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness!” the woman shouted. “God hates liars.”

“Maggie,” Leslie said, “this is your new roommate. He really doesn’t seem like the violent type.”

“I’m really not,” Joshua said. “I’ll just stay in the far corner over there, as far from you as I can be.”

“You’d better pray that the lord helps you to resist temptation. Are you a God-fearing man?”

Joshua was an atheist, so needless to say, he didn’t fear or believe in any gods. He didn’t fear any goddesses either. But if he said that, a woman like Maggie surely wouldn’t feel safe, so he lied. “Yes, Maggie. I’m very religious. Catholic, in fact.”

Maggie relaxed a little. “I hope, for your sake, you’re telling the truth.”

Leslie told the pair, “Have fun, you two,” and exited the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Joshua looked around the ceiling and found the camera. It was in the center of the room and aimed at a mirror that was curved to give a view of the whole room. It was better that way. Joshua knew that if he found a blind spot, they would discourage him from hiding in it.

“I’m Joshua Peterson,” Joshua said.

“Maggie O’Malley. Pleased to meet you.” She wasn’t yet at ease, but she was at least making an effort to be friendly. “I’m here because I loved the lord too much. What about you?”

“Hearing a voice that wasn’t there and talking to it.”

“That sounds like either a demon or an angel. It can be hard to figure out which it is. Too bad we can’t get to Saint Albert’s Church in New Boston. There’s a statue of Mary there that heals any ailment if you kneel in front of her with a rosary around your neck.”

It was a real battle for Joshua not to roll his eyes at her. He could see why someone thought she had to be put into a place like this, but the help she needed wasn’t psychiatric. Then again, who’s to say she was wrong? A figment of his imagination just blasted a door off its hinges just by touching it. Anything was possible.

“The Bible says a demon can disguise itself as an angel of light,” he said. “Can an angel disguise itself too?”

“If it’s God’s will,” Maggie answered.

“How can you tell the difference, then, between an angel and a demon?”

“I would pray and ask the lord for guidance.”

Joshua found that answer frustrating, because it didn’t tell him how she would handle seeing his figment. To him, a nonbeliever, it meant that there was a 50/50 chance that she would freak out, say that he was a demon, and refuse any help he offered her.

I could try looking like Jesus, the voice offered.

I’d rather not enable her delusions, assuming they are delusions.

Then how do you want to save her? And why do you want to save her?

Because I think she’s never getting out of here otherwise, and they’ll destroy her for their own amusement.

But where else could she go? At least at Happy Place, she was given what she needed to survive. She was cared for, after a fashion. Where could a devoutly religious woman go where she wouldn’t be sexually abused but she would get what she needed to live?

Then it hit him. They called her the nun.

“Maggie, do you want to actually go to Saint Albert’s church?”

“Well, I’d rather be there than here, that’s for sure. Why does that sound more like an offer than curiosity?”

Do you think you could get us out of here? he asked the figment.

Yes. Should I show myself?

No. In fact, can you make us invisible?

“Joshua, why are you just sitting there silently? You’re starting to freak me out. I wish you would—wait, where did you go? What’s going on here?”

With a great crash, the door was blown away the same way as the other door. Maggie screamed and huddled in a corner.

“Let’s go!” the figment shouted in its high-pitched voice. It included Maggie in their camouflage, and she could see it for the first time, manifested in its yellow smiley face form. “I promise you I’m not a demon. Please believe me.”

Maggie O’Malley stared in confused horror at Joshua and the figment. She closed her eyes and prayed desperately for guidance as the alarm blared and footsteps rushed toward the room. Just before the guards reached them, her eyes popped open, and she said, “Okay! Take me away!”

A Figment’s Tale (reboot) part 1

“Let me out! What are you punishing me for? I didn’t do anything! Let me out!”

While it was true that Joshua Peterson hadn’t done anything to warrant confinement, his friends and family called the Happy Place Home for the Weary Mind because they were worried about him. Joshua had been hearing voices, and worse than that, he’d been talking back to them.

Really, though, it wasn’t that bad. It was only one voice. Joshua’s mother told the doctor it was voices, but she didn’t know. She couldn’t see what was going on in her son’s mind. But even one voice would be enough to send Joshua away to a padded cell.

It’s because you’ve been talking to me, isn’t it?

“That can’t be it. I’ve been careful not to talk to you when there are people around.”

I’m sorry I got us into this. I’ll figure out a way to get us out.

Joshua clumsily slunk to the ground next to the door of his cell. He’d never imagined losing the use of his arms would put him so off balance. At least the straight jacket wasn’t itchy. He leaned against the soft wall, wishing the floor was as soft. He had a cot on the other side of the small room, but it wasn’t padded like the wall.

Joshua felt a buzzing in his mind. He was working on something, but he didn’t know what. For as long as he could remember, there was another side to him, a side that was much more daring and much less afraid than he was. Sometimes it pushed him to take risks. It’s what drove him to ask Michelle Bines to prom. It told him how to place his bets when he went to Las Vegas. He didn’t always listen to it, and when he did, it didn’t always pay off, but he figured everybody had another personality that was totally different from their regular one. He was wrong.

The fluorescent lights in the ceiling buzzed more and more loudly. Joshua shielded his eyes from their harsh illumination. Whenever his friend went quiet, the world outside of him often assaulted his senses.

They’re about to turn off the lights.

“How do you know that?”

The lights suddenly went off, giving Joshua’s eyes a cool feeling of relief. Without the buzzing, he could think more clearly.

I saw them in the office. The tall guy told the short guy to turn off the lights so everybody could go to sleep.

“Really?” Joshua whispered so he wouldn’t be heard. “How did you see that from in here?”

I don’t know. I just went out through the door and floated around. Apparently, I can do that.

“That’s not normal. I thought you were confined to my head. Maybe you imagined what you saw and had a lucky guess.”

You think I was hallucinating? I think you have us confused. You’re the crazy one, not me.

“I’m pretty sure we’re the same person.”

No, we’re definitely not. I’ll show you.

There in the darkness, where the only light was what seeped in through the feeding flap at the bottom from the exit sign at the end of the hallway, something began to take shape. At first it was a yellow mist. Then it gradually solidified until Joshua could recognize it as a flat disc about thirteen inches in diameter. It floated there looking like a large yellow coin, not glowing, but somehow illuminated independently of any external light sources. With a popping sound, two dots and a line appeared on it like a rudimentary face. It smiled at him. Then, stick arms and legs appeared where its shoulders and abdomen might be.

“See?” it asked loudly. Its voice sounded the way it sounded in his head, but this time it didn’t sound like it was just in his head.

Joshua went quiet as he heard quick footsteps approaching the door.

“Lights out, Peterson!” the angry voice of the night guard yelled. “That means it’s time to stop talking to yourself and go to sleep!”

“I’ll put your lights out,” the smiley face replied. Its voice was like Joshua’s voice if he had inhaled helium.

“He can hear you!” Joshua yell-whispered. “Wait, how can he hear you?”

The lock clicked, and the door opened with a whoosh. An angry, six-foot-seven, bald caucasian man in his mid-twenties stood there brandishing a tranquilizer gun. “Both of you need to shut–what the hell is that thing?”

Joshua looked from the guard to the coin-shaped man and then back to the guard. They were both looking at each other.

“You can see him?” Joshua asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the guard replied, still looking at the thing. “Now go to sleep or . . . just go to sleep, okay?”

The guard lingered for a few seconds before leaving the room, slamming the door behind him, locking it, and then sprinting away.

“What are you?” Joshua asked quietly.

“That’s a strange question to ask yourself,” the face said, whispering this time. “I’m a projection of part of your mind. I figured instead of fighting for control over our body, I’d make one of my own.”

“So you’re a hallucination? A figment of my imagination?”

Our imagination. We’re the same person, Josh. Everyone has different sides to their personality. We just seem to be more separate than others. I can hide my thoughts from you, and you can hide your thoughts from me. But I don’t want it to be like that any more. I want for us to be a team. I think that we might be capable of amazing things.”

Joshua walked to the uncomfortable cot and sat down on it. “I think Carl saw you. I know he heard you. What does that mean?”

“This,” the figment said, pointing to its projected form, “is a hallucination. I’m manipulating your mind to make you see it. If someone else saw it, then it means I manipulated his mind too.”

“So we’re telepathic? And you were able to leave the room and look around, so that would be remote viewing.”

“Yeah. I’ve actually been all over. Here, I’ll show you.”

Suddenly, a floodgate opened in Joshua’s mind. Memories of years of traveling all over the world poured into his conscious mind. But more than that, he recalled everything his other personality ever thought at every moment of his life. He had been amazingly patient, sitting back when he could have taken control, staying silent when he could have screamed at him. Maybe it was all those years of stifling himself that built up the energy necessary to harness abilities he had always regarded as supernatural. Or maybe he was born with the potential. Whatever the case, Joshua became intimately familiar with his other self, and it happened so quickly, if he hadn’t been sitting down, he would have fallen down.

“You’ve been everywhere,” Joshua said. “I’ve never even been outside the United States.”

“We’ll travel once we get out of here,” the figment said. “I wonder if there are any other mental tricks we can do.”

The figment floated over to the door and pushed on it. It flew off its hinges and hit the door on the other side of the hallway, breaking it down as well. It was like it had been hit by an explosion. Joshua’s eyes, as well as those of the figment, opened wide with surprise. Then an alarm went off.