Joshua composed himself and looked up at the church. Its spires reached up to the sky like it was built to stab clouds to death. Doors lined the entrance to accommodate large crowds coming and going at once. Their metal-and-glass construction clashed with the building’s classical style, but it couldn’t be helped. Building codes demanded certain touches of modernity.
“I can’t believe we’re here already!” Maggie exclaimed, looking around like she still didn’t quite believe it. “We traveled five hundred miles in a matter of seconds. Praise the lord!”
Joshua looked at Happy Face in disbelief. Did we really go that fast?
We’re really here, so yeah.
How did we even survive that? The whiplash alone from the sudden acceleration should have broken our necks.
“Are you there, Joshua?” Maggie asked. “You’re spacing out again.”
“Yeah, I’m just . . . I don’t know. Anyway, we’re here. Who do we talk to now?”
“To get them to take you in. They have nuns, don’t they? I figure they could use one more.”
“Oh, that’s a nice thought, but I’m really not pure enough to be a nun. I’ve done things, and I don’t mean the things that happened at the hospital.”
“We won’t tell them then.”
“Lying is a sin, especially in God’s house.”
Joshua began to roll his eyes, but he stopped himself and made it appear as if he was just looking up at the church’s spires.
“Let’s just go inside and talk to whoever is in charge,” Happy suggested. “Maybe a good word from an angel will get you in.”
Joshua gave up on the idea of talking sense into Maggie. Maybe enabling her delusions was the easiest way to get through this situation.
They entered the building and found themselves in a world that was trying hard to keep to tradition but had to make a patchwork of compromises–an air conditioning duct here, a light switch there. Rows of probably handmade wooden pews led up to a stage with a lectern and an altar made of white marble and covered on top with purple cloth. The purple probably symbolized something, but Joshua didn’t keep up with every religion’s rituals and holidays.
Though there were electric lights, they weren’t on. The huge space was lit by sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows and candles. A few people sat silently in the pews, looking down and praying. Joshua knew that they would eventually notice the light radiating from Happy Face, but the longer that took, the better. He wasn’t a religious man, but he was very uncomfortable with his figment posing as a divine being in order to fool people, no matter how silly he thought their beliefs were.
Maggie headed for the statue she mentioned, which was in a far corner. It meant they would be in front of the pews and very noticeable to the people sitting in them. As they followed Maggie, Joshua braced himself for whatever their reaction would be. But when they reached the life-size likeness of the robed Mary, he looked back to see that nobody was reacting other than to stare in wide-eyed wonder. They didn’t run or scream or approach them to worship the angel. They just sat there like this wasn’t all that out of the ordinary for them.
“What’s going on?” Joshua whispered. “They’re not freaking out.”
“Of course they’re not,” Maggie whispered back. “They know angels exist. Now hush. I’m going to ask the blessed virgin for guidance.”
As Maggie knelt down at the foot of the statue, a beam of light shined down on Happy from the ceiling. A gleaming silver sword came down like a bolt of lightning, burying itself in the figment’s head all the way to its hilt. Joshua cried out like it hit him and then fell to the ground, unconscious. Happy retook his circular form, and the sword fell through him, disappearing as it touched the ground. Angrily, he looked up through the column of light. By this time, all eyes were on them.
“No demon is welcome in the lord’s house,” a youthful male voice said from the ceiling. It sounded gentle, which was strange considering what it just did with the sword. “You will be destroyed in front of these believers, that their faith shall be bolstered.”
“Show yourself,” Happy replied. “If you want to fight, at least have the guts to do it in person.”
The light moved toward the still-unconscious Joshua. Happy rushed to cover him, enlarging his own form and protecting him from being burned up by the beam’s extreme heat.
“We’re not doing this here,” Happy said. He stretched out his arms, wrapped Joshua up, and carried him away from the beam and out the door. He put him down in a sitting position under a tree at the edge of a clearing near the church.
Out of the church walked a tall, thin man wearing a suit of silver armor that seemed to glow in the sunlight. Flowing blonde hair covered his head and waved like a flag in the wind despite the fact that the wind wasn’t blowing. In his right hand, he carried the same sword that fell down from the column of light.
Happy immediately darted toward him and struck him in the jaw with a tiny fist. His muscleless arms belied incredible strength, as evidenced by the armored man’s subsequent flight into the church doors. The shatterproof glass of the doors popped out of their housing and landed among the pews. Fortunately, they failed to hit anybody.
“Such power,” the armored man said as he got to his feet. He looked into the church just as a tiny foot struck him in the chest and sent him into the middle of the clearing nearly a hundred feet away. “Wait!” he called out, dropping his sword, which he somehow kept hold of thusfar, and holding up his oustretched hands. “I’ve made a mistake!”
“You certainly have.” Happy appeared in front of the man, his face scowling. “You took the first cheap shot. What’s the matter? You can’t fight someone who’s fighting back?”
“You’re right, I fought dishonorably. I apologize. I didn’t recognize you for what you are. Forgive me.”
“What I am?”
“You are a god.”
For a moment, Happy pondered this possibility. He was quite powerful. Then the greater implications struck him.
“There are gods?” he asked.
“Of course,” the armored man replied. “I am Adoniel, angel of retribution.”
“I’m Happy Face. The unconscious guy who you tried to kill is also me.”
“No single man can hold such power in his mind. Surely you are the result of the belief of millions.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I’m just from him. So a god is just a sort of collective figment?”
“All gods except for Yahweh. He is the alpha and the omega. He made the universe and everything in it.”
Joshua began to awaken, and Happy flew over to him.
“What happened?” Joshua asked.
“We were attacked by an angel,” Happy told him.
“Very funny. What was it really?” Joshua looked around and noticed Adoniel, who now had a pair of wings on his back. “Are you doing that?”
“No,” Happy said. “He’s a figment, kinda like me, but made by a whole bunch of people.”
“I am an angel of the lord,” Adoniel corrected him. “I was created by the god of Abraham to do the will of Heaven. Other beings call themselves gods, but they are mere figments.”
He’s full of crap, Happy thought to Joshua.
Clearly, Joshua thought back.
“Why did you attack us?” Joshua asked.
“I thought Happy Face was a demon disguised as an angel of light. I lashed out in haste, and I am deeply sorry.”
“I hope so. That really hurt. I’ve never had a headache like that. It’s like my brain was on fire.”
“I’d have cut our connection if I knew that was coming,” Happy said. “You felt the pain instead of me.”
“I am in your debt,” Adoniel said.
“I know how you can pay us back,” Joshua said.
And so, by impersonating an angel in a church, Joshua and Happy Face got a “real” angel to put in a good word for Maggie O’Malley to be given a position as a nun despite her lack of what they would call purity. She would be safe there.
“What will you do now?” Maggie asked as she stood with them at the front of the church in her brand new habit.
“Fight crime!” Happy exclaimed half-jokingly.
“Definitely not fight crime,” Joshua said. “I think we should go and see the world. I remember all of Happy’s travels, but I want to see it all with my own eyes.”
“That sounds educational.” Maggie smiled at Joshua in a way he hadn’t seen her smile. It made him feel uneasy. “It’s a shame we didn’t meet under different circumstances. I owe you big time. Both of you.”
Joshua smiled awkwardly, and Happy said, “It’s all in a day’s work.” Then he became a pair of wings on Joshua’s back, and the two of them took off into the sky. For a split second, Maggie could hear Joshua’s cry of alarm. She almost envied them, but that would have been a sin.