“At least you weren’t actually injured,” Happy said as Joshua gathered his thoughts.
“So are we in Rome?” Joshua asked.
“No. Somehow, we were transported to Malaysia. God probably didn’t want us to destroy any of his precious buildings.”
“There’s video out there of us–of me–flying. It’s probably all over the internet by now.”
“Like anybody’s going to believe it. Nobody trusts video these days when it’s so easy to fake something like that.”
“Some people will believe anything, Happy. You really messed up. You told me you weren’t going to do anything stupid. What you did was motivated entirely by anger. That’s how you hurt people. You’re really lucky you didn’t.”
Happy started to make an argument, but then he stopped and looked down. “Yeah, you’re right. It was a mistake. A bunch of mistakes. But isn’t it interesting that when you’re asleep, I’m as strong as God?”
“And I could do things while you were down that I couldn’t do before. That’s how we escaped the hospital and those guys in the suits.”
“I barely have enough strength now to keep us up here,” Happy said. “I think maybe I should take us down and keep resting. If you can use the power, then you should be all right while I’m down. Just don’t overdo it.”
“That’s funny advice coming from you,” Josh said with a laugh. “They’re looking for us directly under us. Set us down somewhere else. Somewhere more isolated.”
“All right.” Happy took them down at an angle so that they landed about two thousand miles to the north of the hospital. There weren’t any houses nearby, just grassy fields and trees. Happy went back into his hibernation, and Joshua felt an increase in his mental energy.
He looked out on the field. The sun was almost in the middle of the sky, which meant it was just before noon. Insects jumped and flew around the tall grass. It would be difficult to walk around here, so Joshua took a tip from the insects and moved in a series of telikinetically boosted leaps. He stopped when he reached a very tall tree whose lowest branch was high above his head. He reached it easily and reclined on it against the trunk. The cool, soft breeze and the warm weather soothed him to sleep.
A gunshot jolted Joshua awake. It came from just below him. He looked down and saw a man aiming a rifle at him.
“You come down from there!” he commanded. “The next shot won’t be a warning!”
Joshua replied, “Put the gun down or I’ll break it.”
The man refused to comply, so Joshua bent the barrel toward the ground and pulled the trigger until the gun just made clicking sounds. Then he picked the man up and held him in the air in front of him. The man was clearly more scared than angry now, and he held his hands in front of him like he was praying.
“Please don’t hurt me, oh spirit of the plains,” he said. “I didn’t know what you were.”
“I’m not a spirit,” Joshua replied. “I’m just a guy. Am I trespassing on your land or something?”
“Well, uh, you see . . . yes. My ancestors are buried under this tree. That’s why it grows so much taller than the rest. If you’re not a spirit, what are you?”
“I didn’t mean any disrespect by sleeping in your ancestors’ tree. I’ll leave.”
Joshua gently put the man down and jumped down next to him.
“Wait,” the man said. “Come with me to my house. My wife is a good cook.”
Joshua was ready to try flying away on his own, but it would have been rude to refuse such a kind invitation. The man probably wanted to apologize for threatening him, and home-cooked food sounded good.
The man introduced himself as Muhammad. His wife was Elya. Though they wanted children, they never ended up having any, and Elya was almost too old to get pregnant. As they trudged through the long grass, Muhammad spoke at length about how much he wished he had a son to pass on his wisdom and house to. He was afraid that he’d be forgotten after he died. Joshua was glad that the conversation was focused on Muhammad and not on himself. He wondered how long Happy would stay asleep.
Muhammad’s house was surprisingly nice. Joshua had expected a small shack made of grass, but it was larger than even the house that Joshua had grown up in. It was made of wood and mud, and it had three stories. There was no front door, which made sense because nobody else lived within ten miles of them.
Muhammad took Joshua into the kitchen, where an aging-but-still-beautiful woman stood at a wood-burning stove. Muhammad kissed his wife on the cheek and introduced his guest as a strange man he found in the ancestors’ tree.
“Our name is Joshua,” Joshua said. “My name, I mean. Just me.”
Elya gave Joshua a suspicious look. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Houston,” Joshua answered.
“That’s in America,” Elya noted. “Why did you come here?”
“Honestly, I’m hiding from some people.”
“Who is after you?” Muhammad asked.
“Some organization that investigates celestial events. They want to study me.”
Elya looked him up and down. “Why do they want to study you? Muhammad, have you brought trouble to our home?”
“He might have,” Joshua said. “I don’t mean you any harm, but if I’m found here, there could be trouble. I can’t really explain why. I should just go.”
“No,” Muhammad said. “Let them come. You are my guest. Allah brought me to you for a reason, and I believe it is so I could help you.”
Joshua looked at Muhammad and then at Elya. She didn’t share her husband’s faith, but she held her tongue. If he stayed, he would cause friction between them, not to mention maybe get them killed. But where else could he go while Happy Face rested?
Muhammad disappeared into another room and came back with modern-looking assault rifle. He gave Elya a look that seemed to communicate, “You know what to do,” and she hurried out of the room.
“When do you expect them to come?” he asked Joshua.
“I have no idea. They might not come at all. I talked to some agents yesterday in a hospital that was pretty far away. I don’t think they have any way of tracking me, since I got here from the air.”
“The air? You can fly? Then you are an angel of the lord. Praise Allah! It would be an honor to die defending you.”
“That’s not going to be necessary. I won’t let anyone hurt you or your wife. And I’m not an angel. I have met one, though. Nice guy, once he stopped trying to kill me. I’m just a person who, for whatever reason, can do things that should be impossible. You know what? I’m not actually sure what I am, but I’m definitely not an angel, and you are not going to die because of me.”
Muhammad looked confused. “If you’re just a regular person, then where did you learn Cantonese?”
“I didn’t. I only speak English. I think we’re communicating through some kind of telepathy, and it makes it seem like we’re speaking each other’s language.”
“It is through the power of Allah that you can do the things that you can do. He has a plan for you.”
Joshua looked up and said, “Allah, if you’re listening, please talk some sense into this guy. He’s really eager to die in a battle that he doesn’t need to fight. I’m going to leave before that becomes necessary.”
Looking down, Joshua saw Muhammad on the ground with his face pressed against the floor. He wondered what was going on, but then he realized that that was how Muslims prayed. He quietly stepped outside and leaped away, covering several miles in five jumps. He was trying to fly, but he wasn’t strong enough at the moment. He would have to wait until Happy woke up.