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Responding to a former friend’s betrayal

Most Sundays, I attend a weekly secular gathering called Houston Oasis. I go to take pictures for them to use in their marketing. It’s a lot of fun, and I feel like the people really appreciate it. It’s also built up my photography skills a lot. I would go with my girlfriend and her two sons, the older of which has Asperger’s Syndrome like me and their mother.

A few weeks ago, they announced a fundraising campaign, and my girlfriend posted some concerns she had about it on the group’s private Facebook group. Discussion followed, and it was all fine and dandy.

Then a member of the board, Alexis, posted something on her wall basically saying that she was upset about something (she didn’t say exactly what) and she wanted to post something passive aggressive about it. Because that in itself wasn’t passive aggressive. Despite the fact that we’ve had Alexis and her husband over for dinner several times and thought she was a good friend, my girlfriend thought it was about her, so she asked in a comment to it if it was about her. After a bit of prodding, she got a private message that took us completely by surprise. For your reading pleasure, here it is with my rebuttals.

Michelle, I want to explain what happened yesterday from my personal point of view. I was feeling frustrated and wanted to share that frustration without going into detail with friends, so I made a vague post to facebook. If I had responded to your question of “What’s it about?” that would obviously defeat the purpose of not posting details, so I chose not to respond to your question.

Judging by the rest of this message, you were more than just frustrated. You were angry. Decisions made in anger are rarely wise ones, and I’m surprised you think that you can defend posting vague, passive-aggressive things about someone on your friends list. You know how that makes you look, don’t you?

I am under no obligation to explain everything I post to you or anyone else. You then publically demanded an answer, asking if I was annoyed with you.

But it was about her. It turns out that she was actually completely justified in suspecting that it was about her, and she called you out on it. Nobody likes being called out when they’re being idiots, but adults accept it and take it in stride.

Honestly, this is completely unacceptable behavior for an adult.

This from a person who posted something vague to publicly complain about a friend without her knowing it. That’s a nice glass house you’ve got there.

I gave no indication that the post was about you, yet you chose to assume it was and make yourself a victim.

It was about her, and she was the victim! Like I said, you just don’t like your bad behavior being called out, so now you’re projecting your immaturity on her.

Josh and you then both privately messaged me, neither of you apologized, and honestly Josh had no reason to get involved what so ever, you and I are both grown adults.

(I’m Josh. Hi!) My private message read as follows: “I hope everything is all right with you. Michelle didn’t mean to pry.” If you had read it carefully, you would have read it as an apology. At the time, I didn’t think it necessarily was about her, so I thought it was a little inappropriate for her to press so hard for an answer as to whether or not it was about her. I totally had a reason to get involved, because I considered you a friend, and I care about my girlfriend. She is a grown adult, but you are clearly not.

Furthermore, you then once again acted the victim by saying I had hurt your feelings.

Umm you were hurting her feelings, and you’re doing it right now. Do you even care about other people’s feelings? I think you might be some kind of psychopath.

You asked if I was annoyed with you and I am under no obligation to explain why I am frustrated, but you are clearly choosing to make MY post about YOUR hurt feelings.

Alexis, your post was about her. And you’re explaining why you’re frustrated right now. You posted what you posted so that she would see it and be hurt by it, and that’s why you sent her this message. She’s not merely “acting” the victim. She is the victim of your passive aggressiveness and now your direct aggressiveness.

Since you clearly must know why I am frustrated.

Well, she thought you were her friend and she cared about you, so of course she wanted to know. You could have just said that you didn’t want to talk about it.

Yes, I am frustrated with you. Honestly, I found your post regarding the Oasis fundraising campaign offensive on a personal level.

It wasn’t offensive or directed at you personally. You took it personally when you shouldn’t have. All she said was that she wasn’t sure it was the best idea to start pressuring people to donate more than they already do.

Considering that I put in 15-20 hours a week into Houston Oasis, [Alexis’s husband] easily puts in 5-10 hours a week, and I’m assuming Josh puts in roughly the same, not to mention the countless other hours put into podcasts, organization, and childcare.

This is beside the point, but here’s what I think you’re saying. Since you put more time into Oasis than you believe Michelle does, you think that means that she has no right to criticize it.

The fact that you took this as a personal attack on you and jumped to conclusions without bothering to talk to anyone makes me feel that you want to get as much out of Oasis without giving a damn about the effort anyone else puts in.

That’s an idiotic assumption, not to mention completely out of line. You’re trying to make your outrage into everyone’s outrage. Only you are outraged, Alexis, and you have no good reason to be. Nobody else was offended, because they didn’t have a huge chip on their shoulders. Nobody else is pretending to be her friend and secretly hating her. Everyone else is a decent person.

As a whole and individually, I have felt that we’ve bent over backward to accommodate you.

There you go again presuming to speak for people other than just yourself. You haven’t bent over backward for anyone. Everything you do is for yourself. You volunteer at Oasis for your own ego, and when it’s bruised by someone questioning an Oasis program, you react like a child.

There is a special one on one person in the childcare room every single week for your son. I personally spent 4 or 5 hours one night talking with you and Josh after it came to light that many people were avoiding family friendly happy hour because of you and your kids, and trying to find a reasonable solution.

And we really appreciated all of that. It further cemented my commitment to Oasis, but I guess my contribution doesn’t cover that. Michelle’s older son, as I said before, is on the autism spectrum. He’s high functioning, but he’s had behavior challenges. We addressed the problem, and now he’s much better. Many people acknowledged it. The situation was resolved. Now you’re dragging it up again just to hurt my girlfriend’s feelings, and I don’t appreciate that.

Not to mention how hard we have tried to work with you and [girlfriend’s aspie son] after he has repeatedly injured another child.

That’s an exaggeration. There was some hitting and kicking, and we addressed it. He lost TV for a month. He learned his lesson. Again, you’re only bringing this up to make my girlfriend feel guilty.

In short, I feel Oasis and I bend over backwards for you.

“Oasis and I” You do not speak for Oasis, Alexis. You’re on the board of directors, but this is all you. In fact, this conduct goes against two sections of the code of conduct. You should know better.

I feel you make no effort to reciprocate and then have the nerve to criticize when an organization I put so much of myself into says “here are the facts.”

Your feelings are an idiot. They must have constructed that horrible sentence. Your ego was bruised, so now you’re lashing out like a little kid. That’s all there is to this.

I recognize you have the right to feel how you feel,

No you don’t.

but I have the right to be offended by it.

Again, no you don’t. If you had thought about it for two seconds, you would have realized that you are being totally irrational. My girlfriend didn’t say anything offensive, so you shouldn’t be offended.

I have tried to be your friend, but I don’tappreciate you taking a situation like this and trying to turn it around on me to once again, view yourself as the victim.

She is the victim. You are a bully. We thought you were our friend, but you clearly never were. You were just storing up things to use against her. You’re not a good friend, Alexis.

It is a behavior I have seen repeatedly from you and I am tired of dealing with it. I will continue to be civil with you, however I can no longer deal with the continued repeated drama and victimization you bring.

I don’t think you know what it means to be civil. Bringing up qualms with a program that Oasis is doing is not drama. It’s something every member has a right to do.

If you have an issue with MY feelings, please discuss this situation with me. This is a personal matter between two adults, you and me, and does not need to be posted on the Oasis facebook group. This is not a group issue, this is a you and me issue.

Why don’t you want it posted on Oasis’s Facebook group? Because it makes you look bad? I agree that it does, and that’s why I’m posting it here. It is a group issue, Alexis, because you are a member of the board of directors. You are saying all of this on behalf of Oasis, and you are wrong to do that. That’s why I am going to ensure that other members of the board see it and take appropriate action.

————————————-

If anyone wants to read Alexis’s message without my commentary, I’ll post it below.

“Michelle, I want to explain what happened yesterday from my personal point of view. I was feeling frustrated and wanted to share that frustration without going into detail with friends, so I made a vague post to facebook. If I had responded to your question of “What’s it about?” that would obviously defeat the purpose of not posting details, so I chose not to respond to your question. I am under no obligation to explain everything I post to you or anyone else. You then publically demanded an answer, asking if I was annoyed with you. Honestly, this is completely unacceptable behavior for an adult. I gave no indication that the post was about you, yet you chose to assume it was and make yourself a victim. Josh and you then both privately messaged me, neither of you apologized, and honestly Josh had no reason to get involved what so ever, you and I are both grown adults. Furthermore, you then once again acted the victim by saying I had hurt your feelings. You asked if I was annoyed with you and I am under no obligation to explain why I am frustrated, but you are clearly choosing to make MY post about YOUR hurt feelings. Since you clearly must know why I am frustrated. Yes, I am frustrated with you. Honestly, I found your post regarding the Oasis fundraising campaign offensive on a personal level. Considering that I put in 15-20 hours a week into Houston Oasis, Gosha easily puts in 5-10 hours a week, and I’m assuming Josh puts in roughly the same, not to mention the countless other hours put into podcasts, organization, and childcare. The fact that you took this as a personal attack on you and jumped to conclusions without bothering to talk to anyone makes me feel that you want to get as much out of Oasis without giving a damn about the effort anyone else puts in. As a whole and individually, I have felt that we’ve bent over backward to accommodate you. There is a special one on one person in the childcare room every single week for your son. I personally spent 4 or 5 hours one night talking with you and Josh after it came to light that many people were avoiding family friendly happy hour because of you and your kids, and trying to find a reasonable solution. Not to mention how hard we have tried to work with you and Isaac after he has repeatedly injured another child. In short, I feel Oasis and I bend over backwards for you. I feel you make no effort to reciprocate and then have the nerve to criticize when an organization I put so much of myself into says “here are the facts.” I recognize you have the right to feel how you feel, but I have the right to be offended by it. I have tried to be your friend, but I don’t appreciate you taking a situation like this and trying to turn it around on me to once again, view yourself as the victim. It is a behavior I have seen repeatedly from you and I am tired of dealing with it. I will continue to be civil with you, however I can no longer deal with the continued repeated drama and victimization you bring. If you have an issue with MY feelings, please discuss this situation with me. This is a personal matter between two adults, you and me, and does not need to be posted on the Oasis facebook group. This is not a group issue, this is a you and me issue.”

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A Figment’s Tale part 13

A small hole opened in the clouds beneath Joshua and Happy, and a pale-green, tennis-ball-sized ball of light flew up through it and stopped near them. In a calming, androgynous voice, it told them, “Follow me.”

Happy became a pair of leathery dragon wings on Joshua’s back, and they flew after the glowing orb. Whoever sent it must have had some awareness of what speeds Happy Face was capable of going, because it flew at many times the speed of sound. Happy and Joshua, of course, had no trouble keeping up, and the sky was clear until they began to see airplanes. This told them that they were near land, but what land they couldn’t yet tell. They were too high up to make out any details yet not high enough to see which continent they were flying over.

The orb made a sudden nosedive, and though it slowed down to half the speed of sound, it was still traveling perilously fast considering anything could pop up in front of them at any moment. Fortunately, nothing did, and they soon landed in the middle of the grand courtyard of a castle.

“Welcome to Dawkins Castle,” the orb said. “Built six hundred years ago for King Richard the wise, it now serves as the home base for the Global Bureau of Celestial Events. The director will be here shortly to show you around.”

The orb disappeared, and Joshua and Happy Face started to look around the throne room, where the orb had left them. It was vast and mostly empty, aside from many thick marble columns that divided the room into large squares. There was also a tremendous throne that could have seated five large men, suggesting to Joshua and Happy that King Richard was either morbidly obese or compensating for something. Along the walls were paintings of young women in outfits that would have been considered skimpy six hundred years ago. They left the women’s necks and shoulders exposed, but no ankles could be seen.

“They weren’t Richard’s wives,” said the voice of a little girl from behind Joshua.

Happy had already noticed her, but he assumed she was the child of one of the Bureau members. Joshua turned and looked down to see that the girl was wearing a very nice grey business suit and had her hair tied back in a bun. She looked and spoke exactly like a small adult.

“Are you a midget?” Happy asked.

“Happy!” Josh admonished him. “I’m sorry, he doesn’t have much of a filter.”

“That’s all right, neither do I. I’m Evelyn Carlisle, executive directer of the GBCE. No, I’m not a midget. I have the mind of an adult and the body of a child. We don’t have time to get into it right now, but I’m sure you’ll discover a lot of things about this organization that will strike you as strange or even impossible. But believe me when I say that you are by far the most amazing thing here. That’s why we recruited you.”

“Is it why you attacked us?” Joshua asked.

“Yes. When you fled from our agents, I assumed that you weren’t interested in joining, so I thought it was best to have you eliminated. I’m glad to see I was wrong about you.”

“Like we were going to go anywhere with a couple of men in black,” Happy said.

“I didn’t assign the particular agents. I just told my assistant to have you brought here. I agree that they weren’t the best choice, but hindsight is 20/20. Now if you’ll come with me to my office, we’ll discuss the terms of your employment.”

Evelyn led them down a long hallway to a luxurious office. It had been the king’s bedroom, so it was the largest room in the castle other than the throne room. She handed Joshua a folder containing details of his first job and told him that he would be doing that same kind of thing for the first year. When she asked what they wanted to be paid, Happy joked that they wanted a million dollars a month. Their eyes went wide when she said, “Done.” They took a closer look at the folder to see what they wanted them to do for that kind of money.

They were to infiltrate a newly formed religion called Scirotology, get close to its leader, Daviid McCavige, and report their observations to their supervisor, Abraham Lincoln.

“Abraham Lincoln?” Joshua asked. “What an unfortunate name.”

“He’s not just a guy named Abraham Lincoln,” Evelyn told him. “He’s the Abraham Lincoln.”

“But isn’t he dead?”

“Yes. That’s why he’s a ghost. Don’t stare at his forehead. I told you there were stranger things at the Bureau than me.”

———

Evelyn sent them, head spinning, out to find their own lodging and begin their assignment with a month’s salary in advance in the form of a debit card. They could live anywhere they wanted, and they wouldn’t have to use their powers to steal what they needed. Evelyn also assured them that nobody would be looking to recapture them and throw them back into the Happy Place. They were declared sane, and their record was wiped clean of anything that would flag them to law enforcement. That made it safe for them to get some new clothes and travel to the church in Rome where Happy was able to summon Catholic Yahweh. Surely that was where the god would be recovering.

Nobody recognized them as they walked through the doors of the church wearing a ten-thousand-dollar suit. They sat in a pew and tried reaching out to the Catholic god with their thoughts.

Yahweh? they said together. It’s Happy Face and Joshua Peterson. Can you hear us? We came to say we’re sorry for what Happy did to you and to offer our help in getting back on your feet.

At first, they were answered only by silence. Then they heard a whisper in their mind. They strained to hear it.

When I get my strength back, I’m going to smite you into oblivion.

A Figment’s Tale part 10

Joshua Peterson was basically stranded in Malaysia. He could use some of his figment’s powers, but he wasn’t nearly as strong. Fortunately, he was able to move much more quickly than a normal person could, and he leaped through a grassland until he came to the edge of a jungle, which was located across from a river. He really didn’t want to enter the jungle, imagining rabid monkeys and hungry jaguars. So he stayed on the grassland side of the river and leaped along it. Soon he saw a group of people in kayaks traveling along the river in the same direction he was traveling. He made bigger leaps to meet them.

“Hey!” he shouted, startling the kayakers about twenty feet away. There were three of them–a man and two women. They all appeared to be in their early twenties.

“How did you get up there?” one of the women shouted back.

“It’s a long story! Is there a city nearby?”

“Yeah!” the other woman replied. “If you keep following the river this way, you’ll get there! Where are you from?”

“Texas!” Joshua realized that the kayakers had English accents. When he looked at them, he somehow realized that they were students from Cornwall on Summer break. How did he know that?

“America? That’s so interesting!” Both women found it interesting, and they wished Joshua had a kayak so they could talk without yelling.

“Are you a cowboy?” the man asked. He felt threatened by the women’s interest in Joshua, so he was trying to belittle him.

“An escaped mental patient, actually!”

The women laughed, and the man grew frustrated. His plan had failed.

Where am I getting all this insight? Joshua wondered.

The man began to paddle, moving his kayak more quickly down the river. He wanted to get away from Joshua, and he knew the women would follow, because he had the car keys.

“Barry!” one of the women yelled. “We were going to relax and enjoy the scenery!” As she said this, she included Joshua in the scenery. He was looking rugged, though in truth, he was just tired, sweaty, and hungry. Also, he hadn’t shaven in a few days, so the beginnings of a beard had begun to darken his lower jaw.

“Find us in town!” the other woman said.

They didn’t think that Joshua could keep up with them, and normally, they’d be right. But Joshua was anything but normal, and a girl hadn’t shown interest in him since a while before he was committed. Utilizing his powers to augment his legs, he ran along the river at superhuman speeds and soon overtook the kayaking students. He kept going until he saw where they must have set off from. There was a dock and a yellow Jeep on the other side of the river. With ease, he jumped over the river and landed next to the jeep. Then he looked back at the students and realized he made a mistake.

What was that? one of them thought. At that distance, it was hard to judge whose thought it was, but Joshua heard it clearly in his mind, and he knew it had come from one of them. That guy just ran super fast and jumped across the river!

In his eagerness to show off to the ladies, Joshua forgot that he was trying to hide from William and Theodore’s group. He didn’t know anything about their reach or influence, so for all he knew, he could be exposing himself any time he met another person.

Then it struck him that he could read minds. Happy wasn’t able to do that the last time he tried. Could it be that they each had command over different aspects of their power? Would their abilities continue to expand over time?

As Joshua stood there worrying, the students made it to the dock and disembarked. “That was awesome!” one of the women exclaimed, both of them running up to him. The one who just spoke had blonde hair and looked a lot like Gwyneth Paltrow. “How did you do that?”

The other woman was short and had red hair and freckles. She was at a loss for words. Her thoughts were jumbled as well.

“It’s a long story,” Joshua said. “You’re better off not knowing. In fact, don’t tell anyone you saw me do that. Or that you saw me at all. It could be dangerous to you.”

The man had stayed behind to bring the kayaks back. He dragged two of them from the water while the third rested three quarters of the way on the muddy bank. Joshua tried to tell what he was thinking, but he couldn’t. Instead, he felt Happy starting to wake up.

Happy, don’t come out yet. When you can, take us back up.

It’s nice to see that you’re all right, too, Happy replied. Actually, it’s good to see that we’re not in the hospital again. Who’s the babe?

“Are you okay?” the babe asked. Or rather, the blonde asked.

“Yeah,” Joshua replied. “Just distracted. I should go.”

“No, wait!”

Happy became wings and zipped himself and Joshua up to the jungle canopy. The wings weren’t necessary, but Happy liked making them. In this case, however, they only served to make them even more interesting to the students.

“You’re hungry,” Happy said as he took his normal form and made a platform for Joshua to sit on. “Where are we, a jungle? There must be some fruit we can eat.”

“Hold on,” Joshua said. “There have been some new developments.”

“What do you mean?” Happy accessed Joshua’s memory. “Ah, you have your own powers that you can use when I’m out of commission. That’s handy. Hey, you can read minds? Why can’t I do that?”

“I can only do it when you’re asleep. I can also do some of the stuff you can do, but I’m not nearly as strong.”

A nearby treetop rustled, and the blonde tourist from before emerged from it.

“What the…?” Happy said. Along with the girl, an angel emerged as well. This one was darker skinned than the other one they met, and it was male.

“I am Gabriel,” he said, placing the woman on an invisible platform that he made next to Happy’s. “Peace be upon you. Forgive the intrusion, but I was commanded by almighty Allah to bring this woman to you.”

“Apparently, Allah is real,” the woman said. “My name is Michelle Lewis, by the way, and I have no idea what’s going on.”

“She is to be yours,” Gabriel said.

“What?” both Joshua and Michelle exclaimed at the same time. Then Joshua said, “She’s a person. She belongs to herself.”

“That’s right,” Michelle agreed. “Who do you think you are grabbing me and giving me to someone like I’m a box of chocolates?”

“I don’t understand your reluctance to accept this gift,” Gabriel said.

“She’s not a gift!” Happy yelled. “Gabe, you need to get out of here right now or I’ll–”

“Happy!” Joshua interrupted him. “No more fighting. Gabriel, just leave her with us and we’ll take care of her.”

Gabriel smiled, nodded, and disappeared. Happy helped Michelle over to his invisible platform. Michelle looked at both of them with awe.

“I don’t even know what question to ask first,” she said.

“My name is Joshua, and this is Happy Face. Happy, is that the name you still want to go with?”

“Yeah. I think it suits me.”

“Okay. Happy is a figment of my imagination. You can see him and hear him because I’m telepathically projecting him into your mind. Well, he’s actually doing it.”

“You mean you’re the same person but with two distinct personalities?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah, exactly,” Happy said. “I come from his subconscious.”

“So when you said you were an escaped mental patient…”

“I’m more like two escaped mental patients,” Joshua said.

“With super powers,” Michelle said.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I guess in a world where Allah is real, people with super powers can be real, too. Does this mean I need to be a Muslim now?”

“Actually, he’s a figment too,” Happy corrected her. “He’s the product of multiple minds. The Christian god is the same way, along with probably a lot of others. You don’t have to worship any of them. You’re taking all of this well.”

“I like science fiction,” Michelle said with a shrug. “Or whatever this is. So now that I’m yours, where do we go next?”

“What?” Joshua replied.

“Well, not really yours, but you can’t just let me go knowing what I know. You have to take me with you so your secret doesn’t get out.”

“Or so people won’t torture you for information about us,” Happy suggested.

“Yeah, or that.”

Joshua lowered his head and rubbed at his temples. He’d expected Michelle to want to be helped back down so she can get back to her life and her friends. Was she joking? Joshua was never good at telling when someone was pulling his leg.

Joshua was about to tell Michelle that coming with them would be dangerous when something very dangerous happened.

Supernatural rant

This is a rant about the show “Supernatural.” If you aren’t into it, you should probably skip this post. Also, it will probably contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it all up to the end of season 10, then get to watching. It’s all on Netflix.

For those of you who are still reading and don’t know about Supernatural, it’s a show about two brothers named Sam and Dean Winchester who were raised to kill dangerous supernatural creatures like werewolves, vampires, and demons. They constantly scour the news for reports of strange deaths, and when they find one and determine that it’s the kind of thing they deal with, they travel there in their car and kill whatever is causing the trouble.

The life of a hunter is thankless, brutal, and short. At one point, Dean gets mortally wounded, and their father sells his soul to a demon to save him. Finding out that the demon he sold his soul to is the same one who killed their mother, the brothers embark on a mission to find and kill him. They eventually do, and then they accept their father’s sacrifice without trying to find a way to bring him back.

Of course they would have done the same thing for him, but it’s a strange thing for them to just accept that he’s gone, because as the series goes on, the brothers basically take turns dying, telling the other not to save them, and then saving each other anyway. Every time they fight about it, the savior tells his brother that he did it because they’re family.

That’s all well and good, but then at one point, their friend and mentor Bobby Singer dies. They can’t save him, so they let him go. Later on, they find out that his soul was unjustly put in Hell. They go there and release his soul so he can go to Heaven, but no mention at all is made of their father, whose soul is also languishing in Hell after his deal. They also don’t try to save their half brother, who also ended up in Hell because of his part in their adventures.

Maybe they didn’t try to save their dad because he legitimately sold his soul. But that didn’t stop Dean from ending up in heaven at least once after dying due to a pardon from Yahweh. Even their angel friend Castiel was saved by the whim of Yahweh.

Dean went so far as to undo the creation of the universe in order to stop Sam from dying. I think the writers set that up because they just wanted the series to end, but all it does is make me want to know what happens next.

A Figment’s Tale part 9

“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.

A Figment’s Tale part 8

Because of his growing confidence in Happy Face’s ability to carry him, Joshua began to enjoy flying. He told his figment not to fly so quickly so he could enjoy the scenery below them, and Happy was glad to oblige. They both experienced Joshua’s amazement as he saw the world get smaller and smaller. Happy had a destination in mind, but he kept it from Joshua so it would be a surprise. They flew among migrating birds and wispy clouds. They made faces at a child in an airplane. They enjoyed a sense of freedom that nobody else ever knew.

“I could just live up here,” Joshua said as they watched the sun set from on top of a carpet of clouds. Happy made it feel like a solid surface so Joshua could sit on it.

“We could,” Happy replied. “We’re hungry, though.”

“Oh yeah. We forgot to eat today. We have enough money left to eat something cheap.”

“That’s my favorite. Burgers and fries, here we come!”

Joshua walked to the edge of the imaginary platform. Happy had made it transparent, but Joshua still knew its borders. Then he dove off, falling without fear, knowing that Happy would keep him safe. Happy took the form of white feathered wings on his back and shaped his fall into a wide spiral. They landed on the roof of a Burger King and then jumped down near the dumpster, where nobody would see them in the evening’s growing darkness.

Inside, a diverse crowd of people sat at tables eating unhealthy but decently tasty burgers and chicken sandwiches. Nobody was eating fish, despite the fact that the Big Fish is one of Burger King’s best sandwiches. That’s what Joshua ordered when he and his normal-looking friend approached the counter. Once Joshua was fed, he felt much better, though he was very tired. Risking looking like a homeless person, which he was, he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and then came back out and sat with Happy.

“We can’t afford a motel room,” Joshua said, looking at the dollar and change that he had left. “Not legitimately anyway.”

“It’s all right. You don’t need a room. Just go to sleep. I’ll take over our body for the night.”

“Uhhh…”

“I’m not going to do anything stupid. Actually, when you were unconscious before, I felt a lot stronger. I’d have beaten that angel senseless. I can probably accomplish a lot while you’re sleeping.”

“Just don’t hurt anybody.”

“Of course. It’s not like I want to hurt people. It would be senseless to waste this power on that. So just relax and have a good rest. I’ll bring us somewhere cool.”

Joshua still had his doubts, but he suddenly felt extremely drowsy. He fell into a deep sleep as if he’d opened a box of crazy purple knockout gas.

——–

Eight hours later, Joshua awoke in a hospital bed wrapped from head to toe in bandages. He felt a strange giddiness like he was on heavy painkillers. He was hooked up to three or four IV bags and could only move his eyes.

Happy? he called out in his mind. What’s going on here?

Happy didn’t answer, though Joshua could still feel his presence in his mind. He wasn’t projected anywhere, and he wasn’t talking or thinking or anything.

Joshua tried to remember what Happy did the previous night, but he couldn’t. It was like a dream that he’d forgotten, except that he never remembered it. The part of his brain that did was inert.

After about two hours according to the clock on the wall at the very edge of Joshua’s peripheral vision, which was the only thing in the room that moved, the door opened and in walked a young woman in a nurse’s outfit. She was Asian, which Joshua took at first to mean that he was somewhere in Asia, but there were Asian nurses all over the world, so it wasn’t a reliable clue. He tried to talk to her, but all he was able to manage was unintelligible grunts.

Startled, the nurse looked at him and saw that his eyes were open. She pressed a button on the wall and shouted, “He’s awake!” Then she ran out of the room like there was a bomb in it.

Seventeen seconds later, an Asian man and a Caucasian man wearing black suits came in, locked the door, and stood at the foot of the bed. They looked at him with the most serious faces Joshua had ever seen on a person.

“Joshua Peterson,” the Asian man said. “Do you remember what happened last night?”

Joshua did his best to shake his head no. He grunted, “Mm mm.”

The Caucasian man looked shocked.

“Our files show no record of you ever learning Cantonese,” the Asian man said, “but you seem to have no trouble understanding it. We realize that you can’t really talk, so just listen. We are agents William and Theodore of the Global Bureau of Celestial Events. According to witnesses at the Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption church in Rome, you entered the chapel, approached the altar, and then proceeded, quite loudly, to challenge God to a fight. When church security failed to remove you, the police were called. When the police failed to remove you, you continued to yell until angels came down. After you defeated them and destroyed the church in the process, witnesses could no longer follow what exactly happened. They describe it as a light show unlike any they had ever seen.”

“Mmm mmmmmmm mmmm?” Joshua tried to ask.

“Nobody was hurt,” the Caucasian said. “Mr. Peterson, the reason we were sent to speak with you is that you are still alive, and so is God. That means that you fought to a standstill.”

We fought God to a standstill? Joshua thought. That would explain why you’re out of commission, but you said you didn’t want to hurt anybody. When you wake up, you have some ‘splaining to do.

The Caucasian agent continued, “We want to bring you to a secure facility where we can perform a few tests. Nothing invasive. We don’t want to harm you. We have healers who can speed up your recovery and a job offer if you’re interested.”

Joshua tried to get up, but all he could do was strain slightly. He looked at the clock on the wall, and it started to shake. The agents turned toward it and took out their handguns.

“Stun him,” the Asian agent said.

Joshua narrowed his eyes, and the clock flew off the wall and struck both agents on the back of the head, knocking them out cold. He closed his eyes, and the bandages exploded off him in tiny pieces that coated the walls and ceiling like a big star chart. He sat up and realized that he wasn’t injured. Apparently, they’d wrapped him up and drugged him so he would think he couldn’t move and therefore wouldn’t struggle. What a relief that he was all right.

He got out of bed and immediately fell to the floor. The effects of the painkillers weakened his muscles. Fortunately, there was a wheelchair near the window on the other side of the room. He brought it to him, climbed in, and propelled it forward with his newfound control over Happy’s power. An alarm eerily similar to the one used at the Happy Place sounded throughout the hospital. As he made his way through the hallways, large men in security and orderly uniforms came at him, only to be thrown against a wall. As soon as he saw signs directing him to the exit, he followed them and soon made it to the hospital’s main lobby.

Apparently, everyone had evacuated, because Joshua didn’t see anybody there. He rolled slowly out of the hallway, following the wall toward the doors. He didn’t want to be out in the open with people trying to capture him. Halfway through the lobby, he noticed a red dot appear on his chest. He panicked and lashed out, sending out a wave of telekinetic force in all directions. Everything that wasn’t securely fastened to a surface was thrown back into a wall, and all of the windows shattered. The red dot was gone, so Joshua made a break for the exit.

Wake up! Joshua thought to Happy. You’re the one who knows how to control this!

His legs started to tingle, which meant the drugs were wearing off. That didn’t matter, though, because outside, it appeared that he had been surrounded before he sent out the wave. Four police cars lay upside down, and a dozen or so police officers lay on the ground unconscious. Joshua checked to see how badly they were injured, and no one was bleeding, so he figured they’d live. He sped through the parking lot toward the road, which was choked with strange tiny cars.

Joshua? Happy said groggily.

There you are! Are you all right?

I think I overexerted myself, but I’ll recover. You should see the other guy.

You mean God?

Oh, you heard about that. I can explain as soon as–what’s going on? Why are we running away in a wheelchair?

Get us into the sky and we’ll compare notes.

Without taking any sort of form, Happy lifted Joshua up into the sky until they were on top of a thin layer of clouds, leaving the wheelchair behind. Once he established a platform, he took his usual form and told his story.

“As soon as you fell asleep, I flew us as fast as I could to a little cafe in France where locals say they have the best crepes. I was going to hang around there until you woke up, but then some tourists noticed their pictures weren’t quite reflecting reality with us in them, so I flew us up to hide. They must have gotten some pictures of that, too, because more and more people kept gathering there, and it was really annoying me, so I smashed all their cameras. I didn’t hurt anyone, though. I kept you up in the clouds while I did all this so they wouldn’t think it was you doing it.

“So then I felt bad about breaking all those cameras, so I took us to a church in Rome to talk to someone. I stayed in your head and talked through you so not even people with cameras would see anything weird going on. I did their confession thing, and the priest guy said I would have to say ten hail Marys and ten our fathers to be forgiven. I asked how the people whose cameras I smashed would know I said all that, and he said they’re not the ones I needed to forgive me. I asked him who, and he said God. I laughed, and then he told me to get out. I got mad again and figured I’d show him, so I challenged his god to a duel. The rest is hazy from there, but I’m pretty sure I beat him.”

Joshua didn’t know how to respond. He sat there on top of the cloud and looked at Happy Face in disbelief. He couldn’t even be angry yet. There was too much to process. He laid down on his back, shielded his eyes from the sun, and stared off into space.

A Figment’s Tale chapter 7

“It means I’m not really here,” Happy said. “And Joshua isn’t really dressed like a regular person. We should get you some real clothes, actually.”

“So you make people see things that aren’t really there, and you can actually move things?” Sarah asked. “Like telepathy combined with telekinesis?”

“Yeah. We don’t know what triggered it, but it seems this power has been buried in our subconscious our whole lives. Mom and Dad are afraid of it.”

“A lot of people will be afraid of it,” Sarah said. “You should probably make yourself look like a regular person.”

“But I’m comfortable like this. I was a regular person earlier at a restaurant, and it didn’t feel right. This is who I am.”

“Then you’re going to have a lot of trouble fitting in.”

“The only people who fit in with idiots are other idiots,” Joshua said. “We’ll deal with it. There must be people who can appreciate what we can contribute.”

“I’m sure there are,” Sarah said. “If it gets too hard or you need a place to crash, you’re welcome to stay here.”

“Until the police start staking the place out,” Happy said. “That’s what happened at Mom and Dad’s house. They haven’t contacted you, have they?”

Just then, Sarah’s cell phone started playing Ace of Base’s 90s hit, “The Sign.” She answered it. After a moment of chatter that Joshua couldn’t understand, Sarah said, “No, he hasn’t been here. I don’t see how he could get here so fast anyway. He’d have to go on a hypersonic jet or something.” Then more chatter on the other end. “I will. Bye.”

“That was a weird coincidence,” she said after she hung up. “Do they know about the things you can do?”

“I don’t know,” Joshua answered. “A few cops saw us disappear, and some others saw us fly away at Mom and Dad’s house, but I didn’t think they’d report it.”

“Well, they think it’s possible that you made it here already, so they seem to have some idea that the normal rules don’t apply to you.”

“We should move on then,” Happy said. “We don’t want to put you in danger.”

“Can’t you make it so they can’t see you?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah,” Happy replied, “but if they have a camera, they can see us. Joshua doesn’t want to have to hurt anyone even if they attack us first.”

“Do what you have to do then. But remember that you have a home here if you need one.”

“Thanks, Sarah,” Joshua said. “We appreciate that.”

Despite Joshua’s protests, Sarah gave him some money so he could get some proper clothes. He decided it was better to use money that was willingly given to them than to pay for things with money that didn’t really exist, especially when dealing with something like clothing. A store clerk could be fired for the price of even a single shirt being missing from the register. Then they left and walked to the Triplet Pines Mall about a mile away. Whenever they saw a cop, Happy made sure they were unrecognizable. If they had body cameras, as they were supposed to due to a history of abuse of power by police officers, they would later see that they’d passed by the escaped mental patient Joshua Peterson, but by then, they’d be long gone.

Because the Triplet Pines Mall specialized in outlet stores, discount stores, and cheap knockoffs of expensive brands, Joshua and Happy were able to get a few outfits and a small suitcase to hold what he wasn’t wearing. They chose clothing that didn’t stand out—polo shirts, khaki pants, and plain-colored t-shirts. They also got a few essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, and a yo-yo. Happy insisted on the yo-yo. It all fit neatly in the black suitcase. Happy eased its heft by augmenting Joshua’s strength with his own.

As they walked through the shopping center, Joshua looked at all the people and wondered if any of them had any idea they were living in a world where a person’s imagination could literally take on a life of its own. He wasn’t like them any more. He couldn’t live a normal life.

That’s ridiculous, Happy thought to him, hearing his thoughts as if they were his own. What is a normal life anyway? Getting a job? Having relationships with other people? We can still do those things. We’re still a person.

What kind of job could we get? Joshua replied. Nobody wants to hire a crazy person and his magical imaginary friend.

Dude, we can do things that nobody else can do. We’re like Superman. What would Superman do if he wasn’t fighting bad guys?

Joshua thought about it. It was easier to imagine what someone else would do with similar abilities. Superman could transport people all over the world in a fraction of the time it would take them to take an airplane. He could similarly deliver packages. He could work construction or in a warehouse. He could be a cop.

We could be a cop, Joshua proposed.

I thought you didn’t want to hurt anyone.

We wouldn’t have to. We’re way more powerful than any bad guys out there, and we wouldn’t have to worry about the police catching us. I know I said before that we’re not a super hero, but maybe we kinda are.

Usually, you’re the one raining on my parade, Happy said. I should remind you that that would mean going public and going through the normal application process, which includes a mental health evaluation. You’re diagnosed with a few mental disorders.

Joshua’s excitement died down. Happy was right. Contrary to what he’d thought as a child, having super powers wasn’t making his life any easier.

Happy continued, We don’t have to decide anything right now. Let’s just go and do whatever. We’ll see the world. We’ll meet people whose minds are open enough not to look at us and see a crazy person. We’re not crazy. We can make this work.

Joshua smiled. He trusted his figment. His friend.