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A Figment’s Tale part 17

Happy invisibly accompanied Joshua as he went to many stores buying furniture, clothes, appliances, dishes, silverware, and everything else they would need for their new place. It was all delivered that day in a giant circus of delivery madness.

That evening, everything was in place and cleaned up. Joshua collapsed on the couch with a pizza he’d ordered on the coffee table in front of him. Happy appeared floating over it.

“Finally!” he exclaimed. “That was a surprising amount of work. We probably could have done all that faster ourselves.”

“Probably,” Joshua said. “But sometimes it’s better to do things the normal way. I’m just glad it’s all paid for. Let’s see what’s on the news.”

Joshua picked up one of the remotes and turned on the big TV. All the major news outlets were reporting on the mysterious coma that the world’s Catholics fell into and then suddenly woke up from all at once. Doctors were baffled, but the families of the victims were relieved. Fox News blamed the president.

Then came the commercials, which Joshua usually didn’t pay attention to, but the first one started with the logo of the Church of Scirotology. It faded to a man standing in an empty field of white. He appeared to be in his early forties and had a serene smile on his face.

“Creepy,” Happy remarked.

The man on the TV said, “I’m sorry to interrupt the show you were watching, but I have something important to tell you. It’s the most important thing anybody has ever told you. It’s the secret to actualizing your true potential. I want to tell you how to harness your infinite potential for personal power over your life and your environment. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do it right now, but if you come by the Center for the Scirotological Arts in downtown Houston, I will put you on the path to awakening the sleeping power within you. The address is on the screen. I can’t wait to meet you.”

Joshua wrote it down on a pad of paper: 2727 Fraudren, Suite 1A.

“When are we going?” Happy asked.

“Tomorrow,” Joshua replied. “Tonight we have a new bed to sleep in.”

“Maybe I could just go,” Happy suggested. “I could be invisible and patch you in on everything I see and hear.”

“I like that idea, but we’d probably be more effective together. I can do things you can’t, and you can do things I can’t. We’re getting paid a lot to do this, and I don’t want to half-ass it, you know?”

“Yeah, you’re right. I can hear what he’s saying but not what he’s thinking.”

“Assuming we even meet the head guy tomorrow. Whoever we talk to, it’ll help to know what’s going on in his or her head, and you never know when your muscle will prove helpful.”

“That’s right. We’re a team. We can keep each other from making mistakes too.”

For the first time in quite a while, both Joshua and Happy Face slept. They woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and strong. They were ready to join a new religion.

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A Figment’s Tale part 16

Happy Face zipped back through the wall and became angel wings on Joshua’s back.

“Shall we go?” Happy said.

“You don’t want to hang around a bit longer?” Joshua asked. “How often do you get a chance to talk to a real live god?”

“He’s not a god any more than I am. I can’t believe people thought you were crazy when the people who created Yahweh are running around.”

“At least they’re all awake again. Now we can go on with our mission and find a place to live. Also, I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” Happy said. “Go figure.”

Joshua got up and walked out of the church as all eyes followed them in awe. Blogged accounts of the sight would one day become part of the Catholic Bible, especially descriptions of their takeoff.

Happy was a little drained from giving so much energy to Catholic Yahweh, so he flapped the wings he’d attached to Joshua in order to help get them into the sky. This created great gusts of wind that got the attention of everyone nearby. They had ample time to view, photograph, and make video recordings of the flying man.

Many of the people realized that he was the one who had come to challenge their god to a duel, and they all entered the church to talk to any personnel there who could tell them what it all meant.

Joshua and Happy ascended into the clouds. Then they decided to make their home in Houston, Texas. It was where their parents lived and where Joshua had lived and worked as the assistant to the head of tech support at the Law Offices of Goldman, Newman, and Goodman. Armed with a debit card connected to virtually unlimited funds, they went to the famously opulent Winning Towers and talked the snooty woman working the front desk into showing them their most expensive floorplan. As they spoke, Happy Face remained invisible, and Joshua tried to gain insight into her thoughts the way he did with the tourists in Malaysia.

He is certainly dressed nice, he heard her think faintly. But his manner of speaking is like that of someone who went to public schools. Must be new money. We’ll see if his credit score checks out.

Checking Joshua’s credit showed him to have a perfect score. His credit couldn’t have possibly been better, probably the work of the Bureau. The woman’s eyes widened. Then she looked at him, put on her best fake smile, and took a brochure out of a drawer and handed to him.

“These are our current floorplans,” she said.

Joshua opened it and looked for the biggest, most expensive one. It cost $20,000 per month and took up an entire floor of the building. Because of that, it had a great view of the city in the living room.

“I’ll take this one,” he said.

The woman told Joshua that he would have to show her proof of income. Trying something out, Joshua waved his hand and said, “You don’t need to see proof of income.”

The woman gave him a strange look, but Joshua concentrated and kept his gaze steady, and she said, “Oh yeah, I don’t need to see that. Everything is in order.”

Joshua considered getting the woman to waive the rent, but he didn’t want to push it. He signed some paperwork and received his keys. He then took a ride up the elevator to the 127th floor, which required that he use one of the keys, and stepped out into his palace. There was no furniture, so he laid down on the floor in the living room and looked up at the crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling.

Happy manifested sitting on the chandelier. “So what do we do first? Shop or do our job?”

Joshua smiled and replied, “I think you already know the answer to that.”

A Figment’s Tale part 12

Joshua and Happy’s conversation was interrupted by a visitor, which they didn’t expect all the way up in the clouds above the Indian Ocean. Another dragon approached them, but it didn’t attack like the last one. It had a flatter face than the previous one, with forward-facing eyes and a short snout. Its intelligent and wise appearance put Joshua and Happy Face at ease, as did its small size. It was about the size of a housecat.

“Good day, o mighty ones,” it said. “I wouldn’t dream of attacking you after what happened to the last ‘representative’ that was sent to you. I come from a team of imaginers who work for the Global Bureau of Celestial Events.”

“Did they send the last dragon?” Happy asked.

“I apologize for that. It was a miscommunication within the Bureau. It won’t happen again, I promise  you. It couldn’t possibly, since the people who sent it are now in comas. They overestimated their own strength.”

“So why did they send you?” Joshua asked.

“Yes, of course. The Bureau would like to extend an offer of employment. in exchange for your cooperation and services, they’ll pay you anything you want.”

“What do they want us to do for them?” Happy asked.

“First, they want to scan you to gauge your strength. It’s really just aiming a device at your head for a few seconds, not painful at all. Then they want to put you–the figment–through some training exercises.”

“My name is Happy Face,” Happy told him.

“Oh, you have a name already? That’s interesting. Anyway, after the testing and training, you’ll be sent out on assignments about once a month. Nothing dangerous, just reconnaissance. We investigate the formation of gods in new religions. I gather you know by now the truth behind gods.”

“They’re figments like me,” Happy said.

“Yes,” the dragon said. “When people gather together for a common belief, they can give form to what they believe in where there was none before. There is a delicate balance of power among the current gods and goddesses, and new ones have to be worked in gracefully to prevent war. When you fought the Catholic god, the Bureau was afraid that a war had broken out. We couldn’t believe it when we found out it was the figment of a single individual who had challenged him and nearly won.”

“Hey!” Happy protested. “I did win!”

“From what our agents observed, I’d call it a tie. You both used a lot of energy and emerged from the fight extremely depleted. The god you fought will take centuries to recover, while you seem to be back at full strength.”

“What do you mean he’ll take centuries to recover?” Joshua asked.

“What I mean is that half of the world’s Catholics are in comas because of the beating you gave their god.”

Joshua and Happy Face were stunned. They never meant to hurt anyone, let alone millions of people.

“I didn’t know,” Happy said sadly. “I never meant for that…”

“What can we do to undo the damage?” Joshua asked.

“You can’t do anything for them,” the dragon said. “Their minds took a heavy blow, but they’ll recover eventually. The children will awaken first, then the adults, and then hopefully some of the elders.”

“Hopefully some of the elders?” Happy asked. “What does that mean?”

“We don’t expect many of them to ever come out of their comas. But like you said, you didn’t know. This isn’t your fault.”

“Of course it’s my fault!” Happy shouted. “And I don’t understand why you’re so unemotional about it. Don’t you care?”

“I’m not connected to my creators’ emotions like you are. I’m a product of their intellect. They don’t sincerely believe in me. They’re just projecting me so I can talk to you here. So will you join us?”

“We’ll consider your offer after we find a way to help the people we’ It’ve hurt,” Joshua answered. “How can we contact you?”

“You won’t need to. We have eyes and ears everywhere. When you’re ready, you’ll see me again.”

The dragon disappeared, leaving Joshua and Happy to ponder what he’d told them. They communicated to each other through their emotions. Happy was beside himself with grief for what he did, and Joshua wanted to comfort him, but it really was pretty bad.

“What can I do?” Happy asked. “I can move things, but I’m not telepathic except for projecting a few illusions like this body and clothes for you.”

“When I’m totally asleep, you’re extremely strong,” Joshua said. “And when you needed to rest, I was able to do things I can’t do when you’re awake. Maybe if you go completely dormant, I can use my telepathic abilities to help the people.”

Happy smiled, the fog of his despondency lifting. “Oh yeah, that’s right. You’re telepathic. Maybe you can go into their dreams and wake them up from there.”

“I don’t think people dream while they’re in comas. It’s not normal sleep. But maybe I can go into their minds and fix the damage. That would take forever, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Happy said. “You’d have better luck healing Catholic Yahweh and healing everyone through him.”

Joshua smiled at his figment. It was the best idea he could think of, and they could use their new connection with the GBCE to contact the version of Yahweh believed in by the world’s Catholics and undo the damage they did. He stood up and shouted to the sky, “We’re ready to join you now!”

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 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.