Tag Archives: fantasy

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 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 promiseĀ  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 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.