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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.

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 ten billion 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 outfits 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.

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 5

Joshua couldn’t stand flying. It why he only ever flew on an airplane once, when he was a child. As an adult, if he had a long trip to make, he would drive or take a bus, even if it was extremely inconvenient. At least all the extra time would be spent on the ground. Never mind that, statistically speaking, flying was the safest way to travel.

So when his figment took the form of wings and lifted him into the air, his eyes instinctively closed. It didn’t help, though. Happy Face showed him what was going on from his own perspective. They went up toward a particularly fluffy cumulonimbus and flew around it with such great speed, even Happy, with his enhanced remote vision, had trouble making out its details.

“I don’t want to see!” Joshua shouted. With the wind rushing by them making a deafening roaring sound, there was no way Happy would be able to hear him if he had to rely on sound, but he didn’t have to. They were connected mentally. “Turn it off!”

“We’re perfectly safe,” Happy replied. “It feels so good to finally be able to flex my muscle. Lifting you is as easy as lifting nothing. I could keep us up here forever.”

“Put me down! I hate flying!”

“I don’t understand how you can not want to see this. It’s–”

“Down! Now! Please! There are other ways you can cut loose. Maybe just fly lower.”

“Are you sure you want that? We’re much more likely to run into–”

Suddenly, a small airplane passed through the cloud and came within inches of hitting them.

“All right, we’re going down,” Happy said. He turned off his connection to Joshua that was allowing him to see what the figment saw until they were close enough to the ground to be able to touch the roofs of trucks. He also slowed to match the speed of traffic.

“That’s better,” Joshua said, opening his eyes. “This is still fun, right?”

“I guess. Can we mess with the cars?”

“No way. We could cause an accident. You should make us invisible while we’re doing stuff like this.”

“Or I could make us look like a dragon. Or better yet, Superman!”

“Happy, we’re not a superhero. I don’t want to hurt anyone, even if they are robbing people or whatever. Let’s just not attract any more attention. I’m the one who gets hurt when we do.”

Happy reluctantly agreed and made them both invisible. When he did that, people could still see them, but their minds wouldn’t process the information or remember it.

The road they flew along ran through a hilly countryside. The weather was warm, and the sun shined brightly when it wasn’t blocked by one of the city-sized clouds above them. Happy looked up at them longingly.

“Where are we going?” Joshua asked.

“I don’t even know where we are,” Happy replied. “Mom and Dad are going to be worried when they hear we’ve escaped from the Happy Place. We should go and tell them we’re all right.”

“That’s a good idea, though the cops will probably be watching.”

“And you don’t want me to hurt them while they try to capture us.”

“Exactly.”

“Then we’ll be careful.”

——–

After checking a map at a gas station along the road they were flying along, Joshua and Happy turned around and doubled back toward their parents’ house. They flew low but fast–too fast for Joshua to make any sense of the scenery. Happy knew what he was doing. It was the kind of thing he’d been doing his whole life. He’d crossed the ocean and even orbited the planet in minutes. His speed defied the laws of physics, and that made sense when it was just him. He was a projection of Joshua’s mind controlled by an alternate personality. The ease with which he could carry a person at that speed made Joshua wonder if there was something to what Adoniel said. Maybe they were a god.

Following the map’s directions, they soon arrived at the home of George and Martha Peterson. Nobody was out front, and no cars were even parked anywhere other than in driveways for many blocks. Joshua and Happy hovered in the air about two hundred feet above the house.

I think they’re trying to make it look safer than it really is, Happy thought to Joshua.

Can you tell who’s in the house? Joshua thought back.

Just Mom and Dad. The house could be bugged though.

Do you think they’d bother? They only think we’re crazy, not dangerous.

I guess we’ll find out. We’re touching down.

Joshua breathed a sigh of relief as his feet touched the front yard and the wings on his back turned back into the round, imaginary body of Happy Face. Both he and the figment wanted their parents to see him so they would know that it was a mistake to have them committed.

As they stood in front of the door, it opened before they pressed the doorbell. The aging–but not yet old–Martha Peterson stood on the other side with a nervous smile. The smile became confusion when she saw the figment of her son’s imagination standing on his left shoulder.

“I take it we were expected,” Happy said.

Martha’s confusion became fear as she backed into the house and the always-plaid-shirt-wearing George approached from behind her with a stern look on his face.

“Joshua, you need to go back to–what the hell is that?”

“I’m the reason you had us imprisoned,” Happy told him. “You can call me Happy Face, but really, I’m as much your son as this body I’m standing on.”

George stood there on the other side of the doorway, frozen with indecision. Acting on a hunch, Happy tried listening in on his thoughts. It was hard to read a foreign mind through all the static that he hadn’t learned to sift through like he’d learned to deal with his own, but the main sense he got was that George was afraid that he had gone insane.

“You’re not crazy, Dad,” Joshua said. “And neither am I. I do have the additional personality, but he’s not crazy either. We can do things.”

“Like break yourself and someone else out of a mental institution?” George asked.

“Yeah, like that,” Happy said. “And we can fly.”

“I’m not interested in your input. You’re not even here, so just stay quiet. I’m talking to my son.”

“He is here,” Joshua argued. “He’s in my mind, and I’m projecting him into your mind.”

“Then stop! It’s bad enough you’ve lost touch with reality. Don’t take us with you.”

Their minds are closed, Happy thought to Joshua. We’re wasting our time here.

I’m not even sure why we came. What did we think was going to happen? That they’d see us and understand that there’s nothing wrong with us?

Suddenly, sirens sounded behind them. Martha had called the police while Joshua, Happy, and George were arguing. Joshua and Happy turned to see three police cars in front of the house.

“It’s time to go,” Joshua said.

Happy became a pair of dragon wings and carried Joshua into the sky beyond the reach of the officers, who were prepared for a struggle but not for a flying mental patient. They looked into the sky and then at each other, silently deliberating which of them, if any, would be writing this incident on their report.

——–

Take us up high, Joshua instructed Happy as they zoomed up into the sky.

Are you sure? I know you don’t like heights.

I figure I might as well get used to them. Anyway, it’s the best place to get away from them. They won’t go looking for us up there if they’re afraid to even admit to each other that they saw us fly away.

So they kept going straight up until it became difficult to breathe. Happy stopped, and they stood there in the sky. The air was cold, and it blew much harder up there than it did on the ground. It was also getting dark.

“We’re alone,” Joshua said sadly.

“A little,” Happy agreed. “What about Sarah? Maybe she’ll listen.” Sarah was Joshua’s older sister.

“I don’t know. I guess we can try.” Joshua’s stomach rumbled. “But first, we should try and find something to eat. Preferably something free. These hospital robes don’t have my wallet in them.”