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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.”

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A Figment’s Tale part 15

I didn’t end up really totally finishing this chapter, so I’m just going to leave it short. Enjoy!

———————

Catholic Yahweh’s eyes shot open, and his whole body, imaginary as it was, tensed up like he was being electrocuted. His face didn’t register pain, though. He appeared to be experiencing a profound revelation. All over the world, men and women in hospitals behaved the same way, baffling doctors and nurses. After about a minute, Happy Face stopped the infusion, and Catholic Yahweh relaxed again, looking much healthier.

“That seemed to work,” Happy said, slightly fatigued.

“I’ll say,” Catholic Yahweh replied breathlessly. “That woke up every single one of my people and restored most of my power. I’d say it was a miracle, but you’re not a god.”

“You’re not either,” Happy said. “Not really. You’re the same kind of thing that I am, so either that was a miracle or there are no miracles. But it doesn’t matter what we call it. It’s done, and now I’ve undone the damage I did.”

“Hold on,” Catholic Yahweh said, sitting up. “You said that the Bureau came to visit your ‘other’ before.”

“Yeah, they sent some goons.”

“Can I assume, then, that you’re not working with them?”

“We are, actually. They made us a really good offer, and they seem to be on the up and up.”

“That’s good. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The angels say you and Josh are a good man. Don’t let the Bureau change that.”

“It’s all right. They just want me to investigate Scirotology and some guy named Dave or something like that. We won’t be hurting anybody.”

“That’ll be someone else’s job if the god they’re making won’t cooperate with them.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Happy said. “Now we should get going so we can find a place to live. See you around.”

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 6

Joshua Peterson was too hungry to feel guilty for paying for his hamburger with imaginary money. It wasn’t very good anyway, so he was all right with it even after he ate it. The Pepsi was ok, so he felt a little bad about that.

Happy took the form of a man in his early 30s so people wouldn’t find it strange to see Joshua talking to him. He also hid Joshua’s surprisingly comfortable hospital clothing under the illusion of blue jeans and a red t-shirt. The manager was far too busy with the dinner rush to check the security camera feed in her office, which showed a man in psych ward robes sitting at a table talking to nobody.

“She lives here.” A map stretched out on the table, Joshua’s finger rested on the city of Port Shimsham, located 2,000 miles to the northeast. “And I doubt the police will think to watch for us there. The only normal way to get there in less than a week is to take an airplane, and they’ll be watching all the airlines for us.”

“If we’re going to be talking out loud, we probably shouldn’t say things about escaping the police. In fact, there really isn’t much point in us talking out loud anyway.”

“It makes me feel like I’m not so alone.”

“That’s probably why I exist. I’ll humor you. If anyone understands you, it’s me. This is an even stranger conversation than the one we were having a minute ago.”

“Like anybody is listening. Can you tell if they are?”

Happy looked around without appearing to move. He moved closer to people’s heads and tried to listen to their thoughts, but he didn’t hear anything. Either they weren’t thinking anything or he couldn’t read minds. But based on their body language, none of them were paying attention to the two men who were actually one.

“They’re minding their own business,” Happy reported. “Let me figure out a route to Sarah’s house. Then we’ll both go. Keep your eyes on the map.”

Joshua continued to study the map, and his nondescript friend disappeared. Strangely, nobody seemed to notice. After a few seconds, he reappeared.

“Okay, we have a route. Do you still not mind going up high?”

“I’ll deal with it as long as we get there fast.”

“We will. It’ll just take a few minutes.”

Joshua nodded, and they both got up and threw their trash away. Then they went outside, where Happy took the form of a giant pair of monarch butterfly wings on Joshua’s back, and they took off.

——–

This trip was a long one–nearly eight minutes. They didn’t go light speed, but Joshua’s body was accelerated to a degree that trained jet pilots couldn’t have survived. It seemed impossible, but when he landed back on the ground, he was perfectly fine.

Joshua and Happy touched down in their older sister’s backyard. Because they traveled so far east, it was much earlier in the evening than it was where they’d left. Joshua smelled freshly cut grass and heard a lawnmower behind him. The mower’s engine cut off, and a man’s voice said, “Joshua? Is that you?”

Joshua turned around and saw Sarah’s husband, Jeremy Freeman. He stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face, probably because Happy was still projecting the image of butterfly wings on Joshua’s back. They disappeared, and the circular form of Happy Face appeared sitting on Joshua’s shoulder.

“I forgot those were still there,” Happy said. “Hi, brother-in-law!”

“What’s going on here?” Jeremy asked, addressing Joshua.

“We came to see Sarah,” Joshua said. “This is Happy Face. He’s the voice I’ve been talking to.”

Jeremy was like a deer in headlights. Happy could clearly hear what was going on in his mind. He was afraid that he had lost his mind, and he was trying to figure out a way to hide it. Happy shared the information with Joshua.

“Is that what you think I am?” Joshua asked. “Crazy? They had me locked up for hearing things that weren’t real. As you can see, this is real.”

“Just because you can see something doesn’t mean it’s real,” Jeremy replied. “How did you get here?”

“I’ll prove to you that Happy here is real. Happy, can you finish mowing the lawn for him?”

Jeremy had just begun, so most of the grass was still overgrown. An instant later, it was mowed perfectly, and the hedges were trimmed neatly. Jeremy picked up some clippings from part of the yard that Happy had mowed and compared it with clippings from the part that he’d mowed. He couldn’t see a difference.

“This isn’t possible,” he said, dropping the grass.

Then Sarah’s voice came from the front door. “You’re done already? That was fast.” Sarah looked up from the lawn and saw her husband and her brother. Her smile faded. She knew they wouldn’t let Joshua out so soon after he was admitted to the Happy Place. “What are you doing here, Joshua?”

She hadn’t yet noticed Happy Face, but as she walked up to them, she saw him and stopped halfway between the men and the front door.

“This is Happy–”

“I know who he is,” Sarah interrupted. “Happy Face, your imaginary friend from when you were four. He’s all you would draw.”

“You should’ve given me some muscles,” Happy said, flexing his stick arms. “Anyway, we’re here to tell you that we’re all right and that we forgive you for sending us to that horrible place.”

“Horrible place?” Sarah said. “It’s the best mental health facility in the country. People have come out of there and become President.”

It was true. Two presidents had spent time at the Happy Place and received the help they needed. But that was a long time ago.

“It’s changed,” Joshua said. “They had me locked up in a padded room wearing a straightjacket. I rescued a woman who’d been sexually abused there for years.”

“No, that’s impossible. Straightjackets are banned from mental health facilities, and their screening process for employees is the strictest in the industry.”

“That may be what the brochures say, but it doesn’t match with reality. The point is, I’m not crazy. I’m . . . something else.”

We’re something else,” Happy said. “I’m part of him, and we can do amazing things. The angel we met thinks I might be some kind of god.”

“Let’s go inside and talk about this,” Sarah said. “Can you stay for dinner?”

“We ate on the way here,” Joshua said, “but talking sounds great. I’m just glad you’re willing to listen.”

“Of course. We’re family. Jeremy, don’t track any grass into the house.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and pushed the lawnmower toward the backyard as his wife, his brother-in-law, and the figment of his brother-in-law’s imagination went into the house, leaving their shoes in the foyer.

Joshua sat down on the couch in the living room, and the phone rang. Sarah picked it up. It was their parents. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “They’re here. Yes, they. No, Dad, I’m not crazy, and neither is Joshua. We made a mistake. Yes we did, Dad. Yes we–you know what, Dad? I can’t talk to you right now. Call me back when you’ve calmed down.” She hung up the phone, composed herself for a second, and then looked up at Joshua with awe in her face. “Joshua, you went to see them earlier today?”

“Yeah.”

“And now you’re here, just over two thousand miles away.”

“Yeah.”

Sarah went to her purse, which was hanging from a hook next to the front door, and took out a digital camera. Then she went back to the living room and took a picture of her brother. She looked at the picture, and the look of awe on her face was renewed. “You’re really here,” she said. “Is that what you’re really wearing?” She showed the picture to Joshua. It was him sitting on the couch wearing hospital robes rather than the normal clothes he appeared to be wearing, and there was no smiley face button man on his shoulder.

“Interesting,” Happy said. “But it’s not too surprising. I’m projecting this image from my part of Joshua’s mind. If you take a picture of the lawn, you’ll see that I really cut it.”

Sarah sat down on a soft recliner, staring back and forth at the picture and her brother. “What does this mean?”

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.”

A Figment’s Tale part 4

Joshua composed himself and looked up at the church. Its spires reached up to the sky like it was built to stab clouds to death. Doors lined the entrance to accommodate large crowds coming and going at once. Their metal-and-glass construction clashed with the building’s classical style, but it couldn’t be helped. Building codes demanded certain touches of modernity.

“I can’t believe we’re here already!” Maggie exclaimed, looking around like she still didn’t quite believe it. “We traveled five hundred miles in a matter of seconds. Praise the lord!”

Joshua looked at Happy Face in disbelief. Did we really go that fast?

We’re really here, so yeah.

How did we even survive that? The whiplash alone from the sudden acceleration should have broken our necks.

“Are you there, Joshua?” Maggie asked. “You’re spacing out again.”

“Yeah, I’m just . . . I don’t know. Anyway, we’re here. Who do we talk to now?”

“For what?”

“To get them to take you in. They have nuns, don’t they? I figure they could use one more.”

“Oh, that’s a nice thought, but I’m really not pure enough to be a nun. I’ve done things, and I don’t mean the things that happened at the hospital.”

“We won’t tell them then.”

“Lying is a sin, especially in God’s house.”

Joshua began to roll his eyes, but he stopped himself and made it appear as if he was just looking up at the church’s spires.

“Let’s just go inside and talk to whoever is in charge,” Happy suggested. “Maybe a good word from an angel will get you in.”

Joshua gave up on the idea of talking sense into Maggie. Maybe enabling her delusions was the easiest way to get through this situation.

They entered the building and found themselves in a world that was trying hard to keep to tradition but had to make a patchwork of compromises–an air conditioning duct here, a light switch there. Rows of probably handmade wooden pews led up to a stage with a lectern and an altar made of white marble and covered on top with purple cloth. The purple probably symbolized something, but Joshua didn’t keep up with every religion’s rituals and holidays.

Though there were electric lights, they weren’t on. The huge space was lit by sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows and candles. A few people sat silently in the pews, looking down and praying. Joshua knew that they would eventually notice the light radiating from Happy Face, but the longer that took, the better. He wasn’t a religious man, but he was very uncomfortable with his figment posing as a divine being in order to fool people, no matter how silly he thought their beliefs were.

Maggie headed for the statue she mentioned, which was in a far corner. It meant they would be in front of the pews and very noticeable to the people sitting in them. As they followed Maggie, Joshua braced himself for whatever their reaction would be. But when they reached the life-size likeness of the robed Mary, he looked back to see that nobody was reacting other than to stare in wide-eyed wonder. They didn’t run or scream or approach them to worship the angel. They just sat there like this wasn’t all that out of the ordinary for them.

“What’s going on?” Joshua whispered. “They’re not freaking out.”

“Of course they’re not,” Maggie whispered back. “They know angels exist. Now hush. I’m going to ask the blessed virgin for guidance.”

As Maggie knelt down at the foot of the statue, a beam of light shined down on Happy from the ceiling. A gleaming silver sword came down like a bolt of lightning, burying itself in the figment’s head all the way to its hilt. Joshua cried out like it hit him and then fell to the ground, unconscious. Happy retook his circular form, and the sword fell through him, disappearing as it touched the ground. Angrily, he looked up through the column of light. By this time, all eyes were on them.

“No demon is welcome in the lord’s house,” a youthful male voice said from the ceiling. It sounded gentle, which was strange considering what it just did with the sword. “You will be destroyed in front of these believers, that their faith shall be bolstered.”

“Show yourself,” Happy replied. “If you want to fight, at least have the guts to do it in person.”

The light moved toward the still-unconscious Joshua. Happy rushed to cover him, enlarging his own form and protecting him from being burned up by the beam’s extreme heat.

“We’re not doing this here,” Happy said. He stretched out his arms, wrapped Joshua up, and carried him away from the beam and out the door. He put him down in a sitting position under a tree at the edge of a clearing near the church.

Out of the church walked a tall, thin man wearing a suit of silver armor that seemed to glow in the sunlight. Flowing blonde hair covered his head and waved like a flag in the wind despite the fact that the wind wasn’t blowing. In his right hand, he carried the same sword that fell down from the column of light.

Happy immediately darted toward him and struck him in the jaw with a tiny fist. His muscleless arms belied incredible strength, as evidenced by the armored man’s subsequent flight into the church doors. The shatterproof glass of the doors popped out of their housing and landed among the pews. Fortunately, they failed to hit anybody.

“Such power,” the armored man said as he got to his feet. He looked into the church just as a tiny foot struck him in the chest and sent him into the middle of the clearing nearly a hundred feet away. “Wait!” he called out, dropping his sword, which he somehow kept hold of thusfar, and holding up his oustretched hands. “I’ve made a mistake!”

“You certainly have.” Happy appeared in front of the man, his face scowling. “You took the first cheap shot. What’s the matter? You can’t fight someone who’s fighting back?”

“You’re right, I fought dishonorably. I apologize. I didn’t recognize you for what you are. Forgive me.”

“What I am?”

“You are a god.”

For a moment, Happy pondered this possibility. He was quite powerful. Then the greater implications struck him.

“There are gods?” he asked.

“Of course,” the armored man replied. “I am Adoniel, angel of retribution.”

“I’m Happy Face. The unconscious guy who you tried to kill is also me.”

“No single man can hold such power in his mind. Surely you are the result of the belief of millions.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m just from him. So a god is just a sort of collective figment?”

“All gods except for Yahweh. He is the alpha and the omega. He made the universe and everything in it.”

“Uh huh.”

Joshua began to awaken, and Happy flew over to him.

“What happened?” Joshua asked.

“We were attacked by an angel,” Happy told him.

“Very funny. What was it really?” Joshua looked around and noticed Adoniel, who now had a pair of wings on his back. “Are you doing that?”

“No,” Happy said. “He’s a figment, kinda like me, but made by a whole bunch of people.”

“I am an angel of the lord,” Adoniel corrected him. “I was created by the god of Abraham to do the will of Heaven. Other beings call themselves gods, but they are mere figments.”

He’s full of crap, Happy thought to Joshua.

Clearly, Joshua thought back.

“Why did you attack us?” Joshua asked.

“I thought Happy Face was a demon disguised as an angel of light. I lashed out in haste, and I am deeply sorry.”

“I hope so. That really hurt. I’ve never had a headache like that. It’s like my brain was on fire.”

“I’d have cut our connection if I knew that was coming,” Happy said. “You felt the pain instead of me.”

“I am in your debt,” Adoniel said.

“I know how you can pay us back,” Joshua said.

And so, by impersonating an angel in a church, Joshua and Happy Face got a “real” angel to put in a good word for Maggie O’Malley to be given a position as a nun despite her lack of what they would call purity. She would be safe there.

“What will you do now?” Maggie asked as she stood with them at the front of the church in her brand new habit.

“Fight crime!” Happy exclaimed half-jokingly.

“Definitely not fight crime,” Joshua said. “I think we should go and see the world. I remember all of Happy’s travels, but I want to see it all with my own eyes.”

“That sounds educational.” Maggie smiled at Joshua in a way he hadn’t seen her smile. It made him feel uneasy. “It’s a shame we didn’t meet under different circumstances. I owe you big time. Both of you.”

Joshua smiled awkwardly, and Happy said, “It’s all in a day’s work.” Then he became a pair of wings on Joshua’s back, and the two of them took off into the sky. For a split second, Maggie could hear Joshua’s cry of alarm. She almost envied them, but that would have been a sin.