Because of his growing confidence in Happy Face’s ability to carry him, Joshua began to enjoy flying. He told his figment not to fly so quickly so he could enjoy the scenery below them, and Happy was glad to oblige. They both experienced Joshua’s amazement as he saw the world get smaller and smaller. Happy had a destination in mind, but he kept it from Joshua so it would be a surprise. They flew among migrating birds and wispy clouds. They made faces at a child in an airplane. They enjoyed a sense of freedom that nobody else ever knew.
“I could just live up here,” Joshua said as they watched the sun set from on top of a carpet of clouds. Happy made it feel like a solid surface so Joshua could sit on it.
“We could,” Happy replied. “We’re hungry, though.”
“Oh yeah. We forgot to eat today. We have enough money left to eat something cheap.”
“That’s my favorite. Burgers and fries, here we come!”
Joshua walked to the edge of the imaginary platform. Happy had made it transparent, but Joshua still knew its borders. Then he dove off, falling without fear, knowing that Happy would keep him safe. Happy took the form of white feathered wings on his back and shaped his fall into a wide spiral. They landed on the roof of a Burger King and then jumped down near the dumpster, where nobody would see them in the evening’s growing darkness.
Inside, a diverse crowd of people sat at tables eating unhealthy but decently tasty burgers and chicken sandwiches. Nobody was eating fish, despite the fact that the Big Fish is one of Burger King’s best sandwiches. That’s what Joshua ordered when he and his normal-looking friend approached the counter. Once Joshua was fed, he felt much better, though he was very tired. Risking looking like a homeless person, which he was, he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and then came back out and sat with Happy.
“We can’t afford a motel room,” Joshua said, looking at the dollar and change that he had left. “Not legitimately anyway.”
“It’s all right. You don’t need a room. Just go to sleep. I’ll take over our body for the night.”
“I’m not going to do anything stupid. Actually, when you were unconscious before, I felt a lot stronger. I’d have beaten that angel senseless. I can probably accomplish a lot while you’re sleeping.”
“Just don’t hurt anybody.”
“Of course. It’s not like I want to hurt people. It would be senseless to waste this power on that. So just relax and have a good rest. I’ll bring us somewhere cool.”
Joshua still had his doubts, but he suddenly felt extremely drowsy. He fell into a deep sleep as if he’d opened a box of crazy purple knockout gas.
Eight hours later, Joshua awoke in a hospital bed wrapped from head to toe in bandages. He felt a strange giddiness like he was on heavy painkillers. He was hooked up to three or four IV bags and could only move his eyes.
Happy? he called out in his mind. What’s going on here?
Happy didn’t answer, though Joshua could still feel his presence in his mind. He wasn’t projected anywhere, and he wasn’t talking or thinking or anything.
Joshua tried to remember what Happy did the previous night, but he couldn’t. It was like a dream that he’d forgotten, except that he never remembered it. The part of his brain that did was inert.
After about two hours according to the clock on the wall at the very edge of Joshua’s peripheral vision, which was the only thing in the room that moved, the door opened and in walked a young woman in a nurse’s outfit. She was Asian, which Joshua took at first to mean that he was somewhere in Asia, but there were Asian nurses all over the world, so it wasn’t a reliable clue. He tried to talk to her, but all he was able to manage was unintelligible grunts.
Startled, the nurse looked at him and saw that his eyes were open. She pressed a button on the wall and shouted, “He’s awake!” Then she ran out of the room like there was a bomb in it.
Seventeen seconds later, an Asian man and a Caucasian man wearing black suits came in, locked the door, and stood at the foot of the bed. They looked at him with the most serious faces Joshua had ever seen on a person.
“Joshua Peterson,” the Asian man said. “Do you remember what happened last night?”
Joshua did his best to shake his head no. He grunted, “Mm mm.”
The Caucasian man looked shocked.
“Our files show no record of you ever learning Cantonese,” the Asian man said, “but you seem to have no trouble understanding it. We realize that you can’t really talk, so just listen. We are agents William and Theodore of the Global Bureau of Celestial Events. According to witnesses at the Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption church in Rome, you entered the chapel, approached the altar, and then proceeded, quite loudly, to challenge God to a fight. When church security failed to remove you, the police were called. When the police failed to remove you, you continued to yell until angels came down. After you defeated them and destroyed the church in the process, witnesses could no longer follow what exactly happened. They describe it as a light show unlike any they had ever seen.”
“Mmm mmmmmmm mmmm?” Joshua tried to ask.
“Nobody was hurt,” the Caucasian said. “Mr. Peterson, the reason we were sent to speak with you is that you are still alive, and so is God. That means that you fought to a standstill.”
We fought God to a standstill? Joshua thought. That would explain why you’re out of commission, but you said you didn’t want to hurt anybody. When you wake up, you have some ‘splaining to do.
The Caucasian agent continued, “We want to bring you to a secure facility where we can perform a few tests. Nothing invasive. We don’t want to harm you. We have healers who can speed up your recovery and a job offer if you’re interested.”
Joshua tried to get up, but all he could do was strain slightly. He looked at the clock on the wall, and it started to shake. The agents turned toward it and took out their handguns.
“Stun him,” the Asian agent said.
Joshua narrowed his eyes, and the clock flew off the wall and struck both agents on the back of the head, knocking them out cold. He closed his eyes, and the bandages exploded off him in tiny pieces that coated the walls and ceiling like a big star chart. He sat up and realized that he wasn’t injured. Apparently, they’d wrapped him up and drugged him so he would think he couldn’t move and therefore wouldn’t struggle. What a relief that he was all right.
He got out of bed and immediately fell to the floor. The effects of the painkillers weakened his muscles. Fortunately, there was a wheelchair near the window on the other side of the room. He brought it to him, climbed in, and propelled it forward with his newfound control over Happy’s power. An alarm eerily similar to the one used at the Happy Place sounded throughout the hospital. As he made his way through the hallways, large men in security and orderly uniforms came at him, only to be thrown against a wall. As soon as he saw signs directing him to the exit, he followed them and soon made it to the hospital’s main lobby.
Apparently, everyone had evacuated, because Joshua didn’t see anybody there. He rolled slowly out of the hallway, following the wall toward the doors. He didn’t want to be out in the open with people trying to capture him. Halfway through the lobby, he noticed a red dot appear on his chest. He panicked and lashed out, sending out a wave of telekinetic force in all directions. Everything that wasn’t securely fastened to a surface was thrown back into a wall, and all of the windows shattered. The red dot was gone, so Joshua made a break for the exit.
Wake up! Joshua thought to Happy. You’re the one who knows how to control this!
His legs started to tingle, which meant the drugs were wearing off. That didn’t matter, though, because outside, it appeared that he had been surrounded before he sent out the wave. Four police cars lay upside down, and a dozen or so police officers lay on the ground unconscious. Joshua checked to see how badly they were injured, and no one was bleeding, so he figured they’d live. He sped through the parking lot toward the road, which was choked with strange tiny cars.
Joshua? Happy said groggily.
There you are! Are you all right?
I think I overexerted myself, but I’ll recover. You should see the other guy.
You mean God?
Oh, you heard about that. I can explain as soon as–what’s going on? Why are we running away in a wheelchair?
Get us into the sky and we’ll compare notes.
Without taking any sort of form, Happy lifted Joshua up into the sky until they were on top of a thin layer of clouds, leaving the wheelchair behind. Once he established a platform, he took his usual form and told his story.
“As soon as you fell asleep, I flew us as fast as I could to a little cafe in France where locals say they have the best crepes. I was going to hang around there until you woke up, but then some tourists noticed their pictures weren’t quite reflecting reality with us in them, so I flew us up to hide. They must have gotten some pictures of that, too, because more and more people kept gathering there, and it was really annoying me, so I smashed all their cameras. I didn’t hurt anyone, though. I kept you up in the clouds while I did all this so they wouldn’t think it was you doing it.
“So then I felt bad about breaking all those cameras, so I took us to a church in Rome to talk to someone. I stayed in your head and talked through you so not even people with cameras would see anything weird going on. I did their confession thing, and the priest guy said I would have to say ten hail Marys and ten our fathers to be forgiven. I asked how the people whose cameras I smashed would know I said all that, and he said they’re not the ones I needed to forgive me. I asked him who, and he said God. I laughed, and then he told me to get out. I got mad again and figured I’d show him, so I challenged his god to a duel. The rest is hazy from there, but I’m pretty sure I beat him.”
Joshua didn’t know how to respond. He sat there on top of the cloud and looked at Happy Face in disbelief. He couldn’t even be angry yet. There was too much to process. He laid down on his back, shielded his eyes from the sun, and stared off into space.