Joshua William Teller is a fictional character appearing in Nathaniel J. Nelson's 2017 horror novel Quantum Flight 888. As one of the point of view characters, his life leading up to the eponymous flight is depicted in flashbacks, laid out in backwards chronological order.
Joshua – then known as Josh – was born and raised on the outskirts of Boston, the son of William and Maria Teller. He attended Boston International High School, where his teachers believed he was extremely intelligent. This caused him to react against them and do poorly in every class, even the class taught by Jenna Sanchez, a young teacher he was attracted to. However, he later decided to buckle down and do well in school, motivating himself with alcohol.
After graduating high school, Josh applied to a number of colleges. He was accepted by his dream school, the University of Southern California, but his parents hid his acceptance letter, not wanting him to be so far from home. He attended the sub-par Hudson University in Bangor, Maine, where he became very depressed. Being eighteen, he was unable to drink, which led to him being angry most of the time. After learning that his parents had hid his acceptance letter, Josh dropped out of Hudson and went on a bender, culminating in him sleeping with Jenna Sanchez. Realizing he had to get his life together, Josh left New England and traveled to California.
USC accepted Josh's second application and he matriculated, majoring in archaeology. While there, he developed an interest in psychology, reading up on the works of Sigmund Freud. After only a week of reading Freud, Josh wrote an essay adding onto Freud's three-part psychic apparatus: his proposed fourth part, the illud, represented the part of the human mind that was concerned with how others saw it. He began living the illud, splitting his time between school and working at a sports bar, where he would dress down and act significantly less well-educated. He began going by Joshua while at USC, retaining "Josh" at the bar. He lived this double life until his coworker Alice overheard him discussing Shakespeare with some patrons, at which point he was forced to admit he was well-educated. Around the same time, he presented his theory to a professor, who shared it with the psychology department. They told Joshua to study some more before trying to develop his own theories, which caused him to lose all interest in psychology.
After graduating with his bachelor's degree in archaeology, Joshua fell out of touch with his professors and classmates. He started renting an apartment in Los Angeles and worked several minimum-wage jobs, putting off any involvement with his field until it was too late. At one point, his friend Jeremy, tutor to child actress Emily Trapp, invited him to the set of Spirit Dwellers, an American adaptation of a beloved anime, to meet with Emily, who had expressed interest in archaeology. Onset, Joshua met Oliver Witt, another Bostoner, who was there as a consultant on the film's supernatural elements. Though Joshua talked to her, Emily lost interest in archaeology.
Four years later, in 2016, Joshua decided he had had enough of living hand to mouth and working minimum wage jobs. He bought a ticket to China, wanting to see some of the more iconic archaeological sites. In Xi'an, he went to see the terracotta army, and discovered the hand of one of the soldiers had been broken off and somehow made its way up to the catwalk. Impulsively, Joshua stole the hand and smuggled it out of the site. He immediately received a call from his mother, saying his father had died of a heart attack.
Joshua flew back to Boston with the terracotta hand, silently wondering if his father's death was a result of some curse associated with the terracotta army. When he arrived in Boston, he went to see Oliver Witt at his regular job in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Despite Joshua's insistence, Oliver told him he couldn't just look at an object and say whether or not it was cursed. Joshua attended his father's funeral, and seeing William Teller dead further motivated him to stop wasting his life. On June sixth, he boarded Quantum Airlines' Flight 888 to LA, with the terracotta hand in his luggage.
Aboard Flight 888
Joshua sat in Economy, next to a British man, Craig Bennecker. When the first victim died screaming, Craig convinced Joshua to go see what was happening in the Premium Economy cabin. He snuck into a seat and was soon joined by Delilah Arain, whom he had met at the airport. They discussed theories on the dead woman, and after the second woman died, Joshua began wondering if this was part of the same curse that had killed his father.
Joshua and Delilah were joined by Jessi Gibson, who Joshua began an antagonistic relationship with. As Delilah interviewed other passengers about the deaths, Jessi explained that Delilah was a YouTuber, and Jessi a big supporter of hers. When several passengers died at once, Joshua locked himself in the lavatory, overcome with guilt. Delilah persuaded him to come out, and Joshua stood up to Craig, who was trying to rile up the passengers against the crew. Joshua and Craig demanded to be let into the cockpit, Joshua fully aware that he could be arrested as a terrorist. Joan Kravitz, head flight attendant, refused them, and they returned to premium economy.
When Delilah told the entire cabin she was being punished by God for breaking her chastity promise, Joshua assured her it wasn't true, and that he had brought the curse on them by stealing the terracotta hand. When he presented the hand, Craig smashed it on the floor. He then threatened Delilah, and was shut down by Agent Kowalczyk, a government agent carrying a gun. A now-insane Neil Munster returned to Premium Economy and killed stewardess Eva Van Savage through supernatural means, and Joshua got permission from Agent Kowalczyk to move her body forward. On their way through the Business cabin, they were stopped by a large man who demanded to know what was going on. Joshua fought the man, allowing his anger to take over until he had done more damage than he intended.
Joshua then recruited Doctor Robert Noran to examine Eva and determine if she had been killed by natural or supernatural means. He overpowered Agent Kowalczyk, taking her gun and returning to Premium Economy. Craig, having destroyed the hand and Eva's book, was now threatening to hurt Delilah, who was herself the third allegedly-cursed object. Joshua again allowed his anger to take over and strangled Craig, just as Caleb Munster was suffering the breakdown of his psychic powers, which put the other passengers into their fantasy worlds.
Joshua's fantasy world took the form of a labyrinth, implied to be beneath a pyramid. When he "woke up" in the labyrinth, his right hand had been converted into lifeless terracotta. He explored the tunnels, being stalked by an unknown creature in the shadows. In one chamber, Joshua met the Sphinx from the legend of Oedipus, wearing the face of Jenna Sanchez, who gave him a riddle. He determined that the answer to the riddle was illud, which caused the Sphinx to kill herself. Joshua moved on, with his entire arm slowly becoming terracotta. Joshua then met the Egyptian god Anubis, who told him he had to be judged willingly. He complied, and moved on to the final chamber: a courtroom with Oliver Witt as the judge and terracotta soldiers as the jury. Several witnesses were called: Maria Teller, Jenna Sanchez, Alice, and his professor, who all testified about how they tried to help Joshua, but he put all his own problems on them. Joshua tried to protest, but finally admitted that all of his problems come from himself. He then woke up on the plane, where he could see the body of Craig, whom he had killed in his anger, and now recognized as the unknown creature from the labyrinth.
Joshua fully came to on the tarmac at LAX, where doctors and government agents were helping the passengers recover. Jessi brought him the shards of the terracotta hand, and he reconnected with Delilah. Despite the agents' insistence, the two of them left LAX together.
After Flight 888
Joshua and Delilah spent several days at the former's apartment, in shock and ignoring what they'd been through. Later, they were hit by survivor's guilt and PTSD, and spent several more days trying to recover. At one point, Delilah left Los Angeles and they fell out of touch.
A year after Joshua stole the terracotta hand, he returned its pieces to Xi'an. While in China, he began working on an essay about Flight 888: both the supernatural elements and the government coverup. This essay would later prompt Jessi, now in a survivor's group, to not give up on the truth. The essay represented Joshua's first foray into what would become his career: exposing the truth of the supernatural.
In 2026, Delilah and her husband, Truman Hardy, were familiar with a documentary entitled Flight 888: A Study in the Supernatural, which featured now-professor Joshua speaking as an expert on the subject.
Joshua is tall, lanky but muscular, with a shadow of hair and the beginnings of a goatee. At Hudson University, he allowed his hair to grow out into dreadlocks, and when he woke up from his bender, he had a full beard. While at the University of Southern California, Joshua/Josh alternated between dressing like an upper-class student and a lower-class bartender.
Personality and traits
Joshua is extremely intelligent, but rebellious, having often refused to show his intelligence. In school, his teachers believed he was some sort of genius, but he barely put any effort into his work. At Hudson University, his teachers held no such beliefs, as Joshua didn't even put in enough effort to make a good impression. However, at the University of Southern California, Joshua began trying for his true potential and graduated with a bachelor's degree.
Joshua is calm and soft-spoken, but quick to irritation and anger. He holds deep-seated resentment towards the world, particularly towards his parents and bosses, seeming to blame them for his place in life.
A common problem throughout Joshua's life is his inability to take responsibility for his own failures. When he found out his parents hid his acceptance to USC, he did not try to see their point of view, and when he slept with Jenna Sanchez, as he had always wanted to, he blamed her for taking advantage of a much younger man. After the psychology professors at USC told Joshua to read more on psychology before making his own theories, Joshua immediately lost interest, having previously been used to everyone complimenting his intelligence.