You’re an angel with a beautiful pair of wings. Just one problem… you’re highly allergic to feathers and your wings trigger your allergy.
“Hey,” I said, leaning into the break room, “can you guys maybe clean up if you’re shedding?”
“The imps take care of it,” Neriel drawled, staring intently into the microwave.
“Yeah, but they come in at night. I’m here before night.”
“I don’t see why it’s a problem.”
I paused and ran a hand over my face. “For the last time,” I sighed, “it’s hard to breathe.”
“I’m allergic. You know this.”
Neriel snickered to himself. Samanth, sitting at the plastic table, glanced up from the magazine he was flipping through. “Sorry, uh, what?”
Oh, for… “I’m allergic to feathers. Can you please clean them up.”
“… you’re an angel.”
“I am fully aware.”
“Why’d you apply for it if you’re allergic?”
“I didn’t know I was allergic when I put in for the position,” I snapped. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have!”
“That isn’t the point,” I said desperately, leaning against the wall. “Can you please clean up after yourselves?”
“The imps will take care of it,” Neriel repeated, rolling his eyes. The microwaved dinged. “You literally have wings. I don’t see why it makes a difference.”
Cool, they weren’t going to listen. “Great. Okay. Whatever.”
I turned and pulled the door open. Whatever Neriel had just heated smelled like garbage. It was probably fish. He pulled it out of the microwave and I left.
Whatever. I was off for the night; I stepped around a cream-colored pinion lying on the floor and covered my nose and mouth with one hand.
It didn’t help. I sneezed four times as I made my way through the office and out onto the street.
Arguably, this was better than retail. We didn’t have to listen to the same hundred fifty shitty songs on repeat for ten hours every day. And the shifts were shorter. And I got flight priveleges.
That was pretty much the best part of it. I shifted my back so that it wasn’t blocking any of my back and snapped my fingers to manifest my wings.
A lot of folks have em on constantly as sort of a status symbol, but I can’t do that or I’d probably asphyxiate. Now and again, though? Real useful.
Mine were red. I’d gone through multiple sets now, trying to find some that didn’t make me react as badly, and these were the best by far. The feathers were dark brown and a deep ruddy red color, like rust, or maybe half-dried blood if you’re feeling poetic and ominous.
I took a couple steps, spread my wings, and launched myself up.
So, I said manifested. What I meant is shifted, because a human form can’t fly with wings if you just graft them on. You have to alter all the anatomy and give em the muscle mass to generate flight lift. Swapping out the bones and blood make it pretty easy, though those are permanent, not shiftable. We’re always like that.
Don’t do anything too strenuous, because you’ll shatter your entire skeleton.
I work about a fifteen minute flight from my home, which is pretty nice. Sometimes I can see people give me envious glances when I go overhead.
When I landed I sneezed another three times. No, while these wings were nice, I needed a different set. Again.
I swapped back and stepped in, slinging my bag across the room to the couch. It thumped into the cushions.
Request time. I pulled my notebook out of my bag and pulled my pen out of my shirt pocket.
I hate to bring this up again, but I need to try a different set of wings. These ones are still troublesome and I can’t fly without having trouble breathing. I am quite literally allergic to my own skin. Sorry again, but I need to try a different set. I can’t work properly without them.
I was in a comfortable study filled with books, seated on a dark maroon leather couch.
“You have been through five sets of wings,” said a voice to my right. “Care to explain why you’re requesting another?”
I turned, swallowing hard, and came face to face with a confusing mass of feathers and brilliant golden eyes.
“Uh,” I said, and sneezed.
“Hmm,” the angel said, and I caught amusement in their tone. This was a senior angel. I did not want to be talking to a senior angel. But I was.
“I’m allergic to feathers,” I said, too scared to take my eyes off the angel. The little golden placard on the desk read ‘Gabriel.’ “I, um, it’s really hard to breathe. At my workplace. It’s not – it’s not a big deal, really, I -”
“No, no, now I’m interested,” Gabriel purred, leaning forwards. “Why did you apply to be an angel if…?”
“I didn’t know!” Uh, that wasn’t the tone someone takes with a senior. “R-respectfully. Um. It wouldn’t be a problem but the others shed and they leave their feathers for the imps to take care of every time. And it’s impossible to – um, you get the point.”
Gabriel stared at me through eighty-six eyes. “Let me make a call,” they said, and picked up the phone on the desk. They seemed to be dressed in a soft dove-gray suit jacket.
It rang a few times. “Sorry to bother you,” Gabriel said, after whoever was on the other end of the phone picked up, “but I’ve got a bit of a situation here.”
Sunlight streamed through the windows. Beyond them, through the blue-gold sky, I could see strings of brilliant color, like a nebula hanging below the clouds. Stars speckled the sky just beyond the azure. “Oh, nothing particularly important, but I’ve got a younger angel here who’s got a rather unique issue. Here, I’ll send the file over.”
Gabriel picked up my folder off the table and held it up. Their skin was a deep void-black, their fingers adorned with glittering golden rings. The manila folder disappeared with a gentle pop, and there was a pause in the conversation before I heard a low, casual voice murmuring something on the far end of the line.
“Really?” Gabriel said, and added, “Not that I mean to question you. But that’s an interesting choice. Do you think that’ll do? The others at -”
Another few words from the person on the other end. “Ah,” Gabriel said carefully, blinking most of their eyes. “Of course. I’ll pass that along. I’m interested in how this turns out. Thanks for your time.”
The person on the other end hung up, and Gabriel set the phone down again. It appeared to be made of wood, with elegant golden scrollwork. “You’re being reassigned,” they said, eyeing me cooly.
“…what?!” Oh, shit. They were taking my wings. I was getting demoted. Well, this was the worst possible outcome. “But – I’ve – I’m a good employee! Check my record, Xanadu has never cited me – ”
“Calm down,” Gabriel said, holding out one of their hands. “This is good news for you. You’re just being moved, and you’ll get some assistants. And we’ll get you your new wings.”
I sat back. “O-oh,” I said. “Um… Where am I… Where am I going?”
I woke up and found a couple of letters shoved under my door.
The first one was my paycheck from Xanadu, as well as a letter of recommendation, worded in a professional if slightly nervous manner. Then there were my transfer notifications. I tore open the letter and read through it. A lot of the names I didn’t recognize, but a few…
“Iron City Commerce?” I muttered, raising an eyebrow. “Archduke…?”
I set the letter down and raised a hand, staring at my fingers. I didn’t feel that much different, but…
I snapped my fingers and smiled.
I strolled into Xanadu to collect the rest of my things before my move. Neriel was there, and when he caught sight of me, he startled so bad he tripped over his chair and crashed backwards into his desk. A couple of down feathers floated out.
“Oh m- Kalani – ” he stammered, eyes wide. “Kalani, what – what h -”
“Shut up,” I said idly, opening my desk drawer and pulling out a couple of books I’d stored there.
“I’m sorry,” Neriel said. “Whatever drove you -”
“You’re an idiot, and I’ve got a new job.” There wasn’t much to take from my desk. I dropped a couple of old papers into it. “Also, I’m taking the imps.”
I snapped my fingers. The nearest imp, sitting on a shelf nearby, nodded and vanished in a puff of smoke. I swept my desk ornaments into a box by the desk and said, “take this, please,” out loud. Two imps appeared, grabbed the box, and vanished.
By now, everyone in the office was watching in dead silence. I sent a sly smile to my former boss, twitching my new wings behind me.
“Have fun, Neriel,” I drawled, waving to him as I turned and headed out the door.
Now that I was out of Xanadu, I wasn’t going to have problems with breathing in anyone else’s feather dust anymore. And I wouldn’t have to worry about mine.
Because I didn’t have feathers anymore. And I definitely understood people showing off their wings, because you’d have to pay me to hide mine. I loved them. They were the same shade of deep reddish-brown as my old ones had been, but now they were massive arched constructions, long thin finger bones spanned with faintly fuzzy, thin veined skin, just like that of a bat.
“See you in Hell,” I said as I breezed out of the building, and took flight.
“͔̾͘S̤͟E̺͍͞Ë̩̒̄ ̵̠͙͎Y̸̎ͦ͝Ơ̠̺͗͛U͓ͭ̕͜ ̵̪ͬ͢I͉Ņ̴̭̀͡ ̬̀́H̩̟̘E͓͐̑́͡L̡͈̄ͮL̀ ̖͖͍͂”̢̘̽͠ ̞̱ͭ͝Ḭ͙̬̑̾ ̶̸̛͠
S̨̓ͬĀ̡̨͞I̢ͬ̀͛͜D̴̙ ̱ͨA̡S̴̢̞̺ ̟̞̝͛I̙͔ͨ ͏͈̉B̆R͓̫͘E̝͢҉E̴̿̕Z̸̸̢ͣE̡͋͂̈́D̡̯ ̨̞O̸̗ͤ́̃U҉̼̉T̈́ ̤̯O̡͊F̌ ͣ̓̆Ţ͇ͨH̟̲E̘̻ͭ̿ ̩ͫ̃͝
B̢̜̗̙͊U̕I̭̍͝ΙĻ̲Ḍ͖͖̗͠I̤Ń̛̅͌G̴̶̯͡ ҉̨͏A̞͈͈N̴̼͡D҉̱ ͓̆̓̇ͥT̓͡Oͨ̀̄͠Ő̝̎ͧK̥͖̦͋̇ ͣF̼̟L͕̲͓ͣ̉I͖̍́G͗҉Ḩ̂͟T̰ͧ̍̀ ̯Ι
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