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non plus ultra [nothing more beyond]

the angel scratched the back of his neck, wondering how long it would take for him to fly back home and replace his soiled gloves with new ones. sighing at the thought of the scolding he would no doubt receive if he showed up in incomplete uniform, he slouched on the park bench he was sitting on, wings spread in a way that was considered supremely impolite by his winged fellows.

long white hair ruffled by the wind, he licked up trickles of melting popsicle from the stick, making a noise like a cat drenched in water as he spat out a strand of hair. his feathery wings were raised above his head like an umbrella, as the day was hot and the angel felt that the greatest mistake made in creation was that the lord had not made a thermostat for all the world so that the temperature would never be too warm nor too cold. he was aware of all the possible flaws of a thermostat to regulate the world’s temperature, but using his wings as an umbrella got tiring, and the angel didn’t like getting tired at all.

as one might surmise, he was a lazy, peculiar little thing with more late slips to work than he had feathers on his wings. he would know. he had counted them in an attempt to slack off work once.

slurping up the last bits of popsicle quickly, the angel briefly glanced at the convenience store down the street, considering buying another. deciding that a fourth popsicle was not worth having to miss the bus, he sighed and stood up from the dilapidated little park bench, picking up a feather that he had shed and dropping it into the bin.

the angel dusted off his briefcase and went on his way to work. his place of work was in a little office that he privately considered to be worse than hell, and the job requirements written on the listing were deceptive to the point of being near illegal. as he made his way downtown, he attracted quite a few stares.

in this world where supernatural beings roam the streets, it’s rude to ask someone what they are and a faux pas to acknowledge any particular features they might have. most non-humans pass for a humanoid with ease, though, and the angel is one of them.

obviously, the wings and golden halo are a dead giveaway to his status. then there’s the way water washes right off him like a polished stone, skin shining like granite or marble in the sun. the angel is close to human, but just a little bit to the right of it — two circles

not quite overlapping. delicate like a nymph from the works of ovid or homer, the feathers of his wings are a shade of burnished gold that matches the shine of his halo.

more gold runs through his veins, like those trapped in quartz and granite, shining on the apples of his cheeks, under his eyes, and the part of his wrists where skin is particularly thin is flaked with gold too. whispers say that his eyes become shot through with gold when he cries, though no one can reliably say that they’ve seen the angel weep.

sighing in relief as he finally reached the air-conditioned sanctuary of the back of his office, he settled like dust into his swivel chair. the angel shook his hair out of his face, making him look very reminiscent of a sheepdog. much to his appreciation, his cubicle was in a secluded corner, which meant that he had optimum access to the exit and he didn’t have to unduly interact with his coworkers, who weren’t much for water-dispenser gossip anyway. shaking crumbs out of his paperwork, he took a bite of his now stale breakfast bagel. “m-hm. i have to interview a newbie today… well, at least it’s not customer service.”

in his three hundred years and counting of working, he had never done something that chipped away at one’s will to live more than customer service.

the angel skimmed the papers on his desk and reached upwards to turn up the air conditioner. “what kind of name is lady luck? hmph.” haphazardly stuffing his paperwork back into his briefcase and left, he bumped into the water dispenser as he went.

the angel internally grumbled. doing an interview in a crowded diner was not something that had been listed on his job description. the little timer beside him ticking slowly but surely to 0, he smiled his first genuine smile of the day as he started on his order. the cashier had asked him if all that food was for only one person when he’d ordered, a testament to the amount of calories that flying around burned.

his hand froze halfway to his mouth as a boy slid into the seat across from him. “scram, kid. i’m too busy to help you find your parents.”

“i’m here for the interview.” the boy stated, reaching to steal a french fry slathered in ketchup.

“ah. lady luck, then, i take it?”

“that’s me.”

“two minutes and thirty-six seconds late,” he murmured, stopping the timer and pretending to write it down on a little notepad. a decision had already been made to not hire the little brat for stealing his fries without even asking nicely. the angel wouldn’t have given him his fries even if he’d groveled at his feet, but that was beside the point. manners existed for a reason. “shall we begin?”

“fire away.”

“any prior experience working similar jobs?”

lady luck shook his head. “none. i only just graduated, didn’t you read my resume-” “formalities, formalities. i have a script to follow.” the angel doodled onto his notepad. “wait, what’s your name? i can’t keep calling you mr. interviewer forever.”

“i’d usually say that angel works fine, but since you’re going to be working with many of my kind, feel free to call me percy if you must.”

“percy? is it short for something like percival? it doesn’t fit you at all.” he stole another french fry.

“it’s short for perseverance, if you must know,” the newly named perseverance huffed, “perseverance is a puritan hortatory name. names like these are supposed to encourage the child born with them to embody the virtue of the name.”

“i don’t think it worked for you.”

“shut up, you little—! i feel very lucky to not have gotten named something like lamentation.”

lady luck thought to himself for a few seconds, hmm-ing and hmph-ing. “i think i’ll just call you angel. percy isn’t a name i think you should have. you aren’t the persevering type either.”

he shrugged. “whatever you say. it’s you lot with this obsession of naming things and putting them in neat little boxes with labels. i can’t say i’m attached to any of the names i’ve had at all.”

“you aren’t going to ask me about the lady luck thing? you don’t think it’s ridiculous?”

“i don’t need nor want to know why you call yourself that. it’s what you wrote down as your name, so i’ll refer to you by that. next question. why would you ever want to work here?”

lady luck straightened in his seat. here was a question he had prepared for. “i thought it would be a good opportunity to gain experience in this field while simultaneously—”

“stop.” the angel held up a hand to dissuade him from speaking further. “if you’re going to waste my time by lying about why you want to work here and stealing my fries, then leave.”

“…you can tell?”

“m-hm. i don’t really care either way, but i’d like your honesty more than if you just said a script you memorized. this job isn’t something that you can really prepare for at all. it won’t be like how the evening news depicts it, or the novels, or the tv shows.”

“i’m not stupid enough to think that it was actually going to be like that-!”

“but you hoped for it.”

he sank down in his seat, visibly deflated. “yes. i thought that there must be at least a little bit of truth to how it was portrayed… then i’d also have a reason to apply for this job other than me half forcing myself into it.”

the angel facepalmed, making his halo bounce slightly in the air. “what can you do, anyway? how did you even qualify for an interview when you’re young, have no contacts as far as i know, and you don’t even know how this whole thing works?”

“well, um, i’m lucky. being around me makes people more likely to have random good things happen to them, like having a really good night of rest, or acing a test that they didn’t study for. just small things that can make someone’s day better. i thought that maybe i could help around, because since you angels consciously do good deeds, keeping me here would be a boon.” lady luck’s eyebrows twitched upwards. “wait, why’re you here, huh? you don’t seem all that eligible for miss congeniality, and i’m not getting any powerful vibes from you either.”

“i’m special. they simply can’t go on without me.” the angel said simply in a tone that invited no further discussion.

“then… why are you telling me?”

“huh?” he downed a glass of pink lemonade, tipping his head back. “i just didn’t want to have to do overtime to show a newbie how things work around here. it’s not out of the goodness of my heart of anything.” his eyes are disturbingly blue. “i’ll say sorry if it makes you feel better.”

“no… don’t. but you could have just sent me off and told your superiors i wasn’t fit for the job. i wouldn’t be able to steal your fries anymore either.”

“that would have been more paperwork and more answering questions. better if i scared you off to leave of your own free will.”

“..oh. so i guess that it’s not that different after all.”

the angel wiped his mouth guiltily, left wing twitching. “it’s terrible work. you wouldn’t want to do it. i wouldn’t do it, but it pays my bills and i’m certainly not qualified for anything else. i’ve never gone to school, and i don’t feel like doing any kind of training at all either. your resume could take you places. it took you here, after all.”

“i can’t shake off the feeling that i should be doing something for the betterment of the world.” lady luck hung his head. “i’ve been given this power for a reason.”

“you won’t be much help if you’re miserable and you dread going to work every damn day. besides, in this line of work, you can only save the people who will allow you to save them.” the angel noticed lady luck’s eyes getting shiny and he pushed his french fries to the other side of the table. “this is nothing but the truth. every year, so many applicants apply to become an angel, but over 60% drop out after a month. after a year, less than 10% ended up staying.

i’ll give you some free advice: you can’t save everyone you want to save. you can only help those who will let you help them.

anyway. you aren’t suited to become an angel at all, lady luck. go get another job. i’ll even give you a letter of recommendation if you’d like. just don’t become one of us.”

stiffly, lady luck got up from the table. “thank you for your guidance, angel. may fortune smile upon you.”

“m-hm. please never contact me again. thanks.”


“uriel. are we just saying each other’s names now?” the angel crossed the street, balancing his phone on the top of his halo. “what do you need?”

“when are you going to find a replacement archangel of light?”

“when you find someone who actually wants to do the job and is prepared for the hardships that come with it,” he replied swiftly. “telling an idealized version of the work we do does nothing but harm it; for every ten that apply only nine push through with it after they realize it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. i don’t want the lucifer issue to happen again.”

“don’t you dare mention that name.” static crackled from the other side of the line.

“he didn’t only fall because he questioned god. lucifer allowed himself to fall because from a young age he had been inducted into becoming an angel and so many years of experiencing the dark parts of the world eroded all of the drive he used to have. we’re doing things wrong.”

“oh? what is this, altruism?”

“i don’t want to do any more overtime than i have to because you fools keep pulling kids into work and then the stress of it all makes them not even resist falling right into hell!”

“lucifer was the one who was wrong. there is no reason to question or to doubt, because there is nothing more beyond what has already been given to us!”

“you are dodging the topic!” the angel dropped the call, seething.

the flashing neon sign that greeted him as he turned a corner almost made him forget about uriel entirely. “oh? free popsicles? well, don’t mind if i do.”


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