Angels and Adversaries
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Cornelius Młynarczyk was dreaming again.

He'd had them since he was very young. Mostly little things, dribbles of somewhere else. Sensations, people, places, occasional snippets of lives. The dream was happiness, sometimes, the unbounded joy that comes with a life unexpectedly altered. Sometimes, it was unimaginable pain which woke him up screaming. Never anything coherent, or actionable. Just little things.

But no, not tonight, tonight was special. Tonight was vivid, and lucid, and real.

In this particular dream, it was late evening. Cornelius was standing in an office of some kind, glass-fronted and looking out over a cityscape. Probably Boston or New York, or somewhere equally big and American. Although, now he thought about it, those two words were usually synonymous. He was standing next to a printer, talking absently to a stunningly attractive blonde woman with large hoop earrings and two-inch fake nails. She was saying something fascinating about ontology and abstract cascades, but for some reason he wasn't paying attention. He was focused on something else.

Snap.

There it was. A worrying apprehension at the back of his mind, made audible.

Snap.

And again. Other people were starting to feel it too, a pressure on the universe. The ceiling was suddenly a little too low, a little too oppressive. The walls hadn't moved physically, of course, but they were nevertheless closing in. The blonde hadn't noticed — Cornelius had a fairly good idea that she'd been hired for reasons other than attentiveness — but the standard closing-time bustle was beginning to border on frantic. It would most likely only take one more fracture for things to get really, really-

Sssssssssnap.

And then everything fell outwards.

It was at this point that Cornelius knew two things. The first was that he was not currently situated inside his own body, because whoever's body it was had just used it to jump forty feet across the office space and dive for cover under a desk. The second was that he was not currently controlling the body with his own brain, because he'd only realised he was moving while at the apex of his arc.

The question of how he was there at all, if not in body or in mind, never occurred to him, and it was a good thing too. He would not have liked the answer.

The person who wasn't Cornelius, but was also currently Cornelius, pulled a battered flip-phone from their pocket. Cornelius wondered silently why someone working in such a swanky establishment would have a piece of technology so shoddy and old, and suddenly felt a pang of defensiveness. It was his phone, and he'd been through a lot with it. He trusted it more than any person alive, and he certainly wasn't going to have it insulted by some random stranger, least of all himself.

[…]

He rolled, pulled the phone from its sticky, blue captor, and flipped it open. Where there should have been a screen, a mirror stared back at him, and in the mirror…

Well, it certainly wasn't Cornelius, but given that the difference in body was well-established at this point, that didn't really come as a surprise. Where there should have been a slightly overweight 20-something man with good hair and awful skin, there was instead the face of a man who was best described as…

Beautiful. Not handsome, exactly — a little too effeminate for that — but certainly beautiful. A strange, ethereal, delicate beauty; the kind of face you'd expect to see in the higher class of makeup commercial, or perhaps socialising at one of those parties full of movie stars and cocaine. Soft-spoken, tender, and gay beyond belief.

The face, of course, was seeing something else. It was seeing a mop of mousy brown hair, acne scars, and smudged glasses. Cornelius watched its eyes widen (and felt his own eyes widen too) and heard it (him) whisper something involuntarily.

It was hard to tell over the carnage, but it sounded an awful lot like "You?"

With a shaking hand, he thumbed the emergency call button, and an unseen force tugged him through the window and out into the freezing air. He began to fall faster and faster as storey after storey whipped past him. Each one told a similar tale of bright blue devastation.

The phone closed with a snap, and Cornelius woke up.

It was a shame, really, that he never remembered his dreams.


Cornelius Młynarczyk was 20-something, fairly tall, slightly overweight, and unremarkable. He was currently standing in his underwear watching rain flood in through his newly-broken window. It was night-time. There was a glass of water by his bed, and a man sprawled out on the floor.

There was not, Cornelius would have urged anyone watching, anything wrong per se with a man being in his bedroom. What two consenting people got up to in their spare time was none of his business, and he generally found the whole topic of sex far too embarrassing to start dictating how other people went about it. That said…

Well, if he'd had any say about it, he'd probably have chosen a woman instead. A girl. Someone of the female persuasion. It was not his area of expertise, but he had some fairly vague ideas of what he looked for in a mate, and this scrawny figure in a business suit and top hat was not checking any boxes. There was also, of course, the fact that he'd just come in through the window. That was a definite non-starter.

Realising that he should probably do something about the situation, Cornelius moved to help the figure. Struck by the thought that people entering through windows in the dead of night might not be friendly, he moved to arm himself with something heavy and wieldable. Suddenly and acutely aware of his own situation RE: clothing and the lack thereof, he moved to put something more concealing on. The result was that, when the strange man came to his senses, Cornelius was struggling into a pair of jeans, hopping across the room, holding a paperweight in one hand and a lamp in the other.

"Ah," he said. "Sorry. I reckon I misjudged the-"

Cornelius started, tripped, and hurled the paperweight across the room. The stranger fell to the floor once more, a dark black fluid trickling from their scalp. Cornelius swore, tripped again, span in a circle once, and fell on top of him.


"So."

"So."

"The Southport Lawnmower Museum?"

"What?"

"The paperweight you threw at me. Southport Lawnmower Museum."

"Oh. It was a school trip. I got some souvenir money."

"Bloody heavy souvenir."

"I had a lot of money."

Both men shifted uncomfortably. After extricating himself from the jeans, Cornelius had dressed properly, bandaged the man as best he could, and carried him to the sofa. In a vain effort to protect himself he'd tied the man's arms with twine — he'd slipped out of the bindings as soon as he awakened, and in a show of good grace had chosen not to mention it. They were currently sat at either side of the kitchen table, steadfastly avoiding each others' gaze.

"…I'm an angel", said the stranger, drumming his fingers on the table. He spoke with an unplaceable accent — vaguely American, but with strange inflections that drew the ear in a rapid dance around the globe. "I reckoned that might be a good place to start. Name's Michael."

Cornelius opened his mouth to protest, but something in the visitor's tone stopped him. He sounded as though he was admitting to some rather nasty infection, rather than a direct connection with the divine.

"Angel? Right, then. Yes. Sure, good. Wings are in the wash, are they?"

On cue, a pair of tattered translucent wings unfolded, reaching the span of the kitchen with ease. Michael grinned sheepishly.

"Didn't want to rough them up to badly when I came in, see. Only I think I might've misjudged it, 'cause I'm supposed to be looking for someone important. Is this Tower Court?"

"Y- yes. Sorry, you're an angel-"

"How far away's flat 315?"

"This is it. Angel though, you said angel. Like, a proper, biblical, halo and wings-"

Michael scowled. "Hold on", he said, "does that make you Cornelius Mily-nyar-kusz-"

"Młynarczyk, yes. That's me."

"Right. Okay, fine. Sure. Bloody hell, though."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, uh. No offence, but look at you. I knew you were a distant relative, but not this distant."

"Excuse me!?"

He waved a hand dismissively. "It'll take ages to explain. To cut a long story short… you know those stories where a rich uncle dies and leaves some poor sod a million quid and a haunted mansion?"

"I'm aware, yes."

"It's kind of like that. I'm the executor of your late… cousin? Second cousin? Some number of cousin, some number of times removed, whatever. I'm the executor of his will. And you're his closest living blood relative. In a roundabout way, I think it makes us related, though not close enough to matter. Don't go sending out Christmas cards or anything."

"Related… wait, hold on though." Cornelius thought for a moment. "If you're an angel — and I can't really argue that, you've got the wings and all — who the hell died? God?"

Michael grinned and Cornelius' mouth dropped open. "You're kidding", he said, aghast.

"Well, yes and no. More yes than no, from my perspective. From yours, probably more no than yes. It really would take too long to explain the whole thing now — I appreciate the attempt at coffee-" He gestured to a mug of grainy, lukewarm fluid "-but we really don't have time. We ought to get moving in the next ten minutes or so, for safety's sake. How do you want to travel; I'll either call us a cab, or fly you myself."

Cornelius looked at the broken window, and the angel's battered wings.

"Taxi", he said with feeling. "Definitely a taxi."



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