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The Manner of Things

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When the text came through Achilles were perfectly content. He had a dozing Patroclus laying across his chest and a funny movie on his TV. The text came through on his phone and then a moment later Patroclus’ phone buzzed as well. Achilles groaned when Patroclus sat up, Patroclus rolling his eyes at his over the top boyfriend. While his chest was free Achilles reached for his phone as well. May as well see what was happening.

“I think Menelaus is high,” Patroclus said before Achilles had the chance to read his messages.

“Wouldn’t be surprised,” Achilles replied absentmindedly as he read what was happening in the group chat. Messages were flying in from the boy in question. Nothing really made sense, something about a book and some painted walls and his brother not being home. A few question marks from Odysseus and one ‘WTF’ from Diomedes were there but aside from that, it was just Menelaus sending a steady stream of messages with far too many capital letters.

“Helen just messaged me. She’s really worried,” Patroclus showed the paragraph length message sent to him. “Apparently Agamemnon has disappeared.”

“Oh no,” Achilles replied flatly. Patroclus threw a pillow at his boyfriend. “Oh come on, guys a freak.”

Patroclus sent Achilles a look of disbelief, “and he’s missing. We can’t be rude about him.”

“He tried to curse me!”

“You told him he was a freak!”

“Because he is!”

“Well, yeah, but you don’t say that to people’s faces.”

Achilles shrugged, “doesn’t matter. He’s gone now.” At Patroclus’ furious face he raised his hands in surrender and muttered an apology. On their phones Menelaus had stopped texting them so rapidly, leaving Helen to ask them all to go to his house and get there as quick as they could. “We’re going, aren’t we?”

“Menelaus is our friend.”

“Yeah, but I was so comfortable.”

“I’m going, you can come if you want.”

Getting up, Achilles pulled on a shirt. “You can’t even drive, how did you expect to get there?”

“I knew you would come with me,” Patroclus grinned up at Achilles from the bed.

“Devious,” Achilles lent down to kiss Patroclus. “I like it.”

~~~

When they arrived Menelaus’ house Odysseus was just pulling up with Diomedes and Penelope in tow. Big Ajax’s car was also parked in the driveway meaning, most likely that both Ajaxs were inside already. Through the window, Menelaus pacing across his living room was very clear. The five that had just arrived joined up to walk to the front door, which was had already swung open. A very stressed looking Helen standing in the doorway. She hurried them into the living room where the Ajax’s were sitting silently, watching Menelaus.

“Thank you for coming,” Helen muttered after Penelope hugged her. “I have no idea what to do.”

“What’s happening?” Achilles asked, still annoyed that he wasn’t on his bed with Patroclus on his chest. Anywhere but here really. “The group chat wasn’t exactly helpful.”

Helen ran a hand through her hair. “I honestly don’t know.”

“I do,” Menelaus said. “He’s insane and he actually did it. I can’t believe him.”

“Did what?” Patroclus asked as he and Achilles sat on an armchair. The others, including Menelaus, followed suit and in a moment everyone was sitting down. The room was uncomfortably quiet as they all waited for Menelaus to speak.

“Okay, so you guys know that my brother is into some weird shit. Like, magic and hexes and wizards?” Menelaus started and everyone nodded. Everyone knew Agamemnon was into some weird things, he didn’t try to hide it. Menelaus nodded, tapping a leather bound book that was resting on his knee. “So, that shit was like his passion. It was all he did. But he was always talking about a door, a door that he could make that lead somewhere else. Like, another planet or dimension or something.”

Diomedes nodded seriously, “like Monsters Inc.”

“What the fuck?” Odysseus shook his head, hitting his friend on the shoulder. “Shut up.”

“Yeah, anyway. He wanted to find the key to the door or some shit so he could leave and go to a place filled with magic. He said the old gods lived there.”

“Dude, no offence, but your brother is a complete wacko,” Achilles said. Patroclus shoved his boyfriends’ shoulder with his own but didn’t say anything to him.

Standing, Menelaus nodded. “Yeah, I never really understood what he was talking about.”

“So what’s the huge problem?” Achilles asked.

“He’s missing.”

“Did he run away early last year?” Penelope asked, “and he came back.”

Helen nodded, “he did but he left a note and was only gone for a night. He’s been missing since Friday.”

“And it’s Sunday,” Menelaus groaned. “He’s been missing for two days.”

“Call the police,” big Ajax said.

Little Ajax nodded, “what are we going to do?”

Menelaus sighed, looking to the book and back. “I can’t explain it. Just follow me.” All of them stood, following their friend into his back garden and down the path to the shed at the bottom of their property. Patroclus was always slightly jealous of Menelaus’. His shed was nicer than Patroclus’ whole house. Almost the same size as well. A small creek ran alongside it, eels swimming down it with fish occasionally coming to the surface. Menelaus pushed open the door, stepping inside. It wasn’t anything to write home about inside but it was nicer than an average tool shed. An old looking armchair in one corner, a large bookcase stuffed with books in the other. One wall had a desk covered in papers pushed against it with a mini fridge and some drawers beside it. The oddest thing were the walls, seeing as they were absolutely covered in drawings and maps and symbols Patroclus had never seen.

“This is his, I don’t know, magic house. He’s always out here, working on stuff. We’re not allowed in.”

“I am,” Helen muttered.

“So this is, what, the crime scene?” Achilles said, “we shouldn’t be in here.”

“No, Miami Vice, it’s not,” Menelaus replied tightly, stepping around Diomedes to stand by the door. He pushed it closed and turned on the light. Which was blue. It also lit up the doorway, showing all the symbols painted on the door and around the doorway. In the middle of the door was a big red hand that Patroclus really hoped was paint. Menelaus held up the book he was holding, the pages covered in the same type of symbols as the door. “Last Friday I came out to call him in for dinner but he wasn’t here. Sometimes he wonders so I figured he’d come back. But he hasn’t yet and I am freaking out. He’s a freak but he’s my brother.”

Everyone bar Menelaus looked at each other uneasily. Achilles was the one to speak up, “so do you think it - worked?”

“Yes!”

“Sorry to break it to you,” Odysseus said, “but magic isn't real.”

“That’s what I thought but this is weird.”

“People go missing all the time,” Odysseus continued.

Helen sighed, “can you show them what you showed me?”

“Right. So I was here early looking for clues when I found this.”

“A map,” Patroclus said when Menelaus held up the piece of paper. Menelaus shook his head. “An old map?” Patroclus tried again. Menelaus looked offended. “A map with family value?”

Achilles looked at his boyfriend, “what are you talking about?”

“Magic, apparently.”

“Patroclus gets it,” Menelaus sighed. “Thank you. It’s a map of the world Agamemnon was looking for.”

“The place that doesn’t exist,” Odysseus said.

“Helen, this is what convinced you?” Penelope muttered.

“I guess. I don’t think Menelaus is lying about this.”

Little Ajax nodded with raised eyebrows. “So what do you want from us?”

“We have to find him,” Menelaus replied as if that was obvious.

“Yeah,” Achilles said. “Let’s call the cops and let them sort it out.”

“If I figure out how to open the door then we can go and save my brother.”

“You sound like Agamemnon,” Diomedes said. “And that’s not a good thing just so you know.”

Menelaus ignored him, instead turning to the desk. He searched as everyone stood in silence for a few moments before he produced a new piece of paper. Pushing past everyone, which was rather hard seeing as they were all pretty close together because of the size of the room. He got to the door and started tracing random symbols with a sharpie. Everyone watched in a sort of confused discomfort. As he traced the room dropped in temperature, prompting Achilles to hand his jacket to Patroclus who had started rubbing his arms. After a few more minutes Menelaus stood back, looking from the door to the paper to the book and back again. No one moved. They were waiting for something to happen, either the door would open into a magic world or Menelaus would fully lose it and start fully muttering in a corner. Either was fine.

It didn’t take long for one of the larger symbols by the door handle, an upside down semicircle with a cross in the middle, to start glowing gold. Achilles and Patroclus looked at each other, neither knowing what to say to that. The chain of symbols around the door frame started glowing hot red a moment later. Menelaus swore loudly before drawing another symbol, a snowman looking thing - without the hat or arms - right under the handprint. That also glowed, blue this time. Menelaus nodded and then the symbols on the doorframe were glowing gold.

“What the fuck is happening?” Diomedes muttered as everyone stared.

“Glow in the dark paint,” Odysseus replied with way too much confidence in his voice.

Achilles stepped closer to Patroclus, almost so that he was in front of his boyfriend and closer to the door. Patroclus couldn’t say he minded. Glowing doors was a little too much for him to handle, to be honest. Achilles knew that, knew that his boyfriend wasn’t liking this by his stance alone and being protective was an inbuilt thing with him. Patroclus found Achilles’ hand and joined him to his. Achilles squeezed back in reply as they continued to watch the door as more symbols started to glow gold. One by one the symbols followed suit and glowed. It was becoming so bright that it was hard to look at.

Once all the symbols were glowing smoke started seeping in through the cracks. Diomedes shook his head, “nope. This fucking sucks and I am going home.”

“You can’t touch the door until it’s finished.”

“Or what?”

“I think you turn to dust?”

“What the fuck, Menelaus?! Glowing doors and Thanosing it. I hate you.”

As Menelaus went to reply the glowing stopped. So suddenly that the room felt like it was plunged into darkness. The light above them flicked on and off for a bit before changing from blue to gold. Everyone held their breath. It was so silent that you could hear the faintest of noises. Which is why everyone freaked the fuck out when something, something big, walked past the door they were all staring at. Menelaus placed the book and the map in a satchel like bag that was sitting by the door before turning to face everyone.

“We-” he hesitated. “We’re not. I think we made it.”

“What the fuck,” Helen said, wide-eyed staring at her boyfriend. “Menelaus what did you just do?”

“Took us to-”

“You say anything like ‘Magic Land’ and I am punching you,” Achilles threatened.

Menelaus shook his head, “the place my brother was looking for.”

“Your map place?” Patroclus asked. Menelaus nodded and Achilles groaned.

“This,” Achilles said turning to Patroclus, “is why I don’t socialize.”

“This exact situation?” Diomedes teased.

Achilles glared at his friend, “no.”

“We don’t even know where we are,” Helen said.

Odysseus rolled his eyes. “We’re in Menelaus’ back garden.”

Without warning, Menelaus turned the handle and pushed the door open. They were not in Menelaus’ back garden. The normal rich-person gated-community garden they had just been in had turned into a forest. An actual forest. A forest filled with trees so tall the tops were hazy and hard to see and knee-high fog so thick you couldn’t see the floor. Bright, neon bright, flowers with tall, black, stems sprouted in random places and some kind of animal was chirping loudly nearby. The doorway itself was situated in a small clearing, devoid of mist and neon flowers but covered in sprouts of plants that were bright red in colour and about ankle high. No one moved from the shed.

“Where the fuck are we?” Diomedes asked after a while.

“No idea,” Penelope muttered looking more and more distressed the longer she looked out at the image in front of them. Odysseus rubbed her back.

Above them was a sound, almost like an owl but ten times as loud, before a giant dark-grey shape was flying around in the airspace. It was high up and it was huge. No one wanted to see how big it was when it landed. “What the actual hell,” Patroclus muttered.

“That doesn’t matter right now,” Menelaus interrupted. “We’re here and we can’t get out without finding my brother.”

“Why not?” Big Ajax asked.

“Don’t know how,” Menelaus shrugged, not even looking apologetic.

Patroclus had to tighten his hand in Achilles’ so that his boyfriend didn’t start a fight. “And how,” Achilles asked, “do you know your brother is even here. Where ever here is?”

“He’s there,” Menelaus pointed to an ‘X’ on the map.

“X marks the spot? Really?” Odysseus muttered. “At least be original.”

Menelaus shouldered the bag and grabbed Helen’s hand. “Thank you guys for coming with me.”

“You didn’t give us a choice,” Achilles replied, screwing up his face.

“Yeah,” Menelaus nodded. He, along with Helen, stepped out first. The others following suit and walking into the clearing. No one wanted to be left alone in the shed. Which was a good thing, seeing as the moment Diomedes stepped out there was a loud hissing sound and the house shimmered before disappearing entirely. It was hard to find words so no one spoke when it happened. In the clearing the little red plants started swaying as purple hand size bee-like insects flew around, occasionally bumping into a flower and making a grunting noise.

“I don’t like this, Menelaus,” Penelope said as they stood there. “Truly.”

“Neither do I,” Diomedes muttered.

Something moved in the forest, the vines hanging between the trees were pushed around as the creature circled the clearing. Somebody squeaked and everyone moved closer to one another. A huddle in the middle of the clearing. There was a loud roar that rocked the ground and all the bee-things flew up and away, the red plants closing their petals and going closer to the ground. Menelaus brought out the map as the creature grew closer. It was close enough to smell, it’s goat like scent causing people to screw up their faces.

“If we go that way,” Menelaus said pointing to his left and away from the creature, “we should get to a waterfall.”

“And if we don’t?” Helen asked.

“We’ll figure that out when we get there, or don’t get there,” Menelaus replied. And with that, they were off.