Albion lived to antagonise him, Teague was sure of it. He heaved a deep sigh as he took in the mess of kibble on the floor. It wasn’t enough for the shitty cat to drag his water dish everywhere, now he was doing it with his dry-food as well.
The cat in question stared at him from the other side of the mess, eyes wide and innocent. “You’re eating this from the floor.” Albion’s eyes stayed fixed on him, round as ever. Keeping eye contact, he lifted his paw and tapped it against the kibble. “I’m not refilling your bowl until you do.”
Albion stared a moment longer, then left the room. Teague kicked a kibble after him. Albion ignored it, the little shit.
Teague waded through the mess, into the kitchen. For a moment, he contemplated the amount of effort it would take to grab the dustpan to just clean it up. Too much, he concluded. Now free from the kibble, he could walk freely to the counter to make himself some well-deserved coffee.
After a long day of hard work, he and his guild had finally defeated the Litch of Cassandria. Even Albion’s mess couldn’t take away his feelings of accomplishment. With this, they were sure to beat those feather fuckers in no time.
Humming along to the victory tune still faintly coming from his office, he paced around the kitchen, waiting for the coffee to be done. At a rise in the music, he turned with a flourish, only to realise his error too late to correct it.
His toe grazed against an unnoticed piece of kibble, launching it at mach-speed under the fridge. He groaned, victory pose ruined. He didn’t have a spoon long enough to get it out from under there.
He stared at the fridge in despair. Maybe, if luck was on his side, it wouldn’t smell.
Something underneath the fridge crunched. Like powerful jaws clamping on a tiny bit of kibble.
What the fuck.
He took a deep breath and held it. Count to five. Breath out. Okay, this was fine, no need to get worked up. Movements casual as he could make them, he kicked another kibble under the fridge.
He nodded. “Yeah, okay, sure.” Nothing to worry about. There was a shuffling under the fridge, the shadows shifted. A tendril of darkness reached out to the mess, but retreated when it couldn’t reach.
A fridge demon. Of course.
He grabbed the entire coffee pot and speed-walked back to his office. Right now was for celebrating. NOT whatever the fuck that was.
In the following weeks, the fridge demon didn’t go away. He was almost seventy percent sure it was real. Albion avoided the fridge like the plague, and the things he kicked under there really did seem to vanish.
Then again, he couldn’t be certain.
Demons and monsters were not exactly rare, but they weren’t common either. By comparison, Teague’s hallucinations were much more common.
He knew, for example, that the moths always circling his lamp weren’t real, and neither was the bird that tapped against the window every Saturday at 5pm. He’d had a lovely painting hanging in the kitchen for months before one of his asshole friends told him the wall was completely empty. And he didn’t even want to think about the old man who showed up randomly to tell him he’s the chosen one.
Yeah, it was real fun having his delusions of grandeur exposed to his friends like that. He didn’t even realise he had those delusions before then! He was a reformed criminal, not some hero’s journey protagonist.
But yeah, seventy percent sure about the fridge demon.
He was less sure about the portal in his closet.
It certainly functioned like a portal, bringing him to some odd magical land he’d never heard the name of before. The area around his portal was a beautiful clearing filled with glittering flowers in a small forest. He liked it there, it was peaceful.
But he couldn’t trust the portal.
Sometimes it was there, sometimes not. Sometimes he could get his clothes normally and other times they were covered in flower-petals. One time he opened the doors only to nearly fall over from the howling wind that slammed into him. Another time he hit his head against the back of the closet because the portal had just fucking disappeared again.
Maybe he was just so desperate for some fresh air that his mind invented a way for him to be ‘outside’. He couldn’t really complain about it, since he was only locked inside ‘for his own safety’, but it still pissed him off.
He once spent an hour throwing balls of paper at it. Two vanished, number three bounced off the back. Then number four through ten vanished, and the twenty after that bounced, adding to the mess that was his bedroom floor.
“Make up your damn mind!” he screamed as he threw another. It didn’t bounce, but when he walked closer he found a whole hoard laying on his clothes.
Albion moved into the closet. He refused to come out even when Teague lured him with food. He was pulling his hair out trying to figure out if this meant the portal was real.
Maybe Albion was dead and his mind had invented a new scenario to block out the horrible reality. Maybe Albion just liked to sleep on his clean shirts. Maybe the portal was real and his cat really was chasing fairies between the flowers.
He just- well it didn’t matter. If Albion was dead, he preferred not to know. At least like this he could see his boy whenever he liked, having the time of his life running through nature.
If the portal wasn’t real… what did it mean? He wasn’t in the closet about anything, was he? No, no everyone knew he was ace. Nothing to worry about.
While Teague was busy playing a game of ‘was that a prophetic vision or a hallucination’, his front door was nearly knocked off its hinges by a loud knocking, heralding the arrival his least favourite asshole friend.
“I’m coming in, fuckface!”
“I’m in my office!”
“Calling your gaming room your office won’t make you any less unemployed,” Brad scoffed as he entered.
Teague glared over the top of his screen. “Like you play any less than me.”
He shook his head and leaned against the doorframe. “I’m not here for you anyways. Where’s Albion?”
He didn’t look up from his screen this time. “In the closet.”
Brad’s footsteps trailed away, only to be replaced by a shout. “What the fuck? Why do you have Narnia in your closet?”
“Bitch it’s not Narnia, Narnia isn’t real,” he yelled back. He went back to playing, only for his movements to slow, then halt, as he properly registered what just happened. “YOU MEAN IT’S REAL?!”
“I thought it was just a hallucination…”
“Well, it’s clearly not,” Brad scoffed, standing knee-deep in glittery flowers.
“Unless you’re a hallucination as well.”
Brad sent him a look. “Your shitty brain couldn’t do my presence justice.”
He couldn’t argue with that.
All in all, knowing the portal was real didn’t change much. Brad and his other friends came over about as often as normal, only now, instead of hanging out his dingy apartment, they laid about in the flower field. Sometimes they wandered further.
They found civilisation eventually, which was fun. Teague and Brad enrolled in magic classes at the local college. It was free.
Albion sprouted wings one day. Or at least, he thought he did. When his friends came by later it turned out to be another hallucination. Teague only sighed.
“Teague!” Helena screamed later that same day. “Brad dropped the cookies on the floor again!”
“Just feed them to the fridge demon!” he yelled back.
Yeah, his fridge demon wasn’t real after all. Magic portal or not, nothing really changed.