The door lets them back out into the hallway, and for a moment everything seems normal. Mr. Reciprocity can’t relax, though. The very thought that it could be Cornwallis is unsettling. The older pets, they’re a different sort than the others. The young ones, from newer timelines, or just new to the job, they don’t understand what it was like when the Room first showed up.
Everything was a confusing, difficult mess. There were so many problems that the humans had created on their own but needed help to fix. So many times that the pets had to pull together, the ten original ones, and put aside all differences to solve the task at hand.
But – it’s been a long time since then.
Mr. Protection must be thinking the same thing, because he asks, “how long has it been since the Founders got together?”
“Too long,” answers Mr. Reciprocity. He shakes his head, squints up his eyes. “It’s been too long, brother.”
“We can dismiss the new Pets all we want but, brother, I feel as if we have grown complacent.”
“I’m old. And I’m tired.”
“As am I,” says Mr. Protection. He bumps their shoulders together and then their sides. “And that door is open, brother. It’s time for us to put aside our complicity and take up our helm once more.”
Mr. Reciprocity looks at the door and sighs, the air emptying his lungs so much it hurts. “Agreed, brother. It’s time.”
The door lets them out into another hallway, and what follows is a maze like the two brothers have never seen before. But they push on, for they are Founders, and they have put their jobs aside for far too long.
Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection don’t give up. And for that, they are rewarded with the end of the maze. It’s a room. The room is empty outside of a box. The two opossum brothers circle the box, nudging at it with their noses and front paws.
“Curious and curiouser,” says Mr. Reciprocity.
“Indeed, brother.” Mr. Protection sits down on one side of the box. “This is the key. Of that I’m sure.”
“It reminds me of our stint during the Lincoln Administration. Do you remember, brother?” Mr. Reciprocity sits down, too. “We went out to that lovely farm. The barn had burnt down and no one had figured out that it was a coup against their dear President.”
Mr. Protection’s eyes light up. “There was a box then, too!”
Mr. Reciprocity nods. “The Room knew that it would be a trial, and thus gave us something She felt would help.”
“Old Whiskers is the one who figured it out,” says Mr. Protection.
Mr. Reciprocity hums. “True. But brother…I think that it’s up to us, now.”
Katelynn E Koontz – Author