Two animals greet Fala in the Room, and not ones that he’s seen for a very long while. Mr. Protection and Mr. Reciprocity were standing in the center of the room, their hairless tails wrapped tight ‘round each other.
Now, even though these opossums were fellow members of the Presidential Pets, the sight of them still made Fala feel all fuzzy inside. He’s not meant to be friends with animals like that, after all, with pests pulled in from outside.
Mr. Protection gives him a smile that is all sharp, yellow teeth. “Well, if you wouldn’t look who it is!”
His brother, Mr. Reciprocity, speaks with a heavy Southern drawl. “Ain’t surprised to see you here. I heard a lot of us older pets are getting pulled into the field.”
“Don’t tell him what you heard,” hisses Mr. Reciprocity, slamming his side into Mr. Protection’s. “That’s suppose to be a secret, ya dummy!”
Fala sighs around his watch. He scans the area, but can’t find any of the Presidential Pets usually in charge of the area. “Where’s – “
“Don’t know,” interrupts Mr. Protection, quick enough in his response that it’s obviously a lie.
Mr. Reciprocity chimes in, “you should probably just go home!”
“Och, I’m going too!” Fala turns towards the doggie door that will take him back to his own time stream. “I don’t have the patience to be dealing with the likes of you.”
As soon as Fala vanishes into his doggie door, Mr. Protection lets out a weary sigh. The opossum is very, very old. Because he’s a Presidential Pet, his age is almost frozen. It means that he will always be very, very old.
“That was close,” says Mr. Protection.
“Sorry,” says Mr. Reciprocity.
Mr. Protection shakes his head. “S’fine, brother. It’s not like we were prepared for this. Should’ve been, the way things’ve been going.”
He means, of course, the surge in how frequently older Presidential Pets are being pulled from their homes. Just like Fala, the pets with the most experience are being pulled into the Room, sent on quests usually reserved for the younger Presidential Pets that have energy to burn.
Mr. Reciprocity hisses with unease. “Where should we look?”
“Through whatever Door this place lets us,” answers Mr. Protection. Like all opossums, he’s a short, squat creature. Rather than walk, he and his brother, Mr. Reciprocity, waddle towards the wall, where the doggie doors are installed. Most of them aren’t lit up, signaling that the passage is closed.
After what feels like forever, however, they come across one very, very strange looking doggie door. The wood trim is old, weathered, and cracked. The green light ringing it is very dull. Twice, while they stand there, it flickers.
Mr. Reciprocity hisses again. “I don’t like this!”
“Me neither,” says Mr. Protection. “But if there’s no one here to give us a job, we’re going to need to go.”
Katelynn E Koontz – Author