A year. It had been a year long trial full of official papers, interviews, legal battles, and annoying phone calls to underpaid and over worked government employees, but there she was waiting before the first gates that would open to her new home and future. Reed chuckled as the rather on the nose thought struck her. Her new home would be in ‘New Home’, the Monster city within the young tiny nation. Slender fingers tapped out a haphazard beat against her steering wheel as she waited in line, her Hyundai Sedan purring away, and AC blasting as much as it could to beat the summer heat. She was four cars back from the small gates that sat before the giant walls that surrounded the nation of Monsters.
There where three gates, each tiny and cramped looking, a single bar keeping vehicles from passing. They certainly weren’t very secure, but this was just the first check point. The small glass boxes with one or two workers were an obvious front. They had to be. Reed smirked, red painted lips curling as hazel eyes roved over the cramped looking gate houses, only one open and manned by a single Monster with a Human partner. She was the last in line, thus it gave her enough time to take in the sights. While the border didn’t look very secure, she noted the cameras obviously placed on the tiny gate houses swivel freely as though directed by hand. They would pause and move independently.
Beyond the pitiful border guard the road was lined with small lights and decorative lamp posts, the stems holding them up looking a bit too thick. The grass along the road was lush, and thick, cut to perfection. Golden flowers made a beautiful splash of color as they lined just about everywhere. They swung on hanging baskets from a few of the posts, and created a stair step pattern on the field of manicured grass. It didn’t escape her the dark orb like shapes that hid within the flowers. Some might think them the normal mirror balls one may find in rural gardens, but the tint seemed too dark. “More cameras…”. The woman muttered before pressing gently on the gas to move forward in the line, a driver being turned away. It was taking forever just to move several feet before having to wait at least a half hour to do so again. At least she could take in the wonder that was the central gates.
The central gates where nothing like the border gates. If an ant were to stand next to a lion it could be an apt description between them. The main gates towered high, the top hitting at least three stories. They were thick, made of some sort of dark wood, and carved beautifully, the Royal Crest proudly standing out in the center. The wings, triangles and circle looked to have been created from beaten gold, and then inlaid to the wood. It was majestic, if not somewhat intimidating. Beneath the Royal Symbol someone had carved a rendition of Mt. Ebbot and the breaking of the barrier as Monsters of varying types looked to be marching from a cavern from its side. The artistry was masterful in the clean lines, and elegant swirls cut so lovingly into those doors. It was a jarring sight against the slate militant gray of the walls the doors were set in. It was a bold statement to those on the outside that the Monsters were not weak, and could defend themselves. Well, that was what Reed took out of it, that and the whole view reminded her of Jurassic Park.
It was with that thought in mind, and the opening theme firmly stuck in her head that she was finally able to pull into the lane, the other two vehicles having been turned away in tandem. She caught a glimpse of an expensive camera pointed towards her as the Black van made its way past and understood why. They had been reporters. She snorted at their temerity. It had been well established on the News and any other platform that the Monster Royal Counsel had banned outside reporters from entering their borders. The only way they could enter was with an invitation from a member of the counsel, something that was quite rare, even more so after the bombings started. The Monster Government weren’t about to allow any more risk than necessary to keep their people safe, secure, and away from being trapped once again. Reed had to be honest, it was one of the reasons she respected the rulers.
It was time to move forward, and she was excited, hiding it well beneath a polite smile as she rolled down her window when pulling just under the overhang of the gate. She was finally able to get a good look at the personnel of whom would be the first of several barriers to get past. A young man with silken short cut blond hair and a chiseled chin immediately marched towards her vehicle. He was tall, had an athletic build, and wore a set of military fatigues. “Army..” Reed thought as she reached into her purse for the proper paperwork to hand to him.
“Morning Miss. Identification and Paperwork please.” He was quick and to the point, his voice a low tenor, piercing blue eyes conveying that he would take no shenanigans. It made sense, considering that reporters could be annoyingly persistent, and she was sure that he hadn’t been able to let his irritation go. She mused silently that he was probably well due for a break, thus she smiled and handed all of her documents to him. “Reason for arrival?”
“Permanent.” He barely looked up to acknowledge her, only giving a curt nod.
“Are you keeping your vehicle? Are you aware of…” The soldier paused as he narrowed his eyes at her state ID, his gaze flicking between it and her with a hint of surprise. “Didn’t think they were letting your sort in, least not for a while anyway.”
Reed burst into laughter as the soldier’s brows rose. “One would think, but here I am. It only took them and our guys a metric fuck ton of time to get the ball rolling.” She shrugged, a smirk on her lips, throwing him a wink and gesturing towards the tiny gatehouse. “But you would know all about the bullshit of bureaucracy, am I right?”
The soldier, Simmons as his name tag showed, couldn’t hold back a snort, his professional façade breaking. “No kidding.” He handed her back her forms with a shrug. “I’m sorry to say but you’re going to have to wait a little longer. Even with the Royal invitation we still need to check the database for your appointment and search your vehicle.”
“No worries. You do what you have to. I’ve waited a year. I can wait a bit longer….”She trailed off as her attention was suddenly on a figure that moved from within the gate and into her line of sight. There stood a six foot tall dog wearing a different form of fatigues that boasted the royal crest on each arm. She balked, forgetting what she was going to say next as she took the monster in. One might have called him nervous as he was constantly moving, paws twitching every so often, head swiveling back and forth, and ears clearly picking up every sound as they never stayed still. His fur was a soft gray, ears a much darker shade, and eyes a rich black that nearly matched his spots. On his hips in a holster were a pair of knives secured in a boiled leather sheath, the handles well worn with use. “It’s no wonder his paws keep twitching. The guy is probably used to having them in his hands.” Reed thought, before calling out, “Holy crap! A bipedal pupper!”
Simmons missed a step at her outburst as he was walking back to the shack, snorting as he attempted and failed to stifle a laugh. The monster froze with a confused, “Bork!” She burst out laughing at his bark. It was priceless and adorable. “Ey! Who you calling a Pupper human?” The dog monster stomped his way to the side of her vehicle, cocking his head to the side to eye her while she shook with amusement. “Something funny?” He growled, his lip lifting to show an impressive row of teeth.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to offend you mate.” She spluttered as she tried to get control of herself and hiccupping. “I just, it’s just…dammit. “ She wheezed before finally pulling herself together. “I just wasn’t expecting that and then you barked. It wasn’t that funny but with all the stress I just snapped. That and, well, I kind of really want to pet you?” His fur did look very soft.
“Don’t you even think about it!” Simmons’s shout from inside the gate made the Dog grunt, his sneer lifting to a smile and tail giving a single wag. “We’ll be here all damn day Doggo!”
‘Doggo’ chuffed a short laugh towards his partner before turning his head back to Reed his voice slightly graveled. “Sorry bout’ that human. It’s just been a long day and I assumed.”
She furrowed her brow at that. Assumed? What had he been dealing with to assume something? Her mind swirled before it halted at the obvious answer. Racism. Ah. She felt the weight of guilt hit her in the stomach for basically calling him a meme, and it only grew heavier as she noticed that he wasn’t looking her in the eye, instead through her as though trying to see everything at once. Was he blind? She bit her lip, moving a wayward strand of hair from her face nervously. What was she supposed to say to that, however as soon as she had moved his gaze snapped to her with such sharp focus she jumped a bit. “Oh! So, forgive me if this is rude, but, are you blind…uh..ish?” Why in the world was he guarding a gate if he was blind or even near it? That was dangerous on so many counts.
“Eh?” Doggo tilted his head at her before chuffing another laugh. “Nah. Used to be I could only see things if they moved, but not anymore.”
“Yeah. Got contacts now.” Doggo pointed to one of his eyes, allowing Reed to see a slight shimmer over the iris. She didn’t see the normal lines of a contact, just the odd shimmer. She also couldn’t help but wonder how in the world a monster would use contacts sense they were mostly made of magic, thus didn’t have the same jelly filled flesh balls that humans did. Corrective lenses shouldn’t have worked.
Doggo allowed her to lean forward as she investigated, his grin widening at her confusion. He was amused by the human’s concentration, and she seemed harmless, but his paws remained close to his knives. “Magic.”
“Huh?” The woman blinked, brought out of her musings at his short answer. Her brow furrowed for the barest moment before realization dawned on her, swiftly following that chagrin as she slammed her forehead into her steering wheel. “Of fucking course it is.” She groaned, mortified. It was so obvious. “Oh my stars why didn’t I think of that?!”
Simmons returned to see a chuckling Doggo and an embarrassed woman, the soldier turning towards Doggo with a questioning look. The Dog monster only grinned, his eyes sparkling with mischief. Simmons deadpanned, knowing exactly what had happened. It wasn’t the first time this had happened with his partner. He sighed and turned his attention to Reed, and held the papers for her to take. “He told you about his contacts didn’t he?” At the word ‘contacts’ the blond used his fingers to make air quotes. “Pulled the blind act?”
“Yeah he…wait..you mean I was pranked?!"
“Get used to it. Monsters love puzzles, pranks and whatever the Hell a jape is supposed to be.”
Reed took back her papers, her mouth open. “Are you serious?”
Simmons gave her a solemn nod. “Fraid so Ma’am.”
Reed snorted as she stuffed the papers back into their proper place, and shook her head. Doggo in the meantime simply grinned, his tail wagging. “I suppose I can live with that.” If that was a cultural thing life was going to be interesting.
Simmons smiled, his hand resting easily out of habit on the rifle that hung over his front in a tactical sling. “Your paperwork checks out Ms. Lane. If you could please exit the vehicle we’ll do a search and then you can go to the next heck point. If you’ll stand over there please.” He made a vague gesture to the guard shack as Doggo quickly entered only to exit with something long that he handed to his partner. Reed obliged, leaving everything in her car before walking her way to a shadowed area beneath the meager covering of the shack roof where it jutted out. She watched the guards work as she leaned against a pillar, her hands in her pockets.
The two made an efficient team. Doggo would circle the vehicle sniffing around it, pausing only if he wasn’t sure what a certain scent was. Simmons circled in a way that was always opposite to the dog monster, a long metal rod in his hand that had a round mirror with wheels attached to it. He would roll the mirror around beneath the car in a meticulous pattern to ensure he could see everything he could of the undercarriage, sometimes having to force an awkward angle just to be sure. Once the external search was finished Simmons set the stick aside to open all of the doors and trunk to allow Doggo easy access to sniff around. As soon as Doggo deemed it appropriate the human soldier ducked in to search every compartment he could, even including under her steering wheel. They found nothing save for a box of mint thin cookies that hadn’t been opened. Once they finished they placed everything back, and shut the doors, Simmons carrying the box to Reed and giving it a shake with a raised brow. “Sorry Ma’am but outside food is prohibited.
She merely shrugged. “Guess you’ll have to take it off my hands then. Can’t let good food go to waste right? No sense in throwing away Girl Scout cookies. That would be a tragedy.” Her grin was knowing and she didn’t miss the flash of gratitude in the soldiers sky blue eyes.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He replied, setting the box on one of the concrete stands.
“What’s that?” Doggo sniffed the box curiously, his face alight with interest, his tongue lolling.
“Edible contraband. Sorry Doggo, but chocolate is bad for dogs. I’ll have to take care of it myself.” Simmons held a hand over his heart as though it was breaking for the Monster over the thought of being unable to eat the delicious cookies.
Doggo barked a laugh. “I’m a monster.”, before deftly picking up the box and shoving it into one of his cargo pockets.
“Hey!” Simmons gave a halfhearted protest, but relented with the shake of his head. He turned back to Reed. “Well Ms. Lane, you’re free to go. Just head toward the main gate and take the side door. Don’t worry you’ll see it once you get close. The large doors are just for show for now.”
Reed nodded, happy to once again be on track, and entered her car. As she placed it into gear she waved to the two with a smile. “Thanks guys. Be safe.”
“Thank you Ma’am. You too.”
Doggo simply waved, his mouth already full of his sweet prize.