Dennis couldn’t believe his eyes.
It was a dream come true. He was finally in Japan. And the story behind this achievement was just too good to be true.
Joining the contest was a good thing after all, Dennis thought to himself, trying to contain the grin that had long wanted to escape onto his lips. The 20 year old boy had never intended to participate in the first place – it simply wasn’t his thing – but after the submission deadline had been extended thrice, he was finally convinced that maybe it was his time to shine. And luck was on his side.
Dennis made his way through the airport hallway, still contemplating on his good fortune. He was amazed at how distinct occasions from the past had miraculously connected with one another, just like how the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit together to complete the picture. He vowed never to view his childhood days in a negative light ever again. At least for now, he reconsidered.
“Mom, dad…” He smiled as he took a pendant out from his pocket, revealing a picture of him with his parents taken from around six years back. “I finally made it.”
Dennis continued on, following directions to the arrival hall, until the exit door was within sight.
“Let’s see…” Dennis read out from the note he had written on his left hand. “Upon arrival, you will be escorted to your residence by one of our friendly personnel.” He noticed a long line of taxis and hotel transportation vehicles parked outside the airport terminal. “Until then, you are requested to wait inside the arrival hall for the convenience of both parties.” The second half of the note read.
Ten seconds passed with no activity on Dennis’s end. He decided to sit and wait on a nearby bench.
Twenty seconds. Nothing changed, save the fact that the people in the room weren’t the same ones that were there seconds ago.
27… 28… 29… Damn! This is wasting too much of my time. Dennis was losing his patience.
“Mr. Blake?” He suddenly heard a voice call. “Dennis Blake?”
Finally! That almost took forever. He stood up and turned to the person behind him. “Yeah, that’s me.” What the hell took you so long?! He felt like asking.
“Greetings, Mr. Blake! My name is Franck, a representative of Shutter Technologies assigned to make your stay in Japan a memorable one.” The man said.
“Yeah right, you’ve already made my first day memorable.” Dennis mumbled sarcastically.
Franck looked like a man in his early twenties, but the black suit he was wearing made him appear a lot older. He’s taller than me. Dennis wasn’t surprised. He knew he was only around 170 centimeters tall, a height which many people consider average for his age range.
“On behalf of everyone at our organization, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations for winning our photo contest.” Franck continued.
“Uh… thanks.” The lad shrugged his shoulders, still not so happy about the wait. “Just call me Dennis.”
“I’m not used to talking like this either.” Franck admitted.
“Alright, let’s do this again, shall we?” Franck cleared his throat. “Yo! The name’s Franck. Nice to meetcha!” He extended a closed fist towards Dennis.
“Eh..?” Dennis gazed his eyes upon Franck, bewildered at his sudden personality change. “I’m the same guy, doncha worry.” Franck reassured.
“Dude, you’re something else!” Dennis blurted out. His anger dissipated into an amused grin, and with one hand behind his head, went on, “I’m Dennis! Yoroshiku!”
Their knuckles met and a new friendship was formed.
“What are you waiting for? Hop on in!” Franck called out.
And they were off – their destination, somewhere a long, forty minute drive from the airport; their method of transport, a luxury sedan provided by Shutter Technologies.
The VIP treatment made Dennis feel like a celebrity. From time to time, he would just stare outside the car window and marvel at the advanced structures and breathtaking landscapes he could only see in pictures during the past. So this is what I had been missing.
“Didn’t bring your camera?” Franck couldn’t resist asking after observing his passenger for a few minutes.
“It’s inside the bag.” Dennis tilted his head toward the back compartment. “It’s a pain in the neck to get it now.” He sighed, seemingly regretful for his decision to leave it backpacked.
“Cheer up, kiddo! Heard you got four weeks. Today’s just day one, ya know.”
“Damn, you’re right!” Dennis exclaimed, slapping himself in the forehead. “Why didn’t think of that?” And he returned back to his cheerful self.
“Ya know, you remind me of myself.” Franck winked. “Need a nudge before coming to my senses.”
It turned out that Dennis and Franck had a lot more things in common that just that, to the point where Dennis wondered if Franck was the long lost brother he wished he had. Without realizing it, the two had already started joking around and laughing at their own antics like good old friends.
“Ya know, you look really young for someone your age.” The older guy pointed out.
“Thanks! I hear that a lot.” Dennis joked. “Besides, you don’t look old at all either.”
“I’m 24. The rest at Shutter are nearly twice as old as I am.”
“You mean… you’re the youngest?”
“Awesome! You must be really skilled!”
Franck batted his eyebrows. “Not just skill, ya know. I don’t think anybody can refuse my good looks.”
“I shouldn’t have said that.” Dennis whispered to himself.
“Anyway…” Franck continued after a short silence. “No problem convincing your folks that you’ll be away for a month?”
“Nope. Not at all!”
“Mature enough to make your own decisions, eh?”
“Well… truth is, I’m living alone.” Dennis paused and looked out the window. “My parents were always going on long business trips since I was a kid. One day I just heard that they died in some accident.”
“Oh, sorry to hear that.” There was a tinge of regret in Franck’s voice. “Must have been hard for you.”
“It sure was tough at first, but later on I realized… my parents wouldn’t want to see me waste my life away just mourning all the time.” Dennis flashed a smile. “Gotta live life to the fullest!”
Question after question and answer after answer (with a few icebreakers in between) – it went on like this for the rest of the ride. But the conversations had to end somewhere. In the middle of their discussion about the Shutter facility, Franck had to interrupt.
“I’d like to continue but ya know, here we are.”
As the car maneuvered past the front gate, Dennis could not help but notice striking elements of what’s in store for him – lush green bonsai gardens, golden staircase railings, mahogany double door, Victorian stained glass windows, and one… two… three. Dennis counted in his mind. His eyes rolled at Franck. “Sooo… which floor do I stay in?”
Franck chuckled. “You have the whole place to yourself.”
“You’re kidding!” Dennis shook his head in disbelief.
“See for yourself.”
At Franck’s words Dennis quickly alighted from the vehicle, itching to explore the mansion. Franck offered to help him with his stuff, but Dennis insisted he needed some exercise.
“Wanna tag along?” He looked in Franck’s direction.
“Maybe some other time. Still gotta report back to the big boss.”
“Uhhh… this isn’t the last time we’re gonna see each other right?”
“Of course! You ain’t seen the last of me, kiddo.” Franck snickered.
“Well then, see ya! Thanks for the ride. I had a blast!” Dennis waved goodbye at Franck before storming into the mansion.
Franck took out his communicator.
“Yup, we’ve got the right guy.” He spoke into the device as he drove away.
The lights lit up in tandem, as if to announce Dennis’s arrival with a grand entrance.
“Errr… anybody home?” He expected a reply. Only silence responded back.
“I’m coming in…”
The lad rubbed his eyes in astonishment as he took a 360 degree glance around his surroundings. The place was huge – if the front lobby alone was large enough to accommodate a few hundred people, what bigger surprises could be in store for him?
Dennis couldn’t wait to find out.
He hurried to check all the angles and corners of the ground floor, mesmerized with every little discovery he made. The boy was smiling ear to ear when he discovered what the backyard has in store for him – a giant winding tube slide was the main attraction, circling the huge irregular shaped pool below it. Dennis could feel his adrenaline rush as he imagined himself plunging into the refreshing crystal clear waters from over 50 feet high.
“I’ve got all the time for this later.” Dennis reassured himself as he walked away. Familiarizing himself with the floor plan comes first in his list of priorities. First things first.
Dennis advanced towards the marble staircase, eager to find out what awaited him in the upper levels. Surely there aren’t just empty rooms upstairs, he hoped as he fancied all sorts of lush amenities in his mind. His daydreaming came to a sudden halt when strange noises from a distance grew increasingly audible with every tick of the clock.
Footsteps..? Dennis wasn’t too sure.
Clomp clomp clomp clomp. He wasn’t mistaken. The sound was fast approaching.
“Who’s there?” Dennis hollered.
“What in the world?!”
His answer came into sight almost instantaneously, when a shiny four-legged mechanical being popped out from the corner and, like a child that had long missed his parent, hurried towards his direction.
Warf warf! The creature sounded as it wagged its metallic tail playfully.
“A dog?” Dennis arched down to took a closer look. As he approached, a cylindrical lens barrel – and the rotating focus ring on its front – became visible behind the reflective glass covering on the canine’s head. “Anyone ever said you look like a camera?” He wondered aloud.
“No, you’re the first to call me that, warf warf!”
Dennis was taken aback by surprise. “Whoa! It talks!”
“You must be Dennis. My name is SPOT. I’m so glad we finally met, master. Warf warf!”
Mas… ter..? The word penetrated deep into his heart. Dennis had always wanted a pet since childhood, and dogs were on the top of the list.
“Welcome to Calave! Shutter Pedigree Observation uniT at your service, warf warf!”
Dennis stared blankly at the canine, at loss as to what to say.
“So Spot, know any cool tricks?” He managed to utter.
“I can talk, warf!”
“That’s awesome…” Dennis gave SPOT a stern look. “Like I didn’t know that, dummy!”
“Warf! I bet I can do anything you tell me to, warf warf!” The puppy retorted.
“Oh yeah?” Dennis loved a challenge. He unstrapped his backpack and sprang into an L-kick freeze. “Bet you can’t stand on one hand like this!”
“My pedigree form isn’t designed for that, warf warf!”
“My job is to keep you happy, healthy, and strong during your entire stay here at Calave. I’ll prepare your meals, wash your clothes, and keep this place safe and clean. You’re under the watchful protection of Shutter Pedigree Observation uniT. Warf warf!”
“Nice…” Dennis replied, wondering as to how a small animal only two feet tall could even reach the stove.
“And if you’re feeling lonesome and just want some company, I’ll always be around. Maybe we could play catch or some video games together. Warf warf!”
“Yeah… sure thing.”
“That’s all I wanted to say, warf!” SPOT looked at the boy and waited for instruction. “It’s your turn. Your orders, master! Warf warf!”
This is getting interesting. Dennis thought to himself. He turned to the robot. “Well Spot, show me around!”
“Yes, master! Warf!” SPOT answered eagerly. And upstairs they went.
Perhaps that was the one adjective that would describe Dennis after his tour around the mansion. The water park in the backyard was nothing compared to the state-of-the-art 4D entertainment and game room, the ambient music hall, the cutting edge fitness center, the invigorating sauna and steam rooms, the luxurious whirlpool bathtubs… and that was only the beginning; there were more – far more than anything he ever imagined in his wildest dreams!
“And this is your room, warf!”
“It’s dark. Where’s the switch?”
“The room’s voice activated, warf! Just say the name of the object and tell it what to do, warf warf!”
Dennis didn’t hesitate one second. “Lights… on!”
The room illuminated as commanded, revealing a floor area of at least three times bigger than his chambers back in New York. SPOT remained by the doorstep, observing the restless lad wander excitedly around the oversized bedroom, trying out different commands as he saw fit.
“Please make yourself at home as I leave you for a moment to bring your things upstairs. Warf warf!” And the dog disappeared from sight, leaving a trail of barks with its every step.
“Gaah! Enough with the warfing already!” Dennis exclaimed, physically and mentally overwhelmed since morning. The happenings were just too farfetched; all his dreams were coming true in a single day – arriving at Japan, riding in a limousine, acquiring a mansion, meeting SPOT…
“I need to recharge…”
Dennis flung off his jacket and plopped down on one of the king-sized beds inside the bedroom. He could feel the tension from his muscles ease away as the soft mattress slowly brought his mind to a state of peace and rest.
“Oh yeah, this is the life…”