Waving another late-night traveler across the border, Officer Peters glanced at the large office clock. It was late enough that the only people traveling were either too tired or hyped up on caffeine to lie about their reasons for entering the country, making his investigation simple. Smugglers and the like usually tried to sneak through during rush times; dark, empty roads meant bored officers may take an extra look into the few passing cards.
He didn’t quite know what to make of the others traveling through those late hours, but he was paid not to think about them. Occasionally his pager would buzz with a license plate number – who uses a pager in 2005 anyway – and his job was to make sure they didn’t encounter any difficulty with his fellow officers. He had been assured that any cars so designated wouldn’t be bringing guns or drugs across the border, and every Saturday morning he returned home to find a very generous envelope of large bills under his doormat. Besides, the demeanor of the man who originally made the offer suggested that turning him down would have serious – and possibly fatal – consequences.
Making sure to direct the special cars – rarely more than one or two a week – into his inspection lane, he gave them the briefest of cursory looks in order to satisfy the supervisors watching by closed-circuit camera before waving them through. The drivers and passengers never spoke, and their eyes sent shivers up and down Peters’ spine – cold, dead eyes. Shark eyes that saw him as a slab of meat. Every encounter left him unsettled.
In addition to the pager he had been given a single phone number to keep. “Dial this number if a special car comes through without warning,” his mysterious benefactor intoned, the air inside his car thick with cigar smoke. “For your sake, do not engage them, whatever you see.”
In three years of service he had never seen a car of Strangers, as he called them, cross without a page. As a set of headlights appeared on the horizon, he genuinely hoped he never would – whatever those alien monsters were up to lived far, far above his inflated pay-grade.
I have been watching a large amount of international travel shows of late – a guilty pleasure of mine – and I’m always fascinated by the encounters the border patrol agents have with travelers. What would that look like in a world where terrible creatures actually existed?