The red baja truck raced through the dusty desert, kicking up a cloud of dirt and sand as it sped past cacti and tumbleweeds.
“Okay Amanda, we’ll bear left after this cliff opens up and then we’ll be back on track”, John shouted into his headset.
Amanda’s knuckles were white as she gripped the wheel and she replied, “I’m not sure if this shortcut really saved us any time.”
“Trust me, once we back on the course you’ll see how much ground we’ve made.”
The sun was low in the sky as the truck rounded the mountain, opening into vast, rolling dunes. Amanda scanned ahead for the bright orange pylons that marked out the course, but only saw the lumps of more mountains over the horizon.
“What the hell, John? This is some shortcut you found us.”
John stared holes through his map as Amanda slowed the truck to a stop. “I don’t understand”, John said as he pointed at the map, “we took a straight shot between these two checkpoints. We should be right here!”
“Well, if we were we would see some sign of the course. Let’s just turn around, get back on track, and try to catch up to the pack.”
“No! If we do that we’ll lose way too much time. Let’s head due west from here, and once we see the course we can get on there.”
“John, you have no idea where we are. We should retrace ou-“
“Listen, I’m the navigator and you’re the driver”, John interrupted, “so I point us west, and you drive us there.”
Amanda stared at John for a moment before sighing. “Alright then, we’ll go west. But if we don’t see the course in ten minutes, I’m turning us around.”
“Sure, sure. Sounds good”, John said absentmindedly while folding up his map.
Amanda pointed the truck west and the duo drove in silence for ten minutes, eyes peeled for the telltale orange pylons that marked out the course. Amanda growled over her headset, “I still don’t see the course. I’m turning us around.”
“No, no. Wait!”, John said back while waving his map. “I’ve figured out where we are. Let’s go northwest for five minutes or so. Once we get over that hill, we should see the course.”
“Alright, alright. But I’m going to talk to Henry when at the next checkpoint. I want a different navigator.”
“That’s cold, Amanda. I was just trying to save us some time.”
Amanda only grunted as she turned the truck northwest and picked a line to climb over the hill. The sun started to set as the truck crested the dune, casting a warm, orange glow on the ruins the duo saw at the bottom of the hill. A pyramid of weathered rock rose out of the sand, surrounded by dunes that formed a bowl.
“Woah, that’s amazing. What is that?”
“I don’t know, it’s not on my map.”
Amanda shot John a look. “Not on your map? Or you just don’t know where we are?”
John sighed and said, “look, it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve run these races countless times and I’ve never had an issue staying on course.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure. It’s not too late to retrace our steps. We’ve definitely lost by now, but I still want to make it back to civilization at some point.”
Amanda began to turn the truck around, but the engine sputtered and died.
“Oh, that’s just great”, Amanda said.
As she cranked the key, the whine of the starter echoed off the ruins. The sand underneath truck broke loose, and they slid down the dune toward the ruins, spinning but miraculously not flipping over.
“Shit, shit, shit!” cried Amanda, cranking the wheel to try and get the car pointed downhill and counteract the spinning.
The truck thudded to a stop at the bottom of the hill, sand spraying in through the windows. Amanda looked around the cabin, dazed but already assessing the damage. John stared out the window, transfixed on the ruins.
“Looks like the truck is alright. How are you, John?”
“I think we should explore the ruins”, John said, his eyes dilating so much Amanda could barely see his irises.
“What? No, John, we need to get the truck dug out and back up and running.”
“There’s an emergency tracker on the truck, right? They’ll send help before too long", John said as he unbuckled his harness.
He climbed out of the truck as Amanda struggled to get her harness unhooked as well. His feet hit the warm sand with a thud as Amanda pleaded with him.
“John, what are you doing? Come back! I need your help to get the truck out!”
“I can’t help it. Aren’t you curious?”
“Well of course I am, but it’s getting dark, and we have no idea what’s in there!”
Amanda finally got her buckles unlatched, but by the time she was climbing out of the truck John was already climbing the steps toward an opening at the bottom of the pyramid.
“It’s ok Amanda, everything will be ok. He is expecting us”, John said, as he disappeared into the darkness of the pyramid.