Heather sighed in relief as she stepped into the main chamber of the pyramid. The heat of the sun was replaced by a welcoming, cooler temperature indoors. Heather jokingly wondered to herself whether the pyramid had central cooling.
The floors and walls of the main chamber were made of all white stone and, surprisingly, glass. Heather approached a small table in the center of the room and found a red pitcher full of ice water, and several cups on it. There was an inviting white sofa with several red pillows on it next to the table.
“I’m either dead or crazy,” Heather mused while she poured herself a cup of water. “Ah, well,” she sighed and sat down on the couch to sip her water and take in the situation. Heather was okay with being dead. She joined the race across the desert knowing it was dangerous. She was required to sign several waivers to be allowed to compete alone.
“You got a death-wish lady?” was the question put to her at every step. She didn’t. Something in her told her she needed to cross the desert alone. She knew it as confidently as she knew two plus two equals four. Of course, she didn’t expect to get lost and lose her supplies on the second day due to an unexpected sandstorm. She wandered for several hours in the direction she hoped the starting line was. Then, Heather spotted a medium-sized, white pyramid.
“Oh, what the hell?” Heather decided to check her phone on a whim. On the one hand, she didn’t expect to find a signal; but, on the other hand, she didn’t expect to find an air-conditioned room with a pitcher of cold water. Heather checked wifi and found a single unsecured access point labeled ‘neXus Assistance’. She touched the button to connect, then immediately dropped the phone. It vibrated in her hands and startled her. She laughed at herself as she picked up the ringing phone from the floor and answered.
“Heather here, what’s up?” she asked out of habit. Before she remembered her predicament and asked for help, a woman spoke up on the other end.
“Hello! My name is Kelly and I’m calling from the Club neXus Resort. Are you in need of assistance?”
“YES!” Heather blurted out. “Sorry. But, I got lost in the desert, I don’t know how to get back to safety.”
“Not a problem, Heather,” Kelly replied. Her voice carried a practiced, professional cheer. “Okay, do you see a portal?” Kelly asked.
“Huh?” Heather stood from the couch and looked around the room; she spotted a black hole floating in the air behind the couch. “Is it black?” she asked.
“That’s the one. Step through that, and we’ll have you home in two shakes.”
“Thanks!” Heather walked around behind the portal and walked into it. She passed through it and ran into the back of the couch. “Hey, Kelly, that didn’t work,” Heather said as she rubbed the spot on her stomach that ran into the top of the sofa.
“Oh, nuts. I’m sorry. I should’ve asked first, what’s your favorite number?” Kelly asked.
“52,” Heather said. She paused for a moment in surprise; she didn’t know she had one. Then, she asked, “Why?”
“One second please, I need to put you on hold,” Kelly replied. Then, Heather heard soft, unfamiliar music. Heather wandered around the couch and sat down again to sip water while she waited. After about five full minutes, Kelly returned to the phone.
“Thank you for your patience,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, I am understaffed at the moment. I can’t spare a valet to guide you to safety. However, I’ve been authorized to distribute nodes as needed.”
“Awesome,” Heather replied. “What’s a node.”
“I’m sending it to your phone now. Hold on, please,” Kelly replied. Heather’s phone started vibrating in her hand. She was ready for it this time and held on. She moved it away from her ear and watched it in her hand. The screen cracked and the vibrations intensified; it began to crumble in her hand. After a few seconds, it stopped. Her once top-of-the-line phone was now a pile of white dust.
“Hello?” Heather heard Kelly’s tiny voice coming from her hand. She squeezed and found a thin, glassy rectangle hiding under the white powder. She put the transparent card up to her ear and spoke into it like a phone.
“Is this a node?” Heather asked.
“It is. You can use that to call Club neXus any time; and, it’ll help you get home. Good luck, Heather,” Kelly said and disconnected.
“Huh,” Heather inspected the node. The transparent surface lit up to display an interface that looked almost like the one she had on her phone with a few extra icons. One icon was labeled, ‘Home’ and showed a red arrow. Heather clicked the arrow, but the display didn’t change at all. “Really?” Heather laughed and shook her head. Just when she thought things were going to get easy; they didn’t. Heather sighed and her eyes glanced upward. Something red in the air caught her attention. She walked toward the red arrow hovering in the air; it moved out the door as she got closer.
“That’s more like it,” she said with a smile.