We flew over the sands like they were molten beneath our feet, running as hard as we could as the Great Ute behind us snarled and spun, sand kicking into the air behind its rapidly-spinning tyres.
‘I think your god is angry, sir!’ Gollo panted breathlessly beside me. I briefly considered that he must be slowing himself down to keep pace with me – there was no reason this man of the sands shouldn’t be a glint on the horizon to me now.
‘We woke it up Gollo,’ I pressed my hand to my hat, keeping it on my head as we ran. ‘We woke it up and it wasn’t ready! We need to find some way of—’
My voice choked in my throat as – with a great roar – the ute leapt over a dune to our right, twisting through the air to land on its heavy tyres, facing us.
I skidded to a stop, slamming an arm out to stop Gollo too.
‘No sudden movements,’ I hissed at him. He nodded sharply, then caught himself and nodded more slowly.
‘O, noble ute,’ I cried, falling to my knees in a show of fealty. ‘Ye who has the shiniest of affordable ute toolboxes near Melbourne! I come to you as a humble—’
The ute growled again, and my mouth went dry.
‘Sir,’ Gollo whispered to me, until I silenced him with a quick glare. I turned back to the ute with a smile.
‘Most gorgeous of utility vehicles,’ I intoned, rising to my feet, hands still held in the air. ‘We are but gnats, caught in the clasps of your 4×4 aluminium canopies. For sale, I offer you these precious rubies, plucked from a Maharanian mountaintop and worthy only of a god such as yourself.’
I fished the gemstones from my jacket pocket, scattering them on the sand in front of me.
The ute didn’t move.
‘Sir,’ Gollo insisted.
‘What?’ I growled, spinning around to glare at him properly.
‘The ute,’ he whispered. ‘Its sound has changed.’