The Thing About the Desert...Part 3
05 Feb 2014 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.
Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own. This is the conclusion of that story.
Click here to read part 1 first
Click here for part 2
The first time it happened I only caught it from the corner of my eye.
The Subaru’s dashboard readout had still been misbehaving, no longer even pretending it was properly calculating the miles remaining in our tank – from 600 it had counted down to 500 or so, then back up past 600 – but just around midnight the whole thing went completely blank, then flashed briefly, before going back to normal.
“Did that just go blank?” I asked.
“It did, then it flashed 1:00.” Mike replied.
“So now the clock is boned too?”
“That’s the thing," he said. "It displayed 1:00 on the ‘miles remaining’ part.”
A few minutes later it happened again and I caught it – sure enough, the whole screen went blank then “1:00” flashed where previously it had listed the miles remaining. Looking at the GPS I made a few mental calculations and realized 1am would put us right around Kayenta. When I told Mike all he said was, “I’m glad you’re driving.”
Both 1am and Kayenta passed without incident and Mike started muttering about the terrible things in store for the Subaru dealership when he got back to Austin.
This is where my memory breaks down a bit because the next thing I remember happening was around 1:23am, five-and-a-half miles outside the town of Teec Nos Pos. The problem with this is that to get from Kayenta to 5.5 miles outside of Teec Nos Pos takes about an hour, so theoretically the earliest we could have been there was 2am. Regardless, this time it wasn’t the dashboard readout that acted up but my GPS.
Now, it's been three years since I bought my GPS and I can safely say it is, aside from my car, the greatest purchase I've ever made. If not for the technological wizardry of the people at Garmin I'd have been dead the first time I ventured out of Victoria, my desiccated skeleton sitting in the desert somewhere staring dejectedly into the middle distance while two geckos get it on in my brainpan. It has always been unfailingly reliable, so it took a minute to register that it was telling us to do something absolutely harebrained.
In the middle of nowhere and seemingly apropos of nothing, my GPS, which had been monotonously counting down the miles to Teec Nos Pos for hours and by its own estimation still had five and a half to go, suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and said, “In .5 miles, turn left.”
Mike looked at me.
“Uh, Bren? I thought it was 5.5 miles.”
For the first time he sounded concerned.
We slowed to a stop as the counter ticked down to zero and saw, to our left, another narrow dirt road not unlike the one past Best Friends. It faded from view after a few feet and all we could see beyond it was where the darkness of the landscape met the deep blue of the night sky.
“Maybe it’s a short cut?” Mike asked.
“No, I’ve got this thing programmed to avoid dirt roads.”
I let the car idle for a minute. The dashboard readout malfunctioning was one thing but that and the GPS going loopy around the same time was more coincidence than I cared to consider. At that point I didn’t even want to think about the fact the dashboard readout hadn’t started acting up until after our spook-hunting trip to Best Friends. Our windows were down but all we could hear was the engine and a soft desert wind – thankfully, no muted piping came from the place beyond our headlights.
“So, do we turn left or not?”
Concerned or not, Mike was evidently feeling more adventurous than I was.
I hit the accelerator hard.
“No. No we do not.”
“Do you think it was Skinwalkers?” Mike asked, only half-joking.
“No doubt. The ball torturing kind too, knowing our luck.”
He locked his door.
Ordinarily, if you ignore a suggestion made by the GPS it’ll calculate a route based on your new direction but that didn’t happen this time. Instead, as we put space between us and the turnoff it kept insistently bleating at us to make a U-turn. We had to turn the damned thing off completely before it began behaving normally again.
We finally arrived at the Super 8 in Cortez around 3:30am. Before turning in, Mike and I fired up Google Maps in an attempt to figure out exactly where that left turn would have taken us, hoping we’d discover a shortcut the GPS had known about but of which we were clueless. After a good half hour of poking around the res roads near Teec Nos Pos we had no choice but to admit whatever road it was sending us down went directly into the reservation and nowhere else.
Aside from a fruitless midnight drive around the most reputedly haunted parts of Santa Fe, New Mexico two days later (in the midst of a thunderstorm, no less) that was the end of our adventures in the paranormal. The dashboard readout never again reset itself and by the time we’d made it back to Austin, though we couldn’t say exactly when, the ‘miles remaining’ calculator was back to functioning properly. An inspection by Subaru turned up no faults in the car’s onboard computer and when pressed on a possible cause for what happened the mechanic more or less said, “Search me.”
We talked about that night more than a few times on our way home and though we cracked wise about it there was always the big question, one we only ever broached a handful of times and never for long: what would have happened if we’d taken that left turn? Would we have heard an unexplainable melody grow louder the further we drove down that road? Seen eyes in the dark?
No matter what came after, I strongly suspect I would not be here now to tell you this story, because, as I’ve said, nothing good happens to those who drive off into the desert at night.
Whether it would have been the Djinn, Skinwalkers of the ball-torturing persuasion or the old reliable 3 Ds (disorientation, dehydration, death) is anyone’s guess, because that’s the thing about the desert: