We open on a wall of sandstone bricks, filling the entire screen. We pan up, and up, and up – the bricks lightening slowly until we see the sky at last, the thin blue of an early morning desert sun. In one corner of the screen, the top of a pyramid is just visible.
We pan down again, this time at an angle, the bricks fading darker into shadow until we come to rest at the light-level where we began, now showing our main characters.
There are three dogs seated together. In the middle, a classically-majestic animal: a golden labrador, peering off into some undefined distance, her long hair nobly-windswept. This is CAP. On the left is a bulldog, flat-faced and wobbly-jowled, a studded leather collar hanging a bit too loosely around her neck. This is RUMPLE. On the right is a pug: small, wrinkled, and with droopy ears that serve to exaggerate her air of perpetual melancholy. This is EGG.
The camera stays on them for a long moment, allowing the viewer to take in the beauty of the composition. Then:
CAP: I farted sand last night.
Her head tilts to the side – still majestic, as if thinking important thoughts.
RUMPLE: Why do you always look like that when you're talking about farting?
EGG, absent-minded: Because she always looks like that.
RUMPLE: And she's always talking about farting.
Their mouths do not move, as if the words are being communicated telepathically, but they do use facial expressions, posture, etc. to convey meaning.
CAP: Farting is natural. It's primal and wild! It takes us back to our days as wolves!
RUMPLE: Not this again. Didn't we agree that there's no paleo talk before breakfast?
CAP: But we haven't had breakfast in two days.
EGG: Children, don't fight. We haven't got the time. Amelia is out there somewhere.
They all pause, thinking of their owner AMELIA.
At last RUMPLE snorts and performs the time-honored dog full-body shake. We can hear the scattering of sand. But the mention of their owner has done its work, and when she speaks again, her voice is more conciliatory.
RUMPLE: Fine. Which way, then?
EGG: That way. (She indicates a direction with her head.)
The three dogs come to their feet and all into line, EGG first, then RUMPLE, then CAP.
The opening credits roll.
While the credits are going, the dogs trot for a while without speaking. CAP sometimes bounds ahead, but always returns to the others after a few minutes. At each turning she snuffles at the sand; sometimes she appears to catch a whiff of scent and the others lower their heads as well. If all three agree, they take the new path. If they don't agree, or if there is no scent, then EGG chooses their direction. It becomes clear that EGG is the leader of the group.
Once the credits have finished, CAP speaks again.
CAP: I miss belly rubs.
EGG: Amelia was the best at belly rubs. Is the best.
RUMPLE: I prefer a good head scratch, myself.
CAP: And an ear snuggle. D'you think we'll ever get more ear snuggles?
EGG: We'll find her. Then you can have all the snuggles you want.
CAP: I want lots.
RUMPLE: You always want lots.
EGG: We'll find her, I promise.
EGG: I promise.
We fade out.
The dogs pause for a few minutes in a thin sliver of shade as the sun is almost at the zenith. All three are sweating, but RUMPLE is the worst off, and the most tired. She gives EGG a pleading glance, but they both know there is nowhere to go but onwards.
A sudden faint noise comes from off-screen. There is something familiar about it. CAP's ears come up.
EGG, softly: Go and see.
CAP nods and stands again, walking a little slower than usual. We follow her path until she disappears around a corner. Seconds later, she barks loudly.
EGG and RUMPLE scramble to their feet and follow hastily. When we come around the corner with them, we see not a regular cat but a SPHINX, ten or twelve feet high, carved from stone but with teeth bared and one eyebrow raised.
SPHINX: Travelers, I see.
Her voice has a hiss to it.
SPHINX: You must answer my riddle to pass.
RUMPLE: Why should we take orders from some cat?
SPHINX: I am no ordinary cat. And if you do not solve my riddle…
She lifts one tremendous paw and slams it down again, claws digging long furrows in the sand.
RUMPLE: Yeah, okay.
SPHINX: The riddle is: Red through and through, it has no mouth. But it eats many things; it fears water but not wind.
The dogs stare at the SPHINX.
CAP: What's red?
SPHINX, impatiently: That's what you have to figure out.
CAP: No, what does 'red' mean?
SPHINX: It means… it's…
EGG: We can't answer the riddle if we don't know what all the words mean.
CAP: That wouldn't be fair.
SPHINX: I'm a cat. I don't have to be fair.
RUMPLE: You do if you want us to answer the riddle. That’s how it works.
EGG: And you have to let us try to answer, right?
SPHINX: …I suppose.
EGG: Then you have to tell us what 'red' means.
SPHINX: Fine. It's a color.
CAP: What does 'color' mean?
The dogs wait.
SPHINX: It's something that makes things look different from each other.
RUMPLE: Lots of things look different from each other. I'm short and Cap is tall – is that a color?
SPHINX: No, no, no. It's like… you know how grass is brighter during the warm times and then darker during the cold times?
CAP: Ohhhh. I get it.
SPHINX: There are lots of those. Grass in the warm times is green and grass in the cold time is brown.
RUMPLE: So which one is red?
SPHINX: Red is the one that's like fire.
EGG, immediately: Is it fire? The answer?
RUMPLE: It is, isn't it. We solved the riddle!
CAP: Solved the riddle, solved the riddle!
She dances excitedly. The sphinx looks briefly annoyed, but then her face smooths out into inscrutability.
SPHINX: You didn't trick me, you know.
SPHINX: I just decided to help you. I'm a cat. I can do that.
EGG: You're a very generous cat.
SPHINX: Yes, aren't I? But I'm bored now. Go away.
She lifts her paw, exposing the path. None of the dogs needs any more encouragement, and they dash through the open space as fast as they can.
A shot from above, up far enough that we can see the pyramid but low enough to register the movement of the dogs as they reach a split in the path, hesitate, then choose a direction and move on. The maze is complicated enough that the audience can't tell if they're moving in the right direction, but they're about two-thirds through it, as the crow flies.
We come down again as the dogs come to a break in the wall. Not a designed turning but a place where the brick has crumbled away. The walls are very high and so the pile of brick at the bottom is significant, almost enough to block the whole path. But there is just enough space to squeeze through into the next pathway.
CAP: D'you think we could make a run-up at it and jump and get on top of the wall?
The other two look slowly upwards. And upwards. And upwards. We can see the top of the pyramid again, this time definitely closer.
RUMPLE: Maybe you could.
EGG, turning back to CAP: Didn't Amelia have a talk with you about jumping?
CAP: But this is for Amelia! Surely she'd understand just a little bit of jumping.
EGG looks at her for a long moment.
EGG, softly: Do you want to be a bad dog?
CAP: N— no.
EGG: Are you a bad dog?
CAP, more firmly: No. I am a good dog.
RUMPLE: Are we going to moralize all afternoon or are we going to go through there?
CAP: Fine words coming from Lady-Poos-In-Shoes.
RUMPLE: That was one time!
EGG ignores them both and scrambles up through the gap. The others follow hastily.
The dogs come to a wide wall. It seems like a dead end, but EGG walks towards it nonetheless and the other two follow. Closer, we can see that there are three shimmering sections on the stone, almost like windows but lower down.
We look at the one on the left. For a moment, it is only a shimmer, but then something solidifies and we can see a green field lined with trees. There is the burbling of a stream somewhere. A tennis ball lies in the grass.
She scrambles forwards, but before she can reach the wall, EGG speaks sharply.
CAP jerks to a stop and sits. She turns her head towards EGG and gives her a sulky look.
We move to the second window. This one resolves into a living room with a soft carpet, a fireplace in the corner lit with a welcoming glow.
RUMPLE: I know. I’m not some puppy.
She doesn’t move.
The third window shows us an autumn afternoon, a long path in the woods, the ground covered in brightly-colored leaves. In some places there are large piles of leaves off to the side of the path.
EGG doesn’t linger to look at it, just turns away towards the next opening in the maze.
EGG: Let’s go.
EGG: I said, let’s go.
One last turning, and then the maze opens up into a broad expanse of empty desert, dunes just visible in the distance. The wind blows a spray of sand across the camera lens.
There is no one waiting.
A beat, and then an ear-splitting squeal comes from off screen. The camera turns to discover a whole tent city, a bright rainbow of color against the pale stone of the pyramid that rises behind it. There are digging machines and crates, tables set under draped fabrics to protect work from the wind.
Running towards the dogs is a small girl, perhaps seven or eight years old.
RUMPLE: I hate when she calls us that.
But RUMPLE is already waddling forward, EGG following, CAP bounding ahead as usual.
The reunion is a pile up. AMELIA nearly disappears under the weight of all three dogs, but we can hear from her laughter that she loves it. When she finally comes up for air, she’s sitting with one hand on EGG’s head and one on RUMPLE’s, with CAP’s face pressed down onto her knee.
AMELIA: I missed you! I promise I didn’t want to leave you behind, but Daddy said I had to. He said you’d dig too much and in the wrong places, he said you’d be sick out here in the desert. I hope that’s not true. But… I’m glad you came anyway. Oh, I missed you all.
The dogs no longer speak to each other, as if the presence of a AMELIA has reoriented their world towards something entirely prosaic. But there is no need for words. Their expressions say it all.