He puts the bottle back in his pocket, and starts to stumble down the dune. After a few steps, he realizes that he's in trouble - he's not going to be able to keep his balance. After a couple of more sliding, tottering steps, he falls and starts to roll down the dune. The sand it so hot when his body hits it that for a minute he thinks he's caught fire on the way down - like a movie car wreck flashing into flames as it goes over the cliff, before it ever even hits the ground. He closes his eyes and mouth, covers his face with his hands, and waits to stop rolling.
He stops, at the bottom of the dune. After a minute or two, he finds enough energy to try to sit up and get the sand out of his face and clothes. When he clears his eyes enough, he looks around to make sure that the dark spot in the sand it still there and he hadn't just imagined it.
So, seeing the large, flat, dark spot on the sand is still there, he begins to crawl towards it. He'd get up and walk towards it, but he doesn't seem to have the energy to get up and walk right now. He must be in the final stages of dehydration he figures, as he crawls. If this place in the sand doesn't have water, he'll likely never make it anywhere else. This is his last chance.
He gets closer and closer, but still can't see what's in the middle of the dark area. His eyes won't quite focus any more for some reason. And lifting his head up to look takes so much effort that he gives up trying. He just keeps crawling.
Finally, he reaches the area he'd seen from the dune. It takes him a minute of crawling on it before he realizes that he's no longer on sand - he's now crawling on some kind of dark stone. Stone with some kind of marking on it - a pattern cut into the stone. He's too tired to stand up and try to see what the pattern is - so he just keeps crawling. He crawls towards the center, where his blurry eyes still see something in the middle of the dark stone area.
His mind, detached in a strange way, notes that either his hands and knees are so burnt by the sand that they no longer feel pain, or that this dark stone, in the middle of a burning desert with a pounding, punishing sun overhead, doesn't seem to be hot. It almost feels cool. He considers lying down on the nice cool surface.
Cool, dark stone. Not a good sign. He must be hallucinating this. He's probably in the middle of a patch of sand, already lying face down and dying, and just imagining this whole thing. A desert mirage. Soon the beautiful women carrying pitchers of water will come up and start giving him a drink. Then he'll know he's gone.
He decides against laying down on the cool stone. If he's going to die here in the middle of this hallucination, he at least wants to see what's in the center before he goes. He keeps crawling.
It's the third time that he hears the voice before he realizes what he's hearing. He would swear that someone just said, "Greetings, traveler. You do not look well. Do you hear me?"
He stops crawling. He tries to look up from where he is on his hands and knees, but it's too much effort to lift his head. So he tries something different - he leans back and tries to sit up on the stone. After a few seconds, he catches his balance, avoids falling on his face, sits up, and tries to focus his eyes. Blurry. He rubs his eyes with the back of his hands and tries again. Better this time.
Yep. He can see. He's sitting in the middle of a large, flat, dark expanse of stone. Directly next to him, about three feet away, is a white post or pole about two inches in diameter and sticking up about four or five feet out of the stone, at an angle.
And wrapped around this white rod, tail with rattle on it hovering and seeming to be ready to start rattling, is what must be a fifteen foot long desert diamondback rattlesnake, looking directly at him.
He stares at the snake in shock. He doesn't have the energy to get up and run away. He doesn't even have the energy to crawl away. This is it, his final resting place. No matter what happens, he's not going to be able to move from this spot.
Well, at least dying of a bite from this monster should be quicker than dying of thirst. He'll face his end like a man. He struggles to sit up a little straighter. The snake keeps watching him. He lifts one hand and waves it in the snake's direction, feebly. The snake watches the hand for a moment, then goes back to watching the man, looking into his eyes.
Hmmm. Maybe the snake had no interest in biting him? It hadn't rattled yet - that was a good sign. Maybe he wasn't going to die of snake bite after all.
He then remembers that he'd looked up when he'd reached the center here because he thought he'd heard a voice. He was still very woozy - he was likely to pass out soon, the sun still beat down on him even though he was now on cool stone. He still didn't have anything to drink. But maybe he had actually heard a voice. This stone didn't look natural. Nor did that white post sticking up out of the stone. Someone had to have built this. Maybe they were still nearby. Maybe that was who talked to him. Maybe this snake was even their pet, and that's why it wasn't biting.
He tries to clear his throat to say, "Hello," but his throat is too dry. All that comes out is a coughing or wheezing sound. There is no way he's going to be able to talk without something to drink. He feels his pocket, and the bottle with the wiper fluid is still there. He shakily pulls the bottle out, almost losing his balance and falling on his back in the process. This isn't good. He doesn't have much time left, by his reckoning, before he passes out.
He gets the lid off of the bottle, manages to get the bottle to his lips, and pours some of the fluid into his mouth. He sloshes it around, and then swallows it. He coughs a little. His throat feels better. Maybe he can talk now.
He tries again. Ignoring the snake, he turns to look around him, hoping to spot the owner of this place, and croaks out, "Hello? Is there anyone here?"
He hears, from his side, "Greetings. What is it that you want?"
He turns his head, back towards the snake. That's where the sound had seemed to come from. The only thing he can think of is that there must be a speaker, hidden under the snake, or maybe built into that post. He decides to try asking for help.
"Please," he croaks again, suddenly feeling dizzy, "I'd love to not be thirsty any more. I've been a long time without water. Can you help me?"
Looking in the direction of the snake, hoping to see where the voice was coming from this time, he is shocked to see the snake rear back, open its mouth, and speak. He hears it say, as the dizziness overtakes him and he falls forward, face first on the stone, "Very well. Coming up."
A piercing pain shoots through his shoulder. Suddenly he is awake. He sits up and grabs his shoulder, wincing at the throbbing pain. He's momentarily disoriented as he looks around, and then he remembers - the crawl across the sand, the dark area of stone, the snake. He sees the snake, still wrapped around the tilted white post, still looking at him.
He reaches up and feels his shoulder, where it hurts. It feels slightly wet. He pulls his fingers away and looks at them - blood. He feels his shoulder again - his shirt has what feels like two holes in it - two puncture holes - they match up with the two aching spots of pain on his shoulder. He had been bitten. By the snake.
"It'll feel better in a minute." He looks up - it's the snake talking. He hadn't dreamed it. Suddenly he notices - he's not dizzy any more. And more importantly, he's not thirsty any more - at all!
"Have I died? Is this the afterlife? Why are you biting me in the afterlife?"
"Sorry about that, but I had to bite you," says the snake. "That's the way I work. It all comes through the bite. Think of it as natural medicine."
"You bit me to help me? Why aren't I thirsty any more? Did you give me a drink before you bit me? How did I drink enough while unconscious to not be thirsty any more? I haven't had a drink for over two days. Well, except for the windshield wiper fluid... hold it, how in the world does a snake talk? Are you real? Are you some sort of Disney animation?"
"No," says the snake, "I'm real. As real as you or anyone is, anyway. I didn't give you a drink. I bit you. That's how it works - it's what I do. I bite. I don't have hands to give you a drink, even if I had water just sitting around here."
The man sat stunned for a minute. Here he was, sitting in the middle of the desert on some strange stone that should be hot but wasn't, talking to a snake that could talk back and had just bitten him. And he felt better. Not great - he was still starving and exhausted, but much better - he was no longer thirsty. He had started to sweat again, but only slightly. He felt hot, in this sun, but it was starting to get lower in the sky, and the cool stone beneath him was a relief he could notice now that he was no longer dying of thirst.
"I might suggest that we take care of that methanol you now have in your system with the next request," continued the snake. "I can guess why you drank it, but I'm not sure how much you drank, or how much methanol was left in the wiper fluid. That stuff is nasty. It'll make you go blind in a day or two, if you drank enough of it."
"Ummm, n-next request?" said the man. He put his hand back on his hurting shoulder and backed away from the snake a little.
"That's the way it works. If you like, that is," explained the snake. "You get three requests. Call them wishes, if you wish." The snake grinned at his own joke, and the man drew back a little further from the show of fangs.
"But there are rules," the snake continued. "The first request is free. The second requires an agreement of secrecy. The third requires the binding of responsibility." The snake looks at the man seriously.