My mind was on Sahrai. My eyes were closed. I couldn't see anything, but I could feel the wind blowing steadily across my face. I stirred, and upon hearing thunder, opened my eyes. I found myself gazing straight up into a vivid, stormy sky. I laid there for a moment, still thinking. Then I felt the first few raindrops splatter my face and I sat up.
I had been lying on a wooden raft which was flowing peacefully down a narrow stream lined with rocks. My mind wandered. Absently, I searched the sky and noted that the sun was very low on the western horizon, partially shielded by mountains. Ah, what a beautiful sunset it was, I thought. Now the rain fell harder and the wind blew stronger, pushing my raft farther down the stream. Without clear reason, I lowered my leg into the water until I felt the shallow, rocky ground beneath my bare foot. The water was cool and barely came up to my waist. I stepped in, allowing the raft to meander down the stream without me. I waded to shore and pulled myself up onto a rock in a small clearing.
Hours passed while I sat on that rock, remembering Sahrai. When I realized that I was no longer being pounded by rain, I desperately shook the thoughts out of my mind in order to concentrate on the present. I gazed up once more. The storm had calmed. I considered pursuing my journey, but then I noticed something strange. Though still in the west, the sun was completely visible in the sky, and much higher than it had been hours ago. It seemed that I should remain in the clearing until things began to make sense to me. It occured to me that the whole event may have been a dream, but even in the land of dreams, it's important to understand the situation. Had the sun reversed itself? Was time moving backwards? Could this be some kind of warning? It didn't make sense at all, so I left my questions unanswered and proceeded.
But as I was standing up, my foot slipped on the still soaked rock, and I collapsed head first into the stream. Where the rocky floor should have been there was merely a thin misty substance, which I glimpsed for a millisecond and then plummeted right through. Down and down through the water I sank, as if some force stronger than nature were at the bottom, pulling me under. But where was the bottom? I could not see it. I could see only dark blue hazy water, with an occasional leaf or stick floating aimlessly about. I was somewhat frightened, but more curious than anything else. The blue darkened as I sank lower, and I began to see tiny specs of light in the water, like stars. In an instant, there was a flash of crimson light and something very hard against my face. I blinked.
All of my surroundings had completely vanished. I couldn't move. I now found myself turning my head sideways, so as not to have my face jammed against a stone wall; the same wall to which my spread-eagle feet and hands were chained. The scene dimly flickered in and out of my vision, as if a torch were burning behind me. Suddenly I became aware of a stinging pain on the back of my neck. My hands longed to massage it and ease the aching, but they couldn't move. The chains were binding them too tightly. But I didn't have time to think about pain. My mind was focused on Sahrai.
There, chained against a clammy wall in that horrible, desolate chamber... I watched time play its games. I saw my life replaying backwards, as if every bit of it was presently draining out of my body. Back, back, into my past, losing memories, feelings, experiences. And all the while I clung to Sahrai...
But what was Sahrai? Was it a place? A person? A friend of mine or a loved one? Or was it someone I loathed? If it was a place, did I wish to go there, or to escape from there? Could Sahrai be only a feeling, or something abstract? Was it the essence of good or of evil? There, chained against that rigid stone wall I lost my sanity.
What little light I had imagined to be shining was eventually consumed by the most visible darkness I have ever known. Nothing existed anymore except the voice inside my head, echoing the word "Sahrai" as if it were the answer to the only question I would ever need to ask. But what did it mean? I couldn't remember what. But slowly, vaguely... I remembered why.