There was something special
about how altitude clears your head while seated on a mountainside on one
autumn evening. It was built as a dedication to Lord Shiva, the destroyer. The
great Kailashnath Temple.

The season cast an orange
haze above the horizon, lighting up the structure as if lit by fire, yet the
haze around it was so crisp and clear. It was
carved in perfect proportion and alignment to its adjacent structures, which
included columns, flying bridges, stone arches, and statues and buildings. All
made out of a single piece of rock.

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The
rounded rocks, coated with frost glistened as the sun settled back into its
nest.

I entered
through the granite walls into what was supposed to be the celestial room, a
room meant to evoke a sense of harmony with the mountains. Five dark figures appeared
out of the shadows, chanting a strange verse in Urdu. I tried to run back out
the entrance, but one swiftly fastened my ankle to a pulley system and hoisted
me up into a closing trapdoor as my field of vision slowly narrowed and my
eyelids sealed shut simultaneously.

 

A burning
gleam of light pierced into the fissures of my eyelids as I sat up against a
slab of rock. A reverberating squawk fractured my sleep again; I
glanced up at a parakeet as it fluttered away through the shrubs. I understood
I was no longer on the mountainside. The soil was damp and cool making me slip
as I stood up to catch my bearings. A heavy blanket of mist surrounded and
trapped me amongst the thick curtains of leaves.

As I contemplated the lifeless vines drooping from
the unknown canopy, a hissing dart struck the ground, unearthing it and leaving
a blood-red trail across its surface. This was followed by a rumbling horn
causing the tree trunks to shake and a few unripe kharbujas to fall to the
forest floor. I hastefully slid my feet
onto the nearby trail which was laid diagonally
with tapered logs and made a run for it. I rounded a sharp corner, the dry and
bitter air shocking my throat and lungs as I inhaled more rapidly. Blood rushed
into my muscles and in my brain as I dodged the avalanches of earth kick up by
my equestrian pursuers. There were five of them. I glanced behind me for a
fleeting moment and saw an archer with a silk tunic enveloped in a thick
leather vest, nocking the serrated arrow and then drawing the bow in my direction. I panicked and lunged into the immense profusion of
leaves. I was dazed at the fact that I had just jumped off a cliff and now was
flailing in midair trying to find a way to break my fall.

 

Before I could even blink, I was scooped up in a
layered membrane of titian-red sheets draped over a frail tent, I was in a
marketplace. I rapidly tugged away a silver gown with orange lining and slithered
into it before the owner came out of his neighboring tent. Now camouflaged
amongst the rampant crowd I began to figure out where I am. I edged through the
dense flow of people; the odoriferous
smell of spices combined with the aroma of some type of incense. The dust
filled aisles in this shop-like market was in disarray and full of vibrant
stands selling everything from cooked vegetables to goat cheese to packages of herbs
and meat. This wasn’t modern India,
no, with the ancient looking statuettes encompassing one of the stands; I
quickly understood that this was sometime around 5000 B.C.E!

 

This was perplexed. How? Why? Questions bombarded my
thoughts incessantly. The once rich and lively market now was a sunburned
battleground as the explosive hubbub encircled my consciousness. Then suddenly
everything clicked together, it was the temple, the Urdu chanting monks and the
illustrious trapdoor. I deemed it eminent to relocate the temple or else my
fate with this earliest civilization would probably end with my death. I broke
into a sprint headed towards a mountainside which looked much too familiar.

Dodging the rice-filled chariots and leaping over
the animals roaming on the reddish-ground. When I was out in the open again I
heard the memorable horn and its low rumble, they were coming for me.

 

Five horseback archers, six bloodhounds and three
footmen galloped, scampered and cantered in my direction as I frantically raced
up the unstable mound. Rocks, pebbles and sometimes whole chunks of earth shredded
away as I clutched them with my hands in an attempt to clamber up the precipice.
Before me stood the upright stonewalled Kailashnath Temple. My heart pounded like the war drums of the ancient
dynasties which I now just witnessed. I felt my body stab through the entrance.

The temple was deserted. A diffuse bluish light was beaming through the
pillared alley, which made an eerie contrast with the white halo beaming from
the brass sculpture on the central altar. The fragrance of incense was heavy
and the sound of chimes could be heard in the distance. I stood motionless, paralyzed.
The back of my leg was punctured by a five centimeter diameter dart.

 

Everything went numb, centuries seemed to pass by, and my brain felt
like it was going to enter a permanent state of unconsciousness. Everything
felt as if nothing mattered anymore and before I knew it a beam of light was
drilling into my vision once again. This time I was seated in front of the
temple with the familiar sunset in the horizon. I exasperatingly stared at my
phone and we were back.

January 30th of 2018 in present day India.