I wake up, over a hundred years ago, in a civil war, where I am digging the debris for the rest of my unit. We were blown off the face of the earth by the enemy who knew we had no choice but to march forward and be devastated by their canons… The handful of us who are alive are frantically searching, digging, without a shred of hope…

Sometimes I am on this side of the war, sometimes that. No one knows why they are fighting, but they are bound by duty and some by a misplaced sense of hatred. A few firmly believe the war is right. Most have no clue.

I am digging, and digging – I find a hand – torn from the rest of his body…

Now I stand at a critical moment in history, as an important declaration is made that would change the course of the world.

No. I am the one making the declaration – which is carried across the country and possibly the globe. Which is recorded and listened to, numerous times by the generations yet to come. “… and consequently, this country is now at war with Germany…”

Don’t mingle with the natives, they say. A picnic at the Caves sounds like a terrible idea. East is East… “Make yourself at home, Aziz.”

I am in the twenty first century. Looking out the window at a countryside I have never seen. Its beauty escapes me. Everything looks lifeless because I have lost everything. And everyone. The journey I have to undertake terrifies me and, in all likelihood, is bound to end in failure.

Slaves – I see them suffer. I suffer with them. I surrender before their eyes. I have no promise to give them but more suffering.

I’ve loved and lost. Go fight for it, says the dying old man.

I am travelling into space, far from the world I have known, searching for a new home. Searching for a man who had run away, a long time ago.

A country is born at midnight. I fling stones at my own brothers and sisters as I follow my people towards the border…

I’ve survived. Battered and bruised, but alive. Barely.

Bengaluru, 2019, and a Life I can barely understand. The hand I have dug out of the ground grasps my arm. I writhe and struggle and I declare: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny… ” The slaves will be free. Tell them not to lose hope, it is only a matter of days. There is nothing to see in the Caves. Only darkness – and madness. My ship plunges into the stars looking for an ancient power to help us. “Make yourself at home, Aziz.” “May I really, Mr Fielding?”

I am trapped – with mirrors all around me. I see a thousand versions of myself – but are they all me?

These stories… they consume me. They aren’t stories, they are Life. They are Hope. They’re Guidelines. They’re Reminders.

I live and breathe in them.

When do I step out from there and step into this life – the one I call real?

Where ends reality and where begins the illusion?