The cave was dark, musty and cold. At first, Mitra could not see anything, his senses blinded by the stinging physical reactions as he stood naked in the middle of a natural chamber while the Magi held his robe on one arm.

 “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” the Magi asked one last time.

“Yes,” Mitra assured.

“All right, but I’ll wait outside.” Traditions required that the initiate remain alone inside the cave. Usually a stone sealed the entrance until the third day, when the ordeal was officially over. In this case though, the Magi felt he had to make an exception if not only because he was initiating the king’s son. “If you feel you can’t go through with it, just call me and I’ll come get you.” His tone betrayed his worry.

Mitra knew he had strong doubts about his capacity to complete the ordeal, so he simply nodded. After all, who could blame him? the prince mused, tired of the Magi’s concern over his safety. Just leave me alone, he wished ardently. Yet, these words returned to haunt him during the long stay in the dark cold cave. A hundred times he opened his mouth to call back the Magi just as a hundred and one times he swallowed the words before they reached his lips.

When his vision adjusted to the poor lighting, Mitra explored the cave, though there was not much to see. The small place resembled a chamber with the cramped tunnel leading in and out of it. High humid stone walls vaulted the space above his head. This cave is enough to drive a person mad, Mitra thought, sitting against a wall, hugging his knees to keep warm. Or perhaps cure him forever, he mused as Vayu’s image flashed in front of his eyes. For the remainder of the day, he battled against cold and hunger as his visions left his mind to fill the stone walls with the fair Aryan’s profile.

In a drunken stupor, he dozed off between visions, fighting the urge to shout for help whenever he regained consciousness. At one point, he lost contact with his body and he floated on the cave’s ceiling, finally free from the cage that had trapped it for so long. Looking down, he laughed at his pitiful figure huddled against the wall, feeling sorry for its very physical pains. Of course, he realized they were just hallucinations that disappeared quickly if he opened his eyes.

But it was getting increasingly harder to open his eyes. His body had turned to an icy pillar, unable to move from its position. He could feel neither his feet nor his hands anymore. His head resting on his knees felt heavier with each passing moment. Very soon, he would not be able to lift it anymore. Breathing became difficult, so he slowed it down. And he floated into a fantasy world that filled his empty stomach.

Exactly what he dreamed about, he could not remember afterward, although the reveries seemed so clear while he lived them. In a way, his cave experience became a trance as no other reality existed beyond his imaginary one. And if at first he woke up between dreams, soon every vision blurred into another without beginning or ending. He would have dreamed forever, life turning into eternal sleep.