This despatch arrives unheralded from somewhere out beyond the Thousand Ruby Galaxy. It's a Zip File and when I open it I see the pixels in the revelatory act of transforming from code into words. The cover note is brief and says only: This might be part of the story you're looking for. S.

We lived in Sangala besides the river Hydraotes and watched through a mist of rain as foragers stripped the land on the further bank of everything that grew there. The king crossed the brown flooding water with his army of Greeks and Persians. We had parked wagons three deep before the city walls but they were smashed to bits by Alexander's phalanx. Then they built a double palisade to keep us in and began erecting the siege towers. We tried to break out but Ptolemy's army forced us back. Then Pontus, an Indian like us, came up with fresh troops and more elephants. Before the towers were even completed our walls, undermined, began to fall. After that, the rapes and the slaughter. It rained the whole time, so that bloody horrors pooled bedraggled among the stones. Then the city was razed. I was taken by one of the hypaspists, a Macedonian, not a kind man. My first child killed at my breast. His father's bones in the muddy flood of the Hydraotes perhaps, or cracked under the feet of an elephant: I was never to know. We went south, thousands of us, following the army, walking over corpses and bones through the stripped fields to a blare of horns. They drank and fought, that is all. And marched. Somewhere near Rambaceia I put my cloak over my head and wrapped it around me and fell to the ground. By the yellow stinking way in the pouring rain. Nobody stopped to see, nobody tried to help: the dead that lie in the wake of an army go unburied. They are eaten by dogs. Vultures and crows. Rats. I lay until night came and then walked away east until I could not walk anymore. Still far from the sea. My milk dried up because I had no food. I forgot how to cry. I was curled up under my cloak at the side of the road, really dying this time, when the man found me there and raised me up and took me to his house. He was a Jain. A ford-builder, he had already crossed to the other side of sorrow, to the further shore from darkness, away from the uncreated world, that will last forever, where everything changes except your soul, which is all that you have and all you can lose. So he taught me and so I believe. I know the holy man as Moksha; and the daughter I bore to the Macedonian, whom I will not name, is called Samsara.

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