Sanji was aware that he was dreaming.
He was walking through a silent white forest. Pine trees blanketed with snow rose on every side.
When Sanji was a young child, the lucid dreams had been frequent. That was a lifetime ago, when he spent his waking hours pretending to streak past a billion billion stars as he traveled in a spaceship to the far end of the universe.
As a middle-aged man he slept without dreams.
Until this night.
Sanji moved through the white forest deliberately and searched the snow with devouring eyes. He turned his feet in every direction, crushing fresh powder with every step, and at last halted on the bank of a frozen river. He could hear running water bubbling beneath the emerald ice.
Sanji had walked through unknown territory his entire adult life. Somehow, after many dreamless nights, he had become a leading theoretical physicist. He lived in a small world of unending numbers, odd symbols. Penning equations, scratching them out. Now he gazed down at the frozen river and knew for certain that he was asleep and dreaming, and that what he saw before him was absolutely real.
Looking up, he saw white particles floating from the trees. One drifted down, landed on his fingertip.
He held the snowflake next to one eye.
He stared at its shape.
The tiny snowflake was an infinity of jigsaw pieces fitted together into one seamless whole. Pieces of infinitesimal essence.
He caught his breath in the airless cold.
He had found something that he had never seen before. A perfect snowflake. The most simple of all possible truths.
The crystal snowflake was an unbidden, elegant revelation, like inspired strokes of chalk on a newly-cleaned chalkboard: a brilliant equation of white: a mathematical certainty that explained all things.
All Sanji’s life he’d grappled to unravel the truth. He had fought to weld together that desperate mathematical Theory of Everything.
Now it was on his finger.
In the perfect snowflake he saw the precise truth that was written at the beginning of all things. He saw the origin, the movement, the destiny of the universe. The final equation shimmered before him. He saw each finite number distinctly. It was simple. He’d found it.
Sanji heard a patter of rain.
He listened to the rain and was aware that it was dark. And that he was warm in bed.
Outside his bedroom window streaked dark ghostly rain.
Suddenly he remembered his dream.
He had to write it down. That equation.
He knew there was a notepad on the desk by the window–and on top of the notepad a ballpoint pen. He jumped up.
The ghostly rain outside his room drew his eyes to the window. Softly glowing raindrops were coursing separately down the pane, like pulsing atoms or universes, flowing, colliding, combining, accelerating, vanishing. The raindrops followed defined courses, courses easily formulated, with destinies known. And yet each was a mystery. Each drop was birthed out of darkness–each was a vision beyond his reach.
Sanji blinked. He’d forgotten his dream.