It felt as if I had woken up from the deepest slumber. I gasped and looked around; but I could not see anything. I was engulfed in an eerie silence and a suffocating darkness.
My desperation echoed in the vast emptiness.
“Is anybody there?”
I saw a faint light at a distance and started running towards it. Frantically.
I stopped short. In front of me was a room enclosed in glass, like one of those conference rooms we had at the office. The light emerged from frosted panes, shining like a halo in the darkness.
I meekly knocked on the door.
“Come in,” answered a heavy voice.
As I held out my hand to push the long flat steel handle on the door, the voice commanded, “Sanitize your hands!”
“But there is no sanitizer,” I murmured.
The voice laughed. “Some people just don’t get my sense of humour. Come in.”
I pushed open the door and saw a Morgan Freeman look-alike sitting behind a huge glass table, in a perfect white suit, eyes fixed on a MacBook Pro.
“Any problem, son?”
“Where am I? And who are you?”
He smiled and said, “Welcome to Hell! I am Yamraj’s assistant.”
The man got up from his chair and started walking towards me.
“You were caught in a road accident last night. You were driving drunk. Your friend Siddharth also died with you.”
“Horrible! Where is Sid?”
The man pulled a chair for me. He sat on the edge of the table.
“He went to heaven.”
“What the… but why? Don’t you keep a track of his sins?”
“It is management’s decision. You are not supposed to question management’s decision. You see, Chitragupta keeps track of your deeds on earth, then he has a meeting with my boss Yamraj, and finally I am given the list of people coming here. Nothing personal.”
“You could have done better, son. You know the golden rule- obey and oblige! Don’t question.”
He added the afterthought, while walking back to his chair.
“Stop son-ing me!” I was agitated. “This is not fair! Just because he believes everything blindly, does not wash away his sins! There must be some way! I cannot rot like this in hell!”
The Morgan Freeman smiled, “Oh really? Let’s look at your list then, shall we?” He continued, browsing something on the laptop “Missing deadlines, lying on timesheets…”
“But I do get my work done. I was the employee of the quarter, if you have that record!” I retorted.
“Yeah. About getting work done.” He said, looking at me “What did you tell your wife yesterday that made her so upset?”
“What? The fritters are always either overcooked or undercooked?”
“I don’t expect anything better from you. But no, before that. Remember the big fight and why she cried the whole day?”
“That bookstagrammer sounds so pretentious? Yeah, I mean, if you like reading, then read. What’s the big hullabaloo called bookstagram? From where did this term come, anyway? I don’t get the point of seeking validation from the whole world when you can just sit quietly and read. What did I say wrong?”
“By that logic, what’s the point of living in a society, when you can live alone.”
“I mean, yeah, technically yes.”
“Well, technically, you are an imposter! Technically, you were not supposed to get married and start a family if you wanted to live alone. Technically, you were supposed to study when you got into college, not to skip classes and exams. We all know what you did there. And technically, you are not supposed to be arguing with me!”
“You are mixing up things. College is a different topic. Not fair. People do grow up. I have gone through so many background verifications. Please! And I do love my wife! Am I really an imposter?!”
“Your life is a textbook example of the cardinal sins. Oh, you do not believe in any of that, right? Is everything just a joke to you?”
“Everyone on earth commits some or the other sin. So have I. But otherwise I had been a good man throughout. I have never done bad to anyone. I was probably the most compassionate guy around! What about morality and all? I should be heard! This is injustice!”
“Being morally or whatever-the-way right does not work. Being diplomatic does. Being empathetic, being hypocritical does. By the way, that moral compass of yours is broken.” He continued “If you look at the list of people whom you have offended, you don’t particularly look like anything you have described yourself just now. I wish they had told you on your face, how obnoxious you are!”
“Stop reasoning, it’s too late. And I’d appreciate, if you do not waste any more time of mine. I need to send your assessment report to my boss. Be good. Be nice. Take the first door on the left and you will see the Hell Resources department. They’ll explain the policies and code of conduct here. Good luck!”
Just then I heard faint music somewhere. Yeah, somebody is playing Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive.
“Switch it off!”
“Your phone. Alarm. Switch it off.”
I saw the missus tucking herself in the comforter and rolling over to the other side of the bed.
“For God’s sake! Get some sleep. You are in quarantine!” she murmured.