I don’t remember the end. I was in the dark for a long time and that was all I could remember. Everything before that ran through occasionally like a 15 second trailer. After a while I got used to the experience and did not really bother worrying about the constant blackouts and the short trailers… Then, suddenly, I started getting my senses back. I was in a moving thing… a vehicle? Building? Plane? Lift? Yes… lift. It could be lift. I was scared of lifts before… before the long blackout. I couldn’t see anything and I had a feeling that I was in it for a long time. The air smelled like a fridge… cold and stale. Then suddenly the lift stopped. I didn’t know if I was going up or down. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn as long as I didn’t know what happened before the blackout. The doors opened and I could see a well-lit floor; like the one I worked in. I stepped out and a guy called me from extreme right.
‘Hoy! C’mon over here.’
I looked at him. I had seen him somewhere before but I couldn’t say where.
‘What are you fuckin’ around for? Come here!’ He raised his voice. I walked next to him. He was sitting on a wooden chair holding a tablet in his right hand. He looked at me and the gadget and then back and forth again as if he was confirming my identity. He looked like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘Mmm?’ He looked up from the tablet.
‘Who are you?’ I asked again.
‘Business.’ He said.
‘What?’ I asked. I had never met anyone who had that surname before.
‘Business. Mr. Business. You can call me that. My first name is None of your Fuckin’. So… my full name is ‘None-Of-Your-Fuckin’-Business’. Understood, smart-ass? He looked straight through me.
‘You can put down your god forsaken arse down on that chair over there’. He pointed towards a corner where there was a brown chair kept like it was abandoned. I was speechless from his behavior so I walked slowly towards the chair.
‘Listen’, he called from behind. ‘When I call you, stand up and walk through that door right over there.’ He pointed at the extreme left of where I came from and I saw a door there. I had not seen it before.
I nodded. He mumbled something and went back to his tablet. Hours passed and I didn’t move. The trailer played several times in my head. I started understanding that it played things which I had forgotten long ago. I did not understand why I was remembering them now. The guy looked up from his tablet to look at me and shook his head in disbelief. He stood up and slowly put down the gadget on his chair and walked over to me.
‘You don’t really know why you are here. Do you?’ He asked.
‘You are dead, sonny. That’s why you are here.’ He poked my forehead with his point finger.
I was silent. It took me several minutes to figure out what he said because I couldn’t believe it.
‘You don’t remember how, right?’ He asked.
‘No.’ I said.
‘Well, I can’t tell you. Not part of my job profile.’ He raised his hands in dismissal.
‘What can you tell me then? Am I going to be judged or what?’ I asked.
He raised his eyebrows and pretended to be shocked.
‘Well, what do you think?’
‘I’m trying not to. Are you God?’ I asked. I felt pretty stupid asking him that.
‘Surprise… surprise.’ He extended his hands and shouted at my face. I didn’t move.
‘Well, I am not God. We take care of things that need to be taken care of. We never call ourselves Gods or… supreme beings. We cannot create Thunder or cause rain as some of your brethren believe… we just have a little more brain capacity than you guys and we use it for better things. And the last thing, most of us don’t think you guys deserve to be judged. Understood?’ He stopped.
‘No.’ I said.
‘Exactly what I was talking about, right?’ He smiled at my face from a close distance. I felt pretty offended. I wanted to punch him on the face.
‘So what exactly is behind that door?’ I asked.
‘That’s where you get a chance. Let’s call it a chance giving committee. Some of us are trying to help build a better place and I am just the doorman. Having said that, I should also say, that I hate this god awful job… sitting here all day and receiving impertinent souls…’ He fell on his knees and started sobbing comically, ‘Nhooooo nohhoooooo No…. sir, it must be a mistake… please send me back… I’M NOT DEAD…..!’ He got up and became normal. ‘So when your turn comes, I will kick your arse through that door and you’ll face a couple of guys over there that you shouldn’t mess with and you’ll calmly answer their questions… that’s all you need to know.’
I nodded my head. I felt even more stupid but I swore that I will not ask any more questions and give this guy any chance to ridicule me.
‘To be on the serious side, you answer their questions wisely, young man… because they’ll give you a chance if you deserve it.’ He said that with the most serious note I have seen and started walking back to his seat.
‘A chance to do what?’ I asked.
He stopped midway and turned around, ‘To do better… to amend… and believe me, not everyone gets one.’ He started walking.
I sat there looking at the door.
Then, suddenly, the door opened.
‘Go on…’ He said, without even looking at me.
I walked inside the room, slowly. It was not lit properly. It took my eyes a bit of a time to readjust to the light of the room. I must’ve looked like a fool there.
‘Face us.’ A voice said from my right. What’s with sitting on the right sides? I turned right.
‘I’m sure you have met Adam outside. Sorry if he shook you… he’s been stuck there for a long time, hoping to be promoted.’ There were two men and a woman sitting there staring at me. One man looked like Indian. The one next to him was definitely of Mongoloid origin and the woman looked… Middle east, mostly. The men looked like they were around their sixties and the woman must have been in her forties. I felt like a criminal in front of them. They had this unusual surge of energy oozing out of them and filling all around me that’ll make any saint from earth feel like a petty pick pocket or a thug. I moved a little closer to them.
‘What do you want? Where am I?’ I asked.
‘We try and keep things simple here. So what if I say you just have to answer our questions and then we’ll answer your questions later?’ The woman said.
‘I guess, that’s alright with me.’ I said. She was the most intimidating woman I have ever seen considering the fact that I didn’t have much of a memory left. I realized my skin was tingling.
‘Okay… what do you think of life?’ The man, who spoke initially, looked at me.
‘Beautiful…’ I said.
‘Gautam, let’s don’t ask him the usual ones. Why don’t we let ask according to our new test pattern?’ The woman asked the man.
‘I think you are absolutely right, Mary.’ The man whose name is Gautam said. ‘What do you think, Kong?’ He asked the Chinese man. I hoped his first name wasn’t King.
‘I think that’s fine. But, is he the right person?’ Kong asked back.
‘Until we give someone a chance, how’d you know he or she is the right person, Mr. Qiu? Mary asked.
‘Alright.’ Mr. Q turned to me. ‘We are going to give you a chance to ask us one question. If the question is a right one, we’ll give you a chance. I mean, your chance of getting a chance depends upon your question. Okay with you, kid?’ He concluded as if he explained a great theory to me.
‘Well, nothing here is understandable but I know what happened to me and I know there’s virtually no possibility in me getting a second chance, if that’s what you mean by repeating that word and hammering that down through my skull…’ I was agitated. ‘But, hell yeah… I’m ready. But…’
‘Yes?’ Mary asked, raising an eye brow.
‘Can I ask anything?’
‘Related to your life, yes, you can!’ Mr. Qiu answered.
‘And, no questions related to confirming urban legends or celebrity secrets… understand?’ Mary asked.
‘You are ready?’ Gautam asked.
‘Then, shoot.’ He said.
‘Did the birds know we were feeding them intentionally? I mean… they didn’t think that they were being clever and were engaged in some sort of a heist… eating the grains we kept for them in the balcony, right?’ I asked, suspiciously.
A silence fell among them. They looked at each other. Mary had a smile in her eyes, waiting impatiently to spill out. Mr. Qiu looked like I defeated him in a game of chess. Gautam did not have any particular change in his facial expression.
‘That is your question?’ Gautam asked. ‘You are not interested in knowing anything else from your life? Why you are being brought here or made to ask these questions blah blah blah?’
‘No… not really.’ I shrugged.
‘Interesting.’ Mary said.
‘Is it?’ I asked. ‘Is it because you don’t know the answer?’
‘Of course, we know the answer.’ Mr. Qiu said. ‘Why do you think we’re here if we don’t know the answers?’
‘I don’t know.’
They started talking among themselves in an inaudible way. I was getting bored. Finally, they stopped and faced me.
‘You’ve been given your chance. You can go back.’ Gautam said.
‘Where to?’ I asked.
‘Wherever you want…’ Mr Qiu said.
‘Mr. Qiu!’ Mary stressed. She looked at me, ‘Wherever you came from…’
‘Okay.’ I turned back.
‘Wait…’ Gautam called me from behind. I stopped and turned.
‘Don’t you want the answer to your question?’ Mary asked.
‘Yes. They knew. But, they like broken rice better than the huge grains.’ Gautam said.
‘Now… off you go!’ Mr. Qiu said.
I turned around thinking gloomily about meeting Adam again but I blacked out again. I woke up in my car upside down. I blacked out again. This one was a long one. Then I woke up again, this time on a bed in a room which had a blue ceiling. A TV was on with no sound but it was playing news. I couldn’t move at all. I must have made some sound because I could hear someone walking towards me in a hurry.
‘Oh my god! Stay like that…’ a female voice said. ‘Doctor, please come to ICU room 5, the patient seems to have regained consciousness.’
I tried looking back at the TV.