Something felt off to me.
I couldn’t really place it. I couldn’t work out why it felt wrong, but there was just something that didn’t set well. The pen quivered in my hand, and after a moment, I set it down on the table.
“I’m not really sure…” I said.
The angel sitting across from me shook his head and smirked. “Narayan, Narayan!” Having binge watched The Mahanharata as a kid, I was familiar with this chant, the U shaped tika on the forehead and the mischievous grin.
“Oh, no. You’re gonna love it. You’re gonna really love it,” he said. Reaching over, he tapped the contract on the desk in front of me, and winked. “This bad girl is gonna fit so much fun in it, you won’t believe.”
I had to admit, it did sound good. A chance to go back and replay my entire life, but with the benefits of everything I already knew. Literally everything. S
And, there was him… #theonewhogotaway! I closed my eyes and I could see his face, in all its perfect detail. I saw his smile; I saw his frown lines, the way he bit his lip when he flirted with me; I saw his eyes, those perfect dark brown pools…
I’d never quite understood that whole trope about looking into somebody’s eyes before I met him. Afterwards, I got it. I really got it. It’s just a shame that I never wanted to look at another guy’s eyes that way again.
I snatched the pen and I was halfway to writing my name on the dotted line when I stopped. I looked up, and I could see the way he was staring. His gaze was so intense, and he was holding his breath in anticipation.
There was just something off. It didn’t feel right.
I put the pen down again, and stretched. “Look, it’s been a really rough day. I mean, I did die and all. Kind of takes it out of you, you know?” I laughed, trying to seem casual. “Do you mind if I get a coffee or something? Maybe stretch my legs?”
He seemed frustrated, but he nodded. “Yeah, yeah, sure. That’s fine. No rush, none at all! We’ve got all the time in the world!” He stood up, and pointed through a door in the corner of the huge, plush room.”There’s a canteen through there, should have everything you need. And remember, when you get back, ask for Narada, okay?”
I nodded, and stood up. “Of course I know you!”
I made my way across the room, taking in my surroundings as I went. It reminded me of an enormous car salesroom – well, perhaps a luxury car salesroom. I’d never been to one, but I’d stared through the glass windows several times.
It really was a nice place.
The canteen was equally luxurious. I opened the swing doors, and the air hit me in a wave of pure bliss. It was just the right temperature and scented ever-so-slightly with oranges and lavender. My favourite!
There were small fountains and dozens of gorgeous, well-pruned trees. They were all in full bloom, adding spots of color in between the plush leather benches and the gleaming tabletops. I smiled, taking it in for a second before I made my way over to the food counter.
And, my God – could I say that here? – the food. It was the kind of display that I would set out in my dreams. There were sweets and pies and ice creams and yoghurts and every manner of delicacy I could imagine. Each and every one of them looked better than those primped and faked publicity photographs, and next to every dish was a small printed card promising that it was
“Not a bad range, right?” I heard someone say. I looked up to see another man, impossibly handsome and with perfect hair, smiling at me. Piercing looks, dark skin, eyes like lotus petals… Krishna Bhagwan?
I stood up and nodded. “I… uhhh, yeah. I died a few minutes ago, apparently.” I thought about it for a second, and shrugged. “It feels weird to say that, but it’s what Indra Bhagwan had told me, and I don’t think he’s allowed to lie.”
The man laughed. “That’s right. No lies from the Big Guy. Little rhyme there, just dropping it out. But yeah, Indra Ji, nicest bouncer you’ll ever meet, though,” he said.
He stretched out a hand. “Krishna. Good to meet you.”
“Prisha,” I replied, stretching out my hand to his. We shook, and I raised an eyebrow. “Good grip,” I said. I was a little surprised.
Krishna Ji laughed.
“Oh, yeah and you have delicate hands. We’re all perfect representations of ourselves up here,” he said. “I didn’t look this good in real life, trust me.” I frowned.
“We look better?”
“Oh, God, yes. Perfect. Check it out,” he said. He reached out and grabbed one of the trays – sterling silver; if the sign could be believed – and held it up. There was a flash of light, and then the perfect mirror showed me… me. But a better me. A beautiful me. A perfect me.
“Well, I’ll be d…”
“Ah, ah, ah. Best not to say that.” Krishna Ji put the tray down, and glanced around. “Not really any consequences, but most of us feel we should be grateful to the G-man. Know what I mean?”
He pointed up to the ceiling, and I knew what he meant. I nodded, and made a note to keep my tongue in check.
“So, you want to grab a bite? No calories?” He winked. I glanced back, and finally shook my head.
“Not right now. I could murder a coffee though. If it’s available.”
“Here, I’ll show you.”
“Oh. Thanks.” I followed Krishna Ji as he led me over to an enormous, gleaming machine. There was a single button on the front, and a small screen that flashed up a happy greeting to me. “How do I choose?”
“You don’t. Punch the button, it gives you the perfect drink for you in that moment.” he shrugged. “Just trust me. It works. Everything works.”
I was a little dubious, but I pressed the button. I watched in amazement as the machine chugged and churned and finally produced the best-smelling, best-looking mocha I could imagine, in the finest porcelain cup.
“See what I mean?” Krishna Ji said.
“Wanna sit down?”
I followed him to a table, happy for the company. My last years on Earth had been lonely, and I was glad to have someone to talk to. We sat on opposite sides of a table, each nestled in comfortable chairs, and he fixed a firm gaze on me.
“So, who’s recruited you so far?”
“Recruitment.” He waved a hand. “Heaven is a perfect place, and utterly free. But we all want to keep busy, enjoy our time, make connections. There are lots of clubs, and usually people try and sign you up.”
“Oh, right…” I said. I hadn’t realized.
“I’m a Glutton, myself. You know, for the
“Oh, right…” That made a lot of sense.
“Anyone get you yet? Or do I have a chance?”
“Well, I was talking to Narada Muni actually,” I said. I saw Krishna Ji laugh, and a sympathetic expression come on his face.
“Damn. Poor guy. You left him, huh?”
“Well, I was gonna sign actually…” I said. Krishna Ji’s eyebrows shot up, and I set my cup down, pointing at him. “There. Knew it. You know something.”
“It felt wrong. Like something was off. I couldn’t place it. But you know.”
Krishna Ji squirmed in his seat. “Well, it’s not for me to lose a guy a sale, you know?” he told me. I frowned and just stared. He squirmed more, and looked decidedly uncomfortable. “Seriously…”
“Seriously,” I said, repeating the word. He sighed.
“Well, it’s a little… disappointing.” He shrugged. “They had good sales at first, but once the word got out, demand kinda plummeted.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, you see, Narad makes it out like you’re gonna restart at the beginning, full memories, all your skills – makes it a cakewalk. Right?”
“Yeah, it’s not. They buff the others.” Krishna Ji must’ve seen my look of confusion, because he moved closer to the table and put both elbows on it. Leaning forward, he got his face closer to mine. “I didn’t tell you, okay?”
“Okay. Sure. But you haven’t told me anything yet.”
“Well. You do start off with your memories, all that, yeah. But everyone else gets a bump. One guy got back, an Indian guy, made himself a millionaire before he was twenty-five.”
“And?” I asked, sensing there was a catch.
“Boom. Hyperinflation. A loaf of bread cost like, One Thousand Rupees or something. He was worth nothing in a matter of weeks. Topped himself, I think.”
“Yeah. Happens a lot. Kinda sucks.” He shrugged.
“It’s just the money?”
“Oh, no. Everything. Apparently one lady went back to become Prime Minister and got beat out by a reality show host. And apparently the reality show host was on his second time too, and wound up with, like, everyone hating him. It was a real shoot-show all around.”
I frowned. “Sounds familiar…”
“Yeah. Look, I ain’t taking sides or anything, but whole thing blows really.” Krishna Ji looked around again. “Other people go back for a girl – but all the guys around are bigger, richer, better looking, funnier. Most people lose their dream-girls faster than the first time around.”
I thought again about him. The thought of losing him again… My breath caught in my throat, and I had to turn my face away from Krishna Ji as I fought back tears.
“Plus, the tutorial level takes five years or something. You can’t even walk for the first year. Two years before you can interact…”
I set my coffee down, and tried to ignore the pit in my stomach. Narada Muni was kind of lying to me, then.
“So you start thinking maybe you’ve already lived the life you were meant to live, you know” Krishna Ji said.
I sat back, and closed my eyes.
“Thank God I didn’t sign,” I said.
Krishna Ji nodded.
“you might want to decide fast. We live in a dangerous world. If you see a chance to be happy, you have to fight for it, so later you have no regrets.”
― Ilona Andrews