"Arre Bhaiya, kahey aise baithe huye ho? Ka hua? (Why are you sitting like this? What happened?) SickPick asked in a more relaxed though exaggerated manner.
Gudman started crying. "All my life I've lived virtuously. But look, even at death, I don't get to enter heaven."
SickPick took pity on him and sat next to him.
"See, one has to be smart in life. Virtues get you nowhere. You know, my real name is not SickPick", he said in a conspiratorial tone.
"Oh. Then what is it? Tell me your story? How did you land up...errr....fly up here?" Gudman was suddenly curious about SickPick.
"My real name is Chitra Gupt. I used to keep accounts of Yamraaj in Hell. Business in Hell slowly began shutting down as Heaven suddenly started doing very well. It was just after Pearly Gates Inc had taken over its management and sent St. Peter off with a golden handshake. Yamraaj had to resort to cost-cutting and so one day, I found a pink slip over my ledger, weighed down with my inkpot and quill. I was suddenly jobless. So I decided to just stick around Hell and enjoy some days there. I met many famous people. Rockstars, Biker Gangs, Killers, Assassins, Politicians and virtually Who's Who of the world. I became close to the bikers and suddenly realized that Chitra Gupt is not a cool name. So I changed it to Secret Pic (Picture) and I was a loser no more. A few days later, I heard Pearly Gates Inc had outsourced their hiring to some HR consultants in Hell. With my work ex, I was the top pick and soon landed up at the office of the CEO of Pearly Gates Inc., Sin Peter. He thought Secret Picture was a very long and mysterious name. After all, it has a 'Secret' in it," he laughed so much that tears rolled down his eyes. "So he started calling me SickPick, which, he says, sounds more professional, like Money Penny, you know!" SickPick laughed again.
Gudman just kept listening, intrigued.
"Achcha listen, I have another proposal for you. See if you can work on it. If it goes through, I promise I'll persuade Boss to let you in. He owes me many times over."
"Really?" Gudman suddenly had a bright spark in his leaden eyes.
"Hmm." SickPick repeated his Boss's favourite monosyllable. "See, these pearls that you see on the gate are not all real. My cousin, who lives on earth, and I, have managed to quietly pull some out and replace them with plastic coated ones. I used a courier boy from here to take the real pearls there and bring the fake ones here. We quietly did the replacement during Sin Peter's harp concerts. My cousin was making a good amout of money. Then one day the courier boy decided that the 1,000,000,000 steps to heaven were very strenuous and were wearing his muscles out very fast. That was just a pretense. Do spirits have muscles?!!!" He laughed again very loudly. "You see, this courier boy had found some arms dealer on his way to Hell. They struck up a deal and the boy ditched the 1,000,000,000 steps for the 10,000 steps which got him more gain, and cocaine!" Sickpick laughed his sick laugh again.
Gudman listened to the story of the fake pearls with his heart almost in his mouth. No, this cannot be true, This could not be happening in Heaven.
SickPick, unaware of Gudman's pale face and open mouth, continued. "So now we need someone to replace the courier boy. If you agree to do it, I'll convince Boss, through Madalasa, to let you in." SickPick said with a wink. "So, what says you? Agree?" SickPick held out his hand towards Gudman.
Gudman jumped back as if struck by lightening. He stumbled down a step or two.
"No. Never. That people were stealing on the Earth and from the Earth, I knew. But stealing in Heaven? Pearly Gates aren't really pearly? They are made of fake plastic pearls? No. I won't do your bidding. These fake pearls have no meaning for me. I had always thought I'll enter the Pearly Gates of Heaven when I leave my earthly being, and God shall hold me to his bosom, where I would become one with him. But no. I don't want to go to Heaven now." He said with some more tears in his eyes.
"By the way, where is God? What is He doing? Can't He see and stop what's going on?" Gudman demanded of SickPick.
SickPick laughed his grating laugh again.
"God? What God? Have you ever seen Him? Has He ever spoken to you? Do you have any proof that He actually lives inside those precious Pearly Gates of yours?" He shouted.
Gudman covered his ears.
"The answer is NO," cried SickPick. "Do you hear me? The answer is no. You will never know if God exists because to know that you need to enter the Pearly Gates of Heaven and Honest N Gudman, who has lived a virtuous life always, has been found unfit for Heaven! Do you hear me? Honest N Gudman is barred from Heaven!!"
With these words, he gave Gudman a massive kick. Gudman went rolling down the steps, just as Sin Peter had predicted. His fall finally broke at the turnpike from where he had started climbing the steps towards Heaven. Even from that distance of 10,000 steps he could hear the loud noises of Hell. Some of rambunctious fun and some of ghoulish pain.
He couldn't go back to Earth. He neither wanted nor deserved to go Hell. He was barred from entering Heaven and finding his God.
Honest N Gudman had no place to go.
Honest and Good Men and Women have no place to go.
It is said that Heaven and Hell are all on this Earth itself.
Still, Nobody wants them.
Honest and Good Men and Women have no place to go.