Disclaimer: The names, characters, and events portrayed in this story are fictitious. Resemblance to actual people (alive or dead) or locations is unintentional.
Ari’s phone rang a sixth time. He had recognized the area code: it was from Heaven. Who could it be but big brother Yudi thought Ari and instead of picking it up, he just stood staring at its screen, frozen to the spot, still undecided whether to pick or let it go.
As the ringing died down, he heard the buzz of his answering machine and the loud booming voice, “Hey, this is big bro Yudi.” And there was a pause.
“Aha,” just as Ari had expected, it was indeed his big brother. Looking towards someone at a distance he asked, “Did you hear that voice? Isn’t it the same even after the many earth centuries that have passed?”
“Yes,” and she turned to look at him, “he still has that heavy voice, with that unmistakable iota of pride,” she replied as she remembered their time on earth.
“This is urgent, Ari, otherwise I wouldn’t be bothering you. Pick up the damn phone!” The answering machine buzzed again. The urgency of the voice shook Ari up. Looking at Daisy, Ari asked her questioningly, “what must have got into big bro, to call from heaven at this dark hour?”
Daisy was deep in her thoughts, back to her time on Earth and undoubtedly thinking of Ari when she had first met him... A more than the carefully orchestrated persona of his–on Earth... A feast to the eye... Tall, with long arms and large luminous eyes... It was those eyes that reflected a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative... In a country that was known for magnificent arrow shooters, they knew his archery skills to be the best.
He married her on the day he shot five arrows at the eye of a spinning fish tethered high by only looking at its reflection in a bowl at his feet. And then she had seen him sitting for hours, gazing into space after the great battle. And when night came with its palpable darkness... She saw him night after night, year after year, in misery, anguish, and despair, gazing up at the skies, missing his son, who died young in the war, saving the lives of all others.
Finally, they start on their journey to Heaven, but they find themselves in hell by the time the journey ends.
Meanwhile, up in Heaven, Yudi sat alone in his chamber, surrounded by papers, digging through his notes on righteousness from speeches he made to the heavenly citizens time and time again. He was about to make one more the next morning. That was the best thing he loved about heaven and he was enjoying this position because of his honesty and good deeds on earth decades back.
But tonight, Yudi felt a compelling need to connect with his family. He needed to know if his entire family was secure. That very moment, his phone buzzed. It was the return call from his Ari, so he grabbed it right away. “Hello Ari,” he said in his loud, booming voice. “How have you been?”
“Untouched and alive,” replied Ari. “What brings you to ask me?” he asked.
“You know, Ari, it's been a long time since I've seen you all. It's just that I have this strong desire to get our entire family together for a meal. As always, we'll have it on Earth in our garden island, to ensure complete secrecy. Assemble everyone for tomorrow's meal, whether they come from heaven or hell, just make sure everyone attends,” he orders as he hangs up the phone.
Looking over the Wailua River basin and its Nani Kaua Pond, they saw the gold-leafed domes gleaming in the moonlight, with the breathtaking Mount Waialeale in the backdrop. They entered the towers of the Iraivan Temple, an imposing white stone masterpiece carved by India’s finest stonemasons and erected miles away on this Garden Island.
Ari stood next to the “musical pillars” with a tall rod in his hand. Every time a family member took his seat at the dining table, he would strike it with a mallet. Their presence was announced by resonating precise musical tones that echoed their names.
Ari announced the first generation's long-white-bearded blind uncle Dhir, as he stood near the table’s edge, followed by everyone’s beloved, the one and only, the dark-skinned Kris from hell. As soon as they took their seats, the weapon specialist, the second-generation Ballu, seated himself with a few more.
General inquiry about everyone's health with light greetings started being exchanged, but it was the dusky beauty Daisy, who once seated, elicited a startling silence when she inquired where Adra was.
Thinking she would be arriving soon, Daisy looked around to pay her respects to the elders of the family. Several were already seated. The great Drona, the blinded Dhir, and the mighty Maha.
Only after all the 119 member family seated, Ari entered the area to join them. “Sit next to me at this end of the table”, gestured Daisy to Ari.
“Okay,” said Ari. “Something smells superb,” he added, trying to lighten the varying moods.
“I think it's the lettuce rolls,” she chimed and added, “but I’m missing Adra. She would have known better,” she quipped.
And then again, the dreaded silence. The only sound was the clinking of silverware as the supper began in complete stillness.
Finally, Yudi broke the silence-“How many times have we have had these supper dates?”
“Million times” replied Ari.
And Daisy laughed, recalling that the first time they had forgotten to set a place for mother-in-law, and it was Adra who had got up and given her seat.
“Ah, I remember,” said Ari.
“Adra, my beloved, always the giver,” he continued. It was Adra who had stayed back on earth the longest to finish what Yudi had asked her to accomplish. She was the last of the survivors of the great family war, that we were all once a part of on earth. And she was successful in making our grandson a remarkable king. Her place ought to be in Heaven, but yeah where she is?”
“When she reached Heaven, she found only me there and figured out that the rest of the family members had freely embraced hell as the deserved retribution for uncalled deeds of earthly lives they had lived,” said Yudi, recalling how ecstatic he had been when he received the news of her arrival.
Dhir who was well aware of the law that stated, “She was most important, as her arrival will expedite everyone's merger with the creator,” asked in an alarming tone “Where is she? Why isn’t she invited, Ari?”
A confused Ari replied, “How would I know where is she? My sophisticated computer could not track her whereabouts, only possible if she is neither in heaven nor in hell but on earth. That is why no invite went to her. Does big bro know when she left Heaven and why?”
Everyone looked questioningly towards Yudi.
“What?” it was Yudi who exclaimed astounded, “must be because that woman was going through a lot. Even in Heaven, she was searching for peace, searching for you-Ari, searching for you-Daisy, she was searching for her son-Abhi, and nothing in Heaven gave her peace. I suggest you should go back on Earth as a mortal being, Ari. That woman is suffering and you need to get her out of there. After all, she was your wife once as an earthling and we need her for our merger with the creator.”
“What are you saying, do you mean I find her, I get her here??!”
“If that's what your wish then I will take Daisy with me, I won’t leave her in hell alone, I have always felt responsible for these two wives of mine and if I have to go to find one I better take the other along,” he replied justifying his decision, adding slowly, “they are my sunshine.”
“All right, Ari, sit down with Kris and make a plan. Plan with Ballu too, but get that woman!” Said Yudi in a desperate voice, finishing his bowl of lettuce… and thinking it to be the best way out.
“How will you find her?” asked Daisy.
Ari’s face was a blank. He could not track her if she was on earth. Therefore, getting her back was out of the question. He was now more upset than hungry.
When Yudi saw that expression, he understood and said“Kris! Make a suggestion.”
“The stars will align,” Kris said plainly over the roiling tension. Before proceeding, he gulped a sip of cool water. “Let us talk about a preliminary strategy with all the wonderful spirits that are here. Each and everyone once again will play a part.”
“Time to fight another war,” he concludes with a smile. Suggesting that everyone might have to recreate the right conflicts and excitement on the planet Earth, where they had been engaged in a war many centuries before.
Although they all revered and worshipped the ground he walked, the volume of voices increased dramatically. Nobody was pleased with what they heard. They were set against opposing this tall, dark, smooth-faced, athletically built man who they all considered supreme.
To ensure that they were heard, they began banging their glasses on the tables. Their forks pressed up against their silver plates “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, we're not getting into any of this.” They said in chorus.
Kris, ignoring the rowdiness and addressing everyone, remarked that Adra's upbringing defied the way we would have wished her to live. She is neither gentle nor docile, but rather has a strong and vibrant personality that she developed after the war in her last life cycle. This, however, will not be enough for her to break free from the current life cycle and reach heaven on her own. We'll have to step in, he declared.
“None of us knew of her disappearance, yet here you know it all?” a perplexed Yudi wondered. “Do you have anything more to reveal?”
Feeling a bit bad for the inexplicable feelings Kris thought he must have provoked in Yudi, Kris replied calmly, “If we want her back, we will put a killer chip in her brain. With its successful installation, we will be able to track her, but she will start experiencing hallucinations. The events will astonish and horrify her; nevertheless, as the years will pass, the vision will become increasingly disturbing. People will die in all of her visions, and the grief that follows will connect her with us. And the people who will die will be you, so don't worry, you'll just be around for a brief period on earth, and your sole purpose will be to make her more compassionate. As a result, she will be able to secure her place in heaven.”
And he attempted to evoke some excitement by slightly raising his voice. “She used to be a part of our world, but she became lost. Right now, we need her more than she needs us in Saudi Arabia, where she is now residing. ”
“Kris, does she realize how tough that country is for a woman? It’s Ari, who should act responsibly. Why do you want us to experience life again? All this time, we were here waiting to reconcile ourselves with God,” Yudi spoke on behalf of all.
The rest of the family realized that they would be the same person if they returned to earth in a new body. They'll just be a rehash. With the same exploding egos and colossal desires as in their previous lives on Earth. They will also suffer in the future life if they do not change their ways.
Kris, in contrast to the others, seemed indifferent. Supreme reincarnates to bring better harmony among the living. He, therefore, had a goal. Many souls in hell had to lay aside their egos and desires. He knew it would take another life cycle to teach them that. As a result, he smiled and revealed his strategy.
“Holy spirits, as I speak to you, somewhere in Saudi, she will have an accident. She will suffer divine amnesia. To revive her memories, doctors will implant the killer chip. She'll then be in treatment for months. We'll have plenty of time to catch up, keep track of her activities, and arrange her reunion. See it for yourself right now to believe all I just said-”
Kris then flashes a three-dimensional screen in the air, and to everyone's surprise, they see a car crashing against a boulder causing it to swerve right and travel straight towards an electric pole off to the side of the road. Next, they saw two people, a young girl and a man being airlifted in an air ambulance.
AAAARRRRGGHHH! 'Screamed someone across the table. As the rest rose from their seats, they hurled their plates, spoons, napkins, food, and anything else that came handy at the screen to show that they understood their resting phase had ended, and the next cycle of birth awaited them.