I learnt from the townsfolk that all the Gods and most of the angels have taken to hiding, now that human beings no longer believe in Paradise. But, they add, if I were to persist in my search, I could find an angel or two lurking about near the cave hidden behind the waterfall at the end of the world.
The thought that angels could still be found at the end of the world was both poignant and amusing at the same time, and I tell them so, but the townsfolk only stare at me in uncomprehending silence.
I was never good at making jokes anyway, I say, both for my benefit and theirs, and before anyone can respond I heave my rucksack further up my back and make my way to the cave.
True enough, I spot a couple of angels at the entrance to the cave but there are no other human beings in sight, so I believe this is the end of the world, at least as I know it.
I ask the angels if I have indeed reached the end of the world.
“It depends,” the younger one replies, “on whether you want to halt here or proceed further.” “What lies beyond?” I ask. “Paradise, perhaps?” the younger one teases and giggles. The older angel shushes her and turns to me, “No one can definitely say what lies beyond. Sometimes the celestial beings know, but we are forbidden from sharing our knowledge with you. It is for you to venture and find out.”
I rarely turn down an offer for an adventure, so I bid the angels farewell and step over the edge. I fall for what could have been eternity or merely a fraction of a second, and when I land on my feet, I find myself in a new world.
A world of unfamiliar faces and unknown languages, of new stories and age-old folklore. A world where I am stripped of all knowledge of the past, a life that stretches ahead of me like a blank slate on which I must piece a new story together.
It takes me a lifetime to learn and adapt to the ways of the new world, even though I can never master it, and when I feel I have had my fill, I set out on my journey to the end of this world.
And again I meet the two angels, the young one and the old one, and they make me the same offer yet again. Call it a day or explore a new world in the hope it would turn out to be my Paradise.
I have lost count of the number of worlds I have traversed thus far. But what really worries me is the nagging doubt that I may have crossed Paradise long back and not realized it.