A thousand roads to paradise

There are a thousand roads to Paradise, and each one is more complicated than the last.  For each there are rituals to observe, steps to take, and signs to beware of, and each one claims to be as true as the heartbeat in your living chest.

Of course, the easiest way is to live a quiet and virtuous life, never straying from the narrow path that leads from birth to death.  When the weight of your sins is pitted against the graces of your life, if the latter cancels out the former, then the road will appear before you, and you may walk fearlessly to the land of eternal peace and happiness.

For those who wish to reach Paradise while still alive, of course, the path becomes far more convoluted.  It’s said that the only true path may be found in the courtroom of the Faceless Judges, and to find _that_ is always at least half the effort.  Some claim that by snatching the last breath of a dying human, the same age as yourself, and holding it in your lungs until they burn before carrying it to a church-yard to blow out an altar candle, you will open the door and find yourself in that hidden courtroom.  Others claim that by allowing yourself to simply brush against Death’s cold cloak without taking hir cold hand, you may find yourself opening your eyes before the Faceless Judges.  Whether you can sneak away before they notice and condemn you for your continued life — that is the other part of the trick.

There are those who claim that one’s life riches may be offered, that the Faceless Judges may be bribed by the accumulated wealth of your lifetime, whether you appear before them dead or still alive.  Gold, other currencies, jewels — all of this and more may be laid at the feet of the Judges, in the hopes that their greed will cause them to look away as you sneak to the road of Paradise yourself.  Others say, however, that the Judges have little use for pathetic material wealth; they are part of the fabric that created the universe and what will one day unmake it in turn.  A few coins tumbled among bolts of silk will not turn their heads nor inspire them to pity.  There are still others that claim the blood of a newborn infant will buy you passage, some that say instead the fresh heart of a criminal that was never brought to justice; others ask for various animal parts until an entire zoo could be depopulated and still not provide enough for the whims of the Faceless Judges.

There are a thousand roads to Paradise, and each of these roads have a thousand variations, with dozens more born every minute of every day of every month of the year.

Maybe someday, one of them will loop around to being true.

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