Once upon a time, a man, his horse and his dog were travelling along a road. As they passed by a huge tree, it was struck by lightning and they all died. But the man failed to notice that he was no longer of this world and so he continued walking along with his two animal companions.
It was a long, uphill walk, the sun was beating down on them and they were all sweating and thirsty. At a bend in the road they saw a magnificent marble gateway that led into a gold-paved square, in the centre of which was a fountain overflowing with crystal-clear water. The man went over to the guard at the entrance.
– “Good morning.”
– “Good morning,” the guard replied.
– “What is this lovely place?”
– “It’s Heaven.”
– “Well, I’m very glad to see it, because we’re very thirsty.”
– “You’re welcome to come in and drink all the water you want.” And the guard indicated the fountain.
– “My horse and dog are also thirsty.”
– “I’m terribly sorry”, said the guard, “but animals are not allowed in here.”
The man was deeply disappointed for he really was very thirsty, but he was not prepared to drink alone, so he thanked the guard and went on his way. Exhausted after trudging uphill, they reached an old gateway that led on to a dirt road flanked by trees. A man, his hat down over his face, was stretched out in the shade of one of the trees, apparently asleep.
– “Good morning,” said the traveller.
The other man greeted him with a nod.
– “We’re very thirsty – me, my horse and my dog.”
– “There’s a spring over there amongst those rocks,” said the man indicating the spot. “You can drink all you want.”
The man, his horse and his dog went to the spring and quenched their thirst. The traveller returned to thank the man.
– “Come back whenever you want,” he was told.
– “By the way, what’s this place called?”
– “Heaven? But the guard at the marble gateway told me that was Heaven !”
-”That’s not Heaven, that’s Hell.”
The traveller was puzzled. “You shouldn’t let others take your name in vain, you know ! False information can lead to all kinds of confusion !”
– “On the contrary, they do us a great favour, because the ones who stay there are those who have proved themselves capable of abandoning their dearest friends.”
From the “The Devil and Miss Prym” by Paulo Coelho