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So long, and thanks for all the fish by Douglas Adams

                     for Jane
                     with thanks
                     to Rick and Heidi for the loan of their stable event
                     to Mogens  and  Andy and all at Huntsham Court for a
                        number of unstable events
                     and especially  to  Sonny  Metha  for  being  stable
                        through all events.

    Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end  of  the
western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
    Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an
utterly insignificant little blue green  planet  whose  apedescended  life
forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are
a pretty neat idea.
    This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most  of
the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many  solutions
were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely  concerned
with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on
the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
    And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean,  and  most
of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.
    Many were increasingly of the opinion that  they'd  all  made  a  big
mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.  And  some  said
that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever  have
left the oceans.
    And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one  man  had
been nailed to a tree for saying how great it  would  be  to  be  nice  to
people for a change, one girl sitting on  her  own  in  a  small  cafe  in
Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong  all
this time, and she finally knew how the world could be  made  a  good  and
happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would  have
to get nailed to anything.
    Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone  about
it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.
    This is her story.

                               Chapter 1

    That evening it was dark early, which was  normal  for  the  time  of
year. It was cold and windy, which was normal.
    It started to rain, which was particularly normal.
    A spacecraft landed, which was not.
    There was nobody around to see it except  some  spectacularly  stupid
quadrupeds who hadn't the faintest idea what to make  of  it,  or  whether
they were meant to make anything of it, or eat it, or what.  So  they  did
what they did to everything which was to run away from it and try to  hide
under each other, which never worked.
    It slipped down out of the clouds, seemingly  balanced  on  a  single
beam of light.
    From a distance you  would  scarcely  have  noticed  it  through  the
lightning and the storm clouds, but seen from close to  it  was  strangely
beautiful - a grey craft of elegantly sculpted form: quite small.
    Of course, one never has the slightest  notion  what  size  or  shape
different species are going to turn out to be, but if you were to take the
findings of the latest Mid-Galactic Census report as any kind of  accurate
guide to statistical averages you would  probably  guess  that  the  craft
would hold about six people, and you would be right.
    You'd probably guessed that anyway. The Census report, like most such
surveys, had cost an awful lot of money and didn't tell  anybody  anything
they didn't already know - except that every single person in  the  Galaxy
had 2.4 legs and owned a hyena. Since this was clearly not true the  whole
thing had eventually to be scrapped.
    The craft slid quietly down  through  the  rain,  its  dim  operating
lights wrapping it in tasteful rainbows. It hummed  very  quietly,  a  hum
which became gradually louder and deeper as it approached the ground,  and
which at an altitude of six inches became a heavy throb.
    At last it dropped and was quiet.
    A hatchway opened. A short flight of steps unfolded itself.
    A light appeared in the opening, a bright light  streaming  out  into
the wet night, and shadows moved within.
    A tall figure appeared in the light,  looked  around,  flinched,  and
hurried down the steps, carrying a large shopping bag under its arm.
    It turned and gave a single abrupt wave back at the ship. Already the
rain was streaming through its hair.
    - Thank you, - he called out, - thank you very...
    He was interrupted by  a  sharp  crack  of  thunder.  He  glanced  up
apprehensively, and in response to a sudden  thought  quickly  started  to
rummage through the large plastic shopping bag, which  he  now  discovered
had a hole in the bottom.
    It had large characters printed on the side which read (to anyone who
could decipher the Centaurian alphabet) Duty free MegaMarket, Port Brasta,
Alpha Centauri. Be Like the Twenty-Second Elephant with  Heated  Value  in
Space - Bark!
    - Hold on! - the figure called, waving at the ship.
    The steps, which had started to  fold  themselves  back  through  the
hatchway, stopped, re-unfolded, and allowed him back in.
    He emerged  again  a  few  seconds  later  carrying  a  battered  and
threadbare towel which he shoved into the bag.
    He waved again, hoisted the bag under his arm, and started to run for
the shelter of some trees as, behind him, the spacecraft had already begun
its ascent.
    Lightning flitted through the sky and made the  figure  pause  for  a
moment, and then hurry onwards, revising his path to give the trees a wide
berth. He moved swiftly  across  the  ground,  slipping  here  and  there,
hunching  himself  against  the  rain   which   was   falling   now   with
ever-increasing concentration, as if being pulled from the sky.
    His feet sloshed through the mud. Thunder grumbled over the hills. He
pointlessly wiped the rain off his face and stumbled on.

    More lights.
    Not lightning this time, but more diffused and  dimmer  lights  which
played slowly over the horizon and faded.
    The figure paused again on seeing them, and then redoubled his steps,
making directly towards the  point  on  the  horizon  at  which  they  had
    And now the ground was becoming steeper, sloping upwards,  and  after
another two or three hundred yards it led at  last  to  an  obstacle.  The
figure paused to examine the barrier and  then  dropped  the  bag  he  was
carrying over it before climbing over himself.
    Hardly had the figure touched the ground on the other side when there
came sweeping out of the rain towards  him  a  machine,  lights  streaming
through the wall of water. The figure pressed back as the machine streaked
towards him. it was a low bulbous shape, like  a  small  whale  surfing  -
sleek, grey and rounded and moving at terrifying speed.
    The figure instinctively threw up his hands to protect  himself,  but
was hit only by a sluice of water as the machine swept past and  off  into
the night.
    It was illuminated briefly by another flicker of  lightning  crossing
the sky, which allowed the soaked figure by the roadside a split-second to
read a small sign at the back of the machine before it disappeared.
    To the figure's apparent incredulous astonishment the sign read,  "My
other car is also a Porsche."

                               Chapter 2

    Rob McKeena was a miserable bastard and he knew it because he'd had a
lot of people point it out to him over the years and he saw no  reason  to
disagree with them  except  the  obvious  one  which  was  that  he  liked
disagreeing with people, particularly people he disliked, which  included,
at the last count, everyone.
    He heaved a sigh and shoved down a gear.
    The hill was beginning to steepen and his lorry was heavy with Danish
thermostatic radiator controls.
    It wasn't that he was naturally predisposed to be so surly, at  least
he hoped not. It was just the rain which got him down, always the rain.
    It was raining now, just for a change.
    It  was  a  particular  type  of  rain  he   particularly   disliked,
particularly when he was driving. He had a number for it. It was rain type
    He had read somewhere that the Eskimos had over two hundred different
words for snow, without which their conversation would probably  have  got
very monotonous. So they would distinguish between  thin  snow  and  thick
snow, light snow and heavy snow, sludgy snow, brittle snow, snow that came
in flurries, snow that came in drifts, snow that came in on the bottom  of
your neighbour's boots all over your nice clean igloo floor, the snows  of
winter, the snows of spring, the snows you remember  from  your  childhood
that were so much better than any of your modern snow, fine snow, feathery
snow, hill snow, valley snow, snow that falls in the  morning,  snow  that
falls at night, snow that falls all of a sudden just when you  were  going
out fishing, and snow that despite all your efforts  to  train  them,  the
huskies have pissed on.
    Rob McKeena had two hundred and thirty-one different  types  of  rain
entered in his little book, and he didn't like any of them.
    He shifted down another gear and the lorry heaved  its  revs  up.  It
grumbled in a comfortable sort of way about all  the  Danish  thermostatic
radiator controls it was carrying.
    Since he had left Denmark the previous afternoon, he had been through
types 33 (light pricking drizzle which made  the  roads  slippery),  39  (
heavy spotting), 47 to 51  (vertical  light  drizzle  through  to  sharply
slanting light to moderate drizzle freshening),  87  and  88  (two  finely
distinguished   varieties   of   vertical   torrential   downpour),    100
(post-downpour squalling, cold), all the seastorm types  between  192  and
213 at once, 123, 124, 126,  127  (mild  and  intermediate  cold  gusting,
regular and syncopated cab-drumming), 11 (breezy droplets),  and  now  his
least favourite of all, 17.
    Rain type 17 was a dirty blatter battering against his windscreen  so
hard that it didn't make much odds whether he had his wipers on or off.
    He tested this theory by turning them off briefly, but as  it  turned
out the visibility did get quite a lot worse. It just failed to get better
again when he turned them back on.
    In fact one of the wiper blades began to flap off.
    Swish swish swish flop swish flop swish swish flop swish  flop  swish
flop flop flop scrape.
    He pounded his steering wheel, kicked the floor, thumped his cassette
player till it suddenly started playing Barry Manilow,  thumped  it  again
till it stopped, and swore and swore and swore and swore and swore.
    It was at the very moment that his fury was peaking that there loomed
swimmingly in his headlights, hardly visible through the blatter, a figure
by the roadside.
    A poor bedraggled figure, strangely attired, wetter than an otter  in
a washing machine, and hitching.
    - Poor miserable sod, - thought Rob  McKeena  to  himself,  realizing
that here was somebody with a better right  to  feel  hard  done  by  than
himself, - must be chilled to the bone. Stupid to be  out  hitching  on  a
filthy night like this. All you get is  cold,  wet,  and  lorries  driving
through puddles at you.
    He shook his head grimly, heaved another sigh, gave the wheel a  turn
and hit a large sheet of water square on.
    - See what I mean? - he thought to himself  as  he  ploughed  swiftly
through it. - You get some right bastards on the road.
    Splattered in his rear mirror a  couple  of  seconds  later  was  the
reflection of the hitch-hiker, drenched by the roadside.
    For a moment he felt good about this. A moment or two later  he  felt
bad about feeling good about it. Then he felt good about feeling bad about
feeling good about it and, satisfied, drove on into the night.
    At least it made up for having been finally overtaken by that Porsche
he had been diligently blocking for the last twenty miles.
    And as he drove on, the rainclouds dragged down the  sky  after  him,
for, though he did not know it, Rob McKeena was a Rain God.  All  he  knew
was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of  lousy
holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him  and  wanted  to  be
near him, to cherish him, and to water him.

                               Chapter 3

    The next two lorries were not driven  by  Rain  Gods,  but  they  did
exactly the same thing.
    The figure trudged, or rather sloshed, onwards till the hill  resumed
and the treacherous sheet of water was left behind.
    After a while the rain began to ease and the  moon  put  in  a  brief
appearance from behind the clouds.
    A Renault drove by, and its driver made frantic and  complex  signals
to the trudging figure to indicate that he would have  been  delighted  to
give the figure a lift, only he couldn't this time because he wasn't going
in the direction that the figure wanted to  go,  whatever  direction  that
might be, and he was sure the figure would understand.  He  concluded  the
signalling with a cheery thumbs-up sign, as if to say that  he  hoped  the
figure felt really fine about being cold and almost terminally wet, and he
would catch him the next time around.
    The figure trudged on. A Fiat passed and did exactly the same as  the
    A Maxi passed on the other side of the road and flashed its lights at
the slowly plodding figure, though whether this  was  meant  to  convey  a
"Hello" or a "Sorry we're going the other way" or  a  "Hey  look,  there's
someone in the rain, what a jerk" was  entirely  unclear.  A  green  strip
across the top of the windscreen indicated that whatever the message  was,
it came from Steve and Carola.
    The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there  was  now
grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying "And another thing..."
twenty minutes after admitting he's lost the argument.
    The air was clearer now, the night cold. Sound travelled rather well.
The lost figure, shivering  desperately,  presently  reached  a  junction,
where a side road turned off to the left. Opposite  the  turning  stood  a
signpost which the figure suddenly hurried to and  studied  with  feverish
curiosity, only twisting away from it as another car passed suddenly.
    And another.
    The first whisked by with  complete  disregard,  the  second  flashed
meaninglessly. A Ford Cortina passed and put on its brakes.
    Lurching with surprise, the figure bundled his bag to his  chest  and
hurried forward towards the car, but at the last moment the  Cortina  span
its wheels in the wet and carreered off up the road rather amusingly.
    The figure slowed to a stop and stood there, lost and dejected.
    As it chanced, the following day the driver of the Cortina went  into
hospital to have his appendix out, only due to a rather amusing mix up the
surgeon removed his leg in error, and before  the  appendectomy  could  be
rescheduled, the appendicitis complicated into an  entertainingly  serious
case of peritonitis and justice, in its way, was served.
    The figure trudged on.
    A Saab drew to a halt beside him.
    Its window wound down and a friendly voice said,
    - Have you come far?
    The figure turned toward it. He stopped and grasped the handle of the
    The figure, the car and its door handle were all on a  planet  called
the Earth, a world whose entire entry in the Hitch Hiker's  Guide  to  the
Galaxy comprised the two words "Mostly harmless".
    The man who wrote this entry was called Ford Prefect, and he  was  at
this precise moment on a far from harmless world, sitting in  a  far  from
harmless bar, recklessly causing trouble.

                               Chapter 4

    Whether it was because he was drunk, ill or suicidally  insane  would
not have been apparent to a casual observer,  and  indeed  there  were  no
casual observers in the Old Pink Dog Bar on the lower South  Side  of  Han
Dold City because it wasn't the sort of  place  you  could  afford  to  do
things casually in if you wanted to stay alive. Any observers in the place
would have been mean  hawklike  observers,  heavily  armed,  with  painful
throbbings in their heads which caused them to do crazy things  when  they
observed things they didn't like.
    One of those nasty hushes had descended  on  the  place,  a  sort  of
missile crisis sort of hush.
    Even the evil-looking bird perched on a rod in the  bar  had  stopped
screeching out the names and addresses of local  contract  killers,  which
was a service it provided for free.
    All eyes were on Ford Prefect. Some of them were on stalks.
    The particular way in which he was choosing to dice  recklessly  with
death today was by trying to pay for a drinks bill the  size  of  a  small
defence budget with an American Express Card,  which  was  not  acceptable
anywhere in the known Universe.
    - What are you worried about? - he asked in a cheery kind of voice. -
The expiration date? Have you guys never heard of Neo-Relativity out here?
There's whole new areas of physics which can take care  of  this  sort  of
thing. Time dilation effects, temporal relastatics...
    - We are not worried about the expiration date, -  said  the  man  to
whom he addressed these remarks, who was a dangerous barman in a dangerous
city. His voice was a low soft purr, like the low soft purr  made  by  the
opening of an ICBM silo. A hand like a side of meat tapped on the bar top,
lightly denting it.
    - Well, that's good then,  -  said  Ford,  packing  his  satchel  and
preparing to leave.
    The tapping finger reached out and rested lightly on the shoulder  of
Ford Prefect. It prevented him from leaving.
    Although the finger was attached to a slablike hand, and the hand was
attached to a clublike forearm, the forearm wasn't attached to anything at
all, except in the metaphorical sense that it was  attached  by  a  fierce
doglike loyalty to the bar which was its home. It had previously been more
conventionally attached to the original owner  of  the  bar,  who  on  his
deathbed had  unexpectedly  bequeathed  it  to  medical  science.  Medical
science had decided they didn't like the look of it and had bequeathed  it
right back to the Old Pink Dog Bar.
    The new barman didn't believe in the supernatural or poltergeists  or
anything kooky like that, he just knew an useful ally when he saw one. The
hand sat  on  the  bar.  It  took  orders,  it  served  drinks,  it  dealt
murderously with people who behaved as if they wanted to be murdered. Ford
Prefect sat still.
    - We are not worried  about  the  expiration  date,  -  repeated  the
barman, satisfied that he now had Ford Prefect's full attention. - We  are
worried about the entire piece of plastic.
    - What? - said Ford. He seemed a little taken aback.
    - This, - said the barman, holding out the card as if it was a  small
fish whose soul had three weeks earlier winged its way to the  Land  Where
Fish are Eternally Blessed, - we don't accept it.
    Ford wondered briefly whether to raise the fact that he  didn't  have
any other means of payment on him, but decided for the moment  to  soldier
on. The disembodied hand was now grasping his shoulder lightly but  firmly
between its finger and thumb.
    - But you don't  understand,  -  said  Ford,  his  expression  slowly
ripening from a little taken abackness into rank incredulity.  -  This  is
the American Express Card. It is the finest way of settling bills known to
man. Haven't you read their junk mail?
    The cheery quality of Ford's voice was  beginning  to  grate  on  the
barman's ears. It sounded like  someone  relentlessly  playing  the  kazoo
during one of the more sombre passages of a War Requiem.
    One of the bones in Ford's shoulder began to  grate  against  another
one of the bones in his shoulder in a way which suggested  that  the  hand
had learnt the principles of pain from a highly skilled  chiropracter.  He
hoped he could get this business settled before the hand started to  grate
one of the bones in his shoulder against any of  the  bones  in  different
parts of his body. Luckily, the shoulder it was holding was not the one he
had his satchel slung over.
    The barman slid the card back across the bar at Ford.
    - We have never, - he said with  muted  savagery,  -  heard  of  this
    This was hardly surprising.
    Ford had only acquired it through a serious  computer  error  towards
the end of the fifteen years' sojourn he had spent on  the  planet  Earth.
Exactly how serious, the American Express Company had  got  to  know  very
rapidly, and the increasingly strident and panic-stricken demands  of  its
debt collection department were only silenced by the unexpected demolition
of the entire planet by the Vogons  to  make  way  for  a  new  hyperspace
    He had kept it ever since because he found it useful to carry a  form
of currency that no one would accept.
    - Credit? - he said. - Aaaargggh...
    These two words were usually coupled together in  the  Old  Pink  Dog
    - I thought, - gasped Ford, - that this  was  meant  to  be  a  class
    He glanced around at the motley collection of thugs, pimps and record
company executives that skulked on the edges of the  dim  pools  of  light
with which the dark shadows of the bar's inner recesses were pitted.  They
were all very deliberately looking in any direction but his now, carefully
picking up the threads of their former conversations about  murders,  drug
rings and music publishing deals. They knew  what  would  happen  now  and
didn't want to watch in case it put them off their drinks.
    - You gonna die, boy, - the barman murmured quietly at Ford  Prefect,
and the evidence was on his side. The bar used to have one of those  signs
hanging up which said, - Please don't ask for credit as  a  punch  in  the
mouth often offends - , but in the interest of strict  accuracy  this  was
altered to, - Please don't ask for credit because having your throat  torn
out by a savage bird while a disembodied hand smashes  your  head  against
the bar often offends - . However, this made an  unreadable  mess  of  the
notice, and anyway didn't have the same ring to it, so it was  taken  down
again. It was felt that the story would get about of its own  accord,  and
it had.
    - Lemme look at the bill again, - said Ford.  He  picked  it  up  and
studied it thoughtfully under the malevolent gaze of the barman,  and  the
equally malevolent gaze of the bird, which  was  currently  gouging  great
furrows in the bar top with its talons.
    It was a rather lengthy piece of paper.
    At the bottom of it was a number  which  looked  like  one  of  those
serial numbers you find on the underside of stereo sets which always takes
so long to copy on to the registration form. He had, after  all,  been  in
the bar all day, he had been drinking a lot of stuff with bubbles  in  it,
and he had bought an awful lot of rounds for  all  the  pimps,  thugs  and
record executives who suddenly couldn't remember who he was.
    He cleared his throat rather quietly and patted  his  pockets.  There
was, as he knew, nothing in them. He rested  his  left  hand  lightly  but
firmly on the half-opened  flap  of  his  satchel.  The  disembodied  hand
renewed its pressure on his right shoulder.
    - You see, - said the barman, and his face seemed to wobble evilly in
front of Ford's, - I have a reputation to think of. You  see  that,  don't
    This is it, thought Ford. There was  nothing  else  for  it.  He  had
obeyed the rules, he had made a bona fide attempt to pay his bill, it  had
been rejected. He was now in danger of his life.
    - Well, - he said quietly, - if it's your reputation...
    With a sudden flash of speed he opened his satchel and  slapped  down
on the bar top his copy of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy  and  the
official card which said that he was a field researcher for the Guide  and
absolutely not allowed to do what he was now doing.
    - Want a write-up?
    The barman's face stopped in mid-wobble. The bird's talons stopped in
mid-furrow. The hand slowly released its grip.
    - That, - said the barman in a barely audible whisper,  from  between
dry lips, - will do nicely, sir.

                               Chapter 5

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a  powerful  organ.  Indeed,
its influence is so prodigious that strict rules have had to be  drawn  up
by its editorial staff to  prevent  its  misuse.  So  none  of  its  field
researchers are allowed to accept  any  kind  of  services,  discounts  or
preferential treatment of any kind in return for editorial favours unless:
    a) they have made a bona fide attempt to pay for  a  service  in  the
normal way;
    b) their lives would be otherwise in danger;
    c) they really want to.
    Since invoking the third rule always involved  giving  the  editor  a
cut, Ford always preferred to much about with the first two.
    He stepped out along the street, walking briskly.
    The air was stifling, but he liked it because it  was  stifling  city
air, full of excitingly unpleasant smells, dangerous music and  the  sound
of warring police tribes.
    He carried his satchel with an easy swaying motion so that  he  could
get a good swing at anybody who tried to take it from him without  asking.
It contained everything he owned, which at the moment wasn't much.
    A limousine careered down the street, dodging between  the  piles  of
burning garbage,  and  frightening  an  old  pack  animal  which  lurched,
screeching, out of its way,  stumbled  against  the  window  of  a  herbal
remedies shop, set off a wailing alarm, blundered off down the street, and
then pretended to fall down the steps of a small pasta restaurant where it
knew it would get photographed and fed.
    Ford was walking north. He thought he was probably on his way to  the
spaceport, but he had thought that before. He knew he  was  going  through
that part of the city where people's plans often changed quite abruptly.
    - Do you want to have a good time? - said a voice from a doorway.
    - As far as I can tell, - said Ford, - I'm having one. Thanks.
    - Are you rich? - said another.
    This made Ford laugh.
    He turned and opened his arms in a wide gesture.
    - Do I look rich? - he said.
    - Don't know, - said the girl. - Maybe, maybe not. Maybe  you'll  get
rich. I have a very special service for rich people...
    - Oh yes? - said Ford, intrigued but careful. - And what's that?
    - I tell them it's OK to be rich.
    Gunfire erupted from a window high above them, but it was only a bass
player getting shot for playing the wrong riff three times in a  row,  and
bass players are two a penny in Han Dold City.
    Ford stopped and peered into the dark doorway.
    - You what? - he said.
    The girl laughed and stepped forward a little out of the shadow.  She
was tall, and had that kind of self-possessed shyness  which  is  a  great
trick if you can do it.
    - It's my big number, - she said. -  I  have  a  Master's  degree  in
Social Economics and can be very convincing. People love it. Especially in
this city.
    - Goosnargh, - said Ford Prefect, which was  a  special  Betelgeusian
word he used when he knew he should say something but didn't know what  it
should be.
    He sat on a step, took from his satchel a bottle  of  that  Ol'  Janx
Spirit and a towel. He opened the bottle and wiped the top of it with  the
towel, which had the opposite effect to the one intended, in that the  Ol'
Janx Spirit instantly killed off millions of  the  germs  which  had  been
slowly building up quite a complex and  enlightened  civilization  on  the
smellier patches of the towel.
    - Want some? - he said, after he'd had a swig himself.
    She shrugged and took the proffered bottle.
    They sat for a while, peacefully listening to the clamour of  burglar
alarms in the next block.
    - As it happens, I'm owed a lot of money, - said Ford, - so if I ever
get hold of it, can I come and see you then maybe?
    - Sure, I'll be here, - said the girl. - So how much is a lot?
    - Fifteen years' back pay.
    - For?
    - Writing two words.
    - Zarquon, - said the girl. - Which one took the time?
    - The first one. Once I'd got that  the  second  one  just  came  one
afternoon after lunch.
    A huge electronic drum kit hurtled through the window high above them
and smashed itself to bits in the street in front of them.
    It soon became apparent that some of the burglar alarms on  the  next
block had been deliberately set off by one police tribe in order to lay an
ambush for the other. Cars with screaming sirens converged  on  the  area,
only to find themselves being picked off by copters  which  came  thudding
through the air between the city's mountainous tower blocks.
    - In fact, - said Ford, having to shout  now  above  the  din,  -  it
wasn't quite like that. I wrote an awful lot, but they just cut it down.
    He took his copy of the Guide back out of his satchel.
    - Then the planet got demolished, - he shouted. -  Really  worthwhile
job, eh? They've still got to pay me, though.
    - You work for that thing? - the girl yelled back.
    - Yeah.
    - Good number.
    - You want to see the stuff I wrote? - he shouted. - Before  it  gets
erased? The new revisions are due to be released  tonight  over  the  net.
Someone must have found out that the planet I spent fifteen years  on  has
been demolished by now. They missed it on the last few revisions,  but  it
can't escape their notice for ever.
    - It's getting impossible to talk isn't it?
    - What?
    She shrugged and pointed upwards.
    There was a copter above them now which seemed to be  involved  in  a
side skirmish with  the  band  upstairs.  Smoke  was  billowing  from  the
building. The sound  engineer  was  hanging  out  of  the  window  by  his
fingertips, and a maddened guitarist was beating on  his  fingers  with  a
burning guitar. The helicopter was firing at all of them.
    - Can we move?
    They wandered down the street, away from the noise. They ran  into  a
street theatre group which tried to do a short play  for  them  about  the
problems of the inner city, but then gave  up  and  disappeared  into  the
small restaurant most recently patronized by the pack animal.
    All the time, Ford was poking at the interface panel  of  the  Guide.
They ducked into an  alleyway.  Ford  squatted  on  a  garbage  can  while
information began to flood over the screen of the Guide.
    He located his entry.
    - Earth: Mostly harmless.
    Almost immediately the screen became a mass of system messages.
    - Here it comes, - he said.
    - Please wait, - said the messages. - Entries are being updated  over
the Sub.Etha Net. This entry is being revised. The system will be down for
ten seconds.
    At the end of the alley a steel grey limousine crawled past.
    - Hey look, - said the girl, - if you get paid, look  me  up.  I'm  a
working girl, and there are people over there who need me. I gotta go.
    She brushed aside Ford's  half-articulated  protests,  and  left  him
sitting dejectedly on his garbage can preparing to watch a large swathe of
his working life being swept away electronically into the ether.
    Out in the street things had calmed down a little. The police  battle
had moved off to other sectors of the city, the few surviving  members  of
the rock band had agreed to recognize their musical differences and pursue
solo careers, the street theatre group were  re-emerging  from  the  pasta
restaurant with the pack animal, telling it they would take it  to  a  bar
they knew where it would be treated with a little respect,  and  a  little
way further on the  steel  grey  limousine  was  parked  silently  by  the
    The girl hurried towards it.

    Behind her, in the darkness of the alley, a green flickering glow was
bathing Ford  Prefect's  face,  and  his  eyes  were  slowly  widening  in
    For where he had expected to  find  nothing,  an  erased,  closed-off
entry, there was instead a continuous stream of  data  -  text,  diagrams,
figures and images, moving descriptions of  surf  on  Australian  beaches,
Yoghurt on Greek islands, restaurants to avoid in  Los  Angeles,  currency
deals to avoid in Istanbul,  weather  to  avoid  in  London,  bars  to  go
everywhere. Pages and pages of it. It was all  there,  everything  he  had
    With a deepening frown of blank incomprehension he went backwards and
forwards through it, stopping here and there at various entries.
    - Tips for aliens in New York: Land anywhere, Central Park, anywhere.
No one will care, or indeed even notice.
    - Surviving: get a job as cab driver immediately. A cab driver's  job
is to drive people anywhere they want to go in big yellow machines  called
taxis. Don't worry if you don't know how the machine works and  you  can't
speak the language, don't understand the geography  or  indeed  the  basic
physics of the area, and have large green antennae  growing  out  of  your
head. Believe me, this is the best way of staying inconspicuous.
    - If your body is really weird  try  showing  it  to  people  in  the
streets for money.
    - Amphibious life forms from any  of  the  worlds  in  the  Swulling,
Noxios or Nausalia systems will particularly enjoy the East  River,  which
is said to be richer in those lovely life-giving nutrients then the finest
and most virulent laboratory slime yet achieved.
    - Having fun: This is the big section. It is impossible to have  more
fun without electrocuting your pleasure centres...
    Ford flipped the switch which he saw was  now  marked  "Mode  Execute
Ready" instead of the now old-fashioned "Access Standby" which had so long
ago replaced the appallingly stone-aged "Off".
    This was a planet he had seen completely destroyed, seen with his own
two eyes or rather, blinded as he had been by the  hellish  disruption  of
air and light, felt with his own two feet as the  ground  had  started  to
pound at him like a hammer, bucking, roaring, gripped by  tidal  waves  of
energy pouring out of the loathsome yellow Vogon ships. And then at  last,
five seconds after the moment he had determined as being the last possible
moment had already passed, the gently swinging nausea of dematerialization
as he and Arthur Dent had been beamed up through  the  atmosphere  like  a
sports broadcast.
    There was no  mistake,  there  couldn't  have  been.  The  Earth  had
definitely been destroyed. Definitely, definitely. Boiled away into space.
And yet here - he activated the Guide again - was his own entry on how you
would set about having a good time in Bournemouth, Dorset, England,  which
he had always prided himself on as being one of the most baroque pieces of
invention he had ever delivered. He read it again and shook  his  head  in
sheer wonder.
    Suddenly he realized what the answer to the problem was, and  it  was
this, that something very weird was happening; and if something very weird
was happening, he thought, he wanted it to be happening to him.
    He stashed the Guide back in his satchel and hurried out  on  to  the
street again.
    Walking north he again passed a steel grey limousine  parked  by  the
kerbside, and from a nearby doorway he heard a soft voice saying:
    - It's OK, honey, it's really OK, you got to learn to feel good about
it. Look at the way the whole economy is structured...
    Ford grinned, detoured round the next block which was now in  flames,
found a police helicopter which was standing  unattended  in  the  street,
broke into it, strapped himself  in,  crossed  his  fingers  and  sent  it
hurtling inexpertly into the sky.
    He weaved terrifyingly up through the canyoned walls of the city, and
once clear of them, hurtled through the black and red pall of smoke  which
hung permanently above it.
    Ten minutes later, with all  the  copter's  sirens  blaring  and  its
rapid-fire cannon blasting at random into the clouds, Ford Prefect brought
it careering down among the  gantries  and  landing  lights  at  Han  Dold
spaceport, where it settled like a gigantic, startled and very noisy gnat.
    Since he hadn't damaged it too much he was able to trade it in for  a
first class ticket on the next ship leaving the system, and  settled  into
one of its huge, voluptuous body-hugging seats.
    This was going to be fun, he thought to himself, as the ship  blinked
silently across the insane distances of deep space and the  cabin  service
got into its full extravagant swing.
    - Yes please, - he said to the cabin attendants whenever they  glided
up to offer him anything at all.
    He smiled with a curious kind  of  manic  joy  as  he  flipped  again
through the mysteriously re-instated entry on the planet Earth. He  had  a
major piece of unfinished business that he would now be able to attend to,
and was terribly pleased that life  had  suddenly  furnished  him  with  a
serious goal to achieve.
    It suddenly occurred to him to wonder where Arthur Dent was,  and  if
he knew.

    Arthur Dent was one thousand, four  hundred  and  thirty-seven  light
years away in a Saab, and anxious.
    Behind him in the backseat was a girl who had made him crack his head
on the door as he climbed in. He didn't know if it was  just  because  she
was the first female of his own species that he had laid eyes on in years,
or what it was, but he felt stupefied with, with...  This  is  absurd,  he
told himself. Calm down, he told himself. You are  not,  he  continued  to
himself in the firmest internal voice  he  could  muster,  in  a  fit  and
rational state. You have just hitch-hiked over a  hundred  thousand  light
years across the galaxy,  you  are  very  tired,  a  little  confused  and
extremely vulnerable. Relax, don't panic, concentrate on breathing deeply.
    He twisted round in his seat.
    - Are you sure she's all right? - he said again.
    Beyond the fact that she was, to him, heartthumpingly  beautiful,  he
could make out very little, how tall she was, how old she was,  the  exact
shading of her hair. And nor could  he  ask  her  anything  about  herself
because, sadly, she was completely unconscious.
    - She's just drugged, - said her brother, shrugging, not  moving  his
eyes from the road ahead.
    - And that's all right, is it? - said Arthur, in alarm.
    - Suits me, - he said.
    - Ah, - said Arthur. - Er, - he added after a moment's thought.
    The conversation so far had been going astoundingly badly.
    After an initial flurry of opening  hellos,  he  and  Russell  -  the
wonderful girl's brother's name was Russell, a  name  which,  to  Arthur's
mind, always suggested burly men  with  blond  moustaches  and  blow-dried
hair, who would at the slightest provocation start wearing velvet  tuxedos
and frilly shirtfronts and would then have to be forcibly restrained  from
commentating on snooker matches - had quickly discovered they didn't  like
each other at all.
    Russell was a burly man. He had a blond moustache. His hair was  fine
and blow dried. To be fair to him - though Arthur didn't see any necessity
for this beyond the sheer mental exercise of it - he, Arthur, was  looking
pretty grim himself. A man can't cross a  hundred  thousand  light  years,
mostly in other people's baggage compartments, without beginning to fray a
little, and Arthur had frayed a lot.
    - She's not a junkie, - said  Russell  suddenly,  as  if  he  clearly
thought that someone else in the car might be. - She's under sedation.
    - But that's terrible, - said Arthur, twisting round to look  at  her
again. She seemed to stir slightly and her head slipped  sideways  on  her
shoulder. Her dark hair fell across her face, obscuring it.
    - What's the matter with her, is she ill?
    - No, - said Russell, - merely barking mad.
    - What? - said Arthur, horrified.
    - Loopy, completely bananas. I'm taking her back to the hospital  and
telling them to have another go. They let her out while she still  thought
she was a hedgehog.
    - A hedgehog?
    Russell hooted his horn fiercely at  the  car  that  came  round  the
corner towards them half-way on to their side of  the  road,  making  them
swerve. The anger seemed to make him feel better.
    - Well, maybe not a hedgehog, -  he  said  after  he'd  settled  down
again. - Though it would probably be simpler to deal with if she  did.  If
somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a  mirror
and a few pictures  of  hedgehogs  and  tell  them  to  sort  it  out  for
themselves, come down again  when  they  feel  better.  At  least  medical
science could deal with it, that's the point. Seems that's no good  enough
for Fenny, though.
    - Fenny?..
    - You know what I got her for Christmas?
    - Well, no.
    - Black's Medical Dictionary.
    - Nice present.
    - I thought so. Thousands of diseases  in  it,  all  in  alphabetical
    - You say her name is Fenny?
    - Yeah. Take your pick, I said. Anything in here can be  dealt  with.
The proper drugs can be prescribed. But no,  she  has  to  have  something
different. Just to make life difficult. She was like that at  school,  you
    - Was she?
    - She was. Fell over playing hockey and broke a bone nobody had  ever
heard of.
    - I can see how that would be irritating, - said  Arthur  doubtfully.
He was rather disappointed to discover her name was Fenny. It was a rather
silly, dispiriting name, such  as  an  unlovely  maiden  aunt  might  vote
herself if she couldn't sustain the name Fenella properly.
    - Not that I wasn't sympathetic, - continued Russell, -  but  it  did
get a bit irritating. She was limping for months.
    He slowed down.
    - This is your turning isn't it?
    - Ah, no, - said Arthur, - five  miles  further  on.  If  that's  all
    - OK, - said Russell after a very tiny  pause  to  indicate  that  it
wasn't, and speeded up again.
    It was in fact  Arthur's  turning,  but  he  couldn't  leave  without
finding out something more about this girl who seemed to have taken such a
grip on his mind without even waking up. He could take either of the  next
two turnings.
    They led back to the village that had been his home, though  what  he
would find there he hesitated to  imagine.  Familiar  landmarks  had  been
flitting by, ghostlike, in the dark, giving rise to the shudders that only
very very normal things can create, when seen where the mind is unprepared
for them, and in an unfamiliar light.
    By his own personal time scale, so  far  as  he  could  estimate  it,
living as he had been under the alien rotations of distant  suns,  it  was
eight years since he had left, but what time  had  passed  here  he  could
hardly guess. Indeed, what events had passed  were  beyond  his  exhausted
comprehension because this planet, his home, should not be here.
    Eight years ago, at  lunchtime,  this  planet  had  been  demolished,
utterly destroyed, by the huge yellow Vogon ships which had  hung  in  the
lunchtime sky as  if  the  law  of  gravity  was  no  more  than  a  local
regulation, and breaking it no more than a parking offence.
    - Delusions, - said Russell.
    - What? - said Arthur, started out of his train of thought.
    - She says she suffers from strange delusions that  she's  living  in
the real world. It's no good telling her that she is living  in  the  real
world because she just says that's why the delusions are so strange. Don't
know about you, but I find that kind of  conversation  pretty  exhausting.
Give her the tablets and piss off for a beer is my answer. I mean you  can
only muck about so much can't you?
    Arthur frowned, not for the first time.
    - Well...
    - And all this dreams and nightmare stuff. And the doctors  going  on
about strange jumps in her brainwave patterns.
    - Jumps?
    - This, - said Fenny.
    Arthur whirled round in his seat and stared into  her  suddenly  open
but utterly vacant eyes. Whatever she was looking at wasn't  in  the  car.
Her eyes fluttered, her head  jerked  once,  and  then  she  was  sleeping
    - What did she say? - he asked anxiously.
    - She said "this".
    - This what?
    - This what? How the heck should I know? This hedgehog, that  chimney
pot, the other pair of  Don  Alfonso's  tweezers.  She's  barking  mad,  I
thought I'd mentioned that.
    - You don't seem to care very much. -  Arthur  tried  to  say  it  as
matter-of-factly as possible but it didn't seem to work.
    - Look, buster...
    - OK, I'm sorry. It's none of my business. I didn't mean it to  sound
like that, - said Arthur. - I know you care a lot, obviously, - he  added,
lying. - I know that you have to deal with  it  somehow.  You'll  have  to
excuse me. I just hitched from the other side of the Horsehead Nebula.
    He stared furiously out of the window.
    He was astonished that of all the sensations fighting for room in his
head on this night as he returned to the home  that  he  had  thought  had
vanished into oblivion for ever, the one that was compelling  him  was  an
obsession with this bizarre girl of whom he knew nothing other  than  that
she had said "this" to him, and that he wouldn't wish  her  brother  on  a
    - So, er, what were the jumps, these jumps you mentioned? -  he  went
on to say as quickly as he could.
    - Look, this is my sister, I don't even know why I'm talking  to  you
    - OK, I'm sorry. Perhaps you'd better let me out. This is...
    At the moment he said it, it became  impossible,  because  the  storm
which had passed them by suddenly erupted again. Lightning belted  through
the sky,  and  someone  seemed  to  be  pouring  something  which  closely
resembled the Atlantic Ocean over them through a sieve.
    Russell swore and steered intently for  a  few  seconds  as  the  sky
blattered at them. He worked out his anger by rashly accelerating to  pass
a lorry marked "McKeena's All-Weather Haulage". The tension eased  as  the
rain subsided.
    - It started with all that business of the CIA agent  they  found  in
the reservoir, when everybody had all the hallucinations  and  everything,
you remember?
    Arthur wondered for a moment whether to mention  again  that  he  had
just hitch-hiked back from the other side of the Horsehead Nebula and  was
for this and various other related and astounding reasons a little out  of
touch with recent events, but he decided it  would  only  confuse  matters
    - No, - he said.
    - That was the moment she cracked up. She was in  a  cafe  somewhere.
Rickmansworth. Don't know what she was doing there, but that was where she
cracked up. Apparently  she  stood  up,  calmly  announced  that  she  had
undergone some extraordinary  revelation  or  something,  wobbled  a  bit,
looked confused, and finally collapsed screaming into an egg sandwich.
    Arthur winced.
    - I'm very sorry to hear that, - he said a little stiffly.
    Russell made a sort of grumping noise.
    - So what, - said Arthur in an attempt to piece  things  together,  -
was the CIA agent doing in the reservoir?
    - Bobbing up and down of course. He was dead.
    - But what...
    - Come on, you remember all that stuff. The hallucinations.  Everyone
said it was a cock up, the CIA trying experiments  into  drug  warfare  or
something. Some crackpot theory that instead  of  invading  a  country  it
would be much cheaper and more effective to  make  everyone  think  they'd
been invaded.
    - What hallucinations were those exactly?.. - said Arthur in a rather
quiet voice.
    - What do you mean, what hallucinations? I'm talking about  all  that
stuff with the big yellow ships, everyone going  crazy  and  saying  we're
going to die, and then pop, they vanished as the effect wore off. The  CIA
denied it which meant it must be true.
    Arthur's head went a little swimmy. His hand grabbed at something  to
steady himself, and gripped it tightly. His mouth made little opening  and
closing movements as if it was on his mind to say something,  but  nothing
    - Anyway, - continued Russell, - whatever drug it was it didn't  seem
to wear off so fast with Fenny. I was all for suing the CIA, but a  lawyer
friend of mine said it would be like trying to  attack  a  lunatic  asylum
with a banana, so... - He shrugged.
    - The Vogon... - squeaked Arthur. - The yellow ships... vanished?
    - Well, of course they did, they were hallucinations, - said Russell,
and looked at Arthur oddly. - You trying to say you don't remember any  of
this? Where have you been for heaven's sake?
    This was, to Arthur, such an  astonishingly  good  question  that  he
half-leapt out of his seat with shock.
    - Christ!!! - yelled Russell, fighting to control the car  which  was
suddenly trying to skid. He pulled it out of the path of an oncoming lorry
and swerved up on to a grass bank. As the car lurched to a halt, the  girl
in the back was thrown against Russell's seat and collapsed awkwardly.
    Arthur twisted round in horror.
    - Is she all right? - he blurted out.
    Russell swept his hands angrily back through his blow-dried hair.  He
tugged at his blond moustache. He turned to Arthur.
    - Would you please, - he said, - let go of the handbrake?

                               Chapter 6

    From here it was a four-mile walk to his village: a further  mile  to
the turning, to which the abominable Russell had now fiercely declined  to
take him, and from there a further three miles of winding country lane.
    The Saab seethed off into the night. Arthur watched it go, as stunned
as a man might be who, having believed himself to  be  totally  blind  for
five years, suddenly discovers that he had merely been wearing too large a
    He shook his head sharply in the hope that  it  might  dislodge  some
salient fact which would fall into place and make sense  of  an  otherwise
utterly bewildering Universe, but since the salient  fact,  if  there  was
one, entirely failed to do this, he set off up the road again, hoping that
a good vigorous walk, and maybe even some  good  painful  blisters,  would
help to reassure him of his own existence at least, if not his sanity.
    It was 10.30 when he arrived, a fact he discovered from  the  steamed
and greasy window of the Horse and Groom pub, in which there had hung  for
many years a battered old Guiness clock which featured a picture of an emu
with a pint glass jammed rather amusingly down its throat.
    This was the pub at which he had passed the fateful lunchtime  during
which  first  his  house  and  then  the  entire  planet  Earth  had  been
demolished, or rather had seemed to be demolished. No, damn it,  had  been
demolished, because if it hadn't then where the bloody heck  had  he  been
for the last eight years, and how he had got there if not in  one  of  the
big yellow Vogon ships which the appalling Russell had just  been  telling
him were merely  druginduced  hallucinations,  and  yet  if  it  had  been
demolished, what was he currently standing on?..
    He jammed the brake on this line of thought because it  wasn't  going
to get him any further than it had the last twenty times  he'd  been  over
    He started again.
    This was the pub at which he had passed the fateful lunchtime  during
which whatever it was had happened that he was going to sort out later had
happened, and...
    It still didn't make sense.
    He started again.
    This was the pub in which...
    This was a pub.
    Pubs served drinks and he couldn't half do with one.
    Satisfied that his jumbled thought processes had at last arrived at a
conclusion, and a conclusion he was happy with, even if it wasn't the  one
he had set out to achieve, he strode towards the door.
    And stopped.
    A small black wire-haired terrier ran out from behind a low wall  and
then, catching sight of Arthur, began to snarl.
    Now Arthur knew this dog, and he knew it  well.  It  belonged  to  an
advertising friend of his, and was called  Know-Nothing-Bozo  because  the
way its hair stood up on its head it reminded people of the  President  of
the United States, and the dog knew Arthur, or at least should do. It  was
a stupid dog, could not even read an autocue, which way  why  some  people
had protested about its name, but it should at least  have  been  able  to
recognize Arthur instead of standing there, hackles raised, as  if  Arthur
was the most fearful apparition ever to  intrude  upon  its  feeble-witted
    This prompted Arthur to go and peer at the window  again,  this  time
with an eye not for the asphyxiating emu but for himself.
    Seeing himself for the first time suddenly in a familiar context,  he
had to admit that the dog had a point.
    He looked a lot like something a farmer  would  use  to  scare  birds
with, and there was no doubt but that to go into the pub  in  his  present
condition would excite comments of a raucous kind, and worse still,  there
would doubtless be several people in there at the moment whom he knew, all
of whom would be bound to bombard him with questions which, at the moment,
he felt ill-equipped to deal with.
    Will Smithers, for  instance,  the  owner  of  Know-Nothing-Bozo  the
Non-Wonder Dog, an animal so stupid that it had been sacked  from  one  of
Will's own commercials for being incapable of knowing which  dog  food  it
was supposed to prefer, despite the fact that the meat in  all  the  other
bowls had had engine oil poured over it.
    Will would definitely be in there. Here was his  dog,  here  was  his
car, a grey Porsche 928S with a sign in the back window  which  read,  "My
other car is also a Porsche." Damn him.
    He stared at it and realized that he had just  learned  something  he
hadn't known before.
    Will  Smithers,  like  most  of  the  overpaid  and  under-scrupulous
bastards Arthur knew in advertising made a point of changing his car every
August so that he could tell people his accountant made him do it,  though
the truth was that his accountant was trying like hell to stop  him,  what
with all the alimony he had to pay, and so on - and this was the same  car
Arthur remembered him having before. The number plate proclaimed its year.
    Given that it was now winter, and that the  event  which  had  caused
Arthur so much trouble eight of his personal years ago had occurred at the
beginning of September, less than six or seven months  could  have  passed
    He stood terribly still for a moment and let  Know-Nothing-Bozo  jump
up and down yapping at him. He was suddenly stunned by  a  realization  he
could no longer avoid, which was this: he was now  an  alien  on  his  own
world. Try as he might, no one was even to be able to believe  his  story.
Not only did it sound perfectly potty, but it was flatly  contradicted  by
the simplest observable facts.
    Was this really the Earth? Was there the slightest  possibility  that
he had made some extraordinary mistake?
    The pub in front of him was  unbearably  familiar  to  him  in  every
detail - every brick, every piece of peeling paint; and  inside  he  could
sense  its  familiar  stuffy,  noisy  warmth,  its  exposed   beams,   its
unauthentic cast-iron light fittings, its bar sticky with beer that people
he knew had put their elbows in, overlooked by cardboard cutouts of  girls
with packets of peanuts stapled all over their breasts.  It  was  all  the
stuff of his home, his world.
    He even knew this blasted dog.
    - Hey, Know-Nothing!
    The sound of Will Smithers' voice meant he had to decide what  do  to
quickly. If he stood his ground he  would  be  discovered  and  the  whole
circus would begin. To hide would only postpone the  moment,  and  it  was
bitterly cold now.
    The fact that it was Will made the  choice  easier.  It  wasn't  that
Arthur disliked him as such - Will was quite fun. It was just that he  was
fun in such an exhausting way because, being  in  advertising,  he  always
wanted you to know how much fun he was having and where  he  had  got  his
jacket from.
    Mindful of this, Arthur hid behind a van.
    - Hey, Know-Nothing, what's up?
    The door opened and Will came out, wearing a  leather  flying  jacket
that he'd got a mate of his at the Road Research Laboratory to crash a car
into specially, in order to get that battered  look.  Know-Nothing  yelped
with delight and, having got the attention it wanted, was happy to  forget
    Will was with some friends, and they had a game they played with  the
    - Commies! - they all shouted  at  the  dog  in  chorus.  -  Commies,
commies, commies!!!
    The dog went berserk with barking, prancing up and down, yapping  its
little heart out, beside itself in transports of ecstatic rage.  They  all
laughed and cheered it on, then gradually dispersed to their various  cars
and disappeared into the night.
    Well that clears one thing up, thought Arthur from  behind  the  van,
this is quite definitely the planet I remember.

                               Chapter 7

    His house was still there.
    How or why, he had no idea. He had decided to  go  and  have  a  look
while he was waiting for the pub to empty, so that he could go and ask the
landlord for a bed for the night when everyone else had gone. And there it
    He hurriedly let himself in with the key he kept under a  stone  frog
in the garden, because, astoundingly, the phone was ringing.
    He had heard it faintly all the way up the lane and  had  started  to
run as soon as he realized where the sound was coming from.
    The  door  had  to  be  forced  open  because  of   the   astonishing
accumulation of junk mail on the doormat. It jammed itself stuck  on  what
he would later discover  were  fourteen  identical,  personally  addressed
invitations to apply for a credit card he already had, seventeen identical
threatening letters for nonpayment of bills on a  credit  card  he  didn't
have, thirty-three identical letters saying that he  personally  had  been
specially selected as a man of taste and discrimination who knew  what  he
wanted and where he was going in today's  sophisticated  jetsetting  world
and would he therefore like to buy some grotty wallet,  and  also  a  dead
tabby kitten.
    He rammed himself through the relatively narrow opening  afforded  by
all this, stumbled through a pile of wine offers  that  no  discriminating
connoisseur would want to miss, slithered  over  a  heap  of  beach  villa
holidays, blundered up the dark stairs to his bedroom and got to the phone
just as it stopped ringing.
    He collapsed, panting, on to his cold, musty-smelling bed and  for  a
few minutes stopped trying to prevent the world from  spinning  round  his
head in the way it obviously wanted to.
    When it had enjoyed its little spin and had calmed down a bit, Arthur
reached out for the bedside light, not expecting it to  come  on.  To  his
surprise it did. This appealed to  Arthur's  sense  of  logic.  Since  the
Electricity Board cut him off without fail every time he paid his bill, it
seemed only reasonable that  they  should  leave  him  connected  when  he
didn't. Sending them money obviously only drew attention to yourself.
    The room was much as he had left it, i.e. festeringly untidy,  though
the effect was muted a little by a thick layer of  dust.  Half-read  books
and magazines nestled amongst piles of half-used  towels.  Half  pairs  of
socks reclined in half-drunk cups of coffee. What was  once  a  half-eaten
sandwich had now half-turned into something that  Arthur  entirely  didn't
want to know about. Bung a fork of lightning through this lot, he  thought
to himself, and you'd start the evolution of life all over again.
    There was only one thing in the room that was different.
    For a moment or so he couldn't  see  what  the  one  thing  that  was
different was, because it too was covered in a film  of  disgusting  dust.
Then his eyes caught it and stopped.
    It was next to a  battered  old  television  on  which  it  was  only
possible to watch Open University Study Courses, because if  it  tried  to
show anything more exciting it would break down.
    It was a box.
    Arthur pushed himself up on his elbows and peered at it.
    It was a grey box, with a kind of dull lustre to it. It was  a  cubic
grey box, just over a foot on a side. It  was  tied  with  a  single  grey
ribbon, knotted into a neat bow on the top.
    He got up, walked over and touched it in surprise.  Whatever  it  was
was clearly gift-wrapped, neatly and beautifully, and was waiting for  him
to open it.
    Cautiously, he picked it up and  carried  it  back  to  the  bed.  He
brushed the dust off the top and loosened the ribbon. The top of  the  box
was a lid, with a flap tucked into the body of the box.
    He untucked it and looked into the box. In  it  was  a  glass  globe,
nestling in fine grey tissue paper. He drew it out, carefully. It wasn't a
proper globe because it was open at the bottom,  or,  as  Arthur  realized
turning it over, at the top, with a thick rim. It was a bowl. A fish bowl.
    It was made of the most wonderful glass  perfectly  transparent,  yet
with an extraordinary silver-grey quality as if crystal and slate had gone
into its making.
    Arthur slowly turned it over and over in his hands. It was one of the
most beautiful objects he had ever seen, but he was entirely perplexed  by
it. He looked into the box, but other than  the  tissue  paper  there  was
nothing. On the outside of the box there was nothing.
    He turned the bowl round again. It was wonderful. It  was  exquisite.
But it was a fish bowl.
    He tapped it with his thumbnail and it rang with a deep and  glorious
chime which was sustained for longer than seemed  possible,  and  when  at
last it faded seemed not to die away but to drift off into  other  worlds,
as into a deep sea dream.
    Entranced, Arthur turned it round yet again, and this time the  light
from the dusty little bedside lamp caught it  at  a  different  angle  and
glittered on some fine abrasions on the fish bowl's surface.  He  held  it
up, adjusting the angle to the light, and suddenly saw clearly the  finely
engraved shapes of words shadowed on the glass.
    - So Long, - they said, - and Thanks...
    And that was all. He blinked, and understood nothing.
    For fully five more minutes he turned the object  round  and  around,
held it to the light at different angles, tapped it  for  its  mesmerizing
chime and pondered on the meaning of the shadowy letters  but  could  find
none. Finally he stood up, filled the bowl with water from the tap and put
it back on the table next to the television. He  shook  the  little  Babel
fish from his ear and dropped it, wriggling, into the bowl. He wouldn't be
needing it any more, except for watching foreign movies.
    He returned to lie on his bed, and turned out the light.
    He lay still and quiet. He absorbed the enveloping  darkness,  slowly
relaxed his limbs from end to end,  eased  and  regulated  his  breathing,
gradually cleared his mind  of  all  thought,  closed  his  eyes  and  was
completely incapable of getting to sleep.

    The night was uneasy with rain. The rain clouds  themselves  had  now
moved on and were currently  concentrating  their  attention  on  a  small
transport cafe just outside Bournemouth, but the sky  through  which  they
had passed had been disturbed by them and now wore a damply  ruffled  air,
as if it didn't know what else it might not do it further provoked.
    The moon was out in a watery way. It looked like a ball of paper from
the back pocket of jeans that have just come out of the  washing  machine,
and which only time and ironing would tell if it was an old shopping  list
or a five pound note.
    The wind flicked about a little, like the  tail  of  a  horse  that's
trying to decide what sort of mood it's in tonight, and a  bell  somewhere
chimed midnight.
    A skylight creaked open.
    It was stiff and had to be jiggled and persuaded a little because the
frame was slightly rotten and the hinges had at some time in its life been
rather sensibly painted over, but eventually it was open.
    A strut was found to prop it and a  figure  struggled  out  into  the
narrow gully between the opposing pitches of the roof.
    It stood and watched the sky in silence.
    The figure was completely unrecognizable as the wild-looking creature
who had burst crazily into the cottage a little over an hour ago. Gone was
the ragged threadbare dressing gown, smeared with the  mud  of  a  hundred
worlds, stained with junk food condiment from a hundred grimy  spaceports,
gone was the tangled mane of  hair,  gone  the  long  and  knotted  beard,
flourishing ecosystem and all.
    Instead, there was Arthur Dent the smooth and  casual,  in  corduroys
and a chunky sweater. His hair was cropped  and  washed,  his  chin  clean
shaven. Only the eyes still said that whatever it was the Universe thought
it was doing to him, he would still like it please to stop.
    They were not the same eyes with which he had last looked out at this
particular scene, and the brain which  interpreted  the  images  the  eyes
resolved was not the same brain. There had been no surgery involved,  just
the continual wrenching of experience.
    The night seemed like an alive thing to him at this moment, the  dark
earth around him a being in which he was rooted.
    He could feel like a tingle on distant nerve ends the flood of a  far
river, the roll of invisible hills, the knot of  heavy  rainclouds  parked
somewhere away to the south.
    He could sense, too, the thrill of being a tree, which was  something
he hadn't expected. He knew that it felt good to curl  your  toes  in  the
earth, but he'd never realized it could feel quite as  good  as  that.  He
could sense an almost unseemly wave of pleasure reaching out  to  him  all
the way from the New Forest. He must try this summer, he thought, and  see
what having leaves felt like.
    From another direction  he  felt  the  sensation  of  being  a  sheep
startled by a flying saucer, but it was virtually  indistinguishable  from
the  feeling  of  being  a  sheep  startled  by  anything  else  it   ever
encountered, for they were creatures who  learned  very  little  on  their
journey through life, and would be startled to see the sun rising  in  the
morning, and astonished by all the green stuff in the fields.
    He was surprised to find he could feel the sheep  being  startled  by
the sun that morning, and the morning before,  and  being  startled  by  a
clump of trees the day before that. He could go further and further  back,
but it got dull because all it consisted of was sheep  being  startled  by
things they'd been startled by the day before.
    He left the sheep  and  let  his  mind  drift  outwards  sleepily  in
developing ripples. It felt the presence of other minds, hundreds of them,
thousands in a web, some sleepy, some sleeping, some terribly excited, one
    One fractured.
    He passed it fleetingly and tried to feel for it again, but it eluded
him like the other card with an apple on it in Pelmanism. He felt a  spasm
of excitement because he knew instinctively who it was, or at  least  knew
who it was he wanted it to be, and once you know what it is you want to be
true, instinct is a very useful device for enabling you to  know  that  it
    He instinctively knew that it was Fenny and that he  wanted  to  find
her; but he could not. By straining too much for it, he could feel he  was
losing this strange new faculty, so he relaxed the search and let his mind
wander more easily once more.
    And again, he felt the fracture.
    Again he couldn't find it. This time, whatever his instinct was  busy
telling him it was all right to believe, he wasn't  certain  that  it  was
Fenny - or perhaps it was a different fracture this time. It had the  same
disjointed quality but it seemed  a  more  general  feeling  of  fracture,
deeper, not a single mind, maybe not a mind at all. It was different.
    He let his mind sink slowly and  widely  into  the  Earth,  rippling,
seeping, sinking.
    He was following the  Earth  through  its  days,  drifting  with  the
rhythms of its myriad pulses,  seeping  through  the  webs  of  its  life,
swelling with its tides, turning with its weight. Always the fracture kept
returning, a dull disjointed distant ache.
    And now he was flying through a land of light; the  light  was  time,
the tides of it were days receding. The fracture he had sensed, the second
fracture, lay in the distance before him across the land, the thickness of
a single hair across the dreaming landscape of the days of Earth.
    And suddenly he was upon it.
    He danced dizzily over the edge as the dreamland dropped  sheer  away
beneath him, a stupefying precipice into  nothing,  him  wildly  twisting,
clawing at nothing, flailing in horrifying space, spinning, falling.
    Across the jagged chasm had been another land, another time, an older
world, not fractured from, but hardly joined: two Earths. He woke.
    A cold breeze brushed the feverish sweat standing  on  his  forehead.
The nightmare was spent and so, he felt, was he. His shoulders dropped, he
gently rubbed his eyes with the tips of his fingers. At last he was sleepy
as well as very tired. As to what it meant, if it meant anything  at  all,
he would think about it in the morning; for now he would  go  to  bed  and
sleep. His own bed, his own sleep.
    He could see his house in the distance and wondered why this was.  It
was silhouetted against the moonlight and he recognized  its  rather  dull
blockish shape. He looked about him and noticed that he was about eighteen
inches above the rose bushes of one of his neighbours, John Ainsworth. His
rose bushes were carefully tended, pruned back for the winter, strapped to
canes and labelled, and Arthur wondered what he was doing above  them.  He
wondered what was holding him there, and when he discovered  that  nothing
was holding him there he crashed awkwardly to the ground.
    He picked himself up, brushed himself down and hobbled  back  to  his
house on a sprained ankle. He undressed and toppled into bed.
    While he was asleep the phone rang again. It rang for  fully  fifteen
minutes and caused him to turn over twice.  It  never,  however,  stood  a
chance of waking him up.

                               Chapter 8

    Arthur  awoke  feeling  wonderful,  absolutely  fabulous,  refreshed,
overjoyed to be home, bouncing with energy, hardly disappointed at all  to
discover it was the middle of February.
    He almost danced to the fridge, found the three least hairy things in
it, put them on a plate and watched them intently for two  minutes.  Since
they made no attempt to move within that time he called them breakfast and
ate them. Between them they killed a virulent space disease he's picked up
without knowing it in the Flargathon Gas Swamps a few days earlier,  which
otherwise would have  killed  off  half  the  population  of  the  Western
Hemisphere, blinded the other half and driven everyone else psychotic  and
sterile, so the Earth was lucky there.
    He felt strong, he felt healthy. He vigorously cleared away the  junk
mail with a spade and then buried the cat.
    Just as he was finishing that, the phone went, but  he  let  it  ring
while he maintained a moment's respectful silence. Whoever  it  was  would
ring back if it was important.
    He kicked the mud off his shoes and went back inside.
    There had been a small number of significant letters in the piles  of
junk - some  documents  from  the  council,  dated  three  years  earlier,
relating to the proposed demolition of his house, and some  other  letters
about the setting up of a public inquiry into the whole bypass  scheme  in
the area; there was also an old letter  from  Greenpeace,  the  ecological
pressure group to which he occasionally  made  contributions,  asking  for
help with their scheme to release dolphins and orcas from  captivity,  and
some postcards from friends, vaguely complaining  that  he  never  got  in
touch these days.
    He collected these together and put them in a cardboard file which he
marked "Things To Do". Since he was feeling so vigorous and  dynamic  that
morning, he even added the word "Urgent!"
    He unpacked his towel and another few odd bits and  pieces  from  the
plastic bag he had acquired at the Port Brasta Mega-Market. The slogan  on
the side was a clever and elaborate  pun  in  Lingua  Centauri  which  was
completely incomprehensible in any other language and  therefore  entirely
pointless for a Duty Free Shop at a spaceport. The bag also had a hole  in
it so he threw it away.
    He realized with a  sudden  twinge  that  something  else  must  have
dropped out in the small spacecraft that had brought him to Earth,  kindly
going out of its way to drop him right beside the A303. He  had  lost  his
battered and spaceworn copy of the thing which had helped him find his way
across the unbelievable wastes of space he had traversed. He had lost  the
Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    Well, he told himself, this time I really won't be needing it again.
    He had some calls to make.
    He had decided how to deal with the mass of contradictions his return
journey precipitated, which was that he would simply brazen it out.
    He phoned the BBC and asked to be put through to his department head.
    - Oh, hello, Arthur Dent here. Look, sorry I haven't been in for  six
months but I've gone mad.
    - Oh, not to worry. Thought it  was  probably  something  like  that.
Happens here all the time. How soon can we expect you?
    - When do hedgehogs stop hibernating?
    - Sometime in spring I think.
    - I'll be in shortly after that.
    - Rightyho.
    He flipped through the Yellow Pages and made a short list of  numbers
to try.
    - Oh hello, is that the Old Elms Hospital? Yes, I was just phoning to
see if I could have a word with Fenella, er... Fenella - Good Lord,  silly
me, I'll forget my own name next, er, Fenella  -  isn't  this  ridiculous?
Patient of yours, dark haired girl, came in last night...
    - I'm afraid we don't have any patients called Fenella.
    - Oh, don't you? I mean Fiona of course, we just call her Fen...
    - I'm sorry, goodbye.
    Six conversations along these lines began to take their toll  on  his
mood of vigorous, dynamic optimism, and he decided that before it deserted
him entirely he would take it down to the pub and parade it a little.
    He had had the perfect idea for explaining  away  every  inexplicable
weirdness about himself at a stroke, and he  whistled  to  himself  as  he
pushed open the door which had so daunted him last night.
    - Arthur!!!!
    He grinned cheerfully at the boggling eyes that stared  at  him  from
all corners of the pub, and told them all what a wonderful time  he'd  had
in Southern California.

                               Chapter 9

    He accepted another pint and took a pull at it.
    - Of course, I had my own personal alchemist too.
    - You what?
    He was getting  silly  and  he  knew  it.  Exuberance  and  Hall  and
Woodhouse best bitter was a mixture to be wary of, but one  of  the  first
effects it had is to stop you being wary of things, and the point at which
Arthur should have stopped and explained no more was the point at which he
started instead to get inventive.
    - Oh yes, - he insisted with a happy glazed smile. -  It's  why  I've
lost so much weight.
    - What? - said his audience.
    - Oh yes, - he said  again.  -  The  Californians  have  rediscovered
alchemy. Oh yes.
    He smiled again.
    - Only, - he said, - it's in a much more useful form than that  which
in... - He paused thoughtfully to let a little  grammar  assemble  in  his
head. - In which the ancients used to practise  it.  Or  at  least,  -  he
added, - failed to practise it. They couldn't get it  to  work  you  know.
Nostradamus and that lot. Couldn't cut it.
    - Nostradamus? - said one of his audience.
    - I didn't think he was an alchemist, - said another.
    - I thought, - said a third, - he was a seer.
    - He became a seer, - said Arthur  to  his  audience,  the  component
parts of which were beginning to bob and blur a little, - because  he  was
such a lousy alchemist. You should know that.
    He took another pull at his beer. It was something he had not  tasted
for eight years. He tasted it and tasted it.
    - What has alchemy got to do, - asked a bit of the audience,  -  with
losing weight?
    - I'm glad you asked that, - said Arthur. - Very glad. And I will now
tell you what the connection is between... - He paused.  -  Between  those
two things. The things you mentioned. I'll tell you.
    He paused and manoeuvred his  thoughts.  It  was  like  watching  oil
tankers doing three-point turns in the English Channel.
    - They've discovered how to turn excess body  fat  into  gold,  -  he
said, in a sudden blur of coherence.
    - You're kidding.
    - Oh yes, - he said, - no, - he corrected himself, - they have.
    He rounded on the doubting part of his audience, which was all of it,
and so it took a little while to round on it completely.
    - Have you been to California? - he demanded. - Do you know the  sort
of stuff they do there?
    Three members of his audience said they had and that he  was  talking
    - You haven't seen anything, - insisted Arthur. - Oh yes, - he added,
because someone was offering to buy another round.
    - The evidence, - he said, pointing at himself, and  not  missing  by
more than a couple of inches, - is before your eyes. Fourteen hours  in  a
trance, - he said, - in a tank. In a trance. I was in a tank. I  think,  -
he added after a thoughtful pause, - I already said that.
    He waited patiently while the next round  was  duly  distributed.  He
composed the next bit of his story in his mind,  which  was  going  to  be
something about the tank needing to be orientated  along  a  line  dropped
perpendicularly from the Pole Star to a baseline drawn  between  Mars  and
Venus, and was about to start trying to say it when he decided to give  it
a miss.
    - Long time, - he said instead, - in a tank. In a trance. - He looked
round severely at  his  audience,  to  make  sure  it  was  all  following
    He resumed.
    - Where was I? - he said.
    - In a trance, - said one.
    - In a tank, - said another.
    - Oh yes, - said Arthur. - Thank you. And slowly, - he said  pressing
onwards, - slowly, slowly slowly, all your  excess  body  fat...  turns...
to...  -  he  paused  for  effect, - subcoo... subyoo... subtoocay... - he
paused for breath - subcutaneous  gold,  which  you  can  have  surgically
removed. Getting out of the tank is hell. What did you say?
    - I was just clearing my throat.
    - I think you doubt me.
    - I was clearing my throat.
    - She was clearing her throat, - confirmed a significant part of  the
audience in a low rumble.
    - Oh yes, - said  Arthur,  -  all  right.  And  you  then  split  the
proceeds... - he paused again for a maths break, -  fifty-fifty  with  the
alchemist. Make a lot of money!
    He looked swayingly around at his audience, and could not help but be
aware of an air of scepticism about their jumbled faces.
    He felt very affronted by this.
    - How else, - he demanded, - could I afford to have my face dropped?
    Friendly arms began to help him home.
    - Listen, - he protested, as the cold  February  breeze  brushed  his
face, - looking lived-in is all the rage  in  California  at  the  moment.
You've got to look as if you've seen the Galaxy. Life, I mean. You've  got
to look as if you've seen life. That's what I got. A face  drop.  Give  me
eight years, I said. I hope being thirty doesn't come back into fashion or
I've wasted a lot of money.
    He lapsed into silence for a while as the friendly arms continued  to
help him along the lane to his house.
    - Got in yesterday, - he mumbled. - I'm very happy  to  be  home.  Or
somewhere very like it...
    - Jet  lag,  -  muttered  one  of  his  friends.  -  Long  trip  from
California. Really mucks you up for a couple of days.
    - I don't think he's been there at  all,  -  muttered  another.  -  I
wonder where he has been. And what's happened to him.
    After a little sleep Arthur got up and pottered  round  the  house  a
bit. He felt woozy and a little low, still disoriented by the journey.  He
wondered how he was going to find Fenny.
    He sat and looked at the fish bowl. He tapped it again,  and  despite
being full of water and a small yellow Babel fish which  was  gulping  its
way around rather dejectedly, it still chimed its deep and resonant  chime
as clearly and mesmerically as before.
    Someone is trying to thank me, he thought  to  himself.  He  wondered
who, and for what.

                               Chapter 10

    - At the third stroke it will  be  one...  thirty-two...  and  twenty
    - Beep... beep... beep.
    Ford  Prefect  suppressed  a  little  giggle  of  evil  satisfaction,
realized that he had no reason to suppress it, and  laughed  out  loud,  a
wicked laugh.
    He switched the incoming signal through from the Sub-Etha Net to  the
ship's hi-fi system, and the odd, rather stilted,  sing-song  voice  spoke
out with remarkable clarity round the cabin.
    - At the third stroke it will  be  one...  thirty-two...  and  thirty
    - Beep... beep... beep.
    He tweaked the volume up just a little while keeping a careful eye on
a rapidly changing table of figures on the ship's  computer  display.  For
the length of time he had in  mind,  the  question  of  power  consumption
became significant. He didn't want a murder on his conscience.
    - At the third stroke it  will  be  one...  thirty-two...  and  forty
    - Beep... beep... beep.
    He checked around the small ship. He walked down the short corridor.
    - At the third stroke...
    He  stuck  his  head  into  the  small,  functional,  gleaming  steel
    - it will be...
    It sounded fine in there.
    He looked into the tiny sleeping quarters.
    - ...one... thirty-two...
    It sounded a bit muffled. There was a towel hanging over one  of  the
speakers. He took down the towel.
    - ...and fifty seconds.
    He checked out the packed cargo hold, and  wasn't  at  all  satisfied
with the sound. There was altogether too much crated junk in the  way.  He
stepped back out and waited for the door to seal. He broke open  a  closed
control panel and pushed the jettison button. He didn't know why he hadn't
thought of that before. A whooshing rumbling noise died away quickly  into
silence. After a pause a slight hiss could be heard again.
    It stopped.
    He waited for the green light to show and then opened the door  again
on the now empty cargo hold.
    - ...one... thirty-three... and fifty seconds.
    Very nice.
    - Beep... beep... beep.
    He then went and had a last thorough  examination  of  the  emergency
suspended animation chamber, which was where he particularly wanted it  to
be heard.
    - At the third stroke it will be one... thirty... four... precisely.
    He shivered as he peered down through the heavily frosted covering at
the dim bulk of the form within. One day, who knew when,  it  would  wake,
and when it did, it would know what time it was. Not exactly  local  time,
true, but what the heck.
    He double-checked the computer display above the freezer bed,  dimmed
the lights and checked it again.
    - At the third stroke it will be...
    He tiptoed out and returned to the control cabin.
    - ...one... thirty-four and twenty seconds.
    The voice sounded as clear as if he was hearing it over  a  phone  in
London, which he wasn't, not by a long way.
    He gazed out into the inky night. The star the size  of  a  brilliant
biscuit crumb he could see in the distance was Zondostina, or  as  it  was
known on the world from which the  rather  stilted,  sing-song  voice  was
being received, Pleiades Zeta.
    The bright orange curve that filled over half the  visible  area  was
the giant gas  planet  Sesefras  Magna,  where  the  Xaxisian  battleships
docked, and just rising over its horizon was a small cool blue moon, Epun.
    - At the third stroke it will be...
    For twenty minutes he sat and watched as the gap between the ship and
Epun closed, as the ship's computer teased and kneaded  the  numbers  that
would bring it into a loop around the little moon, close the loop and keep
it there, orbiting in perpetual obscurity.
    - One... fifty-nine...
    His original plan had been to close down all external signalling  and
radiation from the ship, to render it  as  nearly  invisible  as  possible
unless you were actually looking at it, but  then  he'd  had  an  idea  he
preferred. It would now emit  one  single  continuous  beam,  pencil-thin,
broadcasting the incoming time  signal  to  the  planet  of  the  signal's
origin, which it would not reach for four  hundred  years,  travelling  at
light speed, but where it would probably cause something of a stir when it
    - Beep... beep... beep.
    He sniggered.
    He didn't like to think of himself as the sort of person who  giggled
or sniggered, but he had to admit that he had been giggling and sniggering
almost continuously for well over half an hour now.
    - At the third stroke...
    The ship was now locked almost perfectly  into  its  perpetual  orbit
round a little known and never visited moon. Almost perfect.
    One thing only remained. He ran again the computer simulation of  the
launching  of  the  ship's  little  Escape-O-Buggy,   balancing   actions,
reactions, tangential forces, all the mathematical poetry of  motion,  and
saw that it was good.
    Before he left, he turned out the lights.
    As his tiny little cigar tube of an escape craft zipped  out  on  the
beginning of its three-day journey to  the  orbiting  space  station  Port
Sesefron, it rode for a few seconds a long pencilthin  beam  of  radiation
that was starting out on a longer journey still.
    - At the third stroke,  it  will  be  two...  thirteen...  and  fifty
    He giggled and sniggered. He would  have  laughed  out  loud  but  he
didn't have the room.
    - Beep... beep... beep.

                               Chapter 11

    - April showers I hate especially.
    However noncommittally Arthur grunted, the man seemed  determined  to
talk to him. He wondered if he should get up and move  to  another  table,
but there didn't seem to be one free in the whole  cafeteria.  He  stirred
his coffee fiercely.
    - Bloody April showers. Hate hate hate.
    Arthur stared, frowning, out of the window. A light, sunny  spray  of
rain hung over the motorway. Two months he'd been back now. Slipping  back
into his old life had  in  fact  been  laughably  easy.  People  had  such
extraordinarily short memories,  including  him.  Eight  years  of  crazed
wanderings round the Galaxy now seemed to him not so much like a bad dream
as like a film he had videotaped from the tv and now kept in the back of a
cupboard without bothering to watch.
    One effect that still lingered though, was his joy at being back. Now
that the Earth's atmosphere had closed over his head for good, he thought,
wrongly, everything within it gave him extraordinary pleasure. Looking  at
the silvery sparkle of the raindrops he felt he had to protest.
    - Well, I like them, - he said suddenly, - and for  all  the  obvious
reasons. They're light and refreshing. They  sparkle  and  make  you  feel
    The man snorted derisively.
    - That's what they all say, - he said, and glowered darkly  from  his
corner seat.
    He was  a  lorry  driver.  Arthur  knew  this  because  his  opening,
unprovoked remark had been,
    - I'm a lorry driver. I hate driving in the rain.  Ironic  isn't  it?
Bloody ironic.
    If there was a sequitur hidden in this remark, Arthur  had  not  been
able to divine it and had merely given a little  grunt,  affable  but  not
    But the man had not been deterred then, and was not deterred now.
    - They all say that about bloody April  showers,  -  he  said.  -  So
bloody nice, so bloody refreshing, such charming bloody weather.
    He leaned forward, screwing his face up as if he  was  going  to  say
something about the government.
    - What I want to know is this, - he said, - if it's going to be  nice
weather, why, - he almost spat, - can't it be nice without bloody raining?
    Arthur gave up. He decided to leave his coffee, which was too hot  to
drink quickly and too nasty to drink cold.
    - Well, there you go, - he said and instead got up himself. - Bye.
    He stopped off at the service station shop, then walked back  through
the car park, making a point of enjoying the fine  play  of  rain  on  his
face. There was even, he noticed, a  faint  rainbow  glistening  over  the
Devon hills. He enjoyed that too.
    He climbed into his battered but adored old black Golf GTi,  squealed
the tyres, and headed out past the islands of petrol pumps and on  to  the
slip road back towards the motorway.
    He was wrong in thinking that the atmosphere of the Earth had  closed
finally and for ever above his head.
    He was wrong to think that it would ever be possible  to  put  behind
him the tangled web of irresolutions into which his galactic  travels  had
dragged him.
    He was wrong to think he could now forget that the big,  hard,  oily,
dirty, rainbow-hung Earth on which he lived was a  microscopic  dot  on  a
microscopic dot lost in the unimaginable infinity of the Universe.
    He drove on, humming, being wrong about all these things.
    The reason he was wrong was standing by the slip road under  a  small
    His jaw sagged. He sprained his ankle against  the  brake  pedal  and
skidded so hard he very nearly turned the car over.
    - Fenny! - he shouted.
    Having narrowly avoided hitting her with the actual car, he  hit  her
instead with the car door as he leant across and flung it open at her.
    It caught her hand and knocked away her umbrella, which  then  bowled
wildly away across the road.
    - Shit! - yelled Arthur as helpfully as he cold, leapt out of his own
door, narrowly avoided being run down by McKeena's AllWeather Haulage, and
watched in horror as it ran down Fenny's umbrella instead. The lorry swept
along the motorway and away.
    The umbrella lay like a recently  swatted  daddy-long-legs,  expiring
sadly on the ground. Tiny gusts of wind made it twitch a little.
    He picked it up.
    - Er, - he said. There didn't seem to be a lot of point  in  offering
the thing back to her.
    - How did you know my name? - she said.
    - Er, well, - he said. - Look, I'll get you another one...
    He looked at her and tailed off.
    She was tallish with dark hair which fell in waves around a pale  and
serious face. Standing still, alone, she  seemed  almost  sombre,  like  a
statue to some important but unpopular virtue  in  a  formal  garden.  She
seemed to be looking at something other than what she looked as if she was
looking at.
    But when she smiled, as she did  now,  it  was  as  if  she  suddenly
arrived from somewhere.  Warmth  and  life  flooded  into  her  face,  and
impossibly  graceful  movement  into  her  body.  The  effect   was   very
disconcerting, and it disconcerted Arthur like hell.
    She grinned, tossed her bag into the back and swivelled herself  into
the front seat.
    - Don't worry about the umbrella, - she said to him  as  she  climbed
in. - It was my brother's and he can't have liked it or he  wouldn't  have
given it to me. - She laughed and pulled on her seatbelt. - You're  not  a
friend of my brother's are you?
    - No.
    Her voice was the only part of her which didn't say "Good".
    Her  physical  presence  there  in  the  car,  his  car,  was   quite
extraordinary to Arthur. He felt, as he let the car pull slowly away, that
he could hardly  think  or  breathe,  and  hoped  that  neither  of  these
functions were vital to his driving or they were in trouble.
    So what he had experienced in the other car, her brother's  car,  the
night he had returned exhausted and bewildered from his nightmare years in
the stars had not been the unbalance of the moment, or, if it had been, he
was at least twice as  unbalanced  now,  and  quite  liable  to  fall  off
whatever it is that wellbalanced people are supposed to be balancing on.
    - So... - he said, hoping to kick the conversation off to an exciting
    - He was meant to pick me up - my brother -  but  phoned  to  say  he
couldn't make it. I asked about buses but the man started to look  at  the
calendar rather than a timetable, so I decided to hitch. So.
    - So.
    - So here I am. And what I would like to know, is  how  you  know  my
    - Perhaps we ought to first sort out, -  said  Arthur,  looking  back
over his shoulder as he eased his car into the motorway traffic,  -  where
I'm taking you.
    Very close, he hoped, or long away. Close would mean she  lived  near
him, a long way would mean he could drive her there.
    - I'd like to go to Taunton, - she said,  -  please.  If  that's  all
right. It's not far. You can drop me at...
    - You live in Taunton? - he said, hoping that he'd managed  to  sound
merely curious rather than ecstatic. Taunton was wonderfully close to him.
He could...
    - No, London, - she said. - There's a train in just under an hour.
    It was the worst thing possible. Taunton was only minutes away up the
motorway. He wondered what to do, and while he was wondering  with  horror
heard himself saying:
    - Oh, I can take you to London. Let me take you to London...
    Bungling idiot. Why on Earth had he said "let" in that stupid way? He
was behaving like a twelve-year-old.
    - Are you going to London? - she asked.
    - I wasn't, - he said, - but... - Bungling idiot.
    - It's very kind of you, - she said, - but really no. I like to go by
train. - And suddenly she was gone. Or rather,  that  part  of  her  which
brought her to life was gone. She  looked  rather  distantly  out  of  the
window and hummed lightly to herself.
    He couldn't believe it.
    Thirty seconds into the conversation, and already he'd blown it.
    Grown men, he told himself, in flat  contradiction  of  centuries  of
accumulated evidence about the way grown men behave, do  not  behave  like
    Taunton 5 miles, said the signpost.
    He gripped the steering wheel so tightly  the  car  wobbled.  He  was
going to have to do something dramatic.
    - Fenny, - he said.
    She glanced round sharply at him.
    - You still haven't told me how...
    - Listen, - said Arthur, - I will  tell  you,  though  the  story  is
rather strange. Very strange.
    She was still looking at him, but said nothing.
    - Listen...
    - You said that.
    - Did I? Oh. There are things I must talk to you about, and things  I
must tell you... a story I must tell you which would... - He was thrashing
about. He wanted something along the lines of - Thy knotted  and  combined
locks to part, and each particular quill to stand on end like quills  upon
the fretful porpentine - but didn't think he could carry it off and didn't
like the hedgehog reference.
    - ...which  would take more than five miles, - he settled for in  the
end, rather lamely he was afraid.
    - Well...
    - Just supposing, - he said, - just supposing - he didn't  know  what
was coming next, so he thought he'd just sit back and listen - that  there
was some extraordinary way in which you were very  important  to  me,  and
that, though you didn't know it, I was very important to you, but  it  all
went for nothing because we only had five miles and I was a  stupid  idiot
at knowing how to say something very important to someone I've  only  just
met and not crash into lorries at the same time, what would you  say...  -
he paused helplessly, and looked at her, - I... should do?
    - Watch the road! - she yelped.
    - Shit!
    He narrowly avoided careering into the  side  of  a  hundred  Italian
washing machines in a German lorry.
    - I think, - she said, with a momentary sigh of relief, - you  should
buy me a drink before my train goes.

                               Chapter 12

    There is, for some reason, something especially grim about pubs  near
stations, a very particular kind of grubbiness, a special kind  of  pallor
to the pork pies.
    Worse than the pork pies, though, are the sandwiches.
    There is a feeling which persists in England that making  a  sandwich
interesting, attractive, or in any way pleasant to eat is something sinful
that only foreigners do.
    - Make 'em  dry,  -  is  the  instruction  buried  somewhere  in  the
collective national consciousness, - make 'em rubbery. If you have to keep
the buggers fresh, do it by washing 'em once a week.
    It is by eating sandwiches in pubs on Saturday  lunchtimes  that  the
British seek to atone for whatever their national sins have been.  They're
not altogether clear what those sins are, and don't want to  know  either.
Sins are not the sort of things one wants  to  know  about.  But  whatever
their sins are they are amply atoned  for  by  the  sandwiches  they  make
themselves eat.
    If there is anything worse than the sandwiches, it  is  the  sausages
which sit next to them. Joyless tubes, full of gristle, floating in a  sea
of something hot and sad, stuck with a plastic  pin  in  the  shape  of  a
chef's hat: a memorial, one feels, for some chef who hated the world,  and
died, forgotten and alone among his cats on a back stair in Stepney.
    The sausages are for the ones who know what their sins are  and  wish
to atone for something specific.
    - There must be somewhere better, - said Arthur.
    - No time, - said Fenny, glancing at her watch. - My train leaves  in
half an hour.
    They sat at a small wobbly table. On it were some dirty glasses,  and
some soggy beermats with jokes printed on them. Arthur got Fenny a  tomato
juice, and himself a pint of yellow water with gas in it. And a couple  of
sausages. He didn't know why. He bought them for something to do while the
gas settled in his glass.
    The barman dunked Arthur's change in a pool of beer on the  bar,  for
which Arthur thanked him.
    - All right, - said Fenny, glancing at her watch, - tell me  what  it
is you have to tell me.
    She sounded, as well she might,  extremely  sceptical,  and  Arthur's
heart sank. Hardly, he felt, the most conductive setting to try to explain
to her as she sat there, suddenly cool and defensive, that in  a  sort  of
out-of-body dream he had had a telepathic sense that the mental  breakdown
she had suffered had been connected with the fact that, appearances to the
contrary nonwithstanding, the Earth had been demolished to make way for  a
new hyperspace bypass, something which he alone  on  Earth  knew  anything
about, having virtually witnessed it from  a  Vogon  spaceship,  and  that
furthermore both his body and soul ached for her unbearably and he  needed
to got to bed with her as soon as was humanly possible.
    - Fenny, - he started.
    - I wonder if you'd like to buy some tickets  for  our  raffle?  It's
just a little one.
    He glanced up sharply.
    - To raise money for Anjie who's retiring.
    - What?
    - And needs a kidney machine.
    He was being leant over by a rather stiffly  slim  middle-aged  woman
with a prim knitted suit and a prim little perm, and a prim  little  smile
that probably got licked by prim little dogs a lot.
    She was  holding  out  a  small  book  of  cloakroom  tickets  and  a
collecting tin.
    - Only ten pence each, - she said, - so you could probably  even  buy
two. Without breaking the bank! - She gave a tinkly little laugh and  then
a curiously long sigh. Saying - Without breaking the bank - had  obviously
given her more pleasure than anything since some GIs had been billeted  on
her in the war.
    - Er, yes, all right, - said Arthur, hurriedly digging in his  pocket
and producing a couple of coins.
    With infuriating slowness, and prim theatricality, if there was  such
a thing, the woman tore off two tickets and handed them to Arthur.
    - I do hope you win, - she said with a smile  that  suddenly  snapped
together like a piece of advanced origami, - the prizes are so nice.
    - Yes, thank  you,  -  said  Arthur,  pocketing  the  tickets  rather
brusquely and glancing at his watch.
    He turned towards Fenny.
    So did the woman with the raffle tickets.
    - And what about you, young lady? - she  said.  -  It's  for  Anjie's
kidney machine. She's retiring you see. Yes?  -  She  hoisted  the  little
smile even further up her face. She would have to stop and let it go  soon
or the skin would surely split.
    - Er, look, here you are, - said Arthur, and  pushed  a  fifty  pence
piece at her in the hope that that would see her off.
    - Oh, we are in the money, aren't we? - said the woman, with  a  long
smiling sigh. - Down from London are we?
    - No, that's all right, really, - he said with a wave  of  his  hand,
and she started with an awful deliberation to peel off five  tickets,  one
by one.
    - Oh, but you must have your tickets, - insisted the woman, - or  you
won't be able to claim your prize. They're very  nice  prizes,  you  know.
Very suitable.
    Arthur snatched the tickets, and said thank  you  as  sharply  as  he
    The woman turned to Fenny once again.
    - And now, what about...
    - No! - Arthur nearly yelled. - These are for her,  -  he  explained,
brandishing the five new tickets.
    - Oh, I see! How nice!
    She smiled sickeningly at both of them.
    - Well, I do hope you...
    - Yes, - snapped Arthur, - thank you.
    The woman finally departed to the table next to theirs. Arthur turned
desperately to Fenny, and was relieved to see that she  was  rocking  with
silent laughter.
    He sighed and smiled.
    - Where were we?
    - You were calling me Fenny, and I was about to ask you not to.
    - What do you mean?
    She twirled the little wooden cocktail stick in her tomato juice.
    - It's why I  asked  if  you  were  a  friend  of  my  brother's.  Or
halfbrother really. He's the only one who calls me Fenny, and I'm not fond
of him for it.
    - So what's?..
    - Fenchurch.
    - What?
    - Fenchurch.
    - Fenchurch.
    She looked at him sternly.
    - Yes, - she said, - and I'm watching you  like  a  lynx  to  see  if
you're going to ask the same silly question that everybody asks me until I
want to scream. I shall be cross and disappointed if you do. Plus I  shall
scream. So watch it.
    She smiled, shook her hair a little forward over her face and  peered
at him from behind it.
    - Oh, - he said, - that's a little unfair, isn't it?
    - Yes.
    - Fine.
    - All right, - she said with a laugh, - you can ask me. Might as well
get it over with. Better than have you call me Fenny all the time.
    - Presumably... - said Arthur.
    - We've only got two tickets left, you see, and  since  you  were  so
generous when I spoke to you before...
    - What? - snapped Arthur.
    The woman with the perm and the smile and the now nearly  empty  book
of cloakroom tickets was now waving the two last ones under his nose.
    - I thought I'd give the opportunity to you, because the  prizes  are
so nice.
    She wrinkled up he nose a little confidentially.
    - Very tasteful. I know you'll like  them.  And  it  is  for  Anjie's
retirement present you see. We want to give her...
    - A kidney machine, yes, - said Arthur. - Here.
    He held out two more ten pence pieces to her, and took the tickets.
    A thought seemed to strike the woman. It struck her very slowly.  You
could watch it coming in like a long wave on a sandy beach.
    - Oh dear, - she said, - I'm not interrupting anything am I?
    She peered anxiously at both of them.
    - No it's fine, - said Arthur.  Everything  that  could  possibly  be
fine, - he insisted, - is fine.
    - Thank you, - he added.
    - I say, - she said, in a  delightful  ecstacy  of  worry,  -  you're
not... in love, are you?
    - It's very hard to say, - said Arthur. - We haven't had a chance  to
talk yet.
    He glanced at Fenchurch. She was grinning.
    The woman nodded with knowing confidentiality.
    - I'll let you see the prizes in a minute, - she said, and left.
    Arthur turned, with a sigh, back to the girl that he found it hard to
say whether he was in love with.
    - You were about to ask me, - she said, - a question.
    - Yes, - said Arthur.
    - We can do it together if you  like,  -  said  Fenchurch.  -  Was  I
    - ...in a handbag... - joined in Arthur.
    - ...in the Left Luggage Office... - they said together.
    - ...at Fenchurch street station, - they finished.
    - And the answer, - said Fenchurch, - is no.
    - Fine, - said Arthur.
    - I was conceived there.
    - What?
    - I was con.
    - In the Left Luggage Office? - hooted Arthur.
    - No, of course not. Don't be silly. What would my parents  be  doing
in the Left Luggage  Office?  -  she  said,  rather  taken  aback  by  the
    - Well, I don't know, - spluttered Arthur, - or rather...
    - It was in the ticket queue.
    - The...
    - The ticket queue. Or so they claim. They refuse to elaborate.  They
only say you wouldn't believe how bored it  is  possible  to  get  in  the
ticket queue at Fenchurch Street Station.
    She sipped demurely at her tomato juice and looked at her watch.
    Arthur continued to gurgle for a moment or two.
    - I'm going to have to go in a minute or two, - said Fenchurch, - and
you haven't begun to tell  me  whatever  this  terrifically  extraordinary
thing is that you were so keen to get off your chest.
    - Why don't you let me drive you to London? -  said  Arthur.  -  It's
Saturday, I've got nothing particular to do, I'd...
    - No, - said Fenchurch, - thank you, it's sweet of  you,  but  no.  I
need to be by myself for a couple of days. - She smiled and shrugged.
    - But...
    - You can tell me another time. I'll give you my number.
    Arthur's heart went boom boom churn  churn  as  she  scribbled  seven
figures in pencil on a scrap of paper and handed it to him.
    - Now we can relax, - she said with a slow smile which filled  Arthur
till he thought he would burst.
    - Fenchurch, - he said, enjoying the name as he said it. - I...
    - A box, - said a trailing voice, - of cherry liqueurs, and also, and
I know you'll like this, a gramophone record of Scottish bagpipe music...
    - Yes thank you, very nice, - insisted Arthur.
    - I just thought I'd let you have a look at them, - said  the  permed
woman, - as you're down from London...
    She was holding them out proudly for Arthur too  see.  He  could  see
that they were indeed a box of cherry brandy  liqueurs  and  a  record  of
bagpipe music. That was what they were.
    - I'll let you have your drink in peace  now,  -  she  said,  patting
Arthur lightly on his seething shoulder, - but I knew you'd like to see.
    Arthur re-engaged his eyes with Fenchurch's once again, and  suddenly
was at a loss for something to say. A moment had come and gone between the
two of them, but the whole rhythm of it had been wrecked by  that  stupid,
blasted woman.
    - Don't worry, - said Fenchurch, looking at him  steadily  from  over
the top of her glass, - we will talk again. - She took a sip.
    - Perhaps, - she added, - it wouldn't have gone so well if it  wasn't
for her. - She gave a wry little smile and dropped her hair  forward  over
her face again.
    It was perfectly true.
    He had to admit it was perfectly true.

                               Chapter 13

    That night, at home, as he was prancing round the house pretending to
be tripping through cornfields in slow motion  and  continually  exploding
with sudden laughter, Arthur thought he could even bear to listen  to  the
album of bagpipe music he had won. It was eight o'clock and he decided  he
would make himself, force himself, to listen to the whole record before he
phoned her. Maybe he should even leave it till tomorrow. That would be the
cool thing to do. Or next week sometime.
    No. No games.  He  wanted  her  and  didn't  care  who  knew  it.  He
definitely and absolutely wanted her, adored her, longed for  her,  wanted
to do more things than there were names for with her.
    He actually caught himself saying thinks like "Yippee" as he  prances
ridiculously round the house. Her eyes, her hair, her voice, everything...
    He stopped.
    He would put on the record of bagpipe music. Then he would call her.
    Would he, perhaps, call her first?
    No. What he would do was this. He would put on the record of  bagpipe
music. He would listen to it, every last banshee wail of it. Then he would
call her. That was the correct order. That was what he would do.
    He was worried about touching things in case they blew up when he did
    He picked up the record. It failed to blow up. He slipped it  out  of
its cover. He opened the record player, he turned on the  amp.  They  both
survived. He giggled foolishly as he lowered the stylus on to the disc.
    He sat and listened solemnly to "A Scottish Soldier".
    He listened to "Amazing Grace".
    He listened to something about some glen or other.
    He thought about his miraculous lunchtime.
    They had just been on the point of leaving, when they were distracted
by an awful outbreak of "yoo-hooing". The  appallingly  permed  woman  was
waving to them across the room like some stupid bird with a  broken  wing.
Everyone in the pub turned to them and seemed to be expecting some sort of
    They hadn't listened to the bit about how pleased and happy Anjie was
going to be about the 4.30p everyone had helped to raise towards the  cost
of her kidney machine, had been vaguely aware that someone from  the  next
table had won a box of cherry brandy liqueurs, and took a moment or two to
cotton on to the fact that the yoo-hooing lady was trying to ask  them  if
they had ticket number 37.
    Arthur discovered that he had. He glanced angrily at his watch.
    Fenchurch gave him a push.
    - Go on, - she said, - go and get it. Don't  be  bad  tempered.  Give
them a nice speech about how pleased you are and you can give  me  a  call
and tell me how it went. I'll want to hear the record. Go on.
    She flicked his arm and left.
    The regulars thought his acceptance speech a little  over-  effusive.
It was, after all, merely an album of bagpipe music.
    Arthur thought about it, and listened  to  the  music,  and  kept  on
breaking into laughter.

                               Chapter 14

    Ring ring.
    Ring ring.
    Ring ring.
    - Hello, yes? Yes, that's  right.  Yes.  You'll  'ave  to  speak  up,
there's an awful lot of noise in 'ere. What?
    - No, I only do the bar in the evenings. It's Yvonne who does  lunch,
and Jim, he's the landlord. No, I wasn't on. What?
    - You'll have to speak up.
    - What? No, don't know anything about no raffle. What?
    - No, don't know nothing about it. 'Old on, I'll call Jim.
    The barmaid put her hand over the receiver and called over the  noisy
    - 'Ere, Jim, bloke on the phone  says  something  about  he's  won  a
raffle. He keeps on saying it's ticket 37 and he's won.
    - No, there was a guy in the pub here won, - shouted back the barman.
    - He says 'ave we got the ticket.
    - Well how can he think he's won if he hasn't even got a ticket?
    - Jim says 'ow can you think you've won if you' aven't even  got  the
ticket. What?
    She put her hand over the receiver again.
    - Jim, 'e keeps effing and blinding at me. Says there's a  number  on
the ticket.
    - Course there was a number on the ticket, it  was  a  bloody  raffle
ticket wasn't it?
    - 'E says 'e means its a telephone number on the ticket.
    - Put the phone down and serve the bloody customers, will you?

                               Chapter 15

    Eight hours West sat a man alone on a beach mourning an  inexplicable
loss. He could only think of his loss in little  packets  of  grief  at  a
time, because the whole thing was too great to be borne.
    He watched the long slow Pacific waves come in along  the  sand,  and
waited and waited for the nothing that he knew was about to happen. As the
time came for it not to happen, it duly didn't happen and so the afternoon
wore itself away and the sun dropped beneath the long line of sea, and the
day was gone.
    The beach was a beach we shall not name, because  his  private  house
was there, but it was a small sandy stretch somewhere along  the  hundreds
of miles of coastline that first runs west  from  Los  Angeles,  which  is
described in the new edition of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the  Galaxy  in
one entry as "junky, wunky, lunky, stunky, and what's that other word, and
all kinds of bad stuff, woo", and in another, written only hours later  as
"being like several thousand square miles of American Express  junk  mail,
but without the same sense of moral depth.  Plus  the  air  is,  for  some
reason, yellow."
    The coastline runs west, and then turns north up to the misty bay  of
San Francisco, which the Guide describes as a "good place to go. It's very
easy to believe that everyone you meet there is also  a  space  traveller.
Starting a new religion for you is just their way of  saying  "hi".  Until
you've settled in and got the hang of the place it is best to say "no"  to
three questions out of any given four that anyone  may  ask  you,  because
there are some very strange things  going  on  there,  some  of  which  an
unsuspecting alien could die of". The hundreds of curling miles of  cliffs
and sand, palm trees, breakers and sunsets are described in the  Guide  as
"Boffo. A good one."
    And somewhere on this good boffo stretch of coastline lay  the  house
of this inconsolable man, a man whom many regarded as  being  insane.  But
this was only, as he would tell people, because he was.
    One of the many many  reasons  why  people  thought  him  insane  was
because of the peculiarity of his house which, even in a land  where  most
people's houses were peculiar in one way or another, was quite extreme  in
his peculiarness.
    His house was called The Outside of the Asylum.
    His name was simply John Watson, though he preferred to be  called  -
and some of his friends had now reluctantly agreed to  this  -  Wonko  the
    In his house were a number of strange things, including a grey  glass
bowl with eight words engraved upon it.
    We can talk of him much later on - this is just an interlude to watch
the sun go down and to say that he was there watching it.
    He had lost everything he cared for, and was now simply  waiting  for
the end of the world - little realizing that it had already been and gone.

                               Chapter 16

    After a disgusting Sunday spent emptying rubbish bins behind a pub in
Taunton, and finding nothing,  no  raffle  ticket,  no  telephone  number,
Arthur tried everything he could to find Fenchurch, and the more things he
tried, the more weeks passed.
    He raged and railed against himself, against fate, against the  world
and its weather. He even, in his sorrow and his fury, went and sat in  the
motorway service station cafeteria where he'd been just before he met her.
    - It's the drizzle that makes me particularly morose.
    - Please shut up about the drizzle, snapped Arthur.
    - I would shut up if it would shut up drizzling.
    - Look...
    - But I'll tell you what it will do when it shuts up drizzling, shall
    - No.
    - Blatter.
    - What?
    - It will blatter.
    Arthur stared over the rim of his coffee cup at  the  grisly  outside
world. It was a completely pointless place to be, he realized, and he  had
been driven there by superstition rather than logic.  However,  as  if  to
bait him with the knowledge that such coincidences could in  fact  happen,
fate had chosen to reunite him with the lorry driver  he  had  encountered
there last time.
    The more he tried to ignore him, the  more  he  found  himself  being
dragged back  into  the  gravitic  whirlpool  of  the  man's  exasperating
    - I think, - said Arthur vaguely, cursing himself for even  bothering
to say this, - that it's easing off.
    - Ha!
    Arthur just shrugged. He should go. That's  what  he  should  do.  He
should just go.
    - It never stops raining! - ranted the lorry driver. He  thumped  the
table, spilt his tea, and actually, for a moment, appeared to be steaming.
    You can't just walk off without responding to a remark like that.
    - Of course it stops raining, - said Arthur. It was hardly an elegant
refutation, but it had to be said.
    - It rains... all... the time, - raved the man,  thumping  the  table
again, in time to the words.
    Arthur shook his head.
    - Stupid to say it rains all the time... - he said.
    The man's eyebrows shot up, affronted.
    - Stupid? Why's it stupid? Why's it stupid to say it  rains  all  the
time if it rains the whole time?
    - Didn't rain yesterday.
    - Did in Darlington.
    Arthur paused, warily.
    - You going to ask me where I was yesterday? - asked the man. - Eh?
    - No, - said Arthur.
    - But I expect you can guess.
    - Do you.
    - Begins with a D.
    - Does it.
    - And it was pissing down there, I can tell you.
    - You don't want to sit there, mate, - said  a  passing  stranger  in
overalls to  Arthur  cheerily.  -  That's  Thundercloud  Corner  that  is.
Reserved special for old Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head  here.  There's
one reserved in every motorway caff between here and sunny Denmark.  Steer
clear is my advice. 'Swhat we all do. How's it going, Rob?  Keeping  busy?
Got your wet-weather tyres on? Har har.
    He breezed by and went to tell a joke about Britt Ekland  to  someone
at a nearby table.
    - See, none of them bastards take me seriously, - said Rob McKeena. -
But, - he added darkly, leaning forward and screwing up his eyes,  -  they
all know it's true!
    Arthur frowned.
    - Like my wife, - hissed the  sole  owner  and  driver  of  McKeena's
All-Weather Haulage. - She says it's  nonsense  and  I  make  a  fuss  and
complain about nothing, but, -  he  paused  dramatically  and  darted  out
dangerous looks from his eyes, - she always brings the washing in  when  I
phone to say I'm on me way home! - He brandished his coffee spoon. -  What
do you make of that?
    - Well...
    - I have a book, - he went on, - I have a book. A diary. Kept it  for
fifteen years. Shows every single place I've ever  been.  Every  day.  And
also what the weather was like. And it was  uniformly,  -  he  snarled,  -
'orrible. All  over  England,  Scotland,  Wales  I  been.  All  round  the
Continent, Italy, Germany, back and forth to Denmark, been to  Yugoslavia.
It's all marked in and charted. Even when I went to visit my brother, - he
added, - in Seattle.
    - Well, - said Arthur, getting up to leave at last, -  perhaps  you'd
better show it to someone.
    - I will, - said Rob McKeena.
    And he did.

                               Chapter 17

    Misery, dejection. More  misery  and  more  dejection.  He  needed  a
project and he gave himself one.
    He would find where his cave had been.
    On prehistoric Earth he had lived in a cave, not a nice cave, a lousy
cave, but... There was no but. It had been a totally lousy cave and he had
hated it. But he had lived in it for five years which made it home of some
kind, and a person likes to keep track of his homes. Arthur Dent was  such
a person and so he went to Exeter to buy a computer.
    That was what he really wanted, of course, a computer. But he felt he
ought to have some serious purpose in  mind  before  he  simply  went  and
lashed out a lot of readies on what  people  might  otherwise  mistake  as
being just a thing to play with. So  that  was  his  serious  purpose.  To
pinpoint the exact location of a cave on prehistoric Earth.  He  explained
this to the man in the shop.
    - Why? - said the man in the shop.
    This was a tricky one.
    - OK, skip that, - said the man in the shop. - How?
    - Well, I was hoping you could help me with that.
    The man sighed and his shoulders dropped.
    - Have you much experience of computers?
    Arthur wondered whether to mention Eddie the  shipboard  computer  on
the Heart of Gold, who could have done  the  job  in  a  second,  or  Deep
Thought, or - but decided he wouldn't.
    - No, - he said.
    - Looks like a fun afternoon, - said the man in the shop, but he said
it only to himself.
    Arthur bought the Apple anyway. Over a few days he also acquired some
astronomical software, plotted the movements of stars, drew  rough  little
diagrams of how he seemed to remember the stars to have been  in  the  sky
when he looked up out of his cave at night, and worked away busily  at  it
for weeks,  cheerfully  putting  off  the  conclusion  he  knew  he  would
inevitably have  to  come  to,  which  was  that  the  whole  project  was
completely ludicrous.
    Rough drawings from memory were futile. He didn't even know how  long
it had been, beyond Ford Prefect's rough guess at the time that it was  "a
couple of million years" and he simply didn't have the maths.
    Still, in the end he worked out a method which would at least produce
a result. He decided not to mind the  fact  that  with  the  extraordinary
jumble of rules of thumb, wild approximations and arcane guesswork he  was
using he would be lucky to hit the right galaxy, he just  went  ahead  and
got a result.
    He would call it the right result. Who would know?
    As it happened, through the myriad and unfathomable chances of  fate,
he got it exactly right, though he of course would  never  know  that.  He
just went up to London and knocked on the appropriate door.
    - Oh. I thought you were going to phone me first.
    Arthur gaped in astonishment.
    - You can only come in for a few minutes, -  said  Fenchurch.  -  I'm
just going out.

                               Chapter 18

    A  summer's  day  in  Islington,  full  of  the  mournful   wail   of
antique-restoring machinery.
    Fenchurch was unavoidably busy for the afternoon, so Arthur  wandered
in a blissed-out haze and looked at all the shops which, in Islington, are
quite an useful bunch, as  anyone  who  regularly  needs  old  woodworking
tools, Boer War helmets, drag,  office  furniture  or  fish  will  readily
    The sun beat down over the roofgardens. It  beat  on  architects  and
plumbers. It beat on barristers and burglars. It beat on pizzas.  It  beat
on estate agent's particulars.
    It beat on Arthur as he went into a restored furniture shop.
    - It's an interesting building, - said the proprietor, cheerfully.  -
There's a cellar with a secret passage which connects with a  nearby  pub.
It was built for the Prince Regent apparently, so he could make his escape
when he needed to.
    - You mean, in case anybody might  catch  him  buying  stripped  pine
furniture, - said Arthur
    - No, - said the proprietor, - not for that reason.
    - You'll have to excuse me, - said Arthur. - I'm terribly happy.
    - I see.
    He wandered hazily on  and  found  himself  outside  the  offices  of
Greenpeace. he remembered the contents of his file marked "Things to do  -
urgent!", which he hadn't opened again in the meantime. He marched in with
a cheery smile and said he'd come to give them some money to help free the
    - Very funny, - they told him, - go away.
    This wasn't quite the response he had expected, so  he  tried  again.
This time they got quite angry with him, so he just left some money anyway
and went back out into the sunshine.
    Just after six he returned to  Fenchurch's  house  in  the  alleyway,
clutching a bottle of champagne.
    - Hold this, - she  said,  shoved  a  stout  rope  in  his  hand  and
disappeared inside through the large white wooden doors from which dangled
a fat padlock off a black iron bar.
    The house was a small converted stable in a light industrial alleyway
behind the derelict Royal Agricultural Hall of Islington. As well  as  its
large stable doors it also had a  normal-looking  front  door  of  smartly
glazed panelled wood with a black dolphin door knocker. The one odd  thing
about this door was its doorstep, which was nine feet high, since the door
was set into  the  upper  of  the  two  floors  and  presumably  had  been
originally used to haul in hay for hungry horses.
    An old pulley jutted out of the brickwork above the  doorway  and  it
was over this that the rope Arthur was holding was slung. The other end of
the rope held a suspended 'cello.
    The door opened above his head.
    - OK, - said Fenchurch, - pull on the rope, steady the  'cello.  Pass
it up to me.
    He pulled on the rope, he steadied the 'cello.
    - I can't pull on the rope again, - he said, - without letting go  of
the 'cello.
    Fenchurch leant down.
    - I'm steadying the 'cello, - she said. - You pull on the rope.
    The 'cello eased up level with the doorway,  swinging  slightly,  and
Fenchurch manoeuvred it inside.
    - Come on up yourself, - she called down.
    Arthur picked up his bag of goodies and went in  through  the  stable
doors, tingling.
    The bottom room, which he had seen briefly before, was  pretty  rough
and full of junk. A large old cast-iron mangle stood there,  a  surprising
number of kitchen sinks were piled in a corner. There was also, Arthur was
momentarily  alarmed  to  see,  a  pram,  but  it   was   very   old   and
uncomplicatedly full of books.
    The floor was old stained concrete, excitingly cracked. And this  was
the measure of Arthur's mood as he stared up the rickety wooden  steps  in
the far corner. Even a cracked concrete floor  seemed  to  him  an  almost
unbearably sensual thing.
    - An architect friend of mine keeps on  telling  me  how  he  can  do
wonderful things with this place, -  said  Fenchurch  chattily  as  Arthur
emerged through the floor. - He keeps on coming round, standing in stunned
amazement muttering about space and  objects  and  events  and  marvellous
qualities of light, then says he needs a pencil and disappears for  weeks.
Wonderful things have, therefore, so far failed to happen to it.
    In fact, thought Arthur as he looked about, the  upper  room  was  at
least reasonably wonderful anyway. It was simply decorated, furnished with
things made out of cushions and also a  stereo  set  with  speakers  which
would have impressed the guys who put up Stonehenge.
    There  were  flowers  which  were  pale  and  pictures   which   were
    There was a sort of gallery structure in the roof space which held  a
bed and also a bathroom which, Fenchurch  explained,  you  could  actually
swing a cat in.
    - But, - she added, - only if it was a  reasonably  patient  cat  and
didn't mind a few nasty cracks about the head. So. here you are.
    - Yes.
    They looked at each other for a moment.
    The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was  a  very  long
moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
    For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left
alone for long enough with a Swiss Cheese plant, the  moment  was  one  of
sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a  cramped  and  zoo-born
animal who awakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly
open and the savannah stretching grey and pink to the distant rising  sun,
while all around new sounds are waking.
    He wondered what the new sounds  were  as  he  gazed  at  her  openly
wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
    He hadn't realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that
brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it,  had  never
consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something
it had never said to him before, which was "Yes".
    Fenchurch dropped her eyes away at last, with a  tiny  shake  of  her
    - I know, - she said. - I shall have to remember, - she added, - that
you are the sort of person who cannot hold on to a simple piece  of  paper
for two minutes without winning a raffle with it.
    She turned away.
    - Let's go for a walk, - she said quickly. - Hyde Park.  I'll  change
into something less suitable.
    She was dressed in a rather severe dark  dress,  not  a  particularly
shapely one, and it didn't really suit her.
    - I wear it specially for my 'cello teacher, - she  said.  -  He's  a
nice boy, but I sometimes think all that bowing gets him  a  bit  excited.
I'll be down in a moment.
    She ran lightly up the steps to the gallery above, and called down:
    - Put the bottle in the fridge for later.
    He noticed as he slipped the champagne bottle into the door  that  it
had an identical twin to sit next to.
    He walked over to the window and looked out. He turned and started to
look at her records. From above he heard the rustle of her dress  fall  to
the ground. He talked to himself about the sort of person he was. He  told
himself very firmly that for this moment at least he would keep  his  eyes
very firmly and steadfastly locked on to the spines of her  records,  read
the titles, nod appreciatively, count the blasted things if he had to.  He
would keep his head down.
    This he completely, utterly and abjectly failed to do.
    She was staring down at him  with  such  intensity  that  she  seemed
hardly to notice that he was looking up at her. Then  suddenly  she  shook
her head, dropped the light sundress over herself and disappeared  quickly
into the bathroom.
    She emerged a moment later, all smiles and with  a  sunhat  and  came
tripping down the steps with extraordinary lightness.  It  was  a  strange
kind of dancing motion she had. She saw that he noticed  it  and  put  her
head slightly on one side.
    - Like it? - she said.
    - You look gorgeous, - he said simply, because she did.
    - Hmmmm, - she said, as if he hadn't really answered her question.
    She closed the upstairs front door which  had  stood  open  all  this
time, and looked around the little room to see that it was all  in  a  fit
state to be left on its own for  a  while.  Arthur's  eyes  followed  hers
around, and while he was  looking  in  the  other  direction  she  slipped
something out of a drawer and into the canvas bag she was carrying.
    Arthur looked back at her.
    - Ready?
    - Did you know, - she said with a  slightly  puzzled  smile,  -  that
there's something wrong with me?
    Her directness caught Arthur unprepared.
    - Well, - he said, - I'd heard some vague sort of...
    - I wonder how much you do know about me, - she said. - I  you  heard
it from where I think you heard then that's not it. Russell just  sort  of
makes stuff up, because he can't deal with what it really is.
    A pang of worry went through Arthur.
    - Then what is it? - he said. - Can you tell me?
    - Don't worry, - she said, - it's nothing bad at all.  Just  unusual.
Very very unusual.
    She touched his hand, and then leant forward and kissed him briefly.
    - I shall be very interested to know, - she said, - if you manage  to
work out what it is this evening.
    Arthur felt that if someone tapped him at that point  he  would  have
chimed, like the deep sustained rolling chime his grey fishbowl made  when
he flicked it with his thumbnail.

                               Chapter 19

    Ford Prefect was irritated to be continually wakened by the sound  of
    He slid  himself  out  of  the  maintenance  hatchway  which  he  had
fashioned into a bunk  for  himself  by  disabling  some  of  the  noisier
machinery in his vicinity and padding it with  towels.  He  slung  himself
down the access ladder and prowled the corridors moodily.
    They were claustrophobic and ill-lit, and what light  there  was  was
continually flickering and dimming as  power  surged  this  way  and  that
through the ship, causing heavy vibrations and rasping humming noises.
    That wasn't it, though.
    He paused and leaned back against the wall as something  that  looked
like a small silver power drill flew past him down the dim corridor with a
nasty searing screech.
    That wasn't it either.
    He clambered listlessly through a bulkhead door and found himself  in
a larger corridor, though still ill-lit.
    The ship lurched. It had been doing this a fair  bit,  but  this  was
heavier. A small platoon of robots weent by making a terrible clattering.
    Still not it, though.
    Acrid smoke was drifting up from one  end  of  the  corridor,  so  he
walked along it in the other direction.
    He passed a series of observation monitors let into the walls  behind
plates of toughened but still badly scratched perspex.
    One of them showed some horrible green scaly reptilian figure ranting
and raving about the Single Transferable Vote system. It was hard to  tell
whether he was for or against it, but he clearly felt very strongly  about
it. Ford turned the sound down.
    That wasn't it, though.
    He passed another monitor. It was showing a commercial for some brand
of toothpaste that would apparently make you feel free  if  you  used  it.
There was nasty blaring music with it too, but that wasn't it.
    He came upon another, much larger three-dimensional screen  that  was
monitoring the outside of the vast silver Xaxisian ship.
    As  he  watched,  a  thousand  horribly   beweaponed   Zirzla   robot
starcruisers came searing round the dark shadow  of  a  moon,  silhouetted
against the blinding disc of the star Xaxis, and the  ship  simultaneously
unleashed a vicious blaze of hideously incomprehensible  forces  from  all
its orifices against them.
    That was it.
    Ford shook his head irritably and rubbed his eyes. He slumped on  the
wrecked body of a dull silver robot which clearly had been burning earlier
on, but had now cooled down enough to sit on.
    He yawned and dug his copy of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to  the  Galaxy
out of his satchel. He activated the screen, and flicked idly through some
level three entries and some level four entries. He was looking  for  some
good insomnia cures. He found Rest, which was what he reckoned he  needed.
He found Rest and Recuperation and was about to pass on when  he  suddenly
had a better idea. He looked up at the  monitor  screen.  The  battle  was
raging more fiercely every second and the noise was  appalling.  The  ship
juddered, screamed, and lurched as each new bolt of  stunning  energy  was
delivered or received.
    He looked back down at the Guide again  and  flipped  through  a  few
likely locations. He suddenly laughed, and then rummaged  in  his  satchel
    He pulled out a small memory dump module, wiped  off  the  fluff  and
biscuit crumbs, and plugged it into an interface on the back of the Guide.
    When all the information that he could think was  relevant  had  been
dumped into the module, he unplugged it again, tossed it  lightly  in  the
palm of his hand, put the Guide away in his satchel, smirked, and went  in
search of the ship's computer data banks.

                               Chapter 20

    - The purpose of having the sun  go  low  in  the  evenings,  in  the
summer, especially in parks, - said the voice  earnestly,  -  is  to  make
girl's breasts bob up and down more clearly to the  eye.  I  am  convinced
that this is the case.
    Arthur and Fenchurch giggled about this to each other as they passed.
She hugged him more tightly for a moment.
    - And I am certain, - said the frizzy ginger-haired  youth  with  the
long thin nose who was epostulating from his deckchair by the side of  the
Serpentine, - that if one worked the argument through, one would find that
it flowed with  perfect  naturalness  and  logic  from  everything,  -  he
insisted to his thin dark-haired companion who was  slumped  in  the  next
door deckchair feeling dejected about his spots, - that Darwin  was  going
on about. This is certain. This is indisputable. And, - he added, - I love
it. -
    He turned sharply and squinted through his spectacles  at  Fenchurch.
Arthur steered her away and could feel her silently quaking.
    - Next guess, - she said, when she had stopped giggling, - come on.
    - All right, - he said,  -  your  elbow.  Your  left  elbow.  There's
something wrong with your left elbow.
    - Wrong again, - she said, - completely wrong. You're  on  completely
the wrong track.
    The summer sun was sinking through the tress in the park, looking  as
if - Let's not mince words. Hyde Park is stunning. Everything about it  is
stunning except for the rubbish on Monday mornings.  Even  the  ducks  are
stunning. Anyone who can go through Hyde Park on a  summer's  evening  and
not feel moved by it is probably going through in an  ambulance  with  the
sheet pulled over their face.
    It is a park in which people do more extraordinary things  than  they
do elsewhere. Arthur and Fenchurch found a man in  shorts  practising  the
bagpipes to himself under a  tree.  The  piper  paused  to  chase  off  an
American couple who had tried, timidly to put some coins on  the  box  his
bagpipes came in.
    - No! - he shouted at them, - go away! I'm only practising.
    He started resolutely to reinflate his bag, but even the  noise  this
made could not disfigure their mood.
    Arthur put his arms around her and moved them slowly downwards.
    - I don't think it can be your bottom, - he said  after  a  while,  -
there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that at all.
    - Yes, - she agreed, -  there's  absolutely  nothing  wrong  with  my
    They kissed for so long that eventually the piper went and  practised
on the other side of the tree.
    - I'll tell you a story, - said Arthur.
    - Good.
    They found a patch of grass which  was  relatively  free  of  couples
actually lying on top of each other and sat and watched the stunning ducks
and the low sunlight rippling on the water which ran beneath the  stunning
    - A story, - said Fenchurch, cuddling his arm to her.
    - Which will tell you something of the sort of things that happen  to
me. It's absolutely true.
    - You know sometimes people tell you stories that are supposed to  be
something that happened to their wife's cousin's best friend, but actually
probably got made up somewhere along the line.
    - Well, it's like one of  those  stories,  except  that  it  actually
happened, and I know it actually happened, because the person it  actually
happened to was me.
    - Like the raffle ticket.
    Arthur laughed.
    - Yes. I had a train to catch, - he went  on.  -  I  arrived  at  the
    - Did I ever tell you, - interrupted Fenchurch, - what happened to my
parents in a station?
    - Yes, - said Arthur, - you did.
    - Just checking.
    Arthur glanced at his watch.
    - I suppose we could think of getting back, - he said.
    - Tell me the story, - said Fenchurch firmly. - You  arrived  at  the
    - I was about twenty minutes early. I'd got the  time  of  the  train
wrong. I suppose it is at least equally  possible,  -  he  added  after  a
moment's reflection, - that British Rail had got the  time  of  the  train
wrong. Hadn't occurred to me before.
    - Get on with it. - Fenchurch laughed.
    - So I bought a newspaper, to do  the  crossword,  and  went  to  the
buffet to get a cup of coffee.
    - You do the crossword?
    - Yes.
    - Which one?
    - The Guardian usually.
    - I think it tries to be too cute. I prefer the Times. Did you  solve
    - What?
    - The crossword in the Guardian.
    - I haven't had a chance to look at it yet,  -  said  Arthur,  -  I'm
still trying to buy the coffee.
    - All right then. Buy the coffee.
    - I'm buying it. I am also, - said Arthur, - buying some biscuits.
    - What sort?
    - Rich Tea.
    - Good choice.
    - I like them. Laden with all these new possessions, I go and sit  at
a table. And don't ask me what the table was like because  this  was  some
time ago and I can't remember. It was probably round.
    - All right.
    - So let me give you the layout. Me sitting at the table. On my left,
the newspaper. On my right, the cup of coffee. In the middle of the table,
the packet of biscuits.
    - I see it perfectly.
    - What you don't see, - said Arthur, - because  I  haven't  mentioned
him yet, is the guy sitting at the table  already.  He  is  sitting  there
opposite me.
    - What's he like?
    - Perfectly ordinary. Briefcase. Business suit.  He  didn't  look,  -
said Arthur, - as if he was about to do anything weird.
    - Ah. I know the type. What did he do?
    - He did this. He leaned across the table, picked up  the  packet  of
biscuits, tore it open, took one out, and...
    - What?
    - Ate it.
    - What?
    - He ate it.
    Fenchurch looked at him in astonishment.
    - What on Earth did you do?
    - Well, in the circumstances I did what  any  red-blooded  Englishman
would do. I was compelled, - said Arthur, - to ignore it.
    - What? Why?
    - Well, it's not the sort of  thing  you're  trained  for  is  it?  I
searched my soul, and discovered that there was  nothing  anywhere  in  my
upbringing, experience or even primal instincts to tell me how to react to
someone who has quite simply, calmly, sitting right there in front of  me,
stolen one of my biscuits.
    - Well, you could... - Fenchurch thought about it. - I must  say  I'm
not sure what I would have done either. So what happened?
    - I stared furiously at the crossword, - said Arthur. - Couldn't do a
single clue, took a sip of coffee, it was too hot to drink, so  there  was
nothing for it. I braced myself. I took a biscuit, trying very hard not to
notice, - he added, - that the packet was already mysteriously open...
    - But you're fighting back, taking a tough line.
    - After  my   fashion,  yes.  I  ate  the  biscuit.  I  ate  it  very
deliberately and visibly, so that he would have no doubt as to what it was
I was doing. When I eat a biscuit, - Arthur said, - it stays eaten.
    - So what did he do?
    - Took another one. Honestly, - insisted Arthur, -  this  is  exactly
what happened. He took another biscuit, he  ate  it.  Clear  as  daylight.
Certain as we are sitting on the ground.
    Fenchurch stirred uncomfortably.
    - And the problem was, - said Arthur, - that having not said anything
the first time, it was somehow even more difficult to broach  the  subject
the second time around. What do you say? "Excuse  me...  I  couldn't  help
noticing, er..." Doesn't work. No, I ignored it with,  if  anything,  even
more vigour than previously.
    - My man...
    - Stared at the crossword, again, still couldn't budge a bit  of  it,
so showing some of the spirit that Henry V did on St Crispin's Day...
    - What?
    - I went into the breach again. I took,  -  said  Arthur,  -  another
biscuit. And for an instant our eyes met.
    - Like this?
    - Yes, well, no, not quite like that.  But  they  met.  Just  for  an
instant. And we both looked away. But I  am  here  to  tell  you,  -  said
Arthur, - that there was a little electricity in  the  air.  There  was  a
little tension building up over the table. At about this time.
    - I can imagine.
    - We went through the whole packet like this. Him, me, him, me...
    - The whole packet?
    - Well it was only eight biscuits but it seemed like  a  lifetime  of
biscuits we were getting through at this point.  Gladiators  could  hardly
have had a tougher time.
    - Gladiators, - said Fenchurch, - would have had to do it in the sun.
More physically gruelling.
    - There is that. So. When the empty packet was lying dead between  us
the man at last got up, having done his worst, and left. I heaved  a  sigh
of relief, of course. As it happened, my train was announced a  moment  or
two later, so I finished my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and
underneath the newspaper...
    - Yes?
    - Were my biscuits.
    - What? - said Fenchurch. - What?
    - True.
    - No! - She gasped and tossed herself back on the grass laughing.
    She sat up again.
    - You completely nitwit, - she hooted, - you  almost  completely  and
utterly foolish person.
    She pushed him backwards, rolled over him, kissed him and rolled  off
again. He was surprised at how light she was.
    - Now you tell me a story.
    - I thought, - she said putting on a low husky voice, - that you were
very keen to get back.
    - No hurry, - he said airily, - I want you to tell me a story.
    She looked out over the kale and pondered.
    - All right, - she said, - it's only a short one. And not funny  like
yours, but... Anyway.
    She looked down. Arthur could feel that it was one of those sorts  of
moments. The air seemed to stand still around them, waiting. Arthur wished
that the air would go away and mind its own business.
    - When I was a kid, - she said. - These sort of stories always  start
like this, don't they, "When I was a kid..." Anyway. This is the bit where
the girl suddenly says, "When I was a kid" and starts to unburden herself.
We have got to that bit. When I was a kid I had this picture hanging  over
the foot of my bed... What do you think of it so far?
    - I like it. I think it's moving well.  You're  getting  the  bedroom
interest in nice and early. We could probably  do  with  some  development
with the picture.
    - It was one of those pictures that children are supposed to like,  -
she said, - but don't. Full of endearing little  animals  doing  endearing
things, you know?
    - I know. I was plagued with them too. Rabbits in waistcoats.
    - Exactly. These rabbits were in fact on a  raft,  as  were  assorted
rats and owls. There may even have been a reindeer.
    - On the raft.
    - On the raft. And a boy was sitting on the raft.
    - Among the rabbits in waistcoats and the owls and the reindeer.
    - Precisely there. A boy of the cheery gypsy ragamuffin variety.
    - Ugh.
    - The picture worried me, I must say. There was an otter swimming  in
front of the raft, and I used to lie awake at night  worrying  about  this
otter having to pull the raft, with all these wretched animals on  it  who
shouldn't even be on a raft, and the otter had such a thin tail to pull it
with I thought it must hurt pulling it  all  the  time.  Worried  me.  Not
badly, but just vaguely, all the time.
    - Then one day - and remember I'd been looking at this picture  every
night for years - I suddenly noticed that the raft had a sail. Never  seen
it before. The otter was fine, he was just swimming along.
    She shrugged.
    - Good story? - she said.
    - Ends weakly, - said Arthur, - leaves the audience crying "Yes,  but
what of it?" Fine up till there,  but  needs  a  final  sting  before  the
    Fenchurch laughed and hugged her legs.
    - It was just such a sudden revelation,  years  of  almost  unnoticed
worry just dropping away, like taking off heavy weights,  like  black  and
white becoming colour, like a dry stick suddenly being watered. The sudden
shift of perspective that says "Put away your worries, the world is a good
and perfect place. It is in fact very easy." You probably thing I'm saying
that because I'm going to say that I felt  like  that  this  afternoon  or
something, don't you?
    - Well, I... - said Arthur, his composure suddenly shattered.
    - Well, it's all right, - she said, - I did. That's  exactly  what  I
felt. But you see,  I've  felt  that  before,  even  stronger.  Incredibly
strongly. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a one, - she said gazing  off  into  the
distance, - for sudden startling revelations.
    Arthur was at sea, could hardly speak, and felt it wiser,  therefore,
for the moment not to try.
    - It was very odd, - she said, much as one of the pursuing  Egyptians
might have said that the behaviour of the Red Sea when Moses waved his rod
at it was a little on the strange side.
    - Very odd, - she repeated, - for days before, the strangest  feeling
had been building in me, as if I was going to give birth.  No,  it  wasn't
like that in fact, it was more as if I was being connected into something,
bit by bit. No, not even that; it was  as  if  the  whole  of  the  Earth,
through me, was going to...
    - Does the number, - said Arthur gently, - forty-two mean anything to
you at all?
    - What? No, what are you talking about? - exclaimed Fenchurch.
    - Just a thought, - murmured Arthur.
    - Arthur, I mean this, this is very real to me, this is serious.
    - I was being perfectly serious, -  said  Arthur.  -  It's  just  the
Universe I'm never quite sure about.
    - What do you mean by that?
    - Tell me the rest of it, - he said. - Don't worry if it sounds  odd.
Believe me, you are talking to someone who has seen a lot of stuff,  -  he
added, - that is odd. And I don't mean biscuits.
    She nodded, and seemed to believe him. Suddenly, she gripped his arm.
    - It was so simple, - she said, - so wonderfully and  extraordinarily
simple, when it came.
    - What was it? - said Arthur quietly.
    - Arthur, you see, - she said, - that's what I no  longer  know.  And
the loss is unbearable. If I try to think back to it, it all goes flickery
and jumpy, and if I try too hard, I get as far as the teacup  and  I  just
black out.
    - What?
    - Well, like your story, - she said, - the best  bit  happened  in  a
cafe. I was sitting there, having a cup of tea. This  was  after  days  of
this build up, the feeling of becoming connected up. I think I was buzzing
gently. And there was some work going on at a building site  opposite  the
cafe, and I was watching it through the window, over the rim of my teacup,
which I always find is the nicest way of watching  other  people  working.
And suddenly, there it was in my mind, this message from somewhere. And it
was so simple. It made such  sense  of  everything.  I  just  sat  up  and
thought, "Oh! Oh, well that's all right then." I was so startled I  almost
dropped my teacup, in fact I think  I  did  drop  it.  Yes,  -  she  added
thoughtfully, - I'm sure I did. How much sense am I making?
    - It was fine up to the bit about the teacup.
    She shook her head, and shook it again, as if  trying  to  clear  it,
which is what she was trying to do.
    - Well that's it, - she said. - Fine up to the bit about the  teacup.
That was the point at which it seemed to me  quite  literally  as  if  the
world exploded.
    - What?..
    - I know it sounds crazy, and everybody says it  was  hallucinations,
but if that was hallucinations then I have hallucinations in big screen 3D
with 16-track Dolby Stereo and should probably hire myself out  to  people
who are bored with shark movies. It was as if  the  ground  was  literally
ripped from under my feet, and... and...
    She patted the grass lightly, as if for reassurance, and then  seemed
to change her mind about what she was going to say.
    - And I woke up in hospital. I suppose I've  been  in  and  out  ever
since. And that's why I have an instinctive nervousness, - she said, -  of
sudden startling revelations that's everything's going to  be  all  right.
She looked up at him.
    Arthur had simply ceased to worry himself about the strange anomalies
surrounding his return to his home world, or rather had consigned them  to
that part of his mind marked "Things to think about - Urgent."
    - Here is the world, - he had told  himself.  -  Here,  for  whatever
reason, is the world, and here it stays. With me  on  it.  -  But  now  it
seemed to go swimmy around him, as it had  that  night  in  the  car  when
Fenchurch's brother had told him the silly stories about the CIA agent  in
the reservoir. The trees went swimmy. The lake went swimmy, but  this  was
perfectly natural and nothing to be alarmed by because a  grey  goose  had
just landed on it. The geese were having a great relaxed time and  had  no
major answers they wished to know the questions to.
    - Anyway, - said Fenchurch, suddenly and brightly and with a wideeyed
smile, - there is something wrong with part of me, and you've got to  find
out what it is. We'll go home.
    Arthur shook his head.
    - What's the matter? - she said.
    Arthur had shaken his head, not to disagree with her suggestion which
he  thought  was  a  truly  excellent  one,  one  of  the  world's   great
suggestions, but because he was just for a moment trying to  free  himself
of the recurring impression he had that just when he was  least  expecting
it the Universe would suddenly leap out from behind a door and go  boo  at
    - I'm just trying to get this entirely  clear  in  my  mind,  -  said
Arthur, - you say you felt as if the Earth actually... exploded...
    - Yes. More than felt.
    - Which is what everybody else says,  -  he  said  hesitantly,  -  is
    - Yes, but Arthur that's ridiculous. People think that  if  you  just
say "hallucinations" it explains anything  you  want  it  to  explain  and
eventually whatever it is you can't understand will  just  go  away.  It's
just a word, it doesn't explain  anything.  It  doesn't  explain  why  the
dolphins disappeared.
    - No, - said Arthur. - No, - he added thoughtfully. - No, - he  added
again, even more thoughtfully. - What? - he said at last.
    - Doesn't explain the dolphins disappearing.
    - No, - said Arthur, - I see that. Which dolphins do you mean?
    - What do you mean which dolphins? I'm talking  about  when  all  the
dolphins disappeared.
    She put her hand on  his  knee,  which  made  him  realize  that  the
tingling going up and down his spine was not her gently stroking his back,
and must instead be one of the nasty creepy feelings he so often got  when
people were trying to explain things to him.
    - The dolphins?
    - Yes.
    - All the dolphins, - said Arthur, - disappeared?
    - Yes.
    - The dolphins? You're saying the dolphins all disappeared? Is  this,
- said Arthur, trying to be absolutely clear on this point, - what  you're
    - Arthur where have you been for  heaven's  sake?  The  dolphins  all
disappeared on the same day I...
    She stared him intently in his startled eyes.
    - What?..
    - No dolphins. All gone. Vanished.
    She searched his face.
    - Did you really not know that?
    It was clear from his startled expression that he did not.
    - Where did they go? - he asked.
    - No one knows. That's what vanished means. -  She  paused.  -  Well,
there is one man who says he knows about it, but everyone says he lives in
California, - she said, - and is mad. I was thinking of going to  see  him
because it seems the only lead I've got on what happened to me.
    She shrugged, and then looked at him long and quietly.  She  lay  her
hand on the side of his face.
    - I really would like to know where you've been,  -  she  said.  -  I
think something terrible happened to you then as well. And that's  why  we
recognized each other.
    She glanced around the park, which was now being  gathered  into  the
clutches of dusk.
    - Well, - she said, - now you've got someone you can tell.
    Arthur slowly let out a long year of a sigh.
    - It is, - he said, - a very long story.
    Fenchurch leaned across him and drew over her canvas bag.
    - Is it anything to do with this? - she said. The thing she took  out
of her bag was  battered  and  travelworn  as  it  had  been  hurled  into
prehistoric rivers, baked under the  sun  that  shines  so  redly  on  the
deserts of Kakrafoon, half-buried in the marbled  sands  that  fringe  the
heady vapoured oceans of Santraginus V, frozen on the glaciers of the moon
of Jaglan Beta, sat on, kicked around spaceships,  scuffed  and  generally
abused, and since its makers had thought that these were exactly the sorts
of things that might happen to it, they had thoughtfully encased it  in  a
sturdy plastic cover and written on it, in  large  friendly  letters,  the
words "Don't Panic".
    - Where did you get this? - said Arthur,  startled,  taking  it  from
    - Ah, - she said, - I thought it was yours.  In  Russell's  car  that
night. You dropped it. Have you been to many of these places?
    Arthur drew the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy from its cover.  It
was like a small, thin, flexible lap computer. He tapped some buttons till
the screen flared with text.
    - A few, - he said.
    - Can we go to them?
    - What? No, - said  Arthur  abruptly,  then  relented,  but  relented
warily. - Do you want to? - he said, hoping for the answer no. It  was  an
act of great generosity on his part not to say, - You don't  want  to,  do
you? - which expects it.
    - Yes, - she said. - I want to know what the message was that I lost,
and where it came from. Because I don't think, - she  added,  standing  up
and looking round the increasing gloom of the park, - that  it  came  from
here. -
    - I'm not even sure, - she further added,  slipping  her  arm  around
Arthur's waist, - that I know where here is.

                               Chapter 21

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is, as has been remarked before
often and  accurately,  a  pretty  startling  kind  of  a  thing.  It  is,
essentially, as the title implies, a guide book. The problem is, or rather
one of the problems, for there are many, a sizeable portion of  which  are
continually clogging up the civil, commercial and criminal courts  in  all
areas of the Galaxy, and especially,  where  possible,  the  more  corrupt
ones, this.
    The previous sentence makes sense. That is not the problem.
    This is:
    Read it through again and you'll get it.
    The Galaxy is a rapidly changing place. There is, frankly, so much of
it, every bit of which is continually on the move, continually changing. A
bit of a nightmare, you might think, for a  scrupulous  and  conscientious
editor diligently striving to keep this  massively  detailed  and  complex
electronic tome abreast of all the changing circumstances  and  conditions
that the Galaxy throws up every minute of every hour of every day, and you
would be wrong. Where you would be wrong would be in  failing  to  realize
that the editor, like all the editors of the Guide has ever  had,  has  no
real grasp of the meanings of the words "scrupulous",  "conscientious"  or
"diligent", and tends to get his nightmares through a straw.
    Entries tend to get updated or not across the Sub-Etha Net  according
to if they read good.
    Take for example, the case of Brequinda on the Foth of Avalars, famed
in myth, legend and stultifyingly dull tri-d mini-serieses as home of  the
magnificent and magical Fuolornis Fire Dragon.
    In Ancient days, when Fragilis sang and  Saxaquine  of  the  Quenelux
held sway, when the air was sweet and the nights  fragrant,  but  everyone
somehow managed to be, or so they claimed, though how on earth they  could
have thought that anyone was  even  remotely  likely  to  believe  such  a
preposterous claim what with all the sweet air  and  fragrant  nights  and
whatnot is anyone's guess, virgins, it was not possible to heave  a  brick
on Brequinda in the Foth of Avalars without hitting at least half a  dozen
Fuolornis Fire Dragons.
    Whether you would want to do that is another matter.
    Not that Fire Dragons weren't an  essentially  peace-loving  species,
because they were. They adored it to bits, and this wholesale  adoring  of
things to bits was often in itself the problem: one so often hurts the one
one loves, especially if one is a Fuolornis Fire Dragon with breath like a
rocket booster and teeth like a park fence. Another problem was that  once
they were in the mood they often went on to hurt quite a lot of  the  ones
that other people loved as well. Add to  all  that  the  relatively  small
number of madmen who actually went around the place  heaving  bricks,  and
you end up with a lot of people  on  Brequinda  in  the  Foth  of  Avalars
getting seriously hurt by dragons.
    But did they mind? They did not.
    Were they heard to bemoan their fate? No.
    The Fuolornis Fire Dragons  were  revered  throughout  the  lands  of
Brequinda in the Foth of valors for their savage beauty, their noble  ways
and their habit of biting people who didn't revere them.
    Why was this?
    The answer was simple.
    There is, for some unfathomed  reason,  something  almost  unbearably
sexy about having huge fire-breathing magical dragons flying low about the
sky on moonlit nights which were already  dangerously  on  the  sweet  and
fragrant side.
    Why this should be so, the romance-besotted people  of  Brequinda  in
the Foth of Avalars could not have told you, and would not have stopped to
discuss the matter once the effect was up and going, for no sooner would a
flock of half a dozen silk-winged leather-bodied  Fuolornis  Fire  Dragons
heave into sight across the  evening  horizon  than  half  the  people  of
Brequinda are scurrying off into the woods with the other half,  there  to
spend a busy breathless night together and emerge with the first  rays  of
dawn all smiling and happy and still claiming, rather endearingly,  to  be
virgins, if rather flushed and sticky virgins.
    Pheromones, some researchers said.
    Something sonic, others claimed.
    The place was always stiff with researchers  trying  to  get  to  the
bottom of it all and taking a very long time about it.
    Not surprisingly, the Guide's graphically enticing description of the
general state of affairs on this planet has  proved  to  be  astonishingly
popular amongst hitch-hikers who allow themselves to be guided by it,  and
so it has simply never been  taken  out,  and  it  is  therefore  left  to
latter-day travellers to find  out  for  themselves  that  today's  modern
Brequinda in the City State of Avalars is now little more  than  concrete,
strip joints and Dragon Burger Bars.

                               Chapter 22

    The night in Islington was sweet and fragrant.
    There were, of course, no Fuolornis Fire Dragons about in the  alley,
but if any had chanced by they might just as well have sloped  off  across
the road for a pizza, for they were not going to be needed.
    Had an emergency cropped up while they were still in  the  middle  of
their American Hots with extra anchovy they could always have sent  across
a message to put Dire Straits on the stereo, which is now  known  to  have
much the same effect.
    - No, - said Fenchurch, - not yet.
    Arthur put Dire Straits on the  stereo.  Fenchurch  pushed  ajar  the
upstairs front door to let in a little more of the  sweet  fragrant  night
air. They both sat on some of the furniture made  out  of  cushions,  very
close to the open bottle of champagne.
    - No, - said Fenchurch, - not till you've found out what's wrong with
me, which bit. But I suppose, - she added very, very, very quietly, - that
we may as well start with where your hand is now.
    Arthur said:
    - So which way do I go?
    - Down, - said Fenchurch, - on this occasion.
    He moved his hand.
    - Down, - she said, - is in fact the other way.
    - Oh yes.
    Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter  Custom
Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from
being good all week and needing a stiff  beer  -  which  is  not  strictly
relevant at this point since the record hadn't yet got to  that  bit,  but
there will be too much else going on when it  does,  and  furthermore  the
chronicler does not intend to sit here with a track list and a  stopwatch,
so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly.
    - And so we come, - said Arthur, - to your knee. There  is  something
terribly and tragically wrong with your left knee.
    - My left knee, - said Fenchurch, - is absolutely fine.
    - Do it is.
    - Did you know that...
    - What?
    - Ahm, it's all right. I can tell you do. No, keep going.
    - So it has to be something to do with your feet...
    She  smiled  in  the  dim   light,   and   wriggled   her   shoulders
noncommittally against the cushions.  Since  there  are  cushions  in  the
Universe, on Squornshellous Beta to be  exact,  two  worlds  in  from  the
swampland of the mattresses, that actively enjoy being  wriggled  against,
particularly if it's noncommittally because of the syncopated way in which
the shoulders move, it's a pity they weren't there. They weren't, but such
is life.
    Arthur held her left foot in his lap and looked  it  over  carefully.
All kinds of stuff about the way her dress fell away  from  her  legs  was
making it difficult for him to think particularly clearly at this point.
    - I have to admit, - he said, - that I really  don't  know  what  I'm
looking for.
    - You'll know when you find it, - she said.  -  Really  you  will.  -
There was a slight catch in her voice. - It's not that one.
    Feeling increasingly puzzled, Arthur let her left foot  down  on  the
floor and moved himself around so that he could take her right  foot.  She
moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the  record  had
got to that bit which, if you knew the record,  you  would  know  made  it
impossible not to do this.
    Then she gave him her right foot.
    He stroked it, ran his fingers round her ankle, under her toes, along
her instep, could find nothing wrong with it.
    She watched him with great amusement, laughed and shook her head.
    - No, don't stop, - she said, but it's not that one now.
    Arthur stopped, and frowned at her left foot on the floor.
    - Don't stop.
    He stroked her right foot, ran his fingers around  her  ankle,  under
her toes, along her instep and said:
    - You mean it's something to do with which leg I'm holding?..
    She did another of the shrugs which would have brought such joy  into
the life of a simple cushion from Squornshellous Beta.
    He frowned.
    - Pick me up, - she said quietly.
    He let her right foot down to the floor and stood up. So did she.  He
picked her up in his arms and they kissed again. This went on for a while,
then she said:
    - Now put me down again.
    Still puzzled, he did so.
    - Well?
    She looked at him almost challengingly.
    - So what's wrong with my feet? - she said.
    Arthur still did not understand. He sat on the floor, then  got  down
on his hands and knees to look at her feet, in situ, as it were, in  their
normal habitat. And as he looked closely, something odd struck him. He pit
his head right down to the ground and peered. There was a long  pause.  He
sat back heavily.
    - Yes, - he said, - I see what's wrong with  your  feet.  They  don't
touch the ground.
    - So... so what do you think?..
    Arthur looked up at her quickly and saw the deep apprehension  making
her eyes suddenly dark. She bit her lip and was trembling.
    - What do... - she stammered. - Are  you?..  -  She  shook  the  hair
forwards over her eyes that were filling with dark fearful tears.
    He stood up quickly, put his arms around her and gave  her  a  single
    - Perhaps you can do what I can do, - he said,  and  walked  straight
out of her upstairs front door.
    The record got to the good bit.

                               Chapter 23

    The battle raged on about the star of Xaxis. Hundreds of  the  fierce
and horribly beweaponed Zirzla ships had now been smashed and wrenched  to
atoms by the withering forces the huge silver Xaxisian ship  was  able  to
    Part of the moon had gone too, blasted away  by  those  same  blazing
forceguns that ripped the very fabric of space as they passed through it.
    The Zirzla ships that remained, horribly beweaponed though they were,
were now hopelessly outclassed by the devastating power  of  the  Xaxisian
ship, and were fleeing for cover behind the rapidly  disintegrating  moon,
when  the  Xaxisian  ship,  in  hurtling  pursuit  behind  them,  suddenly
announced that it needed a holiday and left the field of battle.
    All was redoubled fear and consternation for a moment, but  the  ship
was gone.
    With the stupendous powers at its  command  it  flitted  across  vast
tracts of irrationally shaped space, quickly, effortlessly, and above all,
    Deep in his greasy, smelly  bunk,  fashioned  out  of  a  maintenance
hatchway, Ford Prefect slept among his towels, dreaming of old haunts.  He
dreamed at one point in his slumbers of New York.
    In his dream he was walking late at night along the East Side, beside
the river which had become so extravagantly polluted  that  new  lifeforms
were now emerging from it  spontaneously,  demanding  welfare  and  voting
    One of those now floated past, waving. Ford waved back.
    The thing thrashed to the shore and struggled up the bank.
    - Hi, - it said, - I've just been created. I'm completely new to  the
Universe in all respects. Is there anything you can tell me?
    - Phew, - said Ford, a little nonplussed, - I can tell you where some
bars are, I guess.
    - What about love and happiness. I sense deep needs for  things  like
that, - it said, waving its tentacles. - Got any leads there?
    - You can get some like what you require, - said Ford, -  on  Seventh
    - I instinctively feel, - said the creature, urgently, - that I  need
to be beautiful. Am I?
    - You're pretty direct, aren't you?
    - No point in mucking about. Am I?
    - To me? - said Ford. - No. But listen, - he added after a moment,  -
most people make out, you know. Are there and like you down there?
    - Search me, buster, - said the creature, - as I said, I'm new  here.
Life is entirely strange to me. What's it like?
    Here  was  something  that  Ford  felt  he  could  speak  about  with
    - Life, - he said, - is like a grapefruit.
    - Er, how so?
    - Well, it's sort of orangey-yellow and dimpled on the  outside,  wet
and squidgy in the middle. It's got pips inside, too. Oh, and some  people
have half a one for breakfast.
    - Is there anyone else out there I can talk to?
    - I expect so, - said Ford. - Ask a policeman.
    Deep in his bunk, Ford Prefect wriggled and turned on  to  his  other
side. It wasn't his  favourite  type  of  dream  because  it  didn't  have
Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of  Eroticon  VI  in  it,
whom many of his dreams did feature. But at least it was a dream. At least
he was asleep.

                               Chapter 24

    Luckily there was a strong updraft in the alley because Arthur hadn't
done this sort of thing for a  while,  at  least,  not  deliberately,  and
deliberately is exactly the way you are not meant to do it.
    He swung down sharply, nearly catching himself a nasty crack  on  the
jaw with the doorstep and tumbled through the  air,  so  suddenly  stunned
with what a profoundly stupid thing he had just done  that  he  completely
forgot the bit about hitting the ground and didn't.
    A nice trick, he thought to himself, if you can do it.
    The ground was hanging menacingly above his head.
    He tried not to think about the ground, what an  extraordinarily  big
thing it was and how much it would hurt him if it decided to stop  hanging
there and suddenly fell on him. He tried  to  think  nice  thoughts  about
lemurs instead, which was  exactly  the  right  thing  to  do  because  he
couldn't at that moment remember precisely what a lemur was, if it was one
of those things that sweep in great majestic herds across  the  plains  of
wherever it was or if that was wildebeests, so it was  a  tricky  kind  of
thing to think nice thoughts about without simply  resorting  to  an  icky
sort of general well-disposedness towards things, and all  this  kept  his
mind well occupied while his body tried to adjust  to  the  fact  that  it
wasn't touching anything.
    A Mars bar wrapper fluttered down the alleyway.
    After a seeming moment of doubt and indecision it eventually  allowed
the wind to ease it, fluttering, between him and the ground.
    - Arthur...
    The ground was still  hanging  menacingly  above  his  head,  and  he
thought it was probably time to do something about that, such as fall away
from it, which is what he did. Slowly. Very, very slowly.
    As he fell slowly, very, very slowly, he closed his eyes - carefully,
so as not to jolt anything.
    The feel of his eyes closing ran down his whole  body.  Once  it  had
reached his feet, and the whole of his body was alerted to the  fact  that
his eyes were now closed and was not panicked by it, he slowly, very, very
slowly, revolved his body one way and his mind the other.
    That should sort the ground out.
    He could feel the air clear about him now, breezing around him  quite
cheerfully, untroubled by his being there, and slowly, very, very  slowly,
as from a deep and distant sleep, he opened his eyes.
    He had flown before, of course, flown many times on Krikkit until all
the birdtalk had driven him scatty, but this was different.
    Here he was on his own world, quietly, and  without  fuss,  beyond  a
slight trembling which could have been attributable to a number of things,
being in the air.
    Ten or fifteen feet below him was the hard tarmac and a few yards off
to the right the yellow street lights of Upper Street.
    Luckily the alleyway was dark since the light which was  supposed  to
see it through the night was on an ingenious  timeswitch  which  meant  it
came on just before lunchtime and  went  off  again  as  the  evening  was
beginning to draw in. He was, therefore, safely shrouded in a  blanket  of
dark obscurity.
    He slowly, very, very slowly, lifted his head to Fenchurch,  who  was
standing in silent  breathless  amazement,  silhouetted  in  her  upstairs
    Her face was inches from his.
    - I was about to ask you, - she said in a low trembly voice,  -  what
you were doing. But then I realized that I could see what you were  doing.
You were flying. So it seemed, - she went  on  after  a  slight  wondering
pause, - like a bit of a silly question.
    Arthur said:
    - Can you do it?
    - No.
    - Would you like to try?
    She bit her lip and shook her head, not so much to say no,  but  just
in sheer bewilderment. She was shaking like a leaf.
    - It's quite easy, - urged Arthur, - if you don't  know  how.  That's
the important bit. Be not at all sure how you're doing it.
    Just to demonstrate how easy it was he floated away down  the  alley,
fell upwards quite dramatically  and  bobbed  back  down  to  her  like  a
banknote on a breath of wind.
    - Ask me how I did that.
    - How... did you do that?
    - No idea. Not a clue.
    She shrugged in bewilderment.
    - So how can I?..
    Arthur bobbed down a little lower and held out his hand.
    - I want you to try, - he said, - to step on my hand. Just one foot.
    - What?
    - Try it.
    Nervously, hesitantly, almost, she told herself, as if she was trying
to step on the hand of someone who was floating in front of her in midair,
she stepped on to his hand.
    - Now the other.
    - What?
    - Take the weight off your back foot.
    - I can't.
    - Try it.
    - Like this?
    - Like that.
    Nervously, hesitantly, almost, she told herself, as if - She  stopped
telling herself what what she was doing was like because she had a feeling
she didn't altogether want to know.
    She fixed her eyes very very firmly on the guttering of the  roof  of
the decrepit warehouse opposite which had  been  annoying  her  for  weeks
because it was clearly going to fall off and she wondered  if  anyone  was
going to do anything about it or whether she ought  to  say  something  to
somebody, and didn't think for a  moment  about  the  fact  that  she  was
standing on the hands of someone who wasn't standing on anything at all.
    - Now, - said Arthur, - take your weight off your left foot.
    She thought that the warehouse belonged to the carpet company who had
their offices round the corner, and took the weight off her left foot,  so
she should probably go and see them about the gutter.
    - Now, - said Arthur, - take the weight off your right foot.
    - I can't.
    - Try.
    She hadn't seen the guttering from quite this angle  before,  and  it
looked to her now as if as well as the mud and gunge up there there  might
also be a bird's nest. If she leaned forward just a little  and  took  her
weight off her right foot, she could probably see it more clearly.
    Arthur was alarmed to see that someone down in the alley  was  trying
to steal her bicycle. He particularly didn't want to get  involved  in  an
argument at the moment and hoped that the guy would do it quietly and  not
look up.
    He had the quiet shifty look of someone who habitually stole bicycles
in alleys and habitually didn't  expect  to  find  their  owners  hovering
several feet above them. He was relaxed by both  these  habits,  and  went
about his job with purpose and concentration, and when he found  that  the
bike was unarguably bound by hoops of tungsten  carbide  to  an  iron  bar
embedded in concrete, he peacefully bent both its wheels and went  on  his
    Arthur let out a long-held breath.
    - See what a piece of eggshell I have found you, - said Fenchurch  in
his ear.

                               Chapter 25

    Those who are regular followers of the doings of Arthur Dent may have
received an impression  of  his  character  and  habits  which,  while  it
includes the truth and, of course, nothing but the truth,  falls  somewhat
short, in its composition, of the whole truth in all its glorious aspects.
    And the reasons for this are obvious. Editing, selection, the need to
balance that which is interesting with that which is relevant and cut  out
all the tedious happenstance.
    Like this for instance.
    - Arthur Dent went to bed. He went up  the  stairs,  all  fifteen  of
them, opened the door, went into his room, took off his  shoes  and  socks
and then all the rest of his clothes one by one and left them in a  neatly
crumpled heap on the floor. He put on his pyjamas, the blue ones with  the
stripe. He washed his face and hands,  cleaned  his  teeth,  went  to  the
lavatory, realized that he had once again got this all in the wrong order,
had to wash his hands again and went to bed. He read for fifteen  minutes,
spending the first ten minutes of that trying to work  out  where  in  the
book he had got to the previous night, then he turned out  the  light  and
within a minute or so more was asleep.
    - It was dark. He lay on his left side for a good hour.
    - After that he moved restlessly in his sleep for a moment  and  then
turned over to sleep on his right side. Another hour after this  his  eyes
flickered briefly and he slightly scratched his  nose,  though  there  was
still a good twenty minutes to go before he turned back  on  to  his  left
side. And so he whiled the night away, sleeping.
    - At four he got up and went to the lavatory  again.  He  opened  the
door to the lavatory... - and so on.
    It's guff. It doesn't advance the action. It makes for nice fat books
such as the American market thrives on, but it doesn't  actually  get  you
anywhere. You don't, in short, want to know.
    But there are other omissions as well, beside the  teethcleaning  and
trying to find fresh socks variety, and in some of these people have often
seemed inordinately interested.
    What, they want to know, about all that stuff off in the  wings  with
Arthur and Trillian, did that ever get anywhere?
    To which the answer is, of course, mind your own business.
    And what, they say, was he up to  all  those  nights  on  the  planet
Krikkit? Just because the planet didn't have  Fuolornis  Fire  Dragons  or
Dire Straits doesn't mean that everyone just sat up every night reading.
    Or to take a more specific example, what about the  night  after  the
committee meeting party on Prehistoric Earth, when  Arthur  found  himself
sitting on a hillside watching the moon rise over the softly burning trees
in company with a beautiful young girl called Mella, recently escaped from
a lifetime  of  staring  every  morning  at  a  hundred  nearly  identical
photographs of moodily lit tubes of toothpaste in the art department of an
advertising agency on the planet Golgafrincham. What then?  What  happened
next? And the answer is, of course, that the book ended.
    The next one didn't resume the story till five years later,  and  you
can, claim some, take discretion too far.
    - This Arthur Dent, - comes the cry from the furthest reaches of  the
galaxy, and has even now been found inscribed on a mysterious  deep  space
probe thought to originate from an alien galaxy at a distance too  hideous
to contemplate, - what is he, man or mouse? Is he  interested  in  nothing
more than tea and the wider issues of life? Has he no spirit?  has  he  no
passion? Does he not, to put it in a nutshell, fuck?
    Those who wish to know should read on. Others may wish to skip on  to
the last chapter which is a good bit and has Marvin in it.

                               Chapter 26

    Arthur Dent allowed himself for an unworthy moment to think, as  they
drifted up, that he very much hoped that his friends who had always  found
him pleasant but dull, or more latterly, odd but dull, were having a  good
time in the pub, but that was the last time, for a while, that he  thought
of them.
    They drifted up, spiralling slowly around each other,  like  sycamore
seeds falling from sycamore trees in the autumn, except  going  the  other
    And as they drifted up their minds sang with the  ecstatic  knowledge
that either what they were doing was completely and  utterly  and  totally
impossible or that physics had a lot of catching up to do.
    Physics shook its head and, looking the other  way,  concentrated  on
keeping the cars going along the Euston Road and out towards  the  Westway
flyover, on keeping the streetlights lit and  on  making  sure  that  when
somebody on Baker Street dropped a cheeseburger it  went  splat  upon  the
    Dwindling headily beneath them, the beaded strings of light of London
- London, Arthur had to keep reminding himself, not the strangely coloured
fields of Krikkit on the remote fringes of the galaxy, lighted freckles of
which faintly spanned the opening sky above them,  but  London  -  swayed,
swaying and turning, turned.
    - Try a swoop, - he called to Fenchurch.
    - What?
    Her voice seemed strangely clear but distant in all  the  vast  empty
air. It was breathy and faint with disbelief - all  those  things,  clear,
faint, distant, breathy, all at the same time.
    - We're flying... - she said.
    - A trifle, - called Arthur, - think nothing of it. Try a swoop.
    - A sw...
    Her hand caught his, and in a second her weight caught  it  too,  and
stunningly, she was gone, tumbling beneath him, clawing wildly at nothing.
    Physics glanced at Arthur, and clotted with horror he was  gone  too,
sick with giddy dropping, every part of him screaming but his voice.
    They plummeted because this was London and  you  really  couldn't  do
this sort of thing here.
    He couldn't catch her because this was  London,  and  not  a  million
miles from here, seven hundred  and  fifty-six,  to  be  exact,  in  Pisa,
Galileo had clearly demonstrated that two falling bodies fell  at  exactly
the same rate of acceleration irrespective of their relative weights.
    They fell.
    Arthur realized as he fell, giddily and sickeningly, that if  he  was
going to hang around in the sky believing everything that the Italians had
to say about physics when they couldn't even keep a simple tower straight,
that they were in dead  trouble,  and  damn  well  did  fall  faster  than
    He grappled her from above, and fumbled  for  a  tight  grip  on  her
shoulders. He got it.
    Fine. They were now falling together, which was all  very  sweet  and
romantic, but didn't solve the basic problem, which  was  that  they  were
falling, and the ground wasn't waiting around to see if he  had  any  more
clever tricks up his sleeve, but was  coming  up  to  meet  them  like  an
express train.
    He couldn't support her weight, he hadn't anything he  could  support
it with or against. The only thing he  could  think  was  that  they  were
obviously going to die, and if he wanted anything other than  the  obvious
to happen he was going to have to do something  other  than  the  obvious.
Here he felt he was on familiar territory.
    He let go of her, pushed her away, and when she turned  her  face  to
him in a gasp of stunned horror, caught her little finger with his  little
finger and swung her back upwards, tumbling clumsily up after her.
    - Shit, - she said, as she sat panting and breathless  on  absolutely
nothing at all, and when she had recovered herself they fled  on  up  into
the night.
    Just below cloud  level  they  paused  and  scanned  where  they  had
impossibly come. The ground was something not to regard with any too  firm
or steady an eye, but merely to glance at, as it were, in passing.
    Fenchurch tried some little swoops, daringly, and found that  if  she
judged herself just right against a body of wind she could pull  off  some
really quite dazzling ones with a little pirouette at the end, followed by
a little drop which made her dress billow around her, and  this  is  where
readers who are keen to know what Marvin and Ford Prefect have been up  to
all this while should look ahead to later  chapters,  because  Arthur  now
could wait no longer and helped her take it off.
    It drifted down and away whipped by the wind until  it  was  a  speck
which finally vanished, and for various complicated reasons revolutionized
the life of  a  family  on  Hounslow,  over  whose  washing  line  it  was
discovered draped in the morning.
    In a mute embrace, they drifted up till they  were  swimming  amongst
the misty wraiths of moisture that you can see feathering around the wings
of an aeroplane but never feel because you are  sitting  warm  inside  the
stuffy aeroplane and looking through the little  scratchy  perspex  window
while somebody else's son tries patiently to  pour  warm  milk  into  your
    Arthur and Fenchurch could feel them, wispy cold and thin,  wreathing
round their bodies, very cold, very thin. They felt, even  Fenchurch,  now
protected from the elements by only a couple of fragments from  Marks  and
Spencer, that if they were not going to let the force  of  gravity  bother
them, then mere cold or paucity of atmosphere could go and whistle.
    The two fragments from Marks and Spencer which, as Fenchurch rose now
into the misty body of the clouds, Arthur removed very, very slowly, which
is the only way it's possible to do it when you're  flying  and  also  not
using your hands, went on to create considerable havoc in the morning  in,
respectively, counting from top to bottom, Isleworth and Richmond.
    They were in the cloud for a long time, because it was  stacked  very
high, and when finally they  emerged  wetly  above  it,  Fenchurch  slowly
spinning like a starfish lapped by a  rising  tidepool,  they  found  that
above the clouds is where the night get seriously moonlit.
    The light is darkly  brilliant.  There  are  different  mountains  up
there, but they are mountains, with their own white arctic snows.
    They had emerged at the top of the  high-stacked  cumulo-nimbus,  and
now began lazily to drift down its contours, as Fenchurch eased Arthur  in
turn from his clothes, prised him free of them till all were gone, winding
their surprised way down into the enveloping whiteness.
    She kissed him, kissed his  neck,  his  chest,  and  soon  they  were
drifting on, turning slowly, in a kind of speechless T-shape, which  might
have caused even a Fuolornis Fire Dragon, had one flown past, replete with
pizza, to flap its wings and cough a little.
    There were, however, no Fuolornis Fire  Dragons  in  the  clouds  nor
could there be for,  like  the  dinosaurs,  the  dodos,  and  the  Greater
Drubbered Wintwock of Stegbartle Major  in  the  constellation  Fraz,  and
unlike the Boeing 747  which  is  in  plentiful  supply,  they  are  sadly
extinct, and the Universe shall never know their like again.
    The reason that a Boeing 747 crops  up  rather  unexpectedly  in  the
above list is not unconnected with the fact that  something  very  similar
happened in the lives of Arthur and Fenchurch a moment or two later.
    They are big things, terrifyingly big. You know when one  is  in  the
air with you. There is a thunderous  attack  of  air,  a  moving  wall  of
screaming wind, and you get tossed aside, if you are foolish enough to  be
doing anything remotely like what Arthur and Fenchurch were doing  in  its
close vicinity, like butterflies in the Blitz.
    This time, however, there was  a  heart-sickening  fall  or  loss  of
nerve,  a  re-grouping  moments   later   and   a   wonderful   new   idea
enthusiastically signalled through the buffeting noise.
    Mrs E. Kapelsen of Boston, Massachusetts was an elderly lady, indeed,
she felt her life was nearly at an end. She had seen a  lot  of  it,  been
puzzled by some, but, she was a little uneasy to feel at this late  stage,
bored by too much. It had all been very pleasant, but perhaps a little too
explicable, a little too routine.
    With a sigh she flipped up the  little  plastic  window  shutter  and
looked out over the wing.
    At first she thought she ought to call the stewardess, but  then  she
thought no, damn it, definitely not, this was for her, and her alone.
    By the time her two inexplicable people finally slipped back off  the
wing and tumbled into the slipstream she had cheered up an awful lot.
    She was mostly immensely relieved to think that virtually  everything
that anybody had ever told her was wrong.

    The following morning Arthur and Fenchurch slept  very  late  in  the
alley despite the continual wail of furniture being restored.
    The following night they did it all over again, only this  time  with
Sony Walkmen.

                               Chapter 27

    - This is all very wonderful, - said Fenchurch a few  days  later.  -
But I do need to know what has happened  to  me.  You  see,  there's  this
difference between us. That you lost something and found it again,  and  I
found something and lost it. I need to find it again.
    She had to go out for the day, so Arthur settled down for  a  day  of
    Murray Bost Henson was a journalist on one of the papers  with  small
pages and big print. It would be pleasant to be able to say  that  he  was
none the worse for it, but sadly, this was not the case. He happened to be
the only journalist that Arthur knew, so Arthur phoned him anyway.
    - Arthur my old soup spoon, my old silver turreen,  how  particularly
stunning to hear from you. Someone told me you'd gone off  into  space  or
    Murray had his own special kind of conversation language which he had
invented for his own use, and which no one else was able to speak or  even
to follow. Hardly any of it meant anything at all. The bits which did mean
anything were often so wonderfully buried that no one could ever spot them
slipping past in the avalance of nonsense. The time when you did find out,
later, which bits he did mean, was often a bad time for all concerned.
    - What? - said Arthur.
    - Just a rumour my old elephant tusk,  my  little  green  baize  card
table, just a rumour. Probably means nothing at all,  but  I  may  need  a
quote from you.
    - Nothing to say, just pub talk.
    - We thrive on it, my old prosthetic limb, we thrive on it.  Plus  it
would fit like a whatsit in one of  those  other  things  with  the  other
stories of the week, so it could be just to have you  denying  it.  Excuse
me, something has just fallen out of my ear.
    There was a slight pause, at the end of which Murray Bost Henson came
back on the line sounding genuinely shaken.
    - Just remembered, - he said, - what an odd evening I had last night.
Anyway my old, I won't say what, how do you feel about  having  ridden  on
Halley's Comet?
    - I haven't, - said Arthur  with  a  suppressed  sigh,  -  ridden  on
Halley's Comet.
    - OK, How do you feel about not having ridden on Halley's Comet?
    - Pretty relaxed, Murray.
    There was a pause while Murray wrote this down.
    - Good enough for me, Arthur, good enough for Ethel and  me  and  the
chickens. Fits in with the general weirdness of  the  week.  Week  of  the
Weirdos, we're thinking of calling it. Good, eh?
    - Very good.
    - Got a ring to it. First we have this man it always rains on.
    - What?
    - It's the absolute stocking top truth. All documented in his  little
black book, it all checks out at every single  funloving  level.  The  Met
Office is going ice cold thick banana whips, and funny little men in white
coats are flying in from all over the world with their little  rulers  and
boxes and drip feeds. This man is the  bee's  knees,  Arthur,  he  is  the
wasp's nipples. He is, I would go so far as to  say,  the  entire  set  of
erogenous zones of every major flying insect of the Western  world.  We're
calling him the Rain God. Nice, eh?
    - I think I've met him.
    - Good ring to it. What did you say?
    - I may have met him. Complains all the time, yes?
    - Incredible! You met the Rain God?
    - If it's the same guy. I told  him  to  stop  complaining  and  show
someone his book.
    There was an impressed pause from Murray Bost  Henson's  end  of  the
    - Well, you did a bundle. An absolute bundle has absolutely been done
by you. Listen, do you know how much a tour operator is  paying  that  guy
not to go to Malaga this year? I mean forget  irrigating  the  Sahara  and
boring stuff like that, this guy has a whole new career ahead of him, just
avoiding places for money. The man's turning into a  monster,  Arthur,  we
might even have to make him win the bingo.
    - Listen, we may want to do a feature on you,  Arthur,  the  Man  Who
Made the Rain God Rain. Got a ring to it, eh?
    - A nice one, but...
    - We may need to photograph you under a garden shower, but that'll be
OK. Where are you?
    - Er, I'm in Islington. Listen, Murray...
    - Islington!
    - Yes...
    - Well, what about the real weirdness of the week, the real seriously
loopy stuff. You know anything about these flying people?
    - No.
    - You must have. This is the real seethingly crazy one. This  is  the
real meatballs in the batter. Locals are phoning in all the  time  to  say
there's this couple who go flying nights. We've got guys down in our photo
labs working through the night to put together a genuine  photograph.  You
must have heard.
    - No.
    - Arthur, where have you been? Oh, space, right, I  got  your  quote.
But that was months ago. Listen, it's night after night this week, my  old
cheesegrater, right on your patch. This couple just fly around the sky and
start doing all kinds of stuff. And I don't mean looking through walls  or
pretending to be box girder bridges. You don't know anything?
    - No.
    - Arthur, it's been almost inexpressibly  delicious  conversing  with
you, chumbum, but I have to go. I'll send the guy with the camera and  the
hose. Give me the address, I'm ready and writing.
    - Listen, Murray, I called to ask you something.
    - I have a lot to do.
    - I just wanted to find out something about the dolphins.
    - No story. Last year's news. Forget 'em. They're gone.
    - It's important.
    - Listen, no one will touch it. You can't sustain a story, you  know,
when the only news is the  continuing  absence  of  whatever  the  story's
about. Not our territory anyway, try the  Sundays.  Maybe  they'll  run  a
little "Whatever Happened to "Whatever Happened to the Dolphins"" story in
a couple of years, around August. But what's  anybody  going  to  do  now?
"Dolphins still gone"? "Continuing Dolphin Absence"? "Dolphins  -  Further
Days Without Them"? The story dies, Arthur. It lies  down  and  kicks  its
little feet in the air and presently goes to the great golden spike in the
sky, my old fruitbat.
    - Murray, I'm not interested in whether it's a story. I just want  to
find out how I can get in touch with that guy in California who claims  to
know something about it. I thought you might know.

                               Chapter 28

    - People are beginning to talk, - said Fenchurch that evening,  after
they had hauled her 'cello in.
    - Not only talk, - said Arthur, - but  print,  in  big  bold  letters
under the bingo prizes. Which is why I thought I'd better get these.
    He showed her the long narrow booklets of airline tickets.
    - Arthur! - she said, hugging him. - Does that mean  you  managed  to
talk to him?
    - I  have  had  a  day,  -  said  Arthur,  -  of  extreme  telephonic
exhaustion. I have spoken to virtually every department of virtually every
paper in Fleet street, and I finally tracked his number down.
    - You've obviously been working hard, you're drenched with sweat poor
    - Not with sweat, - said Arthur  wearily.  -  A  photographer's  just
been. I tried to argue, but - never mind, the point is, yes.
    - You spoke to him.
    - I spoke to his wife. She said he was too weird to come to the phone
right now and could I call back.
    He sat down heavily, realized he was missing something  and  went  to
the fridge to find it.
    - Want a drink?
    - Would commit murder to get one. I always know I'm in  for  a  tough
time when my 'cello teacher looks me up and down and  says,  "Ah  yes,  my
dear, I think a little Tchaikovsky today".
    - I called again, - said Arthur, - and she said that he was 3.2 light
years from the phone and I should call back.
    - Ah.
    - I called again. - She said the situation had improved. He was now a
mere 2.6 light years from the phone but it was still a long way to shout.
    - You don't suppose, - said Fenchurch,  doubtfully,  -  that  there's
anyone else we can talk to?
    - It gets worse, - said Arthur, - I spoke to  someone  on  a  science
magazine who actually knows him, and he said that  John  Watson  will  not
only believe, but will actually have absolute proof, often dictated to him
by angels with golden beards and green wings and Doctor  Scholl  footwear,
that the month's most fashionable silly theory is  true.  For  people  who
question the validity of these visions he will  triumphantly  produce  the
clogs in question, and that's as far as you get.
    - I didn't realize it was that bad, -  said  Fenchurch  quietly.  She
fiddled listlessly with the tickets.
    - I phoned Mrs Watson again, - said Arthur. - Her name, by  the  way,
and you may wish to know this, is Arcane Jill.
    - I see.
    - I'm glad you see. I thought you mightn't believe any  of  this,  so
when I called her this time I used  the  telephone  answering  machine  to
record the call.
    He went across to the telephone machine and fiddled  and  fumed  with
all its buttons for a while, because it was the one which was particularly
recommended by Which? magazine and is almost  impossible  to  use  without
going mad.
    - Here it is, - he said at last, wiping the sweat from his brow.
    The voice was thin and crackly with its journey  to  a  geostationary
satellite and back, but it was also hauntingly calm.
    - Perhaps I should explain, - Arcane Jill Watson's voice said, - that
the phone is in fact in a room that he  never  comes  into.  It's  in  the
Asylum you see. Wonko the Sane does not like to enter the Asylum and so he
does not. I feel you should know this because it may save you phoning.  If
you would like to meet him, this is very easily arranged. All you have  to
do is walk in. He will only meet people outside the Asylum.
    Arthur's voice, at its most mystified:
    - I'm sorry, I don't understand. Where is the asylum?
    - Where is the Asylum? - Arcane Jill Watson again. -  Have  you  ever
read the instructions on a packet of toothpicks?
    On the tape, Arthur's voice had to admit that he had not.
    - You may want to do that. You may find that it clarifies things  for
you a little. You may find that it indicates to you where the  Asylum  is.
Thank you.
    The sound of the phone line went dead. Arthur turned the machine off.
    - Well, I suppose we can regard that as an invitation, - he said with
a shrug. - I actually managed to get the  address  from  the  guy  on  the
science magazine.
    Fenchurch looked up at him again with a thoughtful frown, and  looked
at the tickets again.
    - Do you think it's worth it? - she said.
    - Well, - said Arthur, - the one  thing  that  everyone  I  spoke  to
agrees on, apart from the fact that they all thought he was  barking  mad,
is that he does know more than any man living about dolphins.

                               Chapter 29

    - This is an important  announcement.  This  is  flight  121  to  Los
Angeles. If your travel plans today do not include Los Angeles, now  would
be the perfect time to disembark.

                               Chapter 30

    They rented a car in Los Angeles from one of the  places  that  rents
out cars that other people have thrown away.
    - Getting it to go round corners is a bit of a problem,  -  said  the
guy behind the sunglasses as he handed them the  keys,  -  sometimes  it's
simpler just to get out and find a car that's going in that direction.
    They stayed for one night  in  a  hotel  on  Sunset  Boulevard  which
someone had told them they would enjoy being puzzled by.
    - Everyone there is either English or odd  or  both.  They've  got  a
swimming pool where you can  go  and  watch  English  rock  stars  reading
Language, Truth and Logic for the photographers.
    It was true. There was one and that was exactly what he was doing.
    The garage attendant didn't think much of their  car,  but  that  was
fine because they didn't either.
    Late in the evening they drove  through  the  Hollywood  hills  along
Mulholland Drive and stopped to look out first over the  dazzling  sea  of
floating light that is Los Angeles, and later stopped to look  across  the
dazzling sea of floating light that  is  the  San  Fernando  Valley.  They
agreed that the sense of dazzle stopped immediately at the back  of  their
eyes and didn't touch any other part  of  them  and  came  away  strangely
unsatisfied by the spectacle. As dramatic seas of light went, it was fine,
but light is meant to illuminate something, and having driven through what
this particularly dramatic sea of light was illuminating they didn't think
much of it.
    They slept late and restlessly and awoke at  lunchtime  when  it  was
stupidly hot.
    They drove out along the freeway to Santa Monica for their first look
at the Pacific Ocean, the ocean which Wonko the Sane spent  all  his  days
and a good deal of his nights looking at.
    - Someone told me, - said Fenchurch, - that they once  overheard  two
old ladies on this beach, doing what we're doing, looking at  the  Pacific
Ocean for the first time in their lives.  And  apparently,  after  a  long
pause, one of them said to the other, "You know, it's  not  as  big  as  I
    Their mood lifted further as the sun began to move down  the  western
half of the sky, and by the time they were back in their rattling car  and
driving towards a sunset that no one of any  sensibility  would  dream  of
building a city like Los Angeles on front of, they were  suddenly  feeling
astonishingly and  irrationally  happy  and  didn't  even  mind  that  the
terrible  old  car  radio  would  only  play  two  stations,   and   those
simultaneously. So what, they were both playing good rock and roll.
    - I know he will be able to help us, - said Fenchurch determinedly. -
I know he will. What's his name again, that he likes to be called?
    - Wonko the Sane.
    - I know that he will be able to help us.
    Arthur wondered if he would and hoped that he would, and  hoped  that
what Fenchurch had lost could be found here, on this Earth, whatever  this
Earth might prove to be.
    He hoped, as he had hoped continually and fervently  since  the  time
they had talked together on the banks of the Serpentine, that he would not
be called upon to try to remember something that he had  very  firmly  and
deliberately buried in the furthest recesses of his memory, where he hoped
it would cease to nag at him.

    In Santa Barbara they stopped at a fish restaurant in what seemed  to
be a converted warehouse.
    Fenchurch had red mullet and said it was delicious.
    Arthur had a swordfish steak and said it made him angry.
    He grabbed a passing waitress by the arm and berated her.
    - Why's this fish so bloody good? - he demanded, angrily.
    - Please excuse my friend, - said Fenchurch to the startled waitress.
- I think he's having a nice day at last.

                               Chapter 31

    If you took a couple of David Bowies  and  stuck  one  of  the  David
Bowies on the top of the other David Bowie, then  attached  another  David
Bowie to the end of each of the arms of the upper of the first  two  David
Bowies and wrapped the whole business up in a dirty beach robe  you  would
then have something which didn't exactly look like John Watson, but  which
those who knew him would find hauntingly familiar.
    He was tall and he gangled. When he sat in his  deckchair  gazing  at
the Pacific, not so much with any kind of wild surmise any longer as  with
a peaceful deep dejection, it was a little difficult to tell exactly where
the deckchair ended and he began, and you would hesitate to put your  hand
on, say, his forearm in case the whole structure suddenly collapsed with a
snap and took your thumb off.
    But his smile when he turned it  on  you  was  quite  remarkable.  It
seemed to be composed of all the worst things that life can do to you, but
which, when he briefly reassembled them in that particular  order  on  his
face, made you suddenly fee:
    - Oh. Well that's all right then.
    When he spoke, you were glad that he used the  smile  that  made  you
feel like that pretty often.
    - Oh yes, - he said, - they come and see me.  They  sit  right  here.
They sit right where you're sitting.
    He was talking of the angels with the golden beards and  green  wings
and Dr Scholl sandals.
    - They eat nachos which they say they can't get where they come from.
They do a lot of coke and are  very  wonderful  about  a  whole  range  of
    - Do they? - said Arthur. - Are they? So, er... when  is  this  then?
When do they come?
    He gazed out at the Pacific as well.  There  were  little  sandpipers
running along the margin of the shore which seemed to have  this  problem:
they needed to find their food in the sand which a wave  had  just  washed
over, but they couldn't bear to get their feet  wet.  To  deal  with  this
problem they  ran  with  an  odd  kind  of  movement  as  if  they'd  been
constructed by somebody very clever in Switzerland.
    Fenchurch was sitting on the sand, idly drawing patterns in  it  with
her fingers.
    - Weekends, mostly, - said Wonko the Sane, - on little scooters. They
are great machines. - He smiled.
    - I see, - said Arthur. - I see.
    A tiny cough from Fenchurch attracted his  attention  and  he  looked
round at her. She had scratched a little stick figure drawing in the  sand
of the two of them in the clouds. For a moment he thought she  was  trying
to get him excited, then he realized that she was rebuking him.
    - Who are we, - she was saying, - to say he's mad?
    His house was certainly peculiar, and since this was the first  thing
that Fenchurch and Arthur had encountered it would help to  know  what  it
was like.
    What it was like was this:
    It was inside out.
    Actually inside out, to the extent that  they  had  to  park  on  the
    All along what one would normally call  the  outer  wall,  which  was
decorated in a tasteful interior-designed pink, were bookshelves,  also  a
couple of those odd three-legged  tables  with  semi-circular  tops  which
stand in such a way as to suggest  that  someone  just  dropped  the  wall
straight through them, and pictures which were clearly designed to soothe.
    Where it got really odd was the roof.
    It folded back on itself like something that Maurits C.  Escher,  had
he been given to hard nights on  the  town,  which  is  no  part  of  this
narrative's purpose to suggest was the case, though it is sometimes  hard,
looking at his pictures, particularly the one with the awkward steps,  not
to wonder, might have dreamed up after having been on one, for the  little
chandeliers which should have been hanging  inside  were  on  the  outside
pointing up.
    The  sign  above  the  front  door  said,  "Come  Outside",  and  so,
nervously, they had.
    Inside, of course, was where the Outside was. Rough brickwork, nicely
done painting, guttering in good repair, a garden path, a couple of  small
trees, some rooms leading off.
    And the inner walls stretched down, folded curiously, and  opened  at
the end as if, by an optical illusion which  would  have  had  Maurits  C.
Escher frowning and wondering how it was  done,  to  enclose  the  Pacific
Ocean itself.
    - Hello, - said John Watson, Wonko the Sane.
    Good, they thought to themselves, "Hello" is something  we  can  cope
    - Hello, - they said, and all surprisingly was smiles.
    For quite a while he seemed curiously reluctant  to  talk  about  the
dolphins, looking oddly distracted and saying, "I forget..." whenever they
were mentioned, and had shown them quite proudly round the  eccentricities
of his house.
    - It gives me pleasure, - he said, - in a curious kind  of  way,  and
does nobody any harm, - he continued, - that a competent optician couldn't
    They liked him. He had an open, engaging quality and seemed  able  to
mock himself before anybody else did.
    - Your  wife,  -  said  Arthur,  looking  around,  -  mentioned  some
toothpicks. - He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she
might suddenly leap out from behind the door and mention them again.
    Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and  sounded  like
one he had used a lot before and was happy with.
    - Ah yes, - he said, - that's to so with the day I  finally  realized
that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum  to  put  it  in,
poor thing, and hoped it would get better.
    This was the point at which Arthur began to  feel  a  little  nervous
    - Here, - said Wonko the Sane, - we are  outside  the  Asylum.  -  He
pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing and the guttering. - Go
through that door, - he pointed at the first door through which  they  had
originally entered, - and you go into the Asylum. I've tried  to  decorate
it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there's very little one can do. I
never go in there now myself. If ever I am tempted,  which  these  days  I
rarely am, I simply look at the sign written over the door and shy away.
    - That one? - said Fenchurch, pointing, rather  puzzled,  at  a  blue
plaque with some instructions written on it.
    - Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into  the  hermit  I
have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to
    The sign said:
    Hold stick near centre of its length. Moisten pointed end  in  mouth.
insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.
    - It seemed to me, - said Wonko the sane,  -  that  any  civilization
that had so far lost its head as to need to  include  a  set  of  detailed
instructions  for  use  in  a  packet  of  toothpicks,  was  no  longer  a
civilization in which I could live and stay sane.
    He gazed out at the Pacific again, as if daring it to rave and gibber
at him, but it lay there calmly and played with the sandpipers.
    - And in case it crossed your mind to wonder, as I  can  see  how  it
possibly might, I am completely sane. Which is why I call myself Wonko the
Sane, just to reassure people on this  point.  Wonko  is  what  my  mother
called me when I was a kid and clumsy and knocked things over, and sane is
what I am, and how, - he added, with one of his smiles that made you feel,
- Oh. Well that's all right then.
    - I intend to remain. Shall we go on to the beach  and  see  what  we
have to talk about?
    They went out on to the beach, which was  where  he  started  talking
about angels with golden beards and green wings and Dr Scholl sandals.
    - About the dolphins... - said Fenchurch gently, hopefully.
    - I can show you the sandals, - said Wonko the Sane.
    - I wonder, do you know...
    - Would you like me to show  you,  -  said  Wonko  the  Sane,  -  the
sandals? I have them. I'll get them.  They  are  made  by  the  Dr  Scholl
company, and the angels say that they particularly suit the  terrain  they
have to work in. They say they run a concession stand by the message. When
I say I don't know what that means they say  no,  you  don't,  and  laugh.
Well, I'll get them anyway.
    As he walked back towards the inside, or the outside depending on how
you looked at it, Arthur and Fenchurch looked at each other in a wondering
and slightly desperate sort of way,  then  each  shrugged  and  idly  drew
figures in the sand.
    - How are the feet today? - said Arthur quietly.
    - OK. It doesn't feel so odd in the sand. Or in the water. The  water
touches them perfectly. I just think this isn't our world.
    She shrugged.
    - What do you think he meant, - she said, - by the message?
    - I don't know, - said Arthur, though the memory of a man called Prak
who laughed at him continuously kept nagging at him.
    When Wonko returned he was carrying something  that  stunned  Arthur.
Not the sandals, they were perfectly ordinary woodenbottomed sandals.
    - I just thought you'd like to see, - he said, - what angels wear  on
their feet. Just out of curiousity. I'm not trying to prove  anything,  by
the way. I'm a scientist and I know what constitutes proof. But the reason
I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself  that  a  scientist
must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that
he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See
first, think later, then test. But always see first.  Otherwise  you  will
only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that.  I'll  show
you something to demonstrate that later.  So,  the  other  reason  I  call
myself Wonko the Sane is so that people will  think  I  am  a  fool.  That
allows me to say what I see when  I  see  it.  You  can't  possibly  be  a
scientist if you mind people thinking that you're a fool. Anyway,  I  also
thought you might like to see this.
    This was the thing that Arthur had been stunned to see him  carrying,
for it was a wonderful silver-grey glass fish bowl, seemingly identical to
the one in Arthur's bedroom.
    Arthur had been trying for some thirty seconds now, without  success,
to say, "Where did you get that?" sharply, and with a gasp in his voice.
    Finally his time had come, but he missed it by a millisecond.
    - Where did you get that? - said Fenchurch, sharply and with  a  gasp
in her voice.
    Arthur glanced at Fenchurch sharply and with  a  gasp  in  his  voice
    - What? Have you seen one of these before?
    - Yes, - she said, - I've got one. Or at least I  did  have.  Russell
nicked it to put his golfballs in. I don't know where it came  from,  just
that I was angry with Russell for nicking it. Why, have you got one?
    - Yes, it was...
    They both became aware that  Wonko  the  Sane  was  glancing  sharply
backwards and forwards between them, and trying to get a gasp in edgeways.
    - You have one of those too? - he said to both of them.
    - Yes. - They both said it.
    He looked long and calmly at each of them, then he held up  the  bowl
to catch the light of the Californian sun.
    The bowl seemed almost to sing  with  the  sun,  to  chime  with  the
intensity of its light, and cast darkly brilliant rainbows around the sand
and upon them. He turned it, and turned it. They could see  quite  clearly
in the fine tracery of its etchwork the words "So Long, and Thanks For All
The Fish."
    - Do you know, - asked Wonko quietly, - what it is?
    They  each  shook  their  heads  slowly,  and  with  wonder,   almost
hypnotized by the flashing of the lightning shadows in the grey glass.
    - It is a farewell gift from the dolphins, -  said  Wonko  in  a  low
quiet voice, - the dolphins whom I loved and studied, and swam  with,  and
fed with fish, and even tried to learn their language, a task  which  they
seemed to make impossibly difficult,  considering  the  fact  that  I  now
realize they were perfectly capable  of  communicating  in  ours  if  they
decided they wanted to.
    He shook his head with a slow, slow smile, and then looked  again  at
Fenchurch, and then at Arthur.
    - Have you... - he said to Arthur, - what have you done  with  yours?
May I ask you that?
    - Er, I keep a fish in it, - said Arthur, slightly embarrassed.  -  I
happened to have this fish I was wondering what to do with, and, er, there
was this bowl. - He tailed off.
    - You've done nothing else? No, - he said, - if you  had,  you  would
know. - He shook his head again.
    - My wife kept wheatgerm in ours, - resumed Wonko, with some new tone
in his voice, - until last night...
    - What, - said Arthur slowly and hushedly, - happened last night?
    - We ran out of wheatgerm, - said Wonko, evenly.  -  My  wife,  -  he
added, - has gone to get some more. - He seemed lost with his own thoughts
for a moment.
    - And what happened then? - said Fenchurch, in  the  same  breathless
    - I washed it, - said Wonko. - I washed it very carefully, very  very
carefully, removing every last speck of wheatgerm, then I dried it  slowly
with a lint-free cloth, slowly, carefully, turning it over and over.  Then
I held it to my ear. Have you... have you held one to your ear?
    They both shook their heads, again slowly, again dumbly.
    - Perhaps, - he said, - you should.

                               Chapter 32

    The deep roar of the ocean.
    The break of waves on further shores than thought can find.
    The silent thunders of the deep.
    And from among it,  voices  calling,  and  yet  not  voices,  humming
trillings, wordlings, the half-articulated songs of thought.
    Greetings,  waves  of  greetings,  sliding   back   down   into   the
inarticulate, words breaking together.
    A crash of sorrow on the shores of Earth.
    Waves of joy on - where? A world indescribably  found,  indescribably
arrived at, indescribably wet, a song of water.
    A fugue  of  voices  now,  clamouring  explanations,  of  a  disaster
unavertable, a world to be destroyed, a surge of helplessness, a spasm  of
despair, a dying fall, again the break of words.
    And then the fling of hope, the finding of  a  shadow  Earth  in  the
implications  of  enfolded  time,  submerged  dimensions,  the   pull   of
parallels, the deep pull, the spin of will, the hurl and split of it,  the
flight. A new Earth pulled into replacement, the dolphins gone.
    Then stunningly a single voice, quite clear.
    - This bowl was brought to you by the Campaign to Save the Humans. We
bid you farewell.
    And then the sound of long, heavy, perfectly grey bodies rolling away
into an unknown fathomless deep, quietly giggling.

                               Chapter 33

    That night they stayed Outside the Asylum and watched TV from  inside
    - This is what I wanted you to see, - said Wonko the  Sane  when  the
news came around again, - an old colleague of  mine.  He's  over  in  your
country running an investigation. Just watch.
    It was a press conference.
    - I'm afraid I can't comment on the name Rain  God  at  this  present
time, and we are calling  him  an  example  of  a  Spontaneous  ParaCausal
Meteorological Phenomenon.
    - Can you tell us what that means?
    - I'm not altogether  sure.  Let's  be  straight  here.  If  we  find
something we can't understand we like  to  call  it  something  you  can't
understand, or indeed pronounce. I mean if  we  just  let  you  go  around
calling him a Rain God, then that suggests  that  you  know  something  we
don't, and I'm afraid we couldn't have that.
    - No, first we have to call it something which says  it's  ours,  not
yours, then we set about finding some way of proving  it's  not  what  you
said it is, but something we say it is.
    - And if it turns out that  you're  right,  you'll  still  be  wrong,
because we will simply call him a... er "Supernormal..." - not  paranormal
or supernatural because you think you know what  those  mean  now,  no,  a
"Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer". We'll  probably  want  to
shove a "Quasi" in there somewhere to protect ourselves.  Rain  God!  Huh,
never heard such nonsense in my life. Admittedly, you  wouldn't  catch  me
going on holiday with him. Thanks, that'll be all for now, other  than  to
say "Hi!" to Wonko if he's watching.

                               Chapter 34

    On the way home there was a woman sitting next to them on  the  plane
who was looking at them rather oddly.
    They talked quietly to themselves.
    - I still have to know, - said Fenchurch, - and I strongly feel  that
you know something that you're not telling me.
    Arthur sighed and took out a piece of paper.
    - Do you have a pencil? - he said. She dug around and found one.
    - What are you doing, sweetheart? - she  said,  after  he  had  spent
twenty minutes frowning, chewing the  pencil,  scribbling  on  the  paper,
crossing things out,  scribbling  again,  chewing  the  pencil  again  and
grunting irritably to himself.
    - Trying to remember an address someone once gave me.
    - Your life would be an awful lot simpler,  -  she  said,  -  if  you
bought yourself an address book.
    Finally he passed the paper to her.
    - You look after it, - he said.
    She looked at it. Among all the scratchings and  crossings  out  were
the  words  "Quentulus  Quazgar  Mountains.   Sevorbeupstry.   Planet   of
Preliumtarn. Sun-Zarss. Galactic Sector QQ7 Active J Gamma."
    - And what's there?
    - Apparently, - said Arthur,  -  it's  God's  Final  Message  to  His
    - That sounds a bit more like it, - said Fenchurch. - How do  we  get
    - You really?..
    - Yes, - said Fenchurch firmly, - I really want to know.
    Arthur looked out of the scratchy little perspex window at  the  open
sky outside.
    - Excuse me, - said the woman who had been  looking  at  them  rather
oddly, suddenly, - I hope you don't think I'm rude.  I  get  so  bored  on
these long flights,  it's  nice  to  talk  to  somebody.  My  name's  Enid
Kapelsen, I'm from Boston. Tell me, do you fly a lot?

                               Chapter 35

    They went to Arthur's house in the West Country, shoved a  couple  of
towels and stuff in a bag, and then sat down to  do  what  every  Galactic
hitch hiker ends up spending most of his time doing.
    They waited for a flying saucer to come by.
    - Friend of mine did this for fifteen years, - said Arthur one  night
as they sat forlornly watching the sky.
    - Who was that?
    - Called Ford Prefect.
    He caught himself doing something he had never really expected to  do
    He wondered where Ford Prefect was.
    By an extraordinary coincidence, the following  day  there  were  two
reports in the paper, one concerning the most astonishing incidents with a
flying saucer, and the other about a series of unseemly riots in pubs.
    Ford Prefect turned up the day  after  that  looking  hung  over  and
complaining that Arthur never answered the phone.
    In fact he looked extremely ill, not merely as if  he'd  been  pulled
through a hedge backwards, but as if the hedge  was  being  simultaneously
pulled backwards through a combine harvester. He staggered  into  Arthur's
sitting room, waving aside all offers of  support,  which  was  an  error,
because the effort caused him to lose his balance  altogether  and  Arthur
had eventually to drag him to the sofa.
    - Thank you, - said Ford, - thank you very much.  Have  you...  -  he
said, and fell asleep for three hours.
    - ...the  faintest idea - he continued suddenly, when he  revived,  -
how hard it is to tap into the British phone system from the  Pleiades?  I
can see that you haven't, so I'll tell you, - he said,  -  over  the  very
large mug of black coffee that you are about to make me.
    He followed Arthur wobbily into the kitchen.
    - Stupid operators keep asking you where you're calling from and  you
try and tell them Letchworth and they say you couldn't be if you're coming
in on that circuit. What are you doing?
    - Making you some black coffee.
    - Oh. - Ford seemed oddly disappointed. He  looked  about  the  place
    - What's this? - he said.
    - Rice Crispies.
    - And this?
    - Paprika.
    - I see, - said Ford, solemnly, and put the two items back down,  one
on top of the other, but that didn't seem to balance properly, so  he  put
the other on top of the one and that seemed to work.
    - A little space-lagged, - he said. - What was I saying?
    - About not phoning from Letchworth.
    - I wasn't. I explained this to  the  lady.  "Bugger  Letchworth",  I
said, "if that's your  attitude.  I  am  in  fact  calling  from  a  sales
scoutship  of  the  Sirius  Cybernetics  Corporation,  currently  on   the
sub-light-speed leg of a journey between the stars known  on  your  world,
though not necessarily to you,  dear  lady."  -  I  said  "dear  lady",  -
explained Ford Prefect, - because I didn't want her to be offended  by  my
implication that she was an ignorant cretin...
    - Tactful, - said Arthur Dent.
    - Exactly, - said Ford, - tactful.
    He frowned.
    - Space-lag, - he said, - is very bad for sub-clauses. You'll have to
assist me again, - he continued, - by reminding  me  what  I  was  talking
    - "Between the stars," - said Arthur, - "known on your world,  though
not necessarily to you, dear lady, as..."
    - "Pleiades   Epsilon  and   Pleiades   Zeta,"   -   concluded   Ford
triumphantly. - This conversation lark is quite gas isn't it?
    - Have some coffee.
    - Thank you, no. "And the reason," I said, "why I  am  bothering  you
with it rather than just dialling direct as I could, because we have  some
pretty  sophisticated  telecommunications  equipment  out  here   in   the
Pleiades, I can tell you, is that the penny pinching son  of  a  starbeast
piloting this son of a starbeast spaceship insists that  I  call  collect.
Can you believe that?"
    - And could she?
    - I don't know. She had hung up, - said Ford, -  by  this  time.  So!
What do you suppose, - he asked fiercely, - I did next?
    - I've no idea, Ford, - said Arthur.
    - Pity, - said Ford, - I was hoping you could  remind  me.  I  really
hate those guys you know. They  really  are  the  creeps  of  the  cosmos,
buzzing around the celestial infinite with  their  junky  little  machines
that never work properly or, when they do, perform functions that no  sane
man would require of them and, - he added savagely, - go beep to tell  you
when they've done it!
    This was perfectly true, and a very respectable view widely  held  by
right thinking  people,  who  are  largely  recognizable  as  being  right
thinking people by the mere fact that they hold this view.
    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to  the  Galaxy,  in  a  moment  of  reasoned
lucidity which is almost unique among its current tally of  five  million,
nine hundred and seventy-five thousand, five hundred and nine pages,  says
of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation product that "it is very easy to  be
blinded to the essential uselessness of them by the sense  of  achievement
you get from getting them to work at all".
    - In other words - and this is the rock solid principle on which  the
whole  of  the  Corporation's  Galaxy-wide  success  is  founded  -  their
fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design
    - And this guy, - ranted Ford, - was on a drive to sell more of them!
His five-year mission to seek out and explore strange new worlds, and sell
Advanced Music Substitute Systems to their restaurants, elevators and wine
bars! Or if they didn't have restaurants, elevators and wine bars yet,  to
artificially accelerate their civilization growth until they  bloody  well
did have! Where's that coffee!
    - I threw it away.
    - Make some more. I have now remembered what  I  did  next.  I  saved
civilization as we know it. I knew it was something like that.
    He stumbled determinedly back into the sitting room, where he  seemed
to carry on talking to himself, tripping over  the  furniture  and  making
beep beep noises.
    A couple of minutes later,  wearing  his  very  placid  face,  Arthur
followed him.
    Ford looked stunned.
    - Where have you been? - he demanded.
    - Making some coffee, - said Arthur, still wearing  his  very  placid
face. He had long ago realized that  the  only  way  of  being  in  Ford's
company successfully was to keep a large stock of very  placid  faces  and
wear them at all times.
    - You missed the best bit! - raged Ford. - You missed the bit where I
jumped the guy! Now, - he said, - I shall have to jump him, all over him!
    He hurled himself recklessly at a chair and broke it.
    - It was better, - he said sullenly, - last time, - and waved vaguely
in the direction of another broken chair which he had already got  trussed
up on the dining table.
    - I see, - said Arthur, casting a placid  eye  over  the  trussed  up
wreckage, - and, er, what are all the ice cubes for?
    - What? - screamed Ford. - What? You missed that bit too? That's  the
suspended animation facility! I put the guy  in  the  suspended  animation
facility. Well I had to didn't I?
    - So it would seem, - said Arthur, in his placid voice.
    - Don't touch that!!! - yelled Ford.
    Arthur, who was about to  replace  the  phone,  which  was  for  some
mysterious reason lying on the table, off the hook, paused, placidly.
    - OK, - said Ford, calming down, - listen to it.
    Arthur put the phone to his ear.
    - It's the speaking clock, - he said.
    - Beep, beep, beep, - said Ford, - is exactly what is being heard all
over that guy's ship, while he sleeps, in the ice, going  slowly  round  a
little-known moon of Sesefras Magna. The London Speaking Clock!
    - I see, - said Arthur again, and decided that now was  the  time  to
ask the big one.
    - Why? - he said, placidly.
    - With a bit of luck, - said Ford, - the phone bill will bankrupt the
    He threw himself, sweating, on to the sofa.
    - Anyway, - he said, - dramatic arrival don't you think?

                               Chapter 36

    The flying saucer in which Ford Prefect had stowed away  had  stunned
the world.
    Finally  there  was  no  doubt,  no  possibility   of   mistake,   no
hallucinations, no mysterious CIA agents found floating in reservoirs.
    This time it was real, it  was  definite.  It  was  quite  definitely
    It had come down with a wonderful disregard for anything  beneath  it
and crushed a large area of some of the most expensive real estate in  the
world, including much of Harrods.
    The thing was massive, nearly a mile across, some said,  dull  silver
in colour, pitted, scorched and disfigured with the  scars  of  unnumbered
vicious space battles fought with savage  forces  by  the  light  of  suns
unknown to man.
    A hatchway opened, crashed  down  through  the  Harrods  Food  Halls,
demolished Harvey Nicholls, and with a final grinding scream  of  tortured
architecture, toppled the Sheraton Park Tower.
    After a long, heart-stopping moment of internal crashes and  grumbles
of rending machinery, there marched from it, down  the  ramp,  an  immense
silver robot, a hundred feet tall.
    It held up a hand.
    - I come in peace, - it said, adding after a long moment  of  further
grinding, - take me to your Lizard.
    Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat  with
Arthur and watched the non-stop frenetic news reports on  the  television,
none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing  had
done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions  of
pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it
again, because the robot was  doing  nothing  more  than  standing  there,
swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.
    - It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see...
    - You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?
    - No, - said Ford, who by this time was a little  more  rational  and
coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down  him,
- nothing so simple. Nothing anything  like  so  straightforward.  On  its
world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the
lizards and the lizards role the people.
    - Odd, - said Arthur, - I thought you said it was a democracy.
    - I did, - said Ford. - It is.
    - So, - said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, -
why don't people get rid of the lizards?
    - It honestly doesn't occur to them, - said Ford. - They've  all  got
the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted
in more or less approximates to the government they want.
    - You mean they actually vote for the lizards?
    - Oh yes, - said Ford with a shrug, - of course.
    - But, - said Arthur, going for the big one again, - why?
    - Because if they didn't vote for a lizard, - said Ford, - the  wrong
lizard might get in. Got any gin?
    - What?
    - I said, - said Ford, with an increasing  air  of  urgency  creeping
into his voice, - have you got any gin?
    - I'll look. Tell me about the lizards.
    Ford shrugged again.
    - Some people say that the lizards  are  the  best  thing  that  ever
happened to them, -  he  said.  -  They're  completely  wrong  of  course,
completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it.
    - But that's terrible, - said Arthur.
    - Listen, bud, - said Ford, - if I had one Altairan dollar for  every
time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of  the  Universe
and say "That's terrible" I wouldn't be sitting here like a lemon  looking
for a gin. But I haven't and I am. Anyway, what are you looking so  placid
and moon-eyed for? Are you in love?
    Arthur said yes, he was, and said it placidly.
    - With someone who knows where the gin bottle is? Do I  get  to  meet
    He did because Fenchurch came in  at  that  moment  with  a  pile  of
newspapers she'd been into the village to buy. She stopped in astonishment
at the wreckage on the table and the wreckage from Betelgeuse on the sofa.
    - Where's the gin? - said Ford to Fenchurch. And to  Arthur,  -  What
happened to Trillian by the way?
    - Er, this is Fenchurch,  -  said  Arthur,  awkwardly.  -  There  was
nothing with Trillian, you must have seen her last.
    - Oh, yeah, - said Ford, - she went off with Zaphod  somewhere.  They
had some kids or something. At least, - he added, - I  think  that's  what
they were. Zaphod's calmed down a lot you know.
    - Really? - said Arthur,  clustering  hurriedly  round  Fenchurch  to
relieve her of the shopping.
    - Yeah, - said Ford, - at least one of his heads is now saner than an
emu on acid.
    - Arthur, who is this? - said Fenchurch.
    - Ford Prefect, - said Arthur. - I may have mentioned him in passing.

                               Chapter 37

    For a total of three days and nights the giant silver robot stood  in
stunned  amazement  straddling  the  remains  of  Knightsbridge,   swaying
slightly and trying to work out a number of things.
    Government deputations came to see it,  ranting  journalists  by  the
truckload asked each other questions on the air about what they thought of
it, flights of fighter bombers tried pathetically to attack it  -  but  no
lizards appeared. It scanned the horizon slowly.
    At night it was at its most spectacular, floodlit  by  the  teams  of
television crews who  covered  it  continuously  as  it  continuously  did
    It thought and thought and eventually reached a conclusion.
    It would have to send out its service robots.
    It should have thought of that before, but it was having a number  of
    The tiny flying robots  came  screeching  out  of  the  hatchway  one
afternoon in a terrifying cloud of  metal.  They  roamed  the  surrounding
terrain, frantically attacking some things and defending others.
    One of them at last found a  pet  shop  with  some  lizards,  but  it
instantly defended the pet shop for democracy so savagely that  little  in
the area survived.
    A  turning  point  came  when  a  crack  team  of  flying  screechers
discovered the Zoo in Regent's Park, and  most  particularly  the  reptile
    Learning a  little  caution  from  their  previous  mistakes  in  the
petshop, the flying drills and fretsaws brought some  of  the  larger  and
fatter iguanas to the giant silver robot, who tried to conduct  high-level
talks with them.
    Eventually the robot announced to the world that  despite  the  full,
frank and wide-ranging exchange of views the high level talks  had  broken
down, the lizards had been retired, and that it, the robot  would  take  a
short holiday somewhere, and for some reason selected Bournemouth.
    Ford Prefect, watching it on TV, nodded,  laughed,  and  had  another
    Immediate preparations were made for its departure.
    The flying toolkits screeched and sawed and drilled and fried  things
with light throughout that day and all through the night time, and in  the
morning, stunningly, a giant mobile gantry started to  roll  westwards  on
several roads simultaneously with the  robot  standing  on  it,  supported
within the gantry.
    Westward it crawled, like a strange carnival  buzzed  around  by  its
servants and helicopters and news coaches, scything through the land until
at last it came to Bournemouth, where the robot slowly freed  itself  from
it transport system's embraces and went and lay for ten days on the beach.
    It was, of course, by far the  most  exciting  thing  that  had  ever
happened to Bournemouth.
    Crowds gathered daily along the perimeter which was  staked  out  and
guarded as the robot's recreation area, and  tried  to  see  what  it  was
    It was doing nothing. It was lying on  the  beach.  It  was  lying  a
little awkwardly on its face.
    It was a journalist from a local paper who, late one  night,  managed
to do what no one else in the world had  so  far  managed,  which  was  to
strike up a brief intelligible conversation with one of the service robots
guarding the perimeter.
    It was an extraordinary breakthrough.
    - I think there's a story in it, - confided  the  journalist  over  a
cigarette shared through the steel link fence, - but it needs a good local
angle. I've got a little list of questions here, - he went  on,  rummaging
awkwardly in an inner pocket, - perhaps you could get  him,  it,  whatever
you call him, to run through them quickly.
    The little flying ratchet screwdriver said it would see what it  cold
do and screeched off.
    A reply was never forthcoming.
    Curiously, however, the questions on the piece of paper more or  less
exactly  matched  the  questions  that  were  going  through  the  massive
battle-scarred industrial quality circuits of the robot's mind. They  were
    - How do you feel about being a robot?
    - How does it feel to be from outer space? - and
    - How do you like Bournemouth?
    Early the following day things started to be packed up and  within  a
few days it became apparent that the robot  was  preparing  to  leave  for
    - The point is, - said Fenchurch to Ford, - can you get us on board?
    Ford looked wildly at his watch.
    - I have  some  serious  unfinished  business  to  attend  to,  -  he

                               Chapter 38

    Crowds thronged as close as they could to  the  giant  silver  craft,
which wasn't very. The immediate perimeter was fenced off and patrolled by
the tiny flying service robots. Staked out around that was the  army,  who
had been completely unable to breach that inner perimeter, but were damned
if anybody was going to breach them. They in turn  were  surrounded  by  a
cordon of police, though whether they were there  to  protect  the  public
from the army or the army from the  public,  or  to  guarantee  the  giant
ship's diplomatic immunity and prevent  it  getting  parking  tickets  was
entirely unclear and the subject of much debate.
    The inner perimeter fence was now being dismantled. The army  stirred
uncomfortably, uncertain of how to react to the fact that the  reason  for
their being there seemed as if it was simply going to get up and go.
    The giant robot had lurched back aboard the ship  at  lunchtime,  and
now it was five o'clock in the afternoon and no further sign had been seen
of it. Much had been heard - more grindings and rumblings from deep within
the craft, the music of a million hideous malfunctions; but the  sense  of
tense expectation among the crowd was born of the fact that  they  tensely
expected to be disappointed. This wonderful extraordinary thing  had  come
into their lives, an now it was simply going to go without them.
    Two people were particularly aware  of  this  sensation.  Arthur  and
Fenchurch scanned the crowd anxiously, unable to find Ford Prefect  in  it
anywhere, or any sign that he had the slightest intention of being there.
    - How reliable is he? - asked Fenchurch in a sinking voice.
    - How reliable? - said Arthur. He gave a hollow laugh. - How  shallow
is the ocean? - he said. - How cold is the sun?
    The last parts of the robot's gantry transport were being carried  on
board, and the few remaining sections of  the  perimeter  fence  were  now
stacked at the bottom of the ramp waiting to follow them. The soldiers  on
guard round the ramp bristled meaningfully, orders were  barked  back  and
forth, hurried conferences were held, but nothing,  of  course,  could  be
done about any of it.
    Hopelessly, and with no clear plan now, Arthur and  Fenchurch  pushed
forward through the crowd, but since the whole crowd was  also  trying  to
push forward through the crowd, this got them nowhere.
    And within a few minutes more  nothing  remained  outside  the  ship,
every last link of the fence was aboard. A couple of flying fret saws  and
a spirit level seemed to do one last  check  around  the  site,  and  then
screamed in through the giant hatchway themselves.
    A few seconds passed.
    The sounds of mechanical disarray from within changed  in  intensity,
and slowly, heavily, the huge steel ramp began to lift itself back out  of
the Harrods Food Halls. The sound that accompanied it  was  the  sound  of
thousands of tense, excited people being completely ignored.
    - Hold it!
    A megaphone barked from a taxi which screeched to a halt on the  edge
of the milling crowd.
    - There has been, -  barked  the  megaphone,  -  a  major  scientific
break-in! Through. Breakthrough, - it corrected itself. The door flew open
and a small man from somewhere in the vicinity  of  Betelgeuse  leapt  out
wearing a white coat.
    - Hold it! - he shouted again, and this time brandished a short squad
black rod with lights on it. The lights winked briefly, the ramp paused in
its ascent, and then in obedience to the signals  from  the  Thumb  (which
half the electronic engineers in the galaxy are constantly trying to  find
fresh ways of jamming, while the other half are constantly trying to  find
fresh ways  of  jamming  the  jamming  signals),  slowly  ground  its  way
downwards again.
    Ford Prefect grabbed his megaphone from out of the taxi  and  started
bawling at the crowd through it.
    - Make way, - he shouted,  -  make  way,  please,  this  is  a  major
scientific breakthrough. You and you, get the equipment from the taxi.
    Completely at random he pointed at Arthur and Fenchurch, who wrestled
their way back out of the crowd and clustered urgently round the taxi.
    - All right, I  want  you  to  clear  a  passage,  please,  for  some
important pieces of scientific equipment, - boomed Ford. - Just  everybody
keep calm. It's all under control, there's nothing to see. It is merely  a
major  scientific  breakthrough.  Keep  calm  now.  Important   scientific
equipment. Clear the way.
    Hungry for new excitement, delighted at  this  sudden  reprieve  from
disappointment, the crowd enthusiastically fell back and started  to  open
    Arthur was a little surprised to see what was printed on the boxes of
important scientific equipment in the back of the taxi.
    - Hang your coat over them, - he muttered to Fenchurch as  he  heaved
them out to her. Hurriedly he manoeuvred out the large supermarket trolley
that was also jammed against the back seat. It clattered  to  the  ground,
and together they loaded the boxes into it.
    - Clear a path, please, - shouted Ford again.  -  Everything's  under
proper scientific control.
    - He said you'd pay, - said the taxi-driver to Arthur,  who  dug  out
some notes and paid him. There was the distant sound of police sirens.
    - Move along there, - shouted Ford, - and no one will get hurt.
    The crowd surged and closed behind them again,  as  frantically  they
pushed and hauled the rattling  supermarket  trolley  through  the  rubble
towards the ramp.
    - It's all right, - Ford continued to bellow. -  There's  nothing  to
see, it's all over. None of this is actually happening.
    - Clear the way, please, - boomed a police megaphone from the back of
the crowd. - There's been a break-in, clear the way.
    - Breakthrough,  -  yelled   Ford  in  competition.  -  A  scientific
    - This is the police! Clear the way!
    - Scientific equipment! Clear the way!
    - Police! Let us through!
    - Walkmen! - yelled Ford, and pulled  half  a  dozen  miniature  tape
players from his pockets and tossed them into  the  crowd.  The  resulting
seconds of utter confusion allowed them to get the supermarket trolley  to
the edge of the ramp, and to haul it up on to the lip of it.
    - Hold  tight,  -  muttered  Ford,  and  released  a  button  on  his
Electronic Thumb. Beneath them, the huge ramp juddered and began slowly to
heave its way upwards.
    - Ok, kids, - he said as the milling crowd dropped away beneath  them
and they started to lurch their way along the tilting ramp into the bowels
of the ship, - looks like we're on our way.

                               Chapter 39

    Arthur Dent was irritated to be continually wakened by the  sound  of
    Being careful not to wake Fenchurch, who was still managing to  sleep
fitfully, he slid his way out of the maintenance hatchway which  they  had
fashioned into a kind of bunk  for  themselves,  slung  himself  down  the
access ladder and prowled the corridors moodily.
    They were claustrophobic and ill-lit. The  lighting  circuits  buzzed
    This wasn't it, though.
    He paused and leaned backwards as a flying power drill flew past  him
down the dim corridor with a nasty screech, occasionally clanging  against
the walls like a confused bee as it did so.
    That wasn't it either.
    He clambered through a bulkhead door and found himself  in  a  larger
corridor. Acrid smoke was drifting up from one end so  he  walked  towards
the other.
    He came to an observation monitor let into the wall behind a plate of
toughened but still badly scratched perspex.
    - Would you turn it down please? - he said to Ford  Prefect  who  was
crouching in front of it in  the  middle  of  a  pile  of  bits  of  video
equipment he'd taken from a shop window in Tottenham  Court  Road,  having
first hurled a small brick through it, and also a nasty heap of empty beer
    - Shhhh! - hissed Ford, and peered with manic  concentration  at  the
screen. He was watching The Magnificent Seven.
    - Just a bit, - said Arthur.
    - No! - shouted Ford. - We're just getting to the good bit! Listen, I
finally  got  it  all  sorted  out,  voltage  levels,   line   conversion,
everything, and this is the good bit!
    With a sigh and a headache, Arthur sat down beside  him  and  watched
the good bit. He listened to Ford's whoops and  yells  and  "yeehay!"s  as
placidly as he could.
    - Ford, - he said eventually, when it was  all  over,  and  Ford  was
hunting through a stack of cassettes for the tape  of  Casablanca,  -  how
come, if...
    - This is the big one, - said Ford. - This is the  one  I  came  back
for. Do you realize I never saw it all through? Always I missed the end. I
saw half of it again the night before the Vogons came. When they blew  the
place up I thought I'd never get to see it. Hey, what  happened  with  all
that anyway?
    - Just life, - said Arthur, and plucked a beer from a six-pack.
    - Oh, that again, - said Ford. - I thought it might be something like
that. I prefer this stuff, - he said as Rick's Bar  flickered  on  to  the
screen. - How come if what?
    - What?
    - You started to say, "how come if..."
    - How come if you're so rude about the Earth, that  you...  oh  never
mind, let's just watch the movie.
    - Exactly, - said Ford.

                               Chapter 40

    There remains little still to tell.
    Beyond what used to be known as the Limitless Lightfields  of  Flanux
until the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine were discovered lying  behind
them, lie the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine. Within the Grey  Binding
Fiefdoms of Saxaquine lies the star named Zarss, around which  orbits  the
planet Preliumtarn in which is the land of Sevorbeupstry, and  it  was  to
the land of Sevorbeupstry that Arthur and Fenchurch came at last, a little
tired by the journey.
    And in the land of Sevorbeupstry, they came to the Great Red Plain of
Rars, which was bounded  on  the  South  side  by  the  Quentulus  Quazgar
Mountains, on the further side of which, according to the dying  words  of
Prak, they would find in  thirtyfoot-high  letters  of  fire  God's  Final
Message to His Creation.
    According to Prak, if Arthur's memory saved him right, the place  was
guarded by the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob, and so,  after  a  manner,  it
proved to be. He was a little man in a strange hat  and  he  sold  them  a
    - Keep to the left, please, - he said, - keep  to  the  left,  -  and
hurried on past them on a little scooter.
    They realized they were not the first to pass that way, for the  path
that led around the left of the Great Plain was well-worn and dotted  with
booths. At one they bought a box of fudge, which had been baked in an oven
in a cave in the mountain, which was heated by the  fire  of  the  letters
that formed God's Final Message to His Creation. At  another  they  bought
some postcards. The letters had been blurred with an airbrush, - so as not
to spoil the Big Surprise! - it said on the reverse.
    - Do you know what the message is? - they asked  the  wizened  little
lady in the booth.
    - Oh yes, - she piped cheerily, - oh yes!
    She waved them on.
    Every twenty miles or so there was a little stone  hut  with  showers
and sanitary facilities, but the going was tough, and the high  sun  baked
down on the Great Red Plain, and the Great Red Plain rippled in the heat.
    - Is it possible, - asked Arthur at one of the larger  booths,  -  to
rent one of those little scooters? Like  the  one  Lajestic  Ventrawhatsit
    - The scooters, - said the little lady who  was  serving  at  an  ice
cream bar, - are not for the devout.
    - Oh  well,  that's   easy  then,  -  said  Fenchurch,  -  we're  not
particularly devout. We're just interested.
    - Then you must turn back now, - said the little lady  severely,  and
when they demurred, sold them a couple of  Final  Message  sunhats  and  a
photograph of themselves with their arms tight around each  other  on  the
Great Red Plain of Rars.
    They drank a couple of sodas in the  shade  of  the  booth  and  then
trudged out into the sun again.
    - We're running out of border cream, - said  Fenchurch  after  a  few
more miles. - We can go to the  next  booth,  or  we  can  return  to  the
previous one which is nearer, but means  we  have  to  retrace  our  steps
    They stared ahead at the distant black  speck  winking  in  the  heat
haze; they looked behind themselves. They elected to go on.
    They then discovered that they were not only not the  first  ones  to
make this journey, but that they were not the only ones making it now.
    Some way ahead of them  an  awkward  low  shape  was  heaving  itself
wretchedly along the  ground,  stumbling  painfully  slowly,  halflimping,
    It was moving so slowly that before too long they caught the creature
up and could see that it was made of worn, scarred and twisted metal.
    It groaned at them as they approached it, collapsing in the  hot  dry
    - So much time, - it groaned, - oh so much time. And pain as well, so
much of that, and so much time to suffer it in too. One or  the  other  on
its own I could probably manage. It's the two together that really get  me
down. Oh hello, you again.
    - Marvin? - said Arthur sharply, crouching down beside it. - Is  that
    - You were always one, - groaned the aged husk of the  robot,  -  for
the super-intelligent question, weren't you?
    - What is it?  -  whispered  Fenchurch  in  alarm,  crouching  behind
Arthur, and grasping on to his arm.
    - He's sort of an old friend, - said Arthur. - I...
    - Friend! - croaked the robot pathetically. The word died away  in  a
kind of crackle and flakes of rust fell out of its mouth. - You'll have to
excuse me while I try and remember what the word means.  My  memory  banks
are not what they were you know, and any word which falls into disuse  for
a few zillion years has to get shifted down into auxiliary memory back-up.
Ah, here it comes.
    The robot's battered head snapped up a bit as if in thought.
    - Hmm, - he said, - what a curious concept.
    He thought a little longer.
    - No, - he said at last, - don't think I  ever  came  across  one  of
those. Sorry, can't help you there.
    He scraped a knee along pathetically in the dust, an  then  tried  to
twist himself up on his misshapen elbows.
    - Is there any last service you would like  me  to  perform  for  you
perhaps? - he asked in a kind of hollow rattle. - A piece  of  paper  that
perhaps you would like me to pick up for you? Or maybe you would like  me,
he continued, - to open a door?
    His head scratched round in its rusty neck  bearings  and  seemed  to
scan the distant horizon.
    - Don't seem to be any doors around at present, - he said, - but  I'm
sure that if we waited long enough, someone would build one. And  then,  -
he said slowly twisting his head around to see Arthur  again,  -  I  could
open it for you. I'm quite used to waiting you know.
    - Arthur, - hissed Fenchurch in his ear sharply, - you never told  me
of this. What have you done to this poor creature?
    - Nothing, - insisted Arthur sadly, - he's always like this...
    - Ha! - snapped Marvin. - Ha! - he repeated. - What do  you  know  of
always? You say "always" to me, who, because of the silly  little  errands
your organic lifeforms  keep  on  sending  me  through  time  on,  am  now
thirty-seven times older than the Universe itself? Pick your words with  a
little more care, - he coughed, - and tact.
    He rasped his way through a coughing fit and resumed.
    - Leave me, - he said, - go on ahead, leave me to struggle  painfully
on my way. My time at last has nearly come. My race is nearly run. I fully
expect, - he said, feebly waving them on with a broken finger, -  to  come
in last. It would be fitting. Here I am, brain the size...
    Between them they picked him  up  despite  his  feeble  protests  and
insults. The metal was so hot it nearly blistered their  fingers,  but  he
weighed surprisingly little, and hung limply between their arms.
    They carried him with them along the path that ran along the left  of
the Great Red Plain of Rars toward the encircling mountains  of  Quentulus
    Arthur  attempted  to  explain  to  Fenchurch,  but  was  too   often
interrupted by Marvin's dolorous cybernetic ravings.
    They tried to see if they could get him some spare parts  at  one  of
the booths, but Marvin would have none of it.
    - I'm all spare parts, - he droned.
    - Let me be! - he groaned.
    - Every part of me, - he moaned, - has been replaced at  least  fifty
times... except... - He seemed almost  imperceptibly  to  brighten  for  a
moment. His head bobbed between them with the effort of memory. -  Do  you
remember, the first time you ever met me, - he said at last to Arthur. - I
had been given the intellectstretching  task  of  taking  you  up  to  the
bridge? I mentioned to you that I had this terrible pain in all the diodes
down my left side? That I had asked for them to be replaced but they never
    He left a longish pause before he  continued.  They  carried  him  on
between them, under the baking sun that hardly ever seemed  to  move,  let
alone set.
    - See if you can guess, - said Marvin, when he judged that the  pause
had become embarrassing enough, - which parts of me were  never  replaced?
Go on, see if you can guess.
    - Ouch, - he added, - ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.
    At last they reached the last of the little booths, set  down  Marvin
between them and rested in the shade. Fenchurch bought some cufflinks  for
Russell, cufflinks that had set in them little polished pebbles which  had
been picked up from the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains,  directly  underneath
the letters of fire in which  was  written  God's  Final  Message  to  His
    Arthur flipped through a little rack  of  devotional  tracts  on  the
counter, little meditations on the meaning of the Message.
    - Ready? - he said to Fenchurch, who nodded.
    They heaved up Marvin between them.
    They rounded the foot of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains,  and  there
was the Message  written  in  blazing  letters  along  the  crest  of  the
Mountain. There was a little observation vantage point with a  rail  built
along the top of a large rock facing it, from which you could get  a  good
view. It had a little pay-telescope for looking at the letters in  detail,
but no one would ever use it because the letters burned  with  the  divine
brilliance of the heavens and would, if seen  through  a  telescope,  have
severely damaged the retina and optic nerve.
    They gazed at God's Final Message in wonderment, and were slowly  and
ineffably filled with a great sense of peace, and of  final  and  complete
    Fenchurch sighed.
    - Yes, - she said, - that was it.
    They had been staring at it for fully ten minutes before they  became
aware that Marvin, hanging between their shoulders, was  in  difficulties.
The robot could no longer lift his head, had not read  the  message.  They
lifted his head, but he complained that his  vision  circuits  had  almost
    They found a coin and helped him to the telescope. He complained  and
insulted them, but they helped him look at each individual letter in turn,
The first letter was a "w", the second an "e". Then there was  a  gap.  An
"a" followed, then a "p", an "o" and an "l".
    Marvin paused for a rest.
    After a few moments they resumed and let him see the  "o",  the  "g",
the "i", the "s" and the "e".
    The next two words were "for" and "the". The last one was a long one,
and Marvin needed another rest before he could tackle it.
    It started with an "i", then "n" then a "c". Next came an "o" and  an
"n", followed by a "v", an "e", another "n" and an "i".
    After a final pause,  Marvin  gathered  his  strength  for  the  last
    He read the "e", the "n", the "c" and at  last  the  final  "e",  and
staggered back into their arms.
    - I think, - he murmured at last,  from  deep  within  his  corroding
rattling thorax, - I feel good about it.
    The lights went out in his eyes for absolutely  the  very  last  time
    Luckily, there was a stall nearby where you could rent scooters  from
guys with green wings.


    One of the greatest  benefactors  of  all  lifekind  was  a  man  who
couldn't keep his mind on the job in hand.
    One of the foremost genetic engineers of his or any other generation,
including a number he had designed himself?
    Without a doubt. The problem was that he was far  too  interested  in
things which he shouldn't be interested in, at least, as people would tell
him, not now.
    He  was  also,  partly  because  of  this,  of  a  rather   irritable
    So when his world was threatened by terrible invaders from a  distant
star, who were still a  fair  way  off  but  travelling  fast,  he,  Blart
Versenwald III (his name was Blart Versenwald III, which is  not  strictly
relevant, but quite interesting because - never mind, that  was  his  name
and we can talk about why it's interesting later), was sent  into  guarded
seclusion by the masters of his race with instructions to design  a  breed
of fanatical superwarriors to resist and vanquish the feared invaders,  do
it quickly and, they told him, "Concentrate!"
    So he sat by a window and looked out at a summer  lawn  and  designed
and designed and designed, but  inevitably  got  a  little  distracted  by
things, and by the time the invaders were practically in orbit round them,
had come up with a remarkable new breed of super-fly that could,  unaided,
figure out how to fly through the open half of  a  half-open  window,  and
also  an  offswitch  for  children.  Celebrations  of   these   remarkable
achievements seemed doomed to be shortlived because disaster was  imminent
as the alien ships were landing. But astoundingly, the  fearsome  invaders
who, like most warlike  races  were  only  on  the  rampage  because  they
couldn't  cope  with  things  at  home,  were  stunned   by   Versenwald's
extraordinary breakthroughs, joined in the celebrations and were instantly
prevailed upon to sign a wide-ranging series of trading agreements and set
up a programme of cultural exchanges. And, in an astonishing  reversal  of
normal practice in the conduct of such matters, everybody concerned  lived
happily ever after.
    There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily  escaped  the
chronicler's mind.

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