THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

A few delicious tidbits in here, to which we will add as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by.

Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:57 pm

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 the 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 runs west from Los Angeles, which is described in the new edition of The Hitchhiker'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 also is a space traveler. 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 the peculiarness of his house which, even in a land where most people's houses were peculiar in one way or another, was quite extreme in its 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 do this -- Wonko the Sane.

In his house were a number of strange things, including a gray 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.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:58 pm

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 I?"

"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 whirlpool of the man's exasperating conversation.

"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, spilled his tea, and actually, for a moment, appeared to be steaming.

You can't just walk around 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 all the whole time?"

"Didn't rain yesterday."

"Did in Darlington."

Arthur paused, warily.

"You going to ask me where I was then 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 cheerily to Arthur, "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 tires on? Har-har."

He breezed by and went to tell a joke about Britt Ekland to someone at a nearby table who roared with laughter.

"See, none of them bastards take me seriously," said Rob McKenna, "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 McKenna'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 McKenna.

And he did.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:58 pm

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 blew a lot of bread 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.

"Okay, 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 ago 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 math.

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."
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:58 pm

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 a useful bunch, as anyone who regularly needs old woodworking tools, Boer War helmets, drag, office furniture, or fish will readily confirm.

The sun beat down over the roof gardens. 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 dolphins.

"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 paneled 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 used originally to haul up 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.

"Okay," 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 leaned 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 maneuvered 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 cast-iron clothes wringer stood there, a surprising number of kitchen sinks were piled in a corner. There was also, Arthur was momentarily alarmed to see, a baby carriage, 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 started 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 marvelous 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 interesting.

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 wakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching gray 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 until 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 head.

"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 old 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 down over herself and disappeared quickly into the bathroom.

She emerged a moment later, all smiles and with a sun hat, 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.

"Hmmm," 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. "If you heard 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 leaned 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 gray fishbowl made when he flicked it with his thumbnail.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:59 pm

Chapter 19

Ford Prefect was irritated to be continually awakened by the sound of gunfire.

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 its 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 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 down the dim corridor past him, 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 went 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 built into the walls behind plates of toughened but still badly scratched Plexiglas.

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.

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 star cruisers came searing round the dark shadow of a moon, silhouetted against the blinding disk of the star X axis, 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 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy out of his satchel. He activated the screen, and flickered 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 again.

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 chink 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.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:59 pm

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 girls' 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 expostulating from his deck chair 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 deck chair 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.

"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 trees 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 up over his face.

It is a park in which people do more extraordinary things than they do elsewhere. Arthur and Fenchurch found a man in shorts practicing 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.

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 downward.

"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 bottom."

They kissed for so long that eventually the piper went and practiced 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 ocher and sat and watched the stunning ducks and the low sunlight rippling on the water which ran beneath the stunning ducks.

"A story," said Fenchurch, cuddling his arm to her.

"Which will tell something of the sort of things that happen to me. It's absolutely true."

"True story."

"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. I arrived at the station --"

"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 station."

"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 it?"

"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," e 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," said Arthur, "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 vigor 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 grueling."

"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 complete nitwit," she hooted, "you almost completely and utterly foolish person."

She pushed him backward, 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 lake 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 sorts of stories always start like this, don't they? 'When I was a kid ...' Anyway. This is the bit when 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 credits."

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 color, 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 think 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 behavior 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 3 D 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 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 story of the CIA agent in the reservoir. The French Embassy went swimmy. The Sheraton Tower Hotel and the Bank of Abu Dhabi went swimmy. The trees went swimmy. The lake went swimmy, but this was perfectly natural and nothing to be alarmed at because a gray 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 wide-eyed 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 him.

"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 hallucinations?"

"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 those nasty creepy feelings he so often got when people were trying to explain things to him.

"Disappeared?"

"Yes."

"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 saying?"

"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 laid 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 travel-worn as if 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 vapored 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 her.

"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 Hitchhiker'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?"

"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."
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:59 pm

Chapter 21

The Hitchhiker 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 guidebook. The problem is, or rather one of the problems, for there are many, a sizable number 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:

Change.

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 the Guide has ever had, has no real grasp of the meaning of the words "scrupulous," "conscientious," and "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 miniseries as home of the magnificent and magical Fuolornis Fire Dragon.

In ancient days, before the advent of the Sorth of Bragadox, when Fragilis sang and Saxaquine of the Quenelux held sway, when the air was sweet and the nights fragrant, but they all 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 Avalars 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.

Sex.

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 were 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 among hitchhikers 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 travelers 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.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:00 pm

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 pizza with extra anchovies 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 drink -- 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."

"So it is."

"Did you know that ..."

"What?"

"Ah, 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 Sqornshellous 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 him 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 around 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 Sqornshellous Beta.

He frowned.

"Pick me up," she said quietly.

He let her right foot down on 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 put 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 forward over her eyes that were ruling with dark fearful tears.

He stood up quickly, put his arms around her and gave her a single kiss.

"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.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:00 pm

Chapter 23

The battle raged on about the star of X axis. 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 deploy.

Part of the moon had gone, too, blasted away by those same blazing force guns 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, quietly.

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 dreams he was walking late at night along the East Side, beside the river which had become so extravagantly polluted that new life forms were now emerging from it spontaneously, demanding welfare and voting rights.

One of these 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 of that," said Ford, "on Seventh Avenue."

"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?"

The thing was oozing all over the place now, squelching and blubbering. A nearby wino was getting interested.

"To me?" said Ford. "No. But listen," he added after a moment, "most people make out, you know. Are there any more 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 authority.

"Life," he said, "is like a grapefruit."

"Er, how so?"

"Well, it's sort of orangy-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 onto his other side. It wasn't his favorite type of dream because it didn't have Eccentrica Gallumbits (the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six) in it, whom many of his dreams did feature. But at least it was a dream. At least he was asleep.
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Re: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:00 pm

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 toward 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 bird talk 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 time switch 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 doorway.

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. And I couldn't immediately think of any others."

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 dramatically upward and bobbed back down toward 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 onto my hand, just one foot."

"What?"

"Try it."

Nervously, hesitantly, almost, she told herself, as if she was trying to step onto the hand of someone who was floating in front of her in midair, she stepped onto 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 gutter 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 that had their offices around the corner and took her 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 had never seen the gutter from this angle before, and it looked to her now as if there might be a bird's nest as well as all the mud and gunge up there. 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 him. 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 to an iron bar embedded in concrete by hoops of tungsten carbide, he peacefully bent both its wheels and went on his way.

Arthur let out a long-held breath.

"See what a piece of eggshell I have found you," said Fenchurch in his ear.
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