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Aug 31, 2001
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Here you go..the first chapter!
Douglas Adams. The Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy

Fantazy. 1990.

Based on the famous Radio series

Douglas N. Adams was born in Cambridge in 1952. He was
educated at Brentwood School, Essex and St. John's College,
Cambridge where he read English. After graduation he spent several
years contributing material to radio and television shows
as well as writing, performing and sometimes directing stage
revues in London, Cambridge and on the Edinburgh Fringe. He has
also worked at various times as a hospital porter, barn
builder, chicken shed cleaner, bodyguard, radio producer and
script editor of Doctor Who.

He is not married, has no children, and does not live in Surrey.

for Jonny Brock and Clare Gorst
and all other Arlingtonians
for tea, sympathy, and a sofa

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 not her story.
But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of
its consequences.
It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitch Hiker's Guide
to the Galaxy - not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the
terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Earthman.
Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book.
in fact it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of
the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor - of which no Earthman had ever
heard either.
Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly
successful one - more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better
selling than Fifty More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more
controversial than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters
Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes and Who is this
God Person Anyway?
In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of
the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great
Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and
wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is
apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more
pedestrian work in two important respects.
First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words Don't
Panic inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.
But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its
extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are
inextricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.
It begins with a house.


The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It
stood on its own and looked over a broad spread of West Country farmland.
Not a remarkable house by any means - it was about thirty years old,
squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front
of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the
The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur
Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He
had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of
London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as
well, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that
used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him
what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio which he
always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they
probably thought. It was, too - most of his friends worked in advertising.
It hadn't properly registered with Arthur that the council wanted to
knock down his house and build an bypass instead.
At eight o'clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn't feel very good. He
woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a
window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the
bathroom to wash.
Toothpaste on the brush - so. Scrub.
Shaving mirror - pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a
moment it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window.
Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent's bristles. He shaved them
off, washed, dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something
pleasant to put in his mouth.
Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn.
The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search
of something to connect with.
The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.
He stared at it.
"Yellow," he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get
Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and
another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung over?
Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must have been.
He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. "Yellow," he thought and stomped
on to the bedroom.
He stood and thought. The pub, he thought. Oh dear, the pub. He
vaguely remembered being angry, angry about something that seemed
important. He'd been telling people about it, telling people about it at
great length, he rather suspected: his clearest visual recollection was of
glazed looks on other people's faces. Something about a new bypass he had
just found out about. It had been in the pipeline for months only no one
seemed to have known about it. Ridiculous. He took a swig of water. It
would sort itself out, he'd decided, no one wanted a bypass, the council
didn't have a leg to stand on. It would sort itself out.
God what a terrible hangover it had earned him though. He looked at
himself in the wardrobe mirror. He stuck out his tongue. "Yellow," he
thought. The word yellow wandered through his mind in search of something
to connect with.
Fifteen seconds later he was out of the house and lying in front of a
big yellow bulldozer that was advancing up his garden path.
Mr L Prosser was, as they say, only human. In other words he was a
carbon-based life form descended from an ape. More specifically he was
forty, fat and shabby and worked for the local council. Curiously enough,
though he didn't know it, he was also a direct male-line descendant of
Genghis Khan, though intervening generations and racial mixing had so
juggled his genes that he had no discernible Mongoloid characteristics,
and the only vestiges left in Mr L Prosser of his mighty ancestry were a
pronounced stoutness about the tum and a predilection for little fur hats.
He was by no means a great warrior: in fact he was a nervous worried
man. Today he was particularly nervous and worried because something had
gone seriously wrong with his job - which was to see that Arthur Dent's
house got cleared out of the way before the day was out.
"Come off it, Mr Dent,", he said, "you can't win you know. You can't
lie in front of the bulldozer indefinitely." He tried to make his eyes
blaze fiercely but they just wouldn't do it.
Arthur lay in the mud and squelched at him.
"I'm game," he said, "we'll see who rusts first."
"I'm afraid you're going to have to accept it," said Mr Prosser
gripping his fur hat and rolling it round the top of his head, "this
bypass has got to be built and it's going to be built!"
"First I've heard of it," said Arthur, "why's it going to be built?"
Mr Prosser shook his finger at him for a bit, then stopped and put it
away again.
"What do you mean, why's it got to be built?" he said. "It's a
bypass. You've got to build bypasses."
Bypasses are devices which allow some people to drive from point A to
point B very fast whilst other people dash from point B to point A very
fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are
often given to wonder what's so great about point A that so many people of
point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about point B that
so many people of point A are so keen to get there. They often wish that
people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to
Mr Prosser wanted to be at point D. Point D wasn't anywhere in
particular, it was just any convenient point a very long way from points
A, B and C. He would have a nice little cottage at point D, with axes over
the door, and spend a pleasant amount of time at point E, which would be
the nearest pub to point D. His wife of course wanted climbing roses, but
he wanted axes. He didn't know why - he just liked axes. He flushed hotly
under the derisive grins of the bulldozer drivers.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, but it was equally
uncomfortable on each. Obviously somebody had been appallingly incompetent
and he hoped to God it wasn't him.
Mr Prosser said: "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or
protests at the appropriate time you know."
"Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I
knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him
if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he'd come to demolish the
house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a
couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he told me."
"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning
office for the last nine month."
"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them,
yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call
attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or
"But the plans were on display..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a torch."
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a
locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door
saying Beware of the Leopard."
A cloud passed overhead. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent as he lay
propped up on his elbow in the cold mud. It cast a shadow over Arthur
Dent's house. Mr Prosser frowned at it.
"It's not as if it's a particularly nice house," he said.
"I'm sorry, but I happen to like it."
"You'll like the bypass."
"Oh shut up," said Arthur Dent. "Shut up and go away, and take your
bloody bypass with you. You haven't got a leg to stand on and you know
Mr Prosser's mouth opened and closed a couple of times while his mind
was for a moment filled with inexplicable but terribly attractive visions
of Arthur Dent's house being consumed with fire and Arthur himself running
screaming from the blazing ruin with at least three hefty spears
protruding from his back. Mr Prosser was often bothered with visions like
these and they made him feel very nervous. He stuttered for a moment and
then pulled himself together.
"Mr Dent," he said.
"Hello? Yes?" said Arthur.
"Some factual information for you. Have you any idea how much damage
that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?"
"How much?" said Arthur.
"None at all," said Mr Prosser, and stormed nervously off wondering
why his brain was filled with a thousand hairy horsemen all shouting at
By a curious coincidence, None at all is exactly how much suspicion
the ape-descendant Arthur Dent had that one of his closest friends was not
descended from an ape, but was in fact from a small planet in the vicinity
of Betelgeuse and not from Guildford as he usually claimed.
Arthur Dent had never, ever suspected this.
This friend of his had first arrived on the planet some fifteen Earth
years previously, and he had worked hard to blend himself into Earth
society - with, it must be said, some success. For instance he had spent
those fifteen years pretending to be an out of work actor, which was
plausible enough.
He had made one careless blunder though, because he had skimped a bit
on his preparatory research. The information he had gathered had led him
to choose the name "Ford Prefect" as being nicely inconspicuous.
He was not conspicuously tall, his features were striking but not
conspicuously handsome. His hair was wiry and gingerish and brushed
backwards from the temples. His skin seemed to be pulled backwards from
the nose. There was something very slightly odd about him, but it was
difficult to say what it was. Perhaps it was that his eyes didn't blink
often enough and when you talked to him for any length of time your eyes
began involuntarily to water on his behalf. Perhaps it was that he smiled
slightly too broadly and gave people the unnerving impression that he was
about to go for their neck.
He struck most of the friends he had made on Earth as an eccentric,
but a harmless one - an unruly boozer with some oddish habits. For
instance he would often gatecrash university parties, get badly drunk and
start making fun of any astrophysicist he could find till he got thrown
Sometimes he would get seized with oddly distracted moods and stare
into the sky as if hypnotized until someone asked him what he was doing.
Then he would start guiltily for a moment, relax and grin.
"Oh, just looking for flying saucers," he would joke and everyone
would laugh and ask him what sort of flying saucers he was looking for.
"Green ones!" he would reply with a wicked grin, laugh wildly for a
moment and then suddenly lunge for the nearest bar and buy an enormous
round of drinks.
Evenings like this usually ended badly. Ford would get out of his
skull on whisky, huddle into a corner with some girl and explain to her in
slurred phrases that honestly the colour of the flying saucers didn't
matter that much really.
Thereafter, staggering semi-paralytic down the night streets he would
often ask passing policemen if they knew the way to Betelgeuse. The
policemen would usually say something like, "Don't you think it's about
time you went off home sir?"
"I'm trying to baby, I'm trying to," is what Ford invariably replied
on these occasions.
In fact what he was really looking out for when he stared
distractedly into the night sky was any kind of flying saucer at all. The
reason he said green was that green was the traditional space livery of
the Betelgeuse trading scouts.
Ford Prefect was desperate that any flying saucer at all would arrive
soon because fifteen years was a long time to get stranded anywhere,
particularly somewhere as mindboggingly dull as the Earth.
Ford wished that a flying saucer would arrive soon because he knew
how to flag flying saucers down and get lifts from them. He knew how to
see the Marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairan dollars a
In fact, Ford Prefect was a roving researcher for that wholly
remarkable book The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Human beings are great adaptors, and by lunchtime life in the
environs of Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was
Arthur's accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional
demands to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr Prosser's
accepted role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the
For the Public Good talk, the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My
House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other
cajoleries and threats; and it was the bulldozer drivers' accepted role to
sit around drinking coffee and experimenting with union regulations to see
how they could turn the situation to their financial advantage.
The Earth moved slowly in its diurnal course.
The sun was beginning to dry out the mud Arthur lay in.
A shadow moved across him again.
"Hello Arthur," said the shadow.
Arthur looked up and squinting into the sun was startled to see Ford
Prefect standing above him.
"Ford! Hello, how are you?"
"Fine," said Ford, "look, are you busy?"
"Am I busy?" exclaimed Arthur. "Well, I've just got all these
bulldozers and things to lie in front of because they'll knock my house
down if I don't, but other than that... well, no not especially, why?"
They don't have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, and Ford Prefect often failed
to notice it unless he was concentrating. He said, "Good, is there
anywhere we can talk?"
"What?" said Arthur Dent.
For a few seconds Ford seemed to ignore him, and stared fixedly into
the sky like a rabbit trying to get run over by a car. Then suddenly he
squatted down beside Arthur.
"We've got to talk," he said urgently.
"Fine," said Arthur, "talk."
"And drink," said Ford. "It's vitally important that we talk and
drink. Now. We'll go to the pub in the village."
He looked into the sky again, nervous, expectant.
"Look, don't you understand?" shouted Arthur. He pointed at Prosser.
"That man wants to knock my house down!"
Ford glanced at him, puzzled.
"Well he can do it while you're away can't he?" he asked.
"But I don't want him to!"
"Look, what's the matter with you Ford?" said Arthur.
"Nothing. Nothing's the matter. Listen to me - I've got to tell you
the most important thing you've ever heard. I've got to tell you now, and
I've got to tell you in the saloon bar of the Horse and Groom."
"But why?"
"Because you are going to need a very stiff drink."
Ford stared at Arthur, and Arthur was astonished to find that his
will was beginning to weaken. He didn't realize that this was because of
an old drinking game that Ford learned to play in the hyperspace ports
that served the madranite mining belts in the star system of Orion Beta.
The game was not unlike the Earth game called Indian Wrestling, and
was played like this:
Two contestants would sit either side of a table, with a glass in
front of each of them.
Between them would be placed a bottle of Janx Spirit (as immortalized
in that ancient Orion mining song "Oh don't give me none more of that Old
Janx Spirit/ No, don't you give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit/ For
my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I may die/
Won't you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit").
Each of the two contestants would then concentrate their will on the
bottle and attempt to tip it and pour spirit into the glass of his
opponent - who would then have to drink it.
The bottle would then be refilled. The game would be played again.
And again.
Once you started to lose you would probably keep losing, because one
of the effects of Janx spirit is to depress telepsychic power.
As soon as a predetermined quantity had been consumed, the final
loser would have to perform a forfeit, which was usually obscenely
Ford Prefect usually played to lose.
Ford stared at Arthur, who began to think that perhaps he did want to
go to the Horse and Groom after all.
"But what about my house?.." he asked plaintively.
Ford looked across to Mr Prosser, and suddenly a wicked thought
struck him.
"He wants to knock your house down?"
"Yes, he wants to build..."
"And he can't because you're lying in front of the bulldozers?"
"Yes, and..."
"I'm sure we can come to some arrangement," said Ford. "Excuse me!"
he shouted.
Mr Prosser (who was arguing with a spokesman for the bulldozer
drivers about whether or not Arthur Dent constituted a mental health
hazard, and how much they should get paid if he did) looked around. He was
surprised and slightly alarmed to find that Arthur had company.
"Yes? Hello?" he called. "Has Mr Dent come to his senses yet?"
"Can we for the moment," called Ford, "assume that he hasn't?"
"Well?" sighed Mr Prosser.
"And can we also assume," said Ford, "that he's going to be staying
here all day?"
"So all your men are going to be standing around all day doing
"Could be, could be..."
"Well, if you're resigned to doing that anyway, you don't actually
need him to lie here all the time do you?"
"You don't," said Ford patiently, "actually need him here."
Mr Prosser thought about this.
"Well no, not as such...", he said, "not exactly need..." Prosser was
worried. He thought that one of them wasn't making a lot of sense.
Ford said, "So if you would just like to take it as read that he's
actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an
hour. How does that sound?"
Mr Prosser thought it sounded perfectly potty.
"That sounds perfectly reasonable," he said in a reassuring tone of
voice, wondering who he was trying to reassure.
"And if you want to pop off for a quick one yourself later on," said
Ford, "we can always cover up for you in return."
"Thank you very much," said Mr Prosser who no longer knew how to play
this at all, "thank you very much, yes, that's very kind..." He frowned,
then smiled, then tried to do both at once, failed, grasped hold of his
fur hat and rolled it fitfully round the top of his head. He could only
assume that he had just won.
"So," continued Ford Prefect, "if you would just like to come over
here and lie down..."
"What?" said Mr Prosser.
"Ah, I'm sorry," said Ford, "perhaps I hadn't made myself fully
clear. Somebody's got to lie in front of the bulldozers haven't they? Or
there won't be anything to stop them driving into Mr Dent's house will
"What?" said Mr Prosser again.
"It's very simple," said Ford, "my client, Mr Dent, says that he will
stop lying here in the mud on the sole condition that you come and take
over from him."
"What are you talking about?" said Arthur, but Ford nudged him with
his shoe to be quiet.
"You want me," said Mr Prosser, spelling out this new thought to
himself, "to come and lie there..."
"In front of the bulldozer?"
"Instead of Mr Dent."
"In the mud."
"In, as you say it, the mud."
As soon as Mr Prosser realized that he was substantially the loser
after all, it was as if a weight lifted itself off his shoulders: this was
more like the world as he knew it. He sighed.
"In return for which you will take Mr Dent with you down to the pub?"
"That's it," said Ford. "That's it exactly."
Mr Prosser took a few nervous steps forward and stopped.
"Promise," said Ford. He turned to Arthur.
"Come on," he said to him, "get up and let the man lie down."
Arthur stood up, feeling as if he was in a dream.
Ford beckoned to Prosser who sadly, awkwardly, sat down in the mud.
He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes
wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. The mud folded
itself round his bottom and his arms and oozed into his shoes.
Ford looked at him severely.
"And no sneaky knocking down Mr Dent's house whilst he's away,
alright?" he said.
"The mere thought," growled Mr Prosser, "hadn't even begun to
speculate," he continued, settling himself back, "about the merest
possibility of crossing my mind."
He saw the bulldozer driver's union representative approaching and
let his head sink back and closed his eyes. He was trying to marshal his
arguments for proving that he did not now constitute a mental health
hazard himself. He was far from certain about this - his mind seemed to be
full of noise, horses, smoke, and the stench of blood. This always
happened when he felt miserable and put upon, and he had never been able
to explain it to himself. In a high dimension of which we know nothing the
mighty Khan bellowed with rage, but Mr Prosser only trembled slightly and
whimpered. He began to fell little pricks of water behind the eyelids.
Bureaucratic cock-ups, angry men lying in the mud, indecipherable
strangers handing out inexplicable humiliations and an unidentified army
of horsemen laughing at him in his head - what a day.
What a day. Ford Prefect knew that it didn't matter a pair of dingo's
kidneys whether Arthur's house got knocked down or not now.
Arthur remained very worried.
"But can we trust him?" he said.
"Myself I'd trust him to the end of the Earth," said Ford.
"Oh yes," said Arthur, "and how far's that?"
"About twelve minutes away," said Ford, "come on, I need a drink."
And here is the second chapter:


Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol. It
says that alcohol is a colourless volatile liquid formed by the
fermentation of sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain
carbon-based life forms.
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy also mentions alcohol. It says
that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.
It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like
having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large
gold brick.
The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic
Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what
voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards.
The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself.
Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit, it says.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V - Oh
that Santraginean sea water, it says. Oh those Santraginean fish!!!
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it
must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in
memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes
of Fallia.
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin
Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin
Zones, subtle sweet and mystic.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve,
spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
Sprinkle Zamphuor.
Add an olive.
Drink... but... very carefully...
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the
Encyclopedia Galactica.
"Six pints of bitter," said Ford Prefect to the barman of the Horse
and Groom. "And quickly please, the world's about to end."
The barman of the Horse and Groom didn't deserve this sort of
treatment, he was a dignified old man. He pushed his glasses up his nose
and blinked at Ford Prefect. Ford ignored him and stared out of the
window, so the barman looked instead at Arthur who shrugged helplessly and
said nothing.
So the barman said, "Oh yes sir? Nice weather for it," and started
pulling pints.
He tried again.
"Going to watch the match this afternoon then?"
Ford glanced round at him.
"No, no point," he said, and looked back out of the window.
"What's that, foregone conclusion then you reckon sir?" said the
barman. "Arsenal without a chance?"
"No, no," said Ford, "it's just that the world's about to end."
"Oh yes sir, so you said," said the barman, looking over his glasses
this time at Arthur. "Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did."
Ford looked back at him, genuinely surprised.
"No, not really," he said. He frowned.
The barman breathed in heavily. "There you are sir, six pints," he
Arthur smiled at him wanly and shrugged again. He turned and smiled
wanly at the rest of the pub just in case any of them had heard what was
going on.
None of them had, and none of them could understand what he was
smiling at them for.
A man sitting next to Ford at the bar looked at the two men, looked
at the six pints, did a swift burst of mental arithmetic, arrived at an
answer he liked and grinned a stupid hopeful grin at them.
"Get off," said Ford, "They're ours," giving him a look that would
have an Algolian Suntiger get on with what it was doing.
Ford slapped a five-pound note on the bar. He said, "Keep the
"What, from a fiver? Thank you sir."
"You've got ten minutes left to spend it."
The barman simply decided to walk away for a bit.
"Ford," said Arthur, "would you please tell me what the hell is going
"Drink up," said Ford, "you've got three pints to get through."
"Three pints?" said Arthur. "At lunchtime?"
The man next to ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He
said, "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
"Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's
Digest. They've got a page for people like you."
"Drink up."
"Why three pints all of a sudden?"
"Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."
"Muscle relaxant?"
"Muscle relaxant."
Arthur stared into his beer.
"Did I do anything wrong today," he said, "or has the world always
been like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?"
"Alright," said Ford, "I'll try to explain. How long have we known
each other?"
"How long?" Arthur thought. "Er, about five years, maybe six," he
said. "Most of it seemed to make some sense at the time."
"Alright," said Ford. "How would you react if I said that I'm not
from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the
vicinity of Betelgeuse?"
Arthur shrugged in a so-so sort of way.
"I don't know," he said, taking a pull of beer. "Why - do you think
it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"
Ford gave up. It really wasn't worth bothering at the moment, what
with the world being about to end. He just said:
"Drink up."
He added, perfectly factually:
"The world's about to end."
Arthur gave the rest of the pub another wan smile. The rest of the
pub frowned at him. A man waved at him to stop smiling at them and mind
his own business.
"This must be Thursday," said Arthur musing to himself, sinking low
over his beer, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays."
here is the 3rd chapter....if anyone wants me to post the rest of the book, so you can read it for free........THEN LET ME KNOW.


On this particular Thursday, something was moving quietly through the
ionosphere many miles above the surface of the planet; several somethings
in fact, several dozen huge yellow chunky slablike somethings, huge as
office buildings, silent as birds. They soared with ease, basking in
electromagnetic rays from the star Sol, biding their time, grouping,
The planet beneath them was almost perfectly oblivious of their
presence, which was just how they wanted it for the moment. The huge
yellow somethings went unnoticed at Goonhilly, they passed over Cape
Canaveral without a blip, Woomera and Jodrell Bank looked straight through
them - which was a pity because it was exactly the sort of thing they'd
been looking for all these years.
The only place they registered at all was on a small black device
called a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic which winked away quietly to itself. It
nestled in the darkness inside a leather satchel which Ford Prefect wore
habitually round his neck. The contents of Ford Prefect's satchel were
quite interesting in fact and would have made any Earth physicist's eyes
pop out of his head, which is why he always concealed them by keeping a
couple of dog-eared scripts for plays he pretended he was auditioning for
stuffed in the top. Besides the Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic and the scripts he
had an Electronic Thumb - a short squat black rod, smooth and matt with a
couple of flat switches and dials at one end; he also had a device which
looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a
hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on
which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice.
It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the
snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words Don't Panic printed on it
in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in
fact that most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great
publishing corporations of Ursa Minor - The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the
Galaxy. The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson
electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an
interstellar hitch hiker would require several inconveniently large
buildings to carry it around in.
Beneath that in Ford Prefect's satchel were a few biros, a notepad,
and a largish bath towel from Marks and Spencer.
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the
subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an
interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value -
you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons
of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches
of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it
beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon;
use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use
in hand-tohand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes
or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a
mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't
see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in
emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it
if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some
reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker
has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in
possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask,
compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit
etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker
any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might
accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who
can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it,
struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his
towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in "Hey,
you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where
his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy:
really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
Nestling quietly on top of the towel in Ford Prefect's satchel, the
Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic began to wink more quickly. Miles above the surface
of the planet the huge yellow somethings began to fan out. At Jodrell
Bank, someone decided it was time for a nice relaxing cup of tea.
"You got a towel with you?" said Ford Prefect suddenly to Arthur.
Arthur, struggling through his third pint, looked round at him.
"Why? What, no... should I have?" He had given up being surprised,
there didn't seem to be any point any longer.
Ford clicked his tongue in irritation.
"Drink up," he urged.
At that moment the dull sound of a rumbling crash from outside
filtered through the low murmur of the pub, through the sound of the
jukebox, through the sound of the man next to Ford hiccupping over the
whisky Ford had eventually bought him.
Arthur choked on his beer, leapt to his feet.
"What's that?" he yelped.
"Don't worry," said Ford, "they haven't started yet."
"Thank God for that," said Arthur and relaxed.
"It's probably just your house being knocked down," said Ford,
drowning his last pint.
"What?" shouted Arthur. Suddenly Ford's spell was broken. Arthur
looked wildly around him and ran to the window.
"My God they are! They're knocking my house down. What the hell am I
doing in the pub, Ford?"
"It hardly makes any difference at this stage," said Ford, "let them
have their fun."
"Fun?" yelped Arthur. "Fun!" He quickly checked out of the window
again that they were talking about the same thing.
"Damn their fun!" he hooted and ran out of the pub furiously waving a
nearly empty beer glass. He made no friends at all in the pub that
"Stop, you vandals! You home wreckers!" bawled Arthur. "You half
crazed Visigoths, stop will you!"
Ford would have to go after him. Turning quickly to the barman he
asked for four packets of peanuts.
"There you are sir," said the barman, slapping the packets on the
bar, "twenty-eight pence if you'd be so kind."
Ford was very kind - he gave the barman another five-pound note and
told him to keep the change. The barman looked at it and then looked at
Ford. He suddenly shivered: he experienced a momentary sensation that he
didn't understand because no one on Earth had ever experienced it before.
In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny
sublimal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost
pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth. On
Earth it is never possible to be further than sixteen thousand miles from
your birthplace, which really isn't very far, so such signals are too
minute to be noticed. Ford Prefect was at this moment under great stress,
and he was born 600 light years away in the near vicinity of Betelgeuse.
The barman reeled for a moment, hit by a shocking, incomprehensible
sense of distance. He didn't know what it meant, but he looked at Ford
Prefect with a new sense of respect, almost awe.
"Are you serious, sir?" he said in a small whisper which had the
effect of silencing the pub. "You think the world's going to end?"
"Yes," said Ford.
"But, this afternoon?"
Ford had recovered himself. He was at his flippest.
"Yes," he said gaily, "in less than two minutes I would estimate."
The barman couldn't believe the conversation he was having, but he
couldn't believe the sensation he had just had either.
"Isn't there anything we can do about it then?" he said.
"No, nothing," said Ford, stuffing the peanuts into his pockets.
Someone in the hushed bar suddenly laughed raucously at how stupid
everyone had become.
The man sitting next to Ford was a bit sozzled by now. His eyes waved
their way up to Ford.
"I thought," he said, "that if the world was going to end we were
meant to lie down or put a paper bag over our head or something."
"If you like, yes," said Ford.
"That's what they told us in the army," said the man, and his eyes
began the long trek back down to his whisky.
"Will that help?" asked the barman.
"No," said Ford and gave him a friendly smile. "Excuse me," he said,
"I've got to go." With a wave, he left.
The pub was silent for a moment longer, and then, embarrassingly
enough, the man with the raucous laugh did it again. The girl he had
dragged along to the pub with him had grown to loathe him dearly over the
last hour or so, and it would probably have been a great satisfaction to
her to know that in a minute and a half or so he would suddenly evaporate
into a whiff of hydrogen, ozone and carbon monoxide. However, when the
moment came she would be too busy evaporating herself to notice it.
The barman cleared his throat. He heard himself say:
"Last orders, please."
The huge yellow machines began to sink downward and to move faster.
Ford knew they were there. This wasn't the way he had wanted it.
Running up the lane, Arthur had nearly reached his house. He didn't
notice how cold it had suddenly become, he didn't notice the wind, he
didn't notice the sudden irrational squall of rain. He didn't notice
anything but the caterpillar bulldozers crawling over the rubble that had
been his home.
"You barbarians!" he yelled. "I'll sue the council for every penny
it's got! I'll have you hung, drawn and quartered! And whipped! And
boiled... until... until... until you've had enough."
Ford was running after him very fast. Very very fast.
"And then I'll do it again!" yelled Arthur. "And when I've finished I
will take all the little bits, and I will jump on them!"
Arthur didn't notice that the men were running from the bulldozers;
he didn't notice that Mr Prosser was staring hectically into the sky. What
Mr Prosser had noticed was that huge yellow somethings were screaming
through the clouds. Impossibly huge yellow somethings.
"And I will carry on jumping on them," yelled Arthur, still running,
"until I get blisters, or I can think of anything even more unpleasant to
do, and then..."
Arthur tripped, and fell headlong, rolled and landed flat on his
back. At last he noticed that something was going on. His finger shot
"What the hell's that?" he shrieked.
Whatever it was raced across the sky in monstrous yellowness, tore
the sky apart with mind-buggering noise and leapt off into the distance
leaving the gaping air to shut behind it with a bang that drove your ears
six feet into your skull.
Another one followed and did the same thing only louder.
It's difficult to say exactly what the people on the surface of the
planet were doing now, because they didn't really know what they were
doing themselves. None of it made a lot of sense - running into houses,
running out of houses, howling noiselessly at the noise. All around the
world city streets exploded with people, cars slewed into each other as
the noise fell on them and then rolled off like a tidal wave over hills
and valleys, deserts and oceans, seeming to flatten everything it hit.
Only one man stood and watched the sky, stood with terrible sadness
in his eyes and rubber bungs in his ears. He knew exactly what was
happening and had known ever since his Sub-Etha Sens-OMatic had started
winking in the dead of night beside his pillar and woken him with a start.
It was what he had waited for all these years, but when he had deciphered
the signal pattern sitting alone in his small dark room a coldness had
gripped him and squeezed his heart. Of all the races in all of the Galaxy
who could have come and said a big hello to planet Earth, he thought,
didn't it just have to be the Vogons.
Still he knew what he had to do. As the Vogon craft screamed through
the air high above him he opened his satchel. He threw away a copy of
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he threw away a copy of
Godspell: He wouldn't need them where he was going. Everything was ready,
everything was prepared.
He knew where his towel was.
A sudden silence hit the Earth. If anything it was worse than the
noise. For a while nothing happened.
The great ships hung motionless in the air, over every nation on
Earth. Motionless they hung, huge, heavy, steady in the sky, a blasphemy
against nature. Many people went straight into shock as their minds tried
to encompass what they were looking at. The ships hung in the sky in much
the same way that bricks don't.
And still nothing happened.
Then there was a slight whisper, a sudden spacious whisper of open
ambient sound. Every hi fi set in the world, every radio, every
television, every cassette recorder, every woofer, every tweeter, every
mid-range driver in the world quietly turned itself on.
Every tin can, every dust bin, every window, every car, every wine
glass, every sheet of rusty metal became activated as an acoustically
perfect sounding board.
Before the Earth passed away it was going to be treated to the very
ultimate in sound reproduction, the greatest public address system ever
built. But there was no concert, no music, no fanfare, just a simple
"People of Earth, your attention please," a voice said, and it was
wonderful. Wonderful perfect quadrophonic sound with distortion levels so
low as to make a brave man weep.
"This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning
Council," the voice continued. "As you will no doubt be aware, the plans
for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building
of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably
your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will
take slightly less that two of your Earth minutes. Thank you."
The PA died away.
Uncomprehending terror settled on the watching people of Earth. The
terror moved slowly through the gathered crowds as if they were iron
fillings on a sheet of board and a magnet was moving beneath them. Panic
sprouted again, desperate fleeing panic, but there was nowhere to flee to.
Observing this, the Vogons turned on their PA again. It said:
"There's no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning
charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning
department on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you've had
plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to
start making a fuss about it now."
The PA fell silent again and its echo drifted off across the land.
The huge ships turned slowly in the sky with easy power. On the underside
of each a hatchway opened, an empty black space.
By this time somebody somewhere must have manned a radio transmitter,
located a wavelength and broadcasted a message back to the Vogon ships, to
plead on behalf of the planet. Nobody ever heard what they said, they only
heard the reply. The PA slammed back into life again. The voice was
annoyed. It said:
"What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven's
sake mankind, it's only four light years away you know. I'm sorry, but if
you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that's your own
"Energize the demolition beams."
Light poured out into the hatchways.
"I don't know," said the voice on the PA, "apathetic bloody planet,
I've no sympathy at all." It cut off.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
There was a terrible ghastly noise.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
The Vogon Constructor fleet coasted away into the inky starry void.
I was just over at my friend's house and she was on this chat room where this guy kept posting these stupid Douglas Adams quotes about normality and deadlines...that shit is messed up.
TEX>>>Ok, I will. I will do it only on for a minute.we are expecting real bad weather, big hail, high winds, getting ready turn off my PC.

I have all of Adams stuff. ANd its all postable like this one....

BTW, i was haveing a bad month a while back.........SORRY for being a nut to you. I went over board.
All books of Douglas Adams are great!! I've read them like 20 times each... Amazing guy he was! :)
yeah - right! the whole hitchhickers guide is a cool story ... like it very much and it´s been a long time since i read it ... hehe the part with the spaceship full of hairdressers is great haha
Originally posted by Neverlady

Yup... But you are still young and hopefully willing to learn.... ;)

darling, neither the first nor the second thing of these you said here... :cool:

I read the first 50 pages of this and I started asking myself: what the fuck are you doing? so I started with Jacques Le Geoff: "medieval civilization"... that's more likely my movie... history material... ;)
TEX>>>SOmetimes, yes. NOt all. But, Im trying to forget hahaha...I was pretty mean myself those few days......and im a smart ass most times.......but im usually a big jokester, and use the smart ass thing fo rthat reason.

but anyway..I will go get a chapter or 2 and post tehm. YOu can only post 30,000 characters at a time, thats around one chapter.
SO hold on, and eventually, you can havethe whole trilogy on your harddrive.........
here is the forth cahpter.


Far away on the opposite spiral arm of the Galaxy, five hundred
thousand light years from the star Sol, Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of
the Imperial Galactic Government, sped across the seas of Damogran, his
ion drive delta boat winking and flashing in the Damogran sun.
Damogran the hot; Damogran the remote; Damogran the almost totally
unheard of.
Damogran, secret home of the Heart of Gold.
The boat sped on across the water. It would be some time before it
reached its destination because Damogran is such an inconveniently
arranged planet. It consists of nothing but middling to large desert
islands separated by very pretty but annoyingly wide stretches of ocean.
The boat sped on.
Because of this topological awkwardness Damogran has always remained
a deserted planet. This is why the Imperial Galactic Government chose
Damogran for the Heart of Gold project, because it was so deserted and the
Heart of Gold was so secret.
The boat zipped and skipped across the sea, the sea that lay between
the main islands of the only archipelago of any useful size on the whole
planet. Zaphod Beeblebrox was on his way from the tiny spaceport on Easter
Island (the name was an entirely meaningless coincidence - in
Galacticspeke, easter means small flat and light brown) to the Heart of
Gold island, which by another meaningless coincidence was called France.
One of the side effects of work on the Heart of Gold was a whole
string of pretty meaningless coincidences.
But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of
culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the
Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was
also a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake
of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a
decision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial
Galaxy - Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the
President? Many had seen it as a clinching proof that the whole of known
creation had finally gone bananas.
Zaphod grinned and gave the boat an extra kick of speed.
Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, (crook? quite
possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships,
often thought to be completely out to lunch.
No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.
Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on
which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox
had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait
accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.
[President: full title President of the Imperial Galactic Government.
The term Imperial is kept though it is now an anachronism. The
hereditary Emperor is nearly dead and has been so for many centuries. In
the last moments of his dying coma he was locked in a statis field which
keeps him in a state of perpetual unchangingness. All his heirs are now
long dead, and this means that without any drastic political upheaval,
power has simply and effectively moved a rung or two down the ladder, and
is now seen to be vested in a body which used to act simply as advisers to
the Emperor - an elected Governmental assembly headed by a President
elected by that assembly. In fact it vests in no such place.
The President in particular is very much a figurehead - he wields no
real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the
qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those
of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a
controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His
job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those
criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the
Galaxy has ever had - he has already spent two of his ten Presidential
years in prison for fraud. Very very few people realize that the President
and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these very few
people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded. Most of
the others secretly believe that the ultimate decision-making process is
handled by a computer. They couldn't be more wrong.]
What they completely failed to understand was why Zaphod was doing
He banked sharply, shooting a wild wall of water at the sun.
Today was the day; today was the day when they would realize what
Zaphod had been up to. Today was what Zaphod Beeblebrox's Presidency was
all about. Today was also his two hundredth birthday, but that was just
another meaningless coincidence.
As he skipped his boat across the seas of Damogran he smiled quietly
to himself about what a wonderful exciting day it was going to be. He
relaxed and spread his two arms lazily across the seat back. He steered
with an extra arm he'd recently fitted just beneath his right one to help
improve his ski-boxing.
"Hey," he cooed to himself, "you're a real cool boy you." But his
nerves sang a song shriller than a dog whistle.
The island of France was about twenty miles long, five miles across
the middle, sandy and crescent shaped. In fact it seemed to exist not so
much as an island in its own right as simply a means of defining the sweep
and curve of a huge bay. This impression was heightened by the fact that
the inner coastline of the crescent consisted almost entirely of steep
cliffs. From the top of the cliff the land sloped slowly down five miles
to the opposite shore.
On top of the cliffs stood a reception committee.
It consisted in large part of the engineers and researchers who had
built the Heart of Gold - mostly humanoid, but here and there were a few
reptiloid atomineers, two or three green slyph-like maximegalacticans, an
octopoid physucturalist or two and a Hooloovoo (a Hooloovoo is a
super-intelligent shade of the color blue). All except the Hooloovoo were
resplendent in their multicolored ceremonial lab coats; the Hooloovoo had
been temporarily refracted into a free standing prism for the occasion.
There was a mood of immense excitement thrilling through all of them.
Together and between them they had gone to and beyond the furthest limits
of physical laws, restructured the fundamental fabric of matter, strained,
twisted and broken the laws of possibility and impossibility, but still
the greatest excitement of all seemed to be to meet a man with an orange
sash round his neck. (An orange sash was what the President of the Galaxy
traditionally wore.) It might not even have made much difference to them
if they'd known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy
actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the
job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract
attention away from it.
Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.
The crowd gasped, dazzled by sun and seemanship, as the Presidential
speedboat zipped round the headland into the bay. It flashed and shone as
it came skating over the sea in wide skidding turns.
In fact it didn't need to touch the water at all, because it was
supported on a hazy cushion of ionized atoms - but just for effect it was
fitted with thin finblades which could be lowered into the water. They
slashed sheets of water hissing into the air, carved deep gashes into the
sea which swayed crazily and sank back foaming into the boat's wake as it
careered across the bay.
Zaphod loved effect: it was what he was best at.
He twisted the wheel sharply, the boat slewed round in a wild
scything skid beneath the cliff face and dropped to rest lightly on the
rocking waves.
Within seconds he ran out onto the deck and waved and grinned at over
three billion people. The three billion people weren't actually there, but
they watched his every gesture through the eyes of a small robot tri-D
camera which hovered obsequiously in the air nearby. The antics of the
President always made amazingly popular tri-D; that's what they were for.
He grinned again. Three billion and six people didn't know it, but
today would be a bigger antic than anyone had bargained for.
The robot camera homed in for a close up on the more popular of his
two heads and he waved again. He was roughly humanoid in appearance except
for the extra head and third arm. His fair tousled hair stuck out in
random directions, his blue eyes glinted with something completely
unidentifiable, and his chins were almost always unshaven.
A twenty-foot-high transparent globe floated next to his boat,
rolling and bobbing, glistening in the brilliant sun. Inside it floated a
wide semi-circular sofa upholstered in glorious red leather: the more the
globe bobbed and rolled, the more the sofa stayed perfectly still, steady
as an upholstered rock. Again, all done for effect as much as anything.
Zaphod stepped through the wall of the globe and relaxed on the sofa.
He spread his two arms lazily along the back and with the third brushed
some dust off his knee. His heads looked about, smiling; he put his feet
up. At any moment, he thought, he might scream.
Water boiled up beneath the bubble, it seethed and spouted. The
bubble surged into the air, bobbing and rolling on the water spout. Up, up
it climbed, throwing stilts of light at the cliff. Up it surged on the
jet, the water falling from beneath it, crashing back into the sea
hundreds of feet below.
Zaphod smiled, picturing himself.
A thoroughly ridiculous form of transport, but a thoroughly beautiful
At the top of the cliff the globe wavered for a moment, tipped on to
a railed ramp, rolled down it to a small concave platform and riddled to a
To tremendous applause Zaphod Beeblebrox stepped out of the bubble,
his orange sash blazing in the light.
The President of the Galaxy had arrived.
He waited for the applause to die down, then raised his hands in
"Hi," he said.
A government spider sidled up to him and attempted to press a copy of
his prepared speech into his hands. Pages three to seven of the original
version were at the moment floating soggily on the Damogran sea some five
miles out from the bay. Pages one and two had been salvaged by a Damogran
Frond Crested Eagle and had already become incorporated into an
extraordinary new form of nest which the eagle had invented. It was
constructed largely of papier m@ch@ and it was virtually impossible for a
newly hatched baby eagle to break out of it. The Damogran Frond Crested
Eagle had heard of the notion of survival of the species but wanted no
truck with it.
Zaphod Beeblebrox would not be needing his set speech and he gently
deflected the one being offered him by the spider.
"Hi," he said again.
Everyone beamed at him, or, at least, nearly everyone. He singled out
Trillian from the crowd. Trillian was a gird that Zaphod had picked up
recently whilst visiting a planet, just for fun, incognito. She was slim,
darkish, humanoid, with long waves of black hair, a full mouth, an odd
little nob of a nose and ridiculously brown eyes. With her red head scarf
knotted in that particular way and her long flowing silky brown dress she
looked vaguely Arabic. Not that anyone there had ever heard of an Arab of
course. The Arabs had very recently ceased to exist, and even when they
had existed they were five hundred thousand light years from Damogran.
Trillian wasn't anybody in particular, or so Zaphod claimed. She just went
around with him rather a lot and told him what she thought of him.
"Hi honey," he said to her.
She flashed him a quick tight smile and looked away. Then she looked
back for a moment and smiled more warmly - but by this time he was looking
at something else.
"Hi," he said to a small knot of creatures from the press who were
standing nearby wishing that he would stop saying Hi and get on with the
quotes. He grinned at them particularly because he knew that in a few
moments he would be giving them one hell of a quote.
The next thing he said though was not a lot of use to them. One of
the officials of the party had irritably decided that the President was
clearly not in a mood to read the deliciously turned speech that had been
written for him, and had flipped the switch on the remote control device
in his pocket. Away in front of them a huge white dome that bulged against
the sky cracked down in the middle, split, and slowly folded itself down
into the ground. Everyone gasped although they had known perfectly well it
was going to do that because they had built it that way.
Beneath it lay uncovered a huge starship, one hundred and fifty
metres long, shaped like a sleek running shoe, perfectly white and
mindboggingly beautiful. At the heart of it, unseen, lay a small gold box
which carried within it the most brain-wretching device ever conceived, a
device which made this starship unique in the history of the galaxy, a
device after which the ship had been named - The Heart of Gold.
"Wow", said Zaphod Beeblebrox to the Heart of Gold. There wasn't much
else he could say.
He said it again because he knew it would annoy the press.
The crowd turned their faces back towards him expectantly. He winked
at Trillian who raised her eyebrows and widened her eyes at him. She knew
what he was about to say and thought him a terrible showoff.
"That is really amazing," he said. "That really is truly amazing.
That is so amazingly amazing I think I'd like to steal it."
A marvellous Presidential quote, absolutely true to form. The crowd
laughed appreciatively, the newsmen gleefully punched buttons on their
Sub-Etha News-Matics and the President grinned.
As he grinned his heart screamed unbearably and he fingered the small
Paralyso-Matic bomb that nestled quietly in his pocket.
Finally he could bear it no more. He lifted his heads up to the sky,
let out a wild whoop in major thirds, threw the bomb to the ground and ran
forward through the sea of suddenly frozen smiles.
the fifth..........more later


Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was not a pleasant sight, even for other
Vogons. His highly domed nose rose high above a small piggy forehead. His
dark green rubbery skin was thick enough for him to play the game of Vogon
Civil Service politics, and play it well, and waterproof enough for him to
survive indefinitely at sea depths of up to a thousand feet with no ill
Not that he ever went swimming of course. His busy schedule would not
allow it. He was the way he was because billions of years ago when the
Vogons had first crawled out of the sluggish primeval seas of Vogsphere,
and had lain panting and heaving on the planet's virgin shores... when the
first rays of the bright young Vogsol sun had shone across them that
morning, it was as if the forces of evolution ad simply given up on them
there and then, had turned aside in disgust and written them off as an
ugly and unfortunate mistake. They never evolved again; they should never
have survived.
The fact that they did is some kind of tribute to the thickwilled
slug-brained stubbornness of these creatures. Evolution? they said to
themselves, Who needs it?, and what nature refused to do for them they
simply did without until such time as they were able to rectify the
grosser anatomical inconveniences with surgery.
Meanwhile, the natural forces on the planet Vogsphere had been
working overtime to make up for their earlier blunder. They brought forth
scintillating jewelled scuttling crabs, which the Vogons ate, smashing
their shells with iron mallets; tall aspiring trees with breathtaking
slenderness and colour which the Vogons cut down and burned the crab meat
with; elegant gazellelike creatures with silken coats and dewy eyes which
the Vogons would catch and sit on. They were no use as transport because
their backs would snap instantly, but the Vogons sat on them anyway.
Thus the planet Vogsphere whiled away the unhappy millennia until the
Vogons suddenly discovered the principles of interstellar travel. Within a
few short Vog years every last Vogon had migrated to the Megabrantis
cluster, the political hub of the Galaxy and now formed the immensely
powerful backbone of the Galactic Civil Service. They have attempted to
acquire learning, they have attempted to acquire style and social grace,
but in most respects the modern Vogon is little different from his
primitive forebears. Every year they import twenty-seven thousand
scintillating jewelled scuttling crabs from their native planet and while
away a happy drunken night smashing them to bits with iron mallets.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was a fairly typical Vogon in that he was
thoroughly vile. Also, he did not like hitch hikers.
Somewhere in a small dark cabin buried deep in the intestines of
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz's flagship, a small match flared nervously. The
owner of the match was not a Vogon, but he knew all about them and was
right to be nervous. His name was Ford Prefect*.
[Ford Prefect's original name is only pronuncible in an obscure
Betelgeusian dialect, now virtually extinct since the Great Collapsing
Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758 which wiped out all the old
Praxibetel communities on Betelgeuse Seven. Ford's father was the only man
on the entire planet to survive the Great Collapsing Hrung disaster, by an
extraordinary coincidence that he was never able satisfactorily to
explain. The whole episode is shrouded in deep mystery: in fact no one
ever knew what a Hrung was nor why it had chosen to collapse on Betelgeuse
Seven particularly. Ford's father, magnanimously waving aside the clouds
of suspicion that had inevitably settled around him, came to live on
Betelgeuse Five where he both fathered and uncled Ford; in memory of his
now dead race he christened him in the ancient Praxibetel tongue.
Because Ford never learned to say his original name, his father
eventually died of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts
of the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the
language of Betelgeuse Five translates as "boy who is not able
satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to
collapse on Betelgeuse Seven".]
He looked about the cabin but could see very little; strange
monstrous shadows loomed and leaped with the tiny flickering flame, but
all was quiet. He breathed a silent thank you to the Dentrassis. The
Dentrassis are an unruly tribe of gourmands, a wild but pleasant bunch
whom the Vogons had recently taken to employing as catering staff on their
long haul fleets, on the strict understanding that they keep themselves
very much to themselves.
This suited the Dentrassis fine, because they loved Vogon money,
which is one of the hardest currencies in space, but loathed the Vogons
themselves. The only sort of Vogon a Dentrassi liked to see was an annoyed
It was because of this tiny piece of information that Ford Prefect
was not now a whiff of hydrogen, ozone and carbon monoxide.
He heard a slight groan. By the light of the match he saw a heavy
shape moving slightly on the floor. Quickly he shook the match out,
reached in his pocket, found what he was looking for and took it out. He
crouched on the floor. The shape moved again.
Ford Prefect said: "I bought some peanuts."
Arthur Dent moved, and groaned again, muttering incoherently.
"Here, have some," urged Ford, shaking the packet again, "if you've
never been through a matter transference beam before you've probably lost
some salt and protein. The beer you had should have cushioned your system
a bit."
"Whhhrrrr..." said Arthur Dent. He opened his eyes.
"It's dark," he said.
"Yes," said Ford Prefect, "it's dark."
"No light," said Arthur Dent. "Dark, no light."
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand
about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating
the obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you
seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human
beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably
seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned
this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their
lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned
this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked
human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried about
the terrible number of things they didn't know about.
"Yes," he agreed with Arthur, "no light." He helped Arthur to some
peanuts. "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Like a military academy," said Arthur, "bits of me keep on passing
Ford stared at him blankly in the darkness.
"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I
regret it?"
Ford stood up. "We're safe," he said.
"Oh good," said Arthur.
"We're in a small galley cabin," said Ford, "in one of the spaceships
of the Vogon Constructor Fleet."
"Ah," said Arthur, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word
safe that I wasn't previously aware of."
Ford struck another match to help him search for a light switch.
Monstrous shadows leaped and loomed again. Arthur struggled to his feet
and hugged himself apprehensively. Hideous alien shapes seemed to throng
about him, the air was thick with musty smells which sidled into his lungs
without identifying themselves, and a low irritating hum kept his brain
from focusing.
"How did we get here?" he asked, shivering slightly.
"We hitched a lift," said Ford.
"Excuse me?" said Arthur. "Are you trying to tell me that we just
stuck out our thumbs and some green bug-eyed monster stuck his head out
and said, Hi fellas, hop right in. I can take you as far as the
Basingstoke roundabout?"
"Well," said Ford, "the Thumb's an electronic sub-etha signalling
device, the roundabout's at Barnard's Star six light years away, but
otherwise, that's more or less right."
"And the bug-eyed monster?"
"Is green, yes."
"Fine," said Arthur, "when can I get home?"
"You can't," said Ford Prefect, and found the light switch.
"Shade your eyes..." he said, and turned it on.
Even Ford was surprised.
"Good grief," said Arthur, "is this really the interior of a flying
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz heaved his unpleasant green body round the
control bridge. He always felt vaguely irritable after demolishing
populated planets. He wished that someone would come and tell him that it
was all wrong so that he could shout at them and feel better. He flopped
as heavily as he could on to his control seat in the hope that it would
break and give him something to be genuinely angry about, but it only gave
a complaining sort of creak.
"Go away!" he shouted at a young Vogon guard who entered the bridge
at that moment. The guard vanished immediately, feeling rather relieved.
He was glad it wouldn't now be him who delivered the report they'd just
received. The report was an official release which said that a wonderful
new form of spaceship drive was at this moment being unveiled at a
government research base on Damogran which would henceforth make all
hyperspatial express routes unnecessary.
Another door slid open, but this time the Vogon captain didn't shout
because it was the door from the galley quarters where the Dentrassis
prepared his meals. A meal would be most welcome.
A huge furry creature bounded through the door with his lunch tray.
It was grinning like a maniac.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was delighted. He knew that when a Dentrassi
looked that pleased with itself there was something going on somewhere on
the ship that he could get very angry indeed about.
Ford and Arthur stared about them.
"Well, what do you think?" said Ford.
"It's a bit squalid, isn't it?"
Ford frowned at the grubby mattress, unwashed cups and unidentifiable
bits of smelly alien underwear that lay around the cramped cabin.
"Well, this is a working ship, you see," said Ford. "These are the
Dentrassi sleeping quarters."
"I thought you said they were called Vogons or something."
"Yes," said Ford, "the Vogons run the ship, the Dentrassis are the
cooks, they let us on board."
"I'm confused," said Arthur.
"Here, have a look at this," said Ford. He sat down on one of the
mattresses and rummaged about in his satchel. Arthur prodded the mattress
nervously and then sat on it himself: in fact he had very little to be
nervous about, because all mattresses grown in the swamps of
Squornshellous Zeta are very thoroughly killed and dried before being put
to service. Very few have ever come to life again.
Ford handed the book to Arthur.
"What is it?" asked Arthur.
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a sort of electronic
book. It tells you everything you need to know about anything. That's its
Arthur turned it over nervously in his hands.
"I like the cover," he said. "Don't Panic. It's the first helpful or
intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day."
"I'll show you how it works," said Ford. He snatched it from Arthur
who was still holding it as if it was a two-week-dead lark and pulled it
out of its cover.
"You press this button here you see and the screen lights up giving
you the index."
A screen, about three inches by four, lit up and characters began to
flicker across the surface.
"You want to know about Vogons, so I enter that name so." His fingers
tapped some more keys. "And there we are."
The words Vogon Constructor Fleets flared in green across the screen.
Ford pressed a large red button at the bottom of the screen and words
began to undulate across it. At the same time, the book began to speak the
entry as well in a still quiet measured voice. This is what the book said.
"Vogon Constructor Fleets. Here is what to do if you want to get a
lift from a Vogon: forget it. They are one of the most unpleasant races in
the Galaxy - not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious
and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own
grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders
signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected
to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and
recycled as firelighters.
"The best way to get a drink out of a Vogon is to stick your finger
down his throat, and the best way to irritate him is to feed his
grandmother to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
"On no account allow a Vogon to read poetry at you."
Arthur blinked at it.
"What a strange book. How did we get a lift then?"
"That's the point, it's out of date now," said Ford, sliding the book
back into its cover. "I'm doing the field research for the New Revised
Edition, and one of the things I'll have to include is a bit about how the
Vogons now employ Dentrassi cooks which gives us a rather useful little
A pained expression crossed Arthur's face. "But who are the
Dentrassi?" he said.
"Great guys," said Ford. "They're the best cooks and the best drink
mixers and they don't give a wet slap about anything else. And they'll
always help hitch hikers aboard, partly because they like the company, but
mostly because it annoys the Vogons. Which is exactly the sort of thing
you need to know if you're an impoverished hitch hiker trying to see the
marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairan Dollars a day. And
that's my job. Fun, isn't it?"
Arthur looked lost.
"It's amazing," he said and frowned at one of the other mattresses.
"Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I
intended," said Ford. "I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years."
"But how did you get there in the first place then?"
"Easy, I got a lift with a teaser."
"A teaser?"
"Er, what is..."
"A teaser? Teasers are usually rich kids with nothing to do. They
cruise around looking for planets which haven't made interstellar contact
yet and buzz them."
"Buzz them?" Arthur began to feel that Ford was enjoying making life
difficult for him.
"Yeah", said Ford, "they buzz them. They find some isolated spot with
very few people around, then land right by some poor soul whom no one's
ever going to believe and then strut up and down in front of him wearing
silly antennae on their heads and making beep beep noises. Rather childish
really." Ford leant back on the mattress with his hands behind his head
and looked infuriatingly pleased with himself.
"Ford," insisted Arthur, "I don't know if this sounds like a silly
question, but what am I doing here?"
"Well you know that," said Ford. "I rescued you from the Earth."
"And what's happened to the Earth?"
"Ah. It's been demolished."
"Has it," said Arthur levelly.
"Yes. It just boiled away into space."
"Look," said Arthur, "I'm a bit upset about that."
Ford frowned to himself and seemed to roll the thought around his
"Yes, I can understand that," he said at last.
"Understand that!" shouted Arthur. "Understand that!"
Ford sprang up.
"Keep looking at the book!" he hissed urgently.
"Don't Panic."
"I'm not panicking!"
"Yes you are."
"Alright so I'm panicking, what else is there to do?"
"You just come along with me and have a good time. The Galaxy's a fun
place. You'll need to have this fish in your ear."
"I beg your pardon?" asked Arthur, rather politely he thought.
Ford was holding up a small glass jar which quite clearly had a small
yellow fish wriggling around in it. Arthur blinked at him. He wished there
was something simple and recognizable he could grasp hold of. He would
have felt safe if alongside the Dentrassi underwear, the piles of
Squornshellous mattresses and the man from Betelgeuse holding up a small
yellow fish and offering to put it in his ear he had been able to see just
a small packet of corn flakes. He couldn't, and he didn't feel safe.
Suddenly a violent noise leapt at them from no source that he could
identify. He gasped in terror at what sounded like a man trying to gargle
whilst fighting off a pack of wolves.
"Shush!" said Ford. "Listen, it might be important."
"Im... important?"
"It's the Vogon captain making an announcement on the T'annoy."
"You mean that's how the Vogons talk?"
"But I can't speak Vogon!"
"You don't need to. Just put that fish in your ear."
Ford, with a lightning movement, clapped his hand to Arthur's ear,
and he had the sudden sickening sensation of the fish slithering deep into
his aural tract. Gasping with horror he scrabbled at his ear for a second
or so, but then slowly turned goggle-eyed with wonder. He was experiencing
the aural equivalent of looking at a picture of two black silhouetted
faces and suddenly seeing it as a picture of a white candlestick. Or of
looking at a lot of coloured dots on a piece of paper which suddenly
resolve themselves into the figure six and mean that your optician is
going to charge you a lot of money for a new pair of glasses.
He was still listening to the howling gargles, he knew that, only now
it had taken on the semblance of perfectly straightforward English.
This is what he heard...


"Howl howl gargle howl gargle howl howl howl gargle howl gargle howl
howl gargle gargle howl gargle gargle gargle howl slurrp uuuurgh should
have a good time. Message repeats. This is your captain speaking, so stop
whatever you're doing and pay attention. First of all I see from our
instruments that we have a couple of hitchhikers aboard. Hello wherever
you are. I just want to make it totally clear that you are not at all
welcome. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I didn't become
captain of a Vogon constructor ship simply so I could turn it into a taxi
service for a load of degenerate freeloaders. I have sent out a search
party, and as soon that they find you I will put you off the ship. If
you're very lucky I might read you some of my poetry first.
"Secondly, we are about to jump into hyperspace for the journey to
Barnard's Star. On arrival we will stay in dock for a seventy-two hour
refit, and no one's to leave the ship during that time. I repeat, all
planet leave is cancelled. I've just had an unhappy love affair, so I
don't see why anybody else should have a good time. Message ends."
The noise stopped.
Arthur discovered to his embarrassment that he was lying curled up in
a small ball on the floor with his arms wrapped round his head. He smiled
"Charming man," he said. "I wish I had a daughter so I could forbid
her to marry one..."
"You wouldn't need to," said Ford. "They've got as much sex appeal as
a road accident. No, don't move," he added as Arthur began to uncurl
himself, "you'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's
unpleasantly like being drunk."
"What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
"You ask a glass of water."
Arthur thought about this.
"Ford," he said.
"What's this fish doing in my ear?"
"It's translating for you. It's a Babel fish. Look it up in the book
if you like."
He tossed over The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then curled
himself up into a foetal ball to prepare himself for the jump.
At that moment the bottom fell out of Arthur's mind.
His eyes turned inside out. His feet began to leak out of the top of
his head.
The room folded flat about him, spun around, shifted out of existence
and left him sliding into his own navel.
They were passing through hyperspace.
"The Babel fish," said The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly,
"is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the
Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those
around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this
brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of
its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought
frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the
brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if
you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything
said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear
decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your
Babel fish.
"Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so
mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some
thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the
non-existence of God.
"The argument goes something like this: `I refuse to prove that I
exist,' says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am
"`But,' says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It
could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore,
by your own arguments, you don't. QED.'
"`Oh dear,' says God, `I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly
vanished in a puff of logic.
"`Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove
that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
"Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of
dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid making a small
fortune when he used it as the central theme of his bestselling book Well
That About Wraps It Up For God.
"Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers
to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and
bloddier wars than anything else in the history of creation."
Arthur let out a low groan. He was horrified to discover that the
kick through hyperspace hadn't killed him. He was now six light years from
the place that the Earth would have been if it still existed.
The Earth.
Visions of it swam sickeningly through his nauseated mind. There was
no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having
gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents
and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had
been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had
been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket before and felt a
sudden stab - the supermarket was gone, everything in it was gone.
Nelson's Column had gone! Nelson's Column had gone and there would be no
outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry. From now on
Nelson's Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind
- his mind, stuck here in this dank smelly steel-lined spaceship. A wave
of claustrophobia closed in on him.
England no longer existed. He'd got that - somehow he'd got it. He
tried again. America, he thought, has gone. He couldn't grasp it. He
decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He'd never
seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, had sunk for
ever. Slight tremor there. Every Bogart movie has been wiped, he said to
himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonalds, he thought. There is
no longer any such thing as a McDonald's hamburger.
He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was
sobbing for his mother.
He jerked himself violently to his feet.
Ford looked up from where he was sitting in a corner humming to
himself. He always found the actual travelling-through-space part of space
travel rather trying.
"Yeah?" he said.
"If you're a researcher on this book thing and you were on Earth, you
must have been gathering material on it."
"Well, I was able to extend the original entry a bit, yes."
"Let me see what it says in this edition then, I've got to see it."
"Yeah OK." He passed it over again.
Arthur grabbed hold of it and tried to stop his hands shaking. He
pressed the entry for the relevant page. The screen flashed and swirled
and resolved into a page of print. Arthur stared at it.
"It doesn't have an entry!" he burst out.
Ford looked over his shoulder.
"Yes it does," he said, "down there, see at the bottom of the screen,
just under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon
Arthur followed Ford's finger, and saw where it was pointing. For a
moment it still didn't register, then his mind nearly blew up.
"What? Harmless? Is that all it's got to say? Harmless! One word!"
Ford shrugged.
"Well, there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy, and only a
limited amount of space in the book's microprocessors," he said, "and no
one knew much about the Earth of course."
"Well for God's sake I hope you managed to rectify that a bit."
"Oh yes, well I managed to transmit a new entry off to the editor. He
had to trim it a bit, but it's still an improvement."
"And what does it say now?" asked Arthur.
"Mostly harmless," admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.
"Mostly harmless!" shouted Arthur.
"What was that noise?" hissed Ford.
"It was me shouting," shouted Arthur.
"No! Shut up!" said Ford. I think we're in trouble."
"You think we're in trouble!"
Outside the door were the sounds of marching feet.
"The Dentrassi?" whispered Arthur.
"No, those are steel tipped boots," said Ford.
There was a sharp ringing rap on the door.
"Then who is it?" said Arthur.
"Well," said Ford, "if we're lucky it's just the Vogons come to throw
us in to space."
"And if we're unlucky?"
"If we're unlucky," said Ford grimly, "the captain might be serious
in his threat that he's going to read us some of his poetry first..."


Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe.
The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation
by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode To A Small
Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of
his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the
Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs
off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's
reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelvebook epic
entitled My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a
desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt straight up through
his neck and throttled his brain.
The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator Paula
Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction
of the planet Earth.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz smiled very slowly. This was done not so much
for effect as because he was trying to remember the sequence of muscle
movements. He had had a terribly therapeutic yell at his prisoners and was
now feeling quite relaxed and ready for a little callousness.
The prisoners sat in Poetry Appreciation Chairs - strapped in. Vogons
suffered no illusions as to the regard their works were generally held in.
Their early attempts at composition had been part of bludgeoning
insistence that they be accepted as a properly evolved and cultured race,
but now the only thing that kept them going was sheer bloodymindedness.
The sweat stood out cold on Ford Prefect's brow, and slid round the
electrodes strapped to his temples. These were attached to a battery of
electronic equipment - imagery intensifiers, rhythmic modulators,
alliterative residulators and simile dumpers - all designed to heighten
the experience of the poem and make sure that not a single nuance of the
poet's thought was lost.
Arthur Dent sat and quivered. He had no idea what he was in for, but
he knew that he hadn't liked anything that had happened so far and didn't
think things were likely to change.
The Vogon began to read - a fetid little passage of his own devising.
"Oh frettled gruntbuggly..." he began. Spasms wracked Ford's body -
this was worse than ever he'd been prepared for.
"... thy micturations are to me | As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a
lurgid bee."
"Aaaaaaarggggghhhhhh!" went Ford Prefect, wrenching his head back as
lumps of pain thumped through it. He could dimly see beside him Arthur
lolling and rolling in his seat. He clenched his teeth.
"Groop I implore thee," continued the merciless Vogon, "my foonting
His voice was rising to a horrible pitch of impassioned stridency.
"And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles, Or I will rend
thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!"
"Nnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyuuuuuuurrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!" cried Ford Prefect and
threw one final spasm as the electronic enhancement of the last line
caught him full blast across the temples. He went limp.
Arthur lolled.
"Now Earthlings..." whirred the Vogon (he didn't know that Ford
Prefect was in fact from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and
wouldn't have cared if he had) "I present you with a simple choice! Either
die in the vacuum of space, or..." he paused for melodramatic effect,
"tell me how good you thought my poem was!"
He threw himself backwards into a huge leathery bat-shaped seat and
watched them. He did the smile again.
Ford was rasping for breath. He rolled his dusty tongue round his
parched mouth and moaned.
Arthur said brightly: "Actually I quite liked it."
Ford turned and gaped. Here was an approach that had quite simply not
occurred to him.
The Vogon raised a surprised eyebrow that effectively obscured his
nose and was therefore no bad thing.
"Oh good..." he whirred, in considerable astonishment.
"Oh yes," said Arthur, "I thought that some of the metaphysical
imagery was really particularly effective."
Ford continued to stare at him, slowly organizing his thoughts around
this totally new concept. Were they really going to be able to bareface
their way out of this?
"Yes, do continue..." invited the Vogon.
"Oh... and er... interesting rhythmic devices too," continued Arthur,
"which seemed to counterpoint the... er... er..." He floundered.
Ford leaped to his rescue, hazarding "counterpoint the surrealism of
the underlying metaphor of the... er..." He floundered too, but Arthur was
ready again.
"... humanity of the..."
"Vogonity," Ford hissed at him.
"Ah yes, Vogonity (sorry) of the poet's compassionate soul," Arthur
felt he was on a home stretch now, "which contrives through the medium of
the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms
with the fundamental dichotomies of the other," (he was reaching a
triumphant crescendo...) "and one is left with a profound and vivid
insight into... into... er..." (... which suddenly gave out on him.) Ford
leaped in with the coup de gr@ce:
"Into whatever it was the poem was about!" he yelled. Out of the
corner of his mouth: "Well done, Arthur, that was very good."
The Vogon perused them. For a moment his embittered racial soul had
been touched, but he thought no - too little too late. His voice took on
the quality of a cat snagging brushed nylon.
"So what you're saying is that I write poetry because underneath my
mean callous heartless exterior I really just want to be loved," he said.
He paused. "Is that right?"
Ford laughed a nervous laugh. "Well I mean yes," he said, "don't we
all, deep down, you know... er..."
The Vogon stood up.
"No, well you're completely wrong," he said, "I just write poetry to
throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief. I'm going to
throw you off the ship anyway. Guard! Take the prisoners to number three
airlock and throw them out!"
"What?" shouted Ford.
A huge young Vogon guard stepped forward and yanked them out of their
straps with his huge blubbery arms.
"You can't throw us into space," yelled Ford, "we're trying to write
a book."
"Resistance is useless!" shouted the Vogon guard back at him. It was
the first phrase he'd learnt when he joined the Vogon Guard Corps.
The captain watched with detached amusement and then turned away.
Arthur stared round him wildly.
"I don't want to die now!" he yelled. "I've still got a headache! I
don't want to go to heaven with a headache, I'd be all cross and wouldn't
enjoy it!"
The guard grasped them both firmly round the neck, and bowing
deferentially towards his captain's back, hoiked them both protesting out
of the bridge. A steel door closed and the captain was on his own again.
He hummed quietly and mused to himself, lightly fingering his notebook of
"Hmmmm," he said, "counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying
metaphor..." He considered this for a moment, and then closed the book
with a grim smile.
"Death's too good for them," he said.
The long steel-lined corridor echoed to the feeble struggles of the
two humanoids clamped firmly under rubbery Vogon armpits.
"This is great," spluttered Arthur, "this is really terrific. Let go
of me you brute!"
The Vogon guard dragged them on.
"Don't you worry," said Ford, "I'll think of something." He didn't
sound hopeful.
"Resistance is useless!" bellowed the guard.
"Just don't say things like that," stammered Ford. "How can anyone
maintain a positive mental attitude if you're saying things like that?"
"My God," complained Arthur, "you're talking about a positive mental
attitude and you haven't even had your planet demolished today. I woke up
this morning and thought I'd have a nice relaxed day, do a bit of reading,
brush the dog... It's now just after four in the afternoon and I'm already
thrown out of an alien spaceship six light years from the smoking remains
of the Earth!" He spluttered and gurgled as the Vogon tightened his grip.
"Alright," said Ford, "just stop panicking."
"Who said anything about panicking?" snapped Arthur. "This is still
just the culture shock. You wait till I've settled down into the situation
and found my bearings. Then I'll start panicking."
"Arthur you're getting hysterical. Shut up!" Ford tried desperately
to think, but was interrupted by the guard shouting again.
"Resistance is useless!"
"And you can shut up as well!" snapped Ford.
"Resistance is useless!"
"Oh give it a rest," said Ford. He twisted his head till he was
looking straight up into his captor's face. A thought struck him.
"Do you really enjoy this sort of thing?" he asked suddenly.
The Vogon stopped dead and a look of immense stupidity seeped slowly
over his face.
"Enjoy?" he boomed. "What do you mean?"
"What I mean," said Ford, "is does it give you a full satisfying
life? Stomping around, shouting, pushing people out of spaceships..."
The Vogon stared up at the low steel ceiling and his eyebrows almost
rolled over each other. His mouth slacked. Finally he said, "Well the
hours are good..."
"They'd have to be," agreed Ford.
Arthur twisted his head to look at Ford.
"Ford, what are you doing?" he asked in an amazed whisper.
"Oh, just trying to take an interest in the world around me, OK?" he
said. "So the hours are pretty good then?" he resumed.
The Vogon stared down at him as sluggish thoughts moiled around in
the murky depths.
"Yeah," he said, "but now you come to mention it, most of the actual
minutes are pretty lousy. Except..." he thought again, which required
looking at the ceiling - "except some of the shouting I quite like." He
filled his lungs and bellowed, "Resistance is..."
"Sure, yes," interrupted Ford hurriedly, "you're good at that, I can
tell. But if it's mostly lousy," he said, slowly giving the words time to
reach their mark, "then why do you do it? What is it? The girls? The
leather? The machismo? Or do you just find that coming to terms with the
mindless tedium of it all presents an interesting challenge?"
"Er..." said the guard, "er... er... I dunno. I think I just sort
of... do it really. My aunt said that spaceship guard was a good career
for a young Vogon - you know, the uniform, the lowslung stun ray holster,
the mindless tedium..."
"There you are Arthur," said Ford with the air of someone reaching
the conclusion of his argument, "you think you've got problems."
Arthur rather thought he had. Apart from the unpleasant business with
his home planet the Vogon guard had half-throttled him already and he
didn't like the sound of being thrown into space very much.
"Try and understand his problem," insisted Ford. "Here he is poor
lad, his entire life's work is stamping around, throwing people off
"And shouting," added the guard.
"And shouting, sure," said Ford patting the blubbery arm clamped
round his neck in friendly condescension, "... and he doesn't even know
why he's doing it!"
Arthur agreed this was very sad. He did this with a small feeble
gesture, because he was too asphyxicated to speak.
Deep rumblings of bemusement came from the guard.
"Well. Now you put it like that I suppose..."
"Good lad!" encouraged Ford.
"But alright," went on the rumblings, "so what's the alternative?"
"Well," said Ford, brightly but slowly, "stop doing it of course!
Tell them," he went on, "you're not going to do it anymore." He felt he
had to add something to that, but for the moment the guard seemed to have
his mind occupied pondering that much.
"Eerrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..." said the guard, "erm, well that
doesn't sound that great to me."
Ford suddenly felt the moment slipping away.
"Now wait a minute," he said, "that's just the start you see, there's
more to it than that you see..."
But at that moment the guard renewed his grip and continued his
original purpose of lugging his prisoners to the airlock. He was obviously
quite touched.
"No, I think if it's all the same to you," he said, "I'd better get
you both shoved into this airlock and then go and get on with some other
bits of shouting I've got to do."
It wasn't all the same to Ford Prefect after all.
"Come on now... but look!" he said, less slowly, less brightly.
"Huhhhhgggggggnnnnnnn..." said Arthur without any clear inflection.
"But hang on," pursued Ford, "there's music and art and things to
tell you about yet! Arrrggghhh!"
"Resistance is useless," bellowed the guard, and then added, "You see
if I keep it up I can eventually get promoted to Senior Shouting Officer,
and there aren't usually many vacancies for non-shouting and
non-pushing-people-about officers, so I think I'd better stick to what I
They had now reached the airlock - a large circular steel hatchway of
massive strength and weight let into the inner skin of the craft. The
guard operated a control and the hatchway swung smoothly open.
"But thanks for taking an interest," said the Vogon guard. "Bye now."
He flung Ford and Arthur through the hatchway into the small chamber
within. Arthur lay panting for breath. Ford scrambled round and flung his
shoulder uselessly against the reclosing hatchway.
"But listen," he shouted to the guard, "there's a whole world you
don't know anything about... here how about this?" Desperately he grabbed
for the only bit of culture he knew offhand - he hummed the first bar of
Beethoven's Fifth.
"Da da da dum! Doesn't that stir anything in you?"
"No," said the guard, "not really. But I'll mention it to my aunt."
If he said anything further after that it was lost. The hatchway
sealed itself tight, and all sound was lost but the faint distant hum of
the ship's engines.
They were in a brightly polished cylindrical chamber about six feet
in diameter and ten feet long.
"Potentially bright lad I thought," he said and slumped against the
curved wall.
Arthur was still lying in the curve of the floor where he had fallen.
He didn't look up. He just lay panting.
"We're trapped now aren't we?"
"Yes," said Ford, "we're trapped."
"Well didn't you think of anything? I thought you said you were going
to think of something. Perhaps you thought of something and didn't
"Oh yes, I thought of something," panted Ford. Arthur looked up
"But unfortunately," continued Ford, "it rather involved being on the
other side of this airtight hatchway." He kicked the hatch they'd just
been through.
"But it was a good idea was it?"
"Oh yes, very neat."
"What was it?"
"Well I hadn't worked out the details yet. Not much point now is
"So... er, what happens next?"
"Oh, er, well the hatchway in front of us will open automatically in
a few moments and we will shoot out into deep space I expect and
asphyxicate. If you take a lungful of air with you you can last for up to
thirty seconds of course..." said Ford. He stuck his hands behind his
back, raised his eyebrows and started to hum an old Betelgeusian battle
hymn. To Arthur's eyes he suddenly looked very alien.
"So this is it," said Arthur, "we're going to die."
"Yes," said Ford, "except... no! Wait a minute!" he suddenly lunged
across the chamber at something behind Arthur's line of vision. "What's
this switch?" he cried.
"What? Where?" cried Arthur twisting round.
"No, I was only fooling," said Ford, "we are going to die after all."
He slumped against the wall again and carried on the tune from where
he left off.
"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped
in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of
asphyxication in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my
mother told me when I was young."
"Why, what did she tell you?"
"I don't know, I didn't listen."
"Oh." Ford carried on humming.
"This is terrific," Arthur thought to himself, "Nelson's Column has
gone, McDonald's have gone, all that's left is me and the words Mostly
Harmless. Any second now all that will be left is Mostly Harmless. And
yesterday the planet seemed to be going so well."
A motor whirred.
A slight hiss built into a deafening roar of rushing air as the outer
hatchway opened on to an empty blackness studded with tiny impossibly
bright points of light. Ford and Arthur popped into outer space like corks
from a toy gun.