“That young girl,” he added unexpectedly, “is one of the least benightedly unintelligent life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting.”
The lights were off so that his heads could avoid looking at each other, because neither of them was currently a particularly engaging sight, and nor had they been since he had made the error of looking into his soul.
It had indeed been an error. It had been late one night – of course. It had been a difficult day – of course. There had been soulful music playing on the ship’s sound system – of course. And he had, of course, been slightly drunk.
In other words, all the usual conditions which bring on a bout of soul-searching had applied, but it had, nevertheless, clearly been an error.
“The point is, you see,” said Ford, “that there is no point driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself from going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later.”
The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.
“Trillian?” he said. “She’s just a kid. Cute, yeah, but temperamental. You know how it is with women. Or perhaps you don’t. I assume you don’t. If you do I don’t want to hear about it. Plug us in.”
The robot stopped and looked at the mattress. It looked at it quizzically. It was clearly a very stupid mattress. It looked back at him with wide eyes. After what it had calculated to ten significant decimal places as being the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt for all things mattressy, the robot continued to walk round in tight circles.
“We would love to stay and help,” shouted Ford, picking his way over the mangled debris, “only we’re not going to.”
Arthur shook his head and sat down. He looked up. “I thought you must be dead …” he said simply.
“So did I for a while,” said Ford, “and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. A kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.”
“What was that?” hissed Arthur.
“Something red,” hissed Ford back at him.
“Where are we?”
“Er, somewhere green.”
“Shapes,” muttered Arthur. “I need shapes.”
In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
A glummer look replaced the already glum look on Arthur Dent’s face. “So we’re not home and dry,” he said.
“We could not even be said,” replied Ford, “to be home and vigorously toweling ourselves off.”
Arthur’s consciousness approached his body as from a great distance, and reluctantly. It had had some bad times in there. Slowly, nervously, it entered and settled down in to its accustomed position.
He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.
A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.
Ford looked angrily at him.
“Will you listen?” he snapped.
“I have been listening,” said Arthur, “but I’m not sure it’s helped.”
“Arthur,” said Ford.
“Hello? Yes?” said Arthur.
“Just believe everything I tell you, and it will all be very, very simple.”
“Ah, well I’m not sure I believe that.”
A tall figure appeared silhouetted in the hatchway. It walked down the ramp and stood in front of Arthur.
“You’re a jerk, Dent,” it said simply.
Numbers written on restaurant bills within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe.
This single statement took the scientific world by storm. It completely revolutionized it. So many mathematical conferences got held in such good restaurants that many of the finest minds of a generation died of obesity and heart failure and the science of math was put back by years.
“I could hardly help it, could I?” he bellowed, “when the same thing kept happening, over and over and over again! Every life I ever lived, I got killed by Arthur Dent. Any world, any body, any time, I’m just getting settled down, along comes Arthur Dent – pow, he kills me.”
After nearly four years of total isolation he was so pleased and relieved to see Ford that he could almost cry. Ford was, on the other hand, an almost immediately annoying person.
“The Guide says there is an art to flying,” said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” He smiled weakly. He pointed at the knees of his trousers and held his arms up to show the elbows. They were all torn and worn through.
“I don’t want to know, I don’t want to see, I don’t want to hear,” he yelled as he ran, “this is not my planet, I didn’t choose to be here, I don’t want to get involved, just get me out of here, and get me to a party, with people I can relate to!”
Smoke and flame billowed from the pitch. “Well, the supernatural brigade certainly seems to be out in force here today …” burbled a radio happily to itself.
“What I need,” shouted Ford, by way of clarifying his previous remarks, “is a strong drink and a peer-group.”
Arthur had adopted his normal crisis role, which was to stand with his mouth hanging open and let it all wash over him.
“I want to hear your speech,” said the mattress.
“This is what I said. I said, ‘I would like to say that it is a very great pleasure, honor and privilege for me to open this bridge, but I can’t because my lying circuits are all out of commission. I hate and despise you all. I now declare this hapless cyberstructure open to the unthinkable abuse of all who wantonly cross her.’ And I plugged myself into the opening circuits.”
Marvin paused, remembering the moment.
Arthur lay in startled stillness on the acceleration couch. He wasn’t certain whether he had just got space-sickness or religion.