|So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish|
|1||Douglas Adams. So long, and thanks for all the fish
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of
the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles
is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-
descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still
think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
|2||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.
|3||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.
|4||This time it was
right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to
Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone
about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea
was lost forever.
This is her story.
That evening it was dark early, which was normal for the time of
year. It was cold and windy, which was normal.
|5||It started to rain, which was particularly normal.
A spacecraft landed, which was not.
There was nobody around to see it except some spectacularly
stupid quadrupeds who hadn't the faintest idea what to make of
it, or whether they were meant to make anything of it, or eat it,
or what. So they did what they did to everything which was to run
away from it and try to hide under each other, which never
|6||It slipped down out of the clouds, seemingly balanced on a single
beam of light.
From a distance you would scarcely have noticed it through the
lightning and the storm clouds, but seen from close to it was
strangely beautiful - a grey craft of elegantly sculpted form:
Of course, one never has the slightest notion what size or shape
different species are going to turn out to be, but if you were to
take the findings of the latest Mid-Galactic Census report as any
kind of accurate guide to statistical averages you would probably
guess that the craft would hold about six people, and you would
|7||You'd probably guessed that anyway. The Census report, like most
such surveys, had cost an awful lot of money and didn't tell
anybody anything they didn't already know - except that every
single person in the Galaxy had 2.4 legs and owned a hyena. Since
this was clearly not true the whole thing had eventually to be
The craft slid quietly down through the rain, its dim operating
lights wrapping it in tasteful rainbows.
|8||It hummed very quietly,
a hum which became gradually louder and deeper as it approached
the ground, and which at an altitude of six inches became a heavy
At last it dropped and was quiet.
A hatchway opened. A short flight of steps unfolded itself.
A light appeared in the opening, a bright light streaming out
into the wet night, and shadows moved within.
A tall figure appeared in the light, looked around, flinched, and
hurried down the steps, carrying a large shopping bag under its
|9||It turned and gave a single abrupt wave back at the ship. Already
the rain was streaming through its hair.
"Thank you," he called out, "thank you very ..."
He was interrupted by a sharp crack of thunder. He glanced up
apprehensively, and in response to a sudden thought quickly
started to rummage through the large plastic shopping bag, which
he now discovered had a hole in the bottom.
It had large characters printed on the side which read (to anyone
who could decipher the Centaurian alphabet) Duty free Mega-
Market, Port Brasta, Alpha Centauri.
|10||Be Like the Twenty-Second
Elephant with Heated Value in Space - Bark!
"Hold on!" the figure called, waving at the ship.
The steps, which had started to fold themselves back through the
hatchway, stopped, re-unfolded, and allowed him back in.
He emerged again a few seconds later carrying a battered and
threadbare towel which he shoved into the bag.
He waved again, hoisted the bag under his arm, and started to run
for the shelter of some trees as, behind him, the spacecraft had
already begun its ascent.