A/N: This idea has been sitting in the back of my head since last year and it needs some air. So here it is standing very awkwardly out in the open. The intro is an explanation by Ford Prefect as to why he's writing this and a great excuse for me to use him as a narrator. This is largely based off random sentences and blips from the books.
Disclaimer: I do NOT own ANYTHING of the late Douglas Adams and if I knew the person who does now, or could tell Adams directly I'd say, I'm terribly sorry, please don't sue me.
Ix: Stranger From the Sky
I never thought I'd ever be doing this but here I am. As I am writing this, I'm currently in Limbo.
Why? Because I just happened to do temporal U-turn and found myself on Earth just as it exploded. In other words, I am dead. I'm not quite sure what happened to the Trillians, Arthur, or the totty who likes to throw rocks at my head, but at the moment I could care less.
In my personal opinion, death is over rated, and quite frankly, I find that hilarious. One minute, I'm splitting my sides thinking just how funny Life, the Universe and everything really is, and the next, I have no sides and Zarquon is standing beside me ready to pass my judgment. Of course, THAT did not help my current condition because I burst into an entirely new fit of laughter and probably would have sent my spleen flying across the room. That is, if I'd had one. Zarquon failed to find any humor in it, the big stiff. When I had finally managed to pull myself together, I asked how God was, if he was still sorry for the inconvenience, and if Zarquon knew just how late he was for his second coming because the whole Galaxy is going to pot. Just a few simple questions I've been meaning to get off my chest. Next thing, Zarquon says to me "That's not funny." And sets me to the task of writing the autobiography of my childhood and won't pass judgment until I finish.
Just so you know, life around my home star of Betelgeuse was very boring and I do my best to try to forget it for more reasons then that. I could very easily sum it all up into one sentence and be done, which I did. But Zarquon didn't find that very funny either and is making me do it all over again this time in excruciating detail. This guy's as bad as my old editor from the Guide.
Just remember, I'm not enjoying this.
The earliest memories I have are a jumble of sounds, lights and images that make no sense, so I'll skip those and jump ahead to one of any importance. I vaguely remember a room. The room was dark, as if in twilight. Slanting beams of light poked through the drawn blinds from outside. The décor of the room was an ecliptic assortment of sagging furniture, lamps, and old magazines. All compacted into a very tight space with a low ceiling, held up by walls peppered with post-its, and a dusty, scuffed wooden floor. I especially remember that wooden floor because of all the time I spent picking splinters out of my foot from walking on it. However I wasn't walking on it this time, I was sitting. I had managed to build a small fort in the middle of the room out of throw pillows and cushions from the couch. I'd been up for hours now, sitting alone inside the dimness of the fort, watching dust particles dancing in and out of the sunbeams through a small skylight where the cushions met.
I must have been at least four or five years of age and so far was certain about only one thing… A Hrung had collapsed on Betelgeuse Seven.
I didn't know who had told me, and of course, I didn't know what that meant, nor why or how it had done it. In fact I still don't really know what a Hrung is, but it sounded like something awfully good to know at the time. Something that if said with the right low and ominous voice would make other people raise their eyebrows and take notice of your uncommon brilliance. I'd already tried that several times on people I knew and for the most part they ignored me.
After all I only knew two… well actually one and quarter, and one of them I had noticed just now, was looking down at me disapprovingly.
This was Maej.
I was never quite sure what my family relationship to her was, aside that it was somehow immediate. She was still in her dressing gown, her arms indignantly crossed. I never thought of her as old, her face was not that of an old person, but the long, wispy white hair she kept in a disheveled bun might have told a different story.
"Some of us would prefer you keep the cushions on the chairs, boy." She said quietly. That was how she normally addressed me as… boy, what do you think you're doing, and my personnel favorite, Oh for Zark's sake! I didn't have a name at the time… well I did, but I didn't know what it was, and neither did Maej. She said it had something to do with a high fatality rate of children younger than the age of nine because of over-stressed caregivers.
Anyways, I stuck my head through the opening between the cushions. Maybe she'd forget about the cushions if I focused her anger on something else.
"A Hrung collapsed on Betel-"
"I don't care what collapsed on what." She interjected "You've told me a hundred times and I'm sick of hearing it! From now on, I forbid you to say it." I opened my mouth again. " And don't change the words around, it still means the same thing." There was a pause between us. I began to wonder if she would leave if I sat there long enough in silence.
"Well?" Maej finally said, gesturing to the cushions. The answer was never. I withdrew my head back inside and crawled out through an opening on the side. Maej helped me pull the fort apart and put the cushions back in their proper places. She made one circle around the room to make sure everything was in the exact spot it had been before my ransacking. She also managed to stub her toe against one of the chairs and after snarling at it for a few minutes went into the kitchen. I followed her, collecting some of the post-its that fluttered off the wall as she went by. I sat down at a large round table adjacent to the refrigerator, which had also been covered in post-its.
The kitchen resembled all the other rooms: compact, low ceiling, and cluttered with stuff that had seen better days.
Sitting towards the wall on the table was a giant glass pickle jar full of thick yellow, filmy liquid, in which a head floated. It's skin had become sallow, and its auburn hair floated serenely about its ghostly face. This was the other person I knew, who was referred to simply as the Head.
"Hello Head." I said to it. The head on its own accord turned itself around to face me, and grinned. It babbled to me in a sort of frantic gibberish. I watched as the bubbles escaped from its mouth and floated to the top of the jar. The Head was always incredibly happy to see me.
"And there he goes again." Maej said as she put a kettle on the stove. The head spun around in its' jar to give an incoherent retaliation. "What's that? I'm sorry I can't understand a thing you're saying, and will continue not too until you start talking in Betol, alright." Maej said frankly, putting her hands on her hips. The two glared at each other for a few seconds, before the head mumbled something and rolled its eyes. "Glad we could come to an understanding." She said smiling and patting it affectionately on the lid.
The Head never said anything we could remotely understand, yet it seemed to understand us perfectly and often responded with great enthusiasm. Then Maej would interrupt with a comment about the fact that we couldn't decipher what it said. (For those of you lucky enough to have never been to Betelgeuse, and are at a loss of what Betol is, it's the dialect used around the Betelgeusian system.)
Thinking about this now, we could have just used a Babelfish and made it easier, but if Maej had ever owned one, it had obviously died years ago. Probably from the lack of talking that went about the place.
Maej plunked a large mug of coffee in front of me. Its rich aroma filled my nose. I looked at Maej, confused. She never let me touch the stuff. And I thought her coffee smelled better than it actually tasted. Maej, noticing my quizzical look, said. "That's not for you, that's for the head. You mind pouring it in his jar for me." She turned to rummage through the cupboard.
I think the head had the same opinion about Maej's coffee as I did. I apologetically lifted the lid and poured the steaming liquid in. The head was enveloped in a thick brown cloud. When the coffee had settled to the bottom, I could tell from the it's expression that it had forgiven me. It made a face, causing a smile to brake out on mine. We had a tacit relationship like that.
By now, Maej had found a plastic bag full of small white bottles. She pulled out each of them one by one and squinted at the labels, and the post-it each one of them had. "Boy, aren't you going to eat something?" she asked without looking up. I shrugged. She looked up. "Go look in the fridge." She said, nodding her head in its direction. I opened the fridge door with my foot because it was within close proximity, and because I could. There wasn't much in there. After peering around, I pulled out a jar of… of… I wasn't quite sure what it was. "What's this?" I asked.
"I don't know," Maej consulted the post-its on the fridge. "Does it have ice on it?" she finally asked.
"Put it back, then." I put the jar back. After some more searching, I sat back munching what I think was supposed to be pizza. The head watched me with minor curiosity. Maej gulped down several pills from the bottles. Some she took for her headaches, others where so-called wonder drugs she'd bought off the sub-Ether that supposedly were meant to improve memory. The rest were to combat the side effects. She took a sip of coffee and gazed out the window over the sink. Her brow furrowed, a moment later, it was as if she had turned to stone.
The head and I glanced at each other. Both of us had witnessed this phenomenon before. She would become eerily silent, her eyes became listless, her shoulders would hunch slightly and her expression would become blank, as if she had suddenly forgot who she was.
I guess it's important that I explain the reason for this, even if I wasn't aware of it at the time. Some time shortly after I was born, an acidic chemical solution was injected into her brain. I don't want to go into the why just yet, except that there was something in her memory that needed to be eradicated, and as the years went by, the solution slowly ate at her cerebrum, causing her to forget, and sometimes causing brief instances of amnesia such as this. Maej knew this, and maybe the Head did too, but of course they never said a word about it to me. Instead, Maej did her best to keep everything unchanged. She would never throw things away unless it was absolutely necessary, she took the pills even if it was more out of addiction because they obviously never worked, and for everything else, she wrote the post-its to herself until it was safe for one to say we used them as wallpaper. She would become furious if she caught me rearranging the furniture or removing the post-its. However, no matter what she did, she still couldn't remember anything past a month. The solution continued to cause her to forget small things, to become absent-minded, to slowly go mad.
The stillness shattered when Maej slammed her mug on the counter. The Head and I jumped at the suddenness of it.
"Zarquon!" she shouted. I ran up to the window and stood on my toes to peer out. There was smoke rising over the horizon.
"When ever I order stuff over the Sub-ether, I wish they wouldn't send it in a great ball of fire hurtling to the ground!" she grumbled. Her fingers drummed an angry rhythm on the counter top.
This was how we got our supplies. Since we lived far from any civilization. Maej ordered things in bulk over the Sub-ether, which back then was still a fairly new and exciting thing. Whoever she ordered it from would send it crashing down in a piece of a cargo ship. Maej wasn't very pleasant with strangers, even in delivery service uniforms.
I was struck by a sudden urge to go out and see the crash for myself. It wasn't often things crashed near our home and anything was better than staying here. "Can I go?" I begged.
"Go?" Maej repeated.
"To see the crash." I said.
"Boy, its just cargo, besides its still on fire. You wouldn't be able to salvage anything from it yet." She said.
"I want to go anyways." I said adamantly. Maej looked at the pillar of smoke, then at me, then at the smoke again. She glanced at the post-its on the cupboard as if they would have an answer.
"Have any chores that still need to get done?" She asked. I shook my head vigorously, which was a lie. There was always something I hadn't done.
"Okay," she said. "But don't forget to feed the head before you go." Before she could change her mind, I had tossed the rest of my pizza into the Head's jar and was running out the door. "Just remember how to get back home this time, because I'm not going out there to search for you again." I heard her call after me right before I slammed the door with a very satisfying bang.
A/N: Hey, I published this on April 2nd. That's 4/2/07. Get it? 4/2, 42 and 7 is a multiple of 42. Ha ha…ha… heh… ignore that. Be honest with the reviews.