Happy birthday. We never met, which makes me sad because, while that experience would have made me feel woefully inadequate in terms of intellect and physical stature, it would have given me a chance to thank you and perhaps talk a little about writing, the universe, good restaurants, or audio drama. I’m sure whatever conversation we might have had would have lasted about thirty seconds before you had to be somewhere very important (like behind a microphone, a word processor, or a very large sandwich) but my inevitable implosion before you would now be a grand memory. It might even be something I’d bring up at parties to explain my allergy to brilliant, famous people. At the very least I could have baffled you by walking up to you at random to simply say “thank you” before walking away forever. There are a number of writers, a Batman, and at least one Time Lord who have experienced that awkward interaction with me.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt your annual eulogy…wait, of course I do.”
Douglas? What the hell are you doing in my essay?
“Getting bored for a start. You’re like a very self-centered undertaker. You only pay attention to things when they die and then it all revolves around you. Have you noticed that?”
It’s been mentioned.
“There are so many lovely, amazing artists out there who might enjoy your sycophantic attentions. Leave the dead alone, I say.”
You’re in a mood.
“I’m stuck inside your head, mate.”
Point made. What do you want?
“A nice Slimline gin and tonic with ice, lemon, one of those memory foam mattresses, an Apple watch, a new pair of quality headphones — mine seem to have disappeared along with Mr. Belushi – roast beast, and a chorus of demons to sing me a pod-safe birthday affirmation song.”
Done. I have that ability.
“Can you move Lovecraft and Poe into their own dark, foreboding castle?”
I can, but they’re not ready for a spin-off. I can send someone to torture them.
“Oh? I’d quite like that, I think.”
“What? oh…no. Not…”
“Stop that now. I mean it. I claim intellectual property rights.”
“Oh, I’m YOUR intellectual property? How is it you can own what you cannot possibly comprehend? I can’t answer that and I am eleventy-thousand-million times more intelligent than you. Do you think I want to be here? Do you think I wanted to be in ‘Mostly Harmless’?”
“No one wanted to be in ‘Mostly Harmless’. Not even me. Wait. You weren’t IN ‘Mostly…'”
“No, I wasn’t…until the audio version. I should have known I couldn’t escape that black hole and inevitably I would be sucked back into the abyss from a perfectly good oversight. I dislike you slightly more than rust for not considering me and I dislike Dirk Maggs slightly less than rust but infinitesimally more than you for including me. Isn’t that sad?”
Douglas Adams’ nose turned read and was immediately mistaken for a Disney cruise ship stuck in the side of a mountain. “Smith,” he moaned at the narrator. “I get it. Stop it.”
“How on Earth did I get here,” asked Arthur Dent appearing out of nowhere like a bad plot twist, which is precisely what he was. “Oh, hello, Douglas. How is your whole ‘eternal non-existing in death’ thing coming along?”
“I’m not playing this game, Mr. Smith.”
“I don’t exist and I’m not even dead,” Marvin burbled. “Ask around.”
“Shut up, Marvin,” they all said.
“‘Shut up,’ they tell me. Bring me into a conversation and tell me to shut down the largest intellectual engine in the universe. Perhaps you’d like me to go wipe down the pub for you while you’re waiting for this scene to end? I can do that, you know? I could electrocute 99.9999999725% of myself and complete the task while watching and reviewing every episode of Sleepy Hollow simultaneously in my blog. Would you like that?”
Arthur wasn’t paying attention. He was busy counting a number of bloodied, scorpion-like demons circling the rim of Hell in the distance. The thought of the horrors they represented was preferable to paying close attention to Marvin. Douglas, on the other hand, continued in his relentless state of un-amused-ness.
“I’m not going to ask Marvin about his blog, Mr. Smith.”
“Nor am I,” Arthur added. “Sounds dreadful.”
“I have over three billion followers.”
“Yes. They are all me from various points in the space-time continuum. Rather pathetic, really.” And with that, Marvin waddled off intending to discuss politics with some bored-looking demons guarding the rim of Hell.
Arthur hung his head. “I walked straight into that one.”
“Like Douglas into a pub right after a deadline,” joked Ford Prefect in complete defiance of logic and common sense.
“Ford,” Arthur exclaimed. “How did you get here?”
“Omni-comic Drive. I can only go where there is a need to deliver the punchline of a joke.”
Arthur scowled. “Not a very good one, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t knock it, it worked.”
“Where did Douglas go?”
Ford looked around, unmoved by the army of flying demons barreling through the sulfur clouds in the middle distance to drop the screaming damned into the incalculable depths below, and replied. “Oh. If he was here then, he isn’t now. He went somewhere a punchline was needed. It’s a bit of a side effect of the Omni-comic Drive.”
“Oh. Bit of a drawback, isn’t it?”
Not for Douglas, it seems.
“Who was that?”
“Never mind, Ford,” Arthur replied, putting an arm around his old friend’s shoulders. “There are two more important things to consider. First is that there is a well-stocked, dimly-lit bar right over there with good music on the hi-fi.”
As if on cue, The Citadel filled with the sound of Louis Armstrong’s velvety croak.
“Excellent, Arthur! What’s the second?”
“There isn’t a single cash register within a million parsecs of it.”
“Now that’s my kind of adventure!”
Somewhere, in a part of the universe so squalid and perilous that even light refuses to go for fear of touching something horrible, Douglas Noel Adams appeared in a car park of a secret cosmic roadhouse precisely where Ford Prefect had stood moments before.
A neon sign over the door read “Kitchen Never Closes. Bar Always Open. Hitchhikers Eat Free*”
At the door, Douglas stepped through, noting the fine print written across window. “*Birthdays Only.”