Summary: A tribute to the late Douglas Adams, may he rest in peace.
It was the end of a day, and the sun of Reality in Maple Ridge, British Columbia was fast vanishing over the mountains. There was the beginnings of a thunderstorm contemplating its arrival in the clouds that gathered ominously on the horizon, and already fat droplets of rain spattered the sidewalk, as well as the windshield of a Twinkie-yellow Toyota Corolla that made its way slowly up 203rd street. The driver of the car switched on the windshield wipers and, glancing up into the sky, sighed.
The person in the passenger seat barely heard her over the strains of Our Lady Peace that blasted through the car's crackly speakers, but sighed as well.
"It's all very depressing," said the second girl, turning down the music. The two girls in the back seat leaned forward as one.
"What did you say?" inquired the one with brown hair.
"I said it's all very depressing."
"What is?" wondered the youngest of the four, with brown-blond hair and thick glasses, who sat in the back seat as well.
"Douglas Adams dying, I mean," said the second girl, brushing short black hair out of her glasses.
"All good Writers die," said the driver. "It's a fact of life that they almost all die before you can ever get a chance to meet them, or go to readings in a bathrobe..." She shot a sideways glance at the girl in the passenger seat and smiled dryly before flipping long, red-brown hair over her shoulder. "Open the window," she said. "The windshield is fogging up."
"I never --!" began the girl in the passenger seat, who then closed her mouth and looked contemplative for a moment before continuing, "Okay, so maybe I did. It's not fair. Brits got to do it. Why shouldn't I?" She set down to pouting out of her window. The girl driving laughed.
"I agree with you wholeheartedly," she said. "It's not fair. But now you two know how I feel about Tolkien."
The brown-haired girl squinted. "He died before you started reading him," she pointed out.
"Still," said the first girl, "I didn't meet him, never heard him read - it's the same thing. Great Writers always die before a lot of their work is complete. It's really all very unfair."
"You said that already," pointed out the youngest girl, clutching a denim-covered binder, which was bulging with drawings, to her chest. "I still feel bad about never having read him."
"We'll read some bits of Hitchiker's during the ceremony," Avra, the brown-haired girl assured her. "Then you'll have to read it."
They now passed through the last intersection before their destination. A brightly-lit shopping centre came into view. The large orange and purple sign read West Gate Centre. The car turned into it, and stopped in front of a Save-On Foods. The first girl took the key out of the ignition. "Bail, everybody, and remember to lock your doors."
"Like anybody would want to steal this car," muttered the girl climbing out of the passenger seat.
They approached the front doors of the store but were distracted by Celeste, who was the black-haired girl, emitting a high-pitched squeal and stumbling up to someone standing in front of them. "Big Kim! It's Big Kim!"
The taller girl grinned widely when she saw them. She wore glasses, and she wore her thick brown-blond hair in a messy ponytail. She also clutched a half-filled shopping bag and a set of car keys to her chest.
"Come to the ceremony!" cried Celeste, as Chandri appeared behind her. Avra and Lara caught up then, and nodded.
"What ceremony?" asked Kim, cocking her head to one side.
"For Douglas Adams," explained Celeste. Kim gave her a blank look.
"He died on Friday."
Kim managed to looked shocked. "Really? But I thought he was, like, forty-five?"
"Forty-nine," corrected Chandri. "We're getting cheesecake and then having a memorial ceremony."
"I presume the cheesecake is in his honour?" asked Kim.
All four younger girls nodded.
"Why do you think I'm wearing a towel?" added Avra, who was wearing a Cookie Monster towel pinned around her neck like a cape.
"Light the candles," said Chandri. "Light all of them."
"Then turn off the lights," added Avra.
Lily leapt to her feet and switched off the lights. The candlelight did strange things to the green icing on the mini cheesecakes.
Celeste opened the thick volume on her lap with reverence.
"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy," she read, "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 ape-descended 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 living 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."
She paused. She studied the book. "Gee, Chan, you've got this in amazing condition. Mine's got highlighter and pencil marks and circled quotations all over it."
Chandri crossed her arms. "I try not to deface my books."
Celeste stuck out her tongue and flipped through a couple of pages, then continued.
The low rumbling of thunder interrupted her. All four girls jumped. Lily squeaked.
"Ahem. Sorry. Go on," said the child.
Celeste raised an eyebrow, and looked down at the book again. "It is a mistake to think that you can solve any major problem with just potatoes."
Lara giggled. "I'll have to read this thing," she remarked. A brief silence followed. Chandri broke it by pouring tea into everyone's cups and handing around the sugar-bowl.
"It's my turn," she said, reaching for the book. Everyone was silent, sipping their tea, as she thumbed through the pages for the place she wanted.
"The mattress flolloped around. This is a thing that only live mattresses in swamps are able to do, which is why the word is not in more common usage. It flolloped in a sympathetic sort of way, moving a fairish body of water as it did so. It blew a few bubbles up through the water engagingly. Its blue and white stripes glistened briefly in a sudden feeble ray of sun that had unexpectedly made it through the mist, causing the creature to bask momentarily.
'You have something on your mind, I think,' said the mattress, floopily.
'More than you can posibly imagine,' dreared Marvin. 'My capacity for mental activity of all kinds is as boundless as the infinite reaches of space itself. Except of course for my capacity for happiness.'
Stomp, stomp, he went.
'My capacity for happiness,' he added, 'you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first.'
The mattress globbered. This is the noise made by a live, swamp-dwelling mattress that is deeply moved by a story of personal tragdy. The word can also according to the 'The Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary of Every Language Ever', mean the noise made by the Lord High Sanvalvwag of Hollop on discovering that he has forgotten his wife's birthday for the second year running. Since there was only ever one Lord High Sanvalvwag of Hollop, and he never married, the word is only ever used in a negative or speculative sense, and there is an every-increasing body of opinion which holds that "The Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary" is not worth the fleet of lorries it takes to cart its microstored edition aroundin. Strangely enough, the dictionary omits the word 'floopily', which simply means 'in the manner of something which is floopy'. The mattress globbered again."
Later on, they toasted with the mini-cheesecakes, taking a moment to close their eyes reverently, as much for the solemnity of the occasion as for the cheesecake, and then set down their teacups.
"There's not much else to say," mumbled Chandri, seeming deflated. Everyone shook their heads, except for Celeste, who closed the book and regarded with quiet amusement the little green face on the cover, which was sticking out its tongue.
"There's one more thing," she said.
"What's that?" asked Lara.
Celeste smiled. "Heaven is now a much sillier place."
Disclaimer: There is no actual, technical mention of Subreality in this story, but it's still Kielle's. Douglas Adams, as well as the Guide and almost everything associated with it (including, I suspect, the middle-aged men in bathrobes) belong to him - or rather, now, his estate, I guess. Celeste was right - heaven is now a much sillier place, and I don't know about all of you, but I'll miss him. Rest in peace, Douggie.
Lara, Avra, Celeste and Kim are all Real Life People and belong to themselves. They're all tottering on the edge of the inescapable chasm that is Subreality *evil cackle* - I've just yet to shove them over the edge.
Lily and myself are, of course, Writers and belong to ourselves.
The mini-cheesecakes are made by Sara Lee, and can be found in most any frozen foods section. I highly reccommend them.
The twinkie-coloured car is mine. Her name is Mabel. We think she can fly, but keeps it from us.
Maple Ridge, British Columbia belongs to... I dunno. Somebody. It's wet, is all I know. :)
I took too bloody long to actually finish this, and I apologise to Celeste for lagging behind. Are you happy now?
Feedback eagerly hoarded at firstname.lastname@example.org.