01 Disappearing Gallumbits
Zaphod Beeblebrox, current President of the galaxy, for all that was worth, lay in bed, awake. Coming down off three Pan Galactic Gargleblasters interspersed with twenty-four hours of most enjoyably proving, once again, to Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple Breasted Whore of Eroticon Six, that he was indeed the best bang since the big one, and Zaphod Beeblebrox was wide awake.
This, as might be supposed, did not make Zaphod Beeblebrox a happy man. Well, it did not make him a happy Betelgeusian male. Not that anyone who spoke any of the many Betelgeusian dialects would call him a male in their own language. The term they would use involves a vocalization not unlike a hearty belch, accompanied by gestures that most other sentient species of similar physiologies would interpret as extremely rude. Whether this is the Betelgeusian equivalent of “male” or something specific to Zaphod Beeblebrox is not entirely clear. The sounds and gestures involved in an attempt at clarification have started more than one war.
While we are on the subject, the remaining acknowledged sentient species that arose in the Betelgeuse system is rather interesting in that, although it has only one type of what we will call, for convenience, males, it has between six and twenty types of what we will call, also for convenience, females. The variability of this number is largely dependent on who you ask. However most of what we shall call, once again for convenience, anthropologists, as well as somewhat less terminologically suspect psychologists, sociologist, biologists, geneticists, physicists, and epidemiologists, who have studied Betelgeusian mating behavior and mechanics are in general agreement that this differentiation is largely a fiction promulgated by the males of the species betelgeuses sortosapiens in order to have an excuse to “get it on” with more women. The males say this this a load of dingo’s kidneys and that all those researchers are just jealous and sexually frustrated because they spend too much time in the lab and not enough time doing more hands on research. At this point, some more opinionated researchers will point out that Betelgeusian males are sexist pigs.
And so it goes.
In any event, the end result is that Betelgeusian mating rituals have a tendency to be insanely complicated and often leave the males needing days to recover and to reflect on whether it was really worth it. Because of this, Betelgeusians do have a hard time with such absurdly complex concepts as celibacy, but are, by their own admission, very good in bed.
At this particular moment, none of this was going through Zaphod’s brains, not even the bit about how good he was in bed. His ego was clearly on a holiday and he knew that meant trouble. He lay on his back, a hand tucked under either head, the third holding Eccentrica Gallumbits curled up next to him snoring contentedly. The ultra-satin sheets lay in disarray, half-covering his naked body, wafting a micromolecule’s distance above him, weightless and too smooth to feel.
The Sirius Cybernetics Sooth-o-Matic, sensing his restlessness, was making soothing noises. Due to a slight programming error, that soothing noise was not unlike the surf gently lapping at a blackboard beach and running its fingernails across it. This Sirius Cybernetics Corporation knew about this error, but insisted that the problem was not the noise but that the listener was the wrong species for properly appreciate its soothing effects. Between its swooeechs, it would periodically try to sell Zaphod something as a souvenir from his visit to Eroticon Six in a pleasingly grating voice, also meant to sooth some unknown species that would never actually occupy a bed that involved a Sirius Cybernetics anything. Zaphod didn’t notice. His mind was elsewhere.
Zaphod Beeblebrox was worried. He didn’t like being worried. It tended to give him gas. He also didn’t like that he didn’t know what he was worried about. This worried him even more than whatever he was worried about. Something was very wrong, he knew that, but he didn’t know what was wrong. He wondered, perhaps, if what was wrong was that he didn’t know what was wrong. But he also distinctly remembered very proactively forgetting what was wrong, so the not knowing clearly came after the thing that was wrong.
Zaphod let Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Double Breasted Whore of Eroticon Five snuggle a little closer. She gave the Sooth-o-Matic a good whack without even bothering to wake up. The Sooth-o-Matic whined in protest for a minute, sulkily threatened to sue, and then shut up.
The silence, punctuated only by a loud snoring directly into one of his ears, allowed him to think a little more clearly. The first thing he thought was how just one more Pan Galactic Gargleblaster would probably destroy all chance of him thinking clearly about anything for at least a week and allow him some much needed sleep. There were no Pan Galactic Gargleblasters within easy reach and, because of some new and innovative uses they had found for it recently, the room service button was no longer working quite like it should.
Zaphod resigned himself to having to face a few clear-headed thoughts. He reasoned that he could always claim drunkness if too many of them tried to show up at once. A word floated into his mind. After three Pan Galactic Gargleblasters it might be more accurate to say that it sort of staggered in and did a sprawling face plant center stage, having tripped over itself.
“Earth.” The word was “Earth.”
A small chain of associations weaved woozily in after it, but were staggering about too much to make out clearly. There drunken dance began to make Zaphod nauseous.
He remembered something about a deranged, but not unusually so, Vogon storming into his office to triumphantly announce that he had successfully destroyed the Dirt, once and for all. No, not the Dirt, the word was Earth. Why would someone name their planet Earth?
“Earth,” Zaphod has asked nonchalantly. “Never heard of it.” He looked around at his Presidential aides. “Any of you cats heard of a place called Earth?” Being well-conditioned yes men with the word “no” surgically removed from their brains, they settled for mumbling noncommittally.
At the time, Zaphod was celebrating his election to a third term as galactic President. He was celebrating at home, with a bunch of cell-mates who also lived there, in a maximum security prison so secret that no one was allowed to know where it was. This, of course, meant that getting new inmates there could be quite a challenge, and staff absenteeism was an ongoing issue. It was almost certain death by annoyingly inconvenient accident to even accidentally discover that it was on the third moon of Stradivarius V. Revealing this information to some audiences might also require explaining the coincidental relation to a famous violin maker of note on the Earth previously mentioned, unless those audiences were killed in some annoyingly inconvenient accident first. But since this information will be omitted for everyone’s future safety and well-being, there is no need to wander off into a senseless digression.
The Vogon, Zaphod thought his name was Jeltz, was so agitated at everyone’s seeming denial of what he thought was, perhaps, the greatest triumph of his career, at least in terms of the amount of annoyance it had caused him, that he had to be restrained by guards. A few of them even survived and got off with merely having to fill out some paperwork regarding the approved use of force against government officials afterward.
It was about this time that Zaphod decided that he needed a vacation. He wrote himself a pardon and signed an executive order to have any record of the crime he was pardoning himself for expunged, as well as any people who might have been aware of it. He politely asked his Presidential aides whether they might be perfectly okay with staying here for a bit. Satisfied with their emphatic, one might almost say panicked, answers to the affirmative, he had the guards restrain them while hopped into the Heart of Gold, which was conveniently parked next to his washstand, and set off for an appointment with Eccentrica Gallumbits, the incredibly well-endowed whore of Eroticon Four.
Another word connected with the word Earth in one of Zaphod’s brains. The word tripped over the still sprawling word Earth and Zaphod nearly lost them both in the muddle. Somehow they both recovered mostly unharmed and Zaphod thought, “Trillian.” An “Aha!” narrowly missed him, much to their mutual relief. The word Trillian meant nothing to him either. Perhaps it was the correct name for this Earth place the Vogon had been going on about. That would be a pity. Zaphod really liked the sound of Trillian and thought that, if it hasd’t really been destroyed, he really should look up Trillian and visit sometime.
Zaphod was distracted from his chain of thought, much to his relief, by the Sooth-o-Matic, which had resumed its screeching interpretation of soothing. He turned one of his heads to look at the woman occupying his third arm. On the exotic planet of sensual delights known as Eroticon Three, Zaphod wondered how he had saddled himself with such a tawdry, two-bit whore. He recalled something about finding the name Eccentrica Gallumbits to be an appropriately alluring name amidst a haze on Pan Galactic Gargleblasters. No, that wasn’t it. The reason he was here was because something was missing, something very important. Perhaps his sense of taste? That wasn’t it either. Something really important. Although he was at a loss to think of something more important than his sense of taste. Except maybe his sense of style which was also, at the moment, gravely in question. If he lost his sense of taste, his style, his elán, well then, why bother to exist at all?
That was it! That something had something to do with existence. Something that didn’t exist. No, something that had gone terribly wrong in creating the non-existence of something or another. Zaphod tried to remember what it was and only succeeded in running headlong into its lack of existence. Whatever it had been had clearly been heavy enough for him to pass up all the sensual delights of Eroticon Two except for the alcohol. The alcohol he had consumed enough of, all of it mixed into combinations that were probably far more lethal than the individual ingredients, that when he staggered into his room, alone, he felt that he might actually get some sleep. He was still hoping, but not very determinedly. The alcohol had conveniently blacked out all the facts he didn’t want to think about, but had left the worry intact. The worry, with nothing to attach itself to, kept him awake by running in circles around his heads.
So he was left lying there, alone, wonder what, exactly, was it that had been so terribly, horribly wrong as to send him on a camping trip on the barren surface of Eroticon One with nothing but his Luxoro V portable camping palace and enough cheap, premixed Pan Galactic Gargleblasters to drive him to oblivion and then rehab for weeks to come? Even the fact that he was willing to stoop to prepackaged versions of his favorite drink should have told him something, but what?
Zaphod decided that the solution would be to have one more drink, swearing that this one would definitely, most probably be his last, for a few hours anyway.