The Long Dark Cocktail Hour of the Soul

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The year: 2020.

The place: The Capital-H-Two-Capital-G-Two, a trendy little pub somewhere behind the BBC Tower

The sign over the door:


The planet Earth.Totally, Utterly Approved Guide

The time: About when Prof Animal Chaos stops wanting a drink, and starts needing a drink.

The story:

The Long, Dark Cocktail Hour of the Soul: We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Blue

The Hitchhiker pushed open the pale blue door and entered the shiny saloon, unzipping his anorak as he did so. The décor was, well, rather chi-chi – mostly shades of off-white and pale, pale blue, with little logos dotting the walls. In spite of the unfortunate ambiance, redolent of bad advertising copy committee-designed by the sort of people who attend Corporate Retreats, the pub itself was warm and inviting: little groups of Researchers in t-shirts and jeans clustered around oddly-shaped tables, drinking and talking. From one corner, he heard loud giggles and the cry of 'C'mon, lil!'. He headed toward the bar, a long Formica counter dotted with lurex stars, over which hung a rather ghastly picture of a dolphin, looking as if he were about to say, 'So long, and no thanks to all the paparazzi!'. He cleared his throat, and waited for the bartender to finish chatting up the buxom woman at the corner stool.

The bartender twirled his moustache – moustaches being the latest fad in 2020 – and asked, 'Would Sir be dining, or ordering a drink?'

The Hitchhiker blinked. 'Tell me first – is this the Online Afterlife, or merely a sort of après vie?'

The bartender chuckled evilly. 'Oh, no. Sir is not dead. Otherwise, one would not attempt to serve Sir.'

The Hitchhker sighed. 'All right, we've established your credentials. You know the Story by heart. Pour me a PGGB, and let me take a gander at the menu du jour.' The bartender, with an official Eye Roll (see smiley list), handed the Hitchhiker a computer stick, and went to mix the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. The Hitchhiker plugged the stick into his ebook and opened the menu for the Menu.

The first words on the menu were 'Don't Panic'. Oddly, those words on a menu had the opposite effect from what might have been intended. The Hitchhiker immediately thought of ptomaine. Under the 'Don't Panic' warning was a list of dishes, imaginatively named after railway disasters, constellations, and film stars. When the bartender returned with his PGGB, he was ready with his order.

'I'll take an Approved and Updated Tay Bridge Collapse, medium rare, with a baked potato,' he decided, taking a cautious sip of the brightly-coloured drink. 'Ah, that hits the spot. Somewhere near the medulla oblongata.'

The bartender made a note on his PDA. 'We have an Entry on that, sir. While you are waiting, you might care to find a table and converse. That is, after all, the purpose of this establishment.' Ignoring the snarky tone, the Hitchhiker took his drink and went in search of a convo. 'That bartender must be a Sub-Editor,' he muttered.

Bypassing the table where the giggling was getting louder, the Hitchhiker halted at the largest table – the one with the sign over it that read: 'Ask H2G2 – what the community is talking about right now.' What the community appeared to be talking about was politics, no surprise there.

'What I want to know is,' this from a bearded fellow in a dark polo shirt, 'why the Scottish ruling party can't get it together to finish the Act of Union with Iceland and Norway. It's high time we got on with it, and increased our presence in the EU Parliament.'

'Codswallop!' snorted a slight young man wearing a t-shirt that said 'Make Unicode, Not War'. 'Edinburgh is just a talking shop, and the kilt brigade is in league with the Neo-Vikings up there. I've always said...'

The Hitchhiker decided to give the political discussion a miss, and went in search of some stimulating fiction. A tour of the room resulted in the discovery that the table marked 'H2G2 UnderGuide' was not only totally empty, but had obviously been that way for some time. Pausing only to write 'ARCHIVE ME' with his finger in the inch-thick dust, he moved on. Finally, he found the table he was searching for: behind a pillar, between the waiters' swinging doors and the fire exit, next to where they stored the unwanted potted plants. The sign over the table read:

A crest bearing the legend The H2G2 Post

The Hitchhiker sat down between a slender, attractive woman, to whom the last ten years had obviously been kind, and a short, demented-looking white-haired fellow wearing a t-shirt that said rather hopefully, 'My other body is a TARDIS.' He greeted them.

'The more things change, the more they stay the same,' he commented.

The others raised their glasses. 'How true,' the woman remarked, and her companion added, 'Glad you found us.'

By the time dinner arrived, they had already edited four articles and written an acrostic together. The Hitchhiker ordered drink refills, and a round for the Giggling Table. When theirs arrived, he turned to his friends.

'What shall we drink to?'

The nutcase grinned. 'To H2G2, long may she sail, whatever her orthography.' The Hitchhiker saluted.

'We've got a ways to go,' he mused. 'But we're still Mostly Harmless.'

Fact and Fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

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