by Douglas Adams (Pan Books 1979)
Arthur Dent's House:
........ He flushed hotly under the derisive grins of the bulldozer drivers.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, but it was equally uncomfortable on each. Obviously somebody had been appallingly incompetent and he hoped to God it wasn't him.
Mr Prosser said: 'You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time you know.'
'Appropriate time?' hooted Arthur. 'Appropriate time? The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he'd come to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he told me.'
'But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.'
'Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.'
'But the plans were on display ...'
'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'
'That's the display department.'
'With a torch.'
'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'
'So had the stairs.'
'But look, you found the notice didn't you?'
'Yes,' said Arthur, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.' A cloud passed overhead. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent as he lay propped up on his elbow in the cold mud. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent's house. Mr Prosser frowned at it. 'It's not as if it's a particularly nice house,' he said. 'I'm sorry, but I happen to like it.' 'You'll like the bypass.' 'Oh shut up,' said Arthur Dent. 'Shut up and go away, and take your bloody bypass with you. You haven't got a leg to stand on and you know it.'
Mr Prosser's mouth opened and closed a couple of times whilst his mind was for a moment filled with inexplicable but terribly attractive visions of Arthur Dent's house being consumed with fire and Arthur himself running screaming from the blazing ruin with at least three hefty spears protruding from his back. Mr Prosser was often bothered with visions like these and they made him feel very nervous. He stuttered for a moment and then pulled himself together.
'Mr Dent,' he said.
'Hello? Yes?' said Arthur.
'Some factual information for you. Have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?'
'How much?' said Arthur.
'None at all,' said Mr Prosser, and stormed nervously off wondering why his brain was filled with a thousand hairy horsemen all shouting at him. ..........
..... Before the Earth passed away it was going to be treated to the very ultimate in sound reproduction, the greatest public address system ever built. But there was no concert, no music, no fanfare, just a simple message.
'People of Earth, your attention please,' a voice said, and it was wonderful. Wonderful perfect quadrophonic sound with distortion levels so low as to make a brave man weep.
'This is Prostetnic Vogon Yeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council,' the voice continued. 'As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.'
The PA died away.
Uncomprehending terror settled on the watching people of Earth. The terror moved slowly through the gathered crowds as if they were iron filings on a sheet of board and a magnet was moving beneath them. Panic sprouted again, desperate fleeing panic, but there was nowhere to flee to. Observing this, the Vogons turned on their PA again. It said:
'There's no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it's far too late to start making a fuss about it now.'
The PA fell silent again and its echo drifted off across the land. The huge ships turned slowly in the sky with easy power. On the underside of each a hatchway opened, an empty black square.
By this time somebody somewhere must have manned a radio transmitter, located a wavelength and broadcast a message back to the Vogon ships, to plead on behalf of the planet. Nobody ever heard what they said, they only heard the reply. The PA slammed back into life again. The voice was annoyed. It said:
'What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven's sake mankind, it's only four light years away you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that's your own lookout.
'Energize the demolition beams.'
Light poured out of the hatchways.
'I don't know.' said the voice on the PA, 'apathetic bloody planet, I've no sympathy at all.' It cut off.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
There was a terrible ghastly noise.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
The Vogon Constructor Fleet coasted away into the inky starry void.
Last Updated: 13/1/01;8/2/01 font