What resides at the bottom of a second bottle of Shiraz?
I had the occasion, albeit under the very heavy influence of a bottle or two of an extremely pleasant Shiraz, to stumble upon a rather tall gentleman with an odd outlook on life. Well, odd in the fact that he was rumoured to be dead, but we’ll come to that shortly.
Although unsure at first, the presence of a towel slung casually over his left shoulder, a large open and half-eaten packet of salted peanuts in his right hand and his asking if I had any beer gave me a clue.
When I casually said, “Hey, you’re supposed to be dead!”, he just smiled and said, “Oh don’t panic.”
Now I was sure it was him. If I had any lingering doubts, they were brushed aside in an instant when I asked, “It’s you, isn’t it?”
He told me that it was my drunken stupor, so he would happily be anyone I wanted him to be.
“So, this disappearing act in 2001? What was that all about? You didn’t even say goodbye or anything,” I remonstrated.
“Look,” he started. “Ok, I meant to at the time, but I got carried away with things and, well, you know, the fish, dolphins and mice were having a bash on Earth-Two. So, off I went. Not often one gets such an invitation.”
“So you just up and died to get there?”
“No. I hitchhiked.”
“To Earth Two?”
“Weren’t you listening?”
“Sorry. Um, so you didn’t die then.”
“Um, can I ask you something else?”
“Will it be silly?”
“All right then, ask away.”
“This 42 business. Did you think of it yourself, or did you steal the idea from Lewis Carroll?”
“I refuse to answer that! How dare you!”
“So you did then.”
“Well, er, yes. I did have 73 in mind at the time, but it just didn’t have a nice ring to it. So I deleted 73 and got lazy and popped in 42.”
“But that’s plagiarism!”
“No, it’s not! You can’t plagiarise a number. How silly.”
“Oh, I never thought about that. Sorry.”
“Accepted. Now, any more stupid questions?”
“Er, yes. Just one, if you don’t mind.”
“Ok, only one.”
“Why are you back here?”
“Oh, good question. I just popped back to pick up my Macintosh. I have missed it, awfully. I’ve been having to write on a stupid holographic slate on Earth-Two, and it gives me the pips. Things keep popping in and out and up and down. Most disconcerting.”
“Why don’t you get a new Mac? A MacBook Pro. There’ve improved a lot since 2001.”
“Can I have that beer now?” he asked, as he picked up his Macintosh and slung it under his arm, with its keyboard and mouse dangling from cords near his thigh.
“Sure. Here you go.”
“Ta! Well, so long and thanks for the beer,” was all he said, as he disappeared from right in front of my reality.
I took a long sip of my Shiraz — and wondered.
More reading: Do You Believe In Science Fiction? I Sometimes Do