The Universe shattered into a million glittering fragments around it, and each particular shard span silently through the void, reflecting on its silver surface some single searing holocaust of fire and destruction.
And then the blackness behind the Universe exploded, and each particular piece of blackness was the furious smoke of hell.
And the nothingness behind the blackness behind the Universe erupted, and behind the nothingness behind the blackness behind the shattered Universe was at last the dark figure of an immense man speaking immense words.
``These, then,'' said the figure, speaking from an immensely comfortable chair, ``were the Krikkit Wars, the greatest devastation ever visited upon our Galaxy. What you have experienced ...''
Slartibartfast floated past, waving.
``It's just a documentary,'' he called out. ``This is not a good bit. Terribly sorry, trying to find the rewind control ...''
``... is what billions of billions of innocent ...''
``Do not,'' called out Slartibartfast floating past again, and fiddling furiously with the thing that he had stuck into the wall of the Room of Informational Illusions and which was in fact still stuck there, ``agree to buy anything at this point.''
``... people, creatures, your fellow beings ...''
Music swelled --- again, it was immense music, immense chords. And behind the man, slowly, three tall pillars began to emerge out of the immensely swirling mist.
``... experienced, lived through --- or, more often, failed to live through. Think of that, my friends. And let us not forget --- and in just a moment I shall be able to suggest a way which will help us always to remember --- that before the Krikkit Wars, the Galaxy was that rare and wonderful thing a happy Galaxy!''
The music was going bananas with immensity at this point.
``A Happy Galaxy, my friends, as represented by the symbol of the Wikkit Gate!''
The three pillars stood out clearly now, three pillars topped with two cross pieces in a way which looked stupefyingly familiar to Arthur's addled brain.
``The three pillars,'' thundered the man. ``The Steel Pillar which represented the Strength and Power of the Galaxy!''
Searchlights seared out and danced crazy dances up and down the pillar on the left which was, clearly, made of steel or something very like it. The music thumped and bellowed.
``The Perspex Pillar,'' announced the man, ``representing the forces of Science and Reason in the Galaxy!''
Other searchlights played exotically up and down the righthand, transparent pillar creating dazzling patterns within it and a sudden inexplicable craving for ice-cream in the stomach of Arthur Dent.
``And,'' the thunderous voice continued, ``the Wooden Pillar, representing ...'' and here his voice became just very slightly hoarse with wonderful sentiments, ``the forces of Nature and Spirituality.''
The lights picked out the central pillar. The music moved bravely up into the realms of complete unspeakability.
``Between them supporting,'' the voice rolled on, approaching its climax, ``the Golden Bail of Prosperity and the Silver Bail of Peace!''
The whole structure was now flooded with dazzling lights, and the music had now, fortunately, gone far beyond the limits of the discernible. At the top of the three pillars the two brilliantly gleaming bails sat and dazzled. There seemed to be girls sitting on top of them, or maybe they were meant to be angels. Angels are usually represented as wearing more than that, though.
Suddenly there was a dramatic hush in what was presumably meant to be the Cosmos, and a darkening of the lights.
``There is not a world,'' thrilled the man's expert voice, ``not a civilized world in the Galaxy where this symbol is not revered even today. Even in primitive worlds it persists in racial memories. This it was that the forces of Krikkit destroyed, and this it is that now locks their world away till the end of eternity!''
And with a flourish, the man produced in his hands a model of the Wikkit gate. Scale was terribly hard to judge in this whole extraordinary spectacle, but the model looked as if it must have been about three feet high.
``Not the original key, of course. That, as everyone knows, was destroyed, blasted into the ever-whirling eddies of the space-time continuum and lost for ever. This is a remarkable replica, hand-tooled by skilled craftsmen, lovingly assembled using ancient craft secrets into a memento you will be proud to own, in memory of those who fell, and in tribute to the Galaxy --- our Galaxy --- which they died to defend ...''
Slartibartfast floated past again at this moment.
``Found it,'' he said. ``We can lose all this rubbish. Just don't nod, that's all.''
``Now, let us bow our heads in payment,'' intoned the voice, and then said it again, much faster and backwards.
Lights came and went, the pillars disappeared, the man gabled himself backwards into nothing, the Universe snappily reassembled itself around them.
``You get the gist?'' said Slartibartfast.
``I'm astonished,'' said Arthur, ``and bewildered.''
``I was asleep,'' said Ford, who floated into view at this point. ``Did I miss anything?''
They found themselves once again teetering rather rapidly on the edge of an agonizingly high cliff. The wind whipped out from their faces and across a bay on which the remains of one of the greatest and most powerful space battle-fleets ever assembled in the Galaxy was briskly burning itself back into existence. The sky was a sullen pink, darkening via a rather curious colour to blue and upwards to black. Smoke billowed down out of it at an incredible lick.
Events were now passing back by them almost too quickly to be distinguished, and when, a short while later, a huge starbattle-ship rushed away from them as if they'd said ``boo'', they only just recognized it as the point at which they had come in.
But now things were too rapid, a video-tactile blur which brushed and jiggled them through centuries of galactic history, turning, twisting, flickering. The sound was a mere thin thrill.
Periodically through the thickening jumble of events they sensed appalling catastrophes, deep horrors, cataclysmic shocks, and these were always associated with certain recurring images, the only images which ever stood out clearly from the avalance of tumbling history: a wicket gate, a small hard red ball, hard white robots, and also something less distinct, something dark and cloudy.
But there was also another sensation which rose clearly out of the thrilling passage of time.
Just as a slow series of clicks when speeded up will lose the definition of each individual click and gradually take on the quality of a sustained and rising tone, so a series of individual impressions here took on the quality of a sustained emotion --- and yet not an emotion. If it was an emotion, it was a totally emotionless one. It was hatred, implacable hatred. It was cold, not like ice is cold, but like a wall is cold. It was impersonal, not as a randomly flung fist in a crowd is impersonal, but like a computer-issued parking summons is impersonal. And it was deadly --- again, not like a bullet or a knife is deadly, but like a brick wall across a motorway is deadly.
And just as a rising tone will change in character and take on harmonics as it rises, so again, this emotionless emotion seemed to rise to an unbearable if unheard scream and suddenly seemed to be a scream of guilt and failure.
And suddenly it stopped.
They were left standing on a quiet hilltop on a tranquil evening.
The sun was setting.
All around them softly undulating green countryside rolled off gently into the distance. Birds sang about what they thought of it all, and the general opinion seemed to be good. A little way away could be heard the sound of children playing, and a little further away than the apparent source of that sound could be seen in the dimming evening light the outlines of a small town.
The town appeared to consist mostly of fairly low buildings made of white stone. The skyline was of gentle pleasing curves.
The sun had nearly set.
As if out of nowhere, music began. Slartibartfast tugged at a switch and it stopped.
A voice said, ``This ...'' Slartibartfast tugged at a switch and it stopped.
``I will tell you about it,'' he said quietly.
The place was peaceful. Arthur felt happy. Even Ford seemed cheerful. They walked a short way in the direction of the town, and the Informational Illusion of the grass was pleasant and springy under their feet, and the Informational Illusion of the flowers smelt sweet and fragrant. Only Slartibartfast seemed apprehensive and out of sorts.
He stopped and looked up.
It suddenly occurred to Arthur that, coming as this did at the end, so to speak, or rather the beginning of all the horror they had just blurredly experienced, something nasty must be about to happen. He was distressed to think that something nasty could happen to somewhere as idyllic as this. He too glanced up. There was nothing in the sky.
``They're not about to attack here, are they?'' he said. He realized that this was merely a recording he was walking through, but he still felt alarmed.
``Nothing is about to attack here,'' said Slartibartfast in a voice which unexpectedly trembled with emotion. ``This is where it all started. This is the place itself. This is Krikkit.''
He stared up into the sky.
The sky, from one horizon to another, from east to west, from north to south, was utterly and completely black.