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Chapter Twenty-six

Arthur Dent allowed himself for an unworthy moment to think, as they drifted up, that he very much hoped that his friends who had always found him pleasant but dull, or more latterly, odd but dull, were having a good time in the pub, but that was the last time, for a while, that he thought of them.

They drifted up, spiralling slowly around each other, like sycamore seeds falling from sycamore trees in the autumn, except going the other way.

And as they drifted up their minds sang with the ecstatic knowledge that either what they were doing was completely and utterly and totally impossible or that physics had a lot of catching up to do.

Physics shook its head and, looking the other way, concentrated on keeping the cars going along the Euston Road and out towards the Westway flyover, on keeping the streetlights lit and on making sure that when somebody on Baker Street dropped a cheeseburger it went splat upon the ground.

Dwindling headily beneath them, the beaded strings of light of London --- London, Arthur had to keep reminding himself, not the strangely coloured fields of Krikkit on the remote fringes of the galaxy, lighted freckles of which faintly spanned the opening sky above them, but London --- swayed, swaying and turning, turned.

``Try a swoop,'' he called to Fenchurch.

``What?''

Her voice seemed strangely clear but distant in all the vast empty air. It was breathy and faint with disbelief --- all those things, clear, faint, distant, breathy, all at the same time.

``We're flying ...'' she said.

``A trifle,'' called Arthur, ``think nothing of it. Try a swoop.''

``A sw-''

Her hand caught his, and in a second her weight caught it too, and stunningly, she was gone, tumbling beneath him, clawing wildly at nothing.

Physics glanced at Arthur, and clotted with horror he was gone too, sick with giddy dropping, every part of him screaming but his voice.

They plummeted because this was London and you really couldn't do this sort of thing here.

He couldn't catch her because this was London, and not a million miles from here, seven hundred and fifty-six, to be exact, in Pisa, Galileo had clearly demonstrated that two falling bodies fell at exactly the same rate of acceleration irrespective of their relative weights.

They fell.

Arthur realized as he fell, giddily and sickeningly, that if he was going to hang around in the sky believing everything that the Italians had to say about physics when they couldn't even keep a simple tower straight, that they were in dead trouble, and damn well did fall faster than Fenchurch.

He grappled her from above, and fumbled for a tight grip on her shoulders. He got it.

Fine. They were now falling together, which was all very sweet and romantic, but didn't solve the basic problem, which was that they were falling, and the ground wasn't waiting around to see if he had any more clever tricks up his sleeve, but was coming up to meet them like an express train.

He couldn't support her weight, he hadn't anything he could support it with or against. The only thing he could think was that they were obviously going to die, and if he wanted anything other than the obvious to happen he was going to have to do something other than the obvious. Here he felt he was on familiar territory.

He let go of her, pushed her away, and when she turned her face to him in a gasp of stunned horror, caught her little finger with his little finger and swung her back upwards, tumbling clumsily up after her.

``Shit,'' she said, as she sat panting and breathless on absolutely nothing at all, and when she had recovered herself they fled on up into the night.

Just below cloud level they paused and scanned where they had impossibly come. The ground was something not to regard with any too firm or steady an eye, but merely to glance at, as it were, in passing.

Fenchurch tried some little swoops, daringly, and found that if she judged herself just right against a body of wind she could pull off some really quite dazzling ones with a little pirouette at the end, followed by a little drop which made her dress billow around her, and this is where readers who are keen to know what Marvin and Ford Prefect have been up to all this while should look ahead to later chapters, because Arthur now could wait no longer and helped her take it off.

It drifted down and away whipped by the wind until it was a speck which finally vanished, and for various complicated reasons revolutionized the life of a family on Hounslow, over whose washing line it was discovered draped in the morning.

In a mute embrace, they drifted up till they were swimming amongst the misty wraiths of moisture that you can see feathering around the wings of an aeroplane but never feel because you are sitting warm inside the stuffy aeroplane and looking through the little scratchy perspex window while somebody else's son tries patiently to pour warm milk into your shirt.

Arthur and Fenchurch could feel them, wispy cold and thin, wreathing round their bodies, very cold, very thin. They felt, even Fenchurch, now protected from the elements by only a couple of fragments from Marks and Spencer, that if they were not going to let the force of gravity bother them, then mere cold or paucity of atmosphere could go and whistle.

The two fragments from Marks and Spencer which, as Fenchurch rose now into the misty body of the clouds, Arthur removed very, very slowly, which is the only way it's possible to do it when you're flying and also not using your hands, went on to create considerable havoc in the morning in, respectively, counting from top to bottom, Isleworth and Richmond.

They were in the cloud for a long time, because it was stacked very high, and when finally they emerged wetly above it, Fenchurch slowly spinning like a starfish lapped by a rising tidepool, they found that above the clouds is where the night get seriously moonlit.

The light is darkly brilliant. There are different mountains up there, but they are mountains, with their own white arctic snows.

They had emerged at the top of the high-stacked cumulo-nimbus, and now began lazily to drift down its contours, as Fenchurch eased Arthur in turn from his clothes, prised him free of them till all were gone, winding their surprised way down into the enveloping whiteness.

She kissed him, kissed his neck, his chest, and soon they were drifting on, turning slowly, in a kind of speechless T-shape, which might have caused even a Fuolornis Fire Dragon, had one flown past, replete with pizza, to flap its wings and cough a little.

There were, however, no Fuolornis Fire Dragons in the clouds nor could there be for, like the dinosaurs, the dodos, and the Greater Drubbered Wintwock of Stegbartle Major in the constellation Fraz, and unlike the Boeing 747 which is in plentiful supply, they are sadly extinct, and the Universe shall never know their like again.

The reason that a Boeing 747 crops up rather unexpectedly in the above list is not unconnected with the fact that something very similar happened in the lives of Arthur and Fenchurch a moment or two later.

They are big things, terrifyingly big. You know when one is in the air with you. There is a thunderous attack of air, a moving wall of screaming wind, and you get tossed aside, if you are foolish enough to be doing anything remotely like what Arthur and Fenchurch were doing in its close vicinity, like butterflies in the Blitz.

This time, however, there was a heart-sickening fall or loss of nerve, a re-grouping moments later and a wonderful new idea enthusiastically signalled through the buffeting noise.

Mrs E. Kapelsen of Boston, Massachusetts was an elderly lady, indeed, she felt her life was nearly at an end. She had seen a lot of it, been puzzled by some, but, she was a little uneasy to feel at this late stage, bored by too much. It had all been very pleasant, but perhaps a little too explicable, a little too routine.

With a sigh she flipped up the little plastic window shutter and looked out over the wing.

At first she thought she ought to call the stewardess, but then she thought no, damn it, definitely not, this was for her, and her alone.

By the time her two inexplicable people finally slipped back off the wing and tumbled into the slipstream she had cheered up an awful lot.

She was mostly immensely relieved to think that virtually everything that anybody had ever told her was wrong.

The following morning Arthur and Fenchurch slept very late in the alley despite the continual wail of furniture being restored.

The following night they did it all over again, only this time with Sony Walkmen.


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