The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering. It has been built on the fragmented remains of... it will be built on the fragmented... that is to say it will have been built by this time, and indeed has been–

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broadminded and well-adjusted family can’t cope with. There is also no problem about changing the course of history – the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up: and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term ‘Future Perfect’ has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.

To resume:

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering.

It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is (wioll haven be) enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe.

This is, many would say, impossible.

In it, guests take (willan on-take) their places at table and eat (willan on-eat) sumptuous meals whilst watching (willing watchen) the whole of creation explode around them.

This, many would say, is equally impossible.

You can arrive (mayan arrivan on-when) for any sitting you like without prior (late fore-when) reservation because you can book retrospectively, as it were, when you return to your own time. (You can have on-book haventa forewhen presooning retumingwenta retrohome.)

This is, many would now insist, absolutely impossible.

At the Restaurant you can meet and dine with (mayan meetan con with dinan on-when) a fascinating cross-section of the entire population of space and time.

This, it can be explained patiently, is also impossible.

You can visit it as many times as you like (mayan on-visit re-onvisiting... and so on – for further tense correction consult Dr Streetmentioner’s book) and be sure of never meeting yourself, because of the embarrassment this usually causes.

This, even if the rest were true, which it isn’t, is patently impossible, say the doubters.

All you have to do is deposit one penny in a savings account in your own era, and when you arrive at the End of Time the operation of compound interest means that the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for.

This, many claim, is not merely impossible but clearly insane, which is why the advertising executives of the star system of Bastablon came up with this slogan: ‘If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?’

Later Hotblack Desiato, a hugely famous and wealthy musician, is visiting the Restaurant while dead for tax reasons.

In the restaurant, things were fast approaching the moment after which there wouldn’t be any more moments.

All eyes were fixed on the dome, other than those of Hotblack Desiato’s bodyguard, which were looking intently at Hotblack Desiato, and those of Hotblack Desiato himself, which the bodyguard had closed out of respect.

The bodyguard leaned forward over the table. Had Hotblack Desiato been alive, he probably would have deemed this a good moment to lean back, or even go for a short walk. His bodyguard was not a man who improved with proximity. On account of his unfortunate condition, however, Hotblack Desiato remained totally inert.

‘Mr Desiato, sir?’ whispered the bodyguard. Whenever he spoke, it looked as if the muscles on either side of his mouth were clambering over each other to get out of the way.

‘Mr Desiato? Can you hear me?’

Hotblack Desiato, quite naturally, said nothing.

‘Hotblack?’ hissed the bodyguard.

Again, quite naturally, Hotblack Desiato did not reply. Supernaturally, however, he did.

On the table in front of him a wine glass rattled, and a fork rose an inch or so and tapped against the glass. It settled on the table again.

The bodyguard gave a satisfied grunt.

‘It’s time we were going, Mr Desiato,’ muttered the bodyguard, ‘don’t want to get caught in the rush, not in your condition. You want to get to the next gig nice and relaxed. There was a really big audience for it. One of the best. Kakrafoon. Five hundred and seventy-six thousand and two million years ago. Had you will have been looking forward to it?’

The fork rose again, paused, waggled in a non-committal sort of a way and dropped again.

‘Ah, come on,’ said the bodyguard, ‘it’s going to have been great. You knocked ’em cold.’ The bodyguard would have given Dr Dan Streetmentioner an apoplectic attack.

From Chapters 15 and 18 of Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Pan Books, London, 1980

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