Eight hours West sat a man alone on a beach mourning an inexplicable loss. He could only think of his loss in little packets of grief at a time, because the whole thing was too great to be borne.
He watched the long slow Pacific waves come in along the sand, and waited and waited for the nothing that he knew was about to happen. As the time came for it not to happen, it duly didn't happen and so the afternoon wore itself away and the sun dropped beneath the long line of sea, and the day was gone.
The beach was a beach we shall not name, because his private house was there, but it was a small sandy stretch somewhere along the hundreds of miles of coastline that first runs west from Los Angeles, which is described in the new edition of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy in one entry as "junky, wunky, lunky, stunky, and what's that other word, and all kinds of bad stuff, woo", and in another, written only hours later as "being like several thousand square miles of American Express junk mail, but without the same sense of moral depth. Plus the air is, for some reason, yellow."
The coastline runs west, and then turns north up to the misty bay of San Francisco, which the Guide describes as a "good place to go. It's very easy to believe that everyone you meet there is also a space traveller. Starting a new religion for you is just their way of saying `hi'. Until you've settled in and got the hang of the place it is best to say `no' to three questions out of any given four that anyone may ask you, because there are some very strange things going on there, some of which an unsuspecting alien could die of." The hundreds of curling miles of cliffs and sand, palm trees, breakers and sunsets are described in the Guide as "Boffo. A good one."
And somewhere on this good boffo stretch of coastline lay the house of this inconsolable man, a man whom many regarded as being insane. But this was only, as he would tell people, because he was.
One of the many many reasons why people thought him insane was because of the peculiarity of his house which, even in a land where most people's houses were peculiar in one way or another, was quite extreme in his peculiarness.
His house was called The Outside of the Asylum.
His name was simply John Watson, though he preferred to be called - and some of his friends had now reluctantly agreed to this - Wonko the Sane.
In his house were a number of strange things, including a grey glass bowl with eight words engraved upon it.
We can talk of him much later on - this is just an interlude to watch the sun go down and to say that he was there watching it.
He had lost everything he cared for, and was now simply waiting for the end of the world - little realizing that it had already been and gone.