- from I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon: Uncollected stories by the author of The Man in the High
Castle (Philip K. Dick) [Edited by Mark Hurst and Paul Williams]; pp. 9-12 (Introduction:
“How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later” by Philip K. Dick): It is an
eerie experience to write something into a novel, believing it is pure fiction, and to learn later
on—perhaps years later—that it is true. I would like to give you an example. It is something
that I do not understand. Perhaps you can come up with a theory. I can't.
In 1970 I wrote a novel called Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. One of the
characters is a nineteen-year-old girl named Kathy. Her husband's name is Jack. Kathy appears
to work for the criminal underground, but later, as we read deeper into the novel, we discover
that actually she is working for the police. She has a relationship going on with a police
inspector. The character is pure fiction. Or at least I thought it was.
Anyhow, on Christmas Day of 1970, I met a girl named Kathy -- this was after I had finished the
novel, you understand. She was nineteen years old. Her boyfriend was named Jack. I soon
learned that Kathy was a drug dealer. I spent months trying to get her to give up dealing drugs; I
kept warning her again and again that she would get caught. Then, one evening as we were
entering a restaurant together, Kathy stopped short and said, "I can't go in." Seated in the
restaurant was a police inspector whom I knew. "I have to tell you the truth," Kathy said. "I
have a relationship with him."
Certainly these are odd coincidences. Perhaps I have precognition. But the mystery becomes
even more perplexing; the next stage totally baffles me.
- from Valis and Later Novels by Philip K. Dick; pp. 833-834 [Chronology (by Jonathan
Lethem)]:1974—Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, published in hardcover in February, is
his best-received novel since The Man in the High Castle, gaining nominations for the
Hugo and Nebula awards, and winning, in 1975, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Dick
dreads upcoming April tax period, fearing retribution for signing the Ramparts petition. In
February, after oral surgery for an impacted wisdom tooth, during which he is given sodium
pentothal, experiences the first of a sequence of overwhelming visions that will last through
and intensify during March, then taper intermittently throughout the year. Interpretation of
these revelations, which are variously ascribed to benign and malign influences both religious
and political (including but not limited to God, Gnostic Christians, the Roman Empire, Bishop
Pike, and the KGB), will preoccupy Dick for much of his remaining life. “It hasn’t spoken a word
to me since I wrote The Divine Invasion. The voice is identified as Ruah, which is the Old
Testament word for the Spirit of God. It speaks in a feminine voice and tends to express
statements regarding the messianic expectation. It guided me for a while. It has spoken to me
sporadically since I was in high school. I expect that if a crisis arises it will say something again.
. . .” He begins writing speculative commentary on what he comes to call “2-3-74”; these
writings are eventually assembled into a disordered manuscript of approximately 8,000 mostly
handwritten pages, and which Dick will call the Exegesis (excerpts from which are
published posthumously, though the whole remains unpublished and largely unread). Fires and
within the week rehires the Meredith Agency after they agree to move contract for Flow My
Tears, the Policeman Said from Doubleday to DAW . . . .
- pp. 335-339 (Valis by Philip K. Dick): An irruption from the collective unconscious, Jung
taught, can wipe out the fragile individual ego. In the depths of the collective the archetypes
slumber; if aroused, they can heal or they can destroy. This is the danger of the archetypes; the
opposite qualities are not yet separated. Bipolarization into paired opposites does not occur
until consciousness occurs.
So, with the gods, life and death—protection and destruction—are one. This secret partnership
exists outside of time and space.
It can make you very much afraid, and for good reason. After all, your existence is at stake.
The real danger, the ultimate horror, happens when the creating and protecting, the
sheltering, comes first—and then the destruction. Because if this is the sequence, everything
built up ends in death.
Death hides within every religion.
And at any time it can flash forth—not with healing in its wings but with poison, with that which
But we had started out wounded. And VALIS had fired healing information at us, medical
information. VALIS approached us in the form of the physician, and the age of the injury, the
Age of Iron, the toxic iron splinter, had been abolished.
And yet . . . the risk is, potentially, always there.
It is a kind of terrible game. Which can go either way.
Libera me, Domine, I said to myself. In die illa. Save me, protect me, God, in this day
of wrath. There is a streak of the irrational in the universe, and we, the little hopeful trusting
Rhipidon Society, may have been drawn into it, to perish.
As many have perished before.
I remembered something which the great physician of the Renaissance had discovered. Poisons,
in measured doses, are remedies; Paracelsus was the first to use metals such as mercury as
medication. For this discovery—the measured use of poisonous metals as medications—
Paracelsus has entered our history books. There is, however, an unfortunate ending to the
great physician’s life.
He died of metal poisoning.
So put another way, medications can be poisonous, can kill. And it can happen at any time.
“Time is a child at play, playing draughts; a child’s is the kingdom.” As Heraclitus wrote
twenty-five hundred years ago. In many ways this is a terrible thought. The most terrible of all.
A child playing a game . . . with all life, everywhere.
I would have preferred an alternative. I saw now the binding importance of our motto, the
motto of our little Society, binding upon all occasions as the essence of Christianity, from which
we could never depart:
FISH CANNOT CARRY GUNS!
If we abandoned that, we entered the paradoxes, and, finally, death. Stupid as our motto
sounded, we had fabricated in it the insight we needed. There was nothing more to know.
In Fat’s quaint little dream about dropping the M-16 rifle, the Divine has spoken to us.
Nihil Obstat. We had entered love, and found ourselves a land.
But the divine and the terrible are so close to each other. Nommo and Yurugu are partners;
both are necessary. Osiris and Seth, too. In the Book of Job, Yahweh and Satan form a
partnership. For us to live, however, these partners must be split. The behind-the-scenes
partnership must end as soon as time and space and all the creatures come into being.
It is not God nor the gods which must prevail; it is wisdom, Holy Wisdom. I hoped that
the fifth Savior would be that: splitting the bipolarities and emerging as a unitary thing. Not of
three persons or two but one. Not Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva
the destroyer, but what Zoroaster called the Wise Mind.
God can be good and terrible—not in succession—but at the same time. This is why we seek a
mediator between us and him; we approach him through the mediating priest and attenuate and
enclose him through the sacraments. It is for our own safety: to trap him with confines which
render him safe. But now, as Fat had seen, God had escaped the confines and was
transubstantiating the world; God had become free.
The gentle sounds of the choir singing “Amen, amen” are not to calm the congregation but to
pacify the god.
When you know this you have penetrated to the innermost core of religion. And the worst
part is that the god can thrust himself outward and into the congregation until he becomes
them. You worship a god and then he pays you back by taking you over. This is called
“enthousiasmos” in Greek, literally “to be possessed by the god.” Of all the Greek gods
the one most likely to do this was Dionysos. And, unfortunately, Dionysos was insane.
Put another way—stated backward—if your god takes you over, it is likely that no
matter what name he goes by he is actually a form of the mad god Dionysos. He was also the
god of intoxication, which may mean, literally, to take in toxins; that is to say, to take a poison.
The danger is there.
If you sense this, you try to run. But if you run he has you anyhow, for the demigod Pan was
the basis of panic which is the uncontrollable urge to flee, and Pan is a subform of Dionysos. So
in trying to flee from Dionysos you are taken over anyhow.
I write this literally with a heavy hand; I am so weary I am dropping as I sit here. What
happened at Jonestown was the mass running of panic, inspired by the mad god—panic
leading into death, the logical outcome of the mad god’s thrust.
For them no way out existed. You must be taken over by the mad god to understand this, that
once it happens there is no way out, because the mad god is everywhere.
It is not reasonable for nine hundred people to collude in their own deaths and the deaths of
little children, but the mad god is not logical, not as we understand the term.
When we reached the Lamptons’ house we found it to be a stately old farm mansion, set in the
middle of grape vines; after all, this is wine country.
I thought, Dionysos is the god of wine.
“The air smells good here,” Kevin said as we got out of the VW Rabbit.
“We sometimes get pollution,” Eric said. “Even here.”
Entering the house, we found it warm and attractive; huge posters of Eric and Linda, framed
behind non-reflecting glass, covered all the walls. This gave the old wooden house a modern
look, which linked us back to the Southland.
Linda said, smiling, “We make our own wine, here. From our own grapes.”
I imagine you do, I said to myself.
A huge complex of stereo equipment rose up along one wall like the fortress in VALIS which
was Nicholas Brady’s sound-mixer. I could see where the visual idea had originated.
“I’ll put on a tape we made,” Eric said, going over to the audio fortress and clicking
switches to on. “Mini’s music but my words. I’m singing but we’re not going to release it; it’s
just an experiment.”
As we seated ourselves, music at enormous DBs filled the living room, rebounding off all the
“I want to see you, man.
As quickly as I can.
Let me hold your hand
I’ve got no hand to hold
And I’m old, old; very old.
Why won’t you look at me?
Afraid of what you see?
I’ll find you anyhow,
Later or now; later or now.”
- pp. 355-359: “You realize,” Kevin said, “that Ferris F. Fremount is going to try to come back.
He was toppled by that child—or by what that child speaks for—but he is returning; he will
never give up. The battle was won but the struggle goes on.”
David said, “Without that child—“
“We will lose,” I said.
“Right,” Kevin said.
“Let’s stay another day,” I said, “and try to talk with Sophia again. One more time.”
“That sounds like a plan,” Kevin said, pleased.
The little group, The Rhipidon Society, had come to an agreement. All three members.
The next day, Sunday, the three of us got permission to sit with the child Sophia alone,
without anyone else present, although Eric and Linda did request that we tape our encounter.
We agreed readily, not having any choice.
Warm sunlight illuminated the earth that day, giving to the animals gathered around us
the quality of a spiritual following; I had the impression that the animals heard, listened and
“I want to talk to you about Eric and Linda Lampton,” I said to the little girl, who sat
with a book open in front of her.
“You shall not interrogate me,” she said.
“Can’t I ask you about them?” I said.
“They are ill,” Sophia said. “But they can’t harm anyone because I override them.” She
looked up at me with her huge, dark eyes. “Sit down.”
We obediently seated ourselves in front of her.
“I gave you your motto,” she said. “For your society; I gave you its name. Now I give
you your commission. You will go out into the world and you will tell the kerygma which I
charge you with. Listen to me; I tell you in truth, in very truth, that the days of the wicked will
end and the son of man will sit on the judgment seat. This will come as surely as the sun itself
rises. The grim king will strive and lose, despite his cunning; he loses; he lost; he will always
lose, and those with him will go into the pit of darkness and there they will linger forever.
“What you teach is the word of man. Man is holy, and the true god, the living god, is
man himself. You will have no gods but yourselves; the days in which you believed in other
gods end now, they end forever.
“The goal of your lives has been reached. I am here to tell you this. Do not fear; I will
protect you. You are to follow one rule: you are to love one another as you love me and as I
love you, for this love proceeds from the true god, which is yourselves.
“A time of trial and delusion and wailing lies ahead because the grim king, the king of
tears, will not surrender his power. But you will take his power from him; I grant you that
authority in my name, exactly as I granted it to you once before, when that grim king ruled and
destroyed and challenged the humble people of the world.
“The battle which you fought before has not ended, although the day of the healing sun
has come. Evil does not die of its own self because it imagines that it speaks for god. Many claim
to speak for god, but there is only one god and that god is man himself.
“Therefore only those leaders who protect and shelter will live; the others will die. The
oppression lifted four years ago, and it will for a little while return. Be patient during this time;
it will be a time of trails for you, but I will be with you, and when the time of trials is over I shall
sit down on the judgment seat, and some will fall and some will not fall, according to my will,
my will which comes to me from the father, back to whom we all go, all of us together.
“I am not a god; I am a human. I am a child, the child of my father, which is Wisdom
Himself. You carry in you now the voice and authority of Wisdom; you are, therefore,
Wisdom, even when you forget it. You will not forget it for long. I will be there and I will
“The day of Wisdom and the rule of Wisdom has come. The day of power, which is the
enemy of Wisdom, ends. Power and Wisdom are the two principles in the world. Power has
had its rule and now it goes into the darkness from which it came, and Wisdom alone rules.
“Those who obey power will succumb as power succumbs.
“Those who love Wisdom and follow her will thrive under the sun. Remember, I will be
with you. I will be in each of you from now on. I will accompany you down into the prison if
necessary; I will speak in the courts of law to defend you; my voice will be heard in the land,
whatever the oppression.
“Do not fear; speak out and Wisdom will guide you. Fall silent out of fear and Wisdom
will depart you. But you will not feel fear because Wisdom herself is in you, and you and she
“Formerly you were alone with yourselves; formerly you were solitary men. Now you
have a companion who never sickens or fails or dies; you are bonded to the eternal and will
shine like the healing sun itself.
“As you go back into the world I will guide you from day to day. And when you die I will
notice and come to pick you up; I will carry you in my arms back to your home, out of which
you came and back to which you go.
“You are strangers here, but you are hardly strangers to me; I have known you since
the start. This has not been your world, but I will make it your world; I will change it for you.
Fear not. What assails you will perish and you will thrive.
“These are things which shall be because I speak with the authority given me by my
father. You are the true god and you will prevail.”
There was silence, then. Sophia had ceased speaking to us.
“What are you reading?” Kevin said, pointing to the book.
The girl said, “SEPHER YEZIRAH. I will read to you; listen.” She set the book down,
closing it. “ ‘God has also set the one over against the other; the good against the evil, and the
evil against the good; the good proceeds from the good, and the evil from the evil; the good
purifies the bad, and the bad the good; the good is preserved for the good, and the evil for the
bad ones.’” Sophia paused a moment and then said, “This means that good will make evil into
what evil does not wish to be; but evil will not be able to make good into what good does not
wish to be. Evil serves good, despite its cunning.” Then she said nothing; she sat silently with
her animals and with us.
“Could you tell us about your parents?” I said. “I mean, if we are to know what to do--“
Sophia said, “Go wherever I send you and you will know what to do. There is no place
where I am not. When you leave here you will not see me, but later you will see me again.
“You will not see me but I will always see you; I am mindful of you continually. So I am
with you whether you know it or not; but I say to you, Know that I accompany you, even down
into the prison, if the tyrant puts you there.
“There is no more. Go back home, and I will instruct you as the time requires.” She
smiled at us.
“You’re how old?” I said.
“I am two years old.”
“And you’re reading that book?” Kevin said.
Sophia said, “I tell you in truth, in very truth, none of you will forget me. And I tell you
that all of you will see me again. You did not choose me; I chose you. I called you here. I sent
for you four years ago.”
“Okay,” I said. That placed her call at 1974.
“If the Lamptons ask you what I said, say that we talked about the commune to be
built,” Sophia said. “Do not tell them that I sent you away from them. But you are to go
away from them; this is your answer: you will have nothing further to do with them.”
Kevin pointed to the tape recorder, its drums turning.
“What they will hear on it,” Sophia said, “when they play it back, will be only the
SEPHER YEZIRAH, nothing more.”
Wow, I thought.
I believed her.
“I will not fail you,” Sophia repeated, smiling at the three of us.
I believed that, too.
As the three of us walked back to the house, Kevin said, “Was all that just quotations
from the Bible?”
“No,” I said.
“No,” David agreed. “There was something new; that part about us being our own gods,
now. That the time had come where we no longer had to believe in any deity other than
“What a beautiful child,” I said, thinking to myself how much she reminded me of my
own son Christopher.
“We’re very lucky,” David said huskily. “To have met her.” Turning to me he said,
“She’ll be with us; she said so. I believe it. She’ll be inside us; we won’t be alone. I never realized
it before but we are alone. Everybody is alone—has been alone, I mean. Up until now. She’s
going to spread out all over the world, isn’t she? Into everyone, eventually. Starting with us.”
“The Rhipidon Society,” I said, “has four members, Sophia and the three of us.”
“That’s still not very many,” Kevin said.
“The mustard seed,” I said. “That grows into a tree so large that birds can roost in it.”
“Come off it,” Kevin said.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
Kevin said, “We have to get our stuff together and get out of here; she said so. The
Lamptons are whacked out flipped-out freaks. They could zap us anytime.”
“Sophia will protect us,” David said.
“A two-year-old child?” Kevin said.
We both gazed at him.
“Okay, two-thousand-year-old child,” Kevin said.
“The only person who could make jokes about the Savior,” David said. “I’m surprised
you didn’t ask her about your dead cat.”
Kevin halted; a look of genuine baffled anger on his face; obviously he had forgotten to;
he had missed his chance.
“I’m going back,” he said.
Together, David and I propelled him along with us.
“I’m not kidding!” he said, with fury.
“What’s the matter?” I said; we halted.
“I want to talk to her some more. I’m not going to walk off out of here; goddam it, I’m
going back—let me the fuck go!”
“Listen,” I said. “She told us to leave.”
“And she’ll be inside us talking to us,” David said.
“We’ll hear what I call the AI voice,” I said.
Kevin said savagely, “And there’ll be lemonade fountains and gumdrop trees. I’m going
Ahead of us, Eric and Linda Lampton emerged from the big house and walked toward us.
“Confrontation time,” I said.
“Aw shit,” Kevin said, in desperation. “I’m still going back.” He pulled away from us and
hurried in the direction from which we had come.
- pp. 188-191: One of the paragraphs in Fat’s journal impressed me enough to copy it out and
include it here. It does not deal with right inguinal hernias but is more general in nature,
expressing Fat’s growing opinion that the nature of the universe is information. He had begun
to believe this because for him the universe—his universe—was indeed fast turning into
information. Once God started talking to him he never seemed to stop. I don’t think they
report that in the Bible.
Journal entry #37. Thoughts of the Brain are experienced by us as arrangements and rearrangements—change—in a physical universe; but in fact it is really information and information-processing which we substantialize. We do not merely see its thoughts as objects, but rather as the movement, or, more precisely, the placement of objects: how they become linked to one another. But we cannot read the patterns of arrangement; we cannot extract the information in it—i.e. it as information, which is what it is. The linking and relinking of objects by the Brain is actually a language, but not a language like ours (since it is addressing itself and not someone or something outside itself).
Fat kept working this particular theme over and over again, both in his journal and in his oral discourse to his friends. He felt sure the universe had begun to talk to him. Another entry in his journal reads:
#36. We should be able to hear this information, or rather narrative, as a neutral voice inside us. But something has gone wrong. All creation is a language and nothing but a language, which for some inexplicable reason we can’t read outside and can’t hear inside. So I say, we have become idiots. Something has happened to our intelligence. My reasoning is this: arrangement of parts of the Brain is a language. We are parts of the Brain; therefore we are language. Why, then, do we not know this? We do not even know what we are, let alone what the outer reality is of which we are parts. The origin of the word “idiot” is the word “private.” Each of us has become private, and no longer shares the common thought of the Brain, except at a subliminal level. Thus our real life and purpose are conducted below our threshold of consciousness.
To which I personally am tempted to say, Speak for yourself, Fat.
Over a long period of time (or “Deserts of vast Eternity,” as he would have put it) Fat
developed a lot of unusual theories to account for his contact with God, and the information
derived therefrom. One in particular struck me as interesting, being different from the others.
It amounted to a kind of mental capitulation by Fat to what he was undergoing. This theory
held that in actuality he wasn’t experiencing anything at all. Sites of his brain were being
selectively stimulated by tight energy beams emanating from far off, perhaps millions of miles
away. These selective brain-site stimulations generated in his head the impression—for
him—that he was in fact seeing and hearing words, pictures, figures of people, printed pages, in
short God and God’s Message, or, as Fat liked to call it, the Logos. But (this particular theory
held) he really only imagined he experienced these things. They resembled holograms. What
struck me was the oddity of a lunatic discounting his hallucinations in this sophisticated
manner; Fat had intellectually dealt himself out the game of madness while still enjoying its
sights and sounds. In effect, he no longer claimed that what he experienced was actually
there. Did this indicate he had begun to get better? Hardly. Now he held the view that “they”
or God or someone owned a long-range very tight information-rich beam of energy focussed
on Fat’s head. In this I saw no improvement, but it did represent a change. Fat could now
honestly discount his hallucinations, which meant he recognized them as such. But, like Gloria,
he now had a “they.” It seemed to me a Pyrrhic victory. Fat’s life struck me as a litany of
exactly that, as, for example, the way he had rescued Gloria.
The exegesis Fat labored on month after month struck me as a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was
one—in this case an attempt by a beleaguered mind to make sense out of the inscrutable.
Perhaps this is the bottom line to mental illness: incomprehensible events occur; your life
becomes a bin for hoax-like fluctuations of what used to be reality. And not only that—as if
that weren’t enough—but you, like Fat, ponder forever over these fluctuations in an effort
to order them into a coherency, when in fact the only sense they make is the sense you
impose on them, out of the necessity to restore everything into shapes and processes you can
recognize. And what takes its place is bad news because not only can you not understand it,
you also cannot communicate it to other people. The madman experiences something, but
what it is or where it comes from he does not know.
In the midst of his shattered landscape, which one can trace back to Gloria Knudson’s death,
Fat imagined God had cured him. Once you notice Pyrrhic victories they seem to abound.
It reminds me of a girl I once knew who was dying of cancer. I visited her in the
hospital and did not recognize her; sitting up in her bed she looked like a little old hairless
man. From the chemotherapy she had swollen up like a great grape. From the cancer and
the therapy she had become virtually blind, nearly deaf, underwent constant seizures, and when
I bent close to her to ask her how she felt she answered, when she could understand my
question, “I feel that God is healing me.” She had been religiously inclined and had planned to
go into a religious order. On the metal stand beside her bed she had, or someone had, laid
out her rosary. In my opinion a FUCK YOU, GOD sign would have been appropriate; the
rosary was not.
Yet, in all fairness, I have to admit that God—or someone calling himself God, a distinction of
mere semantics—had fired precious information at Horselover Fat’s head by which their son
Christopher’s life had been saved. Some people God cures and some he slays. Fat denies that
God slays anyone. Fat says, God never harms anyone. Illness, pain and undeserved suffering
arise not from God but from elsewhere, to which I say, How did this elsewhere arise? Are
there two gods? Or is part of the universe out from under God’s control? Fat used to quote
Plato. In Plato’s cosmology, noos or Mind is persuading ananke or blind necessity—or
blind chance, according to some experts—into submission. Noos happened to come
along and to its surprise discovered blind chance: chaos, in other words, onto which noos
imposes order (although how this “persuading” is done Plato nowhere says). According to Fat,
my friend’s cancer consisted of disorder not yet persuaded into sentient shape. Noos or
God had not yet gotten around to her, to which I said, “Well, when he did get around to her it
was too late.” Fat had no answer for that, at least in terms of oral rebuttal. Probably he sneaked
off and wrote about it in his journal. I suppose all the secrets of the universe lay in it
somewhere amid the rubble.
We enjoyed baiting Fat into theological disputation because he always got angry, taking the
point of view that what we said on the topic mattered—that the topic itself mattered. By now
he had become totally whacked out. We enjoyed introducing the discussion by way of some
careless comment: “Well, God gave me a ticket on the freeway today” or something like that.
Ensnared, Fat would leap into action. We whiled away the time pleasantly in this fashion,
torturing Fat in a benign way. After we left his place we had the added satisfaction of knowing he
was writing it all down in the journal. Of course, in the journal his view always prevailed.
- pp. 173-179: VALIS (acronym of Vast Active Living Intelligence System, from an American
film): A perturbation in the reality field in which a spontaneous self-monitoring negentropic
vortex is formed, tending progressively to subsume and incorporate its environment into
arrangements of information. Characterized by quasi-consciousness, purpose, intelligence,
growth and an armillary coherence.
--Great Soviet Dictionary
Sixth Edition, 1992
Horselover Fat’s nervous breakdown began the day he got the phone call from Gloria asking if
he had any Nembutals. He asked her why she wanted them and she said that she intended to kill
herself. She was calling everyone she knew. By now she had fifty of them, but she needed thirty
or forty more, to be on the safe side.
At once Horselover Fat leaped to the conclusion that this was her way of asking for help. It had
been Fat’s delusion for years that he could help people. His psychiatrist once told him that to
get well he would have to do two things: get off dope (which he hadn’t done) and to stop trying
to help people (he still tried to help people).
As a matter of fact, he had no Nembutals. He had no sleeping pills of any sort. He never did
sleeping pills. He did uppers. So giving Gloria sleeping pills by which she could kill herself was
beyond his power. Anyhow, he wouldn’t have done it if he could.
“I have ten,” he said. Because if he told her the truth she would hang up.
“Then I’ll drive up to your place,” Gloria said in a rational, calm voice, the same tone in
which she had asked for the pills.
He realized then that she was not asking for help. She was trying to die. She was
completely crazy. If she were sane she would realize that it was necessary to veil her purpose,
because this way she made him guilty of complicity. For him to agree, he would need to want
her dead. No motive existed for him—or anyone—to want that. Gloria was gentle and civilized,
but she dropped a lot of acid. It was obvious that the acid, since he had last heard from her six
months ago, had since wrecked her mind.
“What’ve you been doing?” Fat asked.
“I’ve been in Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco. I tried suicide and my mother
committed me. They discharged me last week.”
“Are you cured?” he said.
“Yes,” she said.
That’s when Fat began to go nuts. At the time he didn’t know it, but he had been drawn
into an unspeakable psychological game. There was no way out. Gloria Knudson had wrecked
him, her friend, along with her own brain. Probably she had wrecked six or seven other people,
all friends who loved her, along the way, with similar phone conversations. She had undoubtedly
destroyed her mother and father as well. Fat heard in her rational tone the harp of nihilism, the
twang of the void. He was not dealing with a person; he had a reflex-arc thing at the other end
of the phone line.
What he did not know then is that it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to
go insane. To listen to Gloria rationally ask to die was to inhale the contagion. It was a Chinese
finger-trap, where the harder you pull to get out, the tighter the trap gets.
“Where are you now?” he asked.
“Modesto. At my parents’ home.”
Since he lived in Marin County, she was several hours’ drive away. Few inducements
would have gotten him to make such a drive. This was another serving-up of lunacy: three
hours’ drive each way for ten Nembutals. Why not just total the car? Gloria was not even
committing her irrational act rationally. Thank you, Tim Leary, Fat thought. You and your
promotion of the joy of expanded consciousness through dope.
He did not know his own life was on the line. This was 1971. In 1972 he would be up
north in Vancouver, British Columbia, involved in trying to kill himself, alone, poor and scared,
in a foreign city. Right now he was spared that knowledge. All he wanted to do was coax Gloria
up to Marin County so he could help her. One of God’s greatest mercies is that he keeps us
perpetually occluded. In 1976, totally crazy with grief, Horselover Fat would slit his wrist (the
Vancouver suicide attempt having failed), take forty-nine tablets of high-grade digitalis, and sit in
a closed garage with his car motor running—and fail there, too. Well, the body has powers
unknown to the mind. However, Gloria’s mind had total control over her body; she was
Most insanity can be identified with the bizarre and the theatrical. You put a pan on
your head and a towel around your waist, paint yourself purple and go outdoors. Gloria was as
calm as she had ever been; polite and civilized. If she had lived in ancient Rome or Japan, she
would have gone unnoticed. Her driving skills probably remained unimpaired. She would stop at
every red light and not exceed the speed limit—on her trip to pick up the ten Nembutals.
I am Horselover Fat, and I am writing this in the third person to gain much-needed
objectivity. I did not love Gloria Knudson, but I liked her. In Berkeley, she and her husband had
given elegant parties, and my wife and I always got invited. Gloria spent hours fixing little
sandwiches and served different wines, and she dressed up and looked lovely, with her
sandy-colored short-cut curly hair.
Anyhow, Horselover Fat had no Nembutal to give her, and a week later Gloria threw
herself out of a tenth floor window of the Synanon Building in Oakland, California, and
smashed herself to bits on the pavement along MacArthur Boulevard, and Horselover Fat
continued his insidious, long decline into misery and illness, the sort of chaos that
astrophysicists say is the fate in store for the whole universe. Fat was ahead of his time, ahead
of the universe. Eventually he forgot what event had started off his decline into entropy; God
mercifully occludes us to the past as well as the future. For two months, after he learned of
Gloria’s suicide, he cried and watched TV and took more dope—his brain was going, too, but
he didn’t know it. Infinite are the mercies of God.
As a matter of fact, Fat had lost his own wife, the year before, to mental illness. It was
like a plague. No one could discern how much was due to drugs. This time in America—1960
to 1970—and this place, the Bay Area of Northern California, was totally fucked. I’m sorry to
tell you this, but that’s the truth. Fancy terms and ornate theories cannot cover this fact up.
The authorities became as psychotic as those they hunted. They wanted to put all persons who
were not clones of the establishment away. The authorities were filled with hate. Fat had seen
police glower at him with the ferocity of dogs. The day they moved Angela Davis, the black
Marxist, out of the Marin County jail, the authorities dismantled the whole civic center. This
was to baffle radicals who might intend trouble. The elevators got unwired; doors got relabeled
with spurious information; the district attorney hid. Fat saw all this. He had gone to the civic
center that day to return a library book. At the electronic hoop at the civic center entrance,
two cops had ripped open the book and papers that Fat carried. He was perplexed. The
whole day perplexed him. In the cafeteria, an armed cop watched everyone eat. Fat returned
home by cab, afraid of his own car and wondering if he was nuts. He was, but so was everyone
I am, by profession, a science fiction writer. I deal in fantasies. My life is a fantasy.
Nonetheless, Gloria Knudson lies in a box in Modesto, California. There’s a photo of her
funeral wreaths in my photo album. It’s a color photo so you can see how lovely the wreaths
are. In the background a VW is parked. I can be seen crawling into the VW, in the midst of the
service. I am not able to take any more.
After the graveside service Gloria’s former husband Bob and I and some tearful friend of
his—and hers—had a late lunch at a fancy restaurant in Modesto near the cemetery. The
waitress seated us in the rear because the three of us looked like hippies even though we had
suits and ties on. We didn’t give a shit. I don’t remember what we talked about. The night
before, Bob and I—I mean, Bob and Horselover Fat—drove to Oakland to see the movie
Patton. Just before the graveside service Fat met Gloria’s parents for the first time. Like their
deceased daughter, they treated him with utmost civility. A number of Gloria’s friends stood
around the corny California ranch-style living room recalling the person who linked them
together. Naturally, Mrs. Knudson wore too much makeup; women always put on too much
makeup when someone dies. Fat petted the dead girl’s cat, Chairman Mao. He remembered the
few days Gloria had spent with him upon her futile trip to his house for the Nembutal which he
did not have. She greeted the disclosure of his lie with aplomb, even a neutrality. When you are
going to die you do not care about small things.
“I took them,” Fat had told her, lie upon lie.
They decided to drive to the beach, the great ocean beach of the Point Reyes Peninsula. In
Gloria’s VW, with Gloria driving (it never entered his mind that she might, on impulse, wipe
out him, herself and the car) and, an hour later, sat together on the sand smoking dope.
What Fat wanted to know most of all was why she intended to kill herself.
Gloria had on many-times-washed jeans and a T-shirt with Mick Jagger’s leering
face across the front of it. Because the sand felt nice she took off her shoes. Fat noticed
that she had pink-painted toenails and that they were perfectly pedicured. To himself he
thought, she died as she lived.
“They stole my bank account,” Gloria said.
After a time he realized, from her measured, lucidly stated narration, that no “they”
existed. Gloria unfolded a panorama of total and relentless madness, lapidary in construction.
She had filled in all the details with tools as precise as dental tools. No vacuum existed
anywhere in her account. He could find no error, except of course for the premise, which was
that everyone hated her, was out to get her, and she was worthless in every respect. As she
talked she began to disappear. He watched her go; it was amazing. Gloria, in her measured way,
talked herself out of existence word by word. It was rationality at the service of—well, he
thought, at the service of nonbeing. Her mind had become one great, expert eraser. All that
really remained now was her husk; which is to say, her uninhabited corpse.
She is dead now, he realized that day on the beach.
After they had smoked up all their dope, they walked along and commented on seaweed
and the height of waves. Seagulls croaked by overhead, sailing themselves like frisbies. A few
people sat or walked here and there, but mostly the beach was deserted. Signs warned of
undertow. Fat, for the life of him, could not figure out why Gloria didn’t simply walk out into
the surf. He simply could not get into her head. All she could think of was the Nembutal she
still needed, or imagined she needed.
“My favorite Dead album is Workingman’s Dead,” Gloria said at one point. “But I don’t
think they should advocate taking cocaine. A lot of kids listen to rock.”
“They don’t advocate it. The song’s just about someone taking it. And it killed him,
indirectly; he smashed up his train.”
“But that’s why I started on drugs,” Gloria said.
“Because of the Grateful Dead?”
“Because,” Gloria said, “everyone wanted me to do it. I’m tired of doing what other
people want me to do.”
- pp. 181-183: I have a photo of Gloria holding Chairman Mao in her arms; Gloria is kneeling
and smiling and her eyes shine. Chairman Mao is trying to get down. To their left, part of a
Christmas tree can be seen. On the back, Mrs. Knudson has written in tidy letters:
How we made her feel gratitude for our love.
I’ve never been able to fathom whether Mrs. Knudson wrote that after Gloria’s death or
before. The Knudsons mailed me the photo a month—mailed Horselover Fat the photo a
month—after Gloria’s funeral. Fat had written asking for a photo of her. Initially he had asked
Bob, who replied in a savage tone, “What do you want a picture of Gloria for?” To which Fat
could give no answer. When Fat got me started writing this, he asked me why I thought Bob
Langley got so mad at his request. I don’t know. I don’t care. Maybe Bob knew that Gloria and
Fat had spent a night together and he was jealous. Fat used to say Bob Langley was a schizoid;
he claimed that Bob himself told him that. A schizoid lacks proper affect to go with his thinking;
he’s got what’s called “flattening of affect.” A schizoid would see no reason not to tell you that
about himself. On the other hand, Bob bent down after the graveside service and put a rose on
Gloria’s coffin. That was about when Fat had gone crawling off to the VW. Which reaction is
more appropriate? Fat weeping in the parked car by himself, or the ex-husband bending down
with the rose, saying nothing, showing nothing, but doing something . . . Fat contributed nothing
to the funeral except a bundle of flowers which he had belatedly bought on the trip down to
Modesto. He had given them to Mrs. Knudson, who remarked that they were lovely. Bob had
picked them out.
After the funeral, at the fancy restaurant where the waitress had moved the three of
them out of view, Fat asked Bob what Gloria had been doing at Synanon, since she was
supposed to be getting her possessions together and driving back up to Marin County to live with
him—he had thought.
“Carmina talked her into going to Synanon,” Bob said. That was Mrs. Knudson.
“Because of her history of drug involvement.”
Timothy, the friend Fat didn’t know, said, “They sure didn’t help her very much.”
What had happened was that Gloria walked in the front door of Synanon and they had
gamed her right off. Someone, on purpose, had walked past her as she sat waiting to be
interviewed and had remarked on how ugly she was. The next person to parade past had
informed her that her hair looked like something a rat slept in. Gloria had always been
sensitive about her curly hair. She wished it was long like all the other hair in the world.
What the third Synanon member would have said was moot, because by then Gloria had
gone upstairs to the tenth floor.
“Is that how Synanon works?” Fat asked.
Bob said, “It’s a technique to break down the personality. It’s a fascist therapy that
makes the person totally outer-directed and dependent on the group. Then they can build
up a new personality that isn’t drug oriented.”
“Didn’t they realize she was suicidal?” Timothy asked.
“Of course,” Bob said. “She phoned in and talked to them; they knew her name and why
she was there.”
“Did you talk to them after her death?” Fat asked.
Bob said, “I phoned them up and asked to talk to someone high up and I told him they
had killed my wife, and the man said that they wanted me to come down there and teach them
how to handle suicidal people. He was super upset. I felt sorry for him.”
At that, hearing that, Fat decided that Bob himself was not right in the head. Bob felt
sorry for Synanon. Bob was all fucked up. Everyone was fucked up, including Carmina
Knudson. There wasn’t a sane person left in Northern California. It was time to move
somewhere else. He sat eating his salad and wondering where he could go. Out of the
country. Flee to Canada, like the draft protesters. He personally knew ten guys who had
slipped across into Canada rather than fight in Vietnam. Probably in Vancouver he would run
into half a dozen people he knew. Vancouver was supposed to be one of the most beautiful
cities in the world. Like San Francisco, it was a major port. He could start life all over and
forget the past.
It entered his head as he sat fooling with his salad that when Bob phoned he hadn’t
said, “Gloria killed herself” but rather “Gloria killed herself today,” as if it had been inevitable
that she would do it one day or another. Perhaps this had done it, this assumption. Gloria had
been timed, as if she were taking a math test. Who really was the insane one? Gloria or himself
(probably himself) or her ex-husband or all of them, the Bay Area, not insane in the loose
sense of the term but in the strict technical sense? Let it be said that one of the first symptoms
of psychosis is that the person feels perhaps he is becoming psychotic. It is another Chinese
finger-trap. You cannot think about it without becoming part of it. By thinking about madness,
Horselover Fat slipped by degrees into madness.
I wish I could have helped him.
- pp. 282-284: I did not think I should tell Fat that I thought his encounter with God was in fact
an encounter with himself from the far future. Himself so evolved, so changed, that he had
become no longer a human being. Fat had remembered back to the stars, and had encountered
a being ready to return to the stars, and several selves along the way, several points along the
line. All of them are the same person.
Entry #13 in the tractate: Pascal said, “All history is one immortal man who
continually learns.” This is the Immortal One whom we worship without knowing his name.
“He lived a long time ago but he is still alive,” and, “The Head Apollo is about to return.” The
On some level Fat guessed the truth; he had encountered his past selves and his future
selves—two future selves: an early-on one, the three-eyed people, and then Zebra, who is
Time somehow got abolished for him, and the recapitulation of selves along the linear
time-axis caused the multitude of selves to laminate together into a common entity.
Out of the lamination of selves, Zebra, which is supra- or trans-temporal, came into
existence: pure energy, pure living information. Immortal, benign, intelligent and helpful. The
essence of the rational human being. In the center of an irrational universe governed by an
irrational Mind stands rational man, Horselover Fat being just one example. The in-breaking
deity that Fat encountered in 1974 was himself. However, Fat seemed happy to believe that he
had met God. After some thought I decided not to tell him my views. After all, I might be
It all had to do with time. “Time can be overcome,” Mircea Eliade wrote. That’s what
it’s all about. The great mystery of Eleusis, of the Orphics, of the early Christians, of Sarapis, of
the Greco-Roman mystery religions, of Hermes Trismegistos, of the Renaissance Hermetic
alchemists, of the Rose Cross Brotherhood, of Apollonius of Tyana, of Simon Magus, of
Asklepios, of Paracelsus, of Bruno, consists of the abolition of time. The techniques are there.
Dante discusses them in the Comedy. It has to do with the loss of amnesia; when
forgetfulness is lost, true memory spreads out backward and forward, into the past and into
the future, and also, oddly, into alternate universes; it is orthogonal as well as linear.
This is why Elijah could be said correctly to be immortal; he had entered the Upper
Realm (as Fat calls it) and is no longer subject to time. Time equals what the ancients called
“astral determinism.” The purpose of the mysteries was to free the initiate from astral
determinism, which roughly equals fate. About this, Fat wrote in his tractate:
Entry #48. Two realms there are, upper and lower. The upper, derived
from hyperuniverse I or Yang, Form I of Parmenides, is sentient and volitional. The
lower realm, or Yin, Form II of Parmenides, is mechanical, driven by blind, efficient
cause, deterministic and without intelligence, since it emanates from a dead
source. In ancient times it was termed “astral determinism.” We are trapped, by
and large, in the lower realm, but are through the sacraments, by means of the
plasmate, extricated. Until astral determinism is broken, we are not even aware of
it, so occluded are we. “The Empire never ended.”
Siddhartha, the Buddha, remembered all his past lives; this is why he was given the title
of buddha which means “the Enlightened One.” From him the knowledge of achieving this
passed to Greece and shows up in the teachings of Pythagoras, who kept much of this occult,
mystical gnosis secret; his pupil Empedocles, however, broke off from the Pythagorean
Brotherhood and went public. Empedocles told his friends privately that he was Apollo. He,
too, like the Buddha and Pythagoras, could remember his past lives. What they did not talk
about was their ability to “remember” future lives.
The three-eyed people who Fat saw represented himself at an enlightened stage of his
evolving development through his various lifetimes. In Buddhism it’s called the “super-human
divine eye” (dibba-cakkhu), the power to see the passing away and rebirth of beings.
Guatama the Buddha (Siddhartha) attained it during his middle watch (ten P.M. to two A.M.). In
his first watch (six P.M. to ten P.M.) he gained the knowledge of all—repeat: all—his
former existences (pubbenivasanussati-nana). I did not tell Fat this, but technically he had
become a Buddha. It did not seem to me like a good idea to let him know. After all, if you are
a Buddha you should be able to figure it out for yourself.
It strikes me as an interesting paradox that a Buddha—an enlightened one—would be unable to
figure out, even after four-and-a-half years, that he had become enlightened. Fat had become
totally bogged down in his enormous exegesis, trying futilely to determine what had happened
to him. He resembled more a hit-and-run accident victim than a Buddha.
“Holy fuck!” as Kevin would have put it, about the encounter with Zebra. “What was
No wimpy hype passed muster before Kevin’s eyes. He considered himself the hawk and
the hype the rabbit. He had little use for the exegesis, but remained Fat’s good friend. Kevin
operated on the principle, Condemn the deed not the doer.
These days, Kevin felt fine. After all, his negative opinion of Sherri had proven correct.
This brought him and Fat closer together.
- from Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick; pp. 527-529 [Do Androids Dream of Electric
Sheep?]: “Did you ever hear of an andy having a pet of any sort?” Phil Resch asked him.
For some obscure reason he felt the need to be brutally honest; perhaps he had already begun
preparing himself for what lay ahead. “In two cases that I know of, andys owned and cared for
animals. But it’s rare. From what I’ve been able to learn, it generally fails; the andy is unable to
keep the animal alive. Animals require an environment of warmth to flourish. Except for reptiles
“Would a squirrel need that? An atmosphere of love? Because Buffy is doing fine, as sleek as an
otter. I groom and comb him every other day.” At an oil painting Phil Resch halted, gazed
intently. The painting showed a hairless, oppressed creature with a head like an inverted pear,
its hands clapped in horror to its ears, its mouth open in a vast, soundless scream. Twisted
ripples of the creature’s torment, echoes of its cry, flooded out into the air surrounding it; the
man or woman, whichever it was, had become contained by its own howl. It had covered its
ears against its own sound. The creature stood on a bridge and no one else was present; the
creature screamed in isolation. Cut off by—or despite—its outcry.
“He did a woodcut of this,” Rick said, reading the card tacked below the painting.
“I think,” Phil Resch said, “that this is how an andy must feel.” He traced in the air the
convolutions, visible in the picture, of the creature’s cry. “I don’t feel like that, so maybe I’m not
an”— He broke off, as several persons strolled up to inspect the picture.
“There’s Luba Luft.” Rick pointed and Phil Resch halted his somber introspection and
defense; the two of them walked at a measured pace toward her, taking their time as if nothing
confronted them; as always it was vital to preserve the atmosphere of the commonplace. Other
humans, having no knowledge of the presence of androids among them, had to be protected at
all costs—even that of losing the quarry.
Holding a printed catalogue, Luba Luft, wearing shiny tapered pants and an illuminated
gold vestlike top, stood absorbed in the picture before her: a drawing of a young girl, hands
clasped together, seated on the edge of a bed, an expression of bewildered wonder and new,
groping awe imprinted on the face.
“Want me to buy it for you?” Rick said to Luba Luft; he stood beside her, holding laxly onto her
upper arm, informing her by his loose grip that he knew he had possession of her—he did not
have to strain in an effort to detain her. On the other side of her Phil Resch put his hand on her
shoulder and Rick saw the bulge of the laser tube. Phil Resch did not intend to take chances,
not after the near miss with Inspector Garland.
“It’s not for sale.” Luba Luft glanced at him idly, then violently as she recognized him; her eyes
faded and the color dimmed from her face, leaving it cadaverous, as if already starting to decay.
As if life had in an instant retreated to some point far inside her, leaving the body to its
- pp. 435-438: A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood
organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard. Surprised – it always surprised him to find
himself awake without prior notice – he rose from his bed, stood up in his multicolored
pajamas, and stretched. Now, in her bed, his wife Iran opened her gray, unmerry eyes, blinked,
then groaned and shut her eyes again.
“You set your Penfield too weak,” he said to her. “I’ll reset it and you’ll be awake and--”
“Keep your hand off my settings.” Her voice held bitter sharpness. “I don’t want to be
He seated himself beside her, bent over her, and explained softly. “If you set the surge
up high enough, you’ll be glad you’re awake; that’s the whole point. At setting C it overcomes
the threshold barring consciousness, as it does for me.” Friendlily, because he felt well-disposed
toward the world—his setting had been at D—he patted her bare, pale shoulder.
“Get your crude cop’s hand away,” Iran said.
“I’m not a cop.” He felt irritable, now, although he hadn’t dialed for it.
“You’re worse,” his wife said, her eyes still shut. “You’re a murderer hired by the cops.”
“I’ve never killed a human being in my life.” His irritability had risen, now; had become
Iran said, “Just those poor andys.”
“I notice you’ve never had any hesitation as to spending the bounty money I bring home
on whatever momentarily attracts your attention.” He rose, strode to the console of his mood
organ. “Instead of saving,” he said, “so we could buy a real sheep, to replace that fake electric
one upstairs. A mere electric animal, and me earning all that I’ve worked my way up to through
the years.” At his console he hesitated between dialing for a thalamic suppressant (which would
abolish his mood of rage) or a thalamic stimulant (which would make him irked enough to win
“If you dial,” Iran said, eyes open and watching, “for greater venom, then I’ll dial the
same. I’ll dial the maximum and you’ll see a fight that makes every argument we’ve had up to
now seem like nothing. Dial and see; just try me.” She rose swiftly, loped to the console of her
own mood organ, stood glaring at him, waiting.
He sighed, defeated by her threat. “I’ll dial what’s on my schedule for today.” Examining
the schedule for January 3, 1992, he saw that a businesslike professional attitude was called for.
“If I dial by schedule,” he said warily, “will you agree to also?” He waited, canny enough not to
commit himself until his wife had agreed to follow suit.
“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression,” Iran said.
“What? Why did you schedule that?” It defeated the whole purpose of the mood organ.
“I didn’t even know you could set it for that,” he said gloomily.
“I was sitting here one afternoon,” Iran said, “and naturally I had turned on Buster
Friendly and His Friendly Friends and he was talking about a big news item he’s about to break
and then that awful commercial came on, the one I hate; you know, for Mountibank Lead
Codpieces. And so for a minute I shut off the sound. And I heard the building, this building; I
heard the”— She gestured
“Empty apartments,” Rick said. Sometimes he heard them at night when he was supposed to be
asleep. And yet, for this day and age a one-half occupied conapt building rated high in the
scheme of population density; out in what had been before the war the suburbs one could find
buildings entirely empty . . . or so he had heard. He had let the information remain secondhand;
like most people he did not care to experience it directly.
“At that moment,” Iran said, “when I had the TV sound off, I was in a 382 mood; I had just
dialed it. So although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn’t feel it. My first reaction
consisted of being grateful that we could afford a Penfield mood organ. But then I realized how
unhealthy it was, sensing the absence of life, not just in this building but everywhere, and not
reacting—do you see? I guess you don’t. But that used to be considered a sign of mental illness;
they called it ‘absence of appropriate affect.’ So I left the TV sound off and I sat down at my
mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair.” Her dark, pert face
showed satisfaction, as if she had achieved something of worth. “So I put it on my schedule for
twice a month; I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything,
about staying here on Earth after everybody who’s smart has emigrated, don’t you think?”
“But a mood like that,” Rick said, “you’re apt to stay in it, not dial your way out. Despair
like that, about total reality, is self-perpetuating.”
“I program an automatic resetting for three hours later,” his wife said sleekly. “A 481.
Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future; new hope that—“
“I know 481,” he interrupted. He had dialed out the combination many times; he relied
on it greatly. “Listen,” he said, seating himself on his bed and taking hold of her hands to draw
her down beside him, “even with an automatic cut-off it’s dangerous to undergo a depression,
any kind. Forget what you’ve scheduled and I’ll forget what I’ve scheduled; we’ll dial a 104
together and both experience it, and then you stay in it while I reset mine for my usual
businesslike attitude. That way I’ll want to hop up to the roof and check out the sheep and then
head for the office; meanwhile I’ll know you’re not sitting here brooding with no TV.” He
released her slim, long fingers, passed through the spacious apartment to the living room, which
smelled faintly of last night’s cigarettes. There he bent to turn on the TV.
From the bedroom Iran’s voice came. “I can’t stand TV before breakfast.”
“Dial 888,” Rick said as the set warmed. “The desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it.”
“I don’t feel like dialing anything at all now,” Iran said.
“Then dial 3,” he said.
“I can’t dial a setting that stimulates my cerebral cortex into wanting to dial! If I don’t want to dial, I
don’t want to dial that most of all, because then I will want to dial, and wanting to dial is right now the
most alien drive I can imagine; I just want to sit here on the bed and stare at the floor.” Her voice had
become sharp with overtones of bleakness as her soul congealed and she ceased to move, as the
instinctive, omnipresent film of great weight, of an almost absolute inertia, settled over her.
- from Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s by Philip K. Dick; pp. 674-681 (Flow My Tears,
The Policeman Said): Turning to face him, Heather said earnestly, “You know how you look,
even now at the age you are. You’re beautiful. Thirty million people ogle you an hour a week.
It’s not your singing they’re interested in . . . it’s your incurable physical beauty.”
“The same can be said for you,” he said caustically. He felt tired and he yearned for the privacy
and seclusion that lay there on the outskirts of Zurich, silently waiting for the two of them to
come back once more. And it was as if the house wanted them to stay, not for a night or a
week of nights, but forever.
“I don’t show my age,” Heather said.
He glanced at her, then studied her. Volumes of red hair, pale skin with a few freckles, a strong
roman nose. Deep-set huge violet eyes. She was right; she didn’t show her age. Of course she
never tapped into the phone-grid transex network, as he did. But in point of fact he did so very
little. So he was not hooked, and there had not been, in his case, brain damage or premature
“You’re a goddamn beautiful-looking person,” he said grudgingly.
“And you?” Heather said.
He could not be shaken by this. He knew that he still had his charisma, the force they had
inscribed on the chromosomes forty-two years ago. True, his hair had become mostly gray
and he did tint it. And a few wrinkles had appeared here and there. But—
“As long as I have my voice,” he said, “I’ll be okay. I’ll have what I want. You’re wrong about
me—it’s your six aloofness, your cherished so-called individuality. Okay, if you don’t want to fly
over to the house in Zurich, where do you want to go? Your place? My place?”
“I want to be married to you,” Heather said. “So then it won’t be my place versus your
place but it’ll be our place. And I’ll give up singing and have three children, all of them looking
“Even the girls?”
Heather said, “They’ll all be boys.”
Leaning over he kissed her on the nose. She smiled, took his hand, patted it warmly. “We can
go anywhere tonight,” he said to her in a low, firm, controlled, and highly projected voice,
almost a father voice; it generally worked well with Heather, whereas nothing else did. Unless,
he thought, I walk off.
She feared that. Sometimes in their quarrels, especially at the house in Zurich, where no one
could hear them or interfere, he had seen the fear on her face. The idea of being alone appalled
her; he knew it; she knew it; the fear was part of the reality of their joint life. Not their public
life; for them, as genuinely professional entertainers, there they had complete, rational control:
however angry and estranged they became they would function together in the big worshiping
world of viewers, letter writers, noisy fans. Even outright hatred could not change that.
But there could be no hate between them anyhow. They had too much in common.
They got so damn much from each other. Even mere physical contact, such as this, sitting
together in the Rolls skyfly, made them happy. For as long, anyhow, as it lasted.
Reaching into the inner pocket of his custom-tailored genuine silk suit—one of perhaps
ten in the whole world—he brought out a wad of government-certified bills. A great number of
them, compressed into a fat little bundle.
“You shouldn’t carry so much cash on you,” Heather said naggingly, in the tone he disliked so
much: the opinionated-mother tone.
Jason said, “With this”—he displayed the package of bills—“we can buy our way into any—“
“If some unregistered student who has sneaked across from a campus burrow just last
night doesn’t chop your hand off at the wrist and run away with it, both your hand and your
flashy money. You always have been flashy. Flashy and loud. Look at your tie. Look at it!” She
had risen her voice, now; she seemed genuinely angry.
“Life is short,” Jason said. “And prosperity even shorter.” But he placed the package of bills
back in his inside coat pocket, smoothed away at the lump it created in his otherwise perfect
suit. “I wanted to buy you something with it,” he said. Actually the idea had just come to him
now; what he had planned to do with the money was something a little different: he intended
to take it to Las Vegas, to the blackjack tables. As a six he could—and did—always win at
blackjack; he had the edge over everyone, even the dealer. Even, he thought sleekly, the pit
“You’re lying,” Heather said. “You didn’t intend to get me anything; you never do, you’re so
selfish and always thinking about yourself. That’s screwing money; you’re going to buy some
big-chested blonde and go to bed together with her. Probably at our place in Zurich, which, you
realize, I haven’t seen for four months now. I might as well be pregnant.”
It struck him as odd that she would say that, out of all the possible retorts that might flow up
into her conscious, talking mind. But there was a good deal about Heather that he did not
understand; with him, as with her fans, she kept many things about her private.
But, over the years, he had learned a lot about her. He knew, for example, that in 1982 she had
had an abortion, a well-kept secret, too. He knew that at one time she had been illegally
married to a student commune leader, and that for one year she had lived in the rabbit warrens
of Columbia University, along with all the smelly, bearded students kept subsurface lifelong by
the pols and the nats. The police and the national guard, who ringed every campus, keeping the
students from creeping across to society like so many black rats swarming out of a leaky ship.
And he knew that one year ago she had been busted for possession of drugs. Only her
wealthy and powerful family had been able to buy her out of that one: her money and her
charisma and fame hadn’t worked when confrontation time with the police came.
Heather had been scarred a little by all that had overtaken her, but, he knew, she was all
right now. Like all sixes she had enormous recuperative ability. It had been carefully built into
each of them. Among much, much else. Things which even he, at forty-two years, didn’t know
them all. And a lot had happened to him, too. Mostly in the form of dead bodies, the remains of
other entertainers he had trampled on his long climb to the top.
“These ‘flashy’ ties”— he began, but then the skyfly’s phone rang. He took it, said hello.
Probably it was Al Bliss with the ratings on tonight’s show.
But it was not. A girl’s voice came to him, penetrating sharply, stridently into his ear. “Jason?”
the girl said loudly.
“Yeah,” he said. Cupping the mouthpiece of the phone he said to Heather, “It’s Marilyn Mason.
Why the hell did I give her my skyfly number?”
“Who the hell is Marilyn Mason?” Heather asked.
“I’ll tell you later.” He uncupped the phone. “Yes, dear; this is Jason for real, in the true
reincarnated flesh. What is it? You sound terrible. Are they evicting you again?” He winked at
Heather and grinned wryly.
“Get rid of her,” Heather said.
Again cupping the mouthpiece of the phone he said to her, “I will; I’m trying to; can’t you see?”
Into the phone he said, “Okay, Marilyn. Spill your guts out to me; that’s what I’m for.”
For two years Marilyn Mason had been his protégée, so to speak. Anyhow, she wanted
to be a singer—be famous, rich, loved—like him. One day she had come wandering into the
studio, during rehearsal, and he had taken notice of her. Tight little worried face, short legs,
skirt far too short—he had, as was his practice, taken it all in at first glance. And, a week later,
he had arranged for an audition for her with Columbia Records, their artists and repertoire
A lot had gone on in that week, but it hadn’t had anything to do with singing.
Marilyn said shrilly into his ear, “I have to see you. Otherwise I’ll kill myself and the guilt will be
on you. For the rest of your life. And I’ll tell that Heather Hart woman about us sleeping
together all the time.”
Inwardly he sighed. Hell, he was tired already, worn out by his hour-long show during which it
was smile, smile, smile. “I’m on my way to Switzerland for the rest of tonight,” he said firmly, as
if speaking to a hysterical child. Usually, when Marilyn was in one of her accusatory,
quasi-paranoid moods it worked. But not this time, naturally.
“It’ll take you five minutes to get over here in that million-dollar Rolls skyfly of yours,” Marilyn
dinned in his ear. “I just want to talk to you for five seconds. I have something very important
to tell you.”
She’s probably pregnant, Jason said to himself. Somewhere along the line she intentionally—or
maybe unintentionally—forgot to take her pill.
“What can you tell me in five seconds that I don’t already know?” he said sharply. “Tell me
“I want you here with me,” Marilyn said, with her customary total lack of consideration. “You
must come. I haven’t seen you in six months and during that time I’ve done a lot of thinking
about us. And in particular about that last audition.”
“Okay,” he said, feeling bitter and resentful. This was what he got for trying to manufacture for
her—a no-talent—a career. He hung up the phone noisily, turned to Heather and said, “I’m
glad you never ran into her; she’s really a—“
“Bullshit,” Heather said. “I didn’t ‘run into her’ because you made damn sure you saw to that.”
“Anyhow,” he said, as he made a right turn for the skyfly, “I got her not one but two
auditions, and she snurfled them both. And to keep her self-respect she’s got to blame it on me.
I somehow herded her into failing. You see the picture.”
“Does she have nice boobs?” Heather said.
“Actually, yes.” He grinned and Heather laughed. “You know my weakness. But I did my part of
the bargain; I got her an audition—two auditions. The last one was six months ago and I
know goddamn well she’s still smoldering and brooding over it. I wonder what she wants to tell
He punched the control module to set up an automatic course for Marilyn’s apartment building
with its small but adequate roof field.
“She’s probably in love with you,” Heather said, as he parked the skyfly on its tail, releasing then
the descent stairs.
“Like forty million others,” Jason said genially.
Heather, making herself comfortable in the bucket seat of the skyfly said, “Don’t be gone very
long or so help me I’m taking off without you.”
“Leaving me stuck with Marilyn?” he said. They both laughed. “I’ll be right back.” He crossed
the field to the elevator, pressed the button.
When he entered Marilyn’s apartment he saw, at once, that she was out of her mind. Her
entire face had pinched and constricted; her body so retracted that it looked as if she were
trying to ingest herself. And her eyes. Very few things around or about women made him
uneasy, but this did. Her eyes completely round, with huge pupils, bored at him as she stood
silently facing him, her arms folded, everything about her unyielding and iron rigid.
“Start talking,” Jason said, feeling around for the handle of the advantage. Usually—in fact
virtually always—he could control a situation that involved a woman; it was, in point of fact,
his specialty. But this . . . he felt uncomfortable. And still she said nothing. Her face, under
layers of makeup, had become completely bloodless, as if she were an animated corpse. “You
want another audition?” Jason asked. “Is that it?”
Marilyn shook her head no.
“Okay; tell me what it is,” he said wearily but uneasily. He kept the unease out of his voice;
however; he was far too shrewd, far too experienced, to let her hear his uncertainty. In a
confrontation with a woman it ran nearly ninety per cent bluff, on both sides. It all lay in
how you did it, not what you did.
“I have something for you.” Marilyn turned, walked off out of sight into the kitchen. He strolled
“You still blame me for the lack of success”— he began.
“Here you are,” Marilyn said. She lifted up a plastic bag from the drainboard, stood holding it a
moment, her face still bloodless and stark, her eyes jutting and unblinking, and then she yanked
the bag open, swung it, moved swiftly up to him.
It happened too fast. He backed away out of instinct, but too slowly and too late. The
gelatinlike Callisto cuddle sponge with its fifty feeding tubes clung to him, anchored itself to his
chest. Already he felt the feeding tubes dig into him, into his chest.
He leaped to the overhead kitchen cabinets, grabbed out a half-filled bottle of scotch,
unscrewed the lid with flying fingers, and poured the scotch onto the gelatinlike creature. His
thoughts had become lucid, even brilliant; he did not panic, but stood there pouring the scotch
onto the thing.
For a moment nothing happened. He still managed to hold himself together and not flee into
panic. And then the thing bubbled, shriveled, fell from his chest onto the floor. It had died.
Feeling weak, he seated himself at the kitchen table. Now he found himself fighting off
unconsciousness; some of the feeding tubes remained inside him, and they were still alive. “Not
bad,” he managed to say. “You almost got me, you fucking little tramp.”
“Not almost,” Marilyn Mason said flatly, emotionlessly. “Some of the feeding tubes are
still in you and you know it; I can see it on your face. And a bottle of scotch isn’t going to get
them out. Nothing is going to get them out.”
At that point he fainted. Dimly, he saw the green-and-gray floor rise to take him and then there
was emptiness. A void without even himself in it.
Pain. He opened his eyes, reflexively touched his chest. His hand-tailored silk suit had vanished;
he wore a cotton hospital robe and he was lying flat on a gurney. “God,” he said thickly as the
two staff men wheeled the gurney rapidly up the hospital corridor.
Heather Hart, hovering over him, anxious and in shock, but, like him, she retained full
possession of her senses. “I knew something was wrong,” she said rapidly as the staff men
wheeled him into a room. “I didn’t wait for you in the skyfly; I came down after you.”
“You probably thought we were in bed together,” he said weakly.
“The doctor said,” Heather said, “that in another fifteen seconds you would have
succumbed to the somatic violation, as he calls it. The entrance of that thing into you.”
“I got the thing,” he said. “But I didn’t get all the feeding tubes. It was too late.”
“I know,” Heather said. “The doctor told me. They’re planning surgery for as soon as
possible; they may be able to do something if the tubes haven’t penetrated too far.”
“I was good in the crisis,” Jason grated; he shut his eyes and endured the pain. “But not
quite good enough. Just not quite.” Opening his eyes, he saw that Heather was crying. “Is it that
bad?” he asked her; reaching up he took hold of her hand. He felt the pressure of her love as
she squeezed his fingers, and then there was nothing. Except the pain. But nothing else, no
Heather, no hospital, no staff men, no light. And no sound. It was an eternal moment and it
absorbed him completely.
- from Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s by Philip K. Dick; pp. 350-356 (Dr. Bloodmoney): The little
Keller girl sat shivering on the examination table, and Doctor Stockstill, surveying her thin, pale
body, thought of a joke which he had seen on television years ago, long before the war. A
Spanish ventriloquist, speaking through a chicken . . . the chicken had produced an egg.
“My son,” the chicken said, meaning the egg.
“Are you sure?” the ventriloquist asked. “It’s not your daughter?”
And the chicken, with dignity, answered, “I know my business.”
This child was Bonn Keller’s daughter, but, Doctor Stockstill thought, it isn’t George
Keller’s daughter; I am certain of that . . . I know my business. Who had Bonny been having an
affair with, seven years ago? The child must have been conceived very close to the day the war
began. But she had not been conceived before the bomb fell; that was clear. Perhaps it was on
that very day, he ruminated. Just like Bonny, to rush out while the bomb was falling, while the
world was coming to an end, to have a brief, frenzied spasm of love with someone, perhaps
some man she did not even know, the first man she happened onto . . . and now this.
The child smiled at him and he smiled back. Superficially, Edie Keller appeared normal;
she did not seem to be a funny child. How he wished, God damn it, that he had an x-ray
He said aloud, “Tell me more about your brother.”
“Well,” Edie Keller said in her frail, soft voice, “I talk to my brother all the time and
sometimes he answers but more often he’s asleep. He sleeps almost all the time.”
“Is he asleep now?”
For a moment the child was silent. “No, he’s awake.”
Rising to his feet and coming over to her, Doctor Stockstill said, “I want you to show
me exactly where he is.”
The child pointed to her left side, low down; near, he thought, the appendix. The pain
was there. That had brought the child in; Bonny and George had become worried. They knew
about the brother, but they assumed him to be imaginary, a pretend playmate which kept their
little daughter company. He himself had assumed so at first; the chart did not mention a
brother, and yet Edie talked about him. Bill was exactly the same age as she. Born, Edie had
informed the doctor, at the same time as she, of course.
“Why of course?” he had asked, as he began examining her—he had sent the parents
into the other room because the child seemed reticent in front of them.
Edie had answered in her calm, solemn way, “Because he’s my twin brother. How else
could he be inside me?” And, like the Spanish ventriloquist’s chicken, she spoke with authority,
with confidence; she, too, knew her business.
In the years since the war Doctor Stockstill had examined many hundreds of funny
people, many strange and exotic variants on the human life form which flourished now under a
much more tolerant—although smokily veiled—sky. He could not be shocked. And yet, this—a
child whose brother lived inside her body, down in the inguinal region. For seven years Bill
Keller had dwelt inside there, and Doctor Stockstill, listening to the girl, believed her; he knew
that it was possible. It was not the first case of this kind. If he had his x-ray machine he would
be able to see the tiny, wizened shape, probably no larger than a baby rabbit. In fact, with his
hands he could feel the outline . . . he touched her side, carefully noting the firm cyst-like sack
within. The head in a normal position, the body entirely within the abdominal cavity, limbs and
all. Someday the girl would die and they would open her body, perform an autopsy; they would
find a little wrinkled male figure, perhaps with a snowy white beard and blind eyes . . . her
brother, still no larger than a baby rabbit.
Meanwhile, Bill slept mostly, but now and then he and his sister talked. What did Bill
have to say? What possibly could he know?
To the question, Edie had an answer. “Well, he doesn’t know very much. He doesn’t
see anything but he thinks. And I tell him what’s going on so he doesn’t miss out.”
“What are his interests?” Stockstill asked. He had completed his examination; with the
meager instruments and tests available to him he could do no more. He had verified the child’s
account and that was something, but he could not see the embryo or consider removing it; the
latter was out of the question, desirable as it was.
Edie considered and said, “Well, he uh, likes to hear about food.”
“Food!” Stockstill said, fascinated.
“Yes. He doesn’t eat, you know. He likes me to tell him over and over again what I had
for dinner, because he does get it after a while . . . I think he does anyhow. Wouldn’t he have
to, to live?”
“Yes,” Stockstill agreed.
“He gets it from me,” Edie said as she put her blouse back on, buttoning it slowly. “And
he wants to know what’s in it. He especially likes it if I have apples or oranges. And—he likes to
hear stories. He always wants to hear about places. Faraway, especially, like New York. My
mother tells me about New York so I told him; he wants to go there some day and see what
“But he can’t see.”
“I can, though,” Edie pointed out. “It’s almost as good.”
“You take good care of him, don’t you?” Stockstill said, deeply touched. To the girl, it
was normal; she had lived like this all her life—she did not know of any other existence. There
is nothing, he realized once more, which is “outside” nature; that is a logical impossibility. In a
way there are no freaks, no abnormalities, except in the statistical sense. This is an unusual
situation, but it’s not something to horrify us; actually it ought to make us happy. Life per se is
good, and this is one form which life takes. There’s no special pain here, no cruelty or suffering.
In fact there is solicitude and tenderness.
“I’m afraid,” the girl said suddenly, “that he might die someday.”
“I don’t think he will,” Stockstill said. “What’s more likely to happen is that he’ll get
larger. And that might pose a problem; it might be hard for your body to accommodate him.”
“What would happen, then?” Edie regarded him with large, dark eyes. “Would he get
“No,” Stockstill said. “He’s not located that way; he would have to be removed
surgically. But—he wouldn’t live. The only way he can live is as he’s living now, inside you.”
Parasitically, he thought, not saying the word aloud. “We’ll worry about that when the time
comes,” he said, patting the child on the head. “If it ever does.”
“My mother and father don’t know,” Edie said.
“I realize that,” Stockstill said.
“I told them about him,” Edie said. “But—“ She laughed.
“Don’t worry. Just go on and do what you’d ordinarily do. It’ll all take care of itself.”
Edie said, “I’m glad I have a brother; he keeps me from being lonely. Even when he’s
asleep I can feel him there, I know he’s there. It’s like having a baby inside me; I can’t wheel him
around in a baby carriage or anything like that, or dress him, but talking to him is a lot of fun.
For instance, I get to tell him about Mildred.”
“Mildred!” He was puzzled.
“You know.” The child smiled at his ignorance. “The girl that keeps coming back to
Philip. And spoils his life. We listen every night. The satellite.”
“Of course.” It was Dangerfield’s reading of the Maugham book. Eerie, Doctor Stockstill
thought, this parasite swelling within her body, in unchanging moisture and darkness, fed by her
blood, hearing from her in some unfathomable fashion a second-hand account of a famous
novel . . . it makes Bill Keller part of our culture. He leads his grotesque social existence, too.
God knows what he makes of the story. Does he have fantasies about it, about our life? Does
he dream about us?
Bending, Doctor Stockstill kissed the girl on her forehead. “Okay,” he said, leading her toward
the door. “You can go, now. I’ll talk to your mother and father for a minute; there’re some
very old genuine pre-war magazines out in the waiting room that you can read, if you’re careful
“And then we can go home and have dinner,” Edie said happily, opening the door to the waiting
room. George and Bonny rose to their feet, their faces taut with anxiety.
“Come in,” Stockstill said to them. He shut the door after them. “No cancer,” he said, speaking
to Bonny in particular, whom he knew so well. “It’s a growth, of course; no doubt of that. How
large it may get I can’t say. But I’d say, don’t worry about it. Perhaps by the time it’s large
enough to cause trouble our surgery will be advanced enough to deal with it.”
The Kellers sighed with relief; they trembled visibly.
“You could take her to the U.C. Hospital in San Francisco,” Stockstill said. “They are
performing minor surgery there . . . but frankly, if I were you I’d let it drop.” Much better for
you not to know, he realized. It would be hard on you to have to face it . . . especially you,
Bonny. Because of the circumstances involving the conception; it would be so easy to start
feeling guilt. “She’s a healthy child and enjoys life,” he said. “Leave it at that. She’s had it since
“Has she?” Bonny said. “I didn’t realize. I guess I’m not a good mother; I’m so wrapped up in
“Doctor Stockstill,” George Keller broke in, “let me ask you this. Is Edie a—special
“ ‘Special’?” Stockstill regarded him cautiously.
“I think you know what I mean.”
“You mean, is she a funny person?”
George blanched, but his intense, grim expression remained; he waited for an answer.
Stockstill could see that; the man would not be put off by a few phrases.
Stockstill said, “I presume that’s what you mean. Why do you ask? Does she seem to be
funny in some fashion? Does she look funny?”
“She doesn’t look funny,” Bonny said, in a flurry of concern; she held tightly onto her
husband’s arm, clinging to him. “Christ, that’s obvious; she’s perfectly normal-looking. Go to
hell, George. What’s the matter with you? How can you be morbid about your own child; are
you bored or something, is that it?”
“There are funny people who don’t show it,” George Keller said. “After all, I see many
children; I see all our children. I’ve developed an ability to tell. A hunch, which usually is proved
correct. We’re required, we in the schools, as you know, to turn any funny children over to
the State of California for special training. Now—“
“I’m going home,” Bonny said. She turned and walked to the door of the waiting room.
Stockstill said, “Wait, Bonny.”
“I don’t like this conversation,” Bonny said. “It’s ill. You’re both ill. Doctor, if you
intimate in any fashion that she’s funny I won’t ever speak to you again. Or you either, George.
I mean it.”
After a pause, Stockstill said, “You’re wasting your words, Bonny. I am not intimating,
because there’s nothing to intimate. She has a benign tumor in the abdominal cavity; that’s all.”
He felt angry. He felt, in fact, the desire to confront her with the truth. She deserved it.
But, he thought, after she has felt guilt, after she’s blamed herself for going out and
having an affair with some man and producing an abnormal birth, then she will turn her
attention to Edie; she will hate her. She will take it out on the child. It always goes like that. The
child is a reproach to the parents, in some dim fashion, for what they did back in the old days
or in the first moments of the war when everyone ran his own crazy way, did his private,
personal harm as he realized what was happening. Some of us killed to stay alive, some of us
just fled, some of us made fools out of ourselves . . . Bonny went wild, no doubt; she let herself
go. And she’s that same person now; she would do it again, perhaps has done it again. And she
is perfectly aware of that.
Again he wondered who the father was.
Someday I am going to ask her point blank, he decided. Perhaps she doesn’t even know; it is all
a blur to her, that time in our lives. Those horrible days. Or was it horrible for her? Maybe it
was lovely; she could kick the traces, do what she wanted without fear because she believed,
we all did, that none of us would survive.
Bonny made the most of it, he realized, as she always does; she makes the most out of life in
every contingency. I wish I were the same . . . he felt envious, as he watched her move from the
room toward her child. The pretty, trim woman; she was as attractive now as she had been ten
years ago—the damage, the impersonal change that had descended on them and their lives, did
not seem to have touched her.
The grasshopper who fiddled. That was Bonny. In the darkness of the war, with its destruction,
its infinite sporting of life forms, Bonny fiddled on, scraping out her tune of joy and enthusiasm
and lack of care; she could not be persuaded, even by reality, to become reasonable. The lucky
ones: people like Bonny, who are stronger than the forces of change and decay. That’s what she
has eluded—the forces of decay which have set in. The roof fell on us, but not on Bonny.
- pp. 333-334: . . . Barnes saw on a hilltop a dog standing watching them. At once he recognized
it as an extreme mutation, a useful one; its face was intelligent, in a new way.
“I won’t go near his sheep,” Barnes said. “It won’t bother us now, will it? It recognizes
Bonny said, “That’s why I came with you, because of the dog. Jack has only the one. But
Now the dog trotted toward them.
Once, Barnes conjectured, its folk had been the familiar gray or black German shepherd;
he identified the ears, the muzzle. But now—he waited rigidly as it approached. In his pocket he
of course carried a knife; it had protected him many times, but surely this—it would not have
done the job, here. He stayed close to the woman, who walked on unconcernedly.
“Hi,” she said to the dog.
Halting before them, the dog opened its mouth and groaned. It was a hideous sound,
and Barnes shivered; it sounded like a human spastic, a damaged person trying to work a vocal
apparatus which had failed. Out of the groaning he detected—or thought he detected—a word
or so, but he could not be sure. Bonny, however, seemed to understand.
“Nice Terry,” she said to the dog. “Thank you, nice Terry.” The dog wagged its tail. To
Barnes she said, “We’ll find him a quarter mile along the trail.” She strode on.
“What did the dog say?” he asked, when they were out of earshot of the animal.
Bonny laughed. It irritated him, and he scowled. “Oh,” she said, “my God, it evolves a
million years up the ladder—one of the greatest miracles in the evolution of life—and you can’t
understand what it said.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry, but it’s too damn funny. I’m glad you
didn’t ask me where it could hear.”
“I’m not impressed,” he said, defensively. “I’m just not very much impressed. You’ve
been stuck here in this small rural area and it seems like a lot to you, but I’ve been up and
down the Coast and I’ve seen things that would make you”— He broke off. “That’s nothing,
that dog. Nothing by comparison, although intrinsically I suppose it’s a major feat.”
- from I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon: Uncollected stories by the author of The Man in the High
Castle; pp. 2-5 [Introduction: How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
by Philip K. Dick]: The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What
constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published
novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I
consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the
not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?
In 1951, when I sold my first story, I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be
pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously. My first story had to
do with a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing
valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container. Every day,
members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal
containers, shut the lid tightly -- and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking
creatures came and stole everything but the can.
Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people
in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know
that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical – given
the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get
inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world
quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, Maybe each human
being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and
experienced by all other humans. And that led me to wonder, If reality differs from person to
person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities?
And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the
world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in
touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that
he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if
subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown of communication
. . . and there is the real illness.