The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick. The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and Other Stories by Philip K. Dick

Suddenly the drawbridge quivered. It began to slide down, descending into position. There was a pause. Then —

“Look!” Groves exclaimed. “Here they come.”

Siller raised his gun. “My Lord! Look at them!”

A horde of armed men on horseback clattered across the drawbridge, spilling out onto the ground beyond. They came straight toward the four spacesuited men, the sun sparkling against their shields and spears. There were hundreds of them, decked with streamers and banners and pennants of all colors and sizes. An impressive sight, on a small scale.

“Get ready,” Carmichel said. “They mean business. Watch your legs.” He tightened the bolts of his helmet.

The first wave of horsemen reached Groves, who was standing a little ahead of the others. A ring of warriors surrounded him, little glittering armored and plumed figures, hacking furiously at his ankles with miniature swords.

“Cut it out!” Groves howled, leaping back. “Stop!”

“They’re going to give us trouble,” Carmichel said.

Siller began to giggle nervously, as arrows flew around him. “Shall I give it to them, sir? One blast from the Boris gun and –”

“No! Don’t fire — that’s an order.” Groves moved back as a phalanx of horses rushed toward him, spears lowered. He swung his leg, spilling them over with his heavy boot. A frantic mass of men and horses struggled to right themselves.

“Back,” Basset said. “Those damn archers.”

Countless men on foot were rushing from the city with long bows and quivers strapped to their backs. A chaos of shrill sound filled the air.

“He’s right,” Carmichel said. His leggings had been hacked clean through by determined knights who had dismounted and were swinging again and again, trying to chop him down. “If we’re not going to fire we better retreat. They’re tough.”

Clouds of arrows rained down on them.

“They know how to shoot,” Groves admitted. “These men are trained soldiers.”

“Watch out,” Siller said “They’re trying to get between us. Pick us off one by one.” He moved toward Carmichel nervously. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Hear them?” Carmichel said. “They’re mad. They don’t like us.”

The four men retreated, backing away. Gradually the tiny figures stopped following, pausing to reorganize their lines.

“It’s lucky for us we have our suits on,” Groves said. “This isn’t funny anymore.”

Siller bent down and pulled up a clump of weeds. He tossed the clump at the line of knights. They scattered.

“Let’s go,” Basset said. “Let’s leave.”


“Let’s get out of here.” Basset was pale. “I can’t believe it. Must be some kind of hypnosis. Some kind of control of our minds. It can’t be real.”

Siller caught his arm. “Are you all right? What’s the matter?”

Basset’s face was contorted strangely. “I can’t accept it,” he muttered thickly. “Shakes the whole fabric of the universe. All basic beliefs.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

Groves put his hand on Basset’s shoulder. “Take it easy, Doctor.”

“But General –”

“I know what you’re thinking. But it can’t be. There must be some rational explanation. There has to be.”

“A fairy tale,” Basset muttered. “A story.”

“Coincidence. The story was a social satire, nothing more. A social satire, a work of fiction. It just seems like this place. The resemblance is only –”

“What are you two talking about?” Carmichel said.

“This place.” Bassett pulled away. “We’ve got to get out of here. We’re caught in a mind web of some sort.”

“What’s he talking about?” Carmichel looked from Basset to Groves. “Do you know where we are?”

“We can’t be there,” Basset said.


“He made it up. A fairy tale. A child’s tale.”

“No, a social satire, to be exact,” Groves said.

“What are they talking about, sir?” Siller said to Commander Carmichel. “Do you know?”

Carmichel grunted. A slow light dawned in his face. “What?”

“Do you know where we are, sir?”

“Let’s get back to the globe,” Carmichel said.

Groves paced nervously. He stopped by the port, looking out intently, peering into the distance.

“More coming?” Basset said.

“Lots more.”

“What are they doing out there now?”

“Still working on their tower.”

The little people were erecting a tower, a scaffolding up the side of the globe. Hundreds of them were working together, knights, archers, even women and boys. Horses and oxen pulling tiny carts were drawing supplies from the city. A shrill hubbub penetrated the rexenoid hull of the globe, fil­tering to the four men inside.

“Well?” Carmichel said. “What’ll we do? Go back?”

“I’ve had enough,” Groves said. “All I want now is to go back to Terra.”

“Where are we?” Siller demanded, for the tenth time. “Doc, you know. Tell me, damn it! All three of you know. Why won’t you say?”

“Because we want to keep our sanity,” Basset said, his teeth clenched. “That’s why.”

“I’d sure like to know,” Siller murmured. “If we went over in the corner would you tell me?”

Basset shook his head. “Don’t bother me, Major.”

“It just can’t be,” Groves said. “How could it be?”

“And if we leave, we’ll never know. We’ll never be sure. It’ll haunt us all our lives. Were we really — here? Does this place really exist? And is this place really –”

“There was a second place,” Carmichel said abruptly.

“A second place?”

“In the story. A place where the people were big.”

Basset nodded. “Yes. It was called — What?”


“Brobdingnag. Maybe it exists, too.”

“Then you really think this is –”

“Doesn’t it fit his description?” Basset waved toward the port. “Isn’t that what he described? Everything small, tiny soldiers, little walled cities, oxen, horses, knights, kings, pennants. Drawbridge. Moat. And their damn towers. Always building towers — and shooting arrows.”

“Doc,” Siller said. “Whose description?”

No answer.

“Could — could you whisper it to me?”

“I don’t see how it can be,” Carmichel said flatly. “I remember the book, of course. I read it when I was a child, as we all did. Later on I realized it was a satire of the manners of the times. But good Lord, it’s either one or the other! Not a real place!”

“Maybe he had a sixth sense. Maybe he really was there. Here. In a vision. Maybe he had a vision. They say that he was supposed to have been psychotic, toward the end.”

“Brobdingnag. The other place.” Carmichel pondered. “If this exists, maybe that exists. It might tell us. . . We might know, for sure. Some sort of verification.”

“Yes, our theory. Hypothesis. We predict that it should exist, too. Its exist­ence would be a kind of proof.”

“The L theory, which predicts the existence of B.”

“We’ve got to be sure,” Basset said. “If we go back without being sure, we’ll always wonder. When we’re fighting the Ganymedeans we’ll stop sud­denly and wonder — was I really there? Does it really exist? All these years we thought it was just a story. But now –”

Groves walked over to the control board and sat down. He studied the dials intently. Carmichel sat down beside him.

“See this,” Groves said, touching the big central meter with his finger. “The reading is up to liw, 100. Remember where it was when we started?”

“Of course. At nesi. At zero. Why?”

“Nesi is neutral position. Our starting position, back on Terra. We’ve gone the limit one way. Carmichel, Basset is right. We’ve got to find out. We can’t go back to Terra without knowing if this really is. . . . You know.”

“You want to throw it back all the way? Not stop at zero? Go on to the other end? To the other liw?”

Groves nodded.

“All right.” The Commander let his breath out slowly. “I agree with you. I want to know, too. I have to know.”

“Doctor Basset.” Groves brought the Doctor over to the board. “We’re not going back to Terra, not yet. The two of us want to go on.”

“On?” Basset’s face twitched. “You mean on beyond? To the other side?”

They nodded. There was silence. Outside the globe the pounding and ringing had ceased. The tower had almost reached the level of the port.

“We must know,” Groves said.

“I’m for it,” Basset said.

“Good,” Carmichel said.

“I wish one of you would tell me what it is you’re talking about,” Siller said plaintively. “Can’t you tell me?”

“Then here goes.” Groves took hold of the switch. He held it for a moment, sitting silently. “Are we ready?”

“Ready,” Basset said.

Groves threw the switch, all the way down.

Shapes, enormous and confused.

The globe floundered, trying to right itself. Again they were falling, sliding about. The globe was lost in a sea of vague misty forms, immense dim figures that moved on all sides of them, beyond the port.

Basset stared out, his jaws slack. “What –”

Faster and faster the globe fell. Everything was diffused, unformed. Shapes like shadows drifted and flowed outside, shapes so huge that their outlines were lost.

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Categories: Dick, Phillip K.