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«The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch», Philip Dick

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I mean, after all; you have to consider we’re only made out of dust. That’s admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn’t forget that. But even considering, I mean it’s a sort of bad beginning, we’re not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we’re faced with we can make it. You get me?

From an interoffice audio-memo СЃirculated to Pre-Fash level consultants at Perky Pat Layouts, Inc., dictated by Leo Bulero immediately on his return from Mars.


His head unnaturally aching, Barney Mayerson woke to find himself in an unfamiliar bedroom in an unfamiliar conapt building. Beside him, the covers up to her bare, smooth shoulders, an unfamiliar girl slept on, breathing lightly through her mouth, her hair a tumble of cotton-like white.

I’ll bet I’m late for work, he said to himself, slid from the bed, and tottered to a standing position with eyes shut, keeping himself from being sick. For all he knew he was several hours’ drive from his office; perhaps he was not even in the United States. However, he was on Earth; the gravity that made him sway was familiar and normal.

And there in the next room by the sofa a familiar suitcase, that of his psychiatrist Dr. Smile.

Barefoot, he padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile. Meters began to register and the mechanism hummed. “Where am I?” Barney asked it. “And how far am I from New York?” That was the main point. He saw now a clock on the wall of the apt’s kitchen; the time was 7:30 A.M. Not late at all.

The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile, connected by micro-relay to the computer itself in the basement level of Barney’s own conapt building in New York, the Renown 33, tinnily declared, “Ah, Mr. Bayerson.”

“Mayerson,” Barney corrected, smoothing his hair with fingers that shook.

“What do you remember about last night?” Now he saw, with intense physical aversion, half-empty bottles of bourbon and sparkling water, lemons, bitters, and ice cube trays on the sideboard in the kitchen.

“Who is this girl?”

Dr. Smile said, “The girl in the bed is Miss Rondinella Fugate. Roni, as she asked you to call her.”

It sounded vaguely familiar, and oddly, in some manner, tied up with his job. “Listen,” he said to the suitcase, but then in the bedroom the girl began to stir; at once he shut off Dr. Smile and stood up, feeling humble and awkward in only his underpants.

“Are you up?” the girl asked sleepily. She thrashed about, and sat facing him; quite pretty, he decided, with lovely, large eyes. “What time is it and did you put on the coffee pot?”

He tramped into the kitchen and punched the stove into life; it began to heat water for coffee. Meanwhile he heard the shutting of a door; she had gone into the bathroom. Water ran. Roni was taking a shower.

Again in the living room he switched Dr. Smile back on. “What’s she got to do with P. P. Layouts?” he asked.

“Miss Fugate is your new assistant; she arrived yesterday from People’s China where she worked for P. P. Layouts as their Pre-Fash consultant for that region. However, Miss Fugate, although talented, is highly inexperienced, and Mr. Bulero decided that a short period as your assistant, I would say �under you,’ but that might be misconstrued, considering—”

“Great,” Barney said. He entered the bedroom, found his clothes—they had been deposited, no doubt by him, in a heap on the floor—and began with care to dress; he still felt terrible, and it remained an effort not to give up and be violently sick. “That’s right,” he said to Dr. Smile as he came back to the living room buttoning his shirt. “I remember the memo from Friday about Miss Fugate. She’s erratic in her talent. Picked wrong on that U. S. Civil War Picture Window item… if you can imagine it, she thought it’d be a smash hit in People’s China.” He laughed.

The bathroom door opened a crack; he caught a glimpse of Roni, pink and rubbery and clean, drying herself. “Did you call me, dear?”

“No,” he said. “I was talking to my doctor.”

“Everyone makes errors,” Dr. Smile said, a trifle vacuously.

Barney said, “How’d she and I happen to—” He gestured toward the bedroom. “After so short a time.”

“Chemistry,” Dr. Smile said.

“Come on.”

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