Living the Dream

"You are sure," asked Sara, "that you really saw what you say you saw?"

"I don't know what I can do," I told her, "to make you believe me. Do you think I threw it all away? To spite you, maybe? Don't you thnk I might have been a little happy, too? Maybe, being a suspicious sort of clown, not as happy as you were, but after all those miles..."

"Yes, of course," she said. "You had no reason to. But why you alone? Why not me? I did not see these things."


"Don't you understand," Sara said to me, "that there is no use trying. We're not going to get back to Earth. Or anywhere. We are staying on this planet."

"There is one thing we could try," I said.

"I know," she said. "I thought of it, too. The other worlds. The worlds like the sand dune world. There must be hundreds of them."

"Out of all those hundreds, there might be..."

She shook her head. "You underestimate the people who built the city and set out the trees. They knew what they were doing. Every one of those worlds would be as isolated as this world. Those worlds were chosen for a purpose..."

"Have you ever thought," I argued, "that one of them might be the home planet of the folks who built the city?"

"No, I never have," she said. "But what difference would it make? They'd squash you like a bug."

"Then what do we do?" I asked.

"I could go back to the valley," she said. "I didn't see what you saw. I wouldn't see what you saw."

"That's all right for you," I said, "if that's the kind of life you want to live."

"What difference would it make?" she asked. "I wouldn't know what kind of life it was. It would be real enough. How would it be any different than the life we're living now? How do we know it isn't the kind of life we're living now? How do you judge reality?"

There was, of course, no answer to her question. There was no way in which one could prove reality. Lawrence Arlen Knight had accepted the pseudo-life, the unreality of the valley, living in delusion, imagining an ideal life with as much force and clarity as if it had been real. But that was easy for Knight; easy, perhaps, for all the other residents of the valley, for they did not know what was going on. I found myself wondering what sort of fantasy had been invoked within his mind to explain our precipitate departure from his living place. Something, naturally, that would not upset him, that would not interrupt, for a single instant, the dream in which he lived.

"It's all right for you," I said, limply, beaten. "I couldn't go back."

We sat silently by the fire, all talked out, nothing more to say. There was no use in arguing with her. She didn't really mean it. In the morning she would have forgotten it and good sense would prevail. We'd be on our way again. But on our way to where?

—Clifford D. Simak, Destiny Doll

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