We Can Remember it for You Wholesale
He AWOKE — and wanted Mars. The valleys, he thought. What would it be like to trudge* among them? Great and greater yet: the dream grew as he became fully conscious, the dream and the yearning*. He could almost feel the enveloping presence of the other world, which only Government agents and high officials had seen. A clerk like himself? Not likely.
“Are you getting up or not?” his wife Kirsten asked drowsily, with her usual hint of fierce crossness*. “If you are, push the hot coffee button on the dam stove.”
“Okay,” Douglas Quail said, and made his way barefoot from the bedroom of their conapt* to the kitchen. There, having dutifully pressed the hot coffee button, he seated himself at the kitchen table, brought out a yellow, small tin of fine Dean Swift snuff*. He inhaled briskly, and the Beau Nash mixture stung his nose, burned the roof of his mouth. But still he inhaled; it woke him up and allowed his dreams, his nocturnal desires and random wishes, to condense into a semblance of rationality.
I will go, he said to himself. Before I die I'll see Mars.
It was, of course, impossible, and he knew this even as he dreamed. But the daylight, the mundane noise of his wife now brushing her hair before the bedroom mirror —everything conspired to remind him of what he was. A miserable little salaried employee, he said to himself with bitterness. Kirsten reminded him of this at least once a day and he did not blame her; it was a wife’s job to bring her husband down to Earth. Down to Earth, he thought, and laughed. The figure of speech in this was literally apt.
“What are you sniggering* about?” his wife asked as she swept into the kitchen, her long busy-pink robe wagging after her. “A dream, I bet. You’re always full of them.”
“Yes,” he said, and gazed out the kitchen window at the hover-cars and traffic runnels, and all the little energetic people hurrying to work. In a little while he would be among them. As always.
“I’ll bet it had to do with some woman,” Kirsten said witheringly*.
“No,” he said, “A god. The god of war. He has wonderful craters with every kind of plant-life growing deep down in them.”
“Listen.” Kirsten crouched down beside him and spoke earnestly, the harsh quality momentarily gone from her voice. “The bottom of the ocean — our ocean is much more, an infinity of times more beautiful. You know that; everyone knows that. Rent an artificial gill-outfit* for both of us, take a week off from work, and we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts. And in addition —” She broke off. “You’re not listening. You should be. Here is something a lot better than that compulsion, that obsession you have about Mars, and you don’t even listen!” Her voice rose piercingly. “God in heaven, you’re doomed, Doug! What’s going to become of you?”
“I’m going to work,” he said, rising to his feet, his breakfast forgotten. “That’s what’s going to become of me.”
She eyed him. “You’re getting worse. More fanatical every day. Where’s it going to lead?”
“To Mars,” he said, and opened the door to the closet to get down a ftesh shirt to wear to work.
Having descended from the taxi Douglas Quail slowly walked across three densely-populated foot runnels and to the modern, attractively inviting doorway. There he halted, impeding mid-morning traffic, and with caution read the shifting-color neon sign. He had, in the past, scrutinized this sign before... but never had he come so close. This was very different; what he did now was something else. Something which sooner or later had to happen.
Was this the answer? After all, an illusion, no matter how convincing, remained nothing more than an illusion. At least objectively. But subjectively — quite the opposite entirely.
And anyhow he had an appointment. Within the next five minutes.
Taking a deep breath of mildly smog-infested Chicago air, he walked through the dazzling polychromatic shimmer of the doorway and up to the receptionist’s counter.
The nicely-articulated blonde at the counter, bare-bosomed and tidy, said pleasantly, “Good morning, Mr. Quail.”
“Yes,” he said. “I’m here to see about a Rekal course. As I guess you know.”
“Not ‘rekal’ but recall*,” the receptionist corrected him. She picked up the receiver of the vidphone by her smooth elbow and said into it, “Mr. Douglas Quail is here, Mr. McClane. May he come inside, now? Or is it too soon?”
“Giz wetwa wum-wum wamp,” the phone mumbled.
“Yes, Mr. Quail,” she said. “You may go in; Mr McClane is expecting you.” As he started off uncertainly she called after him, “Room D, Mr. Quail.
To your right.”
After a frustrating but brief moment of being lost he found the proper room. The door hung open and inside, at a big genuine walnut desk, sat a genial-looking man, middle-aged, wearing the latest Martian frog-pelt gray suit; his attire alone would have told Quail that he had come to the right person.
“Sit down, Douglas,” McClane said, waving his plump hand toward a chair which faced the desk. “So you want to have gone to Mars. Very good.”
Quail seated himself, feeling tense. “I’m not so sure this is worth the fee,” he said. “It costs a lot and as far as I can see I really get nothing.” Costs almost as much as going, he thought.
“You get tangible* proof of your trip,” McClane disagreed emphatically.
“All the proof you’ll need. Here; I’ll show you.” He dug within a drawer of his impressive desk. “Ticket stub*.” Reaching into a manila folder, he produced a small square of embossed cardboard. “It proves you went — and returned. Postcards.” He laid out four franked picture 3-D full-color postcards in a neatly-arranged row on the desk for Quail to see. “Film. Shots you took of local sights on Mars with a rented moving camera.” To Quail he displayed , those, too. “Plus the names of people you met, two hundred poscreds worth of souvenirs, which will arrive — from Mars — within the following month. And passport, certificates listing the shots you received. And more.” He glanced up keenly at Quail. “You’ll know you went, all right,” he said. “You won’t remember us, won’t remember me or ever having been here. It’ll be a real trip in your mind; we guarantee that. A full two weeks of recall; every last piddling* detail. Remember this: if at any time you doubt that you really took an extensive trip to Mars you can return here and get a full refund. You see?”
“But I didn’t go,” Quail said. “I won’t have gone, no matter what proofs you provide me with.” He took a deep, unsteady breath. “And I never was a secret agent with Interplan.” It seemed impossible to him that Rekal, Incorporated’s extra-factual memory implant would do its job — despite what he had heard people say.
“Mr. Quail,” McClane said patiently. “As you explained in your letter to us, you have no chance, no possibility in the slightest, of ever actually getting to Mars; you can’t afford it, and what is much more important, you could never qualify as an undercover agent for Interplan or anybody else. This is the only way you can achieve your, ahem, life-long dream; am I not correct, sir? You can’t be this; you can’t actually do this.” He chuckled. “But you can have been and have done. We see to that. And our fee is reasonable; no hidden charges.” He smiled encouragingly.
“Is an extra-factual memory that convincing?” Quail asked.
“More than the real thing, sir. Had you really gone to Mars as an Interplan agent, you would by now have forgotten a great deal; our analysis of true-mem systems — authentic recollections of major events in a person’s life — shows that a variety of details are very quickly lost to the person. Forever. Part of the package we offer you is such deep implantation of recall that nothing is forgotten. The packet which is fed to you while you’re comatose is the creation of trained experts, men who have spent years on Mars; in every case we verify details down to the last iota. And you’ve picked a rather easy extra-factual system; had you picked Pluto or wanted to be Emperor of the Inner Planet Alliance we’d have much more difficulty...and the charges would be considerably greater.”
Reaching into his coat for his wallet, Quail said, “Okay. It’s been my life-long ambition and so I see I’ll never really do it. So I guess I’ll have to settle for this.”
"We can remember it for you wholesale" by Philip K. Dick, Grafton Books, London 1987, pp. 205-209
(Excerpt from the first pages of the story)
Philip K. Dick is also author of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was made into the film "Blade Runner")
* to trudge - dahin trotten
* to yearn - sich sehnen nach
* crossness - Verdrießlichkeit
* conapt - Appartement
* Dean Swift snuff - Schnupftabak der Firma DS
* to snigger - kichern
* witheringly - vernichtend
* gill-outfit - Art Tauchanzug
* to recall - sich erinnern
* tangible - handfest, konkret
* ticket stub - Ticketabschnitt
* piddling - lächerlich
1. Where do the Quails live and what does people's life look like?
2. Describe the Quails relationship towards each other?
3. What does the Rekal Company provide and what does Mr. Quail want from them?
4. Why do you think is Mr. Quail skeptical about Rekal's extra-factual memory implant?
5. Do you think people will ever succeed in getting to Mars? If yes, what difficulties will they face?
If no, what do you suggest as to what to spend that money on instead?