This is a guest post by Alvina Lopez.
Most people know of Philip K. Dick’s great science fiction novels, but despite having multiple short stories adapted into feature films, a lot of people aren’t as aware of his large proliferation of short stories. The fact of the matter is that Dick wrote around 121 shot stories, many of which appeared in science fiction magazines. While I haven’t had the joy of reading all of them, I recently came across one that was available online for free titled “Beyond the Door.”
What I really like about this story is that it demonstrates just how much of a natural Dick was at crafting unreal situations and humanizing them with clever insights. The story itself doesn’t even seem that heavily drenched in science fiction. Essentially, a husband named Larry gives his wife Doris a cuckoo clock.
The science fiction elements of the story revolve around the cuckoo clock which, unlike cuckoo clocks in reality, had a live bird living inside of it that tweeted every hour. What made this concept even richer was the fact that the cuckoo bird seemed to have feelings and dispositions. He liked Doris and came out of the cuckoo clock doors up to four times an hour for her; however, he didn’t seem to like Larry as much, and their relationship worsened as Larry became more irritated that the bird didn’t come out of the clock.
The story also revolves around a dramatic scenario involving Doris in what the reader can only assume is an affair with a man named Bob. She wanted to show Bob the cuckoo clock, but in the process, she and Bob were discovered by Larry in a compromising situation (Doris was in her bathrobe). After that point, Larry kicked out Doris and kept the clock for himself.
In the final scene, Larry becomes increasingly frustrated with the cuckoo bird’s lack of presence and commitment to the clock’s purpose. He takes a hammer and threatens the bird to come out. Unexpectedly, the bird darts out of the clock, causing Larry to fall over a chair and break his neck.
The ending of this story brings up some interesting ideas and concepts. If objects that we depend on like clocks were to have feelings and dispositions, how would our relationships with these objects change? Did the bird intentionally scare Larry into falling over and having a terrible accident? Was it out of spite or self-preservation? All of these questions become all the more real as more of our modern devices appear more conscious (for instance, the new iPhone’s Siri).
Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:alvina.lopez @gmail.com.