Douglas Quail is a minor government clerk who dreams of going to Mars. But even if he could afford it, only Interplan agents go there. He decides to have Rekal Incorporated implant a detailed memory of such a trip. Something goes wrong during the process. Under the drug used, he remembers actually going to Mars as an Interplan agent. Rekal sends him away without implanting any memories. Two Interplan agents appear at his apartment and he remembers almost everything. He was sent to Mars to kill a man. The agents can read his thoughts and decide they will have to kill him, but he escapes. He suggests that his memory be altered again, but Interplan points out the paradox: if he is made “normal,” he will crave the excitement of a trip to Mars and return to Rekal, where he will remember the truth yet again. He suggests they find some wish he has and implant a memory of it being fulfilled and they agree. A psychiatrist identifies the deeply buried wish. He imagined that as a child he witnessed the landing of an alien craft and learned that they planned to invade. He shows them “kindness and mercy” and they agree not to invade as long as he shall live. Interplan takes him to Rekal to have this memory implanted. But trouble arises again in a passage that parallels that recounting of the first procedure. He already has the memory of saving the world because it actually happened, exactly as he wished. In a nice twist, Interplan must not kill him now, or the risk of alien invasion would return.
Related, on Lit Reactor: Book Vs. Film: Total Recall / We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
- We Can Remember It for You Wholesale: And Other Classic Stories* by Philip K. Dick