At an excellent and geekful Swingers dinner, the words “Philip K. Dickens” were uttered.
I had no choice. I regret nothing:
TWIST OF MUDFOG – by Philip K. Dick
Oliver lay on the cobblestone as if dead himself. My God, he thought, she looked just like Nancy.
He pulled himself vertical and peered into the crowd. The woman was gone, but now as he looked there were plenty of other women who could pass for her. Surely too much time in the country had stolen his ability to tell one bustle and bonnet from another.
But then at the end of the alley that red-headed woman ducked into a book shop; the acid in Oliver’s throat meant he could no longer be deceived.
He hustled after her, dodging horse droppings and factory reek. The book shop windows were mottled with time, but the door was tin. His kind would not be welcome here.
The door jangled as he opened it, and the clockwork clerk addressed him without looking up, its graceful tin arm tracing numbers on a sheet.
“Leave your gep,” it said.
“I haven’t…” said Oliver.
“Leave it, native, or leave yourself.”
There was little use protesting — Oliver unbuckled his gep, holster and all, and left it on the counter. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed a few figures of indeterminate origin standing at the shelves, either absorbed in their books or wound down entirely. He avoided them.
“A woman just came in here,” said Oliver.
“Whether one did or didn’t will be no report of mine,” said the clerk, sitting up only long enough to wind the key in its chest. “Talk is tiring.”
Oliver took a corner and waited, listening to the satiny sounds of the place: the soft rasp of paper, the steady purr of cogs… then at last the unmistakable heel-toe fall of a booted foot.
Oliver’s heart leapt. He followed it down the narrowing aisle, and around the corner she stood: Nancy. She smiled at him, and every piece was just as he remembered: the angle of her teeth, her freckles, the precise curve of her neck.
“Hello, Oliver,” she said, and the voice was correct, too. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
In that intervening moment, as Oliver reached to check the temperature of her skin, he didn’t care what his touch told him. As he fell in her embrace, and her cool supple arms became impossibly strong, he didn’t care what came next. And as he heard the last shuddering crack in his spine, he stopped caring about anything at all.
THE STARLIGHT CHRONICLES by Charles Dickens
Whereas a customary spaceship might be launched once to its destination and once to its home, and despite the abundance of debris encounter none, the fact is that this particular spaceship had been to so many points here and anon that its hull was rendered the pleasing surface texture of edam cheese, and despite this was none the worse for airworthiness. One can be little blamed for thinking of the ship when viewing its captain’s countenance, wise and handsome but similarly pock-marked by the thousand tiny collisions most see fit, by fortune or abstinence, to avoid.
Captain Phineas Galaximaster, these being the names his unsuspecting parents dared upon him to confer, peered through the porthole to examine the endless night. It was a regular but unrewarding habit, for the observations never varied — quantity: infinite; quality: twinkling; positions: various.
It was about this time the fourteen-year-old version of Phineas Galaximaster skulked into view, pondering the most advanced and state-of-the art methods of sharing his misery. Had he pockets in his cosmo-unitard he would have had his hands them; had he headphones to supplement the Infinite SongSpace implant at the base of his skull he would be wearing them. Alas, without these accoutrements he had very little to distinguish himself from his adult version, besides being shorter, thinner, and nurturing the crop of acne scars the Captain would eventually reap.
“Good morning, Phinny,” offered the Captain, stepping aside to share the porthole, as unlikely as it was that his younger self should incline.
“Whatevs,” said Phinny. “Maybe today you’ll steer into another time-space singularity.”
“Goodness, is that any way to talk? You haven’t even met everyone yet.” Captain Galaximaster depressed a button by the porthole, and into it he spoke: “Ensign, would you send Calabria to the viewing gallery?”
“Who’s Calabria?” asked Phinny, feigning indifference in the way that one can only when one greatly desires an answer, and not dissimilar to the way he continued to feign indifference to the Captain’s company after explicitly seeking it out.
“You’ll see,” said the Captain. In no time, a tall woman appeared, defying the artificial gravity with her shock of shiny black hair, and straining in key ways the dimensions of her cosmo-unitard.
“Yes, Captain?” asked Calabria.
“Cal, I’d like you to meet my younger self. Though you already have, of course.”
“Of course,” said Cal.
She offered her hand, but as Phinny had at that moment recognized her from playing shortstop on the Pee Wee Softball team of his original dimension, he was unable to shake that hand, having fainted dead away.