The Skull by Philip K. Dick

The Skull

subjects: Science Fiction, Short Stories

Description

Conger is given a chance to be released from prison on the condition that he completes one job—he must travel back in time and kill a man who, if allowed to live, will later change the world.

Excerpt

“What is this opportunity?” Conger asked. “Go on. I’m interested.”

The room was silent; all faces were fixed on Conger–still in the drab prison uniform. The Speaker leaned forward slowly.

“Before you went to prison your trading business was paying well–all illegal–all very profitable. Now you have nothing, except the prospect of another six years in a cell.”

Conger scowled.

“There is a certain situation, very important to this Council, that requires your peculiar abilities. Also, it is a situation you might find interesting. You were a hunter, were you not? You’ve done a great deal of trapping, hiding in the bushes, waiting at night for the game? I imagine hunting must be a source of satisfaction to you, the chase, the stalking–”

Conger sighed. His lips twisted. “All right,” he said. “Leave that out. Get to the point. Who do you want me to kill?”

The Speaker smiled. “All in proper sequence,” he said softly.

The car slid to a stop. It was night; there was no light anywhere along the street. Conger looked out. “Where are we? What is this place?”

The hand of the guard pressed into his arm. “Come. Through that door.”

Conger stepped down, onto the damp sidewalk. The guard came swiftly after him, and then the Speaker. Conger took a deep breath of the cold air. He studied the dim outline of the building rising up before them.

“I know this place. I’ve seen it before.” He squinted, his eyes growing accustomed to the dark. Suddenly he became alert. “This is–”

“Yes. The First Church.” The Speaker walked toward the steps. “We’re expected.”

“Expected? Here?

“Yes.” The Speaker mounted the stairs. “You know we’re not allowed in their Churches, especially with guns!” He stopped. Two armed soldiers loomed up ahead, one on each side.

“All right?” The Speaker looked up at them. They nodded. The door of the Church was open. Conger could see other soldiers inside, standing about, young soldiers with large eyes, gazing at the ikons and holy images.

“I see,” he said.

“It was necessary,” the Speaker said. “As you know, we have been singularly unfortunate in the past in our relations with the First Church.”

“This won’t help.”

“But it’s worth it. You will see.”

This work is available in the U.S. and for countries where copyright is Life+63 or less.