Short Story #75: The Skull by Philip K. Dick

Title: The Skull 

Author: Philip K. Dick


If - Worlds of Science Fiction - September 1952 Cover
Conger is taken out of prison and asked by "The Speaker" to complete a mission that is tied to his skills as a hunter.  It is quickly explained to him that the government forces have identified the skull of the Founder of the Church who had died a few hundred years ago.  They want Conger to go into the past, find the person who matches the skull and kill him before he has a chance to speak his gospel.  With very little to go on but only having a jail cell as an alternative option, Conger accepts and is blasted to the past.  He initially arrives after the reported time the founder died so that he could get more details about the death.  While researching the Founder, he moves about the city is is witnessed by a few people that take note of him.  He jumps back to the right time and the right town to find the Founder.  It's a small town and so he quickly makes acquaintances to help find out if anyone new (besides himself) has been around.  However, many in the town are suspect of him, seeing him as an outsider who is a bit strange and believing he is a "Red."  The concern grows enough that he is reported to the authorities who come to capture him.  However, before that can happen, Conger realizes that he is the Founder and delivers a message to the people before being taken in by the authorities.  


I knew the punchline pretty quickly into the story.  Once they said that they knew nothing about the Founder, it seemed evident that the protagonist was going to become the Founder.  The coming full circle and reality being unexpectedly twisted is part and parcel for Dick.  The story is still an enjoyable read regardless.  

Short Story #75 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 3/15/2014 
Source:  I found this story on Amazon for free.  However, it is also available on the Gutenberg Project.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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