Thursday, April 26, 2007

"The Parasite" (short story): Paranormal, & weird (obviously)

Best part of this story is - it is short! And has enough mystery to not bore till end.

The concept of the story is certainly not original. If you travel across small town northern India, you will hear stories of this ilk at many road side eateries - sometimes told as if they were true stories. It also has elements that remind me of two novels by Asimov - one of his Spacer stories involving people of the imaginary world Solaria, & another involving a curious elevator that let you travel in time rather than height.

But the specifics of the plot are original. At least I had not heard the story told in this form before.

Story summary (spoiler).
A man is haunted. Or possessed. Or hallucinating. The thing is - he feels he is always being accompanied by someone - someone who can access his deepest emotions. And this thing has been with him for years, dormantly watching. And now it is revealing itself - slowly, layer by layer, & taking pleasure in his discomfiture.

Here is the revelation. Looks like a race of humans in far away future has learned all there is to learn, including everything about the universe around. And they have infinite leisure, long life, & served by robotic maids.

They became so degenerate & lazy, they could not even meet their physical needs. Most Indians reading this might recognize the elements of oft-cited & unprintable joke involving a lazy man, the careless dog, & the bystander.

Anyway, these men of future have advanced technology. Among their perversions is one involving moving back in time when humans were more virile, & taking charge of the mind of one of the victims from this past - so these lazies can get pleasure without physical effort!

Will the smart victim be able to free himself of this presence?

Fact sheet
The Parasite, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Paranormal
First Published: 1953
Rating: B

See also.

  1. Hirai Kazumasa's "A Time for Revolution" - another story where future humans parasitically control the minds of people of an earlier era telepathically. But they aren't doing this for amusement; they are doing to to avert a future dystopia.
  2. "The Awakening" - another story of a future human society of prosperous & bored individuals.
  3. "The Possessed" - another story involving parasitic beings that colonize other intelligent animals' minds.
  4. "The Light of Other days" - has a small episode near end where future descendants of humans can talk back to humans from past.
The story appears in the following collections.
  1. "Reach for tomorrow"
  2. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"