Piper in the Woods

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Imagination Feb 1953

One by one workers at a checkpoint garrison on an asteroid in outer space have begun to turn into plants, or so they say. As plants they shirk their duties and want to do nothing more than bask in the sun.

Dr. Henry Harris investigates this strange phenomenon, but all he has to go on are whispers about a mysterious group called the pipers who live in the woods near the base. After meeting a native of the asteroid in the forest, eventually Harris uncovers that there are no pipers. He realizes instead these over-worked young men and women suffer from a mass delusion as they wish to escape the pressure of constant training and stress of everyday life.

Harris has a lot of work to do to cure this malady of the modern age, but first he must relax in the dirt he gathered from the woods.

Cast of characters

  • Corporal Westerburg – patrolman on Asteroid Y-3 who thinks he’s a plant
  • Dr. Henry Harris – trying to figure out why people keep claiming to be plants
  • Commander Cox – Y-3’s base commander
  • Robert Bradshaw – chief biologist on Y-3 who also thinks he’s a plant
  • Lawrence Watts – Garrison Chief on Y-3