Type ShortStory
Date 1955-01
Pages 31
Tags advertising, robots, science fiction

The Tunnel Under the World

Here's an excellent little story, with a mystery and a message.

On the morning of June 15th, Guy Burckhardt woke up screaming out of a dream.

Guy wakes up on the morning of June 15th, following a nightmare of his death. He has an unpleasant but unremarkable day at the office, returns home, and swiftly falls asleep.

The next day, on the morning of June 15th, Guy wakes from a nightmare, and soon hears the sound of a fire engine. However, when he and his wife rush to the window, it turns out to be an unremarkable panel truck, with a loudspeaker blaring. Having by now attracted the attention of everyone in earshot, the truck begins playing an ad for Feckle Freezers.

"Have you got a freezer? It stinks! If it isn't a Feckle Freezer, it stinks! If it's a last year's Feckle Freezer, it stinks! Only this year's Feckle Freezer is any good at all! You know who owns an Ajax Freezer? Fairies own Ajax Freezers! You know who owns a Triplecold Freezer? Commies own Triplecold Freezers! Every freezer but a brand-new Feckle Freezer stinks!"

He goes to work, returns home, and that evening discovers that the concrete of his basement is a thin layer covering metal walls and floor, and that a boat--which he built--is a crude replica. Suddenly, he falls asleep "as though [consciousness] were being taken away."

On the morning of June 16th, Guy awakens in his basement. But it is not the 16th--it is the 15th. Or so all the evidence suggests. What has happened? Is it aliens? Russians?

Neither, it turns out: it is ad men. The town is a small scale replica of a town that was destroyed in an explosion. The memories of its deceased residents have been placed into humanlike robots, their memories reset each day to the morning after the explosion. Then, they are subjected to different ad campaigns, so that the most effective campaign can be found without the expense of running real ad campaigns.

But the man running the business, Dorchin, has bigger plans. When Guy learns the futility of it all, he is put back into his place, with his memory again erased, and on the morning of June 15th, he awakens to the sound of a truck blaring an advertisement--for a political campaign.

"Are you a coward? Are you a fool? Are you going to let crooked politicians steal the country from you? NO! Are you going to put up with four more years of graft and crime? NO! Are you going to vote straight Federal Party all up and down the ballot? YES! You just bet you are!"

This is just scarily relevant today, with the news reporting foreign influence on elections through--you guessed it--advertising (among other things). There's really nothing new under the sun.

Name Role
Frederik Pohl Author

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Relation Sources
Contained in
  • Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1955 (1955-01)