I have been looking for this story since 1990.

A man goes about, dissatisfied by his man-made, mechanized life. He decides to try to find something real or natural. He goes as high up in the buildings as he can, but can only see buildings and sidewalks. He goes down into the basement, but can only find more floors down and metal stopping him from finding any earth.

Distraught, he finally decides to go for a walk and ends up in a beautiful park that he's never seen before. It is filled with green grass and flowers and birds and bees. He is overjoyed, until he realizes the bees are mechanical and so are the flowers, etc.

He has a meltdown and the ambulance is called. It arrives and the attendants turn off his switch; he himself was not "real" or "natural".

I found this in a sci-fi anthology.

  • So did you read this in the 90s?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 19, 2016 at 18:00
  • I don't recognise it, but the plot is very Bradbury-esque. Do you know the age? Dec 20, 2016 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


This is "Quest" by Lee Harding. It was originally published in New Worlds Science Fiction, April 1963. You can read it at the Internet Archive. If you read it in an anthology, it may have been Lambda I and Other Stories (1964) (reprinted in 1977).

The protagonist, Harry Johnston, starts out the story asking the Divisional Controller where he can find something not made by man. He gets no help, so sets out to find something. He journeys to the base of the city (27 miles down) and finds nothing but city reaching down to the core of the Earth. He then tries first walking, then taking an air car in search of something other than city. Finally, he finds a patch of green that turns out to be the Great Park. He glories in grass, trees, flowers, ants and birds, wandering until he meets the Caretaker. The Caretaker tries to send him back to his normal life, but as he leaves he tries to pick a rose. The rose is fake, and it turns out the entire park is fake too.

The story is much as you describe except for the ending; he despairs of finding anything real and tries to kill himself, only to realize he isn't real either just before he is deactivated.

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