Old story involving a man who acquires an anti-hallucigen and peels one drug-induced illusion after another from his world:

  • New cars become old cars, then clunkers, and finally people pretending to drive cars while running down the street
  • Fancy restaurants become dirty dives before dissolving into places where food is dispensed through feeding tubes.

I think it may be by P.K. Dick—it reminds me of his short story Faith of Our Fathers (1967).

  • 4
    Book, story, movie?
    – Valorum
    Oct 14, 2017 at 20:20
  • 2
    When did you read/watch this and when do you think it was produced (roughly the year maybe)?
    – Secespitus
    Oct 14, 2017 at 20:21
  • It's a true story, no drugs needed: Everyone lives it as they go from 50 to 60 to 70 years of age....
    – Vector
    Oct 15, 2017 at 0:23

2 Answers 2


Sounds like The Futurological Congress (1971) by Stanisław Lem.

From Wikipedia:

With his first sip of up'n'at'm, Tichy watches as the gilded surroundings of the five-star restaurant they are in evaporates into a dingy concrete bunker and his stuffed pheasant turns into 'the most unappetizing gray-brown gruel, which stuck in globs to my tin — no longer silver — fork'.

But this first dose is just the beginning of Tichy's journey. He sees that people do not drive cars or ride in elevators, but they run in the streets and climb the walls of empty elevator shafts, which explains why everyone in this new world is so out of breath. Robots whip people in the street and protect order. Through successive doses of up'n'at'm, Tichy sees increasingly horrible visions of the world, climaxing in a frozen horrorscape where people sleep blissfully in the snow and the police robots are revealed to be people who are convinced they are robots. The frozen state of the world explains why he has always found the new world to be so cold.

  • No, I have read Lem’s novel. I read the story I am asking about some 40 or 50 years ago.
    – Bill
    Oct 14, 2017 at 21:40
  • 1
    Or then again, maybe it was! Wow, I haven’t read Lem in so long...
    – Bill
    Oct 14, 2017 at 21:42
  • 4
    Thanks! I dug out a dust-covered copy of The Futurological Congress. This is the “story” I was thinking of. I seem to conflate elements of it with Faith of Our Fathers.
    – Bill
    Oct 14, 2017 at 21:55
  • 1
    Glad to help. A movie version was made a few years ago, too: The Congress imdb.com/rg/an_share/title/title/tt1821641
    – mmmlllsss
    Oct 14, 2017 at 22:11

Sounds a fair bit like Ubik (1969) by Philip K Dick. Quibble: It's not a drug, and (being a story written by PKD) it's not "true" reality either. It's a peeling-away of reality itself: the protagonist whose reality is de-evolving around him (cars becoming old cars becoming buggies, cash cards becoming money becoming ancient coins) was killed, and this is his "half-life" stasis experience. Ubik is a spray which can stabilize the de-evolution.

The point of the story is NOT that illusions are propping up society a la the Matrix, so if that was really the big reveal, maybe the Lem story is it.

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