Looking for a short story that starts with a man waking up in his bed with his wife beside him. Throughout the whole story keeps thinking that something isn't right, that his life is boring, or something like that.

Then in the end he discovers that he is a robot (possibly everybody else, but I'm not that sure), and the people who control these robots reprogram him again so that he doesn't question things/his reality.

I read this short story years ago and I can never seem to find it!

  • 3
    scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/91796/… this one?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 17:14
  • 9
    " I can never seem to find it!" Or perhaps every time you find it they reprogram you again so that you forget. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 17:41
  • 2
    I'm tending towards The tunnel under the world as suggested by Valorum, because it starts with the man waking beside his wife
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 6:06

2 Answers 2


I'm throwing this out as a possibility but some of the details match "In His Image" by Charles Beaumont. It was made into a Twilight Zone episode and you do say you read it years ago.

.... Disoriented by his frustrated urge to kill, he lingers in the road until a car hits him. The driver applies the brakes in enough time that Alan is not gravely hurt, but a deep cut in his wrist is bizarrely not bleeding. Alan peels back his "skin" to find metal rods and wiring underneath instead of flesh and bone.


.... Walter explains that Alan is an android he developed using funds from a calculator he invented, using help from some of the world's greatest scientists, and his own self-professed genius. He created Alan's memory by using his own memories of Couerville, which he left 20 years before, and filling in the blanks with a fictional aunt Mildred and a job at a fictional university. Alan was designed to be a perfect version of Walter - to be outgoing, bold and charming, while the real Walter is shy, self-pitying and socially awkward. Walter admits his scientific reach exceeded his grasp, and there are aspects of his creation which he does not understand....

Alan is outraged that Walter created an artificial human without considering the consequences, in particular the situation with Jessica. Walter is sympathetic but has no idea how to even diagnose the cause of Alan's homicidal episodes, much less correct it, and points out that Alan has no chance of a normal life with Jessica anyway, since he doesn't age. Alan then demands that Walter replace him with a properly functioning android who will love and care for Jessica, and writes down her address for Walter on some scrap paper taken from his pocket. When he recognizes the scrap paper is the pamphlet the evangelist gave him, it triggers another malfunction and he tries to kill Walter.

After the struggle, the survivor goes to Jessica and asks her to forget about his strange behavior of the past couple of days, saying that the nightmare is over and he will tell her what happened someday. In the final scene, it is revealed that the survivor is Walter and that Alan's broken form lies amid the wreckage of the laboratory.

  • Could you add in some more details about this and how it matches the OPs description?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 18:32
  • If you remember him going to his home town and everything being different, then that's it for sure. Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 19:06

Because I keep wanting to post this every time I see this question, and it's a valid partial match, Philip K. Dick's "The Electric Ant" matches on a man learning that he's a robot.

Garson Poole wakes up after a flying-car-crash to find that he is missing a hand. He then finds out that he is an 'electric ant' – an "organic" robot. He further finds out that what he believes is his subjective reality is being fed to him from a micro-punched tape in his chest cavity. He experiments on this tape by adding new holes, which adds things to his reality. Convinced that his entire reality is constrained by the tape, he makes a major change to it, with a major effect on his reality. The change affects everyone else he interacts with, which raises the question of whether any of them – or he himself – are "real" at all.

However, it does not end with them reprogramming. Rather, when he arranges for his tape (which has holes cut into it that account for things in his reality) to run out, he experiences everything at once from his perspective, followed by:

Frozen against the wall, Sarah Benton opened her eyes and saw the curl of smoke ascending from Poole’s half- opened mouth. Then the roby sank down, knelt on elbows and knees, then slowly spread out in a broken, crumpled heap. She knew without examining it that it had “died.”

Poole did it to itself, she realized. And it couldn’t feel pain; it said so itself. Or at least not very much pain; maybe a little. Anyhow, now it is over.

I had better call Mr. Danceman and tell him what’s happened, she decided. Still shaky, she made her way across the room to the fone; picking it up, she dialed from memory.

It thought I was a stimulus-factor on its reality tape, she said to herself. So it thought I would die when it “died.” How strange, she thought. Why did it imagine that? It had never been plugged into the real world; it had “lived” in an electronic world of its own. How bizarre.

“Mr. Danceman,” she said, when the circuit to his office had been put through. “Poole is gone. It destroyed itself right in front of my eyes. You’d better come over.”

“So we’re finally free of it.”

“Yes, won’t it be nice?”

Danceman said, “I’ll send a couple of men over from the shop.” He saw past her, made out the sight of Poole lying by the kitchen table. “You go home and rest,” he instructed Sarah. “You must be worn out by all this.”

“Yes,” she said. “Thank you, Mr. Danceman.” She hung up and stood, aimlessly.

And then she noticed something.

My hands, she thought. She held them up. Why is it I can see through them?

The walls of the room, too, had become ill-defined.

Trembling, she walked back to the inert roby, stood by it, not knowing what to do. Through her legs the carpet showed, and then the carpet became dim, and she saw, through it, further layers of disintegrating matter beyond.

Maybe if I can fuse the tape-ends back together, she thought. But she did not know how. And already Poole had become vague.

The wind of early morning blew about her. She did not feel it; she had begun, now, to cease to feel.

The winds blew on.


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