The story is from the perspective of the guy who doesn't believe he's on a spaceship. He is trying to help his companion, who insists that they are on a spaceship and have been attacked by aliens. The story concludes with the guy seeing a dead alien and suddenly realizing that he is indeed on a spaceship. Great twist.

  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this, and when do you think it might've been published? Also, did you read it in an anthology, a magazine, or online? Jul 17, 2022 at 16:05
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    Also, where did the guy think he was, if not on a spaceship? Jul 17, 2022 at 16:09
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    I read it around 1973. It was in a book of sci-fi short stories that we used in my high school class on sci-fi literature. I recall Nightfall was also in the book but don't recall any other stories from the book. As to where he thought he was, I don't recall. He was just trying to convince his friend that he was delusional.
    – Chico
    Jul 17, 2022 at 17:25
  • This is a list of anthologies Nightfall has appeared in. It's a long list, but it might be worth a look through in case you recognise one of the titles. Jul 17, 2022 at 17:53
  • Ok, thanks, I'll give it a go.
    – Chico
    Jul 17, 2022 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


The Yellow Pill by Rog Philips.

it starts in a psychiatrist's office where the psychiatrist is about to see a patient called Jerry Bocek who shot and killed several people claiming they were aliens. But when Jerry enters the office he claims they are on a spaceship and the psychiatrist is his crewmate Gar Castle.

I’m Dr. Cedric Elton, a psychiatrist,” Cedric said. “Do you have any idea at all why you have been brought to me?”
“Brought to you?” Jerry echoed, chuckling. “Don’t kid me. You’re my old pal, Gar Castle. Brought to you? How could I get away from you in this stinking tub?”
“Stinking tub?” Cedric said.
“Spaceship,” Jerry said. “Look, Gar. Untie me, will you? This nonsense has gone far enough.”
“My name is Dr. Cedric Elton,” Cedric enunciated. “You are not on a spaceship. You were brought to my office by the four policemen standing in back of you, and—”
Jerry Bocek turned his head and studied each of the four policemen with frank curiosity. “What policemen?” he interrupted. “You mean these four gear lockers?” He turned his head back and looked pityingly at Dr. Elton. “You’d better get hold of yourself, Gar,” he said. “You’re imagining things.”

Jerry insists Cedric/Gar take one of the eponymous yellow pills so he can see the real world. Cedric eventually does and sees:

On the chart table in front of him the bottle of yellow pills lay on its side, pills scattered all over the table. On the other side of the control room lay Jerry Bocek, his back propped against one of the four gear lockers, sound asleep, with so many ropes wrapped around him that it would probably be impossible for him to stand up.
Against the far wall were three other gear lockers, two of them with their paint badly scorched, the third with its door half melted off.
And in various positions about the control room were the half-charred bodies of five blue-scaled Venusian lizards.

But now the Cedric believes he's on the spaceship while Jerry believes he's back to normal. The story ends:

Abruptly Jerry turned and went over to the air-lock door and opened it.
“Good-by now, Dr. Elton,” he said.
Wait!” Gar screamed, leaping toward Jerry.
But Jerry had stepped into the air lock and closed the door. Gar tried to open it, but already Jerry had turned on the pump that would evacuate the air from the lock.
Screaming Jerry’s name senselessly in horror, Gar watched through the small square of thick glass in the door as Jerry’s chest quickly expanded, then collapsed as a mixture of phlegm and blood dribbled from his nostrils and lips, and his eyes enlarged and glazed over, then one of them ripped open and collapsed, its fluid draining down his cheek.
He watched as Jerry glanced toward the side of the air lock and smiled, then spun the wheel that opened the air lock to the vacuum of space, and stepped out.
And when Gar finally stopped screaming and sank to the deck, sobbing, his knuckles were broken and bloody from pounding on bare metal

Both The Yellow Pill and Nightfall were in the anthology A Science Fiction Reader published in 1973, which neatly fits the time you remember reading the story.

  • Done, sorry it took a while. What a great website!
    – Chico
    Jul 21, 2022 at 17:01

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