I am trying to remember a story that I heard in high school (around 1992) about a guy who visits a man in a shack in the middle of a wasteland because he can give the guy any experience that he wants. He declines, and goes home to his lovely house and wonderful family returning to his fantastic job. He then wakes up in the shack with the man, and leaves.

I would like to use it in my English degree, but I don't know who wrote it, what book it appears in or anything... Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • 4
    I remember this. The shack was in a post-apocalyptic swamp or bayou(?). The machine wasn't a virtual reality machine (as advertised) but was, in fact a multiverse-hopping device that allowed you to access a reality where your fantasies (usually sexual?) could come true. The hero turned out to just have a fantasy of having his dead wife and kids back. The customers always left with a smile on their faces but I recall he left suicidal.
    – Valorum
    Aug 10, 2014 at 22:05
  • There may have been some kind of conversation about the price being whatever he had on him?
    – Valorum
    Aug 10, 2014 at 22:56
  • Sounds like a mashup of Total Recall (original) and The Giver... with some small variance. Aug 11, 2014 at 0:43
  • @Rick I remember this, too! It was some old short stories collection. Robert Scheckley, maybe? I'll try to find this out.
    – Kao
    Aug 11, 2014 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


As @EikePierstoff and @Kao have both mentioned, this is almost certainly "The Store of the Worlds" by Robert Sheckley and collected in his short-fiction anthology of the same name

You can read (some of it) online here;

Mr. Wayne came to the end of the long, shoulder-high mound of grey rubble, and there was the Store of the Worlds. It was exactly as his friends had described: a small shack constructed of bits of lumber, parts of cars, a piece of galvanised iron and a few rows of crumbling bricks, all daubed over with a watery blue paint.

“I’ve heard about your store from friends,” Mr. Wayne said. “Then you know my price,” Tompkins said. “Have you brought it?” “Yes,” said Mr. Wayne, holding up his parcel. “But I want to ask first –” “They always want to ask,” Tompkins said to the parrot, who blinked. “Go ahead, ask.” “I want to know what really happens.” Tompkins sighed. “What happens is this. You pay me my fee. I give you an injection which knocks you out. Then, with the aid of certain gadgets which I have in the back of the store, I liberate your mind.”

“Your mind, liberated from its body, is able to choose from the countless probability-worlds which the Earth casts off in every second of its existence.”

The device is able to transfer the mind to an alternate reality for precisely one year, at the cost of ten years of the user's life.

If you have been harbouring a secret dream of murder –” “Oh hardly, hardly!” cried Mr. Wayne. “– then you will go to a world where you can murder, where you can roll in blood, where you can outdo de Sade or Caesar, or whoever your idol may be. Suppose it’s power you want? Then you’ll choose a world where you are a god, literally and actually. A bloodthirsty Juggernaut, perhaps, or an all-wise Buddha.” “I doubt very much if I –” “There are other desires, too,” Tompkins said. “All heavens and all hells. Unbridled sexuality. Gluttony, drunkenness, love, fame – anything you want.”


Robert Sheckley's "The Store of the Worlds" matches that description (it's four or five pages, so the question already contains all essential plot points),

  • Can you indicate why you think this is the right answer?
    – Valorum
    Aug 11, 2014 at 18:32

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