Another story I read a few years ago that is likely to be from the 70s or 80s.

This one involves a pilot crashing his ship on an unknown planet. The crash was caused by an alien creature who resides in a metal pyramid on the planet's surface. After the impact, a message is played back to the pilot, constructed from his own audio logs. It tells him that all technology has been taken from him and challenges him to survive.
With each passing day, the once civilized man more closely resembles an animal, driven by instinct. However, he is able to retain his sense of reason and begins formulating a plan to penetrate the force-field surrounding the pyramid and to infiltrate the structure itself.
When he first catches a glimpse of the alien (referred to as "the Other"), he becomes frightened and runs. Later, he conquers his fear and resolves to return to the pyramid to confront the Other. The Other, although physically more powerful, is terrified by the vicious animal that has somehow bypassed the pyramid's defenses. In the end, the pilot is repeatedly smashing the Other's skull in with a rock, long after the alien's demise.

1 Answer 1


This is Gordon R Dickson's In The Bone, first published in If: Worlds of Science Fiction, October 1966.

Here's the alien pyramid-like ship:

The world was one which, from orbit, seemed to be the best of all the planets which he had discovered were suitable for human settlement; and he was about to go down to its surface personally in the control-suit, when his instruments picked out something already down there.

It was a squat, metallic pyramid about the size of a four-plex apartment building; and it was radiating on a number of interesting frequencies. Around its base there was mechanical movement and an area of cleared ground. Further out, in the native forest, were treaded vehicles taking samples of the soil, rock, and vegetation.

And here's the message:

The lightning vanished. A yellow lightness filled the air about Harry and the dismembered suit. There was a strange quivering to the yellowness; and Harry half-smelled, half-tasted the sudden, flat bite of ozone. In the headpiece a button clicked without being touched; and the suit speaker, still radio-connected with the recording tank in orbit, spoke aloud in Harry’s voice.

“Orbit …” it said. “… into … going…”

These were, in reverse order, the last three words Harry had recorded before sighting the pyramid. Now, swiftly gaining speed, the speaker began to recite backward, word for word, everything Harry had said into it in nine weeks. Faster it went, and faster until it mounted to a chatter, a gabble, and finally a whine pushing against the upper limits of Harry’s auditory register.

Suddenly, it stopped.

The little clearing about Harry was full of silence. Only the odd and distant creaking of something that might have been a rubbing branch or an alien insect came to Harry’s ears. Then the speaker spoke once more.

“Animal …” it said flatly in Harry’s calm, recorded voice and went on to pick further words from the recordings. “… best. You … were an animal … wrapped in … made clothing. I have stripped you back to … animal again. Live, beast …”

Almost everything else in your description matches up as well. After being stripped of his technology, the main character suffers what today would be called a psychotic break. Eventually he's able to start getting himself together enough to defeat the alien.

  • +1 Good answer. However, seeing as that story has appeared in a bunch of places besides the 1987 collection with the same title, don't you think a link to the ISFDB bibliography page for the short story "In the Bone" would be more useful to the reader than a link to an Amazon.com advertisement for that particular collection?
    – user14111
    Jan 28, 2015 at 23:30
  • I thought StackExchange got a bone thrown to it from Amazon for links.
    – Joe L.
    Jan 28, 2015 at 23:37
  • Thank you, exactly what I was looking for. I'm not sure if posting this is against the terms, but I found the complete story online here. Jan 28, 2015 at 23:47

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