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Many years back I read a short science fiction story about sold love. If memory serves, a man comes to a pleasure-planet. He passes several attractions, the weirdest one being a place where you can kill women (with guns, hand grenades, etc.). He finally ends up at a place where he is promised to be sold "true love", for a limited time only.

He buys the package and indeed falls in love with the woman presented to him. They share some wonderful days until his time runs out. The woman returns to the company and he's desperately trying to get her back.

Due to his efforts, the salesman of the love-company finally admits that the love sold is controlled by some "effects" and not natural, though in every way the same as true love. Finally the frustrated man walks off and once again passes the place where you can kill women...

I've searched for this story for a while now. I don't think I've grabbed the whole concept of it back when I read it and I really want to read it again.

Any help finding it would be highly appreciated!

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  • "Pilgrimage to Earth" by Robert Sheckley, see this old question.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 22:16
  • Per accepted meta policy, we don't close story-ID questions as dupes unless they are confirmed by the asker or exactly the same. It certainly sounds similar, but the difference about the true love/woman returning vs buying a woman's freedom sounds different
    – The Fallen
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 22:40
  • It must be the one - I'm just not sure which of the potential sources I had in hand. But that's less important.
    – Pelle
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 23:42

1 Answer 1

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Funnily enough I asked about this story about two weeks ago. "Pilgrimage to Earth" by Robert Sheckley.

From a Goodreads review:

The hero, after diverse adventures, has finally reached Earth. It's the only planet in the Universe where they have this mysterious phenomenon called "love". He's read all about it, and he knows the theory: the magical feeling as your eyes meet across the room, that first, heart-stopping kiss, passionate nights when you feel your bodies melt into one, walking along the beach with your arms around each other. In short, he's swallowed the whole romance section at your average supermarket. But he's never experienced any of it himself.

So he gets off the spaceship, and the first thing he sees when he hits town is this sleazy joint with a lot of tacky-looking women not wearing very much. They're painted with targets. The owner comes out and asks the hero if he'd like to shoot any of the chicks. It's, like, $100 to shoot a girl, or if he wants to pay $500 he can have a machine-gun and massacre the whole lot of them. The hero just has no idea what to make of this, it sounds horrible. "Do you stay dead?" he asks one of the girls. "Don't be silly," she replies.

Well, he's certainly having none of THAT. He walks on a bit, and finds the offices of Love, Inc. He goes in, and explains that he's looking for heart-stopping kisses and passionate nights and stuff. They tell him he's come to the right place. He signs the forms, pays them the money, and looks up. There's a girl standing there, and he experiences this magical feeling as their eyes meet across the room. They leave the office in slo-mo, and as soon as they're outside he gets that first, heart-stopping kiss. They buy tickets for Hawaii, and pretty soon he's experiencing the rest of the package too. It's just as amazing as everyone had said.

At the end of the week, he wakes up and the girl's gone! He's scared and angry. After looking everywhere, he flies back to Love, Inc, and asks them to help him locate his true love. "Oh, she's getting ready for another job," they tell him. No, no, he says, they must be mistaken, this was the real deal. They try to argue with him, he's adamant, so in the end they bring her in. She looks at him like he's a total stranger. Well, they explain, the conditioning wears off after a week. Of course, he can pay for more time if he wants.

He stumbles out of the office in a daze. Somehow, without realizing where he's going, he finds himself in front of the sleazy shooting joint. The proprietor smiles at him. The hero takes a gun.

"OK, set 'em up"

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