The Commuter (short story)

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"The Commuter" was originally published in the August–September 1953 issue of Amazing Stories.

"The Commuter" is a science fiction short story by American writer Philip K. Dick, first published in the August-September 1953 issue of Amazing Stories. It has been reprinted over 20 times, including Croatian, Dutch, French, German and Italian translations.[1] As with much of Dick's fiction, it is an exploration of the boundary of existence.[2]


A railway station manager encounters the eponymous commuter, who speaks of a town that cannot be found on any normal map.[3] The commuter literally vanishes on close questioning about this ephemeral town. Based on the information the manager extracts from the commuter, he undertakes an investigation and boards a train the commuter claimed was scheduled to stop at the town.[4] The station manager finds himself arriving at the non-existent town.[5]

Subsequent investigation reveals that the town nearly existed. It was narrowly voted out of existence during a planning meeting, and the narrowness of this vote is directly reflected in the ephemeral nature of the town.[2]


The story was adapted by Jack Thorne into an episode of the Channel 4/Amazon Video anthology series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. Tom Harper directed the episode starring Timothy Spall, Tuppence Middleton, and Anne Reid.[6]


Ed Jacobson is a railway worker at Woking station. His life takes a turn for the worse when his son, Sam, begins experiencing psychotic episodes. When he is selling rail tickets at work, a young woman named Linda asks for a ticket to a destination called Macon Heights that is not listed on any map.[7] Intrigued, Jacobson takes the train indicated by Linda, then follows passengers who jump off the train and walk to an idyllic village that provides an escape from the traumas of their lives.[8] On his return home, he experiences an alternate reality where his son was never born. He must decide whether to accept this new life, or return to Macon Heights and demand Linda restore his original life, including his troubled son.[5]



  1. ^ "Title: The Commuter". Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Umland, Samuel J. (1995). Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 71. ISBN 9780313292958.
  3. ^ Klapcsik, Sandor (2011). Liminality in Fantastic Fiction: A Poststructuralist Approach. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 132. ISBN 9780786488438.
  4. ^ Nelson, Alex (September 15, 2017). "Electric Dreams: the Philip K. Dick stories behind the sci-fi show". iNews. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Robertson, Adi (January 16, 2018). "How Electric Dreams updates Philip K. Dick's Cold War stories". The Verge. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  6. ^ Denise Petski. "Timothy Spall To Star In "Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams' 'Commuter' Episode". Deadline.
  7. ^ Poniewozik, James (January 11, 2018). "Review: In 'Electric Dreams,' the Future Seems Outdated". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  8. ^ Chaney, Jen (January 11, 2018). "Is Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams the New Black Mirror?". Vulture. Retrieved February 4, 2018.

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