“The Eyes Have It” was published in Science Fiction Stories in 1953. It is currently most easily available in the third volume of The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (now known as Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick). It can be found on pp. 27–29 in that Second Variety version. It appears to be the shortest of Dick’s early career stories.
The narrator discusses his discovery of an invasion of Earth. The narrator warned the government but he was ignored. The narrator learned of this invasion by reading book found abandoned on a bus. He did not notice that the author of the story seemed to predict an alien race with immense powers, but on closer examination it was obvious on every line.
Reading every line of the novel literally, the narrator learned that the aliens’ eyes can move around the room, even shifting from person to person. They can remove other body parts, divide themselves into two parts to be in two places at once, and function without brains. Terrified, the narrator runs from the garage where he was reading the story to the house, where he plays Monopoly and awaits the alien invasion.
This is a delightful little story that shows how strange the English language can be when taken literally. The narrator, reading a mainstream novel, is irrational to do this, but in science fiction a sentence like “outside the movie theater we split up. Part of us went inside, part over to the cafe for dinner” (28) could be taken to suggest “binary fission.”
The story suggests a man losing control of his grip on reality, but this is manifest in the world as an inability to differentiate between metaphorical and literal language. This story also tells us about the use of metaphoric language in different genres. “He fired his gun” has a different meaning in erotica than it would in a western. In science fiction, we can go even farther and imagine that the gun was causing problems at work and the boss had to end his employment.
Audiobook version of “The Eyes Have It.”