“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” was originally published in Playboy in December 1980. It can now be found in The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick on pp. 359–373.
Victor Kemmings is on an interstellar voyage that will take ten years, so he is supposed to be in cryogenic suspension. Instead he awakens and is informed by the computer that he cannot be put back into cryogenic suspension. The computer tells him that he will feed him sensory images drawn from his personal memories. Victor fears that he will be under the authoritarian control of the computer for ten years (likely to feel much longer). He cannot even walk around the ship because it lacks air and provisions.
The first memories that are reconstructed into experiences involves Martine, Victor’s wife, who he lived with. The memory begins to break down and Victor is filled with terror when Martine vanishes. The computer decides to try an earlier memory.
The next memory involves a childhood experience. Victor arranged for his cat to kill a bird. After this he was stung by a bee, something he took as punishment for his act. He felt immense guilt for doing this. In the memory, a shadow and immense presence, scold him for his cruelty and demands he never do it again. Victor realizes how difficult it is for him to find happy memories of his past. The ship tries to give him another happy memory of his time with Martine, but this one again dwells on the guilt he felt over the death of the bird. Victor suggests he would be happy at the destination, so the ship sees this as a solution.
Victor wakes up along with the other crew members. He has a bee sting treated by a robot doctor and begins having memories of killing the bird. He realizes that he is still in the ship. Since the ship computer can only draw experiences from Victor’s memories, they will all be clouded by his neuroses and guilt.
The ship settles on recreating experiences of Victor’s arrival at his destination. They will be flawed, but will perhaps make the long trip manageable. During the trip, the ship locates Martine Kemmings. She agrees to meet Victor at the colony planet to help him make the transition. At the port Victor recalls his experiences and is a bit proud of how he has managed to explore every level of his subconscious. Assuming that this is all another constructed memory, Victor tries to Martine about how the memory will deconstruct. He refuses to believe that he has finally reached his destination.
“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” is, in my opinion, the strongest of Dick’s final short stories. While the basic idea of people being lost in space for long periods of time, trying to cope with the banality of space travel was explored earlier in A Maze of Death, this story strikes us as even more horrible because of the total loneliness experienced by Victor Kemmings. At least the people in A Maze of Death had a variety of experiences they could share. In a sense, they could explore the limits of each other’s’ subconscious, not merely their own. Victor had only his own neurotic personality to navigate. The trouble with this, is he was not a healthy person, obsessed about a minor incident he experience as a kid. Memories, usually such an important part of what it means to be human for Philip K. Dick are what utterly destroy Victor during this space flight.
This story builds on the theme that space exploration and travel is an unbearable horrible experience. In some ways, “Alien Mind,” Dick’s last published story is yet another part of his argument.
There is not a whole lot in this story in terms of social, political, or cultural critique. It is still a very nice science fiction story, written from a mature perspective.