“The Alien Mind” was originally published in The Yuba City High Times in February 1981. It can now be found in The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick on pp. 385–387.
Jason Bedford woke up from his theta chamber and realized that his interstellar ship is off course. He never makes such errors but the Maknosians are altering him of his misdirection. They remind him that they need the vaccine his is delivering. Bedford learns that his cat, sent to accompany him on the trip, was pushing buttons on the control module and likely caused the error. He strangles the cat in rage, for embarrassing him in front of the alien minds.
Bedford’s ship arrives at Meknos III. They ask him for the whereabouts of his cat. He denies having one, but the Meknosians locate a large supply of cat food. He confesses he had a cat named Norman and the Meknosians send Bedford on his way.
On his way back to Earth, on a two year trip, Bedford learns that his theta chamber is disabled. He asks the Meknosians for aid and they just tell him that there are tapes he can watch. The compartment meant to hold the tapes had only a cat toy. He also finds that all of his food has been replaced with cat food, all of the same flavor.
“The Alien Mind” was the last short story Dick published. It is a brief story, actually published in a newspaper. It has a brief and poignant message, summing up Dick’s love of living things and his belief that human morality requires solidarity with both people and animals. Bedford saw the cat that accompanied him on his trip as first a play thing to help him survive the long trip. When he realizes that it has been messing with the controls, it becomes a nuisance that he removes. He is surprised to learn that his customers, the Meknosians, are more concerned for the cat than for the delivery of vaccine. They have the empathy for the cat that Bedford lacks. The aliens punish him by making him experience the two year trip with only the food and entertainment given a cat. We imagine that after two years, Bedford will be likely quite insane. If not, he will perhaps appreciate a bit more how enticing the controls will look after months of looking at the same cat toy and bad kibble.
Another interesting level of the story is the apparent awe and reverence Bedford has for the Meknosians. Over a small error, he is humiliated so badly that he must kill the cat. He mentions the alien mind twice. First to the cat he says: “You humiliated me in the eyes of an alien. You have reduced me to idiocy vis-a-vis the alien mind.” (385) The second time he mentions the alien mind is to himself when he realizes what they have done to his ship’s stories. “The alien mind, Bedford thought. Mysterious and cruel.” (387) His intense awe of the otherness of the alien allows him to accept their judgment.