A friend of mine visited the site of the bowling alley. THE Bowling Alley. It was February of 2020 — quarantine came down right after and he got stuck in California for two weeks between that and the business with the plane tickets — and I’m pretty sure it was The Bowling Alley for a couple reasons.
See, a few years ago, I met this guy in a bar. Kinda sketchy looking guy, but it was a sketchy kind of bar. Wrinkly, covered in faded tattoos, trucker hat over an uneven scrub of long gray hairs. He saw the five fingered hand of Eris tattooed on my arm, and came to talk to me.
“You one of them dis-cord-ians,” he said, in the manner of someone who had never heard the word “discordian” spoken aloud.
“After a fashion.”
“My college roommate was big into dis-cord-ya.” He looked like he was about eighty, but this was an experience so I let him talk. “Heard about it from an uncle, some acid casualty by that point.
“This uncle of his, you see, in about 1959, he was drinking in a bowling alley and he went outside to piss against the wall — seeing as how the head was in use by two assholes arguing loudly about philosophy or something — and he saw this globe of shining light. The light was silver at first, then green, then red, then gold, and then he didn’t know what color it was. And then it zipped off, like a UFO. I guess it WAS a UFO, seeing as how he never figured out what to call it.
“He was pretty drunk, but that’s no excuse, so the whole thing kept bothering him. That night, he dreamt about an apple.
“Nothing wrong with that apple, but the dream was so vivid that the dream-apple was more real than any real apple could ever be, and it put him off apples. He never ate an apple again.
“Anyhow, other than an aversion to apples, he barely thought about it again until 1973, when he went past that bowling alley again. It had been closed down, and the sign was removed, and there was something disturbing about the shadow on the wall from where the sign had been — like it didn’t really say the name of the bowling alley, but it secretly said something else.
“Anyhow, that night he had another dream. In that dream, he was in a forest at night, under a full moon, and this woman in a white gown appears from behind a tree. Like, a sapling that she couldn’t have possibly fit behind. She hands him a yellow apple, and he takes a bite out of it, but then stops because the texture is off. He looks down, and the apple has become a book. His mouth is full of pages.
“About ten years later he gets caught in the rain and has to duck into a used bookstore, and as he shakes off his coat he sees, laying on the floor in front of his feet, the book from his dream. Turns out to be the Dell Paperback Edition of book 2 of the Illuminatus trilogy, The Golden Apple. He takes this as a sign, and brings it to the cashier to buy it, but there’s no price. Turns out some other customer must have dropped it. He gets it for free.
“So this uncle has basically had his mind fucked, and got into discordianism in a big way, but I’m hearing this second hand and by the mid-80s he’s already taken enough drugs that maybe he read the book already and forgot or something.
“But he took my roommate to this parking lot, one night in May. The moon was high. Roomie would never say what happened there, but ever since, he was seeing the number five everywhere.”
I thought a bit about the inconsistencies in this guy’s story, and decided for the moment to ignore them. After all, this was more entertaining than drinking alone. “Can I buy you a drink,” I said.
“No,” he said, “I’ve gotta be getting back on the road.”
He picked up his coat and put it on, stuck his hand in his pocket, and paused, wide-eyed. “Here,” he said, and thrust a business card at me. “There was this fortune-telling place across the street from that parking lot, thirty years ago. This is their card.”
When a friend decided to go on a trip to California to see the PKD archives, I passed the card along, and he promised to do some kind of little ritual there. And, he did. See, apparently the fortune telling place got torn down too, and the one parking lot became two. And right in the middle was an unlicensed hot dog stand. So, my friend bought a hot dog in one lot and walked over to the other to eat it. There was some trouble getting the guy, who wasn’t fluent in English, to understand that he didn’t want a bun, so he finally lied and said he was gluten intolerant.
That night, my friend had this dream.
He was in the woods at night. There was a full moon. A woman in a silver dress came toward him, and handed him a book.
“There is a secret message in this book,” she said. “It will only be decoded during the aftermath. None of the authors will live to see it fully understood. The correct solution will be in my name, and the name of A L W 6 46.”
That’s why I think it was the right place.