Getting What You Ask For
A Note from the Admins: We’ve received our first account! This mind-bending tale comes from “Manfred Steiner III,” a pseudonymous submitter who has provided no background info. We’re glad someone got on board so early, and we hope this will kick things off with a bang. Thanks to Manfred for his comprehensive and insightful account.
It was around August of 2010 when my experience occurred. I had just gotten a new laptop – a birthday present from my future wife – a month earlier. On the hutch above the computer had been a small, wooden globe. At the top was a small spike – the tip of the axle which allowed the globe to rotate. The cats, while we were out one day, had knocked this down, sending the little spike into the top of my closed computer. When I opened it up, the screen was all wonky, the liquid having been set loose behind the film of the screen. On the surface of the lid was a small dent.
I was devastated. To shake off the crappy feeling, we decided to drive out to the Salvation Army. This particular location was about an hour away, in the middle of nowhere. Nothing much beside Mennonite communities existed in that direction.
As we were driving, I sighed with disappointment. F asked me if I was alright. I was; I have a sense of humor about misfortune. It was in that spirit that I shook my fist at the sky and proclaimed, “You owe me a Philip K. Dick hardcover!” Up until this point in my life, I had always been essentially an Athiest, in the “without god” sense; I still am. Shaking my fist at the sky was meant to be funny. However, the feeling behind it was quite real.
When we got to there, we set about scouring the bookshelves. F started on the opposite side; as I was scanning cover after cover, I head her say my name. I came to see what she had found.
It was a pristine, untouched hardcover edition of “Counterfeit Unrealities,” an anthology of four novels, including Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, Androids, and Three Stigmata.
I stood there in shock. What is the appropriate response to getting what you ask for when you make demands of the sky? We went home, my world beginning to tilt.That night, I had a strange sensation. It seemed that the book was transmitting. I was uneasy.
I woke up abruptly to F telling me about a very unpleasant dream she had. Some details are personal, but the basic events involved the decaying of a person into a state resembling a pile of meat, as well as other forms of physical decay. The spirit of these events, as well as the details, reminded me quite a lot of a book I had read the previous year, long before I found the anthology which also contained it – Ubik.
I was worried about telling this to F, but I tried anyhow; I will always remember her saying, in frustration, “This is not about Philip K. Dick!” I had been trying to get her to read something of his for some time, but had so far been unsuccessful; I think she was already feeling overstimulated by my talking about him.
Other dreams followed, too many to get into here – dreams with elements from Ubik, forces that seemed to resemble Jory – cunning, deceptive, preying on the familiar. Days later, we were at F’s mother’s house again. The severity of the dreams had been disturbing F greatly, and she shared some of them with her mother. Her mother responded by telling us a dream she had had. In the dream, she was walking down one of the main streets in our area, past the area where there now stands a CVS. As she walked past, the facade of the building changed, giving way to an old drug store. She entered, and inside, the entire place was old, like the five-and-dimes of her youth. She picked up a book, the pages of which showed moving images – images of her life, of her childhood, which changed as she looked at them.
I said nothing. The next day, over lunch, I pulled out the book – the new one I had found – and read F the passage from Ubik which corresponded to her mother’s dream. The connection was even less tenuous that those in F’s dreams. It was direct.
This was a strange situation. The book had appeared at my demand, but the dreams were not mine. They all related specifically to Ubik. I was the only person involved who had read that book. I held the information that connected all these experiences, but they branched out beyond me. There was sufficient complexity in the situation that I could not simply ignore it. There were other people involved, which showed me that this was not simply a personal experience, but something that connected to a larger message or truth.
As I pondered the experiences, the first conclusion I came to, the only one that made sense at the time, was that I was dead. The book was brought into my realm of experience in a way that implied intent. It contained information I was already privy to as fiction, in such a way as to offer commentary on said information. In the book, when information is “placed” into the reality of the characters, it serves to make them aware of their true situation – that they are dead and in stasis. All the strangeness of my life seemed to fit into this notion.
Months later, we returned to that same Salvation Army, having had a “feeling;” I even asked for a PKD hardcover again. In the same place we’d found the Dick book before there was a copy of the Gnostic Bible – hardcover, perfect condition. In the intervening months, I’d already acquired a copy of the Gnostic Scriptures, the first printing – my father happened to have it. It was almost as if the second coincidence was a joke and a commentary – I’d been led to those texts already, and that was where I needed to be. On the way out, I happened to glance at the very small “religion” shelf – where I found a hardcover edition of the comic book adaptation of “A Scanner Darkly.” Again, it seemed like a joke – I’d found a hardcover PKD book, again, like I asked for, but it was the bullshittiest one possible. And on top of that, I’d found it in the religion section, while I’d found the Gnostic Bible in the same location as the first book.
Time went on, and I tried to parse the particulars of this. I looked for evidence of others who had similarly “mystical” experiences, in particular relating to PKD. I looked into Gnosticism, an inevitable end to all of these things. There I began to find some answers that made sense. It wasn’t as simple as my being dead. The world as I knew it, and perhaps everyone in it, was unreal or occluded; this was all a sort of Cold Pak. It was a startling cosmology, but a lot was still missing. I had felt the sense of intent, but it hadn’t seemed divine; it had seemed otherly, but human. I responded to the cosmological aspects of Gnosticism, but could never understand why it got tied up in Jesus, or even religion proper. Without getting too far into my beliefs, I’ll say this: I have a lot of respect for the Gnostic Christians I’ve encountered who’ve gotten there via PKD. In the end, though, I was led, through those ideas, to a different place.
I finally got F to read some Dick – I think the weight of the weirdness made it inevitable. Now we scour used bookstores together, that gleam in both our eyes. I still have inexplicable experiences from time to time, though never with as much clarity or obvious intent as that first time.