CHAPTER VI: PATRICK DANVILLE

 

 

ONE

She wasn't wearing her gun. Joe had insisted she take the La-Z- Boy recliner when they'd returned to the living room after dinner, and she'd put the revolver on the magazine-littered end- table beside it, after rolling the cylinder and drawing the shells. The shells were in her pocket.

Susannah tore open the bathroom door and scrambled back into the living room. Roland was lying on the floor between the couch and the television, his face a terrible purple color. He was scratching at his swollen throat and still laughing. Their host was standing over him, and the first thing she saw was that his hair—that baby-fine, shoulder-length white hair—was now almost entirely black. The lines around his eyes and mouth had been erased. Instead often years younger, Joe Collins now looked twenty or even thirty years younger.

The son of a bitch.

The vampire son of a bitch.

Oy leaped at him and seized Joe's left leg just above the knee. "Twenny-five, sissy-four, nineteen, hiker Joe cried merrily, and kicked out, now as agile as Fred Astaire. Oy flew through the air and hit the wall hard enough to knock a plaque reading GOfJSJseS&OaRtiOMe to th e floor. Jo e turne d back to Roland.

"What I think," he said, "is that women need a reason to have sex." Jo e put one foot on Roland's chest—like a big-game hunter with his trophy, Susannah thought. "Men, on the other hand, only need a place\ Bing!" He popped his eyes. "The thing about sex is that God gives men a brain and a dick, but only enough blood to operate one at a—"

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He never heard he r approach or lift herself into the La-Z- Boy in orde r to gain the necessary height; he was concen- trating too completely on what he was doing. Susannah laced he r hand s togethe r int o a single fist, raised the m to the height of he r right shoulder, then brough t them down and sideways with all the force she could manage. Th e fist struck the side of Joe' s head har d enoug h to knock him away. She had connected with solid bone, however, and the pain in her hands was excruciating.

Jo e staggered, waving his arms for balance and looking around at her. His upper lip rose, exposing his teeth—perfectly ordinary teeth, and why not? He wasn't the sort of vampire who survived on blood. This was Empathica, after all. And the face around those teeth was changing: darkening, contracting, turn- ing into somediing that was no longer human. It was die face of a psychotic clown.

"You," he said, but before he could say anydiing else, Oy had raced forward again. There was no need for the bumbler to use his teeth this time because their host was still staggering. Oy crouched behind the thing's ankle and Dandelo simply fell over him, his curses ceasing abrupdy when he struck his head. The blow might have put him out if not for the homey rag rug covering the hardwood. As it was he forced himself to a sitting position almost at once, looking around groggily.

Susannah knelt by Roland, who was also trying to sit up but not doing as well. She seized his gun in its holster, but he closed a hand around her wrist before she could pull it out. Instinct, of course, and to be expected, but Susannah felt close to panic as Dandelo's shadow fell over them.

'You bitch, I'll teach you to interrupt a man when he's on a—"

"Roland, let it go!" she screamed, and he did.

Dandelo dropped, meaning to land on her and crush the gun between them, but she was an instant too quick. She rolled aside and he landed on Roland, instead. Susannah heard the tortured Owuff! as the gunslinger lost whatever breath he had managed to regain. She raised herself on one arm, panting, and

68 7 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

nointed the gun at the one on top, the one undergoing some horridly busy change inside his clothes. Dandelo raised his hands, which were empty. Of course they were, it wasn't his hands he used to kill with. As he did so, his features began to pull together, becoming more and more surface things—not features at all but markings on some animal's hide or an insect's carapace.

"Stop!" he cried in a voice that was dropping in pitch and becoming something like a cicada's buzz. "I want to tell you the one about the archbishop and the chorus girl!"

"Heard it," she said, and shot him twice, one bullet follow- ing another into his brain from just above what had been his right eye.

 

TWO

Roland floundered to his feet. His hair was matted to the sides of his swollen face. When she tried to take his hand, he waved her away and staggered to the front door of the little cottage, which now looked dingy and ill-lit to Susannah. She saw there were food-stains on the rug, and a large water-blemish on one wall. Had those things been there before? And dear Lord in heaven, what exactly had they eaten for supper? She decided she didn't want to know, as long as it didn't make her sick. As long as it wasn't poisonous.

Roland of Gilead pulled open the door. The wind ripped it from his grasp and threw it against the wall with a bang. He stag- gered two steps into the screaming blizzard, bent forward with his hands placed on his lower thighs, and vomited. She saw the jet of egested material, and how the wind whipped it away into the dark. When Roland came back in, his shirt and the side of his face were rimed with snow. It was fiercely hot in the cottage; that was something else Dandelo's glammer had hidden from them until now. She saw that the thermostat—a plain old Hon- eywell not much different from the one in her New York apart- nient—was still on the wall. She went to it and examined it. It was twisted as far as it would go, beyond the eighty-five-degree

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mark. She pushed it back to seventy with the tip of a finger, then turned to survey the room. The fireplace was actually twice the size it had appeared to them, and rilled with enough logs to make it roar like a steel-furnace. There was nothing she could do about that for the time being, but it would eventually die down.

Th e dead thing on the rug had mostly burst out of its clothes. To Susannah it now looked like some sort of bug with misshapen appendages—almost arms and legs—sticking out of the sleeves of its shirt and the legs of its jeans. The back of the shirt had split down the middle and what she saw in the gap was a kind of shell on which rudimentary human features were printed. She would not have believed anything could be worse dian Mordred in his spider-form, but this thing was. Thank God it was dead.

The tidy, well-lit cottage—like something out of a fairy- tale, and hadn't she seen that from the first?—was now a dim and smoky peasant's hut. There were still electric lights, but they looked old and long-used, like the kind of fixtures one might find in a flophouse hotel. The rag rug was dark with dirt as well as splotched with spilled food, and unraveling in places.

"Roland, are you all right?"

Roland looked at her, and then, slowly, went to his knees before her. For a moment she thought he was fainting, and she was alarmed. When she realized, only a second later, what was really happening, she was more alarmed still.

"Gunslinger, I was 'mazed," Roland said in a husky, trem- bling voice. "I was taken in like a child, and I cry your pardon." "Roland, no! Git up!" That was Detta, who always seemed to come out when Susannah was under great strain. She thought, It's a wonder I didn't say "Git up, honky, "and had to choke back

a cry of hysterical laughter. He would not have understood.

"Give me pardon, first," Roland said, not looking at her. She fumbled for the formula and found it, which was a

relief. She couldn't stand to see him on his knees like diat. "Rise, gunslinger, I give you pardon in good heart." She paused, then added: "If I save your life another nine times, we'll be some- where close to even."

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He said, 'Your kind heart makes me ashamed of my own," and rose to his feet. The terrible color was fading from his cheeks. He looked at the thing on the rug, casting its grotesquely misshapen shadow up the wall in the firelight. Looked around at the close litde hut with its ancient fixtures and flickering electric bulbs.

"What he fed us was all right," he said. It was as if he'd read her mind and seen the worst fear that it held. "He'd never poi- son what he meant to .. . eat."

She was holding his gun out to him, butt first. He took it and reloaded the two empty chambers before dropping it back into the holster. The hut's door was still open and snow came blowing in. It had already created a white delta in the litde entryway, where their makeshift hide coats hung. The room was a little cooler now, a litde less like a sauna.

"How did you know?" he asked.

She thought back to die hotel where Mia had left Black Thir- teen. Later on, after they'd left, Jake and Callahan had been able to get into Room 1919 because someone had left them a note and

(dad-a-chee)

a key. Jake' s nam e an d This is the truth ha d bee n written on the envelope in a hybrid of cursive script an d printing . She was sure tha t if sh e ha d tha t envelop e with its brief message an d compare d i t t o th e message she' d foun d i n th e bathroom , sh e would find th e sam e han d mad e both .

Accordin g t o Jake , th e desk-cler k a t th e Ne w Yor k Plaza-Park Hote l ha d told the m th e message ha d bee n left b y a ma n name d Stephe n King.

"Come with me, " she said. "Int o th e bathroom. " THREE

Like th e rest of th e hut , th e bathroo m was smaller now, no t

m uc h mor e tha n a closet. Th e tu b was old an d rusty, with a thi n

!ayer o f dir t i n th e bottom . I t looke d like i t ha d last bee n used .. .

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Well, the truth was that it looked to Susannah like it had never been used. The shower-head was clotted with rust. The pink wallpaper was dull and dirty, peeling in places. There were no roses. The mirror was still there, but a crack ran down the middle of it, and she thought it was sort of a wonder that she hadn't cut the pad of her finger, writing on it. The vapor of her breath had faded but the words were still there, visible in the grime: 0W> lAt/B, and, below that, &Wfc££O.

"It's an anagram," she said. "Do you see?"

He studied the writing, then shook his head, looking a bit ashamed.

"Not your fault, Roland. They're our letters, not the ones you know. Take my word for it, it's an anagram. Eddie would have seen it right away, I bet. I don't know if it was Dandelo's idea of ajoke, or if there are some sort of rules glammer things like him have to follow, but the thing is, we figured it out in time, with a little help from Stephen King."

" You figured it out," he said. "I was busy laughing myself to death."

"We both would have done that," she said. 'You were just a litde more vulnerable because your sense of humor . . . for- give me, Roland, but as a rule, it's pretty lame."

"I know tfiat," he said bleakly. Then he suddenly turned and left the room.

A horrid idea came to Susannah, and it seemed a very long time before the gunslinger came back. "Roland, is he still.. . ?" He nodded, smiling a litde. "Still as dead as ever was. You

shot true, Susannah, but all at once I needed to be sure."

"I'm glad," she said simply.

"Oy's standing guard. If anything were to happen, I'm sure he' d let us know." He picked the note up from the floor and carefully puzzled out what was written on the back. The only term she had to help him with was medicine cabinet. "'I've left you something.' Do you know what?"

She shook he r head. "I didn't have time to look." "Where is this medicine cabinet?"

She pointed at the mirror and he swung it out. It squalled

691 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

on its hinges. There were indeed shelves behind it, but instead of the neat rows of pills and potions she had imagined, there were only two more brown bottles, like the one on the table beside the La-Z-Boy, and what looked to Susannah like the world's oldest box of Smith Brothers Wild Cherry Cough Drops. There was also an envelope, however, and Roland handed it to her. Written on the front, in that same distinctive half-writing, half-printing, was this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$&e<{

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Childe?" she asked. "Does that mean anything to you?"

He nodded. "It's a term that describes a knight—or a gun- slinger—on a quest. A formal term, and ancient. We never used it among ourselves, you must ken, for it means holy, chosen by ka. We never liked to think of ourselves in such terms, and I haven't thought of myself so in many years."

'Yet you are Childe Roland?"

"Perhaps onc e I was. We're beyond such things now. Beyond ka."

"But still on the Path of the Beam."

"Aye." He traced the last line on the envelope: All debts are paid. "Open it, Susannah, for I'd see what's inside."

She did.

STEPHEN KING 692

 

 

FOUR

It was a photocopy of a poem by Robert Browning. King had written the poet's name in his half-script, half-printing above the title. Susannah had read some of Browning's dramatic mono- logues in college, but she wasn't familiar with this poem. She was, however, extremely familiar with its subject; the title of the poem was "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." It was nar- rative in structure, the rhyme-scheme balladic (a-b-b-a-a-b), and thirty-four stanzas long. Each stanza was headed with a Roman numeral. Someone—King, presumably—had circled stanzas I, II, XIII, XIV, and XVI.

"Read the marked ones," he said hoarsely, "because I can only make out a word here and there, and I would know what they say, would know it very well."

"Stanza the First," she said, then had to clear her throat. It was dry. Outside the wind howled and the naked overhead bulb flickered in its flyspecked fixture.

 

"My first thought was, he lied in every word, That hoary cripple, with malicious eye Askance to watch the working ofhis lie

On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford

Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored

Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby. "

"Collins," Roland said. "Whoever wrote that spoke of

Collins as sure as King ever spoke of our ka-tet in his stories!

'He lied in every word!' Aye, so he did!" "Not Collins," she said. "Dandelo."

Roland nodded. "Dandelo, say true. Go on."

"Okay; Stanza the Second.

 

"What else should he be set for, with his staff?

What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare

All travellers who might find him posted there,

693 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh

Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph

For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare. "

"Does thee remember his stick, an d how he waved it?" Roland asked her.

Of course she did. And the thoroughfare had been snowy

instead of dusty, but otherwise it was the same. Otherwise it was a description of what hadjust happened to them. Th e idea mad e he r shiver.

"Was this poet of your time?" Roland asked. 'Your when?"

She shook her head. "Not even of my country. He died at least sixty years before my when."

'Yet he must have seen whatjust passed. A version of it, any- way."

'Yes. And Stephen King knew the poem." She had a sudden intuition, one that blazed too bright to be anything but the truth. She looked at Roland with wild, startled eyes. "It was this poem that got King going! It was his inspiration!"

"Do you say so, Susannah?" v,

'Yes!"

'Yet this Browning must have seen us."

She didn't know. It was too confusing. Like trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg. Or being lost in a hall of mirrors. Her head was swimming.

"Read the next one marked, Susannah! Read ex-eye-eye- eye."

"That's Stanza Thirteen," she said.

 

"As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair

In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud

Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood. One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,

Stood stupefied, however he came there;

Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

"Now Stanza the Fourteenth I read thee.

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"Alive ? He might be dead for aught I know,

With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain, And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;

Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;

. ; \y I never saw a brute I hated so;

He must be wicked to deserve such pain."

"Lippy," the gunslinger said, and jerked a thumb back over his shoulder. "Yonder's pluggit, colloped neck and all, only female instead of male."

She made no reply—needed to make none. Of course it was Lippy: blind and bony, he r neck rubbed right down to the raw pink in places. Her an ugly old thing, I know, the old man had said . . . the thing that had looked like an old man. Ye old ki'-box and gammer-gurt, ye lost four-legged leper! And her e it was in black and white, a poem written long before sai King was even born, perhaps eighty or even a hundred years before: . . . as scant as hair/In leprosy.

"Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!" Roland said, smiling grimly. "And while she'll never stud nor ever did, we'll see she's back with the devil before we leave!"

"No," she said. "We won't." Her voice sounded drier than ever. She wanted a drink, but was now afraid to take anything flowing from the taps in this vile place. In a little bit she would get some snow and melt it. Then she would have her drink, and not before.

"Why do you say so?"

"Because she's gone. She went out into the storm when we got the best of her master."

"How does thee know it?"

Susannah shook her head. "I just do." She shuffled to the next page in the poem, which ran to over two hundre d lines. "Stanza the Sixteenth.

"Not it! I fancied.

She ceased.

"Susannah? Why do you—" Then his eyes fixed on the

695 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

next word, which he could read even in English letters. "Go on," he said. His voice was low, the words little more than a whisper.

"Are you positive?"

"Read, for I would hear."

She cleared her throat. "Stanza the Sixteenth.

 

"Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face

Beneath its garniture of curly gold, Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold

An arm in mine to fix me to the place,

That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!

Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold. "

"He writes of Mejis," Roland said. His fists were clenched, although she doubted that he knew it. "He writes of how we fell out over Susan Delgado, for after that it was never the same between us. We mended our friendship as best we could, but no, it was never quite the same."

"After the woman comes to the man or the man to the woman, I don't think it ever is," she said, and handed him the photocopied sheets. "Take this. I've read all the ones he men- tioned. If there's stuff in the rest about coming to the Dark Tower—or not—puzzle it out by yourself. You can do it if you try hard enough, I reckon. As for me, I don't want to know."

Roland, it seemed, did. He shuffled through the pages, looking for the last one. The pages weren't numbered, but he found the end easily enough by the white space beneath that stanza marked XXXIV. Before he could read, however, that thin cry came again. This time the wind was in a complete lull and there was no doubt about where it came from.

"That's someone below us, in the basement," Roland said. "I know. And I think I know who it is."

He nodded.

She was looking at him steadily. "It all fits, doesn't it? It's like ajigsaw puzzle, and we've put in all but the last few pieces."

The cry came again, thin and lost. The cry of someone

STEPHE N KIN G 696

who was next door to dead. They left the bathroom, drawing their guns. Susannah didn't think they'd need them this time.

 

, FIVE

The bug that had made itself look like a jolly old joke r named Jo e Collins lay where it had lain, but Oy had backed off a step or two. Susannah didn't blame him. Dandelo was beginning to stink, and little trickles of white stuff were beginning to ooze through its decaying carapace. Nevertheless, Roland bade the bumbler remain where he was, and keep watch.

The cry came again when they reached the kitchen, and it was louder, but at first they saw no way down to the cellar. Susannah moved slowly across the cracked and dirty linoleum, looking for a hidden trapdoor. She was about to tell Roland there was nothing when he said, "Here. Behind the cold-box." The refrigerator was no longer a top-of-the-line Amana with an icemaker in the door but a squat and dirty thing with the cooling machinery on top, in a drum-shaped casing. Her mother had had one like it when Susannah had been a little girl who answered to the name of Odetta, but he r mother would have died before ever allowing her own to be even a tenth as

dirty. A hundredth .

Roland moved it aside easily, for Dandelo, sly monster that he' d been, had put it on a little wheeled platform. She doubted that he got many visitors, not way out here in End-World, but he had been prepared to keep his secrets if someone did drop by. As she was sure folken did, every once and again. She imagined that few if any got any further along their way than the little hut on Odd Lane.

The stairs leading down were narrow and steep. Roland felt around inside the door and found a switch. It lit two bare bulbs, one halfway down the stairs and one below. As if in response to the light, the cry came again. It was full of pain and fear, but there were no words in it. The sound made her shiver. "Come to the foot of the stairs, whoever you are!" Roland

called.

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No response from below. Outside the wind gusted an d whooped, driving snow against the side of the house so hard that it sounded like sand.

"Come to where we can see you, or we'll leave you where you are!" Roland called.

The inhabitant of the cellar didn't come into the scant light but cried ovit again, a sound that was loaded with woe and terror and—Susannah feared it—madness.

He looked at her. She nodded and spoke in a whisper. "Go first. I'll back your play, if you have to make one."

" 'Ware the steps that you don't take a tumble," he said in the same low voice.

She nodded again and made his own impatient twirling ges- ture with one hand: Go on, go on.

That raised a ghost of a smile on the gunslinger's lips. He went down the stairs with the barrel of his gun laid into the hol- low of his right shoulder, and for a moment he looked so like Jake Chambers that she could have wept.

 

SIX

The cellar was a maze of boxes and barrels and shrouded things hanging from hooks. Susannah had no wish to know what the dangling things were. The cry came again, a sound like sobbing and screaming mingled together. Above them, dim and muffled now, came the whoop and gasp of the wind.

Roland turned to his left and threaded his way down a zig- zag aisle with crates stacked head-high on either side. Susannah followed, keeping a good distance between them, looking con- stantly back over her shoulder. She was also alert for the sound of Oy raising the alarm from above. She saw one stack of crates that was labeled TEXAS INSTRUMENTS and another stack with HO FAT CHINESE FORTUNE COOKIE co. stenciled on the side. She was not surprised to see the joke name of their long-abandoned taxi; she was far beyond surprise.

Ahead of her, Roland stopped. "Tears of my mother," he said in a low voice. She had heard him use this phrase once

STEPHEN KING 698

before, when they had come upon a deer that had fallen into a ravine and lay there with both back legs and one front one bro- ken, starving and looking up at them sightlessly, for the flies had eaten the unfortunate animal's living eyes out of their sockets.

She stayed where she was until he gestured for her to join him, and then moved quickly up to his right side, boosting her- self along on the palms of her hands.

In the stonewalled far corne r of Dandelo's cellar—the southeast corner, if she had he r directions right—there was a makeshift prison cell. Its door was made of crisscrossing steel bars. Nearby was the welding rig Dandelo must have used to construct it.. . but long ago, judging from the thick layer of dust on die acetylene tank. Hanging from an S-shaped hook pounded into the stone wall, just out of the prisoner's reach— left close by to mock him, Susannah had no doubt—was a large and old-fashioned

(dad-a-chum dad-a-chee)

silver key. The prisoner in question stood at the bars of his detainment, holding his filthy hands out to them. He was so scrawny that he reminded Susannah of certain terrible con- centration-camp photos she had seen, images of those who had survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald, living (if barely) indictments of mankind as a whole with their striped uniforms hanging off them and their ghastly bellboy's pillbox hats still on their heads and their terrible bright eyes, so full of awareness. We wish we did not know what we have become, those eyes said, but unfortunately we do.

Something like that was in Patrick Danville's eyes as he held out his hands and made his inarticulate pleading noises. Close up, they sounded to her like the mocking cries of some jungle bird on a movie soundtrack: I-yeee, I-yeee, I-yowk, I-yowk!

Roland took the key from its hook and went to the door. On e of Danville's hands clutched at his shirt and the gun- slinger pushed it off. It was a gesture entirely without anger, she thought, but the scrawny thing in the cell backed away with his eyes bulging in their sockets. His hair was long—it hung all the way to his shoulders—but there was only the faintest haze of

699 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

beard on his cheeks. It was a little thicker on his chin and upper lip. Susannah thought he might be seventeen, but surely not much older.

"No offense, Patrick," Roland said in a purely conversa- tional voice. He put the key in the lock. "Is thee Patrick? Is thee Patrick Danville?"

The scrawny thing in the dirtyjeans and billowing gray shirt (it hung nearly to his knees) backed into the corner of his tri- angular cell without replying. When his back was against the stone, he slid slowly to a sitting position beside what Susannah assumed was his slop-bucket, the front of his shirt first bunching together and then flowing into his crotch like water as his knees rose to nearly frame his emaciated, terrified face. When Roland opened the cell door and pulled it outward as far as it would go (there were no hinges), Patrick Danville began to make the bird-sound again, only this time louder: I-YEEE! I-YOWK! I- YEEEEEE!Susannah gritted her teeth. When Roland made as if to enter the cell, the boy uttered an even louder shriek, and began to beat the back of his head against the stones. Roland stepped back out of the cell. The awful head-banging ceased, but Danville looked at the stranger with fear and mistrust. Then he held out his filthy, long-fingered hands again, as if for succor.

Roland looked to Susannah.

She swung herself on her hands so she was in the door of the cell. The emaciated boy-thing in the corner uttered its weird bird-shriek again and pulled the supplicating hands back, cross- ing them at the wrists, turning their gesture into one of pathetic defense.

"No, honey." This was a Detta Walker Susannah had never heard before, nor suspected. "No, honey, Ah ain' goan hurt you, if Ah meant t'do dat, Ah'd just put two in yo' haid, like Ah did that mahfah upstairs."

She saw something in his eyes—perhaps just a minute widening that revealed more of the bloodshot whites. She smiled and nodded. "Dass ri'! Mistuh Collins, he daid.'He ain' nev' goan come down he ' no mo an .. . whuh? Whut he do to you, Patrick?"

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Above them, muffled by the stone, the wind gusted. The lights flickered; the house creaked and groaned in protest.

"Whuh he do t'you, boy?"

It was no good. He didn't understand. She had just made up her mind to this when Patrick Danville put his hands to his stomach and held it. He twisted his face into a cramp that she realized was supposed to indicate laughter.

"He make you laugh?"

Patrick, crouched in his corner, nodded. His face twisted even more. Now his hands became fists that rose to his face. He rubbed his cheeks with them, then screwed them into his eyes, then looked at her. Susannah noticed there was a little scar on the bridge of his nose.

"He make you cry, too."

Patrick nodded. He did the laughing mime again, holding the stomach and going ho-ho-ho; he did the crying mime, wiping tears from his fuzzy cheeks; this time he added a third bit of mummery, scooping his hands toward his mouth and making smack-smack sounds with his lips.

From above and slightly behind her, Roland said: "He made you laugh, he made you cry, he made you eat."

Patrick shook his head so violently it struck the stone walls that were the boundaries of his corner.

"He ate," Detta said. "Dass whut you trine t'say, ain't it?

Dandeloate."

Patrick nodded eagerly.

"He made you laugh, he made you cry, and den he ate whut came out. Cause dass what he do!"

Patrick nodded again, bursting into tears. He made inar- ticulate wailing sounds. Susannah worked he r way slowly into the cell, pushing herself along on her palms, ready to retreat if the head-banging started again. It didn't. When she reached die boy in the corner, he put his face against her bosom and wept.

Susannah turned, looked at Roland, and told him with her eyes i that he could come in now.

When Patrick looked up at her, it was with dumb, doglike

adoration.

701 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

"Don't you worry," Susannah said—Detta was gone again, probably worn out from all that nice. "He's not going to get you, Patrick, he's dead as a doornail, dead as a stone in the river. Now I want you to do something for me. I want you to open your mouth."

Patrick shook his head at once. There was fear in his eyes again, but something else she hated to see even more. It was shame.

"Yes, Patrick, yes. Open your mouth."

He shook his head violently, his greasy long hair whipping from side to side like the head of a mop.

Roland said, "What—"

"Hush," she told him. "Open your mouth, Patrick, and show us. Then we'll take you out of here and you'll never have to be down here again. Never have to be Dandelo's dinner again."

Patrick looked at her, pleading, but Susannah only looked back at him. At last he closed his eyes and slowly opened his mouth. His teeth were there, but his tongue was not. At some point, Dandelo must have tired of his prisoner's voice—or the words it articulated, anyway—and had pulled it out.

 

••*'•;• • ' '-• S E V E N

 

Twenty minutes later, the two of them stood in the kitchen doorway, watching Patrick Danville eat a bowl of soup. At least half of it was going down the boy's gray shirt, but Susannah reckoned that was all right; there was plenty of soup, and there were more shirts in the hut's only bedroom. Not to mention Joe Collins's heavy parka hung on the hook in the entry, which she expected Patrick would wear hence from here. As for the remains of Dandelo—Joe Collins that was—they had wrapped them in three blankets and tossed them unceremoniously out into the snow.

She said, "Dandelo was a vampire that fed on emotions instead of blood. Patrick, there . . . Patrick was his cow. There's two ways you can take nourishment from a cow: meat or milk.

STEPHEN KING 702

The trouble with meat is that once you eat the prime cuts, the not-so-prime cuts, and then the stew, it's gone. If youjust take the milk, though, you can go on forever . .. always assuming you give the cow something to eat every now and then."

"How long do you suppose he had him penne d up down there?" Roland asked.

"I don't know." But she remembered the dust on the acety- lene tank, remembered it all too well. "A fairly long time, any- way. What must have seemed like forever to him."

"And it hurt."

"Plenty. Much as it must have hur t when Dandelo pulled the poo r kid's tongue out, I bet the emotional bloodsucking hur t more. You see how he is."

Roland saw, all right. He saw something else, as well. "We can't take him out in this storm. Even if we dressed him up in three layers of clothes, I'm sure it would kill him."

Susannah nodded. She was sure, too. Of that, and some- thing else: she could not stay in the house. That might kill her.

Roland agreed when she said so. "We'll camp out in yonder barn until the storm finishes. It'll be cold, but I see a pair of possible gains: Mordred may come, and Lippy may come back."

"You'd kill them both?"

"Aye, if I could. Do'ee have a problem with that?" She considered it, then shook her head.

"All right. Let's pu t together what we'd take out there, for we'll have no fire for the next two days, at least. Maybe as long as four."

 

. T EIGH T i

It turned out to be three nights and two days before the blizzard choked on its own fury and blew itself out. Near dusk of the second day, Lippy came limping out of the storm and Roland pu t a bullet in the blind shovel that was her head. Mordred never showed himself, although she had a sense of him lurking close on the second night. Perhaps Oy did, too, for he stood at the mouth of the barn, barking hard into the blowing snow.

7 0 3 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

During that time, Susannah found out a good deal more bout Patrick Danville than she had expected. His mind had been badly damaged by his period of captivity, and that did not surprise her. What did was his capacity for recovery, limited though it might be. She wondered if she herself could have come back at all after such an ordeal. Perhaps his talent had something to do with it. She had seen his talent for herself, in Sayre's office.

Dandelo had given his captive the bare minimum of food necessary to keep him alive, and had stolen emotions from him on a regular basis: two times a week, sometimes three, once in awhile even four. Each time Patrick became convinced that the next time would kill him, someone would happen by. Just lately, Patrick had been spared the worst of Dandelo's depredations, because "company" had been more frequent than ever before. Roland told her later that night, after they'd bedded down in the hayloft, that he believed many of Dandelo's most recent vic- tims must have been exiles fleeing either from Le Casse Roi Russe or the town around it. Susannah could certainly sympa- thize with the thinking of such refugees: The King is gone, so let's get the hell out of here while the getting's good. After all, Big Red might take it into his head to come back, and he's off his chump, round the bend, possessed of an elevator that no longer goes to the top floor.

On some occasions, Jo e had assumed his true Dandelo form in front of his prisoner, then had eaten the boy's resulting terror. But he had wanted much more than terror from his cap- tive cow. Susannah guessed that different emotions must pro- duce different flavors: like having pork one day, chicken the next, and fish the day after that.

Patrick couldn't talk, but he could gesture. And he could do more than that, once Roland showed them a queer find he' d come upon in the pantry. On one of the highest shelves was a stack of oversized drawing pads marked MICHELANGELO, FINE FOR CHARCOAL. They had n o charcoal, but near the pads was a clutch of brand-new Eberhard-Faber #2 pencils held together by a rubber band. What qualified the find as especially queer was

STEPHEN KING 704

the fact that someone (presumably Dandelo) had carefully cut the eraser off the top of each pencil. These were stored in a can- ningjar next to the pencils, along with a few paper clips and a pencil-sharpener diat looked like the whistles on the undersides of the few remaining Oriza plates from Calla Bryn Sturgis. When Patrick saw the pads, his ordinarily dull eyes lit up and he stretched both hands longingly toward them, making urgent hooting sounds.

Roland looked at Susannah, who shrugged and said, "Let's see what he can do. I have a pretty good idea already, don't you?"

It turned out that he could do a lot. Patrick Danville's draw- ing ability was nothing short of amazing. And his pictures gave him all the voice he needed. He produced them rapidly, and with clear pleasure; he did not seem disturbed at all by their har- rowing clarity. One showed Joe Collins chopping into the back of an unsuspecting visitor's head with a hatchet, his lips pulled back in a snarling grin of pleasure. Beside the point of impact, the boy had printed CHUNT! And SPLOOSH! in big comic-book let- ters. Above Collins's head, Patrick drew a thought-balloon with the words Take that, ya lunker! in it. Another picture showed Patrick himself, lying on the floor, reduced to helplessness by laughter that was depicted with terrible accuracy (no need of die Ha! Ha! Ha! scrawled above his head), while Collins stood over him with his hands on his hips, watching. Patrick then tossed back the sheet of paper with that drawing on it and quickly pro- duced another picture which showed Collins on his knees, widi one hand twined in Patrick's hair while his pursed lips hov- ered in front of Patrick's laughing, agonized mouth. Quickly, in a single practiced movement (the tip of the pencil never left die paper), the boy made another comic-strip thought-balloon over the old man's head and then put seven letters and two exclamation points inside.

"What does it say?" Roland asked, fascinated.

"'YUM! Good!'" Susannah answered. Her voice was small and sickened.

Subject matter aside, she could have watched him draw for

705 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

hours; in fact, she did. The speed of the pencil was eerie, and neither of them ever thought to give him one of the amputated erasers, for there seemed to be no need. So far as Susannah could see, the boy either never made a mistake, or incorporated the mistakes into his drawings in a way that made them—well, why stick at the words if they were the right words?—little acts of genius. And the resulting pictures weren't sketches, not really, but finished works of art in themselves. She knew what Patrick—this one or another Patrick from another world along the path of the Beam—would later be capable of with oil paints, and such knowledge made her feel cold and hot at the same time. What did they have here? A tongueless Rembrandt? It occurred to her that this was their second idiot-savant. Their third, if you counted Oy as well as Sheemie.

Only once did his lack of interest in the erasers cross Susan- nah's mind, and she put it down to the arrogance of genius. Not a single time did it occur to her—or to Roland—that this young version of Patrick Danville might not yet know that such things as erasers even existed.

 

NINE •"'•'•'

 

Near the end of the third night, Susannah awoke in the loft, looked at Patrick lying asleep beside her, and descended die lad- der. Roland was standing in the doorway of the barn, smoking a cigarette and looking out. Th e snow had stopped. A late moon had made its appearance, turning the fresh snow on Tower Road into a sparkling land of silent beauty. The air was still and so cold she felt the moisture in her nose crackle. Far in the distance she heard the sound of a motor. As she listened, it seemed to her that it was drawing closer. She asked Roland if he had any idea what it was or what it might mean to them.

"I think it's likely the robot he called Stuttering Bill, out doing his after-storm plowing," he said. "He may have one of those antenna-things on his head, like the Wolves. You remember?"

She remembered very well, and said so.

"It may be that he holds some special allegiance to Dan-

STEPHEN KING 706

delo," Roland said. "I don't think that's likely, but it wouldn't be the strangest thing I ever ran across. Be ready with one of your plates if he shows red. And I'll be ready with my gun."

"But you don't think so." She wanted to be a hundred per cent clear on this point.

"No," Roland said. "He could give us a ride, perhaps all the way to the Tower itself. Even if not, he might take us to the far edge of the White Lands. That would be good, for the boy's still weak."

This raised a question in her mind. "We call him the boy, because he looks like a boy," she said. "How old do you think he is?"

Roland shook his head. "Surely no younger than sixteen or seventeen, but he might be as old as thirty. Time was strange when the Beams were unde r attack, and it took strange hops and twists. I can attest to that."

"Did Stephen King put him in our way?"

"I can't say, only that he knew of him, sure." He paused. "The Tower is so close! Do you feel it?"

She did, and all the time. Sometimes it was a pulsing, some- times it was singing, quite often it was both. And the Polaroid still hung in Dandelo's hut. That, at least, had not been part of the glammer. Each night in her dreams, at least once, she saw the Tower in that photograph standing at the end of its field of roses, sooty gray-black stone against a troubled sky where the clouds streamed out in four directions, along the two Beams that still held. She knew what the voices sang—commala! com- mala! commala-come-come!—but she did not think that they sang to her, or for her. No, say no, say never in life; this was Roland's song, and Roland's alone. But she had begun to hope that that didn't necessarily mean she was going to die between here and the end of he r quest.

She had been having her own dreams.

707 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

 

 

TEN

Less than an hour after the sun rose (firmly in the east, and we all say thankya), an orange vehicle—combination truck and bulldozer—appeared over the horizon and came slowly but steadily toward them, pushing a big wing of fresh snow to its right, making the high bank even higher on that side. Susannah guessed that when it reached the intersection of Tower Road and Odd Lane, Stuttering Bill (almost surely the plow's opera- tor) would swing it around and plow back the other way. Maybe he stopped here, as a rule, not for coffee but for a fresh squirt of oil, or something. She smiled at the idea, and at something else, as well. There was a loudspeaker mounted on the cab's roof and a rock and roll song she actually knew was issuing forth. Susannah laughed, delighted. "'California Sun'! The Rivieras! Oh, doesn't it sound finel"

"If you say so," Roland agreed. "Just keep hold of thy plate." "You can count on that," she said.

Patrick had joined them. As always since Roland had found them in the pantry, he had a pad and a pencil. Now he wrote a single word in capital letters and held it out to Susannah, know- ing that Roland could read very little of what he wrote, even if it was printed in letters that were big-big. The word in the lower quadrant of the sketch-pad was BILL. This was below an amazing drawing of Oy, with a comic-strip speech-balloon over his head reading YARW YARK! All this he had casually crossed out so she wouldn't think it was what he wanted her to look at. The slashed X sort of broke her heart, because the picture beneath its crossed lines was Oy to the life.

 

E L E V E N '•••'

The plow pulled up in front of Dandelo's hut, and although the engine continued to run, the music cut off. Down from the driver's seat there galumphed a tall (eight feet at the very least), shiny-headed robot who looked quite a lot like Nigel from the

STEPHEN KING 708

Arc 16 Experimental Station and Andy from Calla Bryn Sturgis. He cocked his metal arms and put his metal hands on his hips in a way that would likely have reminded Eddie of George Lucas's C3P0, had Eddie been there. The robot spoke in an amplified voice that rolled away across the snowfields:

"HELLO, J-JOE! WHAT DO YOU NUH-NUH-KNOW? HOW ABE TRICKS INKUH-KUH-KOKOMO?"

Roland stepped out of the late Lippy's quarters. "Hile, Bill," he said mildly. "Long days and pleasant nights."

The robot turned. His eyes flashed bright blue. That looked like surprise to Susannah. He showed no alarm that she could see, however, and didn't appear to be armed, but she had already marked the antenn a rising from the center of his head—twirling and twirling in the bright morning light—and she felt confident she could clip it with an Oriza if she needed to. Easy-peasyjapaneezy, Eddie would have said.

"Ah!" said the robot. "A gudda-gah, gunna-gah, g-g-g—" He raised an ar m that ha d no t on e elbow-joint bu t two and smacked his head with it. From inside came a litde whisding noise— Wheeep!—and then he finished: "A gunslinger!"

Susannah laughed. She couldn't help it. They had come all this way to meet an oversized electronic version of Porky Pig. T'beya-t'beya-t'beya, that's all, folks!

"I had heard rumors of such on the 1-1-1-land," the robot said, ignoring her laughter. "Are you Ruh-Ruh-Roland of G- Gilead?"

"So I am," Roland said. "And you?"

"William, D-746541-M, Maintenance Robot, Many Other Functions. Jo e Collins calls me Stuh-huttering B-Bill. I've got a f-f-fried sir-hirkit somewhere inside. I could fix it, but he fuh-fuh- forbade me. And since he's the only h-human around .. . or was ... " He stopped. Susannah could quite clearly hear die clit- ter-clack of relays somewhere inside and what she thought of wasn't C3P0, who she'd of course never seen, but Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet.

Then Stuttering Bill quite touched her heart by putting one metal hand to his forehead and bowing . . . but not to either

709 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

her or to Roland. He said, "Hile, Patrick D-Danville, son of S-S- Sonia! It's good to see you out and in the c-c-clear, so it is!" And Susannah could hear the emotion in Stuttering Bill's voice. It was genuine gladness, and she felt more than okay about low- ering her plate.

 

TWELVE

They palavered in the yard. Bill would have been quite willing to go into the hut, for he had but rudimentary olfactory equip- ment. The humes were better equipped and knew that the hut stank and had not even warmth to recommend it, for the furnace and the fire were both out. In any case, the palaver didn't take long. William the Maintenance Robot (Many Other Functions) had counted the being that sometimes called itself Joe Collins as his master, for there was no longer anyone else to lay claim to the job. Besides, Collins/Dandelo had the necessary code-words.

"I w-was nuh-not able to g-give him the c-code wuh-wuh- hurds when he a-asked," said Stuttering Bill, "but my p-pro- gramming did not pruh-prohibit bringing him cer-hertain m-manuals that had the ih-information he needed."

"Bureaucracy is so wonderful," Susannah said.

Bill said he had stayed away from "JJ-Joe" as often (and as long) as he could, although he had to come when Tower Road needed plowing—that was also in his programming—an d once a month to bring provisions (canned goods, mostly) from what he called "the Federal." He also liked to see Patrick, who had once given Bill a wonderful picture of himself that he looked at often (and of which he had made many copies). Yet every time he came, he confided, he was sure he would find Patrick gone—killed and thrown casually into the woods some- where back toward what Bill called "the Buh-Buh-Bads," like an old piece of trash. But now here he was, alive and free, and Bill was delighted.

"For I do have r-r-rudimentary em-m-motions," he said, sounding to Susannah like someone owning up to a bad habit.

STEPHEN KING 710

"Do you need the code-words from us, in order to accept our orders?" Roland asked.

"Yes, sai," Stuttering Bill said.

"Shit," Susannah muttered. They had had similar problems with Andy, back in Calla Bryn Sturgis.

"H-H-However," said Stuttering Bill, "if you were to c-c- couch your orders as suh-huh-hugestions, I'm sure I'd be huh- huh-huh-huh— " He raised his arm and smacked his head again. The Wheep! sound came once more, not from his mouth but from the region of his chest, Susannah thought. "—happy to oblige," he finished.

"My first suggestion is that you fix that fucking stutter," Roland said, and then turned around, amazed. Patrick had col- lapsed to the snow, holding his belly and voicing great, blurry cries of laughter. Oy danced around him, barking, but Oy was harmless; this time there was no one to steal Patrick's joy. It belonged only to him. And to those lucky enough to hear it.

 

THIRTEEN

In the woods beyond the plowed intersection, back toward what Bill would have called "the Bads," a shivering adolescent boy wrapped in stinking, half-scraped hides watched the quar- tet standing in front of Dandelo's hut. Die, he thought at them. Die, why don 'tyou all do me a favor and just die? But they didn't die, and the cheerful sound of their laughter cut him like knives.

Later, after they had all piled into the cab of Bill's plow and driven away, Mordred crept down to the hut. There he would stay for at least two days, eating his fill from the cans in Dan- delo's pantry—and eating something else as well, something he would live to regret. He spent those days regaining his strength, for the big storm had come close to killing him. He believed it was his hate that had kept him alive, that and no more.

Or perhaps it was the Tower.

For he felt it, too—that pulse, that singing. But what Roland and Susannah and Patrick hear d in a major key, Mordred heard in a minor. And where they heard many voices, he heard

711 THE WHITE LANDS OF EMPATHICA

only one. It was the voice of his Red Father, telling him to come. Telling him to kill the mute boy, and the blackbird bitch, and especially the gunslinger out of Gilead, the uncaring White Daddy who had left him behind. (Of course his Red Daddy had also left him behind, but this never crossed Mordred's mind.) And when the killing was done , the whispering voice promised, they would destroy the Dark Tower and rule todash

together for eternity.

So Mordred ate, for Mordred was a-hungry. And Mordred slept, for Mordred was a-weary. And when Mordred dressed him- self in Dandelo's warm clothes and set out along the freshly plowed Tower Road, pulling a rich sack of gunna on a sled behind him—canned goods, mostly—he had become a young man who looked to be perhaps twenty years old, tall and straight and as fair as a summer sunrise, his human form marked only by the scar on his side where Susannah's bullet had winged him, and the blood-mark on his heel. That heel, he had promised himself, would rest on Roland's throat, and soon.

 

CHAPTER I:

THE SORE AND THE DOOR (GOODBYE, MY DEAR)

 

 

ONE

In the final days of their long journey, after Bill—just Bill now, no longer Stuttering Bill—dropped them off at the Federal, on the edge of the White Lands, Susannah Dean began to suffer frequent bouts of weeping. She would feel these impending cloudbursts and would excuse herself from the others, saying she had to go into the bushes and do her necessary. And there she would sit on a fallen tree or perhaps just the cold ground, put her hands over her face, and let her tears flow. If Roland knew this was happening—and surely he must have noted her red eyes when she returned to the road—h e made no com- ment. She supposed he knew what she did.

Her time in Mid-World—and End-World—was almost at an end.

 

TWO

Bill took them in his fine orange plow to a lonely Quonset hut with a faded sign out front reading

 

? FEDERA L OUTPOS T l &

TOWE R WATC H

TRAVEL BEYOND THIS POINT IS FORBIDDEN!

She supposed Federal Outpost 19 was still technically in the White Lands of Empathica, but the air had warmed consider- ably as Tower Road descended, and the snow on the ground was

715

STEPHEN KING 716

little more than a scrim. Groves of trees dotted the ground ahead, but Susannah thought the land would soon be almost entirely open, like the prairies of the American Midwest. There were bushes that probably supported berries in warm weather— perhaps even pokeberries—but now they were bare and clat- tering in the nearly constant wind. Mostly what they saw on either side of Tower Road—which had once been paved but had now been reduced to little more than a pair of broken ruts—were tall grasses poking out of the thin snow-cover. They whispered in the wind and Susannah knew their song: Commala- come-come, journey's almost done.

"I may go no furdier," Bill said, shutting down the plow and cutting off Little Richard in mid-rave. "Tell ya sorry, as they say in the Arc o' the Borderlands."

Their trip had taken one full day and half of another, and during that time he had entertained them with a constant stream of what he called "golden oldies." Some of these were not old at all to Susannah; songs like "Sugar Shack" and "Heat Wave" had been current hits on the radio when she'd returned from her little vacation in Mississippi. Others she had never heard at all. The music was stored not on records or tapes but on beautiful silver discs Bill called "ceedees." He pushed them into a slot in the plow's instrument-cluttered dashboard and the music played from at least eight different speakers. Any music would have sounded fine to her, she supposed, but she was espe- cially taken by two songs she had never heard before. One was a deliriously happy little rocker called "She Loves You." The other, sad and reflective, was called "Heyjude." Roland actually seemed to know the latter one; he sang along with it, although the words he knew were different from the ones coming out of the plow's multiple speakers. When she asked, Bill told her the group was called The Beetles.

"Funny name for a rock-and-roll band," Susannah said. Patrick, sitting with Oy in the plow's tiny rear seat, tapped

he r on the shoulder. She turne d and he held up the pad through which he was currendy working his way. Beneath a pic- ture of Roland in profile, he had printed: BEATLES, not Beetles.

717 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"It's a funny name for a rock-and-roll band no matter which way you spell it," Susannah said, and that gave her an idea. "Patrick, do you have the touch?" When he frowned and raised his hands—I don't understand, die gesture said—she rephrased the question. "Can you read my mind?"

He shrugged and smiled. This gesture said I don't know, but she thought Patrick did know. She thought he knew very well.

 

THREE

> ' ''••

They reached "the Federal" near noon, and there Bill served them a fine meal. Patrick wolfed his and then sat off to one side with Oy curled at his feet, sketching the others as they sat around the table in what had once been the common room. The walls of this room were covered with TV screens—Susan- nah guessed there were diree hundred or more. They must have been built to last, too, because some were still operating. A few showed the rolling hills surrounding the Quonset, but most broadcast only snow, and one showed a series of rolling lines that made her feel queasy in her stomach if she looked at it too long. The snow-screens, Bill said, had once shown pictures from satellites in orbit around the Earth, but the cameras in those had gone dead long ago. The one with the rolling lines was more interesting. Bill told them that, until only a few months ago, that one had shown the Dark Tower. Then, sud- denly, the picture had dissolved into nothing but those lines.

"I don't think die Red King liked being on television," Bill told them. "Especially if he knew company might be coming. Won't you have another sandwich? There are plenty, I assure you. No? Soup, then? What about you, Patrick? You're too thin, you know—far, jar too thin."

Patrick turned his pad around and showed them a picture of Bill bowing in front of Susannah, a tray of neatiy cut sand- wiches in one metal hand, a carafe of iced tea in the other. Like all of Patrick's pictures, it went far beyond caricature, yet had been produced with a speed of han d that was eerie. Susannah applauded. Roland smiled and nodded. Patrick grinned, hold-

STEPHEN KING 718

ing his teeth together so that the others wouldn't have to look at the empty hole behind them. Then he tossed the sheet back and began something new.

"There's a fleet of vehicles out back," Bill said, "and while many of them no longer run, some still do. I can give you a truck with four-wheel drive, and while I cannot assure you it will run smoothly, I believe you can count on it to take you as far as the Dark Tower, which is no more than one hundre d and twenty wheels from here."

Susannah felt a great and fluttery lift-drop in her stomach. One hundred and twenty wheels was a hundred miles, perhaps even a bit less. They were close. So close it was scary.

'You would not want to come upon the Tower after dark," Bill said. "At least I shouldn't think so, considering the new res- ident. But what's one more night camped at the side of the road to such great travelers as yourselves? Not much, I should say! But even with one last night on the road (and barring breakdowns, which the gods know are always possible), you'd have your goal in sight by mid-morning of tomorrowday."

Roland considered this long and carefully. Susannah had to tell herself to breathe while he did so, because part of her didn't want to.

I'm not ready, that part thought. And there was a deeper part— a par t that remembere d every nuanc e of what had become a recurring (and evolving) dream—that thought some- thing else: I'm not meant to go at all. Not all the way.

At last Roland said: "I thank you, Bill—we all say thank you, I'm sure—but I think we'll pass on your kind offer. Were you to ask me why, I couldn't say. Only that part of me thinks that tomorrowday's too soon. That part of me thinks we should go the rest of the way on foot, just as we've already traveled so far." He took a deep breath, let it out. "I'm not ready to be there yet. Not quite ready."

You too, Susannah marveled. You too.

"I need a little more time to prepare my mind and my heart. Mayhap even my soul." He reached into his back pocket

719 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

and brought out the photocopy of the Robert Browning poem that had been left for them in Dandelo's medicine chest. "There's something writ in here about remembering the old times before coming to the last battle .. . or the last stand. It's well-said. And perhaps, really, all I need is what this poet speaks of—a draught of earlier, happier sights. I don' t know. But unless Susannah objects, I believe we'll go on foot."

"Susannah doesn't object," she said quietly. "Susannah thinks it's just what the doctor ordered. Susannah only objects to being dragged along behind like a busted tailpipe."

Roland gave her a grateful (if distracted) smile—he seemed to have gone away from her somehow during these last few days—and then turned back to Bill. "I wonder if you have a cart I could pull? For we'll have to take at least some gunna . . . and there's Patrick. He'll have to ride part of the time."

Patrick looked indignant. He cocked an arm in front of him, made a fist, and flexed his muscle. The result—a tiny goose-egg rising on the biceps of his drawing-arm—seemed to shame him, for he dropped it quickly.

Susannah smiled and reached out to pat his knee. "Don't look like that, sugar. It's not your fault that you spent God knows how long caged up like Hansel and Gretel in die witch's house."

"I'm sure I have such a thing," Bill said, "and a battery- powered version for Susannah. What I don't have, I can make. It would take an hour or two at most."

Roland was calculating. "If we leave here with five hours of daylight ahead of us, we might be able to make twelve wheels by sunset. What Susannah would call nine or ten miles. Another five days at that rather leisurely speed would bring us to the Tower I've spent my life searching for. I'd come to it around sun- set if possible, for that's when I've always seen it in my dreams. Susannah?"

And the voice inside—that deep voice—whispered: Four nights. Four nights to dream. That should be enough. Maybe more than enough. Of course, ka would have to intervene. If they had

STEPHEN KING 720

indeed outrun its influence, that wouldn't—couldn't—happen. But Susannah now thought ka reached everywhere, even to die Dark Tower. Was, perhaps, embodied by the Dark Tower.

"That's fine," she told him in a faint voice. "Patrick?" Roland asked. "What do you say?"

Patrick shrugged and flipped a hand in their direction, hardly looking up from his pad. Whatever they wanted, that ges- ture said. Susannah guessed that Patrick understood little about die Dark Tower, and cared less. And why would he care? He was free of the monster, and his belly was full. Those things were enough for him. He had lost his tongue, but he could sketch to his heart's content. She was sure that to Patrick, that seemed like more than an even trade. And yet . . . and yet . . .

He's not meant to go, either. Not him, not Oy, not me. But what is to become of us, then?

She didn't know, but she was queerly unworried about it. Ka

would tell. Ka, and her dreams.

 

FOUR

An hour later the three humes, die bumbler, and Bill the robot stood clustered around a cut-down wagon diat looked like a slighdy larger version of Ho Fat's Luxury Taxi. The wheels were tall but thin, and spun like a dream. Even when it was full, Susannah thought, it would be like pulling a feadier. At least while Roland was fresh. Pulling it uphill would undoubtedly rob him of his energy after awhile, but as they ate the food they were carrying, Ho Fat II would grow lighter still. . . and she diought diere wouldn't be many hills, anyway. They had come to the open lands, the prairie-lands; all the snow- and tree-covered ridges were behind them. Bill had provided her widi an electric runabout that was more scooter than golf-cart. Her days of being dragged along behind ("like a busted tailpipe") were done.

"If you'll give me another half an hour, I can smooth this off," Bill said, running a three-fingered steel hand along the edge where he had cut off the front half of the small wagon that was now Ho Fat II.

721 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"We say thankya, but it won't be necessary," Roland said. "We'll lay a couple of hides over it, just so."

He's impatient to be off, Susannah thought, and after all this time, why wouldn 't be be? I'm anxious to be off, myself.

"Well, if you say so, let it be so," Bill said, sounding unhappy about it. "I suppose I just hate to see you go. When will I see humes again?"

None of them answered that. They didn't know.

"There's a mighty loud horn on the roof," Bill said, pointing at the Federal. "I don't know what sort of trouble it was meant to signal—radiation leaks, mayhap, or some sort of attack—but I do know the sound of it will carry across a hundre d wheels at least. More, if the wind's blowing in the right direction. If I should see the fellow you think is following you, or if such motion-sensors as still work pick him up, I'll set it off. Perhaps you'll hear."

"Thank you," Roland said.

"Were you to drive, you could outrun him easily," Bill pointed out. 'You'd reach the Tower and never have to see him."

"That's true enough," Roland said, but he showed absolutely no sign of changing his mind, and Susannah was glad.

"What will you do about the one you call his Red Father, if he really does command Can'-Ka No Rey?"

Roland shook his head, although he had discussed this probability with Susannah. He thought they might be able to cir- cle the Tower from a distance and come then to its base from a direction that was blind to the balcony on which the Crimson King was trapped. Then they could work their way around to the door beneath him. They wouldn't know if that was possible until they could actually see the Tower and the lay of the land, of course.

"Well, there'll be water if God wills it," said the robot for- merly known as Stuttering Bill, "or so the old people did say. And mayhap I'll see you again, in the clearing at the end of the path, if nowhere else. If robots are allowed to go there. I hope it's so, for there's many I've known that I'd see again."

He sounded so forlorn that Susannah went to him and

STEPHEN KING 722

raised her arms to be picked up, not thinking about the absur- dity of wanting to hug a robot. But he did and she did—quite fervendy, too. Bill made up for the malicious Andy, back in Calla Bryn Sturgis, and was worth hugging for diat, if nothing else. As his arms closed around her, it occurred to Susannah that Bill could break he r in two with those titanium-steel arms if he wanted to. But he didn't. He was gentle.

"Long days and pleasant nights, Bill," she said. "May you do well, and we all say so."

"Thank you, madam," he said and put her down. "I say thudda-thank, diumma-thank, thukka—" Wheep!And he struck his head, producing a bright clang. "I say thank ya kindly." He paused. "I did fix the stutter, say true, but as I may have told you, I am not entirely without emotions."

 

FIVE

Patrick surprised them both by walking for almost four hours beside Susannah's electric scooter before tiring and climbing into Ho Fat II. They listened for the horn warning them that Bill had seen Mordred (or that the instruments in the Federal had detected him), but did not hear it.. . and the wind was blowing their way. By sunset, they had left the last of the snow. The land continued to flatten out, casting their shadows long before them.

When they finally stopped for the night, Roland gathered enough brush for a fire and Patrick, who had dozed off, woke up long enough to eat an enormous meal of Vienna sausage and baked beans. (Susannah, watching the beans disappear into Patrick's tongueless mouth, reminded herself to spread her hides upwind of him when she finally laid down he r weary head.) She and Oy also ate heartily, but Roland hardly touched his own food.

When dinner was done, Patrick took up his pad to draw, frowned at his pencil, and then held out a hand to Susannah. She knew what he wanted, and took the glass canning ja r from the litde bag of personals she kept slung over her shoulder. She

723 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

held onto this because there was only the one pencil sharpener, and she was afraid that Patrick might lose it. Of course Roland could sharpen the Eberhard-Fabers with his knife, but it would change the quality of the points somewhat. She tipped the jar, spilling erasers and paperclips and the required object into her cupped palm. Then she handed it to Patrick, who sharpened his pencil with a few quick twists, handed it back, and immediately fell to his work. For a moment Susannah looked at the pink erasers and wondered again why Dandelo had bothered to cut them off. As a way of teasing the boy? If so, it hadn't worked. Later in life, perhaps, when die sublime connections between his brain and his fingers rusted a little (when the small but undeni- ably brilliant world of his talent had moved on), he might require erasers. For now even his mistakes continued to be inspirations.

He didn't draw long. When Susannah saw him nodding over his pad in the orange glare of the fading sunset, she took it from his unprotesting fingers, bedded him down in the back of the cart (propped level with the front end on a convenient boulder jutting from the ground), covered him with hides, and kissed his cheek.

Sleepily, Patrick reached up and touched the sore below her own cheek. She winced, then held steady at his gende touch. The sore had clotted over again, but it throbbed painfully. Even smiling hur t he r these days. The han d fell away and Patrick slept.

The stars had come out. Roland was looking raptly up at them.

"What do you see?" she asked him. "What do you see?" he asked in turn.

She looked at the brightening celestial landscape. "Well,"

she said, "there's Old Star and Old Mother, but they seem to have moved west. And that there—o h my goodness!" She placed her hands on his stubbly cheeks (he never seemed to grow an actual beard, only a bristly scruff) and turned it. "That wasn't there back when we left from the Western Sea, I know it wasn't. That one's in our world, Roland—we call it the Big Dipper!"

STEPHEN KING 724

He nodded. "And once, according to the oldest books in my father's library, it was in the sky of our world, as well. Lydia's Dip- per, it was called. And now here it is again." He turned to her, smiling. "Another sign of life and renewal. How the Crimson King must hate to look up from his entrapment and see it rid- ing the sky again!"

six ' .

 

Not long after, Susannah slept. And dreamed.

 

SEVEN • ,. :

 

She's in Central Park again, under a bright gray sky from which the first few snowflakes are once more drifting; carolers nearby are singing not "Silent Night" or "What Child Is This " but the Rice Song: "Rice be a green-o, See what we seen-o, Seen-o the green-o, Come-come- commala!" She takes offher cap, afraid it will have changed somehow, but it still says MERRY CHRISTMAS! and

(no twins here)

she is comforted.

She looks around and there stand Eddie and Jake, grinning at her. Their heads are bare; she has gotten their hats. She has combine d their hats.

Eddie is wearing a sweatshirt that says I DRINK NOZZ-A-LA! Jake is wearing one that says I DRIVE THE TAKURO SPIRIT! None of this is precisely new. What she sees behind them, standing

near a carriage-path leading back to Fifth Avenue, most certainly is. It's

a door about six and a half feet high, and made of solid ironwood, from the look of it. The doorknob's of solid gold, andfiligtved with a shape the lady gunslinger finally recognizes: two crossed pencils. Eberhard-Faber

#2's, she has no doubt. And the erasers have been cut off.

Eddie holds out a cup of hot chocolate. It's the perfect kind mi t schlag on top, and a little sprinkling of nutmeg dotting the cream. "Here," he says, "I brought you hot chocolate. "

She ignores the outstretched cup. She'sfascinated by the door. "It's like the ones along the beach, isn 't it?" she asks. i

72 5 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"Yes," Eddie says.

"No, "Jake says at the same time.

"You'llfigure it out," they say together, and grin at each other, delighted.

She walks past them. Writ upon the doors through which Roland

dreiu them were TH E PRISONER and TH E LADY O F SHADOWS and THE

PUSHER. Writ upon this one is ^j^s©\ 1S^ . And below that:

' THE ARTIST

 

She turns back to them and they are gone. Central Park is gone.

She is looking at the ruination of Lud, gazing upon the waste lands.

On a cold and bitter breeze she hearsfour whispered words: "Time's almost up .. . hurr y . . ."

 

EIGHT

She woke in a kind of panic, thinking / have to leave him . . . and best I do it before I can s 'much as see his Dark Tower on the horizon. But where do I go1? And how can I leave him to face both Mordred and the Crimson King with only Patrick to help him ?

This idea caused her to reflect on a bitter certainty: come a showdown, Oy would almost certainly be more valuable to Roland than Patrick. The bumbler had proved his mettle on more than one occasion and would have been worthy of the title gunslinger, had he but a gun to sling and a hand to sling it with. Patrick, though .. . Patrick was a .. . well, a pencil-slinger. Faster than blue blazes, but you couldn't kill much with an Eber- hard-Faber unless it was very sharp.

She'd sat up. Roland, leaning against the far side of her lit- tle scooter and keeping the watch, hadn' t noticed. And she didn't wanthxm to notice. That would lead to questions. She lay back down, pulling her hides around her and thinking of their first hunt. She remembered how the yearling buck had swerved and run right at her, and how she'd decapitated it with the

STEPHEN KING 726

Oriza. She remembered the whisding sound in the chilly air, the one that resulted when the wind blew through the little attach- ment on die bottom of die plate, the attachment diat looked so much like Patrick's pencil sharpener. She diought her mind was trying to make some sort of connection here, but she was too tired to know what it might be. And maybe she was trying too hard, as well. If so, what was she to do about that?

There was at least one thing she did know, from her time in Calla Bryn Sturgis. The meaning of die symbols writ upon the door was UNFOUND.

Time's almost up. Hurry. . , ,,.•. ,, The next day her tears began.

NINE

There were still plenty of bushes behind which she could go to do her necessary (and cry her tears, when she could no longer hold them back), but the land continued to flatten and open. Around noon of their second full day on the road, Susannah saw what she at first thought was a cloud-shadow moving across the land far up ahead, only the sky above was solid blue from horizon to horizon. Then die great dark patch began to veer in a very un-cloudlike way. She caught her breadi and brought her little electric scooter to a stop.

"Roland!" she said. "Yonder's a herd of buffalo, or maybe they're bison! Sure as death n taxes!"

"Aye, do you say so?" Roland asked, with only passing inter- est. "We called em bannock, in the long ago. It's a good-sized herd."

Patrick was standing in the back of Ho Fat II, sketching madly. He switched his grip on the pencil he was using, now holding die yellow barrel against his palm and shading widi die tip. She could almost smell die dust boiling up from die herd as he shaded it with his pencil. Akhough it seemed to her that he'd taken the liberty of moving the herd five or even ten miles closer, unless his vision was a good deal sharper than her own. That, she supposed, was entirely possible. In any case, he r eyes

727 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN-KA NO REY

had adjusted and she could see them better herself. Their great shaggy heads. Even their black eyes.

"There hasn't been a herd of buffalo that size in America for almost a hundre d years," she said.

"Aye?" Still only polite interest. "But they're in plenty here, I should say. If a litde tet of em comes within pistol-shot range, let's take a couple. I'd like to taste some fresh meat that isn't deer. Would you?"

She let her smile answer for her. Roland smiled back. And it occurred to her again that soon she would see him no more, this man she'd believed was either a mirage or a daemon before she had come to know him both an-tet and dan-dinh. Eddie was dead, Jake was dead, and soon she would see Roland of Gilead no more. Would he be dead, as well? Would she?

She looked up into the glare of the sun, wanting him to mis- take the reason for her tears if he saw them. And they moved on into the southeast of that great and empty land, into the ever- strengthening beat-beat-beat that was the Tower at the axis of all worlds and time itself.

Beat-beat-beat.

Commala-come-come, journey's almost done.

That night she stood the first watch, then awakened Roland at midnight.

"I think he's out there someplace," she said, pointing into the northwest. There was no need to be more specific; it could only be Mordred. Everyone else was gone. "Watch well."

"I will," he said. "And if you hear a gunshot, wake well. And fast."

'You can count on it," said she, and lay down in the dry win- ter grass behind Ho Fat II. At first she wasn't sure she'd be able to sleep; she was still jazzed from the sense of an unfriendly other in the vicinity. But she did sleep.

And dreamed. A

STEPHEN KING 728

 

 

TEN

 

The dream of the second night is both like and unlike the dream of the first. The main elements are exactly the same: Central Park, gray sky, spits of snow, choral voices (this time harmonizing "Come Go With Me," the old Del-Vikings hit), Jake (i DRIVE THE TAKURO SPIRIT!) and Eddie (this time wearing a sweatshirt reading CLICK! IT'S A SHINNARO CAMERA!). Eddie has hot chocolate but doesn 't offer it to her. She can see the anxiety not only in their faces but in the tensed-up set of their bod- ies. That is the main difference in this dream: there is something to see, or something to do, orperhaps it's both. Whatever it is, they expected her to see it or do it by now and she is being backward.

A rather terrible question occurs to her: is she being purposel y backward ? Is there something here she doesn't want to confront ? Could it even be possible that the Dark Tower is fucking up communica- tions? Surely that's a stupid ideathese people she sees are but figments of her longing imagination, after all; they are dead ! Eddie killed by a bullet, Jake as a result of being run over by a carone slain in this world, one in the Keystone World where fun is fun and done is done (must be done, for there time always runs in one direction) and Stephen King is their poet laureate.

Yet she cannot deny that look on their faces, that look of panic that seems to tell her You hav e it, Suze—yo u hav e wha t we wan t to show you, you have what you nee d to know. Are you goin g to let i t slip away? It's th e fourt h quarter . It's th e fourt h quarte r an d th e clock is tickin g an d will continu e to tick, must continu e to tick becaus e all you r time-outs ar e gone . You have to hurr y . .. hurry.. .

 

, ELEVEN

 

Sh e snappe d awake with a gasp. It was almos t dawn . Sh e wiped a han d across he r brow, an d it cam e away wet with sweat.

What do you want me to know, Eddie? What is it you'd have me know?

To this question there was no answer. How could there be?

729 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

Mistuh Dean, he daid, she thought, and lay back down. She lay that way for another hour, but couldn't get back to sleep.

 

TWELVE

 

Like Ho Fat I, Ho Fat II was equipped with handles. Unlike those on Ho Fat I, these handles were adjustable. When Patrick felt like walking, the handles could be moved apart so he could pull one and Roland the other. When Patrick felt like riding, Roland moved the handles together so he could pull on his own.

They stopped at noon for a meal. When it was done, Patrick

crawled into the back of Ho Fat II for a snooze. Roland waited until he heard the boy (for so they continued to think of him, no matter what his age) snoring, then turned to her.

"What fashes thee, Susannah? I'd have you tell me. I'd have you tell me dan-dinh, even though there's no longer a tet and I'm your dinh no more." He smiled. The sadness in that smile broke her heart and she could hold her tears back no more. Nor the trvith.

"If I'm still with you when we see your Tower, Roland, things have gone all wrong."

"How wrong?" he asked her.

She shook her head, beginning to weep harder. "There's supposed to be a door. It's the Unfound Door. But I don't know how to find it! Eddie and Jake come to me in my dreams and tell me I know—they tell me with their eyes—but I don't! I swear I don't!"

He took her in his arms and held her and kissed the hollow of her temple. At the corner of he r mouth, the sore throbbed and burned. It wasn't bleeding, but it had begun to grow again. "Let be what will be," said the gunslinger, as his own mother

had once told him. "Let be what will be, and hush, and let ka

Work."

"You said we'd outrun it."

He rocked her in his arms, rocked her, and it was good. It was soothing. "I was wrong," he said. "As thee knows."

STEPHEN KING 730

 

 

THIRTEEN

It was he r turn to watch early on the third night, and she was looking back behind them, northwest along the Tower Road, when a han d grasped he r shoulder. Terror sprang up in her mind like a jack-in-the-box and she whirled

(he's behind me oh dear God Mordred 's got around behind me and it's the spider!)

with her han d going to the gun in her belt and yanking it

free.

Patrick recoiled from her, his own face long with terror, rais- ing his hands in front of him. If he' d cried out he would surely have awakened Roland, and then everything might have been different. But he was too frightened to cry out. He made a low sound in his throat and that was all.

She put the gun back, showed him he r empty hands, then pulled him to her and hugged him. At first he was stiff against her—still afraid—but after a little he relaxed.

"What is it, darling?" she asked him, sotto voce. Then, using Roland's phrase without even realizing it: "What fashes thee?" He pulled away from he r and pointed dead north. For a momen t she still didn't understand, an d then she saw the orange lights dancing and darting. She judged they were at least five miles away, and she could hardly believe she hadn' t seen

them before.

Still speaking low, so as not to wake Roland, she said: "They're nothing but foo-lights, sugar—they can't hurt you. Roland calls em hobs. They're like St. Elmo's fire, or something."

But he had no idea of what St. Elmo's fire was; she could see that in his uncertain gaze. She setded again for telling him they couldn't hur t him, and indeed, this was the closest the hobs had ever come. Even as she looked back at them, they began to dance away, and soon most of them were gone. Perhaps she had thought them away. Once she would have scoffed at such an idea, but no longer.

Patrick began to relax.

731 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"Why don't you go back to sleep, honey? You need to take your rest." And she needed to take hers, but she dreaded it. Soon she would wake Roland, and sleep, and the dream would come. The ghosts ofJake and Eddie would look at her, more frantic than ever. Wanting her to know something she didn't, couldn't know.

Patrick shook his head.

"Not sleepy yet?" - He shook his head again.

"Well then, why don't you draw awhile?" Drawing always relaxed him.

Patrick smiled and nodded and went at once to Ho Fat for his current pad, walking in big exaggerated sneak-steps so as not to wake Roland. It made her smile. Patrick was always will- ing to draw; she guessed that one of the things that kept him alive in the basement of Dandelo's hut had been knowing that every now and then the rotten old fuck would give him a pad and one of the pencils. He was as much an addict as Eddie had been at his worst, she reflected, only Patrick's dope was a nar- row line of graphite.

He sat down and began to draw. Susannah resumed her watch, but soon felt a queer tingling all over he r body, as if she were the one being watched. She thought of Mordred again, and then smiled (which hurt; with the sore growing fat again, it always did now). Not Mordred; Patrick. Patrick was watching her.

Patrick was drawing her.

She sat still for nearly twenty minutes, and then curiosity overcame her. For Patrick, twenty minutes would be long enough to do the Mona Lisa, and maybe St. Paul's Basilica in the background for good measure. That tingling sense was so queer, almost not a mental thing at all but something physical.

She went to him, but Patrick at first held the pad against his chest with unaccustomed shyness. But he wanted her to look; that was in his eyes. It was almost a love-look, but she thought it was the drawn Susannah he' d fallen in love with.

"Come on, honeybunch," she said, and pu t a han d on the

STEPHEN KING 732

pad. But she would not tug it away from him, not even if he wanted her to. He was the artist; let it be wholly his decision whether or not to show his work. "Please?"

He held the pad against him a moment longer. Then— shyly, not looking at her—h e held it out. She took it, and looked down at herself. For a moment she could hardly breathe, it was that good. The wide eyes. The high cheekbones, which he r father had called "those jewels of Ethiopia." The full lips, which Eddie had so loved to kiss. It was her, it was her to the very life . . . but it was also more than her. She would never have thought love could shine with such perfect nakedness from the lines made with a pencil, but here that love was, oh say true, say so true; love of the boy for the woman who had saved him, who had pulled him from the dark hole where he otherwise would surely have died. Love for her as a mother, love for her as a woman.

"Patrick, it's wonderful!" she said.

He looked at her anxiously. Doubtfully. Really ? his eyes asked her, and she realized that only he—th e poor needy Patrick inside, who had lived with this ability all his life and so took it for granted—could doubt the simple beauty of what he had done. Drawing made him happy; this much he' d always known. That his pictures could make others happy .. . that idea would take some getting used to. She wondered again how long Dandelo had had him, and how the mean old thing had come by Patrick in the first place. She supposed she'd never know. Meantime, it seemed very important to convince him of his own worth.

'Yes," she said. "Yes, it is wonderful. You're a fine artist, Patrick. Looking at this makes me feel good."

This time he forgot to hold his teeth together. And that smile, tongueless or not, was so wonderful she could have eaten it up. It made her fears and anxieties seem small and silly.

"May I keep it?"

Patrick nodded eagerly. He made a tearing motion with one hand, then pointed at her. Yes! Tear it off! Take it! Keep it!

She started to do so, then paused. His love (and his pencil)

733 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

had made her beautiful. The only thing to spoil that beauty was the black splotch beside her mouth. She turned the drawing toward him, tapped the sore on it, then touched it on her own face. And winced. Even the lightest touch hurt. "This is the only damned thing," she said.

He shrugged, raising his open hands to his shoulders, and she had to laugh. She did it softly so as not to wake Roland, but yes, she did have to laugh. A line from some old movie had occurred to her: I paint what I see.

Only this wasn't paint, and it suddenly occurred to her that he could take care of the rotten, ugly, painful thing. As it existed on paper, at least.

Then she'll be my twin, she thought affectionately. My better half;myprettytwinsis

And suddenly she understood— Everything? Understood everything?

Yes, she would think much later. Not in any coherent fash- ion that could be written down—if a + b = c, then c- b= a and c— a = b—but yes, she understood everything. Intuited every- thing. No wonder the dream-Eddie and dream-Jake had been impatient with her; it was so obvious.

Patrick, drawing her.

Nor was this the first time she had been drawn. Roland had drawn her to his world . . . with magic.

' Eddie had drawn her to himself with love.

As had Jake.

Dear God, had she been here so long and been through so much without knowing what ka-tet was, what it meant? Ka-tet was family.

Ka-tet was love.

To draw is to make a picture with a pencil, or maybe char- coal.

To draw is also to fascinate, to compel, and to bring for-

ward. To bring one out of one's self.

The drawers were where Detta went to fulfill herself. Patrick, that tongueless boy genius, pent up in the wilder-

ness. Pent up in the drawers. And now? Now?

STEPHEN KING 734

Now he my forspecial, thought Susanna/Odetta/Detta, and reached into her pocket for the glass jar, knowing exacdy what she was going to do and why she was going to do it.

When she handed back the pad without tearing off the sheet that now held her image, Patrick looked badly disap- pointed.

"Nar, nar," said she (and in the voice of many). "Only there's something I'd have you do before I take it for my pretty, for my precious, for my ever, to keep and know how I was at this where, at this when."

She held out one of the pink rubber pieces, understanding now why Dandelo had cut them off. For he' d had his reasons.

Patrick took what she offered and turned it over between his fingers, frowning, as if he had never seen such a thing before. Susannah was sure he had, but how many years ago? How close might he have come to disposing of his tormentor, once and for all? And why hadn't Dandelo just killed him then?

Because once he took away the erasers he thought he was safe, she

thought.

Patrick was looking at her, puzzled. Beginning to be upset. Susannah sat down beside him and pointed at the blemish

on the drawing. Then she put her fingers delicately around

Patrick's wrist and drew it toward the paper. At first he resisted, then let his hand with the pink nubbin in it be tugged forward.

She thought of the shadow on the land that hadn't been a shadow at all but a herd of great, shaggy beasts Roland called bannock. She thought of how she'd been able to smell the dust when Patrick began to draw the dust. And she thought of how, when Patrick had drawn the herd closer than it actually was (artistic license, and we all say thankya), it had actually looked closer. She remembered thinking that her eyes had adjusted and now marveled at her own stupidity. As if eyes could adjust to dis- tance the way they could adjust to the dark.

No, Patrick had moved them closer. Had moved them closer by drawing them closer.

When the hand holding the eraser was almost touching the paper, she took her own hand away—this had to be all Patrick,

735 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

she was somehow sure of it. She moved her fingers back and forth, miming what she wanted. He didn't get it. She did it again, then pointed to the sore beside the full lower lip.

"Make it gone, Patrick," she said, surprised by the steadiness of her own voice. "It's ugly, make it gone." Again she made that rubbing gesture in the air. "Erase it."

This time he got it. She saw the light in his eyes. He held the pink nubbin up to her. Perfectly pink it was—not a smudge of graphite on it. He looked at her, eyebrows raised, as if to ask if she was sure.

She nodded.

Patrick lowered the eraser to the sore and began to ru b it on the paper, tentatively at first. Then, as he saw what was hap- pening, he worked with more spirit.

 

<>>' FOURTEEN -'

She felt the same queer tingling sensation, but when he' d been drawing, it had been all over her. Now it was in only one place, to the right side of her mouth. As Patrick got the hang of the eraser and bore down with it, the tingling became a deep and monstrous itch. She had to clutch her hands deep into the dirt on either side of her to keep from reaching up and clawing at the sore, scratching it furiously, and never mind if she tore it wide open and sent a pint of blood gushing down her deerskin shirt.

It be over in a few more seconds, it have to be, it have to be, oh dear

God please LET IT END—

Patrick, meanwhile, seemed to have forgotten all about her. He was looking down at his picture, his hair hanging to either side of his face and obscuring most of it, completely absorbed by this wonderful new toy. He erased delicately . . . then a little harder (the itch intensified) . . . then more softly again. Susannah felt like shrieking. That itch was suddenly everywhere. It burne d in her forebrain, buzzed across the wet surfaces of her eyes like twin clouds of gnats, it shivered at the very tips of her nipples, making them hopelessly hard.

I'll scream, I can't help it, I have to scream— '

STEPHEN KING 736

She was drawing in her breath to do just that when suddenly the itch was gone. The pain was gone, as well. She reached toward the side of her mouth, then hesitated.

/ don't dare.

You better dare! Detta responded indignantly. After all you been throughallvue been throughyou must have enough backbone left to touch yo' own damn face, you yella bitch).

She brought her fingers down to the skin. The smooth skin.

The sore which had so troubled her since Thunderclap was gone. She knew that when she looked in a mirror or a still pool of water, she would not even see a scar.

 

FIFTEEN

Patrick worked a little longer—first with the eraser, then with the pencil, then with the eraser again—but Susannah felt no itch and not even a faint tingle. It was as though, once he had passed some critical point, the sensations just ceased. She won- dered how old Patrick had been when Dandelo snipped all the erasers off the pencils. Four? Six? Young, anyway. She was sure that his original look of puzzlement when she showed him one of the erasers had been unfeigned, and yet once he began, he used it like an old pro.

Maybe it's like riding a bicycle, she thought . Once you learn how, you never forget.

She waited as patiently as she could, and after five very

long minutes, he r patience was rewarded. Smiling, Patrick turned the pad around and showed her the picture. He had erased the blemish completely and then faintly shaded the area so that it looked like the rest of her skin. He had been care- ful to brush away every single crumb of rubber.

"Very nice," she said, but that was a fairly shitty compli- ment to offer genius, wasn't it?

So she leaned forward, pu t her arms around him, and kissed him firmly on the mouth. "Patrick, it's beautiful.1"

The blood rushed so quickly and so strongly into his face that she was alarmed at first, wondering if he might not have a

737 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

stroke in spite of his youth. But he was smiling as he held out the pad to he r with one hand, making tearing gestures again with the other. Wanting her to take it. Wanting her to have it.

Susannah tore it off very carefully, wondering in a dark back corner of her mind what would happen if she tore it—tore her—right down the middle. She noted as she did that there was no amazement in his face, no astonishment, no fear. He had to have seen the sore beside her mouth, because the nasty thing had pretty much dominated her face for all the time he'd known her, and he had drawn it in near-photographic detail. Now it was gone—her exploring fingers told her so—yet Patrick wasn't registering any emotion, at least in regard to that. The conclu- sion seemed clear enough. When he'd erased it from his draw- ing, he' d also erased it from his own mind and memory.

"Patrick?"

He looked at her, smiling. Happy that she was happy. And Susannah was very happy. The fact that she was also scared to death didn't change that in the slightest.

"Will you draw something else for me?"

He nodded . Made a mar k on his pad , the n turne d it around so she could see:

 

 

 

She looked at the question-mark for a moment, then at him. She saw he was clutching the eraser, his wonderful new tool, very tightly.

Susannah said: "I want you to draw me something that isn't there."

He cocked his head quizzically to the side. She had to smile a little in spite of her rapidly thumping heart—Oy looked that way sometimes, when he wasn't a hundre d per cent sure what you meant.

"Don't worry, I'll tell you."

And she did, very carefully. Patrick listened. At some point Roland heard Susannah's voice and awoke. He came over, looked at her in the dim red light of the embering campfire,

STEPHEN KING 738

started to look away, then snapped back, eyes widening. Until that moment, she hadn't been sure Roland would see what was no longer there, either. She thought it at least possible that Patrick's magic would have been strong enough to erase it from the gunslinger's memory, too.

"Susannah, thy face! What's happened to thy—" "Hush, Roland, if you love me."

The gunslinger hushed. Susannah returned her attention to Patrick and began to speak again, quietly but urgently. Patrick listened, and as he did, she saw the light of under- standing begin to enter his gaze.

Roland replenished the fire without having to be asked, and soon their litde camp was bright under the stars.

Patrick wrote a question, putting it thriftily to the left of the question-mark he had already drawn:

How tall?

Susannah took Roland by the elbow and positioned him in front of Patrick. The gunslinger stood about six-foot-three. She had him pick her up, then held a hand roughly three inches over his head. Patrick nodded, smiling.

"And look you at something that has to be on it," she said, and took a branch from their litde pile of brush. She broke it over her knee, creating a point of her own. She could remem- ber the symbols, but it would be best if she didn't think about them overmuch. She sensed they had to be absolutely right or die door she wanted him to make for her would either open on some place she didn't want to go, or would not open at all. Therefore once she began to draw in the mixed dirt and ash by the campfire, she did it as rapidly as Patrick himself might have done, not pausing long enough to cast her eye back upon a sin- gle symbol. For if she looked back at one she would surely look back at all, and she would see something that looked wrong to her, and uncertainty would set in like a sickness. Detta—brash, foul-mouthed Detta, who had turned out on more than one occasion to be her savior—might step in and take over, finish

739 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

for her, but she couldn't count on that. On her heart's deepest level, she still did not entirely trust Detta not to send everything to blazes at a crucial moment, and for no other reason than the black joy of the thing. Nor did she fully trust Roland, who might want to keep her for reasons he did not fully understand him- self.

So she drew quickly in the dirt and ashes, not looking back, and these were the symbols that flowed away beneath the flying tip of her makeshift implement:

 

 

 

"Unfound," Roland breathed. "Susannah, what—how—" "Hush," she repeated.

Patrick bent over his pad and began to draw;

 

SIXTEEN "•''•'

She kept looking around for the door, but the circle of light thrown by their fire was very small even after Roland had set it to blazing. Small compared to the vast darkness of the prairie, at least. She saw nothing. When she turne d to Roland she could see the unspoken question in his eyes, and so, while Patrick kept working, she showed him the picture of her the young man had drawn. She indicated the place where the blemish had been. Holding the page close to his face, Roland at last saw the eraser's marks. Patrick had concealed what few traces he' d left behind with great cunning, and Roland had found them only with the closest scrutiny; it was like casting for an old trail after many days of rain.

"No wonder the old man cut off his erasers," he said, giving the picture back to her.

"That's what I thought."

From there she skipped ahead to her single true intuitive leap: that if Patrick could (in this world, at least) un-create by erasing, he might be able to create by drawing. When she men- tioned the her d of bannock that had seemed mysteriously

STEPHEN KING 740

closer, Roland rubbed his forehead like a man who has a nasty headache.

"I should have seen that. Should have realized what it meant, too. Susannah, I'm getting old."

She ignored that—she'd heard it before—and told him about the dreams of Eddie and Jake, being sure to mention the product-names on the sweatshirts, the choral voices, the offer of hot chocolate, and the growing panic in their eyes as the nights passed and still she did not see what the dream had been sent to show her.

"Why didn't you tell me this dream before now?" Roland asked. "Why didn't you ask for help in interpreting it?"

She looked at him steadily, thinking she had been right not to ask for his help. Yes—no matter how much that might hurt him. "You've lost two. How eager would you have been to lose me, as well?"

He flushed. Even in the firelight she could see it. "Thee speaks ill of me, Susannah, and have thought worse."

"Perhaps I have," she said. "If so, I say sorry. I wasn't sure of what I wanted myself. Part of me wants to see the Tower, you know. Part of me wants that very badly. And even if Patrick can draw the Unfound Door into existence and I can open it, it's not the real world it opens on. That's what the names on the shirts mean, I'm sure of it."

'You mustn't think that," Roland said. "Reality is seldom a thing of black and white, I think, of is and isn't, be and not be." Patrick made a hooting sound and they both looked. He

was holding his pad up, turned toward them so they could see

what he had drawn. It was a perfect representation of the Unfound Door, she thought. THE ARTIST wasn't printed on it, and the doorknob was plain shiny metal—n o crossed pencils adorned it—but that was all right. She hadn' t bothered to tell him about those things, which had been for her benefit and understanding.

They did everything but draw me a map, she thought. She won- dered why everything had to be so damn hard, so damn

(riddk-de-dum)

74 i THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

mysterious, and knew that was a question to which she would never find a satisfactory answer . . . except it was the human condition, wasn't it? The answers that mattered never came easily.

Patrick made another of those hooting noises. This time it

had an interrogative quality. She suddenly realized that the poor kid was practically dying of anxiety, and why not? He had just executed his first commission, and wanted to know what his patrono d'arte thought of it.

"It's great, Patrick—terrific."

"Yes," Roland agreed, taking the pad. The door looked to him exactly like those he' d found as he staggered along the beach of the Western Sea, delirious and dying of the lobstros- ity's poisoned bite. It was as if the poor tongueless creature had looked into his head and seen an actual picture of that door— a fottergraff.

Susannah, meanwhile, was looking aroun d desperately. And when she began to swing along on her hands toward the edge of the firelight, Roland had to call he r back sharply, reminding her that Mordred might be out there anywhere, and the darkness was Mordred's friend.

Impatient as she was, she retreated from the edge of the light, remembering all too well what had happened to Mor- dred's body-mother, and how quickly it had happened. Yet it hurt to pull back, almost physically. Roland had told her that he expected to catch his first glimpse of the Dark Tower toward the end of the coming day. If she was still with him, if she saw it with him, she thought its power might prove too strong for her. Its glammer. Now, given a choice between the door and the Tower, she knew she could still choose the door. But as they drew closer and the power of the Tower grew stronger, its pulse deeper and more compelling in her mind, the singing voices ever sweeter, choosing the door would be harder to do.

"I don't see it," she said despairingly. "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there is no damn door. Oh, Roland—"

"I don't think you were wrong," Roland told her. He spoke ih obvious reluctance, but as a man will when he has ajob to

STEPHEN KING 742

do, or a debt to repay. And he did owe this woman a debt, he reckoned, for had he not pretty much seized her by the scruff of the neck and hauled her into this world, where she'd learned the art of murder and fallen in love and been left bereaved? Had he not kidnapped her into this present sorrow? If he could make that right, he had an obligation to do so. His desire to keep her with him—an d at the risk of her own life—was pure selfishness, and unworthy of his training.

More important than that, it was unworthy of how much he had come to love and respect her. It broke what remained of his heart to think of bidding her goodbye, the last of his strange and wonderful ka-tet, but if it was what she wanted, what she needed, then he must do it. And he thought he could do it, for he had seen something about the young man's drawing that Susannah had missed. Not something that was there; something that wasn't "Look thee," he said gently, showing her the picture. "Do

you see how hard he's tried to please thee, Susannah?"

'Yes!" she said. "Yes, of course I do, but— "

"It took him ten minutes to do this, I should judge, and most of his drawings, good as they are, are the work of three or four at most, wouldn't you say?"

"I don't understand you!" She nearly screamed this. Patrick drew Oy to him and wrapped an arm around the

bumbler, all the while looking at Susannah and Roland with

wide, unhappy eyes.

"He worked so hard to give you what you want that there's only the Door. It stands by itself, all alone on the paper. It has no .. . no ... "

He searched for the right word. Vannay's ghost whispered it dryly into his ear.

"It has no context!"

For a moment Susannah continued to look puzzled, and then the light of understanding began to break in her eyes. Roland didn't wait; he simply dropped his good left hand on Patrick's shoulder and told him to put the door behind Susan- nah's little electric golf-cart, which she had taken to calling Ho Fat III.

743 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

Patrick was happy to oblige. For one thing, putting Ho Fat III in front of the door gave him a reason to use his eraser. He worked much more quickly this time—almost carelessly, an observer might have said—but the gunslinger was sitting right next to him and didn't think Patrick missed a single stroke in his depiction of the little cart. He finished by drawing its single front wheel and putting a reflected gleam of firelight in the hubcap. Then he put his pencil down, and as he did, there was a disturbance in the air. Roland felt it push against his face. The flames of the fire, which had been burning straight up in the windless dark, streamed briefly sideways. Then the feeling was gone. The flames once more burned straight up. And standing not ten feet from that fire, behind the electric cart, was a door Roland had last encountered in Calla Bryn Sturgis, in the Cave of the Voices.

 

SEVENTEEN

Susannah waited until dawn, at first passing the time by gath- ering up her gunna, then putting it aside again—what would her few possessions (not to mention the little hide bag in which they were stored) avail her in New York City? People would laugh. They would probably laugh anyway... or scream and run at the very sight of her. The Susannah Dean who suddenly appeared in Central Park would look to most folks not like a col- lege graduate or an heiress to a large fortune; not even like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, say sorry. No, to civilized city peo- ple she'd probably look like some kind of freak-show escapee. And once she went through this door, would there be any going back? Never. Never in life.

So she put her gunna aside and simply waited. As dawn began to show its first faint white light on the horizon, she called Patrick over and asked him if he wanted to go along with her. Back to the world you came from or one very much like it, she told him, although she knew he didn't remember that world at aU—either he'd been taken from it too young, or the trauma of being snatched away had erased his memory.

STEPHEN KING 744

Patrick looked at her, then at Roland, who was squatted on his hunkers, looking at him. "Either way, son," the gunslinger said. "You can draw in either world, tell ya true. Although where she's going, there'll be more to appreciate it."

He wants him to stay, she thought, and was angry. Then Roland looked at her and gave his head a minute shake. She wasn't sure, but she thought that meant—

And no, she didn't jus t think. She knew what it meant. Roland wanted he r to know he was hiding his thoughts from Patrick. His desires. And while she'd known the gunslinger to lie (most spectacularly at the meeting on the Calla Bryn Sturgis common-ground before the coming of the Wolves), she had never known him to lie to her. To Detta, maybe, but not to her. Or Eddie. OrJake. There had been times when he hadn't told them all he knew, but outright lie . . . ? No. They'd been ka-tet, and Roland had played them straight. Give the devil his due.

Patrick suddenly took up his pad and wrote quickly on the clean sheet. Then he showed it to them:

I will stay. Scared to go sumplace new.

As if to emphasize exacdy what he meant, he opened his lips and pointed into his tongueless mouth.

And did she see relief on Roland's face? If so, she hated him for it.

"All right, Patrick," she said, trying to show none of her feel- ings in her voice. She even reached over and patted his hand. "I understand how you feel. And while it's true that people can be cruel . . . cruel and mean . . . there's plenty who are kind. Listen, thee: I'm not going until dawn. If you change your mind, the offer is open."

He nodded quickly. Grateful Iain't goan try nohardert 'change his mine, Detta thought angrily. Ole white man probably grateful, too!

Shut up, Susannah told her, and for a wonder, Detta did.

745 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

 

 

i ' EIGHTEEN

Bvit as the day brightened (revealing a medium-sized herd of grazing bannock not two miles away), she let Detta back into her mind. More: she let Detta take over. It was easier that way, less painful. It was Detta who took one more stroll around the campsite, briskly breathing the last of this world for both of them, and storing away the memory. It was Detta who went around the door, rocking first one way and then the other on the toughened pads of her palms, and saw the nothing at all on the other side. Patrick walked on one side of her, Roland on the other. Patrick hooted with surprise when he saw the door was gone. Roland said nothing. Oy walked up to the place where the door had been, sniffed at the air . . . and then walked through the place where it was, if you were looking from the other side. If we was over there, Dett a thought , we'd see him walk right through it, like a magic trick.

She returned to Ho Fat III, which she had decided to ride through the door. Always assuming it would open, that was. This whole business would be quite a joke if it turned out it wouldn't. Roland made to help he r up into the seat; she brushed him brusquely away and mounted on her own. She pushed the red button beside the wheel, and the cart's electric motor started with a faint hum. The needle marked CHG still swung well over into the green. She turned the throttle on the right handlebar and rolled slowly toward the closed door with the symbols meaning UNFOUND marching across the front. She stopped with the cart's little bullet nose almost touching it.

She turned to the gunslinger with a fixed make-believe smile. "All ri', Roland—Ah'll say g'bye to you, then. Long days n

pleasant nights. May you reach y'damn Tower, and— "

"No," he said.

She looked at him, Detta looked at him with her eyes both blazing and laughing. Challenging him to turn this into some- thing she didn't want it to be. Challenging him to turn her out now tha t sh e was in. C'mon, honky white boy, lessee you do it.

STEPHEN KING 746

"What?" she asked. "What's on yo' mine, big boy?"

"I'd not say goodbye to you like this, after all this time," he said.

"What do you mean?" Only in Detta's angry burlesque, it came out Whatchu mean ?

"You know."

She shook her head defiantly. Doan.

"For one thing," he said, taking her trail-toughened left hand gendy in his mutilated right one, "there's another who should have the choice to go or stay, and I'm not speaking of Patrick."

For a moment she didn't understand. The n she looked down at a certain pair of gold-ringed eyes, a certain pair of cocked ears, and did. She had forgotten about Oy.

"If Detta asks him, he'll surely stay, for she's never been to his liking. If Susannah asks him . . . why, then I don' t know."

Just like that, Detta was gone. She would be back—Susan- nah understood now that she would never be entirely free of Detta Walker, and that was all right, because she no longer wanted to be—bu t for now she was gone.

"Oy?" she said gendy. "Will you come with me, honey? It may be we'll find Jake again. Maybe not quite the same, but still. . ."

Oy, who had been almost completely silent during their trek across the Badlands and the White Lands of Empathica and the open rangelands, now spoke. "Ake?" he said. But he spoke doubtfully, as one who barely remembers, and her heart broke. She had promised herself she wouldn't cry, and Detta all but guaranteed she wouldn't cry, but now Detta was gone and the tears were here again.

"Jake," she said. 'You remember Jake, honeybunch, I know you do. Jake and Eddie."

"Ake? Ed?" With a little more certainty now. He did remember. "Come with me," she urged, and Oy started forward as if he would jum p up in the cart beside her. Then, with no idea at all why she should say it, she added: "There are other worlds than

these." ,

747 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

Oy stopped as soon as the words were out of her mouth. He sat down. Then he got up again, and she felt a moment of hope: perhaps there could still be some little ka-tet, a dan-tete-tet, in some version of New York where folks drove Takuro Spirits and took pictures of each other drinking Nozz-A-La with their Shin- naro cameras.

Instead, Oy trotted back to the gunslinger and sat beside one battered boot. They had walked far, those boots, far. Miles and wheels, wheels and miles. But now their walking was almost done.

"Olan," said Oy, and the finality in his strange little voice rolled a stone against her heart. She turned bitterly to the old man with the big iron on his hip.

"There," she said. 'You have your own glammer, don't you? Always did. You drew Eddie on to one death, and Jake to a pair of em. Now Patrick, and even the bumbler. Are you happy?"

"No," said he, and she saw he truly was not. She believed she had never seen such sadness and such loneliness on a human face. "Never was I farther from happy, Susannah of New York. Will you change your mind and stay? Will thee come the last lit- tle while with me? That would make me happy."

For a wild moment she thought she would. That she would simply turn the litde electric cart from the door—which was one-sided and made no promises—and go with him to the Dark Tower. Another day would do it; they could camp at mid- afternoon and thus arrive tomorrow at sunset, as he wanted.

Then she remembered the dream. The singing voices. The young man holding out the cup of hot chocolate—the good kind, mit schlag.

"No," she said softly. "I'll take my chance and go."

For a moment she thought he would make it easy on her, just agree and let her go. Then his anger—no , his despair— broke in a painful burst. "But you can't be sure! Susannah, what if the dream itself is a trick and a glammer? What if the things you see even when the door's open are nothing but tricks and glammers? What if you roll right through and into todash space?"

STEPHEN KING 748

"Then I'll light the darkness with thoughts of those I love." "And that might work," said he, speaking in the bitterest voice she had ever heard. "For the first ten years .. . or twenty... or even a hundred. And then? What about the rest of eternity? Think of Oy! Do you think he's forgotten Jake? Never! Never! Never in your life! Never in his! He senses something wrong! Susannah, don't. I beg you, don't go. I'll get on my knees, if that

will help." And to he r horror, he began to do exactly that.

"It won't," she said. "And if this is to be my last sight of you—my heart says it is—then don't let it be of you on your knees. You're not a kneeling man, Roland, son of Steven, never were, and I don't want to remember you that way. I want to see you on your feet, as you were in Calla Bryn Sturgis. As you were with your friends at Jericho Hill."

He got up and came to her. For a moment she thought he meant to restrain her by force, and she was afraid. But he only pu t his hand on he r arm for a moment, and then took it away. "Let me ask you again, Susannah. Are you sureT

She conned her heart and saw that she was. She understood the risks, but yes—she was. And why? Because Roland's way was the way of the gun. Roland's way was death for those who rode or walked beside him. He had proved it over and over again, since the earliest days of his quest—no, even before, since overhearing Hax the cook plotting treachery and thus assuring his death by the rope. It was all for the good (for what he called the White), she had no doubt of it, but Eddie still lay in his grave in one world and Jake in another. She had no doubt that much the same fate was waiting for Oy, and for poor Patrick.

Nor would their deaths be long in coming. "I'm sure," said she.

"All right. Will you give me a kiss?"

She took him by the arm and pulled him down and put her lips on his. When she inhaled, she took in the breath of a thou- sand years and ten thousand miles. And yes, she tasted death.

But not for you, gunslinger, she thought. For others, but never for you. May I escape your glammer, and may I do fine. ;

She was the one who broke their kiss.

749 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"Can you open the door for me?" she asked.

Roland went to it, and took the knob in his hand, and the knob turned easily within his grip.

Cold air puffed out, strong enough to blow Patrick's long hair back, and with it came a few flakes of snow. She could see grass that was still green beneath light frost, and a path, and an iron fence. Voices were singing "What Child Is This," just as in her dream.

It could be Central Park. Yes, it could be; Central Park of some other world along the axis, perhaps, and not the one she came from, but close enough so that in time she would know no difference.

Or perhaps it was, as he said, a glammer.

Perhaps it was the todash darkness. ; ;

"It could be a trick," he said, most certainly reading her mind.

"Life is a trick, love a glammer," she replied. "Perhaps we'll meet again, in the clearing at the end of the path."

"As you say so, let it be so," he told her. He put out one leg, the rundown heel of his boot planted in the earth, and bowed to her. Oy had begun to weep, but he sat firmly beside the gun- slinger's left boot. "Goodbye, my dear."

"Goodbye, Roland." The n she faced ahead, took in a deep breath, and twisted the little cart's throttle. It rolled smoothly forward.

"Wait.1" Roland cried, but she never turned, nor looked at him again. She rolled through the door. It slammed shut behind her at once with a flat, declamatory clap he knew all too well, one he' d dreamed of ever since his long and feverish walk along the edge of the Western Sea. The sound of the singing was gone and now there was only the lonely sound of the prairie wind.

Roland of Gilead sat in front of the door, which already looked tired and unimportant. It would never open again. He put his face in his hands. It occurred to him that if he had never loved them, he would never have felt so alone as this. Yet of all his many regrets, the re-opening of his heart was no t among them, even now.

STEPHEN KING 750

 

 

NINETEEN

Later—because there's always a later, isn't there?—he made breakfast and forced himself to eat his share. Patrick ate heartily, then withdrew to do his necessary while Roland packed up.

There was a third plate, and it was still full. "Oy?" Roland asked, tipping it toward the billy-bumbler. "Will'ee not have at least a bite?"

Oy looked at the plate, then backed away two firm steps. Roland nodded and tossed away the uneaten food, scattering it into the grass. Mayhap Mordred would come along in good time, and find something to his liking.

At mid-morning they moved on, Roland pulling Ho Fat II and Patrick walking along beside with his head hung low. And soon the beat of the Tower filled the gunslinger's head again. Very close now. Tha t steady, pulsing power drove out all thoughts of Susannah, and he was glad. He gave himself to the steady beating and let it sweep away all his thoughts and all his sorrow.

Commala-come-come, sang the Dark Tower, nowjust over the

horizon . Commala-come-come, gunslinger may ya come.

Commala-come-Roland, the journey's nearly done.

 

CHAPTER II: MORDRED

 

 

ONE

The dan-tete was watching when the long-haired fellow they were now traveling with grabbed Susannah's shoulder to point out the dancing orange hobs in the distance. Mordred watched as she whirled, pulling one of the White Daddy's big revolvers. For a moment the far-seeing glass eyes he'd found in the house on Odd's Lane trembled in Mordred's hand, that was how hard he was rooting for his Blackbird Mommy to shoot the Artist. How the guilt would have bitten into her! Like the blade of a dull hatchet, yar! It was even possible that, overcome by the horror of what she had done, she'd've put the barrel of the gun to her own head and pulled the trigger a second time, and how would Old White Daddy like waking up to that?

All, children are such dreamers.

It didn't happen, of course, but there had been much more to watch. Some of it was hard to see, though. Because it wasn't jus t excitement that made the binoculars tremble. He was dressed warmly now, in layers of Dandelo's hume clothes, but he was still cold. Except when he was hot. And either way, hot or cold, he trembled like a toothless old gaffer in a chimney cor- ner. This state of affairs had been growing gradually worse since he leftJoe Collins's house behind. Fever roared in his bones like a blizzard wind. Mordred was no longer a-hungry (for Mor- dred no longer had an appetite), but Mordred was a-sick, a-sick,

a-sick.

In truth, he was afraid Mordred might be a-dying. Nonetheless he watched Roland's party with great interest,

and once the fire was replenished, he saw even better. Saw the

door come into being, although he could not read the symbols

751

STEPHEN KING 752

there writ upon. He understood that the Artist had somehow drawn it into being—what a godlike talent that was! Mordred longed to eat him just on the chance such a talent might be transmittable! He doubted it, the spiritual side of cannibalism was greatly overrated, but what harm in seeing for one's self?

He watched their palaver. He saw—and also understood—

her plea to the Artist and the Mutt, her whining entreaties

(come with me so I don't have to go alone, come on, be a sport, in fact be a coupl e of sports, oh boo-hoo)

and rejoiced in he r sorrow and fury when the plea was

rejected by both boy and beast; Mordred rejoiced even though he knew it would make his own jo b harder. (A little harder, any- way; how much trouble could a mute young man and a billy- bumbler really give him, once he changed his shape and made his move?) For a moment he thought that, in her anger, she might shoot Old White Daddy with his own gun, and that Mor- dred did mtf want. Old White Daddy was meant to be his. The voice from the Dark Tower had told him so. A-sick he surely was, a-dying he might be, but Old White Daddy was still meant to be his meal, not the Blackbird Mommy's. Why, she'd leave the meat to rot without taking a single bite! But she didn't shoot him. Instead she kissedhim.. Mordred didn't want to see that, it made him feel sicker than ever, and so he pu t the binoculars aside. He lay in the grass amid a little clump of alders, trembling, hot and cold, trying not to puke (he had spent the entire pre- vious day puking and shitting, it seemed, until the muscles of his midsection ached with the strain of sending such heavy traffic in two directions at once and nothing came up his throat but thick, mucusy strings and nothin g out of his backside but brown stew an d great hollow farts), and when he looked through the binoculars again, it was just in time to see the back end of the little electric cart disappear as the Blackbird Mommy drove it through the door. Something swirled out around it. Dust, maybe, but he thought snow. There was also singing. The sound of it made him feel almost as sick as seeing her kiss Old White Gunslinger Daddy. Then the door slammed shut behind her and the singing was gone and the gunslinger

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just sat there near it, with his face in his hands, boohoo , sob-sob. The bumbler went to him and put its long snout on one of his boots as if to offer comfort, how sweet, how puking sweet. By then it was dawn, and Mordred dozed a little. When he woke up, it was to the sound of Old White Daddy's voice. Mordred's hiding place was downwind, and the words came to him clearly: "Oy? Will'ee not have at least a bite?" The bumbler would not, however, and the gunslinger had scattered the food that had been meant for the little fvirry houken. Later, after they moved on (Old White Gunslinger Daddy pulling the cart the robot had made for them, plodding slowly along the ruts of Tower Road with his head down and his shoulders all a-slump), Mordred crept to the campsite. He did indeed eat some of the scattered food—surely it had not been poisoned if Roland had hoped it would go down the bumbler's gullet—but he stopped after only three or four chunks of meat, knowing that if he went on eating, his guts would spew everything back out, both north and south. He couldn't have that. If he didn't hold onto at least some nour- ishment, he would be too weak to follow them. And he must fol- low, had to stay close a little while longer. It would have to be tonight. It would have to be, because tomorrow Old White Daddy would reach the Dark Tower, and then it would almost certainly be too late. His heart told him so. Mordred plodded as Roland had, but even more slowly. Every now and then he would double over as cramps seized him and his human shape wavered, that blackness rising and receding unde r his skin, his heavy coat bulging restlessly as the other legs tried to burst free, then hanging slack again as he willed them back inside, gritting his teeth and groaning with effort. Once he shit a pint or so of stinky brown fluid in his pants, and once he managed to get his trousers down, and he cared little either way. No one had invited him to the Reap Ball, ha-ha! Invitation lost in the mail, no doubt! Later, when it came time to attack, he would let the little Red King free. But if it happened now, he was almost positive he wouldn't be able to change back again. He wouldn't have the strength. The spider's faster metabolism would fan the sickness the way a strong wind fans a low ground-fire into a for-

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est-gobbling blaze. What was killing him slowly would kill him rapidly, instead. So he fought it, and by afternoon he felt a little better. The pulse from the Tower was growing rapidly now, growing in strength and urgency. So was his Red Daddy's voice, urging him on, urging him to stay within striking distance. Old White Gunslinger Daddy had gotten no more than four hours' sleep a night for weeks now, because he had been stand- ing watch-and-watch with the now-departed Blackbird Mommy. But Blackbird Mommy hadn't ever had to pull that cart, had she? No, just rode in it like Queen Shit o' Turd Hill did she, hee! Which meant Old White Gunslinger Daddy was plenty tired, even with the pulse of the Dark Tower to buoy him up and pull him onward. Tonight Old White Daddy would either have to depend on the Artist and die Mutt to stand the first watch or try to do the whole thing on his own. Mordred thought he could stand one more wakeful night himself, simply because he knew he' d never have to have another. He would creep close, as he had the previous night. He would watch their camp with the old man-monster's glass eyes for far-seeing. And when they were all asleep, he would change for the last time and rush down upon them. Scrabble-de-dee comes me, hee! Old White Daddy might never even wake up, but Mordred hoped he would. At the very end. Just long enough to realize what was happening to him. Just long enough to know that his son was snatching him into the land of death only hours before he would have reached his precious Dark Tower. Mordred clenched his fists and watched the fingers turn black. He felt the terrible but pleasurable itch- ing up the sides of his body as the spider-legs tried to burst throug h — seven instead of eight, thanks to the terrible- nastyawful Blackbird Mommy who had been both preg and not- preg at the same time, and might she rot screaming in todash space forever (or at least until one of the Great Ones who lurked there found her). He fought and encouraged the change with equal ferocity. At last he only fought it, and the urge to change subsided. He gave out a victory-fart, but although this one was long and smelly, it was silent. His asshole was now a bro- ken squeezebox that could no longer make music but only

755 TH E SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

gasp. His fingers returned to their normal pinkish-white shade and the itching up and down the sides of his body disappeared. His head swam and slithered with fever; his thin arms (little more than sticks) ached with chills. The voice of his Red Daddy was sometimes loud and sometimes faint, but it was always there : Come to me. Run to me. Hie thy doubleton self. Come-commala, you good son of mine. We'll bring the Tower down, we'll destroy all the light there is, and then rule the darkness together.

Come to me. Come.

 

TWO

Surely those three who remained (four, counting himself) had outrun ka's umbrella. Not since the Prim receded had there been such a creature as Mordred Deschain, who was part hume and part of that rich and potent soup. Surely such a creature could never have been meant by ka to die such a mundane death as the one that now threatened: fever brought on by food- poisoning.

Roland could have told him that eating what he found in the snow around to the side of Dandelo's barn was a bad idea; so could Robert Browning, for that matter. Wicked or not, actual horse or not, Lippy (probably named after another, and better- known, Browning poem called "Fra Lippo Lippi") had been a sick animal herself when Roland ended he r life with a bullet to the head. But Mordred had been in his spider-form when he' d come upo n the thing which at least looked like a horse, and almost nothing would have stopped him from eating the meat. It wasn't until he'd resumed his human form again that he won- dered uneasily how there could be so much meat on Dan- delo's bony old nag and why it had been so soft and warm, so full of uncoagulated blood. It had been in a snowdrift, after all, and had been lying there for some days. The mare's remains should have been frozen stiff.

Then the vomiting began. The fever came next, and with it the struggle not to change until he was close enough to his Old

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White Daddy to rip him limb from limb. The being whose coming had been prophesied for thousands of years (mostly by the Manni-folk, and usually in frightened whispers), the being who would grow to be half-human and half-god, the being who would oversee the end of humanity an d the return of the Prim. . . that being ha d finally arrived as a naive and bad- hearted child who was now dying from a bellyful of poisoned horsemeat.

Ka could have had no part in this.

 

THREE

Roland and his two companions didn't make much progress on the day Susannah left them. Even had he no t planned to travel short miles so that they could come to the Tower at sunset of the

day following, Roland wouldn't have been able to go far. He was . disheartened, lonely, and tired almost to death. Patrick was also tired, but he at least could ride if he chose to, and for most of

that day he did so choose, sometimes napping, sometimes sketching, sometimes walking a little while before climbing back into Ho Fat II and napping some more.

The pulse from the Tower was strong in Roland's head and heart, and its song was powerful and lovely, now seemingly composed of a thousand voices, but not even these things could take the lead from his bones. Then, as he was looking for a shady spot where they could stop and eat a little midday meal (by now it was actually mid-afternoon), he saw some- thing that momentarily made him forget both his weariness and his sorrow.

Growing by the side of the road was a wild rose, seemingly the exact twin of the one in the vacant lot. It bloomed in defi- ance of the season, which Roland put as very early spring. It was a light pink shade on the outside and darkened to a fierce red on the inside; the exact color, he thought, of heart's desire. He fell on his knees before it, tipped his ear toward that coral cup, and listened.

The rose was singing.

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The weariness stayed, as weariness will (on this side of the grave, at least), but the loneliness and the sadness departed, at least for a little while. He peered into the heart of the rose and saw a yellow center so bright he couldn't look directly at it.

Gan 's gateivay, he thought, not sure exactly what that was but positive that he was right. Aye, Gan's gateway, so it is!

This was unlike the rose in the vacant lot in one crucial way: the feeling of sickness and the faint voices of discord were gone. This one was rich with health as well as full of light and love. It and all the others . . . they . . . they must . . .

They feed the Beams, don't they1? With their songs and their per- fume. As the Beams feed them. It's a living force-field, a giving and tak- ing, all spinning out from the Tower. And this is only the first, the farthest outrider. In Can'-Ka No Rey there are tens of thousands, just like this.

Th e thought made him faint with amazement. Then came another that filled him with anger and fear: the only one with a view of that great red blanket was insane. Would blight them all in an instant, if allowed free rein to do so.

There was a hesitant tap on his shoulder. It was Patrick, with Oy at his heel. Patrick pointed to the grassy area beside the rose, then made eating gestures. Pointed at the rose and made drawing motions. Roland wasn't very hungry, but the boy's other idea pleased him a great deal.

"Yes," he said. "We'll have a bite here, then maybe I'll take me a little siesta while you draw the rose. Will you make two pic- tures of it, Patrick?" He showed the two remaining fingers on his right hand to make sure Patrick understood.

The young man frowned and cocked his head, still not understanding. His hair hun g to one shoulder in a bright sheaf. Roland thought of how Susannah had washed that hair in a stream in spite of Patrick's hooted protests. It was the sort of thing Roland himself would never have thought to do, but it made the young fellow look a lot better. Looking at that sheaf of shining hair made him miss Susannah in spite of the rose's song. She had brought grace to his life. It wasn't a word that had occurred to him until she was gone.

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Meanwhile, here was Patrick, wildly talented but awfully slow on the uptake.

Roland gestured to his pad, then to the rose. Patrick nod- ded— that part he got. Then Roland raised two of the fingers on his good hand and pointed to the pad again. This time the light broke on Patrick's face. He pointed to the rose, to the pad, to Roland, and then to himself.

"That's right, big boy," Roland said. "A picture of the rose for you and one for me. It's nice, isn't it?"

Patrick nodded enthusiastically, setting to work while Roland rusded the grub. Once again Roland fixed three plates, and once again Oy refused his share. When Roland looked into the bumbler's gold-ringed eyes he saw an emptiness there—a kind of loss—that hurt him deep inside. And Oy couldn't stand to miss many meals; he was far too thin already. Trail-frayed, Cuth- bert would have said, probably smiling. In need ofsome hot sas- safras and salts. But the gunslinger had no sassy here.

"Why do'ee look so?" Roland asked the bumbler crossly. "Ifee wanted to go witfi her, thee should have gone when thee had the chance! Why will'ee cast thy sad houken's eyes on me now?"

Oy looked at him a moment longer, and Roland saw that he had hurt the little fellow's feelings; ridiculous but true. Oy walked away, little squiggle of tail drooping. Roland felt like calling him back, but that would have been more ridiculous yet, would it not? What plan did he have? To apologize to a billy- bumbler?

He felt angry and ill at ease with himself, feelings he had never suffered before hauling Eddie, Susannah, andJake from America-side into his life. Before they'd come he'd felt almost nothing, and while that was a narrow way to live, in some ways it wasn't so bad; at least you didn't waste time wondering if you should apologize to animals for taking a high tone to them, by the gods.

Roland hunkered by the rose, leaning into the soothing power of its song and the blaze of light—healthy light—from its center. Then Patrick hooted at him, gesturing for Roland to

759 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

move away so he could see it and draw it. This added to Roland's sense of dislocation and annoyance, but he moved back without a word of protest. He had, after all, asked Patrick to draw it, hadn't he? He thought of how, if Susannah had been here, their eyes would have met with amused understanding, as the eyes of parents do over the antics of a small child. But she wasn't here, of course; she'd been the last of them and now she was gone,

too.

"All right, can'ee see howgit rosen-gaff a tweakit better?" he

asked, striving to sound comic and only sounding cross—cross and tired.

Patrick, at least, didn't react to the harshness in the gun- slinger's tone; probably didn't even ken what I said, Roland thought. The mute boy sat with his ankles crossed and his pad balanced on his thighs, his half-finished plate of food set off to one side. "Don't get so busy you forget to eat that," Roland said. 'You mind me, now." He got another distracted nod for his pains and gave up. "I'm going to snooze, Patrick. It'll be a long afternoon." And an even longer night, he added to himself. . . and yet he had the same consolation as Mordred: tonight would likely be the last. He didn't know for sure what waited for him in the Dark Tower at the end of the field of roses, but even if he managed to put paid to the Crimson King, he felt quite sure that this was his last march. He didn't believe he would ever leave Can'-Ka No Rey, and that was all right. He was very tired. And, despite the

power of the rose, sad.

Roland of Gilead put an arm over his eyes and was asleep at once.

 

FOUR -

 

H e didn' t slee p fo r lon g befor e Patric k wok e hi m wit h a child' s enthusiasm to show him the first picture of the rose he' d drawn—the sun suggested no more than ten minutes had passed, fifteen at most.

Like all of his drawings, this one had a queer power. Patrick had captured the rose almost to the life, even though he had

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nothing but a pencil to work with. Still, Roland would much have preferred another hour's sleep to this exercise in art appreciation. He nodde d his approval, though—n o more grouch and grump in the presence of such a lovely thing, he promised himself—and Patrick smiled, happy even with so lit- tle. He tossed back the sheet and began drawing die rose again. One picture for each of them, just as Roland had asked.

Roland could have slept again, but what was the point? The mute boy would be done with the second picture in a matter of minutes and would only wake him again. He went to Oy instead, and stroked die bumbler's dense fur, something he rarely did.

"I'm sorry I spoke rough to'ee, fella," Roland said. "Will you not set me on with a word?"

But Oy would not.

Fifteen minutes later, Roland re-packed the few things he' d taken out of the cart, spat into his palms, and hoisted the handles again. The cart was lighter now, had to be, but it felt heavier.

Of course it's heavier, he thought. It's got my grief in it. I pull it along with me everywhere Igo, so I do.

Soon Ho Fat II ha d Patrick Danville in it, as well. He crawled up, made himself a litde nest, and fell asleep almost at once. Roland plodded on, head down, shadow growing longer at his heels. Oy walked beside him.

One more night, the gunslinger thought. One more night, one more day to follow, and then it's done. One way or t' other.

He let the pulse of the Tower and its many singing voices fill his head and lighten his heels .. . at least a little. There were more roses now, dozens scattered on either side of the road and brightening the otherwise dull countryside. A few were growing in the road itself and he was careful to detour around them. Tired though he might be, he would no t crush a single one, or roll a wheel over a single fallen petal.

761 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

 

 

FIVE

He stopped for the night while the sun was still well above the horizon, too weary to go farther even though there would be at least another two hours of daylight. Here was a stream that had gone dry, but in its bed grew a riot of those beautiful wild roses. Their songs didn' t diminish his weariness, but they revived his spirit to some extent. He thought this was true for Patrick and Oy, as well, and that was good. When Patrick had awakened he'd looked around eagerly at first. Then his face had darkened, and Roland knew he was realizing all over again that Susannah was gone. The boy had cried a little then, but per- haps there would be no crying here.

There was a grove of cottonwood trees on the bank—at least the gunslinger thought they were cottonwoods—but they had died when the stream from which their roots drank had disappeared. Now their branches were only bony, leafless snarls against the sky. In their silhouettes he could make out the number nineteen over and over again, in both the figures of Susannah's world an d those of his own. In one place the branches seemed to clearly spell the word CHASSTT against the deepening sky.

Before making a fire and cooking them an early supper— canned goods from Dandelo's pantry would do well enough tonight, he reckoned—Roland went into the dry streambed and smelled the roses, strolling slowly among the dead trees and listening to their song. Both the smell and the sound were refreshing.

Feeling a little better, he gathered wood from beneath the trees (snapping off a few of the lower branches for good mea- sure, leaving dry, splintered stumps that reminded him a little of Patrick's pencils) and piled kindling in the center. Then he struck a light, speaking the old catechism almost without hear- ing it: "Spark-a-dark, who's my sire? Will I lay me? Will I stay me? Bless this camp with fire."

While he waited for the fire to first grow and then die down

STEPHEN KING 762

to a bed of rosy embers, Roland took out the watch he had been given in New York. Yesterday it had stopped, although he had been assured the battery that ran it would last for fifty years.

Now, as late afternoon faded to evening, die hands had very slowly begun to move backward.

He looked at this for a little while, fascinated, then closed the cover and looked at the siguls inscribed there: key and rose and Tower. A faint and eldritch blue light had begun to gleam from the windows that spiraled upward.

They didn 't know it would do that, he thought, and then put the watch carefully back in his lefthand front pocket, checking first (as he always did) that there was no hole for it to fall through. Then he cooked. He and Patrick ate well.

Oy would touch not a single bite.

 

SIX

 

Othe r than the night he had spent in palaver with the man in black—the night during which Walter had read a bleak fortune from an undoubtedly stacked deck—those twelve hours of dark by the dry stream were the longest of Roland's life. The weariness settled over him ever deeper and darker, until it felt like a cloak of stones. Old faces and old places marched in front of his heavy eyes: Susan, riding hellbent across the Drop with her blond hair flying out behind; Cuthbert runnin g down the side ofJericho Hill in much the same fashion, screaming and laughing; Alain John s raising a glass in a toast; Eddie and Jake wrestiing in the grass, yelling, while Oy danced around them, barking.

Mordred was somewhere out there, and close, yet again and again Roland found himself drifting toward sleep. Each time he jerked himself awake, staring around wildly into the dark, he knew he had come nearer to the edge of unconsciousness. Each time he expected to see the spider with the red mark on its belly bearing down on him and saw nothing but the hobs, dancing orange in the distance. Heard nothing but the sough of die wind.

763 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

But he waits. He bides. And if I sleep—when I sleephe'll be on us.

Aroun d thre e i n th e mornin g h e rouse d himself b y

willpower alone from a doze that was on the very verge of tum- bling him into deeper sleep. He looked around desperately, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms hard enough to make mirks and fouders and sankofites explode across his field of vision. The fire had burned very low. Patrick lay about twenty feet from it, at the twisted base of a cottonwood tree. From where Roland sat, the boy was no more than a hide-covered hump. Of Oy there was no immediate sign. Roland called to the bumbler and got no response. The gunslinger was about to try his feet when he saw Jake's old friend a little beyond the edge of the failing firelight—or at least the gleam of his gold- ringed eyes. Those eyes looked at Roland for a moment, then disappeared, probably when Oy put his snout back down on his paws.

He's tired, too, Roland thought, and why not?

The question of what would become of Oy after tomorrow tried to rise to the surface of the gunslinger's troubled, tired mind, and Roland pushed it away. He got up (in his weariness his hands slipped down to his formerly troublesome hip, as if expecting to find the pain still there), went to Patrick, and shook him awake. It took some doing, but at last the boy's eyes opened. That wasn't good enough for Roland. He grasped Patrick's shoulders and pulled him up to a sitting position. When the boy tried to slump back down again, Roland shook him. Hard. He looked at Roland with dazed incomprehension.

"Help me build up the fire, Patrick."

Doing that should wake him up at least a little. And once the fire was burning bright again, Patrick would have to stand a brief watch. Roland didn't like the idea, knew full well that leaving Patrick in charge of the night would be dangerous, but trying to watch the rest of it on his own would be even more dangerous. He needed sleep. An hour or two would be enough, and surely Patrick could stay awake that long.

Patrick was willing enough to gather up some sticks and put

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them on the fire, although he moved like a bougie—a reani- mated corpse. And when the fire was blazing, he slumped back down in his former place with his arms between his bony knees, already more asleep than awake. Roland thought he might actually have to slap the boy to bring him around, and would later wish—bitterly—that he had done just that.

"Patrick, listen to me." He shook Patrick by the shoulders hard enough to make his long hair fly, but some of it flopped back into his eyes. Roland brushed it away. "I need you to stay awake and watch. Just for an hou r . . .just until . . . look up, Patrick! Look! Gods, don't you dare go to sleep on me again! Do you see that? The brightest star of all those close to us!"

It was Old Mother Roland was pointing to, and Patrick nod- ded at once. There was a gleam of interest in his eye now, and the gunslinger thought that was encouraging. It was Patrick's "I want to draw" look. And if he sat drawing Old Mother as she shone in the widest fork of the biggest dead cottonwood, then the chances were good that he'd stay awake. Maybe until dawn, if he got fully involved.

"Here, Patrick." He made the boy sit against the base of the tree. It was bony and knobby and—Roland hoped—uncom- fortable enough to prohibit sleep. All these movements felt to Roland like the sort you made underwater. Oh, he was tired. So tired. "Do you still see the star?"

Patrick nodded eagerly. He seemed to have thrown off his sleepiness, and the gunslinger thanked the gods for this favor. "When it goes behind that thick branch and you can't see it

or draw it anymore without getting up . . . you call me. Wake me up, no matter how hard it is. Do you understand?"

Patrick nodded at once, but Roland had now traveled with him long enough to know that such a nod meant little or noth- ing. Eager to please, that's what he was. If you asked him if nine and nine made nineteen, he would nod with the same instant enthusiasm.

"When you can't see it anymore from where you're sit- ting . . ." His own words seemed to be coming from far away, now. He' d just have to hop e that Patrick understood. Th e

765 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN-KA NO REY

tongueless boy had taken out his pad, at least, and a freshly sharpened pencil.

That's my best protection, Roland's mind muttered as he stum- bled back to his little pile of hides between the campfire and Ho Fat II. He ivon'tfall asleep while he's drawing, will he?

He hoped not, but supposed he didn't really know. And it didn't matter, because he, Roland of Gilead, was going to sleep in any case. He' d done the best he could, and it would have to be enough.

"An hour," he muttered, and his voice was far and wee in his own ears. "Wake me in an hou r . . . when the star . . . when Old Mother goes behind ... "

But Roland was unable to finish. He didn't even know what he was saying anymore. Exhaustion grabbed him and bore him swifdy away into dreamless sleep.

 

SEVEN ;

Mordred saw it all through the far-seeing glass eyes. His fever had soared, and in its bright flame, his own exhaustion had at least temporarily departed. He watched with avid interest as the gunslinger woke the mute boy—the Artist—and bullied him into helping him build up the fire. He watched, rooting for the mute to finish this chore and then go back to sleep before the gunslinger could stop him. That didn't happen, unfortunately. They had camped near a grove of dead cottonwoods, and Roland led the Artist to the biggest tree. Here he pointed up at the sky. It was strewn with stars, but Mordred reckoned Old White Gunslinger Daddy was pointing to Old Mother, because she was the brightest. At last the Artist, who didn't seem to be rolling a full barrow (at least not in the brains department) seemed to understand. He got out his pad and had already set to sketching as Old White Daddy stumbled a little way off, still muttering instructions and orders to which the Artist was pretty clearly paying absolutely no attention at all. Old White Daddy collapsed so suddenly that for a moment Mordred feared that perhaps the strip ofjerky that served the son of a bitch as a heart

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had finally given up beating. Then Roland stirred in the grass, resetding himself, and Mordred, lying on a knoll about ninety yards west of the dry streambed, felt his own heartbeat slow. And deep though the Old White Gunslinger Daddy's exhaustion might be, his training and his long lineage, going all the way back to the Eld himself, would be enough to wake him with his gun in his hand the second the Artist gave one of his wordless but devilishly loud cries. Cramps seized Mordred, the deepest yet. He doubled over, fighting to hold his human shape, fight- ing not to scream, fighting not to die. He heard another of those long flabbering noises from below and felt more of the lumpy brown stew begin coursing down his legs. But his preternaturally keen nose smelled more than excreta in this new mess; this time he smelled blood as well as shit. He thought the pain would never end, that it would go on deepening until it tore him in two, but at last it began to let up. His looked at his left hand and was not entirely surprised to see that the fingers had blackened and fused together. They would never come back to human again, those fingers; he believed he had but only one more change left in him. Mordred wiped sweat from his brow with his right hand and raised the bin-doculars to his eyes again, praying to his Red Daddy that the stupid mutie boy would be asleep. But he was not. He was leaning against the cottonwood tree and looking up between the branches and drawing Old Mother. That was the moment when Mordred Deschain came closest to despair. lik e Roland, he thought drawing was the one thing that would likely keep the idiot boy awake. Therefore, why not give in to the change while he had the heat of this latest fever-spike to fuel him with its destructive energy? Why not take his chance? It was Roland he wanted, after all, not the boy; surely he could, in his spider form, sweep down on the gunslinger rapidly enough to grab him and pull him against the spider's craving mouth. Old White Daddy might get off one shot, possibly even two, but Mordred thought he could take one or two, if the fly- ing bits of lead didn't find the white node on the spider's back: his dual body's brain. And once I pull him in, I'll never let him go untilhe'ssuckeddry,nothingbutadust-mummyliketheotherone,Mia.

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He relaxed, ready to let the change sweep over him, and then another voice spoke from the center of his mind. It was the voice of his Red Daddy, the one who was imprisoned on the side of the Dark Tower and needed Mordred alive, at least one more day, in order to set him free.

Wait a little longer, this voice counseled . Wait a little more. I might have another trick up my sleeve. Wait. . . wait just a little longer. . .

Mordred waited. And after a moment or two, he felt the

pulse from the Dark Tower change.

 

EIGHT

 

Patrick felt that change, too. The pulse became soothing. And there were words in it, ones that blunted his eagerness to draw. He made another line, paused, then put his pencil aside and only looked up at Old Mother, who seemed to pulse in time with the words he heard in his head, words Roland would have rec- ognized. Only these were sung in an old man's voice, quavering but sweet:

 

"Baby-bunting, darling one, Now another day is done.

May your dreams be sweet and merry, May you dream of fields and berries.

Baby-bunting, baby-dear, ' •••• Baby, bring your berries here.

Oh chussit, chissit, chassit!

Bring enough to fill your basket!"

Patrick's head nodded . His eyes closed . . . opene d . . . slipped closed again.

Enough tofill my basket, he thought, and slept in the firelight.

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NINE

Now, my good son, whispered the cold voice in the middle of Mordred's hot and melting brains. Now. Go to him and make sure he never risesfrom his sleep. Murder him among the mses and we'll rule together.

Mordred came from hiding, the binoculars tumbling from

a han d that was no longer a han d at all. As he changed, a feel- ing of huge confidence swept through him. In another minute it would be done. They both slept, and diere was no way he could fail.

He rushed down on the camp and the sleeping men, a black nightmare on seven legs, his mouth opening and closing.

 

 

' -••, • V T E N , . - ; • • ; , ' ,

* • • ' • • • • . • • • . •

Somewhere, a thousand miles away, Roland heard barking, loud and urgent, furious and savage. His exhausted mind tried to turn away from it, to blot it out and go deeper. Then there was a horrible scream of agony that awoke him in a flash. He knew that voice, even as distorted by pain as it was.

"Oy!" he cried, leapin g up . "Oy, where are you? To me! To m—" There he was, twisting in the spider's grip. Bodi of them were clearly visible in the light of the fire. Beyond them, sitting propped against the cottonwood tree, Patrick gazed stupidly through a curtain of hair that would soon be dirty again, now that Susannah was gone. The bumbler wriggled furiously to and fro, snapping at the spider's body with foam flying from his jaws even as Mordred bent him in a direction his back was never

meant to go.

If he'd not rushed out of the tall grass, Rolan d thought , that would be me in Mordred's grip.

Oy sent his teeth deep into one of the spider's legs. In the

firelight Roland could see the coin-sized dimples of the bum- bler'sjaw-muscles as he chewed deeper still. The thing squalled and its grip loosened. At that moment Oy might have gotten

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free, had he chosen to do so. He did not. Instead of jumpin g down and leaping away in the momentary freedom granted him before Mordred was able to re-set his grip, Oy used the time to extend his long neck and seize the place where one of the thing's legs joine d its bloated body. He bit deep, bringing a flood of blackish-red liquor that ran freely from the sides of his muzzle. In the firelight it gleamed with orange sparks. Mordred squalled louder still. He had left Oy out of his calculations, and was now paying the price. In the firelight, the two writhing forms were figures out of a nightmare.

Somewhere nearby, Patrick was hooting in terror.

Worthless whoreson fell asleep after all, Roland thought bit- terly. But who had set him to watch in the first place?

"Put him down, Mordred!" he shouted. "Put him down and

I'll let you live another day! I swear it on my father's name!" Red eyes, full of insanity and malevolence, peered at him

over Oy's contorted body. Above them, high on the curve of the spider's back, were tiny blue eyes, hardly more than pin- holes. They stared at the gunslinger with a hate that was all too human.

My own eyes, Roland thovight with dismay, and then there was a bitter crack. It was Oy's spine, but in spite of this mortal injury he never loosened his grip on the join t where Mor- dred's legjoined his body, although the steely brisdes had torn away much of his muzzle, baring sharp teeth that had sometimes closed on Jake's wrist with gentle affection, tugging him toward something Oy wanted the boy to see. Ake.'he would cry on such occasions.Ake-Ake!

Roland's right hand dropped to his holster and found it empty. It was only then, hours after she had taken her leave, that he realized Susannah had taken one of his guns with her into the other world. Good, he thought. Good. If it is the darkness she found, there would have been fivefor the things in it and onefor her- self.Good.

But this thought was also dim and distant. He pulled the other revolver as Mordred crouched on his hindquarters and used his remaining middle leg, curling it around Oy's midsec-

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tion and pulling the animal, still snarling, away from his torn and bleeding leg. The spider twirled the furry body upward in a terrible spiral. For a moment it blotted out the bright beacon that was Old Mother. Then he hurled Oy away from him and Roland had a moment of deja vu, realizing he had seen this long ago, in the Wizard's Glass. Oy arced across the fireshot dark and was impaled on one of the cottonwood branches the gun- slinger himself had broken off for firewood. He gave an awful hurt cry—a death-cry—and then hung, suspended and limp, above Patrick's head.

Mordred came at Roland without a pause, but his charge was a slow, shambling thing; one of his legs had been shot away only minutes after his birth, and now another hung limp and broken, its pincers jerking spasmodically as they dragged on the grass. Roland's eye had never been clearer, the chill that surrounded him at moments like this never deeper. He saw the white node and the blue bombardier's eyes that were his eyes. He saw the face of his only son peering over the back of the abomination and then it was gone in a spray of blood as his first bullet tore it off. The spider reared up, legs clashing at the black and star-shot sky. Roland's next two bullets went into its revealed belly and exited through the back, pulling dark sprays of liquid with it. The spider slewed to one side, perhaps trying to ru n away, but its remaining legs would not support it. Mordred Deschain fell into the fire, casting up a flume of red and orange sparks. It writhed in the embers, the bristles on its belly beginning to burn, and Roland, grinning bitterly, shot it again. The dying spider rolled out of the now scattered fire on its back, its remaining legs twitching together in a knot and then spreading apart. On e fell back into the fire and began to burn. The smell was atrocious.

Roland started forward, meaning to stamp out the litde fires the scattered embers had started in the grass, and then a howl of outraged fury rose in his head.

My son! My only son! You 've murdered him!

"He was mine, too," Roland said, looking at die smoldering

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monstrosity. He could own the truth. Yes, he could do that much.

Come then! Come, son-killer, and look at your Tower, but know ihisyou'll die of old age at the edge of the Can'-Ka before you ever so much as touch its door! I will never let you pass! Todash space itself will pass away before I let you pass! Murderer! Murderer ofyour mother, mur- derer of your friends aye, every one, for Susannah lies dead with her throat cut on the other side of the door you sent her throughand now murderer of your own son!

"Who sent him to me?" Roland asked the voice in his head.

"Who sent yonder child—for that's what he is, inside that black skin—to his death, ye red boggart?"

To this there was no answer, so Roland re-holstered his gun and put out the patches of fire before they could spread. He thought of what the voice had said about Susannah, decided he didn't believe it. She might be dead, aye, might be, but he thought Mordred's Red Father knew for sure no more than Roland himself did.

The gunslinger let that thought go and went to the tree, where the last of his ka-tet hung, impaled . . . but still alive. The gold-ringed eyes looked at Roland with what might almost have been weary amusement.

"Oy," Roland said, stretching out his hand , knowing it might be bitten and not caring in the least. He supposed that part of him—an d not a small one, either—wanted to be bit- ten. "Oy, we all say thank you. /say thank you, Oy."

The bumbler did not bite, and spoke but one word. "Olan," said he. Then he sighed, licked the gunslinger's hand a single time, hun g his head down, and died.

 

ELEVEN s

As dawn strengthened into the clear light of morning, Patrick came hesitantly to where the gunslinger sat in the dry streambed, amid the roses, with Oy's body spread across his lap like a stole. The young man made a soft, interrogative hooting sound.

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"Not now, Patrick," Roland said absently, stroking Oy's fur. It was dense but smooth to the touch. He found it hard to believe that the creature beneath it had gone, in spite of the stiff- ening muscles and the tangled places where the blood had now clotted. He combed these smooth with his fingers as best he could. "Not now. We have all the livelong day to get there, and we'll do fine."

No, there was no need to hurry; no reason why he should not leisurely mour n the last of his dead. There had been no doubt in the old King's voice when he had promised that Roland should die of old age before he so much as touched the door in the Tower's base. They would go, of course, and Roland would study the terrain, but he knew even now that his idea of coming to the Tower on the old monster's blind side and then working his way around was not an idea at all, but a fool's hope. There had been no doubt in the old villain's voice; no doubt hiding behind it, either.

And for the time being, none of that mattered. Here was another one he had killed, and if there was consolation to be had, it was this: Oy would be the last. Now he was alone again except for Patrick, and Roland had an idea Patrick was immune to the terrible germ the gunslinger carried, for he had never been ka-tet to begin with.

I only kill my family, Roland thought, stroking the dead billy- bumbler.

What hurt most was remembering how unpleasantly he had spoken to Oy the day before. Ifee wanted to go with her, thee should have gone when thee had thy chance!

Had he stayed because he knew that Roland would need him? That when push came down to shove (it was Eddie's phrase, of course), Patrick would fail?

Why will'ee cast thy sad houken 's eyes on me now ?

Because he had known it was to be his last day, and his dying would be hard?

"I think you knew both things," Roland said, and closed his eyes so he could feel the fur beneath his hands better. "I'm so sorry I spoke to'ee so—would give the fingers on my good left

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hand if I could take the words back. So I would, every one, say true."

But here as in the Keystone World, time only ran one way.

Done was done. There would be no taking back.

Roland would have said there was no anger left, that every bit of it had been burned away, but when he felt the tingling all over his skin and understood what it meant, he felt fresh fury rise in his heart. And he felt the coldness settle into his tired but still talented hands.

Patrick was drawing him! Sitting beneath the cottonwoodjust as if a brave little creature worth ten of him—no , a hundred! — hadn't died in that very tree, and for both of them.

It's his way, Susannah spoke up calmly an d gently from dee p in his mind . It's all he has, everything else has been taken from him his home world as well as his mother and his tongue and what- ever brains he might once have had. He's mourning, too, Roland. He's frightened, too. This is the only way he has of soothing himself.

Undoubtedly all true. But the truth of it actually fed his rage

instead of damping it down. He put his remaining gun aside (it lay gleaming between two of the singing roses) because having it close to han d wouldn't do, no, not in his current mood. Then he rose to his feet, meaning to give Patrick the scolding of his life, if for no other reason than it would make Roland feel a little bit better himself. He could already hear the first words: Do you enjoy drawing those who saved your mostly worthless life, stu- pid boy ? Does it cheer your heart?

He was opening his mouth to begin when Patrick put his pencil down and seized his new toy, instead. The eraser was half- gone now, and there were no others; as well as Roland's gun, Susannah had taken the little pink nubbins with her, probably for no other reason than that she'd been carrying the jar in her pocket and her mind had been studying other, more important, matters. Patrick poised the eraser over his drawing, then looked up—perhaps to make sure he really wanted to erase at all—and saw the gunslinger standing in the streambed and frowning at him. Patrick knew immediately that Roland was angry, although he probably had no idea under heaven as to why, and his face

STEPHEN KING 774

cramped with fear and unhappiness. Roland saw him now as Dandelo must have seen him time and time again, and his anger collapsed at the thought. He would not have Patrick fear him—for Susannah's sake if not his own, he would not have Patrick fear him.

And discovered that it was for his own sake, after all.

Why not kill him, then? asked the sly, pulsing voice in his head . Kill him and put him out of his misery, if thee feels so tender toward him ? He and the bumbler can enter the clearing together. They can make a place therefor you, gunslinger.

Roland shook his head and tried to smile. "Nay, Patrick, son

of Sonia," he said (for that was how Bill the robot had called the boy). "Nay, I was wrong—again—and will not scold thee. But . . ."

He walked to where Patrick was sitting. Patrick cringed away from him with a doglike, placatory smile that made Roland angry all over again, but he quashed the emotion easily enough this time. Patrick had loved Oy too, and this was the only way he had of dealing with his sorrow.

Little that mattered to Roland now.

He reached down and gently plucked the eraser out of the boy's fingers. Patrick looked at him questioningly, then reached out his empty hand, asking with his eyes that the wonderful (and useful) new toy be given back.

"Nay," Roland said, as gently as he could. 'You made do for the gods only know how many years without ever knowing such things existed; you can make do the rest of this one day, I think. Mayhap there'll be something for you to draw—and then undraw—later on. Do'ee ken, Patrick?"

Patrick did not, but once the eraser was safely deposited in Roland's pocket along with the watch, he seemed to forget about it and just went back to his drawing.

"Put thy picture aside for a little, too," Roland told him. Patrick did so without argument. He pointed first to the

cart, then to the Tower Road, and made his interrogative hoot-

ing sound.

"Aye," Roland said, "but first we should see what Mordred

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had for gunna—ther e may be something useful there—an d bury our friend. Will'ee help me see Oy into the ground, Patrick?"

Patrick was willing, and the burial didn't take long; the

body was far smaller tha n the hear t it ha d held . By mid- morning they had begun to cover the last few miles on the long road which led to the Dark Tower.

 

CHAPTER III: THE CRIMSON KING AND THE DARK TOWER

 

 

ONE

The road and the tale have both been long, would you not say so? The trip has been long and the cost has been high . . . but no great thing was ever attained easily. A long tale, like a tall Tower, must be built a stone at a time. Now, however, as the end draws closer, you must mark yon two travelers walking toward us with great care. The older man—h e with the tanned, lined face and the gun on his hip—is pulling the cart they call Ho Fat II. The younger one—h e with the oversized drawing pad tucked under his arm that makes him look like a student in days of old—is walking along beside it. They are climbing a long, gen- tly upsloping hill not much different from hundreds of others they have climbed. The overgrown road they follow is lined on either side with the remains of rock walls; wild roses grow in amiable profusion amid die tumbles of fieldstone. In the open, brush-dotted land beyond these fallen walls are strange stone edifices. Some look like the ruins of castles; others have the appearance of Egyptian obelisks; a few are clearly Speaking Rings of the sort where demon s may be summoned ; one ancient ruin of stone pillars and plinths has the look of Stone- henge. One almost expects to see hooded Druids gathered in the center of that great circle, perhaps casting die runes, but the keepers of these monuments, these precursors of the Great Monument, are all gone. Only small herds of bannock graze where once they worshipped.

Never mind. It's not old ruins we've come to observe near

 

 

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the end of our long journey, but the old gunslinger pulling the handles of the cart. We stand at the crest of the hill and wait as he comes toward us. He comes. And comes. Relendess as ever, a man who always learns to speak the language of the land (at least some of it) and die customs of the country; he is still a man who would straighten pictures in strange hotel rooms. Much about him has changed, but not that. He crests the hill, so close to us now that we can smell the sour tang of his sweat. He looks up, a quick and automatic glance he shoots first ahead and then to either side as he tops any hill—Always conyer vantagewas Cort's rule, and the last of his pupils has still not forgotten it. He looks up without interest, looks down . . . and stops. After a moment of staring at the broken, weed-infested paving of the road, he looks up again, more slowly this time. Much more slowly. As if in dread of what he thinks he has seen.

And it's here we mustjoin him—sink into him—although how we will ever con the vantage of Roland's heart at such a moment as this, when the single-minded goal of his lifetime at last comes in sight, is more than this poor excuse for a storyman can ever tell. Some moments are beyond imagination.

 

 

 

Roland glanced up quickly as he topped the hill, not because he expected trouble but because the habit was too deeply ingrained to break. Always con yer vantage, Cort had told them, drilling it into their heads from the time when they had been litde more than babbies. He looked back down at the road—it was becom- ing more and more difficult to swerve among the roses without crushing any, although he had managed the trick so far—and then, belatedly, realized what he had just seen.

What you thought you saw, Roland told himself, still looking down at th e road . It's probably just another of the strange ruins we've been passing ever since we started moving again.

But even then Roland knew it wasn't so. What he'd seen was

not to either side of the Tower Road, but dead ahead.

He looked up again, hearing his neck creak like hinges in an

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old door, and there, still miles ahead but now visible on the hori- zon, real as roses, was the top of the Dark Tower. That which he had seen in a thousand dreams he now saw with his living eyes. Sixty or eighty yards ahead, the road rose to a higher hill with an ancient Speaking Ring moldering in the ivy and honeysuckle on one side and a grove of ironwood trees on the other. At the cen- ter of this near horizon, the black shape rose in the near dis- tance, blotting out a tiny portion of the blue sky.

Patrick came to a stop beside Roland and made one of his hooting sounds.

"Do you see it?" Roland asked. His voice was dusty, cracked with amazement. Then, before Patrick could answer, the gun- slinger pointed to what the boy wore around his neck. In the end, the binoculars had been the only item in Mordred's little bit of gunna worth taking.

"Give them over, Pat."

Patrick did, willingly enough. Roland raised them to his eyes, made a minute adjustment to the knurled focus knob, and then caught his breath as the top of the Tower sprang into view, seemingly close enough to touch. How much was visible over the horizon? How much was he looking at? Twenty feet? Perhaps as much as fifty? He didn't know, but he could see at least three of the narrow slit-windows which ascended the Tower's barrel in a spiral, and he could see the oriel window at the top, its many col- ors blazing in the spring sunshine, the black center seeming to peer back down the binoculars at him like the very Eye of Todash.

Patrick hooted and held out a hand for the binoculars. He wanted his own look, and Roland handed the glasses over with- out a murmur. He felt light-headed, not really there. It occurred to him that he had sometimes felt like that in the weeks before his battle with Cort, as though he were a dream or a moonbeam. He had sensed something coming, some vast change, and that was what he felt now.

Yonder it is, he thought . Yonder is my destiny, the end of my life's road. And yet my heart still beats (a littlefaster than before, 'tis true), my blood still courses, and no doubt when I bend over to grasp the han-

STEPHEN KING 780

dies of this becurst cart my back will groan and I may pass a little gas. Nothing at all has changed.

He waited for the disappointment this thought surely pre-

saged—the letdown. It didn't come. What he felt instead was a queer, soaring brightness that seemed to begin in his mind and then spread to his muscles. For the first time since setting out at mid-morning, thoughts of Oy and Susannah left his mind. He felt free.

Patrick lowered the binoculars. When he turned to Roland, his face was excited. He pointed to the black thumb jutting above the horizon and hooted.

'Yes," Roland said. "Someday, in some world, some version of you will paint it, along with Llamrei, Arthur Eld's horse. That I know, for I've seen the proof. As for now, it's where we must go." Patrick hooted again, then pulled a long face. He put his hands to his temples and swayed his head back and forth, like

someone who has a terrible headache.

'Yes," Roland said. "I'm afraid, too. But there's no help for it. I have to go there. Would you stay here, Patrick? Stay and wait for me? If you would, I give you leave to do so."

Patrick shook his head at once. And, just in case Roland didn't take the point, the mute boy seized his arm in a hard grip. The right hand, the one with which he drew, was like iron.

Roland nodded. Even tried to smile. 'Yes," he said, "that's fine. Stay with me as long as you like. As long as you understand that in the end I'll have to go on alone."

 

THREE

 

Now, as they rose from each dip and topped each hill, the Dark Tower seemed to spring closer. More of the spiraling windows which ran aroun d its great circumference became visible. Roland could see two steel posts jutting from the top. The clouds which followed the Paths of the two working Beams seemed to flow away from the tips, making a great X-shape in the sky. The voices grew louder, and Roland realized they were singing the names of the world. Of all the worlds. He didn't

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know how he could know that, but he was sure of it. That light- ness of being continued to fill him up. Finally, as they crested a hill with great stone men marching away to the north on their left (the remains of their faces, painted in some blood-red stuff, glared down upon them), Roland told Patrick to climb up into the cart. Patrick looked surprised. He made a series of hooting noises Roland took to mean But aren 'tyou tired1?

'Yes, but I need an anchor, even so. Without one I'm apt to start running toward yonder Tower, even though part of me knows better. And if plain old exhaustion doesn't burst my heart, the Red King's apt to take my head off with one of his toys. Get in, Patrick."

Patrick did so. He rode sitting hunched forward, with the binoculars pressed against his eyes.

 

FOUR

Three hours later, they came to the foot of a much steeper hill. It was, Roland's heart told him, the last hill. Can'-Ka No Rey was beyond. At the top, on the right, was a cairn of boulders that had once been a small pyramid. What remained stood about thirty feet high. Roses grew around its base in a rough crimson ring. Roland set this in his sights and took the hill slowly, pulling the cart by its handles. As he climbed, the top of the Dark Tower once more appeared. Each step brought a greater length of it into view. Now he could see the balconies with their waist- high railings. There was no need of the binoculars; the air was preternaturally clear. He put the distance remaining at no more than five miles. Perhaps only three. Level after level rose before his not-quite-disbelieving eye.

Just shy of this hill's top, with the crumbling rock pyramid twenty paces ahead of them on the right, Roland stopped, bent, and set the handles of the cart on the road for the last time. Every nerve in his body spoke of danger.

"Patrick? Ho p down."

Patrick did so, looking anxiously into Roland's face and hooting.

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The gunslinger shook his head. "I can't say why just yet. Only it's not safe." The voices sang in a great chorus, but the air around them was still. Not a bird soared overhead or sang in the distance. The wandering herds of bannock had all been left behind. A breeze soughed around them, and the grasses rip- pled. The roses nodded their wild heads.

The two of them walked on together, and as they did, Roland felt a timid touch against the side of his two-fingered right hand. He looked at Patrick. The mute boy looked anxiously back, try- ing to smile. Roland took his hand, and they crested the hill in that fashion.

Below them was a great blanket of red that stretched to the horizon in every direction. The road cut through it, a dusty white line perfectly straight and perhaps twelve feet wide. In the middle of the rose-field stood the sooty dark gray Tower, just as it had stood in his dreams; its windows gleamed in the sun. Here the road split and made a perfect white circle around the Tower's base to continue on the other side, in a direction Roland believed was now dead east instead of south-by-east. Another road ran off at right angles to the Tower Road: to the north and south, if he was right in believing that the points of the compass had been re-established. From above, the Dark Tower would look like the center of a blood-filled gunsight.

"It's—" Roland began, and then a great, crazed shriek floated to them on the breeze, weirdly undiminished by the dis- tance of miles. It comes on the Beam, Roland thought. And it's car- riedbytheroses.

"GUNSLINGER!"screamed the Crimson King. "NOW YOU DIE!"

There was a whisding sound, thin at first and then growing, cutting through the combined song of the Tower and die roses like the keenest blade ever ground on a wheel dusted with dia- monds. Patrick stood transfixed, peering dumbly at the Tower; he would have been blown out of his boots if not for Roland, whose reflexes were as quick as ever. He pulled the mute boy behind die heaped stone of the pyramid by their joined hands. There were other stones hidden in the high grass of dock and

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jimson; they stumbled over these and went sprawling. Roland felt the corner of one digging painfully into his ribs.

The whistle continued to rise, becoming an earsplitting whine. Roland saw a golden something flash past in the air— one of the sneetches. It struck the cart and it blew up, scatter- ing their gunna every which way. Most of the stuff settled back to the road, cans rattling and bouncing, some of them burst.

The n came high, chattering laughter that set Roland's teeth on edge; beside him, Patrick covered his ears. The lunacy in that laughter was almost unbearable.

"COME OUT!" urged that distant, mad, laughing voice. "COME OUT AND PLAY, ROLAND! COME TO ME! COME TO YOUR TO\WR, AFTER ALL THE LONG YEARS WILL YOU NOT?"

Patrick looked at him, his eyes desperate and frightened. He was holding his drawing pad against his chest like a shield.

Roland peered carefully around the edge of the pyramid, and there, on a balcony two levels up from the Tower's base, he saw exactly what he had seen in sai Sayre's painting: one blob of red and three blobs of white; a face and two upraised hands. But this was no painting, and one of the hands moved rapidly forward in a throwing gesture and there came another hellish, rising whine. Roland rolled back against the tumble of the pyramid. There was a pause that seemed endless, and then the sneetch struck the pyramid's other side and exploded. The concussion threw them forward onto their faces. Patrick screamed in terror. Rocks flew to either side in a spray. Some of them rattled down on the road, but Roland saw not a single piece of shrapnel strike so much as a single rose.

The boy scrambled to his knees and would have run — likely back into the road—but Roland grabbed him by the collar of his hide coat and yanked him down again.

"We're safe enoug h here, " he murmure d to Patrick. "Look." He reached into a hole revealed by the falling rock, knocked on the interior with his knuckles, produced a dull ringing noise, and showed his teeth in a strained grin. "Steel! Yar! He can hit this thing with a dozen of his flying fireballs and

STEPHEN KING 784

not knock it down. All he can do is blast away the rocks and blocks and expose what lies beneadi. Kennit? And I don't think he'll waste his ammunition. He can't have much more than a donkey's carry."

Before Patrick could reply, Roland peered around the pyra- mid's ragged edge once more. He cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed: "TRYAGAIN, SAI! WE'RE STILL HERE, BUT PERHAPS YOUR NEXT THROW WILL BE LUCKY!"

There was a moment of silence, then an insane scream: "FFFFFFFFFFF! YOU DON'T DARE MOCK ME! YOU DON'T DARE! FFFFFFFFFFF.l"

Now came another of tiiose rising whisdes. Roland grabbed Patrick and fell on top of him, behind the pyramid but not against it. He was afraid it might vibrate hard enough when the sneetch struck to give them concussion injuries, or turn their soft insides to jelly.

Only this time the sneetch didn't strike the pyramid. It flew past it instead, soaring above the road. Roland rolled off Patrick and onto his back. His eyes picked up the golden blur and marked the place where it buttonhooked back toward its targets. He shot it out of the air like a clay plate. There was a blinding flash and then it was gone.

"OH DEAR, STILL HERE!"Roland called, striving to put just the right note of mocking amusement into his voice. It wasn't easy when you were screaming at the top of your lungs.

Another crazed scream in response— "EEEEEEEEE!"Roland was amazed that the Red King didn't split his own head wide open with such cries. He reloaded the chamber he' d emp- tied—he intended to keep a full gun just as long as he could— and this time there was a double whine. Patrick moaned, rolled over onto his belly, and plunged his face into the rock-strewn grass, covering his head with his hands. Roland sat with his back against the pyramid of rock and steel, the long barrel of his six- gun lying on his thigh, relaxed and waiting. At the same time he bent all of his willpower toward one object. His eyes wanted water in response to that high, approaching whisde, and he

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must not let them. If he ever needed the preternaturally keen eyesight for which he' d been famous in his time, this was it.

Those blue eyes were still clear when the sneetches bolted past above the road. This time one buttonhooked left and the other right. They took evasive action, jigging crazily first one way and then another. It made no difference. Roland waited, sitting with his legs outstretched and his old broken boots cocked into a relaxed V, his heart beating slow and steady, his eye filled with all the world's clarity and color (had he seen better on that last day, he believed he would have been able to see the wind). Then he snapped his gun up, blew both sneetches out of the air, and was once more reloading the empty chambers while the afterimages still pulsed with his heartbeat in front of his eyes.

He leaned to the corner of the pyramid, plucked up the binoculars, braced them on a convenient spur of rock, and looked through them for his enemy. The Crimson King almost jumpe d at him, and for once in his life Roland saw exactly what he had imagined: an old man with an enormous nose, hooked and waxy; red lips that bloomed in the snow of a luxu- riant beard; snowy hair that spilled down the Crimson King's back almost all the way to his scrawny bottom. His pink-flushed face peered toward the pilgrims. The King wore a robe of bril- liant red, dotted here and about with lightning strokes and cabalistic symbols. To Susannah, Eddie, and Jake, he would have looked like Father Christmas. To Roland he looked like what he was: Hell, incarnate.

"HOW SLOW YOU ARE!" the gunslinger cried in a tone of mock amazement. "TRY THREE, PERHAPS THREE AT ONCE WILL DO YA!"

Looking into the binoculars was like looking into a magic hourglass tipped on its side. Roland watched the Big Red King leaping up and down, shaking his hands beside his face in a way that was almost comic. Roland thought he could see a crate at that robed figure's feet, but wasn't entirely sure; the scrolled iron staves between the balcony's floor and its railing obscured it.

STEPHEN KING 786

Must be his ammunition supply, he thought. Must be. How many can he have in a crate that size? Twenty ?Fifty ?It didn't matter. Unless the Red King could throw more than twelve at a time, Roland was confident he could shoot anything out of the air the old daemon sent his way. This was, after all, what he' d been made for.

Unfortunately, the Crimson King knew it as well as Roland did.

The thing on the balcony gave another gruesome, ear- splitting cry (Patrick plugged his dirty ears with his dirty fingers) and made as if to dip down for fresh ammunition. Then, how- ever, he stopped himself. Roland watched him advance to the balcony's railing . .. and then peer directly into the gunslinger's eyes. That glare was red and burning. Roland lowered the binoculars at once, lest he be fascinated.

The King's call drifted to him. "WAIT THEN, A BIT—AND MEDITATE ON WHAT YOUD GAIN, ROLAND! THINK HOW CLOSE IT IS! AND . . . LISTEN! HEAR THE SONG YOUR DAR- LING SINGS!"

He fell silent then. No more whistling; no more whines; no more oncoming sneetches. What Roland heard instead was the sough of the wind . . . and what the King wanted him to hear.

The call of the Tower.

Come, Roland, sang the voices. They came from the roses of Can'-Ka No Rey, they came from the strengthening Beams overhead, they came most of all from the Tower itself, that for which he had searched all his life, that which was now in reach . . . that which was being held away from him, now, at the last. If he went to it, he would be killed in the open. Yet the call was like a fishhook in his mind, drawing him. The Crimson King knew it would do his work if he only waited. And as the time passed, Roland came to know it, too. Because the calling voices weren't constant. At their current level he could withstand them. Was withstanding them. But as the afternoon wore on, die level of the call grew stronger. He began to understand—and with growing horror—why in his dreams and visions he had

787 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

always seen himself coming to the Dark Tower at sunset, when the light in the western sky seemed to reflect the field of roses, turning the whole world into a bucket of blood held up by one single stanchion, black as midnight against the burning horizon.

He had seen himself coming at sunset because that was when the Tower's strengthening call would finally overcome his willpower. He would go. No power on Earth would be able to stop him.

Come. . . come . . . became COME. . . COME. . . and then

COME! COME! His head ached with it. And for it. Again and again he found himself getting to his knees and forced himself to sit down once more with his back against the pyramid.

Patrick was staring at him with growing fright. He was partly or completely immune to that call—Roland understood this— but he knew what was happening.

 

• . - • • < • • • . F [ V E - v " • • • • • • • - ' • ^

 

They had been pinned down for what Roland judged to be an hour when the King tried another pair of sneetches. This time they flew on either side of the pyramid and hooked back almost at once, coming at him in perfect formation but twenty feet apart. Roland took the one on the right, snapped his wrist to the left, and blew the other one out of the sky. The explosion of the second one was close enough to buffet his face with warm air, but at least there was no shrapnel; when they blew, they blew completely, it seemed.

"TRYAGAIN!"he called. His throat was rough and dry now, but he knew the words were carrying—the air in this place was made for such communication. And he knew each one was a dagger pricking the old lunatic's flesh. But he had his own problems. The call of the Tower was growing steadily stronger. "COME, GUNSLJNGER!"the madman's voice coaxed. "PER- HAPS I'LL LET THEE COME, AFTER ALL! WE COULD AT

LEAST PALAVER ON THE SUBJECT, COULD WE NOT?"

To his horror, Roland thought he sensed a certain sincerity in that voice. '>&<• •

STEPHEN KING 788

Yes, he though t grimly. And we'll have coffee. Perhaps even a lit- tle fry-up.

He fumbled the watch out of his pocket and snapped it

open. The hands were running briskly backward. He leaned against the pyramid and closed his eyes, but that was worse. The call of the Tower

(come, Roland come, gunslinger, commala-come-come, now the journey's done)

was louder, more insistent than ever. He opene d them

again and looked up at the unforgiving blue sky and the clouds that raced across it in columns to the Tower at the end of the rose-field.

And the torture continued. •• ,,

 

SIX

He hun g on for another hour while the shadows of the bushes and the roses growing near the pyramid lengthened, hoping against hope that someuiing would occur to him, some brilliant idea that would save him from having to put his life and his fate in the hands of the talented but soft-minded boy by his side. But as the sun began to slide down the western arc of the sky and the blue overhead began to darken, he knew there was nothing else. The hands of the pocket-watch were turning backward ever faster. Soon they would be spinning. And when they began to spin, he would go. Sneetches or no sneetches (and what else might the madman be holding in reserve?), he would go. He would run, he would zig-zag, he would fall to the ground and crawl if he had to, and no matter what he did, he knew he would be lucky to make it even half the distance to the Dark Tower before he was blown out of his boots.

He would die among the roses. "Patrick," he said. His voice was husky.

Patrick looked up at him with desperate intensity. Roland stared at the boy's hands—dirty, scabbed, but in their way as incredibly talented as his own—and gave in. It occurred to him that he' d only held out as long as this from pride; he had

789 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

wanted to kill the Crimson King, not merely send him into some null zone. And of course there was no guarantee that Patrick could do to the King what he'd done to the sore on Susannah's face. But the pull of the Tower would soon be too strong to resist, and all his other choices were gone.

"Change places with me, Patrick."

Patrick did, scrambling carefully over Roland. He was now at the edge of the pyramid nearest the road.

"Look through the far-seeing instrument. Lay it in that notch—yes, just so—and look."

Patrick did, and for what seemed to Roland a very long time. The voice of the Tower, meanwhile, sang and chimed and cajoled. At long last, Patrick looked back at him.

"Now take thy pad, Patrick. Draw yonder man." Not that he

luas a man, but at least he looked like one.

At first, however, Patrick only continued to gaze at Roland, biting his lip. Then, at last, he took the sides of the gunslinger's head in his hands and brought it forward until they were brow to brow.

Very hard, whispered a voice deep in Roland's mind. It was not the voice of a boy at all, but of a grown man. A powerful man . He's not entirely there. He darkles. He tincts.

Where had Roland heard those words before? No time to think about it now.

"Are you saying you can't?" Roland asked, injecting (with an effort) a note of disappointed incredulity into his voice. "That you can't? That Patrick can't? The Artist can't?"

Patrick's eyes changed. For a moment Roland saw in them the expression that would be there permanently if he grew to be a man . .. and the paintings in Sayre's office said that he would do that, at least on some track of time, in some world. Old enough, at least, to paint what he ha d seen this day. That expression would be hauteur, if he grew to be an old man with a little wisdom to match his talent; now it was only arrogance. The look of a kid who knows he's faster than blue blazes, the best, and cares to know nothing else. Roland knew that look, for had he not seen it gazing back at him from a hundred mirrors

STEPHEN KING 790

and still pools of water when he had been as young as Patrick

Danville was now?

I can, came the voice in Roland's head. I only say it won't be

easy. I'll need the eraser.

Roland shook his head at once. In his pocket, his hand closed around what remained of the pink nubbin and held it tight.

"No," he said. "Thee must draw cold, Patrick. Every line right the first time. The erasing comes later."

For a moment the look of arrogance faltered, but only for a moment. When it returned, what came with it pleased the gun- slinger mightily, and eased him a litde, as well. It was a look of hot excitement. It was die look the talented wear when, after years of just moving sleepily along from pillar to post, they are finally challenged to do something that will tax their abilities, stretch them to their limits. Perhaps even beyond them.

Patrick rolled to the binoculars again, which he' d left propped aslantjust below the notch. He looked long while the voices sang their growing imperative in Roland's head.

And at last he rolled away, took up his pad, and began to draw the most important picture of his life.

 

, . • • . - • > , . •. •* .',; . S E V E N ..- , : - ,., ' • ,

 

It was slow work compared to Patrick's usual method—rapid strokes diat produced a completed and compelling drawing in only minutes. Roland again and again had to restrain himself from shouting at the boy: Hurry up! For the sake of all the gods, hurry up! Can't you see that I'm in agony here?

But Patrick didn't see and wouldn't have cared in any case. He was totally absorbed in his work, caught up in the unknow- ing greed of it, pausing only to go back to the binoculars now and then for another long look at his red-robed subject. Some- times he slanted die pencil to shade a litde, dien rubbed with his thumb to produce a shadow. Sometimes he rolled his eyes back in his head, showing the world nothing but the waxy gleam of the whites. It was as if he were conning some version of

791 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN-KA NO REY

the Red King that stood a-glow in his brain. And really, how did

Roland know that was not possible?

/ don't care what it is. Just let him finish before I go mad and sprint to what the Old Red King so rightly called "my darling."

Half an hour at least three days long passed in this fashion.

Once the Crimson King called more coaxingly than ever to Roland, asking if he would not come to the Tower and palaver, after all. Perhaps, he said, if Roland were to free him from his balcony prison, they might bury an arrow together and then climb to the top room of the Tower in that same spirit of friendliness. It was not impossible, after all. A hard rain made for queer bedfellows at the inn; had Roland never heard that saying?

The gunslinger knew the saying well. He also knew that the Red King's offer was essentially the same false request as before, only this time dressed up in morning coat and cravat. And this time Roland heard worry lurking in the old monster's voice. He wasted no energy on reply.

Realizing his coaxing had failed, the Crimson King threw another sneetch. This one flew so high over the pyramid it was only a spark, then dove down upon them with the scream of a falling bomb. Roland took care of it with a single shot and reloaded from a plentitude of shells. He wished, in fact, that the King would send more of the flying grenados against him, because they took his mind temporarily off the dreadful call of the Tower.

It's been waitingfor me, he though t with dismay. That's what makes it so hard to resist, I thinkit's calling me in particular. Not to Roland, exactly, but to the entire line of Eld . . . and of that line, only I am left.

 

EIGHT

At last, as the descending sun began to take on its first hues of orange and Roland felt he could stand it no longer, Patrick put his pencil aside and held the pad out to Roland, frowning. The look made Roland afraid. He had never seen that particular

STEPHEN KING 792

expression in the mute boy's repertoire. Patrick's former arro- gance was gone.

Roland took the pad, however, and for a moment was so amazed by what he saw there that he looked away, as if even the eyes in Patrick's drawing might have the power to fascinate him; might perhaps compel him to put his gun to his temple and blow out his aching brains. It was that good. The greedy and questioning face was long, the cheeks and forehead marked by creases so deep they might have been bottomless. The lips within the foaming beard were full and cruel. It was the mouth of a man who would turn a kiss into a bite if the spirit took him, and the spirit often would.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" came that screaming, lunatic voice. "IT WON'T DO YOU ANY GOOD, WHATEVER IT IS! I HOLD THE TOWER— EEEEEEEE!— I'M LIKE THE DOG WITH THE GRAPES, ROLAND! IT'S MINE EVEN IF I CANT CLIMB IT! AND YOU'LL COME! EEEEE! SAY TRUE! BEFORE THE SHADOW OF THE TOWER REACHES YOUR PALTRY HIDING-PLACE, YOU'LL COME! FFFFFFFFJ FFFFFFFFJ EEEEEEEE! "

Patrick covered his ears, wincing. Now that he had finished drawing, he registered those terrible screams again.

That the picture was the greatest work of Patrick's life Roland had absolutely no doubt. Challenged, the boy had done more than rise above himself; he had soared above himself and committed genius. The image of the Crimson King was hauntin g in its clarity. The far-seeing instrument can't explain this, or not all of it, Rolan d thought . It's as if he has a third eye, one that looks out from his imagination and sees everything. It's that eye he looks through when he rolls the other two up. To own such an ability as this . . . and to express it with something as humble as a pencil! Ye gods!

He almost expected to see the pulse begin to beat in the hol- lows of the old man's temples, where clocksprings of veins had been delineated with only a few gende, feathered shadings. At the corner of the full and sensuous lips, the gunslinger could see the wink of a single sharp

( t U S k ) • , , , , » , . - , :.;.- .

793 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY pp

tooth, and he thought the lips of the drawing might come to life and part as he looked, revealing a mouthful of fangs: one mere wink of white (which was only a bit of unmarked paper, after all) made the imagination see all the rest, and even to smell the reek of meat that would accompany each outflow of breath. Patrick had perfectly captured a tuft of hair curling from one of the King's nostrils, and a tiny thread of scar that wove in and out of the King's right eyebrow like a bit of string. It was a marvelous piece of work, better by far than the portrait the mute boy had done of Susannah. Surely if Patrick had been able to erase the sore from that one, then he could erase the Crimson King from this one, leaving nothing but the balcony railing before him and the closed door to the Tower's barrel behind. Roland almost expected the Crimson King to breathe and move, and so surely it was done! Surely . . .

But it was not. It was not, and wanting would not make it so. Not even needing would make it so.

It's his eyes, Roland thought. They were wide and terrible, the eyes of a dragon in human form. They were dreadfully good, but they weren't right. Roland felt a kind of desperate, miser- able certainty and shuddered from head to toe, hard enough to make his teeth chatter. They 're not quite r

Patrick took hold of Roland's elbow. The gunslinger had been concentrating so fiercely on the drawing that he nearly screamed. He looked up. Patrick nodded at him, then touched his fingers to the corners of his own eyes.

Yes. His eyes. I know that! But what's wrong with them ?

Patrick was still touching the corners of his eyes. Overhead, a flock of rusties flew through a sky that would soon be more purple than blue, squalling the harsh cries that had given them their name. It was toward the Dark Tower that they flew; Roland arose to follow them so they should not have what he could not.

Patrick grabbed him by his hide coat and pulled him back. The boy shook his head violently, and this time pointed toward the road.

"I SAW THAT, ROLAND!" came the cry. "YOU THINK THAT WHAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE BIRDS IS GOOD ENOUGH

STEPHEN KING 794

FOR YOU, DO YOUNOT? EEEEEEEEE! AND IT'S TRUE, SURE! SURE AS SUGAR, SURE AS SALT, SURE AS RUBIES IN KING DANDO 'S VA ULT—EEEEEEEE, HA! I COULD HAVE HAD YOU JUST NOW, BUT WHY BOTHER? I THINK I'D RATHER SEE YOU COME, PISSING AND SHAKING AND UNABLE TO STOP YOURSELF!"

As I will, Roland thought. / won't be able to help myself. I may be abletoholdhereanothertenminutes,perhapsevenanothertwenty,but in the end . . .

Patrick interrupted his thoughts, once more pointing at the road. Pointing back the way they had come.

Roland shook his head wearily. "Even if I could fight the pull of the thing—and I couldn't, it's all I can do to bide here— retreat would do us no good. Once we're no longer in cover, he'll use whatever else he has. He has something, I'm sure of it. And whatever it is, the bullets of my revolver aren't likely to stop it."

Patrick shook his head hard enough to make his long hair fly from side to side. The grip on Roland's arm tightened until the boy's fingernails bit into the gunslinger's flesh even through three layers of hide clothing. His eyes, always gentle and usually puzzled, now peered at Roland with a look close to fury. He pointed again with his free hand, three quickjabbing gestures with the grimy forefinger. Not at the road, however.

Patrick was pointing at the roses.

"What about them?" Roland asked. "Patrick, what about them?"

This time Patrick pointed first to the roses, then to the eyes in his picture.

And this time Roland understood.

 

••:.-,• « NINE

Patrick didn't want to get them. When Roland gestured to him to go, the boy shook his head at once, whipping his hair once more from side to side, his eyes wide. He made a whistling noise between his teeth that was a remarkably good imitation of an oncoming sneetch.

795 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

"I'll shoot anything he sends," Roland said. 'You've seen me do it. If there was one close enough so that I could pick it myself, I would. But there's not. So it has to be you who picks the rose and me who gives you cover."

But Patrick only cringed back against the ragged side of the pyramid. Patrick would not. His fear might not have been as great as his talent, but it was surely a close thing. Roland calcu- lated the distance to the nearest rose. It was beyond their scant cover, but perhaps not by too much. He looked at his diminished right hand, which would have to do the plucking, and asked himself how hard it could be. The fact, of course, was that he didn't know. These were not ordinary roses. For all he knew, the thorns growing up the green stem might have a poison in them that would drop him paralyzed into the tall grass, an easy target.

And Patrick would not. Patrick knew that Roland had once had friends, and that now all his friends were dead, and Patrick would not. If Roland had had two hours to work on the boy— possibly even one—h e might have broken through his terror. But he didn't have that time. Sunset had almost come.

Besides, it's close. I can do it ifI have to . . . and I must.

The weather had warmed enough so there was no need for the clumsy deerskin gloves Susannah had made them, but Roland had been wearing his that morning, and they were still tucked in his belt. He took one of them and cut off die end, so his two remaining fingers would poke dirough. What remained would at least protect his palm from the thorns. He put it on, then rested on one knee witfi his remaining gun in his other hand, looking at the nearest rose. Would one be enough? It would have to be, he decided. The next was fully six feet further away.

Patrick clutched his shoulder, shaking his head frantically. "I have to," Roland said, and of course he did. This was his

job , not Patrick's, and he had been wrong to try and make the

boy do it in the first place. If he succeeded, fine and well. If he failed and was blown apart here at the edge of Can'-Ka No Rey, at least that dreadful pulling would cease.

The gunslinger took a deep breath, then leaped from cover and at the rose. At the same moment, Patrick clutched at him

STEPHEN KING 796

again, trying to hold him back. He grabbed a fold of Roland's coat and twisted him off-true. Roland landed clumsily on his side. The gun flew out of his hand and fell in the tall grass. The Crimson King screamed (the gunslinger heard both triumph and fury in that voice) and then came the approaching whine of another sneetch. Roland closed his mittened right hand around the stem of the rose. The thorns bit through the tough deerskin as if it were no more than a coating of cobwebs. Then into his hand. The pain was enormous, but the song of the rose was sweet. He could see the blaze of yellow deep in its cup, like the blaze of a sun. Or a million of them. He could feel the warmth of blood filling the hollow of his palm and running between the remaining fingers. It soaked the deerskin, bloom- ing another rose on its scuffed brown surface. And here came the sneetch that would kill him, blotting out the rose's song, fill- ing his head and threatening to split his skull.

The stem never did break. In the end, the rose tore free of the ground, roots and all. Roland rolled to his left, grabbed his gun, and fired without looking. His heart told him there was no longer time to look. There was a shattering explosion, and the warm air that buffeted his face this time was like a hurricane.

Close. Very close, that time.

Th e Crimso n King screame d his frustratio n — "EEEEEEEEEEE!"—and the cry was followed by multiple approaching whisdes. Patrick pressed himself against the pyra- mid, face-first. Roland, clutching the rose in his bleeding right hand, rolled onto his back, raised his gun, and waited for the sneetches to make their turn. When they did, he took care of them: one and two and three.

"STILL HERE!"he cried at the old Red King. "STILL HERE, YOU OLD COCKSUCKER, MAYIT DO YA FINE!"

The Crimson King gave another of his terrible howls, but sent no more sneetches.

"SO NOW YOU HAVE A ROSE!" he screamed. "LISTEN TO IT, ROLAND! LISTEN WELL, FOR IT SINGS THE SAME SONG! LISTENANDCOMMALA-COME-COME!"

Now that song was all but imperative in Roland's head. It

797 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

burne d furiously along his nerves. He grasped Patrick and turned him around. "Now," he said. "For my life, Patrick. For the lives of every man and woman who ever died in my place so I could go on."

And child, he thought, seeing Jake in the eye of his memory. Jake first hanging over darkness, then falling into it.

He stared into the mute boy's terrified eyes. "Finish it!

Shoxo me that you can."

 

TEN

Now Roland witnessed an amazing thing: when Patrick took the rose, he wasn't cut. Not so much as scratched. Roland pulled his own lacerated glove off with his teeth and saw that not only was his palm badly slashed, but one of his remaining fingers now hung by a single bloody tendon. It drooped like something that wants to go to sleep. But Patrick was not cut. The thorns did not pierce him. And the terror had gone out of his eyes. He was looking from the rose to his drawing, back and forth with ten- der calculation.

"ROLAND! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COME, GUNSUNGER, FOR SUNSET'S ALMOST NIGH!"

And yes, he would come. One way or the other. Knowing it was so eased him somewhat, enabled him to remain where he was without trembling too badly. His right hand was numb to the wrist, and Roland suspected he would never feel it again. That was all right; it hadn't been much of a shake since the lob- strosities had gotten at it.

An d th e rose sang Yes, Roland, yesyou'll have it again. You'll be whole again. There will be renewal. Only come.

Patrick plucked a petal from the rose, judge d it, the n

plucked another to go with it. He put them in his mouth. For a moment his face went slack with a peculiar sort of ecstasy, and Roland wondered what the petals might taste like. Overhead the sky was growing dark. The shadow of the pyramid that had been hidden by the rocks stretched nearly to the road. When the point of that shadow touched the way that had brought him

STEPHEN KING 798

here, Roland supposed he would go whether the Crimson

King still held the Tower approach or not.

"WHAT'S THEE DOING? EEEEEEEEE! WHAT DEVILTRY WORKS IN THY MIND AND THY HEART?"

You 're a great one to speak of deviltry, Roland thought. He took out his watch and snapped back the cover. Beneath the crystal, the hands now sped backward, five o'clock to four, four to three, three to two, two to one, and one to midnight.

"Patrick, hurry," he said. "Quick as you can, I beg, for my time is almost up."

Patrick cupped a hand beneath his mouth and spat out a red paste the color of fresh blood. The color of the Crimson King's robe. And the exact color of his lunatic's eyes.

Patrick, on the verge of using color for the first time in his life as an artist, made to dip the tip of his right forefinger into this paste, and then hesitated. An odd certainty came to Roland then: die thorns of diese roses only pricked when their roots still tied the plant to Mim, or Mother Earth. Had he gotten his way with Patrick, Mim would have cut those talented hands to rib- bons and rendered them useless.

It's still ka, the gunslinger thought. Even out here in End-W— Before he could finish the thought, Patrick took the gun- slinger's right hand and peered into it witfi the intensity of a for- tune-teller. He scooped up some of the blood diat flowed there and mixed it with his rose-paste. Then, carefully, he took a tiny bit of this mixture upon the second finger of his right hand. He lowered it to his painting . . . hesitated . . . looked at Roland. Roland nodded to him and Patrick nodded in return, as gravely as a surgeon about to make the first cut in a danger- ous operation, then applied his finger to the paper. The tip touched down as delicately as the beak of a hummingbird dip- ping into a flower. It colored the Crimson King's left eye and uien lifted away. Patrick cocked his head, looking at what he had done with a fascination Roland had never seen on a human face in all his long and wandering time. It was as if the boy were some Manni prophet, finally granted a glimpse of Gan's face after

twenty years of waiting in the desert. ,

799 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

Then he broke into an enormous, sunny grin.

The response from the Dark Tower was more immediate and—to Roland, at least—immensely gratifying. The old crea- ture pen t on the balcony howled in pain.

"WHAT'S THEE DOING? FFFFFFF! FFFFFFFFi STOP! IT

BURNS! BURRRRNS! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! "

"Now finish the other," Roland said. "Quickly! For your life

and mine!"

Patrick colored the other eye with the same delicate dip of the finger. Now two brilliant crimson eyes looked ou t of Patrick's black-and-white drawing, eyes that had been colored with attar of rose and the blood of Eld; eyes that burne d with Hell's own fire.

It was done.

Roland produce d the eraser at last, and held it out to Patrick. "Make him gone," he said. "Make yonder foul ho b gone from this world and every world. Make him gone at last."

 

 

•••• ELEVE N •• >

 

Ther e was no question it would work. From the momen t Patrick first touched the eraser to his drawing—to that curl of nostril-hair, as it happened—th e Crimson King began to scream in fresh pain and horror from his balcony redoubt. And in understanding.

Patrick hesitated, looking at Roland for confirmation, and Roland nodded. "Aye, Patrick. His time has come and you're to be his executioner. Go on with it."

The Old King threw four more sneetches, and Roland took care of them all with calm ease. After that he threw no more, for he had no hands with which to throw. His shrieks rose to gibbering whines that Roland thought would surely never leave his ears.

The mute boy erased the full, sensuous mouth from within its foam of beard, and as he did it, the screams first grew muffled and then ceased. In the end Patrick erased everything but the eyes, and these the remaining bit of rubber would not even blur.

STEPHEN KING 800

They remained until the piece of pink gum (originally part of a Pencil-Pak bought in a Norwich, Connecticut, Woolworth's during a back-to-school sale in August of 1958) had been reduced to a shred the boy could not even hold between his long, dirty nails. And so he cast it away and showed the gun- slinger what remained: two malevolent blood-red orbs floating three-quarters of the way up the page.

All the rest of him was gone. '

 

TWELVE

The shadow of the pyramid's tip had come to touch the road; now the sky in the west changed from the orange of a reaptide bonfire to that cauldron of blood Roland had seen in his dreams ever since childhood. When it did, the call of the Tower doubled, then trebled. Roland felt it reach out and grasp him with invisible hands. The time of his destiny was come.

Yet there was this boy. This friendless boy. Roland would not leave him to die here at the end of End-World if he could help it. He had no interest in atonement, and yet Patrick had come to stand for all the murders and betrayals that had finally brought him to the Dark Tower. Roland's family was dead; his misbegotten son had been the last. Now would Eld and Tower bejoined.

First, though—o r last—this.

"Patrick, listen to me," he said, taking the boy's shoulder with his whole left han d and his mutilated right. "If you'd live to make all the pictures ka has stored away in your future, ask me not a single question nor ask me to repeat a single thing." The boy looked at him, large-eyed and silent in the red and dying light. And the Song of the Tower rose around them to a

mighty shout that was nothing but commala.

"Go back to the road. Pick up all the cans that are whole. That should be enough to feed you. Go back the way we came. Never leave the road. You'll do fine."

Patrick nodded with perfect understanding. Roland saw he believed, and that was good. Belief would protect him even

801 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

more surely than a revolver, even one with the sandalwood grips.

"Go back to the Federal. Go back to the robot, Stuttering Bill that was. Tell him to take you to a door that swings open on America-side. If it won't open to your hand, draiu it open with thy pencil. Do'ee understand?"

Patrick nodded again. Of course he understood.

"If ka should eventually lead you to Susannah in any where or when, tell her Roland loves her still, and with all his heart." He drew Patrick to him and kissed the boy's mouth. "Give he r that. Do'ee understand?"

Patrick nodded.

"All right. I go. Long days and pleasant nights. May we meet in the clearing at the end of the path when all worlds end." Yet even the n he knew this would no t happen , for the worlds would never end, not now, and for him there would be no clearing. For Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of Eld's line,

the path ended at the Dark Tower. And that did him fine.

He rose to his feet. The boy looked up at him with wide, wondering eyes, clutching his pad. Roland turned. He drew in breath to the bottom of his lungs and let it out in a great cry.

"NOW COMES ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER! I HAVE BEEN TRUE AND I STILL CARRY THE GUN OF MY FATHER AND YOU WILL OPEN TO MY HAND!"

Patrick watched him stride to where the road ended, a black silhouette against that bloody burning sky. He watched as Roland walked among the roses, and sat shivering in the shad- ows as Roland began to cry the names of his friends and loved ones and ka-mates; those names carried clear in that strange air, as if they would echo forever.

"I come in the name of Steven Deschain, he of Gilead!

"I come in the name of Gabrielle Deschain, she of Gilead! "I come in the name of Cortland Andrus, he of Gilead!

"I come in the name of Cuthbert Allgood, he of Gilead! "I come in the name of Alain Johns, he of Gilead!

"I come in the name of Jamie DeCurry, he of Gilead!

"I come in the name of Vannay the Wise, he of Gilead!

STEPHEN KING 802

"I come in the name of Hax the Cook, he of Gilead!

"I come in the name of David the hawk, he of Gilead and the sky!

"I come in the name of Susan Delgado, she of Mejis! "I come in the name of Sheemie Ruiz, he of Mejis!

"I come in the name of Pere Callahan, he of Jerusalem's

Lot, and the roads!

"I come in the name of Ted Brautigan, he of America!

"I come in the name of Dinky Earnshaw, he of America!

"I come in the name of Aunt Talidia, she of River Crossing, and will lay he r cross here, as I was bid!

"I come in the name of Stephen King, he of Maine!

"I come in the name of Oy, the brave, he of Mid-World! "I come in the name of Eddie Dean, he of New York!

"I come in the name of Susannah Dean, she of New York!

"I come in the name of Jake Chambers, he of New York, whom I call my own true son!

"I am Roland of Gilead, and I come as myself; you will open

to me."

After that came the sound of a horn . It simultaneously chilled Patrick's blood and exalted him. The echoes faded into silence. Then, perhaps a minute later, came a great, echo- ing boom: the sound of a door swinging shut forever.

And after that came silence.

 

•• • , THIRTEE N

Patrick sat where he was at the base of the pyramid, shivering, until Old Star and Old Mother rose in the sky. The song of the roses and the Tower hadn' t ceased, but it had grown low and sleepy, little more than a murmur.

At last he went back to the road, gathered as many whole cans as he could (there was a surprising number of them, con- sidering the force of the explosion that had demolished the cart), and found a deerskin sack that would hold them. He real- ized he had forgotten his pencil and went back to get it.

803 THE SCARLET FIELD OF CAN'-KA NO REY

Beside the pencil, gleaming in the starlight, was Roland's watch.

The boy took it with a small (and nervous) hoot of glee. He put it in his pocket. Then he went back to the road and slung his little sack of gunna over his shoulder.

I can tell you that he walked until nearly midnight, and that he looked at the watch before taking his rest. I can tell you that the watch had stopped completely. I can tell you that, come noon of the following day, he looked at it again and saw that it had begun to run in the correct direction once more, albeit very slowly. But of Patrick I can tell you no more, not whether he made it back to the Federal, not whether he found Stutter- ing Bill that was, not whether he eventually came once more to America-side. I can tell you none of these things, say sorry. Here the darkness hides him from my storyteller's eye and he must go on alone.

SUSANNAH IN NEW YORK

 

 

 

 

••* mi- •T»if«' r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

' '' " - ' ;'• ' :':-s:. . " '. .' t^.'T"' '-.-' .

 

SUSANNAH IN NEW YORK (EPILOGUE)

 

 

 

 

No one takes alarm as the little electric cart slides out of nowhere an inch at a time until it's wholly here in Central Park; no one sees it but us. Most of those here are looking skyward, as the first snowflakes of what will prove to be a great pre-Christmas snowstorm come skirling down from a white sky. The Blizzard of

'87, the newspapers will call it. Visitors to the park who aren't watching the snowfall begin are watching the carolers, who are from public schools far uptown. They are wearing either dark red blazers (the boys) or dark red jumpers (the girls). This is the Harlem School Choir, sometimes called The Harlem Roses in the Post and its rival tabloid, the New York Sun. They sing an old hymn in gorgeous doo-wop harmony, snapping their fingers as they make their way through the staves, turning it into some- thing that sounds almost like early Spurs, Coasters, or Dark Diamonds. They are standing not too far from the environ- ment where the polar bears live their city lives, and the song they're singing is "What Child Is This."

On e of those looking up into the snow is a man Susannah knows well, and her heart leaps straight up to heaven at the sight of him. In his left hand he's holding a large paper cup and she's sure it contains hot chocolate, the good kind mit schlag.

For a momen t she's unable to touch the controls of the lit- tle cart, which came from another world. Thoughts of Roland and Patrick have left her mind. All she can think of is Eddie— Eddie in front of her right here and now, Eddie alive again. And if this is not the Keystone World, not quite, what of that? If Co- Op City is in Brooklyn (or even in Queens!) and Eddie drives a Takuro Spirit instead of a Buick Electra, what of those things? It

807

EPILOGUE 808

doesn't matter. Only one thing would, and it's that which keeps her han d from rising to the throttle and trundling the cart toward him.

What if he doesn't recognize her?

What if when he turns he sees nothing but a homeless black lady in an electric cart whose battery will soon be as flat as a sat-on hat, a black lady with no money, no clothes, no address (not in this where and when, say thankee sai) and no legs? A homeless black lady with no connection to him? Or what if he does know her, somewhere far back in his mind, yet still denies he r as completely as Peter denied Jesus, because remembering is just too hurtful?

Worse still, what if he turns to her and she sees the burned- out, fucked-up, empty-eyed stare of the longtime junkie? What if, what if, and here comes the snow that will soon turn the whole world white.

Stop thy grizzling and go to him, Rolan d tells her. You didn't face Blaine and the taheen of Blue Heaven and the thing under Castle Dis- cordiajust to turn tail and run now, did you ? Surely you 've got a moit more guts than that.

But she isn't sure she really does until she sees her hand rise

to the throttle. Before she can twist it, however, the gunslinger's voice speaks to her again, this time sounding wearily amused.

Perhaps there's something you want to get rid of first, Susannah?

She looks down and sees Roland's weapon stuck through he r crossbelt, like a Mexican bandidds pis tola, or a pirate's cut- lass. She pulls it free, amazed at how good it feels in he r hand .. . how brutally right. Parting from this, she thinks, will be like parting from a lover. And she doesn't have to, does she? The question is, what does she love more? The man or the gun? All other choices will flow from this one.

On impulse she rolls the cylinder and sees that the rounds inside look old, their casings dull.

These'll never fire, she thinks . . . and, without knowing why, or precisely what it means: These are wets.

She sights up the barrel and is queerly saddened—but not surprised—to find that the barrel lets through no light. It's

809 SUSANNAH IN NEW YORK

plugged. Has been for decades, from the look of it. This gun will never fire again. There is no choice to be made, after all. This gun is over.

Susannah, still holding the revolver with the sandalwood grips in one hand, twists the throttle with the other. The little electric cart—the one she name d Ho Fat III, although that is already fading in her mind—rolls soundlessly forward. It passes a green trash barrel with KEEP LITTER IN ITS PLACE! sten- ciled on the side. She tosses Roland's revolver into this litter bar- rel. Doing it hurts her heart, but she never hesitates. It's heavy, and sinks into the crumpled fast-food wrappers, advertising cir- culars, and discarded newspapers like a stone into water. She is still enough of a gunslinger to bitterly regret throwing away such a storied weapon (even if the final trip between worlds has spoiled it), but she's already become enough of the woman who's waiting for her up ahead not to pause or look back once the jo b is done.

Before she can reach the man with the paper cup, he turns. He is indeed wearing a sweatshirt that says i DRINK NOZZ-A-LA!, but she barely registers that. It's him: that's what she registers. It's Edward Cantor Dean. And then even that becomes sec- ondary, because what she sees in his eyes is all she has feared. It's total puzzlement. He doesn't know her.

Then, tentatively, he smiles, and it is the smile she remem- bers, the one she always loved. Also he's clean, she knows it at once. She sees it in his face. Mostly in his eyes. The carolers from Harlem sing, and he holds out the cup of hot chocolate.

"Thank God," he says. "I'd just about decided I'd have to drink this myself. That the voices were wrong and I was going crazy after all. That . . . well. . ." He trails off, looking more than puzzled. He looks afraid. "Listen, you are here for me, aren't you? Please tell me I'm not making an utter ass of myself. Because, lady, right now I feel as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs."

'You're not," she says. "Making an ass of yourself, I mean." She's remembering Take's story about the voices he heard argu- ing in his mind, one yelling that he was dead, the other that he

EPILOGUE 810

was alive. Both of them utterly convinced. She has at least some idea of how terrible that must be, because she knows a little about other voices. Strange voices.

"Thank God," he says. 'Your name is Susannah?"

'Yes," she says. "My name is Susannah."

Her throat is terribly dry, but the words come out, at least. She takes the cup from him and sips the hot chocolate through the cream. It is sweet and good, a taste of this world. The sound of the honking cabs, their drivers hurrying to make their day before the snow shuts them down, is equally good. Grinning, he reaches out and wipes a tiny dab of the cream from the tip of her nose. His touch is electric, and she sees that he feels it, too. It occurs to her that he is going to kiss her again for the first time, and sleep with her again for the first time, and fall in love with he r again for the first time. He may know those diings because voices have told him, but she knows them for a far better reason: because those things have already hap- pened. Ka is a wheel, Roland said, and now she knows it's true. Her memories of

{Mid-World)

the gunslinger's where and when are growing hazy, but she thinks she will remember just enough to know it's all happened before, and there is something incredibly sad about this.

But at the same time, it's good.

It's a damn miracle, is what it is. . "Are you cold?" he asks.

"No, I'm okay. Why?" \ ;

'You shivered."

"It's the sweetness of the cream." Then, looking at him as she does it, she pokes her tongue out and licks a bit of the nut- meg-dusted foam.

"If you aren't cold now, you will be," he says. "WRKO says the temperature's gonna drop twenty degrees tonight. So I bought you something." From his back pocket he takes a knit- ted cap, the kind you can pull down over your ears. She looks at the front of it and sees the words there printed in red: MERRY CHRISTMAS. .., ••»,.• .

811 SUSANNAH IN NEW YORK

"Bought it in Brendio's, on Fifth Avenue," he says. Susanna h has neve r hear d of Brendio's . Brentano's,

maybe—the bookstore—but not Brendio's. But of course in the America where she grew up, she never heard of Nozz-A-La or Takuro Spirit automobiles, either. "Did your voices tell you to buy it?" Teasing him a little now.

He blushes. "Actually, you know, they sort of did. Try it on." It's a perfect fit.

"Tell me something," she says. "Who's the President? You're

not going to tell me it's Ronald Reagan, are you?"

He looks at her incredulously for a moment, and then smiles. "What? That old actor who used to host Death Valley Days on TV? You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. I always thought you were the one who was kidding about Ronnie Reagan, Eddie."

"I don't know what you mean."

"That's okay, just tell me who the President is."

"Gary Hart," he says, as if speaking to a child. "From Col- orado. He almost dropped out of the race in 1980—as I'm sure you know—over that Monkey Business business. Then he said

'Fuck em if they can't take a joke ' and hung on in there. Ended up winning in a landslide."

His smile fades a little as he studies her.

'You're not kidding me, are you?"

"Are you kidding me about the voices? The ones you hear in our head? The ones that wake you up at two in the morning?"

Eddie looks almost shocked. "How can you know that?"

"It's a long story. Maybe someday I'll tell you." If I can still remember,shethinks.

"It's not just the voices." "No?"

"No. I've been dreaming of you. For months now. I've been

waiting for you. Listen, we don't know each other . . . this is crazy . . . but do you have a place to stay? You don't, do you?"

She shakes her head. Doing a passable Joh n Wayne (or maybe it's Blaine the train she's imitating), she says: "Ah'm a stranger here in Dodge, pilgrim."

EPILOGUE 812

Her heart is pounding slowly and heavily in her chest, but she feels a rising joy. This is going to be all right. She doesn't know how it can be, but yes, it's going to be just fine. This time ka is working in her favor, and the force of ka is enormous. This she knows from experience.

"If I asked how I know you .. . or where you come from ... " He pauses, looking at her levelly, and then says the rest of it. "Or how I can possibly love you already . . . ?"

She smiles. It feels good to smile, and it no longer hurts die side of her face, because whatever was there (some sort of scar, maybe—she can't quite remember) is gone. "Sugar," she tells him, "it's what I said: a long story. You'll get some of it in time, though . . . what I remember of it. And it could be that we still have some work to do. For an outfit called the Tet Corpora- tion." She looks around and then says, "What year is this?"

"1987," he says.

"And do you live in Brooklyn? Or maybe the Bronx?"

The young man whose dreams and squabbling voices have led him here—with a cup of hot chocolate in his hand and a MERRY CHRISTMAS hat in his back pocket—burst s out laughing. "God, no! I'm from White Plains! I came in on the train with my brother. He's right over there. He wanted a closer look at the polar bears."

The brother. Henry. The great sage and eminent junkie. Her heart sinks.

"Let me introduce you," he says. "No, really, I—"

"Hey, if we're gonna be friends, you gotta be friends with my kid brother. We're tight. Jake! Hey, Jake!"

She hasn't noticed the boy standing down by the railing which guards the sunken polar bears' environment from the rest of the park, but now he turns and her heart takes a great, giddy leap in her chest. Jake waves and ambles toward them.

"Jake's been dreaming about you, too," Eddie tells her. "It's the only reason I know I'm not going crazy. Any crazier than usual, at least."

She takes Eddie's hand—tha t familiar, well-loved hand.

813 SUSANNAH IN NEW YORK

And when the fingers close over hers, she thinks she will die of joy. She will have many questions—so will they—but for the time being she has only one that feels important. As the snow begins to fall more thickly around them, landing in his hair and in his lashes and on the shoulders of his sweatshirt, she asks it.

'You and Jake—what's your last name?" "Toren," he says. "It's German."

Before either of them can say anything else, Jake joins them. And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness.

And they didlive.

Beneath the flowing and sometimes glimpsed glammer of the Beam that connects Shardik the Bear and Maturin the Turtle by way of the Dark Tower, they did live.

That's all. That's enough. Say thankya.

 

FOUND (CODA)

 

 

ONE

I've told my tale all the way to the end, and am satisfied. It was (I set my watch and warrant on it) the kind only a good God would save for last, full of monsters and marvels and voyaging here and there. I can stop now, put my pen down, and rest my weary hand (although perhaps not forever; the hand that tells the tales has a mind of its own, and a way of growing restless). I can close my eyes to Mid-World and all that lies beyond Mid- World. Yet some of you who have provided the ears without which no tale can survive a single day are likely not so willing.

You are the grim, goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination no matter how many times it has been proven to you. You are the unfor- tunate ones who still get the lovemaking all confused with the paltry squirt that comes to end the lovemaking (the orgasm is, after all, God's way of telling us we've finished, at least for the time being, and should go to sleep). You are the cruel ones who deny the Grey Havens, where tired characters go to rest. You say you want to know how it all comes out. You say you want to fol- low Roland into the Tower; you say that is what you paid your money for, the show you came to see.

I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not just munch your way through die pages to the ending. For an ending, you only have to turn to the last page and see what is there writ upon. But endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man (or Manni) can open. I've written many, but most only for the same reason that I pull on my pants in the morning before leaving the bed- room—because it is the custom of the country.

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CODA 818

And so, my dear Constant Reader, I tell you this: You can stop here. You can let your last memory be of seeing Eddie, Susannah, and Jake in Central Park, together again for the first time, listening to the children's choir sing "What Child Is This." You can be content in the knowledge that sooner or later Oy (probably a canine version with a long neck, odd gold-ringed eyes, and a bark that sometimes sounds eerily like speech) will also enter the picture. That's a pretty picture, isn't it? /thin k so. And pretty close to happily ever after, too. Close enough for gov- ernment work, as Eddie would say.

Should you go on, you will surely be disappointed, per- haps even heartbroken. I have one key left on my belt, but all it opens is that final door, the one marked ©^b®i W^j)- What's behind it won't improve your love-life, grow hair on your bald spot, or add five years to your natural span (not even five min- utes). There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal "Once upon a time."

Endings are heartless.

Ending is just another word for goodbye.

 

> TW O ;

 

Would you still?

Very well, then, come. (Do you hear me sigh?) Here is the

Dark Tower, at the end of End-World. See it, I beg.

See it very well.

Here is the Dark Tower at sunset. ,

 

THREE

He came to it with the oddest feeling of remembrance; what

Susannah and Eddie called deja vu.

The roses of Can'-Ka No Rey opened before him in a path to the Dark Tower, the yellow suns deep in their cups seeming to regard him like eyes. And as he walked toward that gray-black column, Roland felt himself begin to slip from the world as he

819 FOUND

had always known it. He called the names of his friends and loved ones, as he had always promised himself he would; called them in the gloaming, and with perfect force, for no longer was there any need to reserve energy with which to fight the Tower's pull. To give in—finally—was the greatest relief of his life.

He called the names of his compadres and amoras, an d although each came from deeper in his heart, each seemed to have less business with the rest of him. His voice rolled away to the darkening red horizon, name upon name. He called Eddie's and Susannah's. He called Jake's, and last of all he called his own. When the sound of it had died out, the blast of a great hor n replied, not from the Tower itself but from the roses that lay in a carpet all around it. That horn was the voice of the roses, and cried him welcome with a kingly blast.

In my dreams the horn was always mine, he thought . / should have known better, for mine was lost with Cuthbert, at Jericho Hill.

A voice whispered from above him: It would have been the

work of three seconds to bend and pick it up. Even in the smoke and the death. Three seconds. Time, Rolandit ahoays comes back to that.

That was, he thought, the voice of the Beam—the one

they had saved. If it spoke out of gratitude it could have saved its breath, for what good were such words to him now? He remem- bered a line from Browning's poem: One taste of the old times sets all to rights.

Such had never been his experience. In his own, memories brought only sadness. They were the food of poets and fools, sweets that left a bitter aftertaste in the mouth and throat.

Roland stopped for a moment still ten paces from the ghost- wood door in the Tower's base, letting the voice of the roses— that welcoming horn—ech o away to nothing. The feeling of deja vu was still strong, almost as though he had been here after all. And of course he had been, in ten thousand premonitory dreams. He looked up at the balcony where the Crimson King had stood, trying to defy ka and bar his way. There, about six feet above the cartons that held the few remaining sneetches (the old lunatic had had no other weapons after all, it seemed),

CODA 820

he saw two red eyes, floating in the darkening air, looking down at him witfi eternal hatred. From their backs, the thin sil- ver of the optic nerves (now tinted red-orange with the light of the leaving sun) trailed away to nothing. The gunslinger sup- posed the Crimson King's eyes would remain up there forever, watching Can'-Ka No Rey while their owner wandered the world to which Patrick's eraser and enchanted Artist's eye had sent him. Or, more likely, to the space between the worlds.

Roland walked on to where the path ended at the steel- banded slab of black ghostwood. Upon it, a sigul that he now knew well was engraved three-quarters of the way up :

 

 

 

Here he laid two things, the last of his gunna: Aunt Talitha's cross, and his remaining sixgun. When he stood up, he saw the first two hieroglyphics had faded away:

 

 

 

UNFOUND had become FOUND.

He raised his hand as if to knock, but the door swung open of its own accord before he could touch it, revealing the bottom steps of an ascending spiral stairway. Ther e was a sighing voice—Welcome, Roland, thee of Eld. It was the Tower's voice. This edifice was not stone at all, although it might look like stone; this was a living thing, Gan himself, likely, and the pulse he' d felt deep in his head even thousands of miles from here had always been Gan's beating life-force.

Commala, gunslinger. Commala-come-come.

And wafting out came the smell of alkali, bitter as tears. The smell of.. . what? What, exactly? Before he could place it the odor was gone, leaving Roland to surmise he had imagined it.

He stepped inside and the Song of the Tower, which he had always heard—even in Gilead, where it had hidden in his mother's voice as she sang him her cradle songs—finally ceased. There was another sigh. The door swung shut with a boom, but

821 FOUND

he was not left in blackness. The light that remained was that of the shining spiral windows, mixed with the glow of sunset.

Stone stairs, a passage just wide enough for one person, ascended.

"Now comes Roland," he called, and the words seemed to spiral up into infinity. "Thee at the top, hear and make me wel- come if you would. If you're my enemy, know that I come unarme d and mean no ill."

He began to climb.

Nineteen steps brought him to the first landing (and to each one thereafter). A door stood open here and beyond it was a small round room. The stones of its wall were carved with thousands of overlapping faces. Many he knew (one was the face of Calvin Tower, peeping slyly over the top of an open book). The faces looked at him and he heard their murmuring.

Welcome Roland, you of the many miles and many worlds; welcome thee ofGilead, thee of Eld.

On the far side of the room was a door flanked by dark red

swags traced with gold. About six feet up from the door—at the exact height of his eyes—was a small round window, little big- ger than an outlaw's peekhole. There was a sweet smell, and this one he could identify: the bag of pine sachet his mother had placed first in his cradle, then, later, in his first real bed. It brought back those days with great clarity, as aromas always do; if any sense serves us as a time machine, it's that of smell.

Then, like the bitter call of the alkali, it was gone.

The room was unfurnished, but a single item lay on the floor. He advanced to it and picked it up. It was a small cedar clip, its bow wrapped in a bit of blue silk ribbon. He had seen such things long ago, in Gilead; must once have worn one himself. When the sawbones cut a newly arrived baby's umbil- ical cord, separating mother from child, such a clip was put on above the baby's navel, where it would stay until the remainder of the cord fell off, and the clip with it. (The navel itself was called tet-ka can Gan.) The bit of silk on this one told that it had belonged to a boy. A girl's clip would have been wrapped with pink ribbon.

CODA 822

'Twos my own, he thought He regarded it a moment longer, fasci- nated, then put it carefully back where it had been. Where it belonged. When he stood up again, he saw a baby's face

(Can this be my darling bah-bo ? If you say so, let it be so!)

among the multitude of odiers. It was contorted, as if its first breath of air outside the womb had not been to its liking, already fouled with death. Soon it would pronounce judgment on its new situation with a squall that would echo throughout the apartments of Steven and Gabrielle, causing those friends and servants who heard it to smile with relief. (Only Marten Broadcloak would scowl.) The birthing was done, and it had been a livebirth, tell Gan and all the gods thankya. There was an heir to the Line of Eld, and thus there was still the barest out- side chance that the world's rueful shuffle toward ruin might be reversed.

Roland left that room, his sense of dejd vu stronger than ever. So was the sense that he had entered the body of Gan himself.

He turned to the stairs and once more began to climb.

 

FOUR

 

Anouier nineteen steps took him to the second landing and the second room. Here bits of cloth were scattered across the cir- cular floor. Roland had no question that diey had once been an infant's clout, torn to shreds by a certain petulant interloper, who had then gone out onto the balcony for a look back at the field of roses and found himself betaken. He was a creature of monumental slyness, full of evil wisdom . . . but in the end he had slipped, and now he would pay forever and ever.

If it was only a look he wanted, why did he bring his ammunition with him when he stepped out1?

Because it was his only gunna, and slung over his back, whispered one of the faces carved into the curve of the wall. This was the face of Mordred. Roland saw no hatefulness there now but only the lonely sadness of an abandoned child. That face was as

823 FOUND

lonesome as a train-whistle on a moonless night. There had been no clip for Mordred's navel when he came into the world, only the mother he had taken for his first meal. No clip, never in life, for Mordred had never been part of Gan's tet. No, not he.

My Red Father would never go unarmed, whispere d th e ston e boy. Not once he was away from his castle. He was mad, but never that mad.

In this room was the smell of talc put on by his mother while

he lay naked on a towel, fresh from his bath and playing with his newly discovered toes. She had soothed his skin with it, singing as she caressed him : Baby-bunting, baby dear, baby bring your basket here!

This smell too was gone as quickly as it had come.

Roland crossed to the little window, walking among the shredded bits of diaper, and looked out. The disembodied eyes sensed him and rolled over giddily to regard him. That gaze was poisonous with fury and loss.

Come out, Roland! Come out andface me one to one! Man to man! An eyefor an eye, may it do ya!

"I think not," Roland said, "for I have more work to do. A

little more, even yet."

It was his last word to the Crimson King. Although the lunatic screamed thoughts after him, he screamed in vain, for Roland never looked back. He had more stairs to climb and more rooms to investigate on his way to the top.

 

FIVE

On the third landing he looked through the door and saw a cor- duroy dress that had no doubt been his when he' d been only a year old. Among the faces on this wall he saw that of his father, but as a much younger man. Later on that face had become cruel—events and responsibilities had turned it so. But not here. Here, Steven Deschain's eyes were those of a man looking on something that pleases him more than anything else ever has, or ever could. Here Roland smelled a sweet and husky

CODA 824

aroma he knew for the scent of his father's shaving soap. A phantom voice whispered, Look, Gabby, look you! He's smiling! Smiling at me! And he's got a new tooth!

On the floor of the fourth room was the collar of his first dog, Ring-A-Levio. Ringo, for short. He'd died when Roland was three, which was something of a gift. A boy of three was still allowed to weep for a lost pet, even a boy with the blood of Eld in his veins. Here the gunslinger that was smelled an odor that was wonderful but had no name, and knew it for the smell of the Full Earth sun in Ringo's fur.

Perhaps two dozen floors above Ringo's Room was a scat- tering of breadcrumbs and a limp bundle of feathers that had once belonged to a hawk named David—no pet he, but cer- tainly a friend. The first of Roland's many sacrifices to the Dark Tower. On one section of the wall Roland saw David carved in flight, his stubby wings spread above all the gathered court of Gilead (Marten die Enchanter not least among them). And to the left of the door leading onto the balcony, David was carved again. Here his wings were folded as he fell upon Cort like a blind bullet, heedless of Cort's upraised stick.

Old times.

Old times and old crimes.

Not far from Cort was the laughing face of the whore with whom the boy had sported that night. The smell in David's Room was her perfume, cheap and sweet. As the gunslinger drew it in, he remembered touching the whore's pubic curls and was shocked to remember now what he had remembered then, as his fingers slid toward her slicky-sweet cleft: being fresh out of his baby's bath, with his mother's hands upon him.

He began to grow hard, and Roland fled that room in fear.

Six

There was no more red to light his way now, only the eldritch blue glow of the windows—glass eyes that were alive, glass eyes that looked upon the gunless intruder. Outside the Dark Tower, the roses of Can'-Ka No Rey had closed for another day. Part of

825 FOUND

his mind marveled that he should be here at all; that he had one by one surmounted the obstacles placed in his path, as dread- fully single-minded as ever. I'm like one of the old people's robots, he thought . One that will either accomplish the taskfor which it has been made or beat itself to death trying.

Another part of him was not surprised at all, however. This

was the part that dreamed as the Beams themselves must, and this darker self thought again of the hor n that had fallen from Cuthbert's fingers—Cvithbert, who had gone to his death laughing. The hor n that might to this very day lie where it had fallen on the rocky slope of Jericho Hill.

And of course I've seen these rooms before! They're telling my life, after all.

Indeed they were. Floor by floor and tale by tale (not to

mention death by death), the rising rooms of the Dark Tower recounted Roland Deschain's life and quest. Each held its memento; each its signature aroma. Many times there was more than a single floor devoted to a single year, but there was always at least one. And after the thirty-eighth room (which is nineteen doubled, do ya no t see it), he wished to look no more. This one contained the charred stake to which Susan Del- gado had been bound. He did not enter, but looked at the face upon the wall. That much he owed her. Roland, I love theel Susan Delgado had screamed, and he knew it was the truth, for it was only her love that rendered her recognizable. And, love or no love, in the end she had still burned.

This is a place of death, he thought , and not just here. All these rooms. Every floor.

Yes, gunslinger, whispered the Voice of the Tower. But only

because your life has made it so.

After the thirty-eighth floor, Roland climbed faster.

 

SEVEN

Standing outside, Roland had judged the Tower to be roughly six hundred feet high. But as he peered into the hundredth room, and then the two hundredth, he felt sure he must have

CODA 826

climbed eight times six hundred. Soon he would be closing in on the mark of distance his friends from America-side had called a mile. That was more floors than there possibly could be—n o Tower could be a mile high!—but still he climbed, climbed until he was nearly running, yet never did he tire. It once crossed his mind that he'd never reach the top; that the Dark Tower was infi- nite in height as it was eternal in time. But after a moment's con- sideration he rejected the idea, for it was his life the Tower was telling, and while that life had been long, it had by no means been eternal. And as it had had a beginning (marked by the cedar clip and the bit of blue silk ribbon), so it would have an ending.

Soon now, quite likely.

The light he sensed behind his eyes was brighter now, and did not seem so blue. He passed a room containing Zoltan, the bird from the weed-eater's hut. He passed a room containing the atomic pum p from the Way Station. He climbed more stairs, paused outside a room containing a dead lobstrosity, and by now the light he sensed was much brighter and no longer blue.

It was . . .

He was quite sure it was . . .

It was sunlight. Past twilight it might be, with Old Star and Old Mother shining from above the Dark Tower, but Roland was quite sure he was seeing—or sensing—sunlight.

He climbed on without looking into any more of the rooms, without bothering to smell their aromas of the past. The stair- well narrowed until his shoulders nearly touched its curved stone sides. No songs now, unless the wind was a song, for he heard it soughing.

He passed one final open door. Lying on the floor of the tiny room beyond it was a pad from which the face had been erased. All that remained were two red eyes, glaring up.

I have reached the present. I have reached now.

Yes, and there was sunlight, commala sunlight inside his eyes and waiting for him. It was hot and harsh upon his skin. The sound of the wind was louder, and that sound was also harsh. Unforgiving. Roland looked at the stairs curving upward; now

827 FOUND

his shoulders would touch the walls, for the passage was no wider than the sides of a coffin. Nineteen more stairs, and then the room at the top of the Dark Tower would be his.

"I come!" he called. "If'ee hear me, hear me well! I come!"

He took the stairs one by one, walking with his back straight and his head held up. The other rooms had been open to his eye. The final one was closed off, his way blocked by a ghost- wood door with a single word carved upon it. That word was

 

ROLAND.

He grasped the knob. It was engraved with a wild rose wound around a revolver, one of those great old guns from his father and now lost forever.

Yet it will be yours again, whispered the voice of the Tower and the voice of the roses—these voices were now one.

What do you mean ?

To this there was no answer, but the knob turned beneath his hand, and perhaps that was an answer. Roland opened the door at the top of the Dark Tower.

He saw and understood at once, the knowledge falling upon him in a hammerblow, hot as the sun of the desert that was the apotheosis of all deserts. How many times had he climbed these stairs only to find himself peeled back, curved back, turned back? Not to the beginning (when things might have been changed and time's curse lifted), but to that moment in the Mohaine Desert when he had finally understood that his thoughtless, questionless quest would ultimately succeed? How many times had he traveled a loop like the one in the clip that had once pinched off his navel, his own tet-ka can Gan? How many times would he travel it?

"Oh, no!" he screamed. "Please, not again! Have pity! Have mercy!"

The hands pulled him forward regardless. The hands of the

Tower knew no mercy.

They were the hands of Gan, the hands of ka, and they knew no mercy.

CODA 828

He smelled alkali, bitter as tears. The desert beyond the door was white; blinding; waterless; without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon. The smell beneath the alkali was that of the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death.

But not for you, gunslinger. Never for you. You darkle. You tinct. May I be brutally frankfYou go on .

And each time you forget the last time. For you, each time is thefirst time.

He made one final effort to draw back: hopeless. Ka was

stronger.

Roland of Gilead walked through the last door, the one he always sought, the one he always found. It closed gently behind him.

 

... EIGHT

The gunslinger paused for a moment, swaying on his feet. He thought he' d almost passed out. It was the heat, of course; the damned heat. There was a wind, but it was dry and brought no relief. He took his waterskin, judge d how much was left by the heft of it, knew he shouldn't drink—it wasn't time to drink— and had a swallow, anyway.

For a moment he had felt he was somewhere else. In the Tower itself, mayhap. But of course the desert was tricky, and full of mirages. The Dark Tower still lay thousands of wheels ahead. That sense of having climbed many stairs and looked into many rooms where many faces had looked back at him was already fading.

/ will reach it, he thought, squinting up at the pitiless sun. I

swear on the name of my father that I will.

And perhaps this time ifyou get there it will be different, a voice whispered—surely the voice of desert delirium, for what other time had there ever been? He was what he was and where he was, just that, no more than that, no more. He had no sense of humor and little imagination, but he was steadfast. He was a

829 FOUND

gunslinger. And in his heart, well-hidden, he still felt the bitter romance of the quest.

You 're the one who never changes, Cor t ha d told hi m once , an d in his voice Roland could have sworn he heard fear .. . although why Cort should have been afraid of him— a boy—Roland couldn' t tell. It'll be your damnation, boy. You'll wear out a hundred pairs of boots on your xoalk to hell.

An d Vannay: Those who do not learn from the past are con- demned to repeat it.

An d his mother : Roland, must you always be so serious ? Can you never rest?

Yet the voice whispered it again

(different this time mayhap different)

and Roland did seem to smell something other than alkali and devil-grass. He thought it might be flowers.

He thought it might be roses.

He shifted his gunna from one shoulder to the other, then touched the hor n that rode on his belt behind the gun on his right hip. The ancient brass hor n had once been blown by Arthur Eld himself, or so the story did say. Roland had given it to Cuthbert Allgood at Jericho Hill, and when Cuthbert fell, Roland had paused just long enough to pick it up again, knock- ing the deathdust of that place from its throat.

This is your sigul, whispered the fading voice that bore with it the dusk-sweet scent of roses, the scent of home on a summer evening—O lost!—a stone, a rose, an unfound door; a stone, a rose, a door.

This is your promise that things may be different, Rolandthat there may yet be rest. Even salvation.

A pause, and then:

If you stand. If you are true.

He shook his head to clear it, thought of taking another sip of water, and dismissed the idea. Tonight. When he built his campfire over the bones of Walter's fire. Then he would drink. As for now . . .

As for now, he would resume his journey. Somewhere ahead

CODA 830

was the Dark Tower. Closer, however, much closer, was the man (was he a man? was he really?) who could perhaps tell him how to get there. Roland would catch him, and when he did, that man would talk—aye, yes, yar, tell it on the mountain as you'd hear it in the valley: Walter would be caught, and Walter would talk.

Roland touched the horn again, and its reality was oddly comforting, as if he had never touched it before.

Time to get moving.

The man in black fled across die desert, and the gunslinger followed.

June 19, 1970-April 7, 2004:

: / tell God thankya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*"*,'

 

ROBERT BROWNING

 

"CHILDE ROLAND

TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"

 

 

 

i

 

My first thought was, he lied in every word, That hoary cripple, with malicious eye Askance to watch the workings of his lie

On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford

Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored

Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.

 

 

II

 

What else should he be set for, with his staff? What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare

All travellers who might find him posted there, And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare.

 

 

Il l

 

If at his counsel I should turn aside Into that ominous tract which, all agree, Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly

 

 

833

ROBERT BROWNING 834

I did turn as he pointed, neither pride

Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,

So much as gladness that some end might be.

 

 

W

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering, \ What with my search drawn out through years, my hope

Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope

With that obstreperous joy success would bring, I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring

My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

 

 

V

As when a sick man very near to death Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end The tears and takes the farewell of each friend, And hears one bid the other go, draw breath Freelier outside, ('since all is o'er,' he saith

'And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;')

 

 

VI

 

When some discuss if near the other graves Be room enough for this, and when a day Suits bestfor carrying the corpse away,

With care about the banners, scarves and staves

And still the man hears all, and only craves

He may not shame such tender love and stay.

835 "CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"

 

 

VII

Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest, Heardfailure prophesied so oft, been writ So many times among 'The Band' to wit,

The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed Their stepsthatjust to fail as they, seemed best, And all the doubt was nowshould I befit?

 

 

VIII

So, quiet as despair I turned from him, That hateful cripple, out of his highway Into the path he pointed. All the day Had been a dreary one at best, and dim

Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim

Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

 

 

IX

 

For mark! No sooner was I fairly found

Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two, Than, pausing to throw backwards a last view

O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round:

Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound. I might go on, naught else remained to do.

 

 

X

 

So on I went. I think I never saw

Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve: For flowersas well expect a cedar grove!

ROBERT BROWNING 836

But cockle, spurge, according to their law Might propagate their kind with none to awe, You 'd think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

 

 

XI

 

No! penury, inertness and grimace,

In some strange sort, were the land's portion. 'See

Or shut your eyes,' said Nature peevishly,

'It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:

'Tis the LastJudgement's fire must cure this place

Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.'

 

 

XII

 

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk Above its mates, the head was chopped, the bents Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents

In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk All hope ofgreenness ? 'tis a brute must walk Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.

 

 

XIII

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair

In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood. One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,

Stood stupefied, however he came there: Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

837 "CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"

 

 

• • •••• •••'•• - x i v • - ' ••'••

 

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know, With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain. And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;

I never saw a brute I hated so;

He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

 

 

• — - X V • " >

 

I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart, As a man calls for wine before he fights,

I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.

Think first, fight afterwards, the soldier's art: One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

 

 

•-> • • • •• x v i ^ -

 

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face

Beneath its garniture of curly gold, Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold An arm to mine to fix me to the place,

The way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace! Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.

 

 

XVII

. • • /

Giles then, the soul of honourthere he stands

Frank as ten years ago when knighted first, What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.

ROBERT BROWNING 838

Goodbut the scene shiftsfaugh! what hangman hands

Pin to his breast a parchment1? His own bands

Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!

 

 

XVIII

Better this present than a past like that: Back therefore to my darkening path again! No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain. Will the night send a howlet or a bat?

I asked: when something on the dismal flat

Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

 

 

- , , . . . . . .,. XIX . , ... ... :

A sudden little river crossed my path

As unexpected as a serpent comes.

No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms; This, as itfrothed by, might have been a bath For the fiend's glowing hoofto see the wrath

Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

 

 

. .. •• - • . X X . • .

 

So petty yet so spiteful! All along, Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it; Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:

The river which had done them all the wrong,

Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.

839 "CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"

 

 

XX I

 

Which, while I fordedgood saints, how I feared

To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek, Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!

It may have been a water-rat I speared, But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.

 

 

XXII

Glad was I when I reached the other bank. Now for a better country. Vain presage!

Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage, Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank Soil to a plash ? Toads in a poisoned tank

Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage

 

 

XXIII

The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque, What penned them there, with all the plain to choose? No footprint leading to that horrid mews,

None out of it. Mad brewage set to work

Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk

Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

 

 

- : XXI V ••-

 

And more than thata furlong onwhy, there!

What bad use was that enginefor, that wheel, Or brake, not wheelthat harrow fit to reel

ROBERT BROWNING 840

Men's bodies out like silk ? With all the air u

OfTophet's tool, on earth left unaware

Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

 

 

XXV ...-•. .

 

Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood, Next a marsh it would seem, and now mere earth Desperate and done with; (so a foolfinds mirth, Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes!) within a mod

Bog, clay and rubble, sand, and stark black dearth.

 

 

 

. . - • , . - , . ' •- . . . X X V I .v.' - • v . '

Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim, Now patches where some leanness of the soil's Broke into moss, or substances like boils;

Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

 

 

XXVII

 

And just as far as ever from the end! Naught in the distance but the evening, naught To point my footstep further! At the thought,

A great black bird, Apollyon 's bosom friend, Sailed past, not best his wide wing dragon-penned That brushed my capperchance the guide I sought.

841 "CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME"

 

 

XXVIII

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,

'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place

All round to mountainswith such name to grace Mere ugly heights and heaps noiu stolen in view. How thus they had surprised mesolve it, you! How to get from them was no clearer case.

 

 

•••"•'• X X I X '

 

Yet half I seemed to recognise some trick

Of mischief happened to me, God knows when- In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then Progress this way. When, in the very nick

Of giving up, one time more, came a click

As when a trap shutsyou're inside the den.

 

 

v XX X • ' ••

 

Burningly it came on me all at once,

This was the place! those two hills on the right, Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight; While to the left a tall scalped mountain . . . Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,

After a life spent training for the sight!

 

 

XXXI

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself? The round squat turret, blind as thefool's heart, Built of brown stone, without a counterpart

ROBERT BROWNING 842

In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

 

 

XXXII

Not see? because of night perhaps?^ why day

Came back again for that! before it left The dying sunset kindled through a cleft: The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay, Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,

Now stab and end the creatureto the heft!'

 

 

...,,,. XXXIII

 

Not hear? When noise was everywhere! it tolled

Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears

Of all the lost adventurers, my peers

How such a one was strong, and such was bold, And such was fortunate, yet each of old

Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.

 

 

; . .; . XXXIV . , ,

There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met

To view the last of me, a living frame

For one more picture! In a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all. And yet Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,

And blew. 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.'

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I think I have written more about the Dark Tower books than I have written about the Dark Tower itself. These related writings include the ever-growing synopsis (known by the quaint old word Argument) at the beginning of each of the first five volumes, and afterwords (most totally unnecessary and some actually embarrassing in retrospect) at the end of all the volumes. Michael Wlielan, the extraordinary artist who illus- trated both the first volume and this last, proved himself to be no slouch as a literary critic as well when, after reading a draft of Volume Seven, he suggested—in refreshingly blunt terms— that the rather lighthearted afterword I'd put at the end was jar- ring and out of place. I took another look at it and realized he was right.

The first half of that well-meant but off-key essay can now be found as an introduction to the first four volumes of the series; it's called "On Being Nineteen." I thought of leaving Volume Seven without any afterword at all; of letting Roland's discovery at the top of his Tower be my last word on the matter. Then I realized that I had one more thing to say, a thing that actually needed to be said. It has to do with my presence in my own book.

There's a smarmy academic term for this—"metafiction." I hate it. I hate the pretentiousness of it. I'm in the story only because I've known for some time now (consciously since writ- ing Insomnia in 1995, unconsciously since temporarily losing track of Father Donald Callahan near the end of 'Salem's Lot) that many of my fictions refer back to Roland's world and Roland's story. Since I was the one who wrote them, it seemed logical that I was part of the gunslinger's ka. My idea was to use the Dark Tower stories as a kind of summation, a way of unifying as many of my previous stories as possible beneath the arch of

843

AUTHOR'S NOTE 844

some iiber-tsde. I never meant that to be pretentious (and I hope it isn't), but only as a way of showing how life influences art (and vice-versa). I think that, if you have read these last three Dark Towwvolumes, you'll see that my talk of retirement makes more sense in this context. In a sense, there's nothing left to say now that Roland has reached his goal. . . and I hope the reader will see that by discovering the Horn of Eld, the gunslinger may finally be on the way to his own resolution. Possibly even to redemption. It was all about reaching the Tower, you see—mine as well as Roland's—and that has finally been accomplished. You may not like what Roland found at the top, but that's a dif- ferent matter entirely. And don't write me any angry letters about it, either, because I won't answer them. There's nothing left to say on the subject. I wasn't exactly crazy about the ending, either, if you want to know the truth, but it's the right ending. The only ending, in fact. You have to remember that I don't make these things up, not exactly; I only write down what I see.

Readers will speculate on how "real" the Stephen King is who appears in these pages. The answer is "not very," although the one Roland and Eddie meet in Bridgton (Song of Susannah) is very close to the Stephen King I remember being at that time. As for the Stephen King who shows up in this final volume . . . well, let's put it this way: my wife asked me if I would kindly not give fans of the series very precise directions to where we live or who we really are. I agreed to do that. Not because I wanted to, exactly—part of what makes this story go, I think, is the sense of the fictional world bursting through into the real one — but because this happens to be my wife's life as well as mine, and she should not be penalized for either loving me or living with me. So I have fictionalized the geography of western Maine to a great extent, trusting readers to grasp the intent of the fiction and to understand why I treated my own part in it as I did. And if you feel a need to drop in and say hello, please think again. My family and I have a good deal less privacy than we used to, and I have no wish to give up any more, may it do ya fine. My books are my way of knowing you. Let them be your way of knowing me, as well. It's enough. And on behalf of Roland and all his ka-

845 AUTHOR'S NOTE

tet—now scattered, say sorry—I thank you for coming along, and sharing this adventure with me. I never worked harder on a project in my life, and I know—none better, alas—that it has not been entirely successful. What work of make-believe ever is? And yet for all of that, I would not give back a single minute of the time that I have lived in Roland's where and when. Those days in Mid-World and End-World were quite extraordinary. Those were days when my imagination was so clear I could smell the dust and hear the creak of leather.

Stephen King

August 21, 2003