The Dark Tower



A feeling both blue and strange crept among the gunslingers after Brautigan and his friends left, but at first no one spoke of it. Each of them thought that melancholy belonged to him or her alone. Roland, who might have been expected to know the feeling for what it was (ka-shume, Cort would have called it), ascribed it instead to worries about the following day and even more to the debilitating atmosphere of Thunderclap, where day was dim and night was as dark as blindness.
Certainly there was enough to keep them busy after the departure of Brautigan, Earnshaw, and Sheemie Ruiz, that friend of Roland's childhood. (Both Susannah and Eddie had attempted to talk to the gunslinger about Sheemie, and Roland had shaken them off. Jake, strong in the touch, hadn't even tried. Roland wasn't ready to talk about those old days again, at least not yet.)
There was a path leading down and around the flank of Steek-Tete, and they found the cave of which the old man had told them behind a cunning camouflage of rocks and desert-dusty bushes. This cave was much bigger than the one above, with gas lanterns hung from spikes that had been driven into the rock walls. Jake and Eddie lit two of these on each side, and the four of them examined the cave's contents in silence.
The first thing Roland noticed was the sleeping-bags: a quartet lined up against the left-hand wall, each considerately placed on an inflated air mattress. The tags on the bags read PROPERTY OF U.S. ARMY. Beside the last of these, a fifth air mattress had been covered with a layer of bath towels. They were expecting four people and one animal, the gunslinger thought. Precognition, or have they been watching us somehow? And does it matter?
There was a plastic-swaddled object sitting on a barrel marked DANGER! MUNITIONS! Eddie removed the protective plastic and revealed a machine with reels on it. One of the reels was loaded. Roland could make nothing of the single word on the front of the speaking machine and asked Susannah what it was.
"Wollensak," she said. "A German company. When it comes to these things, they make the best."
"Not no mo', sugarbee," Eddie said. "In my when we like to say 'sony! No baloney!' They make a tape-player you can clip right to your belt. It's called a Walkman. I bet this dinosaur weighs twenty pounds. More, with the batteries."
Susannah was examining the unmarked tape boxes that had been stacked beside the Wollensak. There were three of them. "I can't wait to hear what's on these," she said.
"After the daylight goes, maybe," Roland said. "For now, let's see what else we've got here."
"Roland?" Jake asked.
The gunslinger turned toward him. There was something about the boy's face that almost always softened Roland's own.
Looking at Jake did not make the gunslinger handsome, but seemed to give his features a quality they didn't ordinarily have. Susannah thought it was the look of love. And, perhaps, some thin hope for the future.
"What is it, Jake?"
"I know we're going to fight-"
"'Join us next week for Return to the O.K. Corral, starring Van Heflin and Lee Van Cleef,'" Eddie murmured, walking toward the back of the cave. There a much larger object had been covered with what looked like a quilted mover's pad.
"-but when?" Jake continued. "Will it be tomorrow?"
"Perhaps," Roland replied. "I think the day after's more likely."
"I have a terrible feeling," Jake said. "It's not being afraid, exactly-"
"Do you think they're going to beat us, hon?" Susannah asked. She put a hand on Jake's neck and looked into his face.
She had come to respect his feelings. She sometimes wondered how much of what he was now had to do with the creature he'd faced to get here: the thing in the house on Dutch Hill. No robot there, no rusty old clockwork toy. The doorkeeper had been a genuine leftover of the Prim. "You smell a whuppin in the wind? That it?"
"I don't think so," Jake said. "I don't know what it is. I've only felt something like it once, and that was just before..."
"Just before what?" Susannah asked, but before Jake had a chance to reply, Eddie broke in. Roland was glad. Just before I fell. That was how Jake had meant to finish. Just before Rolandlet me fall.
"Holy shit! Come here, you guys! You gotta see this!"
Eddie had pulled away the mover's pad and revealed a motorized vehicle that looked like a cross between an ATV and a gigantic tricycle. The tires were wide balloon jobs with deep zigzag treads. The controls were all on the handlebars.
And there was a playing card propped on the rudimentary dashboard. Roland knew what it was even before Eddie plucked it up between two fingers and turned it over. The card showed a woman with a shawl over her head at a spinning wheel. It was the Eady of Shadows.
"Looks like our pal Ted left you a ride, sugarbee," Eddie said.
Susannah had hurried over at her rapid crawl. Now she lifted her arms. "Boost me up! Boost me, Eddie!"
He did, and when she was in the saddle, holding handlebars instead of reins, the vehicle looked made for her. Susannah thumbed a red button and the engine thrummed to life, so low you could barely hear it. Electricity, not gasoline, Eddie was quite sure. Like a golf-cart, but probably a lot faster.
Susannah turned toward them, smiling radiantly. She patted the three-wheeler's dark brown nacelle. "Call me Missus Centaur!
I been lookin for this my whole life and never even knew."
None of them noticed the stricken expression on Roland's face. He bent over to pick up the card Eddie had dropped so no one would.
Yes, it was her, all right-the Lady of the Shadows. Under her shawl she seemed to be smiling craftily and sobbing, both at the same time. On the last occasion he'd seen that card, it had been in the hand of the man who sometimes went by the name of Walter, sometimes that of Flagg.
You have no idea how close you stand to the Tower now, he had said. Worlds turn about your head.
And now he recognized the feeling that had crept among them for what it almost certainly was: not worry or weariness but ka-shume. There was no real translation for that rue-laden term, but it meant to sense an approaching break in one's ka-tet.
Walter o' Dim, his old nemesis, was dead. Roland had known it as soon as he saw the face of the Lady of Shadows.
Soon one of his own would die as well, probably in the coming batde to break the power of the Devar-Toi. And once again the scales which had temporarily tilted in their favor would balance.
It never once crossed Roland's mind that the one to die might be him.
There were three brand names on what Eddie immediately dubbed "Suzie's Cruisin Trike." One was Honda; one was Takuro (as in that wildly popular pre-superflu import, the Takuro Spirit); the third was North Central Positronics. And a fourth, as well: U.S. ARMY, as in PROPERTY OF.
Susannah was reluctant to get off it, but finally she did.
God knew there was plenty more to see; the cave was a treasure trove. Its narrowing throat was filled with food supplies (mosdy freeze-dried stuff that probably wouldn't taste as good as Nigel's chow but would at least nourish them), bottled water, canned drinks (plenty of Coke and Nozz-A-La but nothing alcoholic), and the promised propane stove. There were also crates of weaponry. Some of die crates were marked U.S. ARMY, but by no means all.
Now their most basic abilities came out: the true thread, Cort might have called it. Those talents and intuitions that could have remained sleeping for most of their lives, only stirring long enough to get them into occasional trouble, if Roland had not deliberately wakened them... cosseted them... and then filed their teeth to deadly points.
Hardly a word was spoken among them as Roland produced a wide prying tool from his purse and levered away the tops of the crates. Susannah had forgotten about the Cruisin Trike she had been waiting for all her life; Eddie forgot to make jokes; Roland forgot about his sense of foreboding. They became absorbed in the weaponry that had been left for them, and there was no piece of it they did not understand either at once or after a bit of study.
There was a crate of AR-15 rifles, the barrels packed in grease, the firing mechanisms fragrant with banana oil. Eddie noted the added selector switches, and looked in the crate next to the 15's. Inside, covered with plastic and also packed in grease, were metal drums. They looked like the ones you saw on tommy-guns in gangster epics like White Heat, only these were bigger. Eddie lifted one of the 15's, turned it over, and found exactly what he expected: a conversion clip that would allow these drums to be attached to the guns, turning them into rapid-fire rice-cutters. How many shots per drum? A hundred?
A hundred and twenty-five? Enough to mow down a whole company of men, that was sure.
There was a box of what looked like rocket shells with the letters STS stenciled on each. In a rack beside them, propped against the cave wall, were half a dozen handheld launchers.
Roland pointed at the atom-symbol on them and shook his head. He did not want them shooting off weapons that would release potentially lethal radiation no matter how powerful they might be. He was willing to kill the Breakers if that was what it took to stop their meddling with the Beam, but only as a last resort.
Flanking a metal tray filled with gas-masks (to Jake they looked gruesome, like the severed heads of strange bugs) were two crates of handguns: snub-nosed machine-pistols with the word COYOTE embossed on the butts and heavy automatics called Cobra Stars. Jake was attracted to both weapons (in truth his heart was attracted to all the weapons), but he took one of the Stars because it looked a little bit like the gun he had lost.
The clip fed up the handle and held either fifteen or sixteen shots. This was not a matter of counting but only of lookingand knowing.
"Hey," Susannah said. She'd gone back toward the front of the cave. "Come look at this. Sneetches."
"Check out the crate-lid," Jake said when they joined her.
Susannah had set it aside; Jake picked it up and was studying it with admiration. It showed the face of a smiling boy with a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. He was wearing round glasses and brandishing what appeared to be a magician's wand at a floating sneetch. The words stenciled beneath the drawing read:
"Don't Mess with the449!"
We'll Kick the "Slvtnerin" out of You!
There were two dozen sneetches in the crate, packed like eggs in little nests of plastic excelsior. None of Roland's band had had the opportunity to study live ones closely during their battle with the Wolves, but now they had a good swatch of time during which they could indulge their most natural interests and curiosities. Each took up a sneetch. They were about the size of tennis balls, but a great deal heavier. Their surfaces had been gridded, making them resemble globes marked with lines of latitude and longitude. Although they looked like steel, the surfaces had a faint giving quality, like very hard rubber.
There was an ID-plate on each sneetch and a button beside it. "That wakes it up," Eddie murmured, and Jake nodded.
There was also a small depressed area in die curved surface, just the right size for a finger. Jake pushed it without the slightest worry that the thing would explode, or maybe extrude a minibuzzsaw that would cut off his fingers. You used the button at the bottom of the depression to access the programming. He didn't know how he knew that, but he most certainly did.
A curved section of the sneetch's surface slid away with a faint Auowwm! sound. Revealed were four tiny lights, three of them dark and one flashing slow amber pulses. There were seven windows, now showing 0 00 (Ml 00. Beneath each was a button so small that you'd need something like the end of a straightened paperclip to push it. "The size of a bug's asshole," as Eddie grumbled later on, while trying to program one. To die right of the windows were another two buttons, these marked SandW.
Jake showed it to Roland. "This one's SET and the other one's WAIT. Do you think so? I think so."
Roland nodded. He'd never seen such a weapon before-not close up, at any rate-but, coupled with the windows, he thought the use of the buttons was obvious. And he thought die sneetches might be useful in a way the long-shooters with their atom-shells would not be. SET and WAIT.
SET... and WAIT.
"Did Ted and his two pals leave all this stuff for us here?"
Susannah asked.
Roland hardly thought it mattered who'd left it-it was here and that was enough-but he nodded.
"How? And where'd they get it?"
Roland didn't know. What he did know was that die cave was a ma'sun-a war-chest. Below them, men were making war on the Tower which the line of Eld was sworn to protect. He and his tet would fall upon them by surprise, and with these tools they would smite and smite until their enemies lay with their boots pointed to the sky.
Or until theirs did.
"Maybe he explains on one of the tapes he left us," Jake said.
He had engaged the safety of his new Cobra automatic and tucked it away in the shoulder-bag with the remaining Orizas.
Susannah had also helped herself to one of the Cobras, after twirling it around her finger a time or two, like Annie Oakley.
"Maybe he does," she said, and gave Jake a smile. It had been a long time since Susannah had felt so physically well. So not-preg.
Yet her mind was troubled. Or perhaps it was her spirit.
Eddie was holding up a piece of cloth that had been rolled into a tube and tied with three hanks of string. "That guy Ted said he was leaving us a map of the prison-camp. Bet this is it.
Anyone 'sides me want a look?"
They all did. Jake helped Eddie to unroll the map. Brautigan had warned them it was rough, and it surely was: really no more than a series of circles and squares. Susannah saw the name of the litde town-Pleasantville-and thought again of Ray Bradbury. Jake was tickled by the crude compass, where the map-maker had added a question mark beside the letter N.
While they were studying this hastily rendered example of cartography, a long and wavering cry rose in the murk outside.
Eddie, Susannah, and Jake looked around nervously. Oy raised his head from his paws, gave a low, brief growl, then put his head back down again and appeared to go to sleep: Hell wit'choo, bad boy, I'm wit' my homies and I ain't ascairt.
"What is it?" Eddie asked. "A coyote? A jackal?"
"Some kind of desert dog," Roland agreed absently. He was squatted on his hunkers (which suggested his hip was better, at least temporarily) with his arms wrapped around his shins. He never took his eyes from the crude circles and squares drawn on the cloth. "Can-toi-tete."
"Is that like Dan-Tete?" Jake asked.
Roland ignored him. He scooped up the map and left the cave with it, not looking back. The others shared a glance and then followed him, once more wrapping their blankets about them like shawls.
Roland returned to where Sheemie (with a litde help from his friends) had brought them through. This time the gunslinger used the binoculars, looking down at Blue Heaven long and long. Somewhere behind them, die desert dog howled again, a lonely sound in die gloom.
And, Jake diought, the gloom was gloomier now. Your eyes adjusted as the day dialed itself down, but that brilliant spodight of sun seemed brighter than ever by contrast. He was pretty sure die deal widi die sun-machine was diat you got your full-on, your full-off, and nodiing in between. Maybe diey even let it shine all night, but Jake doubted it. People's nervous systems were set up for an orderly progression of dark and day, he'd learned that in science class. You could make do with long periods of low light-people did it every year in the Arctic countries-but it could really mess with your head. Jake didn't think the guys in charge down diere would want to goof up their Breakers if they could help it. Also, they'd want to save their "sun" for as long as they could; everything here was old and prone to breakdowns.
At last Roland gave die binoculars to Susannah. "Do look ya especially at die buildings on eidier end of die grassy rectangle."
He unrolled the map like a character about to read a scroll in a stage-play, glanced at it briefly, and then said, "They're numbered
2 and 3 on the map."
Susannah studied them carefully. The one marked 2, the Warden's House, was a small Cape Cod painted electric blue widi white trim. It was what her modier might have called a fairytale house, because of the bright colors and the gingerbread scalloping around the eaves.
Damli House was much bigger, and as she looked, she saw several people going in and out. Some had die carefree look of civilians. Odiers seemed much more-oh, call it watchful. And she saw two or three slumping along under loads of stuff. She handed the glasses to Eddie and asked him if those were Children of Roderick.
"I think so," he said, "but I can't be completely-"
"Never mind the Rods," Roland said, "not now. What do you think of those two buildings, Susannah?"
"Well," she said, proceeding carefully (she did not, in fact, have the slightest idea what it was he wanted from her), "they're both beautifully maintained, especially compared to some of the falling-down wrecks we've seen on our travels. The one they call Damli House is especially handsome. It's a style we call Queen Anne, and-"
"Are they of wood, do you think, or just made to look that way? I'm particularly interested in the one called Damli."
Susannah redirected the binoculars there, then handed them to Eddie. He looked, then handed them to Jake. While Jake was looking, there was an audible CLICK! sound that rolled to them across the miles... and the Cecil B. DeMille sunbeam which had been shining down on the Devar-Toi like a spotlight went out, leaving them in a thick purple dusk which would soon be complete and utter dark.
In it, the desert-dog began to howl again, raising the skin on Jake's arms into gooseflesh. The sound rose... rose... and suddenly cut off with one final choked syllable. It sounded like some final cry of surprise, and Jake had no doubt that the desert-dog was dead. Something had crept up behind it, and when the big overhead light went out-
There were still lights on down there, he saw: a double white row that might have been streetlights in "Pleasantville," yellow circles that were probably arc-sodiums along the various paths of what Susannah was calling Breaker U... and spotlights running random patterns across the dark.
No, Jake thought, not spotlights. Searchlights. Like in a prison movie. "Let's go back," he said. "There's nothing to see anymore, and I don't like it out here in the dark."
Roland agreed. They followed him in single file, with Eddie carrying Susannah and Jake walking behind them with Oy at his heel. He kept expecting a second desert-dog to take up the cry of the first, but none did.
"They were wood," Jake said. He was sitting cross-legged beneath one of the gas lanterns, letting its welcome white glow shine down on his face.
"Wood," Eddie agreed.
Susannah hesitated a moment, sensing it was a question of real importance and reviewing what she had seen. Then she also nodded. "Wood, I'm almost positive. Especially the one they call Damli House. A Queen Anne built out of stone or brick and camouflaged to look like wood? It makes no sense."
"If it fools wandering folk who'd burn it down," Roland said, "it does. It does make sense."
Susannah thought about it. He was right, of course, but-
"I still say wood."
Roland nodded. "So do I." He had found a large green botde marked PERRIER. NOW he opened it and ascertained that Perrier was water. He took five cups and poured a measure into each. He set them down in front of Jake, Susannah, Eddie, Oy, and himself. s
"Do you call me dinh?" he asked Eddie.
"Yes, Roland, you know I do."
"Will you share khef with me, and drink this water?"
"Yes, if you like." Eddie had been smiling, but now he wasn't. The feeling was back, and it was strong. Ka-shume, a rueful word he did not yet know.
"Drink, bondsman."
Eddie didn't exactly like being called bondsman, but he drank his water. Roland knelt before him and put a brief, dry kiss on Eddie's lips. "I love you, Eddie," he said, and outside in the ruin that was Thunderclap, a desert wind arose, carrying gritty poisoned dust.
"Why... I love you, too," Eddie said. It was surprised out of him. "What's wrong? And don't tell me nothing is, because I feelit."
"Nothing's wrong," Roland said, smiling, but Jake had never heard the gunslinger sound so sad. It terrified him. "It's only kashume, and it comes to every ka-tet that ever was... but now, while we are whole, we share our water. We share our khef. 'Tis a jolly thing to do."
He looked at Susannah.
"Do you call me dinh?"
"Yes, Roland, I call you dinh." She looked very pale, but perhaps it was only the white light from the gas lanterns.
"Will you share khef with me, and drink this water?"
"With pleasure," said she, and took up the plastic cup.
"Drink, bondswoman."
She drank, her grave dark eyes never leaving his. She thought of the voices she'd heard in her dream of the Oxford jail-cell: this one dead, that one dead, ('other one dead; O Discordia, and the shadows grow deeper.
Roland kissed her mouth. "I love you, Susannah."
"I love you, too."
The gunslinger turned to Jake. "Do you call me dinh?"
"Yes," Jake said. There was no question about his pallor; even his lips were ashy. "Ka-shume means death, doesn't it?
Which one of us will it be?"
"I know not," Roland said, "and the shadow may yet lift from us, for the wheel's still in spin. Did you not feel ka-shume when you and Callahan went into the place of the vampires?"
"Ka-shume for both?"
"Yet here you are. Our ka-tet is strong, and has survived many dangers. It may survive this one, too."
"But I feel-"
"Yes," Roland said. His voice was kind, but that awful look was in his eyes. The look that was beyond mere sadness, the one that said this would be whatever it was, but the Tower was beyond, the Dark Tower was beyond and it was there that he dwelt, heart and soul, ka and khef. 'Yes, I feel it, too. So do we all. Which is why we take water, which is to say fellowship, one with the other. Will you share khef with me, and share this water?"
"Drink, bondsman."
Jake did. Then, before Roland could kiss him, he dropped the cup, flung his arms about the gunslinger's neck, and whispered fiercely into his ear: "Roland, I love you."
"I love you, too," he said, and released him. Outside, the wind gusted again. Jake waited for something to howl-perhaps in triumph-but nothing did.
Smiling, Roland turned to the billy-bumbler.
"Oy of Mid-World, do you call me dinh?"
"Will you share khef with me, and this water?"
"Khef! Wat'!"
"Drink, bondsman."
Oy inserted his snout into his plastic cup-an act of some delicacy-and lapped until the water was gone. Then he looked up expectantly. There were beads of Perrier on his whiskers.
"Oy, I love you," Roland said, and leaned his face within range of the bumbler's sharp teeth. Oy licked his cheek a single time, then poked his snout back into t h e glass, hoping for a missed drop or two.
Roland put out his hands. Jake took one and Susannah the other. Soon they were all linked. Like drunks at the end of an A.A. meeting, Eddie thought.
"We are ka-tet," Roland said. "We are one from many. We have shared our water as we have shared our lives and our quest. If one should fall, that one will not be lost, for we are one and will not forget, even in death."
They held hands a moment longer. Roland was the first to let go.
"What's your plan?" Susannah asked him. She didn't call him sugar; never called him that or any other endearment ever again, so far as Jake was aware. "Will you tell us?"
Roland nodded toward the Wollensak tape recorder, still sitting on the barrel. "Perhaps we should listen to that first," he said. "I do have a plan of sorts, but what Brautigan has to say might help with some of the details."
Night in Thunderclap is the very definition of darkness: no moon, no stars. Yet if we were to stand outside the cave where Roland and his tet have just shared khef and will now listen to the tapes Ted Brautigan has left them, we'd see two red coals floating in that wind-driven darkness. If we were to climb the path up the side of Steek-Tete toward those floating coals (a dangerous proposition in the dark), we'd eventually come upon a seven-legged spider now crouched over the queerly deflated body of a mutie coyote. This can-toi-tete was a literally misbegotten thing in life, with the stub of a fifth leg jutting from its chest and ajellylike mass of flesh hanging down between its rear legs like a deformed udder, but its flesh nourishes Mordred, and its blood-taken in a series of long, steaming gulps-is as sweet as a dessert wine. There are, in truth, all sorts of things to eat over here. Mordred has no friends to lift him from place to place via the seven-league boots of teleportation, but he found his journey from Thunderclap Station to Steek-Tete far from arduous.
He has overheard enough to be sure of what his father is planning: a surprise attack on the facility below. They're badly outnumbered, but Roland's band of shooters is fiercely devoted to him, and surprise is ever a powerful weapon.
And gunslingers are what Jake would call fou, crazy when their blood is up, and afraid of nothing. Such insanity is an even more powerful weapon.
Mordred was born with a fair amount of inbred knowledge, it seems. He knows, for instance, that his Red Father, possessed of such information as Mordred now has, would have sent word of the gunslinger's presence at once to the Devar-Toi's Master or Security Chief. And then, sometime later tonight, the ka-tet out of Mid-World would have found themselves ambushed.
Balled in their sleep, mayhap, thus allowing the Breakers to continue the King's work. Mordred wasn't born with a knowledge of that work, but he's capable of logic and his ears are sharp. He now understands what the gunslingers are about: they have come here to break the Breakers.
He could stop it, true, but Mordred feels no interest in his Red Father's plans or ambitions. What he most truly enjoys, he's discovering, is the bitter loneliness of outside. Of watching with the cold interest of a child watching life and death and war and peace through the glass wall of the antfarm on his bureau.
Would he let yon ki'-dam actually kill his White Father? Oh, probably not. Mordred is reserving that pleasure for himself, and he has his reasons; already he has his reasons. But as for the others-the young man, the shor'-leg woman, the kid-yes, if ki'-dam Prentiss gets the upper hand, by all means let him kill any or all three of them. As for Mordred Deschain, he will let the game play out straight. He will watch. He will listen.
He will hear the screams and smell the burning and watch the blood soak into the ground. And then, if he judges that Roland won't win his throw, he, Mordred, will step in. On behalf of the Crimson King, if it seems like a good idea, but really on his own behalf, and for his own reason, which is really quite simple:
Mordred's a-hungry.
And if Roland and his ka-tet should win their throw? Win and press on to the Tower? Mordred doesn't really think it will happen, for he is in his own strange way a member of their katet, he shares their khef and feels what they do. He feels the impending break of their fellowship.
Ka-shume! Mordred thinks, smiling. There's a single eye left in the desert-dog's face. One of the hairy black spider-legs caresses it and then plucks it out. Mordred eats it like a grape, then turns back to where the white light of the gas-lanterns spills around the corners of the blanket Roland has hung across the cave's mouth.
Could he go down closer? Close enough to listen?
Mordred thinks he could, especially with the rising wind to mask the sound of his movements. An exciting idea.
He scutters down the rocky slope toward the errant sparks of light, toward the murmur of the voice from the tape recorder and the thoughts of those listening: his brothers, his sistermother, the pet billy, and, of course, overseeing them all, Big White Ka-Daddy.
Mordred creeps as close as he dares and then crouches in the cold and windy dark, miserable and enjoying his misery, dreaming his outside dreams. Inside, beyond the blanket, is light. Let them have it, if they like; for now let there be light.
Eventually he, Mordred, will put it out. And in the darkness, he will have his pleasure.