The Dark Tower IV Wizard and Glass (85 page)

“Yes.”

“Anything else? Did you see anything else?” Jake asked. The plan to murder Roland’s father didn’t seem to hold much interest for him.

“Yes.” Roland looked puzzled. “Shoes. Just for a minute. Shoes tumbling through the air. At first I thought they were autumn leaves. And when I saw what they really were, they were gone and I was lying on my bed with the ball hugged in my arms . . . pretty much the way I carried it back from Mejis.
My father . . . as I’ve said, his surprise when he looked inside the bag was very great, indeed.”

You told him who had the knife with the special poison on it,
Susannah thought,
Jeeves the Butler, or whoever, but you didn’t tell him who was supposed to actually use it, did you, sugar? Why not? Because you wanted to take care of
dat
little spot o’ work yo ownself?
But before she could ask, Eddie was asking a question of his own.

“Shoes? Flying through the air? Does that mean anything to you now?”

Roland shook his head.

“Tell us about the rest of what you saw in it,” Susannah said.

He gave her a look of such terrible pain that what Susannah had only suspected immediately solidified to fact in her mind. She looked away from him and groped for Eddie’s hand.

“I cry your pardon, Susannah, but I cannot. Not now. For now, I’ve told all I can.”

“All right,” Eddie said. “All right, Roland, that’s cool.”

“Ool,” Oy agreed.

“Did you ever see the witch again?” Jake asked.

For a long time it seemed Roland would not answer this, either, but in the end he did.

“Yes. She wasn’t done with me. Like my dreams of Susan, she followed me. All the way from Mejis, she followed me.”

“What do you mean?” Jake asked in a low, awed voice. “Cripes, Roland, what do you mean?”

“Not now.” He got up. “It’s time we were on our way again.” He nodded to the building which floated ahead of them; the sun was just now clearing its battlements. “Yon glitter-dome’s a good distance away, but I think we can reach it this afternoon, if we move brisk. ’Twould be best. It’s not a place I’d reach after nightfall, if that can be avoided.”

“Do you know what it is yet?” Susannah asked.

“Trouble,” he repeated. “And in our road.”

4

For awhile that morning, the thinny warbled so loudly that not even the bullets in their ears would entirely stop up the sound; at its worst, Susannah felt as if the bridge of her nose would simply disintegrate, and when she looked at Jake, she saw he was weeping copiously—not crying the way people
do when they’re sad, but the way they do when their sinuses are in total revolt. She couldn’t get the saw-player the kid had mentioned out of her mind.
Sounds Hawaiian,
she thought over and over again as Eddie pushed her grimly along in the new wheelchair, weaving in and out of the stalled vehicles.
Sounds Hawaiian, doesn’t it? Sounds fucking Hawaiian, doesn’t it, Miss Oh So Black and Pretty?

On both sides of the turnpike the thinny lapped all the way up to the embankment, casting its twitching, misshapen reflections of trees and grain elevators, seeming to watch the pilgrims pass as hungry animals in a zoo might watch plump children. Susannah would find herself thinking of the thinny in Eyebolt Canyon, reaching out hungrily through the smoke for Latigo’s milling men, pulling them in (and some going in on their own, walking like zombies in a horror movie), and then she would find herself thinking of the guy in Central Park again, the wacko with the saw.
Sounds Hawaiian, doesn’t it? Counting one thinny, and it sounds Hawaiian, doesn’t it?

Just when she thought she could stand it not a moment longer, the thinny began to draw back from I-70 again, and its humming warble at last began to fade. Susannah was eventually able to pull the bullets out of her ears. She tucked them into the side-pocket of her chair with a hand that shook slightly.

“That was a bad one,” Eddie said. His voice sounded clogged and weepy. She looked around at him and saw his cheeks were wet, his eyes red. “Take it easy, Suzie-pie,” he said. “It’s my sinuses, that’s all. That sound kills em.”

“Me, too,” Susannah said.

“My sinuses are okay, but my head aches,” Jake said. “Roland, do you have any more aspirin?”

Roland stopped, rummaged, and found the bottle.

“Did you ever see Clay Reynolds again?” Jake asked, after swallowing the pills with water from the skin he carried.

“No, but I know what happened to him. He got a bunch together, some of them deserters from Farson’s army, went to robbing banks . . . in toward our part of the world, this was, but by then bank-thieves and stage-robbers didn’t have much to fear from gunslingers.”

“The gunslingers were busy with Farson,” Eddie said.

“Yes. But Reynolds and his men were trapped by a smart sheriff who turned the main street of a town called Oakley
into a killing-zone. Six of the ten in the gang were killed outright. The rest were hung. Reynolds was one of those. This was less than a year later, during the time of Wide Earth.” He paused, then said: “One of those shot dead in the killing-zone was Coral Thorin. She had become Reynolds’s woman; rode and killed with the rest of them.”

They went on in silence for a bit. In the distance, the thinny warbled its endless song. Jake suddenly ran ahead to a parked camper. A note had been left under the wiper blade on the driver’s side. By standing on his toes, he was just able to reach it. He scanned it, frowning.

“What does it say?” Eddie asked.

Jake handed it over. Eddie looked, then passed it to Susannah, who read it in turn and gave it to Roland. He looked, then shook his head. “I can make out only a few words—
old woman, dark man.
What does the rest say? Read it to me.”

Jake took it back. “ ‘The old woman from the dreams is in Nebraska. Her name is Abagail.’ ” He paused. “Then, down here, it says, ‘The dark man is in the west. Maybe Vegas.’ ”

Jake looked up at the gunslinger, the note fluttering in his hand, his face puzzled and uneasy. But Roland was looking toward the palace which shimmered across the highway—the palace that was not in the west but in the east, the palace that was light, not dark.

“In the west,” Roland said. “Dark man, Dark Tower, and always in the west.”

“Nebraska’s west of here, too,” Susannah said hesitantly. “I don’t know if that matters, this Abagail person, but . . .”

“I think she’s part of another story,” Roland said.

“But a story close to this one,” Eddie put in. “Next door, maybe. Close enough to swap sugar for salt . . . or start arguments.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Roland said, “and we may have business with the ‘old woman’ and the ‘dark man’ yet . . . but today our business is east. Come on.”

They began walking again.

5

“What about Sheemie?” Jake asked after awhile.

Roland laughed, partly in surprise at the question, partly in pleased remembrance. “He followed us. It couldn’t have been
easy for him, and it must have been damned scary in places—there were wheels and wheels of wild country between Mejis and Gilead, and plenty of wild folks, too. Worse than just folks, mayhap. But
ka
was with him, and he showed up in time for Year’s End Fair. He and that damned mule.”

“Capi,” Jake said.

“Appy,” Oy repeated, padding along at Jake’s heel.

“When we went in search of the Tower, I and my friends, Sheemie was with us. As a sort of squire, I suppose you’d say. He . . .” But Roland trailed off, biting at his lip, and of that he would say no more.

“Cordelia?” Susannah asked. “The crazy aunt?”

“Dead before the bonfire had burned down to embers. It might have been a heart-storm, or a brain-storm—what Eddie calls a stroke.”

“Perhaps it was shame,” Susannah said. “Or horror at what she’d done.”

“It may have been,” Roland said. “Waking to the truth when it’s too late is a terrible thing. I know that very well.”

“Something up there,” Jake said, pointing at a long stretch of road from which the cars had been cleared. “Do you see?”

Roland did—with his eyes he seemed to see everything—but it was another fifteen minutes or so before Susannah began to pick up the small black specks ahead in the road. She was quite sure she knew what they were, although what she thought was less vision than intuition. Ten minutes after that, she was sure.

They were shoes. Six pairs of shoes placed neatly in a line across the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70.

CHAPTER II
S
HOES IN THE
R
OAD
1

They reached the shoes at mid-morning. Beyond them, clearer now, stood the glass palace. It glimmered a delicate green shade, like the reflection of a lily pad in still water. There were shining gates in front of it; red pennons snapped from its towers in a light breeze.

The shoes were also red.

Susannah’s impression that there were six pairs was understandable but wrong—there were actually four pairs and one quartet. This latter—four dark red booties made of supple leather—was undoubtedly meant for the four-footed member of their
ka-tet.
Roland picked one of them up and felt inside it. He didn’t know how many bumblers had worn shoes in the history of the world, but he was willing to guess that none had ever been gifted with a set of silk-lined leather booties.

“Bally, Gucci, eat your heart out,” Eddie said. “This is great stuff.”

Susannah’s were easiest to pick out, and not just because of the feminine, sparkly swoops on the sides. They weren’t really shoes at all—they had been made to fit over the stumps of her legs, which ended just above the knees.

“Now look at this,” she marvelled, holding one up so the sun could flash on the rhinestones with which the shoes were decorated . . . if they
were
rhinestones. She had a crazy notion that maybe they were diamond chips. “Cappies. After four years of gettin along in what my friend Cynthia calls ‘circumstances of reduced leg-room,’ I finally got myself a pair of cappies. Think of that.”

“Cappies,” Eddie mused. “Is that what they call em?”

“That’s what they call em, sugar.”

Jake’s were bright red Oxfords—except for the color, they would have looked perfectly at home in the well-bred classrooms of The Piper School. He flexed one, then turned it over. The sole was bright and unmarked. There was no manufacturer’s stamp, nor had he really expected one. His father had maybe a dozen pairs of fine handmade shoes. Jake knew them when he saw them.

Eddie’s were low boots with Cuban heels (
Maybe in this world you call them
Mejis
heels,
he thought) and pointed toes . . . what, back in his other life, had been known as “street-boppers.” Kids from the midsixties—an era Odetta/Detta/Susannah had just missed—might have called them “Beatle-boots.”

Roland’s, of course, were cowboy boots. Fancy ones—you’d go dancing rather than droving in such as these. Looped stitching, side decorations, narrow, haughty arches. He examined them without picking them up, then looked at his fellow travellers and frowned. They were looking at each other. You would have said three people couldn’t do that, only a pair . . . but you only would have said it if you’d never been part of a
ka-tet
.

Roland still shared
khef
with them; he felt the powerful current of their mingled thought, but could not understand it.
Because it’s of their world. They come from different whens of that world, but they see something here that’s common to all three of them.

“What is it?” he asked. “What do they mean, these shoes?”

“I don’t think any of us know
that
, exactly,” Susannah said.

“No,” Jake said. “It’s another riddle.” He looked at the weird, blood-red Oxford shoe in his hands with distaste. “Another goddamned riddle.”

“Tell what you know.” He looked toward the glass palace again. It was perhaps fifteen New York miles away, now, shining in the clear day, delicate as a mirage, but as real as . . . well, as real as shoes. “Please, tell me what you know about these shoes.”

“I got shoes,
you
got shoes, all God’s chillun got shoes,” Odetta said. “That’s the prevailin opinion, anyway.”

“Well,” Eddie said, “
we
got em, anyway. And you’re thinking what I’m thinking, aren’t you?”

“I guess I am.”

“You, Jake?”

Instead of answering with words, Jake picked up the other Oxford (Roland had no doubt that all the shoes, including Oy’s, would fit perfectly) and clapped them briskly together three times. It meant nothing to Roland, but both Eddie and Susannah reacted violently, looking around, looking especially at the sky, as if expecting a storm born out of this bright autumn sunshine. They ended up looking at the glass palace again . . . and then at each other, in that knowing, round-eyed way that made Roland feel like shaking them both until their teeth rattled. Yet he waited. Sometimes that was all a man could do.

“After you killed Jonas, you looked into the ball,” Eddie said, turning to him.

“Yes.”


Travelled
in the ball.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to talk about that again now; it has nothing to do with these—”

“I think it does,” Eddie said. “You flew inside a pink storm. Inside a pink
gale,
you could say. Gale is a word you might use for a storm, isn’t it? Especially if you were making up a riddle.”

“Sure,” Jake said. He sounded dreamy, almost like a boy who talks in his sleep. “When does Dorothy fly over the Wizard’s Rainbow? When she’s a Gale.”

“We ain’t in Kansas anymore, sugar,” Susannah said, and then voiced a strange, humorless bark which Roland supposed was a species of laughter. “May look a little like it, but Kansas was never . . . you know, this
thin.

“I don’t understand you,” Roland said. But he felt cold, and his heart was beating too fast. There were thinnies everywhere now, hadn’t he told them that? Worlds melting into one another as the forces of the Tower weakened? As the day when the rose would be plowed under drew nearer?

“You saw things as you flew,” Eddie said. “Before you got to the dark land, the one you called Thunderclap, you saw things. The piano-player, Sheb. Who turned up again later in your life, didn’t he?”

“Yes, in Tull.”

“And the dweller with the red hair?”

“Him, too. He had a bird named Zoltan. But when we met, he and I, we said the normal. ‘Life for you, life for your crop,’ that sort of thing. I thought I heard the same when he flew by me in
the pink storm, but he really said something else.” He glanced at Susannah. “I saw your wheelchair, too. The old one.”

“And you saw the witch.”

“Yes. I—”

In a creaky chortle that reminded Roland unnervingly of Rhea, Jake Chambers cried: “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!”

Roland stared at him, trying not to gape.

“Only in the movie, the witch wasn’t riding a broom,” Jake said. “She was on her bike, the one with the basket on the back.”

“Yeah, no reap-charms, either,” Eddie said. “Would have been a nice touch, though. I tell you, Jake, when I was a kid, I used to have nightmares about the way she laughed.”

“It was the monkeys that gave me the creeps,” Susannah said. “The flying monkeys. I’d get thinkin about em, and then have to crawl into bed with my mom and dad. They’d still be arguin ’bout whose bright idea it was to take me to that show in the foist place when I fell asleep between em.”

“I wasn’t worried about clapping the heels together,” Jake said. “Not a bit.” It was Susannah and Eddie he was speaking to; for the time being, it was as if Roland wasn’t even there. “I wasn’t wearing them, after all.”

“True,” Susannah said, sounding severe, “but you know what my daddy always used to say?”

“No, but I have a feeling we’re going to find out,” Eddie said.

She gave Eddie a brief, severe look, then turned her attention back to Jake. “ ‘Never whistle for the wind unless you want it to blow,’ ” she said. “And it’s good advice, no matter what Young Mister Foolish here may think.”

“Spanked again,” Eddie said, grinning.

“Panked!” Oy said, eyeing Eddie severely.

“Explain this to me,” Roland said in his softest voice. “I would hear. I would share your
khef.
And I would share it
now.

2

They told him a story almost every American child of the twentieth century knew, about a Kansas farmgirl named Dorothy Gale who had been carried away by a cyclone and deposited, along with her dog, in the Land of Oz. There was no I-70 in Oz, but there was a yellow brick road which served much the same purpose, and there were witches, both good
and bad. There was a
ka-tet
comprised of Dorothy, Toto, and three friends she met along the way: the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman, and the Scarecrow. They each had

(bird and bear and hare and fish)

a fondest wish, and it was with Dorothy’s that Roland’s new friends (and Roland himself, for that matter) identified the most strongly: she wanted to find her way home again.

“The Munchkins told her that she had to follow the yellow brick road to Oz,” Jake said, “and so she went. She met the others along the way, sort of like you met us, Roland—”

“Although you don’t look much like Judy Garland,” Eddie put in.

“—and eventually they got there. To Oz, the Emerald Palace, and the guy who lived in the Emerald Palace.” He looked toward the glass palace ahead of them, greener and greener in the strengthening light, and then back to Roland.

“Yes, I understand. And was this fellow, Oz, a powerful
dinh
? A Baron? Perhaps a King?”

Again, the three of them exchanged a glance from which Roland was excluded. “That’s complicated,” Jake said. “He was sort of a humbug—”

“A bumhug? What’s that?”

“Humbug,”
Jake said, laughing. “A faker. All talk, no action. But maybe the important thing is that the Wizard actually came from—”

“Wizard?” Roland asked sharply. He grasped Jake’s shoulder with his diminished right hand. “Why do you call him so?”

“Because that was his title, sug,” Susannah said. “The Wizard of Oz.” She lifted Roland’s hand gently but firmly from Jake’s shoulder. “Let him tell it, now. He don’t need you to squeeze it out of him.”

“Did I hurt you? Jake, I cry your pardon.”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Jake said. “Don’t worry about it. Anyway, Dorothy and her friends had a lot of adventures before finding out the Wizard was a, you know, a bumhug.” Jake giggled at this with his hands clapped to his forehead and pushing back his hair, like a child of five. “He couldn’t give the Lion courage, the Scarecrow a brain, or the Tin Woodman a heart. Worst of all, he couldn’t send Dorothy back to Kansas. The Wizard had a balloon, but he went without her. I don’t think he meant to, but he did.”

“It seems to me, from your telling of the tale,” Roland said,
speaking very slowly, “that Dorothy’s friends had the things they wanted all along.”

“That’s the moral of the story,” Eddie said. “Maybe what makes it a great story. But Dorothy was stuck in Oz, you see. Then Glinda showed up. Glinda the Good. And, as a present for smooshing one of the bad witches under her house and melting another one, Glinda told Dorothy how to use the ruby slippers. The ones Glinda gave her.”

Eddie raised the red Cuban-heeled street-boppers which had been left for him on the dotted white line of I-70.

“Glinda told Dorothy to click the heels of the ruby slippers together three times. That would take her back to Kansas, she said. And it did.”

“And that’s the end of the tale?”

“Well,” Jake said, “it was so popular that the guy who wrote it went ahead and wrote about a thousand more Oz stories—”

“Yeah,” Eddie said. “Everything but
Glinda’s Guide to Firm Thighs
.”

“—and there was this crazy remake called
The Wiz,
starring black people—”

“Really?” Susannah asked. She looked bemused. “What a
peculiar
concept.”

“—but the only one that really matters is the first one, I think,” Jake finished.

Roland hunkered and put his hands into the boots which had been left for him. He lifted them, looked at them, put them down again. “Are we supposed to put them on, do you think? Here and now?”

His three friends from New York looked at each other doubtfully. At last Susannah spoke for them—fed him the
khef
which he could feel but not quite share on his own.

“Best not to right now, maybe. Too many bad-ass spirits here.”


Takuro
spirits,” Eddie murmured, mostly to himself. Then: “Look, let’s just take em along. If we’re supposed to put em on, I think we’ll know when the time comes. In the meantime, I think we ought to beware of bumhugs bearing gifts.”

It cracked Jake up, as Eddie had known it would; sometimes a word or an image got into your funnybone like a virus and just lived there awhile. Tomorrow the word “bumhug” might mean nothing to the kid; for the rest of today, however,
he was going to laugh every time he heard it. Eddie intended to use it a lot, especially when ole Jake wasn’t expecting it.

They picked up the red shoes which had been left for them in the eastbound lanes (Jake took Oy’s) and moved on again toward the shimmering glass castle.

Oz,
Roland thought. He searched his memory, but he didn’t think it was a name he had ever heard before, or a word of the High Speech that had come in disguise, as
char
had come disguised as Charlie. Yet it had a sound that belonged in this business; a sound more of his world than of Jake’s, Susannah’s, and Eddie’s, from whence the tale had come.

3

Jake kept expecting the Green Palace to begin looking normal as they drew closer to it, the way the attractions in Disney World began to look normal as you drew close to them—not
ordinary,
necessarily, but
normal,
things which were as much a part of the world as the corner bus stop or mailbox or park bench, stuff you could touch, stuff you could write
FUCK PIPER
on, if you took a notion.

But that didn’t happen, wasn’t
going
to happen, and as they neared the Green Palace, Jake realized something else: it was the most beautiful, radiant thing he had ever seen in his life. Not trusting it—and he did not—didn’t change the fact. It was like a drawing in a fairy-tale book, one so good it had become real, somehow. And, like the thinny, it hummed . . . except that this sound was far fainter, and not unpleasant.

Pale green walls rose to battlements that jutted and towers that soared, seeming almost to touch the clouds floating over the Kansas plains. These towers were topped with needles of a darker, emerald green; it was from these that the red pennants flickered. Upon each pennant the symbol of the open eye

Other books

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Stay by Riley Hart
Saving Gary McKinnon by Sharp, Janis
Feel the Heat by Holt, Desiree
The Law of the Trigger by Clifton Adams
Forget Me Not, by Juliann Whicker
Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters
The Devil's Plague by Mark Beynon
Beads, Boys and Bangles by Sophia Bennett
Concealed in Death by J. D. Robb


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022