Authors: Stephen King
had been traced in yellow.
It’s the mark of the Crimson King,
It’s really his
, not John Farson’s
. He didn’t know how he knew this (how could he, when Alabama’s Crimson Tide was the only Crimson
he knew?), but he did.
“So beautiful,” Susannah murmured, and when Jake glanced at her, he thought she was almost crying. “But not nice, somehow. Not right. Maybe not downright
the way the thinny is, but . . .”
“But not nice,” Eddie said. “Yeah. That works. Not a red light, maybe, but a bright yellow one just the same.” He rubbed the side of his face (a gesture he had picked up from Roland without even realizing it) and looked puzzled. “It feels almost not serious—a practical joke.”
“I doubt it’s a joke,” Roland said. “Do you think it’s a copy of the place where Dorothy and her
met the false wizard?”
Again, the three erstwhile New Yorkers seemed to exchange a single glance of consultation. When it was over, Eddie spoke for all of them. “Yeah. Yeah, probably. It’s not the same as the one in the movie, but if this thing came out of our minds, it wouldn’t be. Because we see the one from L. Frank Baum’s book, too. Both from the illustrations in the book . . .”
“And the ones from our imaginations,” Jake said.
“But that’s it,” Susannah said. “I’d say we’re definitely off to see the Wizard.”
“You bet,” Eddie said. “Because-because-because-because-
“Because of the wonderful things he does!”
Jake and Susannah finished in unison, then laughed, delighted with each other, while Roland frowned at them, feeling puzzled and looking left out.
“But I have to tell you guys,” Eddie said, “that it’s only gonna take about one more wonderful thing to send me around to the dark side of the Psycho Moon. Most likely for good.”
As they drew closer, they could see Interstate 70 stretching away into the pale green depths of the castle’s slightly rounded outer wall; it floated there like an optical illusion. Closer yet, and they could hear the pennants snapping in the breeze and see their own ripply reflections, like drowned folk who somehow walk at the bottoms of watery tropical graves.
There was an inner redoubt of dark blue glass—it was a color Jake associated with the bottles fountain-pen ink came in—and a rust-hued wall-walk between the redoubt and the
outer wall. That color made Susannah think of the bottles Hires root-beer had come in when she was a little girl.
The way in was blocked by a barred gate that was both huge and ethereal: it looked like wrought iron which had been turned to glass. Each cunningly made stake was a different color, and these colors seemed to come from the
as if the bars were filled with some bright gas or liquid.
The travellers stopped before it. There was no sign of the turnpike beyond it; instead of roadway, there was a courtyard of silver glass—a huge flat mirror, in fact. Clouds floated serenely through its depths; so did the image of the occasional swooping bird. Sun reflected off this glass courtyard and ran across the green castle walls in ripples. On the far side, the wall of the palace’s inner ward rose in a glimmery green cliff, broken by narrow loophole windows of jet-black glass. There was also an arched entry in this wall that made Jake think of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
To the left of the main doorway was a sentry-box made of creamcolored glass shot through with hazy orange threads. Its door, painted with red stripes, stood open. The phone-booth–sized room inside was empty, although there was something on the floor which looked to Jake like a newspaper.
Above the entry, flanking its darkness, were two crouching, leering gargoyles of darkest violet glass. Their pointed tongues poked out like bruises.
The pennants atop the towers flapped like schoolyard flags.
Crows cawed over empty cornfields now a week past the Reap.
Distant, the thinny whined and warbled.
“Look at the bars of this gate,” Susannah said. She sounded breathless and awestruck. “Look very closely.”
Jake bent toward the yellow bar until his nose nearly touched it and a faint yellow stripe ran down the middle of his face. At first he saw nothing, and then he gasped. What he had taken for motes of some kind were creatures—living creatures—imprisoned inside the bar, swimming in tiny schools. They looked like fish in an aquarium, but they also (
Jake told himself,
I think it’s mostly their heads
) looked oddly, disquietingly human. As if, Jake thought, he were looking into a vertical golden sea, all the ocean in a glass rod—and living myths no bigger than grains of dust swimming within it. A tiny woman with a fish’s tail and long
blonde hair streaming out behind her swam to her side of the glass, seemed to peer out at the giant boy (her eyes were round, startled, and beautiful), and then flipped away again.
Jake felt suddenly dizzy and weak. He closed his eyes until the feeling of vertigo went away, then opened them again and looked around at the others. “Cripes! Are they all the same?”
“All different, I think,” said Eddie, who had already peered into two or three. He bent close to the purple rod, and his cheeks lit up as if in the glow of an old-fashioned fluoroscope. “These guys here look like birds—little tiny birds.”
Jake looked and saw that Eddie was right: inside the gate’s purple upright were flocks of birds no bigger than summer minges. They swooped giddily about in their eternal twilight, weaving over and under one another, their wings leaving tiny silver trails of bubbles.
“Are they really there?” Jake asked breathlessly. “Are they, Roland, or are we only imagining them?”
“I don’t know. But I know what this gate has been made to look like.”
“So do I,” Eddie said. He surveyed the shining posts, each with its own column of imprisoned light and life. Each of the gate’s wings consisted of six colored bars. The one in the center—broad and flat instead of round, and made to split in two when the gate was opened—was the thirteenth. This one was dead black, and in this one nothing moved.
Oh, maybe not that you can
, but there are things moving around in there, all right,
There’s life in there,
life. And maybe there are roses, too. Drowned ones.
“It’s a Wizard’s Gate,” Eddie said. “Each bar has been made to look like one of the balls in Maerlyn’s Rainbow. Look, here’s the pink one.”
Jake leaned toward it, hands propped on his thighs. He knew what would be inside even before he saw them: horses, of courses. Tiny herds of them, galloping through that strange pink stuff that was neither light nor liquid. Horses running in search of a Drop they would never find, mayhap.
Eddie stretched his hands out to grasp the sides of the central post, the black one.
“Don’t!” Susannah called sharply.
Eddie ignored her, but Jake saw his chest stop for a moment and his lips tighten as he wrapped his hands around the black bar and waited for something—some force perhaps sent
Special Delivery all the way from the Dark Tower itself—to change him, or even to strike him dead. When nothing happened, he breathed deep again, and risked a smile. “No electricity, but . . .” He pulled; the gate held fast. “No give, either. I see where it splits down the middle, but I get nothing. Want to take a shot, Roland?”
Roland reached for the gate, but Jake put a hand on his arm and stopped him before the gunslinger could do more than give it a preliminary shake. “Don’t bother. That’s not the way.”
“Then what is?”
Instead of answering, Jake sat down in front of the gate, near the place where this strange version of I-70 ended, and began putting on the shoes which had been left for him. Eddie watched a moment, then sat down beside him. “I guess we ought to try it,” he said to Jake, “even though it’ll probably turn out to be just another bumhug.”
Jake laughed, shook his head, and began to tighten the laces of the blood-red Oxfords. He and Eddie both knew it was no bumhug. Not this time.
“Okay,” Jake said when they had all put on their red shoes (he thought they looked extraordinarily stupid, especially Eddie’s pair). “I’ll count to three, and we’ll click our heels together. Like this.” He clicked the Oxfords together once, sharply . . . and the gate shivered like a loosely fastened shutter blown by a strong wind. Susannah cried out. There followed a low, sweet chiming sound from the Green Palace, as if the walls themselves had vibrated.
“I guess this’ll do the trick, all right,” Eddie said. “I warn you, though, I’m not singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ That’s not in my contract.”
“The rainbow is here,” the gunslinger said softly, stretching his diminished hand out to the gate.
It wiped the smile off Eddie’s face. “Yeah, I know. I’m a little scared, Roland.”
“So am I,” the gunslinger said, and indeed, Jake thought he looked pale and ill.
“Go on, sugar,” Susannah said. “Count before we all lose our nerve.”
“One . . . two . . .
They clicked their heels together solemnly and in unison:
tock, tock, tock.
The gate shivered more violently this time, the colors in the uprights brightening perceptibly. The chime that followed was higher, sweeter—the sound of fine crystal tapped with the haft of a knife. It echoed in dreamy harmonics that made Jake shiver, half with pleasure and half with pain.
But the gate didn’t open.
“What—” Eddie began.
“I know,” Jake said. “We forgot Oy.”
“Oh Christ,” Eddie said. “I left the world I knew to watch a kid try to put booties on a fucked-up weasel. Shoot me, Roland, before I breed.”
Roland ignored him, watching Jake closely as the boy sat down on the turnpike and called, “Oy! To me!”
The bumbler came willingly enough, and although he had surely been a wild creature before they had met him on the Path of the Beam, he allowed Jake to slip the red leather booties onto his paws without making trouble: in fact, once he got the idea, he stepped into the last two. When all four of the little red shoes were in place (they looked, in fact, the most like Dorothy’s ruby slippers), Oy sniffed at one of them, then looked attentively back at Jake.
Jake clicked his heels together three times, looking at the bumbler as he did so, ignoring the rattle of the gate and the soft chime from the walls of the Green Palace.
He rolled over on his back like a dog playing dead, then simply looked at his own feet with a kind of disgusted bewilderment. Looking at him, Jake had a sharp memory: trying to pat his stomach and rub his head at the same time, and his father making fun of him when he couldn’t do it right away.
“Roland, help me. He knows what he’s supposed to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.” Jake glanced up at Eddie. “And don’t make any smart remarks, okay?”
“No,” Eddie said. “No smart remarks, Jake. Do you think just Oy has to do it this time, or is it still a group effort?”
“Just him, I think.”
“But it wouldn’t hurt us to kind of click along with Mitch,” Susannah said.
“Mitch who?” Eddie asked, looking blank.
“Never mind. Go on, Jake, Roland. Give us a count again.”
Eddie grasped Oy’s forepaws. Roland gently grasped the bumbler’s rear paws. Oy looked nervous at this—as if he perhaps expected to be swung briskly into the air and given the old heave-ho—but he didn’t struggle.
Jake and Roland gently patted Oy’s forepaws and rear paws together in unison. At the same time they clicked the heels of their own footwear. Eddie and Susannah did the same.
This time the harmonic was a deep, sweet bong, like a glass church bell. The black glass bar running down the center of the gate did not split open but shattered, spraying crumbs of obsidian glass in all directions. Some rattled against Oy’s hide. He sprang up in a hurry, yanking out of Jake’s and Roland’s grip and trotting a little distance away. He sat on the broken white line between the travel lane and the passing lane of the highway, his ears laid back, looking at the gate and panting.
“Come on,” Roland said. He went to the left wing of the gate and pushed it slowly open. He stood at the edge of the mirror courtyard, a tall, lanky man in cowpoke jeans, an ancient shirt of no particular color, and improbable red cowboy boots. “Let’s go in and see what the Wizard of Oz has to say for himself.”
“If he’s still here,” Eddie said.
“Oh, I think he’s here,” Roland murmured. “Yes, I think he’s here.”
He ambled toward the main door with the empty sentry-box beside it. The others followed, welded to their own downward reflections by the red shoes like sets of Siamese twins.
Oy came last, skipping nimbly along in his ruby slippers, pausing once to sniff down at his own reflected snout.
“Oy!” he cried to the bumbler floating below him, and then hurried after Jake.
Roland stopped at the sentry-box, glanced in, then picked up the thing which was lying on the floor. The others caught up with him and clustered around. It had looked like a newspaper, and that was just what it was . . . although an exceedingly odd one. No Topeka
this, and no news of a population-levelling plague.
Vol. MDLXVIII No. 96 “Daily Buzz, Daily Buzz, Handsome Iz as Handsome Duuzz” Weather: Here today, gone tomorrow Lucky Numbers: None Prognosis: Bad
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak blah blah blah good is bad bad is good all the stuff’s the same good is bad bad is good all the stuff’s the same go slow past the drawers all the stuff’s the same blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Blaine is a pain all the stuff’s the same yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak yak charyou tree all the stuff’s the same blah yak blah blah yak yak blah blah
blah yak yak yak baked turkey cooked goose all the stuff’s the same blah blah yak yak ride a train die in pain all the stuff’s the same blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blame blame blame blame blame blame blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yak yak blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. (Related story p. 6)
Below this was a picture of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake crossing the mirrored courtyard, as if this had happened the day before instead of only minutes ago. Beneath it was a caption reading:
Tragedy in Oz: Travellers Arrive Seeking Fame and Fortune; Find Death Instead.
“I like that,” Eddie said, adjusting Roland’s revolver in the holster he wore low on his hip. “Comfort and encouragement after days of confusion. Like a hot drink on a cold fucking night.”
“Don’t be afraid of this,” Roland said. “This
“I’m not afraid,” Eddie said, “but it’s a little more than a joke. I lived with Henry Dean for a lot of years, and I know when there’s a plot to psych me out afoot. I know it very well.” He looked curiously at Roland. “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but
the one who looks scared, Roland.”
“I’m terrified,” Roland said simply.
The arched entryway made Susannah think of a song which had been popular ten years or so before she had been yanked out of her world and into Roland’s.
Saw an eyeball peepin through a smoky cloud behind the Green Door,
the lyric went.
When I said “Joe sent me,” someone laughed out loud behind the Green Door.
There were actually two doors here instead of one, and no peephole through which an eyeball could look in either. Nor did Susannah try that old speakeasy deal about how Joe had sent her. She did, however, bend forward to read the sign hanging from one of the circular glass door-pulls.
BELL OUT OF ORDER, PLEASE KNOCK
, it said.
“Don’t bother,” she said to Roland, who had actually doubled up his fist to do as the sign said. “It’s from the story, that’s all.”
Eddie pulled her chair back slightly, stepped in front of it,
and took hold of the circular pulls. The doors opened easily, the hinges rolling in silence. He took a step forward into what looked like a shadowy green grotto, cupped his hands to his mouth, and called:
The sound of his voice rolled away and came back changed . . . small, echoing, lost. Dying, it seemed.
“Christ,” Eddie said. “Do we have to do this?”
“If we want to get back to the Beam, I think so.” Roland looked paler than ever, but he led them in. Jake helped Eddie lift Susannah’s chair over the sill (a milky block of jade-colored glass) and inside. Oy’s little shoes flashed dim red on the green glass floor. They had gone only ten paces when the doors slammed shut behind them with a no-question-about-it boom that rolled past them and went echoing away into the depths of the Green Palace.
There was no reception room; only a vaulted, cavernous hallway that seemed to go on forever. The walls were lit with a faint green glow.
This is just like the hallway in the movie,
the one where the Cowardly Lion got so scared when he stepped on his own tail.
And, adding a little extra touch of verisimilitude Jake could have done without, Eddie spoke up in a trembly (and better than passable) Bert Lahr imitation: “Wait a minute, fellas, I wuz just thinkin—I really don’t wanna see the Wizard this much. I better wait for you outside!”
“Stop it,” Jake said sharply.
“Oppit!” Oy agreed. He walked directly at Jake’s heel, swinging his head watchfully from side to side as he went. Jake could hear no sound except for their own passage . . . yet he sensed something: a sound that
It was, he thought, like looking at a wind-chime that wants only the slightest puff of breeze to set it tinkling.
“Sorry,” Eddie said. “Really.” He pointed. “Look down there.”
About forty yards ahead of them, the green corridor
end, in a narrow green doorway of amazing height—perhaps thirty feet from the floor to its pointed tip. And from behind it, Jake could now hear a steady thrumming sound. As they drew closer and the sound grew louder, his dread grew. He
had to make a conscious effort to take the last dozen steps to the door. He knew this sound; he knew it from the run he’d made with Gasher under Lud, and from the run he and his friends had made on Blaine the Mono. It was the steady beat-beat-beat of slo-trans engines.
“It’s like a nightmare,” he said in a small, close-to-tears voice. “We’re right back where we started.”
“No, Jake,” the gunslinger said, touching his hair. “Never think it. What you feel is an illusion. Stand and be true.”
The sign on this door wasn’t from the movie, and only Susannah knew it was from Dante.
ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
, it said.
Roland reached out with his two-fingered right hand and pulled the thirty-foot door open.
What lay beyond it was, to the eyes of Jake, Susannah, and Eddie, a weird combination of
The Wizard of Oz
and Blaine the Mono. A thick rug (pale blue, like the one in the Barony Coach) lay on the floor. The chamber was like the nave of a cathedral, soaring to impenetrable heights of greenish-black. The pillars which supported the glowing walls were great glass ribs of alternating green and pink light; the pink was the exact shade of Blaine’s hull. Jake saw these supporting pillars had been carven with a billion different images, none of them comforting; they jostled the eye and unsettled the heart. There seemed to be a preponderance of screaming faces.
Ahead of them, dwarfing the visitors, turning them into creatures that seemed no bigger than ants, was the chamber’s only furnishing: an enormous green glass throne. Jake tried to estimate its size and was unable—he had no reference-points to help him. He thought that the throne’s back might be fifty feet high, but it could as easily have been seventy-five or a hundred. It was marked with the open eye symbol, this time traced in red instead of yellow. The rhythmic thrusting of the light made the eye seem alive; to be beating like a heart.
Above the throne, rising like the pipes of a mighty medieval organ, were thirteen great cylinders, each pulsing a different color. Each, that was, save for the pipe which ran directly down in back of the throne’s center. That one was black as midnight and as still as death.
“Hey!” Susannah shouted from her chair. “Anyone here?”
At the sound of her voice, the pipes flashed so brilliantly that Jake had to shield his eyes. For a moment the entire throneroom glared like an exploding rainbow. Then the pipes went out, went dark, went dead, just as the wizard’s glass in Roland’s story had done when the glass (or the force inhabiting the glass) decided to shut up for awhile. Now there was only the column of blackness, and the steady green pulse of the empty throne.
Next, a somehow tired humming sound, as of a very old servomechanism being called into use one final time, began to whine its way into their ears. Panels, each at least six feet long and two feet wide, slid open in the arms of the throne. From the black slots thus revealed, a rosecolored smoke began to drift out and up. As it rose, it darkened to a bright red. And in it, a terribly familiar zigzag line appeared. Jake knew what it was even before the words
(Lud Candleton Rilea The Falls of the Hounds Dasherville Topeka)
appeared, glowing smoke-bright.
It was Blaine’s route-map.
Roland could say all he wanted about how things had changed, how Jake’s feeling of being trapped in a nightmare
(this is the worst nightmare of my life, and that is the truth)
was just an illusion created by his confused mind and frightened heart, but Jake knew better. This place might look a little bit like the throneroom of Oz the Great and Terrible, but it was really Blaine the Mono. They were back aboard Blaine, and soon the riddling would begin all over again.
Jake felt like screaming.
Eddie recognized the voice that boomed out of the smoky route-map hanging above the green throne, but he believed it was Blaine the Mono no more than he believed it was the Wizard of Oz.
wizard, perhaps, but this wasn’t the Emerald City, and Blaine was just as dead as dogshit. Eddie had sent him home with a fuckin rupture.
“HELLO THERE AGAIN, LITTLE TRAILHANDS!”
The smoky route-map pulsed, but Eddie no longer associated
it with the voice, although he guessed they were supposed to. No, the voice was coming from the pipes.
He glanced down, saw Jake’s paper-white face, and knelt beside him. “It’s crap, kid,” he said.
“N-No . . . it’s Blaine . . . not dead . . .”
“He’s dead, all right. This is nothing but an amplified version of the after-school announcements . . . who’s got detention and who’s supposed to report to Room Six for Speech Therapy. You dig?”
“What?” Jake looked up at him, lips wet and trembling, eyes dazed. “What do you—”
“Those pipes are
. Even a pipsqueak can sound big through a twelve-speaker Dolby sound-system; don’t you remember the movie? It has to sound big because it’s a bumhug, Jake—just a bumhug.”
“WHAT ARE YOU TELLING HIM, EDDIE OF NEW YORK? ONE OF YOUR STUPID, NASTY-MINDED LITTLE JOKES? ONE OF YOUR UNFAIR RIDDLES?”
“Yeah,” Eddie said. “The one that goes, ‘How many dipolar computers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?’ Who are you, buddy? I know goddam well you’re not Blaine the Mono, so who are you?”
“I . . .
. . .
!” the voice thundered. The glass columns flashed; so did the pipes behind the throne. “OZ THE GREAT! OZ THE POWERFUL! WHO ARE YOU?”
Susannah rolled forward until her wheelchair was at the base of the dull green steps leading up to a throne that would have dwarfed even Lord Perth.
“I’m Susannah Dean, the small and crippled,” she said, “and I was raised to be polite, but not to suffer bullshit. We’re here because we’re
to be here—why else did we get left the shoes?”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT OF ME, SUSANNAH? WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE, LITTLE COWGIRL?”
know,” she said. “We want what everyone wants, so far as I know—to go back home again, ’cause there’s no place like home. We—”
“You can’t go home,” Jake said. He spoke in a rapid, frightened murmur. “You can’t go home again, Thomas Wolfe said that, and that is the truth.”
sug,” Susannah said. “A flat-out lie. You
go home again. All you have to do is find the right rainbow and walk under it. We’ve found it; the rest is just, you know, footwork.”
“WOULD YOU GO BACK TO NEW YORK, SUSANNAH DEAN? EDDIE DEAN? JAKE CHAMBERS? IS THAT WHAT YOU ASK OF OZ, THE MIGHTY AND POWERFUL?”
“New York isn’t home for us anymore,” Susannah said. She looked very small yet very fearless as she sat in her new wheelchair at the foot of the enormous, pulsing throne. “No more than Gilead is home for Roland. Take us back to the Path of the Beam. That’s where we want to go, because that’s our way home. Only way home we got.”
“GO AWAY!” cried the voice from the pipes. “GO AWAY AND COME BACK TOMORROW! WE’LL DISCUSS THE BEAM THEN! FIDDLE-DE-DEE, SAID SCARLETT, WE’LL TALK ABOUT THE BEAM TOMORROW, FOR TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY!”
“No,” Eddie said. “We’ll talk about it now.”
“DO NOT AROUSE THE WRATH OF THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!” the voice cried, and the pipes flashed furiously with each word. Susannah was sure this was supposed to be scary, but she found it almost amusing, instead. It was like watching a salesman demonstrate a child’s toy.
Hey, kids! When you talk, the pipes flash bright colors! Try it and see!
“Sugar, you best listen, now,” Susannah said. “What
don’t want to do is arouse the wrath of folks with guns. Especially when you be livin in a glass house.”