The Dark Tower IV Wizard and Glass (90 page)

He looked at Jake and Susannah. They shook their heads. Even Oy shook his head. No, he wasn’t wrong.

“We’ve
changed,
” Eddie said. “We . . .” Now he was the one who didn’t know how to go on. How to express his need to see the Tower . . . and his other need, just as strong, to go on carrying the gun with the sandalwood insets.
The big iron
was how he’d come to think of it. Like in that old Marty Robbins song about the man with the big iron on his hip. “It’s
ka,
” he said. It was all he could think of that was big enough to cover it.

“Kaka,” Roland replied, after a moment’s consideration. The three of them stared at him, mouths open.

Roland of Gilead had made a joke.

4

“There’s one thing I don’t understand about what we saw,” Susannah said hesitantly. “Why did your mother hide behind that drape when you came in, Roland? Did she mean to . . .” She bit her lip, then brought it out. “Did she mean to kill you?”

“If she’d meant to kill me, she wouldn’t have chosen a belt as her weapon. The very fact that she had made me a present—and that’s what it was, it had my initials woven into it—suggests that she meant to ask my forgiveness. That she had had a change of heart.”

Is that what you know, or only what you want to believe?
Eddie thought. It was a question he would never ask. Roland had been tested enough, had won their way back to the Path of the Beam by reliving that terrible final visit to his mother’s apartment, and that was enough.

“I think she hid because she was ashamed,” the gunslinger said. “Or because she needed a moment to think of what to say to me. Of how to explain.”

“And the ball?” Susannah asked him gently. “Was it on the vanity table, where we saw it? And did she steal it from your father?”

“Yes to both,” Roland said. “Although . . .
did
she steal it?” He seemed to ask this question of himself. “My father knew a great many things, but he sometimes kept what he knew to himself.”

“Like him knowing that your mother and Marten were seeing each other,” Susannah said.

“Yes.”

“But, Roland . . . you surely don’t believe that your father would knowingly have allowed
you
to . . . to . . .”

Roland looked at her with large, haunted eyes. His tears had gone, but when he tried to smile at her question, he was unable. “Have knowingly allowed his son to kill his wife?” he asked. “No, I can’t say that. Much as I’d like to, I can’t. That he should have
caused
such a thing to have happened, to have deliberately set it in motion, like a man playing Castles . . . that I cannot believe. But would he allow
ka
to run its course? Aye, most certainly.”

“What happened to the ball?” Jake asked.

“I don’t know. I fainted. When I awoke, my mother and I were still alone, one dead and one alive. No one had come to the sound of the shots—the walls of that place were thick stone, and that wing mostly empty as well. Her blood had dried. The belt she’d made me was covered with it, but I took it, and I put it on. I wore that bloodstained gift for many years, and how I lost it is a tale for another day—I’ll tell it to you before we have done, for it bears on my quest for the Tower.

“But although no one had come to investigate the gunshots, someone had come for another reason. While I lay fainted away by my mother’s corpse, that someone came in and took the wizard’s glass away.”

“Rhea?” Eddie asked.

“I doubt she was so close in her body . . . but she had a way of making friends, that one. Aye, a way of making friends. I saw her again, you know.” Roland explained no further, but a stony gleam arose in his eyes. Eddie had seen it before, and knew it meant killing.

Jake had retrieved the note from R.F. and now gestured at
the little drawing beneath the message. “Do you know what this means?”

“I have an idea it’s the
sigul
of a place I saw when I first travelled in the wizard’s glass. The land called Thunderclap.” He looked around at them, one by one. “I think it’s there that we’ll meet this man—this
thing
—named Flagg again.”

Roland looked back the way they had come, sleepwalking in their fine red shoes. “The Kansas we came through was
his
Kansas, and the plague that emptied out that land was
his
plague. At least, that’s what I believe.”

“But it might not stay there,” Susannah said.

“It could travel,” Eddie said.

“To
our
world,” Jake said.

Still looking back toward the Green Palace, Roland said: “To your world, or any other.”

“Who’s the Crimson King?” Susannah asked abruptly.

“Susannah, I know not.”

They were quiet, then, watching Roland look toward the palace where he had faced a false wizard and a true memory and somehow opened the door back to his own world by so doing.

Our world,
Eddie thought, slipping an arm around Susannah.
Our world now. If we go back to America, and perhaps we’ll have to before this is over, we’ll arrive as strangers in a strange land, no matter what when it is. This is our world now. The world of the Beams, and the Guardians, and the Dark Tower.

“We got some daylight left,” he said to Roland, and put a hesitant hand on the gunslinger’s shoulder. When Roland immediately covered it with his own hand, Eddie smiled. “You want to use it, or what?”

“Yes,” Roland said. “Let’s use it.” He bent and shouldered his pack.

“What about the shoes?” Susannah asked, looking doubtfully at the little red pile they had made.

“Leave them here,” Eddie said. “They’ve served their purpose. Into your wheelchair, girl.” He put his arms around her and helped her in.

“All God’s children have shoes,” Roland mused. “Isn’t that what you said, Susannah?”

“Well,” she said, settling herself, “the correct dialect adds a soupçon of flavor, but you’ve got the essence, honey, yes.”

“Then we’ll undoubtedly find more shoes as God wills it,” Roland said.

Jake was looking into his knapsack, taking inventory of the foodstuffs that had been added by some unknown hand. He held up a chicken leg in a Baggie, looked at it, then looked at Eddie. “Who do you suppose packed this stuff?”

Eddie raised his eyebrows, as if to ask Jake how he could possibly be so stupid. “The Keebler Elves,” he said. “Who else? Come on, let’s go.”

5

They clustered near the grove, five wanderers on the face of an empty land. Ahead of them, running across the plain, was a line in the grass which exactly matched the lane of rushing clouds in the sky. This line was nothing so obvious as a path . . . but to the awakened eye, the way that everything bent in the same direction was as clear as a painted stripe.

The Path of the Beam. Somewhere ahead, where this Beam intersected all the others, stood the Dark Tower. Eddie thought that, if the wind were right, he would almost be able to smell its sullen stone.

And roses—the dusky scent of roses.

He took Susannah’s hand as she sat in her chair; Susannah took Roland’s; Roland took Jake’s. Oy stood two paces before them, head up, scenting the autumn air that combed his fur with unseen fingers, his gold-ringed eyes wide.

“We are
ka-tet,
” Eddie said. It crossed his mind to wonder at how much he’d changed; how he had become a stranger, even to himself. “We are one from many.”

“Ka-tet,”
Susannah said. “We are one from many.”

“One from many,” Jake said. “Come on, let’s go.”

Bird and bear and hare and fish,
Eddie thought.

With Oy in the lead, they once more set out for the Dark Tower, walking along the Path of the Beam.

AFTERWORD

The scene in which Roland bests his old teacher, Cort, and goes off to roister in the less savory section of Gilead was written in the spring of 1970. The one in which Roland’s father shows up the following morning was written in the summer of 1996. Although only sixteen hours pass between the two occurrences in the world of the story, twenty-six
years
had passed in the life of the story’s teller. Yet the moment finally came, and I found myself confronting myself across a whore’s bed—the unemployed schoolboy with the long black hair and beard on one side, the successful popular novelist (“America’s shlockmeister,” as I am affectionately known by my legions of admiring critics) on the other.

I mention this only because it sums up the essential weirdness of the Dark Tower experience for me. I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland’s story is my Jupiter—a planet that dwarfs all the others (at least from my own perspective), a place of strange atmosphere, crazy landscape, and savage gravitational pull. Dwarfs the others, did I say? I think there’s more to it than that, actually. I am coming to understand that Roland’s world (or worlds) actually
contains
all the others of my making; there is a place in Mid-World for Randall Flagg, Ralph Roberts, the wandering boys from
The Eyes of the Dragon,
even Father Callahan, the damned priest from
’Salem’s Lot,
who rode out of New England on a Greyhound Bus and wound up dwelling on the border of a terrible Mid-World land called Thunderclap. This seems to be where they all finish up, and why not? Mid-World was here first, before all of them, dreaming under the blue gaze of Roland’s bombardier eyes.

This book has been too long in coming—a good many readers who enjoy Roland’s adventures have all but howled in
frustration—and for that I apologize. The reason is best summed up by Susannah’s thought as she prepares to tell Blaine the first riddle of their contest:
It is hard to begin.
There’s nothing in these pages that I agree with more.

I knew that
Wizard and Glass
meant doubling back to Roland’s young days, and to his first love affair, and I was scared to death of that story. Suspense is relatively easy, at least for me; love is hard. Consequently I dallied, I temporized, I procrastinated, and the book remained unwritten.

I began at last, working in motel rooms on my Macintosh PowerBook, while driving cross-country from Colorado to Maine after finishing my work on the miniseries version of
The Shining
. It occurred to me as I drove north through the deserted miles of western Nebraska (where I also happened to be, driving back from Colorado, when I got the idea for a story called “Children of the Corn”), that if I didn’t start soon, I would never write the book at all.

But I no longer know the truth of romantic love,
I told myself.
I know about marriage, and mature love, but forty-eight has a way of forgetting the heat and passion of seventeen.

I will help you with that part,
came the reply. I didn’t know who that voice belonged to on that day outside Thetford, Nebraska, but I do now, because I have looked into his eyes across a whore’s bed in a land that exists very clearly in my imagination. Roland’s love for Susan Delgado (and hers for him) is what was told to me by the boy who began this story. If it’s right, thank him. If it’s wrong, blame whatever got lost in the translation.

Also thank my friend Chuck Verrill, who edited the book and hung with me every step of the way. His encouragement and help were invaluable, as was the encouragement of Elaine Koster, who has published all of these cowboy romances in paperback.

Most thanks of all go to my wife, who supports me in this madness as best she can and helped me on this book in a way she doesn’t even know. Once, in a dark time, she gave me a funny little rubber figure that made me smile. It’s Rocket J. Squirrel, wearing his blue aviator’s hat and with his arms bravely outstretched. I put that figure on my manuscript as it grew (and grew . . . and
grew
), hoping some of the love that came with it would kind of fertilize the work. It must have worked, at least to a degree; the book is here, after all. I don’t
know if it’s good or bad—I lost all sense of perspective around page four hundred—but it’s here. That alone seems like a miracle. And I have started to believe I might actually live to complete this cycle of stories. (Knock on wood.)

There are three more to be told, I think, two set chiefly in Mid-World and one almost entirely in our world—that’s the one dealing with the vacant lot on the corner of Second and Forty-sixth, and the rose that grows there. That rose, I must tell you, is in terrible danger.

In the end, Roland’s
ka-tet
will come to the nightscape which is Thunderclap . . . and to what lies beyond it. All may not live to reach the Tower, but I believe that those who do reach it will stand and be true.

—Stephen King

Lovell, Maine, October 27, 1996

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