Read Song of Susannah Page 2

2nd Stanza: The Persistence of Magic


  They needn't have worried about the Manni-folk showing up. Henchick, dour as ever, appeared at the town common, which had been the designated setting-out point, with forty men. He assured Roland it would be enough to open the Unfound Door, if it could indeed be opened now that what he called "the dark glass" was gone. The old man offered no word of apology for showing up with less than the promised number of men, but he kept tugging on his beard. Sometimes with both hands.

  "Why does he do that, Pere, do you know?" Jake asked Callahan. Henchick's troops were rolling eastward in a dozen bucka waggons. Behind these, drawn by a pair of albino asses with freakishly long ears and fiery pink eyes, was a two-wheeled fly completely covered in white duck. To Jake it looked like a big Jiffy-Pop container on wheels. Henchick rode upon this contraption alone, gloomily yanking at his chin-whiskers.

  "I think it means he's embarrassed," Callahan said.

  "I don't see why. I'm surprised so many showed up, after the Beamquake and all. "

  "What he learned when the ground shook is that some of his men were more afraid of that than of him. As far as Henchick's concerned, it adds up to an unkept promise. Not justany unkept promise, either, but one he made to your dinh. He's lost face. " And, without changing his tone of voice at all, tricking him into an answer he would not otherwise have given, Callahan asked: "Is she still alive, then, your molly?"

  "Yes, but in ter - " Jake began, then covered his mouth. He looked at Callahan accusingly. Ahead of them, on the seat of the two-wheeled fly, Henchick looked around, startled, as if they had raised their voices in argument. Callahan wondered if everyone in this damned story had the touch but him.

  It's not a story. It's not a story, it's my life!

  But it was hard to believe that, wasn't it, when you'd seen yourself set in type as a major character in a book with the word FICTION on the copyright page. Doubleday and Company, 1975. A book about vampires, yet, which everyoneknew weren't real. Except they had been. And, in at least some of the worlds adjacent to this one, still were.

  "Don't treat me like that," Jake said. "Don'ttrick me like that. Not if we're all on the same side, Pere. Okay?"

  "I'm sorry," Callahan said. And then: "Cry pardon. "

  Jake smiled wanly and stroked Oy, who was riding in the front pocket of his poncho.

  "Is she - "

  The boy shook his head. "I don't want to talk about her now, Pere. It's best we not even think about her. I have a feeling - I don't know if it's true or not, but it's strong - that something's looking for her. If there is, it's better it not overhear us. And it could. "

  "Something. . . ?"

  Jake reached out and touched the kerchief Callahan wore around his neck, cowboy-style. It was red. Then he put a hand briefly over his left eye. For a moment Callahan didn't understand, and then he did. The red eye. The Eye of the King.

  He sat back on the seat of the waggon and said no more. Behind them, not talking, Roland and Eddie rode horseback, side by side. Both were carrying their gunna as well as their guns, and Jake had his own in the waggon behind him. If they came back to Calla Bryn Sturgis after today, it wouldn't be for long.

  In terrorwas what he had started to say, but it was worse than that. Impossibly faint, impossibly distant, but still clear, Jake could hear Susannah screaming. He only hoped Eddie did not.


  So they rode away from a town that mostly slept in emotional exhaustion despite the quake which had struck it. The day was cool enough so that when they started out they could see their breath on the air, and a light scrim of frost coated the dead cornstalks. A mist hung over the Devar-tete Whye like the river's own spent breath. Roland thought:This is the edge of winter.

  An hour's ride brought them to the arroyo country. There was no sound but the jingle of trace, the squeak of wheels, the clop of horses, an occasional sardonic honk from one of the albino asses pulling the fly, and distant, the call of rusties on the wing. Headed south, perhaps, if they could still find it.

  Ten or fifteen minutes after the land began to rise on their right, filling in with bluffs and cliffs and mesas, they returned to the place where, just twenty-four hours before, they had come with the children of the Calla and fought their battle. Here a track split off from the East Road and rambled more or less northwest. In the ditch on the other side of the road was a raw trench of earth. It was the hide where Roland, his ka-tet, and the ladies of the dish had waited for the Wolves.

  And, speaking of the Wolves, where were they? When they'd left this place of ambush, it had been littered with bodies. Over sixty, all told, man-shaped creatures who had come riding out of the west wearing gray pants, green cloaks, and snarling wolf-masks.

  Roland dismounted and walked up beside Henchick, who was getting down from the two-wheeled fly with the stiff awkwardness of age. Roland made no effort to help him. Henchick wouldn't expect it, might even be offended by it.

  The gunslinger let him give his dark cloak a final settling shake, started to ask his question, and then realized he didn't have to. Forty or fifty yards farther along, on the right side of the road, was a vast hill of uprooted corn-plants where no hill had been the day before. It was a funerary heap, Roland saw, one which had been constructed without any degree of respect. He hadn't lost any time or wasted any effort wondering how thefolken had spent the previous afternoon - before beginning the party they were now undoubtedly sleeping off - but now he saw their work before him. Had they been afraid the Wolves might come back to life? he wondered, and knew that, on some level, that was exactly what they'd feared. And so they'd dragged the heavy, inert bodies (gray horses as well as gray-clad Wolves) off into the corn, stacked them willy-rully, then covered them with uprooted corn-plants. Today they'd turn this bier into a pyre. And if the seminon winds came? Roland guessed they'd light it up anyway, and chance a possible conflagration in the fertile land between road and river. Why not? The growing season was over for the year, and there was nothing like fire for fertilizer, so the old folks did say; besides, thefolken would not really rest easy until that hill was burned. And even then few of them would like to come out here.

  "Roland, look," Eddie said in a voice that trembled somewhere between sorrow and rage. "Ah, goddammit,look. "

  Near the end of the path, where Jake, Benny Slightman, and the Tavery twins had waited before making their final dash for safety across the road, stood a scratched and battered wheelchair, its chrome winking brilliantly in the sun, its seat streaked with dust and blood. The left wheel was bent severely out of true.

  "Why do'ee speak in anger?" Henchick inquired. He had been joined by Cantab and half a dozen elders of what Eddie sometimes referred to as the Cloak Folk. Two of these elders looked a good deal older than Henchick himself, and Roland thought of what Rosalita had said last night:Many of them nigh as old as Henchick, trying to climb that path after dark. Well, it wasn't dark, but he didn't know if some of these would be able to walk as far as the upsy part of the path to Doorway Cave, let alone the rest of the way to the top.

  "They brought your woman's rolling chair back here to honor her. And you. So why do'ee speak in anger?"

  "Because it's not supposed to be all banged up, and she's supposed to be in it," Eddie told the old man. "Do you ken that, Henchick?"

  "Anger is the most useless emotion," Henchick intoned, "destructive to the mind and hurtful of the heart. "

  Eddie's lips thinned to no more than a white scar below his nose, but he managed to hold in a retort. He walked over to Susannah's scarred chair - it had rolled hundreds of miles since they'd found it in Topeka, but its rolling days were done - and looked down at it moodily. When Callahan approached him, Eddie waved the Pere back.

  Jake was looking at the place on the road where Benny had been struck and killed. The boy's body was gone, of course, and someone had covered his spilled blood with a fresh layer of the oggan, but Jake found he
could see the dark splotches, anyway. And Benny's severed arm, lying palm-up. Jake remembered how his friend's Da' had staggered out of the corn and seen his son lying there. For five seconds or so he had been capable of no sound whatever, and Jake supposed that was time enough for someone to have told sai Slightman they'd gotten off incredibly light: one dead boy, one dead rancher's wife, another boy with a broken ankle. Piece of cake, really. But no one had and then Slightman the Elder had shrieked. Jake thought he would never forget the sound of that shriek, just as he would always see Benny lying here in the dark and bloody dirt with his arm off.

  Beside the place where Benny had fallen was something else which had been covered with dirt. Jake could see just a small wink of metal. He dropped to one knee and excavated one of the Wolves' death-balls, things called sneetches. The Harry Potter model, according to what was written on them. Yesterday he'd held a couple of these in his hand and felt them vibrating. Heard their faint, malevolent hum. This one was as dead as a rock. Jake stood up and threw it toward the heap of corn-covered dead Wolves. Threw hard enough to make his arm hurt. That arm would probably be stiff tomorrow, but he didn't care. Didn't care much about Henchick's low opinion of anger, either. Eddie wanted his wife back; Jake wanted his friend. And while Eddie might get whathe wanted somewhere down the line, Jake Chambers never would. Because dead was the gift that kept on giving. Dead, like diamonds, was forever.

  He wanted to get going, wanted this part of the East Road looking at his back. He also wanted not to have to look at Susannah's empty, beat-up chair any longer. But the Manni had formed a ring around the spot where the battle had actually taken place, and Henchick was praying in a high, rapid voice that hurt Jake's ears: it sounded quite a lot like the squeal of a frightened pig. He spoke to something called the Over, asking for safe passage to yon cave and success of endeavor with no loss of life or sanity (Jake found this part of Henchick's prayer especially disturbing, as he'd never thought of sanity as a thing to be prayed for). The boss-man also begged the Over to enliven their mags and bobs. And finally he prayed for kaven, the persistence of magic, a phrase that seemed to have a special power for these people. When he was finished, they all said "Over-sam, Over-kra, Over-can-tah" in unison, and dropped their linked hands. A few went down on their knees to have a little extra palaver with the reallybig boss. Cantab, meanwhile, led four or five of the younger men to the fly. They folded back its snowy white top, revealing a number of large wooden boxes. Plumb-bobs and magnets, Jake guessed, and a lot bigger than the ones they wore around their necks. They'd brought out the heavy artillery for this little adventure. The boxes were covered with designs - stars and moons and odd geometric shapes - that looked cabalistic rather than Christian. But, Jake realized, he had no basis for believing the Manni were Christians. They mightlook like Quakers or Amish with their cloaks and beards and round-crowned black hats, might throw the occasionalthee orthou into their conversation, but so far as Jake knew, neither the Quakers nor the Amish had ever made a hobby of traveling to other worlds.

  Long polished wooden rods were pulled from another wagon. They were thrust through metal sleeves on the undersides of the engraved boxes. The boxes were called coffs, Jake learned. The Manni carried them like religious artifacts through the streets of a medieval town. Jake supposed that in a way theywere religious artifacts.

  They started up the path, which was still scattered with hair-ribbons, scraps of cloth, and a few small toys. These had been bait for the Wolves, and the bait had been taken.

  When they reached the place where Frank Tavery had gotten his foot caught, Jake heard the voice of the useless git's beautiful sister in his mind:Help him, please, sai, I beg. He had, God forgive him. And Benny had died.

  Jake looked away, grimacing, then thoughtYou're a gunslinger now, you gotta do better. He forced himself to look back.

  Pere Callahan's hand dropped onto his shoulder. "Son, are you all right? You're awfully pale. "

  "I'm okay," Jake said. A lump had risen in his throat, quite a large one, but he forced himself to swallow past it and repeat what he'd just said, telling the lie to himself rather than to the Pere: "Yeah, I'm okay. "

  Callahan nodded and shifted his own gunna (the halfhearted packsack of a town man who does not, in his heart, believe he's going anywhere) from his left shoulder to his right. "And what's going to happen when we get up to that cave?If we can get up to that cave?"

  Jake shook his head. He didn't know.


  The path was okay. A good deal of loose rock had shaken down on it, and the going was arduous for the men carrying the coffs, but in one respect their way was easier than before. The quake had dislodged the giant boulder that had almost blocked the path near the top. Eddie peered over and saw it lying far below, shattered into two pieces. There was some sort of lighter, sparkly stuff in its middle, making it look to Eddie like the world's largest hard-boiled egg.

  The cave was still there, too, although a large pile of talus now lay in front of its mouth. Eddie joined some of the younger Manni in helping to clear it, tossing handfuls of busted-up shale (garnets gleaming in some of the pieces like drops of blood) over the side. Seeing the cave's mouth eased a band which had been squeezing Eddie's heart, but he didn't like the silence of the cave, which had been damnably chatty on his previous visit. From somewhere deep in its gullet he could hear the grating whine of a draft, but that was all. Where was his brother, Henry? Henry should have been bitching about how Balazar's gentlemen had killed him and it was all Eddie's fault. Where was his Ma, who should have been agreeing with Henry (and in equally dolorous tones)? Where was Margaret Eisenhart, complaining to Henchick, her grandfather, about how she'd been branded forgetful and then abandoned? This had been the Cave of the Voices long before it had been the Doorway Cave, but the voices had fallen silent. And the door looked. . . stupidwas the word which first came to Eddie's mind. The second wasunimportant. This cave had once been informed and defined by the voices from below; the door had been rendered awful and mysterious and powerful by the glass ball - Black Thirteen - which had come into the Calla through it.

  But now it's left the same way, and it's just an old door that doesn't -

  Eddie tried to stifle the thought and couldn't.

  - that doesn't go anywhere.

  He turned to Henchick, disgusted by the sudden welling of tears in his eyes but unable to stop them. "There's no magic left here," he said. His voice was wretched with despair. "There's nothing behind that fucking door but stale air and fallen rock. You're a fool and I'm another. "

  There were shocked gasps at this, but Henchick looked at Eddie with eyes that almost seemed to twinkle. "Lewis, Thonnie!" he said, almost jovially. "Bring me the Branni coff. "

  Two strapping young men with short beards and hair pulled back in long braids stepped forward. Between them they bore an ironwood coff about four feet long, and heavy, from the way they carried the poles. They set it before Henchick.

  "Open it, Eddie of New York. "

  Thonnie and Lewis looked at him, questioning and a little afraid. The older Manni men, Eddie saw, were watching with a kind of greedy interest. He supposed it took a few years to become fully invested in the Manni brand of extravagant weirdness; in time Lewis and Thonnie would get there, but they hadn't made it much past peculiar as yet.

  Henchick nodded, a little impatiently. Eddie bent and opened the box. It was easy. There was no lock. Inside was a silk cloth. Henchick removed it with a magician's flourish and disclosed a plumb-bob on a chain. To Eddie it looked like an old-fashioned child's top, and was nowhere near as big as he had expected. It was perhaps eighteen inches long from its pointed tip to its broader top and made of some yellowish wood that looked greasy. It was on a silver chain that had been looped around a crystal plug set in the coff's top.

  "Take it out," Henchick said, and when Eddie looked to Roland, the hair over the old man's mouth opened and a set of perfect white teeth display
ed themselves in a smile of astounding cynicism. "Why do'ee look to your dinh, young snivelment? The magic's gone out of this place, you said so yourself! And would'ee not know? Why, thee must be all of. . . I don't know. . . twenty-five?"

  Snickers from the Manni who were close enough to hear this jape, several of them not yet twenty-five themselves.

  Furious with the old bastard - and with himself, as well - Eddie reached into the box. Henchick stayed his hand.

  "Touch not the bob itself. Not if thee'd keep thy cream in on one side and thy crap on the other. By the chain, do'ee kennit?"

  Eddie almost reached for the bob anyway - he'd already made a fool of himself in front of these people, there was really no reason not to finish the job - but he looked into Jake's grave gray eyes and changed his mind. The wind was blowing hard up here, chilling the sweat of the climb on his skin, making him shiver. Eddie reached forward again, took hold of the chain, and gingerly unwound it from the plug.

  "Lift him out," Henchick said.

  "What'll happen?"

  Henchick nodded, as if Eddie had finally talked some sense. "That's to see. Lift him out. "

  Eddie did so. Given the obvious effort with which the two young men had been carrying the box, he was astounded at how light the bob was. Lifting it was like lifting a feather which had been attached to a four-foot length of fine-link chain. He looped the chain over the back of his fingers and held his hand in front of his eyes. He looked a little like a man about to make a puppet caper.

  Eddie was about to ask Henchick again what the old man expected to happen, but before he could, the bob began to sway back and forth in modest arcs.

  "I'm not doing that," Eddie said. "At least, I don't think I am. It must be the wind. "

  "I don't think it can be," Callahan said. "There are no flukes to - "

  "Hush!" Cantab said, and with such a forbidding look that Callahan did hush.

  Eddie stood in front of the cave, with all the arroyo country and most of Calla Bryn Sturgis spread out below him. Dreaming blue-gray in the far distance was the forest through which they had come to get here - the last vestige of Mid-World, where they would never go more. The wind gusted, blowing his hair back from his forehead, and suddenly he heard a humming sound.

  Except he didn't. The humming was inside the hand in front of his eyes, the one with the chain lying upon the spread fingers. It was in his arm. And most of all, in his head.

  At the far end of the chain, at about the height of Eddie's right knee, the bob's swing grew more pronounced and became the arc of a pendulum. Eddie realized a strange thing: each time the bob reached the end of its swing, it grew heavier. It was like holding onto something that was being pulled by some extraordinary centrifugal force.

  The arc grew longer, the bob's swings faster, the pull at the end of each swing stronger. And then -

  "Eddie!" Jake called, somewhere between concern and delight. "Do you see?"

  Of course he did. Now the bob was growingdim at the end of each swing. The downward pressure on his arm - the bob's weight - was rapidly growing stronger as this happened. He had to support his right arm with his left hand in order to maintain his grip, and now he was also swaying at the hips with the swing of the bob. Eddie suddenly remembered where he was - roughly seven hundred feet above the ground. This baby would shortly yank him right over the side, if it wasn't stopped. What if he couldn't get the chain off his hand?

  The plumb-bob swung to the right, tracing the shape of an invisible smile in the air, gaining weight as it rose toward the end of its arc. All at once the puny piece of wood he'd lifted from its box with such ease seemed to weigh sixty, eighty, a hundred pounds. And as it paused at the end of its arc, momentarily balanced between motion and gravity, he realized he could see the East Road through it, not just clearly butmagnified. Then the Branni bob started back down again, plummeting, shedding weight. But when it started up again, this time to his left. . .

  "Okay, I get the point!" Eddie shouted. "Get it off me, Henchick. At least make it stop!"

  Henchick uttered a single word, one so guttural it sounded like something yanked from a mudflat. The bob didn't slow through a series of diminishing arcs but simply quit, again hanging beside Eddie's knee with the tip pointing at his foot. For a moment the humming in his arm and head continued. Then that also quit. When it did, the bob's disquieting sense of weight lifted. The damn thing was once more feather-light.

  "Do'ee have something to say to me, Eddie of New York?" Henchick asked.

  "Yeah, cry your pardon. "

  Henchick's teeth once more put in an appearance, gleaming briefly in the wilderness of his beard and then gone. "Thee's not entirely slow, is thee?"

  "I hope not," Eddie said, and could not forbear a small sigh of relief as Henchick of the Manni lifted the fine-link silver chain from his hand.


  Henchick insisted on a dry-run. Eddie understood why, but he hated all this foreplay crap. The passing time now seemed almost to be a physical thing, like a rough piece of cloth slipping beneath the palm of your hand. He kept silent, nevertheless. He'd already pissed off Henchick once, and once was enough.

  The old man brought six of hisamigos (five of them looked older than God to Eddie) into the cave. He passed bobs to three of them and shell-shaped magnets to the other three. The Branni bob, almost certainly the tribe's strongest, he kept for himself.

  The seven of them formed a ring at the mouth of the cave.

  "Not around the door?" Roland asked.

  "Not until we have to," Henchick said.

  The old men joined hands, each holding a bob or a mag at the clasping point. As soon as the circle was complete, Eddie heard that humming again. It was as loud as an over-amped stereo speaker. He saw Jake raise his hands to his ears, and Roland's face tighten in a brief grimace.

  Eddie looked at the door and saw it had lost that dusty, unimportant look. The hieroglyphs on it once more stood out crisply, some forgotten word that meant UNFOUND. The crystal doorknob glowed, outlining the rose carved there in lines of white light.

  Could I open it now?Eddie wondered. Open it and step through? He thought not. Not yet, anyway. But he was a hell of a lot more hopeful about this process than he'd been five minutes ago.

  Suddenly the voices from deep in the cave came alive, but they did so in a roaring jumble. Eddie could make out Benny Slightman the Younger screaming the wordDogan, heard his Ma telling him that now, to top off a career of losing things, he'd lost hiswife, heard some man (probably Elmer Chambers) telling Jake that Jake had gone crazy, he wasfou, he wasMonsieur Lunatique. More voices joined in, and more, and more.

  Henchick nodded sharply to his colleagues. Their hands parted. When they did, the voices from below ceased in midbabble. And, Eddie was not surprised to see, the door immediately regained its look of unremarkable anonymity - it was any door you ever passed on the street without a second look.

  "What in God's name wasthat? " Callahan asked, nodding toward the deeper darkness where the floor sloped down. "It wasn't like that before. "

  "I believe that either the quake or the loss of the magic ball has driven the cave insane," Henchick said calmly. "It doesn't matter to our business here, anyroa'. Our business is with the door. " He looked at Callahan's packsack. "Once you were a wandering man. "

  "So I was. "

  Henchick's teeth made another brief guest appearance. Eddie decided that, on some level, the old bastard was enjoying this. "From the look of your gunna, sai Callahan, you've lost the knack. "

  "I suppose it's hard for me to believe that we're really going anywhere," Callahan said, and offered a smile. Compared to Henchick's, it was feeble. "And I'm older now. "

  Henchick made a rude sound at that - fah!,it sounded like.

  "Henchick," Roland said, "do you know what caused the ground to shake early this morning?"

  The old man's blue eyes were faded but still sharp. He
nodded. Outside the cave's mouth, in a line going down the path, almost three dozen Manni men waited patiently. "Beam let go is what we think. "

  "What I think, too," Roland said. "Our business grows more desperate. I'd have an end to idle talk, if it does ya. Let's have what palaver we must have, and then get on with our business. "

  Henchick looked at Roland as coldly as he had looked at Eddie, but Roland's eyes never wavered. Henchick's brow furrowed, then smoothed out.

  "Aye," he said. "As'ee will, Roland. Thee's rendered us a great service, Manni and forgetful folk alike, and we'd return it now as best we can. The magic's still here, and thick. Wants only a spark. We can make that spark, aye, easy as commala. You may get what'ee want. On the other hand, we all may go to the clearing at the end of the path together. Or into the darkness. Does thee understand?"

  Roland nodded.

  "Would'ee go ahead?"

  Roland stood for a moment with his head lowered and his hand on the butt of his gun. When he looked up, he was wearing his own smile. It was handsome and tired and desperate and dangerous. He twirled his whole left hand twice in the air:Let's go.


  The coffs were set down - carefully, because the path leading up to what the Manni called Kra Kammen was narrow - and the contents were removed. Long-nailed fingers (the Manni were allowed to cut their nails only once a year) tapped the magnets, producing a shrill hum that seemed to slice through Jake's head like a knife. It reminded him of the todash chimes, and he guessed that wasn't surprising; those chimeswere the kammen.

  "What does Kra Kammen mean?" he asked Cantab. "House of Bells?"

  "House of Ghosts," he replied without looking up from the chain he was unwinding. "Leave me alone, Jake, this is delicate work. "

  Jake couldn't see why it would be, but he did as bade. Roland, Eddie, and Callahan were standing just inside the cave's mouth. Jake joined them. Henchick, meanwhile, had placed the oldest members of his group in a semicircle that went around the back of the door. The front side, with its incised hieroglyphs and crystal doorknob, was unguarded, at least for the time being.

  The old man went to the mouth of the cave, spoke briefly with Cantab, then motioned for the line of Manni waiting on the path to move up. When the first man in line was just inside the cave, Henchick stopped him and came back to Roland. He squatted, inviting the gunslinger with a gesture to do the same.

  The cave's floor was powdery with dust. Some came from rocks, but most of it was the bone residue of small animals unwise enough to wander in here. Using a fingernail, Henchick drew a rectangle, open at the bottom, and then a semicircle around it.

  "The door," he said. "And the men of my kra. Do'ee kennit?"

  Roland nodded.

  "You and your friends will finish the circle," he said, and drew it.

  "The boy's strong in the touch," Henchick said, looking at Jake so suddenly that Jake jumped.

  "Yes," Roland said.

  "We'll put him direct in front of the door, then, but far enough away so that if it opens hard - and it may - it won't clip his head off. Will'ee stand, boy?"

  "Yes, until you or Roland says different," Jake replied.

  "You'll feel something in your head - like a sucking. It's not nice. " He paused. "Ye'd open the door twice. "

  "Yes," Roland said. "Twim. "

  Eddie knew the door's second opening was about Calvin Tower, and he'd lost what interest he'd had in the bookstore proprietor. The man wasn't entirely without courage, Eddie supposed, but he was also greedy and stubborn and self-involved: the perfect twentieth-century New York City man, in other words. But the most recent person to use this door had been Suze, and the moment it opened, he intended to dart through. If it opened a second time on the little Maine town where Calvin Tower and his friend, Aaron Deepneau, had gone to earth, fine and dandy. If the rest of them wound up there, trying to protect Tower and gain ownership of a certain vacant lot and a certain wild pink rose, also fine and dandy. Eddie's priority was Susannah. Everything else was secondary to that.

  Even the tower.


  Henchick said: "Who would'ee send the first time the door opens?"

  Roland thought about this, absently running his hand over the bookcase Calvin Tower had insisted on sending through. The case containing the book which had so upset the Pere. He did not much want to send Eddie, a man who was impulsive to begin with and now all but blinded by his concern and his love, after his wife. Yet would Eddie obey him if Roland ordered him after Tower and Deepneau instead? Roland didn't think so. Which meant -

  "Gunslinger?" Henchick prodded.

  "The first time the door opens, Eddie and I will go through," Roland said. "The door will shut on its own?"

  "Indeed it will," Henchick said. "You must be as quick as the devil's bite, or you'll likely be cut in two, half of you on the floor of this cave and the rest wherever the brown-skinned woman took herself off to. "

  "We'll be as quick as we can, sure," Roland said.

  "Aye, that's best," Henchick said, and put his teeth on display once more. This was a smile

  (what's he not telling? something he knows or only thinks he knows?)

  Roland would have occasion to think of not long hence.

  "I'd leave your guns here," Henchick said. "If you try to carry them through, you may lose them. "

  "I'm going to try and keep mine," Jake said. "It came from the other side, so it should be all right. If it's not, I'll get another one. Somehow. "

  "I expect mine may travel, as well," Roland said. He'd thought about this carefully, and had decided to try and keep the big revolvers. Henchick shrugged, as if to sayAs you will.

  "What about Oy, Jake?" Eddie asked.

  Jake's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Roland realized the boy hadn't considered his bumbler friend until this moment. The gunslinger reflected (not for the first time) how easy it was to forget the most basic truth about John "Jake" Chambers: he was just a kid.

  "When we went todash, Oy - " Jake began.

  "This ain't that, sugar," Eddie said, and when he heard Susannah's endearment coming out of his mouth, his heart gave a sad cramp. For the first time he admitted to himself that he might never see her again, any more than Jake might see Oy once they left this stinking cave.

  "But. . . " Jake began, and then Oy gave a reproachful little bark. Jake had been squeezing him too tightly.

  "We'll keep him for you, Jake," Cantab said gently. "Keep him very well, say true. There'll be folk posted here until thee comes back for thy friend and all the rest of thy goods. "If you ever do was the part he was too kind to state. Roland read it in his eyes, however.

  "Roland, are you sure I can't. . . that he can't. . . no. I see. Not todash this time. Okay. No. "

  Jake reached into the front pocket of the poncho, lifted Oy out, set him on the powdery floor of the cave. He bent down, hands planted just above his knees. Oy looked up, stretching his neck so that their faces almost touched. And Roland now saw something extraordinary: not the tears in Jake's eyes, but those that had begun to well up in Oy's. A billy-bumbler crying. It was the sort of story you might hear in a saloon as the night grew late and drunk - the faithful bumbler who wept for his departing master. You didn't believe such stories but never said so, in order to save brawling (perhaps even shooting). Yet here it was, he was seeing it, and it made Roland feel a bit like crying himself. Was it just more bumbler imitation, or did Oy really understand what was happening? Roland hoped for the former, and with all his heart.

  "Oy, you have to stay with Cantab for a little while. You'll be okay. He's a pal. "

  "Tab!" the bumbler repeated. Tears fell from his muzzle and darkened the powdery surface where he stood in dime-sized drops. Roland found the creature's tears uniquely awful, somehow even worse than a child's might have been. "Ake!Ake! "

  "No, I gotta split," Jake said, and wiped at his cheeks with the heels of his h
ands. He left dirty streaks like warpaint all the way up to his temples.

  "No! Ake!"

  "I gotta. You stay with Cantab. I'll come back for you, Oy - unless I'm dead, I'll come back. " He hugged Oy again, then stood up. "Go to Cantab. That's him. " Jake pointed. "Go on, now, you mind me. "

  "Ake! Tab!" The misery in that voice was impossible to deny. For a moment Oy stayed where he was. Then, still weeping - or imitating Jake's tears, Roland still hoped for that - the bumbler turned, trotted to Cantab, and sat between the young man's dusty shor'boots.

  Eddie attempted to put an arm around Jake. Jake shook it off and stepped away from him. Eddie looked baffled. Roland kept his Watch Me face, but inside he was grimly delighted. Not thirteen yet, no, but there was no shortage of steel there.

  And it was time.


  "Aye. Would'ee speak a word of prayer first, Roland? To whatever God thee holds?"

  "I hold to no God," Roland said. "I hold to the Tower, and won't pray to that. "

  Several of Henchick's'migos looked shocked at this, but the old man himself only nodded, as if he had expected no more. He looked at Callahan. "Pere?"

  Callahan said, "God, Thy hand, Thy will. " He sketched a cross in the air and nodded at Henchick. "If we're goin, let's go. "

  Henchick stepped forward, touched the Unfound Door's crystal knob, then looked at Roland. His eyes were bright. "Hear me this last time, Roland of Gilead. "

  "I hear you very well. "

  "I am Henchick of the Manni Kra Redpath-a-Sturgis. We are far-seers and far travelers. We are sailors on ka's wind. Would thee travel on that wind? Thee and thine?"

  "Aye, to where it blows. "

  Henchick slipped the chain of the Branni bob over the back of his hand and Roland at once felt some power let loose in this chamber. It was small as yet, but it was growing. Blooming, like a rose.

  "How many calls would you make?"

  Roland held up the remaining fingers of his right hand. "Two. Which is to saytwim in the Eld. "

  "Two or twim, both the same," Henchick said. "Commala-come-two. " he raised his voice. "Come, Manni! Come-commala, join your force to my force! Come and keep your promise! Come and pay our debt to these gunslingers! Help me send them on their way!Now! "


  Before any of them could even begin to register the fact that ka had changed their plans, ka had worked its will on them. But at first it seemed that nothing at all would happen.

  The Manni Henchick had chosen as senders - six elders, plus Cantab - formed their semicircle behind the door and around to its sides. Eddie took Cantab's hand and laced his fingers through the Manni's. One of the shell-shaped magnets kept their palms apart. Eddie could feel it vibrating like something alive. He supposed it was. Callahan took his other hand and gripped it firmly.

  On the other side of the door, Roland took Henchick's hand, weaving the Branni bob's chain between his fingers. Now the circle was complete save for the one spot directly in front of the door. Jake took a deep breath, looked around, saw Oy sitting against the wall of the cave about ten feet behind Cantab, and nodded.

  Oy, stay, I'll be back,Jake sent, and then he stepped into his place. He took Callahan's right hand, hesitated, and then took Roland's left.

  The humming returned at once. The Branni bob began to move, not in arcs this time but in a small, tight circle. The door brightened and became morethere - Jake saw this with his own eyes. The lines and circles of the hieroglyphs spelling UNFOUND grew clearer. The rose etched into the doorknob began to glow.

  The door, however, remained closed.

  (Concentrate, boy!)

  That was Henchick's voice, so strong in his head that it almost seemed to slosh Jake's brains. He lowered his head and looked at the doorknob. He saw the rose. He saw it very well. He imagined it turning as the knob upon which it had been cast turned. Once not so long ago he had been obsessed by doors and the other world


  he knew must lie behind one of them. This felt like going back to that. He imagined all the doors he'd known in his life - bedroom doors bathroom doors kitchen doors closet doors bowling alley doors cloakroom doors movie theater doors restaurant doors doors marked KEEP OUT doors marked EMPLOYEES ONLY refrigerator doors, yes even those - and then saw them all opening at once.

  Open!he thought at the door, feeling absurdly like an Arabian princeling in some ancient story. Open sesame! Open says me!

  From the cave's belly far below, the voices began to babble once more. There was a whooping, windy sound, the heavy crump of something falling. The cave's floor trembled beneath their feet, as if with another Beamquake. Jake paid no mind. The feeling of live force in this chamber was very strong now - he could feel it plucking at his skin, vibrating in his nose and eyes, teasing the hairs out from his scalp - but the door remained shut. He bore down more strongly on Roland's hand and the Pere's, concentrating on firehouse doors, police station doors, the door to the Principal's Office at Piper, even a science fiction book he'd once read calledThe Door into Summer. The smell of the cave - deep must, ancient bones, distant drafts - seemed suddenly very strong. He felt that brilliant, exuberant uprush of certainty - Now, it will happen now, I know it will - yet the door still stayed closed. And now he could smell something else. Not the cave, but the slightly metallic aroma of his own sweat, rolling down his face.

  "Henchick, it's not working. I don't think I - "

  "Nar, not yet - and never think thee needs to do it all thyself, lad. Feel for something between you and the door. . . something like a hook. . . or a thorn. . . " As he spoke, Henchick nodded at the Manni heading the line of reinforcements. "Hedron, come forward. Thonnie, take hold of Hedron's shoulders. Lewis, take hold of Thonnie's. And on back! Do it!"

  The line shuffled forward. Oy barked doubtfully.

  "Feel, boy! Feel for that hook! It's between thee and t'door! Feel for it!"

  Jake reached out with his mind while his imagination suddenly bloomed with a powerful and terrifying vividness that was beyond even the clearest dreams. He saw Fifth Avenue between Forty-eighth and Sixtieth ("the twelve blocks where my Christmas bonus disappears every January," his father had liked to grumble). He saw every door, on both sides of the street, swinging open at once: Fendi! Tiffany! Bergdorf Goodman! Cartier! Doubleday Books! The Sherry Netherland Hotel! He saw an endless hallway floored with brown linoleum and knew it was in the Pentagon. He saw doors, at least a thousand of them, all swinging open at once and generating a hurricane draft.

  Yet the door in front of him, the only one that mattered, remained closed.

  Yeah, but -

  It was rattling in its frame. He could hear it.

  "Go, kid!" Eddie said. The words came from between clamped teeth. "If you can't open it, knock the fucker down!"

  "Help me!" Jake shouted. "Helpme, goddammit!All of you !"

  The force in the cave seemed to double. The hum seemed to be vibrating the very bones of Jake's skull. His teeth were rattling. Sweat ran into his eyes, blurring his sight. He saw two Henchicks nodding to someone behind him: Hedron. And behind Hedron, Thonnie. And behind Thonnie, all the rest, snaking out of the cave and down thirty feet of the path.

  "Get ready, lad," Henchick said.

  Hedron's hand slipped under Jake's shirt and gripped the waistband of his jeans. Jake felt pushed instead of pulled. Something in his head bolted forward, and for a moment he saw all the doors of a thousand, thousand worlds flung wide, generating a draft so great it could almost have blown out the sun.

  And then his progress was stopped. There was something. . . something right in front of the door. . .

  The hook! It's the hook!

  He slipped himself over it as if his mind and life-force were some sort of loop. At the same time he felt Hedron and the others pulling him backward. The pain was immediate, enormous, seeming to tear him apart. Then the draining sensation began. It
was hideous, like having someone pull his guts out a loop at a time. And always, the manic buzzing in his ears and deep in his brain.

  He tried to cry out - No, stop, let go, it's too much! - and couldn't. He tried to scream and heard it, but only inside his head. God, he was caught. Caught on the hook and being ripped in two.

  One creaturedid hear his scream. Barking furiously, Oy darted forward. And as he did, the Unfound Door sprang open, swinging in a hissing arc just in front of Jake's nose.

  "Behold!"Henchick cried in a voice that was at once terrible and exalted. "Behold, the door opens! Over-sam kammen! Can-tah, can-kavar kammen! Over-can-tah!"

  The others responded, but by then Jake Chambers had already been torn loose from Roland's hand on his right. By then he was flying, but not alone.

  Pere Callahan flew with him.


  There was just time for Eddie to hear New York,smell New York, and to realize what was happening. In a way, that was what made it so awful - he was able to register everything going diabolically counter to what he had expected, but not able to do anything about it.

  He saw Jake yanked out of the circle and felt Callahan's hand ripped out of his own; he saw them fly through the air toward the door, actually looping the loop in tandem, like a couple of fucked-up acrobats. Something furry and barking like a motherfucker shot past the side of his head. Oy, doing barrel-rolls, his ears laid back and his terrified eyes seeming to start from his head.

  And more. Eddie was aware of dropping Cantab's hand and lunging forward toward the door - hisdoor,his city, and somewhere in ithis lost and pregnant wife. He was aware (exquisitely so) of the invisible hand thatpushed him back, and a voice that spoke, but not in words. What Eddie heard was far more terrible than any words could have been. With words you could argue. This was only an inarticulate negation, and for all he knew, it came from the Dark Tower itself.

  Jake and Callahan were shot like bullets from a gun: shot into a darkness filled with the exotic sounds of honking horns and rushing traffic. In the distance but clear, like the voices you heard in dreams, Eddie heard a rapid, rapping, ecstatic voice streetbopping its message: "SayGawd, brotha, that's right, sayGawd on Second Avenue, sayGawd on Avenue B, sayGawd in the Bronx, I sayGawd, I sayGawd -bomb, I sayGawd! " The voice of an authentic New York crazy if Eddie had ever heard one and it laid his heart open. He saw Oy zip through the door like a piece of newspaper yanked up the street in the wake of a speeding car, and then the door slammed shut, swinging so fast and hard that he had to slit his eyes against the wind it blew into his face, a wind that was gritty with the bone-dust of this rotten cave.

  Before he could scream his fury, the door slapped open again. This time he was dazzled by hazy sunshine loaded with birdsong. He smelled pine trees and heard the distant backfiring of what sounded like a big truck. Then he was sucked into that brightness, unable to yell that this was fucked up, ass-backw -

  Something collided with the side of Eddie's head. For one brief moment he was brilliantly aware of his passage between the worlds. Then the gunfire. Then the killing.

  STAVE: Commala-come-coo

  The wind'll blow ya through.

  Ya gotta go where ka's wind blows ya

  Cause there's nothin else to do.

  RESPONSE: Commala-come-two!

  Nothin else to do!

  Gotta go where ka's wind blows ya

  Cause there's nothin else to do.