The Dark Tower
Donald M. Grant, 2004
Hodder & Stoughton, 2004
|Series:||The Dark Tower: Book 7|
|Sub-Genre Tags:||Alternate/Parallel Universe|
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Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you have ever read. The final book opens like a door to the uttermost reaches of Stephen King's imagination. You've come this far. Come a little farther. Come all the way. The sound you hear may be the slamming of the door behind you. Welcome to The Dark Tower.
Pere Don Callahan had once been the Catholic priest of a town, 'Salem's Lot had been its name, that no longer existed on any map. He didn't much care. Concepts such as reality had ceased to matter to him.
This onetime priest now held a heathen object in his hand, a scrimshaw turtle made of ivory. There was a nick in its beak and a scratch in the shape of a question mark on its back, but otherwise it was a beautiful thing.
Beautiful and powerful. He could feel the power in his hand like volts.
"How lovely it is," he whispered to the boy who stood with him. "Is it the Turtle Maturin? It is, isn't it?"
The boy was Jake Chambers, and he'd come a long loop in order to return almost to his starting-place here in Manhattan. "I don't know," he said. "She calls it the sköldpadda, and it may help us, but it can't kill the harriers that are waiting for us in there." He nodded toward the Dixie Pig, wondering if he meant Susannah or Mia when he used that all-purpose feminine pronoun she. Once he would have said it didn't matter because the two women were so tightly wound together. Now, however, he thought it did matter, or would soon.
"Will you?" Jake asked the Pere, meaning Will you stand. Will you fight. Will you kill.
"Oh yes," Callahan said calmly. He put the ivory turtle with its wise eyes and scratched back into his breast pocket with the extra shells for the gun he carried, then patted the cunningly made thing once to make sure it rode safely. "I'll shoot until the bullets are gone, and if I run out of bullets before they kill me, I'll club them with the...the gun-butt."
The pause was so slight Jake didn't even notice it. But in that pause, the White spoke to Father Callahan. It was a force he knew of old, even in boyhood, although there had been a few years of bad faith along the way, years when his understanding of that elemental force had first grown dim and then become lost completely. But those days were gone, the White was his again, and he told God thankya.
Jake was nodding, saying something Callahan barely heard. And what Jake said didn't matter. What that other voice said -- the voice of something
perhaps too great to be called God -- did.
The boy must go on, the voice told him. Whatever happens here, however it falls, the boy must go on. Your part in the story is almost done. His is not.
They walked past a sign on a chrome post (CLOSED FOR PRIVATE FUNCTION), Jake's special friend Oy trotting between them, his head up and his muzzle wreathed in its usual toothy grin. At the top of the steps, Jake reached into the woven sack Susannah-Mio had brought out of Calla Bryn Sturgis and grabbed two of the plates -- the 'Rizas. He tapped them together, nodded at the dull ringing sound, and then said: "Let's see yours."
Callahan lifted the Ruger Jake had brought out of Calla New York, and now back into it; life is a wheel and we all say thankya. For a moment the Pere held the Ruger's barrel beside his right cheek like a duelist. Then he touched his breast pocket, bulging with shells, and with the turtle. The sköldpadda.
Jake nodded. "Once we're in, we stay together. Always together, with Oy between. On three. And once we start, we never stop."
"Right. Are you ready?"
"Yes. God's love on you, boy."
"And on you, Pere. One...two...three." Jake opened the door and together they went into the dim light and the sweet tangy smell of roasting meat.
Jake went to what he was sure would be his death remembering two things Roland Deschain, his true father, had said. Battles that last five minutes spawn legends that live a thousand years. And You needn't die happy when your day comes, but you must die satisfied, for you have lived your life from beginning to end and ka is always served.
Jake Chambers surveyed the Dixie Pig with a satisfied mind.
Also with crystal clarity. His senses were so heightened that he could smell not just roasting flesh but the rosemary with which it had been rubbed; could hear not only the calm rhythm of his breath but the tidal murmur of his blood climbing brainward on one side of his neck and descending heartward on the other.
He also remembered Roland's saying that even the shortest battle, from first shot to final falling body, seemed long to those taking part. Time grew elastic; stretched to the point of vanishment. Jake had nodded as if he understood, although he hadn't.
Now he did.
His first thought was that there were too many of them -- far, far too many. He put their number at close to a hundred, the majority certainly of the sort Pere Callahan had referred to as "low men." (Some were low women, but Jake had no doubt the principle was the same.) Scattered among them, all less fleshy than the low folken and some as slender as fencing weapons, their complexions ashy and their bodies surrounded in dim blue auras, were what had to be vampires.
Oy stood at Jake's heel, his small, foxy face stern, whining low in his throat.
That smell of cooking meat wafting through the air was not pork.
Ten feet between us any time we have ten feet to give, Pere -- so Jake had said out on the sidewalk, and even as they approached the maître d's platform, Callahan was drifting to Jake's right, putting the required distance between them.
Jake had also told him to scream as loud as he could for as long as he could, and Callahan was opening his mouth to begin doing just that when the voice of the White spoke up inside again. Only one word, but it was enough.
Sköldpadda, it said.
Callahan was still holding the Ruger up by his right cheek. Now he dipped into his breast pocket with his left hand. His awareness of the scene before him wasn't as hyper-alert as his young companion's, but he saw a great deal: the orangey-crimson electric flambeaux on the walls, the candles on each table immured in glass containers of a brighter, Halloweenish orange, the gleaming napkins. To the left of the dining room was a tapestry showing knights and their ladies sitting at a long banquet table. There was a sense in here -- Callahan wasn't sure exactly what provoked it, the various tells and stimuli were too subtle -- of people just resettling themselves after some bit of excitement: a small kitchen fire, say, or an automobile accident on the street.
Or a lady having a baby, Callahan thought as he closed his hand on the Turtle. That's always good for a little pause between the appetizer and the entrée.
"Now come Gilead's ka-mais!" shouted an excited, nervous voice. Not a human one, of that Callahan was almost positive. It was too buzzy to be human. Callahan saw what appeared to be some sort of monstrous bird-human hybrid standing at the far end of the room. It wore straight-leg jeans and a plain white shirt, but the head rising from that shirt was painted with sleek feathers of dark yellow. Its eyes looked like drops of liquid tar.
"Get them!" this horridly ridiculous thing shouted, and brushed aside a napkin. Beneath it was some sort of weapon. Callahan supposed it was a gun, but it looked like the sort you saw on Star Trek. What did they call them? Phasers? Stunners?
It didn't matter. Callahan had a far better weapon, and wanted to make sure they all saw it. He swept the place-settings and the glass container with the candle in it from the nearest table, then snatched away the tablecloth like a magician doing a trick. The last thing he wanted to do was to trip over a swatch of linen at the crucial moment. Then, with a nimbleness he wouldn't have believed even a week ago, he stepped onto one of the chairs and from the chair to the table-top. Once on the table, he lifted the sköldpadda with his fingers supporting the turtle's flat undershell, giving them all a good look at it.
I could croon something, he thought. Maybe "Moonlight Becomes You" or "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
At that point they had been inside the Dixie Pig for exactly thirty-four seconds.
High school teachers faced with a large group of students in study hall or a school assembly will tell you that teenagers, even when freshly showered and groomed, reek of the hormones which their bodies are so busy manufacturing. Any group of people under stress emits a similar stink, and Jake, with his senses tuned to the most exquisite pitch, smelled it here. When they passed the maître d's stand (Blackmail Central, his Dad liked to call such stations), the smell of the Dixie Pig's diners had been faint, the smell of people coming back to normal after some sort of dust-up. But when the bird-creature in the far corner shouted, Jake had smelled the patrons more strongly. It was a metallic aroma, enough like blood to incite his temper and his emotions. Yes, he saw Tweety Bird knock aside the napkin on his table; yes, he saw the weapon beneath; yes, he understood that Callahan, standing on the table, was an easy shot. That was of far less concern to Jake than the mobilizing weapon that was Tweety Bird's mouth. Jake was drawing back his right arm, meaning to fling the first of his nineteen plates and amputate the head in which that mouth resided, when Callahan raised the turtle.
It won't work, not in here, Jake thought, but even before the idea had been completely articulated in his mind, he understood it was working. He knew by the smell of them. The aggressiveness went out of it. And the few who had begun to rise from their tables -- the red holes in the foreheads of the low people gaping, the blue auras of the vampires seeming to pull in and intensify -- sat back down again, and hard, as if they had suddenly lost command of their muscles.
"Get them, those are the ones Sayre..." Then Tweety stopped talking. His left hand -- if you could call such an ugly talon a hand ...
Copyright © 2004 by Stephen King
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