Song of Susannah dt-6, Page 2Stephen King
Is she even alive?
He would have shuddered away from this thought if he could have, but the mind could be so cruel. He kept seeing her in the gutter somewhere down in Alphabet City, with a swastika carved on her forehead, and a placard reading GREETINGS FROM YOUR FRIENDS IN OXFORD TOWN hung around her neck.
Behind him the door from the rectory’s kitchen opened. There was the soft padding sound of bare feet (his ears were sharp now, trained like the rest of his killer’s equipment), and the click of toenails. Jake and Oy.
The kid sat down next to him in Callahan’s rocking chair. He was dressed and wearing his docker’s clutch. In it was the Ruger Jake had stolen from his father on the day he had run away from home. Today it had drawn…well, not blood. Not yet. Oil? Eddie smiled a little. There was no humor in it.
“Can’t sleep, Jake?”
“Ake,” Oy agreed, and collapsed at Jake’s feet, muzzle resting on the boards between his paws.
“No,” Jake said. “I keep thinking about Susannah.” He paused, then added: “And Benny.”
Eddie knew that was natural, the boy had seen his friend blown apart before his very eyes, ofcourse he’d be thinking about him, but Eddie still felt a bitter spurt of jealousy, as if all of Jake’s regard should have been saved for Eddie Dean’s wife.
“That Tavery kid,” Jake said. “It’s his fault. Panicked. Got running. Broke his ankle. If not for him, Benny’d still be alive.” And very softly—it would have chilled the heart of the boy in question had he heard it, Eddie had no doubt of that—Jake said: “Frank…fucking…Tavery.”
Eddie reached out a hand that did not want to comfort and made it touch the kid’s head. His hair was long. Needed a wash. Hell, needed a cut. Needed a mother to make sure the boy under it took care of it. No mother now, though, not for Jake. And a little miracle: giving comfort made Eddie feel better. Not a lot, but a little.
“Let it go,” he said. “Done is done.”
“Ka,” Jake said bitterly.
“Ki-yet, ka,” Oy said without raising his muzzle.
“Amen,” Jake said, and laughed. It was disturbing in its coldness. Jake took the Ruger from its makeshift holster and looked at it. “This one will go through, because it came from the other side. That’s what Roland says. The others may, too, because we won’t be going todash. If they don’t, Henchick will cache them in the cave and maybe we can come back for them.”
“If we wind up in New York,” Eddie said, “there’ll be plenty of guns. And we’ll find them.”
“Not like Roland’s. I hope like hell they go through. There aren’t any guns left in any of the worlds like his. That’s what I think.”
It was what Eddie thought, too, but he didn’t bother saying so. From town there came a rattle of firecrackers, then silence. It was winding down there. Winding down at last. Tomorrow there would undoubtedly be an all-day party on the common, a continuation of today’s celebration but a little less drunk and a little more coherent. Roland and his ka-tet would be expected as guests of honor, but if the gods of creation were good and the door opened, they would be gone. Hunting Susannah. Finding her. Never mind hunting.Finding.
As if reading his thoughts (and he could do that, he was strong in the touch), Jake said: “She’s still alive.”
“How can you know that?”
“We would have felt it if she was gone.”
“Jake, can you touch her?”
Before he could finish, a deep rumbling came from the earth. The porch suddenly began to rise and fall like a boat on a heavy sea. They could hear the boards groaning. From the kitchen came the sound of rattling china like chattering teeth. Oy raised his head and whined. His foxy little face was comically startled, his ears laid back along his skull. In Callahan’s parlor, something fell over and shattered.
Eddie’s first thought, illogical but strong, was that Jake had killed Suze simply by declaring her still alive.
For a moment the shaking intensified. A window shattered as its frame was twisted out of shape. There was a crump from the darkness. Eddie assumed—correctly—that it was the ruined privy, now falling down completely. He was on his feet without realizing it. Jake was standing beside him, gripping his wrist. Eddie had drawn Roland’s gun and now they both stood as if ready to begin shooting.
There was a final grumbling from deep in the earth, and then the porch settled under their feet. At certain key points along the Beam, people were waking up and looking around, dazed. In the streets of one New York when, a few car alarms were going off. The following day’s papers would report a minor earthquake: broken windows, no reported casualties. Just a little shake of the fundamentally sound bedrock.
Jake was looking at Eddie, eyes wide. And knowing.
The door opened behind them and Callahan came out onto the porch, dressed in flimsy white underpants that fell to his knees. The only other thing on him was the gold crucifix around his neck.
“It was an earthquake, wasn’t it?” he said. “I felt one in northern California once, but never since coming to the Calla.”
“It was a hell of a lot more than an earthquake,” Eddie said, and pointed. The screened-in porch looked east, and over there the horizon was lit by silent artillery bursts of green lightning. Downhill from the rectory, the door of Rosalita’s snug creaked open and then banged shut. She and Roland came up the hill together, she in her chemise and the gunslinger in a pair of jeans, both barefoot in the dew.
Eddie, Jake, and Callahan went down to them. Roland was looking fixedly at the already diminishing flickers of lightning in the east, where the land of Thunderclap waited for them, and the Court of the Crimson King, and, at the end of End-World, the Dark Tower itself.
If,Eddie thought.If it still stands.
“Jake was just saying that if Susannah died, we’d know it,” Eddie said. “That there’d be what you call a sigul. Then comes this.” He pointed to the Pere’s lawn, where a new ridge had humped up, peeling the sod apart in one ten-foot line to show the puckered brown lips of the earth. A chorus of dogs was barking in town, but there were no sounds from thefolken, at least not yet; Eddie supposed a goodly number had slept through the whole thing. The sleep of the drunken victorious. “But it wasn’t anything to do with Suze. Was it?”
“Not directly, no.”
“And it wasn’t ours,” Jake put in, “or the damage would have been a lot worse. Don’t you think?”
Rosa looked at Jake with a mixture of puzzlement and fright. “Wasn’t ourwhat, boy? What are you talking about? It wasn’t an earthquake, sure!”
“No,” Roland said, “aBeam quake. One of the Beams holding up the Tower—which holds up everything—just let go. Just snapped.”
Even in the faint light from the four ’seners flickering on the porch, Eddie saw Rosalita Munoz’s face lose its color. She crossed herself. “ABeam? One of theBeams? Say no! Say not true!”
Eddie found himself thinking of some long-ago baseball scandal. Of some little boy begging,Say it ain’t so, Joe.
“I can’t,” Roland told her, “because it is.”
“How many of these Beams are there?” Callahan asked.
Roland looked at Jake, and nodded slightly:Say your lesson, Jake of New York—speak and be true.
“Six Beams connecting twelve portals,” Jake said. “The twelve portals are at the twelve ends of the earth. Roland, Eddie, and Susannah really started their quest from the Portal of the Bear, and picked me up between there and Lud.”
“Shardik,” Eddie said. He was watching the last flickers of lightning in the east. “That was the bear’s name.”
“Yes, Shardik,” Jake agreed. “So we’re on the Beam of the Bear. All the Beams come together at the Dark Tower. Our Beam, on the other side of the Tower…?” He looked at Roland for help. Roland, in turn, looked at Eddie Dean. Even now, it seemed, Roland was not done teaching them the Way of Eld.
Eddie either didn’
t see the look or chose to ignore it, but Roland would not be put off. “Eddie?” he murmured.
“We’re on the Path of the Bear, Way of the Turtle,” Eddie said absently. “I don’t know why it would ever matter, since the Tower’s as far as we’re going, but on the other side it’s the Path of the Turtle, Way of the Bear.” And he recited:
“See the TURTLE of enormous girth!
On his shell he holds the earth,
His thought is slow but always kind;
He holds us all within his mind.”
At this point, Rosalita took up the verse
“On his back the truth is carried,
And there are love and duty married.
He loves the earth and loves the sea,
And even loves a child like me.”
“Not quite the way I learned it in my cradle and taught it to my friends,” Roland said, “but close enough, by watch and by warrant.”
“The Great Turtle’s name is Maturin,” Jake said, and shrugged. “If it matters.”
“You have no way of telling which one broke?” Callahan said, studying Roland closely.
Roland shook his head. “All I know is that Jake’s right—it wasn’t ours. If it had been, nothing within a hundred miles of Calla Bryn Sturgis would be standing.” Or maybe within a thousand miles—who could know? “The very birds would have fallen flaming from the sky.”
“You speak of Armageddon,” Callahan said in a low, troubled voice.
Roland shook his head, but not in disagreement. “I don’t know that word, Pere, but I’m speaking of great death and great destruction, sure. And somewhere—along the Beam connecting Fish to Rat, perhaps—that has now happened.”
“Are you positive this is true?” Rosa asked, low.
Roland nodded. He had been through this once before, when Gilead fell and civilization as he then understood it had ended. When he had been cast loose to wander with Cuthbert and Alain and Jamie and the few others of their ka-tet. One of the six Beams had broken then, and almost certainly not the first.
“How many Beams remain to hold the Tower?” Callahan asked.
For the first time, Eddie seemed interested in something other than the fate of his lost wife. He was looking at Roland with what was almost attention. And why not? This was, after all, the crucial question.All things serve the Beam, they said, and although the actual truth was that all things served the Tower, it was the Beams which held the Tower up. If they snapped—
“Two,” Roland said. “There have to be at least two, I’d say. The one running through Calla Bryn Sturgis and another. But God knows how long they’ll hold. Even without the Breakers working on them, I doubt they’d hold for long. We have to hurry.”
Eddie had stiffened. “If you’re suggesting we go on without Suze—”
Roland shook his head impatiently, as if to tell Eddie not to be a fool. “We can’t win through to the Tower without her. For all I know, we can’t win through without Mia’s chap. It’s in the hands of ka, and there used to be a saying in my country: ‘Ka has no heart or mind.’ ”
“That one I can agree with,” Eddie said.
“We might have another problem,” Jake said.
Eddie frowned at him. “We don’tneed another problem.”
“I know, but…what if the earthquake blocked the mouth of that cave? Or…” Jake hesitated, then reluctantly brought out what he was really afraid of. “Or knocked it down completely?”
Eddie reached out, took hold of Jake’s shirt, and bundled it into his fist. “Don’t say that. Don’t you eventhink that.”
Now they could hear voices from town. Thefolken would be gathering on the common again, Roland guessed. He further guessed that this day—and now this night—would be remembered in Calla Bryn Sturgis for a thousand years. If the Tower stood, that was.
Eddie let go of Jake’s shirt and then pawed at the place he had grabbed, as if to erase the wrinkles. He tried a smile that made him look feeble and old.
Roland turned to Callahan. “Will the Manni still turn up tomorrow? You know this bunch better than I.”
Callahan shrugged. “Henchick’s a man of his word. Whether he can hold the others to his word after what just happened…that, Roland, I don’t know.”
“He better be able to,” Eddie said darkly. “He just better be.”
Roland of Gilead said, “Who’s for Watch Me?”
Eddie looked at him, unbelieving.
“We’re going to be up until morning light,” the gunslinger said. “We might as well pass the time.”
So they played Watch Me, and Rosalita won hand after hand, adding up their scores on a piece of slate with no smile of triumph—with no expression at all that Jake could read. At least not at first. He was tempted to try the touch, but had decided that to use it for any but the strongest reasons was wrong. Using it to see behind Rosa’s poker face would be like watching her undress. Or watching her and Roland make love.
Yet as the game went on and the northeast finally began to grow lighter, Jake guessed he knew what she was thinking of after all, because it was whathe was thinking of. On some level of their minds, all of them would be thinking of those last two Beams, from now until the end.
Waiting for one or both of them to snap. Whether it was them trailing Susannah or Rosa cooking her dinner or even Ben Slightman, mourning his dead son out there on Vaughn Eisenhart’s ranch, all of them would now be thinking of the same thing: only two left, and the Breakers working against them night and day, eating into them,killing them.
How long before everything ended? Andhow would it end? Would they hear the vast rumble of those enormous slate-colored stones as they fell? Would the sky tear open like a flimsy piece of cloth, spilling out the monstrosities that lived in the todash darkness? Would there be time to cry out? Would there be an afterlife, or would even Heaven and Hell be obliterated by the fall of the Dark Tower?
He looked at Roland and sent a thought, as clearly as he could:Roland, help us.
And one came back, filling his mind with cold comfort (ah, but comfort served cold was better than no comfort at all):If I can.
“Watch Me,” said Rosalita, and laid down her cards. She had built Wands, the high run, and the card on top was Madame Death.
There’s a young man with a gun.
Young man lost his honey
When she took it on the run.
She took it on the run!
Left her baby lonely but
Her baby ain’t done.
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.
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.”
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.