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Darktower 2 - The Drawing of the Three, Page 3

Stephen King

  There was no keyhole in the knob, above it, or below it.

  The door had hinges, but they were fastened to nothing— or so it seems, the gunslinger thought. This is a mystery, a most marvellous mystery, but does it really matter? You are dying. Your own mystery—the only one that really matters to any man or woman in the end—approaches.

  All the same, it did seem to matter.

  This door. This door where no door should be. It simply stood there on the gray strand twenty feet above the high tide line, seemingly as eternal as the sea itself, now casting the slanted shadow of its thickness toward the east as the sun westered.

  Written upon it in black letters two-thirds of the way up, written in the high speech, were two words:


  A demon has infested him. The name of the demon is HEROIN.

  The gunslinger could hear a low droning noise. At first he thought it must be the wind or a sound in his own feverish head, but he became more and more convinced that the sound was the sound of motors … and that it was coming from behind the door.

  Open it then. It’s not locked. You know it’s not locked.

  Instead he tottered gracelessly to his feet and walked above the door and around to the other side.

  There was no other side.

  Only the dark gray strand, stretching back and back. Only the waves, the shells, the high-tide line, the marks of his own approach—bootprints and holes that had been made by his elbows. He looked again and his eyes widened a little. The door wasn’t here, but its shadow was.

  He started to put out his right hand—oh, it was so slow learning its new place in what was left of his life—dropped it, and raised his left instead. He groped, feeling for hard resistance.

  If I feel it I’ll knock on nothing, the gunslinger thought. That would be an interesting thing to do before dying!

  His hand encountered thin air far past the place where the door—even if invisible—should have been.

  Nothing to knock on.

  And the sound of motors—if that’s what it really had been—was gone. Now there was just the wind, the waves, and the sick buzzing inside his head.

  The gunslinger walked slowly back to the other side of what wasn’t there, already thinking it had been a hallucina­tion to start with, a—

  He stopped.

  At one moment he had been looking west at an uninter­rupted view of a gray, rolling wave, and then his view was interrupted by the thickness of the door. He could see its keyplate, which also looked like gold, with the latch protrud­ing from it like a stubby metal tongue. Roland moved his head an inch to the north and the door was gone. Moved it back to where it had been and it was there again. It did not appear; it was just there.

  He walked all the way around and faced the door, swaying.

  He could walk around on the sea side, but he was con­vinced that the same thing would happen, only this time he would fall down.

  I wonder if I could go through it from the nothing side?

  Oh, there were all sorts of things to wonder about, but the truth was simple: here stood this door alone on an endless stretch of beach, and it was for only one of two things: opening or leaving closed.

  The gunslinger realized with dim humor that maybe he wasn’t dying quite as fast as he thought. If he had been, would he feel this scared?

  He reached out and grasped the doorknob with his left hand. Neither the deadly cold of the metal or the thin, fiery heat of the runes engraved upon it surprised him.

  He turned the knob. The door opened toward him when he pulled.

  Of all the things he might have expected, this was not any of them.

  The gunslinger looked, froze, uttered the first scream of terror in his adult life, and slammed the door. There was nothing for it to bang shut on, but it banged shut just the same, sending seabirds screeching up from the rocks on which they had perched to watch him.


  What he had seen was the earth from some high, impossi­ble distance in the sky—miles up, it seemed. He had seen the shadows of clouds lying upon that earth, floating across it like dreams. He had seen what an eagle might see if one could fly thrice as high as any eagle could.

  To step through such a door would be to fall, screaming, for what might be minutes, and to end by driving one’s self deep into the earth.

  No, you saw more.

  He considered it as he sat stupidly on the sand in front of the closed door with his wounded hand in his lap. The first faint traceries had appeared above his elbow now. The infec­tion would reach his heart soon enough, no doubt about that.

  It was the voice of Cort in his head.

  Listen to me, maggots. Listen for your lives, for that’s what it could mean some day. You never see all that you see. One of the things they send you to me for is to show you what you don’t see in what you see—what you don’t see when you’re scared, or fighting, or running, or fucking. No man sees all that he sees, but before you’re gunslingers—those of you who don’t go west, that is—you’ll see more in one single glance than some men see in a lifetime. And some of what you don’t see in that glance you’ll see afterwards, in the eye of your memory—if you live long enough to remember, that is. Because the difference between seeing and not seeing can be the difference between living and dying.

  He had seen the earth from this huge height (and it had somehow been more dizzying and distorting than the vision of growth which had come upon him shortly before the end of his time with the man in black, because what he had seen through the door had been no vision), and what little remained of his attention had registered the fact that the land he was seeing was neither desert nor sea but some green place of incredible lushness with interstices of water that made him think it was a swamp, but—

  What little remained of your attention, the voice of Cort mimicked savagely. You saw more!


  He had seen white.

  White edges.

  Bravo, Roland! Cort cried in his mind, and Roland seemed to feel the swat of that hard, callused hand. He winced.

  He had been looking through a window.

  The gunslinger stood with an effort, reached forward, felt cold and burning lines of thin heat against his palm. He opened the door again.


  The view he had expected—that view of the earth from some horrendous, unimaginable height—was gone. He was looking at words he didn’t understand. He almost understood them; it was as if the Great Letters had been twisted… .

  Above the words was a picture of a horseless vehicle, a motor-car of the sort which had supposedly filled the world before it moved on. Suddenly he thought of the things Jake had said when, at the way station, the gunslinger had hypno­tized him.

  This horseless vehicle with a woman wearing a fur stole laughing beside it, could be whatever had run Jake over in that strange other world.

  This is that other world, the gunslinger thought.

  Suddenly the view …

  It did not change; it moved. The gunslinger wavered on his feet, feeling vertigo and a touch of nausea. The words and the picture descended and now he saw an aisle with a double row of seats on the far side. A few were empty, but there were men in most of them, men in strange dress. He supposed they were suits, but he had never seen any like them before. The things around their necks could likewise be ties or cravats, but he had seen none like these, either. And, so far as he could tell, not one of them was armed—he saw no dagger nor sword, let alone a gun. What kind of trusting sheep were these? Some read papers covered with tiny words—words broken here and there with pictures—while others wrote on papers with pens of a sort the gunslinger had never seen. But the pens mattered little to him. It was the paper. He lived in a world where paper and gold were valued in rough equivalency. He had never seen so much paper in his life. Even now one of the men tore a sheet from the yellow pad which lay upon his lap and crumpled it into a ball, although he had only written on the top half of one side and no
t at all on the other. The gunslinger was not too sick to feel a twinge of horror and outrage at such unnatural profligacy.

  Beyond the men was a curved white wall and a row of windows. A few of these were covered by some sort of shutters, but he could see blue sky beyond others.

  Now a woman approached the doorway, a woman wear­ing what looked like a uniform, but of no sort Roland had ever seen. It was bright red, and part of it was pants. He could see the place where her legs became her crotch. This was nothing he had ever seen on a woman who was not undressed.

  She came so close to the door that Roland thought she would walk through, and he blundered back a step, lucky not to fall. She looked at him with the practiced solicitude of a woman who is at once a servant and no one’s mistress but her own. This did not interest the gunslinger. What interested him was that her expression never changed. It was not the way you expected a woman—anybody, for that matter—to look at a dirty, swaying, exhausted man with revolvers crisscrossed on his hips, a blood-soaked rag wrapped around his right hand, and jeans which looked as if they’d been worked on with some kind of buzzsaw.

  “Would you like…” the woman in red asked. There was more, but the gunslinger didn’t understand exactly what it meant. Food or drink, he thought. That red cloth—it was not cotton. Silk? It looked a little like silk, but—

  “Gin,” a voice answered, and the gunslinger understood that. Suddenly he understood much more:

  It wasn’t a door.

  It was eyes.

  Insane as it might seem, he was looking at part of a carriage that flew through the sky. He was looking through someone’s eyes.


  But he knew. He was looking through the eyes of the prisoner.




  As if to confirm this idea, mad as it was, what the gunslinger was looking at through the doorway suddenly rose and slid sidewards. The view turned (that feeling of vertigo again, a feeling of standing still on a plate with wheels under it, a plate which hands he could not see moved this way and that), and then the aisle was flowing past the edges of the doorway. He passed a place where several women, all dressed in the same red uniforms, stood. This was a place of steel things, and he would have liked to make the moving view stop in spite of his pain and exhaustion so he could see what the steel things were—machines of some sort. One looked a bit like an oven. The army woman he had already seen was pouring the gin which the voice had requested. The bottle she poured from was very small. It was glass. The vessel she was pouring it into looked like glass but the gunslinger didn’t think it actually was.

  What the doorway showed had moved along before he could see more. There was another of those dizzying turns and he was looking at a metal door. There was a lighted sign in a small oblong. This word the gunslinger could read. VACANT, it said.

  The view slid down a little. A hand entered it from the right of the door the gunslinger was looking through and grasped the knob of the door the gunslinger was looking at. He saw the cuff of a blue shirt, slightly pulled back to reveal crisp curls of black hair. Long fingers. A ring on one of them, with a jewel set into it that might have been a ruby or a firedim or a piece of trumpery trash. The gunslinger rather thought it this last—it was too big and vulgar to be real.

  The metal door swung open and the gunslinger was looking into the strangest privy he had ever seen. It was all metal.

  The edges of the metal door flowed past the edges of the door on the beach. The gunslinger heard the sound of it being closed and latched. He was spared another of those giddy spins, so he supposed the man through whose eyes he was watching must have reached behind himself to lock himself in.

  Then the view did turn—not all the way around but half—and he was looking into a mirror, seeing a face he had seen once before… on a Tarot card. The same dark eyes and spill of dark hair. The face was calm but pale, and in the eyes—eyes through which he saw now reflected back at him— Roland saw some of the dread and horror of that baboon-ridden creature on the Tarot card.

  The man was shaking.

  He’s sick, too.

  Then he remembered Nort, the weed-eater in Tull.

  He thought of the Oracle.

  A demon has infested him.

  The gunslinger suddenly thought he might know what HEROIN was after all: something like the devil-grass.

  A trifle upsetting, isn’t he?

  Without thought, with the simple resolve that had made him the last of them all, the last to continue marching on and on long after Cuthbert and the others had died or given up, committed suicide or treachery or simply recanted the whole idea of the Tower; with the single-minded and incurious resolve that had driven him across the desert and all the years before the desert in the wake of the man in black, the gunsling­er stepped through the doorway.


  Eddie ordered a gin and tonic—maybe not such a good idea to be going into New York Customs drunk, and he knew once he got started he would just keep on going—but he had to have something.

  When you got to get down and you can’t find the elevator, Henry had told him once, you got to do it any way you can. Even if it’s only with a shovel.

  Then, after he’d given his order and the stewardess had left, he started to feel like he was maybe going to vomit. Not for sure going to vomit, only maybe, but it was better to be safe. Going through Customs with a pound of pure cocaine under each armpit with gin on your breath was not so good; going through Customs that way with puke drying on your pants would be disaster. So better to be safe. The feeling would probably pass, it usually did, but better to be safe.

  Trouble was, he was going cool turkey. Cool, not cold. More words of wisdom from that great sage and eminent junkie Henry Dean.

  They had been sitting on the penthouse balcony of the Regency Tower, not quite on the nod but edging toward it, the sun warm on their faces, done up so good… back in the good old days, when Eddie had just started to snort the stuff and Henry himself had yet to pick up his first needle.

  Everybody talks about going cold turkey, Henry had said, but before you get there, you gotta go cool turkey.

  And Eddie, stoned out of his mind, had cackled madly, because he knew exactly what Henry was talking about. Henry, however, had not so much as cracked a smile.

  In some ways cool turkey’s worse than cold turkey, Henry said. At least when you make it to cold turkey, you KNOW you’re gonna puke, you KNOW you’re going to shake, you KNOW you’re gonna sweat until it feels like you’re drowning in it. Cool turkey is, like, the curse of expectation.

  Eddie remembered asking Henry what you called it when a needle-freak (which, in those dim dead days which must have been all of sixteen months ago, they had both solemnly assured themselves they would never become) got a hot shot.

  You call that baked turkey, Henry had replied promptly, and then had looked surprised, the way a person does when he’s said something that turned out to be a lot funnier than he actually thought it would be, and they looked at each other, and then they were both howling with laughter and clutching each other. Baked turkey, pretty funny, not so funny now.

  Eddie walked up the aisle past the galley to the head, checked the sign—VACANT—and opened the door.

  Hey Henry, o great sage if eminent junkie big brother, while we’re on the subject of our feathered friends, you want to hear my definition of cooked goose? That’s when the Customs guy at Kennedy decides there’s something a little funny about the way you look, or it’s one of the days when they got the dogs with the PhD noses out there instead of at Port Authority and they all start to bark and pee all over the floor and it’s you they’re all just about strangling themselves on their choke-chains trying to get to, and after the Customs guys toss all your luggage they take you into the little room and ask you if you’d mind taking off your shirt and you say yeah I sure would I’d mind like hell, I picked up a little cold down in the Bahamas and the air-conditioning in here is
real high and I’m afraid it might turn into pneumonia and they say oh is that so, do you always sweat like that when the air-conditioning’s too high, Mr. Dean, you do, well, excuse us all to hell, now do it, and you do it, and they say maybe you better take off the t-shirt too, because you look like maybe you got some kind of a medical problem, buddy, those bulges under your pits look like maybe they could be some kind of lymphatic tumors or something, and you don’t even bother to say anything else, it’s like a center-fielder who doesn’t even bother to chase the ball when it’s hit a certain way, he just turns around and watches it go into the upper deck, because when it’s gone it’s gone, so you take off the t-shirt and hey, looky here, you’re some lucky kid, those aren’t tumors, unless they’re what you might call tumors on the corpus of society, yuk-yuk-yuk, those things look more like a couple of baggies held there with Scotch strapping tape, and by the way, don’t worry about that smell, son, that’s just goose. It’s cooked.

  He reached behind him and pulled the locking knob. The lights in the head brightened. The sound of the motors was a soft drone. He turned toward the mirror, wanting to see how bad he looked, and suddenly a terrible, pervasive feeling swept over him: a feeling of being watched.

  Hey, come on, quit it, he thought uneasily. You’re supposed to be the most unparanoid guy in the world. That’s why they sent you. That’s why—

  But it suddenly seemed those were not his own eyes in the mirror, not Eddie Dean’s hazel, almost-green eyes that had melted so many hearts and allowed him to part so many pretty sets of legs during the last third of his twenty-one years, not his eyes but those of a stranger. Not hazel but a blue the color of fading Levis. Eyes that were chilly, precise, unexpected mar­vels of calibration. Bombardier’s eyes.

  Reflected in them he saw—clearly saw—a seagull swoop­ing down over a breaking wave and snatching something from it.

  He had time to think What in God’s name is this shit? and then he knew it wasn’t going to pass; he was going to throw up after all.