The gunslinger, p.21
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       The Gunslinger, p.21

         Part #1 of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
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  "I'd not hear you speak of that," the gunslinger said, and in his mind he heard his mother singing: Baby-bunting, baby dear, baby bring your basket here.

  "Then hear this: when you returned, Marten had gone west, to join the rebels. So all said, anyway, and so you believed. Yet he and a certain witch left you a trap and you fell into it. Good boy! And although Marten was long gone by then, there was a man who sometimes made you think of him, was there not? A man who affected the dress of a monk and the shaven head of a penitent--"

  "Walter," the gunslinger whispered. And although he had come so far in his musings, the bald truth still amazed him. "You. Marten never left at all."

  The man in black tittered. "At your service."

  "I ought to kill you now."

  "That would hardly be fair. Besides, all of that was long ago. Now comes the time of sharing."

  "You never left," the gunslinger repeated, stunned. "You only changed."

  "Sit," the man in black invited. "I'll tell you stories, as many as you would hear. Your own stories, I think, will be much longer."

  "I don't talk of myself," the gunslinger muttered.

  "Yet tonight you must. So that we may understand."

  "Understand what? My purpose? You know that. To find the Tower is my purpose. I'm sworn."

  "Not your purpose, gunslinger. Your mind. Your slow, prodding, tenacious mind. There has never been one quite like it, in all the history of the world. Perhaps in the history of creation.

  "This is the time of speaking. This is the time of histories."

  "Then speak."

  The man in black shook the voluminous arm of his robe. A foil-wrapped package fell out and caught the dying embers in many reflective folds.

  "Tobacco, gunslinger. Would you smoke?"

  He had been able to resist the rabbit, but he could not resist this. He opened the foil with eager fingers. There was fine crumbled tobacco inside, and green leaves to wrap it in, amazingly moist. He had not seen such tobacco for ten years.

  He rolled two cigarettes and bit the ends of each to release the flavor. He offered one to the man in black, who took it. Each of them took a burning twig from the fire.

  The gunslinger lit his cigarette and drew the aromatic smoke deep into his lungs, closing his eyes to concentrate the senses. He blew out with long, slow satisfaction.

  "Is it good?" the man in black inquired.

  "Yes. Very good."

  "Enjoy it. It may be the last smoke for you in a very long time."

  The gunslinger took this impassively.

  "Very well," the man in black said. "To begin then:

  "You must understand the Tower has always been, and there have always been boys who know of it and lust for it, more than power or riches or women . . . boys who look for the doors that lead to it . . ."


  There was talk then, a night's worth of talk and God alone knew how much more (or how much was true), but the gunslinger remembered little of it later . . . and to his oddly practical mind, little of it seemed to matter. The man in black told him again that he must go to the sea, which lay no more than twenty easy miles to the west, and there he would be invested with the power of drawing.

  "But that's not exactly right, either," the man in black said, pitching his cigarette into the remains of the campfire. "No one wants to invest you with a power of any kind, gunslinger; it is simply in you, and I am compelled to tell you, partly because of the sacrifice of the boy, and partly because it is the law; the natural law of things. Water must run downhill, and you must be told. You will draw three, I understand . . . but I don't really care, and I don't really want to know."

  "The three," the gunslinger murmured, thinking of the Oracle.

  "And then the fun begins! But, by then, I'll be long gone. Goodbye, gunslinger. My part is done now. The chain is still in your hands. 'Ware it doesn't wrap itself around your neck."

  Compelled by something outside him, Roland said, "You have one more thing to say, don't you?"

  "Yes," the man in black said, and he smiled at the gunslinger with his depthless eyes and stretched one of his hands out toward him. "Let there be light."

  And there was light, and this time the light was good.


  Roland awoke by the ruins of the campfire to find himself ten years older. His black hair had thinned at the temples and there had gone the gray of cobwebs at the end of autumn. The lines in his face were deeper, his skin rougher.

  The remains of the wood he had carried had turned to something like stone, and the man in black was a laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe, more bones in this place of bones, one more skull in this golgotha.

  Or is it really you? he thought. I have my doubts, Walter o' Dim . . . I have my doubts, Marten-that-was.

  He stood up and looked around. Then, with a sudden quick gesture, he reached toward the remains of his companion of the night before (if it was indeed the remains of Walter), a night that had somehow lasted ten years. He broke off the grinning jawbone and jammed it carelessly into the left hip pocket of his jeans--a fitting enough replacement for the one lost under the mountains.

  "How many lies did you tell me?" he asked. Many, he was sure, but what made them good lies was that they had been mixed with the truth.

  The Tower. Somewhere ahead, it waited for him--the nexus of Time, the nexus of Size.

  He began west again, his back set against the sunrise, heading toward the ocean, realizing that a great passage of his life had come and gone. "I loved you, Jake," he said aloud.

  The stiffness wore out of his body and he began to walk more rapidly. By that evening he had come to the end of the land. He sat on a beach which stretched left and right forever, deserted. The waves beat endlessly against the shore, pounding and pounding. The setting sun painted the water in a wide strip of fool's gold.

  There the gunslinger sat, his face turned up into the fading light. He dreamed his dreams and watched as the stars came out; his purpose did not flag, nor did his heart falter; his hair, finer now and gray at the temples, blew around his head, and the sandalwood-inlaid guns of his father lay smooth and deadly against his hips, and he was lonely but did not find loneliness in any way a bad or ignoble thing. The dark came down and the world moved on. The gunslinger waited for the time of the drawing and dreamed his long dreams of the Dark Tower, to which he would someday come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle.

  * For a fuller discussion of the Bullshit Factor, see On Writing, published by Scribner's in 2000.

  * Those bound by destiny.

  * One example of this will probably serve for all. In the previously issued text of The Gunslinger, Farson is the name of a town. In later volumes, it somehow became the name of a man: the rebel John Farson, who engineers the fall of Gilead, the city-state where Roland spends his childhood.



  Stephen King, The Gunslinger

  (Series: The Dark Tower # 1)




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