The Dark Tower

 Stephen King

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The threat that the low men and the vampires might kill Oy was the only thing that kept Jake from dying with the Pere. There was no agonizing over the decision; Jake yelled
with all the mental force he could muster, and Oy ran swiftly at his heel. Jake passed low men who stood mesmerized by the turtle and straight-armed a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY. From the dim orange-red glow of the restaurant he and Oy entered a zone of brilliant white light and charred, pungent cookery. Steam billowed against his face, hot and wet,
(the jungle)
perhaps setting the stage for what followed,
(the mighty jungle)
perhaps not. His vision cleared as his pupils shrank and he saw he was in the Dixie Pig's kitchen. Not for the first time, either. Once, not too long before the coming of the Wolves to Calla Bryn Sturgis, Jake had followed Susannah (only then she'd have been Mia) into a dream where she'd been searching some vast and deserted kitchen for food. This kitchen, only now the place was bustling with life. A huge pig sizzled on an iron spit over an open fire, the flames leaping up through a food-caked iron grate at every drop of grease. To either side were gigantic copper-hooded stoves upon which pots nearly as tall as Jake himself fumed. Stirring one of these was a gray-skinned creature So hideous that Jake's eyes hardly knew how to look at it. Tusks rose from eitfier side of its gray, heavy-lipped mouth. Dewlapped cheeks hung in great warty swags of flesh. The fact that the creature was wearing foodstained cook's whites and a puffy popcorn chefs toque somehow finished the nightmare, sealed it beneath a coat of varnish. Beyond this apparition, nearly lost in the steam, two other creatures dressed in whites were washing dishes side by side at a double sink. Both wore neckerchiefs. One was human, a boy of perhaps seventeen. The other appeared to be some sort of monster housecat on legs.
"Vai, vai, los mostros pubes, tre cannits en fauns!" the tusked chef screeched at the washerboys. It hadn't noticed Jake. One of them-the cat-did. It laid back its ears and hissed. Without thinking, Jake threw the Oriza he'd been holding in his right hand. It sang across the steamy air and sliced through the catthing's neck as smoothly as a knife through a cake of lard. The head toppled into the sink with a sudsy splash, the green eyes still blazing.
"San fai, can dit los!" cried the chef. He seemed either unaware of what had happened or was unable to grasp it. He turned to Jake. The eyes beneath his sloping, crenellated forehead were a bleary blue-gray, the eyes of a sentient being. Seen head-on, Jake realized what it was: some kind of freakish, intelligent warthog. Which meant it was cooking its own kind. That seemed perfectly fitting in the Dixie Pig.
"Can foh pube ain-tet can fah! She-so pan! Vai!" This was addressed to Jake. And then, just to make the lunacy complete:
"And eef you won'd scrub, don'd even stard!"
The other washboy, the human one, was screaming some sort of warning, but the chef paid no attention. The chef seemed to believe that Jake, having killed one of his helpers, was now duty- and honor-bound to take the dead cat's place.
Jake flung the other plate and it sheared through the warthog's neck, putting an end to its blabber. Perhaps a gallon of blood flew onto the stovetop to the thing's right, sizzling and sending up a horrible charred smell. The warthog's head slewed to the left on its neck and then tilted backward, but didn't come off. The being-it was easily seven feet tall-took two stagger-steps to its left and embraced the sizzling pig turning on its spit. The head tore loose a little further, now lying on Chef Warthog's right shoulder, one eye glaring up at the steamwreathed fluorescent lights. The heat sealed the cook's hands to the roast and they began to melt. Then the thing fell forward into the open flames and its tunic caught fire.
Jake whirled from this in time to see the other potboy advancing on him with a butcher knife in one hand and a cleaver in the other. Jake grabbed another 'Riza from the bag but held his throw in spite of the voice in his head that was yammering for him to go on, go on and do it, give the bastard what he'd once heard Margaret Eisenhart refer to as a "deep haircut."
This term had made the other Sisters of the Plate laugh hard. Yet as much as he wanted to throw, he held his hand.
What he saw was a young man whose skin was a pallid yellowish-gray under the brilliant kitchen lights. He looked both terrified and malnourished. Jake raised the plate in warning and the young man stopped. It wasn't the 'Riza he was looking at, however, but Oy, who stood between Jake's feet. The bumbler's fur was bushed out around his body, seeming to double his size, and his teeth were bared.
"Do you-"Jake began, and then the door to the restaurant burst open. One of the low men rushed in. Jake threw the plate without hesitation. It moaned through the steamy, brilliant air and took off the intruder's head with gory precision just above the Adam's apple. The headless body bucked first to the left and then to the right, like a stage comic accepting a round of applause with a whimsical move, and then collapsed.
Jake had another plate in each hand almost immediately, his arms once more crossed over his chest in the position sai Eisenhart called "the load." He looked at the washerboy, who was still holding the knife and the cleaver. Without much threat, however,
Jake thought. He tried again and this time got the whole question out. "Do you speak English?"
Yar," the boy said. He dropped the cleaver so he could hold
ne water-reddened thumb and its matching forefinger about a qviarter of an inch apart. "Bout just a liddle. I learn since I come over here." He opened his other hand and the knife joined the cleaver on the kitchen floor.
"Do you come from Mid-World?" Jake asked. 'You do, don't you?"
He didn't think the washerboy was terribly bright ("No quiz-kid," Elmer Chambers would no doubt have sneered),
but he was at least smart enough to be homesick; in spite of his terror, Jake saw an unmistakable flash of that look in the boy's eyes. "Yar," he said. "Come from Ludweg, me."
"Near the city of Lud?"
"North of there, if you do like it or if you don't," said the washerboy. "Will'ee kill me, lad? I don't want to die, sad as I am."
"I won't be the one to kill you if you tell me the truth. Did a woman come through here?"
The washerboy hesitated, then said: "Aye. Sayre and his closies had 'er. She 'us out on her feet, that 'un, head all lollin..." He demonstrated, rolling his head on his neck and looking more like the village idiot than ever. Jake thought of Sheemie in Roland's tale of his Mejis days.
"But not dead."
"Nar. I hurt her breevin, me."
Jake looked toward the door, but no one came through. Yet.
He should go, but-
"What's your name, cully?"
"Jochabim, that be I, son of Hossa."
"Well, listen, Jochabim, there's a world outside this kitchen called New York City, and pubes like you are free. I suggest you get out while you have an opportunity."
"They'd just bring me back and stripe me."
"No, you don't understand how big it is. Like Lud when Lud was-"
He looked at Jochabim's dull-eyed face and thought, No,
I'm the one who doesn't understand. And if I hang around here trying to convince him to desert, I'll no doubt get just what I-
The door leading to the restaurant popped open again. This time two low men tried to come through at once and momentarily jammed together, shoulder to shoulder. Jake threw both of his plates and watched them crisscross in the steamy air, beheading both newcomers just as they burst through. They fell backward and once more the door swung shut. At Piper School Take had learned about the Battle of Thermopylae, where the Greeks had held off a Persian army that had outnumbered them ten to one. The Greeks had drawn the Persians into a narrow mountain pass; he had this kitchen door. As long as they kept coming through by ones and twos-as they must unless they could flank him somehow-he could pick them off.
At least until he ran out of Orizas.
"Guns?" he asked Jochabim. "Are there guns here?"
Jochabim shook his head, but given the young man's irritating look of density, it was hard to tell if this meant No guns in the kitchen or / don't ken you.
"All right, I'm going," he said. "And if you don't go yourself while you've got a chance, Jochabim, you're an even bigger fool than you look. Which would be saying a lot. There are video games out there, kid-think about it."
Jochabim continued giving Jake the dnh look, however, and Jake gave up. He was about to speak to Oy when someone spoke to him through the door.
"Hey, kid." Rough. Confidential. Knowing. The voice of a man who could hit you for five or sleep with your girlfriend any time he liked, Jake thought. 'Your friend the faddah's dead. In fact, the faddah's dinnah. You come out now, with no more nonsense, maybe you can avoid being dessert."
"Turn it sideways and stick it up your ass," Jake called. This got through even Jochabim's wall of stupidity; he looked shocked.
"Last chance," said the rough and knowing voice. "Come on out."
"Come on in!" Jake countered. "I've got plenty of plates!"
Indeed, he felt a lunatic urge to rush forward, bang through the door, and take the battle to the low men and women in the restaurant dining room on the other side. Nor was the idea all that crazy, as Roland himself would have known; it was the last thing they'd expect, and there was at least an even chance he could panic them with half a dozen quickly thrown plates and start a rout.
The problem was the monsters that had been feeding behind the tapestry. The vampires. They'd not panic, and Jake knew it. He had an idea that if the Grandfathers had been able to come into the kitchen (or perhaps it was just lack of interest that kept them in the dining room-that and the last scraps of the Pere's corpse), he would be dead already. Jochabim as well, quite likely.
He dropped to one knee, murmured "Oy, find Susannah!" and reinforced the command with a quick mental picture.
The bumbler gave Jochabim a final distrustful look, then began to nose about on the floor. The tiles were damp from a recent mopping, and Jake was afraid the bumbler wouldn't be able to find the scent. Then Oy gave a single sharp cry-more dog's bark than human's word-and began to hurry down the center of the kitchen between the stoves and the steam tables, nose low to the ground, only going out of his way long enough to skirt Chef Warthog's smoldering body.
"Listen, to me, you little bastard!" cried the low man outside the door. "I'm losing patience with you!"
"Good!" Jake cried. "Come on in! Let's see if you go back out again!"
He put his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture while looking at Jochabim. He was about to turn and run-he had no idea how long it would be before the washerboy yelled through the door that the kid and his billy-bumbler were no longer holding Thermopylae Pass-when Jochabim spoke to him in a low voice that was little more than a whisper.
"What?" Jake asked, looking at him uncertainly. It sounded as if the kid had said mind the mind-trap, but that made no sense. Did it?
"Mind the mind-trap," Jochabim said, this time much more clearly, and turned away to his pots and sudsy water.
"What mind-trap?" Jake asked, but Jochabim affected not to hear and Jake couldn't stay long enough to cross-examine him.
He ran to catch up with Oy, throwing glances back over his shoulder. If a couple more of the low men burst into the kitchen, Jake wanted to be the first to know.
But none did, at least not before he had followed Oy through another door and into the restaurant's pantry, a dim room stacked high with boxes and smelling of coffee and spices. It was like the storeroom behind the East Stoneham General Store, only cleaner.
There was a closed door in the corner of the Dixie Pig's pantry.
Beyond it was a tiled stairway leading down God only knew how far. It was lit by low-wattage bulbs behind bleary, fly-spotted glass shades. Oy started down without hesitation, descending with a kind of bobbing, front-end/back-end regularity that was pretty comical. He kept his nose pressed to the stairs, and Jake knew he was onto Susannah; he could pick it up from his litde friend's mind.
Jake tried counting the stairs, made it as far as a hundred and twenty, then lost his grip on the numbers. He wondered if they were still in New York (or under it). Once he thought he heard a faint, familiar rumbling and decided that if that was a subway train, they were.
Finally they reached the bottom of the stairs. Here was a wide, vaulted area that looked like a gigantic hotel lobby, only without the hotel. Oy made his way across it, snout still low to the ground, his squiggle of a tail wagging back and forth. Jake had to j og in order to keep up. Now that they no longer filled the bag, the 'Rizas jangled back and forth. There was a kiosk on the far side of the lobby-vault, with a sign in one dusty window reading LAST CHANCE FOR NEW YORK SOUVENIRS and another reading VISIT SEPTEMBER 11, 2OO1! TIX STILL AVAILABLE FOR THIS WONDERFUL EVENT! ASTHMATICS PROHIBITED W/O DR's CERTIFICATE! Jake wondered what was so fabulous about September 11 th of 2001 and then decided that maybe he didn't want to know.
Suddenly, as loud in his head as a voice spoken directly into his ear: Hey! Hey Positronics lady! You still there?
Jake had no idea who the Positronics lady might be, but he recognized the voice asking the question.
Susannah! he shouted, coming to a stop near the tourist kiosk. A surprised, joyful grin creased his strained face and made it a kid's again. Suze, are you there?
And heard her cry out in happy surprise.
Oy, realizing that Jake was no longer following close behind, turned and gave an impatient Ake-Ake! cry. For the moment at least, Jake disregarded him.
"I hear you!" he shouted. "Finally! God, who've you been talking to? Keep yelling so I can home in on y-"
From behind him-perhaps at the top of the long staircase, perhaps already on it-someone yelled, "That's him!" There were gunshots, but Jake barely heard them. To his intense horror, something had crawled inside his head. Something like a mental hand. He thought it was probably the low man who had spoken to him through the door. The low man's hand had found dials in some kind of Jake Chambers Dogan, and was fiddling with them. Trying
(to freeze me freeze me in place freeze my feet right to the floor)
to stop him. And that voice had gotten in because while he was sending and receiving, he was open-
Jake! fake, where are you?
There was no time to answer her. Once, while trying to open the unfound door in the Cave of Voices, Jake had summoned a vision of a million doors opening wide. Now he summoned one of them slamming shut, creating a sound like God's own sonic boom.
Just in time, too. For a moment longer his feet remained stuck to the dusty floor, and then something screamed in agony and pulled back from him. Let him go.
Jake got moving, jerkily at first, then picking up steam.
God, that had been close! Very faintly, he heard Susannah call his name again but didn't dare throw himself open enough to reply. He'd just have to hope that Oy would hold onto her scent, and that she would keep sending.
He decided later that he must have started singing the song from Mrs. Shaw's radio shortly after Susannah's final faint cry, but there was no way of telling for sure. One might as well try to pinpoint the genesis of a headache or the exact moment one consciously realizes he is coming down with a cold. What Jake was sure of was that there were more gunshots, and once the buzzing whine of a ricochet, but all that was a good distance behind, and finally he didn't bother ducking anymore (or even looking back). Besides, Oy was moving fast now, really shucking those furry little buns of his. Buried machinery thumped and wheezed. Steel rails surfaced in the passageway floor, leading Jake to assume that once a tram or some other kind of shuttle had run here. At regular intervals, official communiques
(PATRICIA AHEAD; FEDIC; DO YOU HAVE YOUR BLUE PASS?) were printed on the walls. In some places the tiles had fallen off, in others the tram-rails were gone, and in several spots puddles of ancient, verminous water filled what looked for all the world like potholes. Jake and Oy passed two or three stalled vehicles that resembled a cross between golf-carts and flatcars. They also passed a turnip-headed robot that flashed the dim red bulbs of its eyes and made a single croaking sound that might have been halt. Jake raised one of the Orizas, having no idea if it could do any good against such a thing if it came after him, but the robot never moved. That single dim flash seemed to have drained the last few ergs in its batteries, or energy cells, or atomic slug, or whatever it ran on. Here and there he saw graffiti. Two were familiar. The first was ALL HAIL THE CRIMSON KING, with the red eye above each of the I's in the message.
The other read BANGO SKANK, '84. Man, Jake thought distractedly, that guy Bango gets around. And then heard himself clearly for the first time, singing under his breath. Not words, exactly, but just an old, barely remembered refrain from one of the songs on Mrs. Shaw's kitchen radio: "A-wimeweh, a-wimeweh, a-weee-ummm-immm-oweh..."
He quit it, creeped out by the muttery, talismanic quality of the chant, and called for Oy to stop. "Need to take a leak, boy."
"Oy!" Cocked ears and bright eyes providing the rest of the message: Don't take too long.
Jake sprayed urine onto one of the tile walls. Greenish dreck was seeping between the squares. He also listened for the sound of pursuit and was not disappointed. How many back there? What sort of posse? Roland probably would have known, but Jake had no idea. The echoes made it sound like a regiment.
As he was shaking off, it came to Jake Chambers that the Pere would never do this again, or grin at him and point his finger, or cross himself before eating. They had killed him. Taken his life. Stopped his breath and pulse. Save perhaps for dreams, die Pere was now gone from the story. Jake began to cry. Like his smile, the tears made him once again look like a child. Oy had turned around, eager to be off on the scent, but now looked back over one shoulder with an expression of unmistakable concern.
"'s'all right," Jake said, buttoning his fly and then wiping his cheeks with the heel of his hand. Only it wasn't all right. He was more than sad, more than angry, more than scared about the low men running relendessly up his backtrail. Now that the adrenaline in his system had receded, he realized he was hungry as well as sad. Tired, too. Tired?Verging on exhaustion. He couldn't remember when he'd last slept. Being sucked through the door into New York, he could remember that, and Oy almost being hit by a taxi, and the God-bomb minister with the name that reminded him of Jimmy Cagney playing George M.
Cohan in that old black-and-white movie he'd watched on the TV in his room when he was small. Because, he realized now, there had been a song in that movie about a guy named Harrigan:
H-A-double R-I; Harrigan, that's me. He could remember those things, but not when he'd last eaten a square-
"Ake!" Oy barked, relentless as fate. If bumblers had a breaking point, Jake thought wearily, Oy was still a long way from his. "Ake-Ake!"
"Yeah-yeah," he agreed, pushing away from the wall. "Ake-
Ake will now run-run. Go on. Find Susannah."
He wanted to plod, but plodding would quite likely not be good enough. Mere walking, either. He flogged his legs into a jog and once more began to sing under his breath, this time the words to the song: "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight... In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight... ohhh... "And then he was off again, wimeweh, wimeweh, luimeweh, nonsense words from the kitchen radio that was always tuned to the oldies on WCBS... only weren't memories of some movie wound around and into his memory of this particular song? Not a song from Yankee Doodle Dandy but from some other movie?
One with scary monsters? Something he'd seen when he was just a little kid, maybe not even out of his
"Near the village, the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight... Near the village, the peaceful village, the lion sleeps tonight... HUH-oh, awimeweh, a-wimeweh..."
He stopped, breathing hard, rubbing his side. He had a stitch there but it wasn't bad, at least not yet, hadn't sunk deep enough to stop him. But that goo... that greenish goo dribbling between the tiles... it was oozing through the ancient grout and busted ceramic because this was
(the jungle)
deep below the city, deep like catacombs
or like-
"Oy," he said, speaking through chapped lips. Christ, he was so thirsty! "Oy, this isn't goo, this is grass. Or weeds... or..."
Oy barked his friend's name, but Jake hardly noticed. The echoing sound of the pursuers continued (had drawn a bit closer, in fact), but for the time being he ignored them, as well.
Grass, growing out of the tiled wall.
Overwhelming the wall.
He looked down and saw more grass, a brilliant green that was almost purple beneath the fluorescent lights, growing out of the floor. And bits of broken tile crumbling into shards and fragments like remains of the old people, the ancestors who had lived and built before the Beams began to break and the world began to move on.
He bent down. Reached into the grass. Brought up sharp shards of tile, yes, but also earth, the earth of
(the jungle)
some deep catacomb or tomb or perhaps-
There was a beetle crawling through the dirt he'd scooped up, a beetle with a red mark on its back like a bloody smile, and Jake cast it away with a cry of disgust. Mark of the King! Say true!
He came back to himself and realized that he was down on one knee, practicing at archaeology like the hero in some old movie while the hounds drew closer on his trail. And Oy was looking at him, eyes shining with anxiety.
"Ake! Ake-Ake!"
"Yeah," he said, heaving himself to his feet. "I'm coming.
But Oy... what is this place?"
Oy had no idea why he heard anxiety in his ka-dinh's voice; what he saw was the same as before and what he smelled was the same as before: her smell, the scent the boy had asked him to find and follow. And it was fresher now. He ran on along its bright brand.
Jake stopped again five minutes later, shouting, "Oy! Wait up a minute!"
The stitch in his side was back, and it was deeper, but it still wasn't the stitch that had stopped him. Everythinghad changed.
Or was changing. And God help him, he thought he knew what it was changing into.
Above him the fluorescent lights still shone down, but the tile walls were shaggy with greenery. The air had become damp and humid, soaking his shirt and sticking it against his body. A beautiful orange butterfly of startling size flew past his wide eyes. Jake snatched at it but the butterfly eluded him easily.
Almost merrily, he thought.
The tiled corridor had become a jungle path. Ahead of them, it sloped up to a ragged hole in die overgrowth, probably some sort of forest clearing. Beyond it Jake could see great old trees growing in a mist, their trunks thick with moss, their branches looped with vines. He could see giant spreading ferns, and through the green lace of the leaves, a burning jungle sky. He knew he was under New York, must be under New York, but-
What sounded like a monkey chittered, so close by that Jake flinched and looked up, sure he would see it directly overhead, grinning down from behind a bank of lights. And then, freezing his blood, came the heavy roar of a lion. One that was most definitely not asleep.
He was on the verge of retreating, and at full speed, when he realized he could not; the low men (probably led by the one who'd told him the faddah was dinnah) were back that way.
And Oy was looking at him with bright-eyed impatience, clearly wanting to go on. Oy was no dummy, but he showed no signs of alarm, at least not concerning what was ahead.
For his own part, Oy still couldn't understand the boy's problem. He knew the boy was tired-he could smell that-but he also knew Ake was afraid. Why? There were unpleasant smells in this place, the smell of many men chief among them, but they did not strike Oy as immediately dangerous. And besides, her smell was here. Very fresh now. Almost new.
"Ake!" he yapped again.
Jake had his breath now. "All right," he said, looking around. "Okay. But slow."
"Lo," Oy said, but even Jake could detect the stunning lack of approval in the bumbler's response.
Jake moved only because he had no other options. He walked up the slope of the overgrown trail (in Oy's perception the way was perfecdy straight, and had been ever since leaving the stairs) toward the vine- and fern-fringed opening, toward lunatic chitter of the monkey and the testicle-freezing roar of the hunting lion. The song circled through his mind again and again
(in the village... in the jungle... hush my darling, don't stir my darling...)
and now he knew the name of it, even the name of the group
(that's the Tokens with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight, "gone from the charts but not from our hearts)
that had sung it, but what was the movie) What was the name of the goddam mo-
Jake reached the top of the slope and the edge of the clearing.
He looked through an interlacing of broad green leaves and brilliant purple flowers (a tiny green worm was journeying into the heart of one), and as he looked, the name of the movie came to him and his skin broke out in gooseflesh from the nape of his neck all the way down to his feet. A moment later the first dinosaur came out of the jungle (the mighty jungle), and walked into the clearing.
Once upon a time long ago...
(far and wee)
when he was just a little lad;
(there's some for you and some for me)
once upon a time when mother went to Montreal with her art club and father went to Vegas for the annual unveiling of the fall shows;
(blackberryjam and blackberry tea)
once upon a time when 'Bama was four-
"Bama's what the only good one
(Mrs. Shaw Mrs. Greta Shaw)
calls him. She cuts the crusts off his sandwiches, she puts his nursie-school drawings on the fridge with magnets that look like little plastic fruits, she calls him 'Bama and that's a special name to him
(to them)
because his father taught him one drunk Saturday afternoon to chant "Go wide, go wide, roll you Tide, we don't run and we don't hide, we're the 'Bama Crimson Tide!" and so she calls him
"Bama, it's a secret name and how they know what it means and no one else does is like having a house you can go into, a safe house in the scary woods where outside the shadows all look like monsters and ogres and tigers.
("Tyger, tyger, burning bright," his mother sings to him, for this is her idea of a lullabye, along with "I heard a fly buzz... when I died," which gives 'Bama Chambers a terrible case of the creeps, although he never tells her; he lies in bed sometimes at night and sometimes during afternoon naptime thinking! will hear a fly and it will be my deathfly, my heart will stop and my tongue will fall down my throat like a stone down a well and these are the memories he denies)
It is good to have a secret name and ivhen he finds out mother is going to Montreal for the sake of art and father is going to Vegas to help present the Network's new shows at the Up-fronts he begs his mother to ask Mrs. Greta Shaw to stay with him and finally his mother gives in.
Little Jakie knoivs Mrs. Shaw is not mother and on more than one occasion Mrs. Greta Shaw herself has told him she is not mother
("I hope you know I'm not your mother, 'Bama, "she says, giving him a plate and on the plate is a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich with the crusts cut off as only Greta Shaw knoivs how to cut them off, "because that is not in my job description"
(And Jakie-only he's 'Bama here, he's 'Bama between them-doesn't know exactly how to tell her he knows that, knows that, knows that, but he 'II make do with her until the real thing comes along or until he grows old enough to get over his fear of the Deathfly)
And Jakie says Don't worry, I'm okay, but he is still glad Mrs.
Shaw agrees to stay instead of the latest au pair who wears short skirts and is ahoays playing with her hair and her lipstick and doesn't care jackshit about him and doesn't know that in his secret heart he is
"Bama, and boy that little Daisy Mae
(which is what his father calls all the au pairs)
is stupid stupid stupid. Mrs. Shaw isn't stupid. Mrs. Shaw gives him a snack she sometimes calls Afternoon Tea or even High Tea, and no matter what it is-cottage cheese and fruit, a sandwich with the crusts cut off, custard and cake, leftover canapes from a cocktail party the night before-she sings the same little song when she lays it out: "A little snack that's far and wee, there's some for you and some for me, blackberry jam and blackberry tea."
There is a TV is his room, and every day while his folks are gone he takes his after-school snack in there and ivatches watches watches and he hears her radio in the kitchen, always the oldies, always WCBS, and sometimes he hears her, hears Mrs. Greta Shaw singing along with the Four Seasons Wanda Jackson Lee "Yah-Yah" Dorsey, and sometimes he pretends his folks die in a plane crash and she somehow does become his mother and she calls him poor little lad and poor little lost tyke and then by virtue of some magical transformation she loves him instead of just taking care of him, loves him loves him loves him the way he loves her, she's his mother (or maybe his wife, he is unclear about the difference between the two), but she calls him 'Bama instead ofsugarlove
(his real mother)
or hotshot
(his father)
and although he knows the idea is stupid, thinking about it in bed is fun, thinking about it beats the penis-piss out of thinking about the Deathfly that would come and buzz over his corpse when he died with his tongue down his throat like a stone down a well. In the afternoon when he gets home from nursie-school (by the time he's old enough to know it's actually nursery school he will be out of it) he watches Million Dollar Movie in his room. On Million Dollar Movie they show exactly the same movie at exactly the same time-four o'clock-every day for a week. The week before his parents went away and Mrs. Greta Shaw stayed the night instead of going home
(O what bliss, for Mrs. Greta Shaw negates Discordia, can you say amen)
there was music from two directions every day, there were the oldies in the kitchen
(WCBS can you say God-bomb)
and on the TV James Cagney is strutting in a derby and singing about Harrigan-H-A-double R-I, Harrigan, that's me! Also the one about being a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam.
Then it's a new week, the week his folks are gone, and a new movie, and the first time he sees it it scares the living breathing shit out of him. This movie is called The Lost Continent, and it stars Mr.
Cesar Romero, and when Jake sees it again (at the advanced age often) he will wonder how he could ever have been afraid of such a stupid movie as that one. Because it's about explorers who get lost in the jungle, see, and there are dinosaurs in the jungle, and at four years of age he didn't realize the dinosaurs were nothing but fucking CARTOONS, no different from Tweety and Sylvester and Popeye the Sailor Man, uck-uckuck, cany a say Wimpy, can you give me Olive Oyl. The first dinosaur he sees is a triceratops that comes blundering out of the jungle, and the girl explorer
(Bodacious ta-tas, his father would undoubtedly have said, it's what his father always says about what Jake's mother calls A Certain Type Of Girl)
screams her lungs out, and Jake luould scream too if he could but his chest is locked down with terror, o here is Discordia incarnate! In the monster's eyes he sees the utter nothing that means the end of everything, for pleading won't work with such a monster and screaming won't work with such a monster, it's too dumb, all screaming does is attract the monster's attention, and does, it turns toward the Daisy Mae with the bodacious ta-tas and then it charges the Daisy Mae with the bodacious ta-tas, and in the kitchen (the mighty kitchen) he hears the Tokens, gone from the charts but not from our hearts, they are singing about the jungle, the peaceful jungle, and here in front of the little boy's huge horrified eyes is a jungle which is anything but peaceful, and it's not a lion but a lumbering thing that looks sort of like a rhinoceros only bigger, and it has a kind of bone collar around its neck, and later Jake will find out you call this kind of monster a triceratops, but for now it is nameless, which makes it even worse, nameless is worse. "Wimeioeh," sing the Tokens, "Weee-ummm-a-weh," and of course Cesar Romero shoots the monster just before it can tear the girl with the bodacious ta-tas limb from limb, which is good at the time, but that night the monster comes back, the triceratops comes back, it's in his closet, because even at four he understands that sometimes his closet isn't his closet, that its door can open on different places where there are worse things waiting.
He begins to scream, at night he can scream, and Mrs. Greta Shaw comes into the room. She sits on the edge of his bed, her face ghostly with blue-gray beautymud, and she asks him what's wrong 'Bama and he is actually able to tell her. He could never have told his father or mother, had one of them been there to begin with, which they of course aren % but he can tell Mrs. Shaw because while she isn't a lot different from the other help-the au pairs babysitters child minders schoolwalkers-she is a little different, enough to put his drawings on the fridge with the little magnets, enough to make all the difference, to hold up the tower of a silly little boy's sanity, say hallelujah, say found not lost, say amen.
She listens to everything he has to say, nodding, and makes him say tri-CER-a-TOPS until finally he gets it right. Getting it right is better.
And then she says, "Those things were real once, but they died out a hundred million years ago, 'Bama. Maybe even more. Now don't bother me any more because I need my sleep."
Jake watches The Lost Continent on Million Dollar Movie every day that week. Every time he watches it, it scares him a little less.
Once, Mrs. Greta Shaw comes in and watches part of it with him. She brings him his snack, a big bowl of Hawaiian Fluff (also one for herself) and sings him her wonderful little song: "A little snack that's far and wee, there's some for you and some for me, blackberry jam and blackberry tea." There are no blackberries in Hawaiian Fluff, of course, and they have the last of the Welch's Grape Juice to go with it instead of tea, but Mrs. Greta Shaw says it is the thought that counts. She has taught him to say Rooty-tooty-salutie before they drink, and to clink glasses.
Jake thinks that's the absolute coolest, the cat's ass.
Pretty soon the dinosaurs come. 'Bama and Mrs. Greta Shaw sit side by side, eating Hawaiian Fluff and watching as a big one (Mrs. Greta Shaw says you call that kind a Tyrannasorbet Wrecks) eats the bad explorer. "Cartoon dinosaurs," Mrs. Greta Shaw sniffs. "Wouldn't you think they could do better than that."As far as Jake is concerned, this is the most brilliant piece of film criticism he has ever heard in his life. Brilliant and useful.
Eventually his parents come back. Top Hat enjoys a week's run on Million Dollar Movie and littleJakie's night terrors are never mentioned.
Eventually he forgets his fear of the triceratops and the Tyrannasorbet.
Now, lying in the high green grass and peering into the misty clearing from between the leaves of a fern, Jake discovered that some things you neveriorgot.
Mind the mind-trap, Jochabim had said, and looking down at the lumbering dinosaur-a cartoon triceratops in a real jungle like an imaginary toad in a real garden-Jake realized that this was it. This was the mind-trap. The triceratops wasn't real no matter how fearsomely it might roar, no matter that Jake could actually smell it-the rank vegetation rotting in the soft folds where its stubby legs met its stomach, the shit caked to its vast armor-plated rear end, the endless cud drooling between its tusk-edged jaws-and hear its panting breath. It couldn'tbe real, it was a cartoon, for God's sake!
And yet he knew it was real enough to kill him. If he went down there, the cartoon triceratops would tear him apart just as it would have torn apart the Daisy Mae with die bodacious ta-tas if Cesar Romero hadn't appeared in time to put a bullet into the thing's One Vulnerable Spot with his big-game hunter's rifle.
Jake had gotten rid of the hand that had tried to monkey with his motor controls-had slammed all those doors so hard he'd chopped off the hand's intruding fingers, for all he knew-but this was different. He could not close his eyes and just walk by; that was a real monster his traitor mind had created, and it could really tear him apart.
There was no Cesar Romero here to keep it from happening.
No Roland, either.
There were only the low men, running his backtrail and getting closer all the time.
As if to emphasize this point, Oy looked back the way they'd come and barked once, piercingly loud.
The triceratops heard and roared in response. Jake expected Oy to shrink against him at that mighty sound, but Oy continued to look back over Jake's shoulder. It was the low men Oy was worried about, not the triceratops below them or the Tyrannasorbet Wrecks that might come next, or-
Because Oy doesn't see it, he thought.
He monkeyed with this idea and couldn't pull it apart. Oy hadn't smelled it or heard it, either. The conclusion was inescapable: to Oy the terrible triceratops in the mighty jungle below did not exist.
Which doesn't change the fact that it does to me. It's a trap that was set for me, or for anyone else equipped with an imagination who might happen along. Some gadget of the old people, no doubt. Too bad it's not broken like most of their other stuff, but it's not. I see what I see and there's nothing I can do about i-
No, wait.
Wait just a second.
Jake had no idea how good his mental connection tp Oy actually was, but thought he would soon find out.
The calling voices of the low men were now horribly close.
Soon they would see the boy and the bumbler stopped here and break into a charge. Oy could smell them coming but looked at Jake calmly enough anyway. At his beloved Jake, for whom he would die if called upon to do so.
"Oy, can you change places with me?"
It turned out that he could.
Oy tottered erect with Ake in his arms, swaying back and forth, horrified to discover how narrow the boy's range of balance was. The idea of walking even a short distance on but two legs was terribly daunting, yet it would have to be done, and done at once. Ake said so.
For his part, Jake knew he would have to shut the borrowed eyes he was looking through. He was in Oy's head but he could still see the triceratops; now he could also see a pterodactyl cruising the hot air above the clearing, its leathery wings stretched to catch the thermals blowing from the air-exchangers.
Oy! You have to do it on your own. And if we 're going to stay ahead of them you have to do it now.
Ake! Oy responded, and took a tentative step forward. The boy's body wavered from side to side, out to the very edge of balance and then beyond. Ake's stupid two-legs body tumbled sideways. Oy tried to save it and only made the tumble worse, going down on the boy's right side and bumping Ake's furry head.
Oy tried to bark his frustration. What came out of Ake's mouth was a stupid thing that was more word than sound:
"Bark! Ark! SAif-barkl"
"I hear him!" someone shouted. "Run! Come on, doubletime, you useless cunts! Before the little bastard gets to the door!"
Ake's ears weren't keen, but with the way the tile walls magnified sounds, that was no problem. Oy could hear their running footfalls.
"You have to get up and go.I" Jake tried to yell, and what came out was a garbled, barking sentence: "Ake-Ake, affal Up n go!"
Under other circumstances it might have been funny, but not under these.
Oy got up by putting Ake's back against the wall and pushing with Ake's legs. At last he was getting the hang of the motor controls; they were in a place Ake called Dogan and were fairly simple. Off to the left, however, an arched corridor led into a huge room filled with mirror-bright machinery. Oy knew that if he went into that place-the chamber where Ake kept all his marvelous thoughts and his store of words-he would be lost forever.
Luckily, he didn't need to. Everything he needed was in the Dogan. Left foot... forward. (And pause.) Right foot... forward.
(Andpause.) Hold die thing that looks like a billy-bumbler but is really your friend and use the other arm for balance.
Resist the urge to drop to all fours and crawl. The pursuers will catch up if he does that; he can no longer smell them (not Ake's amazingly stupid little bulb of a snout), but he is sure of it, all the same.
For his part, Jake could smell them clearly, at least a dozen and maybe as many as sixteen. Their bodies were perfect engines of stink, and they pushed the aroma ahead of them in a dirty cloud. He could smell the asparagus one had had for dinner; could smell the meaty, wrong aroma of the cancer which was growing in another, probably in his head but perhaps in his throat.
Then he heard the triceratops roar again. It was answered by the bird-thing riding the air overhead.
Jake closed his-well, Oy's-eyes. In the dark, the bumbler's side-to-side motion was even worse. Jake was concerned that if he had to put up with much of it (especially with his eyes shut), he would ralph his guts out. Just call him 'Bama the Seasick Sailor.
Go, Oy, he thought. Fast as you can. Don't fall down again, but... fast as you can!
Had Eddie been there, he might have been reminded of Mrs.
Mislaburski from up the block: Mrs. Mislaburski in February, after a sleet storm, when the sidewalk was glazed with ice and not yet salted down. But, ice or no ice, she would not be kept from her daily chop or bit offish at the Castle Avenue Market
(or from mass on Sunday, for Mrs. Mislaburski was perhaps the most devout Catholic in Co-Op City). So here she came, thick legs spread, candy-pink in their support hose, one arm clutching her purse to her immense bosom, the other held out for balance, head down, eyes searching for the islands of ashes where some responsible building super had already been out (Jesus and Mother Mary bless those good men), also for the treacherous patches that would defeat her, that would send her whoopsy with her large pink knees flying apart, and down she'd come on her sit-upon, or maybe on her back, a woman could break her spine, a woman could be paralyzed like poor Mrs. Bernstein's daughter that was in the car accident in Mamaroneck, such things happened. And so she ignored the catcalls of the children (Henry Dean and his little brother Eddie often among them) and went on her way, head down, arm outstretched for balance, sturdy black old lady's purse curled to her midsection, determined that if she did go whoopsymy-daisy she would protect her purse and its contents at all costs, would fall on it like Joe Namath falling on the football after a sack.
So did Oy of Mid-World walk the body of Jake along a stretch of underground corridor that looked (to him, at least) pretty much like all the rest. The only difference he could see was the three holes on either side, with big glass eyes looking out of them, eyes that made a low and constant humming sound.
In his arms was something that looked like a bumbler with its eyes squeezed tightly shut. Had they been open, Jake might have recognized these things as projecting devices. More likely he would not have seen them at all.
Walking slowly (Oy knew they were gaining, but he also knew that walking slowly was better than falling down), legs spread wide and shuffling along, holding Ake curled to his chest just as Mrs. Mislaburski had held her purse on those icy days, he made his way past the glass eyes. The hum faded. Was it far enough? He hoped so. Walking like a human was simply too hard, too nerve-wracking. So was being close to all of Ake's thinking machinery. He felt an urge to turn and look at it-all those bright mirror surfaces!-but didn't. To look might well bring on hypnosis. Or something worse.
He stopped. "Jake! Look! See!"
Jake tried to reply Okay and barked, instead. Pretty funny.
He cautiously opened his eyes and saw tiled wall on both sides.
There was grass and tiny sprays of fern still growing out of it, true enough, but it was tile. It was corridor. He looked behind him and saw the clearing. The triceratops had forgotten them.
It was locked in a battle to the death with the Tyrannasorbet, a scene he recalled with complete clarity from The Lost Continent.
The girl with the bodacious ta-tas had watched the battle from the safety of Cesar Romero's arms, and when the cartoon Tyrannasorbet had clamped its huge mouth over the triceratops's face in a death-bite, the girl had buried her own face against Cesar Romero's manly chest.
"Oy!"Jake barked, but barking was lame and he switched to thinking, instead.
Change back with me!
Oy was eager to comply-never had he wanted anything so much-but before they could effect the swap, the pursuers caught sight of them.
"Theah!" shouted the one with the Boston accent-he who had proclaimed that the Faddahwas dinnah. "Theah they aah!
Get em! Shoot em!"
And, as Jake and Oy switched their minds back into their proper bodies, the first bullets began to flick the air around them like snapping fingers.
The fellow leading the pursuers was a man named Flaherty. Of the seventeen of them, he was the only hume. The rest save one were low men and vampires. The last was a taheen with the head of an intelligent stoat and a pair of huge hairy legs protruding from Bermuda shorts. Below the legs were narrow feet that ended in brutally sharp thorns. A single kick from one of Lamia's feet could cut a full-grown man in half.
Flaherty-raised in Boston, for the last twenty years one of the King's men in a score of late-twentieth-century New Yorks-had put together his posse as fast as he could, in a nerve-roasting agony of fear and fury. Nothing gets into the Pig.
That was what Sayre had told Meiman. And anything that did get in was not, under any circumstances, to be allowed out.
That went double for the gunslinger or any of his ka-tet. Their meddling had long since passed the merely annoying stage, and you didn't have to be one of the elite to know it. But now Meiman, who had been called the Canary by his few friends, was dead and the kid had somehow gotten past them. A kid,for God's love! A fucking kid! But how were they to know that the two of them would have such a powerful totem as that turtle?
If the damn thing hadn't happened to bounce beneath one of the tables, it might be holding them in place still.
Flaherty knew it was true, but also knew that Sayre would never accept it as a valid argument. Would not even give him,
Flaherty, a chance to put it forward. No, he would be dead long before that, and the others, as well. Sprawled on the floor with the doctor-bugs gorging on their blood.
It was easy to say that the kid would be stopped at the door, that he wouldn't-couldn't-know any of the authorization phrases that opened it, but Flaherty no longer trusted such ideas, tempting as they might be. All bets were off, and Flaherty felt a soaring sense of relief when he saw the kid and his furry little pal stopped up ahead. Several of the posse fired, but missed.
Flaherty wasn't surprised. There was some sort of green area between them and the kid, a fucking swatch of jungle under the city was what it looked like, and a mist was rising, making it hard to aim. Plus some kind of ridiculous cartoon dinosaurs! One of them raised its blood-smeared head and roared at them, holding its tiny forepaws against its scaly chest.
Looks like a dragon, Flaherty thought, and before his eyes the cartoon dinosaur became-A dragon. It roared and spewed a jet of fire that set several dangling vines and a mat of hanging moss to burning. The kid, meanwhile, was on the move again.
Lamia, the stoat-headed taheen, pushed his way to the forefront and raised one furred fist to his forehead. Flaherty returned the salute impatiently. "What's down theah, Lam? Do you know?"
Flaherty himself had never been below the Pig. When he traveled on business, it was always between New Yorks, which meant using either the door on Forty-seventh Street between First and Second, the one in the eternally empty warehouse on Bleecker Street (only in some worlds that one was an eternally half-completed building), or the one way uptown on Ninetyfourth Street. (The last was now on the blink much of the time, and of course nobody knew how to fix it.) There were doors in the city-New York was lousy with portals to other wheres and whens-but those were the only ones that still worked.
And the one to Fedic, of course. The one up ahead.
"'Tis a mirage-maker," the stoat-thing said. Its voice was wet and rumbling and very far from human. "'Yon machine trolls for what ye fear and makes it real. Sayre would've turned it on when he and his tet passed with the blackskin jilly. To keep
"is backtrail safe, ye do ken."
Flaherty nodded. A mind-trap. Very clever. Yet how good was it, really? Somehow the cursed shitting boy had passed, hadn't he?
"Whatever the boy saw will turn into what we fear," the taheen said. "It works on imagination."
Imagination. Flaherty seized on the word. "Fine. Whatevah they see down theah, tell em to just ignore it."
He raised an arm to motion his men onward, greatly relieved by what Lam had told him. Because they had to press the chase, didn't they? Sayre (or Walter o' Dim, who was even worse) would very likely kill die lot of diem if they failed to stop yon snot-babby. And Flaherty really did?ear die idea of dragons, that was die odier uiing; had ever since his fadier had read him a story about such when he was a boy.
The taheen stopped him before he could complete the let's-go gesture.
"What now, Lam?" Flaherty snarled.
"You don't understand. What's down there is real enough to kill you. To kill all of us."
"What do you see, then?" This was no time to be curious, but that had always been Conor Flaherty's curse.
Lamia lowered his head. "I don't like to say. 'Tis bad enough. The point is, sai, we'll die down there if we're not careful.
What happened to you might look like a stroke or a heart attack to a cut-em-up man, but t'would be whatever you see down there. Anyone who doesn't diink die imagination can kill is a fool."
... The rest had gathered behind the taheen now. They were alternating glances into the hazy clearing with looks at Lamia.
Flaherty didn't like what he saw on their faces, not a bit. Rilling one or two of those least willing to veil their sullen eyes might restore the enthusiasm of the rest, but what good would that do if Lamia was right? Cursed old people, always leaving their toys behind! Dangerous toys! How they complicated a man's life! A pox on every last one!
"Then how do we get past?" Flaherty cried. "For that mattah, how did the brat get past?"
"Dunno about the brat," Lamia said, "but all we need to do is shoot the projectors."
"What shitting projectors?"
Lamia pointed below... or along the course of the corridor, if what the ugly bastard said was true. "There," Lam said. "I know you can't see em, but take my word for it, they're there.
Either side."
Flaherty was watching with a certain fascination as Jake's mistyjungle clearing continued to change before his eyes into the deep dark forest, as in Once upon a time when everyone lived in the deep dark forest and nobody lived anywhere else, a dragon came to rampage.
Flaherty didn't know what Lamia and the rest of them were seeing, but before his eyes the dragon (which had been a Tyrannasorbet Wrecks not so long ago) obediently rampaged, setting trees on fire and looking for little Catholic boys to eat.
"I see NOTHING!" he shouted at Lamia. "I think youah out of your shitting MIND!"
"I've seen em turned off," Lamia said quietly, "and can recall near about where they lie. If you'll let me bring up four men and set em shooting on either side, I don't believe it will take long to shut em down."
And what will Sayre say when I tell him we shot the hell out of his precious mind-trap?Flaherty could have said. What will Walter o"
Dim say, for that mattah? For what's roont can never be fixed, not by such as us who know hmu to rub two sticks together and make afire but not much more.
Could have said but didn't. Because getting the boy was more important than any antique gadget of the old people, even one as amazing as yon mind-trap. And Sayre was the one who turned it on, wasn't he? Say aye! If there was explaining to be done, let Sayre do it! Let him make his knee to the big boys and talk till they shut him up! Meanwhile, the gods-damned snot-babby continued to rebuild the lead that Flaherty (who'd had visions of being honored for stepping so promptly into the breach) and his men had so radically reduced. If only one of them had been lucky enough to hit the kid when he and his little furbag friend had been in view! Ah, but wish in one hand, shit in the other! See which one fills up first!
"Bring youah best shots," Flaherty said in his Back Bay/John F. Kennedy accent. "Have at it."
Lamia ordered three low men and one of the vamps forward, put two on each side, and talked to them rapidly in another language. Flaherty gathered that a couple of them had already been down here and, like Lam, remembered about where the projectors lay hidden in the walls.
Meanwhile, Flaherty's dragon-or, more properly speaking, his da's dragon-continued to rampage in the deep dark forest (the jungle was completely gone now) and set things on fire.
At last-although it seemed a very long time to Flaherty, it was probably less than thirty seconds-the sharpshooters began to fire. Almost immediately both forest and dragon paled before Flaherty's eyes, turned into something that looked like overexposed movie footage.
"That's one of em, cullies!" Lamia yelled in a voice that became unfortunately ovine when it was raised. "Pour it on! Pour it on for the love of your fathers!"
Half this crew probably never had such a thing, Flaherty thought morosely. Then came the clearly audible shatter-sound of breaking glass and the dragon froze in place with billows of flame issuing from its mouth and nostrils, as well as from the gills on the sides of its armored throat.
Encouraged, the sharpshooters began firing faster, and a few moments later the clearing and the frozen dragon both disappeared. Where they had been was only more tiled hallway, with the tracks of those who had recently passed diis way marking the dust. On either side were the shattered projector portals.
"All right!" Flaherty yelled after giving Lamia an approving nod. "Now we're going after the kid, and we're going to doubletime it, and we're going to catch him, and we're going to bring him back with his head on a stick! Are you with me?"
They roared savage agreement, none louder than Lamia, whose eyes glowed the same baleful yellow-orange as the dragon's breath.
"Good, then!" Flaherty set off, roaring a tune any Marine drill-corps would have recognized: "We don't care how far you run-"
"WE DON'T CARE HOW FAR YOU RUN!" they bawled back as they trotted four abreast through the place where Jake's jungle had been. Their feet crunched in the shattered glass.
"We'll bring you back before we're done!"
"You can run to Cain or Lud-"
"We'll eat your balls and drink your blood!"
They called it in return, and Flaherty picked lip tile pace yet a little more.
Jake heard them coming again, come-come-commala. Heard them promising to eat his balls and drink his blood.
Brag, brag, brag, he thought, but tried to r un faster, anyway.
He was alarmed to find he couldn't. Doing the mindswap with Oy had tired him out quite a little b-
Roland had taught him that self-deception was nothing but pride in disguise, an indulgence to be denied. Jake had done his best to heed this advice, and as a result admitted that "being tired" no longer described his situation. The stitch in his side had grown fangs that had sunk deep into his armpit. He knew he had gained on his pursuers; he also knew from the shouted cadence-chant that they were making up the distance they'd lost. Soon they would be shooting at him and Oy again, and while men didn't shoot for shit while they were running, someone could always get lucky.
Now he saw something up ahead, blocking the corridor. A door. As he approached it, Jake allowed himself to wonder what he'd do if Susannah wasn't on the other side. Or if she was there but didn't know how to help him.
Well, he and Oy would make a stand, that was all. No cover, no way to reenact Thermopylae Pass this time, but he'd throw plates and take heads until they brought him down.
If he needed to, that was.
Maybe he would not.
Jake pounded toward the door, his breath now hot in his throat-close to burning-and thought, It's just as well. I couldn't have run much further, anyway.
Oy got there first. He put his front paws on the ghostwood and looked up as if reading the words stamped into the door and the message flashing below them. Then he looked back at Jake, who came panting up with one hand pressed against his armpit and the remaining Orizas clanging loudly back and forth in their bag.
New York/Fedic Maximum Security VERBAL ENTRY CODE REQUIRED
He tried the doorknob, but that was only a formality. When the chilly metal refused to turn in his grip, he didn't bother trying again but hammered the heels of both hands against the wood, instead. "Susannah!" he shouted. "If you're there, let me in!"
Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin he heard his father say, and his mother, much more gravely, as if she knew storytelling was serious business: I heard a fly buzz,... when I died.
From behind the door there was nothing. From behind Jake, the chanting voices of the Crimson King's posse swept closer.
"Susannah!" he bawled, and when there was no answer this time he turned, pvit his back to the door (hadn't he always known it would end just this way, with his back to a locked door?), and seized an Oriza in each hand. Oy stood between his feet, and now his fur was bushed out, now the velvety-soft skin of his muzzle wrinkled back to show his teeth.
Jake crossed his arms, assuming "the load."
"Come on then, you bastards," he said. "For Gilead and the Eld. For Roland, son of Steven. For me and Oy."
At first he was too fiercely concentrated on dying well, of taking at least one of them with him (the fellow who'd told him the Faddahwas dinnahwould be his personal preference) and more if he could, to realize the voice he was hearing had come from the other side of the door rather than from his own mind.
"Jake! Is it really you, sugarpie?"
His eyes widened. Oh please let it not be a trick. If it was,
Jake reckoned that he would never be played another.
"Susannah, they're coming! Do you know how-"
"Yes! Should still be chassit, do you hear me? If Nigel's right, the word should still be cha-"
Jake didn't give her a chance to finish saying it again. Now he could see them sweeping toward him, running full-out.
Some waving guns and already shooting into the air.
"Chassit!" he yelled. "Chassit for the Tower! Open! Open, you son of a bitch!"
Behind his pressing back the door between New York and Fedic clicked open. At the head of the charging posse, Flaherty saw it happen, uttered the bitterest curse in his lexicon, and fired a single bullet. He was a good shot, and all the force of his not inconsiderable will went with diat particular slug, guiding it. No doubt it would have punched through Jake's forehead above the left eye, entering his brain and ending his life, not a strong, brown-fingered hand seized Jake by the collar at that very moment and yanked him backward through the shrill elevator-shaft whistle that sounds endlessly between the levels of the Dark Tower. The bullet buzzed by his head instead of entering it.
Oy came with him, barking his friend's name shrilly-
Ake-Ake, Ake-Ake!-and the door slammed shut behind them.
Flaherty reached it twenty seconds later and hammered on it until his fists bled (when Lamia tried to restrain him, Flaherty thrust him back with such ferocity that the taheen went asprawl),
but there was nothing he could do. Hammering did not work; cursing did not work; nothing worked.
At the very last minute, the boy and the bumbler had eluded them. For yet a little while longer the core of Roland's ka-tet remained unbroken.