Wizard and Glass
The Dark Tower IV
Excerpts for Webcast Reading
1. Jake reads a Topeka newspaper, Plume TP p. 72-73
"What in God's name...?" Susannah's whisper was both horrified and accusing. "What does it mean? What in God's name happened?"
Below the newspaper's name, taking up most of the front page's top half, were screaming black letters:
Govt. Leaders May Have Fled Country
Topeka Hospitals Jammed with Sick, Dying
Millions Pray for Cure
"Read it aloud," Roland said. "The letters are in your speech, I cannot make them all out, and I would know this story very well."
Jake looked at Eddie, who nodded impatiently.
Jake unfolded the newspaper, revealing a dot-picture (Roland had seen pictures of this type; they were called "fottergrafs") which shocked them all: it showed a lakeside city with its skyline in flames. CLEVELAND FIRES BURN UNCHECKED, the caption beneath read.
"Read, kid!" Eddie told him. Susannah said nothing; she was already reading the story the only one on the front page over his shoulder. Jake cleared his throat as if it were suddenly dry, and began.
"The byline says John Corcoran, plus staff and AP reports. That means a lot of different people worked on it, Roland. Okay. Here goes. 'America's greatest crisis and the world's, perhaps deepened overnight as the so-called superflu, known as Tube-Neck in the Midwest and Captain Trips in California, continues to spread.
"'Although the death-toll can only be estimated, medical experts say the total at this point is horrible beyond comprehension: twenty to thirty million dead in the continental U.S. alone is the estimate given by Dr. Morris Hackford of Topeka's St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Bodies are being burned from Los Angeles, California to Boston, Massachusetts, in crematoria, factory furnaces, and at landfill sites.
"'Here in Topeka, the bereaved who are still well enough and strong enough to do so are urged to take their dead to one of three sites: the disposal plant north of Oakland Billard Park; the pit area at Heartland Park Race Track; the landfill on Southeast Sixty-first Street, east of Forbes Field. Landfill users should approach by Berryton Road; California has been blocked by car wrecks and at least one downed Air Force transport plane, sources tell us.'"
Jake glanced up at his friends with frightened eyes, looked behind him at the silent railway station, then looked back down at the newspaper.
2. Roland (as Will Dearborn) meets Susan for the first time, Plume TP p. 142-143
He clucked sidemouth at the horse just as her da had always done (and she herself, of course) and it stopped at once. As he swung one leg over his saddle, lifting it high and with unconscious grace, Susan said: "Nay, nay, don't trouble yerself, stranger, but go as ye would!"
If he heard the alarm in her voice, he paid no heed to it. He slipped off the horse, not bothering with the tied-down stirrup, and landed neatly in front of her, the dust of the road puffing about his square-toed boots. By starlight she saw that he was young indeed, close to her own age on one side or the other. His clothes were those of a working cowboy, although new.
"Will Dearborn, at your service," he said, then doffed his hat, extended a foot on one bootheel, and bowed as they did in the Inner Baronies.
Such absurd courtliness out here in the middle of nowhere, with the acrid smell of the oilpatch on the edge of town already in her nostrils, startled her out of her fear and into a laugh. She thought it would likely offend him, but he smiled instead. A good smile, honest and artless, its inner part lined with even teeth.
She dropped him a little curtsey, holding out one side of her dress. "Susan Delgado, at yours."
He tapped his throat thrice with his right hand. "Thankee-sai, Susan Delgado. We're well met, I hope. I didn't mean to startle you--"
"Ye did, a little."
"Yes, I thought I had. I'm sorry."
Yes. Not aye but yes. A young man, from the Inner Baronies, by the sound. She looked at him with new interest.
"Nay, ye need not apologize, for I was deep in my own thoughts," she said. "I'd been to see ... a friend ... and hadn't realized how much time had passed until I saw the moon was down. If ye stopped out of concern, I thankee, stranger, but ye may be on yer way as I would be on mine. It's only to the edge of the village I go Hanbry. It's close now."
"Pretty speech and lovely sentiments," he answered with a grin, "but it's late, you're alone, and I think we may as well pass on together. Do you ride, sai?"
"Yes, but really--"
"Step over and meet my friend Rusher, then. He shall carry you the last two miles. He's gelded, sai, and gentle."
She looked at Will Dearborn with a mixture of amusement and irritation. The thought which crossed her mind was If he calls me sai again, as though I were a schoolteacher or his doddery old great aunt, I'm going to take off this stupid apron and swat him with it. "I never minded a bit of temper in a horse docile enough to wear a saddle. Until his death, my father managed the Mayor's horses...and the Mayor in these parts is also Guard o' Barony. I've ridden my whole life."
She thought he might apologize, perhaps even stutter, but he only nodded with a calm thoughtfulness that she rather liked. "Then step to the stirrup, my lady. I'll walk beside and trouble you with no conversation, if you'd rather not have it. It's late, and talk palls after moonset, some say."
She shook her head, softening her refusal with a smile. "Nay. I thank ye for yer kindness, but it would not be well, mayhap, for me to be seen riding a strange young man's horse at eleven o'clock. Lemon-juice won't take the stain out of a lady's reputation the way it will out of a shirt-waist, you know."
3. Standoff at the Travellers' Rest, Plume TP, p. 219-221
They talked about it in Hambry for years to come; three decades after the fall of Gilead and the end of the Affiliation, they were still talking. By that time there were better than five hundred old gaffers (and a few old gammers) claiming that they were drinking a beer in the Rest that night, and saw it all.
Depape was young, and had the speed of a snake. Nevertheless, he never came close to getting a shot off at Cuthbert Allgood. There was a thip-TWANG! As the elastic was released, a steel gleam that drew itself across the saloon's smoky air like a line on a slateboard, and then Depape screamed. His revolver tumbled to the floor, and a foot spun it away from him across the sawdust (no one would claim that foot while the Big Coffin Hunters were still in Hambry; hundreds claimed it after they were gone). Still screaming he could not bear pain Depape raised his bleeding hand and looked at it with agonized, unbelieving eyes. Actually, he had been lucky. Cuthbert's ball had smashed the tip of the second finger and torn off the nail. Lower, and Depape would have been able to blow smoke-rings through his own palm.
Cuthbert, meanwhile, had already reloaded the cup of his slingshot and drawn the elastic back again. "Now," he said, "if I have your attention, good sir--"
"I can't speak for his," Reynolds said from behind him, "but you got mine, partner. I don't know if you're good with that thing or just shitass lucky, but either way, you're done with it now. Relax the draw on it and put it down. That table in front of you's the place I want to see it."
"I've been blindsided," Cuthbert said sadly. "Betrayed once more by my own callow youth."
"I don't know nothing about your callow youth, brother, but you've been blindsided, all right," Reynolds agreed. He stood behind and slightly to the left of Cuthbert, and now he moved his gun forward until the boy could feel the muzzle against the back of his head. Reynolds thumbed the hammer. In the pool of silence which the Travellers' Rest had become, the sound was very loud. "Now put that twanger down."
"I think, good sir, that I must offer my regrets and decline."
"You see, I've got my trusty sling aimed at your pleasant friend's head--" Cuthbert began, and when Depape shifted uneasily against the bar, Cuthbert's voice rose in a whipcrack that did not sound callow in the least. "Stand still! Move again and you're a dead man!"
Depape subsided, holding his bloody hand against his pine-tacky shirt. For the first time he looked frightened, and for the first time that night for the first time since hooking up with Jonas, in fact Reynolds felt mastery of the situation on the verge of slipping away...except how could it be? How could it be when he'd been able to circle around this smart-talking squint and get the drop on him? This should be over.
Lowering his voice to his former conversational not to say playful pitch, Cuthbert said: "If you shoot me, the ball flies and your friend dies, too."
"I don't believe that," Reynolds said, but he didn't like what he heard in his own voice. It sounded like doubt. "No man could make a shot like that."
"Why don't we let your friend decide?" Cuthbert raised his voice in a good-humored hail. "Hi-ho, there, Mr. Spectacles! Would you like your pal to shoot me?"
"No!" Depape's cry was shrill, verging on panic. "No, Clay! Don't shoot!"
"So it's a standoff," Reynolds said, bemused. And then bemusement changed to horror as he felt the blade of a very large knife slip against his throat. It pressed the tender skin just over his adam's apple.
"No it's not," Alain said softly. "Put the gun down, my friend, or I'll cut your throat."
4. Roland and Cuthbert match words, Plume TP, p. 399-400
There was a lot of damage to look at. As you expected, Cuthbert thought, gazing at Roland. Then he turned to Alain, who appeared gloomy but not really surprised. As you both expected.
Roland bent toward one of the dead pigeons, and plucked at something so fine Cuthbert at first couldn't see what it was. Then he straightened up and held it out to his friends. A single hair. Very long, very white. He opened the pinch of his thumb and forefinger and let it waft to the floor. There it lay amid the shredded remains of Cuthbert Allgood's mother and father.
"If you knew that old corbie was here, why didn't we come back and end his breath?" Cuthbert heard himself ask.
"Because the time was wrong," Roland said mildly.
"He would have done it, had it been one of us in his place, destroying his things."
"We're not like him," Roland said mildly.
"I'm going to find him and blow his teeth out the back of his head."
"Not at all," Roland said mildly.
If Bert had to listen to one more mild word from Roland's mouth, he would run mad. All thoughts of fellowship and ka-tet left his mind, which sank back into his body and was at once obliterated by simple red fury. Jonas had been here. Jonas had pissed on their clothes, called Alain's mother a cunt, torn up their most treasured pictures, painted childish obscenities on their walls, killed their pigeons. Roland had known...done nothing...intended to continue doing nothing. Except fuck his gilly-girl. He would do plenty of that, aye, because now that was all he cared about.
But she won't like the look of your face the next time you climb into the saddle, Cuthbert thought. I'll see to that.
He drew back his fist. Alain caught his wrist. Roland turned away and began picking up scattered blankets, as if Cuthbert's furious face and cocked fist were simply of no account to him.
Cuthbert balled up his other fist, meaning to make Alain let go of him, one way or the other, but the sight of his friend's round and honest face, so guileless and dismayed, quieted his rage a little. His argument wasn't with Alain. Cuthbert was sure the other boy had known something bad was happening here, but he was also sure that Roland had insisted Alain do nothing until Jonas was gone.
"Come with me," Alain muttered, slinging an arm around Bert's shoulders. "Outside. For your father's sake, come. You have to cool off. This is no time to be fighting among ourselves."
"It's no time for our leader's brains to drain down into his prick, either." Cuthbert said, making no effort to lower his voice. But the second time Alain tugged him, Bert allowed himself to be led toward the door.
I'll stay my rage at him this one last time, he thought, but I think I know that is all I can manage. I'll have Alain tell him so.
The idea of using Alain as a go-between to his best friend of knowing that things had come to such a pass filled Cuthbert with angry, despairing rage, and at the door to the porch he turned back to Roland. "She has made you a coward," he said in the High Speech. Beside him, Alain drew his breath sharply.
Roland stopped as if suddenly turned to stone, his back to them, his arms full of blankets. In that moment Cuthbert was sure Roland would turn and rush toward him. They would fight, likely until one of them was dead or blind or unconscious. Likely that one would be him, but he no longer cared.
But Roland never turned. Instead, in the same speech, he said: "He came to steal our guile and our caution. With you, he has succeeded."
"No," Cuthbert said, lapsing back into the low speech. "I know that part of you really believes that, but it's not so. The truth is, you've lost your compass. You've called your carelessness love and made a virtue of irresponsibility. I--"
"For gods' sake, come!" Alain nearly snarled, and yanked him out the door.
5. Roland runs into Randall Flagg, Plume TP p. 648-649
"That six-shooter will do you no good, as I think you know," the man on the throne said. "Not against me. Only misfires against me, Roland, old fellow. How's the family, by the way? I seem to have lost touch with them over the years. I was always such a lousy correspondent. Someone ought to take a hosswhip to me, aye, so they should!"
He threw back his head and laughed. Roland pulled the trigger of the gun in his hand. When the hammer fell there was only a dull click.
"Toadjer," the man on the throne said. "I think you must have gotten some of those wet slugs in there by accident, don't you? The ones with the flat powder? Good for blocking the sound of the thinny, but not so good for shooting old wizards, are they? Too bad. And your hand, Roland, look at your hand! Short a couple of fingers, by the look. My, this has been hard on you, hasn't it? Things could get easier, though. You and your friends could have a fine, fruitful life and, as Jake would say, that is the truth. No more lobstrosities, no more mad trains, no more disquieting not to mention dangerous trips to other worlds. All you have to do is give over the stupid and hopeless quest for the Tower."
"No," Eddie said.
"No," Susannah said.
"No," Jake said.
"No!" Oy said, and added a bark.
The dark man on the green throne continued to smile, unperturbed. "Roland?" he asked. "What about you?" Slowly, he raised the drawstring bag. It looked dusty and old. It hung from the wizard's fist like a teardrop, and now the thing in its pouch began to pulse with pink light. "Cry off, and they never see what's inside this they need never see the last scene of that sad long-ago play. Cry off. Turn from the Tower and go your way."
"No," Roland said. He began to smile, and as his smile broadened, that of the man sitting on the throne began to falter. "You can enchant my guns, those of this world, I reckon," he said.
"Roland, I don't know what you're thinking of, laddie, but I warn you not to--"
"Not to cross Oz the Great? Oz the Powerful? But I think I will Marten ... or Maerlyn ... or whoever you call yourself now ..."
"Flagg, actually," the man on the throne said. "And we've met before." He smiled. Instead of broadening his face, as smiles usually did, it contracted Flagg's features into a narrow and spiteful grimace. "In the wreck of Gilead. You and your surviving pals that laughing donkey Cuthbert Allgood made one of your party, I remember, and DeCurry, the fellow with the birthmark, made another were on your way west, to seek the Tower. Or, in the parlance of Jake's world, you were off to see the Wizard. I know you saw me, but I doubt you knew until now that I saw you, as well."
"And will again, I reckon," Roland said. "Unless, that is, I kill you know and put an end to your interference."
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