by Stephen King
As Roland entered town he heard “Hey Jude” being played on a bar piano. Roland placed his mule at the stable. He went to Sheb’s, a honky tonk for a burger. The barmaid had a lumpy powdered face. Roland ate meat and paid in gold. When he finished he felt a hand on his shoulder. The man was not only smoking the devil grass but eating it. His teeth were green. Then Roland realized the man was actually dead. The man in black had done this.
The dead man named Nort spoke to Roland in the High Speech of Gilead. This interaction caused a disturbance and the woman became upset because everyone in the bar left.
Roland wanted to know about how the dead man had been made alive by the man in black.
Nort died from eating the devil weed. Roland demanded Allie, the barmaid, to tell him about the man who made Nort alive after he had died. Allie told Roland that the man in black came in with a hooded coat. He ordered whiskey from Allie and began laughing. He went over to Nort who had died earlier that morning and was laid out in the bar. There he spit onto Nort and Nort came to life. Everyone ran out and Allie ran upstairs. That evening she returned to the bar and only Nort was there. He complained about still needing the weed but knew he had been touched by God. Nort had a note for Allie from the man in black. It said if Allie wanted to know what Death was to say the word “nineteen” to Nort. She vowed never to say that word.
Roland believed the man in black Walter o’ Dim had left a trap for him. Roland stayed awhile and Allie slept. Allie couldn’t tell Roland what was beyond the desert so he went to the stable. Jubal Kennerly, the stable keeper, was toothless and abused and molested his daughters. Kennerly couldn’t tell Roland more about the desert other than it was very large with mountains on the other side. Some said there was an ocean with monsters.
Sheb kicked in Allie’s door screaming, “She was mine first!” He lunged at Roland with a knife and Roland grabbed his wrist and broke them both. Roland now recognized Sheb as being at the bonfire with Susan. Sheb said Roland was just a boy and couldn’t possibly remember. Roland made Sheb leave.
The next night was preaching by a huge woman who questioned the group to consider The Interloper Roland.
The next day Roland went to see the huge woman. He believed she was the trap Walter had left for him. Her name was Sylvia Pittston. She wouldn’t answer the door so Roland kicked it in. He demanded to know what was on the other side of the desert. He held her with his gun and she told him mountains. The man in black will stop on the other side of the mountains to meditate.
Roland went to Kennerly’s to get his horse and one of Kennerly’s daughters Soobie tried to hit Roland with a log. Roland wanted his mule. Kennerly was amazed Roland didn’t kill him.
Roland didn’t think he could avoid the trap. The man in black had played God in Tull. Dozens of people attacked Roland in the street with knives and sticks. Allie attacked Roland. She said the word nineteen and she was crazy. Roland shot and killed Allied first then Sheb. He ran and shot through sticks and knives. Re-loaded. They chased him into a general store and he killed his attackers. Sylvia Pittston was yelling telling the attackers to kill Roland. Roland realized he had been screaming the whole time. Sylvia screamed evil names and attacked Roland. He shot her. Then he was stabbed and cut by children and adults. Roland kept shooting. It was quiet. He had twenty shallow wounds and one deep one on his calf. Thirty-nine people were dead. Roland slept in Allie’s bed and left the next morning with his mule.
Brown asked if Roland felt better now that he had told his story. Brown fed Roland and he left with full water skins and his guns in place without his mule.
That first night in the desert Roland dreamed of Cort and Susan and knew all his friends were dead. Roland was the only one left since “the world had moved on”.
Cuthbert and Roland went to the kitchen to see the cook Hax for food. They were supposed to fast but knew Hax would feed them. As the boys ate their pie under the stairs, Roland and Cuthbert overheard a guard and Hax plan to poison the meat. Roland told his father not because they were planning treason but because he wanted Hax and the guard dead. Roland’s father told him he was not quick like Cuthbert but he would be formidable. Hax and the guard would hang. Roland wanted to see it happen. They were gathered on Gallows Hill. Cuthbert said he couldn’t watch but Roland told him he could. The people began to arrive. A gunslinger who drew the black stone hung Hax. Cuthbert and Roland distributed bread under the hanging body and now there were thousands of birds.
The land fell to the good man five years later. Then Roland was a gunslinger. His father was dead and Roland had killed his mother – the world had moved on.
Roland saw the man in black climbing a wall up the mountains. They would catch up to him on the other side of the mountains.
Jake was gone. Roland followed Jake’s track in the dew and smelled the child’s scent. He found a circle of large black stones. Jake was inside the circle. Roland felt the Oracle’s presence. Jake collapsed. Roland picked him up and carried him back to camp. He hugged Jake and kissed his cheek.
Roland had tied Jake to a bush. When Jake woke he was upset. He didn’t know he had left nor did he remember the Oracle. Roland showed him the jawbone and told Jake to stay in camp and hold the jawbone. No matter what, Jake was not to leave camp. Roland said he had to go away for awhile.
The stones in the circle were ancient. Roland took a drug that wakes him up all the way. He calls it mescaline. Jake gave Roland his shirt and he sewed it. He felt the drug left to see the Oracle. She told him there will be three. The three are the way to the Tower. One will be addicted to heroin. The other will be on wheels. The man in black ate the soul of Martin. Jake is Roland’s key to the man in black. Roland let her have him. He eventually left feeling defiled.
Jake was huddled at the fire and hanging on the jawbone. They ate rabbit again and continued to climb the mountain. That night they tied themselves down so they wouldn’t fall off. Jake asked why he couldn’t remember his previous life in New York. Roland explained the man in black drew him here. About the Tower, Roland commented, it was a nexus in time. They climbed. Both of them knew Roland was going to kill Jake. Roland lied and told Jake he would be OK. Around a bend they saw the man in black only twenty feet away. The man in black told Roland they would have great council on the other side of the mountains. Roland would get many answers there from the man in black. It had been twelve years since Roland had last seen him. The man in black left. Roland and Jake went to the mountain pool where the man in black had been standing. Then Roland knew that Jake was just a tool for Roland to get what he wanted. Jake also knew. Roland told him, “Stay or go.” Jake, knowing his death was near, went with the Gunslinger.
Three years after the hanging, Roland went to his mother’s apartment. Roland was fourteen years old. He seldom saw his mother. He hated Martin, his father’s lead advisor. His mother inquired about his friends and his hawk David. Martin was nasty and told Roland to leave. He heard Martin slap his mother. Roland went to his test. Roland kicked Cort’s door open then kicked the table. Roland yelled at Cort, “I want you Cort!” Cort said Roland was two years early. Cort came out to the field and asked Roland if he had his weapon. Roland said he did. Roland released David and he flew high then dove and hit Cort’s face ripping it open. Cort broke the bird’s wings. Cort attacked Roland. David stuck his talon into Cort’s face again ripping it. Roland attacked Cort and beat him down. Cort broke David’s back but the hawk still held on. Roland broke Cort’s nose. Finally Cort relinquished and granted Roland his position as a Gunslinger. Roland called for two nurses. Cort would remain in a coma for a week.
Jake and Roland continued through the dark black tunnel. They saw a glowing green shape along the railroad track. Then they saw three more of them. Roland identified them as slow mutants. The mutants scrambled to get at them. They had blocked the railroad with rocks. Jake had to get down and clear the rocks. Roland shot at the mutants covering Jake. He got the rocks clear, hopped back on the hand car and Roland pushed harder and faster than ever. Jake told him he could slow down but Roland just kept pushing. They traveled for days. Once they came upon an old station with many train tracks and mummies from a gas death long ago. They heard the perpetual engines that pushed the fresh air. They continued and entered areas of phosphorescent rocks. Then they were on an old trestle. Roland tried to save Jake from falling off the trestle. Jake told Roland, “Go on. There are other worlds than these.” When Jake fell he didn’t cry out. Roland climbed down the hill to where the man in black waited. They were going to council.
The man in black said he was only a tool for the real power that Roland searched for. The man in black brought light to the night then water flowed. The land came out of the water as volcanoes. Then he added plants and trees and dinosaurs. Tropical rainforest appeared. Now man developed and continents took shape on a curve. Then a voice, “Let there be light.” Planets spun by with moons and ringed worlds. The man in black told Roland to stop his quest. Roland said, “No!” Then there was light and Roland saw something important. There was a great white light and a blade of purple grass.
Walter o’ Dim was gone. Then the man in black called to him from behind him. Roland asked what the vision was. The Universe. Roland did not know the meaning of the word. The man in black continued. I made your father and broke him. I came to your mother as Martin but she never broke. He who now rules the Dark Tower has the man in black as his furtherest minion. “Earth has been given to that king’s red hand.” Roland did not understand what red meant. The man in black told Roland, “This is the beginning’s end.” Size encompasses space. The Tower encompasses size. This universe could be one atom on a blade of grass. When we say the world has moved on maybe we mean the blade of grass had been cut and our world is drying up. Size. Suppose all worlds met in a Tower or nexus. Would you climb to the top to one room? You Roland dare not. The man in black told Roland he had to draw three. Roland had the power in him. Roland was to travel through a twenty mile desert to the ocean where he was to find the beginning. Roland slept. When he woke he was ten years older. His hair had thinned. His face was rougher and had deeper lines. The skeleton next to Roland was that of the man in black maybe.
As Roland left the place where he had held council with the man in black
he exclaimed, “I loved you Jake.” and started across the desert.
The end of that day he was on the beach of the ocean. There on the beach
the Gunslinger waited for the time of the drawing and dreamed of the Dark
by Brenda Krekeler