When Roland saw the lobster-things coming out of the waves again (their coming had nothing to do with tide, then; it was the dark that brought them), he left Eddie Dean to move himself before the creatures could find and eat him.
The pain he had expected and was prepared for. He had lived with pain so long it was almost an old friend. He was appalled, however, by the rapidity with which his fever had increased and his strength decreased. If he had not been dying before, he most assuredly was now. Was there something powerful enough in the prisoner’s world to keep that from happening? Perhaps. But if he didn’t get some of it within the next six or eight hours, he thought it wouldn’t matter. If things went much further, no medicine or magic in that world or any other that would make him well again.
Walking was impossible. He would have to crawl.
He was getting ready to start when his eye fixed upon the twisted band of sticky stuff and the bags of devil-powder. If he left the stuff here, the lobstrosities would almost surely tear the bags open. The sea-breeze would scatter the powder to the four winds. Which is where it belongs, the gunslinger thought grimly, but he couldn’t allow it. When the time came, Eddie Dean would be in a long tub of trouble if he couldn’t produce that powder. It was rarely possible to bluff men of the sort he guessed this Balazar to be. He would want to see what he had paid for, and until he saw it Eddie would have enough guns pointed at him to equip a small army.
The gunslinger pulled the twisted rope of glue-string over to him and slung it over his neck. Then he began to work his way up the beach.
He had crawled twenty yards almost far enough to consider himself safe, he judged when the horrible (yet cosmically funny) funny realization that he was leaving the doorway behind came to him. What in God’s name was he going through this for?
He turned his head and saw the doorway, not down on the beach, but three feet behind him. For a moment Roland could only stare, and realize what he would have known already, if not for the fever and the sound of the Inquisitors, drumming their ceaseless questions at Eddie, Where did you, how did you, why did you, when did you (questions that seemed to merge eerily with the questions of the scrabbling horrors that came crawling and wriggling out of the waves: Dad-a-chock? Dad-a-chum? Did-a-chick?), as mere delirium. Not so.
Now I take it with me everywhere I go, he thought, just as he does. It comes with us everywhere now, following like a curse you can never get rid of.
All of this felt so true as to be unquestionable … and so did one other thing.
If the door between them should close, it would be closed forever.
When that happens, Roland thought grimly, he must be on this side. With me.
What a paragon of virtue you are, gunslinger! the man in black laughed. He seemed to have taken up permanent residence inside Roland’s head. You have killed the boy; that was the sacrifice that enabled you to catch me and, I suppose, to create the door between worlds. Now you intend to draw your three, one by one, and condemn all of them to something you would not have for yourself: a lifetime in an alien world, where they may die as easily as animals in a zoo set free in a wild place.
The Tower, Roland thought wildly. Once I’ve gotten to the Tower and done whatever it is I’m supposed to do there, accomplished whatever fundamental act of restoration or redemption for which I was meant, then perhaps they…
But the shrieking laughter of the man in black, the man who was dead but lived on as the gunslinger’s stained conscience, would not let him go on with the thought.
Neither, however, could the thought of the treachery he contemplated turn him aside from his course.
He managed another ten yards, looked back, and saw that even the largest of the crawling monsters would venture no further than twenty feet above the high-tide line. He had already managed three times that distance.
It’s well, then.
Nothing is well, the man in black replied merrily, and you know it.
Shut up, the gunslinger thought, and for a wonder, the voice actually did.
Roland pushed the bags of devil-dust into the cleft between two rocks and covered them with handfuls of sparse saw-grass. With that done he rested briefly, head thumping like a hot bag of waters, skin alternately hot and cold, then rolled back through the doorway into that other world, that other body, leaving the increasing deadly infection behind for a little while.
The second time he returned to himself, he entered a body so deeply asleep that he thought for a moment it had entered a comatose state … a state of such lowered bodily function that in moments he would feel his own consciousness start down a long slide into darkness.
Instead, he forced his body toward wakefulness, punched and pummelled it out of the dark cave into which it had crawled. He made his heart speed up, made his nerves re-accept the pain that sizzled through his skin and woke his flesh to groaning reality.
It was night now. The stars were out. The popkin-things Eddie had bought him were small bits of warmth in the chill.
He didn’t feel like eating them, but eat them he would. First, though …
He looked at the white pills in his hand. Astin, Eddie called it. No, that wasn’t quite right, but Roland couldn’t pronounce the word as the prisoner had said it. Medicine was what it came down to. Medicine from that other world.
If anything from your world is going to do for me, Prisoner, Roland thought grimly, I think it’s more apt to be your potions than your popkins.
Still, he would have to try it. Not the stuff he really needed…or so Eddie believed..but something which might reduce his fever.
Three now, three later. If there is a later.
He put three of the pills in his mouth, then pushed the cover..some strange white stuff that was neither paper nor glass but which seemed a bit like both..off the paper cup which held the drink, and washed them down.
The first swallow amazed him so completely that for a moment he only lay there, propped against a rock, his eyes so wide and still and full of reflected starlight that he would surely have been taken for dead already by anyone who happened to pass by. Then he drank greedily, holding the cup in both hands, the rotted, pulsing hurt in the stumps of his fingers barely noticed in his total absorption with the drink.
Sweet! Gods, such sweetness! Such sweetness! Such..
One of the small flat ice cubes in the drink caught in his throat. He coughed, pounded his chest, and choked it out. Now there was a new pain in his head: the silvery pain that comes with drinking something too cold too fast.
He lay still, feeling his heart pumping like a runaway engine, feeling fresh energy surge into his body so fast he felt as if he might actually explode. Without thinking of what he was doing, he tore another piece from his shirt soon it would be no more than a rag hanging around his neck and laid it across one leg. When the drink was gone he would pour the ice into the rag and make a pack for his wounded hand. But his mind was elsewhere.
Sweet! it cried out again and again, trying to get the sense of it, or to convince itself there was sense in it, much as Eddie had tried to convince himself of the other as an actual being and not some mental convulsion that was only another part of himself trying to trick him. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
The dark drink was laced with sugar, even more than Marten who had been a great glutton behind his grave ascetic’s exterior had put in his coffee in mornings and at ‘Downers.
Sugar …white …powder …
The gunslinger’s eyes wandered to the bags, barely visible under the grass he had tossed over them, and wondered briefly if the stuff in this drink and the stuff in the bags might be one and the same. He knew that Eddie had understood him perfectly over here, where they were two separate physical creatures; he suspected that if he had crossed bodily to Eddie’s world (and he understood instinctively it could be done … although if the door should shut while he was there, he would be there forever, as Eddie would be here forever if their positions were reversed), he would have understood the language just as perfectly. He knew from being in Eddie’s mind that the languages of the two worlds were similar to begin with. Similar, but not the same. Here a sandwich was a popkin. There to rustle was finding something to eat. So … was it not possible that the drug Eddie called cocaine was, in the gunslinger’s world, called sugar?
Reconsideration made it seem unlikely. Eddie had bought this drink openly, knowing that he was being watched by people who served the Priests of Customs. Further, Roland sensed he had paid comparatively little for it. Less, even, than for the popkins of meat. No, sugar was not cocaine, but Roland could not understand why anyone would want cocaine or any other illegal drug, for that matter, in a world where such a powerful one as sugar was so plentiful and cheap.
He looked at the meat popkins again, felt the first stirrings of hunger … and realized with amazement and confused thankfulness that he felt better.
The drink? Was that it? The sugar in the drink?
That might be part of it but a small part. Sugar could revive one’s strength for awhile when it was flagging; this was something he had known since he was a child. But sugar could not dull pain or damp the fever-fire in your body when some infection had turned it into a furnace. All the same, that was exactly what had happened to him … was still happening.
The convulsive shuddering had stopped. The sweat was drying on his brow. The fishhooks which had lined his throat seemed to be disappearing. Incredible as it was, it was also an inarguable fact, not just imagination or wishful thinking (in point of fact, the gunslinger had not been capable of such frivolity as the latter in unknown and unknowable decades). His missing fingers and toes still throbbed and roared, but he believed even these pains to be muted.
Roland put his head back, closed his eyes and thanked God.
God and Eddie Dean.
I’m in a difficult mood right now. I am furiously angry but I also want to cry. Part of this, I know, is due to the fact that I am giving up another substance at the moment, and I am finding this extremely difficult. I am giving up soda. This may seem trivial and easily done, for many who are in recovery and for some who aren’t. It isn’t easy for me though. I’ve tried probably hundreds of times. This is the first part of a larger, almost inconceivable plan to give up sugar.
Also, I’m yet again having relationship problems with Husband. He doesn’t understand mt struggle I know, but some days it hurts and infuriates me that he won’t even try to show some concern, empathy something.
And.. Son is exhibiting signs of severe anxiety again, when we were doing so well! We had a great day yesterday but he had two near panic attacks. Once at at the Back to School BBQ when he became convinced the baby chicken he was holding was going to hurt him and then later in the evening, driving home from a friend’s birthday party. It was storming out and he voiced his concern that we would get struck by the lightning we saw. Husband and I tried to reassure him but only seemed to make things worse so that by the time we were home and he had to get out of the car, he was practically in tears and he sprinted for the house in a spreed I have never seen him move,
This seems out of the blue! I thought we had gotten past this point. We were all doing so well together. Now I feel simultaneously unsure of how to help him and 100% sure that Husband’s way of dealing with this is doing more harm than good.
Lastly, I have been preparing a post on my drug addiction. It is much more slow, difficult process than any of my other blog posts were. I know it’s important for me to share but it’s so hard still.