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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
32
   ROLAND HEARD IT FAINTLY even through the twin doors—Oy, no!—and his heart sank. He waited for the valve-wheel to turn, but it did not. He closed his eyes and sent with all his might: The door, Jake! Open the door!
   He sensed no response, and the pictures were gone. His communica­tion line with Jake, flimsy to begin with, had now been severed.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
33
   THE TICK-TOCK MAN blundered backward, cursing and screaming and grabbing at the writhing, biting, digging thing on his face. He felt Oy's claws punch into his left eye, popping it, and a horrible red pain sank into his head like a flaming torch thrown down a deep well. At that point, rage overwhelmed pain. He seized Oy, tore him off his face, and held him over his head, meaning to twist him like a rag.
   "No!" Jake wailed. He forgot about the button which unlocked the doors and seized the gun hanging from the back of the chair.
   Tilly shrieked. The others scattered. Jake levelled the old German machine-gun at the Tick-Tock Man. Oy, upside down in those huge, strong hands and bent almost to the snapping point, writhed madly and slashed his teeth into the air. He shrieked in agony—a horribly human sound.
   “Leave him alone, you bastard!" Jake screamed, and pressed the trigger.
   He had enough presence of mind left to aim low. The roar of the Schmeisser .40 was ear-splitting in the enclosed space, although it fired only five or six rounds. One of the lighted tubes popped in a burst of cold orange fire. A hole appeared an inch above the left knee of the Tick-Tock Man's tight-fitting trousers, and a dark red stain began to spread at once. Tick-Tock's mouth opened in a shocked O of surprise, an expression which said more clearly than words could have done that, for all his intelligence, Tick-Tock had expected to live a long, happy life where he shot people but was never shot himself. Shot at, perhaps, but actually hit? That surprised expression said that just wasn't supposed to be in the cards.
   Welcome to the real world, you fuck, Jake thought.
   Tick-Tock dropped Oy to the iron grillework floor to grab at his wounded leg. Copperhead lunged at Jake, got an arm around his throat, and then Oy was on him, barking shrilly and chewing at Copperhead's ankle through the black silk pants. Copperhead screamed and danced away, shaking Oy back and forth at the end of his leg. Oy clung like a limpet. Jake turned to see the Tick-Tock Man crawling toward him. He had retrieved his knife and the blade was now clamped between his teeth.
   "Goodbye, Ticky," Jake said, and pressed the Schmeisser's trigger again. Nothing happened. Jake didn't know if it was empty or jammed, and this was hardly the time to speculate. He took two steps backward before finding further retreat blocked by the big chair which had served the Tick-Tock Man as a throne. Before he could slip around, putting the chair between them, Tick-Tock had grabbed his ankle. His other hand went to the hilt of his knife. The ruins of his left eye lay on his cheek like a glob of mint jelly; the right eye glared up at Jake with insane hatred.
   Jake tried to pull away from the clutching hand and went sprawling on the Tick-Tock man's throne. His eye fell on a pocket which had been sewn into the right-hand arm-rest. Jutting from the elasticized top was the cracked pearl handle of a revolver.
   "Oh, cully, how you'll suffer!" the Tick-Tock Man whispered ecstati­cally. The O of surprise had been replaced by a wide, trembling grin. "Oh how you'll suffer! And how happy I'll be to … What—?"
   The grin slackened and the surprised O began to reappear as Jake pointed the cheesy nickel-plated revolver at him and thumbed back the hammer. The grip on Jake's ankle tightened until it seemed to him that the bones there must snap.
   "You dasn't!" Tick-Tock said in a screamy whisper.
   "Yes I do," Jake said grimly, and pulled the trigger of the Tick-Tock Man's runout gun. There was a Hat crack, much less dramatic than the Schmeisser's Teutonic roar. A small black hole appeared high up on the right side of Tick-Tock's forehead. The Tick-Tock Man went on staring up at Jake, disbelief in his remaining eye.
   Jake tried to make himself shoot him again and couldn't do it.
   Suddenly a flap of the Tick-Tock Man's scalp peeled away like old wallpaper and dropped on his right cheek. Roland would have known what this meant; Jake, however, was now almost beyond coherent thought. A dark, panicky horror was spinning across his mind like a tornado funnel. He cringed back in the big chair as the hand on his ankle fell away and the Tick-Tock Man collapsed forward on his face.
   The door. He had to open the door and let the gunslinger in.
   Focusing on that and nothing but, Jake let the pearl-handled revolver clatter to the iron grating and pushed himself out of the chair. He was reaching again for the button he thought he had seen Tick-Tock push when a pair of hands settled around his throat and dragged him back­ward, away from the podium.
   "I said I'd kill you for it, my narsty little pal," a voice whispered in his ear, "and the Gasherman always keeps his promises."
   Jake flailed behind him with both hands and found nothing but thin air. Gasher's fingers sank into his throat, choking relentlessly. The world started to turn gray in front of his eyes. Gray quickly deepened to purple, and purple to black.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
34
   A PUMP STARTED UP, and the valve-wheel in the center of the hatch spun rapidly. Gods be thanked! Roland thought. He seized the wheel with his right hand almost before it had stopped moving and yanked it open. The other door was ajar; from beyond it came the sounds of men fighting and Oy's bark, now shrill with pain and fury.
   Roland kicked the door open with his boot and saw Gasher throttling Jake. Oy had left Copperhead and was now trying to make Gasher let go of Jake, but Gasher's boot was doing double duty: protecting its owner from the bumbler's teeth, and protecting Oy from the virulent infection which ran in Gasher's blood. Brandon stabbed Oy in the flank again in an effort to make him stop worrying Gasher's ankle, but Oy paid no heed. Jake hung from his captor's dirty hands like a puppet whose strings have been cut. His face was bluish-white, his swollen lips a delicate shade of lavender.
   Gasher looked up. "You," he snarled.
   "Me," Roland agreed. He fired once and tin; left side of Gasher's head disintegrated. The man went flying backward, bloodstained yellow scarf unravelling, and landed on top of the Tick-Tock Man. His feet drummed spastically on the iron grillework for a moment and then fell still.
   The gunslinger shot Brandon twice, fanning the hammer of his revolver with the flat of his right hand. Brandon, who had been bent over Oy for another stroke, spun around, struck the wall, and slid slowly down it, clutching at one of the tubes. Green swamplight spilled out from between his loosening fingers.
   Oy limped to where Jake lay and began licking his pale, still face.
   Copperhead and Hoots had seen enough. They ran side by side for the small door through which Tilly had gone to get the dipper of water. It was the wrong time for chivalry; Roland shot them both in the back. He would have to move fast now, very fast indeed, and he would not risk being waylaid by these two if they should chance to rediscover their guts.
   A cluster of bright orange lights came on at the top of the capsule-shaped enclosure, and an alarm began to go off: in broad, hoarse blats that bartered the walls. After a moment or two, the emergency lights began to pulse in sync with the alarm.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
35
   EDDIE WAS RETURNING TO Susannah when the alarm began to wail. He yelled in surprise and raised the Ruger, pointing it at nothing. "What's happening?"
   Susannah shook her head—she had no idea. The alarm was scary, but that was only part of the problem; it was also loud enough to be physically painful. Those amplified jags of sound made Eddie think of a tractor-trailer horn raised to the tenth power.
   At that moment, the orange arc-sodiums began to pulse. When he reached Susannah's chair, Eddie saw that the COMMAND and ENTER buttons were also pulsing in bright red beats. They looked like winking eyes.
   " Blaine, what's happening?" he shouted. He looked around but saw only wildly jumping shadows. "Are you doing this?"
   Blaine's only response was laughter—terrible mechanical laughter that made Eddie think of the clockwork clown that had stood outside the House of Horrors at Coney Island when he was a little kid.
   " Blaine, stop it!" Susannah shrieked. "How can we think of an answer to your riddle with that air-raid siren going off?"
   The laughter stopped us suddenly as it began, but Blaine made no reply. Or perhaps he did; from beyond the bars that separated them from the platform, huge engines powered by frictionless slo-trans turbines awoke at the command of the dipolar computers the Tick-Tock Man had so lusted after. For the first time in a decade, Blaine the Mono was awake and cycling up toward running speed.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
 36
   THE ALARM, WHICH HAD indeed been built to warn Lud's long-dead residents of an impending air attack (and which had not even been tested in almost a thousand years), blanketed the city with sound. All the lights which still operated came on and began to pulse in sync. Pubes above the streets and Grays below them were alike convinced that the end they had always feared was finally upon them. The Grays suspected some cataclysmic mechanical breakdown was occurring. The Pubes, who had always believed that the ghosts lurking in the machines below the city would some day rise up to take their long-delayed vengeance on the still living, were probably closer to the actual truth of what was happening.
   Certainly there had been an intelligence left in the ancient comput­ers below the city, a single living organism which had long ago ceased to exist sanely under conditions that, within its merciless dipolar circuits, could only be absolute reality. It had held its increasingly alien logic within its banks of memory for eight hundred years and might have held them so for eight hundred more, if not for the arrival of Roland and his friends; yet this mens non corpus had brooded and grown ever more insane with each passing year; even in its increasing periods of sleep it could be said to dream, and these dreams grew steadily more abnormal as the world moved on. Now, although the unthinkable machinery which maintained the Beams had weakened, this insane and inhuman intelli­gence had awakened in the rooms of ruin and had begun once more, although as bodiless as any ghost, to stumble through the halls of the dead.
   In other words, Blaine the Mono was preparing to get out of Dodge.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
37
   ROLAND HEARD A FOOTSTEP behind him as he knelt by Jake and turned, raising his gun. Tilly, her dough-colored face a mask of confusion and superstitious fear, raised her hands and shrieked: "Don't kill me, sai! Please! Don't kill me!"
   "Run, then," Roland said curtly, and as Tilly began to move, he struck her calf with the barrel of his revolver. "Not that way—through the door I came in. And if you ever see me again, I'll be the last thing you ever see. Now go!"
   She disappeared into the leaping, circling shadows.
   Roland dropped his head to Jake's chest, slamming his palm against his other ear to deaden the pulse of the alarm. He heard the boy's heartbeat, slow but strong. He slipped his arms around the boy, and as he did, Jakes's eyes fluttered open. "You didn't let me fall this time." His voice was no more than a hoarse whisper.
   "No. Not this time, and not ever again. Don't try your voice."
   "Where's Oy?"
   "Oy!" the bumbler barked. "Oy!"
   Brandon had slashed Oy several times, but none of the wounds seemed mortal or even serious. It was clear that he was in some pain, but it was equally clear he was transported with joy. He regarded Jake with sparkling eyes, his pink tongue lolling out. "Ake, Ake, Ake!"
   Jake burst into tears and reached for him; Oy limped into the circle of his arms and allowed himself to be hugged for a moment.
   Roland got up and looked around. His gaze fixed on the door on the far side of the room. The two men he'd backshot had been heading in that direction, and the woman had also wanted to go that way. The gunslinger went toward the door with Jake in his arms and Oy at his heel. He kicked one of the dead Grays aside, and ducked through. The room beyond was a kitchen. It managed to look like a hog-wallow in spite of the built-in appliances and the stainless steel walls; the Grays were apparently not much interested in housekeeping.
   "Drink," Jake whispered. "Please … so thirsty."
   Roland felt a queer doubling, as if time had folded backward on itself. He remembered lurching out of the desert, crazy with the heat and the emptiness. He remembered passing out in the stable of the way station, half-dead from thirst, and waking at the taste of cool water trick­ling down his throat. The boy had taken off his shirt, soaked it under the flow from the pump, and given him to drink. Now it was his turn to do for Jake what Jake had already done for him.
   Roland glanced around and saw a sink. He went over to it and turned on the faucet. Cold, clear water rushed out. Over them, around them, under them, the alarm roared on and on.
   "Can you stand?"
   Jake nodded. "I think so."
   Roland set the boy on his feet, ready to catch him if he looked too wobbly, but Jake hung onto the sink, then ducked his head beneath the flowing water. Roland picked Oy up and looked at his wounds. They were already clotting. You got off very lucky, my furry friend, Roland thought, then reached past Jake to cup a palmful of water for the animal. Oy drank it eagerly.
   Jake drew back from the faucet with his hair plastered to the sides of his face. His skin was still too pale and the signs that he had been badly beaten were clearly visible, but he looked better than he had when Roland had first bent over him. For one terrible moment, the gunslinger had been positive Jake was dead.
   He found himself wishing he could go back and kill Gasher again, and that led him to another thought.
   "What about the one Gasher called the Tick-Tock Man? Did you see him, Jake?"
   "Yes. Oy ambushed him. Tore up his face. Then I shot him."
   "Dead?"
   Jake's lips began to tremble. He pressed them firmly together. "Yes. In his..." He tapped his forehead high above his right eyebrow. "I was l-l– … I was lucky."
   Roland looked at him appraisingly, then slowly shook his head. "You know, I doubt that. But never mind now. Come on."
   "Where are we going?" Jake's voice was still little more than a husky murmur, and he kept looking past Roland's shoulder toward the room where he had almost died.
   Roland pointed across the kitchen. Beyond another hatchway, the corridor continued. "That'll do for a start."
   "GUNSLINGER," a voice boomed from everywhere.
   Roland wheeled around, one arm cradling Oy and the other around Jake's shoulders, but there was no one to see.
   "Who speaks to me?" he shouted.
   "NAME YOURSELF, GUNSLINGER."
   "Roland of Gilead, son of Steven. Who speaks to me?"
   "GILEAD IS NO MORE," the voice mused, ignoring the question.
   Roland looked up and saw patterns of concentric rings in the ceiling. The voice was coming from those.
   "NO GUNSLINGER HAS WALKED IN-WORLD OR MID-WORLD FOR ALMOST THREE HUNDRED YEARS."
   "I and my friends are the last."
   Jake took Oy from Roland. The bumbler at once began to lick the boy's swollen face; his gold-ringed eyes were full of adoration and happiness.
   "It's Blaine," Jake whispered to Roland. "Isn't it?"
   Roland nodded. Of course it was—but he had an idea that there was a great deal more to Blaine than just a monorail train.
   "BOY! ARE YOU JAKE OF NEW YORK ?"
   Jake pressed closer to Roland and looked up at the speakers. "Yes," he said. "That's me. Jake of New York . Uh... son of Elmer."
   "DO YOU STILL HAVE THE BOOK OF RIDDLES? THE ONE OF WHICH I HAVE BEEN TOLD?"
   Jake reached over his shoulder, and an expression of dismayed recol­lection filled his face as his fingers touched nothing but his own back. When he looked at Roland again, the gunslinger was holding his pack out toward him, and although the man's narrow, finely carved face was as expressionless as ever, Jake sensed the ghost of a smile lurking at die corners of his mouth.
   "You'll have to fix die straps," Roland said as Jake took the pack. "I made them longer."
   "But Riddle-De-Dum!—?"
   Roland nodded. "Both books are still in there."
   "WHAT YOU GOT, LITTLE PILGRIM?" the voice inquired in a leisurely drawl.
   "Gripes!" Jake said.
   It can see us as well as hear us, Roland thought, and a moment later he spotted a small glass eye in one corner, far above a man's normal line of sight. He felt a chill slip over his skin, and knew from both the troubled look on Jake's face and the way the boy's arms had tightened around Oy that he wasn't alone in his unease. That voice belonged to a machine, an incredibly smart machine, a playful machine, but there was something very wrong with it, all the same.
   "The book," Jake said. "I've got the riddle book."
   "GOOD." There was an almost human satisfaction in the voice. "REALLY EXCELLENT."
   A scruffy, bearded fellow suddenly appeared in the doorway on the far side of the kitchen. A bloodstained, dirt-streaked yellow scarf flapped from the newcomer's upper arm. "Fires in the walls!" he screamed. In his panic, he seemed not to realize that Roland and Jake were not part of his miserable subterranean ka-tet. "Smoke on the lower levels! People killin theirselves! Somepin's gone wrong! Hell, everythin's gone wrong! We gotta—"
   The door of the oven suddenly dropped open like an unhinged jaw. A thick beam of blue-white fire shot out and engulfed the scruffy man's head. He was driven backward with his clothes in flames and his skin boiling on his face.
   Jake stared up at Roland, stunned and horrified. Roland put an arm about the boy's shoulders.
   "HE INTERRUPTED ME," the voice said. "THAT WAS RUDE, WASN'T IT?"
   "Yes," Roland said calmly. "Extremely rude."
   "SUSANNAH OF NEW YORK SAYS YOU HAVE A GREAT MANY RIDDLES BY HEART, ROLAND OF GILEAD . IS THIS TRUE?"
   "Yes."
   There was an explosion in one of the rooms opening off this arm of the corridor; the floor shuddered beneath their feet and voices screamed in a jagged chorus. The pulsing lights and the endless, blatting siren faded momentarily, then came back strong. A little skein of bitter, acrid smoke drifted from the ventilators. Oy got a whiff and sneezed.
   "TELL ME ONE OF YOUR RIDDLES, GUNSLINGER," the voice invited. It was serene and untroubled, as if they were all sitting together in a peaceful village square somewhere instead of beneath a city that seemed on the verge of ripping itself apart.
   Roland thought for a moment, and what came to mind was Cuthbert's favorite riddle. "All right, Blaine," he said, "I will. What's better than all the gods and worse than Old Man Splitfoot? Dead people eat it always; live people who eat it die slow."
   There was a long pause. Jake put his face in Oy's fur to try to get away from the stink of the roasted Gray.
   "Be careful, gunslinger." The voice was as small as a cool puff of breeze on summer's hottest day. The voice of the machine had come from all the speakers, but this one came only from the speaker directly overhead. "Be careful, Jake of New York. Remember that these are The Drawers. Go slow and be very careful."
   Jake looked at the gunslinger with widening eyes. Roland gave his head a small, faint shake and raised one finger. He looked as if he was scratching the side of his nose, but that finger also lay across his lips, and Jake had an idea Roland was actually telling him to keep his mouth shut.
   "A CLEVER RIDDLE," Blaine said at last. There seemed to be real admiration in its voice. "THE ANSWER IS NOTHING, IS IT NOT?"
   "That's right," Roland said. "You're pretty clever yourself, Blaine."
   When the voice spoke again, Roland heard what Eddie had heard already: a deep and ungovernable greed. "ASK ME ANOTHER."
   Roland drew a deep breath. "Not just now."
   "I HOPE YOU ARE NOT REFUSING ME, ROLAND, SON OF STEVEN, FOR THAT IS ALSO RUDE. EXTREMELY RUDE."
   "Take us to our friends and help us get out of Lud," Roland said. "Then there may be time for riddling."
   "I COULD KILL YOU WHERE YOU STAND," the voice said, and now it was as cold as winter's darkest day.
   "Yes," Roland said. "I'm sure you could. But the riddles would die with us."
   "I COULD TAKE THE BOY'S BOOK."
   "Thieving is ruder than either refusal or interruption," Roland remarked. He spoke as if merely passing the time of day, but the remaining fingers of his right hand were tight on Jake's shoulder.
   "Besides," Jake said, looking up at the speaker in the ceiling, "the answers aren't in the book. Those pages were torn out." In a flash of inspiration, he tapped his temple. "They're up here, though."
   "YOU FELLOWS WANT TO REMEMBER THAT NOBODY LOVES A SMARTASS," Blaine said. There was another explosion, this one louder and closer. One of the ventilator grilles blew off and shot across the kitchen like a projectile. A moment later two men and a woman emerged through the door which led to the rest of the Grays' warren. The gunslinger levelled his revolver at them, then lowered it as they stumbled across the kitchen and into the silo beyond without so much as a look at Roland and Jake. To Roland they looked like animals fleeing before a forest fire.
   A stainless steel panel in the ceiling slid open, revealing a square of darkness. Something silvery flashed within it, and a few moments later a steel sphere, perhaps a foot in diameter, dropped from the hole and hung in the air of the kitchen.
   "FOLLOW," Blaine said flatly.
   "Will it take us to Eddie and Susannah?" Jake asked hopefully.
   Blaine replied only with silence... but when the sphere began floating down the corridor, Roland and Jake followed it.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
38
   JAKE HAD NO CLEAR memory of the time which followed, and that was probably merciful. He had left his world over a year before nine hundred people would commit suicide together in a small South American country called Gyana, but he knew about the periodic death-rushes of the lem­mings, and what was happening in the disintegrating undercity of the Grays was like that.
   There were explosions, some on their level but most far below them; acrid smoke occasionally drifted from the ventilator grilles, but most of the air-purifiers were still working and they whipped the worst of it away before it could gather in choking clouds. They saw no fires. Yet the Grays were reacting as if the time of the apocalypse had come. Most only fled, their faces blank O's of panic, but many had committed suicide in the halls and interconnected rooms through which the steel sphere led Roland and Jake. Some had shot themselves; many more had slashed their throats or wrists; a few appeared to have swallowed poison. On all the faces of the dead was the same expression of overmastering terror. Jake could only vaguely understand what had driven them to this. Roland had a better idea of what had happened to them—to their minds—when the long-dead city first came to life around them and then seemed to commence tearing itself apart. And it was Roland who understood that Blaine was doing it on purpose. That Blaine was driving them to it.
   They ducked around a man hanging from an overhead heating-duct and pounded down a flight of steel stairs behind the floating steel ball.
   "Jake!" Roland shouted. "You never let me in at all, did you?"
   Jake shook his head.
   "I didn't think so. It was Blaine ."
   They reached the bottom of the stairs and hurried along a narrow corridor toward a hatch with the words ABSOLUTELY NO ADMITTANCE printed on it in the spiked letters of the High Speech.
   "Is it Blaine ?" Jake asked.
   "Yes—that's as good a name as any."
   "What about the other v—"
   "Hush!" Roland said grimly.
   The steel ball paused in front of the hatchway. The wheel spun and the hatch popped ajar. Roland pulled it open, and they stepped into a huge underground room which stretched away in three directions as far as they could see. It was filled with seemingly endless aisles of control panels and electronic equipment. Most of the panels were still dark and dead, but as Jake and Roland stood inside the door, looking about with wide eyes, they could see pilot-lights coming on and hear machinery cycling up.
   "The Tick-Tock Man said there were thousands of computers," Jake said. "I guess he was right. My God, look!"
   Roland did not understand the word Jake had used and so said nothing. He only watched as row after row of panels lit up. A cloud of sparks and a momentary tongue of green fire jumped from one of the consoles as some ancient piece of equipment malfunctioned.
   Most of the machinery, however, appeared to be up and running just fine. Needles which hadn't moved in centuries suddenly jumped into the green. Huge aluminum cylinders spun, spilling data stored on silicon chips into memory banks which were once more wide awake and ready for input. Digital displays, indicating everything from the mean aquifer water-pressure in the West River Barony to available power amperage in the hibernating Send Basin Nuclear Plant, lit up in brilliant dot-matrices of red and green. Overhead, banks of hanging globes began to flash on, radiating outward in spokes of light. And from below, above, and around them—from everywhere—came the deep bass hum of generators and slo-trans engines awakening from their long sleep.
   Juke had begun to flag badly. Roland swept him into his arms again and chased the steel ball past machines at whose function and intent he could not even guess. Oy ran at his heels. The ball banked left, and the aisle in which they now found themselves ran between banks of TV monitors, thousands of them, stacked in rows like a child's building blocks.
   My dad would love it, Jake thought.
   Some sections of this vast video arcade were still dark, but many of the screens were on. They showed a, city in chaos, both above and below. Clumps of Pubes surged pointlessly through the streets, eyes wide, mouths moving soundlessly. Many were leaping from the tall buildings. Jake observed with horror that hundreds more had congregated at the Send Bridge and were throwing themselves into the river. Other screens showed large, cot-filled rooms like dormitories. Some of these rooms were on fire, but the panic-stricken Grays seemed to be setting the fires themselves—torching their own mattresses and furniture for God alone knew what reason.
   One screen showed a barrel-chested giant tossing men and women into what looked like a blood-spattered stamping press. This was bad enough, but there was something worse: the victims were standing in an unguarded line, docilely waiting their turns. The executioner, his yellow scarf pulled tight over his skull and the knotted ends swinging below his ears like pigtails, seized an old woman and held her up, waiting patiently for the stainless steel block of metal to clear the killing floor so he could toss her in. The old woman did not struggle; seemed, in fact, to be smiling.
   "IN THE ROOMS THE PEOPLE COME AND GO," Blaine said, "BUT I DON'T THINK ANY OF THEM ARE TALKING OF MICHELANGELO." He suddenly laughed—strange, tittery laughter that sounded like rats scampering over broken glass. The sound sent chills chasing up Jake's neck. He wanted nothing at all to do with an intelligence that laughed like that... but what choice did they have?
   He turned his gaze helplessly back to the monitors... and Roland at once turned his head away. He did this gently but firmly. "There's nothing there you need to look at, Jake," he said.
   "But why are they doing it?" Jake asked. He had eaten nothing all day, but he still felt like vomiting. "Why?"
   "Because they're frightened, and Blaine is feeding their fear. But mostly, I think, because they've lived too long in the graveyard of their grandfathers and they're tired of it. And before you pity them, remember how happy they would have been to take you along with them into the clearing where the path ends."
   The steel ball zipped around another corner, leaving the TV screens and electronic monitoring equipment behind. Ahead, a wide ribbon of some synthetic stuff was set into the floor. It gleamed like fresh tar between two narrow strips of chrome steel that dwindled to a point on what was not the far side of this room, but its horizon.
   The ball bounced impatiently above the dark strip, and suddenly the belt—for that was what it was—swept into silent motion, trundling along between its steel facings at jogging speed. The ball made small arcs in the air, urging them to climb on.
   Roland trotted beside the moving strip until he was roughly match­ing its speed, then did just that. He set Jake down and the three of them—gunslinger, boy, and golden-eyed bumbler—were carried rapidly across this shadowy underground plain where the ancient machines were awakening. The moving strip carried them into an area of what looked like filing cabinets—row after endless row of them. They were dark... but not dead. A low, sleepy humming sound came from within them, and Jake could see hairline cracks of bright yellow light shining between the steel panels.
   He suddenly found himself thinking of the Tick-Tock Man.
   There's maybe a hundred thousand of those ever-fucking dipolar computers under the ever-fucking city! I want those computers!
   Well, Jake thought, they're waking up, so I guess you're getting what you wanted, Ticky... but if you were here, I'm not sure you'd still want it.
   Then he remembered Tick-Tock's great-grandfather, who'd been brave enough to climb into an airplane from another world and take it into the sky. With that kind of blood running in his veins, Jake supposed, Tick-Tock, far from being frightened to the point of suicide, would have been delighted by this turn of events... and the more people who killed themselves in terror, the happier he would have been.
   Too late now, Ticky, he thought. Thank God.
   Roland spoke in a soft, wondering voice. "All these boxes … I think we're riding through the mind of the thing that calls itself Blaine, Jake. / think we're riding through its mind."
   Jake nodded, and found himself thinking of his Final Essay. " Blaine the Brain is a hell of a pain."
   "Yes."
   Jake looked closely at Roland. "Are we going to come out where I think we're going to come out?"
   "Yes," Roland said. "If we're still following the Path of the Beam, we'll come out in the Cradle."
   Jake nodded. "Roland?"
   "What?"
   "Thanks for coming after me."
   Roland nodded and put an arm around Jake's shoulders.
   Far ahead of them, huge motors rumbled to life. A moment later a heavy grinding sound began and new light—the harsh glow of orange arc-sodiums—flooded down on them. Jake could now see the place where the moving belt stopped. Beyond it was a steep, narrow escalator, leading up into that orange light.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
39
   EDDIE AND SUSANNAH HEARD heavy motors start up almost directly beneath them. A moment later, a wide strip of the marble floor began to pull slowly back, revealing a long lighted slot below. The floor was disappearing in their direction. Eddie seized the handles of Susannah's chair and rolled it rapidly backward along the steel barrier between the monorail platform and the rest of the Cradle. There were several pillars along the course of the growing rectangle of light, and Eddie waited for them to tumble into the hole as the floor upon which they stood disap­peared from beneath their bases. It didn't happen. The pillars went on serenely standing, seeming to float on nothing.
   "I see an escalator!" Susannah shouted over the endless, pulsing alarm. She was leaning forward, peering into the hole.
   "Uh-huh," Eddie shouted back. "We got the el station up here, so it must be notions, perfume, and ladies' lingerie down there."
   "What?"
   "Never mind!"
   "Eddie!" Susannah screamed. Delighted surprise burst over her face like a Fourth of July firework. She leaned even further forward, pointing, and Eddie had to grab her to keep her from tumbling out of the chair. "It's Roland! It's both of them!"
   There was a shuddery thump as the slot in the floor opened to its maximum length and stopped. The motors which had driven it along its hidden tracks cut out in a long, dying whine. Eddie ran to the edge of the hole and saw Roland riding on one of the escalator steps. Jake— white-faced, bruised, bloody, but clearly Jake and clearly alive—was standing next to him and leaning on the gunslinger's shoulder. And sitting on the step right behind them, looking up with his bright eyes was Oy.
   "Roland! Jake!" Eddie shouted. He leaped up, waving his hands over his head, and came down dancing on the edge of the slot. If he had been wearing a hat, he would have thrown it in the air.
   They looked up and waved. Jake was grinning, Eddie saw, and even old long tall and ugly looked as if he might break down and crack a smile before long. Wonders, Eddie thought, would never cease. His heart suddenly felt too big for his chest and he danced faster, waving his arms and whooping, afraid that if he didn't keep moving, his joy and relief might actually cause him to burst. Until this moment he had not realized how positive his heart had become that they would never see Roland and Jake again.
   "Hey, guys! All RIGHT! Far fucking out! Get your asses up here!"
   "Eddie, help me!
   He turned. Susannah was trying to struggle out of her chair, but a fold of the deerskin trousers she was wearing had gotten caught in the brake mechanism. She was laughing and weeping at the same time, her dark eyes blazing with happiness. Eddie lifted her from the chair so violently that it crashed over on its side. He danced her around in a circle. She clung to his neck with one hand and waved strenuously with the other.
   "Roland! Jake! Get on up here! Shuck your butts, you hear me?"
   When they reached the top, Eddie embraced Roland, pounding him on the back while Susannah covered Jake's upturned, laughing face with kisses. Oy ran around in tight figure eights, barking shrilly.
   "Sugar!" Susannah said. "You all right?"
   "Yes," Jake said. He was still grinning, but tears stood in his eyes. "And glad to be here. You'll never know how glad."
   "I can guess, sugar. You c'n bet on that." She turned to look at Roland. "What'd they do to him? His face look like somebody run over it with a bulldozer."
   "That was mostly Gasher," Roland said. "He won't be bothering Jake again. Or anyone else."
   "What about you, big boy? You all right?"
   Roland nodded, looking about. "So this is the Cradle."
   "Yes," Eddie said. He was peering into the slot. "What's down there?"
   "Machines and madness."
   "Loquacious as ever, I see." Eddie looked at Roland, smiling. "Do you know how happy I am to see you, man? Do you have any idea?"
   "Yes—I think I do." Roland smiled then, thinking of how people changed. There had been a time, and not so long ago, when Eddie had been on the edge of cutting his throat with the gunslinger's own knife.
   The engines below them started up again. The escalator came to a stop. The slot in the floor began to slide closed once more. Jake went to Susannah's overturned chair, and as he was righting it, he caught sight of the smooth pink shape beyond the iron bars. His breath stopped, and the dream he had had after leaving River Crossing returned full force: the vast pink bullet shape slicing across the empty lands of western Mis­souri toward him and Oy. Two big triangular windows glittering high up in the blank face of that oncoming monster, windows like eyes... and now his dream was becoming reality, just as he had known it eventually would.
   It's just an awful choo-choo train, and its name is Blaine the Pain.
   Eddie walked over and slung an arm around Jake's shoulders. "Well, there it is, champ—just as advertised. What do you think of it?"
   "Not too much, actually." This was an understatement of colossal size, but Jake was too drained to do any better.
   "Me, either," Eddie said. "It talks. And it likes riddles."
   Jake nodded.
   Roland had Susannah planted on one hip, and together they were examining the control box with its diamond-pattern of raised number-pads. Jake and Eddie joined them. Eddie found he had to keep looking down at Jake in order to verify that it wasn't just his imagination or wishful thinking; the boy was really here.
   "What now?" he asked Roland.
   Roland slipped his finger lightly over the numbered buttons which made up the diamond shape and shook his head. He didn't know.
   "Because I think the mono's engines are cycling faster," Eddie said. "I mean, it's hard to tell for sure with that alarm blatting, but I think it is … and it's a robot, after all. What if it, like, leaves without us?"
   " Blaine !" Susannah shouted. " Blaine, are you—"
   "LISTEN CLOSELY, MY FRIENDS," Blaine 's voice boomed. "THERE ARE LARGE STOCKPILES OF CHEMICAL AND BIO­LOGICAL WARFARE CANNISTERS UNDER THE CITY. I HAVE STARTED A SEQUENCE WHICH WILL CAUSE AN EXPLOSION AND RELEASE THIS GAS. THIS EXPLOSION WILL OCCUR IN TWELVE MINUTES."
   The voice fell silent for a moment, and then the voice of Little Blaine, almost buried by the steady, pulsing whoop of the alarm, came to them: ". . . / was afraid of something like this... you must hurry …"
   Eddie ignored Little Blaine, who wasn't telling him a damned thing he didn't already know. Of course they had to hurry, but that fact was running a distant second at the moment. Something much larger occu­pied most of his mind. "Why?" he asked. "Why in God's name would you do that?"
   "I SHOULD THINK IT OBVIOUS. I CAN'T NUKE THE CITY WITHOUT DESTROYING MYSELF, AS WELL. AND HOW COULD I TAKE YOU WHERE YOU WANT TO GO IF I WERE DESTROYED?"
   "But there are still thousands of people in the city," Eddie said. "You'll kill them."
   "YES," Blaine said calmly. "SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR, AFTER A WHILE CROCODILE, DON'T FORGET TO WRITE."
   "Why?" Susannah shouted. "Why, goddam you?"
   "BECAUSE THEY BORE ME. YOU FOUR, HOWEVER, I FIND RATHER INTERESTING. OF COURSE, HOW LONG I CONTINUE TO FIND YOU INTERESTING WILL DEPEND ON HOW GOOD YOUR RIDDLES ARE. AND SPEAKING OF RIDDLES, HADN'T YOU BETTER GET TO WORK SOLVING MINE? YOU HAVE EXACTLY ELEVEN MINUTES AND TWENTY SECONDS BEFORE THE CANNISTERS RUPTURE."
   "Stop it!" Jake yelled over the blatting siren. "It isn't just the city— gas like that could float anywhere! It could even kill the old people in River Crossing!"
   "TOUGH TITTY, SAID THE KITTY," Blaine responded unfeel­ingly. "ALTHOUGH I BELIEVE THEY CAN COUNT ON MEASUR­ING OUT THEIR LIVES IN COFFEE-SPOONS FOR A FEW MORE YEARS; THE AUTUMN STORMS HAVE BEGUN, AND THE PRE­VAILING WINDS WILL CARRY THE GASES AWAY FROM THEM. THE SITUATION OF YOU FOUR IS, HOWEVER, VERY DIFFER­ENT. YOU BETTER PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAPS, OR IT'S SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR, AFTER A WHILE CROCODILE, DON'T FORGET TO WRITE." The voice paused. "ONE PIECE OF ADDI­TIONAL INPUT: THIS GAS IS NOT PAINLESS."
   "Take it back!" Jake said. "We'll still tell you riddles, won't we, Roland? We'll tell all the riddles you want! Just take it back!"
   Blaine began to laugh. He laughed for a long time, pealing shrieks of electronic mirth into the wide empty space of the Cradle, where it mingled with the monotonous, drilling beat of the alarm.
   "Stop it!" Susannah shouted. "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!"
   Blaine did. A moment later the alarm cut off in mid-blat. The ensu­ing silence—broken only by the pounding rain—was deafening.
   Now the voice issuing from the speaker was very soft, thoughtful, and utterly without mercy. "YOU NOW HAVE TEN MINUTES," Blaine said. "LET'S SEE JUST HOW INTERESTING YOU REALLY ARE."
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
40
   "ANDREW."
   There is no Andrew here, stranger, he thought. Andrew is long gone; Andrew is no more, as I shall soon be no more.
   "Andrew!" the voice insisted.
   It came from far away. It came from outside the cider-press that had once been his head.
   Once there had been a boy named Andrew, and his father had taken that boy to a park on the far western side of Lud, a park where there had been apple trees and a rusty tin shack that looked like hell and smelled like heaven. In answer to his question, Andrew's father had told him it was called the cider house. Then he gave Andrew a pat on the head, told him not to be afraid, and led him through the blanket-covered doorway.
   There had been more apples—baskets and baskets of them—stacked against the walls inside, and there had also been a scrawny old man named Dewlap, whose muscles writhed beneath his white skin like worms and whose job was to feed the apples, basket by basket, to the loose-jointed, clanking machine which stood in the middle of the room. What came out of the pipe jutting from the far end of the machine was sweet cider. Another man (he no longer remembered what this one's name might have been) stood there, his job to fill jug after jug with the cider. A third man stood behind him, and his job was to clout the jug-filler on the head if there was too much spillage.
   Andrew's father had given him a glass of the foaming cider, and although he had tasted a great many forgotten delicacies during his years in the city, he had never tasted anything finer than that sweet, cold drink. It had been like swallowing a gust of October wind. Yet what he remembered even more clearly than the taste of the cider or the wormy shift and squiggle of Dewlap's muscles as he dumped the baskets was the merciless way the machine reduced the big red-gold apples to liquid. Two dozen rollers had carried them beneath a revolving steel drum with holes punched in it. The apples had first been squeezed and then actually popped, spilling their juices down an inclined trough while a screen caught the seeds and pulp.
   Now his head was the cider-press and his brains were the apples. Soon they would pop as the apples had popped beneath the roller, and the blessed darkness would swallow him.
   "Andrew! Raise your head and look at me."
   He couldn't... and wouldn't even if he could. Better to just lie here and wait for the darkness. He was supposed to be dead, anyway; hadn't the hellish squint put a bullet in his brain?
   "It didn't go anywhere near your brain, you horse's ass, and you're not dying. You've just got a headache. You will die, though, if you don't stop lying there and puling in your own blood... and I will make sure, Andrew, that your dying makes what you are feeling now seem like bliss."
   It was not the threats which caused the man on the floor to raise his head but rather the way the owner of that penetrating, hissing voice seemed to have read his mind. His head came up slowly, and the agony was excruciating-—heavy objects seemed to go sliding and careering around the bony case which contained what was left of his mind, ripping bloody channels through his brain as they went. A long, syrupy moan escaped him. There was a flapping, tickling sensation on his right cheek, as if a dozen flies were crawling in the blood there. He wanted to shoo them away, but he knew that he needed both hands just to support himself.
   The figure standing on the far side of the room by the hatch which led to the kitchen looked ghastly, unreal. This was partly because the overhead lights were still strobing, partly because he was seeing the new­comer with only one eye (he couldn't remember what had happened to the other and didn't want to), but he had an idea it was mostly because the creature was ghastly and unreal. It looked like a man... but die fellow who had once been Andrew Quick had an idea it really wasn't a man at all.
   The stranger standing in front of the hatch wore a short, dark jacket belted at the waist, faded denim trousers, and old, dusty boots—the boots of a countryman, a range-rider, or—
   "Or a gunslinger, Andrew?" the stranger asked, and tittered.
   The Tick-Tock Man stared desperately at the figure in the doorway, trying to see the face, but the short jacket had a hood, and it was up. The stranger's countenance was lost in its shadows.
   The siren stopped in mid-whoop. The emergency lights stayed on, but they at least stopped flashing.
   "There," the stranger said in his—or its—whispery, penetrating voice. "At last we can hear ourselves think."
   "Who are you?" the Tick-Tock Man asked. He moved slightly, and more of those weights went sliding through his head, ripping fresh chan­nels in his brain. As terrible as that feeling was, the awful tickling of the flies on his right cheek was somehow worse.
   "I'm a man of many handles, pardner," the man said from inside the darkness of his hood, and although his voice was grave, Tick-Tock heard laughter lurking just below the surface. "There's some that call me Jimmy, and some that call me Timmy; some that call me Handy and some that call me Dandy. They can call me Loser, or they can call me Winner, just as long as they don't call me in too late for dinner."
   The man in the doorway threw back his head, and his laughter chilled the skin of the wounded man's arms and back into lumps of gooseflesh; it was like the howl of a wolf.
   "I have been called the Ageless Stranger," the man said. He began to walk toward Tick-Tock, and as he did, the man on die floor moaned and tried to scrabble backward. "I have also been called Merlin or Maerlyn—and who cares, because I was never that one, although I never denied it, either. I am sometimes called the Magician … or the Wizard... but I hope we can go forward together on more humble terms, Andrew. More human terms."
   He pushed back the hood, revealing a fair, broad-browed face that was not, for all its pleasant looks, in any way human. Large hectic roses rode the Wizard's cheekbones; his blue-green eyes sparkled with a gusty joy far too wild to be sane; his blue-black hair stood up in zany clumps like the feathers of a raven; his lips, lushly red, parted to reveal the teeth of a cannibal.
   "Call me Fannin," the grinning apparition said. "Richard Fannin. That's not exactly right, maybe, but I reckon it's close enough for govern­ment work." He held out a hand whose palm was utterly devoid of lines. "What do you say, pard? Shake the hand that shook the world."
   The creature who had once been Andrew Quick and who had been known in the halls of the Grays as the Tick-Tock Man shrieked and again tried to wriggle backward. The flap of scalp peeled loose by the low-caliber bullet which had only grooved his skull instead of penetrating it swung back and forth; the long strands of gray-blonde hair continued to tickle against his cheek. Quick, however, no longer felt it. He had even forgotten the ache in his skull and the throb from the socket where his left eye had been. His entire consciousness had fused into one thought: I must get away from this beast that looks like a man.
   But when the stranger seized his right hand and shook it that thought passed like a dream on waking. The scream which had been locked in Quick's breast escaped his lips in a lover's sigh. He stared dumbly up at the grinning newcomer. The loose flap of his scalp swung and dangled.
   "Is that bothering you? It must be. Here!" Fannin seized the hanging flap and ripped it briskly off Quick's head, revealing a bleary swatch of skull. There was a noise like heavy cloth tearing. Quick shrieked.
   "There, there, it only hurts for a second." The man was now squat­ting on his hunkers before Quick and speaking as an indulgent parent might speak to a child with a splinter in his finger. "Isn't that so?"
   "Y-Y-Yes," Quick muttered. And it was. Already the pain was fading. And when Fannin reached toward him again, caressing the left side of his face, Quick's jerk backward was only a reflex, quickly mastered. As the lineless hand stroked, he felt strength flowing back into him. He looked up at the newcomer with dumb gratitude, lips quivering.
   "Is that better, Andrew? It is, isn't it?"
   "Yes! Yes!"
   "If you want to thank me—as I'm sure you do—you must say some­thing an old acquaintance of mine used to say. He ended up betraying me, but he was a good friend for quite some time, anyway, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for him. Say, 'My life for you,' Andrew— can you say that?"
   He could and he did; in fact, it seemed he couldn't stop saying it. "My life for you! My life for you! My life for you! My life—"
   The stranger touched his cheek again, but this time a huge raw bolt of pain blasted across Andrew Quick's head. He screamed.
   "Sorry about that, but time is short and you were starting to sound like a broken record. Andrew, let me put it to you with no bark on it: how would you like to kill the squint who shot you? Not to mention his friends and the hardcase who brought him here—him, most of all. Even the mutt that took your eye, Andrew—would you like that?"
   "Yes!" the former Tick-Tock Man gasped. His hands clenched into bloody fists. "Yes!"
   "That's good," the stranger said, and helped Quick to his feet, "because they have to die—they're meddling with things they have no business meddling with. I expected Blaine to take care of them, but things have gone much too far to depend on anything... after all, who would have thought they could get as far as they have?"
   "I don't know," Quick said. He did not, in fact, have the slightest idea what the stranger was talking about. Nor did he care; there was a feeling of exaltation creeping through his mind like some excellent drug, and after the pain of the cider-press, that was enough for him. More than enough.
   Richard Fannin's lips curled. "Bear and bone... key and rose... day and night... time and tide. Enough! Enough, I say! They must not draw closer to the Tower than they are now!"
   Quick staggered backward as the man's hands shot out with the flickery speed of heat lightning. One broke the chain which held the tiny glass-enclosed pendulum clock; the other stripped Jake Chambers's Seiko from his forearm.
   "I'll just take these, shall I?" Fannin the Wizard smiled charmingly, his lips modestly closed over those awful teeth. "Or do you object?"
   "No," Quick said, surrendering the last symbols of his long leader­ship without a qualm (without, in fact, even being aware that he was doing so). "Be my guest."
   "Thank you, Andrew," the dark man said softly. "Now we must step lively—I'm expecting a drastic change in the atmosphere of these envi­rons in the next five minutes or so. We must get to the nearest closet where gas masks are stored before that happens, and it's apt to be a near thing. I could survive the change quite nicely, but I'm afraid you might have some difficulties."
   "I don't understand what you're talking about," Andrew Quick said. His head had begun to throb again, and his mind was whirling.
   "Nor do you need to," the stranger said smoothly. "Come, Andrew— I think we should hurry. Busy, busy day, eh? With luck, Blaine will fry them right on the platform, where they are no doubt still standing—he's become very eccentric over the years, poor fellow. But I think we should hurry, just the same."
   He slid his arm over Quick's shoulders and, giggling, led him through the hatchway Roland and Jake had used only a few minutes before.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
• VI •RIDDLE AND WASTE LANDS
   
1
   "ALL RIGHT," ROLAND SAID. "Tell me his riddle."
   "What about all the people out there?" Eddie asked, pointing across the wide, pillared Plaza of the Cradle and toward the city beyond. "What can we do for them?"
   "Nothing," Roland said, "but it's still possible that we may be able to do something for ourselves. Now what was the riddle?"
   Eddie looked toward the streamlined shape of the mono. "He said we'd have to prime the pump to get him going. Only his pump primes backward. Does it mean anything to you?"
   Roland thought it over carefully, then shook his head. He looked down at Jake. "Any ideas, Jake?"
   Jake shook his head. "I don't even see a pump."
   "That's probably the easy part," Roland said. "We say he and him instead of it and that because Blaine sounds like a living being, but he's still a machine—& sophisticated one, but a machine. He started his own engines, but it must take some sort of code or combination to open the gate and the train doors."
   "We better hurry up," Jake said nervously. "It's got to be two or three minutes since he last talked to us. At least."
   "Don't count on it," Eddie said gloomily. "Time's weird over here."
   "Still—"
   "Yeah, yeah." Eddie glanced toward Susannah, but she was sitting astride Roland's hip and looking at the numeric diamond with a day-dreamy expression on her face. He looked back at Roland. "I'm pretty sure you're right about it being a combination—that must be what all those number-pads are for." He raised his voice. "Is that it, Blaine ? Have we got at least that much right?"
   No response; only the quickening rumble of the mono's engines.
   "Roland," Susannah said abruptly. "You have to help me."
   The daydreamy look was being replaced by an expression of mingled horror, dismay, and determination. To Roland's eye, she had never looked more beautiful … or more alone. She had been on his shoulders when they stood at the edge of the clearing and watched the bear trying to claw Eddie out of the tree, and Roland had not seen her expression when he told her she must be the one to shoot it. But he knew what that expression had been, for he was seeing it now. Ka was a wheel, its one purpose to turn, and in the end it always came back to the place where it had started. So it had ever been and so it was now; Susannah was once again facing the bear, and her face said she knew it.
   "What?" he asked. "What is it, Susannah?"
   "I know the answer, but I can't get it. It's stuck in my mind the way a fishbone can get stuck in your throat. I need you to help me remember. Not his face, but his voice. What he said."
   Jake glanced down at his wrist and was surprised all over again by a memory of the Tick-Tock Man's catlike green eyes when he saw not his watch but only the place where it had been—a white shape outlined by his deeply tanned skin. How much longer did they have? Surely no more than seven minutes, and that was being generous. He looked up and saw that Roland had removed a cartridge from his gunbelt and was walking it back and forth across the knuckles of his left hand. Jake felt his eyelids immediately grow heavy and looked away, fast.
   "What voice would you remember, Susannah Dean?" Roland asked in a low, musing voice. His eyes were not fixed on her face but on the cartridge as it did its endless, limber dance across his knuckles... and back... across... and back...
   He didn't need to look up to know that Jake had looked away from the dance of the cartridge and Susannah had not. He began to speed it up until the cartridge almost seemed to be floating above the back of his hand.
   "Help me remember the voice of my father," Susannah Dean said.
 
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