"Then we'll speak the truth." He had never spoken less on this night "Start by telling me what glammer is."
"Glammer is enchantment, gunslinger. My master's enchantment has prolonged this night and will prolong it still.., until our business is done. "
"How long will that be?"
"Long. T can tell you no better. I do not know myself." The man in black stood over the fire, and the glowing embers made patterns on his face. "Ask. I will tell you what I know. You have caught me. It is fair; I did not think you would. Yet your quest has only begun. Ask. It will lead us to business soon enough."
"Who is your master?"
"I have never seen him, but you must. In order to reach the Tower you must reach this one first, the Ageless Stranger. " The man in black smiled spitelessly. "You must slay him, gunslinger. Yet I think it is not what you wished to ask."
"If you've never seen him, how do you know him?"
"He came to me once in a dream. As a stripling he came to me, when I lived in a far land. A thousand years ago, or five or ten. He came to me in days before the old ones had yet to cross the sea. In a land called England. A sheaf of centuries ago he imbued me with my duty, although there were errands in between my youth and my apotheosis. You are that, gunslinger." He tittered. "You see, someone has taken you seriously."
"This Stranger has no name?"
"0, he is named."
"And what is his name?"
"Maerlyn," the man in black said softly, and somewhere in the easterly darkness where the mountains lay a rockslide punctuated his words and a puma screamed like a woman. The gunslinger shivered and the man in black flinched. "Yet I do not think that is what you wished to ask, either. It is not your nature to think so far ahead."
The gunslinger knew the question; it had gnawed him all this night, and he thought, for years before. It trembled on his lips but he didn't ask it... not yet.
"This Stranger, this Maerlyn, is a minion of the Tower? Like yourself?"
"Much greater than I. It has been given to him to live backward in time. He darkies. He tincts. He is in all times. Yet there is one greater than he."
"The Beast," the man in black whispered fearfully. "The keeper of the Tower. The originator of all glammer.
"What is it? What does this Beast - "
"Ask me no more!" The man in black cried. His voice aspired to sternness and crumbled into beseechment. "I know not! I do not wish to know. To speak of the Beast is to speak of the ruination of one's own soul. Before It, Maerlyn is as Jam to him."
"And beyond the Beast is the Tower and whatever the Tower contains?"
"Yes," whispered the man in black. "But none of these things are what you wish to ask."
"All right," the gunslinger said, and then asked the world's oldest question. "Do I know you? Have I seen you somewhere before?"
"Where?" The gunslinger leaned forward urgently. This was a question of his destiny.
The man in black clapped his hands to his mouth and giggled through them like a small child. "I think you know. "
"Where!" He was on his feet; his hands had dropped to the worn butts of his guns.
"Not with those, gunslinger. Those do not open doors; those only close them forever. "
"Where?" The gunslinger reiterated.
"Must I give him a hint?" The man in black asked the darkness. "I believe I must "He looked at the gunslinger with eyes that burned. "There was a man who gave you advice," he said. "Your teacher - "
"Yes, Cort," the gunslinger interrupted impatiently.
"The advice was to wait. It was bad advice. For even then Marten's plans against your father had proceeded. And when your father returned - "
"He was killed," the gunslinger said emptily.
"And when you turned and looked, Marten was gone ... gone west Yet there was a man in Marten's entourage, a man who affected the dress of a monk and the shaven head of a penitent - "
"Walter," the gunslinger whispered. "You. .. you're not Marten at all. You're Walter!"
The man in black tittered. "At your service. "
"I ought to kill you now."
"That would hardly be fair. After all, it was I who delivered Marten into your hands three years later, when - "
"Then you've controlled me."
"In some ways, yes. But no more, gunslinger. Now comes the time of sharing. Then, in the morning, I will cast the runes. Dreams will come to you. And then your real quest must begin."
"Walter," the gunslinger repeated, stunned.
"Sit," the man in black invited. "I tell you my story. Yours, I think, will be much longer. "
"I don't talk of myself," the gunslinger muttered.
"Yet tonight you must So that we may understand."
"Understand what? My purpose? You know that To find the Tower is my purpose. I'm sworn."
"Not your purpose, gunslinger. Your mind. Your slow, plodding, tenacious mind. There has never been one quite like it, in all the history of the world. Perhaps in the history of creation.
"This is the time of speaking. This is the time of histories.
The man in black shook the voluminous arm of his robe. A foil-wrapped package fell out and caught the dying embers in many reflective folds.
"Tobacco, gunslinger. Would you smoke?"
He had been able to resist the rabbit, but he could not resist this. He opened the foil with eager fingers. There was fine crumbled tobacco inside, and green leaves to wrap it in, amazingly moist. He had not seen such tobacco for ten years.
He rolled two cigarettes and bit the ends of each to release flavor. He offered one to the man in black, who took it. Each of them took a burning twig from the fire.
The gunslinger lit his cigarette and drew the aromatic smoke deep into his lungs, closing his eyes to concentrate the senses. He blew out with long, slow satisfaction.
"Is it good?" the man in black enquired.
"Yes. Very good."
"Enjoy it. It may be the last smoke for you in a very long time."
The gunslinger took this impassively.
"Very well," the man in black said. "To begin then:
"You must understand that the Tower has always been, and there have always been boys who know of it and lust for it, more than power or riches or women.. "
There was talk then, a night's worth of talk and God alone knew how much more, but the Gunslinger remembered little of it later. . . and to his oddly practical mind, little of it seemed to matter. The man in black told him that he must go to the sea, which lay no more than twenty easy miles to the west, and there he would be invested with the power of drawing.
"But that's not exactly right, either," the man in black said, pitching his cigarette into the remains of the campfire. "No one wants to invest you with a power of any kind, gunslinger; it is simply in you, and I am compelled to tell you, partly because of the sacrifice of the boy, and partly because it is the law; the natural law of things. Water must run downhill, and you must be told. You will draw three, I understand... but I don't really care, and I don't really want to know."
"The three," the gunslinger murmured, thinking of the Oracle.
"And then the fun begins. But, by then, I'll be long gone. Good-bye, gunslinger. My part is done now. The chain is still in your hands. Beware it doesn't wrap itself around your neck."
Compelled by something outside him, Roland said, "You have one more thing to say, don't you?"
"Yes," the man in black said, and he smiled at the gunslinger with his depthless eyes and stretched one of his hands out toward him. "Let there be light."
And there was light.
Roland awoke by the ruins of the campfire to find himself ten years older. His black hair had thinned at the temples and gone the gray of cobwebs at the end of autumn. The lines in his face were deeper, his skin rougher.
The remains of the wood he had carried had turned to ironwood, and the man in black was a laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe, more bones in this place of bones, one more skull in Golgotha.
The gunslinger stood up and looked around. He looked at the light and saw that the light was good.
With a sudden quick gesture he reached toward the remains of his companion of the night before.., a night that had somehow lasted ten years. He broke off Walter's jawbone and jammed it carelessly into the left hip pocket of his jeans - a fitting enough replacement for the one lost under the mountains.
The Tower. Somewhere ahead, it waited for him - the nexus of Time, the nexus of Size.
He began west again, his back set against the sunrise, heading toward the ocean, realizing that a great passage of his life had come and gone. "I loved you, Jake," he said aloud.
The stiffness wore out of his body and he began to walk more rapidly. By that evening he had come to the end of the land. He sat on a beach which stretched left and right forever, deserted. The waves beat endlessly against the shore, pounding and pounding. The setting sun painted the water in a wide strip of fool's gold.
There the gunslinger sat, his face turned up into the fading light. He dreamed his dreams and watched as the stars came out; his purpose did not flag, nor did his heart falter; his hair, finer now and gray, blew around his head, and the sandalwood-inlaid guns of his father lay smooth and deadly against his hips, and he was lonely but did not find loneliness in any way a bad or ignoble thing. The dark came down on the world and the world moved on. The gunslinger waited for the time of the drawing and dreamed his long dreams of the Dark Tower, to which he would some day come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle.
The foregoing tale, which is almost (but not quite!) complete in itself, is the first stanza in a much longer work called The Dark Tower. Some of the work beyond this segment has been completed, but there is much more to be done- my brief synopsis of the action to follow suggests a length approaching 3000 pages, perhaps more. That probably sounds as if my plans for the story have passed beyond mere ambition and into the land of lunacy... but ask your favorite English teacher sometime to tell you about the plans Chaucer had for The Canterbury Tales - now Chaucer might have been crazy.
At the speed which the work entire has progressed so far, I would have to live approximately 300 years to complete the tale of the Tower; this segment, "The Gunslinger and the Dark Tower," was written over a period of twelve years. It is by far the longest I've taken with any work... and it might be more honest to put it another way: it is the longest that any of my unfinished works has remained alive and viable in my own mind, and if a book is not alive in the writer's mind, it is as dead as year-old horse shit even if words continue to march across the page.
The Dark Tower began, I think, because I inherited a ream of paper in the spring semester of my senior year in college. It wasn't a ream of your ordinary garden-variety bond paper, not even a ream of those colorful "second sheets" that many struggling writers use because those reams of colored sheets (often with large chunks of undissolved wood floating in them) are three or four dollars cheaper.
The ream of paper I inherited was bright green, nearly as thick as cardboard, and of an extremely eccentric size- about seven inches wide by about ten inches long, as I recall. I was working at the University of Maine library at the time, and several reams of this stuff, in various hues, turned up one day, totally unexplained and unaccounted for. My wife-to-be, the then Tabitha Spruce, took one of these reams of paper (robin's egg blue) home with her; the fellow she was then going with took home another (Roadrunner yellow). I got the green stuff.
As it happened, all three of us turned out to be real writers - a coincidence almost too large to be termed mere coincidence in a society where literally tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of college students aspire to the writer's trade and where bare hundreds actually break through. I've gone on to publish half a dozen novels or so, my wife has published one (Small World) and is hard at work on an even better one, and the fellow she was going with back then, David Lyons, has developed into a fine poet and the founder of Lynx Press in Massachusetts.
Maybe it was the paper, folks. Maybe it was magic paper. You know, like in a Stephen King novel.
Anyway, all of you out there reading this may not understand how fraught with possibility those five hundred sheets of blank paper seemed to be, although I'd guess there are plenty of you who are nodding in perfect understanding right now. Publishing writers can, of course, have all the blank paper they want; it is their stock-in-trade. It's even tax deductible. They can have so much, in fact, that all of those blank sheets can actually begin to cast a malign spell-better writers than I have talked about the mute challenge of all that white space, and God knows some of them have been intimidated into silence by it.
The other side of the coin, particularly to a young writer, is almost unholy exhilaration all that blank paper can bring on; you feel like an alcoholic contemplating a fifth of whiskey with the seal unbroken.
I was at that time living in a scuzzy riverside cabin not far from the University, and I was living all by myself - the first third of the foregoing tale was written in a ghastly, unbroken silence which I now, with a houseful of rioting children, two secretaries, and a housekeeper who always thinks I look ill, find hard to remember. The three roommates with whom I had begun the year had all flunked out By March, when the ice went out of the river, I felt like the last of Agatha Christie's ten little Indians.
Those two factors, the challenge of that blank green paper, and the utter silence (except for the trickle of the melting snow as it ran downhill and into the Stillwater), were more responsible than anything else for the opening lay of The Dark Tower. There was a third factor, but without the first two, I don't believe the story ever would have been written.
That third element was a poem I'd been assigned two years earlier, in a sophomore course covering the earlier romantic poets (and what better time to study romantic poetry than in one's sophomore year?). Most of the other poems had fallen out of my consciousness in the period between, but that one, gorgeous and rich and inexplicable, remained.., and it remains still. That poem was "Childe Roland," by Robert Browning.
I had played with the idea of trying a long romantic novel embodying the feel, if not the exact sense, of the Browning poem. Play was as far as things had gone because I had too many other things to write - poems of my own, short stories, newspaper columns, God knows what.