PRISONER CHAPTER 2 EDDIE DEAN
As if to confirm this idea, mad as it was, what the gunslinger was looking at through the doorway suddenly rose and slid sidewards. The view turned (that feeling of vertigo again, a feeling of standing still on a plate with wheels under it, a plate which hands he could not see moved this way and that), and then the aisle was flowing past the edges of the doorway. He passed a place where several women, all dressed in the same red uniforms, stood. This was a place of steel things, and he would have liked to make the moving view stop in spite of his pain and exhaustion so he could see what the steel things were锟?machines of some sort. One looked a bit like an oven. The army woman he had already seen was pouring the gin which the voice had requested. The bottle she poured from was very small. It was glass. The vessel she was pouring it into looked like glass but the gunslinger didn't think it actually was.
What the doorway showed had moved along before he could see more. There was another of those dizzying turns and he was looking at a metal door. There was a lighted sign in a small oblong. This word the gunslinger could read. VACANT, it said.
The view slid down a little. A hand entered it from the right of the door the gunslinger was looking through and grasped the knob of the door the gunslinger was looking at. He saw the cuff of a blue shirt, slightly pulled back to reveal crisp curls of black hair. Long fingers. A ring on one of them, with a jewel set into it that might have been a ruby or a firedim or a piece of trumpery trash. The gunslinger rather thought it this last锟?it was too big and vulgar to be real.
The metal door swung open and the gunslinger was looking into the strangest privy he had ever seen. It was all metal.
The edges of the metal door flowed past the edges of the door on the beach. The gunslinger heard the sound of it being closed and latched. He was spared another of those giddy spins, so he supposed the man through whose eyes he was watching must have reached behind himself to lock himself in.
Then the view did turn锟?not all the way around but half锟?and he was looking into a mirror, seeing a face he had seen once before ... on a Tarot card. The same dark eyes and spill of dark hair. The face was calm but pale, and in the eyes锟?eyes through which he saw now reflected back at him锟?Roland saw some of the dread and horror of that baboon-ridden creature on the Tarot card.
The man was shaking.
He's sick, too.
Then he remembered Nort, the weed-eater in Tull.
He thought of the Oracle.
A demon has infested him.
The gunslinger suddenly thought he might know what HEROIN was after all: something like the devil-grass.
A trifle upsetting, isn't he?
Without thought, with the simple resolve that had made him the last of them all, the last to continue marching on and on long after Cuthbert and the others had died or given up, committed suicide or treachery or simply recanted the whole idea of the Tower; with the single-minded and incurious resolve that had driven him across the desert and all the years before the desert in the wake of the man in black, the gunslinger stepped through the doorway.
Eddie ordered a gin and tonic锟?maybe not such a good idea to be going into New York Customs drunk, and he knew once he got started he would just keep on going锟?but he had to have something.
When you got to get down and you can't find the elevator, Henry had told him once, you got to do it any way you can. Even if it's only with a shovel.
Then, after he'd given his order and the stewardess had left, he started to feel like he was maybe going to vomit. Not for sure going to vomit, only maybe, but it was better to be safe. Going through Customs with a pound of pure cocaine under each armpit with gin on your breath was not so good; going through Customs that way with puke drying on your pants would be disaster. So better to be safe. The feeling would probably pass, it usually did, but better to be safe.
Trouble was, he was going cool turkey. Cool, not cold. More words of wisdom from that great sage and eminent junkie Henry Dean.
They had been sitting on the penthouse balcony of the Regency Tower, not quite on the nod but edging toward it, the sun warm on their faces, done up so good ... back in the good old days, when Eddie had just started to snort the stuff and Henry himself had yet to pick up his first needle.
Everybody talks about going cold turkey, Henry had said, but before you get there, you gotta go cool turkey.
And Eddie, stoned out of his mind, had cackled madly, because he knew exactly what Henry was talking about. Henry, however, had not so much as cracked a smile.
In some ways cool turkey's worse than cold turkey, Henry said. At least when you make it to cold turkey, you KNOW you're gonna puke, you KNOW you're going to shake, you KNOW you're gonna sweat until it feels like you're drowning in it. Cool turkey is, like, the curse of expectation.
Eddie remembered asking Henry what you called it when a needle-freak (which, in those dim dead days which must have been all of sixteen months ago, they had both solemnly assured themselves they would never become) got a hot shot.
You call that baked turkey, Henry had replied promptly, and then had looked surprised, the way a person does when he's said something that turned out to be a lot funnier than he actually thought it would be, and they looked at each other, and then they were both howling with laughter and clutching each other. Baked turkey, pretty funny, not so funny now.
Eddie walked up the aisle past the galley to the head, checked the sign锟?VACANT锟?and opened the door.
Hey Henry, o great sage if eminent junkie big brother, while we're on the subject of our feathered friends, you want to hear my definition of cooked goose? That's when the Customs guy at Kennedy decides there's something a little funny about the way you look, or it's one of the days when they got the dogs with the PhD noses out there instead of at Port Authority and they all start to bark and pee all over the floor and it's you they're all just about strangling themselves on their choke-chains trying to get to, and after the Customs guys toss all your luggage they take you into the little room and ask you if you'd mind taking off your shirt and you say yeah I sure would I'd mind like hell, I picked up a little cold down in the Bahamas and the air-conditioning in here is real high and I'm afraid it might turn into pneumonia and they say oh is that so, do you always sweat like that when the air-conditioning's too high, Mr. Dean, you do, well, excuse us all to hell, now do it, and you do it, and they say maybe you better take off the t-shirt too, because you look like maybe you got some kind of a medical problem, buddy, those bulges under your pits look like maybe they could be some kind of lymphatic tumors or something, and you don't even bother to say anything else, it's like a center-fielder who doesn't even bother to chase the ball when it's hit a certain way, he just turns around and watches it go into the upper deck, because when it's gone it's gone, so you take off the t-shirt and hey, looky here, you're some lucky kid, those aren't tumors, unless they're what you might call tumors on the corpus of society, yuk-yuk-yuk, those things look more like a couple of baggies held there with Scotch strapping tape, and by the way, don't worry about that smell, son, that's just goose. It's cooked.
He reached behind him and pulled the locking knob. The lights in the head brightened. The sound of the motors was a soft drone. He turned toward the mirror, wanting to see how bad he looked, and suddenly a terrible, pervasive feeling swept over him: a feeling of being watched.
Hey, come on, quit it, he thought uneasily. You're supposed to be the most unparanoid guy in the world. That's why they sent you. That's why锟?
But it suddenly seemed those were not his own eyes in the mirror, not Eddie Dean's hazel, almost-green eyes that had melted so many hearts and allowed him to part so many pretty sets of legs during the last third of his twenty-one years, not his eyes but those of a stranger. Not hazel but a blue the color of fading Levis . Eyes that were chilly, precise, unexpected marvels of calibration. Bombardier's eyes.
Reflected in them he saw锟?clearly saw锟?a seagull swooping down over a breaking wave and snatching something from it.
He had time to think What in God's name is this shit? and then he knew it wasn't going to pass; he was going to throw up after all.
In the half-second before he did, in the half-second he went on looking into the mirror, he saw those blue eyes disappear ... but before that happened there was suddenly the feeling of being two people ... of being possessed, like the little girl in The Exorcist.
Clearly he felt a new mind inside his own mind, and heard a thought not as his own thought but more like a voice from a radio: I've come through. I'm in the sky-carriage.
There was something else, but Eddie didn't hear it. He was too busy throwing up into the basin as quietly as he could.
When he was done, before he had even wiped his mouth, something happened which had never happened to him before. For one frightening moment there was nothing锟?only a blank interval. As if a single line in a column of newsprint had been neatly and completely inked out.
What is this? Eddie thought helplessly. What the hell is this shit?
Then he had to throw up again, and maybe that was just as well; whatever you might say against it, regurgitation had at least this much in its favor: as long as you were doing it, you couldn't think of anything else.
I've come through. I'm in the sky-carriage, the gunslinger thought. And, a second later: He sees me in the mirror !
Roland pulled back锟?did not leave but pulled back, like a child retreating to the furthest corner of a very long room. He was inside the sky-carriage; he was also inside a man who was not himself. Inside The Prisoner. In that first moment, when he had been close to the front (it was the only way he could describe it), he had been more than inside; he had almost been the man. He felt the man's illness, whatever it was, and sensed that the man was about to retch. Roland understood that if he needed to, he could take control of this man's body. He would suffer his pains, would be ridden by whatever demon-ape rode him, but if he needed to he could.
Or he could stay back here, unnoticed.
When the prisoner's fit of vomiting had passed, the gunslinger leaped forward - this time all the way to the front. He understood very little about this strange situation, and to act in a situation one does not understand is to invite the most terrible consequences, but there were two things he needed to know锟?and he needed to know them so desperately that the needing outweighed any consequences which might arise.
Was the door he had come through from his own world still there?
And if it was, was his physical self still there, collapsed, untenanted, perhaps dying or already dead without his self's self to go on unthinkingly running lungs and heart and nerves? Even if his body still lived, it might only continue to do so until night fell. Then the lobstrosities would come out to ask their questions and look for shore dinners.
He snapped the head which was for a moment his head around in a fast backward glance.
The door was still there, still behind him. It stood open on his own world, its hinges buried in the steel of this peculiar privy. And, yes, there he lay, Roland, the last gunslinger, lying on his side, his bound right hand on his stomach.
I'm breathing, Roland thought. I'llhave to go back and move me. But there are things to do first. Things ...
He let go of the prisoner's mind and retreated, watching, waiting to see if the prisoner knew he was there or not.
After the vomiting stopped, Eddie remained bent over the basin, eyes tightly closed.
Blanked there for a second. Don't know what it was. Did I look around?
He groped for the faucet and ran cool water. Eyes still closed, he splashed it over his cheeks and brow.
When it could be avoided no longer, he looked up into the mirror again.
His own eyes looked back at him.
There were no alien voices in his head.
No feeling of being watched.
You had a momentary fugue, Eddie, the great sage and eminent junkie advised him. A not uncommon phenomenon in one who is going cool turkey.
Eddie glanced at his watch. An hour and a half to New York . The plane was scheduled to land at 4:05 EDT , but it was really going to be high noon. Showdown time.
He went back to his seat. His drink was on the divider. He took two sips and the stew came back to ask him if she could do any thing else for him. He opened his mouth to say no ... and then there was another of those odd blank moments.
"I'd like something to eat, please," the gunslinger said through Eddie Dean's mouth.
"We'll be serving a hot snack in锟?"
"I'm really starving, though," the gunslinger said with perfect truthfulness. "Anything at all, even a popkin锟?"
"Popkin?" the army woman frowned at him, and the gunslinger suddenly looked into the prisoner's mind. Sandwich ... the word was as distant as the murmur in a conch shell.
"A sandwich, even," the gunslinger said.
The army woman looked doubtful. "Well ... I have some tuna fish ..."
"That would be fine," the gunslinger said, although he had never heard of tooter fish in his life. Beggars could not be choosers.
"You do look a little pale," the army woman said. "I thought maybe it was air-sickness."
She gave him a professional smile. "I'll see what I can rustle up."
Russel? the gunslinger thought dazedly. In his own world to russel was a slang verb meaning to take a woman by force. Never mind. Food would come. He had no idea if he could carry it back through the doorway to the body which needed it so badly, but one thing at a time, one thing at a time.
Russel, he thought, and Eddie Dean's head shook, as if in disbelief.
Then the gunslinger retreated again.
Nerves, the great oracle and eminent junkie assured him. Just nerves. All part of the cool turkey experience, little brother.
But if nerves was what it was, how come he felt this odd sleepiness stealing over him锟?odd because he should have been itchy, ditsy, feeling that urge to squirm and scratch that came before the actual shakes; even if he had not been in Henry's "cool turkey" state, there was the fact that he was about to attempt bringing two pounds of coke through U.S. Customs, a felony punishable by not less than ten years in federal prison, and he seemed to suddenly be having blackouts as well.
Still, that feeling of sleepiness.
He sipped at his drink again, then let his eyes slip shut.
Why'd you black out?
I didn't, or she'd be running for all the emergency gear they carry.
Blanked out, then. It's no good either way. You never blanked out like that before in your life. Nodded out, yeah, but never blanked out.
Something odd about his right hand, too. It seemed to throb vaguely, as if he had pounded it with a hammer.
He flexed it without opening his eyes. No ache. No throb. No blue bombardier's eyes. As for the blank-outs, they were just a combination of going cool turkey and a good case of what the great oracle and eminent et cetera would no doubt call the smuggler's blues.
But I'm going to sleep, just the same, he thought. How 'bout that?
Henry's face drifted by him like an untethered balloon. Don't worry, Henry was saying. You'll be all right, little brother. You fly down there toNassau, check in at the Aquinas, there'll be a man come by Friday night. One of the good guys. He'll fix you, leave you enough stuff to take you through the weekend. Sunday night he brings the coke and you give him the key to the safe deposit box. Monday morning you do the routine just like Balazar said. This guy will play; he knows how it's supposed to go. Monday noon you fly out, and with a face as honest as yours, you'll breeze through Customs and we'll be eating steak inSparksbefore the sun goes down. It's gonna be a breeze, little brother, nothing but a cool breeze.
But it had been sort of a warm breeze after all.
The trouble with him and Henry was they were like Charlie Brown and Lucy. The only difference was once in awhile Henry would hold onto the football so Eddie could kick it锟?not often, but once in awhile. Eddie had even thought, while in one of his heroin dazes, that he ought to write Charles Schultz a letter. Dear Mr. Schultz, he would say. You're missing a bet by ALWAYS having Lucy pull the football up at the last second. She ought to hold it down there once in awhile. Nothing Charlie Brown could ever predict, you understand. Sometimes she'd maybe hold it down for him to kick three, even four times in a row, then nothing for a month, then once, and then nothing for three or four days, and then, you know, you get the idea. That would REALLY fuck the kid up, wouldn't it?
Eddie knew it would really fuck the kid up.
From experience he knew it.
One of the good guys, Henry had said, but the guy who showed up had been a sallow-skinned thing with a British accent, a hairline moustache that looked like something out of a 1940s filmnoire, and yellow teeth that all leaned inward, like the teeth of a very old animal trap.
"You have the key, Senor?" he asked, except in that British public school accent it came out sounding like what you called your last year of high school.
"The key's safe," Eddie said, "if that's what you mean."
"Then give it to me."
"That's not the way it goes. You're supposed to have something to take me through the weekend. Sunday night you're supposed to bring me something. I give you the key. Monday you go into town and use it to get something else. I don't know what, 'cause that's not my business."
Suddenly there was a small flat blue automatic in the sallow-skinned thing's hand. "Why don't you just give it to me, Senor? I will save time and effort; you will save your life."
There was deep steel in Eddie Dean, junkie or no junkie. Henry knew it; more important, Balazar knew it. That was why he had been sent. Most of them thought he had gone because he was hooked through the bag and back again. He knew it, Henry knew it, Balazar, too. But only he and Henry knew he would have gone even if he was as straight as a stake. For Henry. Balazar hadn't got quite that far in his figuring, but fuck Balazar.
"Why don't you just put that thing away, you little scuzz?" Eddie asked. "Or do you maybe want Balazar to send someone down here and cut your eyes out of your head with a rusty knife?"
The sallow thing smiled. The gun was gone like magic; in its place was a small envelope. He handed it to Eddie. "Just a little joke, you know."
"If you say so."
"I see you Sunday night."
He turned toward the door.
"I think you better wait."
The sallow thing turned back, eyebrows raised. "You think I won't go if I want to go?"
"I think if you go and this is bad shit, I'll be gone tomorrow. Then you'll be in deep shit."
The sallow thing turned sulky. It sat in the room's single easy chair while Eddie opened the envelope and spilled out a small quantity of brown stuff. It looked evil. He looked at the sallow thing.
"I know how it looks, it looks like shit, but that's just the cut," the sallow thing said. "It's fine."
Eddie tore a sheet of paper from the notepad on the desk and separated a small amount of the brown powder from the pile. He fingered it and then rubbed it on the roof of his mouth. A second later he spat into the wastebasket.
"You want to die? Is that it? You got a death-wish?"
"That's all there is." The sallow thing looked more sulky than ever.
"I have a reservation out tomorrow," Eddie said. This was a lie, but he didn't believe the sallow thing had the resources to check it. "TWA. I did it on my own, just in case the contact happened to be a fuck-up like you. I don't mind. It'll be a relief, actually. I wasn't cut out for this sort of work."
The sallow thing sat and cogitated. Eddie sat and concentrated on not moving. He felt like moving; felt like slipping and sliding, hipping and bopping, shucking and jiving, scratching his scratches and cracking his crackers. He even felt his eyes wanting to slide back to the pile of brown powder, although he knew it was poison. He had fixed at ten that morning; the same number of hours had gone by since then. But if he did any of those things, the situation would change. The sallow thing was doing more than cogitating; it was watching him, trying to calculate the depth of him.
"I might be able to find something," it said at last.
"Why don't you try?" Eddie said. "But come eleven, I turn out the light and put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door, and anybody that knocks after I do that, I call the desk and say someone's bothering me, send a security guy."
"You are a fuck," the sallow thing said in its impeccable British accent.
"No," Eddie said, "a fuck is what you expected. I came with my legs crossed. You want to be here before eleven with something that I can use锟?it doesn't have to be great, just something I can use锟?or you will be one dead scuzz."
The sallow thing was back long before eleven; he was back by nine-thirty. Eddie guessed the other stuff had been in his car all along.
A little more powder this time. Not white, but at least a dull ivory color, which was mildly hopeful.
Eddie tasted. It seemed all right. Actually better than all right. Pretty good. He rolled a bill and snorted.
"Well, then, until Sunday," the sallow thing said briskly, getting to its feet.
"Wait," Eddie said, as if he were the one with the gun. In a way he was. The gun was Balazar. Emilio Balazar was a high-caliber big shot in New York 's wonderful world of drugs.
"Wait?" the sallow thing turned and looked at Eddie as if he believed Eddie must be insane. "For what?"
"Well, I was actually thinking of you," Eddie said. "If I get really sick from what I just put into my body, it's off. If I die, of course it's off. I was just thinking that, if I only get a little sick, I might give you another chance. You know, like that story about how some kid rubs a lamp and gets three wishes."
"It will not make you sick. That's China White."
"If that's China White," Eddie said, "I'm Dwight Gooden."
The sallow thing sat down. Eddie sat by the motel room desk with the little pile of white powder nearby (the D-Con or whatever it had been had long since gone down the John). On TV the Braves were getting shellacked by the Mets, courtesy of WTBS and the big satellite dish on the Aquinas Hotel's roof. Eddie felt a faint sensation of calm which seemed to come from the back of his mind ... except where it was really coming from, he knew from what he had read in the medical journals, was from the bunch of living wires at the base of his spine, that place where heroin addiction takes place by causing an unnatural thickening of the nerve stern.
Want to take a quick cure? he had asked Henry once. Break your spine, Henry. Your legs stop working, and so does your cock, but you stop needing the needle right away.
Henry hadn't thought it was funny.
In truth, Eddie hadn't thought it was that funny either. When the only fast way you could get rid of the monkey on your back was to snap your spinal cord above that bunch of nerves, you were dealing with one heavy monkey. That was no capuchin, no cute little organ grinder's mascot; that was a big mean old baboon.
Eddie began to sniffle.
"Okay," he said at last. "It'll do. You can vacate the premises, scuzz."
The sallow thing got up. "I have friends,'' he said. "They could come in here and do things to you. You'd beg to tell me where that key is."
"Not me, champ," Eddie said. "Not this kid." And smiled. He didn't know how the smile looked, but it must not have looked all that cheery because the sallow thing vacated the premises, vacated them fast, vacated them without looking back.
When Eddie Dean was sure he was gone, he cooked.
As he was sleeping now.
The gunslinger, somehow inside this man's mind (a man whose name he still did not know; the lowling the prisoner thought of as "the sallow thing'' had not known it, and so had never spoken it), watched this as he had once watched plays as a child, before the world had moved on ... or so he thought he watched, because plays were all he had ever seen. If he had ever seen a moving picture, he would have thought of that first. The things he did not actually see he had been able to pluck from the prisoner's mind because the associations were close. It was odd about the name, though. He knew the name of the prisoner's brother, but not the name of the man himself. But of course names were secret things, full of power.
And neither of the things that mattered was the man's name. One was the weakness of the addiction. The other was the steel buried inside that weakness, like a good gun sinking in quicksand.
This man reminded the gunslinger achingly of Cuthbert.
Someone was coming. The prisoner, sleeping, did not hear. The gunslinger, not sleeping, did, and came forward again.
Great, Jane thought. He tells me how hungry he is and I fix something up for him because he's a little bit cute, and then he falls asleep on me.
Then the passenger锟?a guy of about twenty, tall, wearing clean, slightly faded bluejeans and a paisley shirt锟?opened his eyes a little and smiled at her.
"Thankee sai," he said锟?or so it sounded. Almost archaic ... or foreign. Sleep-talk, that's all, Jane thought.
"You're welcome." She smiled her best stewardess smile, sure he would fall asleep again and the sandwich would still be there, uneaten, when it was time for the actual meal service.
Well, that was what they taught you to expect, wasn't it?
She went back to the galley to catch a smoke.
She struck the match, lifted it halfway to her cigarette, and there it stopped, unnoticed, because that wasn't all they taught you to expect.
I thought he was a little bit cute. Mostly because of his eyes. His hazel eyes.
But when the man in 3A had opened his eyes a moment ago, they hadn't been hazel; they had been blue. Not sweet-sexy blue like Paul Newman's eyes, either, but the color of icebergs. They锟?
The match had reached her fingers. She shook it out.
"Jane?" Paula asked. "You all right?"
She lit another match and this time did the job right. She had only taken a single drag when the perfectly reasonable explanation occurred to her. He wore contacts. Of course. The kind that changed the color of your eyes. He had gone into the bathroom. He had been in there long enough for her to worry about him being airsick锟?he had that pallid complexion, the look of a man who is not quite well. But he had only been taking out his contact lenses so he could nap more comfortably. Perfectly reasonable.
You may feel something, a voice from her own not-so-distant past spoke suddenly. Some little tickle. You may see something just a little bit wrong.
Colored contact lenses.
Jane Dorning personally knew over two dozen people who wore contacts. Most of them worked for the airline. No one ever said anything about it, but she thought maybe one reason was they all sensed the passengers didn't like to see flight personnel wearing glasses锟?it made them nervous.
Of all those people, she knew maybe four who had color-contacts. Ordinary contact lenses were expensive; colored ones cost the earth. All of the people of Jane's acquaintance who cared to lay out that sort of money were women, all of them extremely vain.
So what? Guys can be vain, too. Why not? He's good-looking.
No. He wasn't. Cute, maybe, but that was as far as it went, and with the pallid complexion he only made it to cute by the skin of his teeth. So why the color-contacts?
Airline passengers are often afraid of flying.
In a world where hijacking and drug-smuggling had become facts of life, airline personnel are often afraid of passengers.
The voice that had initiated these thoughts had been that of an instructor at flight school, a tough old battle-axe who looked as if she could have flown the mail with Wiley Post, saying: Don't ignore your suspicions. If you forget every thing else you've learned about coping with potential or actual terrorists, remember this: don't ignore your suspicions. In some cases you'll get a crew who'll say during the debriefing that they didn't have any idea until the guy pulled out a grenade and said hang a left forCubaor everyone on the aircraft is going to join the jet-stream. But in most cases you get two or three different people锟?mostly flight attendants, which you women will be in less than a month锟?who say they felt something. Some little tickle. A sense that the guy in 91C or the young woman in 5A was a little wrong. They felt something, but they did nothing. Did they get fired for that? Christ, no! You can't put a guy in restraints because you don't like the way he scratches his pimples. The real problem is they felt something ...and then forgot.
The old battle-axe had raised one blunt finger. Jane Dorning, along with her fellow classmates, had listened raptly as she said, If you feel that little tickle, don't do anything ...but that includes not forgetting. Because there's always that one little chance that you just might be able to stop something before it gets started ...something like an unscheduled twelve-day layover on the tarmac of some shitpot Arab country.
Just colored contacts, but ...
Sleep-talk? Or a muddled lapse into some other language?
She would watch, Jane decided.
And she would not forget.
Now, the gunslinger thought. Now we'll see, won't we?
He had been able to come from his world into this body through the door on the beach. What he needed to find out was whether or not he could carry things back. Oh, not himself, he was confident that he could return through the door and reenter his own poisoned, sickening body at any time he should desire. But other things? Physical things? Here, for instance, in front of him, was food: something the woman in the uniform had called a tooter-fish sandwich. The gunslinger had no idea what tooter-fish was, but he knew a popkin when he saw it, although this one looked curiously uncooked.
His body needed to eat, and his body would need to drink, but more than either, his body needed some sort of medicine. It would die from the lobstrosity's bite without it. There might be such medicine in this world; in a world where carriages rode through the air far above where even the strongest eagle could fly, anything seemed possible. But it would not matter how much powerful medicine there was here if he could carry nothing physical through the door.
You could live in this body, gunslinger, the voice of the man in black whispered deep inside his head. Leave that piece of breathing meat over there for the lobster-things. It's only a husk, anyway.
He would not do that. For one thing it would be the most murderous sort of thievery, because he would not be content to be just a passenger for long, looking out of this man's eyes like a traveller looking out of a coach window at the passing scenery.
For another, he was Roland. If dying was required, he intended to die as Roland. He would die crawling toward the Tower, if that was what was required.
Then the odd harsh practicality that lived beside the romantic in his nature like a tiger with a roe reasserted itself. There was no need to think of dying with the experiment not yet made.
He picked up the popkin. It had been cut in two halves. He held one in each hand. He opened the prisoner's eyes and looked out of them. No one was looking at him (although, in the galley, Jane Dorning was thinking about him, and very hard).
Roland turned toward the door and went through, holding the popkin-halves in his hands.
First he heard the grinding roar of an incoming wave; next he heard the argument of many sea-birds arising from the closest rocks as he struggled to a sitting position (cowardly buggers were creeping up, he thought, and they would have been taking pecks out of me soon enough, still breathing or no锟?they're nothing but vultures with a coat of paint); then he became aware that one popkin half锟?the one in his right hand锟?had tumbled onto the hard gray sand because he had been holding it with a whole hand when he came through the door and now was锟?or had been锟?holding it in a hand which had suffered a forty per cent reduction.
He picked it up clumsily, pinching it between his thumb and ring finger, brushed as much of the sand from it as he could, and took a tentative bite. A moment later he was wolfing it, not noticing the few bits of sand which ground between his teeth. Seconds later he turned his attention to the other half. It was gone in three bites.
The gunslinger had no idea what tooter-fish was锟?only that it was delicious. That seemed enough.
In the plane, no one saw the tuna sandwich disappear. No one saw Eddie Dean's hands grasp the two halves of it tightly enough to make deep thumb-indentations in the white bread.
No one saw the sandwich fade to transparency, then disappear, leaving only a few crumbs.
About twenty seconds after this had happened, Jane Dorning snuffed her cigarette and crossed the head of the cabin. She got her book from her totebag, but what she really wanted was another look at 3A.
He appeared to be deeply asleep ... but the sandwich was gone.
Jesus, Jane thought. He didn't eat it; he swallowed it whole. And now he's asleep again? Are you kidding?
Whatever was tickling at her about 3A, Mr. Now-They're-Hazel-Now-They're-Blue, kept right on tickling. Something about him was not right.