Last week, Jake struggled mightily with the duality of his existence and the “doubling” of his mind. This week, Jake Chambers returns to Roland's world in an incredibly tense scene featuring a monster haunted house.
Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Waste Lands (1991), the 3rd book in The Dark Tower series. We just finished our journey across the beach in The Drawing of the Three, drawing Eddie and Susannah Dean into Roland's world and ending the pitiful life of Jack Mort. Eddie is off heroin, and Susannah's previously split mind has merged into one—but Roland Deschain is troubled. It seems by killing Jack Mort and allowing Jake Chambers to live, he has created a paradox ... and it's tearing his mind apart. What's next for this new ka-tet? Will Roland be able to rectify this butterfly effect? Join us as we make our way into The Waste Lands!
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
This book's chapters set up nicely, so the plan is to read a chapter a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, Jake Chambers returns to Roland's world in an incredibly tense drawing through a living monster of a haunted house! Whew! I'm still on the edge of my seat. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part III of The Waste Lands: BOOK ONE JAKE: FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, Chapter III: “Door and Demon”!
BOOK ONE JAKE: FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST
III. Door and Demon
“In another world, but beneath the shadow of the same ka-tet …” King writes, with Jake continuing his search for the door. In a dream, he’s on a basketball court (at the Portal of the Bear, aka Brooklyn) and a thirteen-year-old teenager gives him directions to cross over. Upon waking, Jake packs his books and swipes his father’s .44 Ruger automatic with a box of shells.
He knows he’s outta there for good, as he moves southeast, following the path of the beam to an abandoned haunted house on Dutch Hill. It seems fairly obvious now that Jake is the third member of Roland’s ka-tet—the one predicted in The Drawing of the Three.
In the alternate time, Eddie shows Roland the key he has carved. Just holding it calms the gunslinger’s rattled nerves, and the mental division (“doubling”) that has been plaguing him goes away. But Eddie’s anxiety is mounting, knowing he has to finish carving the piece to precision so that Jake can re-enter their world. Then, in a tying up of story threads, he explains:
“I think it’s the kid you met at the way station,” he said at last. “I think your old friend Jake was hanging around, watching me and Henry on the afternoon we went over to Dutch Hill. I think he followed us. Because he hears the voices, just like you, Roland. And because he’s sharing my dreams, and I’m sharing his. I think that what I remember is what’s happening now, in Jake’s when. The kid is trying to come back here. And if the key isn’t done when he makes his move—or if it’s done wrong—he’s probably going to die.”
Sticking closely to the beam they are following (a physical force akin to gravity), they come to a sign that reads:
TRAVELLER, BEYOND LIES MID-WORLD
King mythology has a decidedly Tolkien feel in the phrasing of this series, as Mid-World sounds a lot like Middle-earth—of which Wikipedia notes was rooted in Norse mythos of ages past (a great quote from this book: “The wheel which turns our lives is remorseless; always it comes around to the same place again.”) King veers off, though, terraforming his own indelible creations, similar to the way he used the Man With No Name and C.S. Lewis starting points in the first two books.
Roland & Co. soldier past a dozen so called billy-bumblers sitting upon the ruins of what Roland explains was a once great city rivaling NYC. Roland becomes alarmed that they have come to another speaking ring/oracle, similar to the one that had almost claimed Jake’s life in The Gunslinger. Eddie senses that Jake will attempt to come through the area of the speaking ring, which Roland confirms is a strong probability since they are “thin places.”
The race is on; Eddie says there’s a monster between the two doors. “Something that waits. And it’s opening its eyes.”
In NYC, Jake spots Henry and Eddie Dean, realizing the younger brother Eddie is from his dream. He patiently watches them play basketball and then shadows the siblings to the haunted house on Dutch Hill. Oh, and it is the haunted house to end all haunted houses, Jake senses as he enters—a sentient breathing monster of a structure. After all his struggles to get this far, he loses the key through a crack between two warped boards, momentarily feeling like throwing in the towel.
Then the thing coming out of the wall grunted, and when Jake looked up, his urge to give in vanished in a single stroke of terror. Now it was all the way out of the wall, a giant plaster head with one broken wooden eye and one reaching plaster hand. Chunks of lathing stood out on its skull in random hackles, like a child’s drawing of hair. It saw Jake and opened its mouth, revealing jagged wooden teeth. It grunted again. Plaster-dust drifted out of its yawning mouth like cigar smoke.
Eddie, who magically creates a door on his side in a shade of Harold’s purple crayon, is now in place, peering through the keyhole and encouraging Jake to hurry as the boy frantically retrieves his one way “ticket” to Mid-World. Susannah—or rather Detta, who was summoned forward—is being attacked, essentially raped, by the oracle, although she tells Eddie that she’s in control.
Personally, I didn’t care for these passages devoted to her gaining the upper hand over the erotic fiend and her outlandish taunting: “You weakenin on me! Wassa matta? I thought you was some kind of hot-shit studboy!” But through all of it, she holds the sex demon at bay as a jittery Eddie carves a bit more off the teeth of his key and opens the door.
Nearly at Susannah’s breaking point, Roland is able to grab the oracle and toss it through the door, where it becomes ensnared with the plaster-monster in NYC. He and Jake then escape—in what is described as a prism moving off kilter horizontally yet vertically—back to Mid-World where Eddie shuts the door.
In three books, we have seen some incredible action highs—the battle of Tull, escaping the mutants inside the mountain, the shootout in Balazar's office, and the did-a-chick, dum-a-chum lobstrosities—but a new level of white-knuckle excitement was reached with Jake's crossing over. The relentless suspense cumulates so well because King is in full horror drive as he turns the whole house Jake is escaping into a monster. Unique, thrilling storytelling.
What a chapter! How terrifying was that haunted house, and how tense was Jake's drawing!? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.