“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”
Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week we hopped over to 1999 NYC, where Mia and Susannah (and more than a touch of Detta) were freaking out a businesswoman named Trudy and stealing her shoes. Trudy had unadvisedly begun to look for her.
Song of Susannah, 4th Stanza, “Susannah’s Dogan,” Section 1
Susannah’s memory has become less reliable. She remembers the battle with the Wolves and Mia waiting—actually, Mia cheering her on “with her warrior’s heart.” But once the battle was won, the labor pains were back. She heard Mia’s “you got to help me” plea and couldn’t refuse. Mainly because it was her own body they shared and she wanted to see it.
Even though Susannah understands the danger, she knows she can stop the labor—at least for a while longer—by using the Dogan, even though the machinery in the Dogan had never been meant to do what she is using it for. And Susannah has no idea how long it will be before the machinery overloads and burns out.
Susannah has a vague memory of removing her wheelchair from the wagon while everyone else is celebrating the victory over the Wolves or mourning the dead. At Mia’s insistence, she’d managed to get one last mile before the wheelchair hit a rock and threw her out. She remembers bracing for the fall and then picking herself up—or more correctly, Mia picking up Susannah’s body and working her way further up the path.
Susannah has only one other memory from the Calla side—trying to stop Mia from removing the rawhide loop she wore around her neck with the ring Eddie had carved for her on it. She fought not to remove it—actually, Detta “came forward” ready to fight, but Mia told her it would have her and Eddie’s scent on it. “It has to come off...Otherwise, they’ll have his scent as well as yours. Your husband’s. You don’t want that, believe me!”
“They,” Susannah knows, are the real Wolves. The ones in New York. The vampires. The low men. (Or “was there something else? Something even worse?”)
After that, Susannah vaguely remembers riding the rest of the way up the path on something and then blackness. Not total blackness, but blinking lights and the low glow of television screens showing no picture. She determined that it is Dogan, or at least her mental image of the control room Jake had found on the west side of the River Whye.
Her next clear memory is being back in New York City and peering through her eyes as if they were windows as Mia stole some woman’s shoes. She tried to come forward to plead for help, but a new wave of labor pain washed over her and it was almost more than she could take. Mia took over again, telling Susannah that she had to make the labor pain stop.
Susannah explains that she can make the labor pain stop—or at least she thinks she can—but Mia has to settle down. Mia asked almost timidly, “Where should I go?” Susannah senses that the enormity of NYC is beginning to dawn on Mia, and that she herself recognizes the city but not the “when.”
She spots a little park across the street, and when she settles on the bench next to the turtle, it relaxes her a little—as if Roland had left it there for her as a sigul.
Susannah had Mia take the copy of the Times from the Borders bag so that she could see what the date is, and is amazed that it’s 6-1-99. Before she can get too amazed, though, another labor pain hits, and she orders Mia to close her eyes—that she’s going away for a while. She has to go back to commune with her Inner Dogan.
What Constant Reader Learns: So...if there are switches in the Dogan that can delay Susannah’s labor pain without her actually being there—although I suppose on some level she could actually be there—what does that tell us about the machines in said Dogan? What does it tell us about the Chap if the timing of his “birth” could be controlled by the machines? Or when Mia was out and about communing with Andy and arranging for her ride, did she have some kind of microchip so she can plug in to the Dogan mentally?
I don’t have answers to these questions, mind you, but I’m thinking...
It’s been a while since we saw anyone “come forward.” I liked seeing that language again. I also like formally tying together the Wolves and the low men and the vampires and the ones in New York who want to destroy the rose. I mean, we’ve done it, but I like that Sai King has formally done it.
So now we’re off to the Manhattan Dogan of the Mind. Wonder if we’ll see the daily specials on a chalkboard?
Song of Susannah, 4th Stanza, “Susannah’s Dogan,” Section 2
The Dogan that Susannah imagines is roughly based on the ancient communication and surveillance post Jake had described after finding it on the far side of the river, complete with dusty linoleum floor and rolling chairs along a console of blinking lights and glowing dials. Susannah crosses the room and sat in one of the chairs.
Above her, black and white monitors show some moving images, some still. One monitor shows the black woman sitting on a park bench beside the turtle, with three bags: the one stolen from Trudy, the one filled with the Oriza plates, and the bowling bag. She sees something inside the bowling bag—a box, something with four corners, and it makes her feel angry and betrayed.
She closes her eyes and visualizes the control panel in front of her changed, so that there are two large dials with a single toggle switch. The dial on the left is labeled “Emotional Temp” and the other, “Labor Force.” Under the toggle switch is a label that says “Chap” and its settings are “Awake” and “Asleep.”
When Susannah looks up, she sees one of the monitors is now showing a baby in utero. It was a boy; his eyes are open, and even though the screen is black and white, the baby’s eyes are a piercing blue. She thinks they’re Roland’s eyes.
Susannah dials the “Emotional Temp” dial back to 72 and is immediately filled with calm; on the screen, she can see Mia doing the same. Next, she flips the toggle switch labeled “Chap” to “Asleep.” The baby’s eyes closed immediately.
Finally, she goes to the “Labor Force” dial. It is difficult to turn, but upon applying enough force, it finally does. A pain flashes through her head, and a warning sounds: “THIS OPERATION MAY EXCEED SAFETY PARAMETERS.” She continues to lower it, and some of the monitors short out. From beneath the floor, she feels the startup of big motors or turbines. The pain in her head increases until, when she dials all the way back to 2, she thinks she can’t survive it.
But she does, of course, or this would be a really short book.
All through the Dogan, the lights are glowing, some turning from amber to red. Beneath her, the floor trembles, enough so that if it continued cracks will open and widen. She gets up to return to Mia, but one other thing occurs to her that she needs to do before leaving.
What Constant Reader Learns: When Susannah sees the baby eyes she thinks they look like Roland, but the first one that came to my mind was Andy. Aren’t Roland’s eyes supposed to be dusty blue and not electric blue? Does it matter? Probably not.
Susannah sees the outline of the box inside the bowling bag and it makes her angry, although she doesn’t know why. At first I thought it was whatever the mystery thing is that Eddie found in the last book. But it was probably the box holding Black Thirteen. Even if her memory’s spotty, seems like she’d remember that piece of work. Although all bets are probably off in the Brain Dogan.
Just when I’m starting to think, okay, isn’t this a convenient little bit of trickery to stave off the labor pains so Susannah and Mia can do whatever it is they’re going to do...we get the official explanation. Just as Jake has developed a greater sense of Touch, and Eddie has learned to create powerful talismans, Susannah can visualize something hard enough to make it real. Okay, let’s go back to the “powerful, talismanic objects” Eddie’s creating. Thinking...thinking...well, he carved that key waaaaaaaay back when, to bring Jake across. To my knowledge, he hasn’t carved anything since then except the ring, which we only learned about at the end of the last book. Am I forgetting a “powerful, talismanic object”?
This pending machinery meltdown can’t be a good thing. If a Mental Dogan has a meltdown, does the person go mad? Would it impact a possibly cannibalistic Chap? I’m all about the questions this week, obviously.
Song of Susannah, 4th Stanza, “Susannah’s Dogan,” Section 3
Susannah closes her eyes and imagines a radio microphone. When she opens her eyes, there it is. On the base of the mike is stamped, “North Central Positronics.” On the control panel behind the microphone is a tri-color readout with the words “Susannah—Mia” printed on it, and a needle moving out of the green into the yellow. Beyond the yellow, the dial turns red with one work printed in black: Danger.
Susannah picks up the mike but sees no way to use it, so she closes her eyes and visualizes a toggle switch. When she opens her eyes, it’s there. So she begins to record a message for Eddie. She tells him the date and where she is and how much she loves him.
And as suddenly as she left, she’s jerked back into New York with Mia.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, this was all terribly convenient. So if I want a million bucks, and I close my eyes and imagine it, when I open them again I see...a keyboard and a Diet Coke and a two-year-old iPhone whose juice is fading fast. Glad it works for Susannah. Must be the Roland factor.
Song of Susannah, 4th Stanza, “Susannah’s Dogan,” Section 4
Mia stands up, but when Susannah comes forward, she makes Mia sit again. They need to palaver.
Mia says she needs a telefung. It finally occurs to Susannah to ask her how she even knew what a telephone was, but she doesn’t get an answer—just “watchful silence.” Susannah tries to get Mia to talk to her, asking if she has friends—or at least those she thinks of as friends—who might help her.
There’s much going back and forth as Mia comes forward and stands, then Susannah comes forward and sits, and they argue about how long they have before the labor starts again. Back and forth, back and forth.
At some point, Susannah looks at the bowling bag and feels the pulse of Black Thirteen inside the bag. She worries that if only the ball can open the door, how will Eddie get to her?
Finally, after much arguing, it’s time for Detta Walker to step in and put Mia in her place. Detta don’t care about ka. Detta don’t care that Mia needs a phone to call someone who can’t possibly be good news. Detta don’t care about Mia’s problems. And, unlike old soft-hearted Susannah, Detta don’t care about the Chap.
When Mia’s stricken dumb, Detta keeps talking: “You hear me, all right. You hear me just fahn. So let’s us have a little chat. Let’s us palaver.”
What Constant Reader Learns: So...Mia’s getting some intel from someone else, eh? Who might that be, telling her she needs to find a “telefung”? Sounds like a mispronunciation Roland-of-the-Astin might use, but why would he be sending messages to Mia? Has to be someone from the other side...maybe the Chap himself.
Ah. So maybe Susannah doesn’t realize Mia used Black Thirteen until now and that’s why it didn’t register with her earlier except to feel angry. Or maybe, as we were told, her memory’s just gotten spotty.
*Fist pumps* I never thought I’d be so happy to see Detta Walker!
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.