“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 or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.
Last time, we had quite a tug-of-wills between Susannah and Mia, and who would lead, and who would follow, and when they might talk, and how they might talk, and where they might talk. Today, we hope, they will actually talk!
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 10
Susannah and Mia find chairs in the Gin Puppie Saloon and drag them out onto the boardwalk to have their palaver. Mia sits down with a heavy sigh and says, “Soon you shall be delivered, Susannah of New York, and so shall I.” Susannah tells Mia that she does not understand why she is rushing to Sayre when she knows he serves the Crimson King. Mia tells Susannah that it was a man of the King who gave her the chance to fulfill the only destiny ka left for her, motherhood—a man named Walter.
Susannah, of course, knows all about Walter, but is startled to hear his name. However, she’s killing time, as per Eddie’s instructions, so she urges Mia to start at the beginning and tell her story, and assures her that there’s plenty of time before labor sets in again.
What Constant Reader Learns: Fedic is an interesting spot. Susannah realizes that she can see, although it’s not quite daylight and not quite night, either. Her inner voice tells her this is a place between time, between worlds, “where time holds its breath.” I like that idea of the dead space between worlds.
And Walter is back—well, at least in past-tense. I’ve missed old Walter since we left him back at the Emerald Palace. We’re getting some better sense of the “Crimson King Org Chart” here, as Walter is Sayre’s boss, and, we assume, the Crimson King is Walter’s boss.
And where does sai-King fit into this power structure? Is he the “Oz” who controls the Crimson King? Say if we’re setting up a good versus evil showdown, or science versus magic, then the magic of imagination (such as that wielded by an author) might be the only as-yet undestroyed magic left in a science-based world that’s moved on. And it’s threatened…
I have no idea what I’m talking about. It sounded good when I started, though. Moving on…
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 11
Mia tells Susannah to look out into the street and see Mia before she gained her name. A misty, naked woman appears from thin air and begins a robotic stroll up and down the dusty main drag of Fedic. That was Mia when she first came here, before she was made mortal.
When the Prim receded, Mia explains, most of the elemental creatures of the invisible world died, but a few adapted, and she was one of those. She got her kicks by seducing men and literally screwing them to death—a fact she relates with a total lack of emotion.
Mia lived in Fedic many centuries ago, and at that time there was a miracle—a couple had a baby who was born normal. He was perfect, and Mia wanted him. But she couldn’t get near him—it was if the couple’s love, or the baby’s innocence, had placed him inside a magic circle she couldn’t penetrate. When the Red Death came, neither the baby nor his parents got it, and they eventually rode away on Patricia the Mono.
Long after everyone in Fedic died, the men of the Crimson King arrived and got Arc 16 Experimental Station up and running. They brought in beds for the children—the twins who’d become their experiments. And then Walter came for a visit. Mia describes him as the Crimson King’s “Prime Minister,” and that he travels in many worlds and in many disguises.
While Mia chatters, Susannah is aware of Eddie’s warning to “burn up the day,” so she tries to stretch out the palaver as much as possible. So Mia tells her about Walter’s deal: the Crimson King would give her a child. “My Mordred,” she says. “Whoses Time has come round at last.”
What Constant Reader Learns: In the Sexolympics of Mia, Roland receives a “passing fair” grade. To which I wanted Susannah to respond, “TMI, babe.”
The whole bit with naked Mia walking back and forth past them on the dusty street like the endless loop of Princess Leia (“Help me, Obi-wan Rolandi”) is effectively creepy. I was relieved when Susannah finally asked Mia to get rid of it.
So the elementals (angels, demons, maybe, or something preceding angels and demons) were stranded when magic receded and science moved in, leaving a ruined world. There was no paper left in Roland’s world and people had lost the ability to read, so maybe the magical, imaginary worlds created by authors also disappeared until only technology was producing the rote stuff of machine-written fiction, and then….Okay, I don’t know what I’m talking about again.
Mia, daughter of Voldemort, can’t get her hands on baby Michael Harry Potter. So now baby Mordred is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 12
Mia points to the Arc 16 Experimental Station and tells Susannah that is where they changed her, made her mortal, and beneath it are passages that go under the castle. At one end of the passage, a door opens into the Calla side of Thundercap, and that’s the door the Wolves use to go on their raids. It’s only a one-way door, however, so they have to return on a train.
Susannah seizes on the idea of the one-way door, and deduces that the doors like the ones between worlds are magic doors that go both ways; the “science” doors created by North Central Positronics only go in one direction.
There is another door under Castle Discordia as well, Mia says—one that goes “todash.” But not the kind of todash we’ve seen. This one leads to a dark, dead space between worlds, dead but not empty. This space, Mia says, is reserved for the most bitter enemies of the Crimson King. They might wander there, blind, for years but, sooner or later, they would be devoured.
What Constant Reader Learns: So if Mia became mortal in the Holy of Holies, I mean the “Dogan of Dogans,” that means she can die. But can she die without taking Susannah with her?
Why do I suspect that, at some point, we will actually need to travel through that door below the castle reserved for the King’s bitterest enemies?
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 13
Susannah thinks Mia has made an unwisely Faustian deal with Walter, emissary of the Crimson King. She’ll give up her immortality, take on mortal form, bear a child that is not hers, and then will lose him after seven years. And Susannah realizes that seven years has already been whittled to five, judging by Sayre’s earlier comments.
At this point in the story, Mia’s memories become fuzzy because she was herself in the process of becoming mortal. Mortal, but not human exactly. She can’t conceive a child of her own, thus the fancy footwork with the sex-changing demon.
Mia quotes a bit of prophecy she believes herself to be fulfilling: “He who ends the line of Eld shall conceive a child of incest with his sister or his daughter, and the child will be marked, by his red heel shall you know him. It is he who shall stop the breath of the last warrior.”
Even though Susannah isn’t quite sure the prophecy fits—she and Roland are connected but not related—she still tells Mia she’s nothing but a babysitter. But Mia responds that it’s not she who’s the babysitter, but Susannah. And she’ll tell her why this is true.
What Constant Reader Learns: Not much, actually. I looked around to see if that prophecy came from somewhere else; it sounds vaguely biblical. And there is a section in Genesis about the serpent’s seed and a bruised heel, but I’ll just give sai-King credit for creating an authentic-sounding ancient prophecy.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 14
Walter had told Mia that the baby would be transmitted to her cell by cell, similar to the way a fax is sent. Hearing this fills Susannah with a sense of both awe and rage. She can’t deny it’s true—she’s feeling less pregnant as time passes, while Mia gets more so. Yet she still feels an attachment to this baby, which couldn’t have been conceived without her. It’s being stolen at the cellular level while she was the one out in the swamp munching on live frogs.
Finally, Susannah tries to undercut Mia’s confidence in the King and his cronies. They are probably lying to her about letting her raise the chap at all. They might kill the chap as soon as he’s born, and feed him to the breakers.
Mia finally forces Susannah back, and Fedic’s main street tears open. They fall through…
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah has known for quite some time that Mia is vulnerable about the promises made to her, so why wait until this late date to really push her on it? Maybe because Mia’s resolve was weakened by telling her story. Or maybe it would make this whole chapter too short. Hm.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 15
Susannah and Mia are back in their “now,” still in the stall of the ladies’ restroom at the hotel. Now that she’s told her story, Mia asks if Susannah will help her get to the Dixie Pig; otherwise, she’ll use the turtle. Susannah’s wondering about the time, and how much she’s been able to use, and whether it’s enough for the others to catch up with her.
Susannah says she’ll help, so she has Mia pull out the money and take out (after much debate) a twenty-dollar bill.
What Constant Reader Learns: That they will perhaps still be in the stall debating Elvis and Andrew Jackson when that king returns.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section
Re-entering the hotel lobby, Susannah is pleased to see that it is dusk outside—she has burned up most of the day. The lobby is fairly free of Japanese tourists. Mia asks if they should get a taxi, but Susannah instructs her to walk outside, take a right, and head toward Second Avenue.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah…interesting that she’s heading toward the rose. What is Susannah up to? Mayhap she has a plan, or ka will take over. Certainly, it’s where her ka-tet members will go.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 17
At the corner of Second and Forty-sixth, a “Guard of the Watch,” aka NYPD officer, is in the process of giving a ticket to a street preacher, and it’s clear from their banter that it’s far from the first time. Susannah is shocked because the preacher looks like old Henchick of the Mani. Mia couldn’t care less.
Once the officer leaves, the Rev. Earl Harrington walks back to his van, and Mia is distracted by the red-horned, pitchfork-wielding picture of Satan on the side. She asks Susannah if the “red monster” is how people of this world envision the Crimson King, and Susannah figures that’s a pretty good analogy.
She instructs Mia to use the turtle and have the Rev. Harrington hail them a cab. Mia is suspicious, but turns to do as she’s told.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, Suse, what are you up to?
Interesting parallel with Henchick and the street preacher.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 18
Susannah withdraws from Mia while she’s busy with the turtle and the cab, and visualizes her own Dogan of the Mind. Once she’s there, she grabs the microphone and calls not Eddie, but Earl Harrigan.
What Constant Reader Learns: And I repeat: Okay, Suse, what are you up to?” And yay—we’re finally DOING something besides talk talk talk, as illuminating as that talk was.
Song of Susannah, 10th Stanza, “Susannah-Mio, Divided Girl of Mine,” Section 19
The Rev. Harrigan pauses from his work long enough to watch a black woman get into a cab but not too long, because he has heard the voice of God, he thinks. After all, this is a special corner, what with the sweet singing that clarified both the mind and acne.
He asks God if it was Him who spoke, and gets no response—he’s not too concerned, since God usually doesn’t respond to his prayers. But he has a message to preach, so he opens up his van, takes out his box, collection plate and pamphlets, and gets ready to spread the word.
What Constant Reader Learns: And perhaps the Word of God, in this case, is intended for the (we hope) soon-to-be-arriving ka-tet. Although I wonder that the right reverend didn’t wonder that God sounded a lot like an African American woman.
And…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.