Tuesday, 29 April 2008
The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, Book 3)
By Stephen King
The Adventures of Skelly and Cat
The Window Tree
Skelly tore his gaze away from the bloody skyline as he was dragged off the platform and recognized a familiar orange tinted glow surrounding everything he looked at. This gave him a strong sense of home and a vision in his mind's eye of the rocky, black tundra and the sunburnt horizon. How he longed to see it again, to walk across that desert holding Cat's hand with nothing more on his mind than the simple joy of being with his best friend. A scream shattered his reverie.
Cat was writhing and twitching, trying to break loose of her captor's hold, but the Skeletons clung tighter. Cat twisted violently causing the arm of one of the Skeletons to break in half at the elbow. The hand was still gripping her upper arm tightly, but it's owner was no longer attached to the other end. More Skeletons came and grabbed her, but she fought them endlessly, twisting and biting. She caught the index finger of one of the Skeletons between her teeth and bit down, crushing it and turning it to dust. These Skeletons were as frail as she had feared Skelly to once be.
Skelly watched as Cat struggled against her captors and her tenacity inspired him. Skelly, still clutching his cane in his hand, thrust the tip diagonally upward and caught one of the Skeletons holding him between the ribs. The Skeleton screeched madly as Skelly drove the cane farther, breaking bones that crumbled instantly to dust. Eventually the entire Skeleton exploded outward in a cloud of dust.
By now the Skeletons had dragged both Skelly and Cat off the platform and onto their bloody wasteland, yet because of their time spent at the mystical fountain the blood did not stain Cat's clothes nor permeate Skelly's bones. Skelly's captors dropped him when their companion exploded and moved toward Cat intending to drag only her away. Skelly recognized their movements and jumped to his feet, raising his cane, he gripped it just below the curve with both hands and thrust it forward with all his might. The cane's tip broke through the back of the nearest Skeleton's skull and out one eye and then promptly burst into flames. Without hesitation or thought Skelly shoved him into the closest Skeleton who also promptly burst into flames.
The fire spread rapidly and as soon as they realized what was happening the Skeletons scattered, dropping Cat and running away from the frenzied fire. Skelly jerked his cane out of the back of the skull of the Skeleton, knelt down and picked up the severed skull of another Skeleton that was chattering mindlessly, and plucked his top hat from it's head then proceeded after Cat. He gripped Cat's hand tightly in his own, hauled her to her feet and set off running toward the sinister, crimson skyline.
Cat stumbled over her feet as Skelly dragged her along. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the bloody field they were running through. Skelly had no idea where he was headed when he noticed a dark shape appear at the edge of his peripheal vision. He turned towards it and noticed a dead tree in the middle of this blood bath sprouting from a crack in the ground. The ground around the tree was blood free and hanging on invisible wires from the lowest branch was a window.
Skelly tugged Cat along as he made a mad dash for the window tree. As he neared a low, musical whistle filled his head and he noticed a lone bird sitting upon the lowest branch above the window. It was a mockingbird. Relief swept through Skelly as he ran towards the window. However the relief was short-lived. Cat screamed and Skelly glanced over his shoulder and stopped running momentarily. The bloody Skeletons had realized what their prey was up to and darted around their burning friends and made a beeline right for them. They moved with tremendous speed, like a train off track.
Skelly remained frozen for only a second before wrapping his arm around Cat's waist and hoisting her up in his arm. Carrying her on one side and his cane on the other, Skelly darted for the window. As he crossed the threshold to the clear land under the tree bright orange, sunset light flashed through the window. Freedom was just on the other side. He set Cat down and she crumpled to her knees, gripping Skelly's leg as tears coursed down her cheeks, she watched the bloody Skeletons come nearer.
Skelly examined the window for a moment and noticed it was open ajar at the bottom. He squeezed his bony fingers underneath and pulled upward, but the window wouldn't budge, it was stuck solid. He could feel a light breeze grazing the tips of his bony fingers on the otherside as he stared at the outline of the Mirage Mountains. He was reminded forcibly of his earlier memory of this place he called home and he refused to die here in a the blood of a stranger. As he watched a flock of birds flew across the sunburnt sky once more, and then a musical chirp distracted him. He pulled his sightless eyes away from the mountains and looked up at the mockingbird upon the branch.
It was ruffling it's wings and cawing angrily at the Skeletons. They had enclosed the circle of land the tree stood upon and Cat was no longer screaming. She clung to Skelly's leg shivering in terror, but it appeared to Skelly that their captors could not cross the threshold, this was safeground - and even as he thought this something else occured to him - it would not remain that way for long. He turned his attention back to the window, and as he did he caught a glimpse of his cane. An idea occured to him and he wedged the cane tip into the crack between the window and it's sill. He used his cane as a lever and pushed downward on the other end of his cane with all his might. Before it snapped in half the window creaked and magically slid upward, pouring orange evening light upon Skelly's face.
Skelly had not even a second to marvel at this nor mourn the breaking of his cane for the bloody Skeletons crossed the threshold the minute the window was raised. Skelly quickly bent down and picked up Cat and pushed her through the open window. She went through easily because she was already curled in a ball. Skelly threw the pieces of his cane to the other side and bent down to climb through the window himself when one of the Skeletons seized him around the middle and began pulling him back. He gripped the sides of the window pane as Cat gripped his arms and pulled in the opposite direction.
The mockingbird sitting upon the branch whistled it's musical tune once more and ruffled it's wings before plunging. It dove directly into the left eye of the Skeleton pulling on Skelly and burst into flames. The Skeleton burnt to dust and the flames from the explosion travelled outward and engulfed the remaining Skeletons surrounding the window. Skelly, with the help of Cat, pulled himself through the window and they collapsed in a heap on the hard ground of their familiar desert. Skelly jumped to his feet, turned back to the window and slammed it shut, then locked it and stumbled backwards into Cat's arms. She squeezed him tightly and he hugged her back.
"I'm so sorry Skelly!" Cat sobbed, burying her face in his arms. Skelly held her close and rocked her back and forth. He didn't blame her for their misfortune, there was no way she could have known what awaited them on the train. When her tears subsided she looked up at him with those beautiful blue child's eyes of hers. He raised an arm and wiped away stray tears with a bony thumb. She smiled innocently and her tail twitched contently.
"That bird saved us Skelly," she said and glanced back at the window where flames raged behind the glass. Skelly nodded and moved her away from the window, heading in the direction of the horizon. They turned away from the window and continued towards their beloved sunset. However they both couldn't resist a glance backward, and when they did they watched as the window vanished like a mirage. Cat looked up at Skelly and he looked back, and she smiled and so did he [because he was always smiling] and with an arm around each others waist they headed towards the Mirage Mountains; Skelly was humming the tune and Cat was singing:
"Hush little baby, now don't say a word,
Mama's gunna buy you a mocking bird,
And if that mockinbird don't sing,
Mama's gunna buy you a diamond ring."
*Another note for the eternally curious: I honestly didn't think I'd have any more ideas today for this one, but apparently Stephen King seems to be my inspiration lately. So thank Mr. King for the reason you didn't have to wait too long to find out what happened to Skelly and Cat. Though now I can't say exactly when their next adventure will begin. I was completely enticed by my book today, this series has turned out far better than I first believed. I will always thank the person who spent all of last year telling me constantly, "you must read The Dark Tower series!" And now I'm grateful that I have. It's a Stephen King fantasy you can't help but love. There's magic at every corner [almost more than what you find at Hogwarts] and suspense and excitement at every turn.