The blue flame smothered under the bubbling cauldron. Paper thin butterflies blew past my steady hand as I pocketed the decanter. Their wings did not touch me. I heard a piano tinkering in the distance and I knew the invisible man was near. Strange words, names, hovered in my mind. I whisked the bottle of Vermouth into my satchel… that would do for later. It was time to find Roland.
All of a sudden, the walls around me disappeared. I found myself in the middle of a dark street—a lined street—so I knew it was somewhere near my time. The streetlights flickered. A stray sauntered by. The homeless man, Walter, slept by the trash can. When I saw the lights of the patrol car, I quickly hid in the alley. He saw me, but didn’t let himself know it. Must find Roland soon. My bag felt heavier by the second.
I heard a shuffle near Walter. “For centuries, the gunslingers were knights. Now I’m the only one left…”
“Roland? Is that you?”
“The centre of the Universe. If it falls…”
“Hey, Roland,” I hissed into the darkness, “I need you to focus. Where are you?”
“Behind the trash can.”
By the time I walked to the trash can, three years had elapsed, and Vanessa was dead. He was sitting there with his arms resting on his knees, staring at the dark pavement. Who was he talking to? I pulled the jailer’s key out of my pocket and handed it to him. He fingered it slowly.
“The monsters are back…” I said slowly.
“I’ve sworn to defend the Tower. I’ll stop at nothing to defend it.”
“Roland, this isn’t about the Tower. The tower is gone.”
He leapt up. “The tower is not gone!” He thrust the key into his dusty pocket. “I have the key.”
I looked into his wild blue eyes. “I just gave you that key.” I put my hand on his shoulder and he took a step away from me. “You’re in my world now,” I paused, “a lot has happened.”
He touched the butt of his gun and seemed to gather himself. “Where are we? And who are you?”
“We’re in the year 2005, in Michigan, U.S.A.” I reached down to unflap my satchel, “I didn’t think you’d actually be here…” I heard a heavy click.
“Hold it right there.”
I looked up and stared into the huge barrel leveled at my eyes. “Listen, Roland, I’m—
I willed myself to look away from the barrel and into his eyes. If this was the last time, it would be the last time.
“I’m not here to hurt you.” I said.
His steely cold eyes didn’t leave my own.
“I had a good idea and then… and then it got serious. I need your help.” I said evenly.
“How did I get here?” he demanded. Walter stirred behind him.
“I brought you here.”
He lowered his gun and grabbed my arm, pulling me toward the street.
“We can’t be here when he wakes up.”
“There’s an officer on the street,” I said and tried to pull away from his grip.
“He won’t see us,” he muttered.
We rounded the wall of the alley and started to make our way down the empty sidewalk. The cop was nowhere in sight. The wind tapped a broken sign against a building. Two bright orange eyes glinted near a doorway and then disappeared. “Must be a cat.” I said and pointed toward the orbs.
“That’s not a cat.” Roland said. “And don’t point. He doesn’t like it.”
The eyes slowly emerged out of the darkness and I saw a round raccoon-armadillo type creature amble forward quickly.
“It’s Oy,” he said.
It ran up to Roland and surprisingly, he picked the creature up and gave it a few curt strokes.
“You wouldn’t know.”
He placed it down on the sidewalk and suddenly there was another figure in the street. It was huge and bulking and walking briskly down the broken yellow lines, straight toward us.
“Stay here.” Roland grunted and walked into the street. “Take cover,” he said and unholstered his guns.
The man clacked down the street loudly. Roland stood there with both guns raised and pointed. The Oy thing tensed and stood next to him, its hackles raised. The man was dressed in a brown vest, Levi’s, and a brown Stetson hat. He chewed some type of cigar and he was squinting so tightly that you couldn’t see his eyes. A coal mist curled and slowly dissipated into dust behind him.
The man stopped about twenty feet away. “I come in peace,” he drawled. Both of his hands were up.
“Not another step.” Roland said and spat on the ground. I stood in the drugstore doorway and it finally dawned on me who this was.
“Roland, I brought him here,” I said loudly, “He’s on our side.”
Roland stared at the man for a full 30 seconds. He put his guns away. “Relax Oy.”
The man smirked. “Your dog?”
Roland flicked his eyes in my direction. “We’re going to have to get a few things straight.” He looked from me to the man, “the both of you.” He motioned with his hand for me to stand next to the man.
“Now, how many people did you bring here?”
I folded my arms and looked up into the night sky, “I… uh… I was in trouble so then—
“Uh… maybe eleven?” I put my chin in my palm and nodded, “yes, that’s right, eleven. It was eleven. I… something like that.”
The man spit out his cigar and Roland stared at me incredibly.
Oy rolled its eyes.
–To be continued!–