A scorching day has Roland of Gilead approaching a town’s gate in the Desatoya Mountains. His horse was on his last legs and Roland noted decayed flowers attached to the gate, which signified a festival of some kind, and the quiet within erroneous. The few sounds heard coming from a bug which made a deep buzz, a rap on wood, and little bells. Roland dismounts the slowly dying horse, and respectfully grooms him a bit as he notes the sounds and enters through the gate, the only other defining mark being an odd looking cross, he having seen the typical style of this in other towns he’d seen in the ten months he’d been travelling, the norm being a large cross at the entrance, a smaller one upon exiting. He views the usual businesses within, two bars, a motel, a trade shop, town hall, and a metal-smith, he also viewing a church the further into town he got, the god of choice being Jesus, which wan’t a common deity in Mid-World, but still having a following. He then is pulled back into the only sounds described, he wary of the meaning of this involving death. As Roland led his horse through the gates, he saw a forgotten cob pipe in front of the trade shop, and the swinging doors of The Bustling Pig bar were in disrepair, one hanging open, the other leaning on the building, and what looked like blood on the door still attached. A fire had taken out a barn behind a stable, and as he gets ever closer to the church, he estimates the town’s current condition would’ve occurred possibly two weeks ago due to the flowers not being completely dead in front of the church.
Roland learns where the bells he heard came from, the cross on the church door having bells strung up, he then shouting out a greeting to the town, no reply being heard. He sensed he was being monitored though, he continuing his trek to the front of the Sheriff’s office, a billow of trapped heat consuming him upon opening the door. Roland sees a blood stain in the cell, flies getting a snack from the spatter, he discovering a notebook revealing the town’s name of Eluria. He then reads some of the entries, the last leaving him to suppose the criminal may have escaped. Roland continues toward the center of town, he identifying the wooden tapping to a lame dog chewing at the boot upon a dead body in a trough. When the dog notices him and doesn’t move along after Roland shoos him, he fires a warning shot which gets the dog limping away, and mournfully howling as he headed toward the back exit of the town. When he takes a look at the body, it’s of a teenager, he noticing a trinket around the boy’s neck, which he retrieves, the engraving including the name, James. Roland was pleased he’d gotten the necklace since he now could save it on the chance he met anyone knowing the boy, realizing ka could make the possibility more certain. He debated whether to bury the lad when his horse finally drops, he catching a glimpse of eight green-tinged people walking in his direction, their gender uncertain and approaching like zombies. The group carried wooden sticks off of furniture, one of them falling as they got closer.
Roland finally fires a warning shot after another pitches a stick at him, but not far enough, and his verbal warnings go unnoticed; the shot has the desired effect of pausing their progress. As he begins instructing them to keep still as he backs away, another of the green men shoots forward, making odd noises as he came (Roland beginning to identify their sexes as they got closer). Roland shoots him squarely, the man’s reaction being to step backwards at his same quick momentum, scratching at the bullet wound, he finally tripping and staying down. The dead(-er?) bodies reaction to the sun, bullet, or both, has Roland believing there wouldn’t be a corpse to think of an excuse for soon enough. The others stay put, until “Bowler Hat” takes another step after Roland had gotten behind the trough, he blasting a final warning shot, and sharing his plans of leaving unhindered, when another greenie is heard from behind him, this one hidden by a toppled wagon, the man-thing whacking Roland on the shoulder, and he missing his aim at the greenie, the gang he’d kept still, now speeding closer. The greenie whom hit him was a whopper of a fella with two heads, Roland putting him down with a head shot as he was readying to club him again, he now having to deal with the gang finally upon him, more club hits to contend with. Roland is able to send a few back, and hopes he’s able to get the buffer of the wagon so he could finish them off, he wanting to believe ka wouldn’t have his search end so early before locating the Dark Tower. Roland gets whacked hard enough to hit the wagon, he still working on escape, now aware of more greenies coming, perhaps thirty strong. As he’s losing consciousness, he still plans to shoot, but the gun is knocked away from him, he being consumed by darkness as the previously mentioned sounds, plus the dog’s barks, lull him into unconsciousness.
When Roland ascends to wakefulness, which he hadn’t experienced before, he believes he was no longer living, but as his sight came back slowly, he no longer thought he was dead, the singing he heard changing his mind, similar buzzing bugs being heard, he opening his eyes again and being tested whether he was actually living, noting he was hovering in a white, majestic place, thinking he was inside a cloud at first, hearing the buzzing and bells. Then, upon an attempt to turn, he felt straps holding him in place, feeling a hurt sensation climb up his back, another more terrible one in one of his legs. He realizes these pains came from the club with the nails in it, his head feeling terrible, as well. When he tries to call out, he’s having trouble convincing himself he was hearing his own voice, which sounded crow-like. He believed he imagined hearing the dog bark again, and then felt a hand on his face, comforting him at first, before thinking it could be a greenie, but then she spoke, attempting to keep him quiet so he could rest longer, he thinking of how he must be hanging above a bed, too wounded to be lain prostrate.
Roland, soon after this thought, falls into unconsciousness, only this time not as deeply as before. Some time later, he hears the girl angrily protesting to someone seeming to want to acquire something he had. When he awakes again, the “white beauty” place still charmed him, he recognizing it was a long, high, narrow space, he estimating it was about two hundred yards in length, he feeling it was a bit like being inside a large tent, silk above him giving the impression of being inside a cloud, from each section of silk having a rope with little bells attached, wind making them sound pleasantly. Roland saw two rows of forty beds, and two more were in use next to him, one Roland was suspicious in believing was truly the boy in the trough, now alive and sleeping, the necklace Roland had taken from him, on the neck of this one, supporting his disbelieved notion. The other man he saw was further away from the two, and much older, hanging above his bed, and Roland thinking his eyes were tricking him when he viewed the unconscious man’s multiple fractured legs in motion, dark impressions surrounding them, as well as one on his cheek; his back feeling the same, he attempting to ignore his curiosity to learn why. He then notices a cotton cloth on his chest, he recognizing he was wearing the same gown as the old man, and when grabbing and inspecting a chain he wore, realized he had the dead boy’s chain still. When he took a last look at the old man, the black line on the man’s cheek was gone, a wound still healing there, Roland confused by this, but able to fall asleep with the bells chiming and the bugs buzzing.
Roland next wakes and believes he must be having a night terror, seeing the first witch he’d ever met as more than a single woman, but five, and they were dressed in uniform, their faces heavily lined, small bells on the silk upon their heads. When Roland saw the sign of the Dark Tower on the front of their habits, he realized he was actually awake, then they noticing he is conscious, and when they approach, the age of their faces become a bit younger. When he inquires who they are, the one whom had spoken to him first introduces them as the Little Sisters of Eluria, and she was called Sister Mary, she revealing the others as Sister Louise, Sister Michela, and Sister Coquina, the final one sharing her name was Sister Tamra, her face changing quickly into quite an old crone’s, the group moving closer to him, and he bringing pain when cringing away, they curious by his pain, and as Michela readies to touch him, Mary warns of not doing so, Roland thinking it had to do with the medallion which had fallen out. A sixth, Jenna also bids them to go away, the Sisters teasing her of having fallen for him, she ignoring them and insisting they move along so Roland could rest, Jenna easing her tone with Mary’s sober reply of they not ever kidding around, after stating this, she deciding they’d visit the other needy souls.
Jenna attempts to soothe him with the fact of they not wanting to hurt him, but Roland knows this wasn’t the case. He then asks whether they followed Jesus, she amusedly denying this, which prompts him to inquire where the doctors were, Jenna debating sharing and finally warning him not to yell in panic with the boy right next to him, to which he agrees. So, she moves to where the old man hung, Jenna ringing the bells on her head as she leaned over him, the bugs he heard buzzing, going down his legs, Roland realizing this was what he was feeling on his back, securing his wounds. Roland definitely felt the urge to shriek as the bugs jumped off the man on to the floor. When Jenna rejoins him, she informs him how he was discovered, he grateful to her and sharing his name as requested, he sensing she wasn’t being truthful when she shares of not knowing where his weapons were, but didn’t hold this against her, believing she could be declaring this dishonesty for being scared. When she’s called by Sister Mary, she has him promise not to make known she’d shown him the doctors, and before going, has him stick to the story of he being James, the young man next to him his brother, otherwise she’d be in great danger. Roland considers the reason Jenna had moved the medallion to encircle his neck, thinking the Little Sisters may murder Jenna if they learned of this, Roland then drifting to sleep.
Roland is sleepily imagining a bug which could be one of the doctors, irritatingly bumping his face and chuckling whilst he uncoordinatedly attempted to swat it away. When the nightmare turns to a large greenie sneaking up on him, he jolts to consciousness to see Coquina had been happily tapping his face with a wooden spoon, and made her drop the bowl she had been holding with his sudden movement. Roland snatches the bowl before it drops out of reach, which impresses Coquina, he then gesturing for the spoon which she gives him, but he soon realizes isn’t necessary, drinking from the bowl directly, whilst warning Coquina to remember his agility. The two then get into discussing the pull each had on the other: if Roland mentioned Coquina’s teasing to Mary, and she making Jenna’s life difficult if he did. The two agree to stay silent about their exchange, Coquina confiding Jenna was currently on a ‘time out’, she then inquiring if he knew the no-longer-sleeping boy, he watching them, Roland not missing a beat to claim him as his brother, the boy supplying his own name to Coquina and Tamra, whom walked up, John also referring to Roland as Jimmy.
After the two Sisters leave, they speak of James’ fate, Jenna’s uniqueness, the non-mortal state of the nurses, and how John had gotten there, he deducing why James hadn’t been saved. As they spoke, Roland isn’t aware the soup he’d drank had been spiked, he becoming tired, John describing how many beds had been occupied before he’d gotten there, and how they didn’t return when healed, and as Roland became more deeply affected by the drug, John confesses what had happened to Roland to make him feel sluggish, the boy also questioning Roland’s thoughts on his presence when he was pretty much healed now, and his belief neither of them would see daylight again. When Roland wakes up in the night to laughter, he struggles to turn his head to see all of the Sisters except Jenna surrounding the old man, Mary speaking words he didn’t understand. When the room is thrown into pitch black, Roland hears the sounds of slurping, and when they’re done, he moves his head the other way. As they get closer to him and speak of their wanting to kiss him, but the medallion keeping them away, this doesn’t stop one of them from grabbing his boner until he quickly finds release, he seeing two faces bewhiskered with blood, and Roland’s assurance of not ever sleeping again. (Liar.)
When next Roland woke, it is brightly day, John asleep, and the old man removed, Sister Mary soon arrives with Louise, she speaking of not being grateful to him and revealing his ways had brought about Jenna’s revolt, she demanding he show his hand, the bowl of soup they’d brought with them making his stomach growl, Mary annoyed with how well he stuck to his story of being Jim, even after threatening Jenna, Roland stating of ending her if Jenna was harmed. Then, after refusing the soup unless given to him by Jenna, Mary informs whilst she had been released from time-out, she was bound to extra meditation, Roland having no choice, but to acquiesce, Mary’s threat of whipping Jenna keeping him trapped. When he sleeps once more, he believes he’s visited by Jenna, whom advises him to check beneath his pillow later, and when he’s finally able to, sees six stems of reed heads with instructions, and once finishing reading, realizes the importance of following the words carefully. The last time Roland speaks with John, they regret the circumstances they’d met, John unable to move well, and next heard from him, being a shriek. Michela comes with his soup next, along with bread, her words of his leaving soon giving him the impression of this being otherwise, what with her wolfish looks of hunger.
Roland eats another reed upon waking after his dose of soup, believing he’d overdone it with feeling ill, and having to stay still as all the Sisters, except Jenna had another person with them to obtain his and John’s necklaces. When Roland sees Mary with one of his guns, he vows she’ll regret having been so bold. The Sisters bribed Bowler Hat to relieve the two of their protection, he giving the impression he was about to obey their orders with John first, but then taunting them with leaving it on, he knowing their threats didn’t hold much water, other than the firearm, which after another threat from Mary, gives him pause. When he does finally go through with his task, he does a bit extra by killing John quickly after. The Sisters properly preoccupied, Bowler Hat escapes, the Sisters feeding, and when they’d gone, Roland taken over by the soup drug again, a nightmare hitting for the first time since his arrival, it foreboding the spread of the Sisters to surrounding towns, Bowler Hat’s presence in his dream waking him, he seeing John’s bed now empty, Roland being the last man swinging. He had some of the reed before Mary came with porridge, her youthful image strong due to her feast. Roland mentions his idea they’d been drugging him, but Mary denies this gleefully, she then turning to his lie about John being his brother when he asks after him, he then attempting to bribe the truth he kept by seeing Jenna, Mary angered and threatening his willingness to confess would come regardless.
It ended up being quite a drawn out day, he fitfully napping and maintaining optimism of being able to survive this due to Jenna’s aid. He then bides his time with reminiscences of the past, he periodically chewing some reed, and noting they seemed to be overpowering the Sisters’ drug, and when evening came, Sister Tamra delivers his supper of soup, as well as a desert lily from Jenna, which Tamra asks of the topic being promised to Roland, he making up she’d told him they’d speak again, Tamra getting a kick out of this and sharing how Mary had chosen to deny this possibility already, she then asking why he didn’t take his necklace off, pointing out how John had, and when her words to convince him to do the same fail, she leaves, indifferent. Roland then plans on getting both necklaces to the Norman brothers’ family, as he chews another reed and feels actual endurance in him, he then drowsing easily, he awaking at true nightfall, and hearing the loud bugs, he chewing a reed. He hears a voice which turns out to be Coquina, she revealing herself, then Jenna walks toward them to confess she’d supplied the reeds to Roland, he thrusting the medallion toward Coquina to keep her away from him, Jenna having brought Roland’s firearms as he thought she would, but he still caught in the slings after attempting to break loose.
Jenna then uses the bells around her head to call the bugs, they swarming, and Jenna getting Roland loose, the two walking out of the tent, which is when Roland realizes he’d forgotten John’s necklace with regret, but Jenna revealing she’d picked it up, requesting he take it quickly because it was burning her. Then, three of the four Sisters approach, teasing Jenna as they get closer, she responding by speaking of leaving with Roland, the three surprised into silence, they warning her of what would occur if she tried, but Jenna stating how none of them truly knew whether there were consequences, she then threatening the bugs on them if they didn’t let she and Roland pass, but they standing aside willingly, Jenna leading Roland up a road, away from Eluria, not liking how Mary hadn’t shown herself, yet. They discuss how they were both in agreement in keeping each other company when Mary interrupts, she looking properly death-like. Jenna attempting and failing to summon the bugs, and Mary coming closer, Roland deciding he’d try choking her out, her flesh disgusting to the touch, and she thrusting him away with her power. Jenna then tries her bells again, this time getting a dog to answer the call, it going after Mary with gusto, as Roland pulls Jenna along.
When they stop to catch their breath, Roland considers why the dog had been immune to the Sisters’ powers when Jenna senses he must know something about it, which he responds by relating his theory, and then suggests they cover some ground before daylight. They cover a few miles, but not too many because of Roland still flushing out the Sisters’ drug, they locating a decent spot to spend the day, the two sharing a kiss before he passes out, dreaming of the dog discovering the Dark Tower, he then hearing bells and a scream which doesn’t fade with his dream, he waking to see he was alone, detecting Jenna’s clothes and then hearing the bugs, he ringing the dropped bells and the bugs making a sign which seemed to confirm his thoughts, Roland then tracking Walter once more, he troubled with the imagined ringing bells as he traveled on by himself. I liked this story, but I’m also annoyed I won’t be getting my hands on the comics any time soon, alas. At least I’ll be on to the next soon enough though, which isn’t actually soon enough.