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The Waste Lands

“For three weeks John ‘Jake’ Chambers fought bravely against the madness rising inside him. During that time he felt like the last man aboard a foundering ocean liner, working the bilge-pumps for dear life, trying to keep the ship afloat until the storm ended, the skies cleared, and help could arrive.. help from somewhere. Help from anywhere. On May 29th, 1977, he finally faced up to the fact that no help was going to come. It was time to give up; time to let the storm carry him away.

The ship was his sanity, and it was sinking.

In the last ten days or so, as the voices in his head grew louder and louder, Jake had become more and more fascinated with doors – all kinds of doors. He must have opened the one between his bedroom and the upstairs hallway five hundred times in the last week, and the one between his bedroom and the bathroom a thousand. Each time he did it, he felt a tight ball of hope and anticipation in his chest, as if the answer to all his problems lay somewhere behind this door or that one and he would surely find it.. eventually. But each time it was only the hall, or the bathroom, or the front walk, or whatever.

Last Thursday, he had come home from school, thrown himself on the bed, and had fallen asleep – sleep, it seemed, was the only refuge which remained to him. Except when he’d awakened forty-five minutes later, he had been standing at the wall beside his bookcase. He had been drawing a door-shape on the wallpaper. Luckily he had been using a pencil, and he had been able to erase the worst of the marks.

Now, as he approached the cloakroom door, he felt that same dazzling burst of hope, a certainty that the door would not open on a shadowy closet containing only the persistent smells of winter – flannel, rubber and wet fur – but on some other world where he could be whole again. Hot, dazzling light would fall across the classroom floor in a widening triangle, and he would see birds circling in a faded blue sky the color of
(his eyes)
old jeans. A desert wind would blow his hair back and dry the nervous sweat on his brow.

He would step through the door and be healed.

Jake turned the knob and opened the door. Inside was only darkness and a row of gleaming brass hooks. One long-forgotten mitten lay near the stacked piles of blue-books in the corner.

His heart sank, and suddenly Jake felt like simply creeping into that dark room with its bitter smells of winter and chalk dust. He could move the mitten and sit in the corner under the coat hooks. He could sit on the rubber mat where you were supposed to put your boots in the wintertime. He could sit there, put his thumb in his mouth, pull his knees tight against his chest, close his eyes.. and.. and..
And just give up.

This idea – the relief of this idea – was incredibly attractive. It would be the end to the terror and confusion and dislocation. This last was somehow the worst; that persistent feeling that his whole life had turned into a funhouse mirror-maze.”

~ Stephen King, ‘The Dark Tower, The Waste Lands.’


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