In which if you think things are bad in Boulder, check out how Vegas is doing.
The dying man opened the Permacover notebook, uncapped his pen, paused a moment, and then began to write.
I’ve talked about at length about how much I feel sorry for Harold. Not that I exactly sympathize or even excuse a fraction of the things he does, but I get why he does them. Growing up teased and bullied does give someone a certain mindset. If you’re lucky, you find an escape. For me and like Harold here, it was always reading and writing. During the worst years of my bullying was when I first discovered fanfiction and online communities, and it was about the same time I started taking my writing seriously. It wasn’t much, but it’s what I had.
You have to wonder what would have happened to Harold had the superflu not happened, if he did go on to college and probably had found something away from Ogunquit and his family and people who didn’t know him. If it he hadn’t been so nihilistic by the time he came to Boulder, or even started to get to know other people than Nadine and actually give people a chance.
“He needs me,” [Nadine] said, “and I need him. You were never in it, Harold. And if we’d gone on together, I might have…might have let you do something to me. That one small thing. And that would have destroyed everything. I couldn’t take the smallest chance that might happen after all the sacrifice and blood and nastiness. We sold our souls together, Harold, but there’s enough of me left to want full value for mine.”
It’s so much worse reading this for Harold because he only now realizes that he could have changed everything. I know how hard it is to take people seriously, especially if all you’ve ever been treated as is nothing but a joke. So this is what I have to say about Harold: whatever waits for him, I hope that he is forgiven in the larger sense, and that he’s allowed to be happy.
He pulled the trigger.
The gun went off.
You know, it’s interesting that I’m picking up on so many more parallels and foreshadowing bits (and my headcanon expanding exponentially) on this reread. Maybe it’s because The Stand used to be my “Read it at least once every year” book and I haven’t given it a proper reading since 2004/2005. Or maybe it’s because the four years of better reading comprehension and analysis are finally paying off. (Huzzah for four years of college and my English lit degree. See, an arts degree does pay off!) Because only now is it that I’m picking up on all the parallels between Flagg and Mother Abagail.
(I swear, that earlier mention of “Richard Freemantle” as one of Flagg’s aliases has to be deliberate. It has to be. I really ought to email King a fan letter begging to know if I’m on the right track here because if it’s just a placeholder name, my little English major heart will break.)
How had the girl been able to escape him? He had been taken utterly by surprise…He had known about her knife, that had been child’s play, but not about that sudden leap at the window-wall. And the coldblooded way she had taken her own life, without a moment’s hesitation…
His thoughts chased each other like weasels in the dark.
Well, Flagg, as we’ve established: DAYNA JURGENS IS MORE AWESOME THAN YOU. And also, is that a hint of hubris I see? Getting a bit too proud? Is that a parallel I spy?
Because Flagg’s getting tired of trying to figure out what’s going on in Boulder without being able to see everything that’s been going on, and his plans keep blowing up. Oh sure, we can pin the Judge’s messy death on Bobby Terry messing it up (out of fear or just dumb luck or something else, we can discuss later), and Dayna was probably just a fluke. But even though Flagg knows that Mother Abagail’s dead, he’s not so sure if she hadn’t woken up from her coma…just like he knows that there’s another spy, he just doesn’t know who it is.
Meanwhile, Nadine’s having her own doubts on whether or not she ought to be going to Flagg. After all, Harold was supposed to die instantly, not break his leg and then trying to take a shot at Nadine before she runs away. But at this point, where exactly is Nadine supposed to turn to? She can’t exactly go back to Boulder (no way is she going back to Boulder); she could just wander the desert until she finally collapses from exhaustion/heatstroke/dehydration…but then Flagg could just find her in time before she dies.
Or in this case, she finds him.
“You said, ‘As promised.’ Who promised me to you? Why me? And what do I call you? I don’t even know that. I’ve known about you for most of my life, and I don’t know what to call you.”
“Call me Richard. That’s my real name. Call me that.”
…”And who promised me?
“Nadine,” he said, “I have forgotten. Come on.”
(Okay, HEADCANON TIME: Nadine’s the Jesus-in-the-desert figure in everything. She’s the one being pitted by God and Satan, going back and forth on whether or not she’s going to succumb to temptation. Think about it—biological family dead (although my brain wants her to be an actual changeling), adoptive family also dead but never really grew to love her, always feeling out of place and never allowing herself to be loved until she gets to this point of despair where she gives into Flagg. Nadine is the pivotal character in this whole grand scheme.)
May I give massive points to King for really bringing across how revolting and disgustingly creepy it is to be around Flagg, especially when he wants to be ‘intimate’? God. It’s a really good writer who can make me squirm as I’m reading this, and it’s really not in a good way as he describes everything on Nadine’s end. Just…augh.
And it didn’t matter. She was pregnant. If she was also catatonic, what did that matter? She was the perfect incubator. She would breed his son, bear him, and then she could die with her purpose served. After all, it was what she was there for.
It must really suck to be in Lloyd’s position. Not that he was any better off in jail (depending on what your definition of better off is), but being the second-in-command must really suck. Especially when your boss can shapeshift at will and take off whenever he damn well pleases, and is Lloyd going to say boo to that? No, he’s not because he knows what Flagg can do, and Lloyd’s not going to piss off Flagg. And it’s probably not fun when everything is going to shit around you and you can’t exactly call up your boss and explain to him that “No, seriously, we’re screwed.”
First, there’s a fire at Indian Springs, killing two pilots, and said fire is set by Trash. Not because of Trash’s usual pyromaniac tendencies, but because someone said something that triggered him. And even though the majority of the Vegas population doesn’t like Trash, they know that there’s nothing they can do about him—he’s just this creep who somehow got into Flagg’s good graces.
Lloyd said hesitantly, “ Maybe someone stole those fuses out of the back of his sand-crawler while he was taking a leak or something.”
Carl said patiently: “That’s not how it happened. Someone hurt his feelings while he was showing off his toys and he tried to burn us all up. He damn near succeeded. Something’s got to be done, Lloyd.”
Also, being in the second-in-command position, Lloyd just knows exactly how pissed off Flagg is at the moment. Especially since there’s a third spy running around and no one in Vegas knows who it is. Well, no one in Flagg’s circle knows who it is.
“Okay.” Then, in a rush: “If it’s important, you tell him I’m the one told you. Julie Lawry.”
You can’t tell me that there’s some higher power at work here when the best lead to finding Tom Cullen is Julie Lawry. Yeah, she could potentially screw everything up, but there’s a really good reason why she’s not well-liked by the people in Vegas that she’s met so far.
“Which all proves what?” Lloyd asked when she finished. He had been a little intrigued with the word “spy” but since then had lapsed into a semidaze of boredom.
See? Of course, Julie’s going to be more focused on her getting screwed over by two guys (and not in the way she wanted) and getting revenge on them instead of focusing on the point of the matter. Okay, yeah, she gives Lloyd a name to go on, but he’s not taking her seriously, not when he’s got a firebug probably that seriously needs taken care of.
And thanks to Lloyd’s preoccupation, Tom Cullen is ready to make the journey back to Boulder to hopefully give them some information. Note that Flagg is also conveniently preoccupied with getting Nadine “prepared” (*shudder*) to barely take notice that someone’s leaving his boundaries.
There’s a grand plan here, all right. It’s just not Flagg’s.