7

In The Waste Lands (third book of the Dark Tower series), there's a part where Roland and his ka-tet decide to find a Beam and follow it directly to the Tower. After killing Shardik, the guardian of the Beam of the Bear, they realize they're in the right neighborhood, and eventually find the very end of the Beam, as it has been propped up technologically by the Old Ones (via North Central Positronics, the same company that built Shardik as well).

I recall at this point, that there's a door or portal right at the end of the Beam, painted in black and yellow stripes (meaning it's a technological, "sci-fi" sort of door, presumably installed by NCP). Eddie puts his ear against it to hear what's behind it. My vague memory tells me he hears New York City, but I'm not sure. I also recall he feels ill while he's near the door, or else has a sort of slight out of body experience. Roland pulls him away from the door to prevent any further effects on Eddie.

My memory of the scene is vague and fractured, so that description may not be right. But my question is, what lies beyond the portal at the end of the Beam of the Bear?

  • 6
    I'm putting my money on "a Starbucks". – Valorum Feb 18 '16 at 22:09
  • @Richard and it's the only one where you can order a kaka coco from the secret menu. – Kapler Feb 18 '16 at 23:03
12
+350

Nowhere ... or Everywhere; The Halls of the Dead

It is never explained what lies beyond the portal. It is heavily implied that there is unknown machinery directly behind the yellow and black painted door that is somehow supporting the beam.

The closest we get

is Roland's guess that they lead to somewhere "Beyond ka"

"When everything was new, the Great Old Ones -- they weren't gods, but people who had almost the knowledge of gods -- created Twelve Guardians to stand watch at the twelve portals which lead in and out of the world ..."
...
"Portals," Eddie mused. "Doors, you mean. We're back to those again. Do these doors that lead in and out of the world open on the world Suze and I came from? Like the ones we found along the beach?"
"I don't know," Roland said.
...
"Well, make a guess!" Eddie exclaimed
...
"Not true -- sometimes the man does [make a guess]," Roland said, surprising them both. "When guessing's the only thing left, sometimes he does. The answer is no. I don't think -- I don't guess -- that these portals are much like the doors on the beach. I don't guess they go to a where or when that we would recognize. I think the doors on the beach -- the ones that led into the world that you both came from -- were like the pivot at the center of a child's teeterboard."
...
"Yes. On one end, my ka. On the other, that of the man in black -- Walter. The doors were the center, creations of the tension between two opposing destinies. These other portals are things far greater than Walter, or me, or the little fellowship we three have made."
"Are you saying," Susannah asked hesitantly, "that the portals where these Guardians stand watch are outside ka? Beyond ka?"
"I'm saying that I believe so," He offered his own brief smile, a thin sickle in the firelight. "That I guess so."

-- King, S. (2003). Bear and Bone. The Wastelands: The Dark Tower III. New York: A Signet Book.

As well as a little later on, Roland's admission that he doesn't know.

"So this is one of the twelve portals. Where does it go, Roland? Disney World?"

Roland shook his head. "I don't know where it goes. Maybe nowhere ... or everywhere. There's a lot about my world I don't know -- surely you both have realized that. And there are things I used to know which have changed."

-- King, S. (2003). Bear and Bone. The Wastelands: The Dark Tower III. New York: A Signet Book.

The sound of machinery

is described when Roland and Eddie are first approaching the clearing where the bear lived

The sounds were louder now, and he [Eddie] began to sort them out. One was a low, deep, humming noise. He could feel it in his feet -- a faint vibration, as if some large piece of machinery was running in the earth. Above it, closer and more urgent, were crisscrossing sounds like bright scratches -- squeals, squeaks, chitterings.
...
On their side of the stream, backed up against the wall, was a metal box about nine feet high. Its roof was curved, and it reminded Eddie of a subway entrance.

-- King, S. (2003). Bear and Bone. The Wastelands: The Dark Tower III. New York: A Signet Book.

But there is something that reminds Eddie

of the house in Dutch Hill from his where.

As Eddie approached the metal box with its alternating diagonal slashes of yellow and black, a strong and unpleasant memory sized him -- for the first time in years he found himself thinking of a crumbling Victorian wreck in Dutch Hill, about a mile away from the neighborhood he and Henry had grown up.
...
He felt that same old sense of mystery and danger now, as he approached the metal box. Gooseflesh began to ripple up his legs and down his arms; the hair on the back of his neck bushed out and became rough, overlapping hackles. He felt that same subtle wind blowing past him, although the leaves on the trees which ringed the clearing were perfectly still.

Yet he walked toward the door anyway (for that was what it was, of course, another door, although this one was locked and always would be against the likes of him), not stopping until his ear was pressed against it.

It was as if he had dropped a tab of really strong acid half an hour ago and it was just beginning to come on heavy. Strange colors flowed across the darkness behind his eyeballs. He seemed to hear voices murmuring up to him from long hallways like stone throats, halls which were lit with guttering electric torches. Once these flambeaux of the modern age had thrown a bright glare across everything, but now they were only sullen cores of blue light. He sensed emptiness … desertion … desolation … death.

“All is silent in the halls of the dead,” Eddie heard himself whisper in a falling, fainting voice. "All is forgotten in the stone halls of the dead. Behold the stairways which stand in darkness; behold the rooms of ruin. These are the halls of the dead where the spiders spin and the great circuits fall quiet, one by one.”

Roland pulled him roughly back, and Eddie looked at him with dazed eyes.

-- King, S. (2003). Bear and Bone. The Wastelands: The Dark Tower III. New York: A Signet Book.

  • Fantastic answer, thanks. This was the keystone scene for me across all seven books. The notion that the portals lead the beams "beyond ka", whatever that might mean, is fascinating; that the eldritch technology holding the beams in place is right there only focuses the vague sense of horror about what lies beyond. – Roni Choudhury Feb 21 '16 at 17:55
3

This is actually covered in The Dark Tower: A Concordance under the section "Portals". This book was written by Robin Furth, King's research assistant.

They are listed as "12 doorways leading into and out of Mid-World". Specifically, it is mentioned that they are "the most powerful" of all doorways and that "their health is intrinsically tied to the health of Mid-World and the time/space continuum of all worlds" (p 189)

As these 12 portals are the "rim" of the spokes that all converge on the Dark Tower, it can be surmised that they are the points of entry for the beams into Mid-World.

Edit for more clarification:

That said, there is nothing that definitively answers what it behind this specific door except that it is an exit from Mid-World. There have been several examples of portals throughout the series, including:

  • The three doors used to draw Eddie, Susannah and Jack (well, not really "draw" in the case of Jack) into Mid-World
  • The house used to pull Jake into Mid-World

The Dark Tower Wiki notes a distinction between Magical Portals and Mechanical Portals but does not source if this is an official designation or a fan's method of distinguishing those that are clearly manufactured by North Central Positronix.

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