Nestled deep in what was once California, but now might as well have been Deseret for all the meaning in old signs, was a small town. Wind blew between the houses that stood sentinel with shudders thrown wide. The couches and easy chairs and beds were filled with Chad Norris Brand Cord wood, moldering away in the desert heat.
In the center of the little town, the name of which was lost on the lips of one Charlie Campion, sat a guard post. Shielded inside sat a clock, kept alive by a solar generator and perhaps just a little malice, glowing red and giving the time the world ended.
Thirty-one point oh-eight seconds into the eleventh minute passed two in the morning on the twenty-second of may in nineteen-eighty-eight.
The date the numbers turned red.
The date Charlie Campion turned yellow.
The date the world was doomed to turn Dark.
"Flagg..." whispered what could have been the wind.
But Flagg was there, looking at the clock. Randall Flagg. Russell Faraday. Robert Fry. The Dark Man.
"Lloyd, Lloyd my boy. Good to see you." A dark smile split a humorless face behind the safety glass.
Lloyd stood outside, a wasted shade. His eyes were two pits, replaced with dark stones with red flaws. His skin was drawn too tight against his skull, which pulled his lips high over his teeth. His clothes, once fine, were less than rags hanging off his skeletal frame.
"Flagg," he rasped again. He raised one withered hand and put it against the glass in an attempt to touch Randall. Flagg nearly flinched from the thing that was once Lloyd Henried. What had made Lloyd Lloyd, anyway. The body of Lloyd Henried was atomic dust blowing around the smoldering crater of Vegas.
But Lloyd had taken the Dark Man's stone. Lloyd owed the Dark Man his soul, and here it was, broken by Hell.
Lloyd was the only one he had now. The Rat Man had forsaken him before his death. The Trashcan Man was redeemed in martyrdom. But Lloyd was still there to do his dirty work.
"Go for me," crooned Randall. "My most faithful. Fetch me more Plague. Worse Plague." There was more buried under the desert than Project Blue. There was Project Red, shifting A-Prime Tuberculosis. Then there was Project Green, shifting A-Prime E. Coli.
The Primes, named for the Prime colors that they represented. Blue Fever, Red Blood, and Green Bile.
Like a statue come to life, Lloyd turned, joints cracking, to get what his master wanted. Hot breath roiled between his caricature teeth and his eyes glowed a brighter red. "Yes. Plague. Plague for the Freeeeee Zonnnnnne."
With strength belied by withered arms, Lloyd pulled the door off it's hinges and descended into a new Hell, populated by the dead damned scientists who engineered their own fates.
The Dark Man laughed a high and cold laugh as the Red Numbers turned green again. He wasn't done. Not by a long shot.