Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 84, Allin fought with his newly-resurrected uncle until, realizing he could not possibly win, he maneuvered his uncle into taking the fight outside onto the Roof of the World.
The Only City Left: Part 85
I was out for as long as it took to fall to the ground, where the shock of being slammed onto the icy roof snapped me awake in an instant. My vision cleared in time to see Doyle falling, too, but not in time to keep him from landing on me with enough force to bellow the air out of my lungs. Instinctively, I rolled backwards and pistoned my legs to push him off of me and further away from the penthouse. Having bought a second or two of freedom, I used it to take a breath. This was a struggle in and of itself, as the thin, near-freezing air cut my throat like a knife and threatened a return of spot-addled vision.
I staggered to my feet, swaying a bit as the world refused to hold still. It wasn’t just the thin air making me feel faint, but also the lack of a ceiling. For the first time in my life, I was outside. No walls. No recycled air. I was free!
It felt incredible and frightening all at once. A sky without end. I might have freaked out and retreated back into the penthouse’s embrace if not for the fact that I could feel the thrum of the city beneath my feet. It might be largely empty, with its systems failing and its corridors dark, but even though it was battered and decaying, it fought to keep itself running. If I wanted to save it, I could do no less.
I had a plan, not much of one to be sure, but elegant in its simplicity. All I had to do to make it work was to keep Doyle chasing after me for as long as possible.
“Hey, Doyle,” I said as he got to his feet. “Is that the best you can do?”
“You must have an extraordinarily thick skull, nephew. Next time I’ll simply tear your heart out of your chest and be done with it.”
“You’ve got to catch me first.”
With those words, I took off at an angle away from the broken glass wall. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Doyle begin his pursuit. Perfect. Inside the penthouse, I had been at a disadvantage. Doyle was stronger than me and I couldn’t avoid him in those close quarters. Out here, though, I had a head start. All I had to do was maintain it.
This proved harder than I expected. What had at first appeared like a mostly smooth landscape turned out to be more chaotic up close. Our chase led us through ravines and over gaps in the roof, under pipes the size of houses and across uneven sheets of scarred metal, pitted by time.
I could hear Doyle’s footfalls not far behind me, and I wondered what was under our feet as we ran. Did survivors still inhabit the rooms below us and did they look up in surprise as two sets of feet pounded their way across the ceiling? Did our passage shake dust loose from the rafters and onto someone’s meal? I smiled, buoyed by the thought of life going on below us even as I ran toward the end of mine.
Our chase continued as the moon inched closer and closer to the horizon. Doyle and I were evenly matched in terms of speed, and he did not seem at all inclined to give up on his prize, which suited me fine. But one way or another, I knew I could not keep away from him forever.
The first hiccup came when the ground ran out ahead of me. This was not the first gap I had crossed but it was by far the widest and, once I was in mid-leap over it, I saw it was the deepest as well. If I fell down into that, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not Doyle caught me. There’d be nothing left to catch.
The roof on the far side of the chasm was lower, which I hadn’t expected. I landed awkwardly, crashing and rolling into a thicket of antennae. I shook my head to clear it and stood up in time to see Doyle bounding gracefully over the yawning chasm. To be fair, he had the benefit of seeing me do it first. He landed softly nearby, going down to one knee to absorb the impact of his landing.
“I’ve got you now,” he said.
I didn’t waste my breath on a witty retort. Instead I turned and ran further into the metallic forest of struts, towers, and coiling pipes that made up this portion of the roof. That was my second mistake. The paths were narrow and full of twists and turns that kept me from building up any speed.
Our chase continued for a little longer in that maze, but even though the environment hindered us both, the result was inevitable. Eventually I made one misstep too many and Doyle managed to reach out and get a grip of my shoulder fur. This was just enough to pull me off balance and, since we were both running as fast as we could, bring us crashing to the ground together.
He got to his feet first and kicked me back down when I tried to follow him. Two quick steps and he had his foot against my neck, daring me to try to get up past his claws.
“You’re a fool, boy. Did you really think you could escape? You only delayed your death.”
Above us, the moon had begun its descent. I smiled and allowed myself some time to catch my breath before I replied.
“I may have only delayed mine, but I ensured yours.”
Doyle eyed me curiously and then looked around. We were in the middle of nowhere on the Roof of the World, far from the penthouse and its access to the rest of the city. Out here, the world was a cold, lonely place, the air barely rich enough to keep us breathing even in our werewolf forms. Once the moon set and we reverted to our frail human bodies, it would be a race between freezing to death and asphyxiating. Either way, it would mean the end of Doyle. Of course, it would mean my end as well, but if it meant saving the world from Doyle’s lunatic reign, it seemed worth it.
“I see,” Doyle said, the light of understanding in his eyes. “You’re insane, Allin. I like it.”
* * *
9/29/13 News: The race to the end continues and it’s looking rather final for Allin.
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.