The Only City Left: Part 86

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 85, Allin revealed his plan: keep Doyle outside in the thin, freezing air until the moon sets, they both revert to their human forms, and they die. Whoa, heavy.

The Only City Left: Part 86

Doyle took his foot off of my neck and offered me a hand. Alert for any treachery, I took it. I was actually surprised when all he did was help me up and step back a few paces.

“I’ve been chasing you for your entire life, Allin,” he said. “And now the chase is finally at an end. But you’re not half so clever as you believe if you think I’m just going to give up and let the moon set on me out here.”

“Go ahead, try to make it back in time. I may not be able to kill you, but I can slow you down for long enough.”

“You’d really sacrifice yourself just to make sure I die?” he asked. He seemed genuinely confused.

“Yes.”

He shrugged. “Then I’ll have to kill you quick.”

He leaped toward me, claws out, but I expected the attack and caught him by his wrists. I couldn’t stop him from continuing to barrel toward me, though.

He smashed into me and we ended up in a rough embrace, each trying to claw and bite the other to pieces, but we were so evenly matched that neither could get the upper hand. We stumbled to and fro in the maze of protrusions that littered this section of the roof, crunching into machinery and vents and pipes that hopefully no one below us was relying on. As we crashed around, I wondered how it was that he hadn’t torn me apart yet. He was bigger and had more strength and experience; it should have been an easy victory.

Listening to his ragged breathing, I realized what was working in my favor. He wasn’t used to this kind of exertion. As a ghost, he never got tired, never wore himself down. If he needed more energy, his nanoswarm could siphon it from the world around him. Up here, in his physical body and dealing with the bitter cold and thin air, he had spent himself chasing me. His reserves were running low.

I, on the other hand, felt energized by this realization.

“Getting tired, Doyle? Need a break?” I asked as I took the lead in our dance.

I swung him around and ran him into a chest-high exhaust vent, then reversed direction to smack his head into a thick stand of pipes.

“Is this what you’ve wanted all these years, Doyle? To feel?”

I lunged out and raked him with my claws, giving him a set of wounds to match mine. He put his hand to his chest and looked down at the blood oozing through his fingers.

“Hurt. Pain. Fear,” I said. “Is being alive again all you ever hoped it would be?”

I laughed at his distraught expression. It felt good to be on the offensive for once, to be the one in power, the hunter instead of the hunted. I imagined that with one leap I could be on Doyle, ripping out his throat with my teeth. His imaginary blood tasted delicious to my fevered mind. Standing there watching him cower, I felt like a true werewolf for the first time.

Only I didn’t want to be a werewolf, didn’t want to beat Doyle at his own game.

The moon was lower in the sky now; if I could hold out a little longer, I’d never have to fight the wolf inside of me again. Warring against my instincts, I put my hands up and said, “There’s no point in fighting anymore. Let’s wait out the end peacefully.”

Doyle sneered and licked his own blood off of his palm. “Peacefully? And just when I was beginning to be proud of you.”

He ran at me with a surprising burst of speed, but I easily caught his outstretched hands in mine and began to push him back.

“One thing I want to know before the end,” I said. “What did you get out of all this death and destruction?”

“That’s the difference between you and me, Allin,” Doyle said as I pushed him further and further backward despite his attempts to dig in his heels. “You need reasons. I just did it because.”

He gave up trying to stop me and instead fell backward. He used my momentum to pull me into his embrace, where he took the opportunity to bury his teeth in my shoulder. I howled in pain. He wouldn’t unclamp his jaw, so I dug my claws into his sides and twisted my fingers underneath his skin. That worked.

He roared and tried to throw me off of him but I wouldn’t let go. We ended up rolling around like boys roughhousing except for the part where we were really trying to kill each other.

Over and over we rolled and if that didn’t make me dizzy enough, the lack of good air didn’t help, either. Our rambling path took us far and wide, and we ended up beside the chasm once more.

This wasn’t the same one, though, or we were at a different point along it, because here the far wall towered a few stories above us. Wherever we were, one important detail stood out: there was nothing I could do to slow our progress toward it. One more roll and we were over its edge.

I barely managed to reach out and grab the ledge with both hands to keep from falling into the depths. A second later, I nearly lost my grip as Doyle clamped onto my legs for the same purpose.

He began to laugh. “If you want it to end, Allin, just let go.”

I looked down at his ugly, laughing face and then beyond to where the chasm fell into shadow. Shadow? I craned my neck up and saw that the moon was setting above the high wall opposite us. Soon we would be in the wall’s shadow and it would all be over.

But Doyle will be in the shadow first. Could I…?

I dug my claws into the ledge above me and held on with all my might.

“Let go, boy. Let go! Isn’t this what you want?”

Through a snoutful of gritted teeth, I said, “Change of plans. Look down.”

He must have done as he was told, because the next thing I knew he sunk his claws into my calves for extra purchase. I moaned in agony and my grip slipped ever so slightly. I looked down and saw the shadow line steadily rising up the chasm wall.

“Pull us up. We should fight and die as wolves.”

“Sorry, Doyle. The time of the wolves is at an end.”

The shadow line climbed up his body and overtook him entirely. I watched as he transformed back into a human being. He looked frightened, and younger than I would have imagined. His claws retreated from my flesh, leaving only human hands to grasp the fur of my legs.

As the shadow that fully engulfed him began to climb up my legs, too, Doyle cried, “Allin, don’t do this. We’re family!”

“You killed my only family. Goodbye, Doyle.”

In the end, it wasn’t tooth or claw or gun or knife that ended Doyle Arcady’s evil reign. All it took was one swift shake of my leg to loosen his grip and send him plummeting into the darkness.

As he fell, the hungry shadows continued to climb higher, eager to make me their next victim. But I wanted more now. I wanted to see Tumble again. To find Tyena and ask for a second chance. To share a drink and a story with Ballister.

For years I had been living to see the Roof of the World, but that hadn’t really been living. That had been waiting. That had been me adrift and grieving for my parents.

I would never forget them, but that part of my life was over now. I wanted to live not for the past and not for some illusory tomorrow, but for the now, wherever that took me. I wanted to live.

First, though, I had to avoid sharing Doyle’s fate.

I climbed.

* * *

Continue to Part 87.

10/6/13 News: Wow, I can’t believe we’ve reached the story’s climax already. I hope you’ll stick around for the next three weeks and coast toward the end of Book 1 with me. There’s still a thrill or two left in store for Allin, and some loose threads that need to be tied up. Thanks again for reading!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 85

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.”

* * *

Continue to Part 86.

9/29/13 News: The race to the end continues and it’s looking rather final for Allin.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 84

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 83, Allin was dismayed to find that Doyle survived the last-ditch assault by the ghosts.

The Only City Left: Part 84

Doyle ran his hands over his body as if he himself couldn’t believe he was physical once more. Then he looked at me and said, “Damn, but it feels good to feel. Although I wasn’t expecting to see you when I returned, other than in a mirror.”

I stood up and faced him from across the room. “Sorry to ruin your plans.”

But it wasn’t me who had done that: it was the ghosts. Xerxes and the others had given Doyle what he wanted, to be physical again, but they had sacrificed themselves so that I wouldn’t die in the process. They could have simply waited until Doyle had taken me over and then killed me like they had Matthias and the henchwolves by the bar. Instead, they had taken a chance and let me survive, at the cost of whatever was left of their own lives. Their memories, emotions, and ties to the past were all gone now. I wouldn’t let their sacrifice go to waste.

“Ruin my plans? This is perfect,” Doyle said. “I’m alive again and I get to beat you to within an inch of your life before bringing you back to the Garden with me. I’ll lock you up, let you heal, and have a replacement body on hand that much sooner.”

My blood ran cold through my veins. I’d be damned before I let him use me as part of his plans for eternal life.

“Just try it,” I said, and leaped straight at him.

He leaped at me in turn and we met in mid-air. I tried to gouge his newly-formed flesh, but he blocked my blow with one arm, grabbed me with his free hand, and flung me behind him. As I flew upside-down across the room and smacked into the clear wall, I saw him land lightly on his feet. I picked myself up and Xerxes’ last words drifted into my head: If you fight on the level of beasts

He was right. Doyle had the clear advantage in a contest of strength and savagery. But Xerxes hadn’t made any suggestion about how I should fight Doyle, and I didn’t have time to come up with a plan before he was after me again, bounding across the room in a flash. I dodged away from him at the last instant and he slammed into the wall.

He pushed away from it with a laugh and said, “First blood.”

I looked down and realized I hadn’t quite gotten away in time, as attested to by my tattered shirt and the four bleeding lines that ran from my chest to my hip. It wasn’t until I saw them that I felt the pain. I clutched at my wounds and growled at Doyle.

“Run, little Allin. It’s more fun that way,” Doyle said, standing before the clear glass wall.

Beyond him, the Roof of the World glistened in the moonlight, its metal peaks and valleys mimicking, perhaps, the original landscape that the city had covered and consumed. Above it all, the moon hung almost directly above our little bubble of life atop the city. How long until it sets? I wondered. Maybe I’d have a better chance against Doyle if we were both human again.

Still clutching my stinging wounds, I scrambled across the room and away from Doyle. I might be doing exactly what he wanted, giving him a good chase, but any time I could buy would also be in my favor.

“That’s better,” he said, and stalked after me.

I jumped over a plastic-enshrined couch in the sunken portion of the room and turned to see how close Doyle was behind me. The bastard stood right on the other side of the couch. He smiled and made a shooing gesture.

“Hey Doyle, how did it feel when Mom chose both of your brothers rather than have to look at your fugly face every day?” I asked, backing away from him.

The smug smirk disappeared from his face. My words had hit home where my claws could not.

Doyle growled low in his throat, bent over to grab hold of the couch, and lifted the entire thing above his head. How strong is he? I marveled before I turned and ran.

I heard the flipflapflip of the plastic covering the couch as it soared through the air, the telltale sound alerting me to drop to the floor a moment before the couch would have crashed into me. It soared over my head and smashed into the far wall, where it splintered inside of its plastic cocoon and slid to the floor. It left a spiderweb of cracked glass at the point of impact.

Very strong, I decided, peering up at the window. That could have been my spine. I’ve got to put some distance between us.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible inside the confines of the penthouse, but I had an idea of how I could fix that.

I turned over so that I faced Doyle and then I crab-walked backwards as quickly as I could. Doyle sneered and followed me.

“You’re garbage, Allin, like your mom and dad before you. I’ll tear those filthy lies out of your throat even if it means I have to wait years for a replacement body. After all, now that I’m back, I’m not planning on losing this one anytime soon.”

Yeah, keep talking, I willed him as I climbed over the remains of the couch and got to my feet, my back against the wall. And keep thinking like a big, dumb wolf.

“You had to know you were never good enough for her,” I said. “You’re a just a loser who borrowed someone else’s power.”

He was in front of me then, his left arm pressed against my chest, pinning me in place.

“Goodbye, nephew.”

He pulled back his right arm and punched at my head, but I wrenched to the side and he ended up hitting the glass wall behind me.

“Did you have to beg the Fifth House to help you?” I asked, bringing my head back up so that I could look him in the eyes.

“Shut up,” he said, and threw another punch.

I threw myself the other way this time and again he punched the wall instead of me. The glass crunched and crackled under the blow. Almost there.

“I bet they helped you out of pity. Sad sack like you couldn’t wipe your own butt without—”

Doyle moved his arm from my chest to my neck, choking off my insult. I sputtered and gasped while he opened his mouth wide and snapped his jaws shut an inch before my snout.

“I said shut your mouth, but you didn’t listen, so I’ll shut it for you.”

He wrapped his free hand around my snout, pulled my head toward him, and smashed it into the glass wall with all his might. I heard a cracking sound that might have been the glass or my aching skull. Black spots filled my vision and jagged pain lanced from behind my eyes to the tips of my toes.

He leaned in to one side of my head and whispered, “Do you know how many times I raped your mother before she ran away with Dylan? I’d tell you but I lost count.”

He pulled my snout toward him and slammed me into the glass a second time before leaning in again.

“Why, we were doing it right before Dylan came in and killed me. How soon were you born after they ran away? I could be your daddy. Yeah. Let that be your last thought, son.”

“How could you be my dad?” I asked. “Mom said you couldn’t even get it—”

He roared over my words, pulled me toward him a final time, and drove me into the glass wall with all of his strength.

This final assault shattered the already-damaged wall, and we fell out of the room together amidst a rush of air and bits of broken couch. The black spots swimming before my eyes multiplied until all was darkness.

* * *

Continue to Part 85.

9/22/13 News: Late post is late. But sleeping in felt good, especially as the entire family is at various stages of recovering from a cold. Speaking of cold, does Allin know what the heck he’s doing? It must be freezing out there!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 83

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 82, Doyle brought Allin to the Roof of the World and exposed him to moonlight to start his transformation into a werewolf. And then the ghosts arrived.

The Only City Left: Part 83

The ghosts! Xerxes hadn’t let me down after all!

Spectral blue hands shot out from all sides and grabbed onto Doyle, pulling him away from me despite his insubstantial form. I didn’t take my reprieve for granted. Though the ghostlight in the room was as powerful as the moonlight pouring in from above, it didn’t stop my transformation. I immediately put my werewolf strength to good use breaking the straps that held my arms and legs.

I let loose a mighty roar as I rolled off the gurney and onto my feet. It felt spectacular to be free and upright again, and I was ready to crack some skulls together in return for all I had been put through. Doyle already had his hands full, so I looked to his henchmen and the quack doctor. Of course, they were werewolves now too, and they had me outnumbered. Unlike me, though, they were completely taken aback by the flood of ghosts pouring through the floor and filling the room. I could use their confusion to my advantage.

Before I could go on the attack, a familiar ghost separated from the pack and intercepted me.

“Xerxes, what’s going on?”

“This is the moment of which I spoke outside of the Garden,” he said. “Prepare yourself.”

Part of me itched to stride past him and wade into battle against Doyle’s henchwolves, but his words brought me up short. Prepare myself? I looked back to where Doyle wrestled with his attackers. Though he flung ghosts away as quickly as he could, their sheer numbers would eventually overwhelm him.

“Looks like your guys are handling it,” I said. “I’ll take care of his men.”

“My guys are handling them as well,” Xerxes said.

I saw what he meant. Another group of ghosts was threading up through the floor by the bar and latching onto Doyle’s hapless men. Unlike Doyle, his wolves didn’t stand a chance against the combined power of that many of the undead. Individually, each ghost couldn’t do much, but together, with each one stealing just a little heat energy from one wolf at one point on the wolf’s body—the heart, for instance—the ghosts proved that they could combine their influence to lethal effect.

One of the wolves managed to fight free and stagger away along the wall behind the bar, which unlike the side walls and the ceiling had not turned transparent. He ducked through a doorway that I had not even realized was there and slammed it shut behind him. This was no impediment to the ghosts, of course, who phased through the wall after him. On this side of the wall, the other werewolves dropped to the floor one by one, their vital organs frozen inside of their bodies. It was a sterile, dispassionate affair and once the ghosts finished with the wolves, they turned their attention to Doyle, adding themselves to the scrum. Seconds later, the ghosts who had followed the fleeing wolf phased back into the room and joined their friends.

“I guess you don’t need me after all,” I said.

“No, Allin, this is when we need you the most,” Xerxes said, floating between Doyle and me. “I must say goodbye now, and good luck.”

“Goodbye? Where are you going?”

He ignored my question and turned to face Doyle. “A final piece of advice: If you fight Doyle on the level of beasts, he will win. He’s had more practice.”

I started to speak, to tell him that I didn’t understand, but he shot away from me and leaped toward Doyle. Instead of joining the fray with the rest of the ghosts, he bypassed Doyle’s defenses and simply immersed himself in the spectral werewolf’s chest like a swimmer diving into water.

The other ghosts took this as their cue to do the same, as if all their struggles to this point had been to distract Doyle until Xerxes gave the signal. All I could do was watch in confused awe as ghost after ghost stopped grabbing at Doyle and instead simply melted into him.

Doyle had been monstrously large to begin with, and as the hundreds of ghosts who filled the room continued to merge with him, his body expanded and pulsed with their added energy. It must not have been a pleasant experience, because he writhed in place and loosed a series of anguished roars. He grew so large that he began to lose definition, to become less an inflated werewolf and more a tiny sun with head and limbs poking out. I held up my arm to shield my eyes against his radiance.

After the last ghost disappeared into the sphere of energy that had been Doyle Arcady, I could still make out a hint of Doyle’s face on the sphere’s surface. His mouth was a stretched oval of silent agony, his eyes two exaggerated saucers of astonishment. A second later, even those features dissolved. Finally, the sphere reached some critical mass and burst apart.

The shock wave knocked me off of my feet and rattled the walls. When the shaking subsided, I sat up and looked at the space where Doyle had been. A grey cloud of smoke was all that was left of him and the ghosts who had swelled his body past its breaking point.

They did it, I thought as I grinned like a dog eyeing a treat. I don’t know how but the ghosts actually did it! It cost them their afterlives, but they erased Doyle from existence!

Then, laughter. Not mine. A form stepped out of the dissipating cloud of smoke. My grin turned to a snarl of disbelief.

Doyle Arcady, in all his werewolf glory, stood before me. He no longer glowed a ghostly blue, for he was now all too alive. The ghosts’ sacrifice had been in vain. Doyle had survived.

* * *

Continue to Part 84.

9/15/13 News: Oh noes! That might not have worked out as planned (or did it?). I’m just back from a week-long vacation today, so if you need me, I’ll be asleep for the next two days.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 82

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 81, Doyle’s attempt to take over Allin’s body failed when all the coils turned off at once. Doyle had a Plan B, though, and it involved a road trip.

The Only City Left: Part 82

Doc Needles lived up to his name. While Doyle held me down, the good doctor (of what, I had no idea) injected me with a fast-working sedative cocktail. While that took effect, more of Doyle’s men came in with a gurney and strapped me onto it. From there, Doyle led our entire group out of his room, down some stairs, and into the streets of the Garden. Everything after that happened in a dream-like blur.

We traveled through a chaotic landscape full of the sounds of gunfire, yelling, and shattering glass. More than once, Doyle’s men had to fight against fearsome pink demons to clear a path as we made our way deeper into the Garden.

Angels flew over the battlefield, singing and raining gerrybrook flowers over the former werewolves and slaves alike. Where the flowers landed, entire bushes sprang up. Soon the landscape was covered in greenery and filled with the overwhelming scent of gerrybrook blooms. I felt sick but I was also in awe. Imagine the city as one big Garden. Doyle had the name right but had been going about things all wrong.

I saw Banshee clipping flowers off of the bushes. He offered me one but I couldn’t reach it. He shrugged and chewed the flower instead, its crimson petals staining his mouth like blood. He ate flower after flower in this way until the sticky red juice poured down his front, matting his fur and pooling beneath him. I tried to tell him to stop, or at least slow down, but then we were past him and it was too late.

Mom and Dad showed up for a little while to walk on either side of Doyle like an honor guard. They didn’t talk to or even acknowledge me; maybe they thought I was asleep. Still, it was nice to see them again. They stayed with us as we left the populated portion of the Garden and moved through an area that had already been used up and discarded by Doyle’s devouring domain. Here the only light came from Doyle himself until we reached a working elevator. When its doors opened, sterile white light poured out and Mom and Dad faded away under its awful glow.

After that it was all darkened corridors and ramps and elevators up. I was with it enough to marvel that Doyle had not only mapped out a route to the Roof of the World, for that was surely our destination, but that he had kept the elevators in working order the entire way. That was a sign of real power. Imagine if he had used the might of his empire to repair the city as he moved along instead of dismantling it.

That I could string together a coherent thought like that made me realize that I was coming out of the hallucinatory fog under which Needles had buried me. I kept my mouth shut, though, hoping Doyle would drop some secret while he thought me too out of it to notice. It turned out, however, that he wasn’t much interested in talking to his subordinates except to direct them to the next step in the circuitous and seemingly never-ending route.

I ended up bored and lost in dark thoughts. I slipped in and out of sleep, which was probably to my benefit. By the time we reached the final doorway, I felt rested but Doyle’s men looked exhausted from the non-stop march. Doyle, half-ghost, seemed unfazed but eager.

“At last,” he said as he keyed open the door. “I thought we’d never get here.”

We entered a spacious room whose walls and ceiling were a deep black, free of any ornament. Lights set into the floor gave off a gentle yellow glow that illuminated a sparse, square room containing some furniture covered in stiff plastic.

“Leave him there,” Doyle said, pointing to a sunken floor in the center of the room. “Have a drink. Enjoy the penthouse. Don’t interrupt me.”

His men lifted my gurney down two steps and left me craning my neck to see what was going on. Their job done, they adjourned to the bar that ran along the far wall. Doyle walked to a side wall, cupped his hands against it, and pressed one eye to the circle his hands formed.

“Perfect,” he said, and wiped his hand across the wall before turning around. “I was afraid we’d have to wait, but the timing is just right. Maybe it was meant to happen this way. Doc, is he good to go?”

Needles abandoned his spot at the bar, which the rest of Doyle’s men were raiding for its ancient stores, and came over to check me out. I did my best to appear dazed. Maybe if I looked too drugged, Doyle would have to delay his hostile takeover.

He pulled down my eyelids, gave me a tiny slap on the face that I couldn’t help but flinch from, and said, “He’s good. Probably been awake for a while now.”

Gee, thanks Doc.

“Then let’s not delay this any longer,” Doyle said, suddenly looming over me. “I spent years chasing your father and then you, Allin, but at long last I’m going to get everything I want. Boys, one of you clear the walls, would you?”

Everything I want… A surge of hope filled me at Doyle’s words, and then where the side walls and ceiling had been, there was only clear glass, and I was too distracted by the view to do anything but look up in awe. Starlight filled the room, and moonlight, too. I had a brief moment to marvel at the night sky and how it was speckled with millions, no, billions of twinkling stars, and then my transformation began.

It was more painful this time, like I was bursting out of my own skin. Maybe the unadulterated moonlight was more powerful. I didn’t have a chance to contemplate it, though, because Doyle wasted no time in becoming smoke and arrowing through the air straight toward me. This is the end, I thought as he moved to envelop me once more.

And then the ghosts arrived.

* * *

Continue to Part 83.

9/8/13 News: There’ll be no escape for Allin this time… Wait, what? The ghosts beg to differ. We’re in the home stretch, folks. There are 89 total posts (there were 90, but I have since been convinced to hold back that last post) and then this version of Book One is complete. I had hoped to have TOCL available in novel form when that happened, but with the total rewrite, that is not going to happen. That is somewhat aggravating, but at the same time I am much happier with what the finished product will be, so it will be worth it. Here’s to a shorter timetable for Book Two, though!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 81

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 80, Allin refused to speak the passphrase that would transform him into a werewolf (and which would allow his uncle Doyle to perform a hostile takeover of Allin’s body).

The Only City Left: Part 81

Doyle didn’t lash out or yell at me. He simply held me down, grabbed the coil, and said, “Not much as famous last words go. Now get out of that body. I need it to always stay alive.”

Time slowed down. Doyle released his grip on my coil and I could see moonlight burst forth from it like a splash from a puddle. Then the light hit me and I could immediately feel the transformation begin to take over. My own transformation, though, concerned me less than Doyle’s. He was turning to smoke before my eyes, the same as when I cut his arm off with the steel door, or when he pretended to slap me earlier. This smoky, wispy version of Doyle held its form for a moment and then started to flow toward me.

Still halfway between human and werewolf, I fought against my bonds. I could feel my wrists straining against them as I grew stronger moment by moment, but I feared that strength would come too late to save me from Doyle’s onslaught.

I snarled my contempt for this shadow creature that thought he could evict me from my own body. I was a creature of flesh and blood, a werewolf, and no ghost could stop me. I roared and snapped the ropes binding my wrists at the same moment that Smoke-Doyle reached me and enveloped my head in a suffocating darkness.

I could feel the fine grit of his nanoswarm filtering into my eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, even into the pores of my skin. I couldn’t roar, or breathe for that matter, as I drowned in a torrent of nanobots. Fight, I demanded of myself. If there’s any chance his plan might work, you need to stop him somehow. Don’t let him take you over. Better to die.

I started to black out from lack of oxygen when all of a sudden a bright yellow and orange light pierced the shawl of nanobots that covered my eyes. I felt Doyle retreating from me at great speed, pulling me with him so that I fell forward. My feet were still tied together at the base of the table and I barely got my hands in front of me in time to take the brunt of the fall. Still my forehead bounced against the floor and I grunted in pain. That was nothing compared to the next instant when a once-again-solid Doyle gripped me by my hair and lifted me up to face him.

“What is this?” he barked at me. “How did you turn off the coil?”

Turn off the coil? That’s when I realized I wasn’t a werewolf anymore, and the coil hanging from my neck was not emitting any light.

“I don’t know what happened,” I said, spitting out the words between gasps of pain. It felt as if my scalp was going to pull away from my skull.

Maybe Xerxes or one of the other ghosts had come up through the floor and siphoned off the coil’s moonlight. Xerxes had said he would know when Doyle and I were together, and if I had ever needed the ghosts’ help, now was the time. There was a problem with that idea, though. If it had been a ghost, why wasn’t the moonlight back on now that the ghost wasn’t holding on to the coil anymore?

The question was answered a moment later when the door burst open and a disheveled-looking human with a lantern coil around his neck barged in.

“Lord Commander, the coils! Something’s wrong. Everyone’s changed back!”

Doyle snorted in disgust, pushed me back against the table, and reached underneath it to rotate it to horizontal once again. Free from his grasp, I sighed in relief.

“What nonsense is this?” Doyle asked. He was still a werewolf, albeit a ghostly one.

“I can’t explain it, my lord. Our coils flared up and then the moonlight cut off. Several slaves have escaped in the confusion and others have fought back against us. If we don’t organize resistance soon, we’ll be overwhelmed.”

Unless Doyle had lied, I had only been unconscious for an hour. Tumble couldn’t have made it back to Pudlington yet and, even if he had, we had agreed to not turn the coils off. Not that I was complaining. However it had been accomplished, it was having the desired effect on the werewolves and, as a bonus, had saved me from Doyle, too.

“You’re still stronger than them and you have weapons,” Doyle said. “Form groups and kill any slave who dares to challenge you. Now go.” He looked down at me and called out to the now-human guard before he could leave. “One more thing. Task someone with escorting Doc Needles here.”

“Form groups. Kill slaves. Doc Needles. Got it,” said the guard, who looked relieved to have firm orders. “Your will be done!”

He sped out of the room, leaving me alone with a very unhappy Doyle.

“So your friends in the Skunkworks took the initiative and destroyed the satellite even without Banshee’s orders.”

I tried to keep my face blank, but inside I despaired. Banshee thought he was playing Doyle with false reports all these years, but it looked like Doyle had been on to him the whole time. If Doyle knew about the Skunkworks and Professor Copper’s coil project, it meant one of the scientists was talking to the wrong person about forbidden topics, or worse, was on Doyle’s payroll.

“You don’t have to keep it secret, Allin. The cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Fordham promised me he would cancel the project, but apparently I can’t trust him as much as I thought I could.”

Fordham! He was working for Doyle.

“Sorry they ruined your plan,” I said, dripping sarcasm. “I guess you don’t need me anymore.”

“On the contrary, I need you now more than ever. And if I can’t bring the moon to you, well…”

A silver-haired man who looked freshly woken came into the room, carrying a leather bag.

“You called for me?”

“Yes. Sedate the boy. We’re going on a trip and I don’t want him getting too excited. After all, it’s not every day I make someone’s dream come true.”

* * *

Continue to Part 82.

9/1/13 News: Can Allin take advantage of this sudden turn of events? Will he be happy to have his dream come true? Neither one seems likely. Tune in next week to see what happens next, faithful TOCLites!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 80

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 79, Doyle told Allin he planned to take control of Allin’s body.

The Only City Left: Part 80

“You’re insane.”

“A little,” Doyle replied with a broad grin. “You don’t try to transfer your consciousness into a string of other bodies without a few side effects, after all. But I have no doubt that this time, with you, the transfer will work.”

He picked up my lantern coil again and said, “The transfer is best completed when the subject is in a transition state between wolf and man. So let’s get this on you and begin, shall we?”

I tensed up, uncertain of what torture I was about to be subjected to in the name of Doyle’s mad experiment. When I heard a loud slam from behind me, I jumped and nearly slipped off the stacked books, but it turned out to only be a door opening.

“I’m sorry, sir. We couldn’t stop her without injuring her,” said a gruff, masculine voice.

I looked to the side to see who was speaking, but the first person to come into view wasn’t some werewolf guard. It was Tyena. She was dressed in fine crimson silks and had her red hair up in a tight bun. For a prisoner, she looked well kept. She advanced on Doyle with a righteous anger in her eyes, but when she glanced over and saw me, she stopped and ran to my side.

“Allin, it’s true. You’re alive!”

“For the moment.”

“It’s okay,” Doyle said to someone behind my table. “Let them say their goodbyes. Wait outside until I call you.”

The door closed again and Tyena turned on Doyle, still holding on to me.

“Let him go,” she said.

“No, let her go,” I countered. “You got what you wanted. Set her and her mother free.”

“So sweet, the both of you, but the answer is no. Besides,” Doyle said, putting one wide hand over Tyena’s stomach. “If I were to let him go, it would mean I would need to use your baby. Is that what you want?”

“Baby!?” What in the world?

Tyena shot me a fierce look, while behind her back, Doyle leered.

“She didn’t tell you? Then let me be the first to say ‘Congratulations, Dad!’ I’m sure you’re as happy as I was to find out.”

Happy didn’t quite cover the range of my feelings at the moment. Disbelief. Confusion. Concern. Especially that last one. Since Tyena and I had never been that intimate, her carrying my baby was impossible.

“With you presumed dead, it cheered me to no end when that cat brought me Tyena. At first I thought to make a sport of her slow death, but imagine my delight upon hearing that she was with child. Your child. All hope was not lost.”

Now it made sense. Tyena had said what she needed to in order to survive for a little while longer, although this was one lie that couldn’t last for very long. At most she had pushed back the date of her execution by a couple of weeks.

“You were going to transfer your mind into a baby?”

“Eventually. It would actually be easier to overwrite a baby’s fresh mind, but there’s no point in being flesh again if all I’m doing is pissing my dipeys all day long,” he said. He let go of Tyena and walked around to my other side. “Sadly, it will be years before the child is old enough to be suitable for me. But then, a gift. You returned.”

Tyena squeezed my shoulder tight while Doyle went on.

“Don’t worry, though. Even though I don’t need him now, I’ll allow your son to grow up. If it’s a daughter, eh, we’ll see.”

“You leave them the hell alone,” I said, struggling against my bonds. I was playing along with the charade for Tyena’s sake, but there was a core of real emotion in it, too. I’d be damned if a lunatic like Doyle got near any child of mine, even if this one only existed in Tyena’s desperate imagination.

“It won’t be any of your concern in a few more minutes,” Doyle said. “Guard, take her away!”

“Allin, I’m so sorry,” Tyena said. She kissed me one last time as the guard came into the room.

“I’m sorry, too. For everything.”

“So sweet,” Doyle said as the guard put his furry mitts on Tyena’s shoulders. “Now go get some rest, my dear. You mustn’t exert yourself so.”

The guard led her out of my sight and shut the door behind them. I hoped for her sake that she had another trick up her sleeve and could escape before Doyle caught on.

“You’re a monster. You were really going to steal her baby?”

“Of course. And I still will. You see, if this ritual works, and I take over your body, what’s to stop me from dying and reincorporating as many times as I want? All I need are more Lazarus swarms, which the Fifth House has promised me, and more bodies to which I am related by blood. Your child will be the first, but once I’m corporeal again, I’ll get to work on making more little babies who can grow up to be host bodies for me. Yes, I’m quite looking forward to that part after all these years.”

“Good thing you’re such a loyal little lap dog to the Fifth House. Sounds like without all the gifts they’ve given you, you’d still be a sad little punk. My mom chose both of your brothers over you, didn’t she? I bet that hurts, doesn’t—hurk!

That last bit was my yell of surprised pain as Doyle kicked the books out from under my feet and all my weight fell onto my bound wrists and straining shoulders again. As I writhed, he slipped my necklace back on and pressed the buttons to activate it.

“Did you know that you can’t change the passphrase on a coil once it’s set? And that I was there when Dylan chose his? So shall you say it or shall I?”

Ghosts, if you’re planning on saving me, it’s now or never.

“Always…”

“Yes, keep going,” Doyle urged.

“Always. Shove it up your ass, Uncle.”

* * *

Continue to Part 81.

8/25/13 News: That last line is perhaps my favorite of the whole book. Now you know my maturity level.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 79

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 78, Doyle was sharing his version of Arcady family history with Allin, when he revealed that he got his powers from a mysterious force called the Fifth House.

The Only City Left: Part 79

The Fifth House? That was the name of the distant kingdom that gave the older brother his powers in Mom’s story, and the slave in the Garden had used that phrase in Doyle’s title. Banshee had alluded to them without knowing their name. If any part of this story were true, this might be it.

“What’s the Fifth House?” I asked.

“Gods. Or as close to them as the Earth can afford nowadays.”

“So you met some gods.” So much for the truth.

He scowled at my sarcasm. “I have a werewolf army and I came back from the dead, and you find it hard to believe I met some gods? Well, believe what you want. I found them or they found me. Either way, they gave me the power to become a werewolf and to turn others, and the coils to allow us to transform even in the depths of the city. In return, they asked only that I expand my empire, which as you might have guessed I was quite happy to do. But first I had to protect my wife, so upon my return I infected her.”

“You!?” Doyle had been the one to turn Mom into a werewolf? Could that be true? Not that it made it any better, but I liked to think that Dad had been the one to do it. If it was Doyle, it meant I was even more connected to him, as if the werewolf side of me was his son. I felt ill.

“Yes. She was safer that way. I did Dylan next. That was my biggest mistake, sharing my power with the betrayer. But I couldn’t have known at the time. No, all I knew was that the city was dangerous and I needed to make it safer. I built a new Garden for Jessie and vowed she would always be safe within its walls. But while I worked to infect more wolves and build a fortress, my brother poisoned my wife against me. No fortress, no matter how impregnable, can withstand such rot from the inside.”

Wow, I had it so wrong all this time. Doyle isn’t the bad guy at all; it was my parents. Now that I see the light, I’ll gladly do whatever I can to help him. How could I have ever been so wrong? At least, that’s what he seemed to expect me to say. He was so earnest in his delivery of the tale, I didn’t doubt that he believed it himself. I suspected that after all these years as half a ghost, Uncle Doyle was more than a little bit insane.

“While I was busy building an army, your parents hatched their plan. And when I took a break from my works to spend time with my wife, they struck. They cut me down and left me for dead. What they couldn’t have known was that the Fifth House had given me the means to survive death via the Lazarus swarm. Once I returned, I vowed to track them down to the ends of the Earth and make them pay for their crime.”

“I guess that didn’t work out so well for you.” I couldn’t help myself. Tied to a table, waiting for who knows what horrible fate to befall me, all I had left were my words, so I used them to inflict what wounds I could. But instead of looking angry, Doyle grinned his wolfish grin.

“For a long time, yes. But now here you are, and all will be right again soon.”
“How’s that exactly?”

Doyle stood up, walked over to me, and cupped my cheek with his hand, almost a caress. I shuddered under his touch.

“You have wondered, I am sure, about my present state of being? A ghost who can touch but can’t feel? Solid one moment…”

He brought his hand up behind his head and then brought it down to slap me. I winced against the expected impact, but instead of a slap I felt like someone was pouring fine sand over my face. I opened my eyes and saw that his arm from the elbow down looked like flowing smoke. It passed over my face with all the force of a strong breeze.

“…Insubstantial the next. And back again.”

His hand and arm re-formed and he gave me a light slap on my cheek with the back of his hand.

“An amusing party trick, to be sure, but no way to live, to really live,” Doyle said. He started to pace again. “I can’t blame the Fifth House. They told me it would work best with someone of my own blood, but it was taking so long to capture Dylan, I had to try using someone else.”

Someone of my own blood.

“Use them for what?”

“To transfer my mind into their bodies, of course.”

“Mind transfer? You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? I may be mechanical and you biological, but we’re both delivery devices for consciousness. The Fifth House showed me how to overwrite a host body with my consciousness, but it has never fully worked. The host body always rejects me. But with each failure, I consumed the body. Rather, the nanobots that make up my body did. I grew stronger, more solid. But even though I can touch, I can’t feel. Even though I can tear into warm flesh with these teeth, I can’t taste the blood. It’s driving me mad!”

That last part I could agree with.

“For years I chased after your family, desperate to capture Dylan and transfer my consciousness into his body. I even had some notion that I could effect the transfer in secret and in that way be with my sweet, poisonous Jessie one last time, willingly, before I murdered her. Imagine the hurt and betrayal she would have felt as the man she thought was her husband choked the life out of her. But then your parents went and got themselves killed. Which left you, Allin. You’re my only family left, and I’m going to have to kick you out of that body of yours. Nothing personal.”

* * *

Continue to Part 80.

8/18/13 News: First off, I finally put a reminder in my calendar to post the new TOCL episode, and without it, I would definitely have forgotten again. Second, yes, Fiona called it. Doyle wants to kick Allin out of his body. In rewrite news, I finished Chapter 3 and it is off to my editor. She has had minimal notes on the first two chapters, which is good news. I have 43 chapters planned, so I feel like I am once more at the beginning of a long road, but I am glad that I will have a better book at the end of it.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 78

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 77, Allin was at the mercy of his ghost werewolf Uncle, Doyle.

The Only City Left: Part 78

“You seem pretty alive to me already,” I said. Which was true. He could move around, talk, and unlike most ghosts who could only interact with a tiny bit of the physical world for a small amount of time, he was as solid as they came.

Speaking of ghosts, I thought. Here I am, all alone with Doyle. Now would be an excellent time for Xerxes and friends to show up. Where in the hell are they?

Doyle backed away and threw his hands up as if throwing my words back at me.

“Bah. This? This isn’t life. This is a waking dream. My senses are dulled. I can’t eat or drink.” He slammed his palms down on his desk. “Every sensation is deadened. What I wouldn’t give to feel again, to taste, to know the touch of a woman. Yes, especially that.”

“Creepy,” I said. “Seriously creepy. And nothing to do with me.”

“Mock me all you want, boy, but you’re the key to fixing this. Even better, it means I’ll finally have my revenge on your parents. They killed me and their son will give me new life. How perfect.”

“The only thing my parents did wrong was not sticking around to make sure they finished the job.”

In the blink of an eye, Doyle stepped toward me and punched the table beside my head. His fist left a gaping hole in the inch-thick slab of wood.

“Are you trying to get me to kill you? Clever, that would ruin my plans for now. But I won’t make it that easy on you. And I won’t allow you to keep on spewing the lies your parents fed to you about me. Before this ends, you should know the dirty truth about them.”
The possibility of finding out more about my parents made me keep my mouth shut. That and the fact that I really wasn’t trying to get Doyle to kill me. As clever as he thought I was being, I had no desire to die and I didn’t see how that would be a big win for me. So I didn’t say anything; I just listened.

“The first thing you should know is that Jessie didn’t pick your dad first. She picked me. It wasn’t until years later that he played on my trust and kindness and stole her away from me. But I’m getting ahead of myself,” he said. He dropped my coil on his desk, pulled a chair over, and sat down facing me. “The story really began in a section of the city known as the Garden, which was governed by Jessie’s parents. Now your dad and I, we kind of grew up like wild dogs, all over the place, doing what we needed to do to get by. So when we saw the Garden, and Jessie, it was like a little slice of heaven smack dab in the middle of the dirt and decay of the city. It wasn’t fair that some people had so much while we were living day to day, so Dylan and I, we went to the Garden and we made a deal with Jessie’s parents. Jessie had to choose one of us to marry, or we’d burn the Garden down. Jessie chose me.”

I wasn’t surprised that Doyle was the star of his own story, or that he cast Dad as the villain. I was prepared for his version of events to be skewed in his favor. What did surprise me was that I had heard this story before, sort of. Except…

“Wait a second. Did you have another brother who went with you to the Garden?”

Doyle’s eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. For a moment I thought he would jump up and put a matching hole in the table on the other side of my head, but he calmed himself and said, “I don’t know what lies your parents filled your head with, but shut up and listen to what really happened.”

Lies. Stories. I always thought my parents had kept the details of their past hidden from me, but what if it was all out there for me to see, plain as day, only disguised as a fairy tale instead of a history lesson? The Princess and the Three Brothers. But if that was the case, why would Doyle deny the existence of the third brother in the tale? I decided it was best not to anger him further by pushing him on the subject, but I kept that question in the back of my mind as he continued.

“Unbeknownst to me, Dylan was consumed with jealousy that Jessie had chosen me over him. He showed me no hint of his true feelings, but he plotted behind my back while continuing to play the role of the loyal brother. A year or so passed in this way and then we received news that the Garden had been destroyed and all its people murdered. Dylan acted as shocked at this news as I was, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned that his were the hands that had committed the crime. By then it was too late to let Jessie know, because he had already turned her against me.”

The story was so obviously altered from what Mom had told me, I considered it almost useless. But where the two stories overlapped, perhaps there was some truth to be found. I continued to listen, helpless at any rate to do anything else.

“When I heard of this travesty, I vowed to Jessie to never allow such a fate to befall us. But what could I do to protect her? I was just one man, facing powers that had wiped out an entire town. So I decided to look for some way to grow more powerful, to become strong enough that I could protect Jessie from the dangers of the city. And that’s when I found the Fifth House.”

* * *

Continue to Part 79.

8/11/13 News: Late post again! No excuses. WTH, Andy? (Okay, time to add reminders to my calendar.) Also, this is more behind-the-scenes stuff that will likely not be appearing in the final version. Enjoy!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 77

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 76, Allin was caught by the werewolves and was knocked unconscious.

The Only City Left: Part 77

When I woke up in the darkness, I heard someone say, “One grenade. Looks to be an emp. Get that out of here before the Lord Commander arrives. One coil. Set it aside. He’ll want to examine it. No other belongings in his pockets. Cavity search?”

No thanks, I tried to say, but my throat felt like it was filled with grit and I couldn’t speak past something that had been shoved into my mouth.

“You better,” came Sergeant Pogue’s voice.

I couldn’t talk but I could move, and at Pogue’s command, I tried my best to get away. Since I was laid out on some flat surface with my arms stretched out above my head and my hands and feet tied down, all that amounted to was bucking against my restraints.

“He’s awake.”
“I can see that,” Pogue said. “Here, I’ll flip him and hold him down.”

“Mrph um nurmph!” I said in protest. The gag not only blocked my words, but it made me feel like I couldn’t get enough air, either. When someone turned me face-down, my nose was smushed into the bag covering my head and I truly did find it hard to breathe. I struggled to break free, to get into a better position to clear my airway, but to no avail. One set of hands held me down by my shoulders, while another tugged on my pants. I couldn’t draw in enough air and I began to see flowing, geometric lights dance before my eyes. So soon after waking up, I was on my way back to being unconscious.

“Very thorough, boys, but there’s no need for that. Flip him over.”

Pogue and the other set of hands followed Doyle’s orders immediately, and then someone pulled a hood off of my head and removed the gag. I sucked in great gulps of air and slowly let my eyes adjust to the light provided by two coils and Doyle’s usual luminescence.

“Welcome to my home, Allin. You could have saved us all a bit of trouble and come when I first invited you.”

“How long was I out?” I asked. I had a sudden hope that Tumble had made it to Pudlington, imprisoned Fordham, and was now marching on the Garden to rescue me.

“Oh, less than an hour,” Doyle said. Damn. “Pogue, Geracy, you may leave.”

The two werewolves thanked Doyle and departed without another word, but Pogue gave me a stern glare before disappearing from my sight. Maybe I hurt his delicate feelings by lying to him, I thought with a chuckle.

“You laugh,” Doyle said, no anger or surprise in his monotone voice. “You’ve got more spine than I expected from the spawn of my brother and his mongrel doxy. Or you’re too simple to realize the trouble you’re in. Which is it?”

While he spoke, I took the time to look around the room I found myself in. There wasn’t much to see: a wooden desk and chair, a large bed, and a number of shelves full of books. I guess you don’t need much in terms of physical comforts when you’re half a ghost. I appeared to be tied down to a large table of some sort and I could barely feel my hands and feet they were bound so tightly.

“Allin, Allin, am I losing you here?” Doyle asked, his face looming into view.

Maybe I had been spacing out a bit, a side effect of the alcohol and having my head used as a battering ram. I tried to use it to my advantage.

“Yeah, I’m out of it,” I said weakly. “Can you untie me so I can sit up and clear my head?”

“How about this?”

Doyle reached behind me and worked some mechanism. Next thing I knew, the table below me rotated so that I was nearly vertical. I groaned as my bound wrists took the weight of my body. It felt as if my arms were going to tear out of my shoulders.

“Is that better? Good,” Doyle said, moving to stand a few feet in front of me. “Now let me get a look at my nephew. Why, Allin Arcady, as I don’t live or breathe, it seems news of your demise was fabricated. Well played. You had me greatly worried.”

“So nice of you to care, Uncle,” I said through clenched teeth.

Doyle seemed to notice my pain. He took some books from a shelf and placed them beneath my feet so that I could stand. The relief was instantaneous. It was still awkward to hold my arms above my head, but at least I wasn’t in constant agony anymore.

“Better? Good. You see? We can work together. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial between us. We’re family, after all.”

His words were calm, but he paced back and forth in front of me like a caged beast. He stopped and whipped his head to the side to glare at me.

“But then you come into my home, my domain, and make a fool of me in front of my people,” he said, acid tingeing his words now. “Really, Allin. Tongues will be wagging for weeks about how I promoted my own nephew without even recognizing him. If I wasn’t so happy to see you, I would be very, very cross.”

He picked up my coil from where it lay on the desk and dangled it in the air by its necklace.

“And you figured out Dylan’s passphrase, too. Very resourceful. Or did the cats unlock it for you? Never mind. You got it to work and it got you here, with me. That’s what’s important.”

He moved closer, nearly poking my face with his spectral snout. Up close, I saw a storm lurking in his eyes, belying his calm facade.

“Now let’s talk about how you’re going to help me return to the world of the living.”

* * *

Continue to Part 78.

8/4/13 News: Late post today! Thanks to Fiona for the reminder.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.