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 66, Allin prepared to transform into a werewolf for the first time in his life. He spoke his father’s passphrase, “Always stay alive,” and…
The Only City Left: Part 67
The transformation began immediately and was over in seconds, but for me it felt like an eternity. The moonlight from my coil enveloped me and set me on fire. My skin rippled and bubbled like a pot of water set to boil. A full-body cramp wracked me and I collapsed to my knees and bowed my head to the floor. It’s not working, I thought, panicked. Copper was wrong. I’m turning inside out!
I groaned at a feeling of not-quite pain but not-yet pleasure, a feeling of something about-to-happen like when you’re starting to fall but you haven’t hit the floor yet. I watched in awe and revulsion as the skin on my arms darkened, hardened, and sprouted fur. I could feel other, invisible changes, too. Although my head was bowed, I knew exactly where Copper and Banshee stood in the room, could smell Banshee’s subdued fear and Copper’s unbridled curiosity. I felt an untapped reservoir of power coursing through me, waiting to be unleashed. My groan became a series of howls.
A monstrous rage built up inside of me. Not blind fury but rather focused wrath. All those wolves out there who felt the same power: they had so much potential, but what did they use it for? To take what they wanted and kill anyone who stood in their way, to destroy. How narrow-minded.
Imagine harnessing the incredible power for good, instead. The problem with Doyle being in charge is that he was a punk before he was given this power and all it had done was turn him into a stronger punk. I wouldn’t think so small. With an army of werewolves at my command, I could force the planet to shape up. I could bring about a renewed age of peace and prosperity. And anyone who didn’t like it would be wise to get out of my way.
“Allin!” I heard Banshee’s voice as if from a distance, nearly drowned out by the sound of blood rushing in my ears, pulsing through my body. Louder, “Allin!”
I focused and saw my hands gripping the bars of my cell. I had pulled two bars together until they nearly touched in the middle. Outside of the cell, Copper peeked out at me from behind Banshee, the both of them standing well away. I let go of the bars and staggered backwards. I looked down and saw that the concrete floor had been gouged out in a set of parallel lines. I didn’t remember doing any of that.
“Turn it off!”
I looked up again and saw Banshee standing right before the cell bars. Was he mad? I could take one step forward and end him with a swipe of my great claws. Look what I had done to the floor. Flesh and fur would be like nothing to me.
“Allin, please, turn it off,” Banshee said, his voice low. Not an imperial command. A request from a friend. “This is not who you are.”
Not who I am? What was he talking about? This is who I always had been, under the surface. This was the gift my parents had bequeathed to me. A gift of unbridled power, of heightened senses, of unlocked potential. I was a werewolf now like my parents before me. Like my parents.
My parents who had fled that life to keep me safe, who had hidden their werewolf nature from me. My parents who had been murdered by the wolves. I was reveling in the power that had destroyed them. I felt sick.
With a press of the same buttons that had begun the transformation, it was over. I was human once more, on my hands and knees and retching in the corner of the cell. Banshee was by my side, patting my back and repeating, “It’s okay, Allin. It’s okay,” until I believed it enough to sit up and wipe the tears from my eyes.
“Sorry if I scared you,” I said, my voice a ragged croak.
“I had no doubt you’d pull through,” Banshee said.
“I wish I was so sure.”
“The first transformation is bound to produce some adverse effects upon both your physical and mental well-being,” Copper said. “Subsequent uses of the coil should be easier on you.”
“Thanks, Prof.” I couldn’t help but notice she still stood well back from me on the other side of the bars. I didn’t blame her. I wanted to recoil from myself, to hide on the other side of the bars, but I was trapped in my own traitorous body. “I hope you’re right.”
Banshee helped me to my feet and led me out of the cell. He asked, “Do you still think you can do it? Become a werewolf? Infiltrate the Garden?”
I rubbed my mouth with the back of my hand and said, “I can do it. I won’t like it, but if it’ll get me into the Garden and close to Doyle, I’ll do it.”
“This mustn’t leave the room, your ability to transform,” Banshee said, looking at Copper and me in turn. “The last thing I need is for Fordham and his cronies to know that there’s a werewolf in the city, no matter that you’re on our side.”
I slipped the coil on its necklace back underneath my shirt.
“I won’t be bragging about this, believe me.”
“You have my silence, Emperor Banshee,” Copper said.
“Good. Allin, let me return you to your room for some well-earned rest. Tomorrow, I’ll announce that I’ve agreed to your plan and you’ll be on your way immediately.”
I was surprised, to say the least. I thought he had been adamantly against the idea.
“What made you change your mind?” I asked.
“Let’s just say: it’s the right thing to do.”
“What about Fordham?”
“I’ll remind him who truly runs this city.”
* * *
5/26/13 News: I am moving slowly along on edits for Book 1. I have such mixed emotions about the whole process, so part of editing is getting into the right mental space and figuring out exactly what are my goals for the book. Part of the oddity of this process for me is that I know people are enjoying this serialized rough draft, but at the same time, I am going to be making considerable changes to it. Hopefully it all works out.
Oh well, this is all an experiment and based on how it turns out, I’ll decide how I would like to change how I do things for Book 2. Thanks for being part of the experiment!
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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.