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.
If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-21 first and then start from Part 22. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 22, Allin realized he still had feelings for Tyena. I wonder if that will change his decision to leave Pudlington so soon?
The Only City Left: Part 23
The next morning, I woke up with the worst hangover I had ever had. It was also my first one, but I’m sure it would have ranked pretty high up there even if I had a dozen under my belt. The cats must have constitutions of iron to be able to process that gerrybrook juice and still function the next day. I was not so lucky.
I groaned inside a cocoon of blankets and assessed the situation. I was only wearing underwear, although I had no memory of stripping down. I was also covered in sweat and dying for a breath of fresh air. Although it meant risking the light and the pain that would bring, I couldn’t take it any longer, I had to be free of my blanketed prison.
I kicked my way free, gasped for a fresh breath, and opened my eyes as little as possible. Thankfully, someone had turned off the overhead light, so the only light came from the window and from under the bathroom door. I opened my eyes more fully and saw a shadow under the bathroom door from someone moving around inside. Tyena, presumably.
What happened? I struggled to remember last night, but it was all a hazy blur that wouldn’t come into focus through the throbbing pain in my skull.
I was still staring at the gap at the bottom of the bathroom door when it swung open. My eyes were wide and unprepared for the sudden blinding light. I cursed and grasped my head with both hands for fear it would crack open.
“Gah,” I managed to say before I buried my head underneath some pillows.
“Good morning to you, too,” Tyena replied, way too cheery for however early it was.
I peeked out from under the pillow and saw that Tyena looked fresh and clean in a new set of clothes. I, on the other hand, felt like I had been swimming in raw sewage while being beaten with steam pipes.
“Last night,” I asked. “Did we?”
“We kissed. You fell asleep. I’ll try not to take it personally.”
“Sorry. The juice,” I groaned. “Never again.”
She laughed and the spikes drilled further into my skull.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said as she sat down on the bed next to me. “Tumble’s been by looking for you. I told him you needed some more time. You might want to clean up before breakfast.”
My stomach curled in on itself protectively and some bile rose in my throat.
“I have some errands to run, but I’ve been invited to breakfast, too. I’ll see you there.”
She leaned over and kissed the pillow that lay on top of my head, then got up and left.
I lay there for a while before forcing myself up and into the shower. Hot water helped. A real shower! Working plumbing was always a nice find in the city, but hot water was a luxury beyond compare.
I felt a lot better when I was done, good enough to realize how embarrassing last night had been. Hi Tyena, so nice to see you again. What, you want to kiss? Okay, let’s … zzz … snore.
Still, she didn’t seem too put out, which left the possibility of more such opportunities wide open. And next time I would stay awake.
When I stepped out into the bedroom wrapped only in a towel, I found Tumble waiting for me inside, making the bed of all things.
“Rough night, Allin?” he asked and then continued without waiting for an answer. “Clean underclothes in the drawers. Best get ready. We have a nice big breakfast prepared for your farewell.”
Farewell? Oh yeah, I was leaving Pudlington today. At least, that was the plan before Tyena showed up. Well, maybe I would have to revisit that decision.
As I got dressed, the muted throbbing in my head moved to the forefront again, and Tumble remarked on my distress.
As I slipped my cling-tights on my feet, I said, “Tumble. Never let me drink any of that gerrybrook again. Ever.”
Tumble chuckled and finished patting the pillows down at the top of the bed.
“Duly noted. Are you ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
With that, Tumble led me out of my room and we traversed the ramps, ropes, and platforms on the way to the feasting hall. Tumble was in a particularly talkative mood as we walked.
“I forgot how powerful gerrybrook can be for the uninitiated,” he commented.
I groaned and asked if we could talk about something else, but he plowed on.
“The curious thing about the flowers—you saw them in Emperor Banshee’s personal garden last night, by the way—as I was saying, the curious thing is that, untreated, they are as poisonous as they are beautiful.”
“You make alcohol out of a killer flower?” I gasped. “No wonder I feel sick.”
“You feel sick because you overindulged. Yes, gerrybrook is deadly, but prepared correctly it can be quite useful. The diluted poison is what gives it that kick.”
“It kicked me all right.”
“The juice you drank last night is from Emperor Banshee’s private stock,” Tumble continued. “He is a master in handling the flower, in taking something beautiful but deadly and turning it into something useful.”
All this bragging about Banshee and the gerrybrook flower was just reminding my body about the source of its current discomfort. Maybe Tumble was trying to punish me for not accepting Banshee’s request.
“Okay, okay,” I insisted. “Consider me impressed.”
Tumble stopped and put a hand on my side.
“No, Allin, I’m not trying to impress you, I’m trying to warn you.”
I gave Tumble a look and thought, Warn me about what? Was Banshee going to poison me at breakfast? That seemed far-fetched.
Before I could ask him what he meant, though, Tyena approached us.
“Fancy meeting you here, gentlemen,” she proclaimed. “Shall we continue on together?”
She held out her hand for me and I gladly accepted it. Together, we made our way to the feasting hall.
Behind us, I heard Tumble sigh.
* * *
7/22/12 News: The Only City Left is now listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!
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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.