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 1-34 and then start at Part 35. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 42, Guppy brought Allin and Tumble to meet his friends: one of them was a werewolf and the rest all were lantern coils, which meant they could be werewolves, too. Allin was not pleased at this turn of events.
The Only City Left: Part 43
I tensed up and looked around for a quick exit, but we were out of luck. The hulking man called Crow blocked the way we had come in, and the only other exit was a hallway on the other side of the room. Even if I hadn’t been rooted to the floor in fear, I doubted I could make it past the card players.
“Seriously, do you smell it, too?” asked the werewolf as he got out of bed. Standing, he was shorter than me, which made him less imposing though still horrific. He sniffed the air with his long snout, bobbing his head. “Or am I still dreaming?”
“Cool it, Kenner,” said the card player on the left side of the table. He spoke in a cold, clipped manner, as if he only grudgingly let the words escape from his mouth. “We have guests. Guppy, where are your manners? Introduce your friends.”
I locked eyes with Guppy and silently pleaded for help. After all, we had escaped death by clinker together only a short while ago. That counted for something, right?
“Not friends, Matthias,” Guppy said. “They nearly got me killed. I figured I better bring them back here so you could decide what to do with them.”
“You son of a—” From behind me, Crow grabbed my shoulder and squeezed tight, cutting me off.
Guppy sat down on one of the cots and crossed his arms over his chest. I gave him a dirty look as I squirmed under Crow’s crushing grip, then turned to Matthias when he spoke again.
“Thank you, Crow,” Matthias said. He sniffed the air delicately. “Kenner, I do believe you are correct. Our short friend has a feline air about him. Remove his hat.”
Kenner raised his upper lip in a snarling grin and moved to follow Matthias’ orders, but Tumble preempted him. He doffed his own hat with a flourish and handed it to the werewolf.
“Keep that handy, mind you. I’ll be needing it when we leave.”
“I don’t take orders from cats,” Kenner said. He threw the leaf hat to the ground and smashed and tore at it with his feet. The man seated across from Matthias laughed at the sight.
Tumble remained unfazed, but I broke out in a sweat and began to take quick, shallow breaths. This was Glin’s Rising all over again. After three years and despite my best efforts to avoid them, I had fallen back into the hands of the werewolves.
“Shiloh, be quiet,” Matthias said to the still-laughing man across from him. Then he turned his cold, appraising stare back to Tumble and me. “A boy and a cat wandering the city. Not an everyday sight.”
“Dogs playing cards. I think I saw that in a painting once,” Tumble said.
Shiloh growled and made to leave his seat, but a clipped “Enough!” from Matthias kept him still.
Matthias crossed his legs and said, “Crow, release him. Guppy, do you know who you have brought us?”
“He said his name is Allin and the cat is Tumble.”
Matthias grinned and I could see the werewolf behind his human facade. “Really. The boy I had guessed, but to find him in the company of Emperor Banshee’s brother? What a prize.”
I turned to Tumble and gave him a surprised look. Brother? He shrugged and nodded at me.
“Forget the supplies, Guppy, you’ve more than earned your coil today. Doyle will want to reward you personally. Tell me, Allin. You were safe in Pudlington, last I heard. Whatever possessed you to leave, and to enter clinker territory, no less?”
My shoulder throbbed where the brute had gripped me. I massaged it and said, “None of your damn business.”
“Impolite whelp,” Matthias said with no real passion. “You’re lucky your uncle wants you alive and in one piece. The cat, though… Kenner, Shiloh, rough him up, but no killing.”
Shiloh laughed and grasped his lantern coil. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear and moonlight escaped from inside his closed hand. I shivered as he transformed into a werewolf in front of me. Kenner, already transformed, growled and moved toward Tumble.
“Allin, forgive me,” Tumble said. He looked sideways at me and then back at Crow, who towered behind the both of us. “You’re on your own for the moment.”
Before I could respond, he dashed forward between the two werewolves and kicked a chair sideways with such force that it knocked the card table over onto Matthias. There was a flash of white light and Matthias came out from under the overturned table as a werewolf. Behind me, Crow said something and there was another flash of moonlight. Tumble disappeared down the far hallway with Kenner and Shiloh in pursuit, while Guppy plastered himself against the wall by the cots, out of the way of his monstrous friends. I remained still, my feet like concrete blocks holding me in place.
Matthias lunged toward me and I couldn’t help but jump back in fright, only to bump into Crow’s unyielding body. Trapped, I couldn’t avoid it when Matthias gripped me painfully by the jaw with one clawed hand.
“A bold move, but futile,” he said, his rank breath filling my nostrils and making me gag. “My boys will capture him. The best he can hope for is to be killed rather than held hostage.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” I said, fighting to pull my face out of his iron grip.
“We’ll see. In the meantime, I hope you’re ready for a trip to the Gard—” A tremendous reverberating BOOM! cut him off. It had come from the front door. Once the echoes died, Matthias squeezed my face and lowered his eyes to my level. “Did you bring friends with you, boy? Did you?”
I tried to say, “No,” but another BOOM! swallowed my answer.
He let me go and I rubbed at my face.
“Crow, take care of it,” Matthias said. “Guppy, were you followed?”
“I don’t think so. We left one behind us but it couldn’t walk.”
Matthias’ eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. “One what?”
There was another boom followed by the sound of wrenching metal and a pained howl. Crow staggered into the room backwards and fell at our feet, bleeding from a long gash on his forehead.
I caught Guppy’s eye and his panicked face mirrored my own.
“Clinker,” he said.
* * *
12/9/12 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.