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 45, Allin inadvertently sent the wannabe werewolf, Guppy, to a watery grave, and one of his werewolf pals was none too happy about this.
The Only City Left: Part 46
The hand holding my neck twisted me around and I came nose to snout with Matthias. I grabbed onto his arm to hold myself up as best I could. He turned my head to one side and I thought, This is it. He’s going to bite my head off. Literally.
Instead, he yelled directly into my ear so that I could hear him over the pounding, rushing water that fell all around us. “You are ruthless. I like that. But stop fighting or I’ll forget that Doyle wants you unharmed. Understand?”
I did my best to nod.
“They’re here!” Kenner’s roar sounded faintly over the din of the room, even though he stood only a couple of feet away from us.
Matthias looked past Kenner, narrowed his eyes, and set me down. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me along again, away from the incoming clinkers, but came to a stop when confronted by a bedraggled Tumble. With his wet fur plastered to his skin, Tumble looked like half the cat he normally was, but he had the same calm, determined expression as ever. He didn’t speak but his message to Matthias was clear: You’re not getting past me.
Matthias likewise responded silently. He yanked me in front of him, twisted my arm behind my back, and used it to lift me onto the tips of my toes. Even if Tumble couldn’t hear my scream, he could see my anguish. Message received. He frowned and began to back away, straight toward the clinker walking out of the swirling fog behind him. They weren’t simply following us anymore; they had us surrounded.
With my free arm, I pointed the clinker out in time for Tumble to stop and see the threat. Matthias saw it, too, and let out a string of curses. He swiveled around, pulling me with him, and I saw Kenner grappling with a clinker on that side. Matthias let me go and I stumbled forward, catching myself on the waist-high railing. He must have figured I had nowhere to run to anyway. He was right.
I leaned over the rail to catch my breath and saw the next catwalk a couple of stories below us. With clinkers on either side, it seemed like the only way out. I yelled out to Tumble to jump down, but it was Matthias who noticed me first. He must have agreed with my assessment, because he swept me up in one arm, grabbed the railing, and swung up and over it.
The plunge was frightening but brief, ending in more of a collision with than a landing on the lower catwalk. Matthias lost his grip on me and we both went sprawling. I slid away from him on my back, completely out of control, until suddenly nothing was underneath me anymore. I twisted in midair and saw one more catwalk below and then only the yawning depths. There was no lighting past the next catwalk, so the pit became a black hole swallowing all the water that poured down into it. I would have been swallowed too if not for Matthias grabbing my ankle and hauling me back up.
I’m sure he didn’t hear my muttered thanks and wouldn’t have cared if he did, but I had reason once again to be grateful that Doyle wanted me alive. My heart, already pounding in my chest thanks to the jump down and near-death experience, received another shock when Tumble landed next to me. I flashed him a big grin and looked up, expecting to see Kenner leaping down next. Through the mist, I saw that the werewolf had not been so lucky. He struggled in the grips of clinkers on either side of him. I only hoped he would buy us enough time to figure out how to leave the relentless clinkers behind for good.
He didn’t. Two clinkers followed us down immediately, landing a little ways away on either side of us. And if they followed us down once, they could do it again, and then we’d be out of catwalks to land on. So down wouldn’t work and the sides were blocked. That only left going back up, and I realized I had something that might help me with that. I kneeled down, pulled my cocoon bag onto the floor, and started to open it. Matthias grabbed my hand to stop me.
Leaning in, he said, “What are you up to?”
“I have something to slow them down!”
“No surprises,” he said and let me go.
The clinkers moved ever closer, cautious in their steps on the slick metal floor. I pulled my grapple gun out, attached a claw hook to it, and slid my bag back on. I set the gun down and motioned for Tumble, who stood awaiting the clinker’s arrival, to pay attention. With my back to Matthias, I pointed down at my gun, then up, and then cupped my hands and mimed rapidly lifting them up.
Tumble looked up at how high above us the catwalk was, back at how near the clinker was, and then looked at me and shrugged. Without any hesitation, he ran at me and stepped into my cupped hands. I stood up and hefted him into the air. When my hands were as high as they could go, he leapt off. Through our combined efforts, he sailed upward far enough to latch onto the underside of the catwalk above us.
Now it was my turn. I picked up the grapple gun, turned to face Matthias, and nodded. He looked up at Tumble and then back at me.
“I thought you said down,” he yelled.
“I lied,” I said, and took a leap of faith over the railing, grapple gun in hand. My insane plan was almost worth it for the look on his face alone.
I twisted in mid-air, aimed at a higher catwalk, and squeezed the trigger. The rockets fired and the grappling hook rattled, but it remained firmly in place. Before I could think of some quick fix, the gun became too hot to hold and I reflexively threw it away. My entire plan had counted on that gun working, but it had jammed. Now I was falling without hope of rescue, retreating from the light, from the clinkers, from Matthias and Tumble, as water churned in sheets around me and all I knew was the dark embrace of the abyss. And still I fell.
* * *
12/30/12 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.