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 71, Allin had infiltrated the Garden as a werewolf, and was on the hunt for his uncle Doyle, the werewolf king.
The Only City Left: Part 72
I let the old lady go and followed the screams and lunatic laughter to their source, a courtyard of sorts set up in the ruins of a gutted building. The front wall was gone and the rubble had been cleared from inside, but the jagged-topped side and back walls remained to a height of one or two stories. An elaborate palanquin had been set down in front of the rear wall, its silken curtains open so that the person inside could see the spectacle arrayed before him. Even from across the street, its occupant was unmistakably Doyle. I was fairly certain that he was the only monstrously large, blue-glowing werewolf in the region.
I stepped back, bumped into the building behind me, and froze there, watching my uncle from a distance. I broke out in acrid sweat as I imagined him suddenly glaring at me from across the street and shouting for my capture. I had been counting on my transformation to allow me to hide in plain sight, but I was filled with doubts of a sudden. What if he could tell I was there by smell or some sixth sense?
I needn’t have worried. Not only was Doyle oblivious to my presence, he didn’t seem to notice the bizarre circus on display before him, either. Werewolves were clowning around, if you chose to call it that, with human slaves cast in the role of animals. It was their screams and the audience’s laughter that had led me to Doyle, but he sat in his palanquin staring into another world entirely, his gaze distant but intense.
The crowd in the ruined building was packed, so I was not alone in watching from the street, but like my uncle I paid little attention to the horrible show. Instead my mind teemed with thoughts and plans, worries and ideas.
There he is, within striking distance. But how do you kill a ghost, even a solid one? I saw his severed arm turn to mist and flow through the air. If he could survive that, what will it take to do him in? Maybe I can lure him away from his men somehow? Lead him to the abyss outside the clinker’s city and push him off? He might survive the fall, but I bet he’d be a long time putting himself back together again. Long enough to convince the cats to depower his army in the meantime.
Sure. Easy. Follow me, Doyle. I have something to show you. It’s only a couple of days away and these nice ghosts are going to lead us there. Talk amongst yourselves. You probably have a lot in common.
Idiot. I had no plan, no weapons, no clue. Weren’t the ghosts supposed to find me when I found Doyle? I looked slyly to the left and the right, as if I would see them boiling up out of the pavement, but all I saw was a sea of furry bodies. Something did catch my eye from the top of a building across the way, but when I swung my head up to look, there was nothing there.
No ghosts. No help. I was on my own.
Without a plan, I moved through the crowd, closer to the main attraction but more importantly closer to Doyle. If I was going to do anything, I’d have to be within reach first. I watched him as one act left the cleared floor that served as a stage and another took its place. He looked briefly at what it was: a large spinning disc with an elderly man chained to it in the shape of an X, and children with knives. I could tell from overheard conversations that the old man was the kids’ grandfather. The werewolves prompted the children to throw the knives by threatening their parents, who were off-stage somewhere. A family act. If I could have personally torn out the throats out of each and every one of the werewolves present, those putting on the show and those enjoying it, I would have done so and happily embraced the title of “killer.”
Doyle for his part watched in a daze until the first knife found its mark after several near-misses, at which point his gaze drifted off into some inner or outer space again. I opened and closed my fists at my sides, stabbing my palms with my claws to try to distract myself from the sound of the children’s sobs and the terrible rage churning inside of me.
Because I was looking anywhere but at the show, I happened to notice a shadow leap from one building to another behind and a few stories above Doyle’s palanquin. A quick glance to either side and behind me convinced me that I was alone in noticing it. Everyone else was raptly enjoying the horrible drama of the knife act. The old man had so far refused to cry out in pain, the only gift he had left to give his grandchildren. I heard bets being taken: would he make a sound before he died? There were takers on both sides.
I did my best to ignore them and surreptitiously scan the roof of the four-story building directly behind Doyle’s palanquin. There! A short figure slinked along the edge of the rooftop and stopped dead-center above Doyle. I looked around again. Could I really be the only one noticing this? Sure enough, everyone else was focused on the entertainment. The old man had let out a death rattle and now the crowd was engaged in a loud argument as to whether or not that constituted making a noise before he died.
I kept my head down and my eyes on the rooftop, so I saw the exact moment that the shadowy figure leaned over the edge of the roof, a grenade in hand. It was Tumble and, at a guess, he was about to drop an emp on Doyle’s head. That might take Doyle out then and there, but then again it might not, and either way Tumble would slink away and I’d have no way of finding him again.
“Congratulations,” I shouted, forcing my way forward through the crowd until I stood mere feet from Doyle. “On the death of Emperor Banshee.”
If that didn’t get Tumble’s attention and give him pause, I was about to have a front row seat for another assassination.
* * *
6/30/13 News: The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online 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.