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 77, Allin was at the mercy of his ghost werewolf Uncle, Doyle.
The Only City Left: Part 78
“You seem pretty alive to me already,” I said. Which was true. He could move around, talk, and unlike most ghosts who could only interact with a tiny bit of the physical world for a small amount of time, he was as solid as they came.
Speaking of ghosts, I thought. Here I am, all alone with Doyle. Now would be an excellent time for Xerxes and friends to show up. Where in the hell are they?
Doyle backed away and threw his hands up as if throwing my words back at me.
“Bah. This? This isn’t life. This is a waking dream. My senses are dulled. I can’t eat or drink.” He slammed his palms down on his desk. “Every sensation is deadened. What I wouldn’t give to feel again, to taste, to know the touch of a woman. Yes, especially that.”
“Creepy,” I said. “Seriously creepy. And nothing to do with me.”
“Mock me all you want, boy, but you’re the key to fixing this. Even better, it means I’ll finally have my revenge on your parents. They killed me and their son will give me new life. How perfect.”
“The only thing my parents did wrong was not sticking around to make sure they finished the job.”
In the blink of an eye, Doyle stepped toward me and punched the table beside my head. His fist left a gaping hole in the inch-thick slab of wood.
“Are you trying to get me to kill you? Clever, that would ruin my plans for now. But I won’t make it that easy on you. And I won’t allow you to keep on spewing the lies your parents fed to you about me. Before this ends, you should know the dirty truth about them.”
The possibility of finding out more about my parents made me keep my mouth shut. That and the fact that I really wasn’t trying to get Doyle to kill me. As clever as he thought I was being, I had no desire to die and I didn’t see how that would be a big win for me. So I didn’t say anything; I just listened.
“The first thing you should know is that Jessie didn’t pick your dad first. She picked me. It wasn’t until years later that he played on my trust and kindness and stole her away from me. But I’m getting ahead of myself,” he said. He dropped my coil on his desk, pulled a chair over, and sat down facing me. “The story really began in a section of the city known as the Garden, which was governed by Jessie’s parents. Now your dad and I, we kind of grew up like wild dogs, all over the place, doing what we needed to do to get by. So when we saw the Garden, and Jessie, it was like a little slice of heaven smack dab in the middle of the dirt and decay of the city. It wasn’t fair that some people had so much while we were living day to day, so Dylan and I, we went to the Garden and we made a deal with Jessie’s parents. Jessie had to choose one of us to marry, or we’d burn the Garden down. Jessie chose me.”
I wasn’t surprised that Doyle was the star of his own story, or that he cast Dad as the villain. I was prepared for his version of events to be skewed in his favor. What did surprise me was that I had heard this story before, sort of. Except…
“Wait a second. Did you have another brother who went with you to the Garden?”
Doyle’s eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. For a moment I thought he would jump up and put a matching hole in the table on the other side of my head, but he calmed himself and said, “I don’t know what lies your parents filled your head with, but shut up and listen to what really happened.”
Lies. Stories. I always thought my parents had kept the details of their past hidden from me, but what if it was all out there for me to see, plain as day, only disguised as a fairy tale instead of a history lesson? The Princess and the Three Brothers. But if that was the case, why would Doyle deny the existence of the third brother in the tale? I decided it was best not to anger him further by pushing him on the subject, but I kept that question in the back of my mind as he continued.
“Unbeknownst to me, Dylan was consumed with jealousy that Jessie had chosen me over him. He showed me no hint of his true feelings, but he plotted behind my back while continuing to play the role of the loyal brother. A year or so passed in this way and then we received news that the Garden had been destroyed and all its people murdered. Dylan acted as shocked at this news as I was, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned that his were the hands that had committed the crime. By then it was too late to let Jessie know, because he had already turned her against me.”
The story was so obviously altered from what Mom had told me, I considered it almost useless. But where the two stories overlapped, perhaps there was some truth to be found. I continued to listen, helpless at any rate to do anything else.
“When I heard of this travesty, I vowed to Jessie to never allow such a fate to befall us. But what could I do to protect her? I was just one man, facing powers that had wiped out an entire town. So I decided to look for some way to grow more powerful, to become strong enough that I could protect Jessie from the dangers of the city. And that’s when I found the Fifth House.”
* * *
8/11/13 News: Late post again! No excuses. WTH, Andy? (Okay, time to add reminders to my calendar.) Also, this is more behind-the-scenes stuff that will likely not be appearing in the final version. Enjoy!
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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.