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 81, Doyle’s attempt to take over Allin’s body failed when all the coils turned off at once. Doyle had a Plan B, though, and it involved a road trip.
The Only City Left: Part 82
Doc Needles lived up to his name. While Doyle held me down, the good doctor (of what, I had no idea) injected me with a fast-working sedative cocktail. While that took effect, more of Doyle’s men came in with a gurney and strapped me onto it. From there, Doyle led our entire group out of his room, down some stairs, and into the streets of the Garden. Everything after that happened in a dream-like blur.
We traveled through a chaotic landscape full of the sounds of gunfire, yelling, and shattering glass. More than once, Doyle’s men had to fight against fearsome pink demons to clear a path as we made our way deeper into the Garden.
Angels flew over the battlefield, singing and raining gerrybrook flowers over the former werewolves and slaves alike. Where the flowers landed, entire bushes sprang up. Soon the landscape was covered in greenery and filled with the overwhelming scent of gerrybrook blooms. I felt sick but I was also in awe. Imagine the city as one big Garden. Doyle had the name right but had been going about things all wrong.
I saw Banshee clipping flowers off of the bushes. He offered me one but I couldn’t reach it. He shrugged and chewed the flower instead, its crimson petals staining his mouth like blood. He ate flower after flower in this way until the sticky red juice poured down his front, matting his fur and pooling beneath him. I tried to tell him to stop, or at least slow down, but then we were past him and it was too late.
Mom and Dad showed up for a little while to walk on either side of Doyle like an honor guard. They didn’t talk to or even acknowledge me; maybe they thought I was asleep. Still, it was nice to see them again. They stayed with us as we left the populated portion of the Garden and moved through an area that had already been used up and discarded by Doyle’s devouring domain. Here the only light came from Doyle himself until we reached a working elevator. When its doors opened, sterile white light poured out and Mom and Dad faded away under its awful glow.
After that it was all darkened corridors and ramps and elevators up. I was with it enough to marvel that Doyle had not only mapped out a route to the Roof of the World, for that was surely our destination, but that he had kept the elevators in working order the entire way. That was a sign of real power. Imagine if he had used the might of his empire to repair the city as he moved along instead of dismantling it.
That I could string together a coherent thought like that made me realize that I was coming out of the hallucinatory fog under which Needles had buried me. I kept my mouth shut, though, hoping Doyle would drop some secret while he thought me too out of it to notice. It turned out, however, that he wasn’t much interested in talking to his subordinates except to direct them to the next step in the circuitous and seemingly never-ending route.
I ended up bored and lost in dark thoughts. I slipped in and out of sleep, which was probably to my benefit. By the time we reached the final doorway, I felt rested but Doyle’s men looked exhausted from the non-stop march. Doyle, half-ghost, seemed unfazed but eager.
“At last,” he said as he keyed open the door. “I thought we’d never get here.”
We entered a spacious room whose walls and ceiling were a deep black, free of any ornament. Lights set into the floor gave off a gentle yellow glow that illuminated a sparse, square room containing some furniture covered in stiff plastic.
“Leave him there,” Doyle said, pointing to a sunken floor in the center of the room. “Have a drink. Enjoy the penthouse. Don’t interrupt me.”
His men lifted my gurney down two steps and left me craning my neck to see what was going on. Their job done, they adjourned to the bar that ran along the far wall. Doyle walked to a side wall, cupped his hands against it, and pressed one eye to the circle his hands formed.
“Perfect,” he said, and wiped his hand across the wall before turning around. “I was afraid we’d have to wait, but the timing is just right. Maybe it was meant to happen this way. Doc, is he good to go?”
Needles abandoned his spot at the bar, which the rest of Doyle’s men were raiding for its ancient stores, and came over to check me out. I did my best to appear dazed. Maybe if I looked too drugged, Doyle would have to delay his hostile takeover.
He pulled down my eyelids, gave me a tiny slap on the face that I couldn’t help but flinch from, and said, “He’s good. Probably been awake for a while now.”
Gee, thanks Doc.
“Then let’s not delay this any longer,” Doyle said, suddenly looming over me. “I spent years chasing your father and then you, Allin, but at long last I’m going to get everything I want. Boys, one of you clear the walls, would you?”
Everything I want… A surge of hope filled me at Doyle’s words, and then where the side walls and ceiling had been, there was only clear glass, and I was too distracted by the view to do anything but look up in awe. Starlight filled the room, and moonlight, too. I had a brief moment to marvel at the night sky and how it was speckled with millions, no, billions of twinkling stars, and then my transformation began.
It was more painful this time, like I was bursting out of my own skin. Maybe the unadulterated moonlight was more powerful. I didn’t have a chance to contemplate it, though, because Doyle wasted no time in becoming smoke and arrowing through the air straight toward me. This is the end, I thought as he moved to envelop me once more.
And then the ghosts arrived.
* * *
9/8/13 News: There’ll be no escape for Allin this time… Wait, what? The ghosts beg to differ. We’re in the home stretch, folks. There are 89 total posts (there were 90, but I have since been convinced to hold back that last post) and then this version of Book One is complete. I had hoped to have TOCL available in novel form when that happened, but with the total rewrite, that is not going to happen. That is somewhat aggravating, but at the same time I am much happier with what the finished product will be, so it will be worth it. Here’s to a shorter timetable for Book Two, though!
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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.