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 86, Allin sent his uncle Doyle plummeting into the abyss and decided to try to save himself by climbing Up one more time.
The Only City Left: Part 87
I pulled my beaten, bitten, and bleeding body over the ledge and back onto solid ground. I lay there for a moment, a shivering, achy mess. I had done it. I had killed my own uncle. Maybe even my own father, if he was to be believed. No, whatever else he was, he wasn’t my father, wasn’t Dad. Only one man had earned that title, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to lay there worrying while there was still work to be done. Always stay alive.
I spared a glance into that dark chasm before I left. Werewolf or human, anyone who fell into that was a goner. So long, Uncle. I’m not proud of what I did, but the world’s a better place without you in it.
With that back-handed eulogy out of the way and the moon sinking beyond the towering wall across the chasm, I set out to get back to the penthouse. It was slow-going at first as I tried to make sense of where I was. Luckily, Doyle and I had left a trail of devastation in our wake. Dented metal, crushed and broken pipes, that sort of thing.
I followed that trail back to the first large gap we had crossed, where Doyle had caught up to me. It was twice as wide across as I was tall, and the far side was half-a-story higher to boot, but the encroaching shadows spurred me on. I made a running jump and caught the lip of the far edge, barely. My left shoulder, the one that Doyle had gnawed on, sent tendrils of pain shooting up my arm, and I involuntarily let go, but I held on with my right hand until I could use the left again. It was a close thing. The cold, the accumulated deficit of good oxygen, my myriad injuries, they were all combining to rob me of both strength and stamina. Once I pulled myself up, the going was easier. My usual knack for noticing landmarks and keeping track of where I’ve been worked as well on top of the world as inside of it, and I was able to retrace my path to the penthouse. Every once in a while I would dare a glance back at the setting moon and the shadows that were almost upon me. The thought of freezing to death, so close to my goal, kept me stumbling along, one foot in front of the other.
Finally I reached the glass walls of the penthouse, but something was wrong. The break in the glass was gone!
Not good. Not good at all. The moon was cut in two by the horizon, the shadow line crawled ever nearer, and I was stuck outside.
Breathing heavily, I ran my hands across the face of the glass and moved along the wall, trying to figure out what had happened. I stopped when I saw a large chunk of broken couch on the other side of the glass. This was definitely our exit point, but the gaping hole we had crashed out of was gone. In its place was a tiny one, smaller than my hand and with smooth edges. As I watched, the glass reformed from the outside in, healing itself. Desperate to get inside, I punched at it before it filled in entirely. This broke a small piece off and I repeated the process until the hole grew big enough that I could get my hands in it and start prying pieces out one by one. By the time the moon disappeared beneath the horizon, I had not widened the hole enough to fit through it. I cried out in shock and despair as my body reverted back to its human form.
The cold air burned my skin and the shallow pull of breath I took seemed to deliver no oxygen to my starved lungs. With the last of my strength, I pulled myself through the opening I had made in the glass. It had been too small for a werewolf but ended up being just right for a puny human. The air in the room was barely warmer and richer than outside. I fell onto the floor, rolled over, and passed out.
When I awoke, I felt comfortable and warm. The air was breathable again and I stretched out on the plush carpet, luxuriating in the simple act of taking one deep, satisfying breath after the other. The room around me was lit in a sort of murky half-light that felt unreal. That, in combination with how good I felt, left me to wonder: Did I die? Is this the afterlife? Worse thought: Did I die and get hit with a Lazarus swarm?
That had me sitting up in a hurry, rubbing my arms and checking myself for the telltale blue glow. From what I could tell, I was human again and alive, albeit shirtless. It must have been torn to pieces in my fight with Doyle.
Doyle. I had survived the battle with my uncle but just barely. The patchwork of scars and scratch marks all over my chest and arms stood as testament to that. My shoulder was the worst; the wound was closed but an impressive imprint of his teeth pitted either side of it. My final transformation from wolf to human must have been responsible for how much I had healed so far. One last gift from my uncle, the werewolf king.
His last words came to me: Don’t do this. We’re family!
No, we might have been blood, but family meant more than that. My family was back in Pudlington: Tumble, Banshee, Ballister, Copper. And in the Garden: Tyena. I needed to get back to them. Problem was, I had no idea where I was in the city. I had been drugged for most of the trip and all I knew was that everywhere I needed to be was somewhere Down from here.
I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands, but a sense of movement behind me had me on my feet and turned around in an instant. No, not movement. Light.
I walked over to the glass wall of this room on top of the world, put my palms against it, and watched the sun rise for the first time in my life.
* * *
10/13/13 News: No cliffhanger this week, just sunrise and a return to humanity for Allin, in more ways than one.
Only two more posts and then this draft of The Only City Left is done. Originally, I had a quadruple-length Part 90 which touched on four separate characters (or groups) at the moment the coils stopped working. This broke the first-person nature of the book, so we’ll end up learning about those events when and if Allin does in later books.
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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.