The Only City Left: Part Nine
Up or Down, I had to dry off and warm up, so I put my brooding thoughts to the background and focused on the world around me. Unlike my shopping trip at the mall, which seemed like ages ago but was only this morning, the sector I was in was no help in the new clothes department. Whatever End Times the former residents had lived through, they must have filed out in a neat and orderly manner with their belongings in tow, because pickings were slim.
I got to the point where I was shaking so hard the lantern coil was hopping all around my chest, casting weird shadows that made it difficult to navigate the strange halls and rooms. I knew I had to stop looking and focus on warming up, so I stopped at the next bedroom I came across and set about making myself comfortable. There was still a mattress in the room but it was full of holes from where vermin had chewed on it, and anyway, I wasn’t looking for a bed. Much more promising was a small closet with intact doors where I could lie down and hopefully trap some body warmth inside.
I pulled the cocoon off of my back and pressed the buttons to switch it into a sleeping bag. Before I laid it in the closet, I pulled out my towel and unrolled it. Then, like pulling off a bandage, I stripped down as quickly as I could and toweled myself off.
Even though I was freezing, I took the time to squeeze and roll the dampened towel until the reservoir in one corner of it was full. The water was foul but the reservoir had a built-in filter that would make it okay to drink after about an hour of processing. I also laid my clothes out on the floor in the thin hope that they would dry out a little before I had to put them back on.
My teeth chattered violently as I stepped into the closet wearing only my necklace with the coil on it, and I felt achy and miserable as I eased into the cocoon and slid the closet door shut. I curled into a fetal position and the open end of the cocoon sealed itself. I wrapped my arms tight around my knees as my body was wracked with violent shakes, until it grew warm enough that I was able to close my eyes and slip into unconsciousness.
* * *
I had fever dreams, the kind that portend something important, that impart some wisdom just beyond the edge of understanding, but are actually just nonsense. I dreamt of rats scurrying over my body, nibbling at me until there was nothing left. I re-formed and stomped on the rats, who were now as small as ants. I wiped my foot on a wispy blue rug, but it howled and pushed me backwards. It stood up and I realized it was the werewolf ghost. He transformed into my father and looked at me with hard black eyes.
“Come play with me, Allin. We’ll have so much fun.”
I sank slowly to the floor, like honey dripping from a jar, and pooled there, playing dead. My father tsk-tsk’ed my demise and then turned away, saying, “I expected better of you, Allin.”
I found that I rather enjoyed being dead. I could still watch what was going on around me, but it was so restful just to lie there. Other ghosts came by and told me it was time to move on, but I ignored them and they went their own way. It was cold, being dead, and my teeth chattered until they came loose and began to fall out of my mouth. I tried to collect them and put them back in, but for every one I put back in place, two more slid out.
Then I was standing above myself looking down. I could see right through the cocoon to where I lay sleeping peacefully, my breathing even and my arms no longer in a death grip about my legs. I was happy for myself because I wasn’t dead after all, and I wished myself the best. But I didn’t want to stay there, buried in the earth, watching myself sleep, so I floated up and out of the room.
The ceiling was only a foot thick but moving through it was like clawing through hardened foam. I pulled myself into the next apartment up, but the floor trapped my foot and try as I might, I could not pull free. My heart began to race as I realized I would be stuck here forever, and the ghosts were going to come back and force me to leave. They would drag me down with them. Down, down, when all I ever wanted to do was to go Up.
I screamed and screamed and all of a sudden I was awake and whimpering and clawing to break free of the cocoon. I broke the seal and pushed my head free and lay there panting heavily, slick with sweat but warmer than I had been before. My heart still beat furiously from my dreams, and I had to work to control my breathing and to try to relax. I swallowed and wished I had brought the towel inside the closet with me. Oh well, I couldn’t hide in my cocoon forever anyway.
With a weary sigh, I slid the closet door back open, and for a minute I wondered if I was still dreaming. Before my eyes sat a neatly folded stack of clothing and a pair of shoes. Not my clothing or shoes, though. They had disappeared.
On top of the clothing sat a folded piece of paper. I reached out with one hand and brought it to up to my face. It read, in thin cursive script: “Allin Arcady, you are cordially invited to an audience with His Majesty, Emperor Banshee LXXVI. Please accept these gifts a token of His Good Favor.”
* * *
Please accept Part Ten as a token of my good favor, or read my notes below first.
4/15/12 News: All my talk of dreams lately has stirred up my mind and I am remembering my dreams more and more each morning, so it was inevitable that they would work their way into The Only City Left. But they also work well at this moment in the story, so I don’t feel like I shoehorned them in.
Most of what happens in Allin’s dreams comes straight out of my own. The playing dead, the teeth falling out, switching perspective so that I am in multiple places in the dream, sometimes observing myself, and the phasing through a wall/ceiling: all not uncommon in my dreams. (The losing my teeth thing, the worst.)
On a final note, I am catching some continuity errors during the editing phase of these posts. I am 9,000 words into the story, so there are already things I talked about in the beginning of the story that I am forgetting now. (Example: I had Allin pull a thermal blanket out of his cocoon bag in the first draft of this post, but as my faithful readers will remember from the very beginning of this tale, the cocoon bag is also a sleeping bag that completely seals up, so I didn’t need the extra thermal blanket.) I will of course try to fix these errors before you see them, but if you catch one that slips through, please feel free to let me know. And you can feel warm and fuzzy knowing that you have made this rough draft that much smoother.
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