If you are new to The Only City Left, you might want to start with the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part Fourteen, Allin had reunited with his parents and gotten them to agree to return to Glin’s Rising with him to rescue Tyena, the love of his 15-year-old life. Let’s see how that goes for them, shall we?
The Only City Left: Part Fifteen
The sense of wrongness only intensified as we approached. Dad led the way, his gun drawn. I knew then how seriously he took the threat of attack; the gun was down to half-charge on its last power cell and might as well have been locked behind a glass case that read “For extreme emergency only,” for all that I had ever seen him use it. Mom followed close behind, a knife ready in each hand, and I trailed them both, weaponless. Feeling a bit defenseless, I stopped and kneeled down to rummage through my cocoon bag.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” Mom whispered, looking back when I caught up to them.
“Magma stick,” I whispered back, holding it up for her inspection. It was a screwdriver-shaped tool I used when tinkering. The tip was hot enough to solder components together, but at most it would be a minor annoyance to be stung with it. “Better than nothing.”
She nodded and we continued on. We made our way down alleys and side streets rather than use the main road, but all three of us knew that if anyone had been watching closely, they could have seen us already at the top of the utility platform.
Once we were inside the town proper, we stopped a few blocks away from the main intersection where the Glinites held their swap meet.
From a distance, we could see that it was abandoned, tables overturned, produce scattered. My stomach tightened into a fist, tugging on my insides until I wanted to cry out.
“Where did they all go?” I whispered.
Glin’s Rising wasn’t the largest community we had ever passed through, but there had been at least a hundred people making a life here and it had only been a couple of hours since I had seen them last. Now, Glin’s was a ghost town.
“I don’t like this at all,” Dad declared. “Even if they culled Glin’s Rising, they’d have left a group behind to follow us. Let’s keep going, but be careful. It may be a trap.”
I had so many questions for him, but it wasn’t the time to get into a long discussion, so I forced them down and kept quiet.
We slunk along abandoned storefronts, small businesses turned into apartments for the current residents. There was no sound of life in the town, no sense of presence that you get from the inhabited portions of the city. Where is everyone?, I wondered again.
In my darkest moments on the run back to Glin’s, I had steeled myself for the death and devastation I might confront when I returned. This absence of any presence felt much worse.
A firm hand on my shoulder broke into my thoughts. Dad pulled me to a stop around the corner from the department store, a finger to his lips.
He stood still, listening, although I could hear nothing but the stirring of wind from the ventilation system far overhead. He nodded and then turned to me, nearly backing me up against a brick wall.
“They’re in the department store,” Dad began. I tried to interrupt, to ask how he could possibly know that, but he cut me off. “Allin, you have to do exactly as I say. You were right, Tyena’s in trouble. There are four of them with her. When we go in there, your Mom and I’ll deal with them. I want you to get Tyena someplace safe. Someplace you can hole up until we’re done. Can you do that?”
Eyes wide, I nodded. The roof of the department store, Tyena’s hideaway. There was only the one door that let out onto it from inside and Tyena had all sorts of things up there that I could use to block the door.
Dad turned to Mom. “You’re sure about this?”
She nodded, head held high, a wistful look on her face.
“This is the man I remember,” she said, and I had to look away as they shared a moment.
“Let’s do this,” Dad said after that was over. “Allin, prepare yourself. This will not be pleasant.”
We rounded the corner and crept past the ancient ads and decrepit mannequins that filled the darkened window displays. Before we reached the front door, Dad stopped us and listened again.
“They’re… distracted,” he whispered. “Allin, we’ll draw their attention. You get Tyena and don’t look back. Got it?”
I nodded twice and goose-pimples rose on my arm at the thought of what lay in store.
“Allin, we love you,” Mom added, but before I could reply to her, a muffled scream came from inside the store.
It pierced my heart and brain with one shot, erasing all plans, spurring me into action.
I pushed past my parents and tore open the door, which protested with a shriek of metal on metal. Inside, the abandoned store was dim and murky, the only light that which filtered through the grimy glass of the front doors. As I stumbled toward where I thought Tyena’s scream had come from, jumbled silhouettes blocked my path, the detritus of another civilization.
“Shhh, someone’s here,” a man said, his whisper carrying like a shout.
“Those idiots,” said another man. “They probably forgot how to get back.”
And: “Shut up, you,” from a third voice, a woman, followed by a meaty smack and the sound of Tyena sobbing. “We won’t let them have you. You’re all ours.”
While they spoke, I dropped to all fours and crawled closer to where the voices were coming from. Toward the back of the store, I found them. In the tenebrous light, I couldn’t make out their features, but I could see Tyena pinned to the floor beneath someone, and three others loitering around them.
Fountains of rage coursed through my veins and I gripped the magma stick as if it were a sword out of legend. I was ready to throw myself into their midst, despite the odds, when Dad’s voice boomed out across the room.
“Step away from the girl, you mewling pukes. This ends now.”
* * *
See how the mewling pukes react in Part 16, or read my notes below first!
5/27/12 News: Go Allin’s Dad! (Huh-what? Fifteen parts in and Allin’s Dad doesn’t have a name yet? You’ll have to wait one more week to learn it.)
Note: I only today realized that I am losing italics when I copy from Scrivener into WordPress. Wonderful! I’ll have to go back and check all my previous posts to see how often that happened (I know some posts were copied from Word…).
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