The Only City Left: Part 51

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 50, Allin’s mom ordered him to hide in a locker while she confronted two tough-looking punks.

The Only City Left: Part 51

“Mom, what’s going on? Are you okay?”

No response. Only the sounds of a scuffle, flesh hitting flesh, screams. I yelled and fought against the constraints of the locker. Something was happening out there. Mom needed me, and I was trapped, helpless.

More sounds. Whumps and thumps and slithers and screams. Without a clue as to what was going on, my mind provided the worst imaginable visuals, and tears began to pour down my face.

“Almost done, Allin,” came Mom’s voice from outside the locker. She sounded different, like she had been hurt maybe, but before I could question her, she was gone again.

I heard more of the same sounds, further away. I threw myself against the locker door repeatedly with what little room I had to work with. Forget Mom’s orders, I couldn’t stand to be locked up for another second while she was getting hurt out there. The door seemed to be giving way a fraction more each time I hit it, until finally it flew open on its own and I fell into Mom’s outstretched arms, crying.

“I’m sorry, hon. I’m sorry,” she said, holding me tight and patting my back. “It’s okay.”

I sniffed back my tears and pulled away.

“Why did you do that to me?”

“I couldn’t risk you getting hurt, Allin. But it’s okay now. The bad men … left.”

I looked around and saw that the relatively clean path was now strewn with garbage from the surrounding areas. It was not strewn so evenly, however, that I could not see streaks and pools of blood beneath it. I looked at Mom and saw that she wasn’t injured, so she must have really done a number on those guys before they took off.

“Come on. Your father’s over here but I wanted to get you first.”

She led me deeper into the locker room and around a corner into a room full of toilet stalls and showers. Dad rested on the grimy, tiled floor below one of the shower heads, shirtless, bleeding from cuts on his face and chest, his wrists bound with rope. He gave me a crooked smile as I knelt down to grip him in a fierce hug.

“Thanks for coming, guys, but you shouldn’t have. I would have gotten out eventually.”

Mom cut his bonds with her knife and then walked over to a nearby folding table that was covered with various nasty-looking instruments. She picked up Dad’s lantern coil from amongst those and handed it back to him.

“I’m sure you would have,” she said as I helped Dad to his feet. “But you can only keep a girl waiting for so long before she gets antsy. Did you at least get what you needed?”

“Pretty much. Dig that ad,” he said, nodding at the table.

Mom picked up a piece of paper, examined it and then crumpled it up and threw it into a waiting toilet bowl.

“Doesn’t do you justice,” she said. Then, “So they know. I took out seven. How many did you see?”

“I don’t know. A dozen? More? You stay here. I’ll do a sweep and make sure we get out clean.”

He put his lantern coil back on, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “You did good, Allin. Don’t worry. I’ll be right back.”

“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “She stashed me in a locker.”

Mom and Dad made eye contact and Dad looked down at me with a wry smile.

“Your mother’s a smart woman, Allin. I’m sure she did what was best to keep you safe. Now sit tight. This won’t take long.”

With that, Dad left. I turned away from Mom and looked around. More blood on the floor in here.

“You were frightened in that locker,” Mom said. “It’s okay to be scared, but you need to trust that your father and I know what’s best.”

I turned around to face her. “I couldn’t move. And it was dark in there!”

“The city’s a dark place, Allin. You can’t let that scare you or keep you from doing what needs to be done. When everything is dark around you, that’s when you need to shine the brightest.”

“Hard to do that from inside a locker,” I said half-heartedly. “Mom, what’s this all about? Who were those guys? Why do they hate Dad?”

“It’s complicated, Allin. But you don’t need to worry. Dad’s chasing the rest of them away and then we can keep on going.”

True to her word, Dad returned shortly and announced the way was clear. We left the factory behind and neither of my parents ever again spoke of that day, the day I had gotten a glimpse behind their veil of secrecy. Nor did Mom repeat that particular fairy tale, perhaps for fear it would dredge up forbidden memories. I wouldn’t see that side of my parents’ lives again for years, by which time I had forgotten the factory incident.

When this dream or memory or end-of-life vision ended, I was no longer falling, but I couldn’t tell if I was asleep or awake, alive or dead. I was fairly certain my eyes were wide open, but I couldn’t see anything. Rationally, I knew I should be dead, but my body told me otherwise. I could feel that I lay on a bed of objects, some painfully hard and others disgustingly soft, and that my legs were submerged in some clinging, viscous goo. There was a sick-sweet odor of rot and salt in the thick, moist air and I could hear myself moving and breathing, but beyond that I existed in a void that led me to believe I was either blind or in complete and utter darkness. Thinking to test which one it was, I felt for my wristlight, only to be rewarded with a sliced finger. The wristlight was cracked open, its algae long gone. The pain of the cut told me I was alive, at least, but I was clueless as to how I had survived.

All I knew for sure was that I was cold and alone in the darkness, and despite what my mother would have had me believe, there was no light to be found.

* * *

2/3/13 Notes:

Continue to Part 52.

And so the flashback comes to an end. In the present (mine, not Allin’s), I am reading through the completed book for a third time, and still catching errors. This may be my last read-through before I offer it up to some beta readers. I’m looking forward to being done with editing and started with writing Book 2!

For a quick way to show support (one click; you don’t need to sign in), please vote for The Only City Left at topwebfiction.com.

If you have a little more time and don’t mind registering first, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. 

You can also share The Only City Left by clicking on any of those handy social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

All these methods help to bring in new readers, which is great for moral support. Thank you for reading!

#

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.

The Only City Left: Part 50

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 49, Allin’s mom finished her fairy tale and decided it was time to go search for her husband.

The Only City Left: Part 50

It had been a couple of days since Dad headed off on his own to do whatever it is he needed to do. Leaving for days at a time was not unusual for him. Nor was it unusual that I was kept in the dark about the details. Adult stuff was always the explanation. Dad would usually come back with supplies of some sort, food or clothing or another clip of ammunition for his gun. Sometimes he would return and simply say something to Mom like, “I spoke to them,” or “They confirmed it.” When I would ask what he meant, I got the look, the one that meant, “You’re too young to understand, Allin.” While I may not have known what he was up to, Mom seemed to be working under no such limitations. Once outside of our hiding spot, she chose her route without hesitation.

On the way, I pressed her for details, hoping that she would be distracted enough that I could get some real information out of one of my parents for once. But when I asked what Dad had gone off to do, all she would say is: “Talk to some people.”

“If he was just talking, why didn’t we go with him?”

“The people he’s talking to are not very friendly. If they saw that he had family with him, they’d use it against him.”

“So shouldn’t we be staying put?”

“He wasn’t supposed to be gone this long,” she said. “Something’s not right. Anyway, I can more than take care of you and me, don’t you worry.”

I tried to get more information out of her as we walked, but she remained silent. Before I could devise some clever new way to ask the same questions again in the hope of a different answer, Mom shushed me and pronounced that we were near our goal. How she knew that this grey, dreary, run-down corridor was the one we wanted, when every corridor we had trudged through looked the same, I had no idea. Sure enough, though, this one was different in that it opened up onto a huge factory floor, derelict of course. Dim white strip lighting on the ceiling provided an anemic glow that limned the tops of the great machines and rows of conveyor belts while leaving the floor in perpetual gloom. My imagination populated the shadows beneath the gargantuan machines with all sorts of incredible beasts just waiting for me to stroll by so they could grab a snack. It didn’t help to allay my fears when Mom extinguished the yellow glow of her lantern coil, leaving us to make our way across the floor in near darkness.

“Mom, who lives here?” I asked in a whisper.

“Bad people.”

“Why does Dad need to talk to bad people?”

“Because sometimes bad people have the best information.”

She picked her way across the factory floor, unbothered by the poor lighting, and I moved carefully alongside her. A burst of laughter erupted somewhere in the building and I almost yipped in fright, but Mom anticipated this and placed her palm firmly over my mouth before I could give away our presence.

She brought her mouth to my ear and whispered, “There are probably guards. Be quiet and do exactly as I say. Okay?”

I nodded fervently and she let go of my mouth. We made it to the far side of the floor and were heading toward a wall that had two doors set near to one another when Mom suddenly stopped. She glanced to either side and yanked me into the tight space between two large, metal contraptions. A second later there came the sound of a door opening, and a sickly yellow light spread out along the pathway we had tread a moment before. Unquiet footsteps echoed as a shadow partially eclipsed the light. The footsteps moved away and the door whined as it started to close. Mom tugged on my hand and we slunk out of our hiding spot. After a quick glance to check that no one was nearby, we crossed to the closing door and Mom held it open. She looked inside, waved me in, and came in after me, easing the door shut behind her. We were in a fairly large room with rows of tall, thin lockers with long, wooden benches in front of them. Some sort of changing room for the factory workers in days past, I guessed. The floor was covered with the garbage of ages past, that was certain, except for a mostly cleared path that led further into the room. From somewhere down that path, out of sight past the lockers, voices murmured.

Mom pulled one of her knives out from its sheath on her hip and we proceeded along the path when suddenly the door behind us opened again. We turned around and saw two tough-looking guys come in. They looked surprised to see us.

“Who brought the presents?” one of them asked.

The other grinned and pulled a foot-long knife of his own from his belt.

Mom stayed calm. She scanned the nearby area and said, “Allin, get in a locker.”

“What?”

“Do as I say!”

I did. It was a tight fit and I couldn’t move once I was inside. Mom closed the door on me and I heard her jam something through the handle. I pushed against the door and it wouldn’t budge. There were horizontal slits in it, but the ones at my eye level were angled up. All I could see out of them was the ceiling.

“Mom?” I half-cried, half-yelled.

“Mom, mom, help me, mom,” one of the jerks outside mimicked me cruelly. “You want us to help him, mom?”

“I’ll take care of this, Allin. I need you to stay safe in there, hon. You’ll be okay. You’re a light in the dark.”

There was a flash of white light that washed out the yellow of the ceiling lights for a moment, and then I heard curses and shouts of surprise from the men who had been taunting us.

* * *

Continue to Part 51.

1/27/13 Notes:

For a quick way to show support (one click; you don’t need to sign in), please vote for The Only City Left at topwebfiction.com.

If you have a little more time and don’t mind registering first, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. 

You can also share The Only City Left by clicking on any of those handy social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

All these methods help to bring in new readers, which is great for moral support. Thank you for reading!

#

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.