The Only City Left: Part 67

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 66, Allin prepared to transform into a werewolf for the first time in his life. He spoke his father’s passphrase, “Always stay alive,” and…

The Only City Left: Part 67

The transformation began immediately and was over in seconds, but for me it felt like an eternity. The moonlight from my coil enveloped me and set me on fire. My skin rippled and bubbled like a pot of water set to boil. A full-body cramp wracked me and I collapsed to my knees and bowed my head to the floor. It’s not working, I thought, panicked. Copper was wrong. I’m turning inside out!

I groaned at a feeling of not-quite pain but not-yet pleasure, a feeling of something about-to-happen like when you’re starting to fall but you haven’t hit the floor yet. I watched in awe and revulsion as the skin on my arms darkened, hardened, and sprouted fur. I could feel other, invisible changes, too. Although my head was bowed, I knew exactly where Copper and Banshee stood in the room, could smell Banshee’s subdued fear and Copper’s unbridled curiosity. I felt an untapped reservoir of power coursing through me, waiting to be unleashed. My groan became a series of howls.

A monstrous rage built up inside of me. Not blind fury but rather focused wrath. All those wolves out there who felt the same power: they had so much potential, but what did they use it for? To take what they wanted and kill anyone who stood in their way, to destroy. How narrow-minded.

Imagine harnessing the incredible power for good, instead. The problem with Doyle being in charge is that he was a punk before he was given this power and all it had done was turn him into a stronger punk. I wouldn’t think so small. With an army of werewolves at my command, I could force the planet to shape up. I could bring about a renewed age of peace and prosperity. And anyone who didn’t like it would be wise to get out of my way.

“Allin!” I heard Banshee’s voice as if from a distance, nearly drowned out by the sound of blood rushing in my ears, pulsing through my body. Louder, “Allin!”

I focused and saw my hands gripping the bars of my cell. I had pulled two bars together until they nearly touched in the middle. Outside of the cell, Copper peeked out at me from behind Banshee, the both of them standing well away. I let go of the bars and staggered backwards. I looked down and saw that the concrete floor had been gouged out in a set of parallel lines. I didn’t remember doing any of that.

“Turn it off!”

I looked up again and saw Banshee standing right before the cell bars. Was he mad? I could take one step forward and end him with a swipe of my great claws. Look what I had done to the floor. Flesh and fur would be like nothing to me.

“Allin, please, turn it off,” Banshee said, his voice low. Not an imperial command. A request from a friend. “This is not who you are.”

Not who I am? What was he talking about? This is who I always had been, under the surface. This was the gift my parents had bequeathed to me. A gift of unbridled power, of heightened senses, of unlocked potential. I was a werewolf now like my parents before me. Like my parents.

My parents who had fled that life to keep me safe, who had hidden their werewolf nature from me. My parents who had been murdered by the wolves. I was reveling in the power that had destroyed them. I felt sick.

With a press of the same buttons that had begun the transformation, it was over. I was human once more, on my hands and knees and retching in the corner of the cell. Banshee was by my side, patting my back and repeating, “It’s okay, Allin. It’s okay,” until I believed it enough to sit up and wipe the tears from my eyes.

“Sorry if I scared you,” I said, my voice a ragged croak.

“I had no doubt you’d pull through,” Banshee said.

“I wish I was so sure.”

“The first transformation is bound to produce some adverse effects upon both your physical and mental well-being,” Copper said. “Subsequent uses of the coil should be easier on you.”

“Thanks, Prof.” I couldn’t help but notice she still stood well back from me on the other side of the bars. I didn’t blame her. I wanted to recoil from myself, to hide on the other side of the bars, but I was trapped in my own traitorous body. “I hope you’re right.”

Banshee helped me to my feet and led me out of the cell. He asked, “Do you still think you can do it? Become a werewolf? Infiltrate the Garden?”

I rubbed my mouth with the back of my hand and said, “I can do it. I won’t like it, but if it’ll get me into the Garden and close to Doyle, I’ll do it.”

“This mustn’t leave the room, your ability to transform,” Banshee said, looking at Copper and me in turn. “The last thing I need is for Fordham and his cronies to know that there’s a werewolf in the city, no matter that you’re on our side.”

I slipped the coil on its necklace back underneath my shirt.

“I won’t be bragging about this, believe me.”

“You have my silence, Emperor Banshee,” Copper said.

“Good. Allin, let me return you to your room for some well-earned rest. Tomorrow, I’ll announce that I’ve agreed to your plan and you’ll be on your way immediately.”

I was surprised, to say the least. I thought he had been adamantly against the idea.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Let’s just say: it’s the right thing to do.”

“What about Fordham?”

“I’ll remind him who truly runs this city.”

* * *

Continue to Part 68.

5/26/13 News: I am moving slowly along on edits for Book 1. I have such mixed emotions about the whole process, so part of editing is getting into the right mental space and figuring out exactly what are my goals for the book. Part of the oddity of this process for me is that I know people are enjoying this serialized rough draft, but at the same time, I am going to be making considerable changes to it. Hopefully it all works out.

Oh well, this is all an experiment and based on how it turns out, I’ll decide how I would like to change how I do things for Book 2. Thanks for being part of the experiment!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 58

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 57, Allin was trying to exit the mersker village so that he could sneak around it and search for Matthias’ coil. The merskers, however, wouldn’t let him leave. Allin hit upon a plan involving the mersker’s weakness: light.

The Only City Left: Part 58

I once again casually strolled over to the edge of the village, but this time the suspicious merskers were on to me sooner. That was okay, though, because this time I headed to a different edge, the one where all the ghosts stood watching and waiting. I broke into a sprint and my pursuers did likewise, but I reached the ghosts first. Ignoring their stares—stare all you want, guys, but stay put, all right?—I looked back to see the approaching merskers already squinting against the concentrated ghost light. I smiled and plunged into the mass of ghosts.

The cold wiped the smile right off my face. Running through this many ghosts felt like swimming through a frigid pool. I looked back and saw the merskers stop and shield their eyes before giving up the chase. My plan had worked, but by the time I reached the far side of the ghostly crowd, I felt as if all my body heat had been sucked right out of me. I shook violently from the cold, and if that wasn’t enough to make my knees knock together, I noticed that the ghosts had turned as one to face me. This kind of attention I did not need.

I hugged myself, rubbed my arms for warmth, and waved a shaky goodbye to the ghosts.

“Thanks for the help. Be seeing you,” I said, teeth chattering. If I had expected any of the ghosts to crack a smile, I would have been disappointed.

Free from interference, I skulked around the outside of the village. Though the area was hilly with mounds of junk, the ambient ghost light allowed me to navigate. I topped a final hill and reached the back end of the bin I wanted, only to find that my mersker friend was back to work inside it, picking over and examining this and that broken device. He had his back to me but could turn and raise the alarm at any moment.

What now? I wondered. Wait for him to go away? That could take time I don’t have. I’m hungry. I’m cold. I’m tired of being pushed around. I’m tired of waiting.

I looked around at the trash around me until I saw a metal bar about two feet long. Carefully, I reached over and picked it up. It had a good heft to it but wasn’t too heavy to swing: a nice, makeshift club.

That’s when I realized: I was seriously considering braining the mersker in the bin because he stood between me and a chance at freedom. I didn’t owe the merskers anything, to be sure. They were holding me against my will, or had been until I scampered off, and they still had my bag and Matthias’ coil. But could I strike one of them down in cold blood to get what I wanted?

I gripped the metal bar tighter, scooted forward a little, oh so quietly, and reached the edge of the bin. I gripped it with my free hand and lifted one leg and then the other over the edge. Now I was sitting on the rear wall and the mersker stood within my reach.

I had to decide now, before he moved away or heard me: Do what needs to be done or stay my hand and remain a prisoner?

Before I could make up my mind, I heard a gunshot in the distance, followed by the sounds of engines revving. The mersker stopped what he was doing and his head shot up, facing away from me. He listened for a moment as the engine sounds grew louder, and then burrowed into a narrow crack in the pile of electronics and disappeared.

Had I really been about to brain him? Did I have the Arcady killer instinct after all? I didn’t have time to ponder those questions. Bright white floodlights lit up the village, sending the merskers into a panic. The sound of the engines cut off, to be replaced by hoots and hollers and more gunshots. Whatever this commotion was, it dashed my already fragile plan to pieces. I needed to get back to Matthias, to decide what to do next.

I stepped into the bin and crunched my way down the mound of electronics to the low front wall. Wrecked gadgets and broken machinery poured onto the ground around me as I slid out of the bin and landed on my backside. When I stood up I saw my cocoon bag nestled near the front of the bin, uncovered thanks to the mini-avalanche I had caused.

The sight of that old bag did more to warm me up than a raging fire could have. I grabbed it and was about to rush back to Matthias when I thought better of it. I could get caught and have it taken away again, so I stopped first and pulled out two items that I didn’t want to lose. One was my leftover nutri-bulb, which I immediately started to chew on, and the other was the only item I had made in the Skunkworks that could really be considered a weapon. I slipped it into my pants pocket and hoped it would still work in a pinch.

That done, I slipped the bag on again and sneaked around the edge of the village, back toward Matthias. I needn’t have worried about being stopped. The merskers had their hands full defending against the invaders.

I thought they were werewolves at first but realized that it was actually humans in bizarrely-decorated armor. They had pulled up in vehicles mounted with huge lights and directed them at the merskers, effectively paralyzing the light-sensitive creatures. Some merskers fought blind, inadvertently menacing friend and foe alike, but the invaders made a sport of shooting them down, laughing all the while. I thought of the weapon I had pocketed and felt deflated. At best I could take down one of them with it before they got me. Not good.

I managed to stay out of sight by dashing from hut to hut, but when I reached the merskers’ food bin and looked out to where Matthias had been lying in the clearing, he was gone.

Hsst, boy. Don’t stand there like a fool. Hide!”

I looked down at where Matthias’ voice was coming from and saw that he had followed much the same plan as the mersker in the electronics bin. Except Matthias had been closest to the bin full of slimy, rotting fish and animals. Only his head showed above the mass of putrid food-stuff, and if he closed his eyes he could be just another mersker-meal waiting to happen as far as the invaders were concerned.

“Get in here before you draw their notice!”

Reluctantly, I squirmed my way in next to Matthias, but not before setting my bag down outside of the bin. No reason to foul that, too.

“You found your purse, I see. How about the coil?”

“I barely had a chance to look before these guys showed up. Friends of yours?”

“Slavers, most likely, since they’re using trank guns.”

I hadn’t realized that and I wasn’t sure if this made me feel better or worse for the already-downed merskers.

“So what do we do now?”

“We wait.”

* * *

Continue to Part 59.

3/24/13 News:

I moved into a smaller place recently, which took a lot of my time and energy, so for 11 days I did not write at all, and for a few days before that I only wrote a little. Two weeks without writing, so as you can see from my spreadsheet snapshot, I am far behind my goal. But we’re mostly settled into our new place and I am getting back into my routine of writing before everyone else wakes up and also during my kids’ nap-time. It feels good and I am confident I can get back on track with my goals, although it might take a couple of weeks. While I can be hard on myself, I still allow myself to be amazed that I am writing more now, consistently, than any other time in my life.

5thWk4

In other news, I have finally taken a stab at making a banner ad for The Only City Left, like many of the other Top Web Fiction serials have. So if you click the banner below, it will take you to the voting page for The Only City Left (and I’d appreciate the vote if you enjoyed this part of the story). I have no idea how to get the banner up at TWF, but perhaps one of my readers does? *Cough* Fiona? *Cough*

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

Not to be redundant, but for a quick way to show support for my writing (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!

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 57

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 56, Matthias was ridiculing Allin’s attempts to communicate with the merskers. Matthias claimed to have a better plan.

The Only City Left: Part 57

“The merskers are traders, pure and simple. In exchange for their scavenged items, they get goods from up-city. To them, we’re just more trash to be traded for something better.”

“Traded to who?”

“Whoever needs cheap labor.”

“You mean we’d be slaves?”

“Yes. That is only one possibility, however. It might be that we’re, how shall I say this, unspoiled meat.” He nodded over at the food bin that my mersker friend had dipped into. “You’ll note that Guppy is in there, so we know they don’t exactly discriminate about what, or who, they eat. And that’s where they dropped us off, too.”

The possibility had a disgusting logic to it. “I thought you said they were harmless.”

“I said they won’t kill what they can trade. But maybe they’re not interested in trading us. The point is, we can’t wait around to see what they do. We need to act.”

“So what’s your plan?”

“We don’t stand a chance unless I have my coil, first of all. With it, we have options. So we need to steal it back. Well, since I’m injured, you need to steal it.”

I looked around at the huts made of junk, which were interspersed with bins full of junk, the whole thing built on a layer of compressed junk and surrounded by hills of the stuff. I had no idea where I would start looking for one tiny lantern coil on a necklace in all of that mess. I told Matthias as much.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Now if you’ll excuse me, I tire.” With that, Matthias lay down and closed his eyes.

Nice, give me an impossible task and then take a nap. What was I even doing, looking to Matthias for a plan? I walked away from him toward the center of the village. The ghost-light was less vivid here but I still saw the merskers slitting their great, round eyes against the glow and heard them muttering angrily in passing. I felt their pain; there’s not much you can do about ghosts except put up with them or emp them, and the merskers didn’t look to have that level of tech available.

Merskers. Bottom feeders, Matthias called them. It looked like whatever trash got flushed out of the upper city ended up here. If there was a roof of the world, I was in its basement now. I was so close! So high up! But as usual, something knocked me back down, sent me to this underworld full of indifferent jailers and accusing ghosts, where the only person who would talk to me would also stab me in the back given half a chance. I missed Tumble. I missed feeling warm and dry and full. I missed the times when it was just me alone, barely scraping by but free to explore the damn maze of a city at my leisure.

While I pondered these dismal thoughts, the merskers bustled around setting up stalls and laying out goods. Some monsters, I thought. Merchants, more like it. And if they’re getting ready to sell, traders must be coming soon. I guess time’s running out.

I returned to Matthias and nudged him awake. “I’ll find your coil, but you need to give me the passphrase so I can wolf out.”

“Oh no,” he said, sitting up. “I don’t think so. If you could ‘wolf out’ as you say, what would you need me for?”

“It just makes sense. You’re injured. Look what happened the last time you went up against the merskers.”

Matthias gently patted his leg where the bone had pierced the skin. “I’m feeling better, thanks to you. I’ll be the one to use the coil.”

“It’s hard to work together when we can’t trust each other!”

“Trust no one, boy, and your life will be better, and longer, for it. Now go find that coil before it’s too late!”

I thought to argue about it some more, but couldn’t see the point. We needed each other but couldn’t trust each other. Nothing would change that, so I would just have to do the best I could and watch out for myself.

I wandered away from Matthias again, still struck by the difficulty of the task he had assigned me. I had no idea where the coil had been taken or where to start my search for it. I looked back at Matthias and shrugged my shoulders: where to start? He responded with a shooing gesture. Thanks a lot, I thought, but the gesture called to mind my earlier mimed conversation with the mersker. The bin he was working in had my bag and other electronics in it. There was nothing to say the coil would be there, too—it might be in a bin full of jewelry for all I knew—but it was as good a place to start the search as anywhere else.

The direct approach had already failed, so I would need to try something else. As casually as I could, I walked toward the edge of the village, thinking to skirt around it and come at the bin from behind. My mersker jailers weren’t that indifferent to my comings and goings, though. One of them shouted when he noticed me nearing the edge of the village. Immediately, four of them were herding me back at spear-point.

“Okay guys, I get it,” I said, hands up. “I just needed to evacuate the bladder. I’ll hold it.”

Not that they understood me or my made-up excuse, but they lowered their weapons and walked away anyway, apparently satisfied that I had gotten the gist of their warning. I had understood all right. If I was going to put my plan into action, I couldn’t make it so easy for them to chase after me. I looked around the village for something I could use to create a diversion, when suddenly I saw the light.

The ghost light.

* * *

Continue to Part 58.

3/17/13 News:

I’m still unpacking from our move, and feeling exhausted, so there was no new writing in Book 2 this week. Hopefully I can get back to my routine soon.

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.