tortoise baby

Since it’s been one month since I released The Only City Left, I thought I’d do a review of how things have gone.

Sales

Full disclosure. I didn’t set the world on fire with the release of The Only City Left. I sold 7 ebooks and 9 paperbacks in the first month. For all but a couple of these, I know to which friend or family member each copy went. So it goes.

Reviews

I’ve done two things to garner reviews. 1) I offered 100 ebook copies to LibraryThing members through their Member Giveaway, with a request that they provide honest reviews in exchange for the book. 77 people took me up on the offer by the end of the two-week giveaway period. It is not required that any of them actually provide a review, however. 2) I contacted book bloggers that review books in my genre and requested reviews from them in exchange for a copy of the book. (See end of post for two great lists of book reviewers.)

So far, 4 LibraryThing members have provided reviews. All 4 of them posted their reviews to LibraryThing, 3 copied their review to Amazon, 2 copied their review to Goodreads, and 1 copied the review to their personal blog. Since the LibraryThing members have only had the book available to them for two weeks, I am hopeful that more reviews will come of this.

Regarding book bloggers, I have contacted 48 reviewers so far. 8 bloggers have stated that they will read the book for a possible review, although timelines for the review may be months out due to their large reading queue. 2 more showed interest but have not confirmed their plans. 2 bloggers have declined to read the book, 1 offered an Author Spotlight feature in lieu of reading the book, and the rest have not responded. 1 in 6 bloggers showing interest is actually a positive ratio in my book, and I will continue to request reviews from new bloggers as I discover them.

Marketing

Other than a couple of mentions on my social media streams and the requests for reviews, I haven’t really had a marketing effort. This is a judgment call on my part. I don’t think I should put time and money into marketing one book. Once I have more books published, I will have to look more closely at book marketing efforts. I also haven’t inundated my social media stream with requests for people to buy my book. Again, with only one book out, I don’t feel it’s worth nagging my social media friends about my book over and over.

I did have some book business cards printed, for those times when I’m talking in person with someone and the subject comes up. This way, I can leave them with a physical reminder of the book. They were relatively low-cost, but time will tell if that expense was worth it.

toclcards

Thoughts

I appreciate all the friends and family who bought my book, but of course I have to reach farther afield if I ever want to supplement my family’s income by writing books. Since I’m not going all out trying to drum up sales on Book 1 of The Only City Left, I need to focus on writing Book 2, which is what I am doing. I also hope that after a certain number of reviews, Book 1 might gain some traction in and of itself. There’s a long road ahead and I’m only at the beginning, but I’m happy to finally be here, looking forward to the future again.

Links

The Only City Left on Amazon (Note: The ebook is free with purchase of a paperback. Also, the ebook is DRM-free.)

The Only City Left on Goodreads

The Only City Left on LibraryThing

Indie Reviewers on The Indie View (Note: Check back frequently and sort by date to see when new reviewers are added. Contact them quickly as I get the sense that reviewers become inundated with requests in a short amount of time.)

List of Online Reviewers Who Accept Self-Published Books (This is a great list that was published on 8/6/14. Thanks to Erica Verrillo for putting it together. There are no dates attached to the entries and I’m not sure it will be updated, so its long-term usefulness might be limited.)

Image of baby tortoise by Lies Van Rompaey.

2014 07-18 The Only City Left CoverI am happy to announce that, at long last, The Only City Left is available for purchase (Kindle|Softcover). Since it was first released as a serial, the book has undergone two edits: one minor one to convert it into a book rather than a serial, and a major edit under the guidance of developmental editor R.J. Blain. I am quite happy with the results and I hope that this science-fantasy adventure finds an audience looking for a fantastical adventure through a dying Earth.

If you are a reviewer/blogger and would like a review copy e-mailed to you, please send me an e-mail at lithicbee+tocl1@gmail.com. Please include a link to your site.

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way, be it through comments and shares on the original serial, or words of encouragement as I spent months editing the book.

Work on Book 2, tentatively titled The Fifth House, proceeds apace.

(The above links are affiliate links, meaning if you use them to purchase anything on Amazon, I will receive a small payment in return. One more way to support an independent author. Thank you.)

NOTICE: Part 89 (the end of The Only City Left) will be posted here and mirrored at atgoldman.com, my new site. After that, lithicbee.wordpress.com will not be kept up to date.

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 88Allin returned to Pudlington, uncertain about who controls the cat city.

The Only City Left: Part 89

As it turned out, Tumble was back in control of Pudlington and I was allowed in without any confrontation, but the good news ended there. Once inside the city, I was not kept waiting for long before Tumble arrived. His face lit with a weak smile when he greeted me, but it quickly disappeared.

“Emperor Banshee?” I asked.

“Is beyond the help of our finest physicians,” Tumble said, his voice catching in his throat. “He is hanging on to the barest thread of life, but when I told him you had returned, he requested your presence. We must hurry.”

Hurry we did, to the top of the city where Banshee lay under blankets amidst a room full of the blossoms he loved so well. Their aroma was nearly overwhelming but it only barely covered the foul stench of death coming from Banshee himself. Tumble stayed at the door while I approached the bed and knelt down beside the fallen Emperor.

“Allin, is that you?” he asked, opening his eyes ever so slightly.

“Yes, your highness.”

“So formal now that I am dying,” he said with a tiny grin. “Doyle?”

“Dead.”

“Good, good. Then we are even, at least.”

“Sir, I think Fordham was working with—”

“Yes, he was, but he has fled. That is Tumble’s problem now,” Banshee said. He paused to take some shallow breaths. “Allin, you must accept my apology.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I made my own choices.”

“Ah, but I forced your hand,” he said, his voice starting to slur. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear and then said, “Bait to lure Doyle out. No thought for you. I was wrong.”

He put his hand out and I cupped it in both of mine.

Bait? I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, but it didn’t matter anymore and I told him so.

“Kind. Kind of you,” he said, his eyes closing. “Tyena?”

“I don’t know. Disappeared.”

“If you see her, tell her. I’m sorry. To her. Too.”

“I will,” I said, the tears running down my face as I felt his grip weaken. “Goodbye, Emperor Banshee.”

I felt a touch on my shoulder and looked up to see Tumble standing beside me.

“He did the best he could in his life,” Tumble said. He moved around me and smoothed the fur on his brother’s face. “What more can be said?”

Nothing.

I left Tumble to mourn his brother’s passing in solitude, and made my way back to my room to bury myself in blankets and self-recriminations. Doyle was dead and the plague of the werewolves was over, but the costs had been great. I played over and over in my mind the moment when the rogue guard pulled the coil out of his hat. If I had been faster, I could have stopped him and Banshee would still be alive. He had apologized to me, something about using me as bait. But I should have been the one to offer him an apology before he died. I felt miserable. Eventually, I fell asleep.

 

For two days, I stayed in bed. When I was awake, I lay staring at the ceiling, pondering all the wrong turns I had made. Cats came by to leave me food and to take it away after I ignored it, but otherwise they left me alone.

On the third day, I had a visitor who was not so easily put off.

“Go away, Ballister,” I said when he pulled the blanket off of me.

“Whew. You have all this nice stuff, a shower, clean clothes, but you smell worse than any of us ever did crammed into our little room.”

“Your opinion has been noted. Go away and you won’t have to smell me.”

“Can’t. Been sent to get you cleaned up and presentable-like.”

“Why?”

“The mourning period for Banshee is over. Tumble’s to become the catfolk’s new Emperor today, and you’re to attend the ceremony.”

“Don’t want to,” I said, and turned over.

“I don’t much care,” he said. He grabbed me by the shoulder and wrenched me back to face him. “Tumble’s following through on Banshee’s agreement with you. Me and my people’re being allowed to stay, and more’ll be let in after us. Won’t look good if you’re in here practicing your mopey face when Tumble announces all this, you being a hero and all.”

I shook his hand off and sat up.

“Some hero. I killed a bad man and I was too slow to save a good cat. Does that balance out?”

“You followed through on your word to Banshee. The werewolves are done. Doyle’s dead. I’m not living in a room scraping algae for dinner anymore. The world’s a safer place, for a little while at least. Pretty damn heroic, if you ask me. So you couldn’t save everyone. That’s the way it is. Now get cleaned up and dressed nice and be at the throne in an hour, or you’ll embarrass us all.”

I didn’t answer him and he left without another word.

I sighed and allowed myself to notice my own stink. Damn, Ballister’s right. Again.

An hour later I stood in attendance at Tumble’s coronation, in a place of honor two steps below him (and one below a cat named Taleon whom I had never met before but who was the new new Envoy). I wore fine clothing that had been laid out for me by the cats, but I left my now-defunct coil in my room so as not to stir any bitter memories of recent events.

As Ballister promised, Tumble spoke of a new era in which Pudlington would be a refuge and a shining example of how life can thrive even in the depths of the city. He thanked me for my service to the throne and asked the citizens of Pudlington to offer me their every courtesy.

Considering the turmoil that had greeted Banshee’s similar announcement, I was surprised at the rousing cheers that Tumble’s words received. Perhaps without Fordham agitating the crowd, they were more accepting of the idea of human refugees sharing their city. Or maybe, I had to admit to myself, it was the fact that I had followed through on my side of the bargain, had proven that humans could keep their word. For whatever reason, my heart felt lighter by the time the ceremony was over. If the cats could accept a change of this magnitude, perhaps there was hope that the city itself could change, given enough work and time.

Hours later, the ceremony had become a party with the throne platform as its epicenter. I stood near the platform’s edge, looking out at the lights of the city and talking to Ballister. He nodded at something behind me and I looked back to see Tumble—Emperor Tumble—approaching.

I turned back to Ballister but he was already walking away. He waved goodbye and headed toward a buffet table for thirds or fourths.

“Ballister seems to be settling in quite nicely. Who knew there was such a gentleman underneath all that dirt?”
“I think you had an idea,” I said, and remembered to add, “Your Highness.”

Tumble sighed, and in it I heard him yearning for a time when his brother was alive and he was free to run through the city, chasing adventure with a foolish young man. Much had changed in a few days. We stood in silence for a while, festivities taking place behind us, while before us the city lay dark and still except for islands of light and activity.

“What exactly happened with the coils?” I asked. It was something I had been curious about ever since it happened, but had been too caught up in my moping (as Ballister would have it) to ask about until now. “They got shut down just in time, but you couldn’t have gotten back here yet.”

“You’re right. You have Fordham to thank for the coils. If he had left well enough alone, Professor Copper wouldn’t have touched the satellites until Banshee or I ordered her to, but Fordham didn’t know that. He tried to shut the project down, so she ordered her team to initiate the procedure while she stalled him. Fordham was enraged. He locked her up but the damage was already done.”

“Then I owe them both my life, I guess. Any chance of me being able to thank him personally?”

“We haven’t found the exit he used yet, which you can be sure is giving me no end of worry. If he got out without us knowing, what’s to keep him from coming back in the same way?”

“The days of Pudlington hiding behind closed doors are over anyway, right?”

“True, but I still don’t like that he’s free. Who knows what he’ll be up to.”

“Yeah. And not just him. The Fifth House, whoever they are, must have given Doyle power for a reason. I doubt they’re going to sit back and take this loss without a fight.”

Tumble hummed in agreement and asked, “And you? You’ve seen the sun rise on the Roof of the World. Your uncle is no longer alive to chase you endlessly through the city. What’s next for Allin Arcady?”

I looked out at the lights in the darkness. One by one, as partygoers returned to their homes in the cat’s cradle of a city, more lights went on.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a dark world out there, and if we don’t do anything, it’ll only get darker. Ballister told me I can’t save everyone, and he’s right. But Earth is the only city left, and I’m not going to let it die without a fight.”

“My brother would be proud of that sentiment, Allin. As am I. Know that so long as I am Emperor, you shall never be alone in this fight.”

I looked away, a little too tight in the throat to reply immediately. When I could speak again, I tried to lighten the mood.

“Come on, let’s get some more to eat before Ballister finishes it all.”

“Banshee would approve of that sentiment as well.”

With that, we turned away from the darkness and headed toward the light and noise of the celebration, to enjoy the good times for so long as they should last.

* * *

10/27/13 News: That’s it. The end of the serialized version of The Only City Left. This has been an incredible ride. If I had understood the amount of work involved, I might never have had the courage to start the project, but I’m glad I went into it somewhat blind. In the process, I’ve interacted with wonderful readers, discovered other creators’ amazing endeavors, and pushed myself to grow as a writer. I can’t wait until the final, edited version of The Only City Left is released, and I can get to work on my next project. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, and shared.

In case you didn’t see the notice at the top of the post, please be aware that I have a new website: atgoldman.com. Right now it is simply a copy of this one, but after Part 89 of The Only City Left is posted, any new content will be posted to atgoldman.com. This site will be shuttered except for a notification post when The Only City Left is released in novel form.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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!

#

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.

NOTICE: Parts 88 and 89 (the end of The Only City Left) will be posted here and mirrored at atgoldman.com, my new site. After that, lithicbee.wordpress.com will not be kept up to date.

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 87Allin had survived the final encounter with Doyle and returned to the penthouse on the Roof of the World, where he saw the sun rise for the first time in his life.

The Only City Left: Part 88

I must have stood at that window for an hour, soaking up the sun’s rays and basking in its warm, comforting presence. At one point I found myself holding onto my lantern coil, happily surprised that Doyle had left it on me and that it had survived last night’s activity. It no longer worked, of course, and had never come close to the feeling of actual sunlight that I now experienced. Still, I would miss its glow. My travels through the city from now on would be that much more dark and dangerous.

Thoughts of travel spurred me to finally leave the window and search the penthouse for anything that might help once I left this room. I winced when I saw the corpses that littered the area around the bar. Doc Needles and Doyle’s guards, human once more, still wore confused and anguished expressions from their sudden demise.

I realized that one of the guards was missing and I recalled that he had fled through a door along the wall behind the bar. I followed his course and discovered another wing that included a large bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small dining area. I also found the guard, who hadn’t made it ten feet into the room before the ghosts had caught him. I covered him with a large blanket from the bed and continued my search.

Much like the house in Clinkerville, the penthouse was well stocked. I could only imagine that Doyle had used this penthouse to impress others or maybe as a reward for good service. He certainly couldn’t have availed himself of any of its amenities. I, on the other hand, most certainly could.

I took a warm shower with the sun shining down on me through the clear walls, dressed in spare clothes I found in a closet, and filled up on water and preserved food from the pantry. I even found a canvas bag which I used to store extra food, a spare set of clothes, and a towel. Behind the bar I found some empty plastic containers which I filled with water. Even better, I found a tiny but powerful flashlight. I had food, clothes, and light. I was ready to face the world again, even if I didn’t know where I was in it.

I opened the door to leave but stopped to let the sun soak into my skin one last time. Who knows if I’ll ever see it again? I thought, but without any sadness. I’d had my time in the sun, but there was no life to live up here. Everything I knew, everyone I loved, was down in the darkness, and that was fine with me.

As I turned to go, the sunlight filtered past me into the hallway, and I saw that someone had etched a large arrow into the floor, pointing away from the penthouse. Next to it: a dash and the letter X.

I traced the X with my fingertips. Xerxes. He must have done this before the ghosts poured into the room and overwhelmed Doyle and his men. I thought again about their sacrifice. They had used their numbers to somehow provide Doyle with enough material to completely rebuild his body rather than take over mine, at the cost of their afterlives. I didn’t wholly understand why they would do such a thing, but that it had been the plan from the beginning I now had no doubt. Otherwise, Xerxes wouldn’t have left this mark. Or the next one, or the next one.

He had, as it turned out, left marks along the length of the route from the Garden to the penthouse, as if he knew I would be returning alone and would need his help one last time. Without that trail to follow, I might never have returned to a part of the city I knew. With it, I made it to the Garden in half a day.

The Garden. What a mess. From the number of lantern coils strewn about the streets, I got the sense that the slaves had gained the upper hand while I was away. Maybe the former wolves had abandoned the coils when it became clear that they were both useless and unpopular. To be on the safe side, I took mine off and hid it in my bag.

I needn’t have bothered. The entire place was abandoned except for corpses. Whatever struggle had occurred, neither the winners nor the losers (if any had survived) had stuck around this already picked-over wasteland. Fires burned unchecked, making it hazardous to breathe, but I had to look for Tyena before I left. I wasn’t surprised when, despite calling out for her and searching the building that used to be Doyle’s headquarters, she was nowhere to be found. I only hoped that she and her mother had managed to get free in all of the confusion, and would end up somewhere safe.

Me, I wanted to return to Pudlington, and with the Garden going up in flames around me, now was a really good time to get going. Fire in the city, I worried as I scampered out of there. Not good.

It would run out of air and combustible material in time, but it would leave behind one last piece of useless city in its wake. Doyle’s legacy.

I made my way back to Pudlington, reversing the route along which the ghosts had led me. Had it only been yesterday? It seemed like another lifetime.

I crawled through the ducts, thankful that the ghosts hadn’t reset all the traps they had disabled, and from there into the sterile white corridors of Pudlington’s outer bailey. Finally, I stood before the gates of Pudlington once more. I didn’t know if I would be met with a friendly greeting or the barrel of a gun, but there was nothing for it except to walk up to the guards, announce myself, and find out.

“Hi. It’s me, Allin Arcady. I’m home.”

* * *

Continue to Part 89.

10/20/13 News: The penultimate post! Next week is the nearly double-sized ending, wrapped in a bow for my loyal readers. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.

Only one more posts and then this draft of The Only City Left is done. In case you didn’t see the notice at the top of the post, please be aware that I have a new website: atgoldman.com. Right now it is simply a copy of this one, but after Part 89 of The Only City Left is posted, any new content will be posted to atgoldman.com. This site will be shuttered except for a notification post when The Only City Left is released in novel form.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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!

#

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.

NOTICE: Parts 87-89 (the end of The Only City Left) will be posted here and mirrored at atgoldman.com, my new site. After that, lithicbee.wordpress.com will not be kept up to date.

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.

The sun.

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.

* * *

Continue to Part 88.

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. Also, in case you didn’t see the notice at the top of the post, please be aware that I have a new website: atgoldman.com. Right now it is simply a copy of this one, but after Part 89 of The Only City Left is posted, any new content will be posted to atgoldman.com. This site will be shuttered.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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!

#

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.

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 85, Allin revealed his plan: keep Doyle outside in the thin, freezing air until the moon sets, they both revert to their human forms, and they die. Whoa, heavy.

The Only City Left: Part 86

Doyle took his foot off of my neck and offered me a hand. Alert for any treachery, I took it. I was actually surprised when all he did was help me up and step back a few paces.

“I’ve been chasing you for your entire life, Allin,” he said. “And now the chase is finally at an end. But you’re not half so clever as you believe if you think I’m just going to give up and let the moon set on me out here.”

“Go ahead, try to make it back in time. I may not be able to kill you, but I can slow you down for long enough.”

“You’d really sacrifice yourself just to make sure I die?” he asked. He seemed genuinely confused.

“Yes.”

He shrugged. “Then I’ll have to kill you quick.”

He leaped toward me, claws out, but I expected the attack and caught him by his wrists. I couldn’t stop him from continuing to barrel toward me, though.

He smashed into me and we ended up in a rough embrace, each trying to claw and bite the other to pieces, but we were so evenly matched that neither could get the upper hand. We stumbled to and fro in the maze of protrusions that littered this section of the roof, crunching into machinery and vents and pipes that hopefully no one below us was relying on. As we crashed around, I wondered how it was that he hadn’t torn me apart yet. He was bigger and had more strength and experience; it should have been an easy victory.

Listening to his ragged breathing, I realized what was working in my favor. He wasn’t used to this kind of exertion. As a ghost, he never got tired, never wore himself down. If he needed more energy, his nanoswarm could siphon it from the world around him. Up here, in his physical body and dealing with the bitter cold and thin air, he had spent himself chasing me. His reserves were running low.

I, on the other hand, felt energized by this realization.

“Getting tired, Doyle? Need a break?” I asked as I took the lead in our dance.

I swung him around and ran him into a chest-high exhaust vent, then reversed direction to smack his head into a thick stand of pipes.

“Is this what you’ve wanted all these years, Doyle? To feel?”

I lunged out and raked him with my claws, giving him a set of wounds to match mine. He put his hand to his chest and looked down at the blood oozing through his fingers.

“Hurt. Pain. Fear,” I said. “Is being alive again all you ever hoped it would be?”

I laughed at his distraught expression. It felt good to be on the offensive for once, to be the one in power, the hunter instead of the hunted. I imagined that with one leap I could be on Doyle, ripping out his throat with my teeth. His imaginary blood tasted delicious to my fevered mind. Standing there watching him cower, I felt like a true werewolf for the first time.

Only I didn’t want to be a werewolf, didn’t want to beat Doyle at his own game.

The moon was lower in the sky now; if I could hold out a little longer, I’d never have to fight the wolf inside of me again. Warring against my instincts, I put my hands up and said, “There’s no point in fighting anymore. Let’s wait out the end peacefully.”

Doyle sneered and licked his own blood off of his palm. “Peacefully? And just when I was beginning to be proud of you.”

He ran at me with a surprising burst of speed, but I easily caught his outstretched hands in mine and began to push him back.

“One thing I want to know before the end,” I said. “What did you get out of all this death and destruction?”

“That’s the difference between you and me, Allin,” Doyle said as I pushed him further and further backward despite his attempts to dig in his heels. “You need reasons. I just did it because.”

He gave up trying to stop me and instead fell backward. He used my momentum to pull me into his embrace, where he took the opportunity to bury his teeth in my shoulder. I howled in pain. He wouldn’t unclamp his jaw, so I dug my claws into his sides and twisted my fingers underneath his skin. That worked.

He roared and tried to throw me off of him but I wouldn’t let go. We ended up rolling around like boys roughhousing except for the part where we were really trying to kill each other.

Over and over we rolled and if that didn’t make me dizzy enough, the lack of good air didn’t help, either. Our rambling path took us far and wide, and we ended up beside the chasm once more.

This wasn’t the same one, though, or we were at a different point along it, because here the far wall towered a few stories above us. Wherever we were, one important detail stood out: there was nothing I could do to slow our progress toward it. One more roll and we were over its edge.

I barely managed to reach out and grab the ledge with both hands to keep from falling into the depths. A second later, I nearly lost my grip as Doyle clamped onto my legs for the same purpose.

He began to laugh. “If you want it to end, Allin, just let go.”

I looked down at his ugly, laughing face and then beyond to where the chasm fell into shadow. Shadow? I craned my neck up and saw that the moon was setting above the high wall opposite us. Soon we would be in the wall’s shadow and it would all be over.

But Doyle will be in the shadow first. Could I…?

I dug my claws into the ledge above me and held on with all my might.

“Let go, boy. Let go! Isn’t this what you want?”

Through a snoutful of gritted teeth, I said, “Change of plans. Look down.”

He must have done as he was told, because the next thing I knew he sunk his claws into my calves for extra purchase. I moaned in agony and my grip slipped ever so slightly. I looked down and saw the shadow line steadily rising up the chasm wall.

“Pull us up. We should fight and die as wolves.”

“Sorry, Doyle. The time of the wolves is at an end.”

The shadow line climbed up his body and overtook him entirely. I watched as he transformed back into a human being. He looked frightened, and younger than I would have imagined. His claws retreated from my flesh, leaving only human hands to grasp the fur of my legs.

As the shadow that fully engulfed him began to climb up my legs, too, Doyle cried, “Allin, don’t do this. We’re family!”

“You killed my only family. Goodbye, Doyle.”

In the end, it wasn’t tooth or claw or gun or knife that ended Doyle Arcady’s evil reign. All it took was one swift shake of my leg to loosen his grip and send him plummeting into the darkness.

As he fell, the hungry shadows continued to climb higher, eager to make me their next victim. But I wanted more now. I wanted to see Tumble again. To find Tyena and ask for a second chance. To share a drink and a story with Ballister.

For years I had been living to see the Roof of the World, but that hadn’t really been living. That had been waiting. That had been me adrift and grieving for my parents.

I would never forget them, but that part of my life was over now. I wanted to live not for the past and not for some illusory tomorrow, but for the now, wherever that took me. I wanted to live.

First, though, I had to avoid sharing Doyle’s fate.

I climbed.

* * *

Continue to Part 87.

10/6/13 News: Wow, I can’t believe we’ve reached the story’s climax already. I hope you’ll stick around for the next three weeks and coast toward the end of Book 1 with me. There’s still a thrill or two left in store for Allin, and some loose threads that need to be tied up. Thanks again for reading!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.)

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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.

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 84, Allin fought with his newly-resurrected uncle until, realizing he could not possibly win, he maneuvered his uncle into taking the fight outside onto the Roof of the World.

The Only City Left: Part 85

I was out for as long as it took to fall to the ground, where the shock of being slammed onto the icy roof snapped me awake in an instant. My vision cleared in time to see Doyle falling, too, but not in time to keep him from landing on me with enough force to bellow the air out of my lungs. Instinctively, I rolled backwards and pistoned my legs to push him off of me and further away from the penthouse. Having bought a second or two of freedom, I used it to take a breath. This was a struggle in and of itself, as the thin, near-freezing air cut my throat like a knife and threatened a return of spot-addled vision.

I staggered to my feet, swaying a bit as the world refused to hold still. It wasn’t just the thin air making me feel faint, but also the lack of a ceiling. For the first time in my life, I was outside. No walls. No recycled air. I was free!

It felt incredible and frightening all at once. A sky without end. I might have freaked out and retreated back into the penthouse’s embrace if not for the fact that I could feel the thrum of the city beneath my feet. It might be largely empty, with its systems failing and its corridors dark, but even though it was battered and decaying, it fought to keep itself running. If I wanted to save it, I could do no less.

I had a plan, not much of one to be sure, but elegant in its simplicity. All I had to do to make it work was to keep Doyle chasing after me for as long as possible.

“Hey, Doyle,” I said as he got to his feet. “Is that the best you can do?”

“You must have an extraordinarily thick skull, nephew. Next time I’ll simply tear your heart out of your chest and be done with it.”

“You’ve got to catch me first.”

With those words, I took off at an angle away from the broken glass wall. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Doyle begin his pursuit. Perfect. Inside the penthouse, I had been at a disadvantage. Doyle was stronger than me and I couldn’t avoid him in those close quarters. Out here, though, I had a head start. All I had to do was maintain it.

This proved harder than I expected. What had at first appeared like a mostly smooth landscape turned out to be more chaotic up close. Our chase led us through ravines and over gaps in the roof, under pipes the size of houses and across uneven sheets of scarred metal, pitted by time.

I could hear Doyle’s footfalls not far behind me, and I wondered what was under our feet as we ran. Did survivors still inhabit the rooms below us and did they look up in surprise as two sets of feet pounded their way across the ceiling? Did our passage shake dust loose from the rafters and onto someone’s meal? I smiled, buoyed by the thought of life going on below us even as I ran toward the end of mine.

Our chase continued as the moon inched closer and closer to the horizon. Doyle and I were evenly matched in terms of speed, and he did not seem at all inclined to give up on his prize, which suited me fine. But one way or another, I knew I could not keep away from him forever.

The first hiccup came when the ground ran out ahead of me. This was not the first gap I had crossed but it was by far the widest and, once I was in mid-leap over it, I saw it was the deepest as well. If I fell down into that, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not Doyle caught me. There’d be nothing left to catch.

The roof on the far side of the chasm was lower, which I hadn’t expected. I landed awkwardly, crashing and rolling into a thicket of antennae. I shook my head to clear it and stood up in time to see Doyle bounding gracefully over the yawning chasm. To be fair, he had the benefit of seeing me do it first. He landed softly nearby, going down to one knee to absorb the impact of his landing.

“I’ve got you now,” he said.

I didn’t waste my breath on a witty retort. Instead I turned and ran further into the metallic forest of struts, towers, and coiling pipes that made up this portion of the roof. That was my second mistake. The paths were narrow and full of twists and turns that kept me from building up any speed.

Our chase continued for a little longer in that maze, but even though the environment hindered us both, the result was inevitable. Eventually I made one misstep too many and Doyle managed to reach out and get a grip of my shoulder fur. This was just enough to pull me off balance and, since we were both running as fast as we could, bring us crashing to the ground together.

He got to his feet first and kicked me back down when I tried to follow him. Two quick steps and he had his foot against my neck, daring me to try to get up past his claws.

“You’re a fool, boy. Did you really think you could escape? You only delayed your death.”

Above us, the moon had begun its descent. I smiled and allowed myself some time to catch my breath before I replied.

“I may have only delayed mine, but I ensured yours.”

Doyle eyed me curiously and then looked around. We were in the middle of nowhere on the Roof of the World, far from the penthouse and its access to the rest of the city. Out here, the world was a cold, lonely place, the air barely rich enough to keep us breathing even in our werewolf forms. Once the moon set and we reverted to our frail human bodies, it would be a race between freezing to death and asphyxiating. Either way, it would mean the end of Doyle. Of course, it would mean my end as well, but if it meant saving the world from Doyle’s lunatic reign, it seemed worth it.

“I see,” Doyle said, the light of understanding in his eyes. “You’re insane, Allin. I like it.”

* * *

Continue to Part 86.

9/29/13 News: The race to the end continues and it’s looking rather final for Allin.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.