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.
At the end of Part 21, Allin was ready to leave Pudlington after a good night’s sleep, but when he got back to his room, who did he find waiting for him? Tyena!
The Only City Left: Part 22
It wasn’t a question. She was expecting me. Tyena turned around and there were tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. One, two, three steps and she was in my arms. We hugged fiercely, pushing against one another as if we could become one being if we only tried hard enough. I buried my head in her hair and breathed deeply. She smelled wonderful, she felt strong. This was the Tyena I had first met, not the broken, angry shell I had seen last.
We held on to each other like that for some time, until I could get my wits about me enough to pull my head back and ask, “What are you doing here?”
Her sigh spoke volumes. She broke her hold on me and I let her go.
“They didn’t tell you I was here?” she asked. “No, of course not. They do like their little games. C’mon, let’s sit down.”
There were no chairs, so we sat at the head of the bed with our backs to the wall. I turned my head to the right to watch her, my brain not wholly accepting her presence yet. She was the only person I had ever seen again after leaving them behind.
She was quiet, her well of words run dry for the moment. She stared straight ahead at the paintings on the far wall and I unabashedly watched her, drinking in all the details time had dulled in my memory.
When she turned to face me, my cheeks flushed and I took my turn staring at the triptych.
“When I left you, I was still half-crazed with what had happened to the town, to my family. I had no plan except getting back to Glin’s and then from there finding out where the wolves had taken everyone. What I would have done if I found them, one little girl all by myself, I have no idea.”
“Tyena, I’m sorry,” I started.
She grabbed my hand and squeezed it tight. I turned my head again and stared into her crystal blue eyes. I felt the same electric shock then as the first time I had met her.
“Don’t be. We were both in shock. We both reacted in our own way.” She let go my hand and hugged herself. “I ended up lost, half-starved. I could have wandered the corridors until I died, or found the wolves and been killed. Instead, I ended up in the cats’ territory and a patrol stumbled upon me. They took pity on me, took me in.”
She stood up and walked over to look at the painting more closely.
“They’ve let me stay, given me paints to work with, ancient books to read,” she said, her head falling to her chest as she spoke. “They’ve been so kind, Allin. But they’re not human. The way they think, it’s a little… off. You don’t know how happy I am to see another human. To see you.”
She lifted her head up, turned around, and stalked toward the bed. Before I knew what was happening, she was snuggled close against me.
“So how did you end up here?” she asked, her lips inches away from mine.
The lingering effects of the gerrybrook juice and Tyena’s proximity combined to rob me of my higher speech functions for a few awkward seconds.
Finally, I managed, “Cats.”
We were both silent after my masterfully succinct explanation, and then we simultaneously burst out laughing.
As the laughter petered out, I frowned and said, “But seriously, the cats saved me, too. I was being chased by a—”
I almost said “werewolf,” but I stopped myself. I didn’t want to speak of the creatures that had torn both our lives apart.
“A ghost,” I said instead. Well, it was partly true. “And I ended up stumbling into the cats’ territory, just like you did, I guess.”
“How lucky,” Tyena said.
Lucky, I thought. You don’t know the half of it. But I didn’t want to tell her that the cats had been watching out for me, that they had saved me from my own uncle, and that he was the one that had ordered Glin’s Rising to be culled in the first place. Oh yeah, and that I was probably a werewolf, too.
No, Tyena was back in my life and these were not topics I thought it would be smart to bring up if I wanted her to stick around. Instead, I changed the subject. “So how come I haven’t seen you until now? Why weren’t you at dinner?”
“Good question. Three days ago some cats invited me to join them on an expedition into the railway tunnels beneath Pudlington. Life can be pretty boring here, so I jumped at the chance. When we got back tonight, they told me you were here.”
“I got in yesterday,” I explained.
“But I bet they found out you were nearby right before I got invited on that trip. Convenient,” Tyena said with a raised eyebrow and a sly smile. “And then they hung one of my paintings up in your room. Subtle, those cats. Always testing, probing.”
“Why would they want to keep us apart?” I asked.
“I don’t know. They don’t think exactly like us, Allin,” Tyena explained. “But they know that we know each other, because I told them what happened in Glin’s. Maybe they didn’t want to shock you.”
“Well consider me shocked,” I grinned.
“You shock easily,” Tyena replied. “Consider this fair warning then. I’m about to kiss you.”
And she did.
I hadn’t thought much about Tyena since I had seen her last. Thinking about her meant thinking about all the horrible things that happened to us, that drove us apart. When I told our story earlier that evening, I had felt no trace of leftover passion, no regret for what might have been.
Even if someone had told me that we would meet again, I wouldn’t have cared. I was sure my feelings for Tyena had died.
I was wrong.
* * *
7/15/12 News: I made some changes to Part 21, nothing that changes the story, but after writing up to Part 30, I found I wanted to explain some things differently in Part 21. Welcome to the wonderful world of seeing a first draft in progress.
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