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.
If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-17 and then jump into the story at Part 18. You can reach an individual part by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 18, we learned that Dad Arcady had murdered his own brother, Allin’s uncle Doyle. Why!? Why would he do such a thing? Read on…
The Only City Left: Part 19
Dad, a murderer? Could he have killed his own brother? The pieces of the puzzle shuffled into place inside my drink-lined skull and fit together surprisingly well, but there were still big portions of the picture left blank.
“So let’s say you’re right. Dad kills his brother and he and Mom spend the next fifteen years on the run from … from his brother’s werewolf ghost … okay, I’m not even going to touch that one right now,” I said, shaking my head and staring into the shadowed depths of Lower Pudlington. “Neither of them ever once thought it would be a good idea to let me know what was going on?”
“Fratricide is not exactly the type of thing you brag about to your son,” Emperor Banshee explained. “Perhaps when they thought you old enough, they would have laid the whole story out for you.”
I turned my head to one side and stared at the battle-scarred hulk of a cat. “I’m old enough now.”
“Just so,” he declared in his bass growl.
“Then hit me with it,” I requested, steeling myself.
Banshee nodded and beckoned for Tumble and me to continue moving.
“Your uncle, Doyle Arcady, is and always was an evil man,” he explained. “But in his youth, he was nothing more than the leader of a gang of punks, a gang which included Dylan, your father.”
We passed through an entire floor of one building and then took a series of ramps and ladders upwards.
“If he had only remained a small-time punk with small-time ambitions, this story might have turned out very different. But Doyle’s ambitions changed after he became a werewolf.” Banshee paused in his climb up a ladder and looked down at me. “Are you familiar with the legends of the werewolves, Allin?”
“I’ve heard stories over the years,” I replied quickly. “Humans transforming into wolves by the light of the full moon and all that. Kind of hard to pull off when there’s hundreds of levels of concrete and steel between you and the nearest moonlight.”
Banshee nodded and continued his climb.
“And yet you do not doubt their existence.”
“Not after Glin’s, no. The legends may be wrong, but werewolves do exist.”
Banshee reached the top of the ladder and waited on a small platform for Tumble and me to catch up.
“Ah, but what if the legends are true? How can you reconcile the existence of werewolves with the absence of the moon? Simple. If you can’t see the moon, you bring a bit of the moon to wherever you are. In this case, a device that emits moonlight, even in the depths of the city. Voilà. Instant werewolf.”
Banshee gestured for us to follow him up a ramp that led to the roof of the building we had walked through earlier.
“Of course, moonlight itself isn’t enough. You have to be infected first, through the bite of another werewolf.”
We stepped off the ramp into a beautiful garden overrun with flowering bushes and took a narrow path that led in toward the center. Banshee plucked one of the crimson flowers as he passed, sniffed it, and let it fall to the ground.
“When Doyle was bitten and given the technology to allow him to transform, he went from minor inconvenience to major threat. He transformed more of his gang, and their reach expanded into the surrounding sectors. Anyone, at any time, could be disappeared by Doyle’s gang. There were rumors of … atrocities. Whole communities that were taken and never heard from again.”
I thought of Glin’s Rising and wondered how far over the city Doyle’s shadow had spread by now.
“So Dad tried to put a stop to him?”
Banshee pondered my question, taking a few steps away before turning to face me.
“Reports are sketchy at best, and this is all second- and third-hand information,” he explained. “But there was apparently quite some time between Doyle’s transformation and the time your father killed him and fled.”
“How long is ‘quite some time’?”
“Somewhere on the order of two or three years.”
That news turned my stomach. Banshee was dancing around it, but if Doyle was doing all these evil things and Dad stuck with him for that long, what kind of person did that make Dad?
“So what happened?” I asked. “What changed?”
“A woman entered the picture. Someone who Doyle claimed as his own, as he had done many times before. This time was different, though. Dylan had feelings for this woman, whose name was Jessie.”
Mom. I remembered the conversation she had with Dad before we returned to Glin’s Rising for the final time. What was it he had said to her? Would you rather I had left you with him?
“He killed his brother to save my mom?”
“Yes, he did. Unfortunately for us all, it didn’t stick. Whoever provided Doyle with the werewolf tech had also gifted him with a Lazarus swarm that allowed him to live on as a ghost after his murder.”
We reached a circular courtyard with stone benches. Banshee lowered himself onto one of them with a sigh and I stood before him. Tumble walked around, trimming dead flowers off the bushes.
“So Mom and Dad took off, and Doyle chased after them for years. But they’re dead now. He got his revenge. Why is he still coming after me?”
“Murder was only one of your father’s crimes against Doyle. The other was the theft of two of those rare and valuable devices that allow the werewolves to transform. Perhaps that is why he follows you yet.”
“If Dad had anything like that, he never showed it to me.”
Banshee pointed to my chest and I looked down at the lantern coil hanging from my necklace.
“Why, Allin, you’re wearing it at this very moment.”
* * *
You can read my notes on Part 19 or continue on to Part 20 post-haste!
6/24/12 News: So, we get some background on Doyle Arcady and werewolves in today’s installment, and the revelation that Allin’s Dad had something of a checkered past. Also, Allin’s Mom gets a name, finally. If there’s one thing I have learned from this writing adventure, get people’s names out there ASAP. Inserting them into conversation later can be awkward.
Re: the lantern coil: When I am writing and especially when I am trying to build suspense or keep things mysterious, I sometimes have trouble putting myself in the shoes of a reader who doesn’t know what I am planning with the story. I wonder what they see coming a hundred miles a way and what surprises them. I suspect that it may have been clear for some time now that Allin’s coil can be used by a werewolf who needs moonlight to transform, but hopefully you understand why Allin didn’t realize, or didn’t want to accept it.
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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.