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 19, Allin discovers that the lantern coil given to him by his father is capable of emitting moonlight, and that the werewolves use the coils to transform. So why did Dad have a coil?
The Only City Left: Part 20
“Dad’s lantern coil?” I asked, lifting it up to examine it. “That makes sense, I guess. The werewolf that got away in Glin’s Rising was collecting these. But how does it transform someone into a werewolf?”
I absentmindedly pressed the buttons on the edge of the glass ovoid that housed the coil, and it lit up with its aureate yellow glow. Its light was cleaner, healthier somehow than the sterile light that poured out from Pudlington’s ceiling, but the cats reacted as if I had drawn a gun on them.
Banshee raised his hands in a defensive posture, claws out, and I instinctively backed up a step or two. I looked over and saw Tumble, similarly tense, claws out and hair puffed up.
“Hey guys, it’s just a light,” I soothed. “What’s the big deal?”
Tumble moved to stand beside Banshee, shaking his fur into place as he walked.
“Not just a light, Allin,” Tumble explained. “Sunlight, if our theories are correct. Captured and transmitted into the coil housed inside the casing.”
Sunlight? No wonder these things were so precious. To bring sunlight into the dark depths of the city, even a little bit, was a wondrous thing. Both Mom and Dad’s coils had glowed with that gentle, golden light, in sharp contrast to the ones that belonged to the werewolves.
“The werewolf coils emit moonlight instead, don’t they?” I hazarded.
I recalled the bursts of harsh, white light that lit up the darkened department store so many years ago in Glin’s. Grinty and his crew, human when we entered the store, and then transformed into gruesome beasts. All made possible by the coils they wore.
“They do,” Banshee intoned. “But their coils are no different than the one you wear. It too can produce moonlight, if operated correctly.”
That explained why the werewolf had wanted to take it from me, but…
“Even if it did emit moonlight, what’s there to worry about? I’ve never been bitten.”
The darkened department store.
Banshee leaned forward. “Allin, your father stole the coils for a reason.”
Flashes of white light.
“Yeah, to keep them from the werewolves, and to light the darkness.”
A shape hurtling overhead to tackle the female werewolf that threatened me.
“Do you truly believe that? Your father remained with Doyle’s gang for years, during which time more coils were discovered, more werewolves were created. Do you think Doyle’s own brother would not be included?”
Grinty, dead, falling to the ground before me.
“You’re saying Dad was one of them, that he stole a coil so he could change when he needed.”
Dad, his lantern coil glowing yellow, standing weaponless over Grinty’s corpse. Could he have killed a werewolf with his bare hands?
“It is very likely.”
The sunlight from Dad’s coil. That was the first time I had seen its light in the department store. Before that, it was all white light. Moonlight.
“Mom had a coil, too.”
Mom’s lantern coil in the she-beast’s hand, and then Mom, a frail, injured human taking on the hulking she-beast.
“Yes,” Banshee agreed, his voice solemn.
As humans, Mom and Dad had been murdered by the werewolves within seconds, but the fight had gone on for some time before that. How could they have survived for so long, unless…
“You can’t be certain,” I insisted, but it didn’t matter. They were certain, and so was I.
“Getting bitten isn’t the only way to become a werewolf, is it?” I asked. “You can be born as one.”
“If both your parents are werewolves, yes,” Banshee said.
I wanted to deny it, I wanted it not to be true, but it was the only answer that made any sense. It was Mom who leaped to my defense in that store, not as a human woman but as a fearsome beast who could hold her own against an inhuman opponent. And Dad had only become human again to talk to me. He had let down his defenses so that I wouldn’t see that he was as much a monster as the creatures he was fighting.
And I was a monster, too, thanks to them, wanting only a ray of moonlight to unleash the beast inside me.
“No wonder your people aren’t thrilled you let me in,” I said, recalling the looks I had gotten after the feast. “I don’t blame them.”
“If I could not handle one werewolf cub, I wouldn’t be a fit Emperor,” Banshee snarled. “But the point is moot. You don’t know how to switch the coil to moonlight mode.”
“Still, why risk it? Because Dad tried to kill his brother twenty years ago? That didn’t work out so well, sounds like.”
“There is another reason you were allowed within these walls,” Banshee admitted. “We have a proposition for you.”
Tumble took over: “Your coil is the first one we’ve ever had access to, Allin. The werewolves guard the technology closely. Even when we manage to bring a wolf down, the others make sure to rescue the coil before we can abscond with it.
“Our hope is that if we can examine the coil, we can figure out a way to interrupt the transmission of moonlight. Without that, Doyle’s wolves go back to being just a bunch of human punks again, and we’ll make short work of them.”
“So why didn’t you just take the coil from me when I was passed out?” I asked.
Banshee answered, “Because if we can’t block the moonlight, perhaps we can make it work for us.”
I scratched my cheek and eyed Tumble and Banshee in turn.
“Make it work how?”
Tumble replied, “By allowing you to transform into a werewolf.”
I took that in and played it back in my head to make sure I had heard it right.
“And you would want that why exactly?”
Banshee folded his arms across his chest, leaned back, and said, “So you can infiltrate the wolves’ lair and finish the job your father began. Doyle Arcady must be killed.”
* * *
Infiltrate Part 21, or read my notes below first.
7/1/12 News: And now we see what all Banshee’s wining and dining and praise of Dylan’s heroics was all about: buttering Allin up so that he’ll accept a dangerous assignment into enemy territory. Hmmm, I wonder if it will work.
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