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 1-34 and then start at Part 35. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 39, Tumble blasts some skeletons to rescue a stranger from a horde of skeletons. That young man turns around and blames Allin and Tumble for waking up the skeletons in the first place. How rude.
The Only City Left: Part 40
We followed the ungrateful punk through the break in the skeleton’s defenses, while behind us both groups of skeletons merged and shambled after us.
“Hey, wait up,” I called ahead, but other than a rude gesture, the punk ignored me and kept running.
“Are all humans like this?” Tumble asked. “Since I left Pudlington, they’ve either been trying to kill me or insult me. Or both.”
I didn’t have the breath to spare for a witty rejoinder, especially since I needed to put on an extra burst of speed to keep from losing the punk when he cut between two houses.
Besides the skeletons following us, more of them were filtering in from all around. What they lacked in speed, they made up for in numbers and tirelessness. Visions of them swarming over me and tearing at my flesh kept my legs pumping long after I normally would have flagged.
The punk didn’t seem to have any endurance issues, though. He kept a good distance ahead until, after we followed him through a backyard and around the corner of one house, I spotted him at another house across the street, kneeling down by the front door.
“There he is!”
Before we made it halfway to him, he got the door open and rushed inside. Wait for us, we’re almost there, I willed, and felt a brief flare of hope when he turned around and made eye contact. My hope fizzled when he smiled and callously slammed the door shut.
“He seems to have found a hiding place,” Tumble said and then checked back over his shoulder. “Perhaps we should do the same.”
I followed his gaze and saw the skeleton horde funneling between the two houses behind us. Apparently they weren’t letting fences slow them down anymore.
“A hiding place, yeah,” I said. “I see a good one.”
I ran to the same door that the selfish punk was hiding behind and pounded on it with both fists.
“Let us in!” I demanded. “We can work together.”
There was only silence in response and I thought, What if he scampered out the back door? But I could almost feel his presence on the other side of the door, so I persisted.
“We’re about to get skinned alive out here, pal!”
“Allin,” Tumble whispered urgently. “They’re almost here!”
Still no response from inside. Was I only imagining he was still there?
“Okay, you asked for it,” I shouted. “Tumble, blast the door open.”
Tumble looked up at me from beneath his hat, and I nodded at him curtly. Do it.
He raised his gun, but before he could pull the trigger, the front door swung open.
“So get in here already, you freaks,” the punk relented.
We sailed through the door and he closed and locked it behind us.
“Thanks for leading them right here,” he cried. “What’d I ever do to you?”
“You didn’t help us out after we saved your life, for one thing,” I returned.
“Saved my life! You think I couldn’t handle a bunch of deadheads?” he asked, shaking his makeshift mace for emphasis. “They wouldn’t have even been awake if it weren’t for you two!”
Tumble shushed us both. He had pushed aside a curtain and stood looking out the front window. “They’re stopping,” he said.
I joined him and saw what he meant. The skeletons were in the front yard, but instead of breaking down the door and windows and pouring into the house, they were forming a wall, dozens deep. I smushed my face to the glass and looked both ways.
“It’s going all the way around the house,” I reported. “Why aren’t they attacking?”
“They don’t have to attack us, you mudge,” the young punk said. “They just have to keep us penned up until the clinkers arrive.”
I turned around and assessed this guy who seemed to know so much more than we did about the area. As I had noted earlier, he looked to be about my age, but with blonde, almost white, hair and a more muscular frame. He wore a thin white shirt and dark blue sweatpants, both threadbare.
“What do you mean, ‘until the clinkers arrive’?” I asked, jerking my thumb toward the window. “Aren’t those the clinkers?”
He laughed and said, “Oh man, what’d I do to deserve you two? No, those aren’t the clinkers. If they were, we’d be dead already. Now help me make sure this place is locked up tight while I think of a way out of here.”
Out of spite, I didn’t want to follow his orders, but since our goals were aligned for now, I joined him. We made sure the back door was locked and checked the windows to see if the wall of skeletons completely circled the house, which it did. Worried about skeletons that might already be inside with us, we searched the entire house: bedrooms, kitchen, living room, garage, even the bathrooms. The home was ready to live in: the beds were made, the medicine cabinet was stocked, the cabinets held cups and dishes, and there was a car in the garage. Luckily we didn’t find any skeletal occupants.
“What’s your name?” I asked when we returned to the front room. “I’m Allin, he’s Tumble.”
“Okay, Guppy,” I said, not pushing him about that doubtful name. “So what’s the story on those skeletons out there?”
He took up position on the opposite side of the window from Tumble and peered outside.
“The dead out there are what we’ll become if we’re still around when the clinkers arrive. They strip you down to your bones and wire you up to be their playthings. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, they work as an alarm system, too.”
He dropped the curtain back and said, “We have to split up. It’s the only way one of us might survive. I’ll take the back door, you guys go out the front.”
“Nice plan. And what are you going to do, bash your way through a hundred skeletons with that skull?”
“Better to try that than wait for the clinkers to arrive!”
Tumble, still looking out the window, cleared his throat and said, “About that. I think the wait is over.”
* * *
11/18/12 News: As this update goes live, I am working on completing the first draft of The Only City Left in its serial format. To that end, I have been using National Novel Writing Month as an excuse to put my TOCL writing into high gear. I am writing Parts 73 and 74 this morning, so I guess it’s working.
The Only City Left is now 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.)
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.