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 52, Allin followed a light in the dark to its source: Matthias. As he attempted to lift Matthias’ coil off of the werewolf’s lifeless chest, Matthias shot a hand out and said, “I think not.”
The Only City Left: Part 53
I locked eyes with Matthias. I didn’t let go of his necklace and he didn’t let go of my wrist.
“So you survived, too, huh?”
“Let go or I’ll bite your hand off.”
I held on for another few seconds out of sheer stubbornness, then gave up and sat down a few feet away. It wasn’t worth fighting over. He could have the damnable coil; I was happy just to be able to see again.
“It wouldn’t have turned you into a werewolf,” Matthias said, letting his head fall back to the ground. He struggled to speak, letting small whines escape between his words. “Without my passphrase, it won’t work for you.”
Copper was right! And I felt certain I was right about Dad’s passphrase, too, much good it did me now.
“I know that,” I said, not mentioning that I had only figured it out in the past hour. “I don’t want to be a werewolf. But sunlight would be awfully nice down here, and you didn’t look like you needed it anymore.”
Matthias lifted his head to inspect his leg.
“Well I do. If I were to transform while in this state,” he said, indicating the bone protruding from his leg. “It would tear my leg in two.”
He’d get no sympathy from me. I had more important concerns.
“Did you see what happened to Tumble?”
“You’re worried about the cat?” he asked, his voice a mix of disbelief and disdain. “I’ll tell you what I know, if you help me.”
“I need you to set the bone.”
“Why should I help you?” I asked.
“Because you’re far from anywhere you know, and if you’re interested in staying alive and finding a way out, you’ll need my help.”
I considered refusing. The reasons to not help him were varied and compelling. But I was tired, cold, wet, hungry, and lost. He couldn’t make my existence any worse than it already was, and he might be able to help me out of this dismal garbage heap.
“Do you promise to let me go my own way once we’re out of here?”
“Would you believe me if I did?”
“And well you shouldn’t, but I promise it anyway.”
I would get no better offer. I knelt beside him and said, “I’m no doctor.”
“Just do it.”
“Give me some light.”
Matthias lifted the coil off of his chest as far as his necklace would allow and held it there, his hand shaking. When I saw the open wound I turned my head away and clamped a hand over my mouth.
You can do this, you can do this, I told myself over and over. I steeled myself for the task, breathing quickly through my nose. Slowly, carefully, I placed one hand above the tear in his thigh and grabbed his ankle with the other.
“Do it already,” Matthias said with a snarl.
Fine. I pulled his ankle and lifted it up, while holding pressure on his thigh. The bone slid back into his leg with a gut-twisting squorch, and while Matthias howled and screamed enough to wake the dead, I turned and retched up whatever was in my stomach. When I finished, Matthias had quieted down, having passed out. His chest rose and fell in huge, bellows-like gusts and he twitched and grasped at invisible foes in his sleep, his claws raking the ground around him.
I considered trying to steal the coil again, but decided it was pointless. We would work together for now, but once an exit was in sight I would need to find a way to slip his grasp before I ended up his captive once more.
After maybe half an hour of fitful sleep, Matthias came to with a gasp. His first words surprised me.
“You’re welcome. Now start returning the favor. What happened to Tumble?”
Matthias sighed. “Last I saw him he was screaming your name over and over, so loud I could hear him above the waterfalls. He was still free from the clinkers when I chose to follow you into the abyss rather than be torn apart. By the way, how did you know you’d survive?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, thinking of the jammed gun. It was too embarrassing to mention.
“Suit yourself. I for one am glad it worked,” he said, shifting in place and then groaning. “Mostly.”
“Yeah, so now what? When are you going to be able to move again?”
“Find me something I can use as a cane and I can go now.”
I doubted that, but having nothing better to do I stood up and looked around. My mood was dark despite the moonlight provided by Matthias’ coil. Here I was, deep in the bowels of the Earth, grubbing through piles of garbage on an errand for a werewolf. If there were a polar opposite to what I wanted out of life, this would be it. I kicked through piles of garbage until I saw a length of metal on top of one mound. It might work. I clambered up the trash pile, reached out my hand to grab the bar, and froze. A pale, humanoid creature with huge, round eyes stared back at me from the other side of the mound. It bared its teeth to reveal twin rows of jagged spikes.
My heart hammered in my chest. It was one of the things that live in the dark.
* * *
Part 53 is most of a day late to post. That will teach me to forget to schedule the page before going away for the weekend! Well, I’m exhausted from a first hotel stay with toddlers, so I’ll keep this brief. Progress continues on the cover for Book 1 of The Only City Left, and outlining continues for Book 2. See you next week!
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