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 78, Doyle was sharing his version of Arcady family history with Allin, when he revealed that he got his powers from a mysterious force called the Fifth House.
The Only City Left: Part 79
The Fifth House? That was the name of the distant kingdom that gave the older brother his powers in Mom’s story, and the slave in the Garden had used that phrase in Doyle’s title. Banshee had alluded to them without knowing their name. If any part of this story were true, this might be it.
“What’s the Fifth House?” I asked.
“Gods. Or as close to them as the Earth can afford nowadays.”
“So you met some gods.” So much for the truth.
He scowled at my sarcasm. “I have a werewolf army and I came back from the dead, and you find it hard to believe I met some gods? Well, believe what you want. I found them or they found me. Either way, they gave me the power to become a werewolf and to turn others, and the coils to allow us to transform even in the depths of the city. In return, they asked only that I expand my empire, which as you might have guessed I was quite happy to do. But first I had to protect my wife, so upon my return I infected her.”
“You!?” Doyle had been the one to turn Mom into a werewolf? Could that be true? Not that it made it any better, but I liked to think that Dad had been the one to do it. If it was Doyle, it meant I was even more connected to him, as if the werewolf side of me was his son. I felt ill.
“Yes. She was safer that way. I did Dylan next. That was my biggest mistake, sharing my power with the betrayer. But I couldn’t have known at the time. No, all I knew was that the city was dangerous and I needed to make it safer. I built a new Garden for Jessie and vowed she would always be safe within its walls. But while I worked to infect more wolves and build a fortress, my brother poisoned my wife against me. No fortress, no matter how impregnable, can withstand such rot from the inside.”
Wow, I had it so wrong all this time. Doyle isn’t the bad guy at all; it was my parents. Now that I see the light, I’ll gladly do whatever I can to help him. How could I have ever been so wrong? At least, that’s what he seemed to expect me to say. He was so earnest in his delivery of the tale, I didn’t doubt that he believed it himself. I suspected that after all these years as half a ghost, Uncle Doyle was more than a little bit insane.
“While I was busy building an army, your parents hatched their plan. And when I took a break from my works to spend time with my wife, they struck. They cut me down and left me for dead. What they couldn’t have known was that the Fifth House had given me the means to survive death via the Lazarus swarm. Once I returned, I vowed to track them down to the ends of the Earth and make them pay for their crime.”
“I guess that didn’t work out so well for you.” I couldn’t help myself. Tied to a table, waiting for who knows what horrible fate to befall me, all I had left were my words, so I used them to inflict what wounds I could. But instead of looking angry, Doyle grinned his wolfish grin.
“For a long time, yes. But now here you are, and all will be right again soon.”
“How’s that exactly?”
Doyle stood up, walked over to me, and cupped my cheek with his hand, almost a caress. I shuddered under his touch.
“You have wondered, I am sure, about my present state of being? A ghost who can touch but can’t feel? Solid one moment…”
He brought his hand up behind his head and then brought it down to slap me. I winced against the expected impact, but instead of a slap I felt like someone was pouring fine sand over my face. I opened my eyes and saw that his arm from the elbow down looked like flowing smoke. It passed over my face with all the force of a strong breeze.
“…Insubstantial the next. And back again.”
His hand and arm re-formed and he gave me a light slap on my cheek with the back of his hand.
“An amusing party trick, to be sure, but no way to live, to really live,” Doyle said. He started to pace again. “I can’t blame the Fifth House. They told me it would work best with someone of my own blood, but it was taking so long to capture Dylan, I had to try using someone else.”
Someone of my own blood.
“Use them for what?”
“To transfer my mind into their bodies, of course.”
“Mind transfer? You can’t be serious.”
“Why not? I may be mechanical and you biological, but we’re both delivery devices for consciousness. The Fifth House showed me how to overwrite a host body with my consciousness, but it has never fully worked. The host body always rejects me. But with each failure, I consumed the body. Rather, the nanobots that make up my body did. I grew stronger, more solid. But even though I can touch, I can’t feel. Even though I can tear into warm flesh with these teeth, I can’t taste the blood. It’s driving me mad!”
That last part I could agree with.
“For years I chased after your family, desperate to capture Dylan and transfer my consciousness into his body. I even had some notion that I could effect the transfer in secret and in that way be with my sweet, poisonous Jessie one last time, willingly, before I murdered her. Imagine the hurt and betrayal she would have felt as the man she thought was her husband choked the life out of her. But then your parents went and got themselves killed. Which left you, Allin. You’re my only family left, and I’m going to have to kick you out of that body of yours. Nothing personal.”
* * *
8/18/13 News: First off, I finally put a reminder in my calendar to post the new TOCL episode, and without it, I would definitely have forgotten again. Second, yes, Fiona called it. Doyle wants to kick Allin out of his body. In rewrite news, I finished Chapter 3 and it is off to my editor. She has had minimal notes on the first two chapters, which is good news. I have 43 chapters planned, so I feel like I am once more at the beginning of a long road, but I am glad that I will have a better book at the end of 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.