Posts Tagged ‘cat’

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 45, Allin inadvertently sent the wannabe werewolf, Guppy, to a watery grave, and one of his werewolf pals was none too happy about this.

The Only City Left: Part 46

The hand holding my neck twisted me around and I came nose to snout with Matthias. I grabbed onto his arm to hold myself up as best I could. He turned my head to one side and I thought, This is it. He’s going to bite my head off. Literally.

Instead, he yelled directly into my ear so that I could hear him over the pounding, rushing water that fell all around us. “You are ruthless. I like that. But stop fighting or I’ll forget that Doyle wants you unharmed. Understand?”

I did my best to nod.

“They’re here!” Kenner’s roar sounded faintly over the din of the room, even though he stood only a couple of feet away from us.

Matthias looked past Kenner, narrowed his eyes, and set me down. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me along again, away from the incoming clinkers, but came to a stop when confronted by a bedraggled Tumble. With his wet fur plastered to his skin, Tumble looked like half the cat he normally was, but he had the same calm, determined expression as ever. He didn’t speak but his message to Matthias was clear: You’re not getting past me.

Matthias likewise responded silently. He yanked me in front of him, twisted my arm behind my back, and used it to lift me onto the tips of my toes. Even if Tumble couldn’t hear my scream, he could see my anguish. Message received. He frowned and began to back away, straight toward the clinker walking out of the swirling fog behind him. They weren’t simply following us anymore; they had us surrounded.

With my free arm, I pointed the clinker out in time for Tumble to stop and see the threat. Matthias saw it, too, and let out a string of curses. He swiveled around, pulling me with him, and I saw Kenner grappling with a clinker on that side. Matthias let me go and I stumbled forward, catching myself on the waist-high railing. He must have figured I had nowhere to run to anyway. He was right.

I leaned over the rail to catch my breath and saw the next catwalk a couple of stories below us. With clinkers on either side, it seemed like the only way out. I yelled out to Tumble to jump down, but it was Matthias who noticed me first. He must have agreed with my assessment, because he swept me up in one arm, grabbed the railing, and swung up and over it.

The plunge was frightening but brief, ending in more of a collision with than a landing on the lower catwalk. Matthias lost his grip on me and we both went sprawling. I slid away from him on my back, completely out of control, until suddenly nothing was underneath me anymore. I twisted in midair and saw one more catwalk below and then only the yawning depths. There was no lighting past the next catwalk, so the pit became a black hole swallowing all the water that poured down into it. I would have been swallowed too if not for Matthias grabbing my ankle and hauling me back up.

I’m sure he didn’t hear my muttered thanks and wouldn’t have cared if he did, but I had reason once again to be grateful that Doyle wanted me alive. My heart, already pounding in my chest thanks to the jump down and near-death experience, received another shock when Tumble landed next to me. I flashed him a big grin and looked up, expecting to see Kenner leaping down next. Through the mist, I saw that the werewolf had not been so lucky. He struggled in the grips of clinkers on either side of him. I only hoped he would buy us enough time to figure out how to leave the relentless clinkers behind for good.

He didn’t. Two clinkers followed us down immediately, landing a little ways away on either side of us. And if they followed us down once, they could do it again, and then we’d be out of catwalks to land on. So down wouldn’t work and the sides were blocked. That only left going back up, and I realized I had something that might help me with that. I kneeled down, pulled my cocoon bag onto the floor, and started to open it. Matthias grabbed my hand to stop me.

Leaning in, he said, “What are you up to?”

“I have something to slow them down!”

“No surprises,” he said and let me go.

The clinkers moved ever closer, cautious in their steps on the slick metal floor. I pulled my grapple gun out, attached a claw hook to it, and slid my bag back on. I set the gun down and motioned for Tumble, who stood awaiting the clinker’s arrival, to pay attention. With my back to Matthias, I pointed down at my gun, then up, and then cupped my hands and mimed rapidly lifting them up.

Tumble looked up at how high above us the catwalk was, back at how near the clinker was, and then looked at me and shrugged. Without any hesitation, he ran at me and stepped into my cupped hands. I stood up and hefted him into the air. When my hands were as high as they could go, he leapt off. Through our combined efforts, he sailed upward far enough to latch onto the underside of the catwalk above us.

Now it was my turn. I picked up the grapple gun, turned to face Matthias, and nodded. He looked up at Tumble and then back at me.

“I thought you said down,” he yelled.

“I lied,” I said, and took a leap of faith over the railing, grapple gun in hand. My insane plan was almost worth it for the look on his face alone.

I twisted in mid-air, aimed at a higher catwalk, and squeezed the trigger. The rockets fired and the grappling hook rattled, but it remained firmly in place. Before I could think of some quick fix, the gun became too hot to hold and I reflexively threw it away. My entire plan had counted on that gun working, but it had jammed. Now I was falling without hope of rescue, retreating from the light, from the clinkers, from Matthias and Tumble, as water churned in sheets around me and all I knew was the dark embrace of the abyss. And still I fell.

* * *

Continue to Part 47.

12/30/12 News: 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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

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 44, Allin could only watch in despair as a werewolf threw Tumble directly at one of the killer robots known as clinkers.

The Only City Left: Part 45

“Tumble!” I screamed, my voice reaching new heights to rise above the rumbling white noise that cocooned us.

Shiloh laughed as he let go of the cat, but the instant Tumble was released, he grabbed onto the werewolf’s wrist in return. He dropped to the floor and used the force of Shiloh’s throw to pull the laughing wolf off balance and propel him toward the doorway in his place. A clinker had made it through the room and now stood in the doorway, six arms outstretched to receive Tumble’s gift. Shiloh sailed upside down through the hallway and landed directly in its deadly embrace. Rather than attack him itself, it turned around and held still for its comrades, who set to with their own devices. Shiloh’s laughter turned to high-pitched screams and then silence.

Matthias, meanwhile, had ignored the entire encounter while he worked on unlocking the next door. He truly didn’t seem to care which of his subordinates died in the course of his escape. Guppy, by his side, looked paler than ever, his skin the color of his hair, his eyes rimmed with red. Kenner caught up to us and looked more angry than scared, but then werewolves tended to look angry by default, so I couldn’t really tell.

“Boss, that cat got Shiloh killed,” he said.

“Then make sure he dies next,” Matthias said. He had one hand around my arm and with the other he was tearing apart the control panel in the wall next to the door.

Tumble stopped halfway between our group and the door to the previous room, through which I could see the clinkers stripping Shiloh of his fur. He looked back and forth slowly, calmly, waiting to see what his next move would be, trapped between clinkers on one side and werewolves on the other.

Behind me, Matthias finally got the door open, and the combination of sound and moist air that immediately poured through it made me whip around to search for its cause. Beyond the door was a metal catwalk leading into a large, open space lit by muted, strobing lights. Matthias pulled me through the door and Guppy followed us in. On either side of the catwalk, torrents of water plunged through the air, churning into a mist that hid the far end in fog. It was the flickering lights behind the water that caused the strobing effect and made it difficult to get a clear view of the room. From what I could tell, the room ascended and descended further than I could see, with catwalks criss-crossing above and below us in several directions. The air was heavy with vapor and my clothing was quickly soaked through.

As Matthias pulled me along the slippery, perforated metal walkway, I looked back and saw Kenner start to swing the door to the room closed. It probably wouldn’t lock anymore, but even if it slowed Tumble down for a few seconds, it would be long enough for the clinkers to get him. I cried out and fought to free myself from Matthias’ hold on my arm, but I needn’t have worried. Tumble shot through the narrowing gap at the last second and slipped past Kenner. In an instant, he caught up to us and leapt atop Matthias’ head, which he set upon with a clawed frenzy. Matthias let go of my arm and twirled in place, grabbing at Tumble, while Guppy stood nervously by and Kenner ran up to us. I bent over and rammed my shoulder into Kenner’s gut as he approached, keen to keep him out of the fight. He slipped and we both fell down on the slick metal flooring, but he got to his feet first. He raised his clawed hand and brought it down to strike me, but Matthias of all people came to my defense, kicking Kenner’s arm away and yelling something unintelligible.

He had gotten Tumble off of him but was bleeding from several deep cuts on his face. I felt a grim satisfaction upon seeing his injuries, but it turned to anxiety as I wondered where Tumble had gone. I turned over, got to my hands and knees, and looked around. There he was, further along the catwalk. He, too, had not come out of his tussle with Matthias unscathed. He would have some scars to rival his brother’s if we came through this alive.

I began to crawl toward Tumble when a weight hit my back and I collapsed to the floor, splitting my chin on the metal grating.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Guppy yelled. He flipped me over, grabbed me by the shoulders, and slammed my head against the catwalk. “No running away. You’re the only thing keeping me alive at this point.”

“Tell that to the clinker,” I yelled back, pointing behind him.

In fact, the clinkers had breached the doorway to the waterfall room, but Matthias and Kenner stood between them and us. Guppy probably realized his mistake as soon as he started to turn away, but it was too late. I pulled my knees to my chest and kicked out with all the force I could muster.

My kick broke his grip on my drenched shirt and forced him to his feet. He stumbled backward, hit the railing, and was over and gone before I had half-risen to my feet. I looked over the edge for him, but I didn’t see anything besides the never-ending torrents of water and a couple of catwalks. Guppy was gone. I had wanted him off of me, but I hadn’t meant to send him to his death. I didn’t have time to mourn, though, as a great furred hand clamped itself around my neck and lifted me off the floor.

* * *

Continue to Part 46.

12/23/12 News: I hope everyone has been enjoying some holiday cheer of one sort or another. I have a holiday tale set in the world of the webcomic LeyLines that I would love for you to read. Creator Robin Dempsey provided a wonderful illustration for the story and, of course, a fantastic world to play in.

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

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 43, things were looking bad for Allin. Surrounded by werewolves and abandoned by Tumble, he stood frozen in fear. And then a clinker came knocking at the door. Good times.

The Only City Left: Part 44

Matthias bared his teeth. “You brought a clinker down on our heads? I expected better, Guppy. Crow, get up.”

Werewolves, a clinker, and no Tumble. I might have remained frozen by this horrible combination of events, but somehow it worked to free me from my fearful inertia. Since Matthias was distracted, I began to slowly move around the room toward the hallway that Tumble had fled down. Guppy saw what I was doing and copied me. I gave him a look. Do not sell me out again. I took his continued silence for a sign that our truce was in effect again with the return of the clinker.

Clinkers, actually. In the time it took Guppy and me to meet at the back of the room, six of those killer robots had entered from the opposite side. Each one had a unique pattern of patchwork skin over an identical frame, with an array of deadly tools in motion at the end of their four extra arms. At their feet was a seventh clinker, our old friend the car-chaser. Its ruined legs and tattered skin had been removed, and it pulled itself across the floor with its two human-like arms. It looked like some bizarre pet next to its unmarred companions.

“You are harboring fugitives,” it said from the floor. “Please remain still while processing commences.”

In the center of the room, Matthias helped Crow to his feet and then backed away from the giant werewolf.

“Crow, I’m counting on you.”

“You got it, boss.”

Matthias turned and took two bounding steps to where Guppy and I stood together in the far hallway.

“Matthias, I didn’t know—” Guppy said.

“Shut up and run,” he said, grabbing me by one arm and pushing Guppy ahead of him.

I could barely keep my feet underneath me as he dragged me down the hallway. I looked back once before we turned a corner and I saw Crow swinging one of the clinkers by its legs to keep the others at bay. There were too many to fight, though. When he turned one way, clinker arms whipped in from the other side, cutting and piercing, and Crow howled a song of pain and rage.

I continued to hear his howls long after I couldn’t see him anymore, even after the background roar that permeated the area grew so loud that Matthias had to yell to be heard.

“Guppy, you screwed up,” he said as we passed through an open door into a corridor that ran left and right. He turned and slammed the door shut, sniffed the air, and continued down the left path. “But you also brought us this kid.”

He shook me painfully by my arm for emphasis and I squeaked out an ineffectual protest.

“So I’ll give you a choice. Return to the Garden with us and let Doyle sort it out.” He paused, as if to give Guppy time to consider the implications of that choice. “Or leave now and take your chances with the clinkers. But you’re outcast. If you ever run into me or another werewolf again, we will treat you like any other pink skin.”

We reached an intersection and Matthias stopped and sniffed again.

“We’re going this way,” he said, pointing to the right. “Which way are you going, Guppy?”

Guppy didn’t hesitate. “I’m with Doyle and the Fifth all the way, sir. I’ll pay for my mistake if that’s what it takes.”

“Good. Then let’s keep going,” he said, looking back the way we had come. “Crow’s life will not go to waste if we can get this boy to Doyle.”

“You’ve really got your snout buried in Doyle’s glowing blue butt, don’t you?” I said.

His only response was an angry growl and a tighter grip on my arm as he pulled me down the right-hand corridor. Soon enough, we reached another open door, through which I heard growls and yells. We stepped inside of the room, which was full of shelves and machinery, and saw Tumble leading two werewolves on a merry chase. He was small and light enough to scamper up the shelves and leap from one unit to the next, while Kenner and Shiloh barged around knocking everything over in their attempts to grab the elusive cat.

“Tumble,” I yelled out. “We’ve got clinkers on our tail!”

“How many?” he asked without slowing down.

“Seven!”

Matthias ignored our conversation. He closed and locked the door behind him and strode through the room, dragging me in his wake, to another door on the far side. Behind us, the door we had entered through burst open, framing a clinker whose shredded flesh hung in strips from its body. I despaired at how little time it had taken the clinkers to deal with Crow and catch up to us. In the face of this new arrival, Tumble and the two wolves opted to stop fighting and flee along with us. They even worked together to push more shelves into the clinker’s path on their way out.

When Matthias got the door open, the roaring sound immediately increased in intensity, becoming so much white noise. What machine is making that much sound? I wondered as we hustled into a short corridor that led to yet another closed door.

Behind us, I saw Kenner burst through the doorway, followed by Tumble and Shiloh. Behind them, I could see more than one clinker tossing shelving out of the way as they moved toward us. Even though he was my captor, I fervently hoped Matthias knew where he was heading and had a plan to get out of this. If the clinkers had overpowered Crow, none of the other werewolves, not to mention a mere human like me, stood a chance against them.

Free of clinker interference for the moment, Shiloh resumed his hunt. He lunged forward, caught Tumble by the scruff of his neck, and yanked him off of the floor. He held the much-smaller cat at arm’s length and turned to the open doorway.

I could only watch in despair as Shiloh reared back and threw my friend as hard as he could at the approaching clinkers.

* * *

Continue to Part 45.

12/16/12 News: 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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

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 42, Guppy brought Allin and Tumble to meet his friends: one of them was a werewolf and the rest all were lantern coils, which meant they could be werewolves, too. Allin was not pleased at this turn of events.

The Only City Left: Part 43

I tensed up and looked around for a quick exit, but we were out of luck. The hulking man called Crow blocked the way we had come in, and the only other exit was a hallway on the other side of the room. Even if I hadn’t been rooted to the floor in fear, I doubted I could make it past the card players.

“Seriously, do you smell it, too?” asked the werewolf as he got out of bed. Standing, he was shorter than me, which made him less imposing though still horrific. He sniffed the air with his long snout, bobbing his head. “Or am I still dreaming?”

“Cool it, Kenner,” said the card player on the left side of the table. He spoke in a cold, clipped manner, as if he only grudgingly let the words escape from his mouth. “We have guests. Guppy, where are your manners? Introduce your friends.”

I locked eyes with Guppy and silently pleaded for help. After all, we had escaped death by clinker together only a short while ago. That counted for something, right?

“Not friends, Matthias,” Guppy said. “They nearly got me killed. I figured I better bring them back here so you could decide what to do with them.”

“You son of a—” From behind me, Crow grabbed my shoulder and squeezed tight, cutting me off.

Guppy sat down on one of the cots and crossed his arms over his chest. I gave him a dirty look as I squirmed under Crow’s crushing grip, then turned to Matthias when he spoke again.

“Thank you, Crow,” Matthias said. He sniffed the air delicately. “Kenner, I do believe you are correct. Our short friend has a feline air about him. Remove his hat.”

Kenner raised his upper lip in a snarling grin and moved to follow Matthias’ orders, but Tumble preempted him. He doffed his own hat with a flourish and handed it to the werewolf.

“Keep that handy, mind you. I’ll be needing it when we leave.”

“I don’t take orders from cats,” Kenner said. He threw the leaf hat to the ground and smashed and tore at it with his feet. The man seated across from Matthias laughed at the sight.

Tumble remained unfazed, but I broke out in a sweat and began to take quick, shallow breaths. This was Glin’s Rising all over again. After three years and despite my best efforts to avoid them, I had fallen back into the hands of the werewolves.

“Shiloh, be quiet,” Matthias said to the still-laughing man across from him. Then he turned his cold, appraising stare back to Tumble and me. “A boy and a cat wandering the city. Not an everyday sight.”

“Dogs playing cards. I think I saw that in a painting once,” Tumble said.

Shiloh growled and made to leave his seat, but a clipped “Enough!” from Matthias kept him still.

Matthias crossed his legs and said, “Crow, release him. Guppy, do you know who you have brought us?”

“He said his name is Allin and the cat is Tumble.”

Matthias grinned and I could see the werewolf behind his human facade. “Really. The boy I had guessed, but to find him in the company of Emperor Banshee’s brother? What a prize.”

I turned to Tumble and gave him a surprised look. Brother? He shrugged and nodded at me.

“Forget the supplies, Guppy, you’ve more than earned your coil today. Doyle will want to reward you personally. Tell me, Allin. You were safe in Pudlington, last I heard. Whatever possessed you to leave, and to enter clinker territory, no less?”

My shoulder throbbed where the brute had gripped me. I massaged it and said, “None of your damn business.”

“Impolite whelp,” Matthias said with no real passion. “You’re lucky your uncle wants you alive and in one piece. The cat, though… Kenner, Shiloh, rough him up, but no killing.”

Shiloh laughed and grasped his lantern coil. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear and moonlight escaped from inside his closed hand. I shivered as he transformed into a werewolf in front of me. Kenner, already transformed, growled and moved toward Tumble.

“Allin, forgive me,” Tumble said. He looked sideways at me and then back at Crow, who towered behind the both of us. “You’re on your own for the moment.”

Before I could respond, he dashed forward between the two werewolves and kicked a chair sideways with such force that it knocked the card table over onto Matthias. There was a flash of white light and Matthias came out from under the overturned table as a werewolf. Behind me, Crow said something and there was another flash of moonlight. Tumble disappeared down the far hallway with Kenner and Shiloh in pursuit, while Guppy plastered himself against the wall by the cots, out of the way of his monstrous friends. I remained still, my feet like concrete blocks holding me in place.

Matthias lunged toward me and I couldn’t help but jump back in fright, only to bump into Crow’s unyielding body. Trapped, I couldn’t avoid it when Matthias gripped me painfully by the jaw with one clawed hand.

“A bold move, but futile,” he said, his rank breath filling my nostrils and making me gag. “My boys will capture him. The best he can hope for is to be killed rather than held hostage.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” I said, fighting to pull my face out of his iron grip.

“We’ll see. In the meantime, I hope you’re ready for a trip to the Gard—” A tremendous reverberating BOOM! cut him off. It had come from the front door. Once the echoes died, Matthias squeezed my face and lowered his eyes to my level. “Did you bring friends with you, boy? Did you?”

I tried to say, “No,” but another BOOM! swallowed my answer.

He let me go and I rubbed at my face.

“Crow, take care of it,” Matthias said. “Guppy, were you followed?”

“I don’t think so. We left one behind us but it couldn’t walk.”

Matthias’ eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. “One what?”

There was another boom followed by the sound of wrenching metal and a pained howl. Crow staggered into the room backwards and fell at our feet, bleeding from a long gash on his forehead.

I caught Guppy’s eye and his panicked face mirrored my own.

“Clinker,” he said.

* * *

Continue to Part 44.

12/9/12 News: 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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

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 41, Allin took advantage of the perfect recreation of suburbia by stealing a car. While he tried to figure out how to make it go, Tumble released the emergency brake and Allin ended up bursting the car through the closed garage door.

The Only City Left: Part 42

The skeletons didn’t stand a chance. I plunged the car straight into their ranks and scattered their bones in a wave of calcified shards, then braked to a skidding stop in the middle of the street.

“Did you see that?” I whooped. Not bad for my first time behind the wheel!

“Do you see that?” Guppy countered, pointing to the clinker marching toward us. “Go!

So I went, swerving the car wildly as I figured out exactly how much I needed to steer and accelerate to stay in control. My rookie mistakes worked in our favor, though, as I crashed into many a hapless skeleton as I got used to driving.

“Allin, he’s catching up,” Tumble informed me calmly.

I looked into the mirror attached to the front window and saw the clinker running behind the car. Sure enough, he was closing the gap. I blinked and he disappeared from view.

“What the—?”

The car shook under the impact of something hitting the roof. A second later, the upside-down, leering face of the clinker slid into view before me.

“Please drive more carefully. This is a vintage vehicle,” it said as it brought one of its fists down against the window. Spider-web cracks radiated out from the impact, fracturing my view through it.

I braked hard and the clinker flew forward, but it twisted in mid-air and grabbed the car’s hood, tearing into it like ripe fruit. Then it launched itself toward us and head-butted the front window, finishing the job it had started.

Guppy screamed and I winced against the shower of broken glass, but Tumble remained calm and loosed a series of blasts from his gun straight into the clinker’s torso. The first shot stripped the stitched flesh from its frame, the second pushed it back a bit, and the third sent it reeling. It tried to keep its hold on the hood but only managed to tear a strip off as it flew backwards. It landed on its feet and cast the ragged strip aside.

“That was not very neighborly of you,” it said in a condescending tone, picking torn flesh off of its body.

Except for the ruined skin and some scorch marks on its metallic chest, it seemed remarkably unharmed. The tools at the ends of its extra arms whirred and buzzed to life and it said, “I can no longer promise you a house or career, but I assure you, your skin will be put to good use.”

“Still using it, thanks,” I said, and floored it.

The clinker sidestepped, but not fast enough. I guess it only had itself to blame for providing me with such a nimble car. I clipped it and sent it sprawling to one side, but a check of the side mirror showed that it was immediately on its feet and back in pursuit. One leap and it would be on us again.

“Tumble, can you buy us some time?” I yelled over the rushing wind.

“Five shots’ worth, that’s all I have left” he replied.

He climbed into the empty window and leaned out of the car, his poncho whipping around in the wind. In the mirror, I saw the clinker leap to one side to avoid his first shot. I cheered. Anything we could do to slow that relentless robot down helped.

“Guppy, I can’t drive in circles forever,” I shouted. “You know a way out?”

“I think so. Turn left here. Wait, I meant right!”

I jerked the wheel to the right to adjust to Guppy’s quick direction change, and Tumble nearly lost his grip on the window frame.

“Sorry!” Guppy and I both yelled.

The clinker, meanwhile, took advantage of my dip in speed and closed the gap in one great bound. Tumble took a shot at it and then dived into the car. The clinker landed where Tumble had been, one hand gripping the window frame and the other sunk into what remained of the hood, while its legs hung down and dragged along the road. It looked in at us and said, “Please step out of the vehicle.”

Guppy roared and smacked at its face with his purloined skull. The clinker brought one of its extra arms up and smashed the skull to pieces, then shot another arm forward. Guppy turned sideways and plastered himself against the side window, and the clinker’s deadly arm buried itself in the seat in an explosion of foam stuffing. Tumble fought off another clinker arm with his gun held sideways before him like a shield.

I couldn’t look away from the life and death struggles taking place next to me, which meant I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to where I was driving. When I felt a bump and the car tilted slightly to the left, I snapped my eyes forward and saw that I had veered to the right and was half driving on the grass verge that paralleled the sidewalk. Not ten feet ahead, the thick trunk of a tree loomed.

“Hold on!” I yelled.

I gunned the accelerator, aimed for the tree, and at the last second turned the wheel a fraction to the left. The car narrowly missed colliding with the tree. The killer robot hanging onto the side of the car was not so lucky. He was knocked off and left like so much garbage on the side of the road. The last I saw of him in my mirror, he tried to stand up but his crushed legs wouldn’t support him.

Tumble and Guppy were unharmed except for the damage to their weapons. They congratulated me on my quick thinking, and I didn’t disabuse them of the notion that it had been my plan all along.

I followed Guppy’s directions until we pulled up to where the road ended in another wall. “It’s on foot from here,” he said, still holding on to his broken club. For his part, Tumble inspected the wreck of his gun and threw it to the ground.

We followed Guppy along the wall until, in the middle of someone’s backyard, we reached an unassuming door set into the wall. Once we went through, he locked it with the spin of a wheel set into the door.

“This way,” he said, leading us through a maze of industrial-looking hallways. There must have been some sort of heavy machinery nearby, because we had to talk over a loud thrumming noise the entire way.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“I’m going to meet up with my friends,” Guppy responded. “You guys are welcome to come along, but I don’t think they’re going to be too happy with any of us.”

“Look, I’m sorry if we put you in a tight spot,” I told him. “We didn’t mean to wake those skeletons up and get you into trouble. What were you doing there, anyway?”

“I was supposed to be bringing back supplies. The skeletons keep that place in good running order for the clinkers, so you can usually get some really nice equipment. So much for that!”

I considered splitting off from Guppy now that we had escaped Clinkerville, but I hoped that maybe Guppy’s friends knew of another way Up, one that didn’t lead into worse danger this time. I told Guppy we’d stick with him for now and he shrugged like he couldn’t care less. We walked for over an hour until Guppy found the door he wanted. He knocked out a code and a series of knocks came back. Guppy rapped out a reply and the door opened a crack.

“Who you got with you?” came a suspicious voice.

“Friends,” Guppy replied. “Hey, Crow, let us in. There’s trouble.”

The door opened the rest of the way and revealed a bald-headed hulk of a man in ratty-looking, sweat-stained clothing. His neck was massive and he wore a leather necklace around it that fell under his once-white shirt. I thought that if he flexed, the string would surely snap.

“Any friends of Guppy’s are friends of mine and all that,” said Crow, waving us in and closing the door behind us.

I guess Guppy wasn’t lying about his name, after all, I thought as we walked down a short hallway and into a room set up with some cots and a table. Two men were sitting at the table playing cards, while on one of the cots a large, brown dog lay sleeping under a blanket. Like our thick-necked greeter, the card players also looked worse for the wear, as if they had been cooped up in this room for days. It smelled like it, too, a sweaty musk that teased at my memories.

That’s when I saw that the guys playing cards also wore necklaces, with familiar oval pendants hanging from them. My throat constricted and I made a gasping “Urk!” sound. It felt like someone had gripped my heart and squeezed it tight.

The thing I thought was a dog sat up suddenly and said, “Hey, do you guys smell cat?”

My blood turned to ice in my veins. It wasn’t a dog, after all. It was a werewolf. They were all werewolves.

* * *

Continue to Part 43.

12/2/12 News: I successfully used NaNoWriMo as motivation to write the rest of The Only City Left. Parts 43-90 ended up being about 58,000 words, but that is all first draft and the final number may change. Now, of course, I need to get to editing, since at a minimum I need to have Part 43 ready to post by next Sunday. My goal is actually to have it all edited by the end of December, and then start work on converting the serial to a novel format. If all goes according to plan, it will be available as an e-book months before the free, serialized version is completed. Thanks for reading!

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

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 40, Allin, Tumble, and the rude young man named Guppy are trapped in a house that is surrounded by a dozens-deep wall of skeletons. Guppy warns that they should try to escape rather than wait for the clinkers to arrive, but Tumble suggests it might already be too late.

The Only City Left: Part 41

Guppy and I took our places at the window again to see what Tumble meant. The crowd of skeletons waited patiently about twenty feet away from the front of the house, but one section made way for someone to move from the back of the crowd to the front. No, not someone. Some thing.

“That’s a clinker,” Guppy whined. “We’re dead.”

Guppy might have thought we were dead, but the clinker actually looked dead, like a corpse that had been stitched back together and re-animated. The various pieces of flesh covering its body like some bizarre puzzle were of all different shades, and its hair, which sprung up in odd patches over its entire body, was likewise many colors. The overall effect was that of a sad, grisly parody of a human being.

It wore no clothing and had no distinguishing male or female body parts, but when it spoke, it was with a slick, masculine voice.

“Greetings, visitors, and welcome to Humanton, a pleasant suburban oasis,” its voice boomed out. It put on a big smile full of metallic teeth.

“Is that…?” I began.

“A robot, yes,” Guppy said. “Clinkers like to play at being human, except their idea of dressing up is wearing human skins.”

That explains all those “naked” skeletons out there, I realized with a shudder.

“Hey, I’m serious, let’s split up and get out of here,” Guppy repeated his desperate plan. “There’s only one of them right now, so two of us should be able to make it. I’ll take those odds!”

Tumble and I shushed him at the same time.

“Visitors! Our citizens have registered several complaints against you, including harassment, assault, and destruction of property,” the clinker continued in a slimily cheerful tone of voice. “Although this is frowned upon, if you leave this residence immediately with no further desecration of our homes or peoples, you will not be charged for your crimes.”

“The longer he talks, the more of them are gonna show up!” Guppy warned, looking back and forth between the window and the back of the house. “I’m telling you, we have to run for it. Now!”

“Go ahead,” I replied. “See how far you get through those skeletons.”

Guppy’s only response was an inarticulate moan, which I took for acknowledgement that I was speaking sense.

“So what’s your plan, Allin?” Tumble asked.

“Let’s see if we can talk our way out of this.”

Guppy put his head in his hands and repeated idiots, idiots, idiots under his breath, but didn’t stop me when I unlocked the window and slid it open a fraction.

“We didn’t mean to cause any harm,” I yelled outside. “If you clear a path for us, we’re more than happy to leave you in peace.”

The clinker’s smile grew improbably larger, straining the seams of the skin on its face, and it replied, “I sure am glad to be dealing with reasonable people. Please step outside so the immigration procedures can begin immediately.”

I yelled back, “Who said anything about immigrating?”

“Well, if you’re going to live here, you’ll have to immigrate, of course!” the clinker said. It tilted its head back and released a series of barks that I supposed were supposed to be laughter. When it looked at me again, the skin on its face was askew and the eye-holes did not line up correctly. It tugged down on its nose-skin and shook its head to fix itself. I turned away, bile rising in my throat. “I assure you the process is painless. Once complete, you will be assigned a house and receive gainful employment in one of many exciting careers, such as postal technician or shrub groomer!”

“Um, yeah, that sounds great,” I said, stalling for time while I racked my brain for a way out of this mess. “So what’s the process exactly?”

“I’m glad you asked,” it said, holding up its hands. “Immigration is much smoother if you understand the process.”

As it spoke, two extra pair of arms swiveled around from behind it. Instead of hands, each arm ended in an array of scalpels, drills, needles, pincers, and tiny, whirring saws.

“First off, I want to reassure you that the procedure will be so quick and efficient, you won’t feel a thing.”

Guppy whined and I could only stare, momentarily at a loss for words.

Tumble summed up my thoughts neatly: “I think perhaps we do need to attempt an escape.”

“I tried to tell you. I did,” Guppy said, while outside the clinker droned on about the latest advances in immigration technology. I did my best to ignore them both.

There was something nagging at the back of my mind, an idea for a possible way out.

“They’re insane. This is like their little human playhouse fantasy world,” Guppy babbled.

“Without the baggage of self-determination,” came part of the clinker’s spiel.

Something I saw when we searched the house. What what what?

“Allin?” Tumble asked quietly. I held up one finger and shook it. Wait.

“I’m so stupid. I never should have let them talk me into coming here.”

“Recycle your flesh, a small price to pay…”

C’mon, c’mon, Allin. Think!

“Oh man, he’s driving me crazy!” Guppy cried. “You, short guy, if he comes in here, shoot me first, please!”

“Will you shut up?” I hissed through my teeth. “You’re both driving me crazy!” I stopped then, and repeated the phrase in my head. Driving me crazy. No. Could it work? The ones outside do. It’s at least worth a shot.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Let’s go to the garage and check it out while he’s busy yapping away out there.”

“Got it, boss,” Tumble said with a nod of his hat. Guppy remained silent but followed along in a sulk.

“Brain stored in a safe container…” was the last I heard from the clinker as we made our way to the garage. Once inside, I flipped on the light and admired the sleek, midnight-blue, two-door car that I had first seen when we were checking the house earlier.

“Let’s see if this thing works,” I said.

Tumble opened the passenger-side door and looked around. He turned back to me and said, “Push-button ignition. If it will even start, though, does anyone know how to drive it?”

No one did, but now seemed like an excellent time to learn. Seconds later, I was behind the wheel, Guppy was in the passenger’s seat, and Tumble was jammed in between the two of us.

The car purred to life when I pressed the ignition. I guess in a town of mindless skeletons, theft is not a big issue. Well, that was about to change.

One pedal did nothing. The other revved the engine, which probably meant the end of any grace period we had been enjoying.

“Ready? Here we go,” I warned, and floored the second pedal.

The engine revved angrily, but the car didn’t move.

“Oh crap, is this thing just for show after all?” I asked. I pushed the pedal down as hard as I could, hoping it would make a difference. The car roared and rocked from side to side, but wouldn’t budge.

“Maybe this,” Tumble said.

I didn’t see what he did under his poncho. I simply heard a click. I still had the pedal to the floor.

We screamed in unison as the car shot forward and exploded through the flimsy garage door.

* * *

Continue to Part 42.

11/25/12 News: As this page goes live, I am 151 words short of meeting my goal of 50,000 words in November for National Novel Writing Month. That has brought me to Part 86 of The Only City Left and I expect to need another few thousand to finish the first draft, so it looks like it might end with Part 90 as I predicted a long time ago. I can’t wait to finish up the first draft and get to editing!

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

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.”

“Guppy.”

“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.”

* * *

Continue to Part 41.

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.