Posts Tagged ‘werewolf’

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 54, Allin and Matthias had been captured by the merskers, the things that live in the dark. While being carted toward an unknown destination, the world began to fill with light: ghost light.

The Only City Left: Part 55

At the sight of our ethereal entourage, Matthias was impressed despite himself. The number of ghosts drawn into our wake had grown into the dozens if not the hundreds.

“Very odd. You say you’ve encountered this before?”

“Kind of. The last ghost I ran into was Doyle himself, so that doesn’t exactly count.”

Matthias nodded at me to go on. He knew all about Doyle’s peculiarities already, I was sure.

“Before him, I ran into some ghosts who were really angry with me, like I had wronged them somehow. But then they also kind of saved me from Doyle.” I neglected to mention how the ghost had held me in place and dampened my coil’s light, for fear I would sound crazy. It was the stuff of horror stories, not real life. “I don’t know what I did to attract their notice, but ever since that run-in, my life has gotten pretty strange.”

Matthias made a hrmph sound that meant either “How interesting” or “You’re boring.” I assumed the latter, because he went back to ignoring me. I returned the favor.

It was disturbing to be followed by ghosts, but I was happy to have their light. The merskers, on the other hand, sounded perturbed and I noticed the carts start to pick up speed. The ghost light dimmed as we pulled away, and I began to feel cold and alone.

I badly needed some human contact. Matthias would have to do.

“Why’s Doyle so crazy to get a hold of me?” I asked.

“I don’t read his diary. All I know is, he wants you taken alive, and what Doyle wants, Doyle gets.”

“He’s not getting me. I know you can’t make any promises, but I’m warning you: don’t try to stop me once we get out of here.”

“If I weren’t already trembling in my boots from cold and shock, I would be after that speech.”

I gave up on talking to him after that bit of sarcasm. I could count on Matthias to do what was best for Matthias; I’d have to work around that obstacle as best I could.

I lay down again and we spent the rest of the trip in silence. When I felt the cart stop, I sat up and looked around. The merskers had parked their carts in a clearing surrounded by a village of squat huts. The pale creatures set to work unloading their haul, moving with an efficiency that made me believe this was not their first time at this. Looking around in the dim light (for the majority of the ghosts had not caught up to us yet), this was easy to believe. The entire village was constructed out of scrap parts, and between the huts there were great bins into which the merskers sorted the goods they brought back. Past the bins and the huts, hills of garbage ringed the village. They were scavengers, like me, but they had settled down.

My sightseeing ended when I noticed a pair of merskers approaching our cart with an intent look on their faces. Despite my protests that I could walk, they yanked on the net and pulled Matthias and me to the ground. Matthias managed to roll onto his good leg but he still let out a roar of pain when he landed. From there, the merskers dragged us in front of a particularly foul-smelling bin full of all sorts of once-living but now-rotting creatures: rats, fish, tentacled sacks of goop, and other carcasses that I couldn’t identify.

I did not want to be dumped into that morass of bio-matter, so I started yelling and doing the best I could to dig in my heels. I needn’t have worried, though, because the merskers worked the net off of us and left us in front of the bin before leaving to unload more carts.

“That’s odd,” I said. “I guess they don’t have a bin for prisoners.”

“Gah, the smell,” Matthias said. “Help me move.”

It was pretty bad, so I reluctantly helped him hobble away from the reek. I half-expected some merskers to run over and force us back to our assigned place, but now that we were in their village, they didn’t seem to care about us. The feeling was mutual until I saw one of the merskers carrying something near and dear to me: my cocoon bag! In all the chaos, I hadn’t given it a thought other than to assume it was forever lost to the abyss. I roughly lowered Matthias to the ground and sprinted toward the mersker holding my bag.

“Hey you, that’s mine!”

A pack of spear-wielding merskers disagreed. I skidded to a halt with a half-dozen sharpened wooden points aimed at my throat, while the mersker with my bag continued on his way to a bin, oblivious to my demands. I held up my hands, palms out, and spoke in a reassuring tone while backing away.

“Okay, okay, not mine. I get it. No need for violence.”

I retreated but noted the location of the bin where my bag ended up. I will get it back, you little trolls, I thought as I returned to Matthias’ side.

“See something of yours?” Matthias asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, I see something of mine,” he said, and pointed.

I looked and saw two merskers carrying a body toward the pile of dead and rotting bio-mass.

“Oh no.”

It was unmistakably Guppy, his head skewed to a fatal angle. The merskers dumped him unceremoniously on the pile and walked away.

“You do nice work,” Matthias said.

“I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted him to let me go.”

“Don’t be ashamed of your killer instinct, boy. You’re an Arcady. It’s in your blood.”

“I’m not a killer, and neither was Dad,” I said heatedly. But I had my doubts about that, given what Banshee had told me and what I had seen in Glin’s Rising. “I’m sorry about Guppy. I wish he had just left me alone.”

“Don’t be sorry. Everyone looks out for themselves in this world. No one will leave you alone,” Matthias said, his voice serious. “You have to be a killer to survive. And you, Allin Arcady, are a survivor. I can tell.”

* * *

Continue to Part 56.

3/3/13 Notes:

I had been putting off starting to write Book 2, so last week while I was waiting for the oil to be changed in my car, I used the time stuck at the dealership to just do it already. It was a slow start but it worked. I am off and running, although as you can see from my tracking sheet below, it is in fits and starts because 1) I ended up starting it at a time when I am going to be extremely busy for at least 3 weeks, and 2) after an initial writing sprint, I hit a wall. First, my stats, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

5thWk1

Yes, I like to keep track of my writing day-by-day, to make sure I’m not falling too far behind my goals. Which I am this week and probably for the next few weeks, but at least it gives me something to work toward. What I needed to remind myself after the 27th and 28th is that I am doing this for fun! I let myself be overwhelmed by the imagined importance of the work and that paralyzed me. Let me tell you, Chapter Two as it stands now is pretty awful. But it exists to be edited and I can now move on to Chapter Three secure in the knowledge that Two can be fixed or entirely rewritten later. Having something, anything, to edit is more important than worrying about getting it right the first time, especially if that worry keeps you from writing anything.

For a quick way to show support (one click; you don’t need to sign in), please vote for The Only City Left at topwebfiction.com.

If you have a little more time and don’t mind registering first, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

You can also share The Only City Left by clicking on any of those handy social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

All these methods help to bring in new readers, which is great for moral support. Thank you for reading!

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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 53, Allin had agreed to help the injured werewolf, Matthias, in exchange for help in escaping the dark underworld of the City. While searching for something for Matthias to use as a crutch, Allin instead found one of the things that live in the dark.

The Only City Left: Part 54

The creature was shorter than I had imagined, and its teeth, while sharp and misshapen, were not foot-long daggers. The scariest thing about it was the wooden spear it brandished at me. That and the fact that it had brought friends. A lot of friends.

The closest one stabbed its spear at me and I stumbled backwards, falling onto my backside next to Matthias.

“What now?” Matthias asked, but he didn’t need me to explain, for the creatures had stealthily ringed us in. A circle of spears convinced me to sit still.

“Not what I meant when I asked for a cane,” Matthias said. I could hardly believe he was joking at a time like this.

One of the creatures stepped forward and poked at him, barking orders in some incomprehensible language. It held one arm in front of its face, squinting and half looking away while it spoke. When Matthias didn’t react except to bat the spear away, the creature yelled some more. Its companions pointed their weapons at Matthias’ throat while the leader moved in closer, wincing as he approached.

“I think they want you to turn off the light,” I said.

“Not a chance.”

Matthias swiped his claws and the leader yiped and staggered back. I saw four parallel claw marks etched into its pale skin, and dark red blood began to flow from the wounds.

“Matthias!”

My admonition came too late. The leader clutched at his chest and yelled out in a high-pitched voice. From out of the darkness, a thick-roped net descended over Matthias and me. I guess I was guilty by association. Matthias kicked and clawed at the net, but the creatures reversed their spears and beat him about the head with the blunt ends. The blows hit me, too, so I curled up into a fetal position and protected my head and neck as best I could.

They must have wrested his coil away, because even with my eyes squeezed shut, I could tell when its light was extinguished. There followed the most throat-wrenching scream I had ever heard as Matthias transformed back into his human form. His scream continued until it became a rasp that sounded like metal scraping on stone. Finally, it trailed off and I could hear the jabberings of the creatures again.

“Matthias? Matthias?” No answer. Either he couldn’t speak or more likely he had fallen unconscious. I tried instead to plead with my captors. “Hello? Hello? We didn’t mean any harm. It was a mistake. Please let me go.”

The creatures continued talking, but I didn’t think they were responding to me, and even if they had been, I couldn’t understand them. Now that the light was off, though, the beating had stopped. I opened my eyes, hoping that there would be some kind of light left over after the coil had been switched off. Nothing. A return to the void.

Suddenly the net around me pulled taut and I was dragged along with it over the rough ground. It was horrible. I had no control, couldn’t avoid hitting anything, and I never knew when the next impact would arrive. When they stopped dragging us, I felt battered and bruised and all I wished for was to be as unconscious as Matthias.

Time passed as it does in the dark, like a drop of water which is poised to fall but never does. I nursed my aches, checked that Matthias was still alive, and waited.

Finally, the creatures pulled on the net again and we were lifted up and deposited on some hard surface. A moment later, I felt the sensation of rolling forward. A cart, I presumed. Where to now?

That question was still unanswered by the time Matthias groaned awake and I filled him in on what had happened.

“I’m surprised they didn’t just kill us,” I said.

Matthias chuckled wearily. “The merskers? They’re bottom feeders, scavengers. They won’t kill what they can trade away. If I wasn’t injured, they’d not have stood a chance.”

Merskers? Didn’t sound quite as ominous as the things that live in the dark. I guess I should have been happy that this was one legend that hadn’t lived up to its reputation, but it didn’t change the fact that they were still nasty little creatures who had me at their mercy. And for all his bravado, Matthias was just as helpless, stuck in his human form and injured still. Things were not looking good.

After a while, I realized that we were approaching a light source and I wondered if Matthias’ coil had been turned back on. But this light was weaker and tinged with blue. It allowed me to dimly see the cart I was riding in, the now-human Matthias sitting beside me under the net, and the other junk that had been collected along with us.

“I thought the things, the merskers, don’t like the light.”

Matthias looked around, frowned, and closed his eyes.

“Ghost light. Hardly counts.”

“There are ghosts down here?” I asked, pulling on the net so that I could sit up and look over the side of the cart.

Sure enough, dotting the garbage-strewn landscape were a number of spectral figures.

“All of the city’s garbage falls down here eventually, including the ghosts.”

Our cart was only one in a long train, each one drawn by a pair of merskers. The little creatures were definitely stronger than they looked. As the merskers pulled us along, the ghosts watched us, turning to follow our passage.

“I don’t like the way they’re staring,” I said in a low voice.

“You’re scared? Don’t be. Ignore them and they’ll ignore you.”

The ghosts we passed began to glide after us on either side of the cart. More and more of them gathered in our wake, brightening the surrounding area considerably.

“Yeah, about that,” I said, drawing out my words. “That hasn’t so much been my experience lately.”

* * *

Continue to Part 55.

2/24/13 News:

Okay, parts 54-60 are scheduled in WordPress, so I’m good through the beginning of April. And as a reminder, the book is finished (90 parts total), so you will get to read the complete story, one way or another. I just need to load all the pieces into WordPress, which takes time, so I only schedule a few posts at a time.

For a quick way to show support (one click; you don’t need to sign in), please vote for The Only City Left at topwebfiction.com.

If you have a little more time and don’t mind registering first, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. 

You can also share The Only City Left by clicking on any of those handy social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

All these methods help to bring in new readers, which is great for moral support. Thank you for reading!

#

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 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.”

“How?”

“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?”

“No.”

“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.

“Thank you.”

“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.

* * *

Continue to Part 54.

2/17/13 News:

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!

For a quick way to show support (one click; you don’t need to sign in), please vote for The Only City Left at topwebfiction.com.

If you have a little more time and don’t mind registering first, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. 

You can also share The Only City Left by clicking on any of those handy social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

All these methods help to bring in new readers, which is great for moral support. Thank you for reading!

#

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 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!

#

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.