"Shadow City reads as the perfect combination of a dystopian future, cyberpunk and fantasy creatures." –Excentrieke Dame
Los Angeles is an apocalyptic wasteland.
Without orientation, Colton stumbles through the vast, deserted city. He doesn’t remember who he is and where he came from. Scavengers save his life from mutants and bring him to the only remaining inhabited area and safe Zone in former Hollywood.
There he learns that after a devastating catastrophe called The Glitch, reality shifted, allowing nightmarish creatures from another dimension to enter our world. These co-called Dark Ones feed on suffering and violence, wanting nothing less than the complete annihilation of humanity.
Colton discovers that he has extraordinary abilities and joins a league of unusual defenders: ex-cop Eric, female cyborg Bombshell and Vincent, a mighty entity from another world, disguised as a human soldier.
But the Dark Ones are evil beyond imagination and with their ice-cold enforcer, the traitor Eurydice, they are a threat nearly impossible to overcome. Cunning and ruthless, Eurydice sets a ploy in action, which leads to the destruction of the Zone’s defenses weakening the tiny community from within. It’s up to Colton and his friends to take a desperate stand against the superior enemy and save what is left of humanity from extinction.
Fast-paced, action-driven, and cinematic – an eternal fight of good vs. evil told in a way as never before.
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Dust whirled over the concrete. Small, grey specs twirling in the air. Nearby, a tornado tore through the empty streets, sweeping up everything in its path: debris, a car tire, a dead palm tree.
A young man with dark blue eyes watched the storm as it approached. The strong wind ruffled his short, brown hair. Despite the all-consuming twister beginning to yank and drag him, the young man remained motionless. Mesmerized, his eyes took in the black vortex; the accompanying sound turning into a deafening thunder.
Just as the pull and noise became almost unbearable, the tornado changed course, continuing its destruction. A rusty children's swing, a stop sign, a corroded garbage can - all swept away.
The young man stood still, his eyes following the force of nature, which now raced down the street between heavily damaged family homes. Then he slowly turned, his naked feet leaving footprints in the dust on the cracked pavement. His eyes looked up from the trunk of a dead palm tree to the sky. It was gray and overcast, which made it impossible to tell the time of the day. Everything was covered by faded, greyish-purple light.
His gaze moved to the once impressive skyline. Its skyscrapers were dark, their glass fronts destroyed. Some had collapsed, one was completely gone, and all that remained from others were steel frames. The tornado changed direction again, setting course for the abandoned freeway to Downtown, disappearing between the high-rises.
The young man turned to study the landscape in front of him, which once used to be a park. Now the grass was brown and dead, dusty leaves dangled from palm trees. Dried laurel tree branches stretched like bony fingers against the slightly purple sky. At the horizon, just a few miles away, a sign was visible standing on the dried-up hill. Huge letters, once bright white, were now dirty and gray. Although some of the oversized letters were missing, the following word could still be read: HO LYWO D.
* * *
"That's a massive one," Louis said, staring at the horizon, where the tornado raged through the city. "Look, I think it swept up a car wreck!"
"It seems to be that season again," Jean muttered as she rummaged through the items scattered all around the small room. She found nothing useful. They were most likely not the first "explorers" visiting this house.
"Is it ever not that season?" the cynicism was unmistakable in Louis' adolescent voice.
Jean kicked a pile of shredded cloths aside, then glanced at her brother standing at the smashed window. A touch of childlike fascination flitted over his face as he watched the tornado. Louis felt her gaze and turned away from the twister to face her.
"Do you ever wish such storms would devour people you don't like?" he asked.
Jean laughed. "You're an idiot!"
Louis grinned. "So what? Nothing wrong with dreams."
"We should move on, there's nothing worthwhile here. Let's try the other side of the park before it gets dark."
They exited the house, crossed the street, and entered what was left of Echo Park. The dull light around them turned darker. A corroded swing squeaked softly in the wind. Otherwise, it was eerie silence.
"You know," Louis began as they walked through the ruined playground and reached the parched grass areas, "Dad will kill us if he finds out we've been this far to the east."
"And you know," Jean hissed, "you should keep your voice down out here."
She stopped and glanced around. For a moment, she glimpsed a movement behind a charred palm. It was most likely just her imagination.
"I'm talking normal," an offended Louis whispered. "You don't need to jump on me like that!"
Jean walked on. "Dad would prefer we didn't leave the house at all, but that won't work. And if you keep your mouth shut, he'll never find out about our trips to Echo Park."
They continued to walk across the park in silence. It was hard to imagine it was once a green area since not a speck of green was left. Except for rats and cockroaches, nothing lived here anymore. The lake of the city park had dried-up a long time ago, and the brown earth was cracked, resembling old wrinkly skin. The middle of the lake still featured the rusted remains of the fountain's nozzle from which water ounce sprang into the air, much to the delight of the children. Now there were no more children in Echo Park or joggers accompanied by their dogs. Only death and decay remained. A row of high palm trees with brown leaves circled the lake. Behind it, loomed the ruins of the downtown skyscrapers. Their broken windows seemed like dead eyes staring at the siblings. The unsettling atmosphere gave Jean the creeps. She felt somehow defenseless and an easy target, crossing the dry lake. She glanced at the gloomy high-rises and forced herself to walk on. We arefar enough away, she told herself. We are safe.
Jean and Louis had almost crossed Echo Park when the boy stopped and pointed to the adjacent street. "Just look at that freak!"
Jean frowned as she looked at whom her brother referred to and saw the naked man stumbling along the road aimlessly. Then her eyes froze as she noticed something else.
"I'd say that's a dead freak."
* * *
The young man did not notice the growing cold creeping over the city as dusk slowly fell upon the park. But he did notice that he was being watched. He clearly felt eyes resting on him, which put him on alert. His muscles flexed, and his senses heightened.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a slight movement and heard a faint hiss. Instinctively, he ducked and rolled away, instantly ready to fight. A dark, hairy figure with leathery skin jumped from the roof of a family home and landed on the spot where he had been standing just a second ago. Razor-sharp claws scratched the asphalt as the creature turned towards him. It vaguely resembled a human, but its legs were crooked, and its arms reminded more of mantis pincers than hands. Besides, it had several, tentacle-like, additional extremities, which featured deadly claws.
The monstrosity straightened to its full length and let out a menacing growl.
The young man's eyes scanned his surroundings for something he could use as a weapon. He leaped aside, as the creature charged at him with astonishing speed.
He reached for the first object closest to him - a rusty metal bar. But before he could grab it, his opponent spun around and went for him again. Despite being more than seven feet, it was as nimble as a cat.
He dodged the charge and tried to ram the bar with all his strength into his attacker's belly. Not fast enough. The beast scraped the side of his naked upper body with one of its tentacle claws, spilling his blood on the dusty street. The wound was big and painful, but not lethal, no internal organ had been hit. He just knew that somehow.
The black, inhuman eyes of the monster focused on the blood dripping to the ground, then it threw back its head and let out a bloodcurdling howl.
The man took the opportunity to go on the offensive. Despite his injury, he progressed with cold precision, as if he had done so his whole life. With his improvised weapon, he struck at the monster. A hard kick in the belly, which caused the creature to bend over, followed by two blows to the head. He evaded the razor-sharp tentacles and kicked the crooked legs of his attacker.
It lost its balance, fell, and again let out a terrifying howl, neither human nor animal.
All of a sudden, the tables turned, and now it was the man standing over the beast. His eyes focused coldly on his enemy while his mind calculated the optimal angle for striking the monster's skull. Its black, dull eyes looking up at him.
He charged, but then stopped his movement, turning aside just in time to dodge a huge claw. Behind him stood another monstrosity, showing its oversized fangs and snarling. It was bigger and even nastier than the first one. The young man took a deep breath and prepared himself to fend off an attack from his second enemy, his battered weapon outstretched, his muscles tense. He sensed the first beast behind him getting on its feet again, ready to jump his back. The wound on his side was bleeding heavily.
With a sharp move, he pulled back and hit the creature on its head, then he aimed at the drooling opponent in front of him. But his arm was stopped as a tentacle grabbed him at the elbow.
The monster charged at him full force, making him lose his balance and fall. He rolled aside, and a claw scratched the asphalt, where his head had been only a second ago.
Suddenly he heard a sharp swoosh as something shot past him.
The beast in front of him shrieked briefly, then collapsed. A thick steel bolt had hit it in the eye and smashed its skull. The young man turned to his other opponent, and again, there was a swooshing sound.
The head of the monster burst open as another bolt pierced it. One of its eyes popped out, and it sank to the ground, where it kept twitching for a while.
Breathing heavily and bleeding, the naked man rose from the dust and looked where the shots had come from, his improvised weapon still in his hand.
Two young men approached him, the taller one carrying a crossbow. Both wore coats with hoods over their heads, cargo pants, and heavy boots. The face of the taller one was hidden behind a pair of large, black glasses, somewhere between those of a welder and an aviator.
Just before they reached him, the man took off the glasses and the fighter saw that in reality, it was a young woman. Her dark brown, almond-shaped eyes flashed, while her companion, scarcely older than fifteen, pointed a drawn bow at the wounded man.
"Relax," Jean said. "We're not going to hurt you."
"Providing you are not going to do something stupid!" Louis added, trying to make his pubertal voice sound masculine.
The stranger lowered his weapon. "Thank you."
Jean smiled and walked over to the two mutants she had taken down. She kicked the corpses to check if they were really dead, then pulled the bolts from their heads. It made a mushy noise.
Louis bent down, grabbed some clothes from his backpack, and threw them at the man. "Put these on. There are ladies present!"
Jean grinned as she pulled with all her strength at the bolt lodged in the head of the second monster, to get it out. "Besides, it's a bit too cold this time of the year to walk around without clothes."
Louis walked up to the man and handed him a few rags. "For your wound. Unfortunately, we have nothing better with us."
Jean had freed the arrow and wiped it with an old cloth. She studied the stranger with undisguised curiosity while he put on the pants and shirt and pressed the rags against the bleeding on his side.
"I'm Jean. This is my brother Louis," she paused to give the man the opportunity to introduce himself as well. When nothing came, she continued, "What are you doing out here all alone? And where are your clothes?"
Once he was dressed, he looked at her. She met his gaze and felt a tingling. Something about him touched her.
"I don't know," he said. His voice sounded husky as if he had not spoken for a long time.
Jean frowned and glanced at her brother, who shrugged his shoulders, making a circling motion with his index finger at the side of his head. His gesture and expression plainly stated, "Told you so, a freak."
She ignored him and stepped closer to the stranger to take a look at his injury.
"What do you mean, you don't know?" Louis asked suspiciously.
"Can't remember or what?"
Jean reached out for the wound. "Let me see."
"I ... I don't know," the man said, letting Jean examine him. "I don't know how I got here. I don't know what I'm doing here ... I don't even know who I am."
Jean carefully lifted the rag and inspected the injury on the stranger's side. The wound was jagged and swollen, but clean. Sometimes the claws of the mutants left pieces behind. Once such wounds got inflamed, they almost always resulted in death.
Apparently, the stranger had been lucky. It also seemed the bleeding was slowing. If she had not seen for herself that he just got injured, she could have sworn the wound was at least a few hours old.
She raised her head and looked into his eyes. The adrenaline of the struggle, which had shown in his face, vanished; all she saw now were confusion and gratitude.
"Sounds like bullshit to me," Louis said far less sympathetically, making his sister roll her eyes.
"I think the wound looks worse than it is," she said. "Can you walk?"
"Good. We better get going before more of those beasts show up. And it's getting dark ..." She looked around and shouldered her crossbow. It was quiet except for the howling of the wind, but silence could be deceptive as she knew.
"Okay, man," Louis said, turning around to go. "Good luck. And there's nothing ..."
"Are you insane? This man needs our help! He's coming with us, of course."
Her brother stared at her with open mouth. "But ... Jean, we don't know who he is - we don't know what he is!"
"That's true," said the stranger quietly. "I don't know what's going on here. But one thing I know: you saved my life. Whatever happens, you have nothing to fear from me."
Jean smiled at him, then nodded to her brother, her tone leaving no room for objections. "That's settled then."
Louis grumbled in disapproval but otherwise kept quiet.
Her voice became soft and friendly again, addressing the stranger. "Now the only thing missing is your name."
She glanced at him, standing in front of a faded street sign. The writing was still readable: Colton Street.
"As long as you can't remember your real name, we'll call you Colton. Now let's get out of here!"
* * *
"Reinforcements would be awesome," Eric said sulkily.
"Yeah, so would Santa Claus," Bombshell answered good-humored and uttered her hearty, slightly metallic laughter.
Eric pretended to be offended. "An old man can still dream."
"I suggest we finish it before he gets away," said Vincent, the third in the team.
"Oh, you humans," Bombshell sighed. "No sense of humor always stressed out."
"Yeah, I know," Vincent murmured, walking down the street towards the huge hall. "We are weak and are dropping like flies".
Bombshell grinned and whispered to Eric, "And they like to forget that there are people who can hear much better than them."
The two followed Vincent along the street, which looked entirely different from the rest of the city. Someone who had been there before would've recognized it as 5th Avenue in New York. However, it was abandoned and rundown. Everywhere paint had peeled off, and the hinge of a faded sign squeaked in the wind.
One of the buildings was half-collapsed and revealed that it was wooden and not much more than a facade. The whole street was nothing other than a fake, once serving as a film set when this site used to be one of the largest film studios in the world and not a shelter for sociopaths. The logo with its blue mountain peak was still hanging on the hall wall, even if the blue left much to the imagination.
"Sure, he's in there?" Vincent asked as they stood in front of the impressive iron gates of the studio.
As a young boy, Eric had craved to peek insight such a hall, and perhaps see one of his childhood heroes. Now he played the hero himself, what irony.
He smiled, then nodded to Vincent. "Yes, I can sense him. He's wounded - and furious."
Bombshell's unnatural green eyes focused on the building, making a soft clicking sound which was only audible for Eric's sensitive ears.
"Positive," she said. "Upper floor at the rear end. Target moves slowly, his left leg is injured."
"That just makes him more dangerous, so be careful. He also knows we're here," Eric said, pulling his gun. "All right, I'll take the front. Bombshell, you cut him off at the back. Vincent, you take cover out here. If he escapes, try to shoot him immobile."
"Roger that," Bombshell said. "Let's go."
Vincent could hardly hide his anger. Again, he had to stay away from the action. He hated to be treated like a child, only because he was not like them. The arrogance of the others sometimes drove him mad.
Bombshell was already on the move. Her athletic, tall body circled around the hall to the back. At first glance, she looked like a woman. With her long, blonde hair and perfect proportions, even a very attractive one. Her metallic shining body suit showcased her curves.
Bombshell leaped forward, jumped up, and grabbed the edge of a ladder fixed on the wall at least 16 feet above her. With inhuman speed, she climbed the ladder and stood in the blink of an eye on the roof of the hall. She turned around and gave a thumbs up before disappearing out of sight.
No, Bombshell was not human. This was not only demonstrated by her spectacular skills, but also when taking a closer look. Bombshell was a machine with the brain of a human being. A cyborg. An abomination for some, an evolutionary upgrade for others. For Eric, she was just an invaluable colleague and a good friend whom he could always rely on in dangerous situations.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Shadow City"
Copyright © 2019 Anna Mocikat.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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