The Memory Thief
Published March 7th 2020
What is The Memory Thief?
The Memory Thief is a collaborative book. Each week, I write one new chapter and provide three possible options for what could happen next. Readers vote for their favourite and watch as the story comes to life. Click Here to learn more.
Last week on The Memory Thief…
I held my breath, waiting to see what would happen. It took a while, but one of Lom’s hands twitched. Moments later, the movement spread to the rest of his body, and soon he was shivering uncontrollably. Inhaling deeply, he bolted upright, eyes wide and mouth agape. He stared blankly ahead for a while before focusing on me.
Option 1: “What took you so long?” he asked.
Option 2: “Who are you?” he asked.
Option 3: “I know how to fix everything,” he said.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 3 votes (23.08%)
Option 2: 5 votes (38.46%)
Option 3: 5 votes (38.46%)
This chapter is dedicated to Dietrich. Thanks for voting.
Author’s Note: We have another tie. To avoid letting anyone down, I’ll include BOTH options into this chapter. However, they’re so diametrically opposed—Lom can’t plausibly have lost his memories AND know how to fix everything—I’ll have no choice but to focus more on one than the other. I’ll flip a coin to decide which option to focus on.
He stared blankly ahead for a while before focusing on me.
“Who are you?” he asked.
I didn’t react, too stunned to process the implications of such a question. It wasn’t until his furrowed brow smoothed out, and his lips curled into a broad smile that I realized he was, in fact, kidding.
“You idiot!” I snapped, but I was too relieved to be mad. “How could you mess around at a time like this?”
“Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” he muttered, but then his eyes grew wide, and the smirk vanished. “Blank!” he swore. “I just remembered something. Something very important.”
“What is it?”
“I know how to fix everything,” he said.
I remained frozen for a moment.
“Well?” I finally asked. “Are you going to tell me or—”
A loud noise interrupted me, followed by a blast of displaced air. Reacting on instinct, I turned toward the door just as it came flying off its hinges. Partly hidden by a blast of red energy, the metallic pane flew across the room and slammed into one of the glass tubes, shattering it instantly.
The next few moments were total confusion. Glass rained down upon Lom and me as two robots burst into the room. Surging forward, they didn’t notice Handy until it was too late. The first robot went flying into a nearby wall and slid to the floor in a twisted heap of metal. The second collapsed into a shuddering pile of limbs as red energy danced across its metallic frame.
“Blank,” muttered Lom as Handy turned toward us. “We’re screwed.”
“He’s a friend,” I said.
“A-Are you sure?”
“Certain. Now let’s get the hell out of here before more bots show up.”
“Good idea,” muttered Lom. He tried to stand, but his legs were still too weak.
“Let me help,” I said. Together, we managed to right his shivering body. Moments later, we were on our way to the teardrop vehicle.
We encountered a few bots, but Handy took care of them before they could even realize what had hit them. Still, it was with a sigh of relief that I led Lom into the chamber where a handful of teardrop vehicles were waiting. Ignoring the shiny vehicles, I approached the old, dinged one and helped my friend into it.
“Thanks,” he said as I pushed past him and slid into the driver’s seat.
“You’re welcome,” I muttered as I initiated the launch protocol. “Get in!” I called to Handy moments after the mandible-like gears that stood at the vehicle’s front came to life. A blast of red energy came flying toward us as my robotic friend entered the vehicle, but it managed to seal the door in time to avoid getting hit. A few more explosions lit up the side of the vehicle, but I could barely hear them.
“Hang on,” I warned as I pressed the large button that stood before me. Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then the vehicle shuddered and began moving. I held my breath as we sank into the earth, waiting until we were safely underway to exhale.
“Okay,” I muttered. “I think we’re safe.”
I turned to my friend, but Lom was slumped in his chair, unmoving. A chill ran through me, but a quick pulse check revealed he wasn’t, in fact, dead.
He must have gotten shot during the escape, I concluded. Hopefully, he’ll wake up before we reach The Slums.
I settled into my chair and closed my eyes. So much had happened in such a short time. Not only had we saved Lom, but he claimed to have a solution to our predicament. Clearly, things weren’t as bad as they’d once seemed. I was just about to allow myself to believe everything would work out for the best when a loud, shrill sound filled the air.
“What now?” I groaned. Opening my eyes, I focused on the screen that stood before me. The crude map that was displayed upon it remained unchanged but for one small detail.
Three teardrop shapes had appeared.
“Blank!” I swore. The bots hadn’t given up; they were chasing us. A quick scan of the map revealed they were slowly gaining on us, and there was no telling whether we’d reach The Slums in time to escape them—or even if reaching the human city would suffice to dissuade our pursuers.
“Can this thing go any faster?” I asked.
Handy didn’t respond, which I assumed meant we were already travelling at maximum velocity. Sighing, I watched the screen, praying we would reach our destination before our pursuers caught us.
We were halfway through our ascent when the vehicle suddenly came to an abrupt halt. The motor groaned and whined, but the force of the three vehicles holding us back was too much for it to handle. It sputtered and died moments after our momentum halted, and we began moving backward.
“Do something!” I yelled.
At first, Handy didn’t react, but then it pushed past me and began imputing a series of commands into the computer. Nothing happened for a few seconds, then the motor roared to life, and our vehicle screeched to an abrupt halt. Rumbling angrily, the motor fought against our pursuers. It took a while, but we began moving forward again. Slowly, at first, but then with increasing speed. Just when I thought we couldn’t go any faster, the force holding us back receded, and we surged forward. Emerging from the earth, we sailed through the air for a moment before slamming into the ground. Suddenly free, the vehicle spun around a few times before coming to a standstill. Moments later, the motor died, and silence enveloped us.
We’d done it; we’d escaped the bots.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but one look at Lom’s unconscious body told me we were far from safe. It was only a matter of time before the other vehicles surfaced, and I seriously doubted the robots would let us stroll off.
“Open the door,” I told Handy. He did as told, then returned to help me. Together, we lifted Lom’s body and carried him out of the vehicle.
The world beyond the metallic teardrop was quiet—so quiet, in fact, I couldn’t help feeling nervous.
“Why haven’t they surfaced?” I wondered.
Handy didn’t answer, but I could tell he was trying to tell me something. I didn’t understand what it was until he pointed at something behind me. Heart racing, I turned to find something as heartwarming as it was unexpected.
Squid was running toward us, a broad grin curling his chapped lips.
“Spy!” he yelled. “You’re back!”
He kept running until he reached me. I half-expected him to hug me, but he merely patted my arm and focused on Lom.
“What’s wrong with him?” he asked.
“He’s fine,” I said. “He’s just unconscious.”
“It’s a long story,” I said. “Help me lift him. We can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” he asked.
I hesitated. The truth was, I no longer believed our pursuers were trying to capture us. I didn’t know why—maybe they didn’t want to risk exposing themselves to the general population—but they had obviously given up on trying to catch us. Still, I was reticent to remain here longer than was necessary.
“We must find shelter,” I said, ignoring Squid’s question. “A safe place where Lom can recover, and we can hide.”
“The hideout,” said Squid. “It’s the safest place in all of The Slums, and The Cluster will protect us against any foe.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I muttered, thinking of my last encounter with Piggy. But, deep down, I knew Squid was right. The Cluster’s hideout was way closer than the hidden mansion where I’d learned the truth about myself. Plus, he deserved to be surrounded by friends.
“Help me carry him,” I said, nodding at my unconscious friend.
“What about Handy?” asked Squid.
I hadn’t thought of that. While I would have welcomed the protection that came with having a robot under my command, the truth was we couldn’t afford to draw attention to ourselves. I already had enough on my mind without having to worry about explaining to people why I had a robot following me around like a lost puppy.
“Handy,” I said, turning to the bot. “I need you to stay here. Okay? Stay here.”
It didn’t respond, but it remained perfectly still, indicating it had understood the command.
“All right,” I muttered. “Let’s go.”
Carrying Lom wasn’t easy, but we managed it with enough ease to transport him across The Slums. We got quite a few suspicious looks, but my reputation as a badass seemed to have spread because no one so much as spoke to us.
It took a while, but we finally reached the safehouse. As expected, Piggy wasn’t happy to see us, but the other boys—the twins and the squirrely kid who Piggy seemed to enjoy tormenting—were thrilled.
“What happened to Lom,” asked the smallest of the boys—I seemed to recall someone referring to him as Maggot—as he approached my friend’s unconscious frame and poked it tentatively.
“It’s a long story,” I muttered, doing my best to ignore Piggy’s glare. “Help me place him on that mattress.”
With the help of Squid and the twins, we placed Lom on a makeshift bed and put a filthy cover over him. I didn’t know how long it would take before he woke up, but at least he would be comfortable.
“All right,” muttered Piggy once Lom was all tucked in. “We helped your friend. Now get the hell out of here before you regret it.”
I stared at Piggy. He was taller than me and bigger in almost every way, but I knew defeating him would be easy. Still, I chose to give him a chance to escape with his teeth intact.
“Look,” I said. “We both know you’re a bad leader. Make this easy on everyone and leave before I’m forced to do something we’ll both regret.”
“Oh, you’ll regret this, all right.”
He balled his fists and stepped forward, but he was slow and clumsy. A quick jab to the gut sent him crumbling to the ground.
“Leave,” I commanded. “Now!”
I didn’t expect him to comply, but a look of pure terror washed across his face and, scrambling to his feet, he scampered off.
“What the…” I muttered, but my voice trailed off when I noticed a similar expression of terror plastered across the faces of Maggot and the twins. Only Squid seemed unafraid.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Following their gaze, I turned to find a large metallic shape.
It was Handy.
“What the blank?” I muttered, enjoying the taste of the strange swear. “I thought I told you to stay behind.”
Handy didn’t respond. It just stood there, staring at me like a puppy hoping to receive a treat from its master.
“Whatever,” I muttered. “You’re here now. May as well make the most of it.”
I introduced Handy to the rest of The Cluster. The boys were a little reticent to trust the metallic being, but they warmed up to it as soon as Squid assured them he was on their side. Once we were all fast friends, we retired to a corner of the hideout, and I told them what had happened. It took well over an hour to explain everything—I kept a few details to myself, but I told them most of what had happened since I awoke with that strange note in my pocket—but The Cluster was eventually all caught up. No sooner had I grown silent than Lom started to stir.
“What happened?” he groaned. His movements were slow and sluggish, but a broad grin curled his lips when he realized where he was. An even bigger smile threatened to split his face in half when Squid, Maggot, and the twins rushed forward for a group hug.
I watched them reacquaint for a while before my curiosity got too much to bear.
“Do you remember what you told me?” I asked. “About knowing how to fix everything?”
Lom nodded, his expression now grim.
“What did you mean by that?”
“It’s complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain.”
We got settled in, and Lom began telling his story.
“Something strange happened while I was frozen,” he explained. “I was somehow able to communicate with everyone else who was being held prisoner by the bots.”
“I don’t know what that is,” said Lom, “but I was able to speak to them like I’m speaking to you now. They were a little suspicious at first, thinking I was a spy sent by the bots, but I managed to convince them I was just some kid who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.” He beamed proudly. “They told me all sorts of things, but there was one particular conversation I’ll never forget.”
“What was it about?” asked Maggot, his youth keeping from realizing his interruption was only delaying things.
“He told me everyone who was there had, at some point or another, tried to stop the robots. It was why they had been taken and why they were being kept there.”
“Why not wipe their memories?” I asked.
“They tried that,” said Lom. “Many times. But something happens to your brain when you learn the truth, something that keeps your memories from being fully erased. Traces always remain, and remembering the truth becomes easier and easier. That’s why the bots kidnapped them; it was the only way to keep them from interfering without killing them.”
I couldn’t believe it. I used to think I was special, but the truth was I was only the last in a long line of people who had uncovered the truth about the memory thief. Still, I was the only one who’d thought of leaving clues for myself in case I lost my memories.
“The man told me something else,” continued Lom. “Something very important.”
A heavy silence followed the revelation.
“Well?” I asked when he failed to elaborate. “What did he tell you?”
“He told me where the memories go after they’re sorted.” He paused for dramatic effect. “They travel up to the old world.”
I frowned, too stunned to speak.
“A-Are you saying…” I finally began, but my voice trailed off.
“That’s right,” said Lom. “The Others are the ones stealing our memories.”
A heavy silence—the heaviest to date—descended upon us and remained until my friend shattered it.
“All we have to do is travel to the old world and reclaim what is rightfully ours.”
It was such a ridiculous statement I couldn’t help but laugh.
“And how exactly are we supposed to do that?” I asked.
“You rescued me before I could ask,” he admitted.
No one spoke for a long time. Finally, a voice emerged from the surrounding darkness.
“I know how to find the Others,” it said.
Jumping, I turned to find a shape standing in the shadows. The stranger remained still for a moment before stepping forward, revealing their identity.
Option 1: …Piggy.
Option 2: …Finger*.
Option 3: …Lily**.
*Finger is the little girl who first guided Spy across the city. She was supposed to be mute, but nothing is as it seems in The Slums.
**Lily is the girl Spy’s former self was in love with. He doesn’t recall meeting her, but there’s no doubt in his mind it’s her.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 11.
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