The Memory Thief
Published March 21st 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…
“Is it safe?” I asked.
“Why don’t you find out for yourself?”
I nodded and approached the door. The handle felt cold against my skin, but I ignored the shiver that ran down my spine. Twisting it, I pushed the door open to reveal…
Option 1: …a futuristic city.
Option 2: …a lush, paradisiacal landscape.
Option 3: …a robot.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 4 votes (26.67%)
Option 2: 9 votes (60.00%)
Option 3: 2 votes (13.33%)
This chapter is dedicated to J. Thanks for voting.
Twisting it, I pushed the door open to reveal… a lush, paradisiacal landscape.
“Woah!” I gasped.
The world beyond the doorframe was unlike anything I had ever seen. A thick blanket of grass carpeted most of the scenery, but patches of vividly coloured flowers dotted the landscape. Trees grew in clumps, some clusters so massive they chased away the grass and the flowers, leaving naught but a bed of dried leaves.
Rolling hills and shallow valleys stretched as far as the eye could see. High above, clouds of white cotton floated, their wispy bodies blotting out the sun and keeping me from being blinded. But most impressive of all was the vastness of the sky. Having lived my entire life belowground, this was my first time seeing the blue yonder.
“Is it real?” I asked, unsure whether to trust my eyes. It all felt so perfect, so surreal.
“That’s not important,” she said. Sliding her hand into mine, she guided me across the threshold and down the flight of wooden stairs that stood before us. I wasn’t sure how such a thing was possible when the dwelling itself had recently emerged from the depths of the Earth, but I chose not to question it.
“It’s so soft,” I muttered when my bare feet made contact with the grass. Twisting my feet, I began running my toes through the emerald carpet. Chuckling softly, I didn’t notice Lily’s growing impatience until she tugged on my hand.
“Come on,” she said. “I have so much to show you.”
I didn’t argue, though I kept my gaze on the grass, smiling whenever one of the blades snapped and stuck to my feet. But I soon forgot all about that when a strange insect fluttered past my face. Looking up, I realized dozens of them were rising from the surrounding vegetation.
“What are they?” I asked.
“What’s a butterflies?”
“Butterfly,” she corrected. “And now isn’t the time to ask questions. Just enjoy yourself; you’ve earned it.”
I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but I chose not to question it. The surface was resplendent, and I looked forward to exploring every inch of it.
We kept going for a while before we reached a small cluster of trees. Heavy with crimson blossoms, the branches drooped low. Whistling softly in the breeze, the tentacle-like branches swayed gently, giving the impression the oversized plants were alive. While beautiful, I was far more interested in the small, feathered animals that hopped from branch to branch.
“Are those birds?” I asked.
She nodded. “Beautiful, aren’t they?” Stepping forward, she grabbed the nearest branch and shook it. Immediately, a handful of birds took flight and, beating their small wings, rose high into the sky.
“Wow!” I gasped. I had never seen such beauty, such elegance. “They’re defying gravity.”
“I envy you,” she said. “I wish I could see the world through your eyes, witness all this beauty for the first time.” But then her expression grew dark. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I know how difficult life is in The Slums. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
I sighed, momentarily distracted from the surrounding beauty, but the sound of something small scurrying through the grass distracted me. Scanning the emerald carpet, I caught glimpses of a small, furry creature scurrying toward one of the trees. Leaping through the air, it grabbed hold of the trunk with its tiny claws and scurried up the tree, vanishing in a flash.
“What was that?” I asked.
“A squirrel,” said Lily. Smiling once more, she took my hand and guided me away from the blooming trees.
We walked in silence for a while before my sense of wonder faded enough for my confusion to surface.
“We’re on the surface, aren’t we?” I asked.
Lily hesitated then nodded.
“I thought everything was destroyed when the Great Darkness enveloped the world.”
“I’ll answer your questions later,” she promised. “For now, just enjoy this moment of peace.”
She was right. Why ruin this pleasant experience with talk of catastrophic events?
We kept going until we reached a vast bed of flowers. Roughly the size of my fist, the flourishes consisted of clusters of six long, slender petals. Sitting atop a thick stem, the flowers were packed so tight the leaves had very little space to proliferate. Focusing on the bursts of colours, I started counting the different hues but gave up after a dozen.
“What are they?” I asked.
“They’re lilies. I was named after them.”
The explanation brought a smile to my lips.
“Do you like them?” asked Lily.
“They’re beautiful,” I said, “but not as much as you.”
I hadn’t meant to compliment her, but I didn’t regret it. The more time I spent with Lily, the fonder of her I became. Though I didn’t recall the time we’d spent together before my memories were stolen, I couldn’t help feeling as though we shared a deep bond.
Lily blushed, and no doubt, hoping to distract me, plucked one of the flowers and tucked it behind her ear. I considered pointing out the presence of the blossom only heightened her magnificence, but I chose to stifle the budding praise.
“Where to now?” I asked.
Now back to normal, Lily tightened her grip and led me toward a nearby hill. The climb was long, but I enjoyed every second of it. The feel of the sun’s warm rays on my skin and the caress of the gentle breeze was enough to keep me distracted. By the time we reached the slope’s summit. I had forgotten all about the awkwardness of the compliment I’d offered my companion.
“What is that?” I asked, staring at the large body of water that stretched before us.
“It’s a lake.”
I frowned. The word sounded familiar, yet I knew for a fact I’d never witnessed such large quantities of water in a single location. It was both impressive and intimidating.
“Let’s go,” said Lily. Tugging on my hand, she began the short journey to the lake’s edge. It didn’t take long before we reached the shore.
“What are you doing?” I asked when Lily released my hand and began removing her clothes.
She frowned, but then a knowing smile curled her lips.
“Going for a swim,” she said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. She said something else, but I was too distracted by the fact that she was now almost entirely naked. Having removed most of her clothes, a matching bra and panty set was all that remained. Surprisingly diminutive, they hid only the most intimate parts of her anatomy, leaving everything else exposed.
I tried not to gawk but failed miserably. Luckily, Lily didn’t seem upset by my inability to avert my gaze. If anything, she seemed flattered.
“Can you swim?” she asked.
Emerging from my ogling trance, I focused on my friend’s face and frowned.
“I’ll show you,” she said. “Remove your clothes.”
I faltered for a moment, then acted before my mind could come up with reasons why getting undressed was a bad idea. The sweater I wore was easy enough to remove, but the pants were a little harder. Not only were they stiff from a lifetime of use, but an entirely different stiffness made removing them difficult. In the end, I opted to leave them on, well aware that a wash would do them good.
Immersing myself in the water was a strange experience that made my heart gallop and caused my muscles to stiffen, but Lily was a patient teacher. She taught me the breaststroke and helped me become at ease in the water. Soon, I was swimming like a pro.
After that, time sort of lost meaning. Lily and I spent a lot of time in the water, enjoying the caress of the warm liquid and hiding from the sun’s rays. We also stretched our soaked frames across the grass and let the sun dry us, which I thought was an odd thing to do, but the light, fun conversation we had distracted me from the oddness of the activity. At some point, she suggested we find something to eat. Setting off, we ventured to a yet unexplored area and picked succulent fruit from a strange-looking tree. I didn’t bother asking what they were because I was too busy stuffing my face.
The remainder of the day was spent exploring the landscape. We frolicked, picked flowers, and enjoyed every blissful moment. The sun was just beginning to set when Lily turned to me and asked if I was relaxed. I frowned but nodded.
“In that case,” she said. “It’s time.”
“Time for what?”
“To show you the truth.”
“What—” I began, but she cut me off.
“I haven’t been entirely honest with you,” she said. “This isn’t actually the surface.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’re still inside the house. This world”—she gestured at our surroundings—“was created by a computer. It’s a simulation, a virtual reality of sorts.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but I could tell she wasn’t kidding.
“I don’t understand,” I admitted.
“Maybe this will help,” she said. I’m not sure what she did, but the world suddenly began to flicker. Darting in and out of existence, it broke down until none of it remained. Where once there stood rolling hills and blue heavens now was the inside of a small room.
We were back inside the house—or, rather, we had never left it.
“How is this possible?” I asked.
“It’s hard to explain,” she admitted. “The world in which I grew up is far more technologically advanced than The Slums. What you just experienced is only a fraction of what we can do with the technology we possess.”
I didn’t understand what she was saying, but one thing was clear.
Lily lied to me.
“Why?” I asked. “Why go through all this trouble just to trick me?”
She smiled sheepishly.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but what you’re about to see will change your entire outlook on life. I wanted to give you a chance to enjoy your life before ruining it forever.”
I gulped. I was still confused, but I now realized Lily had acted out of selflessness, not selfishness. Though part of me still resented her for lying to me, I knew she’d only done what she thought was best for me.
“Okay,” I say. “Is there anything else I should know?”
She shook her head.
“Are you ready to learn the truth about life on the surface?”
Nodding grimly, she took my hand and led me to the dwelling’s entrance hall. I experienced a moment of déjà vu as I reached for the handle, but I ignored the shiver than ran down my spine and opened the door.
The world beyond the doorframe was nothing like the one I’d recently witnessed. Before me stretched…
Option 1: …a grim, desolate city.
Option 2: …a glistening, futuristic city.
Option 3: …a virtual, holographic city.
Author’s Note: I tricked you, and I apologize if you felt cheated, but every story needs the occasional period of rest—unless you’re writing a thriller. Don’t worry, though. The “boring” chapter is now complete, and next week we’ll get to discover what the surface is really like.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 13.
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RELEASE SCHEDULE: New chapters are released on Saturday.
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