The Memory Thief
Published April 18th 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…
It took a while, but a holographic display eventually appeared before my mind’s eye. Simple but effective, the virtual display consisted of a single button.
I stared at it for a while before reaching out with my virtual hand—I could still feel my real hand pressed against the bottom of the pod—and pressing the button. Vanishing in a flash, it was replaced with a brief message inviting me to pick my favourite simulations from the list that would soon appear. Moments later, the notice faded and was replaced by a list of potential simulations. Each consisted of a title, a short, looping video, and a button that read “Launch Simulation.” Trembling with excitement, I went through the list and selected all options that caught my eye. I then went through a second time and removed all but the three that seemed like the most fun. I studied each in turn before finally picking one. Smiling broadly, I reached forward and pressed the button that read…
Option 1: …“Launch The Mythology Trials Simulation.”
Option 2: …“Launch The Magician’s Apprentice Simulation.”
Option 3: …“Launch The Dinosaur Race Simulation.”
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 10 votes (41.67%)
Option 2: 10 votes (41.67%)
Option 3: 4 votes (16.66%)
This chapter is dedicated to Elastigirlyz. Thanks for voting.
Author’s Note: We have another tie. As usual, I have included both winning options in this chapter.
Smiling broadly, I reached forward and pressed the button that read… “Launch The Mythology Trials Simulation.”
I regretted it almost immediately. Not because I wasn’t looking forward to entering the digital world, but rather because I felt as though I was missing out. Hoping to make up for my blunder, I reached out and pressed the button that read “Launch The Magician’s Apprentice Simulation.”
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then the menu disappeared, and swirls of colours began to emerge from the surrounding oblivion. Weaving themselves together, they formed shapes and objects, birthing a digital world that was both foreign, yet familiar. Within seconds, all traces of the void had faded.
I stood in a dimly-lit room. The floor and walls were made of stone, and wooden shelves jutted from every available surface, overflowing with various objects and bobbles. Two hand-carved tables stood at the centre of the room, piles of trinkets heaped atop their dusty surfaces. Dozens of candles were scattered around the room, casting gloomy shadows on the walls and ceiling. But, as strange as it looked, the landscape was somehow familiar.
I recognized objects I had never seen and knew the names of things I had never even heard of. Most of the objects I spied were related to magic in some way or another, but I didn’t allow myself to believe I had entered The Magician’s Apprentice simulation until I saw him.
He stood in the corner of the room, his wrinkly face half-hidden behind a greying beard. He was bald, and he wore a dark robe. His hands were gnarled by time and use, and his eyes remained permanently bathed in shadows. Nonetheless, I knew he was not to be feared. After all, I was his apprentice.
I wonder how I know that, I thought. Clearly, the simulation provided me with all the knowledge I required to fully immerse myself in the game. Sure enough, I no longer felt like Spyder, leader of The Cluster and sworn enemy of the Memory Thief. I was the magician’s unnamed apprentice, here to learn the trade so I could protect those in need from the forces of darkness.
“What are you looking at?” suddenly barked the magician, chasing away the few remnants of my old life. Darting forward with the stealth and speed of a cheetah, he approached until the tip of his nose touched mine, and his fetid breath filled my lungs.
“N-Nothing,” I stuttered, struggling not to gag.
He pulled away and studied me.
“I’m leaving for a few hours,” he finally said. “I expect your chores to be done by the time I return.”
I sighed but nodded.
“Very well,” said the old wizard. He turned to leave then reconsidered. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And, above all, don’t use magic.” Turning abruptly, he ruffled his cloak and vanished in the resulting explosion of movement.
I sighed, wondering if I would ever have the skills to pull off such a feat. I had cast a few minor spells, but my master insisted I take my time, claiming moving too quickly would result in catastrophe. I had my doubts, but it had never occurred to me to disobey my master. Until now…
The thought arose moments after I’d retrieved the broom from the storage closet and begun sweeping. I fought it for a while before finally giving in to it.
“One small spell can’t hurt,” I muttered as I leaned the broom against the nearest table. “Can it?”
Ignoring the silence that surrounded me, I focused on the broom and willed it to come to life. It took a while—nearly a full minute—but the shaft finally twitched. Subtle at first, the tremors grew in intensity until the broom was vibrating so violently it started knocking things off the table. Worried I had made a mistake, I severed the connection and took a step back, but it was too late.
The transformation couldn’t be stopped. The convulsions continued until, finally, the tremors ceased, and the broom grew still. But it wasn’t perfectly still. It twitched every few seconds, as though it were breathing.
Could it be?
Excitement coursed through my veins, but it quickly turned to pride when the broom suddenly jerked to attention and, moving back and forth of its own volition, began sweeping the floor.
“I can’t believe it worked,” I cried out.
I watched the broom work for a while before another thought occurred to me.
What if I enchant something else?
I considered the possibility for a moment before banishing it from my thoughts. I’d already broken the rules, and further disobedience would be ill-fated. But, that didn’t mean I couldn’t use the broom for other things.
I had firewood to split and a large basin to fill with water. I didn’t mind the former, but I hated carrying water. Not only did the heavy pails hurt my shoulders, but the river stood at the base of a steep hill.
“I wonder if it will work,” I muttered. Retrieving the wooden buckets from the storage closet, I approached the enchanted broom and placed them on the ground.
The broom stopped sweeping and stared at me with its inexistent eyes. Nothing happened for a while, then the buckets levitated off the floor, as though carried by invisible arms. Moments later, the broom was on its way.
I followed the charmed sweeper outside and watched as it travelled down the slope and filled the pails in the river. Moving far quicker than I ever could, it scaled the steep hill and dumped the water in the large basin that stood within the house. Satisfied, I made my way to the rear of the house and started chopping wood. It was a process that required much concentration, so I quickly forgot all about the enchanted broom.
It wasn’t until the last log had been split and stacked that I realized what I’d done. Terrified of what I would find, I rushed to the front of the house, axe still in hand.
The broom was still carrying water, which was a good sign, but one look at the house confirmed my worst fear. A puddle of water had formed by the front entrance, and the stone floor that lay beyond was drowning in a thin layer of water. Rushing inside, I found a mess of gargantuan proportions.
The water had spread throughout the dwelling, ruining more things than I cared to count. Terrified of what my master would do, I began moping up the water, but it quickly became evident such a thing would be pointless lest I first convince the broom to cease and desist.
Locating the broom was easy, but convincing it to obey my command wasn’t. When words failed, I tried ripping the pails from its invisible hands but failed miserably. Desperate to put an end to this madness, I retrieved my axe and chopped the broom in half.
While effective, the assault was far from permanent. Shuddering violently, the two halves of the broom came back to life. Growing at an accelerated rate, they replicated, forming two whole brooms. Panicked, I did the only thing I could think of and smashed the sweepers to bits. But that only made things worse.
Instead of two brooms, there were now hundreds of them. Moving as one, the herd of sweepers travelled down the hill and, using invisible buckets, began carrying water toward the house. Instead of travelling into the house and dumping the contents of their pails into the overflowing basin, they emptied their loads into the main hall. Restrained by an invisible wall, the water began to rise, quickly filling the entire house.
I tried stopping the brooms but failed miserably. Defeated, I crumbled into a heap and watched as the brooms flooded my master’s house.
It took a while, but the water rose beyond the summit of the doorframe. But still the brooms kept working. And working. And working, until, finally, the house was so full it began to groan.
“Oh, no,” I muttered when I realized the house was about to collapse. Soon, all that would remain of the beautiful dwelling was a waterlogged heap of stones and planks. But, just when all hope seemed lost, a figure appeared beside me.
It was my master.
He was smiling, but the grin faded when he noticed the brooms and realized what I had done. But it was already too late. With a final groan, the house collapsed, releasing a tidal wave of water and debris. Too terrified to even consider flight as a viable option, I stood my ground and waited for the end.
It never came.
Moments before the tidal wave hit us, my master raised his arms and repelled the assault. But he did far more than that; he rewound time, causing both the water and the fragments of the dwelling to retreat. Soon, the house was whole once more, and the brooms took care of retrieving the excess water, moving backward as they performed the impressive feat. This strange dance continued until not a single drop of water remained. Lowering his hands, my master collapsed, but not before eradicating the brooms to nothingness with a swipe of his hand.
I rushed to his side. He was barely conscious, but he was strong enough to whisper something do me.
“I told you not to use magic.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I was just…” My voice trailed off when I realized the magician had stopped breathing. And he wasn’t the only one. The entire world has grown still, as though someone had pressed the pause button.
I looked around, perplexed. And my disbelief only increased when the world began to break apart. Gradual at first, the deconstruction quickly spread, turning everything to dust. While beautiful, the transformation was terrifying. Soon, all that remained of the world was a swirling tornado of colours and shapes.
It took a while, but I finally remembered who—and where I was. I’d been so immersed in the simulation I’d forgotten all about the real world. But now that it was over, I finally understood why people spent so much time in MATs. Only, it wasn’t over.
The world was gone, but the colours remained. Breaking apart, they began forming new shapes. Soon, all traces of the tornado were gone. In its place now stood a vast, vibrant world.
“What the hell?” I muttered.
I stood within a narrow reed boat, a long wooden pole clutched within my powerful hands. My chest was bare and tanned, and the loincloth I wore was impeccable. Though I couldn’t see it, I instinctively knew my head was that of a falcon. My beak snapped viciously as my eyes darted around, taking in the lush landscape that stretched beyond the boat.
The water was murky, yet I could still make out large shapes lurking beneath the surface, ready to strike. Beyond the meandering body of water stood a thick wall of reeds. The world beyond passed in flashes as I glided along, revealing lush trees, green pastures, and tanned people.
I’m in Egypt, I realized. Ancient Egypt.
I smiled, suddenly realizing I was now within the first simulation I’d chosen. Forgetting all about the real world and the concerns it contained, I embraced my role as Horus, falcon god of the sky. My right eye was the sun, and my left the moon. I flew across the heavens each day, bringing light and darkness to the glorious land of Ancient Egypt.
I felt powerful—more powerful than I ever had before. I had the strength of a god, and the wisdom to match. But there was something else there, something dark.
It burned bright, threatening to consume me. I fought against it, refusing to let it control me, but that all changed when another boat glided past me. Steering it was a man I knew all too well.
He was the god of chaos, and he ruled over the land with an iron fist. But he was also a murderer. He had killed my father—his brother—and stolen the throne from him. My mother had tried to defeat him but had failed. I had been forced to grow up knowing it would one day be my duty to defeat him and reclaim the throne of Egypt. And that time had finally come.
“You’ll have to do better than that if you want to win,” mocked Set as he rowed furiously. His frame was imposing, and his muscles danced as he worked the wooden pole through the water. His head was that of an animal, though it resembled no living beast I’d ever seen. Similar to that of a dog, the snout was curved and vicious-looking, and the long, rectangular ears that topped it could pick out a noise long before the thing making it was revealed. But this was a battle of strength, not hearing.
“You’ll never win,” I shrieked. The fate of the entire kingdom rested on the outcome of this race, and failure meant not only banishment for my mother and me, but it involved failing to avenge my father’s murder. That, more than anything else, convinced me to do whatever I had to do to win.
I gripped the rowing perch and, driving it deep into the water, used it to push against the bed of the river and propel me forward. I repeated the process three more times before finally catching up with my uncle. I tried passing him, but he attacked me with his perch. Destabilized, I nearly fell into the water, but I managed to regain my balance. Now angrier than concerned, I yanked my perch from the murky water and, holding it like a spear, propelled it toward my uncle. Unprepared for such an assault, he suffered a direct hit and toppled off his boat.
Set vanished beneath the surface, and when he resurfaced a few seconds later, he had shed his human form to become a hippopotamus. Swimming gracefully, he neared my boat and rammed it, sending me tumbling into the water. Dodging a crocodile’s snapping jaw, I used the same godly power my uncle has employed to transform into a hippopotamus.
We met in fierce battle, ramming our heads together and taking vicious bites at one another. Set was bigger, and it was obvious he would eventually defeat me. But I was faster. I swam circles around him, determined to exhaust him, but then I saw something that completely changed my approach.
The finish line.
It stood a stone throw away, calling to me with the promise of victory. Well aware that my superior speed would prove advantageous in what had now become a swim race, I turned my back to my uncle and began swimming. By the time Set realized what had happened, I had already crossed the finish line.
I swam to shore and, ignoring the crowd that was gathered there, reverted to my original form. No sooner had I regained an erect posture than someone emerged from the mass of people and raced toward me.
It was my mother.
“You did it,” she cried, throwing her arms around me and hugging me tightly. “You won.”
I beamed and hugged her back.
“Yes, mother,” I said. “I won. I avenged Father’s death.”
She pulled away and smiled.
“He would have been proud of you,” she said. “And now that you’ve won, you can finally become the ruler he always envisioned you to be.”
“Not so fast,” said a voice behind me.
It was Set. He had only just emerged from the Nile river, and he now stood before me in his waterlogged human form.
“This isn’t over,” he growled, his monstrous face curling into a sneer of hatred.
“I won,” I said, but my uncle didn’t seem to care.
“This race was but a distraction,” he said. “The real battle is about to begin.”
He dropped to his hands and knees and began transforming. His head remained unchanged but for the fact that it doubled in size. Now that of a giant canine, his body was covered in inverted triangle tufts of fur. A long, forked tail whistled through the air behind him.
Growling angrily, the beast lunged forward, teeth gnashing and claws extended. Reacting on instinct, I shoved my mother aside and leapt into the air, using my godly powers to transform into a giant falcon. Beating my massive wings, I rose higher and higher until Set was nothing but a tiny speck. Screeching angrily, I tucked my wings and dove toward my enemy.
The wind whistled past my ear slits as I plummeted toward the earth. My nictitating membrane fluttered furiously, clearing the debris from my eyes and allowing me to maintain constant eye contact with my target.
Set may have been a god, but he was no match for my speed. By the time I finally reached him, he appeared to be moving in slow motion. Opening my wings as wide as they would go, I altered my trajectory just in time to avoid slamming into the earth. Talons extended, I glided past my uncle and dragged my claws across his flank, cutting six deep gashes into his flesh.
He roared in pain and anger and lashed out at me, but I was already gone. Rising into the air, I prepared a second attack. Much like the first, it was over in just a few seconds and Set now possessed six new wounds. More soon appeared, turning the once imposing deity into a heap of mutilated flesh.
Victory was inevitable. Or so I thought until my uncle struck out with a perfectly-timed strike. Unable to dodge the massive paw, I slammed into the earth, dislocating one of my wings and snapping more than one bone.
Set sauntered toward me, sneering viciously.
“You’re but a child,” he said. “A blind child who can’t see what’s just in front of his face.”
He cackled, his mirth more like a low growl than actual laughter.
“And here is the price you must pay for your blindness.”
He raised a paw and brought it down, hitting me hard against the side of my face. Momentarily disoriented, I didn’t see the next blow coming. But I felt every excruciating second.
Acting with the precision of a surgeon, he slipped two claws into my eye socket and ripped out my eye, tossing the now useless orb into the Nile.
I yowled in pain and, in an extraordinary feat of strength, propelled myself away from my attacker. Though my broken wing kept me from taking flight, I managed to scramble to my talons and scamper away. But Set was upon me in mere seconds.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, sending me crumbling to the ground with a powerful swipe of his paw. “I’m not done with you.”
I considered trying to fight back, but it was pointless. So, I lay on my back and peered up at my uncle. My vision was blurry with tears, and my head was throbbing, but I could still see well enough to know he was smiling that vicious smile of his.
“Your father begged for his life,” he sneered. “Will you?”
I remained frozen for a moment before the jab at my father caused me to lose control. Giving in to my inner predator, I lashed out with my talons, ripping through flesh and bones until nothing remained. I didn’t realize what I’d done until the rage subsided, and the goriness of my assault was revealed.
My uncle lay in a pool of his own blood, his human body covered in lacerations. But what truly horrified me was what lay between his exposed legs.
In my blind rage, I’d severed his genitals from his body, causing him to lose both the battle and his manhood. At least, he still had his life. And I would allow him to retain it so long as he agreed to leave Egypt and never return.
He did. Not with grace or gratitude, but rather with vicious words and a promise to return when he was stronger. But I didn’t care. I had avenged my father’s death, and that was all that mattered.
I reverted to my human form and, ignoring the searing pain that crippled me, stood tall and took my rightful place as the new ruler of Egypt.
I was still beaming when the simulation ended. Somewhat less perplexed by the sudden disappearance of the surrounding landscape, I struggled to make sense of the darkness that surrounded me. It wasn’t until the last few shreds of colour faded, and a holographic display appeared before me that I remembered who I really was.
My name was Spyder, and I was one of the countless innocents whose memories had been stolen. But I had risen from the darkness and uncovered the truth—or at least part of it—and I would not rest until I understood who was behind the memory theft. But I forgot all about that when I focused on the hologram.
There were two buttons, each one displaying an entirely different scenario. I read each one in turn and carefully considered my options.
Pick new simulation.
I was tempted to exit the MAT and demand Artemis answer all of my questions, yet the prospect of entering another simulation was too enticing to ignore. I weighed both options carefully before finally making up my mind. Confident I’d made the right choice, I reached out…
Option 1: …and pressed the button that read “Exit M.A.T.”
Option 2: …and pressed the button that read “Pick new simulation.”
Option 3: …but the system malfunctioned before I got a chance to press a button.
Author’s Note: The Magician’s Apprentice simulation was based on the 1797 poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was popularized by the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia. The Mythology Trials simulation was based on the Egyptian myth of Horus and Set. The boat racing, the hippopotamus fight, the enucleation (removal of the eye), and the genital mutilation were all part of the original story, but the transformation into their animal forms and subsequent battle were added by me.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 17.
HOW TO VOTE: The Memory Thief is distributed via my newsletter, and only subscribers can vote. Claim your FREE book below to become a Storyteller and start voting today.
RELEASE SCHEDULE: New chapters are released on Saturday.
Thanks for reading.
Want a FREE Book?
Lured away from his life at the orphanage by the promise of a family reunion, fifteen-year-old Will Save unwittingly embarks on an adventure through time and space.