The Memory Thief
Published Jun. 13th 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…
The scales started to move.
“What’s happening?” I asked, glancing at Lily.
“Watch,” she urged, nodding at the gleaming pyramid.
I did as told and watched in a mixture of awe and disbelief as the scales…
Option 1: …shifted, slowly deconstructing the inverted pyramid and reshaping it into a large, glistening sphere.
Option 2: …pivoted outward, revealing hundreds of triangular orifices from which thousands of large, robotic insects emerged.
Option 3: …retreated, revealing a gaping hole from which a sleek flying vehicle gracefully arose.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 12 votes (52.17%)
Option 2: 5 votes (4.35%)
Option 3: 11 votes (43.48%)
This chapter is dedicated to Charles. Thanks for voting.
I did as told and watched in a mixture of awe and disbelief as the scales… shifted, slowly deconstructing the inverted pyramid and reshaping it into a large, glistening sphere.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“No time to explain,” muttered Lily as she grabbed my hand and dragged me toward the edge of the small platform atop which we stood. For a brief moment, I feared her cavalier approach would cause us to lose our footing and go sliding down the glistening pyramid, but a set of glass steps emerged from the structure a second before we reached the edge of the platform. Moments later, we were on our way toward the shifting building that towered above us.
“What—” I began when we reached the base of the building, but Lily cut me off.
“Follow me,” she muttered. Releasing my hand, she stepped up to the wall of shifting triangles and, waiting for the perfect moment, dove through the wall of moving glass.
I stared at the spot where she used to be for a few moments before realizing time was running out. Ignoring the racing of my heart, I picked an orifice at random and squeezed through, only barely avoiding getting crushed by the moving scales. And, just like that, I was inside Titus’s home.
I took a moment to acclimate myself with my surroundings—we appeared to have entered some sort of elaborate kitchen—before focusing on Lily. She stood a short distance away, beaming proudly.
“What just happened?” I asked.
“We got lucky,” was her enigmatic answer.
“What does that mean?”
“Sorry,” she muttered. “I should explain. Titus’s dwelling is a smart home. It’s controlled by a hyper-advanced computer that connects directly to Titus’s nervous system. Whenever his emotions change, the house reshapes to match whatever he’s feeling at that time.”
Why would anyone bother creating such a system? I wondered. Not to mention the fact that it must have cost a fortune to build. Then again, Titus could afford pretty much anything his heart fancied.
“What does the triangle represent?” I asked.
“It’s the most solid geometrical shape,” explained Lily. “It means Titus is feeling in control of his life and everything within it.”
Well, I thought, that explains why Titus chose it as his symbol.
I glanced at the triangle that adorned my arm, wondering if I would ever uncover the reason for its presence, but the enigma only distracted me for a few seconds.
“And the circle?” I asked, glancing at the wall of scales that stood to my left. The transformation now complete, the structure had taken on the shape of a sphere, leaving no traces of the pyramid that had preceded it.
“It’s the structure’s default shape,” she explained. “This particular arrangement only occurs when Titus experiences no emotions.”
“How is that…” I began, but my voice trailed off.
I had just figured out what Lily was trying to say.
“A-Are you… Is Titus asleep?”
“Woah,” I muttered, stunned by how incredibly lucky we’d been. What were the odds Titus would fall asleep just as we were poised to enter his dwelling? It seemed almost too fortuitous, but I wasn’t about to question our good luck. Still, it was with a slight sense of unease that I suggested we not waste our good fortune.
“You’re right,” muttered Lily. “Let’s go.”
She took my hand and guided me across the structure’s lowest level. Taking advantage of this, I let my gaze wander and took in the unusual nature of our surroundings.
The kitchen spanned the entire width of the sphere, and every single piece of furniture was made of glass, metal, or a combination of the two. Pots and pans of all shapes and sizes hung from hooks on the wall, and entire cabinets were devoted to storing utensils and cooking apparatus the likes of which I’d never seen. Vast cutting surfaces were scattered throughout the open space, each one accompanied by a set of sharp, vicious-looking knives. But strangest of all was the presence of the dozen or so robots that were scattered throughout the room. Far smaller than the ones I’d encountered thus far, the metallic beings stood at roughly four feet and were basic in both design and esthetic. It was clear they had been built for one purpose and one purpose alone: cooking.
“Why aren’t they moving?” I asked as we made our way through the maze of island counters, stovetops, and giant refrigerators.
“They’re connected to the same system that controls the house,” explained Lily. “Whenever Titus is hungry, the computer sends a signal to the robots, and they begin cooking one of his favourite meals.”
“But—” I began, but she cut me off.
“They enter hibernation mode whenever Titus is asleep.”
Ah, I thought. That explains it.
We kept going until we reached the epicentre of the kitchen. There, immobile and glistening, stood the very same elevator tube we’d seen during our perilous ascent.
It was bigger than I’d realized, and there appeared to be no doors or means of opening it. Also, there was no sign of the elevator itself, just a long, glass tube that travelled from the top of the sphere to the city that stood far beneath.
“What…” I began, but my voice trailed off when Lily pressed her hand to the glass tube and a section of the pane slid sideways, revealing a door-shaped orifice.
“Get in,” she said, motioning at the empty tube.
“Is it safe?” I asked.
“Don’t worry,” said Lily. “The security system is meant to keep people out. Now that we’re inside the house, we can move about freely.”
I chuckled nervously.
“That’s great,” I muttered, “but that’s not what I was referring to.”
I pointed at the empty tube. Lily chuckled.
“Sorry,” she said. “I keep forgetting you don’t remember anything.”
I didn’t see what having my memories stolen had to do with the milling elevator, but I chose not to question it.
“This is one of the most advanced elevators in the entire world,” explained Lily. “Watch.”
She stepped forward and, without a moment’s hesitation, hopped directly into the tube. I yelped, expecting her to plummet to her death, but gravity seemed to have no hold over her. Hovering like an angel, she smiled and motioned for me to join her. My heart was racing furiously, and every instinct told me not to trust her, but I had come too far to give up now.
Please work, I silently prayed as I approached the edge and, after a brief moment of hesitation, leapt into the empty tube.
I didn’t fall.
I merely drifted forward, no longer afflicted by gravity. It was a strange, fantastic feeling that only got better when I reached Lily. Grabbing hold of me, she halted my forward momentum and, smiling, warned me to hold on.
“What…” I began, but my voice trailed off once more when an unknown force grabbed hold of us and propelled us upward.
“Relax,” advised Lily. “We’re perfectly safe.”
My mind was reeling with the countless ways in which this could go wrong, but I chose to trust my beautiful friend. Still, it took a while before I regained enough control to loosen my grip and enjoy the ride.
“How is this possible?” I eventually asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “All I know is the computer that controls the elevator reads your mind and carries you to wherever you wish to go within the house.”
“It can read your mind?” I gasped. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
Lily shook her head.
“The system only reads the part of my mind that decides where I want to go. It has no idea we’ve come to destroy it.”
I nodded, though part of me worried she was too trusting of a system that was capable of reading your mind and deciphering your thoughts. But I soon forgot about that when I focused on the world beyond the glass tube.
Though we’d already passed nearly a dozen floors, many more still stood above us. The next one we passed appeared to be some sort of oversized lounging area. Filled with couches and finely-chiselled sculptures, the level called to me with the promise of endless rest and comfort. But then the giant living room was gone, and we were floating past the world’s largest gym. Overflowing with various exercise machines and weights of all shapes and sizes, the exercise area was completely deserted.
“How many levels are there?” I asked, amazed by how much stuff Titus had managed to cram into his oversized dwelling.
“Fifty,” said Lily, “but Titus only uses a dozen or so. The others are there mostly for decoration.”
I couldn’t believe it. He lived in opulence while countless others scrounged for scraps far beneath his feet. Though I still believed Lily was correct in insisting we spare Titus’s life, I now understood why Apollo was so intent on killing him. Clearly, the man had no respect for human life, even if he deluded himself into thinking his actions were for the greater good of mankind.
“How much farther?”
“We’re here,” she announced. Moments later, we glided to a halt, and an opening appeared in the glass tube. Pushed forward by the same invisible force that carried us here, we were gently deposited upon the glass floor that stretched before us. The return of gravity nearly caused me to lose my balance, but I manage to steady myself before my knees buckled.
“What is this place?” I asked, looking at the strange décor that stretched before us.
Hundreds of machines stood all around us. They varied in size and shape, but all were painted vibrant colours and had large logos plastered across them. Many also had flashing lights and large screens with blinking numbers.
“Titus calls it the game room,” explained Lily. “It’s where he keeps his collection of vintage games.”
I took a moment to study the odd contraptions. Most were box-like and stood atop four sturdy legs, and all but a few were plugged into the floor using thick, black wires. A particularly flashy one bore the title “Pac-Man” and displayed a yellow, spherical character with an oversized mouth and tiny limbs. Another showed a giant brown gorilla rolling barrels down a hill.
“These are games?” I asked.
“Come. I’ll show you.” She grabbed my hand and dragged me away from the elevator.
As we travelled, she pointed out different games and briefly explained how they were played. There was one called Frogger where the whole point of the game was to get a frog—a small, green animal—across a busy street. Another taught you how to dance using a platform with glowing arrows. Two more took place in space. The aim of the first was to shoot asteroids before they destroyed your spaceship. The second was all about shooting an advancing army of aliens before they overwhelmed you. There was also something called Air Hockey, and a game where you stood on a street and punched and kicked random opponents. It was all bizarre, but Lily assured me it was quite addictive.
“This is my favourite,” she said as we came to a stop in front of something called a Pinball machine. Stepping up to it, she pressed a few buttons, and a series of bright lights and sharp sounds erupted from the device. A small metallic ball shot out of the top right of the machine and began bouncing around, hitting various objects and mechanisms and producing a cacophony of sounds. Placing one hand on either side of the machine, Lily used two large buttons to activate the flippers that stood at the base of the game. At first, I thought the presses were random, but I soon realized she only activated the flippers when the ball got near. Clearly, the aim was to keep the ball from entering the hole at the base of the game, and the longer you kept it at bay, the more points you got. I watched, both transfixed and perplexed, as the numbers on the screen began to climb. While obviously addicting, I couldn’t seem to figure out what was so fun about this game. Why did she care so much about that ball? But I forgot all about that when I noticed the tears streaming down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Lily sighed and, giving up on the game, stepped away. The ball bounced a few more times, then vanished into the hole. Moments later, the machine went silent.
“Is everything all right?” I asked tentatively. Lily was obviously upset, and I didn’t want to make things worse by invading her privacy.
She wiped away the tears and smiled.
“I’m fine,” she said. “I spent a lot of time here after my mother passed away.” She sighed. “Now, I get emotional whenever I play.”
I want to comfort her, but I can’t think of anything to say, so I decide to distract her with a question.
“What happened to your mother?” I asked.
Lily remained silent for a long time before finally shaking her head.
“It’s not important,” she said. “We’ve wasted enough time. We should go.”
She turned to walk away, but I grabbed her arm.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to…” My voice trailed off.
“It’s not your fault.” She sighed. “Losing her was hard, but Titus was there to comfort me.”
“He’s not as bad as you think he is. He was always there for my mother and me.” She fell silent for a while. “I’m not saying Titus is perfect, and I don’t condone his behaviour, but he’s trying to help people.” A deep sigh, followed by a shuddering breath. “I want to stop him—more than anything—but I’m not willing to commit murder. Are you?”
I wasn’t expecting such a pointed question, yet I didn’t hesitate before voicing my answer.
“No,” I said. “I’m not a murderer.”
“Good,” she said, wiping away the last few tears. “Let’s go.”
She turned and walked away. I watched her go for a few seconds, amazed by how strong she was. Not many people would risk everything to help those in need, especially when it meant going up against the man who took her in after her mother passed away. But Lily wasn’t like most people.
“Wait up,” I called as I hurried after her. We travelled side by side for a while, then came to a halt in front of a machine I was all too familiar with.
A Mind-Altering Terminal.
The device was just as I recalled, though it appeared to be a newer model. Slick and shaped like a flattened egg, the device was the colour of charcoal. Next to it stood a strange-looking console. It came equipped with a screen and a series of buttons.
“What is it?” I asked.
“That,” she said, “is the console we’ll use to access the system.”
I stared at it for a while before the sense of foreboding that filled me forced me to tear my gaze away from it.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
Lily smiled and said…
Option 1: “It’s simple. I’ll access the system via this terminal and use the codes I stole to corrupt the programming and force the robots into hibernation mode.”
Option 2: “Titus doesn’t trust computers. In order to access the system, we’ll need to manually reorganize the objects in the room. Only then can we input the codes I stole and force the robots into hibernation mode.”
Option 3: “I’ll need your help. You’ll enter the program via the MAT and manually input the codes I stole into the digital mainframe. I’ll guide you from out here and make sure you don’t set off any alarms.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 25.
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