The Memory Thief
Published Jul. 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…
I took a moment to weigh the pros and cons of each option. Though there were only two, a third possibility was made available in the form of a combination. That meant I had three options to choose from. It wasn’t an easy decision, but deep down, I knew my mind was already made up.
“All right,” I said. “We’ll…
Option 1: …locate The Triangle of Justice and convince Apollo to help.”
Option 2: … return to The Slums and convince the citizens to rise up and fight.”
Option 3: …split up and do both.”
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 3 votes (12.50%)
Option 2: 7 votes (29.17 %)
Option 3: 14 votes (58.33%)
This chapter is dedicated to Mared. Thanks for voting.
“We’ll… split up and do both.”
“I suspected that would be your choice,” she said. “Do you prefer locating The Triangle of Justice, or do you wish to return to The Slums to reveal the truth to your people?”
“Er…” I muttered, suddenly at a loss for words. Part of me longed to return to the city that had been my home for all but the last few weeks, yet there was no denying I was perfectly equipped to convince Apollo to help us. I weighed the pros and cons of both options for a while before finally making up my mind.
“I’ll return to The Slums,” I announced. “Do you think you can handle finding The Triangle of Justice on your own?”
“Of course,” she said. Growing serious, she added, “But first, I’ll hack my father’s surveillance system and deactivate the livestream feature. It won’t fool him for long, but it should give us a fighting chance.”
“How long?” I asked.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll have about a week.”
“And, if we’re not lucky?”
“A few hours.”
“That’s not enough. Is there anyway way you can prolong that?”
“I can try. How long do you need?”
I performed a few mental calculations.
“Three days,” I said.
“I’ll do my best.”
I smiled. She was one hell of a liar—and a skilled manipulator—but she was also incredibly brave.
“We should get going,” I said. “Each moment we delay, more innocents suffer.”
Lily nodded and motioned for me to follow her. A few minutes later, we were on our way back to The Virt, the flying vehicle in which we sat almost identical to the one I’d used to get here. But I forgot all about that when a twinkle of light caught my eye.
The glass pyramid.
It was barely more than a glimmer in the distance, yet its presence ignited the pyre of fear that stood deep within me. Who were we to challenge the might of Titus and his robotic army? But the time for doubts had passed. It was time for action.
“How will we get in?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” said Lily.
We kept going until we reached the pyramid then, keeping low to avoid being detected, came in for a landing by its base. Locating the hidden entrance Lily insisted was hidden nearby wasn’t easy, but we were soon leaving the outside world behind. After a short walk through the fog, we reached the familiar sight of rusted buildings and worn cobblestone.
The Virt hadn’t changed since I’d last seen it, but my recent trip to Elysium forced me to see it for what it truly was: a prison. Now more than ever, I was determined to do whatever it took to overthrow Titus and restore peace to both this metropolis and the one that lay beneath.
“Let’s go,” I said.
Lily took the lead and guided us across the crumbling city. Though most of the buildings blended together to form a bleak canvas of pain and desolation, I eventually began to recognize some of the glass structures. I didn’t understand why until it suddenly appeared before us.
It looked just as I recalled. White as frost and ornately decorated, the structure stood out like a sore thumb, yet its presence filled me with a welcome sense of familiarity.
“I guess this is it,” I said once we reached the porch.
“We’ll meet at the base of my father’s statue in exactly three days. Do you think you can find it?”
I chuckled. Locating the statue would be easy. Convincing the citizens of The Slums that the infamous memory thief was, in fact, an army of robots controlled by an evil overlord wouldn’t.
“I’ll do my best,” I said.
Lily nodded, and after a moment of hesitation, leaned forward and pressed her lips to my cheek.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“It’s my way of wishing you good luck,” she said. “Be careful.”
“I will,” I promised. Part of me wanted to reciprocate, but I wasn’t quite ready to forgive her for lying to me.
“See you in three days,” said Lily.
“Yeah,” I muttered. “Good luck.”
I turned and made my way up the stairs. Pausing by the front door, I studied the triangle that adorned it, and sighing deeply, opened the door.
The inside of the dwelling was just as I recalled, and locating the lever that would turn this oversized house into an oversized elevator was as easy as following Lily’s instructions. Soon, the mansion shuddered to life and began its slow descent into the bowels of the Earth.
The journey took longer than expected, but that was just because I spent most of it worrying Lily wouldn’t have time to deactivate the cameras that were hidden throughout The Slums. But then the dwelling shuddered to a stop, and the time for doubts came to an end.
“This is it,” I muttered as I approached the door and yanked it open. The world beyond was just as I recalled, yet I now saw it in a whole new light. Once upon a time, I had thought of the mud-ridden landscape as home, but I now saw it for what it really was.
The citizens of The Virt were prisoners, but the inhabitants of The Slums were nothing more than livestock, soulless animals to be used as Titus saw fit.
“That’s about to change,” I muttered, once again reminded of the importance of punishing Titus for all the pain he had inflicted upon my people. But, first, I had to catch up with some old friends.
I pushed through the crowd, determined to reach The Cluster’s hideout as quickly as possible. It had been weeks since I’d last seen Lom and Squid, and I couldn’t wait to tell them what I’d learned. Of course, my desire to reunite with The Cluster wasn’t entirely selfish—I would need all the help I could get if I hoped to convince the citizens of The Slums to rise up and overthrow their yet unknown oppressor. But I forgot all about that when I turned a corner and came face to face with someone I knew.
“Finger?” I muttered, staring at the filthy child that stood before me. “Is that really you?”
The little girl was just as I remembered. Her grimy cheeks were stained with dried tears, and a headless doll was clutched in her tiny hands. Her shoulder-length hair was knotted beyond repair, and her clothes were in shambles. Her feet were bare, and a finger was missing from her left hand.
The child remained of stone for a moment, then her parched lips curled into a broad smile, and she lunged forward, throwing herself into my arms. I caught her and held her tight, careful not to snap her fragile bones.
“How are you?” I asked once the hug was over. “What have you been up to?”
She shrugged, reminding me of her inability to speak. But she didn’t let her lack of tongue stop her. She grabbed my hand and, hobbling forward on her uneven legs, guided me through the crowd.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
Finger didn’t reply. She silently guided me through the crowd, taking me to a part of the city I’d never visited. It was cleaner than most of the other boroughs, and most of the dwellings were still intact.
“Where are you taking me?” I inquired, but Finger just kept pulling. Farther and farther we travelled until, finally, we reached our destination.
A boarded-up house stood before us. Though it remained mostly intact, it had clearly been abandoned for quite some time.
“Why…” I began, but my voice trailed off when Finger started pulling once more. Leading me to the back of the house, she released my hand and, momentarily placing her doll upon the muddy earth, began moving pieces of rubble. At first, I didn’t understand what she was doing, but then an orifice was revealed, and I realized she was unearthing a hidden entrance.
“Oh,” I gasped. “Is this where you live?”
She nodded and, retrieving her doll, motioned for me to follow and entered the narrow opening. I hesitated for a moment before following. The inside of the dwelling was dark, and it took my eyes a moment to adjust, but the scene that was revealed was well worth the wait.
A large living room had been turned into a makeshift dormitory. Decorated with various pieces of scavenged furniture, the improvised dwelling was equipped with eight beds. Three were occupied. Four were empty. One had clearly never been touched as the torn covers that made it up were free of wrinkles and drool stains. But I forgot all about that when I realized the individuals gathered around the room weren’t mere strangers.
They were my friends.
“Lom?” I muttered. “W-What are you doing here?”
The teenager bolted upright, his shaggy hair momentarily obscuring his dark eyes. His clothes were just as filthy as I recalled, and his feet were bare, but the smile that curled his lips fully made up for it.
“Spy?” he muttered, struggling to disentangle himself from the cocoon of covers that encircled him. It took a while, but he finally managed to extirpate himself. By then, I had recognized all but one of the other kids that stared at me from various points in the room.
Squid—the young boy who helped me repair Handy, the robot that made Lom’s rescue possible—sat in a large, padded chair, picking his nose. Maggot—the youngest member of The Cluster—was sound asleep in his bed. The Twins—scraggly boys with tangled hair and haggard expressions—were fighting over their adjacent beds’ sole pillow. The sixth and final member of the team stood with his back to me, but the sight of his massive gut left no doubt as to his identity.
“You,” I growled, stepping toward the bully. “What are you doing here?”
Piggy turned, his beady eyes growing wide at the sight of me. He tried to stand but slipped on a stray piece of rubble and ended up flat on his back. Taking advantage of his misfortune, I rushed forward and straddled him.
“Why are you here?” I demanded, fist raised in threat. “I thought I made it clear you were never to return.”
Piggy tried to speak, but all that came out was a jumble of sounds and snorts.
“What—” I began, but a familiar voice cut me off.
“Wait!” said Lom. “He’s one of us.”
I looked up to see my friend rushing toward me, looking distraught.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Certain,” said Lom as he skidded to a halt before me.
I stared at him for a while before glancing at the other members of The Cluster. They seemed quite at ease, which meant Lom was telling the truth about Piggy.
“Sorry,” I muttered as I stood and offered Piggy a hand. He hesitated for a moment before taking it. I pulled him to his feet and watched as he sheepishly retreated to a corner of the room.
I took a moment to try to wrap my mind around everything I had just learned, but there was too much information for my tired brain to handle.
“Can someone please tell me what the blank is going on?” I asked. “Last I checked, Piggy was a bully, you guys were staying in a different hideout, and Finger didn’t know who any of you were. Oh, yeah. And where’s Handy? Wasn’t he supposed to watch over you while I was gone?”
“A lot has happened since you left,” he said. “Let’s sit. I’ll explain everything.”
I nodded, and we gathered in the centre of the room. Squid, Maggot, and The Twins insisted on giving me a hug, but Lom was content with a handshake. As for Piggy, well, he remained in his corner, listening from afar.
“We spent the first few days waiting for you to return,” began Lom once we were all settled in, “but it eventually became evident you wouldn’t return.” He sighed. “We tried looking for you, but—”
“I told them about the door with the triangle on it,” interrupted Squid, “but it wouldn’t open.”
“That’s right,” agreed Lom. “We did all we could, but we were eventually forced to give up. The next week or so was uneventful, but then Handy ran out of power, and—”
“He ran out of power?” I interrupted. “Are you sure?”
“His triangle stopped glowing, and he grew completely still. It was creepy.”
“Huh,” I muttered. I’d secretly been planning on using Handy to convince the citizens of the veracity of my claim, but it seemed I would have to find another means of inciting a rebellion. But there would be time for that latter.
“How did Piggy come back into the picture,” I asked, glancing at the large boy.
“He returned a few days after Handy died,” explained Lom.
“He’s not dead!” snapped Squid, obviously upset by the robot’s power failure.
“Sorry,” apologized Lom. “Piggy returned a few days after Handy went to sleep. We thought he wanted to reclaim control of The Cluster, but he assured us he just wanted to be part of the group.”
That didn’t sound like Piggy, but I’d be a hypocrite to think that people can’t change.
“And Finger?” I asked, glancing at the group’s only female member.
“She arrived with Piggy,” said Lom. “Apparently, he rescued her from a group of drunken men.” He leaned forward and added in a hushed tone, “I think that’s what made him realize heroes make more friends than bullies.”
What is it with Finger and drunken men? I wondered, but all I really cared about was that she was safe and part of our makeshift family.
“Thanks for watching over Finger while I was away,” I told the former bully. “And I’m sorry for attacking you before.”
“I’m the one who should apologize,” he said. “I’ve always been jealous of you, and I did horrible things to try to make myself feel better. I’m just happy I realized what was happening before it was too late.”
I smiled, now fully convinced Piggy was, in fact, rehabilitated.
“And how did you end up here?” I asked, gesturing at our surroundings.
“That was all Piggy,” said Lom. “He felt bad for what he’d done, so he set off in search of a better hideout and came back with news of his success a few days later. We’ve been here ever since.”
Well, I think. That answers all but one of my questions. But before I could ask it, I first had to tell my friends what I learned during the past few weeks.
I took well over an hour, but Lom, Squid, Finger, Piggy, Maggot, and The twins were finally up to date. Now, it was time to voice the question that had plagued me ever since I had reunited with my friends.
“Will you help me mount a rebellion?” I asked.
A heavy silence followed the question, but it was shattered by a powerful outburst, courtesy of Lom. Moments later, the rest of the group joined in, and the burden of responsibility was lifted from my shoulders. The battle was far from won, but I was no longer alone, and that was a big plus.
We spent the next few hours strategizing. Many tactics were discussed, but in the end, we were left with only three viable options. The first involved capturing a robot and using it to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Titus was using his army of metallic beings to steal people’s memories. The second was more subtle and required us to steal a memory vial in order to restore Handy to its former glory. The third consisted of gathering the citizens of The Slums, explaining the situation to them, and hoping they believed us. It was less likely to work, but it was way safer.
“I propose a vote,” I suggested when the conversation degenerated into an argument. Convincing everyone to comply wasn’t easy, but they all relented when I explained the ballots would be anonymous. Coming up with a system that pleased everyone—the two youngest members of The Cluser were illiterate—took a while, but we eventually reached a consensus.
“All right,” I said after counting the ballots three times to avoid making a mistake. “We have a winner.”
A loud cheer rose up, but it died down as soon as I raised my arms. Taking advantage of the silence, I announced the results of the vote.
“We’re going to…
Option 1: “…capture a robot and use it to convince the people to rebel.”
Option 2: “…steal a memory vial and bring Handy back to life.”
Option 3: “…talk to the people and hope they believe us.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 30.
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.