The Memory Thief
Published Aug. 1st 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…
“Let’s hope this works,” I muttered as I yanked the safety pin, shook the grenade vigorously, and tossed it into the pit. A few seconds ticked by, then…
Option 1: …nothing.
Option 2: …a muted explosion shook the earth, and a blast of cold air rose from the depths of the pit.
Option 3: …a powerful explosion rocked the earth, and a column of fire erupted from the depths of the pit.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 1 vote (04.76%)
Option 2: 16 votes (76.19%)
Option 3: 4 votes (19.05%)
This chapter is dedicated to Ron. Thanks for voting.
A few seconds ticked by, then… a muted explosion shook the earth, and a blast of cold air rose from the depths of the pit.
Did it work? I wondered. Heart racing, I crept toward the pit and peered into it.
The robot was frozen, its single triangular eye half hidden beneath a thick layer of frost. An equally frozen briefcase stood by its feet, ready for the picking.
“Could you…” I began, but my voice trailed off when Lom pushed past me and hopped into the pit. The frozen earth groaned beneath his weight but remained mostly indifferent to his presence. Taking advantage of this, he snatched the briefcase and handed it to me.
“Thanks,” I muttered. Ignoring the bite of the ice crystals, I fumbled with the lock until both latches had been liberated, then carefully eased the case open and studied its contents.
The vials were untouched by the cold.
“We’re good,” I called down. “You can come back up.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Turning toward the robot, he dug his feet into the earth and toppled it.
“What are…” I began, but my voice trailed off once more when Lom scurried up the being’s frozen frame and lifted himself out of the pit.
“Let’s go,” he said. “There’s no telling how long the bot will remain frozen.”
“You’re right,” I agreed, “but…”
“We can’t just leave it like this,” I said, nodding at the trapped robot. “The moment it awakes, it will alert Titus as to my whereabouts.”
“No,” said Lom. “It won’t.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He winked and made his way to the nearest building. Reaching into the half-rotted structure, he produced two rusted shovels and a broken rake.
“How did—” I began, but Lom cut me off.
“I suspected you’d want to dispose of the evidence, so I planned accordingly.”
“You’re a genius.”
“I know,” he said. “But I never tire of hearing it.”
I laughed, and we got to work. It took the better part of an hour, but we eventually managed to erase all traces of our crime. Discarding our tools, we retrieved the briefcase and began the long journey to The Cluster’s former hideout. We nearly got caught twice, but we reached our destination with our memories intact.
The makeshift dwelling was almost exactly as I remembered. A three-legged desk stood to my immediate right, and makeshift beds consisting of old, smelly covers were scattered across the bare floor. But there was something new.
A tall, dark shape stood in the far corner.
“Is that…” I began, but the words died in my throat when I recognized the shadowy figure.
It was Handy.
Seeing his lifeless body saddened me, but I knew the solution to his problem lay within my grasp. Clutching the briefcase tightly, I made my way across the dark chamber and got to work.
It took a while, but I finally managed to locate and extract the depleted vial. Replacing it with a full one, I watched with a growing sense of excitement as my friend’s gears started spinning, and a soft glow emanated from his triangular eye. It took a few minutes, but the reanimation process was finally complete.
I stepped back and watched as Handy began cautiously moving his arms and legs. It was a comical process that drew more than a few chuckles from Lom and me, but the towering automaton finally regained complete control of his body. Taking full advantage of this, he thanked me in the only way he could.
He hugged me.
It was a painful experience, but one I remember fondly.
“How are you feeling?” I asked once I could once again breathe normally. “Any issues or bugs?”
Handy shook his head.
“Good,” I said. “We’re going to need your help. Do you think you can help us?”
Handy nodded vigorously.
“Awesome. Let’s go.”
We made our way across The Slums, careful to avoid the robots that patrolled it. We were mere minutes from our destination when a bot emerged from the darkness and blocked our path.
“Crap,” I muttered, convinced all our hard work was about to be undone. But Handy pushed past me and came to stand directly in front of the robot.
“What is he doing?” asked Lom.
The two robots stared at one another for a while before the newcomer turned its back to Handy and strode off. I’m not quite sure what happened, but one thing was certain.
Handy saved our lives—or at least, our memories.
“Let’s go,” I muttered as soon as the robot was gone. Taking the lead once more, I guided my friends to the boarded-up building that stood nearby.
“They’re back!” yelled Squid as soon as we entered the hideout. “They’re BACK!”
The next few seconds were a mess as every member of The Cluster scrambled to their feet. Soon, we were all standing around Handy, staring at him with a mixture of awe and disbelief.
“I missed you, buddy,” said Squid as he stepped forward and hugged the oversized humanoid. The bot remained frozen for a second then returned the hug, squeezing just enough to convey his own sense of elation without injuring his small friend. Clearly, he and Squid shared a deep bond.
“What happened?” asked Piggy once the tender moment was over. “We thought something bad happened.”
“We ran into a few problems,” I explained, “but we made it out alive.”
“Tell us everything,” said Squid.
Recounting the details of our recent adventure was the last thing I wanted to do, but they deserved to know the truth, so I sat down and explained everything that had happened. Soon, they were all caught up, and the moment I’d been dreading ever since I first came up with this insane plan finally arrived.
“We need a plan,” I said. “A detailed plan to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the robots are the ones who’ve been stealing the people’s memories. And, more importantly, we must find a way to convince them to help us overthrow Titus.”
A heavy silence followed the sombre statement.
“Any ideas?” I asked.
The stillness only grew more intense. Taking advantage of this, I retreated into myself and brainstormed different approaches. Most proved ineffective, but a few seemed quite promising. But I forgot all about them when Squid shattered the silence with a bold proclamation.
“Handy and I will take care of convincing the people that the robots are the ones stealing their memories. But I’ll need help gathering a crowd.”
“I’ll handle that,” said Lom. “Does anyone want to help?”
One by one, the hands went up until only Squid, Handy, and I remained.
I couldn’t believe it. I assumed I would have to do most of the work, but it now seemed there was but one thing that would be required of me.
I would give a speech.
I had never spoken in public, and the thought terrified me. But, even more horrifying than the prospect of speaking in front of a vast audience was the knowledge that my speech would need to be both loquacious and inspiring. After all, I would be asking them to put their very lives on the line.
“Don’t worry,” said Lom. “You’ll do great.”
I’m not sure how he knew how I was feeling, but I was glad to know he believed in me. One look at the small group gathered before me told me he wasn’t alone. Every last one of them had risked their lives for me and the cause I championed, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends.
“I love you guys,” I said.
An awkward silence followed the revelation, but the spell was broken when I cleared my throat and announced it was time to plan our respective missions. Splitting into three groups, we got to work devising detailed game plans. Lom’s group discussed how best to gather the citizens and where to hold the assembly. Squid and Handy began rehearsing their performance. As for me, well, I spent the next few hours struggling to come up with a speech worthy of the occasion. I nearly gave up countless times, but less than an hour before morning, I finally had an approach I was convinced would work. By the time Lom, Piggy, Finger, Maggot, and The Twins headed off to gather the citizens, my speech was nearly complete.
“Are you ready?” I asked Squid as we waited for our friends to return.
“Never been readier.”
We spent the next few minutes in silence. By the time Finger came to get us, I’d rehearsed the speech so many times in my head, I knew it by heart. For the first time in a while, I felt completely ready. But that all changed the moment I set foot outside the hideout.
The streets were completely deserted.
“Where is everyone?” I asked, but Finger was unable to answer due to her lack of tongue.
“I guess Lom’s plan worked,” muttered Squid as we made our way across the empty metropolis. Every now and then, we came across a straggler, but they were few and far between. Then, we turned a corner, and a vast crowd appeared before us.
I had never seen so many people gathered in one place. There were thousands of them. Tens of thousands.
“Woah,” I muttered as Finger led us toward the crowd. Pushing through the mass of bodies was surprisingly easy as all but the bravest receded at the sight of the robot that accompanied us. Soon, we emerged from the far side and were greeted with a familiar sight.
My friends were gathered around an old, worn statue. The younger version of Titus was missing an arm, and a middle finger had been carved into his rust-stained chest, yet his gaze remained steely and his jaw square.
My journey began with the statue towering over me. Now, it would behold my greatest triumph.
“How did you manage this?” I asked Lom.
“It was easy,” he said. “We promised to reveal the memory thief’s identity.”
“Thanks.” He glanced at the crowd. “Are you ready?”
I nodded. Turning to the ocean of faces that stretched before me, I inhaled deeply and stepped forward. I was about to speak when Lom brushed past me and stole my thunder.
“Do you want to know the memory thief’s identity?” he asked, his voice carrying far and wide.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a powerful cheer rose from the crowd.
“There is no single memory thief,” explained Lom once the outburst faded. “There are hundreds, thousands. They come out at night in the form of robots and steal your memories.”
“What’s a robot?” asked someone.
“This,” answered Lom, gesturing at Handy.
A few jeers were flung our way, but Lom silenced them with a placating gesture.
“This robot is a friend,” he said, “but his brethren aren’t. They break into your homes and steal your memories, erasing all trace of their presence and keeping you from learning the truth. All who resist are kidnapped and disposed of.”
A heavy silence followed the explanation. A few people nodded, but most seemed skeptical.
“Why should we believe you?” asked a middle-aged man in the front row. “You’re just a kid.”
“Good question,” said Lom. “How about a little demonstration?”
A few half-hearted cries rose from the crowd.
“This is what happens when someone’s memories are stolen.” He stepped aside, allowing Squid and Handy to take his place on the makeshift stage.
What followed was one of the strangest performances I ever beheld. Both actors played their roles to perfection, yet the manner in which they did so was entirely unrealistic. Not only was the extraction procedure greatly dumbed down, but the resulting memory vial was produced as a result of sleight of hand. Also, Squid’s post-extraction performance was so dramatic I worried the audience would see through it, but they watched with rapt interest. Some even held their breath, exhaling only once Handy took pity on his “victim” and restored his memories. After a surprisingly lengthy performance that involved Squid forgiving Handy for stealing his memories and a strangely captivating musical number, the thespians bowed to the applause of the crowd.
“I can’t believe that worked,” I muttered.
“Me neither,” agreed Lom, struggling not to laugh. Stepping forward, he thanked Squid and Handy for their performance, then addressed the crowd once more.
“I know you’re angry,” he said. “You were misled for years, and now that you finally know the truth, you’re wondering what to do. Am I right?”
A loud cheer greeted his words.
“Don’t worry,” said Lom. “We have a solution, a means by which to punish the man responsible for all that you’ve endured.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Please welcome the man who will lead us to victory, the one and only Spyder.”
I wasn’t expecting such a theatrical introduction, yet I stepped forward and shook my friend’s outstretched hand as though we had planned it. What happened next was both predictable and unexpected.
A tidal wave of applause rose from the ocean of bodies that stretched before me and slammed into me with such force that it knocked all logical thought from my body. The ability to speak quickly returned, but my speech never did. It was thus with a blank mind and a terror-stricken body that I confronted the metaphorical void that stood before me.
What should I do? The question echoed throughout my mind, momentarily drowning out the sound of the crowd. By the time the question finally receded, a great stillness had descended upon the ocean of faces that stretched before me. They were waiting for me to speak, yet I was unable to conjure a single word. Then, just when all hope seemed lost, the solution finally came to me.
Speak from the heart.
“A single man is responsible for all that you’ve suffered,” I said, my voice strong and steady. “His name is Titus.”
I glanced at the crowd, picking out individuals and speaking directly to them. This made it easier to connect with them as individuals and allowed me to speak from the heart. I connected with emotions rather than words. At least, that was how it felt to me. I expressed my outrage upon learning the truth behind the memory thefts, and the sadness that engulfed me when I realized Titus had knowingly forced us to live in squalor so the memories his robots extracted would be more powerful. I shared how hurt I was when I uncovered Lily’s betrayal and how blessed I felt to have friends like Lom, Squid, Finger, Piggy, Maggot, and The Twins. I spoke of how strange it felt to be standing before them and explained how I was but an average guy trying to do what was right. I don’t recall the words I used, but the closing sentences will forever remain with me.
“Will you stand with me?” I asked. “Will you help me overthrow Titus and reclaim our freedom?”
A heavy silence followed my call to action, and more than a few citizens bowed their heads in shame and defeat, but then a young woman in the first row pumped her fist into the air and started cheering. Acting as a catalyst, the outburst spread to her neighbours. The ripple propagated throughout the entire crowd until every single man, woman, and child was chanting words of freedom. It was such a beautiful sight it brought tears to my eyes.
Too overwhelmed to continue, I gave in to the exhaustion that filled me and staggered backward. My friends welcomed me with open arms and congratulatory words, but I was too distraught to reciprocate. I had won the battle, but the war had yet to be fought. Many good people would perish in the coming days, and every single one of their deaths would forever weight on my conscience.
Can I survive such a thing? I wondered. But the time for doubts had passed. The dice had been cast, and soon, the fate of the entire city would be decided.
The next few hours passed by in a blur. The citizens were given clear instructions to return to their homes and act as though nothing had happened. They were also told to gather as many weapons as possible and keep an eye out for any signs of trouble. Then, when the time was right, and the signal was given, they would rise up and destroy Titus’s robotic army.
Lom suggested we destroy Titus’s statue, but I cautioned against it. Not only would it risk alerting Titus to our impending rebellion, but the effigy was a symbol of our discontent, a constant reminder of why we were putting our lives on the line.
Midway through the planning stages, I excused myself to take a quick nap. The last few days had been far from relaxing, and I was in desperate need of rest. I hadn’t planned on sleeping more than an hour or so, but it was almost night when Lom woke me.
“Crap!” I muttered when I realized what time it was. “I’m late.”
Scrambling to my feed, I pushed past Lom and hurried out of the hideout. The journey across The Slums took longer than expected—I was still somewhat groggy—but I eventually reached the mansion where I’d first learned the supposed truth about myself. The ride to The Virt also seemed to take forever, but I was fully awake by the time I reached the surface. Taking full advantage of this, I ran across the cobbled streets until I reached the giant statue that stood at its heart.
Lily was waiting by the sculpture’s left foot, pacing back and forth. She seemed upset, but a relieved smile spread across her lips when she saw me running toward her.
“What happened?” she asked.
“It’s complicated,” I panted, struggling to catch my breath. “But the citizens of The Slums agreed to help.”
“I always knew you could do it.”
“Thanks,” I muttered. “And you? How did it go?”
The smile faded from her lips.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Did you locate The Triangle of Justice?”
She nodded, but her expression was dark.
“What’s wrong?” I repeated.
“We have a problem,” she said. “Apollo…
Option 1: …is refusing to help.”
Option 2: …was captured by my father.”
Option 3: …is dead.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 32.
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