The Memory Thief
Published Sep. 19th 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…
Desperate for clarity, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Though comforting, it failed to provide a clear solution to my current predicament. It wasn’t until nearly a full minute had passed that the solution presented itself in the form of a feeling. Faint at first, the sense of clarity grew until I was convinced the choice I had selected was the right one. Filling my lungs one last time, I opened my eyes and focused on the shackled man standing across from me.
“Titus,” I said. “For your crimes against the citizens of The Slums and The Virt, I sentence you to…
Option 1: …death.”
Option 2: …have your memories extracted and destroyed.”
Option 3: …a lifetime of exile and shame.”
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 0 votes (00.00%)
Option 2: 15 votes (45.45%)
Option 3: 18 votes (54.55%)
This chapter is dedicated to Cher. Thanks for voting.
“For your crimes against the citizens of The Slums and The Virt, I sentence you to… a lifetime of exile and shame.”
A heavy silence stood in the wake of the sentence. I stared at it, intimidated by its presence. It wasn’t until a powerful cheer rose from the crowd like a narwhal from the depths of an ocean that my uncertainty began to fade. But it quickly returned when I focused on Lily’s beautiful face.
Her expression was impassive, yet I could tell her emotions were in turmoil. There was relief—no doubt a result of the lenient sentence I had doled out—but I sensed something else, something darker. Sadness. And regret. There was also a hint of fear.
I’m sorry, I mouthed, suddenly aware that my decision had forever altered her life. To those who had suffered his wrath, Titus was a tyrant. To Lily, he was a trusted parent. Without him, she would become an orphan. To make things worse, she would have to live the rest of her life knowing she was directly responsible for his downfall.
Lily forced a smile onto her lips and shook her head, indicating I had nothing to apologize for. Still, the sense of unease that inhabited me remained. It faded somewhat when Prometheus stepped forward and motioned for the crowd to grow quiet, but it refused to die.
“It has been decided,” he said. “Titus shall be banished.”
Another cheer rose from the crowd, but Prometheus quelled it before it could gain momentum. Standing tall, he scanned the crowd for a moment before turning his gaze to Titus.
“Your sentence will be delivered immediately,” he said. “Is there anything you wish to say?”
Titus shook his head.
“Very well,” said Prometheus. “Follow me.”
He hopped off the stage and motioned for Titus to follow. Though the man was shackled, he approached the edge of the platform of his own volition and leapt off with the grace of a feline. Standing tall, he followed Prometheus through the throng of bodies, surveilled closely by Handy and Apollo. I hesitated for a moment before following. The landing was brutal, and I nearly twisted my ankle, but a good Samaritan came to my rescue.
It was Lily.
She was smiling, but her eyes were filled with tears.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
She didn’t respond. She merely grabbed my hand and guided me along the human corridor that stood before us. Sighing, I focused on the feel of her soft touch, desperate to forget the growing sense of foreboding that inhabited me.
We travelled across the city, followed closely by the remaining members of The Cluster. Lom led the way, shadowed closely by Squid and Finger. Maggot and The Twins closed the march. Only Piggy was missing.
The trip stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Wherever I looked, I saw smiling faces and grateful expressions. Countless people patted me on the back and shook my hand. A few young women even professed their undying love for me. But it all felt so unnatural.
Why were they treating me like a hero? Every step of my journey was riddled with fear and uncertainty. I had made many mistakes, and countless innocents died because of me. I was no hero.
Did I make a mistake in allowing Titus to go free? I wondered. Should I have sentenced him to death? Should I have asked Handy to destroy his memories? Should I have pardoned him? There were countless options I had failed to consider, but that was irrelevant now.
Titus’s fate was sealed. Not only did the world know what he’d done, but the authorities had confiscated his vast fortune, rendering him essentially harmless. Still, it was with a growing sense of unease that I travelled across The Virt.
The journey came to an end when we reached the edge of the city. The wall of fog that once stood there was gone, and the triangular scales that made up the glass surface were open, revealing the splendiferous landscape that stretched beyond. The sun was shining, and the wind was blowing. It was such a beautiful sight I almost didn’t notice the opening that appeared in the glass surface.
It started with a subtle shift but quickly grew into a frenzied ripple of shifting scales. Within seconds, a gaping hole had appeared in the wall. I could make out Titus’s outline against the bright opening, but it wasn’t until he raised a hand and motioned for Lily and me to step forward that I realized his shackles had been removed.
We moved past Prometheus and Apollo and came to a halt a dozen feet from the tall, slender man. He stood erect, with his shoulders back and his head held high. His eyes were alive with sadness, but there was something else there, something dark.
“Uh-oh,” I muttered, suddenly realizing the sense of foreboding that lived within me had nothing to do with the sentence I doled out and everything to do with the man himself.
“Lily,” said Titus. “Will you come with me?”
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then Lily took a hesitant step toward her father. With that one act, she initiated a sequence of events that would eventually lead to my mental undoing. It started with a simple crack but quickly spread, infecting everything it touched. I watched, powerless, as the world I knew came crashing down around me. My hopes and dreams; my values and beliefs; everything I once took for granted was destroyed, leaving me feeling alone and empty.
“Lily,” I croaked, but it was already too late. She had released my hand and was now moving toward her father. Sliding into his waiting embrace, she wrapped her arms around him and held him tight.
“I love you…” she said.
“I love you too,” replied Titus. He was beaming, but the victorious smirk faded when Lily concluded her statement.
“…but I can’t go with you.”
Titus’s eyes grew wide.
“I’m sorry,” said Lily, “but my place is here.”
“But…” began Titus, but his voice trailed off when Lily pulled away and turned her back to him. Moving toward me, she shifted the balance of power in my favour and unwittingly began mending the fragments of my shattered world. Piece by piece, my hopes, dreams, values, and beliefs were put back together. By the time she reached me, I was almost back to normal. Still, it wasn’t until she slipped her hand into mine that the final piece fell into place, and I was myself again.
Titus glared at me.
“You may have won the battle,” he said, “but I will win the war.”
The calmness with which he spoke was eerie and the manner in which he carried himself unnerving. But oddest of all was the fact that he seemed to be speaking only to me. What had once been a battle of opinions had now become a personal vendetta. I had stolen Lily from him, and he wouldn’t rest until he had reclaimed what was rightfully his. At least, that was the way he saw it.
Head held high, he turned toward the lush landscape that stood beyond The Virt and began walking. His pace was slow and steady, and his gaze remained fixed upon the horizon. Not once did he look back. Not once did he hesitate. He just kept walking. And walking. And walking. By the time it occurred to me to look away, a large portion of the crowd had vanished. The next time I looked, less than a dozen people remained. Then we were down to two.
We stood there for a long time, watching Titus’s slender frame gradually recede into the distance. It wasn’t until he crested the summit of a faraway hill and vanished from sight that I finally turned my gaze to Lily.
She was the most beautiful girl I had ever known, and I was a fool to have taken her for granted. Still, it was with a racing heart that I grabbed her free hand and, peering deep into her eyes, uttered the words I should have spoken the moment I first laid eyes on her.
“I love you.”
Her lips curled into a smile.
“I love you too,” she whispered.
The next thing I knew, we were kissing. Her lips were stained with tears, yet she still tasted as sweet as her namesake smelled. But then the world faded away, and I forgot all about that.
I don’t know how long I remained trapped in that endless expanse, but a powerful sense of déjà vu overwhelmed me the moment our lips parted.
The world slowly came into focus. Blurry skyscrapers gave way to rusted houses. Fuzzy shapes turned into pedestrians strolling along cobbled roads. Glowing spots of pure light became beams of sunlight, peeking in through the slanted glass wall. Piece by piece, my surroundings emerged from the endless void that was my life.
The last time that had happened, my memories had been stolen. This time, it was my heart that was missing. But one look at the young woman standing before me proved the excision had been a worthy sacrifice.
“What now?” she asked. “What will you do now that it’s finally over?”
I chuckled. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t have to consider the various options that offered themselves to me. My mind was made up, and nothing—and no one—could change my mind.
Option 1: …stay here and help my people build a new life for themselves.”
Option 2: …venture beyond the glass pyramid and explore the world.”
Option 3: …spend the rest of my life making you happy.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 39.
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