The Memory Thief
Published February 22nd 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…
A blast of red energy finally came hurtling from behind the bend and slammed into Lom’s chest. Grunting softly, he crumbled, immobile.
I stared at my friend’s motionless body for a few seconds before a sharp intake of breath told me he was still alive. He was unconscious, but he was breathing. For now.
I waited, breathless, as the robot came into view. Walking slowly, it approached my friend’s body until it was standing right over it. It remained motionless for a moment, then…
Option 1: …shot him in the head, killing him instantly.
Option 2: …started extracting his memories.
Option 3: …carefully lifted his unconscious body and carried him away.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 0 votes (0.00%)
Option 2: 5 votes (25.00%)
Option 3: 15 votes (75.00%)
This chapter is dedicated to Mark. Thanks for voting.
It remained motionless for a moment, then… carefully lifted his unconscious body and carried him away.
I remained frozen, staring at the empty space where my friend’s body once lay. Why hadn’t the robot shot him? Why hadn’t it extracted his memories? It made no sense. Unless…
Maybe it’s on our side, I theorized. Maybe it’s protecting Lom from the other robots, carrying him to safety before another bot comes along and steals his memories.
It was a ridiculous notion, but one I clung to as I began following the mechanical being. It travelled along a series of narrow corridors before reaching a door. Pressing its hand to the glowing triangle that stood next to it, it waited for the slab of metal to retreat, then entered the room.
I hesitated for a moment before rushing forward. The door was locked, and the triangle remained dormant when I pressed my hand to it, but the reinforced window that made up the door’s upper half gave me a clear view of what stood within the room.
It was a vast chamber with hundreds of vertical glass tubes protruding from the floor. Big enough to fit a full-grown man, the receptacles were coated in frost crystals, keeping their contents hidden. Focusing on my unconscious friend, I watched as the robot carried him to one of the handfuls of clear tubes, and after pressing its palm to the glowing triangle that adorned it, carefully placed him inside it.
I expected Lom’s body to crumble as soon as the bot released him, but there seemed to be no gravity inside the tube. Weightless, my friend’s body hovered in midair as the robot sealed the tube. At first, nothing happened, but then Lom’s skin began to grow pale, and ice crystals began appearing across his entire body. Within seconds, he had been turned to a human block of ice. Moments later, the frost had spread to the tube’s interior, hiding every inch of his frame.
I stared at the tube for a while before accepting the implications of what I’d just witnessed.
Lom was dead.
I didn’t want to believe it, but there was no denying it. My friend was gone, never to come back. I’d only just met him, yet I’d immediately felt a sense of kinship. We were friends—best friends.
I croaked—a single violent sob that shook my entire frame—and vowed to do whatever it took to save him. I didn’t know whether such a thing was possible, but I was determined to try. I wouldn’t give up until Lom was back in the world of the living, or I had irrefutable proof that he couldn’t be saved. Either way, I couldn’t stay here: I needed a plan.
I retreated just as the robot left the room. It nearly spotted me, but I managed to hide just in time to avoid meeting my friend’s fate. Remaining concealed, I took a moment to devise a rescue plan.
The first obstacle I faced involved finding a way past the locked door. While the severed hand I’d employed to gain access to the subterranean vehicle that led me here should let me bypass both the lock and the cryogenic tube’s security features, I had no way of knowing whether my friend would awaken upon being unfrozen—or even if he would still be alive, but I refused to even consider such a possibility.
I need help, I realized.
In order to guarantee the success of the rescue, I would require assistance. While a robotic hand could come in handy, I needed real, flesh-and-blood humans. And I knew just where to find them. Well, sort of.
Lom had spoken of The Cluster—a group of former street urchins I’d supposedly saved. If anyone could help me, it was them. All I had to do was find them and Lom would be as good as saved. At least, that’s what I told myself as I made a mental note of my friend’s location and set off in search of the vehicle that had carried me here.
It took a while—nearly a full hour—but I eventually found my way back to the floorless chamber where the subterranean vehicle stood. The door was still open, and both the robot’s powerless body and its sentient arm were present. Excited at the prospect of having company, the hand ran circles around me, using its fingers as legs and sending its metallic body flying left and right.
“I missed you too,” I muttered as I retrieved the arm. The sight of the triangle that adorned it made me want to attempt an immediate rescue, but I knew better than to risk Lom’s life.
Lom isn’t going anywhere, I told myself. I’ll find The Cluster, tell them what happened, and together we’ll rescue him.
It was the logical thing to do, yet I couldn’t help feeling as though I was abandoning my best friend. Ignoring the guilt that filled me, I entered the metallic vehicle and performed the activation sequence. The door sealed shut, and the vehicle hummed to life. Moments later, I was on my way.
Reaching The Slums was easy. Locating The Cluster wasn’t. I wandered around most of the night, avoiding scrags and looking for Lom’s friends. It wasn’t until dozens of teardrop vehicles began emerging from the earth that I was forced to interrupt my search. Keeping to the shadows, I watched as hundreds of robots poured from the vehicles and, armed with storage crates, began kicking down doors and stealing people’s memories. I didn’t actually see the extractions, but I heard them.
Shrieks and howls of terror filled the night as thousands upon thousands of memories were stolen. But more horrific than the theft was the knowledge this occurred every night. The fact that citizens remembered nothing of the nightly robbery only increased my hatred of the bots. But I knew they weren’t to blame; whoever created them was.
I sighed, well aware rescuing Lom involved but a fraction of the peril I would have to face in order to learn the truth about the conspiracy that plagued The Slums. Then there was this whole “Lily” issue. Though I didn’t remember her, my former self claimed she was worth every risk.
I sighed again, hidden between two barrels. The task I had given myself was immense, and the urge to quit was strong, but I knew giving up wasn’t an option. People’s lives hung in the balance, and I couldn’t live with myself if I gave up now.
I waited until morning then emerged from my hiding spot. The streets overflowed with grimy citizens. They went about their business, unaware of the conspiracy that stood beneath their feet. I considered telling them, but it would be a waste of time. So, instead of sharing the truth about the bots and the memory thief, I asked all who would listen if they’d heard of a street gang called The Cluster.
It took a while—nearly the entire day—but I finally found someone who knew where I could find Lom’s friends. The child was young—around eight or nine—and filthier than anyone I’d ever seen. His clothes were in shambles, and every inch of his frame was coated in mud, but he bore a wide smile. He kept asking if I recognized him, but his name—Squid—was foreign to me, and his appearance unfamiliar. He eventually stopped asking when I told him I’d lost my memories, and silently led me to a dark, grimy area of the city.
“We’re here,” announced Squid as he led me into an old, rundown building. Abandoned long ago, the structure was on the verge of collapse, yet it was sturdy enough to house the handful of young boys that slumbered within.
“Wake up!” yelled Squid. He kicked the smallest of the sleeping boys and nudged another two. The fourth and final one was older and possessed a massive gut and a stubby nose.
“You little shit!” he swore, scrambling to his feet and slapping Squid so hard he nearly fell. “Why are you waking us?”
“I found him,” he muttered, swallowing a sob. “I found Spy.”
I raised an eyebrow. Clearly, Squid knew who I was. The look of joy that spread across two of the young boys’ faces told me he wasn’t alone. Haggard and scraggly looking, the twins rushed forward and hugged me. Only the large boy and the kid who Squid kicked kept their distance.
“Who’s he?” asked the frowning kid. He was young—no older than five or six—and he didn’t seem to have eaten a decent meal in ages.
“Spy,” said Squid excitedly. “He was our leader before…” His voice trailed off as he glanced at the large boy.
“Before what?” he asked, raising a fist. Squid retreated, obviously terrified at the thought of receiving another beating. Clearly, this fat teen had taken control of The Cluster in my absence.
I didn’t like the manner in which he led—with violence and threats—but I was in no position to interfere. I needed their help, and I couldn’t afford to anger the new leader of The Cluster.
“My name is Spyder,” I said, stepping forward and offering a hand for the large teen to shake. He eyed it suspiciously then swatted it aside.
“I know who you are,” he spat, “and you’re not going to steal what is rightfully mine.”
“I’m not sure what—” I began, but he cut me off.
“I’m Piggy,” he said, “and I’m the new leader of The Cluster.”
“I don’t care about that,” I said. “I need your help. Lom’s in trouble.”
Piggy chuckled, but the rest of the group—with the exception of the youngest member—gasped in shock.
“Who’s Lom?” asked the child.
“Shut up, Maggot,” snapped Piggy. I didn’t know whether it was an insult or the child’s actual name, but I had more pressing concerns.
“Lom’s in trouble?” asked Squid.
“Who cares?” spat Piggy. “That kid was always a loser. We’re better off without him.”
I glared at Piggy but said nothing. I couldn’t afford to turn him into an enemy.
“Look,” I said, speaking in what I hoped was a diplomatic tone. “I realize you’re under no obligation to help me, but you’re a leader now. You must set an example for those you lead. Do you really want them”—I gestured to the three younger boys that stood behind Piggy—“thinking you don’t care about them?”
He hesitated. I could tell I’d touched a nerve, but I had no way of knowing whether it would be enough to convince him to help. It wasn’t until a sneer spread across his pocked-faced skin that I realized I’d failed.
“They’ll do whatever I say,” he sneered. “Now leave, before you regret it.”
So much for diplomacy.
I knew I was a skilled fighter, but I didn’t want to risk injuring someone until I’d explored all options. I thus took a moment to think through the different possibilities that stood before me. The way I saw it, there were three possible solutions to my current predicament:
Option 1: I could fight Piggy, reclaim control of the gang, and try to save Lom.
Option 2: I could try to fix the damaged robot and use it to save Lom.
Option 3: I could try to save Lom on my own.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 9.
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