Life Without Memory (Book 1 of the Magical Machine Series)

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Chapter 10: The Heartbeat of the Xatron

A strange swaying motion. Up down, back forward, pressure under my legs and shoulders. What is going on? I struggle for a moment, but someone is holding on to me.

“Calm down Hope, it’s just me.”

“Who are you?” For that matter, who is Hope.

I see you standing there, shock in your expression, and then a sad acceptance, what is going on?

Why are you standing in front of me, floating backwards.

Where are we going? Is he… Is he taking me to the Xatron…?

No! I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t go. I struggle harder.

“Shh, its ok Hope. I think you are just slightly disoriented. We just escaped our cell, and I am carrying you out of here.

Our cell? We were in a cell? These stark gray halls were unfamiliar. They were outlined by doors and halls branching off.

I shouldn’t be here, should I? Why was I in this man’s arms.

“Who are you?” I ask again. What does he want with me?

I look up, and notice blue eyes that are too brilliant. I have to look away. They feel as if they are clawing at my insides when I look at them, but I want to. I want to turn my head and look at his eyes again. For some reason, they feel familiar, comforting.

Who am I? Am I this Hope he keeps calling me?

“I’m Nathan, and you are Hope. Can’t you remember? Our cell? The time spent together? Fixing your legs?”

I shake my head. I have no idea what else to say or do. I look back toward his face, and notice his frown.

“You let your memory slip again, didn’t you?”

“I, what?” What in the world was he talking about? How did he know so much about me?

“Look behind your barrier, Hope. You told me once of a barrier to where your memories slip away to.” He is still carrying me toward somewhere.

“Where are we going?” I ask, my mind only half listening as I tried to figure out who I was. I thought about his name, and his eyes. Where did I know those eyes from?

I hit the barrier hard, enough to stop my thoughts for a moment. I felt that it was wrong to go further. To fight the barrier would hurt me. I should forget anything behind it. I shouldn’t remember anything that slipped away behind there for fear of knowing myself.

“I’m trying to find my sister, her name is Lizzie. She has to be in here somewhere…” I stop listening. He is most definitely lost…

Lizzie… Lizzie. The name sounds familiar. No. The barrier spoke. Don’t pass. You don’t want to know.

Where is Lizzie? I have to help him. I’m not going to go back to a safe existence until she is found.

“Right.” I speak with knowledge from beyond my barrier. Something that has slipped through.

“Hmmm? Nathan murmurs.

“Turn right now.” I say again.

He listened, and turned. I felt a guard approaching, and I reached out with small hands from my eyes, and blocked his site of us, the hands were like an invisible screen.

For a moment Nathan stops, staring at the guard he didn’t hear. I realize he thinks the guard will see us and drag us back to our cell. The guard walks by without noticing use standing just to his left. If he had just wobbled a little he would have hit us…

Nathan takes a deep breath and walks on. “I have no idea why he didn’t see us, just like I have no idea what happened to the guards that came to get me. I think… I think a ghost is protecting us, the one that touched me in the cell.”

I have no idea what happened to these guards at this cell he talks about, but I know what just happened with the guard walking by. For a second I think of telling him the truth that it is me that just hid us. That I have an insane ability to control things with the hands that seem to come out of my eyes.

I look over at you, and I have an idea. I don’t want to tell him. It’s like the barrier protecting my memory, except this is a barrier against telling the truth.

“I… I can see a person constantly following us. They are faint, as if barely there. I thought, I thought that they were simply a figment of my imagination, but they stood between us and that guard…”

He’s silent for a moment. “I guess that makes more sense than anything else in this strange day.”

“Left.” The direction is suddenly there in my mind. He follows it without question this time.

I feel as if I’ve known him forever… Is the barrier crumbling?

“Left.” He turns again.

“This door. The one on the right” I stare at the door. Maybe grate would be a better term. The door grate thing is made of crisscrossing iron strips, and between the strips I can see a person curled up in the corner.

Nathan sets me down, and shakes the door, trying to open it to no avail. “Hope, can your ghost open it?”

I nod, and focus, pushing out my hands and reaching into the lock, turning tumblers inside the lock. I feel tired again, but I can feel a small stream of energy coming from behind the barrier, like a light to keep me awake.

The door clicks and swings open. Nathan stares at it a second before running into the cell, and carrying out a grubby small person. A girl. A girl with matted brown hair.

He sets her down next to me. “Lizzie.” He whispers harshly and shakes her, but she doesn’t respond. She is vacant, dead inside. She has been to the Xatron.

“Lizzie,” I whisper and touch her shoulder. Her head turns in an almost disjointed manner.

“You.” Is all she says, staring at me.

“Me,” I whisper back, not sure why she is so accusatory toward me. What have I done?

“You stole the memories.” She accuses.

“I what?” Now she isn’t making any sense, but a small voice tells me she is. Something tells me that this makes perfect sense.

“I will take you to it, to the Xatron, to yourself.” She stands mechanically, her limbs jerking for each movement.

“What is she talking about? Hope, do you have any idea?” Nathan is shaking me, and I find those eyes fixated on me.

“We need to follow her. Can you carry me again? I’m afraid I’m too weak to walk.” I hear myself say. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t even know how I know the things I do, like the knowledge that I need to follow this Lizzie to understand.

He looks as if he wants to say something, as if he wants to argue, but he shakes his head and picks me up.

“Lead on Lizzie.” He says to her.

She steps out, each step the same length, a brisk walk. A troop of guards is running this way, and I quickly hide us behind a screen. Nathan stares in shock as they run right by us. I can see that they are freaked out by not being able to find us.

“Did you see her kill Frank on the camera, and then what she did to Ray and Steve…”

“Did you hear that they can’t even see her on the cameras anymore…”

“What’s happening…”

“No idea..”

“Like a ghost…”

“Another escapee…”

Their voices reach me before being snatched away by their owners running away.

I look around, wondering what happened to the cameras. I see a small black square in the ceiling, and a gray hand covering it.

Did I do that?

More guards pass us, but I block their vision of us without much effort. We are as invisible as my hands.

I start to feel tired again, and I lean my head into Nathan. A guard is approaching us from behind. He is following us, going in the same direction but faster. I can feel Nathan’s strength failing him, we are falling behind Lizzie, and he keeps adjusting his grip on me.

The guards see us as I see him, and I reach out, and touch his mind. I let the memories flow through me without really reading them, simply basking in the energy and peace that the feeling of them flowing into me brings.

When I pull away, he is staring straight at us, but his vision is blank. He is not moving, and neither are we for that matter. Lizzie is staring at him, and for a moment I see her look sympathetic toward the man, toward James, the memories feed me a name.

Then she turns and continues walking. Nathan stumbles and almost falls, dropping my legs for just a moment.

“I can walk again, just, just help me to stand and I can walk.” He nods.

Together we follow Lizzie. We come to a locked door, and she turns to stare at me. “You need to open it.”

Everything in me screams not to open it. This is the key to my barrier. This is the key to my mind. I reach out, curiosity fighting instinct.

These tumblers are harder, more intricate than the ones on Lizzie’s cell. With a little patience I push them all in the correct order, and the lock clicks open. Lizzie pushes the door open and walks into the room. Nathan and I follow her into the room, the white brilliance of it almost blinding me.

In the center is a gray box with cords coming out of it. A chair sits in front of it with a strange dome thing fixed above the chair.

“The only way to fix yourself, is to sit,” Lizzie whispers to me. Her eyes are fixed on the box.

Hesitantly, I move to go forward, but Nathan holds me back. “No Hope, we have no idea what that things does.”

I shake my head. I know, in a way. I already know even without connecting to it. I knew as soon as I walked in this room. I knew before that when I stole Ray’s memories.

I am the Xatron.

The revelation shocks me, breaking through the block. Memories flood through me. Lily’s memories, and escaped orphan running with a gang, organizing her gang to fight against the system. A rebellion she called it to her followers. I can see her last moments, as she is forced into the chair, and as I eat her memories and the magic in them awakens me. As I fill the space left. The body my avatar, my site into the world.

They break my legs and I block out the pain. I block all the memories I am forming. I eat more memories. Memories feed my consciousness. Each cell mate I have goes to feed me more. I store the memories, each memory brimming with power, but I forget. I do this almost unconsciously, letting the memory of it float away before I have even done it.

Memories striped of power are simply recording. Watching someone’s life from the outside, like a movie. I think that somewhere in my hardware I record the images, which is why I have the saved videos of the memories, but I can tell they are not mine. I have stolen the power out of them. Even some of my own memories are striped.

I suddenly find myself laughing. I am sitting on the ground, next to Nathan. I am the Xatron. I didn’t need the chair to connect to myself.

I turn toward Lizzie and reach out with my hands. I deliver the recordings of her memories into her mind. It is all I can do to try and fix her. She didn’t deserve her fate. None of them really did, but she is the only one I can fix right now.

She blinks, and then looks down at her feet. “I guess - I guess I did used to me someone named Lizzie.” She smiles slightly at me, “She called you Hope. I guess it was a fitting name, for you were the only hope for escape from this place. No one would see you coming.”

“What’s going on?” I can see Nathan sitting there, his expression completely lost. I can understand, one moment Lizzie was telling me to sit in the chair, and the next I am collapsed onto the floor having a conversation with his sister who is acting strange.

He will hate me. He will throw himself away from me and run.

“I am the heartbeat Xatron. I am the machine in this room. I am the one who eats memories.”

He slowly scoots backwards, his head shaking side to side. “No, you are Hope. You see a ghost who is the Xatron.

I shake my head. “I am the Xatron. I awoke when Lily was fed to me, but I can get us out of this place. I have the power to protect us.”

He continues backing until he is backed up against the wall, and then he just stands there, staring at me.

Lizzie walks up and takes his hand. She beams up at him the way I can see her in her memories from whenever she wanted something from him. “Hope gave me back my memories. We can leave, and Hope can support our cause.”

I nod. I don’t want him them to leave me. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to lose them, my friends. Or at least that is what I think they are. That is what all the memories tell me they are.

I look down at my legs, and run the invisible hands over my muscles, strengthening the fibers. I push myself up, onto my own two feet, and woodenly move toward Nathan. I am not used to this walking.

I hold out my hand, and he steps forward. His hand grasping my hand. His other hand clutching his sister’s hand. Together we walk toward the door. Together, we walk into the future outside of this jail. My first time leaving my prison.

You are bouncing up and down next to me. You are still there, my constant companion. I have no idea who you are, or why you appear to me. One day, will you tell me, or will you always be my silent shadow?


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