The Hero journeys across the desert to capture The Thief Of Memory and retrieve her stolen memories. What she finds in the end may destroy her.
Miquon set off across the endless desert to catch the Thief of Memory. On her belt she carried a knife made of ice, to freeze the Thief when she caught him. Across her back she carried a hollow staff, to siphon his stolen memories.
Hot sand burnt her bare feet as she tracked his steps over shifting dunes. Her people wore shoes for the desert heat, special ones picked out with embroidery and beads, but Miquon could no longer remember what the beads looked like or the significance of the colours, nor did she know anymore where her people might be found.
There were holes in her mind, gaps from the Thief. Until she caught him, that could not be fixed. And she knew that—how? She wasn’t sure. Fragments remained, bright constellations of truth gleaming in the emptiness of her savaged memories. Meanwhile, she went barefoot and cursed the sun.
Towards the end of the day she saw a speck of red on the horizon: a burning campfire. Even the Thief needed rest. She ghosted across the dunes, crouching low. At last, she crept to the fire where the Thief dozed on the ground, curled up by the warmth, still wearing his stolen shoes.
A curious weariness crept over her. She felt as if she had been pursuing the Thief for years, and perhaps she had, for who could say how many days or seasons had passed when memory couldn’t be relied upon? Certainly, she had the sense that this was not their first encounter, or at least, not the first trail she had tracked. Maybe, luck willing, tonight would be their final clash.
Don’t wait. Seize the advantage! And Miquon leapt upon him.
Sleep was a ruse; the Thief was waiting and alert. He rolled away and sprang upright as her knife carved the air, pulling out a wooden club to strike at her. Miquon deflected with her blade. The force of his blow stung and she dropped her ice weapon, but the knife had left its mark: crackles of frost shot up through the wood of the Thief’s club, sundering it into frost-tinged splinters.
The Thief swore, damning her past actions, and fled. Miquon tackled him, knocking him to the ground, her weight on his legs. He struggled and kicked free, his foot catching her temple hard. She lay stunned, head spinning and black spots in her vision from the kick. A sensory memory burst across her mind’s eye: lying on the floor of a crystal-lined cave, stunned from falling over. When had that happened? How long ago?
The Thief rolled to his feet and scrambled into a jerky run, barefoot; he’d lost his shoes in the struggle. Miquon groaned and cursed. Her head spun when she tried to stand; she dropped back to her knees.
By the time she could see straight and sit upright, the Thief was gone, only a dwindling trail over the scabby landscape. Chagrin and frustration filled her. So close. So close. Still, although he’d fled to live another night, she had at least destroyed his weapon. That was something.
When her head had fully calmed, she retrieved the ice knife by its warm hilt, stashing it carefully in her belt. The fire popped and fizzed and a glitter of colour caught her eye.
His shoes. No, not his. The ones he’d stolen from her people. From her, perhaps?
Muttering a curse for her ruined memory, Miquon held the shoes to the light. The leather was expertly stitched, the soles strong and flexible. The embroidery confused her; the beads wove an erratic pattern, yet she could see there was wisdom in its making. The stitching was too neat, the pattern too careful, to be merely sloppy design.
Her feet ached from days of running over hot, dry earth, and there was no telling now whose shoes these might have once belonged to. Miquon slipped them on her feet and tightened the laces until they fit like a second skin.
Memory coalesced like morning dew—of her father, sitting near a fire and bending over leather with needle in hand. Blue for wells and green for oases, white for evil places and red for hunting grounds. Yellow stars for cities. Embroidered mountains in a line of peaks. More tight stitching wove faint lines to mark village territories. The desert was endless but not unknown, not fully, and her people had mapped it in rough accordance on their shoes.
Miquon ran her fingers over the stitching and tried to remember her father’s face. All she had regained was his voice, a needle, and a pattern of beads. She did not understand why that memory might linger, when others had passed, why that memory might be recalled when others failed to surface—but still, it was something, a piece of herself she hadn’t possessed mere moments before, and she clung to it. Literally.
The desert’s night wind blew cold, and a dreadful weight thickened her joints. Exhaustion and futility clung to her frame.
This isn’t the time to rest. For she was a hero, and victory would be hers.
There was no one else to do what must be done. She lurched to her feet and ran, weapons jostling on her back.
Every six generations there comes a dry, cloudless season where the rains do not fall and the drought endures. Wells cough dust, houses crumble from the weight of heat, and grass shrivels in the cracked earth, taking the herds with them. Elders collapse and infants spit froth.
And at eighteen years old, the tallest hunter of the village, you do not see why your people should struggle just because the seasons are fickle. Not when one such as yourself, who is young and strong and canny, might venture into the mountains and draw water from its deep springs and cool caves.
The sun has sunk in the evening. You seek out the house belonging to your older brother Vinta, and knock twice before entering—once for the body, once for the soul.
The drought means he cannot share water companionably; instead, he sits nearby, head nearly touching yours as the day tips into night. You lay out your intention in soft, low tones and he listens, thoughtful. Vinta always listens; that is one of the best things about him.
“What of the mountain spirit?” he says, fingers tapping and drumming. “For it is an empty thing of dark power, seeking always to reclaim the colour it has lost. What if it tricks you, steals your memories, or steals your skin?”
A shiver of fear. These are legends everyone knows and has grown up with. Take a spirit by its ghostly hand and it can possess, claim, consume. The mountain spirit is a thief of memory, a depthless well of evil, but at the same time—
“It cannot stop me taking the water,” you say, shaky yet resolute, “for it can only harm me if I choose to touch it. Water belongs to the living, and the mountain spirit belongs to the dead. I need only to be sure of myself, ignore its temptations, and I will be fine.”
“Yet many people have been harmed by it,” Vinta counters, “so whatever it says is clearly persuasive.” His brow furrows. “In every story, at least one person will succumb to something the spirit says.”
“Then I will take no one with me.” You grasp his hands, squeezing gently. “That way, if I fail, only I will die. And you will be here, looking after the village while I am gone.”
He squeezes back and smiles sadly. “Then go, sister. Take skins, head east, and seek water.” Vinta’s gaze is strong and clear, despite the tiredness and drought that have worn him to thinness. “And Miquon—remember who you are. Do not take the spirit’s hand.”
In the morning you load yourself with empty water skins and leave the village. No one says a word, though some gather to see the departure; younger brothers, other villagers, some children. Those still strong enough to stand. A little girl waves you off; you wave back. It is time to be a hero, if you can. If you dare.
The unyielding heat beats down for mile after mile until, at last, the Knuckles come into sight: a ridge of mountains running north to south, cutting off the eastward path.
The terminally sick and, sometimes, the very elderly will travel here to spend their final hours among the rocks. Those who die at home are carried the distance to sleep at the feet of nature’s giants, until the colour of them is absorbed into the earth, traveling through root and stone to nourish the living with rain and through soil.
So life goes. So death goes.
Except not all who die will rest easy. Spirits linger, pooling in caverns and grasping at the echoes of life. Cold, hollow things that siphon colour when they can find it, craving what they used to be. Some grow powerful, learning ways and means to twist the world.
One of the spirits in particular has endured by tricking and lying and deceiving to steal colour off intrepid visitors, keeping itself darkly sustained. That is the mountain spirit: the one you must remain wary of.
This is the place where the dead rest, and the mountain spirit dwells.
It is also the place where there is still water.
You begin to ascend, taking winding paths through rocks and boulders. The way up is marked with bones, thighs and arms and junctures of spines jammed deep into the dry earth. Countless graves across countless generations, the bodies piled with stones to keep them bound to the earth, each marked with one of their owners’ bones.
Enter the heart of the mountain, following legend, following bones. The crystal-lined caves gleam dimly, echoing with the sound of running water. Only the faintest scattering of sunlight pierces the air, but the coolness is a relief after the hot, painful sun. A stream trickles over the heated earth, clear and cool on the toes. You crouch, drinking greedily.
“Who comes walking in my mountain caves?”
A chill steals over you, teasing every hair to stand on end, and you stop drinking to look up, sharply alert. This is what you’ve expected and still, the moment crackles your nerves.
On the far side of the cave lurks a creature with the form of a human but washed of all colour, leaving only smoky outlines, like a shadow limned by rain. Transparent fists bear a hollow staff carved from air, and its haft sparkles like ice.
The mountain spirit.
“Who comes walking in my mountain caves?” I say again, for I do not yet know you as I will come to know you. “Why have you brought your colour and warmth to this place of death?”
Throat still wet with cave water, you rise slowly to standing and say, “I am Miquon the Tall, and I have come to draw water from the mountain for my people who are full of thirst. What is it to you? The dead have no need of water.”
“Water?” I stare, my form swirling and shifting around static, unflinching eyes. “You come for water… and yet I could give you so much more, little one.”
The ancient invitation to bargain.
“Leave me alone, vile spirit! Wicked thief of memory!” Anger fills you; I can see it spilling over, flushing that living skin with delicious heat and colour. “I won’t listen to any offer or be swayed by any temptation. I am here for water, and nothing else. You cannot stop me from taking it.”
I drift across the stones, closer, noting that you flinch but do not retreat; still you remain kneeling, filling the waterskins with urgent precision.
“True, I cannot stop you taking it.” I lean down and whisper with riverine syllables, “But I do not have to, Miquon the Tall, for even if you succeed, your quest will be futile.”
Guarded fear creases the corners of your eyes. “I’m not listening!”
But you are. I can see it.
“I think you cannot carry more than a few days’ worth of water. I think you will have to return again… and again. A journey of hours for a day or two of life, yes? I think you cannot draw enough water from one spring to keep your village alive and that if you try, you will die of exhaustion.”
Your lips flatten to a line, fingers clumsily corking the waterskins in your hurry. “That is none of your concern, spirit! Leave me to my business.” You stand and pivot away, the beads of your shoes rattling from abrupt motion, the overladen skins hanging across your shoulders.
“I know the secret of rain, desert daughter,” I murmur, pleased to see your steps slow to a halt. “And only rain will save your village in these days of long drought. Don’t you wish to save your people?”
“I have not come to bargain!” you retort over one shoulder.
Yet you do not leave. You are still hesitating… still listening.
I grin like a skull.
Dawn splintered, bringing light and heat. After a long, cold night, Miquon was almost relieved to see it, though she knew the heat would grow fierce by midday, as ever. The Thief’s stumbling footprints led her through the endless desert, and yet for all his path veered, Miquon sensed his destination did not waver. Perhaps he sought to throw her off his trail, but she was a hero and not so easily fooled.
The trail wound on and she sniffed, sensing a change in the air. Wet earth, red mud, and an acrid breeze both damper and sharper than the usual desert wind: the scent of a coming storm. Even as the realisation dawned, clouds thickened from thin air into heaving grey swirls. The heavens opened and rain fell, a hundred cool kisses on her heat-soured skin. Rare, wonderful, blessed rain.
Miquon skidded to a halt, stunned and drenched, an odd burn flickering in her chest. Why was it raining now? The wet season was half a year away. Was it? How did she know that? Something was wrong. Something was—
Quickly, he’s getting away!
Miquon began to run again, with faltering steps and a quaver in her heart she could not explain. There was so much she could not explain, nor remember. Remember, you are a hero. Remember that your enemy is the Thief of Memory. Things that were fact, certainty, truth. She kept running though her feet bled into the battered shoes, though her eyes and bones ached with long, unfathomable weariness.
At dawn, Miquon arrived at a drowned village.
From a distance, there’d been nothing to see but a swirling mass of clouds and storm, but up close the remnants of sodden buildings loomed from soup-thick mist. The ground here was so waterlogged that every one of the little stone houses had sunk into the earth and lay half submerged in quicksand. Thatched roofs had disintegrated, and flotsam littered the stagnant pools. Fog clouds drifted low to the ground, smelling of mud and soft rot. Of the villagers, there was no sign, but Miquon could hardly blame them. Soon, this place would be a lake, uninhabitable by crops or livestock.
What had caused this? What had happened? She tried to focus, but her memory kept slipping away. It ran through her fingers like sand, like the finest dust, leaving traces on everything touched, yet never solid or graspable.
The past doesn’t matter. Find the Thief!
Miquon frowned. Of course the past mattered—
Crack. Movement and the sound of a foot pressing on rotten wood. The Thief flitted in the corner of her vision like a living shadow, from one half-sunken building to the next.
“You!” She spun towards him and pelted forward. She had to stop the Thief of Memory. Right the wrong. Save the . . . what? Everything. Save everything.
The Thief led her past an old well, now overflowing; through the remnants of several half-collapsed houses, their foundations sunk and the roofs collapsing; around a large communal hall of which only the roof remained, floating on waterlogged sand; and finally, into a small shrine built on a hill, standing above the rest of the drowned village.
He disappeared into the shrine. Miquon dashed in after him.
Only to shriek in pain as she crossed the threshold. Agony tendriled through her muscles, veined up through her skull and down her spine.
“Does it hurt?” The Thief stepped into view. He carried no weapon, only a large granite rock with a jagged edge. “Does it burn you, like the monster that you are?”
“I am not a monster!” she hissed. “I am a hero!” Pride inflamed her with hot strength; she had to fight.
“Are you? Are you sure?” The Thief stared down, edging closer with the rock still in hand. Rain pattered through the crumbling shrine roof. In clearer light and at close distance, he had a lean face, well-worn by the harsh sun and yet—for all that—he was surprisingly youthful. “Don’t you remember anything, Miquon? Is there anything of you left?”
“I remember what matters!” she spat back, coiling her strength against the inexplicable pain that battered her body. Heroes did not give up and heroes did not give in. Not when faced with their enemy. “I am a hero, and you are the Thief of Memory!”
“No. This is your doing.” Face wracked with grief, the Thief raised his arms, encompassing not only the derelict shrine in which they stood but also the ruined village, the flooding, and the ceaseless downpour that should not have existed in the heart of a dry season. “You bargained for rain in the time of drought with a colourless spirit of evil. The spirit has given a season of rain so great the village has drowned and your people have scattered! And you, Miquon, with your wretched staff and twisted knife—you are the Thief of Memory!”
For a moment, terror swept her body and cramped her limbs. The village outside—
No. He is preying on your fears. Sapping your resolve. Spirits are liars and he is lying to you!
Fury veiled her vision, that he should try such tricks. “Lowly, vile thing!” Miquon surged to her feet, ice knife swinging. “I am not the Thief of Memory! You are!”
Yes, you know this! You’re sure.
Thoughts and strange sensations echoed inside her head, barely parsed above the screech of pain afflicting her nerves. No time to think, either way. The Thief was darting sideways. She chased him, the two of them weaving among temple arches and foetid pools. Rain echoed harshly in the temple, drowning out the scuffle of their steps, muting every utterance or hiss. The inexplicable pain still wracked her joints and tendons, wearing at her nerves, but a hero’s fury kept her going.
Frustrated by their time-wasting dance, Miquon darted round an altar and slashed hard at the Thief, trying to lure him into an attack. He took her bait, dodging her clumsy strike to step forward with one of his own.
Perfect. He was fast on his feet but she was even faster; Miquon lunged with a speed that surprised even herself and tackled him to the ground. The knife was in her fist, raised to strike—
“Miquon, please, stop this!” he gasped. “How can you forget so easily? Miquon, Miquon, it is me, Vinta! I am your brother!”
The words went through her like a bolt and for a moment, she froze, arm shaking, steam rising from the cold, cold blade.
You have no brother. He lies!
“I have no brother,” she said, shaken. “Or if I do, you have stolen my memories of him—because you are the Thief of Memory!” The knife shook in her grip.
“You are so lost,” he said through his tears, like a broken thing. “One by one you hunt your scattered people who fled from the ruin you brought on them. We have dispersed across the desert. And still, the colourless spirit isn’t sated, for one by one you find us, destroy us, erase us. Let it end, let it stop! Miquon, sister, remember who you are and come back to me before we are all dead!”
Sweat broke out on her forehead. The hilt grew slick in her grasp. Spirits played tricks. The Thief was a liar, possessed by an evil spirit. She knew this—how? It was just a thing that she knew. As certain as . . . as what? Nothing was certain.
You know your name, whispered the voice. Her voice, wasn’t it? Who else would whisper to her? You are a hero, hunting the spirit who has taken everything from you and destroyed your village. Kill him, and it ends.
If she believed in the truth of only one thing, it was this fact.
“Scum!” Miquon screamed, stabbing down with her knife, and Vinta screamed too. Blue ice radiated outwards from his chest, shooting across his skin and deep into the flesh; his limbs went rigid. “You are the Thief of Memory and I am Miquon the Hero, who has defeated you!”
Vinta juddered on the ground. “Don’t . . . take . . . the spirit . . . by the hand,” he groaned, frost-rimed tongue moving thickly, ice crystals creeping across his eyes.
Miquon recoiled. The words were a key, unlocking a flood of old memories that battered her mind like desert hail.
And she remembered.
And you remember.
“Miquon the Tall,” I say, my empty form swirling, “my bargain is this: I wish you to believe three lies.”
“What?” Indignation and stunned confusion spin you round to face me. This isn’t what you thought I would ask for. Spirits claim lives, steal memories, cast curses. Not this request that makes no sense.
“I will tell you a lie, three lies. I wish you to believe them, no matter the circumstance. In exchange, I will send rain to your village for as long as the drought continues.”
“How can I believe a lie?” you protest, brow furrowed as you shift weight from one foot to the other. “I will know it to be untrue!”
“Easy. I will tell you lies that you wish to believe.” I fragment into a hazy cloud. “All of life is lies and stories. We choose what we believe and we believe what we choose. In this way, a killer may think she is a hero. In this way, a good woman may think she is a bad one. In this way, facts may be spun again and again into legend, and, in this way, a person may know the story of her life—may know the myth that she believes about herself.”
“I don’t understand,” you say, for you are young and a little foolish and not well learned in subtlety.
And I am old, deadly, wise from living and dying and surviving death.
You never had a chance.
“It is simple,” I say. “First, I ask you to believe that you are a hero. Second, I ask you to believe that your enemy is the Thief of Memory.” I gather my shapeless, colourless self and force it into the form of a lean—though still colourless—young man. “And third . . . I ask you to believe that you are not the Thief of Memory.”
When you continue to stare, stunned, I add, “I ask you to believe those three lies, no matter what you do or who you become, and to accept them always as your truth. This is the only lie I will require of you. Any others you believe are of your choice. If you agree, say I agree and we will have a bargain.”
“What trickery is this?” you spit back, finding your words at last. “You ask me to believe a lie, but that is the truth! I am a hero, you are my enemy, and I am not the Thief of Memory, because the Thief of Memory is you.”
“Oh indeed. How rightly you speak.” I extend a twisted hand. “Do you agree to our bargain? Say you accept, and the rain is yours, little hero.”
“Those things are already the truth,” you retort. “If that is your price, your only price, in exchange for rain . . . then I accept!”
My smile grows and grows, impossibly wide; ghostly teeth multiply within a ghostly mouth.
Somewhere, in a village far away, clouds gather with rain and villagers come out to rejoice, and each of them quietly wonders about what the cost has been. They will be overjoyed at first. Until the rain keeps coming, and coming, and coming—
“Good,” I say, almost sultry. “Now then, take my hand.”
You hesitate, wary that you’ve missed something. And the warnings about taking the hand of a spirit are strong. You cannot see how I will get around it but you think you know everything, eighteen and brave, eighteen and still a child.
You step forward, taking my hand in yours. Palm to palm, colour to colourless, and I dissolve my essence into a mist, seeping in through nostril and ear to take up residence inside your skull. Inside your skin, which I will wear like clothes until the flesh of you falls from the bones, worn by age and exhaustion.
From inside your skull I hear and feel you scream. I revel in the agony that I’ve caused. Your body hits the ground, soft flesh bruising, and it has been so long since I have worn another’s skin like this. The warmth. The colour. Oh, how I have missed the feeling of being human and alive once more.
“Betrayer!” wails your mouth. “You lied to me!”
No lies, I retort, my whisper echoing in your mind, sounding eerily like your own thoughts. That will distress and alarm you, no doubt. We made a bargain—you, to believe a lie. I, to give your village rain. I told you to say I accept if you agree, and you did.
—But you took my hand of your own free will, Miquon. That had nothing to do with any bargain we made.
I can taste your stunned horror, your shame and misery at being so utterly and easily fooled.
“Never take the hand of a spirit,” you whisper, tears leaking from the corners of your vision.
I drink deep from your memories, snippets of a father and a mother and brothers with wild hair who run through dunes or low thistle-brush that grow wild in the rains that fall in the wet seasons always coming and going like a woman’s cycle of sky upon earth upon streams and they flow and dry with the years of your youth in an endless cascade of living, living, breathing in colour and warmth till the drought dries them up one by one by one as the heat of the sun overwhelms your own and your piercing scream rises to an almost unearthly howl.
The sound dies away as your memories fade—leaving you little more than a confused and broken shell of a girl. Flesh is a weak thing; you pass out.
Get up, I whisper, and know that you will read my thoughts as your own. Don’t let the Thief get away!
Bloodshot eyes open and you stand up, groggy and fearful, straining to remember. As you swivel, your glance falls on my staff and knife. I sense the confusion.
Remember you who are, I say in a murmur that only you can hear. You are a hero. The Thief of Memory is your enemy.
“I . . .”
He has your memories, and you must get them back. Don’t you remember—
—and she remembered.
Truth faded; horror remained. Miquon rocked back and forth on her heels, hands clapped over her mouth. She was a murderer, a killer, a stealer of memories and culture. A vessel for ancient evil, carrying its influence far beyond the cave, a human slave whose plan to save her people had washed them away.
Vinta’s corpse shattered into a thousand twinkling shards of blue ice and she cried out, for he had been her brother and she had hunted him, slain him, drained his memories to give to the Thief inside her skull, the Thief who wore her skin.
Just like she had done for all her other brothers. Vinta, Suriyek, Kanl, Otash—gone, dead, killed by her like she would kill the rest of her village.
Remember who you are, her brother had said, and instead Miquon had remembered only the lies the spirit had fed her. She had forgotten she was Miquon the Tall, desert hunter and clever daughter, and her colour had become another’s.
Her chest burned as if her lungs had caught with sudden fire. She hacked a wet cough, retching until a cloud of smoky malignancy poured from her mouth like unholy breath, forming into a another being.
The force that rode within her: an eternal, unwanted companion whom she had mistaken for her own strength. The voice in her head that she had thought was her own.
“You!” she snarled. Whatever monster she had become, this thing before her was far, far worse still.
“Me.” The spirit took the staff from her numb, shaking fingers and held it high. Colour seeped from the unholy wood into its limbs, once again flushing the spirit with form and colour as it drank the memories of Miquon’s latest victim. “Ah . . . beautiful.”
“Make it stop!” she shouted, gesturing at the storm that poured endlessly outside. “This isn’t salvation!”
“Isn’t it?” the spirit said, mocking. “I have traded a skyful of rain in exchange for three lies. Is this not what you wanted, Miquon?”
“You take what isn’t yours!” She lunged for the staff, fearless and furious.
But the spirit merely smiled and drifted away from her grasp. “I take what you freely gave—your hand. All this is your fault, little hero.” And with a scornful flick, it brushed her feet with its staff.
The shoes crumbled abruptly. Beads scattered across the cavern floor, stitches untwining and leather falling open. Miquon scrambled to gather up the pieces and they turned to dust in her hands, the leather rotting away into wisps. The meaning of them slipped away from her again, like a stone sinking through deep water. She opened her hands; not even dust remained.
She landed on her knees, exhausted from so many days of hunting and chasing. “You deserved none of us!”
“And yet I will have all of you.” For a moment or two the spirit became a flicker of a man, strong and lean and nearly human. Then the moment faded and it was again a thing of teeth and throats and splurging lips. “More,” it hissed. “Hunt me more, little hero!”
And it struck her across the face with the hollow staff, ghostly wood leaching all thought away.
Many hours later, Miquon awoke in darkness in an empty shrine. She wore her hunting leathers and her mother’s belt but no shoes. Rain fell from the sky upon a drowned village, eerie and thundering.
Remember who you are . . . a hero whose enemy is the Thief of Memory.
The Thief of Memory? Yes . . . her memories were missing. Stolen by magic. She must reclaim them. Somehow. But where did she even start?
To the east. He lies to the east.
To the east. Of course. How could she have forgotten? She stood up and brushed herself clean, pleased to find things that she recognised. Or at least, she thought she recognised, for the remnants of her memory were whispering to her. A knife, familiar, blue, the blade dangerous to touch. A staff, hollow and light; careful with that too.
Trickles of thought and fragments of intent floated through her mind; she snatched at them, grasping and seizing what she could. It was coming back to her. Slowly. And if she could but find the Thief, perhaps all the truth would be known.
Carefully, she picked up the knife made of ice and stashed it in her belt. The staff she slung across her back, surprised but reassured to discover she already wore its holster. Clearly, it was hers, and made for her to use.
Outside the cave, the sun was rising, its scorching heat already infusing the sands with heat.
And Miquon set off across the endless desert to catch the Thief of Memory.
“The Thief of Memory” copyright © 2022 by Sunyi Dean
Art copyright © 2022 by Erin Vest