Amnesia: Myth vs. Reality
Have you ever woken up after having too much to drink the night before, only to realize you have no idea as to what happened? You might have some vague recollections, some vague outlines, but the rest is black. Your friends tell funny stories about the way you acted and you have no choice but to accept them as truth, no matter how preposterous they sound. After all, why would the people you trust steer you wrong? Regardless of what happened that night, those memories never trickle back.
In movies, books, and television, amnesia is often presented differently. A freak accident leaves the main character without memories, but over time, or with triggers, memories come creeping back. By the end, they’re whole and full of memories again, the same person they were before this horrible event.
The brain is a misunderstood organ. Scientists are still studying to determine its various functions and map the ramifications of various stimuli. The smallest discrepancy can cause the brain to malfunction, as it were. Too much alcohol is only one example. A blow to the head can cause damage, sometimes irreparable, sometimes only temporary. Psychological trauma can do the same. And what about sleep deprivation? You may not think of it as amnesia, but overtiredness can lead to a poor or even absent recollection of the events occurring under that state.
Aside from multiple causes, there are also multiple kinds of amnesia. You’ve all heard of long term and short term memories, right? Amnesia works on the same principle. Sometimes only your short term memories have been affected, but you can remember the far past in perfect clarity. Sometimes a person with amnesia is unable to make new memories at all.
This isn’t the case with Eva, the heroine in my new book Hellish Haven. In the beginning of the book, she finds herself in the middle of a war zone with a man claiming to be her husband. She doesn’t remember him or their young son -- but she can recall working as a nurse in a hospital just fine. She thinks there’s been some sort of mistake.
Like many who suffer from amnesia, Eva never regains those memories; she forms new ones instead. Even some of the memories she makes in the beginning of the book she finds herself losing due to a reintroduction of the cause of her amnesia.
In my book, an Orwellian government controls everything and everyone, thanks to a drug they administer to the public. The immediate effects of this drug include a heightened susceptibility to suggestion, but long term use results in the elimination of past memories which don’t coincide with the brainwashing the government implements. In this way, while Eva is in captivity she is made to forget about her husband and son. Until she breaks free and washes the drug from her system, she isn’t able to recall anything at all. But being exposed to this drug for a day is different than being exposed for several months. After a day, she can recall some facts, names, or images. Enough to get the picture of her life and the gaps she’s missing, but not the whole story. The months she spent subject to this drug prior to the story beginning have wiped and replaced her memories of being a nurse in the resistance movement. Instead, she is reduced to believing that her life before the government took power has continued in the same way. That she works in the same hospital, in the same position, with the same colleagues. And, for those few months she was under government control, that was true. The government can only instill new memories by repetition, after all.
This amnesia-inducing drug plays a larger role in the book than simply forcing Eva to unwittingly do the government’s bidding. It is also used to control the perception of other people. Through other stimuli like the constant propaganda spouting from televisions without a power-off button, and photo frames which change according to the whims of the government and are used to monitor citizens, the memory of a certain person can be completely wiped from the mind of the people who knew him or her. In this way, a “traitor” to the government can be completely wiped from history.
I enjoyed playing around with this horror scenario, simply because the brain is so delicate an organ. It allowed me to deepen complications and stakes in the book. Certainly, I could have written your typical girl-meets-boy romance story in the middle of a dystopian setting, but I wanted to explore the characters later in life. What if they were already married? How would amnesia of one party affect their dynamic -- and how far would the spouse be willing to go to fight for her?
Amnesia complicates every second of Eva’s life, and it will until the day she dies. In the book, she has to focus on what she wants, not only who she is or was. In my opinion, the battle makes the inevitable happy-ever-after all the more potent.
What would you do if the person you loved most suddenly forgot you existed?
Genre: Dystopian Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.,
Lyrical Press Imprint
Date of Publication: November 17, 2014
Number of pages: 72
Word Count: 33,718
Cover Artist: Renee Rocco
Two lives. Two realities. But only one truth.
The Senator reigns all-powerful in a manifested picture-perfect world. No worries. No wars. Only the unspoken threat of oblivion if you step a toe out of line. On the other side of the divide, the rebels face a debilitating war against an invulnerable robotic army. Every day is a struggle to earn back their freedoms. Freedom to feel. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought.
Sergeant Grant Baker is pivotal to the war effort. But ever since his wife’s abduction, he’s been walking around in as much of a daze as the Senator’s brainwashed citizens. Then Eva reappears—without memories of him or their son. And he’s willing to do anything to keep her. Even if it means jeopardizing the war.
Eva doesn’t know which side to believe. Her predictable life as a single nurse, or the man claiming to be her husband. All she knows is she needs to discover how to end the war, quickly. If she doesn’t choose sides soon, she may lose the man—and the life—she never knew she wanted.
Acting as vanguard for the injured squad, Grant turned a corner and froze. A hulky man carried a limp woman over his shoulder.
Grant automatically reached for his gun. Even if they weren’t yet across the divide, he couldn’t stand idle as a man accosted a woman. Or worse. He aimed the rifle at the criminal. “Set her down nice and easy.”
The man froze. He glanced over one meaty shoulder, his unshaven mouth set in a scowl.
“Set her down, or I’ll shoot.”
A gold tooth flashed as the criminal grinned. He hurled the small woman at Grant and dashed for the slim space between two buildings.
Grant moved without thinking. His gun clattered to the ground as he lunged forward to catch the woman before she split her head open on the sidewalk. He grunted as he caught her with her weight against his bruised forearms. He shot a flickering glance her way. A riot of brown curls obscured her face. He set her gently on the ground.
He dashed for the opening the shady figure had disappeared into, but saw no sight of the man. The delinquent was long gone.
Ashland panted as he jogged to Grant’s side. “What happened?”
If Grant never heard that question again, it would be too soon. He shook his head wearily. “Mugging, I guess.”
“They still have those here? I thought the Senator brought an end to violence.” Ashland drew sarcastic quotes in the air as he spoke.
Grant didn’t bother to answer. He turned to the woman and where his squad was now gathered. A horrified private glanced from the woman to Grant and back again. “What do you want us to do with her…sir?”
If they left her, the Senator’s people might find her and stick her back in the pen with the rest of their brainwashed sheep. Then again, that same goon might double back to continue what he started.
He crossed to the woman and crouched to lift her into his arms. Her tangled hair fell away from her face. He nearly dropped her. “Eva?”
Frantically, he pressed his ear to her chest. Her breathing was shallow, but her heartbeat steady and strong. He clutched her tighter. He couldn’t believe it.
He’d found his wife.
About the Author:
L.K. Below wrote Hellish Haven to bring her love of Orwell’s classic 1984 into the modern day…or near future, as it turns out.
She reads as obsessively as she writes and likes to Tweet about both at @LBelowtheauthor.