Dec 14 2012 2:30pm
Unremembered: New Excerpt
When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.
Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.
Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.
Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?
Get a sneak peek at Jessica Brody's Unremembered (available March 5, 2013) with an excerpt of the Prologue and Chapters 1-3.
The water is cold and ruthless, lapping against my cheek.
Slapping me awake. Filling my mouth with the taste of salty solitude.
I cough violently and open my eyes, taking in the world around me. Seeing it for the first time. It’s not a world I recognize. I gaze upon miles and miles of dark blue ocean. Peppered with large floating objects. Metal. Like the one I’m lying on.
And then there are the bodies.
I count twenty in my vicinity. Two within reach. Although I don’t dare try.
Their lifeless faces are frozen in terror. Their eyes are empty. Staring into nothing.
I press a palm to my throbbing temple. My head feels like it’s made out of stone. Everything is drab and heavy and seen through a filthy lens. I close my eyes tight.
The voices come an hour later. After night has fallen. I hear them cutting through the darkness. It takes them forever to reach me. A light breaks through the dense fog and blinds me.
No one speaks as they pull me from the water. No one has to. It’s clear from the looks on their faces they did not expect to find me.
They did not expect to find anyone.
Alive, that is.
I’m wrapped in a thick blue blanket and laid on a hard wooden surface. That’s when the questions start. Questions that make my brain hurt.
“What is your name?”
I wish I knew.
“Do you know where you are?”
I glance upward and find nothing but a sea of unhelpful stars.
“Do you remember boarding the plane?”
My brain twists in agony, causing my forehead to throb again.
Plane. Plane. What is a plane?
And then comes the question that awakens something deep within me. That ignites a tiny, faraway spark somewhere in the back corners of my mind.
“Do you know what year it is?”
I blink, feeling a small glimmer of hope surge from the pit of my stomach.
“1609,” I whisper with unfounded conviction
Today is the only day I remember. Waking up in that ocean is all I have. The rest is empty space. Although I don’t know how far back that space goes—how many years it spans. That’s the thing about voids: they can be as short as the blink of an eye, or they can be infinite. Consuming your entire existence in a flash of meaningless white. Leaving you with nothing.
Every second that ticks by is new. Every feeling that pulses through me is foreign. Every thought in my brain is like nothing I’ve ever thought before. And all I can hope for is one moment that mirrors an absent one. One fleeting glimpse of familiarity.
Something that makes me . . . me.
Otherwise, I could be anyone.
Forgetting who you are is so much more complicated than simply forgetting your name. It’s also forgetting your dreams.
Your aspirations. What makes you happy. What you pray you’ll never have to live without. It’s meeting yourself for the first time, and not being sure of your first impression.
After the rescue boat docked, I was brought here. To this room. Men and women in white coats flutter in and out. They stick sharp things in my arm. They study charts and scratch their heads. They poke and prod and watch me for a reaction. They want something to be wrong with me. But I assure them that I’m fine. That I feel no pain.
The fog around me has finally lifted. Objects are crisp and detailed. My head no longer feels as though it weighs a hundred pounds. In fact, I feel strong. Capable. Anxious to get out of this bed. Out of this room with its unfamiliar chemical smells. But they won’t let me. They insist I need more time.
From the confusion I see etched into their faces, I’m pretty sure it’s they who need the time.
They won’t allow me to eat any real food. Instead they deliver nutrients through a tube in my arm. It’s inserted directly into my vein. Inches above a thick white plastic bracelet with the words Jane Doe printed on it in crisp black letters.
I ask them why I need to be here when I’m clearly not injured. I have no visible wounds. No broken bones. I wave my arms and turn my wrists and ankles in wide circles to prove my claim. But they don’t respond. And this infuriates me.
After a few hours, they determine that I’m sixteen years old. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to this information. I don’t feel sixteen. But then again, how do I know what sixteen feels like? How do I know what any age feels like?
And how can I be sure that they’re right? For all I know, they could have just made up that number. But they assure me that they have qualified tests. Specialists. Experts. And they all say the same thing.
That I’m sixteen.
The tests can’t tell me my name, though. They can’t tell me where I’m from. Where I live. Who my family is. Or even my favorite color.
And no matter how many “experts” they shuttle in and out of this room, no one can seem to explain why I’m the only survivor of the kind of plane crash no one survives.
They talk about something called a passenger manifest. I’ve deduced that it’s a kind of master list. A register of everyone who boarded the plane.
I’ve also deduced that I’m not on it.
And that doesn’t seem to be going over very well with anyone.
A man in a gray suit, who identifies himself as Mr. Rayunas from Social Services, says he’s trying to locate my next of kin. He carries around a strange-looking metal device that he calls a cell phone. He holds it up to his ear and talks. He also likes to stare at it and stab at tiny buttons on its surface. I don’t know what my “next of kin” is, but by the look on his face, he’s having trouble locating it.
He whispers things to the others. Things I’m assuming he doesn’t want me to hear. But I hear them anyway. Foreign, unfamiliar words like “foster care” and “the press” and “minor.” Every so often they all pause and glance over at me. They shake their heads. Then they continue whispering.
There’s a woman named Kiyana who comes in every hour. She has dark skin and speaks with an accent that makes it sound like she’s singing. She wears pink. She smiles and fl uffs my pillow. Presses two fingers against my wrist. Writes stuff down on a clipboard. I’ve come to look forward to her visits. She’s kinder than the others. She takes the time to talk to me. Ask me questions. Real ones. Even though she knows I don’t have any of the answers.
“You’re jus’ so beautiful,” she says to me, tapping her fi nger tenderly against my cheek. “Like one of those pictures they airbrush for the fashion magazines, you know?”
I don’t know. But I offer her a weak smile regardless. For some reason, it feels like an appropriate response.
“Not a blemish,” she goes on. “Not one flaw. When you get your memory back, you’re gonna have to tell me your secret, love.” Then she winks at me.
I like that she says when and not if.
Even though I don’t remember learning those words, I understand the difference.
“And those eyes,” she croons, moving in closer. “I’ve never seen sucha color. Lavender, almos’.” She pauses, thinking, and leans closer still. “No. Violet.” She smiles like she’s stumbled upon a long-lost secret. “I bet that’s your name. Violet. Ring any bells?”
I shake my head. Of course it doesn’t.
“Well,” she says, straightening the sheets around my bed, “I’m gonna call you anyway. Jus’ until you remember the real one. Much nicer soundin’ than Jane Doe.”
She takes a step back, tilts her head to the side. “Sucha pretty girl. Do you even remember whatcha look like, love?”
I shake my head again.
She smiles softly. Her eyes crinkle at the corners. “Hang on then. I’ll show you.”
She leaves the room. Returns a moment later with an oval- shaped mirror. Light bounces off it as she walks to my bedside. She holds it up.
A face appears in the light pink frame.
One with long and sleek honey-brown hair. Smooth golden skin. A small, straight nose. Heart-shaped mouth. High cheekbones. Large, almond-shaped purple eyes.
“Yes, that’s you,” she says. And then, “You musta been a model. Such perfection.”
But I don’t see what she sees. I only see a stranger. A person I don’t recognize. A face I don’t know. And behind those eyes are sixteen years of experiences I fear I’ll never be able to remember. A life held prisoner behind a locked door. And the only key has been lost at sea.
I watch purple tears form in the reflecting glass.
“Mystery continues to cloud the tragic crash of Freedom
Airlines flight 121, which went down over the Pacific Ocean yesterday evening after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport on a nonstop journey to Tokyo, Japan. Experts are working a round the clock to determine the identity of the flight’s only known survivor, a sixteen-year-old girl who was found floating among the wreckage, relatively unharmed. Doctors at UCLA Medical Center, where she’s being treated, confirm that the young woman has suffered severe amnesia and does not remember anything prior to the crash. There was no identification found on the girl and the Los Angeles Police have been unable to match her fingerprints or DNA to any government databases. According to a statement announced by the FAA earlier this morning, she was not believed to be traveling with family and no missing-persons reports matching her description have been filed.
“The hospital released this first photo of the girl just today, in the hopes that someone with information will step forward. Authorities are optimistic that . . .”
I stare at my face on the screen of the thin black box that hangs above my bed. Kiyana says it’s called a television. The fact that I didn’t know this disturbs me. Especially when she tells me that there’s one in almost every household in the country.
The doctors say I should remember things like that. Although my personal memories seem to be “temporarily” lost, I should be familiar with everyday objects and brands and the names of celebrities. But I’m not.
I know words and cities and numbers. I like numbers. They feel real to me when everything around me is not. They are concrete. I can cling to them. I can’t remember my own face but I know that the digits between one and ten are the same now as they were before I lost everything. I know I must have learned them at some point in my eclipsed life. And that’s as close to a sense of familiarity as I’ve gotten.
I count to keep myself occupied. To keep my mind filled with something other than abandoned space. In counting I’m able to create facts. Items I can add to the paltry list of things that I know.
I know that someone named Dr. Schatzel visits my room every fifty-two minutes and carries a cup of coffee with him on every third visit. I know that the nurses’ station is twenty to twenty-four footsteps away from my room, depending on the height of the person on duty. I know that the female newscaster standing on the curb at Los Angeles International Airport blinks fifteen times per minute. Except when she’s responding to a question from the male newscaster back in the studio. Then her blinks increase by 133 percent.
I know that Tokyo, Japan, is a long way for a sixteen-year old girl to be traveling by herself.
Kiyana enters my room and frowns at the screen. “Violet, baby,” she says, pressing a button on the bottom that causes my face to dissolve to black, “watchin’ that twenty- four-hour news coverage is not gonna do you any good. It’ll only upset you more. Besides, it’s gettin’ late. And you’ve been up for hours now. Why doncha try to get some sleep?”
Defiantly I press the button on the small device next to my bed and the image of my face reappears.
Kiyana lets out a buoyant singsongy laugh. “Whoever you are, Miss Violet, I have a feelin’ you were the feisty type.”
I watch the television in silence as live footage from the crash site is played. A large rounded piece—with tiny oval-shaped windows running across it—fills the screen. The Freedom Airlines logo painted onto the side slowly passes by. I lean forward and study it, scrutinizing the curved red-and-blue font. I try to convince myself that it means something. That somewhere in my blank slate of a brain, those letters hold some kind of significance. But I fail to come up with anything.
Like the slivers of my fragmented memory, the debris is just another shattered piece that once belonged to something whole. Something that had meaning. Purpose. Function.
Now it’s just a splinter of a larger picture that I can’t fi t together.
I collapse back against my pillow with a sigh.
“What if no one comes?” I ask quietly, still cringing at the unfamiliar sound of my own voice. It’s like someone else in the room is speaking and I’m just mouthing the words.
Kiyana turns and look at me, her eyes narrowed in confusion. “Whatcha talkin’ about, love?”
“What if . . .” The words feel crooked as they tumble out. “What if no one comes to get me? What if I don’t have anyone?”
Kiyana lets out a laugh through her nose. “Now that’s jus’ foolishness. And I don’t wanna hear it.”
I open my mouth to protest but Kiyana closes it with the tips of her fingers. “Now, listen here, Violet,” she says in a serious tone. “You’re the mos’ beautiful girl I’ve ever seen in all my life. And I’ve seen a lotta girls. You are special. And no one that special ever goes forgotten. It’s been less than a day. Someone’s gonna come for you. It’s jus’ a matter of time.”
With a satisfied nod of her head and a squeeze of her fingers, she releases my lips and goes back to her routine.
“But what if I don’t remember them when they do?”
Kiyana seems less concerned with this question than the last one. She smooths the sheets around my feet. “You will.”
I don’t know how she can be so confident when I couldn’t even remember what a television was. “How?” I insist. “You heard the doctors. All of my personal memories are completely gone. My mind is one big empty void.”
She makes a strange clucking sound with her tongue as she pats the bed. “That doesn’t make any difference. Everybody knows the memories that really matter don’t live in the mind.”
I find her attempt at encouragement extremely unhelpful. It must show on my face because Kiyana pushes a button to recline my bed and says, “Don’t be gettin’ yourself all worked up, now. Why doncha rest up? It’s been a long day.”
“I’m not tired.”
I watch her stick a long needle into the tube that’s connected to my arm. “Here, love,” she says tenderly. “This’ll help.”
I feel the drugs enter my bloodstream. Like heavy chunks of ice navigating a river.
Through the mist that’s slowly cloaking my vision, I watch Kiyana exit the room. My eyelids are heavy. They droop. I fight the rising fatigue. I hate that they can control me so easily. It makes me feel helpless. Weak. Like I’m back in the middle of the ocean, floating aimlessly.
The room becomes fuzzy.
I see someone in the doorway. A silhouette. It moves toward me. Fast. Urgently. Then a voice. Deep and beautiful. But the sound is slightly distorted by whatever substance is pumping through my blood.
“Can you hear me? Please open your eyes.”
Something warm touches my hand. Heat instantly floods my body. Like a fire spreading. A good kind of fire. A burn that seeks to heal me.
I fight to stay awake, wrestling against the haze. It’s a losing battle.
“Please wake up.” The voice is far away now. Fading fast.
I can barely see the face of a young man. A boy. Hovering inches above me. He blurs in and out of focus. I make out dark hair. Damp against his forehead. Warm maple eyes. A crooked smile.
And without thinking, without intention, I feel myself smiling back.
I open my mouth to speak but the words come out garbled. Half formed. Half conscious. “Do I know you?”
He squeezes my hand. “Yes. It’s me. Do you remember?”
The answer comes before I can even attempt to respond. It echoes in some back corner of my mind. A faraway flicker of a flame that is no longer lit. A voice that is not my own.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen.” He speaks softly, almost to himself. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
I struggle to make sense of what is happening. To cling on to the unexpected surge of hope that has surfaced. But it’s gone just as quickly as it came. Extinguished in the dark void of my depleted memory.
A low groan escapes my lips.
I feel him moving around me. Fast, fluid motions. The tube that was in my nose is removed. The IV is gently pulled from my vein. There’s a faint tug on the cord attached to the suction cup under my gown and then a shrill beeping sound fills the room.
I hear frantic footsteps down the hall, coming from the nurses’ station. Someone will be here in less than fifteen steps.
“Don’t worry,” he continues in a whisper, lacing his warm fingers through mine and squeezing. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
I suddenly shiver. A chill has rolled over me. Slowly replacing every spark of heat that was lingering just under my skin.
And that’s when I realize that the touch of his hand has vanished. With all my strength, I reach out, searching for it. Grasping at cold, empty air. I fight to open my eyes one last time before the darkness comes.
He is gone.
I wake up the next morning feeling drowsy. The drugs linger in my system. My arms and legs are heavy. My throat is dry. My vision is blurred. It takes a few moments for it to clear.
Kiyana enters. She smiles upon seeing me. “Well, look who’s awake.”
I push the button on the small box next to me. The back of the bed rises until I’m sitting upright.
Kiyana retreats to the hallway and returns a few seconds later with a tray. “I brought you some breakfast. Do you wanna try eatin’ some real food?”
I look at the items on her tray. I can’t identify a single one. “No.”
She laughs. “Can’t say I blame you. That’s hospital food for you.”
She takes the tray back out to the hallway and returns, writing things down on her clipboard. “Vitals are good,” she says with a wink. “Like always.” Her fingertip does a tap tap tap on the screen of the heart monitor next to my bed. “A good strong heart you’ve got there.”
There was a boy in my room.
I reach up and touch my face. The tube in my nose is intact. I glance down at my arm. The IV has been reinserted. I peer around the room. It’s empty except for Kiyana.
But he was here. I heard him. I saw him.
Who was he? Did I know him? He said I did.
I feel the warmth in my stomach again. Hope on the rise.
“Kiyana?” I say, my voice inexplicably wobbly.
“Yes, love?” She flicks her pen against the bag filled with clear liquid that’s attached to my IV.
I swallow dry air. “Has anyone . . .” My lip starts to quiver. I bite it quickly before trying again. “Did anyone come in here last night? Like a visitor?”
Her face scrunches up as she flips a page on her clipboard. Then she slowly shakes her head. “No, love. Jus’ the night nurse. When you knocked out your IV in your sleep.”
“What?” My throat constricts but I push past it. “I did that?”
She nods. “I don’t think you took well to the drugs.”
I feel my face fall. “Oh.”
But the image of the boy is so clear in my memory now. I can see his eyes. And the way his dark hair fell into them as he leaned over me.
“But listen,” Kiyana says pointedly, her gaze darting discreetly toward the open door, then back to me. A cunning grin erupts on her face as she bends down and whispers, “I did hear some good news this mornin’.”
I peer up at her.
“They started interviewin’ some people who claim to be your family.”
“Really?” I sit up straighter.
“Yeah,” she confirms with a pat pat pat on my blanketed leg. “Hundreds of people have been callin’ after that newscast yesterday. The police have been interviewin’ them all night.” She steals another glance at the hallway. “But I’m not supposed to tell you that so don’t be getting me in any trouble.”
“Hundreds?” I ask, suddenly confused. “But how could there be hundreds?”
Her voice is back to a whisper. “So far, they’ve all’ve been impostors. Media-hungry fakes.”
“You mean people have been lying about knowing me?”
The boy’s face instantly dissolves. Just like the warm touch of his hand on my skin.
She shakes her head in obvious disapproval. “Well, I’ll tell you. I blame that news coverage. You’ve become a celebrity overnight. People can be so desperate for attention.”
“Now that’s a question that needs a whole heap of an explanation, love. One that I don’t know if I can give you. But I’m sure that one of those calls will prove to be the real thing.”
I feel my shoulders sink and my body slouch. Like my spine has given out on me.
Was that really what the boy was? Someone trying to meet the famous survivor of flight 121? The thought fills me with a surge of emotion. The idea that he was able to make me feel a sliver of hope—false hope—leaves me feeling foolish. And furious.
But then again, maybe he was never here at all. The drugs could have caused me to hallucinate. Invent things.
I fall back against my pillow, deflated. I reach for the remote control and turn on the television. My photograph is still on the screen, although it’s been resized and placed in the top right corner. A new female reporter is standing in front of the same Los Angeles International Airport sign.
“Once again,” she is saying, “anyone with information about this girl’s identity is encouraged to call the number on the screen.” A long string of digits appears below the woman’s chest. The same ones as yesterday.
And I’m struck with a thought.
She’s writing something on her clipboard and pauses to look up at me. “What’s that, love?”
“How do they know the callers are impostors?”
She glances back down at her clipboard and continues scribbling notes, answering my question distractedly. “Because none of them know about the locket.”
My gaze whips toward her. “What locket?”
She still doesn’t look up, oblivious to the alarm in my voice. “The one you had on when they found you.” Her voice slows as she comes to the end of her sentence and notices the ghastly expression on my face. Something she clearly wasn’t expecting to see.
Her hand goes to her mouth, as though to recapture the words that she has inadvertently set free.
But it’s too late. They’re already imprinted on my barren brain.
I feel my teeth clench and my eyes narrow as I turn my glaring expression on her and seethe, “No one told me anything about a locket.”
Copyright © 2012 by Jessica Brody
To learn more or to pre-order a copy of Unremembered by Jessica Brody:
Jessica Brody is the author of 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, My Life Undecided, and The Karma Club, as well as two adult novels: The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover. Sometimes she wishes her memories could be erased so she could reread all her favorite books for the first time. She splits her time between California and Colorado.