Simply put, I was sick of all those damn stories about the white guy bringing back a haunted “African fetish” and it reeking havoc on his petty life. Besides being racist, boring and predictable, it’s an overdone trope (see also the Iraqi fire demon in this season’s True Blood.) So this story is a direct remix of that, but it’s also about gentrification and the way power and privilege can have devastating effects even with the best intentions.
This is the essence of a ghost story: history walks with us. We can choose to acknowledge it and move accordingly or we can pretend it’s not there, try to will it out of existence and the cringe while we and all our loved ones reap the consequences. In traditional ghost stories this might refer to a sin of the past, the unearthing of some slumbering demon, an indelicate transgression against Judeo-Christian straight white norms, perhaps a poor choice of vacation home. Here, the past is very specifically the history of our country, the racial-economic factors that got us to where we are today and the mark that has left on all of us.
What startled me is how similar this is to a Lovecraft story that I hadn’t yet read when I wrote it,“Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family,” in which homeboy has a Congolese relic mailed to him, it turns out to be the mummified carcass of his half-ape gread-grandmother (wearing the family pendant) and then it kills him. (Oh…spoiler alert.) It’s an amazing and amazingly racist story and I’m glad I wrote a counter-story, however unknowingly.
This is also about action, hesitation and friendship, but I’ll let those themes stand as is so as not to give anything away.