Short Stories 366:35 — “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych,” by Kathleen Kayembe

coverQuite a few of the stories in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 are pulled from horror/dark fiction magazines, and “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych” came from Nightmare Magazine, and I can certainly see why. Horror and dark stories aren’t usually a place I like to go—I admit it, I’ve got a sponge of a subconscious, and when I read dark/disturbing imagery I tend to end up with nightmares—but this story, while indeed dark and disturbing, ultimately left me in a positive frame of mind, or at least somewhere adjacent to hopeful.

The triptych in the title is the shift through three point-of-views in the story. There’s Izzy, who begins the story spending time with her “uncle” a professor and collector of folk tales (especially about witchcraft and superstition from his native Kinshasa). She grew up with his son, Mbuyi, when she was younger and her uncle and Mbuyi first arrived in the states, and she is happy to spend time with him now, though he talks of a dog locked in Mbuyi’s old room that she must never visit, and—of course—when she does, she realizes something evil is going on. Mbuyi vanished, by all accounts, but there’s something else in play.

The other two POVs would be spoilers, but as the story passes from one to the next, the story is made clear, revealing dark history, tragedy, failures of family and love, and a malevolent force determined to right a horrible wrong with vengeance rather than justice. It’s creepy, and in parts squishy-gross (my least favourite kind of horror is the squishy kind), but overall the seed of the horror is more in the sense of “what people will do to one another when they believe in evil,” and that bears fruit in an overall disturbing (but engrossing) tale.

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