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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 721 Response

Beat the Drum

with Kimberly Steinberg

Beat the Drum” appears in issue 721.

What are the family relationships? In particular, which children are whose?

This is a modern blended family, with stepmothers, stepfathers, stepchildren, and then the biological parents, and biological children. Liam is Oliver’s son, the other two boys are Kinsey’s children from a previous marriage.

Would it do any good to report to the police that Ava has turned the missing dead boy into a zombie?

No, here is my bias that the police aren’t much help in custody cases, even if abuse is involved.

Does the character Ava imply a story within the story? What might it be?

She does, and there is an untold true story that this fiction story represents. It’s not as simple as a custody battle. It was a complex high-conflict situation with devastating consequences for the children. I wanted to write about it for the longest time, and this was a way to do that without harming any of the parties involved.

Is Jordan paid for his exorcism services?

It seems like he should be more like a pastor, where this is his “ministry,” if you will. On the other hand, he probably has no church umbrella so maybe he accepts money for actual expenses but doesn’t charge for the service.

Why can’t Father Joel perform a rite?

His experience with the supernatural is limited; so that is why he makes a referral.

Why is a Haitian “specialist” needed?

The Haitian priest has more exposure to the supernatural, it is closer to the surface in an undeveloped country like Haiti, and maybe there is more acceptance of the idea in Haiti. It would be fun to explore the culture further.

What risk might Oliver and Kinsey be running by assuming false identities?

Kidnapping charges or custodial interference; false identity charges. Could lose all custody of Liam. But it might be worth it to save the children.

Couldn’t they simply inform the court that they’re taking a long vacation?

Not really; they can’t take an extended trip out of the country without Ava’s permission.

And won’t Ava know they’re gone? She does come visiting every night.

Good point! I could change it to allow for her knowledge after the fact, it won’t matter, because the family is already gone, escaping into the night. There’s also the issue of the other two boys and their biological father. He’s not part of the story now, but he could be included somehow.

The Haitian creole is almost pure French. Transcribed, it says, Tu bats l’tambour et puis tu danses encore. But what is the role of the drum in exorcising vampires?

Who knows? It’s a mystery.

Thank you, Kimberly. Whenever a story includes family relationships — especially ones as complex as those in “Beat the Drum” — readers will suspect that the story is an encrypted version of somebody’s reality. And you’ve confirmed that “vampires” can be real, at least in a manner of speaking.

At the end, the drum at least offers a hope that the evil spirit can be exorcised. But how that might be done seems to be another story.

Copyright © 2017 by Kimberly Steinberg
and Bewildering Stories

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