As a lover of history, the line, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” from William Faulkner’s Requiem for A Nun, thrills me. Why? Because I believe what has gone before is not only always present, but also has the power to control the present. When I look at this picture I took from the Brooklyn promenade where the World Trade Center used to stand, the truth of Faulkner’s line hits home. That sky isn’t empty. It’s full of the lives lost, the lives forever affected by those losses and will always be.
Having been a minister, I’m already predisposed to accept realities that go beyond the five senses. After all, the core belief of my religion is that over 2000 years ago a man named Jesus was crucified dead and was buried then rose again. It’s not just the knowledge of that sacrifice that gives the Christian power, but the belief that the energy released through that act reaches through time and enables me to heal through the laying on of hands or casting out demons by invoking Jesus’ name. It’s as if a nuclear bomb had been set off 2,000 years ago, and the aftershocks from the blast are still being experienced.
In Requiem For A Nun, one character tries to escape her past by claiming she’s no longer the person she was. But the lawyer who speaks the line is telling her you can’t escape the past. It’s always present. For my mind that’s not always bad. Energy from the past can be used for good or ill; which one depends on your level of awareness.
No wonder I enjoy writing ghost stories as Anna M. Taylor. Well, stories dealing with spirits or supernatural energy to be more accurate. Humans enter a situation, oblivious to or in denial about the past that is not dead, that is not past. Their level of awareness, i.e., ability to accept that alternate and concurrent reality, determines if things are going to end up good for them or ill.
That’s why in real life forgiving, repenting, remembering, and celebrating are such powerful and necessary acts. In these actions we name the past, which never died, and then harness the power of its presence for good. Think about it. When you feel guilty for something you’ve done wrong, don’t you feel weighed down? But let someone say, “That’s alright. I forgive you.” What happens to that weight? Aren’t you freed up emotionally, spiritually, and — in some cases because we can develop psychosomatic symptoms — physically, as well? The past while still present no longer has power over you. How about when you’re remembering an event, either sad or happy? Doesn’t the recollection bring an energy with it that has nothing to do with you? You’re engaged in the moment. It’s as if it’s happening right then and there. The ever-present spirit of the past is being tapped into. The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Never was.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies”: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing her ties with her mother, Angela, and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, she comes back to Harlem to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston, and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
Excerpt from Haunter Serenade
“I never understood how you and Elizabeth could stay here after Diana…” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. My mother didn’t finish my sentence for me. Apparently she couldn’t say the word either.
We waited in the shared silence, unable more than unwilling to offer terms of peace.
“A person can will themselves to die,” my mother said. Her gaze drifted to the album cover in my hands. “It’s not so hard where unforgiving spirits reign.”
My gut clenched. “Do you really believe you’re dying, Ma?”
“According to my doctor, I’m sound as a dollar. But when you’ve got more days behind you than in front of you, that’s not saying much.” She directed her gaze to me. “That’s why Cammie is so important. She’s the future. I feel better just having been in her presence a little while.”
“I should have known.” I gripped the album cover with fingers trembling with anger and disappointment. “All that display of affection…you’re only using her to make you feel better.”
“No, Anora.” My mother came over and grabbed my arm with an earnestness that surprised me. “It’s not like that. I—I want the ghosts keeping us apart to die. Don’t you?”
I wanted it so much it hurt. I grimaced but nodded.
“Cammie took one look at this house and asked if it was haunted.”
My mother snorted. “Out of the mouths of babes.”
“Exactly what I thought.” I returned the album cover to its resting place.
The term troubled my mind. Can the spirit of anyone who dies the way my aunt died ever rest?
The question went unanswered, interrupted by my daughter’s screams.
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