Since 2019, Stage13’s Two Sentence Horror Stories , which airs on the CW and is available for viewing on Netflix, has shared harrowing tales from the perspectives of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. Among the standout episodes in season two is “Ibeji,” which is currently up for EMMY consideration. The twisted tale tells the story of Nigerian-American nurse, Eneh, who steps in to rescue her twin sister, Adaora, from a broken and negligent healthcare system that left her paralyzed. The general plot follows a pattern that we, unfortunately, know all too well. A Black woman’s concerns and medical symptoms are dismissed and the consequences are horrifying. The twist, however, is that there’s a creature lurking in the shadows, ready to gobble up the “most vulnerable and unprotected” patients in the medical system.
“It’s the kind of dark that can, that can thrive when people are marginalized and forgotten,” screenwriter Melody Cooper tells EBONY of the episode’s tangible antagonist. “That includes racism and all of the ills that can prey upon us.”
Though the episode was written based on personal experiences that took place prior to COVID-19, Cooper emphasizes the pandemic has made the episode especially timely because the illness further illuminated the deadly disparities that presently exist within the healthcare system.
“There is this horrific creature that is ready to devour us, but that we can take action,” Cooper says of the script underlying theme and why the tale ends on a triumphant note that includes the sisters working together through Adaora’s paralysis to save one another from the dark force. “And it was really important to me that the action was about saving ourselves and that we could find it within ourselves.”
It’s not by chance that the consequence of medical negligence in this episode was a form of paralysis that robbed Adaora of her ability to speak.
“Very often, our voices aren’t heard,” says Cooper. “That, for me, also spoke to how we feel paralyzed by our anger, by our fear, by everything that’s happening to us and has happened to us in history. From George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, all of it can paralyze us.”
We all know that Adaora’s story could have ended differently. Oftentimes, the dismissed medical concerns of Black women are a death sentence. However, while Cooper says that it’s necessary to tell the stories of Black people in the horror space, creators must take extra care not to retraumatize Black viewers.
“The horror genre allows us to look at social issues and social injustice in such a powerful way, but I will say that we have to be careful in the horror realm not to retraumatize people,” says Cooper. “We have to be very careful.”