A word before continuing: yes, I’m aware this page is damp. A few minutes ago I took a break from this letter to wash my hands. I spaced out; when I came to, I’d washed them with soap for too many times, dried them, scrubbed them with hand gel, and repeated.
During this, I asked myself whether I felt even a small glint of regret that day. Answering now, I’d say yes, and I was even glad I felt it. I’ve come here to get to know the world better. Isn’t this the purpose of regret? Looking back, we can see where we went awry or missed the mark. Isn’t this what regret reveals?
Back then, I understood that too. But that didn’t stop me from thinking I had done something unforgivable.
When I decided to bring Sawney and Lucius back to life, I wasn’t asking to be happy. I was asking to not be as miserable as I felt. If I’d been more patient, then the police would do the job, and I wouldn’t have to bear this overwhelming guilt. But I could no longer stand being held back by the weather God had betrayed me with, or the people who would prejudice me later on.
Right after I resurrected them I told Penny it was going to be her fault. But Penny talked back that even then I listened to her when I had a choice. I shut up. She was right, and I was going to bear the consequences.
‘But jokes aside,’ she said, ‘I was just saying it out of false hope.’
I blinked. We both wanted them back, sure, but Penny saying that afterward made me feel like I had fallen into a schoolboy trap. I asked her if she was serious. She tilted her head, asking me if I meant when she wanted me to revive the corpses, or when she said she was kidding.
The ceiling was leaking, so I used Sawney’s hooded jacket to absorb its leftovers. The jacket was cotton and at least a decade old, so I felt a little less guilty. Before that, though, Penny fiddled with the pockets in hopes of finding anything. We found loose change.
We overheard Utterson. His voice was strange, as if he found me disgusting. At first I felt uneasy, but then I was overtaken by a sort of trance. For the first time, I understood why Papa and Mama had been strict about God’s teachings. Breaking them would be too late.
I took word to word in silence, before pressing them like a bottom of a cigarette. The jumper became warmer. It was very dear to me, and it’s my only source of warmth when my thoughts and feelings were scattered like a broken teacup. At some point Utterson questioned whether I was manipulating them. I couldn’t answer.
Penny whispered to me to get out of here. When I asked her what she was going to do, she said she couldn’t stand this hogwash before confronting them the next second. Patrizia tried to negotiate as soon as they saw her, but Utterson interrupted and did the talking. Penny cut him off again and told them that the resurrection was her idea. ‘What’s wrong with wanting a friend back? What’ll you do if one of you suddenly dies, then?’
‘I would be sad,’ said Utterson. ‘But death is an absolute truth, and I won’t try to detest it. Speaking of…the last time you talked to Sawney and Lucius, you told me you’d “deal with them later,” right? What happened to that?’
‘Don’t miss the main topic! So he’s wrong for being in denial?!’
I stood, watching the mock-court until Penny saw me hiding behind one of the broken doors. She gave me a glare, insisting the same message. At first I ignored her, but when the stakes became higher I decided to comply. I slipped out as quickly as possible. I didn’t care where I was going; all I needed was some time for myself. Like they said, I’m just a man who ventures to the city of sin, in denial of truth.
On my way, I bumped into two people. I was about to give a simple bow of apology until two clicks from behind locked me in place. They had guns. Showing no harm, I raised my arms. Neilan recognised me and told Sevrin to stand down. They’d scared me half to death, but they told me I looked ‘surprisingly welcome’. I told them I didn’t have the time to react. They gave me an incredulous look, before asking me why I was in a rush. I wasn’t even sure; but I lied that I was about to visit Pierre to see how he was doing.
Sevrin was holding a pistol, while Neilan was holding a shotgun. When I asked, they told me they searched in Sawney and Lucius’s room a while ago and found them under a bed.
I didn’t know much about firearms, but I assumed that the killer had shot Sawney’s head with the shotgun, point blank. Then, the killer had used the butt to knock Lucius dead, before gouging his eyes out to give the illusion of a ritual. I grimaced at the thought of Lucius being conscious, before shaking my head to get rid of it.
Neilan forced a gulp. ‘But…Sawney didn’t tell us they’d bring them, so why…’
They stole it, I said. They stole it before we came here, and hid it all along. They tried to shoot me but they missed. Sevrin and Neilan stopped, wide-eyed. Neilan said neither of the guns were unloaded before the killer restored it, which meant they didn’t know much about firearms, either. So that confirmed it. The killer used the handgun to shoot me, and the shotgun to kill the brothers.
We eventually reached Pierre’s. I slowed down, and Neilan asked if something’s the matter. I said no. Neilan was about to ask again, before Sevrin hit his elbow.
As soon as I opened the door, Pierre was scrambling something out of sight and Silvia choked on a gingersnap biscuit. She scolded me about not knocking the door beforehand, but I deemed it unimportant and looked straight to Pierre. He looked like a man in his thirties dying of a cold. I tried thinking of something to ask, so as to not make anything awkward. Reassuring was the most natural thing to do, but he would say he was fine, and I found that pointless.
With a deep breath, I asked why he wanted me here. He insisted for the same reason: he wanted to see me relax. But he acknowledged that it backfired, so he asked me what had made me so riled up. I told him that Sawney and Lucius were still getting on my nerves (which, in my defense, wasn’t a lie), but he noticed my hand trying to hide the Necronomicon attached to my belt. He knew what I had done, and he stated it outright.
‘There’s no reason you’d bring them back to life if you were the culprit,’ said Pierre. ‘Your actions are perfectly justified and human, and I don’t see what’s wrong.’
I said, ‘Utterson figured it out. And soon he’ll go after them. I’m worried if…’
‘He’s the killer?’
‘Well, yes, but he’s in a group, so we don’t know that for sure. I’m more worried if they’ll accuse me. If not a killer, then a hypocrite.’
‘Yes. You believe in God, and you love him as much as your friends. It’s a wishy-washy situation, and I’d be just as confused if I were you.’
He was speaking in his usual, soft and kind voice. Yet, it silenced me. ‘I have some advice for you,’ he said. Before that, we sat on the floor and asked if we could have something to eat. Silvia stopped with her gingersnap binge. Half-heartedly, she shared one for each. Unlike that pathetic excuse of cardboard, they were actual biscuits. They still tasted like cardboard, though.
’Rules and morals are simple. Things that never change, like facts, are simple. But living with those facts and emotions is complicated. Simple is going by the law, but it suddenly becomes harder when it’s working against you.′
He went silent. It was my turn to talk, so I said yes, everything had overwhelmed me while I was thinking about my choices. If I were going by the rules, I wouldn’t have to feel regret–but that would also mean Sawney and Lucius would stay dead. As I spoke those names, Sevrin looked away, while Neilan clasped his hands.
‘A coin has two sides, and people who betray themselves will question who they are. You’re made of your values, Preis.’
‘You used to call me President Renaud until I called you Preis.’
I looked away and Silvia laughed. ‘Vice Ratri, isn’t it impolite when you use your mouth while it’s full?’ I said. She shut up.
She then asked why I thought Utterson would think of me that way. I said I overheard him. Finding it absurd, she mumbled so to herself.
‘Anyway,’ said Pierre. ‘Just think if your values are really worth keeping at a time like this. You did what you had to do, and it’s not your fault. It’s the murderer’s. You’re not a hypocrite, and you have to believe that…for now.’
I said yes, though I didn’t believe him. Not most of it. What I saw was that I had done what I had done. Nothing could erase the fact that I had used black magic, offended God’s teachings, and painted myself into a hypocrite. It’s the same as failing an exam. Even if you’re an honour student, do the others care why?
Silvia asked us about the firearms. I was about to explain, but I let Sevrin cover the details until a knock on the door interrupted us. The two gunners readied their stances. When Silvia told them to back down, they took a few steps back. She gave me a green light. With hesitation, I nodded. I needed to be the one opening the door, or else my concerns would never go away. The doorknob was a little jammed, but it gave me time to hold my breath before doing so.
Utterson was there. He flinched upon seeing Sevrin and Neilan, and like me he raised his arms. Silvia needed them to lower their guns. Utterson wasn’t focused on me, I noticed. Not despite what he had said earlier. Without taking a glance at me, he entered and stopped in the middle of the room. He took a deep breath, gave a shaky exhale, and said Penny was dead.