And He Called
Anja is what I would call an imaginative child. She is six years younger than me, though we seem to be able to talk to each other just fine. Despite our lack of conflict, I have no idea how Anja thinks of me. Does she like me just as any sibling would? Does she secretly loathe me for being a golden child in Mama’s eyes? I’m in the dark when it comes to my own family, but it doesn’t matter that much. I liked her as my younger sister and the way she keeps to herself.
She wasn’t exactly a standout in terms of looks. There wasn’t anything at all wrong with her appearance, but neither was there anything about her that would turn any heads. She had long eyelashes, a thin nose, was on the small side, and her hair, which fell to her shoulder blades, was beautifully styled. Her pigtails lent her a slightly sensual air. Most people would see the girl I was hanging out with at the time as far more beautiful. But even so, one look was all it took for me to like her, like I’d been struck by lightning. Why? I wondered. It took a few weeks for me to figure out the reason. But then it suddenly hit me. She reminded me of my twin, who had died. Reminded me very clearly of her.
Not that they looked alike on the outside. If you were to compare photos of the two of them, most people would be hard-pressed to find any resemblance. Which is why at first I didn’t see the connection either. It wasn’t anything specific about her looks that made me remember my twin, but the way her expression changed, especially the way her eyes moved and sparkled, was amazingly like my twin’s. It was like magic or something had brought back the past, right before my very eyes.
My twin was also named Anja, as though the Anja of now was meant to be a replacement of her. Of course, not in terms of looks, but of an ideal personality that is impossible to grasp from Mama. My tw was much shorter than me (around 157 centimetres tall the last time we saw her), had ash-brown hair tied up into a bun, and eyes of the same colour. The last time we saw her, she had a shouting match with Mama on how God is not real and Mama should stop brainwashing us into worshipping something which doesn’t care about us. She was tired of her, she said, and she’d rather die than having a tyrant rule over her. We never saw her again––the only thing indicating her disappearance was that she had jumped from the window in our room.
Six years later, and the police never found her. She stole Mama’s wallet (we weren’t allowed to have our own money that time) and left everything else behind, including a single message meant to sneer at Mama. The moment Mama read the letter, she tore it down and demanded me to throw it away. I didn’t. Despite how offensive it was, I hid it away.
Anja was, for me, too smart for her own good. Back then, we would call her delusional and tainted because she didn’t believe in God, and having a Christian family and going to a Christian school made her an outcast. Her classmates never bullied her––not in front of me––but she always came home with some kind of trouble. One day she was asked by her teacher why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. She answered it was because God had put it in the Garden of Eden instead of outside, adding that He devised a way to persuade them to eat the fruit so He could punish them. Somehow, that angered the teacher a lot. He asked her to see him after class, and she was absent for the rest of the day.
Rules. Laws. Notion. They’re created for the greater good, but they’re doomed for someone to break it. The law doesn’t work for Anja. Anja refuses to work for the law. I was glad I abided by the law and avoided an existential crisis, though what happened on the island had made me wonder whether God was the right place I had put my heart to. ‘If it means killing myself, running away from home, doing drugs or anything illegal, I’ll be glad to do so,’ wrote her last letter. ‘I refuse to go back to the church. I don’t want to see the face of something who claims itself as God, when all it does is to make everyone’s lives more difficult.’
In other words, she was like Utterson when I first met him. It was a total coincidence made by God, I would say, for him to suddenly approach me to ask if I believe in God. Back then, I tried not to think of him much. Now, however, he is unable to leave me. Whenever I thought about him, it was as if I had been transported to another world––one in which nothing physical feels real. A trance of thought would transport me into a glass bubble without a barrier. Everything would be outside. Inside, it is me and Utterson.
I’m not even sure if it was him. He is no longer real, that was for sure, but him interfering my mind outside my thought made me want to reset my brain and configure what was wrong with it. But no matter what to make of it, he would be here, in his customised school uniform. He would have his signature cravat tucked under his vest, imprinted with the Miskatonic emblem, and trousers along with Derby shoes. This is Aristide Utterson.
Before I can ask him why he had invaded my mind space, he would cackle and predict my speech: ‘But you’re dead!’ he would exclaim sarcastically. I would choose silence as an answer. He would continue, ‘Why, that’s the very reason! Because I’m dead, I have full freedom to do whatever I want, including invading your sweet home you call your mind! Isn’t death a beautiful thing?’
The first thing I would ask him is whether he felt hot. He’d ignore me and continue with his grandiloquent speech, which I would ignore. It would be after a while when I get bored and ask him again on how I can make sure the person I’m talking to was indeed Utterson. He’d stop. He’d blink two times, before he’d laugh again and ask me back. ‘Well, that boils down to your own perception, doesn’t it?’
‘Perception?’ I’d ask.
‘Who do you think I am? A ghost? That might not be wrong, but are you sure I “appeared” to you? Are you sure I’m some epiphany?’
I’d think for a moment––but that isn’t my concern. I’d asked him whether he was Utterson so I can figure out what he wanted. Even though I’ve never revealed this information to him, it was as if he knew I had a twin. If I had known what Utterson was up to before his death, then I would have a little more time negotiating. But this is an illusion––a real illusion returning me to square one.
Despite the witch having shattered my sense of self, I still had a certain degree of trust in my own thinking. Since Utterson is here to interact without any foretelling, his goal is something meant to be a surprise. I can’t tell whether it has anything to do with the Necronomicon or the recent murders, but I was sure he wanted to keep me clueless in order to overtake me. So what to do was simple: keep a calm and patient interaction.
I noticed Utterson’s unfazed cunning, turned my head to the side, and sighed as I looked at the window. For some reason, what Utterson had said stuck in my mind.
‘Well, that boils down to your own perception, doesn’t it?’
I’m trying to understand that smile. It didn’t look human. Based on my thinking, I had assumed that Utterson was a delusion––a spirit of the past. But that was only because I’ve fully believed that Utterson was human and dead. What if, somehow, Aristide Utterson wasn’t human? What if he wasn’t dead? What if the Utterson who had appeared wasn’t his own ghost, but an illusion sent by the witch Keziah Mason? Since he was no longer human, humanity no longer applies to him; and as he said, he can do whatever he wants. In that case, negotiation is useless.
Everything I considered has lost all its core. Now, the only thing certain is that he isn’t stuck with me… and he has a motive.