Everybody has a twin. Not quite an identical twin, though the twins are all identical. They are all pale and thin like the fingers of smoke that rise from a bonfire. They never speak but appear to whisper silently over the shoulder of the person that they follow. Nobody else seems to see them. I have always seen them. When I was younger I used to try to talk to the twins, but it was pointless. They either couldn’t hear or didn’t care. I used to tell my friends at school about their twins, and describe how they stood behind them watching everything they did with hollow faces. They don’t exactly look solid, but they aren’t invisible. They fill the air like clouds, and their faces are just like a person’s face, but more like the moon’s; mournful and cold.

Nobody would talk to me after that. Their parents would come into class and complain that I’d scared them. That they had suffered recurring nightmares about tall thin people watching them silently with blurry, sad faces. When my teacher told me about it I would always reply; “it wasn’t a dream, that’s their twin”.

When Mrs. Merrin arranged to speak to my mum and dad about it, they said that they weren’t worried because all kids had imaginary friends. They changed their minds after I told them about Grandma’s twin. While the leaves were shedding from the trees outside of her window, Grandma’s twin had grown taller, almost doubled in size and hardened until it looked like a stretched and crooked old man, as twisted and gnarly as the blackened branches that reached towards her warm house from the dying garden. He crept closer and closer to her throughout the autumn. When winter arrived, the twin leered over her like a giant skeletal hand and cradled Grandma within his grip. Everyone said that Grandma’s death was unexpected, but I had seen him approaching for months. The last time I said goodbye to her, I was walking towards the door. I paused to glance back into her room. His empty black eyes stared piercingly back into mine. It was the first time a twin had ever acknowledged me.

I told my parents about grandma’s twin. I told them that he had taken her, and that he’d probably been waiting her whole life to take her. They told me I had to forget my imaginary friends, that I was talking about things that I didn’t understand. I understand, it’s everybody else that doesn’t.

Watching Grandma’s twin take her disturbed me at first. I became cautious of everybody’s twin, but they all looked normal again after that, trailing weightlessly behind people with gaping mouths and vacant eyes. I have actually grown to like the twins more. They’re a lot like me; they can’t talk and everybody ignores them. I wonder if I was supposed to be a twin? I don’t know. All I know is that everybody has a twin. You have a twin. It’s watching you right now.

Image: Tall Soldiers (2007) by Kazuya Akimoto