The Lady With the Forked Tongue – Part 3: Mouth to Mouth

The lizard lady’s room smelled like spring—damp grass and bursting blossoms—but because the evening light coming in from the hallway window was faint, Sadi could only see the bare outline of a nest arranged on the floor. She leaned through the open doorway, rubbing her sore fingers. She and the lizard lady had put the little clones to bed in the nursery, and though they had been mostly cooperative, one of them had given Sadi a bite as she was tucking them in. That tiny monster’s fangs were small, but razor-sharp. A few drops of blood had stained the dry-leaf bedding and the critter had grinned up at her.

It was a grin not unlike that of their mother. In fact, it was that same devilish smile that the reptilian had worn earlier in the day, when she had invited Sadi to spend the night.

After that, Sadi couldn’t stop staring at the lizard lady’s mouth. Riding on the wave of her initial confidence, she had followed her to the master bedroom’s threshold, but apprehension began to creep in her gut before she could cross through.

“How big are your teeth?” Sadi blurted out, though she finally followed the lizard lady into the dim room because the woman had been beckoning her. “Can they do a lot of damage?”

“That depends.” The door shut after them and suddenly they were swallowed into pitch darkness. “How hard do you want me to bite?” Because the lizard lady’s body was so well-balanced with the warmth around them, the touch of her scaly skin took Sadi by surprise. She didn’t feel it coming until they had crashed into each other, until the leather of that flesh was pressed hard against Sadi’s own.

Sadi was breathless. Her heart jerked in her chest. Now that she had walked into the unknown, she had started to doubt herself, but she didn’t flinch as she felt a forked tongue flickering near her face.

“You’re scared.”

“Of course I am. I’m only human.”

“I told you this would be different than you thought. We don’t do it the way humans do.”

“Do what?

The lizard lady’s arm scraped her side. Sadi thought at first that it was the beginnings of an embrace, but then the woman reached towards the wall behind her. The flick of a switch echoed in the silence—and then the room was flooded with light.


The lizard woman broke away. She sauntered through the warmly-lit room and Sadi was surprised to see that it was actually filled with human furniture, contrary to what the lizard had just said. There was a chest of drawers, a wardrobe, a desk with a chair—only the bed made of grass tufts and leaves and weed flowers pointed to the lizard lady’s beastly nature. On the walls were what looked like rows of tiny, brightly-colored paintings, but as Sadi drew closer to them, she saw that they were framed butterflies. The wings were so immaculate that she imagined someone had to have preserved them with great care.

Out of all the strange things in the den, she found this detail most out of place, and when the lizard woman flopped onto her nest of yard shavings, Sadi turned to give her a surprised look. “You collect butterflies?”

“Not exactly. I’m an insectivore mostly, as you already know. I’ll eat just about anything with six limbs.” The woman yawned and tucked her arms behind her head, stretching her long legs in the slush of grass. “But when I murdered those butterflies, I felt bad. I found them too pretty to eat.”

“So you turned them into art?”

“It’s not art. It’s just something nice to look at.” Even through that sleepy expression, though, Sadi could feel the lizard lady’s stare trained in her direction. Those slitted eyes were watching, evaluating, following Sadi as she wandered from frame to frame.

“So you like looking at pretty things,” Sadi murmured with a teasing smile, lightly pressing her fingers to the glass that encased a brilliant monarch chrysalis. It looked like jade that had been trimmed in gold. “Are you going to press me inside a frame now, too? It does seem that you’ve caught me.”

“Well, if I do turn you into a decoration, then you deserve it for being so foolish. Those butterflies were all the same, too: They landed on me without a care in the world. I didn’t even have to give chase. They were fearless.”

Sadi shrugged, and though there was some hesitation left in her still, she inched towards the nest. “If I can be fearless, then I accept whatever comes. If you eat me, you eat me.”

“Be careful what you wish for. I may just do that.”

The lizard lady grasped her by the arms so suddenly that it threw her off balance. With a yelp, Sadi tumbled into the bed. Luckily, the dried grass was soft and broke some of her fall, but her squirming puffed flowers and fuzzy weeds into the air, and it sent her into a coughing fit, too.

“My, my, you humans are fragile,” the woman said, though there was an edge of concern over the amusement. “Maybe this is a bad idea after all. I might break you.”

What’s a bad idea?”

As Sadi recovered, she gave the woman a wry look, but crawled her way over anyway. She pressed her face to the lizard lady’s chest, wanting to listen to that slow-beating heart. It seemed to tick a little faster than she remembered, but she found it comforting nonetheless. She raised her eyes up to find that the woman was gazing at her, that those slitted pupils had grown a little wider.

“We’re dancing around the subject.” Sadi slid her way up until they were face-to-face, but the lizard woman did not resist her. Instead, Sadi felt a pair of scaly arms snaking around her hips, pressing her a little closer, soaking up her heat. “You didn’t invite me in here just to make jokes about turning me into a butterfly, Lizard Lady. Obviously, we like each other. Maybe it’s as confusing to you as it is to me, because I don’t know what to do next, but we can’t just sit around and do nothing about it. That would be a waste!”

“I’m a lizard. I’m an expert at sitting around and doing nothing. It’s called basking and it’s not a waste.” She pointed to the heat lamp that dangled above them. “I finally installed that last week after that whole incident between us.”

“That’s not what I mean!” Sadi leaned a little closer towards the lizard woman’s smirk. “We haven’t even kissed. I don’t even know if that’s something you people do in the first place. And actually, beyond that, I definitely have no idea what lizard people do when they like each other. I’m sure you have to have some kind of coupling ritual, or else you wouldn’t have three little hatchlings running around your—”

It was then that it finally dawned on her. Sadi jerked back suddenly, a flood of guilt hitting her all at once.

“What?” The lizard lady made a face. It was the first edge of disappointment Sadi had seen in her, though the woman did not give chase. She basked in place and watched as Sadi sat up onto her knees.

“Your kids,” Sadi said, her voice heavy with shame. “You have three of them. Three of them!”

“Three? Well, yes, I suppose there’s three of them, although I started by naming the first one Zero, so I only really need to count up to two.”

“That’s not my point. Those kids didn’t just magically appear. They had to come from somewhere, right?”

“Sure. They came from me.”

“You and someone else!” Sadi scratched the back of her neck sheepishly. “Is there a…Mister Lizard? I didn’t mean to be a homewrecker. It’s only now that it occurs to me that you must have someone else already if you made all those kids.”

The lizard woman raised a single, hairless brow. “Someone else? Why would I need someone else to make kids? Are they supposed to cheer me on or something? I always hide in the bushes outside to lay my eggs; I don’t like it when people watch me. That’s just gross.”

“No! I’m not talking about laying eggs. I’m talking about…you know.” Sadi’s face was burning. “The eggs didn’t get fertilized on their own. Someone had to do it, right?” She looked around the room, then underneath her knees at the bedding on the dirt floor. “Was it here that it happened?”

At this, the lizard woman tilted her head with even more confusion. “I don’t know what you humans are up to in your private lives, but I sure don’t play with any fertilizer. If that’s what you’re into, fine, but maybe it’s better if you go do that with someone else.”

“No! Now you’re the one being gross!” Sadi heaved a deep sigh and squeezed her eyes shut, but when she reopened them and her vision was refilled with that beautiful reptilian face, her posture softened. “Okay, look, clearly we have a misunderstanding here. I’m asking about the act that produced your children. How else would you be a mother?”

Right away, the lizard lady had begun to look embarrassed, and Sadi wondered if her meaning was finally coming through. “Uh….” Those reptilian eyes flickered around the room. “To be honest, I don’t know much about that. I’ve only just started to realize something weird is going on, something no one ever told me about.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the fact that Zero, One, and Two are even in my house is just a coincidence. I got kind of attached to them after they appeared, but lizard mothers don’t normally raise their kids. I don’t remember my mother at all, and I certainly don’t remember how I was born into this world. My earliest memories are just me wandering around the forest by myself.”

“That’s so sad!”

“I guess. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s more confusing than anything else because, well….” The lizard lady winced. “You see, usually, whenever I feel like I have to lay some eggs, I just go outside to do my business. It’s the same as when I drop anything else out of my body: I dig a hole, then I cover it with leaves. Afterwards, I just go about my life. For years, I thought the eggs were just waste, like everything else that comes out of…that place.”

Sadi’s eyes widened.

“I did notice that sometimes the eggs would be gone and the shells would be open weeks later, but I figured that was because some other animal had eaten them. You humans fry eggs in the morning, right? I thought it was kind of like that. I thought someone had collected my eggs and was eating them.”

“You’re kidding me! You mean you just abandoned all your children?” The anger was welling up in Sadi’s chest, and though she still held a small grudge for the earlier bite, she couldn’t imagine leaving those tiny, defenseless little monsters out in the cold for such an idiotic reason.

“Not all of them! I have those three, don’t I?” The lizard lady sighed and waved her claws vaguely in the direction of the nursery. “A few months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to lay eggs. The need was more urgent than usual and I didn’t make it outside. I just kind of stumbled into my spare room half-asleep and did it there. The room was a total mess and I couldn’t find them the next morning, so I thought maybe I had dreamt the whole thing—but weeks later, I heard all kinds of weird chirping, and I realized that there were three kids scurrying around in my house. At first, I assumed they had broken in, so I chased them around with a broom.”

“You what?

“I didn’t hit them! I was just trying to shoo them out—but then I realized they looked just like me. In my species of lizard person, we’re all clones, you see. That’s the way you can tell which lizard might have been your mother: She looks exactly like you, only older. It was then that it finally dawned on me that those eggs had my children inside of them this whole time.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t know your eggs turned into kids?” Sadi shouted, absolutely outraged.

“How was I supposed to know that? Nobody ever told me! I didn’t have a mother to explain these things, and it’s not like it’s obvious, either. Doesn’t it seem a little weird that the same thing that people eat for breakfast can turn into an infant if you just wait long enough? Would you have figured that out by yourself?”

Sadi opened her mouth to object, but then she paused and thought about it. “Well…I guess if you put it that way, I can see why you might have been confused.” She took the lizard lady’s hands in her own. “You poor thing! Raised without a mother, never even knowing the facts of life! You must have been so scared the first time it happened.”

“I most certainly was. The first time an egg came out, I asked myself, ‘Good God, what did I eat?’ But no matter what diet changes I made, they kept coming, so eventually I accepted them. At first, I didn’t want to ask other lizards about it because I thought I was the only one.”

“But didn’t someone explain it all to you eventually? I still find it hard to believe that you could go your whole life without one of your sisters saying something.”

The lizard lady shrugged. “Eventually I pieced together that it happened to other people, but the bigger picture never hit me until these three little demons hatched in my house. Lizard people don’t talk much. We aren’t that social, so we kind of learn everything from experience instead. We tend to only meet up for…certain activities, and then we go our separate ways.”

Sadi raised an eyebrow. “Certain activities?”

The lizard lady’s face scales turned a slightly warmer color. “Well, yes. You know.

“Yes, I do know. That’s what I was trying to ask you about earlier! Didn’t you hear me?”

“Oh, was that it? Why didn’t you just say that, then?” She paused. Her eyes darted around again—separately—in many different confused directions. “What the hell does all that have to do with my eggs, though?”

Sadi palmed her own face with exasperation. “You make the eggs because you’ve mated with a male lizard, obviously! That’s what I wanted to know: Is there a lizard man that you’re seeing currently? Am I stepping on someone’s toes here?”

What?” The lizard lady had grown so flustered that her tongue had stopped flickering. “That doesn’t even make sense. I don’t mate with lizard men!”

“Oh, you prefer lizard ladies? You know, I thought so at first, but then I saw you had kids and—”

“No, it’s not a preference. I like lizard women, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have much of an option. In my species of lizard person—the population that lives around here—we’re all clones of our mothers, right?”

“Well, yes, you mentioned that already. So?”

“So…all of us are female, just like our mothers. There are no lizard men.”

Sadi opened her mouth again, but found once more that her thoughts had come to a halt. She went stiff. She fell down with a thunk into the leaf litter, crashed into the lizard lady’s side. “My father was right,” she murmured.

“About what?”

“About the fact that it’s hard to love a lizard woman. I don’t even know the first thing about you people, do I?” Some tears welled up in her eyes. “I don’t even know what I don’t know, since I just keep automatically filling in the blanks, assuming that you’re like me when you’re not. Why would there need to be lizard men? Did I only assume that there must have been lizard men because there are human men? It’s so overwhelming. Maybe society is right. I don’t know if I can handle all these unknowns between us.”

A long silence waned in the room. The lizard woman resettled herself in the bedding, and Sadi wondered if she had been blocking the rays of the heat lamp from reaching the lizard lady’s scales. To Sadi’s surprise, though, the woman pulled her closer, curled herself around Sadi in the small dent they had imprinted. With her free arm, she clawed some loose grass over them, as if she were tucking them both into a pile of covers.

“Why did you come in here, then?” she told Sadi with a smile. “Isn’t it the confusion that draws you to me, the curiosity? Earlier, you acted like you were happy to be scared. You don’t seem like the type that would be satisfied with something easy.”

Sadi let out a sigh, but she surrendered her tension and let her head drop on the lizard lady’s shoulder. “You’re right in a way, but whether hard or easy, I’m unsatisfied. You never really answered what I asked.”

“You asked me something?”

The bashfulness was returning, but Sadi set her jaw against it and decided to be more direct. “What do lizard people do when they like each other? Maybe if it’s something that both human people and lizard people have in common, we can find the middle ground.”

Perhaps because lizard people didn’t like to explain much, the woman still didn’t answer and instead tipped Sadi’s chin with the edge of her claw. It was a little uncomfortable, a little scary. Sadi half-wondered if the woman was about to bite her face.

She didn’t.

She pressed her mouth to Sadi’s lips. Every sensation and texture was different than Sadi expected, different from anything she had tried before, but it still sent her heart fluttering. The kiss lasted a long time, and when Sadi pulled back for air, her head was swimming with a million feelings, but nothing she could form into words. She could see that the lizard lady looked similarly stunned. She realized that the kiss must have been as alien to the reptilian as it had been to herself—and for completely different reasons that Sadi might never have been able to fathom.

But it had been good. Better than she had imagined. Better than anything she had experienced with any human woman, in fact.

Sadi’s blush deepened. “Uh, I…that was….” She stopped for a second to compose herself. “I guess that answers my question. I’m a little relieved to find that lizard people do that, too.”

“Only when we’re sharing food—but this time, I made an exception, even though your mouth was mostly empty.”

Sadi matched the lizard lady’s sardonic look. “How romantic,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. Still, she found herself tucking her head under the woman’s chin. “It was weird for me, too, I’ll have you know.”

“Oh?” The reptilian’s heart danced a bit faster, a bit warmer. “How is that?”

“Well, to be honest…I had never kissed somebody with a forked tongue.”


Howdy, howdy!

If you think the whole clone thing is weird…it’s actually real! This story is partly inspired by the New Mexico whiptail lizard, a species of lizard that is female-only and all the eggs are unfertilized clones. They reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis.

Nonetheless, the members of this species will still mate with each other in order to induce ovulation (even if they don’t pass genetic material to each other, since they are all female). That’s right: There is an actual, legit species of literal lesbian lizards in real life.

You can read more about them here:

As always, thanks for reading my weird stories and thanks to the lizards who inspired me!

The Lady With the Forked Tongue Part 2: Skin on Skin

Because the rain had cleared again by morning, bright rays blasted onto Sadi’s face and woke her up early. She let out a sigh, but the moment she opened her eyes, she felt a swell of joy when she found that the lizard lady’s arm was still draped over her in a spooning embrace.

“I can’t believe you stayed,” she said, stretching her stiff bones. The scales of the woman’s chest felt a little itchy against her back, but she didn’t mind it. “Huh. You know, I remember you being a lot heavier last night. Maybe those were just the emotions I was feeling—they were really burdening my soul, even after you showed up.” She reached down to grasp the lizard lady’s hand, to lock those rough fingers into her own, but as soon as she squeezed them, she cried out in surprise.

They crunched into pieces. It was as if they had been filled with air instead of flesh.

Sadi jumped out of the bed and pulled the sheets with her. Wide-eyed, she stared at the dried-out corpse of the lizard woman, which still lay in the same pose as when they had fallen asleep together. A shudder blew through Sadi along with a rising anguish, but she was unable to process what she was seeing before her bedroom door flew open.

“Sadi?” Her mother had stepped all the way into the room. “Sadi, are you all right? I was making breakfast and I heard screaming and—OH MY GOD! What is that? What is that?”

“Mother, go away! For the love of all that is holy, don’t you realize that I’m not decent?” Sadi screeched, wrapping herself in the thin sheets. “Knock first or else you’ll see things you cannot unsee!”

“I don’t even know what it is that I’m unseeing here!”

Just then, her father’s head poked out from around the door frame of her bedroom. “What on Earth is going on, you two? Sadi, my dear, are you all—OH MY LORD IN HEAVEN! What the hell is that thing? Is that a dead body? Why are you naked with it? Is it because of how we raised you? Is it because of that one time we sent you to your room without supper when you were five?”

“We’ve failed you as parents!” Her mother had already started crying. “No one can know about this! If anyone finds out that our daughter sleeps with dead lizards, then how will she ever get married?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Sadi’s father said. He pressed a comforting hand to his wife’s shoulder, then brushed past her towards the bed. “I will get rid of the body. Don’t worry, Sadi, we’re on your side! We didn’t see anything. The less you tell us, the better.”

But as he neared the corpse, he tilted his head with confusion, and when he reached to touch the edges of those translucent scales, the confusion turned to realization.

“Oh! Oh, thank God!” he said. He laid his hand over his heart and turned to Sadi’s mother. “Dearest, it’s not a dead body. It’s just the lizard’s skin!”

Sadi raised an eyebrow and pressed the covers harder against herself. “Her skin?”

“Yes, of course. Lizards shed their skin every once in awhile, everyone knows that. In fact, it’s the season right about now, so there should be creepy sheddings like these all over the forest. When I was a boy, we used to gather them and fry them up like pork rinds. My my, seeing this really takes me back! I don’t remember the lizard people leaving them around town, though.” He scratched his head. “Sadi, where did you get this? I didn’t know you had been wandering in the woods. What were you even doing with—?”

“It’s none of your business!” she cried, hiding half her blushing face behind the bed sheet.

“Ah yes, of course, of course! You’re a grown woman now,” he said, though he was glancing at Sadi’s mother when he said it, as if to make a point. “And grown women all have their secrets.” He took his wife by the arm and started leading her to the exit. “Come now, dear, let her have a moment alone with the skin. Clearly it means something to her that we might never understand.”


But he had dragged her mother away and shut the door before she could say anything else.

Sadi looked away from the skin because she couldn’t bear the pain of what it meant. Instead, she gazed through her still half-open window as the cool breeze made the curtains dance, and she wiped some unbidden tears of longing from her face.

* * *

The oil bubbled on the stove, sending hot droplets flying in every direction like firecrackers. When Sadi’s father dropped in the first shaving of skin, it only agitated the pot even more, and Sadi’s mother came running with a wet rag and a sour look on her face.

“You’re making a mess.”

“Nonsense, this is how we always used to fry lizard skin in my day. I’m not letting such a good find go to waste, especially if Sadi has no use for it! It’s recycling.”

When he dropped Sadi’s portion on a plate in front of her with a pair of fried eggs, Sadi had already lost her appetite. She stared at the pattern of the scales, and though her father had taken care to cut the skin up into pieces with scissors, if she looked closely, she could somehow tell that her portion had come from the lizard lady’s brow. It was like an invisible third eye was gazing right back at her.

Sadi pushed the plate away. “I’m not really hungry,” she said, fighting back tears. “I think I’m just going to take a walk.”

But when she went out onto the stoop, her gut wrenched at the thought of going back into the forest, so she sat down right where she was. She watched the tree branches as they swayed in the wind, and a few times she thought she saw the form of a reptilian hopping through the canopy, but it always turned out to be the shadow of a bow and nothing more.

In time, she was startled out of her thoughts because she felt someone sitting beside her. The smell of fried lizard skins had followed her father outside.

“Sadi, my dear, what is going on with you lately? You haven’t been yourself for weeks.” He patted her lightly on the back, but it gave her little comfort in the face of her inner turmoil. “You don’t have to tell me if you really don’t want to, but it’s not good to hold things in.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh c’mon now, I may be an old man, but I remember what it was like to be young.” When she did not reply for a long time, he followed her gaze up towards the treetops and sighed. “Look, don’t tell anyone this, but…before I met your mother, I was in love with a lizard woman. I know how it can be.”

Sadi turned to him in surprise. “You almost married a lizard?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t go that far. I just became enamored with a stunning lizard beauty one summer during my youth, but she paid little attention to me—and besides that, the cultural differences between us were quite vast, as you might imagine, so it was hard to figure out how to win her favor. I’ll never know what it’s like to shed my skin, after all.”

“Maybe there’s nothing to win, Father. Maybe there’s nothing I can do to ever make her love me.” Sadi pressed her hands to her face.

“This is true. And there’s nothing you should do, either. As tempting as it might be to try to act more like a lizard in order to make her comfortable—or to wish that she was more like a human so that you had less work to do—if you ever do come together, it will only be genuine if you can bring your whole, authentic self and immerse in the full complexity of a lizard-human relationship without compromising who you are.”

Sadi slowly looked up from her hands. “What?”

“You have my blessing, dear.”

Her father pulled a piece of lizard skin from his pocket and took a loud, crunching bite.

* * *

Sadi ran through the woods. She could still remember the scaly tenderness of the lizard lady’s touch, even if it had only been for a short time, even if a good portion of that time, she had actually been embraced by some crunchy skin instead. The skin had still come from the lizard woman, Sadi thought, and the lizard woman had left it behind, so for all Sadi knew, it could have been a parting token of love.

When she reached the lizard’s den, Sadi dove right into the entrance and knocked on the circular wooden door that blocked her way. Before long, the door creaked open, and a pair of slitted eyes appeared in the crack.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m home. Quit making such a—oh, it’s you. What are you doing here?” But she shuffled around nervously. “I told you that I’m not letting you in my house, human.”

“So what we shared last night meant nothing to you?” Sadi cried.

The woman rubbed her green face. “It doesn’t mean nothing—it just doesn’t mean I want you to visit me at home. Wait around at your place and I’ll come by if the mood strikes me.”

If the mood strikes you? I can’t just wait around for someone who might never come, for someone who only leaves their discarded shavings behind for me to embrace!”

“Oh, yeah, sorry about that. You’re right, I should have cleaned it up, but there’s not a whole lot I can do when it starts to come off.” Even as she talked, the woman kept looking over her shoulder and back into the den, and it was making Sadi suspicious.

“That’s not the point,” Sadi said, and though she craned her neck to see past the woman, it was too dark inside the house. “You should have said something before you took off, or at least left a note. And the skin startled the hell out of me, I’ll have you know. I thought you had died! I thought I had suffocated you with my love! I didn’t even know you could just crawl out of your skin like that in the first place. I thought you lizard folks had to rub yourselves against rocks and trees and stuff like that to get it to slough off.”

“We do. I rubbed myself all over your furniture all night while you were sleeping.”

“What? Then why was the skin in bed with me when I woke up?”

The lizard lady paused, as if she were trying to come up with an excuse, but as Sadi did not unlock her sharp gaze, the woman finally sighed and admitted, “All right, it was a decoy. You started stirring as soon as I opened the window, so I gathered all my skin and laid it around you, and that seemed to make you content enough to fall back asleep. What difference does it make, anyway? I’m a reptile, so it’s not like the real me would have given you any more body heat than just my empty shell.”

“Haven’t you realized by now that body temperature regulation means nothing to me the way it does to a lizard? I don’t want any body heat and I don’t want an empty shell. I want you!”

“That is me. That is what I am. What else am I besides a bunch of layers of skin upon skin, waiting to be shed? So that’s what I left you with—only the outer layer—because we hardly know each other yet. You do the same thing to me: Your skin dies and comes off on my hands when I touch you. It’s just that it happens a little bit at a time and it’s too small to see, so it’s less dramatic and you don’t notice. But you’re still dying a little every day like I do. If you don’t like me the way I am, and you don’t like that my body parts fall off because it makes those daily deaths too obvious for your taste, then just avoid me!”

“It’s not about my tastes,” Sadi began to say—but then she smacked her lips. “Well, maybe it’s better not to talk about it that way, since my parents fried and ate your skin this morning.”


“I know!”

“Yeah, obviously you should bake it in the oven. That’s how I usually have it. Less greasy that way.” The lizard woman was shaking her head as Sadi gave her a face of disgust, but she smiled a tiny smile that eased some of the tension. “Look, Sadi—”

“You remembered my name!”

“Yes. Look, I like you, but there are things you don’t understand about me, and maybe it’s best if—”

But Sadi wasn’t listening. She had grown immediately distracted by the three pairs of eyes that had appeared in the crack of the door all of a sudden, right beside the lizard woman’s leg.

Those eyes were yellow-green and slitted, just like those of the lizard woman—just like those of their…

“You’re a mother?” Sadi said, shocked. “You have kids?

The woman followed Sadi’s gaze and she raised her brow in realization, but as the tiny, knee-high clones emerged into the light of the entrance, she did not try to hold them back anymore. All three looked up at Sadi with curious faces.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Lizard Lady?” She crouched down and held out a hand, and the bravest among them reached out to touch her fingertips.

“You eat meat, don’t you?” the woman said.

Sadi shrugged her shoulders. “Yes. So what?”

“So…I have to protect them from predators.”

* * *

Sadi sat in the kitchen, moving the roasted mealworms around in her plate so that it would look like she had eaten some. The three little clones sat across from her, staring at her with astonishment, paying no mind to the bowls of water filled with mosquito larva that danced in front of them.

The lizard lady had not said much. She was shoveling food into her mouth with a wooden spoon, and she hadn’t paused to answer any of Sadi’s dozens of questions. Just as Sadi had begun to stand, just as she realized that she was too overwhelmed and that maybe society had been right about lizard-human relations, the woman dropped her spoon on the table.

She grasped Sadi lightly by the arm.

“Do you want to spend the night?”

Sadi looked at her with astonishment.

“If you can spend an entire night here without running away and screaming like most people do, then maybe there’s a little more Lizard in you than I thought at first glance.”

She tasted the air with her forked tongue.

Onto Part 3 >>

The Lady With the Forked Tongue Part 1: Heads or Tails

Sadi wanted to roll in the leaves. They had landed on the tree roots around her like confetti, and they made her want to skip and frolic, but she forced herself to stay still with all of her willpower.

The sun had parted the clouds that hung over the forest. Though the rain had cleared, round droplets still clung to leaves and flower blossoms. She had ached to taste those little marbles that looked to be made of glass.

But instead of tasting them, she stooped low and stared into their reflections, and she watched the tiny image of her prey rustling in the canopy above. She was hunting.

Any second now, Sadi thought.

The creature was drawing nearer, so she placed her basket softly on the ground. She crouched over the mouth of the den with open hands, grounding her stance on the roots.

There were scuttling claws on the other side of the big tree, scales scraping against scales; she could feel it as a faint vibration in the bark. She closed her eyes because she knew her sight would deceive her before her ears would.

There was a tiny hiss—then, the sound of a suspicious forked tongue tasting the air, coming around the corner of the tree.

Not yet…

The slithering had slowed, grown hesitant. Even still, the claws clacked lightly against the wood. Sadi could almost feel the wheels turning in that creature’s head; in her mind, she could almost see those eyes narrowing with reservation.

Not yet…

Then she felt a startled breath hitting her right in the face.

Sadi pounced.

She opened her eyes just in time to know where she needed to grasp. She aimed for the forelimbs, since she knew those would stay well-tethered, and as she clasped the creature’s scaly wrists, the lizard shouted in surprise and sent a flock of birds above scattering.

She had caught her just at the entrance of her den, and as the lizard woman fought to escape into the hole, Sadi held on with all her strength. She let her feet slide across the ground.

“Yes, yes!” Sadi shouted, her grin wide. “Take me inside with you!”

But this seemed to change the creature’s mind altogether, and with a furrowed brow, she fell limply onto the roots of the tree with Sadi beside her.

“C’mon, c’mon! Let me go.”

“Let you go? After I waited here so long to catch you? That sounds like a waste of time.” With the side of her cheek pressed in the dirt, Sadi smiled at that half-human face, but the lizard woman did not smile back.

“Yeah, well, you’re the one wasting my time,” she said, trying to shake her hands loose, “I already told you, kid, I’m not letting you into my house. I don’t like visitors—especially people who attack me for no reason.”

“I didn’t attack you! This is all a big misunderstanding. Stay with me in the woods for awhile, just like you did on the day we met, and I’ll explain everything. I came all the way here to give you something, and if you don’t receive it, then I’ll just follow you into the hole and rush the door as soon as you unlock it. You may be quick, but I’m quicker.”

“Oh, for God’s sake. Why do you even keep coming over here all the time? Look, what happened that day was just a one-time thing. I’m usually not that social and I’ve already told you a million times to leave me alone.”

“I’ll leave you alone—after you take my gifts.” Sadi tightened her grip. “Besides, what have I really interrupted here? It’s a Sunday afternoon. Is that a working day for lizards or something? Do the lizard headquarters never give you a day off?”

The scaly woman sighed with resignation and rolled over to sit up. “Fine, fine, if it’ll satisfy you enough that you’ll take a hike. Just make it quick.”

Sadi finally let go, if for no other reason than to clap her hands. “Great! Come here, come here. I want to show you some things!” She pulled the basket over, and as soon as she dropped it between them, the lizard woman made a face.

“Is that…?”

“Yes, it’s your tail!” Sadi picked it up out of the basket. “I wanted to return it to you, of course. I didn’t mean to take it. You just left it behind all of a sudden last Sunday when I tried to follow you.” Though originally she had been afraid to touch it because it would twitch and wiggle in her hand, it had grown stiffer over the past week and she had started to enjoy the feel of the smooth scales. They reminded her of leather.

“Uh, well, I didn’t exactly leave it behind on purpose. It just kind of falls off if someone grabs it too hard while I’m running away.” She gave Sadi a wry glance. “Which you did, by the way.”

“Oh my! Did I hurt you?”

“No.” The woman scooted over slightly and Sadi could see the stump of her tail bone. “It’s already growing back. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything because then I forget that I can’t use it to steer when I go swimming.”

“That’s terrible! I’m so sorry!” Laying it across two hands, Sadi offered her the disembodied tail. “Here, here! Put it back on. I didn’t realize you needed it for stuff, or else I would have returned it as soon as I was done using it.”

The lizard woman took it from her, but with some reluctance. She tapped it against the tree trunk and it gave a dead thud, and she winced at the sound. “Well, I can’t just put it back on. Besides, it’s all mummified now and—wait, what?” She raised an eyebrow suddenly. “Using it? What the hell did you use this for?”


“Nothing,” Sadi said quickly, reaching into the basket. She had lined it with dead crickets and dragonfly nymphs. “It was kind of too big anyway, and at the time it was creeping me out that it would move by itself.”

The lizard woman huffed, dropping the tail onto the ground. “You shouldn’t be the one complaining that you’re creeped out when you’re the one who—wait, what? What?” She shook her head. “‘Too big?’ Too big for what? What the hell were you doing with my—?”

Sadi let out a breath of exasperation and sprinkled some of the crickets into the lizard woman’s lap. “I told you—nothing. Besides, what do you care? It’s not like it was attached to you anymore, so you couldn’t feel it. If someone else wants to make use of something that you just threw away like that, what difference does it make? It’s recycling.”

“You keep saying ‘nothing,’ but it’s sounding an awful lot like you did something to it.” Even with her wary look, though, the lizard woman seemed helpless in the face of food, and she picked up a cricket to pop into her mouth.

“I hunted those myself yesterday. Fried them up for you, too. Do you like them?”

“They’re fine.”

She and the woman fell silent, but some of the braver birds had returned overhead and started chirping, and so Sadi felt less pressured to make some noise. Still, after a few awkward seconds passed, she began, “Lizard Lady, about that first day we met—”

“Like I said, it was a one-time thing, not something you should expect to happen ever again. You caught me on a bad day, that’s all.”

“Was it bad, though?” Sadi slid a little closer and the woman leaned away some more. “I know that you lizard people aren’t very touchy-feely, so it really took me by surprise when you approached me. To be honest, I was feeling very alone at the time, before you showed up. I was wandering in the forest because my best friend had rejected me, and I didn’t realize what I needed most in the world was just that feeling of touch. And when you jumped from that branch above me and then took me in your arms all of a sudden….” Sadi felt the tears coming back, the same tears from that day. “I don’t know, I had just never really felt held before then. Even if your skin doesn’t feel like human skin, even if it’s kind of rough and thin and I can sense your blood pumping really close to the surface, it didn’t scare me because I knew that blood came from your heart—and your heart doesn’t have any scales; it’s the same as mine.”

The lizard woman shifted with some discomfort, shoved another handful of crickets into her mouth as she looked away. “Yeah, about that—”

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, something in me must have really touched her. We don’t even know each other, but she could sense my pain.’ I’ve never met anyone like that. It’s like you knew exactly what to do. Your fingers were cold, but somehow everywhere you touched sent waves of warmth through my body.”

“Uh…well, I….”

Sadi had scooted so far over the tree roots that her thigh pressed into the scaly woman’s leg. “I decided that I really liked you and I wanted to tell you, but you kept running away every time I showed up here. Today, I was determined!” She tilted her head to try to catch the lizard woman’s eye—though she couldn’t decide which one to gaze into because they were both looking in different directions. “I’m at the marrying age, you see, and I’ve been searching for a special someone. Now I know that this someone is you, that destiny brought us together. My parents will kick up a ruckus if I marry a lizard—they’re very traditional—but I don’t really care. I know that we had something special that day.”

The lizard woman opened her hand and let the last of the crickets flutter to the ground. She pressed two fingers to her brow, rubbed her forehead as if she had been overcome with a jolt of vertigo. “Look, I think you’ve misread some things here. As I understand it, you warm-blooded people like to get all cuddly and it makes you crazy, gives you all kinds of weird feelings.”

“Yes, that’s right, that’s right.” Sadi perked up at that. Even just sitting next to her beloved lizard lady, the “weird feelings” swirled around inside her.

“Well, it’s not the same for us.” The woman finally looked her in the eyes. “You people have all this poetry about love and tenderness and sharing each other’s saliva, and we write songs about body temperature regulation. We just have different priorities in life.”

Sadi frowned, a bit hurt. “What do you mean?”

The lizard woman scratched the back of her scaly head with a hesitant look on her face, but after a moment she said it outright: “I mean that I hugged you that day because I was cold.”

“You were…cold?”

“Yeah, kid, it was the first day of fall and it was cloudy! What do you want? The sun wasn’t out to heat the rocks that I usually sit on to get warm. I’m not like you; I can’t just make my own body heat. I had to find something to warm me up so I could digest my lunch, and there you were, crying your head off, like a moving furnace through the woods.”

“You mean, you didn’t do it because you like me?”

“Sure, I like you—but I only like you because you’re warm. Sorry.”

Sadi jumped to her feet. She kicked the basket and sent dead bugs flying in all directions, which made the lizard woman start. “I’m not going to just sit here and be objectified!”

“Oh? And what about you? You don’t even know me and already you were making up all kinds of stories about some connection that didn’t exist, assuming all kinds of things about how I felt, using me to live out some fantasy in your head and heal your emotional wounds. Isn’t it better to use someone because you’re simply cold instead of for some weird complicated reason like yours?” She paused, then added with a grimace, “Not to mention the whole tail thing. Jesus.”

“Fine, then!” Sadi shouted, making the leaves dance with her bare feet. “Live like this if you want! Live the callous life of a cold-blooded reptile, see if I care! Don’t come crawling back to me on the next cloudy day!”

With that, Sadi stomped off towards the trail that led to the village. She looked over her shoulder only once, and it was to find that the lizard woman had picked up her old tail to hesitantly give it a whiff. With a burning face, Sadi turned away and quickened her pace, convinced that she would never see those slitted eyes ever again.

* * *

Sadi could not sleep for the next three nights. Her mind was filled with visions of the lizard lady who had caressed her so lovingly all those weeks before, but who had been so cold with her ever since. A part of her wished she had not given back the tail so that she would at least have something to comfort herself with while she cried into her pillow.

But in the wee hours of the morning of the third day, through the sound of the pouring rain, she heard a scuttle-scuttle just outside her bedroom wall. Her heart leapt. However, because she had been so broken-hearted by the lizard lady, she whipped around to face away from the window as she saw it sliding open. She closed her eyes even as she could hear her beloved slithering into the room.

“Go away,” she said, her voice raw from her tears.

Silence permeated the space again. A presence hovered at the foot of the bed.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give you everything you want,” the lizard finally said. “I’m really different from you, and you’re different from me, and I don’t think either one of us should change.”

Sadi rolled herself deeper into the sheets, like she was wrapping herself in a cocoon. Even though she was getting too warm, she pressed her face harder against the mattress. “Of course you would say that. You’re just a lizard. It’s easy when you don’t have feelings.”

“Of course I have feelings. They’re just different from yours, so you don’t know them that well—and that’s fine. Maybe we don’t have to give each other everything to find something in each other.”

Sadi lifted her head up, wrested a hand from the blankets to wipe her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I mean….” A gust of air flowed in against Sadi’s legs as the blankets billowed up. A mass of smooth scales touched her skin, made her shiver. “You’re too warm,” the lizard woman said, though her voice was now muffled by the sheets, “and I’m too cold. Maybe I have something to give to you and you have something to give to me, and they don’t have to be the same thing.”

Without resisting it anymore, Sadi accepted the embrace, and instead of hiding her face in the sheets, she buried it against the lizard woman’s chest. She listened to the heartbeat, and though the rhythm was slower than her own, she knew that the lizard lady felt something. It calmed her enough that she started to drift off before long.

“What’s your name?” Sadi finally asked, summoning her last bits of wakefulness.

“It’s better if you don’t know.” The rain pattered. The lizard’s claws lightly scuttled against Sadi’s bare back. “You can’t pronounce it without a forked tongue.”

Onto Part 2 >>