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.
“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.”
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.”
“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 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 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.”
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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexico_whiptail
As always, thanks for reading my weird stories and thanks to the lizards who inspired me!