I knew she was strange when I saw her eating flowers for breakfast. They were lined in rows on the table in front of her. As I walked into the room, a rose bloom disappeared into Justene’s open mouth. I’ve seen stranger diets. I proceeded to fetch my bowl of cereal and pretended like the roses and daises going down her gullet wasn’t new for me.
Clue number two stopped me dead in my tracks. When I came home from work, she was sitting criss-cross applesauce, naked in my den…mind you, she is only paying me monthly for a room. We aren’t roommates, and her name isn’t on the lease. I don’t know what she was doing. There weren’t any symbols drawn on the floor, and she wasn’t chanting; I just found myself staring at a lot of skin when I came in through the garage door. Thank god the neighbors couldn’t see. I reacted, she apologized, kind of, and floated to her room.
After I came home to her force-feeding herself crickets, I should have made her leave. Hindsight is twenty/twenty. I just told myself she must have had one tough childhood, or at least a strange one. I asked her to please keep her meals in her room if they weren’t normal groceries.
I didn’t see her much after that. I’d catch a glimpse of her as she moved from the bathroom to the bedroom, or when she’d emerge for a chilled bottle of water.
A couple of weeks later, I started finding green tiles of some sort around the house, they seemed to be anyway. They were round and slightly convex but tough as nails. I knocked one from the counter, and after it bounce instead of shattering, I actually tried to break one of them, but with no success. I left them in a pile on the bar for Justene to pick up. After they sat there over a week, I took them to her room. I was not prepared. I should have left when she didn’t respond to my knocking.
When I opened her door, there was a six-foot iguana on her floor – six feet without the tail. I screamed so loud my throat locked. The animal’s attention was on me before I even had time to process things. I fell back when it ran at me – I’ve never handled stress well – and by the time I felt the hot pain in my arm, it had gone back in her room and slammed the door.
It had bitten me. The damned lizard had bitten me. There was a clear “no pets” policy in the lease, and when I had calmed myself, I would begin eviction procedures.
“I’m going to sue you if that godforsaken thing infected me with something!”
My arm ached a lot. I sat up trying to collect myself and finally looked to evaluate the damage. When I saw the blood on the floor, the nub of torn flesh just above where my elbow had been, heat flushed my face. I instantly felt sick.
“What in the hell have you done to me? How did you sneak that monster in here?”
I was freaking out. I heaved my good arm over and stumbled from a seated to a tripod position, and then to a waving stance. After stumbling to my room and managing to lash a belt around my upper arm, I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed 9-1-1.
“I’ve already called them. The ambulance is on the way,” Justene said from my doorway. I started and dropped my phone. When I turned to her, I saw the blood around her lips.
“What the fuck is going on?”
“I asked you never to come in without knocking.”
“I knocked…you didn’t answer.” I was feeling very woozy. I gripped the bleeding stump with my bare hand to try and slow the bleeding. Warm blood dripped through my fingers and pooled in my palm. Pain shot up my arm and behind my shoulder blade, deep into my back.
“I can’t talk when I’m the lizard. You should have just left.”
“When you’re…” I remembered thinking then I must have been losing blood fast. I seemed to be hallucinating already. “When you’re the lizard?” I huffed, laughing.
“Yes. I’ll be leaving now. I’m sorry I ate your arm. I hope they fix you.”
“Ha! You hope they fix me? They’ll fix you when they’re throwing you in jail.” I fell back, hard against the wall, then slid to the floor with my legs stiff in front of me.
“No, sorry. And you better not tell them your tenant turned into a giant lizard and ate your arm either.”
“Is that a threat?” I said to her back as she walked away.
“No, it’s a warning. They’ll throw you in the looney bin.”
I didn’t listen of course. What else was I supposed to tell the police? How else could my arm have ended up missing? They had no choice but to have me evaluated. Of course there was no evidence of foul play, no signed lease in the house from a “Justene Marbrow”, and no “giant lizard tracks” (they jested at me). After a stent in the hospital and an even longer stent in the mental ward, they had me transferred to a facility where I could be watched and my mental state could be “properly evaluated”.
Did you know a straitjacket is still effective on an amputee?
Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
To see the photo that originally inspired this story, please visit the Instagram link below.