Edna Parker Lee had survived another night. Being eighty-three, she didn’t know how many more mornings she’d awake to see, and though she was prepared to meet her maker and walk with Jesus, she was thankful to have at least one more day to see how much her grandchildren have grown.
She rolled over to the edge of the bed, wiping the sleep away from her withered face and onto her gown. After ensuring that her feet had connected with the floor, she made her slow journey to the restroom to begin her morning routine: washing her face, brushing her teeth, and taking her medication. She had to make it there first, taking small steps and keeping close to anything that could support her in case she fell. Eighty-three has its advantages, she’d remind herself, but the threat of a terrible fall was not one of them. Any tumble could be a grave disaster resulting in broken bones, large bruises or even death. Greener Pastures Assisted Living took falls quite seriously, but due to budgetary constraints, had to replace the electronic distress devices with rape whistles, which management argued were equally effective. Edna Parker Lee never removed the whistle from around her neck. Just in case.
After washing her hands and brushing her teeth, Edna looked down at her weekly medicine container next to the sink. The spaces for Monday and Tuesday were empty. Today must be Wednesday, Edna thought. She popped the colorful pills into her mouth and washed them down with a glass of water.
Edna turned off the bathroom light and walked into her modest living quarters. First things first, turn on the radio. It wasn’t music Edna was interested in; it was “Odd News Radio.” Odd news, indeed. But if it was on the radio, it had to be true, right? Really she just liked the sound of people talking. She felt less lonely when it seemed as though there were other people in the room. Occasionally her children and grandchildren would come to visit, but those moments were few and far between and never seemed to last as long as she would have liked. Still, she made do.
The bed stand that supported the radio and lamp rested in front of her. She rolled the wheel on the little machine to turn up the volume. The voice of Walter Napier soothed her ears as he spoke about the growing threat the Lizard People presented to society.
“They very closely resemble ordinary human beings,” Walter explained, “but if you look closely, their skin is actually a thin layer of scales. Look closely at their rear ends and you may see the impression of a tail tucked away in their pants. Their intentions are unclear at this point. We can’t actually get any of these reptiles to speak with us, as they want their existence to remain a secret for obvious reasons.”
Edna waddled around the bed and to the window, opening the curtains and allowing morning’s first light into her room. She squinted, giving her eyes time to adjust as she wobbled over to the other window just above the couch. After opening the second set of blinds, she faced the room and felt something peculiar. Something was different. Something just didn’t seem right. She took a moment to examine the room, trying to understand just what it was that put her off. She took a seat on the couch and surveyed her surroundings. Across from her lay the coffee table with her copy of King James and the TV remote on top. Past that was the television and entertainment center which housed the family photos. On the wall to the left of that hung the old cuckoo clock that her late husband had picked up for her during his travels to Berlin all those decades ago. It still worked, by the way.
The desk that contained all of her papers, letters, and writing utensils lay against the wall near the bed. A small table was parked in the short hall that led to the front door and the rest of Greener Pastures. On this table was the coffee pot. A cup of coffee would hit the spot while I think this over.
Edna wandered over to the coffee pot and looked through the little packages of Folgers she had sitting next to it, but they were all decaf. I don’t drink decaf, Edna told herself. She lifted the packages, tilted the coffee pot, looked on the floor under the table, but there was no regular coffee. But I don’t drink decaf, Edna reminded herself. Where has my regular coffee gone? Despite this unfortunate setback, Edna decided that decaf was better than no coffee at all so she started to brew a pot.
Once the coffee was poured into her mug, Edna sat on the couch to determine where this unsettling feeling was coming from. She gazed around the room once more, knowing that the answer was somehow right in front of her yet eluding her eyes. She raised the rim of her mug to her lips, tilting it back, and then it hit her. The mug retreated in the grasp of a shaky hand as it dawned on her that the furniture, the couch, entertainment center, desk, everything had all been rearranged.
How did I not notice this sooner? Nothing was where it had been when she went to sleep the night before. It was as if everything had just changed. Edna Parker Lee was not one to believe that this was the work of ghosts or spirits or poltergeists because the radio would have said something about it. No, this had to be the work of the staff at Greener Pastures playing some sort of sadistic joke on her.
Edna got up to look around the room, checking to see if anything had been stolen in the
While taking tiny steps to the dresser to verify that her faux jewelry had not been touched, she inspected the floor but saw no indentations where the furniture had been placed before. They must have come in just as I went to sleep, Edna thought.
Her jewelry had gone untouched. That was a relief. Next she should check on her…
Where did this come from? Edna noticed a small key on the corner of her desk that did not belong to her. She grabbed the elastic bracelet on her wrist where she wore her room key to avoid losing it. It was still there, as was the rape whistle around her neck. Had one of the culprits left it behind? Or perhaps her son Robert accidently left it when he came to visit the week before. But wouldn’t he have called to see if it was there?
Edna ran a finger over it as if to confirm that the unknown key was really there.
Action must be taken about this intrusion. Edna decided to put an end to this type of behavior once and for all. Management must be confronted.
Edna hobbled away from her desk, past the bed and to the closet door beside the restroom entrance. She took hold of the knob, twisted and pulled, but the door did not budge. The sound of a metal clang caused Edna to look up from the knob and notice a latch and lock had been placed on the door, conveniently, at eye level. She slid a frail finger over the lock, proving to herself that it was in fact real. Now they’re locking me out of my own closet, too. This was cruel.
Her lip trembled as a flood of helplessness washed over her. As she stood there staring at the door, then at the lock, then at the door again, Edna had never felt more alone. The voices of the radio were no longer helping.
“Whatever you do, do not let the Lizard People into your house. I repeat. Do NOT let the Lizard People into your house.”
Even at eighty-three, Edna Parker Lee still had a little bit of that fighting spirit in her. Old age may take away many things, but as Edna stood there facing her fortified closet, she mustered the strength to carry out her assault on the employees of Greener Pastures—with or without her clothes.
But Edna knew she couldn’t storm the halls of Greener Pastures in just her nightie. She waddled over to her dresser to put something on. Though her dresses were locked away in the closet, there had to be something she could wear. She found socks and underwear in the top drawer but only more gowns in the other. The rest of the drawers housed various knick-knacks that simply had to be stored somewhere. She put on the underwear, the socks, a bra, a pair of tennis shoes and a different nightgown. Edna rolled the radio dial to Off and made for the front door.
Green carpet led in two directions, left and right. Edna stood for a moment trying to remember which way led to the front lobby. There were no personnel wandering the halls that could make this easier. Not that they would.
The halls seemed to expand forever like the horizon, unreachable. If she went in the wrong direction she could easily wear herself out, not to mention there was always the risk of falling. She looked both ways down the hallway, past an expanse of doors, floors and walls. Which was it going to be? Left or right?
It suddenly occurred to Edna that she had a phone in her room. Of course! How could I forget?
She returned to her room to the scent of decaf and dust in the air. The phone stayed on the desk across the room near the bed where it always was. It seemed far, but her little steps were already in motion. She picked up the white cordless receiver and held it to her ear. Instead of a dial tone, however, she heard the voices of two people talking, a man and a woman. They sounded young and flirtatious as they went back and forth in their juvenile way until the female voice heard a click that caught her attention.
“Did you hear that?” she asked the man.
“I need help,” Edna stammered.
“Who is this?” asked the man. “This is a government phone, ma’am.”
Edna put the phone back down on the desk with a quickness that she thought had left her long ago. Big Brother has gotten to the phones, she thought. They’ve been listening… maybe even watching, getting some enjoyment out of an old woman’s torment. Was Uncle Sam behind all of this?
Disturbed, Edna thought that a splash of water on her face might calm her down. She staggered over to the bathroom sink, cupping the faucet water and washing her face. She stood and looked herself over in the mirror, wondering if all of this was really happening or if she might be going crazy. Perhaps it was just some awful dream. No, this is really happening! She looked down at her weekly medicine container. It must be Thursday, she thought. She scooped up the vibrantly-colored pills and washed them down.
Still, the management—anyone willing to listen—had to be confronted, and this wicked behavior had to cease. Edna walked to the door again only to remember that she didn’t know which way to go. She hung her head and noticed the dangling whistle around her neck. Of course!
She quickly snatched it up and guided it to her lips. She inhaled deeply through her nose, and with all of her might she exhaled a screech like that of a banshee. She drew another breath and blew once more into the tiny whistle. This continued for minutes until she heard the fidgeting of keys outside the door.
The knob turned and the door opened. Barely lit by the sun pouring in through the window, there stood Amy Loveless, a young lady that worked the front desk in the lobby. She had always been nice enough to Edna, who was glad the pretty, young receptionist had answered the distress call and not one of the male orderlies.
“Are you alright, Ms. Lee?”
“I’m fine,” Edna replied. “I’m sorry to have to call you in this way but there was no other choice.”
“Ms. Lee, you could have used the phone. You know the whistles are for emergencies only.”
Amy’s voice sounded annoyed. Edna recognized this, but there really was nothing she could do. Amy was used to this kind of thing.
“I’ll get someone to come and fix that for you,” Amy interrupted. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Ms. Lee?”
“Yes. Tell those boys you have working here to stop coming in my room and moving everything around.”
Amy stood there with her hands on her hips, her face congealing into an expression of bewilderment.
“What are you talking about, Ms. Lee?”
“Last night someone came in my room and moved everything around while I was sleeping. And this.” Edna moved to the desk and picked up the key, holding it up so that Miss Loveless could see it.
“They left this here, whoever it was. You tell whoever belongs to this key to stay out of here, you hear me?” Edna’s voice began to rise and tremble, shaking with frustration and an unknowing fear.
Amy shook her head, knowing full well that the key did not belong to anyone at Greener Pastures. It was only last week that Edna’s son, Robert, had asked for permission to place the lock and latch on the closet to calm his mother’s suspicions that the staff was stealing her clothes. She stepped up to Edna and took the key from her. Instead of pocketing it, however, she made for the closet. Edna was just about to mention that little closet problem when Amy inserted the key into the lock and released it.
Edna watched her from the desk with sullen eyes and a trembling lower lip. Words constricted within her, trying to make their way out with no success. Amy considered taking the lock and key with her to avoid this from happening again, but as she saw Edna Parker Lee standing there breaking into soft tears, she couldn’t help but pity her. She knew Edna would just ask for the key later or accuse Greener Pastures of stealing her belongings again, anyway.
Watching through soggy eyes, Edna had trouble believing that it was Amy Loveless, the always kindhearted young receptionist, who had the key that fortified her closet and livelihood all along. It was as though everyone was in on this little joke, this prank against her. No one was to be trusted.
As Miss Loveless stepped beside Edna to place the key on the desk, the light from the window cast an odd shadow upon her face. Edna looked closely and gasped. Her knees began to tremble and a faint scent of urine wafted into Amy’s nose. She quickly took Edna by the shoulders and guided her to bed to sit down.
“Is everything alright, Ms. Lee?” Amy asked.
Edna’s hand still covered her mouth and she nodded. Short, choking breaths escaped through her fingers. She had already given away too much… At this angle, in this light, it was plain to see what was going on here. Those rough scales covered with makeup to pass off as skin, those hollow eyes hidden well behind colored lenses, and that blue tongue, concealed behind rows of teeth, spitting lies all around her. She was of the Lizard People. What would she do if she knew I knew? Would she suffocate me? Here in my own room?
“Do you want me to stay? Is there something you’d like to talk about?”
Without a word Edna shook her head.
“Well alright then, Ms. Lee,” Amy said. “If you need anything, just call. On the phone. The whistle is for emergencies, okay?”
Edna nodded once more. Amy turned to wriggle out the door as Edna followed her posterior with her eyes. That bulge—her tail—was all the conformation she needed.
Amy closed the door behind her. Edna waddled over as fast as she could to lock and chain it. She breathed a sigh of relief then began weeping. She poured a cup of pity coffee and sat on the couch. No radio this time, just silence. The Lizard People had already taken over Greener Pastures. There was no need for the radio’s warnings now. Life, civilization, and human dominance over this world were all coming to an end. She had managed to survive eighty-three years and this is how it would end. Eaten or enslaved.
She glanced up at the old cuckoo clock, realizing that it was almost noon and she had not showered, let alone gotten dressed. Might as well look your best when the time comes, she thought. She got up and picked out a blue dress from the closet to neatly place on the bed then made her way to the restroom.
Edna Parker Lee brushed herself off with a towel and looked over her eighty-three year-old body in the mirror, pondering a life’s worth of memories and wonders. This is it.
Lipstick was applied, blush was smeared. She glanced down by the sink at her weekly medicine container. It must be Friday.