When the call came through, Officer Lawrence laughed. He had to, because it was probably the most bizarre call that had come through in his twenty years of police training. The house on Wayfare Lane had always been involved with late night phone calls from the elderly lady next door, but this was new.

Ms. Ketteridge was 80 and lived alone, so she was bound to be a little imaginative. But this was different. Usually, she complained about the strange whirring from the basement that continued at all hours, or would go on and on about the state of the garden. Lawrence could hear her shrill voice in his ear, screeching like a bat that someone had tried to trap under a large blanket. “She never cuts her weeds! Never! And I know, God bless her, that her husband left her, God bless him, but it’s decreasing the value of my real estate! And my grandkids find the entire place pretty spooky, I mean she never goes outside and…”

He rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling a tension headache building. He picked up the receiver and immediately the voice in his head filled his ears. He listened to her, but something was different. She wasn’t speaking at her usual rapt pace and seemed almost haunted. As he focused on her voice, he felt as if he’d missed something that Ms Ketteridge had said, because he was entirely sure that she’d said—

“I’m sorry, ma’am, did you say that Linda Jones is a lizard?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. A lizard. I’ve told people about the reptilians before, but nobody believes me. Most celebrities these days are lizards, but I never knew that they were spreading.”

“Ma’am, what reason do you have to believe that Linda Jones, your neighbour of ten years, is a lizard?”

“I’m looking at her right now. I can see her sitting in her basement. I’m watching from the kitchen window and I can see her. Her forked tongue is sticking out and she’s working with the these strange runic letters. They look like smiley faces, sorta. I’m pretty sure that she’s trying to cast a spell. Make more of her kind. More lizards.”

“I’ll get right on that.”

He put the phone back down. His headache was developing, so he opened the rickety desk drawer and threw back a paracetamol from a large prescription bottle of two hundred chalky pills.

He went to screw the cap back on, but then reconsidered. Two, just to make sure.


Two hours later, Lawrence pulled up at number 9 of Wayfare Lane just in time to see the curtains of number 8 ruffle shut. The officer sighed and took a swig of the black coffee from the thermos sitting stoically just behind the gearstick before opening the car door and swinging himself out of the car.

Number 9 was your average slice of suburbia homestead, and would have fetched a pretty penny on the property markets had it not been for the smashed-in upstairs windows and front porch ridden with weeds that had coaxed their way through the planks and snared around a wicker rocking chair that had seen better days, weeks, and years.

The entire house looked as if it had been falling apart for a while. A tragedy in slow motion. The paint on the door was almost entirely chipped off and the doorknob layered in faded gild almost came off in Officer Lawrence’s hand as he pulled open the door and walked into the foyer.

The smell of mothballs was overpowering as he walked with his flashlight held upwards. The dim light that played across the floors revealed at least an inch of dust and Lawrence looked back only to find three deep footprints behind him, as if he was heading through a small layer of warm and grey snow.

A noise from just below him started up. It was a scratching, cawing noise that sounded like an animal in pain.

He went for his holstered pistol and crossed his flashlight over to his other hand. Moving forward, the torch shone a dusty light through to the gloomy kitchen whilst his pistol stood like a sullen black sentinel just behind.

He reached the door that lead down to the basement and instinct kicked in. The heel of his boot knocked in the door and the officer descended the stairs two at a time.

Lawrence stumbled over the threshold of horror and shrieked upon seeing the figure hunched over a pile of odd pieces of paper, each covered in symbols that looked almost alien. The figure was no longer Linda Jones. The thing had no hair and wore clothes that had decomposed down to scraps that showed white, marble-toned skin underneath. It opened its mouth in a horrifying smile and a green tongue forked out of its mouth.

The officer shot twice, the muzzle flash illuminating the basement and the barrels upon barrels of small paper stubs. The creature fell back.

But the creature that fell back was not actually a lizard.

Eight Years Earlier

Linda Jones waved her husband off to work after planting a soft kiss on his cheek. Their daughter, Lucy, pointed and giggled at the red stain left on Neil’s cheek and they all laughed.

Linda watched her husband drive away from the window whilst she cut the crusts off Lucy’s ham sandwiches. She popped it into a brown paper bag that also contained a crisp apple, a packet of crisps, and a small bar of granola.

Her daughter took it and was already bounding out of the door and down the steps of the porch. Linda smiled, wondering how she had so much energy just zipping around in her little body. Linda closed the bright red door she’d painted and lacquered yesterday and then set about the house, tidying and cleaning.

Most of her friends held a deep dislike of housewives and Linda couldn’t quite see why. She enjoyed cleaning, making sure everything was just right in the house, making sure her daughter and husband were happy, setting down a nice hot meal in front of Neil after he came back from a long day at the office. And what was so bad about that?

After emptying out the dustbins, cleaning a stubborn dirt mark off the ottoman, and doing a few quick crossword puzzles, she went to shake out the front porch mat. As she bent to pick up the mat, she noticed a catalogue laying on top of it and picked it up. On the front was a cartoon of a winking man throwing up two thumbs underneath a large logo of “Argyle.”

Forgetting the front mat entirely, she picked it up and brought it inside. Sitting down on the sofa, she pulled off the sarin wrap and opened the catalogue. As she opened the pages, a plastic billfold filled with strange green stubs fell out which she put aside.

The catalogue showed lots of lovely furniture and homeware appliances. Stoves, non-stick frying pans, cutting boards, and toasters all presented by smiling women with pearl white teeth and golden complexions. But next to each of the products were pictures of green squares featuring the cartoon man with a number. Brand new cutting boards were twenty tickets each and the bright chrome toaster cost two hundred. The shining oven was five hundred and a refrigerator was twelve hundred.

She opened up the plastic billfold and poured out the three green stamps into her hand attached to a small card that could hold nine stamps. At the back of the catalogue, it explained that in order to accumulate more tickets, you simply send in receipts from shopping and they’d convert the money spent into tickets. There was even a handy chart showing that spending a dollar at Walmart would get you a single ticket and that ten dollars would be ten tickets.

Linda was just thinking about how Neil had been wanting a new electric razor when the doorbell buzzed and she let her daughter in. Behind Lucy, the sun was dipping just below the rooftops. It was sunset. The first thing that surprised her was that she’d been staring at that darn catalogue for hours on end.

For a moment, panic flooded Linda’s entire body. She talked to her daughter and fixed her up some supper, but she was largely going through the motions. She kept heading back to the foyer and staring at the front door. He would, of course, come back.

When Lucy came downstairs the next morning at eight o’clock, she saw her mother standing in front of the door. She’d been standing there since the evening before. When she tugged on her mother’s sleeve, she let out a brief grunt and shuffled into the kitchen. She threw two slices of bread, a granola bar, two pieces of cutlery, and a ladle into a bag and handed it to her daughter.

After she left to take the school bus, not quite knowing how to deal with the situation, Linda burst into frantic tears. She cried for three whole hours, stopping only to cast her gaze over at the door, as if Neil was about to walk in through the front door and apologise.

It was about three o’clock when Linda looked up from her sodden lap, her face shining with hope. She ran out through the front door, leapt into her car, and headed down to the craft store in the centre of town.

Sprinting through the automatic doors, she pulled out rolls upon rolls of green craft paper, green cardboard, glue, and magic markers and stacked them into a large shopping cart. When she got them home, she bussed them all into the basement and started work. It was obvious, wasn’t it? Neil wasn’t coming back because there was something wrong with the house. As tears streamed down her smiling face, she thought of her poor Neil and how unhappy he must have been. And he hadn’t even said a word to her about how wretched he must have felt!

She was re-reading the Argyle catalogue in her darkened basement and saw an article close to the back. A large Georgian manor for the first person to reach ten million stamps! She was already pretty far in forging the stamps. After all, they looked pretty easy to make.

She did a quick count. 27 thin pieces of card covered in nine hastily made stamps. Linda frowned—there was nowhere even close to enough for the manor that she wanted—and so she continued into the night.

She only ate when it was necessary and hadn’t noticed that her daughter hadn’t come home from school, being apprehended by teachers who noticed that her brown paper lunch bag contained miscellaneous kitchen utensils. She continued through the night and into the next day. And the next. And the next.

Eventually, she ran out of glue and began to try affixing the green stamps to the cardboard by licking them and pressing them firmly down.

Her tongue became green and cracked. And they built up and up and up.

But she had storage: the water barrels that were kept down in the basement. She kept dropping stamp cards into the barrels, feeling a broken smile spreading across her face as she did so, knowing in her heart that each one would bring her Neil closer to coming home.


As a year fell by, her daughter was put into a foster home by the school and Argyle folded due to unforeseen surcharges and outstanding debts of the company owners.

As two years went by, her guilt-ridden husband remarried. He struggled for a while and often thought about heading back to his daughter and wife, but assumed they’d probably moved on themselves and if he went back, he’d do nothing but hurt the two of them further.

As four years fell by, the ex-company put out a statement that they were rescinding their offer of the Tudor house and that nobody had claimed the number of ten million stamps needed to obtain it. They put out the press release largely as a joke, knowing that their company had only been running for a short time and a lot of participants had only claimed cutting boards and the most OCD only getting enough stubs to get a free oven.

When eight years went by, Linda Jones dropped the last card covered in stamps into the barrel. She turned to the stairs and there she saw him. Her vision had blurred in all her time in the basement and she saw him in a suit with a floral bouquet outstretched. She took a minute, circling a confused Officer Lawrence, hunched over and dishevelled.

Emotions flooded her wrecked body as she saw Neil at the foot of the stairs. She was angry, furious about how he had abandoned her. In the back of her mind, she remembered a five-year-old daughter she’d had with him. But it was so distant that it almost felt like some sort of dream.

She’d get mad, sure. But then she’d tell him the good news. All those many years, all those tickets saved, to get out of the moss-ridden and dirty house into the house of their dreams. It was good news. They could salvage their lives together. After all of this, she still loved him, truly and deeply.

In her misty eyes, she could see the house they would live in together. It was elegant and grand, every stamp worth the sacrifice.

She tried to speak, but found that the lack of spit from licking stamps for eight years had rendered her speech useless and all she managed was a rasping hiss.

She ran to the arms of her estranged lover as the policemen backed away from the creature with the pale skin and green forked tongue.

And Officer Lawrence emptied a bullet into her skull.