(Start here.) (Or just go backwards.)
We tried to look for the lizard, but it was gone. “We have to go to the tunnels,” I said, “and if they have my mother, we’ll make them give her back!” But Emily wouldn’t even listen, she was too busy scouring the dead grass around the sidewalk, looking for the lizard.
“Would you stop, already?” I said to her. “It’s not coming back.”
“You can’t be sure it’s really gone,” she said, crawling around in the grass.
“I think it’s gone,” Adam said. He sat down on the sidewalk, his feet in the street.
“So what, we just give up?” Emily said, leaning back on her heals, her face streaked with dirt and sparkles both.
“No,” he said.
“We go to the tunnels,” I said.
“OK,” Adam said, and he wiped sweat off his forehead with his t-shirt sleeve. “But I think also—.”
“We have to figure out how they’re doing what they’re doing,” Emily said. “That’s what the lizard said.”
“OK,” Adam said. “But I think we’re also supposed to figure out why they appear as lizards to Alyssa,” and he nodded his head toward me.
And for some reason it felt really bad. I didn’t want to figure out why they appeared as lizards to me, it seemed like it couldn’t really be a good reason, so it had to be a bad one. “Let’s go to the tunnels,” I said. “Maybe we’ll figure it out on the way.”
So we headed towards the park where the entrance to the tunnels was. Emily got out her phone, trying to call Phoebe again. And Adam walked slowly near me, not too near, and said, “Do you like lizards? Is that it?”
“I don’t know, OK?” I tried to swallow down the horrible panicky feeling he was giving me.
He nodded, like I hadn’t been rude or anything, like we were both just trying to figure out something. “Are you scared of lizards or something?”
I shook my head. “Of course I’m not scared of lizards,” I said, though I thought, too, of that weird memory when I first saw them: my dad’s study right after he died, and the strange shadowy way it made me feel.
“What?” Adam said.
“Nothing,” I said. “Only….”
“Only…well, when I first saw that one in my mom’s room? Back home?”
“Yeah?” They both looked at me, all of us walking towards the tunnels, but slowly.
“Well, it made me feel kind of sad. It reminded me of my dad’s study.”
“Oh, well that’s superhelpful,” Emily said.
“I told you it was nothing.”
“But maybe it’s not nothing,” Adam said.
I nodded unwillingly. “OK, so what am I supposed to do? Use hypnotic suggestion?”
“No,” he said, shifting his backpack. He had a big sweat stain in the middle of his back. “You’re just supposed to think about it. Like: the memory of your Dad’s study. What is it? What do you remember?”
I didn’t want to think about the study or the gross feeling it gave me. “Aren’t we at the tunnel entrance yet?” Emily was dialing again, like that would do any good.
“Not yet,” he said.
“I don’t remember,” I said.
“Maybe they represent the trauma of your father’s death,” Emily said, the phone at her ear.
“That’s stupid,” I told her. “Why would lizards—I mean, how does that even make sense?”
“How did he die anyway?” Emily asked, because she is a person without feelings.
“He got hit by a car when he was at an academic conference with my mom.”
“Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry. That’s really awful.”
“Yeah,” I said, and then I couldn’t say anything else, and the three of us just walked without saying anything for a little bit.
“I think I would die if my dad died,” she said.
“You wouldn’t, though,” I told her.
“Yeah,” Adam said. “Even when you think things are so bad that you’re going to die, you don’t die. You just keep one living.”
Emily shook her head slowly. “Sometimes I wish I could control the whole world.”
And just like that, I realized why they were lizards.