Audrey found a velvet lizard in the garden, curled up in the soil, in the mottled shade of a fern. She watched it for some time, as it rested, and she dug a little moat around its body with her finger. She wondered what it was like to see the world from down there; she wondered what little velvet lizards dreamt about. She thought that perhaps their memories were smaller, but still the same as hers. The wind picked up and got under the loose hairs on her neck, the thin ones she sometimes pulled at when she was bored, twisting two or three until they came out with a pleasant pain. She put her head down on the ground next to the sleeping lizard and stroked it gently with the first finger of her left hand, the one she let do the best jobs. The lizard’s skin gave way like burnt paper. Audrey shot her hand back and cried out—she thought she had killed it, but then realised there was no blood, no movement: everything was too brittle. The lizard was completely hollow.
In the moments after, she didn’t feel repulsed or scared; she felt indignant. The cruel falsity, more than anything, was what shook her. To think she had been watching it for so long, imagining its small velvet thoughts, when, in reality, the lizard was nothing. It was an empty image. She dug a hole in the soil with her right hand—the hand for the bad jobs—and flicked the lizard’s body inside it. She placed the soil back on top, in a grave, and she wondered if the lizard’s soul was there or not. Her mother used to say that souls were the songs you heard in your head when you were dying—the music that was your life. Audrey liked to think, though, that souls were never there: how could anybody say they existed? They weren’t like shoes or eyes or especially the chord of G minor—the saddest thing Audrey knew off by heart—they were made up. Until someone showed her a soul, she wouldn’t believe they were really there.
She was feeling angry now—at the world, at the little mound of soil under the fern—so she dug up the lizard, and placed it on top of the highest part of the fence that ran alongside the garden. She sat in the grass, the condensation itching its way into her dress, until the wind came and blew the lizard’s body away. She thought of the lizard’s insides, the soft bits that made it work, how they were now part of the ground, leached out from the skin through death, spread out somewhere else like a welcome mat.
She looked out across the yard, filled with the spread of living things, discarded parts of lives still lived. The whole scene was too familiar. The details changed, but the feelings didn’t.