by Franco Amati
My grandma Josephine attends a weekly dance class where she gets to interact with other people who have neurodegenerative disorders. I was hoping she’d make some friends with her classmates, but she says none of them are as nice to talk to as her new friend Glyphie—a friend no one else had ever seen. Many people with Alzheimer’s have hallucinations, so at first we all thought it was part of her condition.
“Grandma, where did you meet Glyphie?” I asked.
“She appeared in my living room one night,” she said.
“Can I meet Glyphie? Where is she now?”
She looked around the room, put her nose to the air, and closed her eyes. “She’s in here somewhere. Hiding, I think. Doesn’t really want to meet new people, dear. She’s shy.”
“All right. If she ever comes around, let me know. I’d like to introduce myself.” I gave Grandma a hug and told her I’d be back the next day.
Dad was convinced that Grandma was losing complete touch with reality. So he decided to move her into a home with other seniors. He hoped that if she socialized more, maybe the Glyphie thing would blow over.
Grandma felt betrayed and was upset about having to move. But fortunately, the Glyphie delusions stopped, at least for a while.
A month later, I got a call from Kentavius Sherwood, the manager of the nursing home. “We have a problem. Josephine has incited chaos among the residents.”
“My grandma? Are you sure?”
“Yes. The residents don’t want to participate in any planned activities. They stay in their messy rooms. They refuse assistance. I’m certain many of them have stopped bathing. Their rooms all have the same strange odor about them.”
“It’s a horrendous cheesy smell. Please, can you come in and talk to Josephine?”
So I drove over there. The whole place did smell weird. Grandma’s room was dark. There were small mounds of clothing and things all over the place.
“Grandma, why is your room like this?”
“Sweetie, I’ll explain. But promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“I’ll introduce you to Glyphie, okay? Just promise me.”
“Glyphie, come out and meet my granddaughter Susie. If you do, I promise I’ll tell you that one story. The one where I fell in love. Please, Glyphie. It’s a grand story. It’ll make you feel strong. Susie won’t hurt you.”
Then out of a small, dark pile, a hideous little creature emerged. It was vaguely humanoid, but slow-moving and covered in greasy fur. I was scared, but I remained calm.
“This is Glyphie. She comes from another planet. It’s hard to pronounce, but she tells me her people are struggling. That they need our memories to keep on living.”
“Um…okay,” I said. “And how do they get our memories?”
“How else, dear? They listen. Glyphie’s a better listener than just about anyone I’ve ever met. She loves my stories, and I love telling them. My words keep her healthy and strong.”
Glyphie approached, one tiny step at a time. She made faint purring and trilling sounds, almost like an old cat. As heinous as she looked, the sounds that came from her belly were kind of soothing. They almost made you forget how gross and smelly she was.
“Glyphie and her friends need energy to survive. The way we need food and water and love, Glyphie’s people are nourished by the conscious thoughts of other sentient beings. Glyphie’s body synthesizes human language and turns it into energy.”
“Does she talk too?”
“No dear, she doesn’t speak. But I hear her. When I first told her a story, she made her presence felt inside my head. That’s when she told me she needed more stories. I enjoy her company. It’s been so long since anyone’s wanted to hear something I’ve had to say.”
“But I visit you all the time. We talk. And what about your friends at the dance class? The people here. There’s plenty of people to talk to.”
“Yes, they talk. Words come out, words go in. But no one really listens. No one hangs on every word as if the very essence of what you’re saying feeds their soul. I haven’t felt this way since, well, since the first time I fell in love.”
Glyphie’s purring increased. Her fur got all fluffy. She looked nearly twice the size she was before.
“Oh, look at her. She’s so excited for the story. Now dear, you should stick around. I don’t think you’ve heard this one either. How ‘bout you pick up Glyphie and sit with her. You’d like that wouldn’t you, Glyphie?”
I hesitated and backed away from the greasy little monster. “First let me go tell Mr. Sherwood that everything’s okay. He’s been worried about you.”
So I ran down the hall to Mr. Sherwood’s office. I peeked into a few of the rooms on the way. Each room was similarly dark, with piles of stuff everywhere. It seemed Glyphie invited all her friends.
When I walked into Mr. Sherwood’s office, I didn’t see him at first. I looked around and found him sitting under his desk. “Mr. Sherwood,” I began, “there’s…” but I stopped as he looked up at me, turned slightly, and smiled. In his lap sat a furry little alien, purring and trilling, hanging onto his every word. “Don’t you see,” he said, waving the little alien at me like a proud parent, “there’s no problem here at all.”
Franco Amati is a writer from New York. He has worked as a front desk clerk, as a college instructor, and as a user interface designer for a speech recognition company. His educational background is in cognitive psychology. You can find more of his work at https://francoamati.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter.