Somewhere between Kardashian news and a blog detailing where to buy every outfit worn by Taylor Swift I hit rock bottom. In the space between where I wanted to be—asleep—and where I was stuck—awake—I had chosen the easiest route, whiling away the ink-black night, slack-jawed and blindly clicking through whatever late-night gossip lit up the computer screen.
The air was thick with heat on that sticky July night. No air trickled through the window screen. I was in a stupor, the particular sort of stupor that meant that nothing registered, that my reflexes were slow. I was vulnerable, mentally asleep, and regretfully awake. And I was hearing noises.
We had just moved to the country. I was used to city life, city noises, city nerves. In the city, you steel yourself for danger, but there’s a comfort to being in a populated area, close to neighbors and cops. The bucolic loneliness of the country offers promises of peace, but to me, it’s sinister. You’re the only person screaming for miles around.
The noises continued. They became more rhythmic and insistent. Something knocked on the side of the house. There was a rush of air and a crash and a bang, and then another. My first thought was that it was the sounds of the old house creaking. My second thought was that it could’ve been a clumsy mouse or a lost raccoon. But the noises were outside my office. They weren’t anywhere nearby.
Suddenly, I had a feeling that something was behind me. The knocks had moved into the office. They were coming from above, overhead, somewhere toward the ceiling. My mind, sluggish, put together the clues, realizing just what creature lurked in the shadows.
A bat. A bat, flying around my office, crashing into the walls as it went in circles.
I screamed and bolted into my bedroom—which did not have its own door.
“AAAAAAAAA!” I yelled, and looked at Stu on the bed. He was well asleep, curled into himself like a cat, his hair matted down with sweat, cuddling a pillow, wearing nothing but tighty-whities.
He woke up screaming. His body jerked up. “AAAAAAAAA!” he replied in kind.
“BAT!” I yelled, gripping his arm. The bat had followed me, circling around the back half of our bedroom, clanging into our clothesrack and light. The bat was very bad at flying without crashing into things.
His adrenaline and fear pumping, wild-eyed like Nicolas Cage seeing a woman in a bear suit, Stu ran downstairs. I followed. We gathered our wits and our cleaning supplies with long sticks. He held the broom by the bristles and I had the Swiffer by the Swiffer-y part. We crept back upstairs, clinging to the side of the wall for extra protection. I looked at the muscles on his back and we banged the sticks along the wall and the ceiling. “Hey bat, ready to die?” I said.
In our bedroom, the bat continued to fly in frantic loops. Stu wielded his broom, a heraldic knight in his underwear, tilting at shadows. Trying to give the bat one option at total outdoor freedom, I took the front window, gripping the wood, pushing, uselessly. It was stuck.
“Take the doors,” he said. “Close every door we have. Our bedroom’s the only option. We’re cornering this sucker. I’ll take that window.” I ran downstairs, closing every open door in the house with each step that I took. It all felt very urgent. When I passed the front door, I had a quick moment of inspiration—instead of having Stu battle the bat alone, he could have backup, if our neighborhood cat was sitting on our porch, as usual.
I opened the door. “Sluuuuuuuuuut,” I whispered into the night. The cat’s real name was Mimi, but we called her Slut, since she had been nipping at our heels every time we stepped outside, desperate for our attention, working us hard in order the chance to go inside our house, the house that she grew up in. As I flicked on the porch light, she came into focus, a sphinx on our doormat. “Cat! Come inside and attack our bat, please!” Something flashed red in her eyes, possessed. She had been hitting the catnip.
“Please cat? Kill bat! You can come inside!” I wheedled. The cat was frozen on our doormat. She remained a ball of fur, a sphinx, inscrutable, high as hell. I slammed the door and ran upstairs.
While the cat distracted me, Stu battled the bat, opening one window and retreating to the office, googling “how to make a bat leave the house” and “bat hearing.” The bat spun in circles, noisily disclaiming his research. “I have it,” he said. “It’s the noise. That’s why that fucker came in and followed you. It might leave if we scrape some noise around the open window.”
“Do it,” I said. “The cat failed. Let me google.” It was a sucker move on my end, but I had already been amped up by the intruder, blood pumping honest and true through my veins. I couldn’t actually end up face to face with the bat. It was as if I had already been invaded by a supercilious creep, a vampire straight out of a dime-store young adult novel, watching over my sleeping body and seeing a rare bout of insomnia as sheer opportunity; or maybe it was an act of pure love on the bat’s part, protecting a damsel from disaster, the glazed eyes and gaping fish mouth that comes from reading Internet gossip on a sleepless night. I returned to the computer a creature of purpose and focus.
A yelp from the other room. Stu emerged. “I give up. The bat’s still flying, but we should just wait it out. It’ll leave eventually.”
I looked at him. “I’m not sleeping in our bed with a bat overhead.”
We went downstairs and poured two glasses of whisky. Despite the alcohol, something excitable surged in our veins. We had gone around past wired into some strange new level of exhaustion. I had Marc Bolan hair. Clearly there was no way we’d get to sleep unless we chugged the whisky while watching the greatest cure for insomnia, Nathan Fillion solving crimes in the reliably predictable Castle.
We toasted our efforts and got settled on the futon. By the time Nathan Fillion had gotten to the first murder suspect who was just too perfect of a fit, we were out cold. Was there ever such a romantic night?
In the morning, when sunlight streamed through the windows and onto our faces, we could see the carnage from last night. Brooms everywhere, pots on the ground, clothes thrown into a corner. And on the first floor, the screen of one window stood slightly askew; just enough so that a bat could’ve slipped through, peeling after a bug in a frantic chase for a midnight meal, looking for some elusive sustenance, saving me. Getting nothing but knocks and blows in return.
Elisabeth Donnelly is a writer living in upstate New York. She can be found on Twitter and Tumblr.
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