Bats in the Attic

[flash fiction]

There are bats in the attic. I’m not being euphemistic. There are bats in our attic and they are pushing me to the border of my sanity. The scuttling and whispering of teeth and wings above our heads sets my teeth on edge. Somehow, you sleep, your chest rising and falling with criminal ease. When you finally wake, they’re still. You cluck at me and leave me with a blue pill to help me sleep. They’re quiet once you’re gone.

Every night for a week I lie awake listening to them cavorting smugly in the space above our heads. Every morning you insist it’s my imagination, like those other things that weren’t there, the cries in the night from ghost babies.

Today I wake in the yellow midday, and swallow the three pink pills you’ve left on the counter with cold coffee. I wipe the wet ring underneath the mug with my sleeve and run the faucet until the dishes look clean, then place them on the shelves. I carry myself with dread to the nursery, and continue the awful work of packing it all into cardboard boxes. Tiny booties that have never been worn, rattles, and stacks of cloth diapers. We’ll try again soon, you keep promising. But you haven’t touched me since they wheeled me out of the hospital, stunned, broken ribs and battered face, with no baby. The crash changed everything.

I am nuzzling a teddy bear against my cheek when I hear that familiar fluttering paper sound, wings on drywall. I dial your number, but you send me straight to voicemail.

I arm myself with a frying pan and wool gloves, and tie one of your wispy scarves around the bottom half of my face. Then I ascend the ladder and crawl through the trapdoor. The attic is dark, dangerous terrain filled with mountains and minefields of cardboard boxes and unsupported slats. I creep along the border. My breath, kept close by the scarf, is loud in my ears. They’re louder, fluttering madly. I swat at them with the pan, but they’re fast. They know where to hide. Bats can fit through holes the width of a pencil. I tear open the boxes, howling a war cry. Summer clothes, unstrung tennis rackets, stacks of magazines. I smash them all. Where are you when I need you? I can’t see them but they’re everywhere. I hear them swooping and gliding, stretching their wings aggressively. After a while I start to cry, because this would never happen if you were here.

When you come home, I’m lying in a circle of broken Christmas ornaments.

“Bats,” I say, my heart battering the walls of my chest.

You look at me for a long moment, and I touch my fingertips together and reach for you in a desperate prayer. “Please,” I whisper.

“No bats,” you say in a voice as hollow as an empty grave, and begin to sweep the thin, fragile, colored fragments of glass that surround me.

Dana Mele photo credit: David McQueen

Dana Mele lives in the Great Northern Catskills with her husband and son. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Bird’s Thumb, and Mad Scientist Journal, among others. She is currently working on her first novel.