Story for Haiti Donations: Bats

Per Jay Lake’s post (and Cheryl Morgan), if you’re entertained by the previously unpublished kid’s fiction vignette posted below—one of the only things I have that’s unpublished and therefore exclusive—consider making a donation to Haitian disaster relief. Jay has more details here.

THE GREAT LOST BAT EXPEDITION

1

The Great Bat Expedition from Camp Crystal Lakes started out well enough. Nick, his sister Nikki, and their best friend Tom gathered outside Nick’s tent in the mid-afternoon.

One by one they went through their list.

“Flashlight?” Nikki asked. She always kept the lists.

“Check,” said Nick. It was one of his favorite words. Sometimes he would say it all day long. Those were the days Nikki and Tom would try to avoid him.

“Insect repellent?”

“Check.”

“Bottles of water?”

“Check.”

“Net for bat catching.”

“Check.”

“Camera to take photo of bat talking.”

“Check.”

“Fake rubber bat.”

“Check.”

“Hey, wait,” said Tom. “That’s not a fake rubber bat.” “Hey, wait,” were Tom’s favorite two words. Many times the three of them had been saved from an awful fate by Tom saying, “Hey, wait.” Like, “Hey, wait—isn’t that a giant snake?” Or, “Hey, wait—maybe we should ask our parents about that first.”

Tom was right. Nick hadn’t had time to buy one at a toy store. Instead, he’d found an old piece of tire.

“It’s close enough,” Nick said.

“It doesn’t even look like a bat,” Tom said.

It actually had the same shape as the camp meatloaf.

“It doesn’t matter,” Nikki said. “Snacks and backpack to carry it all in?”

“Check,” Nick said.

“Then let’s go!”

They had a map, too. The map showed the way to a nearby cave.

They had decided on a visit to the cave ever since hearing the story of the Talking Bat of Camp Crystal Lakes the night before, around the campfire. A talking bat was too cool for them to ignore.

All around them was scrub forest and outcroppings of rock.

After about twenty minutes, Tom said, “Hey, wait—I think we’re lost.”

“We can’t be,” Nick said. “I’m following the map. Check.”

But it was true: they seemed to be heading away from the hills. The cave was in the hills.

“Let me look at that map,” Nikki said, snatching it away from Nick. She stared at it for a moment, then frowned. “Look—you were holding it upside down. We need to go that way!” She pointed in the opposite direction.

“Check. Well, don’t blame me,” Nick said. “I don’t like maps anyway.”

“Hey, wait—I don’t like you,” Tom said.

“Oh, stop it,” Nikki said. “We need to get to the cave. Forget the arguing.” Nikki didn’t have a favorite word like Tom or Nick, but she did like phrases that started with “Oh.”

“Yes, that’s what I always say,” Nick said, turning up his nose as he walked past Tom. And then added, “Check.”

After another twenty minutes, they seemed to be no closer to the cave.

“Hey, wait—is somebody reading the map sideways now?” Tom asked.

“No,” Nick said. “We’re reading it right now. Check.”

“Okay. I hate this bat trip. Even a talking bat isn’t worth it.”

“Oh, be quiet,” Nikki said.

They continued on in silence for awhile.

Then Nikki said, “I wonder what kind of accent it has.”

“What accent what has?” Tom asked.

“The bat,” Nick said. “Maybe it sounds English. Or Australian. Or Czech.”

“Hey, wait–now why would it sound that way?” Tom asked.

Nick was about to answer but then he fell into a hole and disappeared. It was so sudden, Nick didn’t even have time to shout out. One minute he was walking beside them through the underbrush. The next moment, he was gone.

Nikki and Tom stopped right where they were, shocked. Where had Nick gone?

Mystery solved a second later when a thin, reedy voice said, from somewhere beneath them, “I seem to have fallen down a hole. Check.”

A few seconds of pushing away the grass revealed the pale face of Nick several feet below them, standing in a large hole of darkness.

“Hey, wait–what are you doing down there?”

“I fell down here! Check! You act like I planned it. Check!”

“Well, we didn’t fall in any holes. Nikki and I knew better,” Tom said.

“Very funny. Besides, it’s not just a hole. There’s a passageway down here—and I think I can hear bats!”

Nikki and Tom looked at each other. They were both thinking about the famous Talking Bat of Crystal Lakes Summer Camp.

What if it was down in the hole with Nick?

Without a second thought, they both jumped down into the hole.

2

Nick wasn’t real happy when his sister Nikki and his friend Tom landed on top of him in the hole. Even though they wanted to find the fabled talking bat while at summer camp, this whole expedition was going from bad to worse.

“Check! Get off me! Check!”

“Hey, wait—I didn’t mean to land on you.”

“Oh, stop. Just get up and let’s see where we are.”

“It’s too dark. Check.”

“Hey—that’s what the flashlight is for. Who has it?”

“You do!!” Nikki and Nick shouted at the same time.

“Hey, wait—I have it. One second.”

Tom turned on the flashlight. They looked around.

Sure enough, there was a tunnel, leading off into the distance.

“It looks dark,” Nick said. He was so scared he forgot to say “Check.”

“It does look dark,” Tom said.

“Definitely dark,” Nikki said.

“Well, if you two are afraid,” Nick said, “I guess we’ll just have to climb back up out of this hole.

“Hey, I’m not afraid,” Tom said.

“Neither am I,” Nikki said. “Girls don’t get afraid.”

“Check,” sighed Nick. “Check.”

Down the tunnel they went. It was dark. Water dripped from the ceiling. Strange smells and sounds came to them from far away. Tom held the camera. Nikki held the flashlight because Nick was shaking too hard. Nick held the knapsack.

“How will we know the talking bat when we see it?” Nick asked.

“It’ll talk to us,” Nikki said. “Sometimes, Nick, I just don’t know about you.”

“Hey, wait, though,” Tom said. “Nick has a point. What if it doesn’t want to talk to us?”

Nikki sighed. “I don’t know. Then I guess we just go home.”

Just then Nick fell into another hole and disappeared. It happened so suddenly Tom only had time to say “Hey, wait!” and Nikki only had time to say “Oh!”

Nikki shined the light down into the hole.

“What’re you doing down there?”

Nick looked ashen. “No jokes. That scared me. Help me up.”

So they helped him up out of the hole and continued down the tunnel.

No one made fun of him. No one said anything. All three of them were scared.

They kept close together as they went forward.

After a few minutes, Tom said, “Hey, wait—do you hear something?”

“I don’t hear anything,” Nikki said.

“I hear something,” Nick said. “Check.”

“Crap. Now I hear something, too,” Nikki said.

They rapidly agreed that not only did they all three hear something, but that it was getting louder.

“It sounds like the washing machine at home,” Nikki said.

“No, I think it kinda sounds like clothes flapping on a laundry line in our yard,” Tom said.

“No, you’re both wrong,” Nick said. “It sounds like a lot of people arguing.”

“Actually, now that I think about it,” Nikki said, “it sounds like a great big flock of bats coming right at us!”

“Hey, wait,” Tom said. “No—don’t wait. You’re right. Run!”

“Heyaaaaaaa!” screamed Tom and dropped his camera.

“Oaaaaaa!” screamed Nikki and dropped the flashlight.

“Checkcheckcheckcheck!” screamed Nick and dropped the knapsack.

Then they all ran like a horde of bats was coming up the tunnel toward them.

But they weren’t fast enough. In just seconds, a horde of bats had caught up with them, their wings getting tangled in their hair, their leathery bodies brushing up against their arms. They kept screaming, even longer and harder. The smell of the bats was overwhelming. They smelled like old paint and rotting cabbage. They didn’t feel real good either.

“Aggh!” they’ve got me, Nick said melodramatically, so that even through her panic Nikki stopped to give him a poke in the ribs. “I’m hit!” Nick screamed.

“You’re not hit,” Nikki screamed. “You’re an idiot!”

Finally, overwhelmed, they just collapsed against the side of the tunnel in a heap.

The bats flew on by and in a few minutes, all was quiet in the tunnel except for the muttered whisper of Nick going “checkcheckecheckecheckecheckcheck” over and over again.

Tom sighed and got to his feet. “I declare this expedition over.”

“Yes. Over,” Nikki said faintly.

“Done with,” Nick said.

“But you haven’t seen the talking bat yet,” said the Talking Bat from somewhere in the darkness over their heads.

Comments

  1. Hellbound Heart says

    thanks, mate……

    i live a couple of streets away from a colony of thousands of bats……

    am i going to sleep easily tonight???

    ARRRRGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Heh.

    Also saw a disturbing tweet from someone saying that writers posting stuff was an attempt to promote work off the back of a disaster. Um, no. I gain nothing from posting this snippet–and I was going to post it anyway. If this website that put this idea forward raises extra money for Haiti, then great. At the very least, I see no harm in it.

    JeffV

  3. says

    Jeff,

    I saw the same dude on twitter and confronted him. I doubt I got through to him. I’m not sure my typing was worth the effort.

    Like you, I see no harm with people volunteering their time, talent, and skill to produce something with the intention of bringing people’s attention to a larger worthwhile issue.

    So let me just say thank you for posting your story. Thank you for the link back to Crossed Genres. And thank you for noting the disaster. I know most of the world already knows about it, but keeping the disaster fresh in people’s minds is the only way to verify continued support once the initial shock wears off.

    Cheers!

    -TJ

  4. Sam says

    “tweet … writers posting stuff was an attempt to promote work off the back of a disaster.”

    Apparently this person (or another) also followed some writers to their blogs to say the same thing.

    http://mornara.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/crash/#comment-646

    Maybe I’m not cynical enough but I don’t see it. (It’s enough to not have me link my website to my name here, though.) To me when “real” writers like you guys do this it is, indeed, real.

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