Bats on Fire
by Daniel Braum
Dusk’s last light was almost gone and the evening sky’s rich blues were on the verge of black. Michaela sat on the cliff top listening to the waves crash against the rocks below- her eyes on the sky, peeled for a sign of the bats that didn’t come.
“I knew I’d find you here,” Francois said.
He was right. After everything, he still knew her better than anyone.
“Did you see them tonight?” he asked.
Bats are true creatures of love, Michaela thought. They live in vast colonies and go by feel, navigating not by sight or reason but by what feels right to the senses. Nothing more. Nothing less. The same had brought her to this town. That and her job for the rockstar. The need for a stable life for her son was why she stayed, that and the warrants waiting for her in New York along with all the drama and empty people.
When the job dried up and the rockstar moved on, it was the bats that kept her here. They felt right. Despite the daily struggles to keep Bennett in school and healthy and fed they were always there. Then along came Francois.
“No, didn’t see them,” Michaela said.
“Maybe they’re full or feel the coming storm.”
She’s met Francois at a show one of the rockstar’s protégés was putting on. They talked all night. He didn’t judge her about all the New York drama she was running from. In the days and weeks and months that followed they talked every night. He brought her groceries and helped with what bills he could. He was kind to Bennett even took him to the aquarium for his birthday to see all the fishes he was so fascinated with. Bennett was thrilled to see his first real shark.
The night they first kissed Michaela dreamed the bats from the cliffs were on fire- beautiful golden flames that did not consume them. Every night since then she had dreamed of them spiraling out of their seaside caves into the night, their wild flaming patterns streaking across the sky.
Their love was real. Genuine emotion in every word, every touch. She could not imagine a life without him and he said neither could he. Then the rockstar called. Wanted to hire her. Just like the old days, but back in New York. So why wouldn’t Francois help her. He always wanted to live in New York. Catch was she had to get there and set up on her own. Francois could hire a lawyer, pay all the bills, protect her from the drama and make her troubles go away. Why wouldn’t he? If he loved me unconditionally, he would, she thought.
What you don’t own, owns you, he had said. These things are for you to face. If I make these things disappear, something else will rear its head at you even stronger to get you to listen to get you to face what you aren’t.
Ever since then she hadn’t dreamt of the bats. Not on fire. Not at all.
He didn’t understand what love was and she didn’t think that would change tonight. She looked into the night sky hoping for a sign the bats might come after all.