Friday, July 31, 2009

At the risk of chasing away any potential future visitors to my house, I have a horrifying tale to tell.

It has to do with the Mason Attic.

And no, it is not ninjas.

(though that USED to be my biggest fear living here. It's a long story. Go ask one of my high school students.)

It is 5:17 am, and I have just felt the most prolonged fear I have ever felt in my life. I made a choice to keep the fear in me in order to finish the necessary task, which is the closest thing to courage I have probably ever had.

Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared. ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

So, if you read my Twitter at all, you'll recall the story of the bat. That three early mornings ago, a poorly designed, cheaply implemented (thanks, Mr. Mason) transonic rodent box did the opposite of its job and LET A BAT INTO MY APARTMENT. After which I freaked out, slapped Joe awake, and we both proceeded to duck our heads and freak out as it blindly swooped around and around the room until it left to darker reaches of our open floor-plan apartment.

By the time Joe geared up (mentally and literally, in knee-high socks, baseball cap, and full-length bathrobe) for the task of hunting this thing down, Mr. Bat was done flailing and flapping wildly and was nowhere to be found.

After a nerve-wracking search of the apartment (Joe's task, while I cowered in the room), Joe turned up nothing. He hypothesized that the bat had found its way to the attic of our Attic through an unfinished electrical socket where a ceiling fan should have gone. Though it seemed a mighty small hole to find so quickly, we didn't see the bat again after taping the hole off with plastic bags and duct tape. Perhaps the sonar of this creature was so sophisticated that it quickly "felt" the height of the attic above, even through the 3 inch hole.

We managed to sleep that night. I don't know how. But we did. We used the stupid "bat box" turned inward on our apartment, trusting it would disconcert the critter if it WASN'T in the attic.

I was pretty terribly nervous the next morning. But as the day wore on and cupboards got opened and things went on as usual and no winged rodent flew at us, I calmed down. I was even comfortable enough by the end of the day to go clean up our storage room in the evening.

And though it sounds crazy, while moving bags in our hallway that evening, there it was-- dead. Lying against the wall, dead. Less than 24 hours after the ordeal, we had our bat, and while it was a little freaky to get rid of, it was simple. It had already died. HOW it got in the hall, who knows? HOW it died? Who knows. But it was gone.

We put away the stupid bat box transonic thing. Our problems were over.

Until an hour ago.

When I woke (alone this time, since Joe is on his night shift) to the sound of fluttering bat wings gently knocking the metal canopy of our bed. In the dark. At 4:30 am.


Instantly wide awake, I rolled out of bed as low as possible, ducking to grab my phone on the way to the light switch.

The bat was BACK.

I mean, yes, we found a dead bat... but THIS one was in our APARTMENT, after having all windows closed for three days. Logically, THIS had to be OUR bat. No time to ponder where that other bat might have come from (ew ew ew ew ew ew).

My heart in my throat, I watched it swoop, dive, knock walls-- clearly blind and unmalicious, but just as clearly terrifyingly fast and skittery. I hid most of my body behind the doorway. It dipped into the room I was straddling. Then back into the lit bedroom. I reached 3 feet away and flipped the stupid sonic bat box back on. If possible, the bat got MORE active. CRAPCRAPCRAP. I inched further away and got to the kitchen of our shotgun apartment (all rooms in a row, few actual doors). I managed to turn on the rest of the apartment lights and get the front part of our apartment (laundry room and bathroom) sealed off with the only closeable door. On the other end of the apartment, Noah's door was also closed.

Now it was just me, the bat, and three big rooms.

I called Joe from the farthest room. My heart pounding as I kept both eyes riveted to the far room where the bat was spending most of his time, Joe and I talked tersely and quietly about the situation. About how it could have come back. Touching on, but not dwelling on what that OTHER bat was all about. And finally, talking about what had to be done. A broom... and a LOT of courage. Joe apologized with deep frustration that I was alone. I whimpered that I was unhappy about HURTING the thing. But we both knew-- with the critter so jittery, never landing long enough to be caught, with morning coming and a baby to go get out of bed soon.... this had to be done. NOW. Before the bat went into hiding again.

So I hung up. I went into the closed laundry room and geared myself up-- big socks, long-sleeved, high-collared jacket, kerchief on my head. I said a breathless prayer out loud. My heart, in my throat, was pounding hard and fast. Courage quotes I had looked up the other day for a project came flooding back--

Courage is fear holding on a minute longer. ~George Smith Patton

Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway. ~John Wayne

Necessity does the work of courage. ~Nicholas Murray Butler

And I realized that yes-- THIS was brave. To feel this heart-stopping, stomach dropping, hand-shaking fear, and to still grab the broom and open that door.

And oh sweet lord, there are no words to adequately describe the combination of adrenaline, numbness, alertness, and terror I felt as I confronted the situation. The fluttering, swooping rodent. Who, bless his frightened heart, just wanted to get back OUT and go HOME. He even alighted on the original windowsill where he had come in three nights ago, and stayed still for the longest I'd seen him as he explored the window, trying to find an exit. And oh, please-- if he'd stayed put long enough, I would have tried to let him out. I wanted him to be free.

But these things move too fast. And I was too scared.

So the broom attack had to happen.

And every time I swung that broom, my heart stopped and I bit a scream inside me. And I missed. And missed. And missed. Hit a corner of a wing, and he zoomed for the next room.

I cornered him in the kitchen, where he now KNEW he was being hunted. His sonar led him around and around in circles, and he was GOOD. He was REALLY good.

I missed. And missed. And missed. And missed. I cannot tell you how many times I missed.

By this time, very animal noises were coming out of ME, a kind of grunt/cry every time I swung. PURE FEAR. Terrible, horrible, driven FEAR.

I finally got a lucky shot, and he was down. Not out. I had to go in and swing again while he was disoriented. And then I had to swing again and again. By this time, I was crying, and saying over and over, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry..."

Amazing that in the midst of such BIG FEAR, there was also such deep regret at the harm I had to inflict. I was so upset.

I had to be brutal, and that is something I have NEVER done before. NEVER. I pray (oh please, Lord, please) I never have to do that kind of harm again.

But in the end, he was dead.

It hurts just admitting that.

I killed it. I did. My hands and arms and will and strength and fear killed it. No one else's. Mine.

That was over an hour ago. I cried, shaky from the adrenaline. I said "I'm sorry" over and over. I wrapped it in three shopping bags, horrified and upset and uncomfortable.

And I did not go back to sleep.

I have never felt that kind of fear in my life-- the prolonged, necessary, fighting-back TERROR that filled my shaking body from top to bottom. And I know my story is small. That a BAT is not a true enemy like some have had to face in their lives.

And I don't like what I had to do to end the fear.

There is no HAPPY ending, I guess... Except this bat is gone.

After the ordeal, I called Joe back, and while leaving him a message, I looked up at the plastic bag/duct tape cover of the light socket, and saw one side had come loose. I think Joe must've been right about the bat's hideout for the last three days.

But it still doesn't explain that second dead bat.

and I am absolutely certain I do NOT want to explore that question right now. Or ever.


  1. You know that indignant-for-me voicemail you left yesterday morning?

    I KNOW THE FEELING. Those Masons had BETTER &*@*ing pony up for an exterminator. I am SO MAD at them for you. For Noah and your sleeplessness your stress and ALL OF IT.

    I am so, so, SO sorry this is how you began your day. You did what you had to do, absolutely. I wish I could hug you.

    Love you, you brave mama.

  2. Wow.

    At first I thought this was going to be an amusing post, but was spellbound as you kept going. I realize you probably weren't going for the "storyteller effect," that this was a way to get your feelings out while they're still fresh. But I can tell you from experience, that first feeling of fear will never leave you.

    In Russia, when some guys maced us and tried to fight us, I was very rattled. I didn't want to sleep, didn't want to eat, didn't want to leave. I was afraid that the "thugs" would somehow find us again, maybe this time with real weapons or something. It took three days for me to seek out a blessing from our resident senior missionary, after which I was fine.

    Then I felt it again some months later, when people living in the apartment below us hated us and wanted us to leave. They'd leave phone messages full of swearing and threats, and I grew to hate the phone ringing. I didn't want to go home, just wanted to stay out or go somewhere else. Then, one night, they harassed us all night- ringing the doorbell, leaving notes, calling, etc. It was terrible. But again, with time, I got over the fear.

    Most recently, this week in fact, as we camped on the river and got rained on, I felt real fear that we would get flooded or something bad would happen. It was horrible.

    But it's over, and while you'll never forget that fear feeling, you've grown from the experience, and though the harm to the bat is regrettable, I don't think anyone can blame you.

    If they do, send them to me. I have friends who take care of that kind thing.

  3. Your part.1-14 on twitter were great! I am glad everything worked out.

  4. Oh, that's awful. It reminds me (on a much lesser degree) of the mice problem I had in NYC. We would catch mice on sticky traps but that wouldn't put them out of their misery and I didn't want to fling them out the window as I had seen other New Yorkers do so I thought drowning would be the most merciful. Harming a creature is never pleasant. Bless your little soul.

  5. when my parents bought their second house, it was a fixer-upper... and so we lived in one part of the house while a couple of the rooms were redone... and after a couple of nights we discovered the horrible truth -- SQUIRRELS were living in the walls... we used to hear them running around and when that happened, we would have to chase them out. to say that it was terrifying and traumatic would be an understatement. i understand how terrible that must have been for you.

    on a more positive note, though, that was EXTREMELY well written - i would consider posting that as a short story somewhere, because you illustrated the even beautifully. thanks em!

  6. Oh, you poor thing. While terrifying, yes, you should be proud of both the humor and the terror conveyed in your story. I hope you get some sleep now!

  7. holy crap, you handled that like a champion. you are a far stronger woman than i!

  8. Yeah. What Jess said.

    because I have no words.

  9. Anonymous2:00 PM

    Make sure you call your local health department to have them come get the dead bats for testing. They can have rabies, and if so, you definitely want them tested! I don't want to scare you, but I had a friend who had a similar similar situation and the health department said they definitely needed to test them.

  10. Em -- my shriek of terror would have woken my little man up so I admire you for not freaking out too badly. Enjoy the MWCW. Wish I could have figured out a way to make it and meet other ELW mommies.

  11. *shudder*

    Oh, Emily! Now that is quite the ordeal!

  12. Eeewwww! We had a bat this fall and I have never heard such a high pitched girlie scream come out of shane. There I was editing and it swooped in and fluttered in my hair. I thought I might pee. Or lets face it..poop. TERRIFYING! We called a guy. YOU ARE SO BRAVE! I don't think I could have done that.

  13. Yuck, yuck, yuck!!! I hate bats and would have been freaking out just the same. Not sure if I could have actually worked up the courage to do anything other than load up my kids and run out the door. You are brave!! Hope the exterminator is on his way!!

  14. I cannot believe that you had to go through that!!!! I love the quote by John Wayne that you had on there. That sums me up perfectly. I don't know if I will go to bed peacefully tonight now. You poor gal, I am sorry that you had to kill it. You are great at telling stories, and you should write a book.

  15. I practically had tears in my eyes near the end. I can totally relate, we used to get bats when I was a little girl, although I never had to do battle with one on my own. On a brighter (and dramatically delayed) note, thank you for the zucchini/carrot/pineapple muffin recipe, we've made it a dozen or so times now and everyone LOVES it!

  16. Oh Emily!! Thank you for writing this! It was brave of you... bless your heart!!!

  17. Hey Em, hope you got my email. Aaron is all concerned about rabies and thinks you all should get tested just in case even though you weren't bitten. Hope you are doing well and are bat free.

  18. You are one tough girl. I'm so impressed. That is a tough situation. My hat is off to you, Brave Woman.

  19. I'm so sorry you had to go through this ordeal mostly alone. I know Joe would have done whatever he could have to alleviate your fears had he been there... I can't even imagine the fearful necessity of intentionally killing a creature that has committed no crime other than getting lost somehow in the attic. I know that would traumatize me. Breathe deep. You will be able to get over this. I am amazed by your courage, your determination, your tenacity. Horrific though the experience was, you know you have it in you to call up courage you didn't realize you even had. May your next home be free of any such pests...

    love you!


CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan