Friday, May 17, 2013


Ten minutes left to wait.

I look down at the watch, heavy on my wrist. Daddy’s watch. I haven’t taken it off since he died. I like the way it spins, the large, round face—much wider than my wrist—always settling below my pulse point. Momma’s next to me. We’re both dressed up. Maybe it’s strange that we’re in our Sunday best. Nothing says that we have to be…it just felt fitting for this moment. It was my idea. Really, though I suppose it wouldn’t matter if I were stark naked. It’s just…I don’t think I could do what comes next without some kind of armor—even if it’s made out of cotton and lace.

The day’s ticked by so slow that I can barely stand still. I look up at the sky. Thick clouds cover most of it—fluffy and tall and in shapes that look like trees or dragons or faces. The sun is practically buried in the grass along the far field behind the barn, low enough that I can stare directly at it and not feel as if I’m going blind. Everything is peaceful and lovely and postcard beautiful. This pleases me. The wind kicks up and ruffles my skirt, sending it twisting and turning around my legs. I put a hand over my hair to keep it from twisting too.

“It will probably seem scary at first,” Momma says, her voice high and tight. She grabs my hand. Hers is damp with sweat. “But we can’t move, you see. You especially have to stay put if we want them to come.”

I nod. My throat’s too dry for speaking.

The sky grows darker still. The breeze dies. Five minutes to go.

“How many will come?” I finally manage to ask in spite of my mouth’s desert-like conditions.

“Quite a few I’d imagine. I can’t be sure, though.” Momma shakes her head, her face sad and hopeful and afraid all at the same time. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“And you’re sure that they’ll come tonight?”

Momma presses her lips together and closes her eyes.


“Yes, they’ll come tonight. You read the spell before I did, Cassie. It said four days.”

“And if it works everything will be right again?” I need to ask this once more although I’ve asked it countless times over the last four days.

Momma leans in close to me. She smells like cinnamon and cloves. Cookies and baked goods. The smell’s always comforted me, but tonight I’m close to gagging on it. “Yes, baby girl, everything will be much, much better.” Her voice breaks a little on the last word and I know that she’s lying…more to herself than to me. She thinks she can put tonight behind her someday, but I know that she won’t be able to and maybe this pleases me just a little.

In the distance I hear the first faint whistle chirps of the bats. My heart starts to thump in my chest, beating against my ribs like it’s trying to escape. Momma puts her arms around me and pulls me hard into her body. Her heart is frantic too.

I can’t breathe.

“Let go,” I grunt. She loosens her grip, but only after a moment’s hesitation.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I say as I go limp enough to slide down and out of her grip. She lets out a shaky breath, but doesn’t try to snatch me up again.

Together we step off of the porch and walk out into the field towards the last thumbnail of sunlight on the horizon. I shiver even though it’s warm out. I can’t help it. I know what I need to do. I think I have the courage to do it… but that doesn’t mean I’m not scared out of my wits.

I can see the bats now, streaking silently across the sky, first in a wavering single file line and then in a looping pack. From where I stand they look like ashes scattered across the sky. I look over at Momma. Her eyes are on the bats.

“Aaron.”  She whispers Daddy’s name and my body goes cold. Is this what I really want? Suddenly I realize that until now I didn’t really believe in the spell. Not when we carried Daddy’s corpse into the cave and left it beneath the bats while they slept, not even when we said the proper words and spilt our blood onto the white sheet we draped him in. I did it thinking that it was what mom needed to get through the grieving, so she would forgive me and take care of me again the way she used to, even if it was for just a few days more.

You should know I killed my Daddy. It’ll make this easier to understand.

 I didn’t actually mean to…well that’s not entirely true. I did mean to, I just hadn’t expected to get caught.

 I’ve always been a difficult child you see.

It was right after Momma had given him the watch I’m wearing. I was peeping at them through the cracked bedroom door and I saw her slip it onto his wrist. He kissed her—long and slow and intimate-like. It hurt me to see it. He was always her favorite. Even when I was smaller and tow headed and so cute that people in the streets would stop to admire me. I hate being second. I tried my best to change it by playing sickly all the time and faking nightmares every night so she would stay with me. But that night when she gave him that watch it was clear that she would always put him first.  

I waited until daylight and then begged Daddy to walk me down to the creek so we could skip stones. He didn’t want to go. I think he always knew me better than Momma did—he’d seen the animal remains in my playhouse ages ago—but he took me anyway. The fact that I’m twelve and ninety pounds soaking wet probably had something to do with his bad judgment. He was confident that he could overpower me. He wasn’t the brightest man.

We stood by the water together for a while, not talking, just skipping stone after stone before I took out his gun—the one he kept in his closet under the reindeer sweater he always wore at Christmas and shot him in the back. It only took him a few minutes to die. I stayed and waited with him then I wiped the gun off with my shirt and threw it into the far end of the creek before I ran back to the house. Momma was still asleep when I got there, her arm around his pillow. It was hours before she found dad and days before anyone found the gun.

I’m not sure when Momma realized that I murdered him. I just know that she did because she started to avoid looking at me. I’d hug her and she’d freeze up.  That’s when I knew I’d made a mistake and it was time to put things right. So when I came across the spell that could bring him back I showed her. And then I surprised us both by offering to help her perform it. There was only one difficult thing about it. In order to bring him back to us someone else had to die, someone close to him. I decided right away it should be me. I waited for Momma to argue, but now that she knew who I really was, she never uttered one objection. If anything over the last four days she’s seemed sure my offer was some kind of trick. Twice she called the whole thing off. Twice more I found her standing over me in the middle of the night with a pillow in her hands looking like she might put it over my face and keep it there forever. But each time I managed to talk her down.

Now here we are watching the bats, waiting for Daddy to materialize from their midst. The sun is gone and the bats are directly overhead now, swirling into a giant tornado. We watch, our mouths hanging open. It’s beautiful and awful at the same time. The bat funnel lengthens and then I can see the silhouette of a man peeking out between their wings. The light outside the barn shines just brightly enough to make him visible. His hand reaches out slowly and Momma pushes me towards the bats, her hand firm on my back. I let her, but then when we are close enough to reach out and touch the tips of Daddy’s fingers, I turn quickly, moving around Momma until I’m the one at her back.

 I don’t say goodbye.

 I don’t say anything at all. I just push her into the thing that looks like it could be Daddy’s arms and listen to her scream. Then I run, my feet kicking up dirt as I go. I don’t look back, but I know that the bats are already lifting higher into the air again and Momma’s going with them just like the last page of the spell said she would…the page I never let her see.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker

 Photo courtesy of National Geographic from photographer Jamie Zarza.

You can check out other images via National Geographic's Photo of the Day.






  1. Super creepy and an interesting child narrator who is all kinds of wily! I like! I could definitely see this as a whole book.