Dead Bats Everywhere

She is waiting for her father to come home. It’s twilight and the bats are flocking across the sky in huge black clouds. The cool air is stinging her nostrils. The plants are exhaling. He rang earlier to say he was coming back from work and she wanted to tell him to shut up. But she didn’t.

The dust feels delicious, after a day that was too hot to walk across it in bare feet. Now it’s cold and it feels sweet. It’s so powder fine and clean. She walks along the track, looking for bits of agate among the rocks, keeping one ear out for the sound of his car.

The bilbies have come out. Now the light is blue, and she can see the shy little things poking through the grass. Somewhere over there, by the big volcanic plug, there’s a weird bird call, and then nothing.

There shouldn’t be nothing. She should be able to hear the bats screeching in the neighbour’s mango trees, and the parrots settling down. But there is suddenly a sucking vacuum where sound and light used to be. In the darkness on the track, she stops, and twists her feet, nervously. She’s just noticed that none of the lights are on in her house yet. Her mother and little brother are in the house, and they should have turned the lights on by now.

The place hulks in front of her and she realises that she is not safe anymore, out here in the open. She doesn’t want to go into her house. She doesn’t want to go back the way she came, towards the front gate. So she looks at the sky and at the land around her, looking for light. But she can’t see anything.

Finally she turns in the direction of the gate – the gate which is held together by wire and a crow-bar – and waits for her father to come home.

The car eventually comes. It crunches and farts down the track. Her father sees her outlined in the car’s lights. He stops the car and scoops her into it, onto his lap. He doesn’t say anything. They walk up the steps of the house, and find that there are dead bats everywhere.

He hitches her up on his hip. He puts his hand on the front door handle, and twists.

There’s nothing and nobody in the house. She has never seen him this quiet before, this shouty man. He makes them a lemonade in the pitch dark kitchen, and then they sit in the big arm chair on the front veranda. He props the gun he uses for shooting snakes up on his lap. She sits on his lap, and they wait.