Personally Speaking...

The Bat Incident of July ’16

Have you ever found animals or creatures, that should belong in a gutter or cave, in your house at some point?

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The Internet has opened my eyes, making me aware of the horrific situations other people find themselves in. Even before I was fully exposed to the Internet, I read something that said ‘while you sleep, you’ll swallow 80 spiders in your lifetime’ or something like that.

That made me want to vomit everything I’ve ever eaten and will ever eat. I thought ‘that can’t be true’, because it sounded too damn ludicrous. And a bit scary because when I sleep, my mouth tends to hang open. I’ve tried to not do this, to no avail. The idea of a spider crawling over me, making a bee line for my mouth is nauseating, but I convince myself that our house is not a haven for spiders (it’s more of one for ants).

Most of the “Nope”-type of animal stories seem to originate from Australia. What is with that place? Why is every living thing (except the plants? Including the plants?) so intense? You’ll get a person or family (usually White) that encounters a wild animal somewhere it shouldn’t be (e.g. in their house, in their car), they tell the tale and may end it with “well that was an experience, glad to live to tell the tale LOL”. So nonchalantly.

If that was MY family being interviewed after a wild animal appeared in our house… well, I think my mum would decline to be involved because she wouldn’t want anyone to know what happened. But my sisters and I would be beside ourselves. That will never happen. Maybe it’s best it never does.

But it has. And it has always stayed with me, because it was one of the wildest things to ever happen to us, and in the last place we expected. Months ago, our family was having lunch with my mum’s best friend and her husband. That afternoon, my mum and her friend were talking and I don’t know how but the one time a bat got trapped in our house was brought up. All the heebie jeebies I remember having that evening returned to me instantly. My sisters and I automatically groaned.

July 16th, 2016:

Every year, for the past 4 years, my mum made the pilgrimage to Rotterdam for North Sea Jazz. For four or five days. One day to make it there and relax, three days of festival and one day to rest and prepare to go home. Last year was the same ol’ except this time she was able to bring her best friend along and judging by the pics, they had a great time. We managed to hold down the fort while my mum was away, taking care of the littlest ones (my son and mum’s friend’s daughter).

It was Monday and we were expecting our mothers back in the evening because there was a lot of traffic – it was the Euro 2016 final the night before and France lost (womp womp). It was slowly getting dark outside and I was preparing dinner, working on the gravy. Sister #2 had went off to the bus stop to meet my mum and her friend; they had returned to Croissy. Croissy is the suburb where my family lived when they stayed in France for four years.

From the kitchen door, I could see into the living room and see what was on our large TV, a Nicki Minaj video. I kept my eyes on the living room as I was cooking, then I saw something.

“Aye…” I called to my sister at the dining table. “What is that?”

“What?” Sister #1, called out. She was out of view from where I stood.

“That thing, flying around in the living room.” She didn’t reply to me, she was quiet for approximately three seconds then she screamed. I jumped. Sister #1 ran into the kitchen to cower behind me. “What the hell is that?” I inched closer to the kitchen door to get a better look, but not get too close. It was small, black and flying incredibly fast, in circles around the living room. I left the kitchen because I didn’t think I was seeing what I was really seeing.

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“It’s a bat! It’s a goddamn bat!!” I yelled.

Cue panic mode. Sister #3 came downstairs, confused by the commotion, then she looked up and realised what was going on, then started panicking too. I looked for the little children once I had got myself together, and ushered them to the other living room to sit away from the danger zone. Then I got my son’s multi-coloured blanket and draped it over my head (difficult, as it was the height of summer and European summers are just killer). I crept into the living room to open the large windows near the TV. “If I can just open the windows, maybe it will fly out and leave us the f**k alone.”

But it didn’t; in fact, it started to circle higher up the ceiling. And we were unfortunate because our ceiling in the living room had the height of an extra storey. Not to mention, it was getting dark.

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If there was a fan anywhere in our house, the shit was heading towards it.

My mum, her friend and Sister #2 returned to us, a house in chaos, found the front door open and were shocked by what they found. My mum was not as shocked as she should’ve been, but was taken aback by what seemed to transpire while she was away.

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“Every time I leave the house, some shit has to go down. What demons did these children invite into my house?”

She told us to stop freaking out because the little kids in the other room were starting to get scared. Well, the five year old was; my son was just excited by all the ‘excitement’ he saw, and wasn’t as terrified as his older friend.

After we cooled down and realised that we were wasting time as the sun was rapidly setting outside, we pooled together our efforts to try to get the bat out of the house, but most importantly get it down to a manageable height. At that point, it was really high and tough to reach. We decided to throw things at it, to see if we could knock it out of the air. My mum’s friend was much better at throwing, so we left her to throw corks (we just happened to have a whole vase full of wine corks sitting on the fireplace). I started to worry that all the cork-throwing could leave dents in the upper walls, and honestly we couldn’t have that. This wasn’t our house, we were renting it. The real owners of that maisonette lived in somewhere else in France’s vast hexagonal landmass (must be nice).

All the while we were plotting to defeat the bat, we wondered how it got into the house. We suspected the fireplace, but it was later proven to not be the case when someone looked up the fireplace and just saw blackness. The chimney had never been used and was probably sealed up at the top.

Sister #2 then said, “Oh my gosh, when I was up last night, I saw something. I was coming down the stairs and saw something dark fly towards me.”

“IT FLEW TOWARDS YOU?”

“Yeah! I didn’t think much of it, but I realise now that was the bat.”

“SO WE SLEPT A NIGHT WITH THIS THING IN THE HOUSE?”

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Things got desperate when the bat found a dark corner next to the tall fireplace shaft to settle, and my mum felt compelled to call my grandma all the way in South Africa to ask her to pray for us. The presence of the bat had no explanation and my mum feared that it could be something more sinister. Like an omen of bad things to come, a sign that a dark cloud was hanging over our heads. I don’t want to invalidate how my mum was probably feeling, but I didn’t have the stomach to accept that there could be occult-y things going on.

Finally, a cork hit the bat and it dove to a lower height and with the help of Sister #2’s flashlight, we scared it out of the dark corner. It flew lower and lower, all the while in circles, until it kinda crashed into the window that faced the street. This window had shutters that were never opened.

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I slammed the window and latched it close. The panic was over and all the other windows were closed. I thought about the weird crash landing the bat made into the shuttered window. It was a weird way for a flying thing to fall. Is it dead? I looked out of the window to see it, bracing myself for ugliness, but found nothing.

“Um…it’s gone.”

“What do you mean it’s gone?”

“Like, it’s gone. There’s no bat here.”

“Did it fly out?”

“How could it have? These shutters are never open.” I looked out the window again at the dusty shutters. “And the spaces between the shutters are not big enough for anything that size to squeeze through. It should’ve been trapped here… but it’s gone.”

*cue heavy silence* *the camera zooms out slowly from all of us, as we try to comprehend what just happened* *cue theme song from The X-Files*

Sister #2 documented that whole day on Snapchat. Her Snapchat story for the day started with the obligatory selfies, filtered selfies, filtered selfies of my son looking adorable as a mouse, then a video of our mother trying to swat at the bat with the broom, while we hollered for salvation in the background. A day that descended into mayhem.

“We still don’t know what happened to that bat,” Sister #2 said. My mum nodded and said, “And we haven’t even opened that window since then.”

“Hawu madam, in the four months since?”

“Yes madam!” my mum said, addressing her friend. Her friend’s husband was aloof about it all, thinking we were being melodramatic. We all tried to convince him that it was the creepiest thing that has happened to our family (yet – in this world, you gotta say yet), but he thought it wasn’t that bad. He then mentioned how one time they had gone on holiday somewhere, and the lapa (thatched-roof gazebo) at the resort where they had dinner usually had a lot of bats hanging upside down under the lapa’s roof.

“That’s creepy.” Then he said some bats eat hair. “Didn’t need to know that.” He laughed.

So, that experience was haunting and though I only had scary dreams about flying creatures the night after it happened, I can’t forget it because my brain is an asshole. It was shocking that there are even bats in the Croissy area. All it was to me was a place where wealthy pensioners live in €100 000 apartments (that figure might be slightly inflated), where there is a patisserie that sells everything you expect to find in one, four pharmacies (identifiable by an illuminated, green cross) and lots of shuttered windows. Accounts from my mum and sisters made me see that Croissy sur Seine is more than that.

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More gangster than you think.

Students from my sisters’ school got mugged in a shrubbed passage between houses, where a lot of people go through. Others got mugged elsewhere in the area. While I was at the park with my son, I saw a group of youngsters, at some distance, take out a whole hookah, set it up and proceed to smoke it. DURING THE PEOPLE. And French teenagers are the worst. That’s some special type of rudeness there. And French 20-something guys in coiffed hairstyles walk around, wearing grey tracksuits and Adidas/Puma slips (with or without socks). The ‘F**kboy uniform’, I call it.

If you removed all the trenchcoat-wearing old people and family people pulling trolley bags that have baguettes sticking out of them, you’d think Croissy was a rough area. And it kinda is, because one time, the lamp post outside our house fell into the shrub by the window where the bat disappeared from. It was still on. Days later, the municipality sent some guys to come and take it away, and they left a traffic cone on the hole where the lamp post had once been. A day after we acknowledged the presence of the traffic cone, it was gone.

SOMEONE STOLE THE TRAFFIC CONE.

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This didn’t susprise my mum. She said, “But of course! I would, too.”

“A traffic cone, Mummy.”

“Do you know how much one costs? And what about those triangles you put out when you’ve broken down by the side of the road? Many times, you’ll see the broken down car is still there but the triangle is missing. They’re very important.”

Is this a part of adulting I should take into consideration? Amassing traffic cones/hazard triangles, for the day I might need them? Is this what it means to be grown?

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Where’s a Reversal of Adulthood & Responsibilities application form when you need it?

Looking back on it now, I think my sisters and I could’ve mobilized with more efficiency. Next time there is a home invasion, we should be on our game. Grab all the sharp, bludgeon-y things, make a lot of noise and assert our position as humans.

Nature, I know mankind has done you wrong and you have every right to just take over our cities with thick climbing foliage and your army of Australian nope animals, but spare our family. We recycle, we try not to waste food, we don’t leave the taps dripping, we cried when we heard the Great Barrier Reef was dying. Don’t send enemy combattants, thanx.

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