Excerpt from High Ground, copyright 2017 by Richard Authier Lee
Sweet coolness surrounded them, though the air had begun to carry the stench of day. They tucked limbs and leathery skin away, each clinging to its place in the layer as others returned one-by-one and settled around and over them. The room echoed shadowy pictures that danced, shimmered and faded as the nightly symphony of chirps and clicks reached its finale.
Three hundred pairs of wings flinched tighter when blinding yellow roar exploded into the chamber, drowning out their sweet nesting sounds with obscene cacophony. Those not securely furled, fluttered in agony. Others chattered and swooped in frenzied, banking turns, flying into the face of the hideous thing. Some tucked in mid-air and dove back into the passageways to hide in terror, trapped between morning sky and screaming yellow light. A few rattled and thumped on the floor until their battered wings lifted them airborne, two rows of bucksaw teeth flashing in fright.
The roaring yellow light hissed, spit searing splinters of glass and fell silent.
A swirling frenzy of bats swept against the door as Margaret jerked it closed, some sailing over her head, out into the house. The smell of burning leather sifted down from the horrifying encrusted overhead fixture. The room breathed against her back and drove the beat of her heart into her throat until she found the banister and stumbled down spiral stairs, sliding over the talus of binders, through the front door and out into daylight.
She was on her on hands and knees in the grass, pale and terrified, gagging on the lingering stench, wiping vile grime from her hands when Esther found her. “My dear—” Esther said tenderly, stooping at her side.
Margaret looked up at her in shock. “My God, Esther, the room—upstairs—”
“The closed room,” she gasped.
“I was—looking for—you.”
“You did not go in?”
“God, Esther—the bats—”
“We must never go in Father’s room,” Esther scolded. “Never ever, Miss Meg.” But Margaret was up and halfway down the walk in a slow, staggering trot, pulling her hands through her hair, tearing off the T-shirt that was now smeared with oily stains. She threw it into the brush, and fled down the garden path, covering herself with her arms when she reached the road and thought for a moment that she saw someone coming the other way, scuffling the shoulder of the road along edge of the black iron fence.