The cry came from downstairs like before, waking him. It had been so long, he wasn’t sure it was her voice. The bat reached the top of the stairs as he ran into the hall. He was certain it would fly into his face and overcome him, leathery wings wrapping around his head, feet and claws finding purchase in his mouth and nose. Stifling. Suffocating.
It slid silently, without disturbing the air, to the empty bedroom. He yanked the door, closing it inside.
He pulled on jeans, a leather coat, and work gloves. He carried a broom, bucket, and cardboard to the room.
The room was formidable. Immovable. A time capsule of loss.
Eventually he pushed the door and ducked in, making himself small.
The bat was invisible among the trophies, posters, and books. The bat was silent with the music stands and instruments.
“I know you are still here,” he said, opening the windows. The disturbed dust mingled in his vision with the mist rising from the pond in the moonlit yard. His heart fought to race, like running in a weight vest.
He turned from the room, closing the door behind him.
The room stayed like that for months, maybe years. Door closed. Windows open. Rain soaked the curtains. Leaves piled on the floor. Snow warped the bindings of the books. He was sure the bat was still there.
One night he woke to a clear sky. He went to the room. He stood in the moonlight, feeling the bat. The density of its nothingness.
“I know you are still here,” he said. He shook curtains. Toppled books. Pulled trophies from shelves. Stripped the bed.
“Why won’t you leave?”
He sat on the mattress and buried his face in his hands. For the first time, he smelled the dusty comforter. The mildewed curtains. The yellowed books. The oxidized trophies.
When he opened his eyes, the bat was on the floor at his feet. The bat was the size of a fist and the color of empty spaces.
“Let me help you,” he said. He covered the bat with the bucket, slid the cardboard underneath, and walked to the window. He tipped the bucket and watched the bat fly, noiseless, over the pond. He closed the windows and stepped into the hallway.
“Is it gone?” his wife called from downstairs.
“Did you kill it?”
“I let it go.”