I thought I was brave.
Note: I’m writing this on Monday the 29th, which is why I’m still at home.
The majority of my readers live in America. Being in America, especially regular, middle class America, means that we have little true experiences with things we routinely put our characters through, like getting beat up, stabbed, kidnapped, creeping along dark hallways and shot. As such, we need to put the few experiences we have together in order to piece a coherent picture of what Jane feels when she is kidnapped and held for ransom.
Or we end up experiencing them.
Now, I am not saying that the story I’m about to tell you in any way resembles what a kidnapped victim would feel as they return to the scene of their assault. Or that it compares to any major trauma, even if the police did get involved. This is a small, small fraction of what these people would feel like and, based on this recent experience, I don’t think we can ever communicate how that would feel realistically enough to fool someone who was in that situation.
That being said, here’s the situation where I proved that I am not as brave as I thought I was.
See, I always thought I was brave in emergencies and level headed. After all, when the tissue box caught on fire, or the french bread wrapper, I knew what to do. (At my house, we have somehow caught a boiling pot of water on fire on an electric stove. Even the firemen say that is impossible. So don’t ask me what happened there.) I always imagine that if a plane crashed, I would be one of the 10% of people who would be able to pick her way among the wreckage, help passengers who are panicking and get my mom out (she’s legally blind) without breaking down until we are safe. I thought I would make a good ER nurse, just because I am that kind of person who can tell myself to think, stop panicking, and my mind usually listens.
Now, the other bit you need to understand in this story is that we live in South Dakota, in a 100 year old house, and a typically thing that happens during August is that bats get into the said house. No, none of us have had rabies shots just because a bat is in our house. They aren’t rabid. They just want a warm place to stay and see the brightness and so they wander in. Then they can’t find their way out. My brothers and dad hit them with a tennis racket and either kill them or stun them enough to bring them outside. We average about two a year.
The important thing to understand from that is it is my dad and brothers. I am rarely involved in this. It began first because I worked while the bats were in our house, and then my dad’s fear of bats began to hurt me so that I was slightly timid of bats. I still teased my sister for her fear of bats, and would tell her that the bats were dancing in her bed, passing around a coke bottle.
Then came the day when my dads and brothers were both out of town, and I saw the bat.
I thought I could do anything I set my mind to. But bats are fast. They zoom and zip and disappear and reappear, all without making a noise. Moreover, I’m thinking about my sister, who is freaking out behind me, and my mom, and I’m terrified that the bat is going to sneak up on me or something. I don’t know what. But I didn’t want my back uncovered. Meanwhile, it’s dancing through our TV room, dining room, kitchen and living room.
To make a incoherent story short, my sister got escorted to the bathroom to hid; I made it to the kitchen, trying to pull up my courage. And while I’m waiting for the bat to come back into the kitchen, and yet ducking every time it comes so I never have a chance to hit it, a bat (I now think it is the asme bat but at that moment, I was thinking it was either #2 or #3.) comes up from the basement stairs and is about 6 inches to a foot from me.
At that moment, I lose it. I sink against the refrigerator and begin sobbing, saying that I can’t do it, I just can’t. (Basically praying, because I don’t know what else to do at this moment.) My mom, since she can’t see the bat and isn’t afraid of them, led me outside.
Here’s where the fear begins.
I stayed outside for almost an hour, holding a dog, and crying quietly. I saw everything that moved (including a bat) and would occasionally jump when I thought I saw a shadow that could or could not be a bat. I’d pace, or sit on the trampoline, and just wait. I would not go back inside, even when my mom told me that she locked a bat in the bedroom and there weren’t any others that she could see. (I said she’s blind (in love) and still refused to go in.)
We called the police to kill the bat, which he did. I could hear him upstairs, smacking and smacking. My hyperactive imagination told me my mom really locked three bats in the room, and I could just see him dancing around, trying to hit the bats swarming in our house. I couldn’t handle that sound and walked away.
When I came back, my mom said that the cop had killed the one, and saw none others. I still refused to go inside. I KNEW there to be more than one bat in the house and the idea of walking into the house, just to have the bat swoop across the house towards me, scared me terribly. I refused to go back into the house again until my brothers and dad showed up, finally, at around 11:30, a good three hours after the initial bat sighting. When the bugs touched me outside, I jumped.
Even when I walked into the brightly lit house, my skin crawled. I was almost about to cry, again. I forced myself to make coffee, because at least that would give me something to do. Even as I sat in the dining room, I would jump if I saw a fly that might happen to be a bat. I made my mom go upstairs to check on the bat situation, and then stayed in my bedroom for the rest of the night.
The next night, my arms were shaking with fear as sunset and the time of bats waking neared. (My arms shake when my body is stressed. Not visibly but that’s what it feels like.) I escaped and felt victorious when I made it out. When I came back home around ten, I both looked inside the house to see if there was a bat, and demanded confirmation that there were no bats. However, I still felt like something was watching me as I walked around our dining room, and spent as little time as I could there, escaping into the TV room as soon as I could.
TV distracted me against the idea of bats coming out, but as soon as the show was over, I was back to worrying about bats. I got ready for bed quickly, my dad checked the upstairs against bats, and I ran to bed.
Sunday, I escaped again to Walmart this time and did some needed shopping for college. I did ask about bats but I managed to walk into my house without feeling like something crawled over my skin. I even read until almost midnight. However, my dog, who thinks that bats are giant frisbees and plays catch with them, started barking in the basement. That scared me enough I ran upstairs, though this time without someone. And back downstairs because I forgot something. (Turned out my dad was in his basement office and that scared the dog.)
Monday, I didn’t leave. I’m still a little nervous. I keep glancing into the dining room to see if a bat has come out. I think I could stay in my TV seat if one did, but I don’t really want to try. (GOT THAT, BATS!) I also feel like something is watching me as I move through the dining room. But I am doing better.
I can’t imagine what I’d be like if something really traumatic actually happened, like I was attacked, because that what it feels like the bats did to me. I never thought I’d be that pathetically scared over a dumb little hamsters with wings, so to tell you all this is very humiliating. However, I think now I have a glimmer about how to create fear into a character, and maybe this will help you too.