El Murciélago

March 3, 2010

A friend of mine, Tim from Indiana, once told me this story. He worked in Mexico years ago, before escaping back to the US for good. I may have embellished the details, but he did admit to me over a beer that he has an unhealthy fear of bats, and yes, he screams like a girl:

On a Wednesday evening in Mexico, with the salt air rolling in from the beaches of nearby Guaymas and the acrid, diesel reek of the heavy trucks and commuter buses mingling with the stench of the nearby landfill, Tim sat alone by the window in his hotel room, channel surfing and thinking about home.

The metal flap of the vent creasing the edge of the big plate window squeaked next to him, eerie, like a mouth gasping the outside air, and he reached over to pull it shut. Stubbornly, it swung open again, clanging loosely in the hot breeze.

He decided to go out for dinner, but as he stood up from the chair he saw something from the corner of his eye, something moving on the faded curtains, there just above his head. A rat, he thought, but no, there was no tail. What the hell? It was alien, with a strange humped back and hooked claws for hands, climbing slowly, awkwardly up the orange fabric. And just as his mind made the unlikely connection “baby dragon,” the thing took to the air and Tim knew: a bat, a fucking bat, right there in his hotel room.

Belatedly, he realized that he should have done something about the loose metal flap, maybe stuffed a towel or pillow in the window vent, but it was too late – there was a bat in his room and his heart leaped out of his chest as the nightmare veered his way.

He jumped up on the bed and screamed like a girl as the bat swirled around his head. It mimicked him with small squeaking noises, looping and swerving in petite barrel rolls, a miniature F-16 from hell. He closed his eyes, terrified, but couldn’t shut out the high-pitched mewling cries of the intruder. But then suddenly, just as he realized he would surely piss his pants in fright, it was gone. No, not gone: hiding. Shit.

He ran to the phone, tried calling the front desk but pushed the wrong number and dialed room service instead. He hung up on the confused voice of the woman in the kitchen. She promptly called him back, “What is you order, sir?”

“Nothing, I don’t want anything, I was trying to call the front desk. There’s a bat in my room.”

There was a long silence, then she tried once more, “What is you order sir?”

The creature took to the air once more and Tim tried in vain to imagine the Spanish word for “bat.” It swirled around his head, and his speech was reduced to frightened woofing sounds as he ducked and dodged the bat. Finally, he managed to yell at the poor woman, still patiently waiting to take his order, “Bat, bat, there’s a fucking bat in my room,” and slammed the phone down just as it dive-bombed him and he lunged for the floor.

Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead as reached up with trembling hands for the phone and punched zero. Endless rings later a girl answered. It was the front desk. “Sir, can I help you sir?”

Tim struggled to keep his voice calm, “There’s a bat in my room.”

“You want room service, sir? Please hold,” and promptly switched his call to the kitchen.

He immediately hung up, but too late: Room Service called him back. “What is you order, sir?”

He hung up on her and called the front desk again, shouting, “THERE IS A BAT IN MY ROOM.”

There was a long silence, then, “Sir?”

Enunciating each word carefully, he said, I NEED HELP. THERE IS A BAT IN MY ROOM.”

“Okay, sir,” and she hung up. What the hell was that?

He heard a scuffling noise on the wall. Something furry brushed against his fingers where they clutched at the nightstand and Tim made a surprised chuffing noise “hnnnnh,” skittering away from the bed, his eyes darting about for sign of the alien intruder.

Just then there was a knock at the hotel door and he thought his heart would stop. He jumped to his feet and ran to the door, jerking it open to find a housekeeper in a light gray uniform. She had heavy features and a squat, compact body; a small black mole sprouted a few wispy gray hairs on her chin and her arms were covered with an alarming carpet of downy black fur. In her chapped brown hands, she held a short stack of bath towels. “Senor, bath towels, senor” she said, and tried to hand him the pile. 

He shook his head. “No, there is a bat, not a BATH, a bat, a BAT!”

She stared at him, uncomprehending, wondering what hell this crazy American was babbling on about, “No entiendo, señor. No hablo inglés,” offering him the towels just as the bat leaped to crazy flight once more. She screamed, and Tim ducked an explosion of bath towels as her hands flew to her face.

He turned and watched, fascinated, as the bat swirled and looped, seemingly out of control but never once striking a wall or tumbling a lamp; it flew with precision, making minute adjustments and alterations of flight that impressed Tim despite his extreme terror.

But just then, the bat sensed the open door and veered towards Tim and the housekeeper. They screamed in unison, her voice a perfect tenor counterpart to Tim’s soprano, and the bat, hearing them at the very bottom of its tone range, veered away a split-second before Tim reached in and slammed the door shut.

The housekeeper scuttled for the concierge phone at the end of the hallway, her pockmarked nylons and starched knee-length gray dress making a weird whiffing sound as she chugged heavily down the hallway. Within moments, three more housekeepers arrived and they all stood together in the hallway, chattering quickly together and motioning at Tim and the door in staccato Spanish, the first housekeeper making fluttering motions with her hands, emulating the erratic flight of the intruder. 

Right then, Tim heard the ding of the elevator and saw the Bellman running down the hallway. The young Mexican grabbed a towel from the scattered pile on the floor and, thus armed, carefully opened the door and crept into the room. The bat sat perched on the bed, waiting, and the Bellman stepped toward it to join battle. It leaped to the air, swirling around his head, and the housekeepers and Tim screamed in unison: a chorus line of terror.

Tim watched as the Bellman swung, missed, swung again and connected. The bat flew through the air like a furry missile, struck the wall and bounced onto the shitty orange carpeting. He quickly threw the towel over it and jumped, a little too eagerly: CRUNCH. Blood and gore spurted, and the tiny thing gave a final squeak and died. “I got it,” he said, in perfect English.

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