I Eat Anything
Roan was looking out his back-bedroom window, like he always did.
He pulled his rocking chair close to the window, like he always did.
But something was different. The air seemed especially agitated in the twilight of this October day.
A brisk wind whirred with a low -- barely audible -- moan.
Roan leaned closer to the first-floor window.
Yes, he confirmed, it sounded like moaning -- but nothing that resembled human utterances. The dusk emitted a mournful tone, much like a wounded animal.
Peering out into the backyard, Roan felt that the dark blue sky draped an electrically-charged blanket over the world that lay in front of him.
The rustling and scratching of fallen leaves seemed slightly amplified.
Roan was 62, but his hearing still rated as acute. The crispness of leaf-scraping sounds almost hurt his ears.
Shaking his head in wonderment, Roan suddenly picked up an odd scent -- musty, with a bitter, vinegar edge.
The night seemed wrong, out of kilter.
As was almost always the case, looking out the back window to the huge backyard was a source of comfort, of stabilization for Roan Chupzinski -- a retired steelworker.
His wife had died three years earlier.
He had no kids.
Lived alone. Silence was the norm.
However, there was an unsettled atmosphere enveloping his meek one-level home.
Peering into a darkened corner of his backyard, Roan thought he saw something move.
Then, a faint crunching noise wafted from that recess of his property that lay near a pine bush.
The nicely-rounded, deep-green bush was tucked against a worn wooden fence.
A shadowy shape was brushing up against the pine branches, which moved ever so slightly.
Roan could tell that much in a yard that received weak light from a couple of houses across the alley, and from a utility pole in the alley -- two houses down.
Roan slowed down his breathing to a quiet rhythm, so as to hear better.
He kept no screen on the window in front of him. An unobstructed view of the backyard was always a priority over the possibility of bugs getting in the house.
He was hoping he would see nothing more in the corner of the yard.
But something lurched forward into better light.
He swore he saw a the glint of an eye and the almost imperceptible flutter of large wings.
One more time they flicked out!
They appeared to be webbed.
Then, ever so slowly, the thing moved forward.
Roan thought the visage resembled the motion of a grounded bat scurrying across the grass.
It seemed to use all four limbs to inch along.
The wings were now folded, and splayed outward, ever so slightly.
They were being used as clumsy legs.
Roan watched in a mixed state of fright and wonderment.
The thing in front of him was about the size of a large dog.
The ears were sizable, erect and pointy.
“My God,” Roan exclaimed to himself. “It’s a bat.”
It was unmistakable to him now.
His senses grew keener. He could make out that snout -- that pig-like snout that bats have … and, AND those pitch-black beady eyes.
The creature stopped moving. Roan could make out a hissing sound.
A few seconds of silence passed.
The chills Roan felt were amazing -- they were horrifying and intoxicating, all at the same time.
The thing dipped its head low, and kept it there … as if trying to hide -- as if trying to make itself smaller.
It hunkered down, but raised its head enough to keep peering at Roan.
Ironically, he had just read about this kind of creature on the Internet -- a huge “walking bat” that lived 15 or 16 million years ago in what is now New Zealand.
That weird mammal scurried about on all four limbs to hunt on the ground of a subtropical rainforest.
Was this animal he saw just a spawn of what he had seen on the computer?
Roan suddenly -- inexplicably -- heard words.
“I eat anything.”
The statement punched the air with a monotone, detached iciness.
Roan was aghast, then dredged up the nerve to speak.
“Who said that?”
He made the query rather meekly, in a quivering voice.
He tried to calmly survey the backyard area, and caught a peripheral view of the stationary thing while scanning the near-lightless autumn scene.
Was it a neighbor who said it? A neighbor fooling around?
Roan glanced to the right, toward the green-leafed bushes along the fence that had basically transformed into scarlet with the changing of the seasons.
Roan’s glance caught nothing.
Then he peered toward the alley beyond the back fence. All that could be heard was the faint clanging of wind chimes on Mrs. Nender’s back porch.
Turning back to the left, Roan tried to keep an eye on that bat -- that huge bat -- that inexplicable living, breathing entity that showed up to spread torment.
However, the nightmare was not in view.
Roan lurched his head completely out the window.
He panicked, yet was relieved. Maybe it had gone. Maybe it was a pure creation of the imagination.
But something bumped against the wall below his window.
He looked down to see the bat that stared up at him.
“I eat anything,” it said.
The mouth enunciated the words like a human being.
Directly in front of the beast was a clump of gray.
It was gray fur, Roan quickly deciphered. Splotches or red were evident.
Then, things crystallized: It was a rabbit -- a rabbit that been torn apart.
“I eat anything," the bat said again.
This time, Roan could see the beast’s moist, slippery mouth.
Crimson glistened around the edges.
Backing away from the window, Roan tried to gather his thoughts.
Physical dizziness was setting in.
Soon, a munching sound could be heard.
It was muffled -- a muffled chewing.
Roan hesitantly looked down.
The bat was there -- head tilted to one side, biting down one of its wings.
It dug in, and dug in some more.
Roan was mesmerized. The scene was akin to a deep, swirling nightmare.
“I eat anything,” said the bat, taking a break from its wing chewing.
“I don’t need them anyway,” it added in a slow, methodical drone.
“Too fat to fly. Too fat to fly,” it intoned, almost mournfully.
No, no -- this was unbelievable!! -- the feeling smacked Roan like a sledgehammer.
He almost wanted to reach down and touch the little monster, just to see if it was real.
The courage to make contact quickly swelled.
He was extending his hand, when it spoke again.
“I eat anything," came the refrain.
The creature returned to the wing, putting mouth to tissue --- tearing, intently grinding.
“I eat anything,” the animal repeated, this time in a muffled tone.
Its mouth was full.