Black Spirit of Youth ’96 – BAT Church, Kentucky


by Brandon Lee

“There we are … Bats — in that church,” my friend pointed from the tracks. We were going down there to smoke pot and catch crook-backed leopard frogs, their skin so green gleaming slime wetness and transparent film glossed upper lids of their eyes as light wind whistles a sound, our ears referencing their evening’s chatter.

When we are coming the frogs sit tightly into edgeways at the guttural spring running under the track. When Charles drops his shoe down they jump “Erp”– skid across water frogplume of mud-mixed rocks like mortar shells hitting in Nam. The water FLOOM!! With murky musk shadow of dirt spring-bombed green into cool mud earth hidden behind their watery froglids and the water settles but we couldn’t catch a one. Charles got angry until I told him to pretend he was a great outlaw, John Wilkes Booth, placing Abraham Lincoln’s head on the tracks for the oncoming train. 

We went to explore the church of bats after that — creaking the door back for thin lines of light beaming back into us. EEEEERRRRRR church doors and dust-allergy swirls against window mosaic sun drags windy bloom of cob-web and old pews wooden statues to the eyes, rowing for rows staring each arm edge down the maroon carpet to the pulpit lit up with chandellian lighting … and a huge cross glaring and the screech of the bats move one ick ick muffling with a faint air cutting flap drawn to docking upside down in dark top attic corners.

We go to seek them out the stairway, 5 steps and a corner turn to more bat-rustling behind the next dingy painted door. Ick Ick flaps aloof and light bite one necks another. The attic is dark and one peers in an eye but just threatening shadow noises, like 15 or 20 bats shadowing each other — part darkness part figure — collection of bats drawn together as one breathing shadow pitched entity — lone solitude burns black aura but they know — their silent hangings … and one rustles to let the light go back out from the stairs burning back into their tight beaded consciousness of night irises and moves a fang back from the drooly gums and the door closes back.

“How many of them do you think there are?” says Charles, sweat beaded.

I aim to peer back in, reaching for the handle where paint flits white chipped front and green backed to the wood floor, and open the door full blast sheering light like knives on to the bats and all eyes attune. Hundreds of bat eyes just lined to the door filed narrow at me and my friend Charlie against the wood lacquered with dust in its orange brown old.

The 200-eyed spider sits adorning its holy calculation … tiny fingers postures a wing and fixes itself when Hearts echo through the wood floor creaking twinge of fear and rustles another bat and they all move like water pools up at a fingertip but black and shadowy .. liquid black takes a face when the first falls loose to drag a blood Charlie churchless from his smells.

Charlie is on the floor with 8 or 9 bats gnawing as he kicks and smashes an old bat with gray in the tuft of its skull into the wood. It squeaks a bloody shimmer on the brown orange swathed death crimson, and he is screaming “piece of shit piece of shit!” kicking bats off him and ick ick bat biting blood poisons over his legs and arms they gnaw in defleshing with bloated bellies and snarl abnormally with blood clumps flaring their eyes out.

I wrestle a series of bats off my right arm with a webbed lamp and they grow more violent in flurries— bats descending from the dark rafters unseen biting through the hair of my scalp. I feel it go in and cuss out hysterical Fuck Yous! in the church smashing the lamp and a bat and crunching bats at my feet the way a small skull sounds under a shoe and do 6 more bats running to Charlie, all gnawed and chewed with bats bingeing up to his wrist for the worth of his blood in the Baptist church. We scream and jump up kicking bats and I drag his arm through the hingey door, creaking it back slammed as he smears a bat from his shoe. Blood trails from our foreheads and we run home, sweating thick fears of rabies and holding our wounds.