Espy the Bat: A Fable
Espy found her way around the cave the same way all the other bats, by feeling vibrations, smelling and by listening to vocal cues from the elders.
Tynonsee was not a democracy, it was a monarchy ruled by King Tragga. He was a powerful King who inspired great loyalty among his subjects. He was strong and charismatic. He surrounded himself with protectors chosen from the elders of the cave. The elders gave specific vocal cues to all the King’s subjects.
King Tragga’s also sent out cues, though they were rare. The entire colony lived to hear his. Tragga’s cues were as if rays of music were sweeping throughout the cave. They made everything right it seemed. They had a far greater reach than anyone else. All the inhabitants of Tynonsee cave dangled from the tips of his musical cues.
Espy was taught to fear being outside of the cave.
The leaders taught everyone that the outside world was cold, brutal and full of creatures who only wanted to kill them, destroy Tynonsee cave and kill King Tragga. Groups like the Cy-Sphinx bats; they ate their young and only cared about finding more young bats to devour. Unlike the bats in Tynonsee cave who cared about expanding their great and wonderful colony by having more offspring and raising them to be strong and mighty.
Espy had no need to go outside of the cave. Everything she wanted or needed was all there. It was full of her friends and family and food was gathered by the elder, male bats, which flew out to hunt at night.
But in her heart she secretly wanted to go hunting with the elders. Late at night when the colony was swarming around, Espy would break out of the swarm and fly near the door to the cave so she could listen to the elders talk about where they were going to hunt. Espy wasn’t allowed to do this. She wasn’t allowed to leave her roost unless beckoned by a leader, and she was most definitely not to go anywhere near the main entrance of the cave. Espy knew it was too dangerous because the elders would always tell everyone to stay away from the opening of the cave; it wasn't safe to be so close to the outside world. The elders would tell them, "I heard the Aumouratic Bats hate us. They want our cave to fall in and kill us all." which made Espy fine with just staying in her nice safe cave with her nice safe family and friends.
Tynonsee cave had many rules, everyone obeyed them without question. The rules made living in the cave harmonious. Rule breakers were cast out into the dangerous world, away from the colony and away from the protection of the King, elders and leaders. And no one wanted that.
As Espy grew older she became restless. As she grew older, the cold of the cave started to settle deep in her bones. She started to feel claustrophobic, but she didn’t understand the feeling. She just felt something was off. Having never been allowed to even fly near the opening of the cave, she didn’t know what she was missing but she knew she was missing something.
Espy liked to ask questions but no one liked to answer them. She felt strangled the rules, wanted to understand but when she asked the Elders were dismissive of a young bat. “Dear, this is all for your protection. If you rebel against the authority than you will be out from under our protection and you don’t want that.” They would tell her.
“But why do the elders get to drink from a clean pool in this very cave but we can’t?” She would ask to the shock of the other bats around her.
“Why do only the elders get to go hunt but I can’t even fly near the opening? Why can’t we go and hunt ourselves?”
Her questions were always met with condescension, ”Don’t you worry about that young lady, hunting is no place for a girl. Just stick to the swarm patterns we have guided you on and taught you and you will be fine. Let us take care of you. Let us protect you.
One day King Tragga had the Elders and protectors send out sounds beckoning the entire colony to assemble at Raze Rock. He wanted them all to see his challenge of Raze Rock.
When the king was growing up in the cave, he heard tales of this dangerous place. The stories of other leaders who dared to dance upon the edge of this towering rock, high above the other bats, the stories had horrified and fascinated him.
Only Kings were permitted to fly into the narrow passage that lead up to the top of Raze Rock. From the floor of the cave you couldn’t see the top. To get to the peak you had to enter a small opening at the base and fly up through a passage that was narrow and became wider the higher up it went. It twisted upward like a snake. The passage was filled with voices that echoed from the walls and warned of danger ahead. The words of warning always sang out, day and night in an attempt to warn anyone who might think they were the exception, warnings for any king who thought he could master the rock.
The passage was very hard to navigate without hurting yourself until you reached about 100 feet up then it had an updraft that helped propel you higher. It became easy to navigate and suddenly it was smooth sailing to the top. At that height, you couldn’t hear the voices of warning, only quiet echoes of kings from the past, they were saying something, but the rush of the updraft kept you from being able to distinguish the words.
Tragga was sure that he would conquer Raze Rock. He had been very convincing when he talked about his training, his study of the interior of the rock so all of the elders and protectors cheered him on as he approached the opening. The colony swarmed around in great excitement.
Tragga entered the cave and he heard the warnings but he was sure he knew better. He flew higher and higher, he felt the thrill of danger and adventure. As the path started to widen he began to feel the updraft, the flight started to feel easier. The voices faded to a murmur. When he reached the peak the draft disappeared and in its place was a dense, tight fog that carried with it a heavy gravitational pull. That was why bats couldn’t fly there. That was why others had taken the time to sing warnings throughout the walls, they had seen Kings rise up to the zenith, dance upon the cliff and then be destroyed.
But the temptation was too great for Tragga. He had to show his subjects he was not like the other kings; he could indeed dance on the edge and not be taken down by the fog.
As he stood there high and lifted up, looking down on all of the bats. He smiled and laughed and he flapped his wings in a dance of arrogance and pride, daring gravity to have its way with him. And as he basked in his glory, and the colony heard him dancing and laughing, they were in awe of how great their king was. The fog slowly creped in around his feet, but he didn’t feel it, he was too busy dancing in blind arrogance.
The fog seized the opportunity given to it by the King, acting as if he could not fall, and it surrounded him, choked him. His laughter turned to screeches as he lost his footing and fell off the precipice.
Down, down, down he fell, the heavy fog making it impossible to span his wings until it was too late. He smashed into the jagged floor of the cave.
The entire colony gasps when they heard his cries of pain Oh how he cried. Oh how long he cried.
The colony was sad. But they also felt he should not have dared the fog like he did. They felt these things about their king but would never say them out loud. That was forbidden. Tragga was the anointed king of Tynonsee cave and speaking against an anointed king was forbidden.
No matter why it happened, the bats now only wanted healing for the king. The healers gave the King medication and told him he should not dare Raze Rock again and he must rest so he could recover completely. But Tragga would not rest. His pride told him the bats would not know how to live without their great king hovering over them and giving vocal cues. So the king sent out his protectors and told them to tell everyone he was healed and for them to pave the way for him to resume leading the colony. The protectors did as instructed and the King resumed leading his bats and longing to return to Raze Rock.
Espy and others went back to listening for the vocal cues and living life as before. But as they did, they started to feel something different in the air. There was a new chill in the cave now, unlike before. Most of the colony brushed off the chill and kept going; others paused and considered this new sensation but then continued on their way.
One day the new chill stopped Espy midflight, she held out her wings and felt it, for the first time she stopped and considered it and then she wrapped her arms around it and embraced it. Inside her grasp, near her heart she felt as if she would burst, she opened her wings and felt as if this chill could wake the sun from the darkness.
As Espy hovered with her wings open, tears welled behind her closed eyes. She had no idea what was happening because she’d never felt tears before. The feelings in her heart and the water in her eyes confused her. As her closed eyelids started to fill up, the pressure forced them open slowly and this hurt terribly but it was unavoidable.
Suddenly she could see. They were not blind.
Espy was overwhelmed. She saw other bats for the first time. She saw that she wasn’t the only bat experiencing this, A few other bats in the colony did the same. Once they embraced the chill, they realized it had been there all along. And the few others whose eyes were open did not understand what they were seeing either. It was blurry at first but slowly things came into focus.
Espy continued to hover; she felt she could not move from that spot. The rest of the colony continued to swarm, paying no attention to those like Espy who were hovering with eyes open. Once Espy’s eyes had adjusted she saw her friend Sapient hovering nearby, crying and seeing. They flew to each other and embraced. They looked at each other in wonder. They were so happy to see each other and yet they were so afraid.
After some time Sapient spoke, "What shall we do now my friend?" She asks Espy.
Espy could not answer all she could do was cry and look around the cave, seeing with eyes for the first time was quite overwhelming. And crying. Crying was painful. It hurt her eyes while at the same time it was relieving pressure inside.
Sapient grabbed Espy’s wing and they flew toward the entrance of the cave. Espy looked at her friend through tears, knowing, fearful, and excited. "Espy, there!" Sapient yelled and pointed.. Espy saw it, she let go of Sapient's wing, and they flew side by side, together, faster, toward the light streaming in through the awe inspiring opening to the cave. The air was soothing yet shard as they flew, getting closer. The lucent moon lit the way.
At last, they were hovering just near the opening. Wonderment took them as they found that always feared place, the forbidden passage to the outside world to be so beautiful. They could see the moon! The moon! The shiny stone all around them reflected the light in several directions. "How is this real?" The girls thought. They were quite overwhelmed. Tears flowed from their eyes like Cadaracts from a mountain.
Not long after, Espy and Sapient left Tynonsee along with some of the other Now Seeing Bats.
Sapient and Espy were amazed at how well they could see in darkness. It was as if they were born to wake fully and see the best when the night was darkest. They wondered why King Tragga and the elders had told them they were blind and why the bats of Tynonsee cave never tried to open their eyes.
They discovered there was a big world outside of the cave, full of all kinds of bats who weren't all out to kill or destroy the bats of Tynonsee cave as they had been told. They became friends with many of them and heard about the lives of different bats, they learned how they all hunted together at night using their gift of being able to see in the dark. While most other creatures were sleeping, they were awake and hunting, mating, and living life. The darkness was not a place to fear for bats, it was a place to thrive. They ruled the night it did not rule them.
Over time, Espy and Sapient found safety and peace in different caves. Espy found a beautiful cave made up of mostly open-eyed bats, and there she set up house. Nevertheless, even there, she found bats that never opened their eyes.
What is it with bats not opening their eyes? She wondered.
She would ask these bats, "Why are your eyes closed?"
And they would always reply, "Because I'm blind. All bats are blind so why open my eyes?"
"Not only are you not blind but you have the gift of seeing in the dark so you should open your eyes."
And some of them would go through the process of opening their eyes and seeing for the first time. It was both beautiful and painful to watch this experience. Espy remembered all too well how much it hurt the first time she opened her eyes and she also remembered how painful seeing for the first time had been.. Nevertheless, she knew that once you see, well, there was no going back because once you get past the pain and the shock, seeing exposed the world to you and showed you all the beauty you had missed with your eyes closed.
Sometime when she would happen upon a bat with their eyes closed, and she would tell them they could see if they opened their eyes, the bat wouldn't listen or they would tell her she was wrong. This always puzzled her. She would try to convince them by telling them her story and how great it was to see in the dark but to no avail. Espy was sad for them she didn’t understand why they didn't want to learn how to live seeing, why they denied it was real and refused to open their eyes.
Nonetheless, Espy and her family liked their new cave and the colony they were a part of now. There was a leader in this new cave but he wasn't one to give vocal cues or send out protectors to do his bidding. His name was Rector. He was a kind ruler. He would fly around the cave visiting with everyone, talking to young and old, Seeing Bats and those with their eyes closed, all equally.
Espy liked this king; he had been one of the bats in Tynonsee cave and had opened his eyes not long after she did. Espy trusted Rector and she called him a friend.
One day Espy heard a familiar sound, it was a vocal cue and it was coming from Rector. She questioned the protectors, now Rector had many protectors “why is Rector using vocal cues?” They explained to her that this was the only way to lead the growing population of bats who refused to open their eyes. The colony was now full of them.
Espy was disturbed by this but she trusted Rector so she put it out of her mind. Then one day she flew into a bat that had his eyes shut and was flying toward the sounds of Rector’s cues.
“Why are your eyes shut? You can see if you only open them.” She was agitated, he interrupted her,
“What are you saying? Why are you distracting me from my flight? I want to hear what the Rector is saying!” The bat replied, as he hardly slowed..
“I am saying that you can see if you open your eyes.”
“What do mean ‘see’? He asked, now having come to a complete stop and joining Espy on the cave wall.
“I’ve heard others talk about you seeing bats, from what I hear, it sounds like a lot of work.”
“Well it is work at first, but your eyes, if you open them you can see your way around the cave, not just feel your way or have to listen to the vocal cues of the Rector and the Protectors. You, yourself, could see where the food is, where the dangerous rocks are, you could see your friends and your family. You can see the bright light of the moon stabbing through the night and streaming through the opening of the cave. It’s beautiful to see, the world is beautiful.” Espy replied.
Espy looked toward the cave opening observing the moonlight. It was inconceivable without sight. The splendor of it made her eyes widen. “If you saw this moonlight..” She was saying just as he interrupted her.
“So, I understand you to say that I can open my eyes and see but what are the advantages of seeing?” The bat asked.
“I just told you the advantages of seeing. Just open your eyes, it’s painful at first, mine were opened when I started crying which is a very strange, it’s water, under your eyelids, that comes from your heart when it’s so full of feelings, the feelings turn into water and break open shut eyes.”
“Well that sounds awful! Water in my eyes? Breaking open my eyelids? I can’t imagine wanting that to happen.” He said as he turned away from her..
“But don’t you see the pain is worth it? The pain leads to being able to see.” Espy yelled after him.
“And what good has seeing done for you Espy?” He was annoyed at her assertion that he was missing something. He hovered by her, “You can see bats that don’t see you? I would rather stick with what I know. This is easy, I know my way toward Rector simply out of habit. I do not wish to learn how to live seeing as you describe it. Stop trying to make everyone like you Espy.” He said and then he flew away.
Espy clung to the wall of the cave and thought about all he’d said. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was being too pushy. Maybe the bats that chose not to open their eyes were just as happy as she was.
Before long she found that compliance was easier. She settled into the contentment and unity of colony life. Swarming, mating, hunting and she was happy.
The moon rose high and broke the darkness, beckoning nocturnal life to rise and meet the night. Espy fluttered then spanned her wings for a good stretch. In her half awake, half-asleep state of mind, she heard vocal cues coming from the elders and before she knew it she was flying toward it with her eyes shut..
She spent the entire night flying down familiar paths and following the voice of Rector. Her family followed and they rested in the comfort of not seeing. It was easy.
As the dawn approached, Espy opened her eyes and thought to herself, "Why did I ever think I needed to see? What is the difference? Life is the same no matter if I live it seeing in the dark or following a trusted leader. I can remember the moonlight pouring in the doorway; I don't need to see it."
And on this day that Espy closed her eyes again for many moons..
One cold night Rector decided he wanted to show his strength and dare gravity by dancing on the ledge of his caves highest rocks. He decided he was going to dance on the ledge of Apprentice Rock.
Apprentice Rock wasn't the same as Raze Rock, which is why Rector thought he could master it. There was no winding path to the top, only a ladder carved into the side. The ladder had a magnetic pull to it, Bats could not fly up it, they had to climb it.
Rector built the ladder himself and since he was the architect, he believed he could master it. He also knew his protectors would catch him if he fell. They’d told him they would. Rector had caught many of them as they tried to climb Apprentice Rock and stopped them from hitting the floor of the cave. He also knew they thought of him as a father and would never let him fall to the ground.
Rector started to climb up, up, up he went. It was very difficult at first but eventually the climbing was easier than flying. He felt good, alive, vibrant and young again.
He made it to the top in no time. The air was thick. The magnetic pull gave him a feeling of safety. He believed it would hold him on the rock and when he was ready, he could just climb back down the stairs. He could hear the protectors, elders and the rest of the colony small and far below him. He puffed his chest out and started to dance. The darkness surrounded him; he danced farther away from the magnetic center and closer to the edge. Suddenly he slipped off the cliff, his wings paralyzed from the magnetic pull, he could not fly, and he crashed to the ground. His protectors tried to break his fall but they could not. He crashed to the ground, breaking at the feet of his people. They wept at the sight of their foolish broken king.
The elders picked him up and flew him back to his roost.
Over the next few days Espy noticed she did not hear the king sending out vocal cues and she started to hear whispers of just how severely broken the king was. She would see the protectors and the elders huddled in corners, whispering and fretting.
And Espy again felt the chill in the air.
She remembered the moonlight streaming into the opening of the cave, she remembered freedom. Her eyes filled with tears and again, they were opened. A chill quickened her. She saw the moon pouring into the cave from outside. She saw her family and all who dwelled in the cave; they all had their eyes closed. And she wept as she opened her wings to embrace the chill.
She wept for having closed her eyes so long. She wept for her children’s closed eyes and she wept because she knew that she had been a part of Rector's breaking because she didn't help him stay seeing. She had only enabled him to become the blind leading the blind.
The protectors saw her crying, ran toward her, and bade her hush. They started encouraging the other bats to follow their vocal cues and they told everyone in the colony that Rector was fine and would be going to another cave to recover completely.
Espy was disgusted; how could she have allowed herself be lulled back into a mental slumber? She flew out of the cave and sought out her friend Sapient.
“How could this happen again Sapient? Why did I allow my eyes to close again as if I were blind? How could I forget the gift of seeing in the dark?”
Sapient wrapped her wings around her friend and they wept together. “I too had closed my eyes again” said Sapient. "It's just so easy to do. My cave has a leader and all caves have leaders or rulers and some of them rather us live as if we are blind and they lead us to believe we are blind. Seeing in the dark is a gift but it is also not an easy path to fly. I find that many of our fellow bats would rather the easy path.”
Sapient's heart was broke, she wept with Espy and the tears from their open eyes poured down into the cracks in their broken hearts. The tears filled the breaks, cleaned them and just as the tears pushed open their eyes, the tears also pushed open their hearts and made them bigger.
Espy turned toward the moon and began to fly.
"Fly and find your way my friend" Sapient yelled, tears in her eyes, disillusionment in her heart. She knew it would be a long time before she saw Espy again. She prayed for her safety but then she remembered how dangerous safety was, how being comfortable in a safe place had denied both of them sight not once but twice.
No, it wasn't safety Espy needed now, it was freedom. It was the night air.
Sapient called after her friend, "Never forget Espy, you are not blind! In the darkness is where we thrive! Never look back. Own the night my friend!”
And Espy flew into the moonlight, her family close behind her, gliding and hunting and exploring the extraordinary world with their eyes wide open.