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Chapter 32: A Bat's-Eye View

A night-time adventure leads Saffron to an unsettling discovery
An image of a bat is overlaid with the text "Saffron and Bear" and "Chapter 32: A Bat's-Eye View"

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The heavy heat of summer persisted through August, though near the end of the month, the evenings started to cool. Saffron and her friends fell into the habit of dusky evening walks through the forest to refresh themselves from the heat of the day.

On a particularly clear night, they were lying in a clearing near the edge of the forest watching the stars come out. Sage, who had always loved the night sky, was quietly pointing out constellations to Alistair. Bear was chasing the small insects that buzzed around them, while Saffron closed her eyes and listened to the breeze through the trees, thinking cool thoughts and enjoying the reprieve.

“Oh, look!” Sage exclaimed, and Saffron’s eyes snapped open.

“What is it?” She sat up, a spike of panic fluttering in her heart. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, just look! Bats!”

Saffron followed her sister’s finger to the dark shapes swooping through the sky, only visible as darker patches cutting off the light of the stars from above.

As her heart rate returned to normal, Saffron laid back to watch them, her hands folded behind her head. Bear chattered at the little creatures as they flew above, easily catching the bugs he had only jumped at.

“We’re not far from the bat cave,” Saffron said. “It must be their meal time.”

Though the bat cave was part of her territory and she included it in her protective wards and spells, she was rarely out at the right time of night to see them, and had certainly never seen so many flying together all at once.

“Incredible, aren’t they?” Alistair mused. “How they manage to catch the insects in the pitch black. I wonder how they do it?”

“I bet they have really good eyes,” Sage said. “Just think of all the things they must be able to see.”

“I wonder how it looks to them?”

“Oh,” Saffron said. “You two are brilliant.”

“Obviously,” Sage agreed, “but how so?”

“Hold on.” Saffron closed her eyes and spoke a few words of a spell, putting herself in the mind of one of the bats swooping overhead.

It was much more difficult to adjust to the bat’s view than it had been to the bird she’d tried a few months before. The bat saw everything in sharp detail, but no colour. And she hadn’t been prepared for the sound. The little shrieks and clicks all around her were disorienting.

“They hear differently than us,” she said. Sage and Alistair responded, but she was so disconnected from her own body and her own ears that she didn’t know what they said. “Their vision is great though. This might just do it.”

She planted a suggestion in the bat’s mind and it turned its flight, ducking and weaving through the forest in quick bursts. It was faster than she’d expected, and before long she could make out the sharp corners of the house rising up in the middle of the forest. The bat swooped over it and then around it, into the back.

Saffron pulled the bat’s attention back from the little bugs it wanted to hunt, trying to get it to make a sustained survey of the ground. But it didn’t take long to confirm her hunch: the bat could see what the bird could not. Neat rows of crumbled headstones beneath a layer of soil and all the brambles of the backyard.

She directed the bat closer and saw that there were far fewer brambles than there had been in the spring. In fact, the whole place had been tidied up. What’s worse, the dirt around some of the stones had been disturbed.

Saffron’s stomach churned. What was the Professor up to?

She let her connection to the bat fall away and became aware of her surroundings once again.

“I found it,” she said. “I found the graveyard.”

“You did?” Sage asked. “What did you see?”

“I’m not sure. But it looks like she’s been digging out there. Why would she do that?”

Sage’s lips pressed into a line. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Alistair, are you sure you don’t know anything about it?”

They’d been over this before, but Saffron had to ask again.

“No.” He shook his head. “I knew there was an old cemetery out there, and sometimes my mom would fix it up and plant flowers on a few of the graves, but I never spent time there. No one I had ever met was buried there, so it didn’t interest me much as a kid.”

“Well, whatever she’s up to, I don’t like it. Nothing good can come from messing with a graveyard.”

“We’ll figure it out, Saf,” Sage assured her. “Whatever it is, we’ll stop her. Look, we both know the professor, and no matter what else she may be up to, there are lines that no witch would cross, not even her.”

Saffron hummed her agreement, but she wasn’t so sure any more. It hadn’t occurred to her that the Professor might try to use the crown to raise the dead, but why else would she be digging in a cemetery?

She shivered despite the still-warm air, and Bear rubbed against her, his little body warm and soft. She ran her fingers through his fur, and he nuzzled against her side. At least she could always count on him for reassurance.

For now, all she could do was trust that Sage was right, and work on figuring out what the Professor was doing.

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Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find her on twitter, instagram, and tumblr.