The end of the year on the animal farm now managed by the silent, wily White had always been marked by fanfare. It had always held hopes of better things to come and provided an opportunity for a cleansing of deeds passed. It was a period for animals to hasten to finish their vices, swear never to do them again, and begin the process of failing in the new year.
Farm managers always increased food portions during this period. Yes, animals would binge and throw up, but what better time to indulge in excess than the end of the year, just before drawing up a list of things one would fail to do?
This time, however, White did not increase portions. There was still a shortage of drinking water and animals still had to walk and fly long distances and join long queues to quench their thirst. New rules about how much grain an animal could keep or take out of the farm were made daily and often without notice. No one knew what White was thinking or what long term plans he had for the farm.
While all of this was going on, while the silence of White became louder and louder, down in the northwest of the farm, close to the crocodile swamp, there was a loud group of bats. The bats rarely came to the centre of the farm where animals converged. First, because their way of life was very different. But also because all the other animals despised the bats. The birds swore that bats were not birds like they were and the mammals swore that they would rather die than be classed in the same animal group as the bats.
The bats called themselves flying creatures. But the birds denied this and said the flapping of wings did not qualify to make an animal a flying creature.
"Do you deny us our identity?" The leader of the bats asked the leader of the birds.
"Most certainly," the leader of the birds retorted, "you have the face and lips of a mammal, we have beaks, you hang upside down, we stand straight. You have skin and fur, we have feathers.”
"But the relevant quality is not the manner of flight, but the fact of flight. You fly. We fly. Abi? You are flying creatures. We are flying creatures.”
The leader of the birds spat out each time the leader of the bats spoke.
The bats converged in large numbers and moved from tree to tree looking for fruits, and food. When they did, they sometimes blocked the view of the sun or obstructed the way so that other birds and animals had to wait for them to finish moving. Everyone hated this about the bats. However when the animals moaned about this, they all forgot that they themselves caused similar obstructions when they had celebrations or when they had big intra-species meetings. Cows moved in herds during cow conventions, obstructing roads. Zebras and buffalos did the same. But they did not consider their obstructions as obnoxious as those of the bats. Because they did not consider themselves the same as bats. They did not understand what manner of creatures slept upside down and were neither birds nor mammals.
One day, a farm hand of White, Dick-Tai, was cleaning out one of the barns at the same time as the bats were flying out to feast on ripe mangoes. Dick-Tai hated his original name Dick because, growing up, every animal made fun of him. So he added Tai to the name so it would not sound like a human reproductive organ. At first he shooed some of the bats away and went into the barn but he was so irritated by the bats who would not stop to let him do his job that he went into White’s office, took out a double barrel and came back to fire randomly into the flying bats, killing hundreds of them. He had been waiting for this opportunity to stop them from always interrupting his work and he went into all the ceilings where the bats hid and blocked out all the holes that led in there. Any baby bats he found there he crushed. He took the leader of the bats and smashed him to the ground knowing that a bat, once on the floor, would find it almost impossible to fly by itself.
When White asked Dick-Tai what happened, he said that he was attacked by bats, that he was so overwhelmed by their numbers, that he had to kill them, that he had no choice.
“Even the children?” White thought to ask, but didn’t.
And when people asked White, he said, that was a matter purely for Dick-Tai to handle. He had no business in it.
The animals, while finding the massacre of bats horrific, could not hide their excitement that finally the bats had been stopped from flying in and out of ceilings. Especially the birds who maintained that bats gave all flying creatures a bad name. That, in fact, bats were simply not flying creatures and had no place on the farm.
And Dick-Tai swept away the corpses and continued cleaning the barn like nothing had happened.
And the animals blamed the bats for interfering with the work of Dick-Tai.
And the birds said it was about time bats were halted.
And the cows who had no idea if bats were birds or flying creatures, said that if the birds said they were neither, they didn't know enough to question birds.
And the crocodiles were afraid that perhaps the surviving bats would come back to cause trouble near the swamp.
And the bats cried out as they counted their dead, saying that all they wanted to do was live separately in ceilings and fly out every so often and that Dick-Tai had just used the excuse to wipe them off the farm as some other farm owners had also tried to do with bats on their farms.
And food became harder and harder to get. And water became harder and harder to get.
And all the while, White walked around the farm, observing, hands behind his back, silent.
PS. No animals were harmed in the production of this piece of fiction, except bats, whose deaths no one cares about. And any coincidence to persons living or dead is what it is: a fucking coincidence.