Light fluttered around her, like rustling wings against her eyelids. Piercing pinks and yellows pushed through her sleep and roused her. Around her, tiny wings stretched and took flight. Coral rubbed her eyes. The setting sun shimmered through the trees and her stomach grumbled. She imagined what lovely treats she might find tonight, a small mouse, a sparrow perhaps. Like all little ones, she craved sweets.
Her little family was dispersing from their roosts, and the branch she was sleeping on had only a few tiny claws left. She peeked her head down under the branch to see who was still there with her. There was Cherry, the pale little bat she had found hungry and small. The bat she had fed and carried around her neck. Now little Cherry never left alone. Beside Cherry, there was grand Honey who was just stretching her strong wings. From before she could remember, there was Honey who brought her tiny birds to eat, her first tastes of sweets. Though Honey moved slower now, Coral still watched in adoration as she dropped into the air and lifted like a glowing flower into the sunset.
It was time too for Coral to head out and find food. She hung her legs down and dropped from the tree to the soft snow below. She tried to spread her wings to fly, like Honey, but her wings were still too small to lift her. In time, they would grow like the other bats, she was sure, as her ears had done, but for now she walked upright and strange. Cherry watched her for a moment, walking out of the stand of trees, then she too followed in search of sweets.
Coral walked along the water. Tall grass gilded in light brushed against her legs. The sun glimmered a last few pinks through the trees and then let the darkness take its place. She could remember a time the darkness terrified her, but now it comforted. There was a time she stumbled on stones and cut her knees in blindness, but her ears had grown slowly, delicately unfurling to reveal the symphony of echoes as she hummed her way through the night. Around her the crickets and tree frogs chirped; the bats swooped and sang. She hummed through the darkness, ears perked for possible treats.
She almost didn't notice the strange thing left beside a fallen tree. She crouched down beside it. The thing was square, made of thin little sticks woven together and when she opened it, she found it filled with treasures she almost recognized. Something tickled at the back of her memory; words that no longer meant anything to her tumbled through her mind like bells - forks, picnic, mom, dress, Caroline, home - all of them little jewels that shined when she looked at them but like all trinkets, meaningless.
At the bottom of the box, she found a soft fur. She pulled it from its box and rubbed it against her cheek. Again, a tickle in the back of her mind stirred; this time more insistently. Coral saw a room, with something like this fur stretched out beneath her as she played. There were others there, like her but bigger, grander, without ears or wings or tails. They were with her in that strange place. Then they weren’t. She remembered a hand that didn’t move, an eye that wouldn’t open.
A feeling darker than the night bloomed up inside her, a painful inability to breath as her stomach knotted. The suddenness of isolation struck her with the full force of grief. She dropped the blanket, her just-starting-wings unfurled as though she might suddenly fly away into the night. Cherry cooed to her, through a mouthful of delicate wings and swooped down to wrap herself on Coral’s chest. Then the pain was gone.
A moment ago she had almost been a creature from long ago, but not now. Now she was Coral; now she was a winged thing that played in the night. She heard the tinkling songs of the other bats in the trees as they hunted for sweets themselves. She picked the fur back up and carried it away, the basket forgotten. The moon was rising.