Lamb of God

Sonic the bat hung upside down in the rafters of the stone barn, sinking her claws into the soft wood. She usually only woke at night to eat bugs and explore the sky. During the day, she nestled inside of her folded wings and sleepily listened to the audiobooks the children were plugged into as they completed their chores. Sonic loved hearing the different stories and imagined wild lands while she napped. Her vocabulary and comprehension increased daily.

She was excited by all the new words she was learning, but some of them were confusing. Two, to and too all sound exactly the same when you can’t read! Take the word “prey.” She heard that particular word again and again. She preyed on things. Tasty wiggling things. But this was clearly a different kind of human preying on things. During the human preying, in books and in person, no one seemed to move or hunt anything. Perhaps, mused Sonic, because the humans can’t hear as well as bats, they can’t prey as well, so they just listen very intently.

One night, during early lambing season, when the humans were doing their strange preyless version of preying, she overheard an especially interesting conversation about a ewe named Gladys, who just died. Sonic listened with half of a tufted ear. A teen human explained to the other kids about Gladys. The small children were understandably sad about her death and were concerned about her newborn lambs. They also seemed to be especially sad about Gladys’s soul and how it would get to heaven. The youngest wondered if Gladys wasn’t still technically a lamb of god and welcome in his heavenly flock?

This piqued Sonic’s interest: more flocks meant more delicious mosquitoes attracted to the warmth and carbon dioxide of the flock, but doomed to be thwarted by the thick wool, and thus easy pickings. She listened with both ears. She didn’t know about godly lambs or unearthly flocks but she was more than ready to learn. Pickings had been lean lately.

The older girl comforted the small, sniffling humans. “Sheep,” she began, with a serious expression, ”don’t really have souls.” She then told a story about an important person who died and quickly escaped from his grave inside a stone cave after his people left him there for three days. She called him the Lamb of God. It was hard for Sonic to follow the story but she’d heard the shambling zombie growls from the house TV, and knew dead people rising meant zombies. Zombies of any kind were bad news. TV had taught her that zombies were the mortal enemies of anything with brains.

The human family lifted the body of the ewe into the wheelbarrow and covered her with a blanket. Then, to the bat’s utter shock, they left her there. They’d said the ground was too frozen outside to dig a proper grave yet. It seemed like a super risky choice given what she’d learned earlier about the zombie lambs so she resolved to keep an ear open and her brains safely inside of her head.

On the third frozen night of midnight orphan-lamb feedings, Sonic woke with a sense of dread as a human came clomping in to bottle-feed the little sleeping lambs.

Creeping carefully along her beam, the bat checked the open corner of the barn and thankfully, the ewe’s corpse was gone from the wheelbarrow since the last check. The bat craned her neck and eyed the floor of the big box stall below her. She was just waking up for the night and she muzzily counted ewes: One . . . two . . . three—wait, three?! She was suddenly very awake.

There were now three adult ewes with lambs inside the big box stall behind the latched gate, where before there had been only two! And one of them definitely looked an awful lot like Gladys, the Recently Deceased Ewe.

How deep did they bury her? the bat wondered, frantically reviewing the story from a few nights past. Stone cave or barn—check. Devoted family preying, plenty of mourning, unburied body, three days later—check. Hmm . . .

The extra ewe wasn’t covered in dirt, she wasn’t rotting. And yet . . . she was a dead ringer. Sonic squeaked with uncertainty. The sheep-shaped creature stayed in the far end of the stall as if bound there, standing stiffly in the quietly rustling hay. Sonic considered the effect so much residual preyer would have in the stone crypt of a barn. Was faith truly like the sunshine? Did it soak into a building and radiate its own reality, dictating consequences according to lore? Could you make things happen if you believed hard enough? She didn’t like how the math could add up on that particular problem, she just couldn’t say for sure.

Sonic watched as the human stopped and noticed the ominous extra sheep. He too looked at the empty wheelbarrow. “How deep did they bury her?” he muttered. He swiftly completed the bottle-feeding and carefully backed out of the stall. He shut the gate, thoroughly spooked. He continued backing out and did not turn his back all the way to the big rolling doors, slipping out into the frosty spring night backwards, taking the last slice of light with him into the dark.

Sonic fled the creepy old barn for the frozen night sky.

Accomplished eavesdropper that she was, it didn’t take much time to discover the truth of the zombie sheep from the barnyard gossip. During the commotion of Gladys’s burial, her naughty and adventurous lamb from last year, who looked and smelled the same, had slipped into the big box stall from the field. There, she gave birth to an early and quite unexpected set of tiny twins. She settled them in the corner and refused to leave, protecting her new hay-strewn offspring with stiff legs and a lowered head anytime she was disturbed.

Sonic decided that while zombies might still be real, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.