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Carie Juettner was born on Halloween and grew up with ghost stories and Twilight Zone episodes. She is a poet, short story author, and middle grade novelist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nature Futures, Havok Magazine, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and Spark: A Creative Anthology, among other places. Her poetry chapbook, Death Can't Sleep, recently won the Yellow Chair Review Chapbook Competition and will be published in 2017. Carie lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and pets. When she's not writing, she's teaching 7th graders, reading a book, or observing the wildlife in her neighborhood. To learn more about Carie, visit cariejuettner.com.

Barbara stretched her neck and hit her head on the edge of her plastic chair. "Ow." Hiding under her desk had been more fun in elementary school, before she grew. Back then she could pretend she was in a Terrorist Alert Lookout Post or trying to escape a prison cell on a Great Atlantic pirate ship. Of course the drills were scarier back then, too. These days they were so common it was hard to take them seriously. Even the teachers couldn't muster up much real earnestness. They usually taught straight through them. Right now, Mrs. Link was launching quiz questions about their history lesson on the Age of Global Warming from her own spot of safety beneath her large desk. Or relative safety anyway. While the raids were frequent and sometimes long lasting, they had yet to penetrate the building, so there was still no real way of knowing whether or not three-fourth's of an inch of fake wood would really protect anyone.
"What year did the final glacier melt?" Mrs. Link called out. "And no reaching on top of your desks for your e-slates! I'll hear you!"
"2096!" A voice answered. Aaron, of course. He always knew everything.
"Right! And who can give me three effects of the global climate shift? Rob? How about you?"
"Um..." came a squeaky voice from Barbara's left. "Hurricanes became more frequent, the Adelie penguins went extinct, and, um, there were lots more mosquitoes?" His answer sounded like a question.
"'Lots' does not even come close," Mrs. Link said. Barbara could tell she was about to launch into one of her spiels. Mrs. Link was old, at least sixty, and she was always talking about how she could teach history because she lived it. "I remember the summer when I was seven. That was the year the swarm covered the entire--"
THUMP! There was a heavy crash on the roof and the room shook. A few students screamed and Barbara hit her head on her chair again. They had been listening to various bumps and thuds throughout the raid, but this one sounded different. This one felt... productive.
"Everyone stay calm," the teacher said, abandoning her story. "Everything is going to be okay." She cleared her throat and asked, "What was one of the positive effects of Project E9 Eradication?"
"It produced--" Aaron started and then stopped, realizing she had said positive. They were so used to focusing on the negative effects. The negative effects were more important. The negative effects were more present. The negative effects were currently hurling themselves at the school's roof and boarded up windows.
The class was silent. The bumps and thumps and crashes went on. This was a long attack.
"It got rid of the mosquitoes," Barbara muttered.
"What was that? Louder please," Mrs. Link said.
Barbara took a deep breath. "It got rid of the mosquitoes," she repeated. "The genetically engineered bats that they created to eat the mosquitoes, well, they did. We don't have mosquitoes anymore."
"That's right," Mrs. Link said. "And they were pests, believe me. Tiny, bloodsucking insects feasting on your flesh, carrying diseases and whatnot. They were relentless. The bats did, in fact, get rid of them."
There was another loud THUMP, this time against the wall, and one piece of plexiwood fell off, leaving a corner of the window exposed. Through the glass, Barbara glimpsed a large, black, leathery wing.
"They were relentless," Mrs. Link said again. Then she trailed off and it was quiet in the room except for the large furry bodies smacking against the building. The number of impacts was increasing. Barbara checked her holopod. Twenty minutes. The bats had been attacking for twenty minutes. It was only half an hour until school was out. Soon parents would be lining up at the exit tunnels in their cars for pick-up. What if the raid wasn't over by then? What if her mom's sonar shield was acting up again? She sighed and rubbed her neck, then lay down on the floor and put her feet in the chair, hoping the new position would relieve some of her soreness from crouching.
She was counting the pieces of chewed gum on the underside of the wood (five) when she noticed something written in faded pencil near one corner. She turned her head sideways to read it. "Don't let them fool you. It was never about the mosquitoes. Galatians 6:7." Barbara squinted her eyes and read it again. What did it mean? If it wasn't about the mosquitoes, what was it about? Why were the bats created otherwise?
Barbara reached up on top of her desk and felt for her e-slate. She silently slid it down into her cave and began flipping through the texts and timelines of her history file. Two more impacts shook the room, one after the other, and another piece of plexiwood crashed to the floor. Barbara kept reading. Government puts positive spin on controversial Eradication Plan... Growth hormones used in Project E9... Bat colony sent to Mideast to aid soldiers in fieldwork... Thousands die Iraq, Syria, Turkey after being bitten by bats... Deaths linked to artificial hormones in genetically-engineered bats...
The whole room shook. Walls rattled and furniture toppled. This was more than a raid; it was an all-out assault. Somehow, over the noise of the bats, Barbara heard her teacher's voice, now muffled in sniffles. "You just can't imagine how terrible they were. All those mosquitoes. They were taking over!"
The beating and pounding rose to a crescendo until, somewhere behind Barbara, the sound of glass breaking filled the room.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Author Comments

The idea for "Reap" came to me one night when I was walking my dog. A few Mexican free-tailed bats were darting and swooping above me, eating the mosquitoes that kept biting me. I'm a friend to almost all living creatures. I like spiders and snakes, and I use the catch-and-release method to remove scorpions from my house. But mosquitoes are an exception. I was contemplating how much I wished the little bloodsuckers would go extinct when the image of giant, genetically-engineered bats came to mind. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I wrote the story. By the time I was finished, I'd decided I could live with a few mosquitoes.

- Carie Juettner
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