I had a strange dream last night. One of those dreams that make you end up sleeping until it's one thirty PM just so you can see what happens.
When it started, I was a young human child. All I knew of my world was that the great castle in which we all lived was the source of shelter and warmth, of company and food, a good place to be. I also knew that across the great river there was a massive citadel, made of clay, that looked almost as though it was a natural formation, not built by sentient beings but by the forces of nature.
I knew that evil lived there.
As the dream went on, I aged fast, and I learned more of the place. I snuck out at night, though I was beaten for doing so when I brought back my story, standing atop the castle to peer across at the place. I finally caught a glimpse of what lived there. They were bats, though not bats. They were larger than a full grown man, wheeling around their domain and patrolling their side of the river.
Though the other humans of the castle were furious to hear that I had snuck out at night, they were more furious to know what I had seen, as the river was a no-man's-land, agreed upon by ancient treaties. They were not to patrol it, to guard it, and to look upon it as their own territory.
And so with the foolish actions of a preteen child, the war broke out again.
As the dream went on, so did the war, and so did I, growing until I was 16. It was then that the Bats did something unforgivable. In the dead of night, they flew across the river into our territory on silent wings. The next morning, our elder was found dead, clearly by their claws. In retaliation, we staged an attack, killing their most respected warrior.
Time stood still in a sense as the dream reached this point. I did not go past the age that I am now, yet things continued to happen. The strangest of these was the appearance of a man at our castle, washed up ashore, barely alive, and a Bat at their citadel, also washed ashore. I do not know how they determined it, but it was impossible to deny as we looked into the face of the man, as it was when they looked into the face of the Bat, that we had seen them before.
The man was the Bat which we had killed, and the Bat was our elder. We knew, we knew, but we could not for the life of us figure out how they had been put into the bodies of the species they had fought against so ferociously. They could not remember a thing and soon died, but a seed of curiosity had been planted in our minds.
That curiosity posessed me, though I do not know what, to go across the river myself. I stole away on a canoe just as night fell, and though it soon sank for reasons I still do not know, I continued on, swimming through the water in a desperate bid to reach where the bats had set up a wall of sorts, flying atop the water just a bit past the great river's halfway point.
I nearly drowned there, but the Bats saved me, snatching me up from the water. They said something to me, in a great booming voice, speaking as one, that seemed to encompass all, an overwhelming voice. I do not remember what they said. It made me nearly lose conciousness, and one carried me back to my shore, the one that held me left untouched, though there was a great gathering of humans on the shore. When they dropped me on the shore, I finally did pass out, and the last thing I saw was the fading image of the Bat's leaving.
I awoke in a room that overlooked the shore, and I leaned out the paneless window to hear what was happening. Something serious was happening, there was no doubt in my mind about it. A group of the Bat's greatest fighters had wheeled over to our side of the river, escorting their Elder, and our new Elder had gone out to meet with them. They spoke in tongues I had never heard before, yet I understood them.
They were making a peace proposition.
After some time, our Elder accepted, and with a curt nod, the Bats flew away.
Time flew at a great speed, yet still I no longer aged. I watched as the knowledge of the Bats began to spread to us, and as we began to resemble them. Nobody found it odd as humans sprouted the wings where their arms had been, though they were not nearly as magnificent, nor as effective, as those of the bats. Only a few did not grow them, only a few found it odd, the few that would not let their hatred die. The rest of us began to take more and more of a resemblance to the Bats, and eventually began to believe that they had been right all along, that we had been fools, that humans were fools. The night air had apparently corrupted our minds.
Still, though I wanted more. I wanted to be as they were. I was not content with merely the power of flight, I wanted to truly be them. So, I flew across the river. (I noticed how short of a flight it actually was, though to sail across when we still followed our Human ways had taken much time.)
What I saw there shocked me. As we had taken much more of a resemblance to them, they were slowly beginning to look and act much more like Humans. They were abandoning even the higher floors, what could only be reached by flight, in favor of those more accessible by those tethered to the earth. There were only a few who remained as they were, though it was not a hatred that made them so, as it had been with the humans who had died without ever truly beginning to change.
One of them listened to my story, an old and wise Bat, and she bade me to follow her. With her I flew to one of the highest turrets, long since abandoned by almost all of her kind, and here she began to teach me.
I had left expecting a quick surgery or something of the like, a quick and easy way to change completely, but she had something else in mind. She shared with me knowledge that those of us on the Human side of the river still had not truly begun to listen to, that was slowly being lost to the Bats as well. She taught me the ancient Bat beliefs, the one most important to my situation being that as the mind changes, the body will follow. (This did begin to explain why both sides had begun to change upon the acceptance of the other.)
She would only teach me slowly, beginning by showing me a tablet, upon which questions were scrawled. Most were fading, and others were not there at all. When I asked her, she nodded and explained to me that they were all there. However, only those I was truly ready for the answer for would be seen. She told me that I would never truly change into a full Bat until I was ready to see all of the Truths.
Until then, she taught me what she could. Before she taught me how to truly form an image in my head with sonar, she made me listen closely to thousands and thousands of subtle changes in sound, teaching me to truly listen, to recognize one from another, and as I learned that, my ears began to change. She taught me many things, and while time flew at a rapid pace around us, we moved as though separated from the world.
There was almost no human left in me on the night that I looked across the river in great confusion. The humans had begun to change even more, though something about them didn't seem right. They looked much like me now, but there was no air of understanding about them, and the former Bats below us had almost completely changed.
The old and wise Bat, now even older, barely able to fly on her own anymore, had a grim look on her face when I gave her a questioning look. There were weapons beign prepared on both sides, and it appeared the war was about to begin anew. Both sides had seemingly forgotten who they were, forgotten their own roots, and the sides had merely flipped. It was only going to repeat itself from here, again and again, I now saw.
I had been a fool to expect things to stay peaceful, a fool to think there had been any true understanding.
She closed her eyes with a final breath, and was gone.
And I woke up.