My mother and father were being carried away in a van. I struggled in vain to follow them. A heavy rope tied around my legs deterred me from moving. Their images kept waning in my tear filled eyes. My heart was choked with emotions.
I woke up with a start almost giving a jolt to my wife who was taking an afternoon nap, beside me.
Today was the day off for the jungle safari at Innswoods, where I and my wife lived with twelve others of my clan. On such holidays we were given a thorough bath in the pond and all of us generally were allowed to be together till break of dawn the following day. We were then made to disperse for uninterrupted entertainment of the onlookers coming for the Safari. However we could stroll around freely and were trained to assemble near the pond at dusk.
I entreat you all, to imagine me, a sturdy elephant named Cooper. I have been on planet earth for nearly three decades. Though I cannot gauge my exact height or the pounds of flesh that constituted my anatomy, I can vouch that I am a heavy creature who stands way above the ground and indubitably taller than my amorous life partner. I would prefer to call her Mrs. Cooper.
We had nothing in between us to disagree upon and we were leading a life of tranquility at Innswoods.
This peaceful existence would have had no undulations but for this nightmare that keeps haunting me. The deep obtrusive scar in my conscience was what drove me to have these nightmares replaying the scene of me losing my parents for ever. Though many male elephants prefer to go about their own way once they reached late teens, I was of a different disposition, emotionally attached to my loving parents.
“Now get up,” coaxed Mrs. Cooper, realizing the need to wean away my attention, for she knew that I had woken up suddenly after having had the unpleasant dream again.
“I feel a sudden impulse to eat those palm leaves you got the other day. Get them for me without lazing around,” She chided me lovingly. I was aware that more than her desire for the leaves she just wanted me to take a stroll and get refreshed, forgetting the dream that was the cause of my solicitude at times.
Her vivacity should have rightfully pushed all those heartrending thoughts clouding my mind, but they persisted.
I vividly remembered that one day, my parents and I had been enticed by a layout of succulent foliage spread over a vast area in the jungle where we roamed freely. Oblivious about the fact that the perfidious green carpet was neatly concealing a sinkhole, we just walked to gobble the leaves. All we could do was blame our gluttony for this fate of ours.
Being hauled in a van, we were taken to a forest. It would be an understatement to say that we were tormented. The treatment meted out to us was deplorable.
We were made to lift logs of wood, many at a time and were whiplashed mercilessly if our pace slackened. In between we were hired for heavy work, like moving boulders. Meager quantity of food was provided.
My poor parents would go half hungry giving me part of their share. My parents were not growing any younger and they became extremely sick; reeling under the grueling tasks we were made to perform. One day they were carried away in a van in a very weak condition. I became an orphan.
Soon after this, destiny probably decided to shower good luck on me. The man who unleashed a tsunami of terror in our lives, planned to give away three of his remaining elephants in exchange for a huge sum.
“Leave them at Innswoods. You will be handed over an amount that I have negotiated,” the man instructed one of his accomplices.
We were dropped at Innswoods, a moderately sized elephant safari, with six elephants then. It was gradually expanding. A forest area, comprising of dense trees alternating with extensive barren area for elephant ride, was the spectacular setup of this Safari.
It was here that I was christened as Cooper.
Visitors were ushered in from 11 am to 5pm every day. There were occasional holidays. On such holidays we sat together near the pond in the middle of the forest area, munching on the food that the sentinels provided,
Eventually, I found a warm life companion amongst us.
Though there seemed to be no dearth of comradeship, love and affection here, I could never bring myself to forget my parents. How I wished even they could have been at this haven.
Presently, I got up to fetch the leaves that Mrs. Cooper wished to munch on. She was carrying our baby. I could not obviously brush aside her demand. Those kinds of leaves grew a few meters away from where we were lounging.
It was a sunny day without as much as even a dark visible cloud in the azure sky. The natural beauty that abounded Innswoods was breathtaking indeed.
After tottering for a while I came near the waterfalls where the palm leaves were found. I stood there for long, gazing at the cascading falls, conveniently forgetting that I had ambled away from my wife and the herd, with a purpose.
Suddenly my attention got drawn to some noises. My auditory perceptions confirmed that human beings were around.
I got a glimpse of some men systematically parking huge vans in the vast ground. The sight of those specially designed vehicles, gave me jitters. Those were precisely the same type of vehicles in which I had been taken away along with my parents from the sinkhole.
Having spotted furtive activity in Innswoods, I geared up my speed to reach my friends, to warn them of some impending danger. Dusk was about to fall. The scarlet red sky was bending towards earth engulfing the forest in its tangerine arms.
Spotting the herd still lazing together near the pond, I gathered my wits and informed them that I had an inkling that some men were planning to trap us.
“I saw them with vehicles large enough to fit all of us. I am sure that it is to trap us. Those were the kind of vans that my parents and I were hauled into.” I tried explaining in one breath, not exactly sure if I had been convincing enough. My friends looked at me half confused and half awe struck, hearing the revelation.
Even before the gravity of what I said could sink into their brain, I caught sight of a flicker right behind the herd facing me. Then suddenly the flickers multiplied. Did I see familiar faces heaving fire torches? The jungle was set on fire. I realized with horror that it was a subterfuge to drive us towards the men and the vehicles.
There was no time to contemplate. As the eldest in this herd, I considered it my moral duty to save all of them, at least from the raging fire if not from the men. Salvaging the herd from the fire was the first priority.
The herd realized that something was amiss as the heat reached them from the rear side and panic waves struck.
“Run and keep following me. Just tag along with me,” I instructed. Running with the maximum speed possible was the only way out of the conflagrated forest area. I had no idea where Mrs. Cooper was in the herd, but I knew she was with well wishers.
Finding ourselves wedged between engulfing flames, we had no option other than running towards that path where the vans were parked.
The flames were slow and steady; they hadn’t yet assumed a gargantuan form. But the inferno was strong enough to ruthlessly kill the trees, burning them behind us and fast approaching towards the scuttling herd.
I was the first to reach the place where the men were stationed. They were waiting in a huge number with ropes and chains, making pertinent calculations that the fire would drive us numb and it would be a simple task to take us captive.
Their plan would not have backfired, if I had not spotted him. The same bearded tall man who had been haunting me; the man who was responsible for my parents’ death. His very sight triggered my pent up emotions and on an impulse I went on a rampage. Implementing such a devastating approach to tackle the menacing crowd, had never crossed my mind before. It was an unintentional move caused by the sight of the nefarious man.
As if the Panic waves had become contagious, it now spread over the crowd of men from the herd of elephants, as I toppled the first vehicle and I stamped the evil man to death. Two more got injured in the process. Heavy shrieks filled the air and the men were fleeing the place into darkness. I turned behind to see that my herd was so far safe, but the fire was fast approaching.
“Run and stand there at a distance.” I said and waited till they all passed by me one after the other. Poor Mrs.Cooper had somehow managed to run, tired, with the baby inside her.
However one female elephant stood stubbornly there, watching the fire.
“Why aren’t you moving, the fire may blow up with wind? You have come out of the forest zone, no doubt and the next foliage is far away, but still we are in danger. Let us join the others there.” I cautioned, pointing out to our group that was now standing together at a safe distance.
She pointed her trunk nervously towards the blazing fire and there I saw him, her child, the smallest amongst us, trying to drag himself, desperately wanting to get out of the fire zone. Another minute delay would have him engulfed by the zooming flames.
Sprinting towards him with all my might I lifted him with my trunk and in a jiffy almost threw him away from the fast approaching inferno. But in the melee my rear was turned towards the forest and a huge ball of fire hit me hard, engulfing my body.
I could feel the heat rising in me.
The ‘treacherous’ fire was burning now stagnantly, not approaching further as the jungle boundary had been reached, but it had caused the necessary harm to me.
As my eyes slowly began drooping, I noticed some fervent activities amongst the herd. I saw that the other elephants had surrounded my wife and were assisting her to give birth to our child and then I had a glimpse of what I felt was a miracle. My lovely little baby touched the ground.
‘Goodbye friends,’ I meekly muttered as junior cooper came to the world. For the last time, my moist eyes met with my wife’s. In the brightness caused by the fire, her tear filled eyes became visible to me.
I saw the mother, whose calf I had rescued, looking at me with gratitude. The young one was cuddling to her.
My heart wailed silently to see the devastation caused to Innswoods, my home, which would soon have been a fully fledged elephants safari.
The heat rising in my body became unbearable as I involuntarily slumped to the ground. My eyes closed for an eternal sleep. My mind was at peace. ‘I had saved all my kith and kin and I also had a glimpse of my child, before I bade goodbye to all of them.’
Elephants experience many of the same emotions as people do, once that are usually restricted to being that of humans, seldom seen in animals.
Elephants have one of the most intelligent brains in the animal kingdom.
Elephants have incredible memories. They can remember individual humans, including those who were kind and those who were not.
Photo By: Maxim Medvedev
This is an entry for #InnsWoods, #Artales18, A Room8 writing event. Checkout the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artales18
The event is sponsored by Manoj Paprikar, Author of Death at Midnight by ArtoonsInn room9 publications. Manoj Paprikar is a doctor by profession and a writer at heart. Through his latest venture with room9publications, he earnestly brings forth the plight of the medical profession that affects both the healthcare providers and patients at large.
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