The Last Elephant
THE LAST ELEPHANT stood, swaying, on an open plain. She was like earth in motion, like the continent itself: textured hill-and-valley, crisscrossed with dry riverbeds, polished smooth in places, dusty and sun-warmed. Her humped back was mossy-green but her belly was beach grass on a sand dune, as if she contained discrete ecosystems. She had her own gravity that could alter the flow of time, but not enough to matter. She swayed because she was slowly lifting one front leg, bending at the ancient knee, and then placing the foot flat upon the packed earth again, over and over. It was a gesture that meant nothing.
Neither she nor the silent man who crouched, readying his gun, realized that she was the last elephant, but perhaps she was closer to knowing than he was. The shudderings of the land beneath his own rubber-soled feet were words in a native language he’d long ago forgotten how to speak. They always have this look of mute sadness, he thought. It is a mercy after all, he thought.
Erica Richards is a freelance writer living in Seattle, where she’s working on a novel and several short stories. You can find her on Twitter @ericarichards47.