Once upon a time, an elephant found herself in a tight spot. Now, we all know how huge elephants can be, and this indeed, was the whole crux of this particular elephant’s problem. You see, the spot was small, and she, being as we have established, big, indeed, very big in fact, became too tightly wedged in her little spot that there were only two options open to her: She had to stop being an elephant with immediate effect. Or, she ought to shrink in size, which when you are an elephant, amounts to the same thing, because, as we have been saying from the very first, elephants, by virtue of being elephants, are rather on the big side of life’s hurly burly.
“Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear!” wheezed the elephant through her tightly-squeezed trunk. “I’m in quite a pickle!” squealed the elephant, whose name was Turquoise.
Turquoise tried as hard as she could to prise herself out of the spot. But her bulk of a body didn’t budge even an inch. Then she began to twist and turn every which way but that did not work either. The more intensely she squirmed, the deeper she got wedged in. She twisted and turned, huffed and puffed, muttered and grumbled, squealed and moaned but none of it worked, not in the slightest bit.
She tried pushing herself out. She held her breath and then let it out in a long, loud trumpet and once, that nearly worked. She almost got thrust out but then because of inertia or some other reason only the Einsteinists or one of their cousins can explain more definitely for us, she got thrust back in more tightly. Then, Turquoise slumped back for a breather. She was that tired and that frustrated.
But unfortunately, as so often happens in cases like this, she stayed slumped back for too long. The inertia or whatever Greek-sounding phenomenon it was kept her sucked down in the mud. It wasn’t mud at first, just a bit of a blackness of a hole but somehow, when a body falls into a black hole, it doesn’t stay body for very long but sort of melts or something. That’s a thing the Pasteurists and the Jennerists would know all about, we think.
As for Turquoise, after a while, the tight spot she was stuck in began to widen because of her immense weight, and even more unfortunately, tiredness began to give way to a sense of comfort. Lying back in a tight spot at a certain angle did after a while seem to be extravagantly comfortable, she realised, if one were careful not to struggle or wince or even breathe too desperately. In addition, it was a good position for dreaming about how things could have been and ought to be if only one weren’t so stuck in a hole.
After a good while of this laying back and dreaming while being stuck in a black hole, Turquoise found that she had sunk deeper into the black hole. Something to do with the weight of her body, of which there was much, on account of gravity, which as the Einsteinists would add, is that nice, helpful thing that holds us all together on our little planet.
Now, elephants, the National Geographic people would have us know, if they manage to live a life that is nicely satisfied by needs met like family and companionship and enough sugarcane and a reasonable amount of exercise, can live up to be a hundred and ten years old or some such span. So when Turquoise found that she was comfortably stuck in her tight spot and with no seeable way out, she sighed loud and long and then settled down for a bit of a nap, which seemed as good a thing to do as any, considering the circumstances.
“YAAAAAAWNNNNN!” Turquoise opened and closed her mouth, as she slipped into sleep.
What a shock it was for Turquoise when she finally opened her eyes – eighteen years later! When she looked around her, nothing looked quite the same. She vaguely recognised her surroundings but she seemed to have lost her home! Everywhere around her there was tall, unruly grass and the bushes had grown ever so high above her tight spot and there was very little light to see by.
“Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear!” quivered Turquoise. “Whatever shall I do now?” she asked anxiously and realised she had said the words but had heard no voice. She tried speaking again, and again, she heard the words in her head but not in her ears. “Goodness is this what a long sleep can do to an elephant?” she asked voicelessly, aghast.
It was darker in her black hole than she remembered. Or thought she remembered. She couldn’t tell. Suddenly, it seemed as if she had trouble remembering anything. Weren’t elephants supposed to have a long memory? Where had hers gone? She looked up. The hole had become covered with criss-crossing vines, leaves, twigs and branches. Through the mish-mesh of all manner of covering things that neglect of eighteen years had brought together in a tight embrace, she saw patches of sunlight. She reached her trunk up and tried to push away the covering things but they were taut across the hole and seemed to be held fast to the ground. Eighteen years of roots was not going to be easily pulled out of their holding place. And eighteen years of inactivity had weakened Turquoise’s muscles. Was she tired after all that huffing and puffing! Eighteen years ago, she had been stuck in the hole; now, she was trapped in it.
She calmed down by and by. She wondered what had become of her family. They had all been walking together when she had fallen into the hole. Hadn’t they seen her falling? Why hadn’t they helped? She strained to hear. No elephant sounds above her! “They moved on,” she suddenly realised. “They moved on,” she said to herself, without voice.
Turquoise became very, very sad. Her family had been everything to her. They were all she had known. But one day, she had fallen into a hole and they had carried on walking, going their way, without her.
Elephants may be very big creatures, but when it comes to their hearts, they have the softest of them all among the grand creatures of the animal world. Whether or not the National Geographic people have this noted down somewhere we cannot say, but everyone who has looked into the big, soft eyes of an elephant, and we surely have, haven’t we, knows this for a fact. The heart of an elephant may be big and grand but it is soft indeed, softer than pillow feathers.
So when Turquoise realised that her family had journeyed on without her, her soft heart simply withered. It dried up and drifted like a weightless feather, very slowly, down into the black hole and lay there on the still ground, as silent as the grave. Turquoise sobbed and then she wailed and when all the tears had been squeezed out and not a single one remained in her eyes, she wept without any.
It was an impossible situation.
Turquoise went back to sleep, and this time, she decided in her silent heart not to wake up. What else was there to do? She slowly shut her big, tear-drained eyes.
She dreamt of time in the beginning, when she had walked with her family, and they had cavorted with one another and squirted water at one another and she had felt safe and secure. Even in the gloomy days of trouble and the terrifying days of danger, she had felt safe.
And in her dreams, she saw them walking their own paths, with their own families now, and always, as every one of her dreams ended, it was their backs she saw as they walked farther away from her, their own little families close by their side.
And so, Turquoise went back to sleep.
It happened that many, many years later, the National Geographic people, who were always poking about in odd, dark places, stumbled upon a hole in the ground in a jungle in an odd, dark place, and found the very big bones of an elephant curled up like a baby in a deep, black hole.
Very carefully, they collected the bones and very carefully, they cleaned them and again very carefully, laid them in a museum in a safe, bright city.
Well, that’s how our story must end, we’re afraid. For now, that it. Who knows – perhaps there’s another ending for Turquoise that no one has yet told us about. Perhaps you might find it among her old bones in some happy place! So, hurry off, then, to that safe, bright city – you’ll find her resting in that museum under a sign that reads, ‘The Elephant in the Black Hole’.
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