Seeing the Elephant
There are no Elephants left on Earth.
As metaphors go, it’s not a bad one. Seeing the Elephant used to bestow some sort of veterancy on you; that you’d been out there, and seen something wonderful. Or terrible, I guess, if you’re talking about a war. To see one was to move from one group, the lesser group, to the larger, greater group, the group that has done things with themselves, and returned to tell of it to their awed former peers. But that was when there were still Elephants in the world to see, and now there are none.
Actually there are so few literal Elephants left either, an ironic casualty of humanity’s never ending quest to find and see all the metaphorical ones. Even when I was born few of these metaphorical ones remained. The seas, before we killed them with rubbish, and the skies, before we turned away from them for not being exciting enough to warrant more than a few robots to photograph them. The Great Elephant of War remains, of course, but that too is passed to the hands of the Robots, unless you are unlucky enough to live in a country where the Robots are waging war on you.
Somehow we got everything we ever wanted, and all our Elephants are gone. Only pictures remain. I grew into a world rich with every luxury, but no excitement, no new worlds to conquer. I would weep, like Alexander, but that would imply a level of emotion I really couldn’t feel. I travelled, of course, but only to places where people had got to before me, put down their flags and homes and shops. There is no desolate wilderness where I cannot update my Facebook Page, or trail to the unknown where I can truly test my character.
So when the scientists came on screen asking for volunteers, I applied without even asking too much about what I was applying for. A great test, they said, an experiment into the unknown. They had unlocked the great secret of consciousness, proved the existence of the soul, something beautiful and ephemeral and timeless in a world of grey materiality. We have, they said, found an Elephant worthy of you to seek.
I volunteered, and went through the tests. Physical tests, mental test, and spiritual tests. I was plugged into machines I can hardly describe, fed drugs I cannot recall, and told secrets I dare not reveal. At each step the scientists told me more of their discoveries, of how the material world was a shell, and that their great machine would free me from that shell and throw me into a new, wider world of the mind. I was determined, and the others fell away from weakness of body and soul, leaving me to face the portal alone.
Clothed only in white, I approach it. It looms over me, a brilliant, pulsing light-ring surrounded by tubes and wiring and the paraphernalia of esoteric science. Behind me, the scientists stood in their ceremonial coats, their chanting rolling past me and making the ring dance in time with their wills. Everything falls away in this moment, the life of safety, the monotony of my existence, and I step into the Portal’s embrace. There is a flash of light, and a scream that may be own, so far distant that I cannot bring myself to care.
In a blaze of coruscating colour, The Elephant reaches out his trunk for me, and sees me, and loves me. and I see him, and am finally content.