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Innocence (An Elephant's Story)
by Donna Anderson

Janna ran heavily over the African plain, her huge feet hitting the dusty earth. Her frenzied cries penetrated the wind as loudly as cannon fire, though it did not overpower the screams of shotgun blasts. She feared the reason the men were chasing her. Did they want her prized tusks? All she was aware of was the immediate danger she was in, having seen the same men take her son, Foster, away last year.

She pushed hard, dodging the smaller beings with fear of hurting them. A path lay up ahead...an escape...but it was barricaded by the natives she saw every day. Yet this day, they also wanted her. The souring taste of fear trickled down her throat. Is this what Foster went through? She missed him dearly and halted the chase out of exhaustion and of hope the men would take her to him.

Dizzying spots danced in front of Janna's eyes as she struggled to her weary, gray feet. She was unaware of her location, only noticing the shaking of the ground that caused her to bump painfully into the sides of the small, dark, enclosure. The frightened howls of the other animals streamed through the air. Was Foster's cry among the masses? Desperate for companionship, she summoned him. All was quiet in return, except for a faint, sickly cry at the opposite end of the train's compartment. A whisper of hope touched her despairing thoughts, while an ear-piercing screech jolted the moving ground to a sudden stop.

She struggled to regain her footing and felt the restraint of metal around her ankles. She did not understand its purpose, since there was nowhere she could go. The humble sounds of her home no longer sang to her ears, the love of her family was gone forever, and freedom was only a minute memory. She experienced the unwanted emotions of dismay, confusion, and weariness, in defiance of the heartwarming sun that now poured into her dark box. Its illumination showed her the other elephant sharing her space...Foster? It was him, though his weakened body did not permit him to stand.

The bustling men from outside entered the train. Janna watched with unbounded horror as they kicked and scolded Foster to a stand. He looked into her soul with empty eyes, seeming to somehow know both his fate and hers. The men came to her next, replacing the metal cuffs with an abundance of heavier metal. She fought them only for a few moments, tired to obedience and knowing the battle was an unwinnable one.

The next four years of her life were filled with ceaseless bribes from her trainer to do things she found painful and uncomfortable to do. She loathed her new life in the circus, for the only creatures that received joy from her performance were the people. In fact, joy only entered her heart when she and Foster spent their nights in the holding tent, chained to the metal rings in the ground. She was alone with him then, though through that small joy she saw the depression in young Foster's eyes. They had broken his spirit with pain and harsh words and she vowed with vengeance to not let them destroy her.

Oh, how she longed to nuzzle Foster...to stand above him and protect him from the evils of man. She felt his defeat and prayed for him with words of encouragement. Unlike her, he had surrendered his soul to the people who enslaved him. He stopped eating, drinking, and even performing to their orders. Janna struggled day after day to keep her own soul from following his. She needed to stay secretly strong to survive.

This strength she hid was tested on a steamy day during a parade. As she marched down the crowded avenue of laughing and cheering people, she searched frantically for her youngster. He was nowhere in sight, having been dismissed from the parade and returned to the holding tent. She rushed through the parade, eager to get to her ill son.

Her motherhood was gone, echoed through the entire city by her screams of sorrow. Before her, covered in dirt and hay, was the barbaric sight of Foster's beaten body. They had taken away her only true token of life. Revenge, or was it simply fairness, took the place of her usual obedient ways. She used every ounce of pain they had caused her and her son to break easily free from the men trying to hold her. With ominous shouts, she stampeded into the streets of frightened people. Her eyes were blinded by the cruel vision of her son. Nothing, not even the value of life, mattered any more. She did not know where she was going, for her destination was anywhere but back into the hands of humans. Bullets shattered her majestic body within moments, finally releasing her from the emotional and physical torture her life had become...

Janna is free now. Blessed by the peacefulness of the heavens...and her son. Her fate was destined before she fell into the clutches of man, for it is man who wrongly thinks he is ruler of the world.