In the near distance, destruction still sounded. I couldn’t unravel my arms from around my knees, frozen by the horror of what I had just witnessed, so I stayed there crouched in an abandoned doorway. It all played over in my mind in jagged flashes with every crash from the neighbouring street. I had been outside the cafe that morning with some of the other boys from the town. We were kicking a football about despite Mr Raja coming outside several times waving a dish-cloth at us, telling us how our ‘loitering’ looked bad to his customers. I had just been about to complain about Paresh deliberately tripping me just as I was about to score a brilliant goal when suddenly, everyone seemed to have lost interest in the football game. All the boys were looking towards the road that led out of town where all the men went trading. Surely we hadn’t played so many games that they were back already? No. We never took notice of the working men coming back into town. Then I heard it. The commotion of screams and shouting, and something else that I couldn’t quite fathom. A sort of deep rumbling. People started emerging on the road out of town, arms flailing above them and their mouths wide open in ‘O’s. The non-working men had emerged from the cafe, staring in confusion. ‘What the bloody hell is going…ohmigod’ Mr Raja muttered, almost to himself. Because just as he had started to ask the question we had all been thinking, the source of the deep rumbling emerged behind the running men.
Towering at eleven-foot, the charging elephant made the men look like little toy soldiers, tiny and incredibly vulnerable. It also made them look terribly slow. Somebody grabbed my shoulder and told me to ‘stop gawping and run for dear life’. My feet automatically started to run away from the advancing bedlam as my mind still reeled over what was happening. I had no sense of direction, no clue how to save myself from the path of an enraged elephant. I had only ever seen images on the news of wild animals running riot in towns that had spilled onto wildlife habitats due to the bustling population. It never occured to me that living in one of the largest towns meant that we had been in this great danger. Daring to look behind me, my fears were confirmed as I watched people still running for their lives as they were taken underneath the elephant’s feet. I would never outrun it. Whipping my head in all directions, frantically looking for some place to hide away from the current path of destruction, I found an open door to a block of apartments.
Hurtling into the doorway, I crouched and clung to myself. The elephant had been running with such speed, I was surprised by how much time seemed to pass before it appeared. A figure appeared from the block of flats across the street. I recognised it as Abu Bakul, the body guard of one of the big hotels in the town centre. He seemed pretty calm for someone whose home was about to be bulldozed. It wasn’t until his eyes suddenly bulged and his jaw dropped that I realised this was the first he had heard of the elephant. Almost as soon as he had become paralysed with fear, he was thrust on the floor by a four and a half ton weight. I also became paralysed with fear as my mind refused to watch what was going on in the street outside, yet my head would not, could not turn. What must have been half a minute seemed to last for half an hour as I watched someone I used to walk past several nights a week be trampled to nothing. Each thud of a tree-trunk leg on the ground sounded in my ears like the blasts of war bombs. I feared our town would look like a war-zone after today.
Several minutes later, I was still here. Just waiting. Listening to my town being pounded by an animal of the wild, confused and angry at the humans that had driven it out of its home and forced it into a smaller space to make room for the growing population. Just like the elephant, today was a day that I, along with the rest of my town would never forget.