Forgotten Minds

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Chapter 5: Walking With The Elephants

Fresh air fills my lungs as I open my eyes between the trees. The sun has just started his masterpiece in the east. Skies above me are gray with the infusion of light flowing through the dark. Birds are hopping from branch to branch singing praise to the light, praise for another day.

My stomach rumbles with the image of a bird on a fire.

“Roasted bird,” I dream, “scramble eggs on a red coal fire.”

A thought that tickle the imaginary taste butts of my mind. It even smells the aroma floating with white smoke into the morning breeze.

Silence consumes my thoughts like a wave born from no memories.

With my empty backpack on my back and my AKM in my hands, I start searching the trees for a meal that will not alert my enemies with smoke bulging into the air.

Between the trees, not far from me, I see my friends, the giants of the bush.

“Good morning Mr. Elephant.” I greet loudly.

A little calf trots to stay up with his mother, while she disappears behind the bushes. Leaving only the compressed tracks, where I will be able to walk without leaving my prints.

Between the trees, I can now see a small hare jumping in the grass. Everything in my mind changes, my mind turns from the emotional lonely self to the killing machine it has been trained to be. Emotions become weaker and the instincts of survival stronger. Adrenaline floods the spaces in my veins, changing the cute little Hare into a source of food. The little ears become handles to carry it and the fur on his body warmth for the cold nights.

My finger removes my throwing knife from my side. It becomes an extension of my arms, a weapon of destruction against the little animal.

“Slowly little fellow,” I whisper deceivingly to the Hare as I start moving softly like a cat towards him.

“I cannot catch you, you now my knee,” I continue while my fingers secure the blade between them.

“Close enough.”

“Sure?” My mind now questions silently in my head.

I launch the knife with precision. It leaves my finger well, travel through the air, in slow-motion like all my combat encounters do.

“Gotcha,” I scream out loud, so loud that even the birds scatter and fly out of the trees around me.

Without hesitation, I jump forward to finish the kill. My hunting knife slips effortlessly through the skin and the movement of my hands slit the throat from side to side. My hand forms a little cup under the bleeding Hare. He kicks a few times before he dies.

I immediately bring the handful of blood to my face and drink it with one swallow down. Warm liquid sooth my dry throat and enter my complaining stomach, with horror.

I comfort myself next to the body of the fury animal.

“Let the slaughtering begin,” I now think while my hands push the hunting knife into the carcass below the ribs. With one movement I slice through the skin and remove the guts. Blood and sticky liquid stain my fingers as I start searching for the heart and liver.

Both organs disappeared into my mouth, meeting my chewing teeth. I hear the fresh crunch from the organs as my teeth crush them.

“Should have removed the skin from the liver,” I think while a piece of liver doing jumping jacks in my throat.

“Swallow,” my mind encourage.

I want to say, I am trying, but the piece in my throat jump with a roar back to my mouth to join his string attached friend. Tongue, teeth and jaw muscles start the separating process, chewing through the tough skin between.

“I have to get it down,” I think softly

“You have to get it down,” my mind echo my thoughts like a teasing bully at school.

I swallow again, this time both pieces slip on the back of the blood soothed throat to my stomach. My throat swallows a few times as if it wants to send more saliva down to drown the half dead organs before they rebel and jump.

That done my hands continue the dismembering of the fur ball between my legs.

First the cut around the paws, the slice between the two back legs to the tail area. Next, the knife cuts from the open gut to the head, before it removes the head. Front paws become the last cut before my fingers pull the skin from the cat-like body. Blood stained fur is now hanged onto my empty backpack.

“Will use you later,” I talk to the piece of fur.

With the little body now bare, bare like I have been a few nights ago, portions are now cut. Cuts and slices from the knife part the portions from each other, before my teeth, tear a few bites from the carcass.

Leftovers are now hung onto my backpack, using the parachute rope left in the bag.

“See you later,” I greet the meat, like old best friends, before I hang my backpack over my shoulder.

“Bye-bye,” my mind squeaks out in a high pitch voice, mimicking the hare meat.

Once again the yo-yo effect as I swallow the piece of meat that I have torn from the carcass.

“Fuck down,” I now say out loud.

“Help, help,” my mind mimic the voice of the hair again.

Clearly, my mind has jumped from the killer instinct to me.

I feel disappointed in him, in me, for letting go of my survival instinct.

A memory from the farm, flash through my mind.

“Tasteful on the fire,” I convince myself to keep the Hare down.

“My energy levels will be low during the morning; my stomach will use energy to break the raw meat down.”

My stomach protests against the raw meat, as I get up and lift my backpack to my shoulders.

I start the descent to the elephant tracks.

Down in the valley, my feet are already dragging, the decent has claimed his toll on my energy levels. It left deep scars in my abilities for the day.

Tracks of the elephants are now visible, not only on the ground but the trees and smell of dung that fill the air. A smell that mixes with the fresh morning smells from the bush.

“I have to rest my legs,” I tell myself while my memories float over the two-hour walk I had this morning.

“Two hours, my mind inquires as to if he cannot believe it.

My empty bag now placed next to the tree that I picked out to rest, while I shuffle down the bark of the tree to rest for a few minutes.

“Yes two hours,” I reply.

I feel how my mind frown with disbelieve.

“Time flies,” is the only reply.

I lift the Hare remains from the sandy soil and place it on the blood stained skin next to my backpack. Thirst now driven by the protein meal this morning hangs in my throat, it hover over my mind.

“I wonder if those in my dark room also suffer.”

I do not wait for my mind to chew on the question, before he can attempt an answer I talk again in thought.

“Probably not.”

“I have to push on, to the wet sand that the elephants would have left where they drank this morning,” I think.

“Moisture in the soil,” sticks in my mind like a wet-dream to underpants.

I think of the Elephants;

Elephants are led by a Matriarch or the oldest mother of the herd, she have the water of the area mapped into her brain. She knows where she can find it, and it is important that I use her skills to survive.

For a moment my mind dwells over the existence of elephants, over the facts that keep the herd healthy and strong. Females never leave the herd, they learn day after day from the Matriarch until they become the oldest mother, the new Matriarch.

The bulls on the other hand leave the herd between the ages of seven to twelve to look for better breeding grounds. A system that secure their future, and them against inbreeding The Matriarch know everything that she needs to ensure the survival of her herd, she is the information hotspot of these African giants.

The hunger to learn from her drives me to my feet. I swing the empty back-pack and hare remains over my shoulder before I start my journey in the large tracks between the broken branches.

My eyes catch the camouflage movement of a leopard in one of the trees.

“A hunter that sits in the branches waiting for his prey,” I think

I know that the leopard will hunt me that it will run me down if it is hungry enough, but I also know that they are shy and will only pursue me if there is no other option.

For a moment my mind argues the options to avoid the leopard.

My ears tear me from the argument to the birds scattering above me. I realise that the argument became loud and mentally abusive.

“Keep it down,” I hear myself screaming at me

“Follow my orders”, I snap with a real military voice, a voice that I never used before.

These word cut into my soul. I have the urge to scream back at myself, but I realise that, that will be a futile exercise.

At least we agree on one thing and that is survival, the fact that we will not leave each other behind. The common ground calms me down.

With the leopard tree now behind me and the fresh smell of elephant dung in my nose I proceed on the track that might just supply me with water.

“I need to move to the dry riverbed,” I encourage myself.

I can clearly see where the seasonal river flows between the trees.

Giant tracks lead the way between the grass to the dry bed, and that is what I follow now.

An uneven road of sand announce the riverbed, trees next to the dry sand are visibly greener, grass between the rocks cover areas where the water normally flow. Tracks of Elephants and antelope litter the sand between dropping.

A Tsetse fly bites into the flesh of my arms, a clear sign of wildlife in the area.

Amid the bushes I see the movement of the last elephants. A large cow lifts her trunk to inspect me from a distance, before she trumpets and walk away. My distance from them is still intact, as she did not warn me yet.

Among the tracks of the giants I can now see the spot of moisture, wet sand.

“They did not fail us,” I reason with myself as I continue towards the disturbed sand. Disturbed with hundreds of tracks that indicate their water find during this morning.

“The giants did not fail us,” I repeat.

“They did not forget to leave traces for me.”

“You see the tracks; this is the place where the pregnant and lactating cows would have drank first, where the calves would have been covered with muddy soil, to protect them from the sun,” I explain to myself as if it the first time I saw this.

“I know, been there,” my mind dryly reply.

“Water, sweet water,” I say out loud with tears of joy rolling over my face. Emotions of happiness overflow my tear-ducks whilst my hands become spades. Digging through the soft sand, feel how the presence of water moist the sand as I dig deeper. Water is now rising through the sand.

“Real water,” I express.

My hands scoop the brown elephant contaminated water and fill my mouth. Water is spilling over my chin running over the dry blood stained shirt. My soul is singing, my heart is pumping and I feel alive.

Water slips down my throat from hands that are still full of blood of the hare that I ripped apart this morning.

Bubbles of air tickle over my cheeks as I submerged my face in the small puddle of water.

I repeat the actions a few times, to the point where the grid of the sand between my teeth and the taste of elephant excretion take the sweet taste away. I take a last few scoops to wash the dust of my face, the dry blood from my hands before I stand up to inspect the area around me.

Momentarily my mind goes back to the water bottle that the urinating man left next to the den.

“That would have been handy right now,” I think.

“Yes then you could have filled it with shitty water and carry it with you for day to come,” my mind answer tearing through the dream I had.

“But he is rite,” I think.

“Elephants drink often.”

I stand up from the soaked sand, with a stomach filled with water and raw hare.

.

Elephant herd tracks is easy to follow, easy to see, one foot in front of the other lead me closer to the giants, deeper into the future, it also increase the distance between me and the human hunters.

“Walking close to the elephants has advantages and definite disadvantages,” I start my train of thought.

“Advantages of the much needed water, the hard surface where it becomes difficult to find my light feet tracks, but it is also the place where herbivores walk.”

“I will encounter the big and small hunters that eat the weak, I continue.

“I am part of the weak.”

“Part of the hopeless I will say,” my mind declares.

“One and a half leg monster in four legged world,” he start his statement, “All the time you tell me you want to be with the elephants, now you talk shit like this.” He finishes off.

“This scenario makes the choice difficult, but I have to make it.”

“I have to use my strength to survive, my ability to think.”

“That your best solution, to think.”

“During the day they will protect us, it is at night when they cannot see, that we will be on our own.”

“My pattern needs to change.”

“Walk during the day, this will make me compatible with the elephants.”

“They are our friend in the bush and we must keep it like that.”

“We will need to find suitable trees to turn into our home for the nights, to keep us away from the predators the hyenas and leopard.”

“Space for me to sleep, to dream, a place where I can sooth my mind, discusses the happenings of the day with myself and resolves the conflicts within.” I conclude my thought of evaluation.

The rest of the daylight time passes uneventfully.

Time has now arrived to search for a suitable tree, the place where I will sleep.

“There,” I show to the tree with a branch hanging horizontal to the ground.

“The branch will be high enough for the hyenas but will not be out of reach for a leopard,” I conclude as I start my hop a long stroll to the tree.

Without any further argument my mind settle on the tree, settle on the prospect that I would not be out of reach of the leopard.

“At least I will have a place where I can think and sleep.”

“Have my own nightmares; deal with my fears and the matters of my mind.”

My mind drifts of to the elephants; my eyes become heavy and dreams of my friends fill my mind.

I am staring over the red, orange and pink stripes that the sun draw on the waters where it split to make space for the almost island like landscape at Charlie three.

Bushes and trees stand lonely guard over the sandy banks. The only evidence of a human camp is the puff, puff of a Lister diesel engine pumping water and the small log building peeping between the trees at the crocodile invested waters. My mind drifts far back to the “states”, what we call home, as I look at the last moments of the morning star. Wondering if Christine, my fiancé share at the same view with me.

Ruffling bushes pinch the silence in my head as Temba the little orphan elephant destroy the bushes in his path. His little trunk swings in little random circles slapping his body like the penis of a naked man running from the shower. Flapping ears steal the “states” from my mind, as he cover the distance for his morning cuddle.

“Morning Temba,” I greet the ninety odd kilogram little fellow.

Brakes fail as he bumps me a few meters back. Un-proportional is the little hairy trunk that now greets me around my shoulders. His undivided love and dependency break through the tough exterior of my mind. Emotions that I don’t know flow like stormy rivers across my soul, while my hand rubs his hairy forehead. As the greeting ritual comes to an end his trunk starts searching for the mixed milk formula in my other hand.

Temba is still too small to hold his own bottle; the control of his trunk is not in his hands yet. I hold the bottle to the smiling little mouth now sucking like a hoover with a leak on the yellow substance. Yellow streaks leak down his neck before it plunges to the thirsty sand on the banks of the Cuando River.

A crocodile peeps over the water to greet, or might it be see when he can eat.

Through the trees the presence of a little breeze tickle over my arms and face, preventing the hot summer morning air from creeping into my cloths.

My eyes dwells over the sandbanks that keep the river at bay, sandbanks that will become unbearable with heat in the middle of the day. Little birds start scattering like teasing children above us, tormenting us because we hug, their little wings carry them to the worm that will feed their babies in the nest.

With my hand I now wipe Temba’s mouth under his playful trunk. For a moment he sucks on my hand before he let go. With my arm now on his back and his trunk in the air we start walking towards the Lister pump not far from us. Our feet steal the last dew from the grass now flattened from our walk. Fresh smell of diesel fills the air as we approach the puffing machines the pulse of the camp hidden between the trees.

I remember the day when we rescued Temba on the road, his mother laying in the sand, hit and killed by a truck. I remember the little calf that could barely walk. My memory draws the fearful eyes of a little creature lost and motherless between the grass and trees next to the white gravel road.

My hand rubs over the cloth on the little fellows back while we pass the stuttering machines. I know that we will have to take him back one day. We will have to bring him to his herd as soon as he is strong enough. The thought of separation sadden me with an emotional feeling in my chest, the feeling of fear for the little one between the predators of the bushes. I fear for his life and for his well- being with a herd without the specific care of a mother and a friend.

For a moment I am back in the tree with eyes soak in tears, tears of care for the little one in the camp.

Sleep is now gone replaced by worry, by a drive to return. I will always worry and care for the little trunk and eyes of the broken little heart, the little bird with the broken wing.

Without warning I feel how my mind flips into an imaginary world

My hand now reaches to the bed lamp next to me. I flip the switch to bring the bulb to shine, to bring a beam of light to the darkness of my bed. My other hand fiddle with a book that I need to read until sleep will take me back to the deepness of rest, of sweet dreams that will sooth my broken mind.

Fingers slip around the edges of the book. It opens on a page for me to read. The page has no print on it. I turn to the next page but there is no print. My fingers flip through the book page for page searching for words to read, but there are none. No pictures no printed word in the sleep time story in my hand. My hand turns to the little light and I switch it off. Darkness folds over me like a blanket of ice lies over the branch that is my bed. Leaves that are my companion and the noise of crickets my music through this night. I place the book carefully on the branch next to me; place a leave between the empty pages to keep my place in my story book of emptiness.

Reflecting from my empty book is now the light of sun, light that tell me I overslept, I open my eyes but it is dark, I close them again and see my book in the sun, I take the book and place it in my bag, open my eyes to leave but it is dark.

Reality and the dream world has become one. My inner consciousness has slipped through the strings, through the barrier of my mind. I now wait for the stiff eyed ghosts to look me in my eyes, but they do not show.

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