He was only a young calf when he first saw them. Tall, glorious and majestic. His mother had left, and he was alone. He was entranced. He knew of them; no one didn’t. It was a man, with graying hair and a twinkle in his wizened eyes. Next to him was a girl with the brightest green eyes, and they walked, hand-in-hand, speaking words and the sound that he would never forget, even seventy years to come. It was pure, filled with unadulterated joy. He couldn’t remember precisely when he had learned what it was, but it was the first thing he learned about humans; their laughter was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.
Many years later, he saw one again. The woman looked so, so familiar, and he remembered the little girl and the man from twenty years ago. She was only there for a little while; she laid flowers in front of a tree and leaned against the bark, eyes closed. He walked and stood before her, gigantic beneath her smaller form. But she wasn’t fearful. She rose and there was a rueful smile across her face when she caressed his trunk. Laugh, he wanted to tell her, but he couldn’t speak. He trumpeted quietly, and there was something in her dull green eyes that he couldn’t understand. He could only long to hear that sound once more, and she left before she did. He never saw her again.
When he was forty, he had a calf trailing behind him as they walked. His environment had changed greatly; the trees were cut down and the ground smelled like smoke. But he would protect his little calf forever. And that was when he saw it. There was a cry, strangled and fearful. His beady eyes could catch sight of a young woman, cowering as she tried to inch away from the tall men. Their laughter was nothing like how he remembered; it sent chills throughout his body.
He could no longer see her when they surrounded her. He could only hear her cries and her sobs, and he guided his calf away. At midnight, he returned. The men were long gone, but the woman was lying across the ground, blood staining the grass, clothes torn, dry tear-tracks on her face.
Ten years later, humans were no longer rare sights. They came with giant equipments and destroyed his home. The trees were cut, some of his kind were found dead with their tusks taken away, and his calf couldn’t sleep peacefully. Honestly, neither could he. He heard laughter often now, but those weren’t laughter. They were omitted from vile men who massacred and destroyed. He knew it wouldn’t be long until his kind was gone, but he never would’ve thought that this was how humans would turn out. He could still picture the smiling young man and the light-hearted girl, and grieved for the unknown.
Now, he is nearing the end of his life. His charred home and ravaged plains reflects in his eyes. This, he thinks, is what humans do. They protest, they mourn, they long for a better future, but, like him, they only watch as they sink deeper and deeper. Unlike him, they have the capability to turn things around, but they don’t. They hide behind their righteous words and intelligent arguments, yet they do nothing. It has been sixty-five years since he last heard a laugh, a true laugh, and he has come to accept that he will never hear it again. The humans he once adored will be his killers, and he has resigned to his fate.
A near imperceptible poke startles him, and he slowly turns around. A little girl stares up at him with wide, green eyes, filled with awe. She extends her arm hesitantly, and a slow smile creeps across her face as she touches his rough skin. His heart warms. A small trumpet escapes him and the girl looks up, taken aback. Seconds pass, and her lips part.
Her eyes close and she lets out a tiny giggle. His trunk feels the softness of her hair, and she laughs.
The little girl’s father arrives, holding a gun, but the little girl runs towards him, shaking her head and pointing at him. He cannot hear what they are saying, but they leave minutes later and he sleeps peacefully for the first time in decades. The girl’s green eyes have caused the memory of the woman’s own green irises to resurface, and he closes his eyes. His wish has been fulfilled.
The forest is burned the next day, and all they can find of him is his remains, peacefully asleep before tragedy struck and the raging fire swallowed him whole.