The creature was massive. Yet even that word was an understatement. The little girl had never seen a beast of the same magnitude as the one that was now staring at her through the bars. She wasn’t afraid though, instead she was delighted. The grey wrinkly hide and the small, sad eyes emanated wisdom, despite belonging to a mere animal. It’s large, saucer-shaped feet kicked up dust storms that swirled around the bottom of the cage. Its shambling gait reminded the girl of how her grandpa walked and once again she was reminded of the creature’s personification of wisdom and age. Ivory peeked out from underneath the animal’s lips, but it was dulled and showed very little life. The beast reached the edge of the enclosure and pressed its face and fanlike ears against the cold bars. Its long trunk reached from between the bars and the girl squealed with excitement and extended her hand. The end of the trunk was cold and moist when it wrapped around the girl’s extended fingers. At the sensation of feeling another being the creature’s eyes lit up in unison with the girls, mirroring the other’s undulating joy.
“I want to keep him!” The little girl exclaimed and giggled, but her parents chided her and pulled her to the next exhibit. They had meetings and appointments and very little time for the zoo.
The elephant stared at the retreating figures and leaned against the edge of the cage once more. The depression closed in again and the elephant was painfully aware of the milling humans in the zoo slowly beginning to thin out. Seeing the happiness of the children’s faces was all the mighty animal had to live for anymore. Its cage offered it a pathetic excuse for a life, and if not for its ability to empathize and live vicariously through others, it would have no reason to live. The elephant blew out a long, heavy sigh and wiped a tear that was rolling down its cheek. It let its trunk sag slowly to the ground where it idly moved through the dirt and filth making patterns on the concrete floor. The elephant snorted in an attempt to be humorous and erased the doodles it had just created. Its eyes fell on the hard, cold floor and its momentary joy was erased as quickly as its drawing had been. The elephant closed its eyes and this time let the fat tear roll down its cheek, a life in a cage was hardly a life at all.