The Elephant in the Room, A Short Story

Tuesday, April 13

By Sasha Khanin

Sparkling beams from the benevolent afternoon sun gleamed upon the sharp rock overlooking the meadowy realm. Green grass stood tall, swaying gently with the wind and donkeys meandered through the emerald pastures. Tall mountains stood guard, but had welcoming valleys carved for visitors and new members. Gushing waterfalls streamed into a translucent cerulean river. Fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors swam freely within the river and gazelles sipped the refreshing water. Up above, unfettered birds spread their wings and soared through the cloudless blue skies. Their proud leader, Lion Barth, watched from the sharp rock that jutted out of the cliff. The sun hit the spot perfectly and Barth’s mane was illuminated by the orange and yellow beams of sunlight. Barth was a benevolent leader with a passionate and kind heart. Despite his assertive attitude, he was open-minded, compassionate, and reasonable. Best of all, he genuinely cared about everyone in the realm. From his under-leader, Jolyne, to the messenger gazelle, Louis, to Betty and Bessie, the leaders of the milk production. Even the animals that disagreed with the way he led the realm, he cared about. This was because he was a fair and just leader who only desired the betterment of the realm. 

Barth was a humble lion and despite his nature, not a predator. Barth feasted on plants, rather than animals, another reason why his rule was benevolent. In so many other realms, the leader would attack the general public and all hell would break loose. But Barth, was a quintessential example of the more-or-less perfect leader. Humble and someone who accepts responsibility for their decisions. All was well in the realm. Everything was as it should be and everyone was where they should be. For a decade, everything remained this way and peace roamed the realm freely.

However, the maximum time for a leader to rule the realm was 10 years, so Barth’s rule was coming to an end. The council came together, discussing what was to happen next. 

“Quiet!” the rabbit urged as the cave exploded into disagreement. “We have to put aside our differences because arrangements have to be made. It is our duty as the council!” 

The animals remained silent, expressing their disdain towards one another without words. 

“She’s right, you know!” The lion had stealthily walked in on the conversation. The animals began to murmur in agreement reluctantly. “My time is coming and as much as I hate to admit it, my time as the leader of the realm is about to end. There will have to be a referendum for the new leader of the realm and soon. We cannot waste any time here. Thank you all for being the best council I could ask for during my time as leader” Barth said with a kind, but weary smile. The animals, well some of them, began to look teary-eyed and sorrowful. However, they all looked at each other and nodded as if they had just finished a brief, yet comprehensive telepathic conversation and reached a unanimous decision. They would hold the referendum soon, but still, simply enjoy the little precious delicacy of time with their current leader. 

As if the world suddenly began to pit itself against everyone in the realm, their beloved leader, Barth, passed away on November 9th. It was a melancholy day filled with tears that dripped from the eyes of his supporters. The usually cloudless blue sky morphed into a wrathful, grey storm of fury. Massive raindrops plummeted down from the enraged sky and the river soon began to overflow. It was a quintessential reflection of the animals’ sentiments to the recent events of the realm. But alas, it was time. The animals had to hold a referendum for the new leader of the realm. As much as the animals had tried to steer clear of this dreaded moment, it was here. The Council of Animals began to work with the under-leader, Jessica, to hold this election for a new leader. 

“I think we should hold this referendum in the meadows, so there is space for all of the animals to decide which of the candidates will be the most suitable leader” said Jolyne, starting the painful conversation. 

The other animals murmured in agreement and other suggestions were made for how to hold this election. 

“How about, each candidate will give a speech, reciting why they would make a suitable leader of the realm?” suggested the lizard, Alfred. 

“I like that, Alfred, and I think we should take a vote from all of the animals, so everyone can express their opinion” added the donkey, Felicity. 

“That’s absolutely ridiculous, not every animal should be allowed to vote. Elephants are notorious for their intelligence, we all know that we are the best-suited species to vote and lead the rest of the animals. Some animals just do not understand how the system works and we do not want their votes cluttering up the system. This is not going to work! Voting absolutely has to be limited to the higher, more intelligent, superior class of animals!” roared the elephant, Ronald. The other animals’ mouths stood gaping open in genuine shock. 

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s -” Felicity began. 

“You shouldn’t even be here, you’re a donkey - a striped donkey. You don’t understand how our society works.” Ronald spat. 

“What does me being striped have to do with anything? We outlawed discrimination based on stripes and no stripes a long time ago - not to mention discrimination based on species, Ronald.” Felicity snapped back. Margaret began to look nervous and put her paws up to try to keep the peace, but it was far too late for that. 

“We all tolerate you being here, tolerate. You’re a donkey, you think too much about all of the animals. Not all of the animals really deserve a voice - some are, well, they’re uneducated and ghetto. And striped animals are too emotional.” said Ronald. Now both Margaret and Felicity, striped animals, spoke up in protest. 

“Too emotional?!” hissed Margaret. 

“Let’s take a vote.” He clapped his hands together. “All in favor of expelling the striped and the donkeys from the council? We need to have a clean, educated group that goes by logic, not emotion. All right, all in favor say ‘Aye’?” The cave was silent, but only for a moment. 

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