Silent Bellow

“Look at all we have…!”

The broad grin below the mustache that seems to carry more years than it’s owner, hints at the revelation behind his kind eyes. He glances over the crowd of none but happy people. Their reactions reverberate in me, shivers go down my spine and I feel the skin behind my ears twitching and jerking over my slightly trembling skull. A burning sensation behind my eyes, but my, oh my, the facial muscles aren’t sure what to portray here, is it a smile? A grimace, more likely, am I crying? Should I scream, laugh …?

Mere seconds prior, a young boy stood right in front of us, he couldn’t have been more than twelve years old. Time slowed down, tick-tock, tick … tock …, as all eyes were locked onto the movement of this thirsty fellow, trembling in the soil under our feet. He looked back at us, restless, he mouthed: “What’d you want?! What’s all y’all doing here, this is my turf!”, he pranced, he danced almost, throwing his head backwards as if he’d gesture, “Come on!”, resetting his gaze, frantically, left and right, trying to gauge our intentions, our movements. We all froze. Was he challenging us? He didn’t seem sure. We couldn’t be sure. Most of us dumbfounded, in awe, terror-struck, even, may have let out a little cry or a little pee or slapped their hands before their mouths.

I know I did all of it.

“We won’t harm you”, Mpo serenely muttered and continued to instill tranquility, “Drink, boy”, “Go ahead”, “It’s okay”. All words, laced with absolute silence of random length, quiet as they were, soothed all and everything. The rustling of the grass stopped, the sun slowed down, beholding the tableau, the youngster’s movements softened and for us, slowly calmness returned, we started to feel safe. He must have decided that he was safe too, safe enough to take a sip, lowering his trunk into the tiny pond, no more than fifteen feet away and ten feet wide, separating him and us. He flaunted his ears and raised the trunk to pour the sucked up water in his deceivingly ever-smiling mouth, while keeping his left eye with long lashes focused on the strange creatures in front of him.

“Yes, Yes,” Mpo continued, “Go ahead, boy. Drink.”

Months before, me and the mustached man stood next to each other and bellowed into the night, as loud as we could, tensing all the muscles we had in our body, a sound that would surely have attracted all kinds of elk, had we not been on top of a volcano where almost nothing lived to witness what we saw. White-hot molten rock spewing from the volcano’s throat, almost immediately transforming into sparkling yellow, orange and red, natural fireworks, and streams of lava oozing down over the rim as if God himself overpoured the cauldron with a red fluorescent ale with blackish foam. We could not help ourselves. Nature was presenting itself in one of it’s most terrible, beautiful facets and we responded as men, having nothing but our primal sounds to rebuttal with.

Now, here I stand, with a glass of gin-and-tonic in my hand, seeing a twelve-hundred pounds beast’s black tail wagging a fly off it’s grey back while retracing it’s steps, back to the herd, possibly. I feel thirsty too. I sip without swallowing. I look left. I look right. I have nothing to do but suck the bitter liquid in my mouth and spread my eyes wide open while shaking my head in disbelief. What did I just witness? Had I not been so terror-struck, I would have bellowed again, at this overpowering force of nature, the magnificently tusked creature that could have trampled me and all my fellow travelers without ever feeling bad about it.

I swallow. I gasp. I wonder if there are volcano-whisperers out there, too…


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