Gabriel said it was like this: it was cold and dark and you would feel as if you had nowhere left to go. Then something would happen – you would be pushed by a sudden burst of warm air and you would find yourself tumbling backwards. Then without warning, when you least expected it, you would stop.
Air bubbles would pop and burst around you. This would be followed by a quietness that descended on you as if you had gazed up to a calm black sky in the early morning and were transfixed by a thousand stars that pulsed at you. In that space, you wouldn’t hear buses that squealed to a sudden stop; or notice early-morning-risers that slammed their doors and clicked the locks behind them as they trudged off to commuter stops that would carry them to their jobs.
Charity told Gab he was a liar.
Charity had thought about Gabriel more than once and what had happened to her, and more importantly, to him. But she hadn’t gone there for some time and preferred the version of “truth” her brother told others as if he were handing out licorice or smarties to friends at a party.
You were pulled from Elephant Lake, Dexter said over and over again. How could you forget that? he asked Charity as he shook his head. But it wasn’t only his head that wobbled to the right and left; his hands and legs shook with something between pity and rage. Charity couldn’t tell which emotion was more dominant as his eyebrows drooped, and long lines crisscrossed his face that occasionally caused his forehead to twitch. Sometimes his eye would also involuntarily bounce as if it were a wayward basketball after a player lost control of it on the court.
You drank too much that night, Dexter told the party-goers.
Gabriel is missing.
When you see Elephant Lake from a plane in the sky, it resembles the African and Asian mammal that has always been known for their physical attributes of flapping ears, long trunks, and to their detriment – tusks, that will sometimes result in their slaughter by poachers. Charity considers the more recent characteristics that science has proven exist in these massive creatures: they are social in nature, self-aware, and have long memories.
A few years ago sandbags were littered around the homes that border Elephant Lake. The area had never flooded before in the close to 175 years since their town was settled. But that year it changed. Forty-five homes were gobbled up by the Elephant and in the aftermath a birth happened: a baby elephant was born.
In an ironic twist of fate, where the baby elephant was born, there were no homes. When the water finally receded, the calf remained. And now when you fly above, you see not only the outline of the mother, but also of her baby.
Charity was pulled from the part of the lake where the calf exists.
Dexter’s right. She drank too much that night. That’s why she never argues with him. But he also said that Gabriel did too, and she doesn’t remember that part of it. Then again, she was in the habit of mixing beer and vodka. Sometimes to shake things up, she would throw in a cosmopolitan. But in the five years she’d known Gabriel he’d have one Stella. After last call, he would pack her into his car, drive her home, help her in, and if he was worried by the amount of booze she had consumed – Gabriel would sleep on her couch in case she needed him.
Charity is there again.
This night it’s just her and the calf. Charity stares down at her right hand and then flips it over to reveal her wrist. In daylight you can’t see them. It’s only in darkness that they are revealed. It’s something she received when she lost Gabriel that night: the outline of two sparkling doves drift across the veins of her wrist as if they are in flight.
The winged birds etched on top of Charity’s skin that hide her veins look as if they are a diamond tattoo: a message from the new born elephant of life and peace.