“The only constant in life is change,” the raspy voice of the wise old croc, Cronilot, echoed
through Niya’s mind as she stood swaying very gently.
She had planted herself in a section of the stream where the waves crashed slightly harder
against her stumpy grey legs, purposely wading deeper in so the stillness of the stream was
“Reflections of my mind?” she thought out loud, tilting her head and lifting her trunk out of
the cool water before dipping it in again.
Niya had been visiting the stream from when she was young, and continued to do so as she
got older, but her visits were always dependent on the state of her mind. Two seasons ago she
began coming on a daily basis. Her visits were always at twilight and usually by the time the
African sun rose and bathed the stream and park in light, her mind was silenced. But this had
not been the case more recently; her mind’s banter continued relentlessly. Now, with her legs
submerged in the stream, she swayed her trunk slowly, hoping to quieten her spirit and create
a sense of peace.
The bush around her was abuzz, as various other animals approached. A high-pitched shriek
echoed through the sky as a fish eagle swooped down in a sharp dive, talons outstretched,
grabbing a fish and flying up into a nearby tree.
A herd of hippo marched past, grunting while they gawked at Niya standing quietly in the
middle of stream. Every day they stopped and asked the same question: “What are you
doing? The middle of a stream is not a place for elephants.” But today they continued without
any comment. ‘They’ve finally become used to it,’ she thought and chuckled slightly.
‘A sense of acceptance at last?’ she thought as she lazily waded towards dry land, feeling the
morning sun already beginning to burn her delicate grey skin.
“You should watch where you’re walking, young one!” a voice scolded, and she smiled at the
large elderly crocodile that suddenly emerged from the depths.
“Cronilot! I am so sorry! I didn’t see you! But I was actually just thinking about you!”
The wise croc seemed to grin as he raised his head higher out of the water.
“Still quite unsettled, I see,” he observed. His unusual slit yellow eyes seem to scan through
her thoughts, and maybe even through the aches and pains of her body.
Cronilot swam slowly in the direction of land, obviously expecting Niya to follow. She
Raising his head again, Cronilot spoke:
“Interesting times, as always.”
He coughed a laugh and seemed to choke before clearing his throat.
“What is your place in this world, young Niya?” he continued. “This constantly changing
world where you heart seeks comfort but as soon as it is uncovered, things seem to have
‘He can definitely read minds,’ exclaimed Niya mentally.
Cronilot stared up at the blue skies and continued chatting as if speaking to himself.
“This creates quite the dilemma, doesn’t it? Maybe you have changed more, and thus
everything seems different? Maybe therefore you should not attach yourself to the old?
Changing times, hey? Where? Inside or outside? Mmm?”
As silently and smoothly as he had arrived, Cronilot changed his direction, dipping his head
below the water as he swam back towards the centre of the stream.
Niya moved up the bank slowly, and as she did, she grabbed a trunkful of mud and splattered
it over her body. ‘Sunscreen,’ she thought, grinning broadly. With a final spray of mud, she
moved towards a nearby tree she had noticed on her way down. Stripping some of the leaves
with her trunk, she placed them delicately into her mouth and chewed loudly.
A trumpet of a nearby herd of elephant echoed through the morning air, carrying with it a
message for the elephants further inland.
Niya grimaced dryly as she remembered her pubescent years, and how difficult she had
initially found the supposed innate ability of all elephants to communicate over vast
distances. The pain and frustration this caused her was further exacerbated by the younger
elephants in her herd, who mocked and tormented her for her inability. I hope that it’s not…
Niya paused as a lump developed in her throat. Distracting herself, she grabbed a large shrub
and shoved it into her mouth.
“Whoaa! That’s a mouthful!”
Niya purposely chewed slowly as Mala, her elderly aunt and the matriarch of their herd,
stepped out from the trees and raised her trunk in greeting. Her wrinkled ears flapped back
and forth, creating a welcome breeze, and she stomped the ground as if attacking an unseen
rodent. Settling next to Niya, her fan like ears still flapping, the elderly cow elephant smiled
“Had your morning dip yet? Clear’d your mind? You been coming on a daily basis lately.
Ev’ything ok, girl?”
Mala’s eyes scanned her niece’s body as if expecting a response from an appendage.
“I am the eldest elephant in our herd. I have herd it all!” Taking Niya’s silence as an answer,
Mala continued, wheezing with laughter and causing her entire body to shudder as her trunk
flayed from side to side.
Niya smiled politely. She trusted Mala but was finding it difficult to speak to any of the
“My dear, you have grown quite serious in your olda age. You should lighten up! But I am
sure that you will, soon-ish”.
Mala winked mischievously, which Niya purposely ignored. The old elephant coughed loudly
and spat some gunk to the ground to clear her throat.
“Mmmm, yes. Life’s such an interestin’ phenomena. I don’t know why we took it so
seriously in our younga ‘ears. Niya, my dear.”
Mala paused and lumbered towards the stream but continued to speak back over her shoulder.
“The world is changing, girl, and so are you. You have gone through a lot in your short life
and you have experience plenty, but what is to come…”
Mala dipped her trunk into the stream, sucked up a tank of water and wobbled back to Niya.
Niya smiled and closed her eyes as Mala pointed her trunk to the skies and sprayed a fine
mist, showering the two elephants. She giggled uncontrollably, memories of her youth
“You’ve loved that since you were a child. Don’t think too much, Niya. We are all here to
support you and you gonna be a great …” Mala’s sentence was interrupted with the entrance
of a large bull elephant.
“Hello there, ladies!” boomed Haan, as he stomped through the field creating a trail of
smashed shrubs and bushes.
“Well, I will leave you two love birds – or calves – or whatever!” laughed Mala as she trudged
away, ears still flapping.
Haan watched her go, then affectionately bumped his head against Niya’s. Gently he ran his
trunk across her abdominal region. He spoke in a soft whisper, his big brown eyes shining
“You going to be a great mom. You know that, right? I know it, Mala knows it and I’m sure
this baby knows it too.”
Niya blushed. She felt herself relax and for the first time in two seasons, the warmth of the
sun seemed to penetrate her heart, spreading through her entire body and finally dissipating
the banter battering her mind.
“Yes, I am going to be great mom,” she whispered back gratefully.