The Tale of the Oldest of Worlds
There, snacking on the abundant plant life with their frontal feeders, the “pro-boscis” that much later classified them as Proboscidians in our prehistoric eras, we find a beloved sight. “Front feeder” earned them that name, but they were the First Feeders, too, the Proboscidiant Aleph, known variously in the thousandfold Piwican dialects as Aleph Proboscant, Eleph Boskantukh, Oleboscidiant, the original feasters who by their immense eating habits seemed to have invented the whole idea of eating, the Alephoscidiant, called commonly by the Central Mesa Plantmen as alephobuskant and alephuskant, by the Southern Mengalese as alephusk, the jungle Tenga peoples as elephosken, the Shrikeen as elophoscant, the Beenbaai as elephscant. You will have recognized the name by now.
Our little hero was born into a family living near the edge of the Nijwi Tablelands, so to honor those tribes that co-existed peacefully there, we will call his kind El’a’Phantoosk. The Phantoosk were not immune to names themselves, for each new calf was given a name based on the first sounds it uttered. Our hero came into the oldest world complaining and moaning his fate, so his Phantoosk mother named him Gronz.
Gronz hid under his mother’s belly until he could no longer fit there. He stayed near the other females long after his brothers and father had drifted apart from the family, as is the natural course of events. Something kept him back, which no mother understood, a deep set fear of the world.
The Phantoosk of that time and place were even larger than the huge African variety of our planet. They weighed up to ten tons and ate five hundred pounds of food daily, chasing their vegetation down with sixty or seventy gallons of water. So when Gronz became too big to continue living off his mother’s milk, his hunger drove him out into the world.
Where, to his greatest joy, he discovered food.
The first time Beeewle led her nephew out to the grove of loconut trees, Gronz could not believe his fortune. The leaves shooting up from the ground were a new taste sensation, waking up his tongue for the first time. When Gronz discovered the chocolate colored nuts the size of basketballs under the leaves, he was dumbfounded. His aunt demonstrated how to knock a nut from its cluster, pick it up with the tip of his trunk, and feed himself. The thrill did not end here. Gronz accidentally crunched a loconut under his huge foot, splitting it in half. New wonders waited inside the nut: a much chewier and tastier white meat and … milk! Gronz would have spent the day consuming the contents of the entire tree if Beeewle had not encouraged him to move from tree to tree, leaving portions untouched for others to enjoy.
In the days after, Gronz fed on bambu stalks, sukre cane, newberries, cornreeds, dates, pommes, plommes, and bushels of leaves, vines, and flowers. He learned to dig up delicious top leaves with his tusks (more food hidden under the ground!), pull down high dangling roots with his trunk (no food is out of reach!), and harvest the underwater plant life in the river (eat while you enjoy a swim!). He saw a wild gnashi feeding on a half-eaten carcass, but his mother prevented him joining in; as he watched a sickness grew in his belly at the sight. He happily returned to his trees, roots, and fruits.
Fully grown, Gronz spent over twenty hours of the thirty-hour solar day eating. In between he slept, swam, cooled off in the shade, and visited his family. No predator threatened the outsized Phantoosk, and the Nijwi lived side by side with them, praising the El’a’Phantoosk as children of deities. The shouts and bellows of the Nijwi during their rituals never frightened Gronz, for he knew it meant a gift of mounds of onanas and braidfruits in the morning. Drought never diminished the abundant growth in his lifetime. Fire never menaced the fields and groves. Pickbirds lazily cleaned Gronz’ wrinkles as he grazed.
Even if you spent the first third of your life living with the most loving and nurturing of families, the second third dazzling the world with the most acclaimed of careers, and the final third peacefully settling in with the most beautiful of spouses, surrounded by delightful children and grandchildren, and, at the end of this time, even if Poacher Death was so impressed with your life that he granted you another share of time to leave a legacy of elegant poetic and philosophical writings for the world, even if you had all this — you could not understand the depth of Gronz’ satisfaction with his life as an elephant.