The parable of the man with an elephant’s head

elephant head storyI had what felt like a terribly profound dream the other night, concerning a couple who were walking in a valley as dusk was approaching. They had been out for a long time, and were growing tired, eager to get home before dark. The valley had steep, high sides, hedging them in, and their trail was chased by shadows. The woman started to grow anxious, convinced that someone was following them and that they should hurry. Looking back, they could both see that, for sure, a figure was walking behind them, a short distance away. The man brushed off her fears, though, saying that there were bound to be others enjoying such a beautiful walk; they had no right to believe this walk was meant just for them.

As the couple continued, the stranger behind them appeared to be getting closer, and the woman grew ever more anxious. She complained that this figure was hidden in shadow and there was no way to know what he wanted. To be safe, they should hurry.

The man admonished her, laughing at her fears and launching into a discourse about the differences between being fixated on the past, which they were leaving behind, and looking to the future, with what awaited them at the house. She, you see, was locked in fear and stress caused by where they had once been, and the things they had once done, dwelling forever on what they could not change, but what they should let go. He, on the other hand, was full of joy for what was still ahead, completely dismissive of the trail they were leaving to get there. Let the past be the past, and leave the shadows to the shadows, he cheerfully chided her. They had pleasure and warmth and laughter to look forward to.

His lecturing was not enough to stop her worrying, though it did quieten her, and she stopped protesting, continuing with the man to their country cottage with frequent frightful looks back the way they had come.

As they arrived home, up a small path through flowers to a quaint holiday house, the woman was letting out breaths of relief as the man found joy in her frustration, telling her how silly she had been to worry all this way. Surely it had ruined an otherwise fantastic day, letting her doubts seep in during their final homeward stretch?

But before they got to the door, the stranger caught up to them, suddenly striding up the path. He revealed himself, first in silhouette and then in the light, as a suited man with an enormous elephant’s head. The man and the woman recognised at once that he meant them harm, yet with nowhere to run they could do nothing but panic and scream. The elephant-headed man descended on them in a furious rage and attacked them with his bare hands. Having seen the woman murdered before his eyes by a suited man with an enormous elephant’s head, as the vicious attack turned to him, the man died wondering if this could have somehow been avoided.

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