Múite awoke from a bizarre dream in which he was piloting a commercial jet. He looked at the bedside clock, it was 4am. He couldn’t go back to sleep because it was better to analyse the dream which was still vivid and disturbing. Later, when insomnia kicked in, to distract himself from the absurdity of the dream and the sudden wakefulness, he decided to go downstairs and make a cup of tea. He returned 10 minutes later and walked out to the balcony of his bedroom.
When he moved there five years ago, he woke up every day at 4am to see Mt Kenya which was a few miles from his house, but appeared closer in the wee hours of the morning. He loved taking pictures of the sunrise to show former colleagues and to brag how he lived on the slopes of the most magnificent mountain in the world. He would watch it for hours and catch the magnificent sunrise as it emerged from behind the beautiful snow-capped peaks. It was breath-taking; a superb way to start the day.
This morning however, it was very cloudy, and he could hardly see anything other than the occasional clearing and a view of the peaks. He would have a better view from the second floor of his mansion, but he didn’t want to wake his grown-up children and their families who were visiting for the weekend.
As he watched the clouds lift from the apex and a beautiful sunrise begin to emerge, he heard what he thought was a cow on his vast orchard. The floodlights were out, it was still slightly dark, and the orchard was thick with several pawpaw, mango, avocado, and orange trees. Next to the orchard was a large vegetable patch with every imaginable vegetable, even ones from the temperates. The rest of the farm was littered with banana trees and bordered by a well-manicured kei-apple fence.
He fetched a powerful spotlight that he kept in his bedroom and went outside. As he approached the orchard, shadows began to emerge and a prominent trumpet like noise filled the air. As he got closer he realised, to his utter horror, that the shadows were adult elephants partying in his orchard. In all likelihood they could have been partying for several hours because even in the darkness and the gloom there was not a single tree standing. At that moment he experienced a mini stroke, bile rose to his throat and his stomach contents churned and dropped to his ass. After watching helplessly for several minutes, he retreated to the house cursing under his breath.
He stood at his balcony, hands akimbo: he was torn between watching the beautiful sunrise as it emerged from behind the mountain or the over enthusiastic elephants as they devoured tens of millions of shillings. Their enthusiasm was nauseating as they trodded in among the now flat trees, sniffing and crushing any remaining trees under their huge stumps of feet. When they moved, the little ones seemed to disappear underneath the bellies of the bigger one.
As he watched, tears rolled down his cheeks and glancing at the beautiful snow-capped Batian and Lenana peaks did nothing to ease his grief. He experienced mixed emotions of awe and anger: he was in awe of the mountain, and of how organised the elephants were as they swept across the orchard, destroying everything and anything in their path, and how careful they were not to tread on their little ones; he was angry because there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop them. Majority of the little ones were feeding on the vegetables, others were lying down from sheer exhaustion like drunks would after a wild party.
He’d worked extremely hard all his life to secure this land, and to create his dream retirement home and a farm to supplement his income. He’d done all there was to do to keep ill doers at bay by installing an electric fence and floodlights. However, it was now evident that elephants were more intelligent than he thought possible – Kenya Power decided to shut down electricity last night and they saw the perfect opportunity.
Most likely the elephants had been watching him for years, watched as he installed the electric fence; watched as he planted the trees and nurtured them, watched as he cleared more land for the vegetables. The clever animals also waited until the trees were old enough to be juicy but not too old to be bitter and dried up. Múite could only imagine the board meetings that took place on the slopes, and the search parties sent out to scour the lands. They knew how Kenya Power operated, because later that day as he inspected the damage, he discovered an opening on the fence [that wasn’t there the day before] that looked like someone or something had folded the wires to leave enough space for an adult male elephant to fit through. Whoever/whatever did this waited until power was out!
After watching the annihilation for what felt like an eternity, he retrieved a rifle he kept under the stairs, went outside and aimed. He knew he couldn’t kill all of them; he knew killing them would not restore the orchard, but he hoped killing or wounding one of them would send a message to others not to mess with his life. “There should be enough vegetation at the slopes to feed elephants for generations!” he screamed as he shot.
The bullet ricocheted off the hide of a male elephant, he made the most harrowing scream and the stampede began. He fired again several times into the herd waking his entire family, but within minutes all the elephants had left, leaving devastation in their wake.
When the dust settled, he inspected the damage, took photographs for the impending insurance claim and cried some more. His beautiful orchard was no more: his flourishing vegetables were no more – five years of graft and sweat destroyed within hours and his dream of living it large on the slopes faded.
Of all the pointless advice he got from his neighbours, no one told him about the elephants and their penchant for fruits and vegetables.