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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Travel Adventure Women’s Fiction
BY JILL CAMPBELL-MASON
The Elephant in the Room gives you the chance to ride the back of an elephant and see the world from an entirely fresh viewpoint. Catch a glimpse of yourself mirrored in the native wisdom of a wizened shaman in the remote Medicine Village. See yourself along with Masir, the son, who blindly obeys the father— Crown Prince Sudman, despot ruler of a kingdom brought to the brink of collapse. Witness an abused lower caste, personified by the wealthy Wayan Tiger leading a struggle for recognition. Journey through beauty, tragedy, joy, magic, ugliness, and love—life in its strange familiarity. The galvanizing forces that come together clash culture with the power to change individual lives and international trajectories forever. For the first time, people will not be able to ignore The Elephant in the Room.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Travel Adventure Women’s Fiction
BY JILL CAMPBELL-MASON
Shorn of his retinue and adrift in a land in which he is unfamiliar, Crown Prince Sudman finds himself in a ‘situation’.
Morning’s handfuls of light forced Sudman to open his eyes.
Wrapped in a fetal ball, with his turban tight as a tourniquet, Sudman realized he must have finally crumpled into sleep from sheer exhaustion. With a quick breath, he slowly sat up in the boxlike carriage atop Darwin. His hands were stiffened hooks from the white-knuckled grip he’d had on the rail of the carriage most of the night. His eyes felt gritty, and he rubbed them to clear his vision.
Through still clouded sight, Sudman could make out the upright trunks of trees poking into the clouds that hung about, hampering his ability to assess his situation. Below him, a whispering shuffle of feet caught his attention. He could make out the vague form of a sepia-toned body clad in a flowered blue sarong untying a hammock and rolling it in a ball. A second figure fanned a tiny flame with a sizzling pot set on it. The aroma of coffee lifted his foul mood, but he still felt completely disoriented.
Noticing his heart still quaking from last night’s debacle, he forced it to slow. It became obvious the elephant had strayed merely a small distance, even though he’d felt lost and pursued in the vastness of this primal rainforest. What about those horrid sounds that battered him for hours? They had filled every crevice in the underbrush and still echoed in his head. “Hey, you, boy! Get me down from here for that coffee!”
The young man canted his head upward toward the disheveled man sitting atop the elephant. “Promptly. I will have it for you.” He then tapped Darwin with a slim stick just above the knees, and the giant slowly stretched out his back legs and bent his front ones so that he was, in essence, kneeling.
That was enough for Sudman. “Give me a hand down!” But he couldn’t wait to get off the beast, so gathering his robe about him, he climbed down by himself. Taking in the situation, he found only one spot to sit—on a relatively flat rock. That would have to do. The stream burbled along, hardly visible between shallow mossy banks, looking inviting. “I’ll bathe.” He announced.
“No need. The rains will come in a few hours, and they will clean you. Have breakfast now.”
The impertinence angered Sudman. He had addressed him directly without even a ‘Sire’ or ‘Your Eminence.’ Without the night’s terrors assaulting him, Sudman regained his regal stance—chest pushed out with barrel-chested pride, and goatee-bearded chin thrust upward in an attitude of disdain for the lowly personas beneath him. With his voice full of disinterest, showing clearly his life of power where all humans were his subordinates, he said, “I will bathe. Bring soap and drying towels. What is your name, boy?”
“I am Ticktock.” Ticktock rolled his eyes, trying to hide a smile. This man knew nothing! “When the rain comes, you will be cleaned and then dry. No need for drying cloths.”
“You, Ticktock, will speak properly. I am Crown Prince Sudman. And I will bathe. And you will bring me what I order.”
Ticktock dipped his head so that Sudman couldn’t see a smile playing about his lips. “Yes, Sir, I will call you Sir?”
“NOT Sir! You call me Crown Prince, or Sire, or Your Majesty…but not Sir. I am more than Sir to you. I am your Royal Highness. Now soap!” His anger was rising. These miniature people were idiots.
“We have no soap, sire. Here is the stream. Bathe if you must. We wait for you.”
“You will wait! I’m the one who commands here. Do not cross me!” Sudman stood from his rock seat and handed Ticktock his emptied coffee cup. A sobering thought entered his mind. He’d better be careful. He could not eliminate the trainers. Only they knew the way to get to Medicine Village. Without them, he would wander a jungle full of unknown perils without recourse to any aid whatsoever.
Sudman removed his own clothes, except for his sandals. Internally he vowed his feet would not touch the tainted soil of this island. He picked his way between large stones, grabbing onto overhanging branches for stability as he went down the four-foot bank. As his second sandal stepped onto the carpet of moss, it skated out from under him. “Yeooow!” He bumped and skidded awkwardly, landing bum first in the water. “Stupid river!” he shouted.
Ticktock, the other trainers, and his two bodyguards just sat still as they clenched their teeth to keep from emitting giggles. None stirred to help. Sudman fumbled around, all legs and arms akimbo, until he was upright, up to his thighs in the water. “A jug!” he called out. “Bring a jug to pour water over me.”
“No jugs, so sorry,” Ticktock called out. Unable to suppress his chuckles, so he ducked his head and turned his back so that Sudman would not notice. Laughter is contagious, more than the most virulent virus, and the other two trainers burst out with little chuckles while they shook with mirth. The two bodyguards bit their lips so hard that a little drop of blood popped out on the stoutest one’s lower lip, yet even with all their training, they could not contain their silly bubbling. Their stomachs jiggled. They, too, had been terrorized throughout the night. Their relief overwhelmed them.
“Dry robes!” Sudman continued to shout out orders. He floundered about and dashed water over his face.
“I will bring your robe,” the stout bodyguard called between sniffles of barely contained glee. He walked toward Darwin and exploded again in giggles. The others caught the hilarity again. They walked to the far side of the elephants as their bodies bounced and jounced. As they leaned against the far side of Darwin, tears ran down their faces. A naked ruler flopping around was simply too much to stop their joviality.
After several minutes, the stout bodyguard climbed up Darwin, opened the small case with Sudman’s necessities, grabbed a white robe, and wiped his eyes and nose so that no remnants of their glee would be evident to Sudman. He walked back toward the river with his head turned away from his prince in respect. He extended his arm to hand Sudman the fresh robe.
As Sudman reached up to grasp the robe, he slipped again. This time he slid face down across the moss and ended with his feet in the water. As he pushed himself up on his arms, his chest was a striped mass of green and dark curly hair. His fresh robe lay wet and crumpled on the bank. His growls and curses reverberated through the trees.
The stout bodyguard buried his face in his hands. Then wiped his cheeks down again as he regained a bit of sobriety. “Sire, take my hand.”
Sudman grumbled. “Further! Reach further! I will not move from this position upward. The bank is too steep.”
The bodyguard gingerly took two steps down, and his leading foot hit the now wet slick of moss. When Sudman gripped the outstretched hand, the bodyguard went down, too. The two lay in a tangle. The bodyguard roared with laughter he hoped Sudman would interpret as anger. Sudman truly bellowed with wrath. “Get me the hell OUT of here!”
All the others rushed down immediately. Laughter dissipated as they fumbled around, trying not to look at the naked prince yet valiantly attempting to help him regain his own sense of composure. With a concerted effort on the part of five men, Sudman was re-robed and turbaned in a wet mess of muddy white cloth. It took another hour for the group to reorganize everything, feed the still fuming Crown Prince, and mount up again.
The first thing Sudman said to Ticktock as Darwin and the other two elephants got underway was, “What was that damn noise all night?”
Ticktock knew—but would not say. He had heard the Kaychak men chanting, immediately recognizing they were targeting Sudman. He loved the repetitive cadences that echoed through the jungle. He did not know the reason they had been sent, but neither did he question it. All he said to Sudman was, “You were safe on Darwin.”
The downpour came just as the trainers had expected. The midmorning drenching was like standing under a powerful waterfall, much better than bathing. Sudman groused about wet clothes. His bellyaching continued even as he demanded they find a place to stop so that his robes could dry properly.
Less than ideal, the spot they found at least had a small semi-level space ringed by banyans. Ticktock led the other trainers in preparing lunch and tentatively informed Sudman. “Sorry sire, we stop and then don’t make good progress today. We will arrive tomorrow at Medicine Village. We will find a better spot to stop this night.”
Better? Thought Sudman. It best be better! I can’t survive another night like last night. I need more than two measly bodyguards and three weakling trainers to serve me. And whatever was in the jungle last night, better not be there tonight.
But when the darkness advanced, it welled up out of the thick vegetation and spilled on top of him, thick and weighty.
Links to Jill’s website, blog, books, etc.
**Special Giveaway** Any reader who has enjoyed this Killer Book Bench spot, commented and is intrigued by The Elephant in the Room, go to the website heartery.org or Facebook page Authoring Adventures and sign up to follow me with your email, you will receive a free short story or a free The Elephant in the Room ebook compliments of me, the author.
Thanks, Jill, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!