“An Excerpt from A Broken Paradise” By Tara Davoodi

The dark forests that bend to the will of the wind suddenly melt away into a soaring open expanse. The emerald undergrowth fades into bright grazing grasses. The hulking boulders merge into lumbering Asian elephants. The dominating presence of trees turns into the herd of Jeeps. While the elephants seem like pinpricks in the dotted landscape of a quilt, the lines of vehicles that pour into the valley are the long paths of string embedded in its fabric. The Jeeps, Jasmine notices, rumble into their little paradise every day. Not squawking birds, feathers awry and ruffled. Not even the occasional peacock, flaring its eye-catching plumage. Clearly the vehicles were in the wrong place. Quickly the young elephant ducks behind the comforting wrinkly legs of her mother, knowing that their security blocked out the wicked world.

“Not to worry, child,” her mother whispers soothingly. “It will all be over soon.”

But the vehicles keep coming, with their flashing lights and fuming gasoline. The baby elephant could not imagine a world where the only things left were those monsters, only capable of evil. Then the hungry wolf pack closes in on Jasmine, helpless and alone. Squeezing her eyes tight shut, Jasmine tries to ignore the roaring vehicles, screeching as they pull up near the outside of the herd at a frighteningly fast pace. They encroach quickly. A whisper away they sit on their coal-colored feet, tension cutting into the air. Then silence. Suddenly one elephant lets out a mighty trumpet in defense, resounding loudly throughout the valley. Quickly the car backs up at the sound. And the cycle repeats.

“Why are there so many of them?” Jasmine murmurs to her mother.

The weathered elephant purses her lips, searching for the right answer.

“I’m afraid I don’t know.”

In an uncertain and dangerous world, not knowing what else to do, Jasmine scuttles deeper into the herd.

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