On the sandy banks of the majestic island of Hubabaloo, between the poppy fields of the windy river Thyme and the shadows of the sleepy forest of Myrr, there lived a very old and very wise elephant and his name was Flabbergast. Flabbergast knew more of what there was to know about the world than all of the island’s other inhabitants put together and he could quite easily undertake ten times the average work load of even the brightest orang-utan Elder George Mustafalis. This was all down to one simple fact. Flabbergast never slept. He never dozed, never napped and certainly never conked out.
Instead he worked tirelessly through the day and night alike, seldom noticing much distinction except for the differences in creature life, which he took great pride in cataloguing, and that the quiet of the night time lent itself to the deepest thinking. Once the loafing giraffe asked Flabbergast why he never slept, and in such a manner that Flabbergast couldn’t pretend that he had misheard, which was always quite a feat considering his near perfect hearing.
Flabbergast thought long and hard about the answer and tried to remember with pinpoint accuracy his last sleep. But all he could recall was a foggy image of himself as a young calf, peacefully snoozing, with a gentle feeling in his heart and his dear Grand Papy Phante by his side. But then when baby Flabbergast awoke, the unthinkable had happened… deep in the soft folds and warm ruffles of a lovely dream, perhaps the loveliest of all, Baby Flabbergast had forgotten something and the sheer weight of this elephantine abyss, forced him to swear to himself there and then that we would never, under any circumstances, sleep again.
So where does this story begin? Well to give you some background on Flabbergast, his job was to catalogue all of his discoveries to pass onto the next generation of elephants. He held the record for most articles catalogued in one day, which was 108 after he had uncovered a smorgasbord of insects living in the trunk of a Pineapple tree, and he had given himself two extra gold stars that day for outstanding achievement. Nothing ever startled him, nothing ever phased him. Until one day when Flabbergast was stumped for the first time in his very long life.
Before I tell you how and why he was stumped, I must first add that not only was Flabbergast responsible for creating the largest cataloguing system known to elephant –kind but he held the very prestigious task of giving all things their names. To tell you how this came to be is a whole other story that would take us entirely off track so I’ll save that for another time. But in this process of naming things, Flabbergast loved to reduce each thing down to its most thingyness, which was infact a highly complex, well thought out means of calculation. For example, if a bee met a shell and decided to hibernate in it for awhile until the shell started buzzing and growing flowers, well this would be called a [insert very long word here]. So far Flabbergast in his 152 years of documenting Hubabaloo Island had catalogued and named 5 million, 5 hundred and forty-eight thousand otherwise unidentified animals, minerals and vegetables. And then one day, what Flabbergast discovered left him shell-shocked, quite literally.
He was strolling up and down Sandy Dunes beach, whistling to himself, as he liked to do every morning before he began his day – for no other reason than to count the stones to see if they had grown in number, and NOT because he found the gentle lapping of the waves, or hypnotic sparkle of the shells, peaceful or meditative in any way - those words were perfectly abhorrent to Flabbergast who believed in nothing that he couldn’t see, quite clearly, with his own two bespeckled eyes or inspect with his old wizened trunk. But as he made his 6th lap of the bay, finishing up the last of the morning’s rocks and minerals count he noticed something glowing a lion’s tail away from his left foot. He stopped, confused, and turned his leathery head. What in the world was this!?
Nestled between the gem pools and the crab banks, which already glistened like jewels in the morning sun - but this glowed 10 times brighter… wait maybe 100… and it looked like pure gold in the form of a perfectly made, untouched conch… or was it a conch that had somehow turned to Gold!? Flabbergast was, well, Flabbergasted, for the first time in his life.
The light of the conch burned his eyes and he could hear the faintest of whirring noises in the distance which also bothered him. But the reason that Flabbergast was particularly miffed about this conch just showing up, out of the blue, was because he had already submitted his “Shells, Rocks and other Curiosities” file to the committee that same moon passing and now he would have to open it up again and for what exactly?!
Flabbergast was staring at the Conch for what must have been an entire tide turn before he felt brave enough to go and investigate. He had encountered many spine-tingling things far scarier than this benign shell like the tooth-chuckling whirlers, and the eye-snatching digglers and the worst of all, the stomach-fuggling, bone chuggling, blood smuggling slicers but somehow this Conch in all of its mystery, without any context or footnote or byline was the most terrifying of all to Flabbergast. Slowly slowly crept the bamboozled Flabbergast towards the Conch and slowly slowly did his trunk extend to wrap around the luminous golden shell. And call it intuition, call it sixth sense (though Flabbergast would call it none of these) but slowly slowly did Flabbergast raise the beautiful shell to his right ear (the larger and sharper of the two) and then he gasped. When an elephant gasps it is felt by all the land due to both the strength of the breath and the depth of the gasp.
As he gasped, Karma Koala fell out of his favourite tree, Melificent the Hippopotamus sunk deeper into his soggy mire and the Juniper berries all ripe for the picking burst on the very branch they were perched on. Even the wrathful seal lion paused just for a second before crashing his waxy flippers in fury against the rock castles where terrified crabs cowered under sand arches, waiting for his rage to pass.
But while all of this was going on around him, Flabbergast stood glued to the spot, transfixed. Never in his 509 years of living had Flabbergast stood more still and elephants are known for their effortless inertia. But what Flabbergast heard coming from the depths of this beautiful golden wonder simultaneously made his heart sing and his brain hurt.
For now, finally, after all these years of searching, he remembered what he had forgotten so very very long ago… it was that lovely lullaby, that mellifluous melody that Grandpa Papy Phante had sung to him under the wide eyes of the moon as baby Flabbergast lay peacefully sleeping in his bamboo hammock, the very lullaby that had secretly haunted Flabbergast for all of his adult life, that has made him intent on cataloguing everything around him – for all of those sleepless nights – it was, in laymen’s terms, the one that got away, the one the Elephant forgot.
And like the most beautiful butterfly that had been out of permanent reach, it fluttered softly, through Flabbergast’s gigantic ear and into his whirling mind until all was still, and all was calm.
And suddenly Flabbergast felt that gentle feeling in his heart and the sweetness of honey, mixed with the warmth of the sun, a collide-a-scope of colour and the softest of hums.
And there on the sandy banks of the majestic island of Hubabaloo, between the poppy fields of the windy river Thyme and the shadows of the sleepy forest of Myrr, Flabbergast the elephant – with the beautiful golden conch resting like a flower in his ear – fell fast asleep for the first time in far too many years.