The elephants were buried in sand up to their necks. From a certain distance, all you could see were dozens of trunks, waving like sea grass in the desert air, and enormous floppy ears. The elephants repeatedly slapped their ears on the ground, sending vibrations through the sand that would return, with news, upon encountering solid objects. A rock, for instance. Or a truck carrying boxes of protesting chickens. Or a Bradley Light Armor vehicle. In this way the elephants could gauge proximity of danger.
You dream of a thing like this. You don’t ask for it but you dream. Also you eat, you sleep, you walk in a seeming trance through the maze of daily tasks that make up a life. Then you notice there are elephants buried up to their necks in the sand half a mile off the interstate. Maybe the elephants have always been there. Maybe they didn’t exist until you noticed them. Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe you don’t. The elephants make you wonder where before you didn’t wonder.
These are not stupid elephants. They are smart, well-trained, and have constructed, mostly with their trunks—which are more flexible than any human arm, and which can cradle a baby or rip a tree from the ground by its roots—a series of deep trenches in the shifty earth to protect them from our wrath.
Elephants won a war for Hannibal. He crossed the Alps at winter, when the best military thinking declared the Alps impassable due to drifting snow and mistral wind. The elephants, though at times buried to their necks in snowdrift, were able to lumber unstoppably both up and down the treacherous alpine passes, carrying troops armed with spears. Not a few elephants, you’d imagine, tumbled into icy chasms and died. Hannibal didn’t stop.
Maybe he didn’t notice.