Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

Damira followed the blood down the hill. The ground here was soft with upwelling water. Rivulets reflected the sun through blades of grass. Her feet sank a few centimeters into the upper layer of soil before meeting the spongy mat of root web.

She could not see much blood, but the pathway of blood-scent was clear. Touching her trunk to the Jacobson's organ in the roof of her mouth conjured the mammoth she called Koyon—his shy, lumbering form, his tattered right ear, his mournful, hairy head.

Koyon's eyes were amber, not the dark earthen color of most of the others. Beautiful eyes, long lashed and soulful. Damira remembered when the herd drove him off two summers ago. For weeks, he had trailed them at a distance, trumpeting desperately when any of them turned to look at him, winding his trunk through the scent-path of mother and kin. She had not seen when he finally turned and went away. She had tried not to look in his direction too much: it only prolonged the agony of the driving off, of the necessary separation of the males from the herd that was a part of their adolescence. Some wandered off themselves, some had to be charged, butted, shoved away by the matriarchs into their solitary adult lives.

The next summer season she saw him with Yekenat, the oldest and largest of the bulls. Yekenat was massively tusked, tall and thick through the chest, tawny pelted. Koyon trailed the larger male at a respectful distance, watching his mentor tear grass from the steppe. When the matriarchs and his shaggy cousins passed, he swung his trunk to trace their scent on the wind.

But he did not approach. He, like the others, had come to understand the proper order of things.
 
Damira heard the flies. The sound was weaker than it had been on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro...

* * *

Damira heard the sound of the flies and smelled the stench of death in the air. She hesitated at the base of the hill, shifted her rifle from one shoulder to the other. Wamugunda halted beside her. They had seen the vultures in the sky. They knew what was over the red earth hill. Neither of them wanted to see it for themselves. But the sound was almost worse than the sight: the enormous buzz of death. The hum of destruction. A hot exhalation of rot hit them. Wamugunda gagged. He spat in the red dirt, unashamed.

Damira did not gag. She would not let herself. If she did, she would vomit. She pushed forward, over the crest of the hill.

There were eight of them here. There were six adults, all females. There was an adolescent bull that must have been only a season or two away from being pushed out of the herd. And there was a calf, no more than a few days old.

The flies swarmed the mutilated faces of the matriarchs and the adolescent bull. Their trunks were hacked away, their tusks gouged out, their feet chopped off.

Musa was already there. He stood with the farmer who had found them, both of them smoking. To ward off the stench. And to give them something to do while they waited, besides staring at the slaughter.

"Shot from the air," Musa said. "Probably an ex-military drone—a flying machine gun, radar cloaked and silenced. They came in later on ATVs to harvest the tusks. It's one of the big operations. Well-funded. They set a booby trap, by the way, for us. An IED—tripwire in the brush there next to the adolescent bull. Mortar round. So, they send us their regards. There may be more IEDs around. I checked best I could, but be careful." Damira stood at the edge of the destruction, looking down at the last of the victims.

The pink calf lay, untouched by poachers, as if she had fallen asleep. Her rosy ears were still translucent. She had stayed with the buzzing ruins of her mother and her clan, and lay down to die just a few days after coming into the world.
 
The individual elephants slaughtered were lost in the numbers—the elephants butchered by the thousands, cut down by ivory hunters until there were almost none left in the wild. Seeing the individual acts of butchery was a reminder that every killing of an elephant was, like the elephant itself, enormous. A towering act of human cruelty.

But the numbers were not what Damira thought of when she later remembered those years of struggle along the Ewaso Ng'iro. And the mutilated adults and adolescents were not what she thought of, either. What stayed with her most was the baby, pink and newly born, that had remained with its mother until the end.
...

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Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

Damira followed the blood down the hill. The ground here was soft with upwelling water. Rivulets reflected the sun through blades of grass. Her feet sank a few centimeters into the upper layer of soil before meeting the spongy mat of root web.

She could not see much blood, but the pathway of blood-scent was clear. Touching her trunk to the Jacobson's organ in the roof of her mouth conjured the mammoth she called Koyon—his shy, lumbering form, his tattered right ear, his mournful, hairy head.

Koyon's eyes were amber, not the dark earthen color of most of the others. Beautiful eyes, long lashed and soulful. Damira remembered when the herd drove him off two summers ago. For weeks, he had trailed them at a distance, trumpeting desperately when any of them turned to look at him, winding his trunk through the scent-path of mother and kin. She had not seen when he finally turned and went away. She had tried not to look in his direction too much: it only prolonged the agony of the driving off, of the necessary separation of the males from the herd that was a part of their adolescence. Some wandered off themselves, some had to be charged, butted, shoved away by the matriarchs into their solitary adult lives.

The next summer season she saw him with Yekenat, the oldest and largest of the bulls. Yekenat was massively tusked, tall and thick through the chest, tawny pelted. Koyon trailed the larger male at a respectful distance, watching his mentor tear grass from the steppe. When the matriarchs and his shaggy cousins passed, he swung his trunk to trace their scent on the wind.

But he did not approach. He, like the others, had come to understand the proper order of things.
 
Damira heard the flies. The sound was weaker than it had been on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro...

* * *

Damira heard the sound of the flies and smelled the stench of death in the air. She hesitated at the base of the hill, shifted her rifle from one shoulder to the other. Wamugunda halted beside her. They had seen the vultures in the sky. They knew what was over the red earth hill. Neither of them wanted to see it for themselves. But the sound was almost worse than the sight: the enormous buzz of death. The hum of destruction. A hot exhalation of rot hit them. Wamugunda gagged. He spat in the red dirt, unashamed.

Damira did not gag. She would not let herself. If she did, she would vomit. She pushed forward, over the crest of the hill.

There were eight of them here. There were six adults, all females. There was an adolescent bull that must have been only a season or two away from being pushed out of the herd. And there was a calf, no more than a few days old.

The flies swarmed the mutilated faces of the matriarchs and the adolescent bull. Their trunks were hacked away, their tusks gouged out, their feet chopped off.

Musa was already there. He stood with the farmer who had found them, both of them smoking. To ward off the stench. And to give them something to do while they waited, besides staring at the slaughter.

"Shot from the air," Musa said. "Probably an ex-military drone—a flying machine gun, radar cloaked and silenced. They came in later on ATVs to harvest the tusks. It's one of the big operations. Well-funded. They set a booby trap, by the way, for us. An IED—tripwire in the brush there next to the adolescent bull. Mortar round. So, they send us their regards. There may be more IEDs around. I checked best I could, but be careful." Damira stood at the edge of the destruction, looking down at the last of the victims.

The pink calf lay, untouched by poachers, as if she had fallen asleep. Her rosy ears were still translucent. She had stayed with the buzzing ruins of her mother and her clan, and lay down to die just a few days after coming into the world.
 
The individual elephants slaughtered were lost in the numbers—the elephants butchered by the thousands, cut down by ivory hunters until there were almost none left in the wild. Seeing the individual acts of butchery was a reminder that every killing of an elephant was, like the elephant itself, enormous. A towering act of human cruelty.

But the numbers were not what Damira thought of when she later remembered those years of struggle along the Ewaso Ng'iro. And the mutilated adults and adolescents were not what she thought of, either. What stayed with her most was the baby, pink and newly born, that had remained with its mother until the end.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...