All year round, hot air flushes from the rusty vent on the ceiling close above my head. It makes me drowsy and dulls my vision. Somehow, the air seems stale. It feels old and used, like I feel. It is breathable, but not quality. I wish for open fields of fresh air and large trees with blossoming flowers. There I will run, liberated, with my brothers and sisters across the vast landscape where no man can shackle me up. One day, the dream will be mine and I will be transported to that lovely location of immensely beautiful fields of wheat. For today, I remain in my cage, lightheaded and tired. I breathe dull air into my weak lungs and look up only to see a mildewed ceiling, not a panoramic view of a sky on a cloudless day. My life is hell, but I am certain that soon I will escape my dank prison.
Both of my front feet are shackled to the wall. Pulling with all of my incredible strength does nothing. The shackles remain tight. Underneath the metal rings my flesh is raw. Blood and pus ooze from sores that will never heal. Walking hurts and my limp increases each day. Yet, the men still force me to prance around like a ballerina as if I do not spend my nights in jail. When the ignorant man dressed in a clown costume notices the unfortunate limp I have to endure, he whips my aching back. It makes me roar uncontrollably which only makes them whip more. Each day, more scars form on the wrinkly skin above my tail. My body was once strong, but now it is broken. Their treating me like garbage has turned me into the garbage that I am now.
Night is my only time of rest. Between shows and training, my days are packed. When the sun has set, a man pulls me to my cage and locks the door. I used to attempt to escape, but I have matured and realized that rest will save me one day. So I lay on my side, head on the dusty floor, and close my heavy eyelids. Shivering from the cold of the metal floor, I curl up tightly, attempting to use my own body temperature to soothe me. Eventually from tiredness, I fall into a light sleep only to be awakened by the rumbling of my stomach.
Food has been scarce since the day I awoke here. Two meals I eat a day: breakfast and dinner. The amount of calories I eat barely keeps my heart beating. In the morning a slot opens at the side of my cage, where a heap of soggy meal is forced through. I eat every ounce of it and am still starving. Then, I stumble to the dirty water dish rusting in a corner. There I drink until my mouth is not parched. Everyday is the same schedule: eat, drink, and defecate. I am not particularly fond of having my own feces so close to where I eat my meals. In my natural habitat, these are done at completely different areas. Truly, I am living in my own personal hell.
This specific morning is Saturday morning, the Saturday matinee show, so we have to prepare early. This also means that immediately after eating my breakfast, I am tranquilized. When I wake up from my hour slumber, everything is blurry. It seems I am out of my cage near several circus performers. Me, being the single elephant and largest animal of this production, am center stage, lazily lying down on a tarp in case I make a mess. Glancing down at my front legs, I notice garments hanging from them. They are the same as last week’s: red and white stripes with golden stars. The fabric irritates my open wounds as I attempt to shake them off. Unsurprisingly, this upsets the man who whips my back as punishment. Roaring out of woe, he whips me twice more. He has taught me my lesson. I sit quietly, suffering in silence.
Just as the Saturdays before this one, a headpiece sits between my floppy ears, matching the fabric on my legs and the saddle on my back. I am not a once majestic animal, free from the bounds of domestication. I am a circus freak, a mere ploy with mercenary purposes. I am puppet whose master is no other than the almighty man. Humiliation is the single word that describes my circumstance. Several hours from now, I will dance and run around while children point and laugh at my horror. I am screaming, but you cannot hear. I shout, ‘Help,’ but you do not listen. My voice cannot carry words that your brain will interpret. When I speak all you hear is a roar. My eyes are the only window to my torture. Without words they speak of the undefinable sadness and frustration each new day brings. If only you would look into my eyes and peek behind the curtain that is me. I may be an elephant, but I have a soul. I feel the agony of oppression and the undeniable feeling that is physical pain. All I want is to feel the cool breeze of a calm day in the wild and be free from my captors. One glorious day, my brothers, sisters, and I will be emancipated from our overlooked captivity: The Greatest Show on Earth.