The Elephant Closest to the Moon | The New Engagement

The Elephant Closest to the Moon

By Shannon O'Connor
The Elephant Closest To The Moon story art

I am a bug under a microscope and the doctors are mangling my insides trying to discover what is wrong with me. I am an elephant in outer space and the astronauts are looking at me through a telescope, attempting to figure out how I got to be floating near the moon. I don’t know how I came to be this person, so scrutinized, but I know they can’t find out what is really wrong with me, or they will suck out my brains like I am a dead Egyptian pharaoh.

The doctors and people behind the desk watch me and they write down my every move. Each time I travel to a different room, someone notes where I am. I know they are trying to discover my secrets, that I am in touch with God and she is sending messages to me. She tells me I am the one that is going to bring peace to the world. I went to the Soviet Union, and I learned things I cannot describe. The poverty and the apathy and the hopelessness made my head explode and sewed my connection to God.

Jesus speaks to me, but so does the evil spirit of Hitler, and so do Anne Frank and Joan of Arc, also Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. They’re all inside me somewhere waiting to tell their stories. I am the voice of the world, but I am being watched; they want to trick me into making a mistake, but I won’t be fooled because I am in possession of all the knowledge of the entire world.

You could say Big Brother is watching me. I read that book last year in my sophomore English class, even though the year 1984 is history. I watched the movie because it was on TV in the middle of the night in the living room. I could see the face of the man looking at everyone. I see his face now, hanging over me, sitting on the chair, all the people behind the desk, writing things about me, judging me; dissecting my movements because I am the chosen one. I will not let them see me cry.

Many different Big Brothers watch me. A young, handsome black-eyed man peers at me intently and writes down my actions for the bosses. A puffy gray-haired woman sits behind the desk, talking to the black-eyed man. She reminds me of my mother, but I didn’t think I had a mother anymore. A muscular man in a blue shirt watches me and everyone else.

I don’t want to take a shower because I know if I do, I will die. It is like the gas chamber in Auschwitz, when the Nazis told people to take a shower and they were murdered.

“You have to take a shower,” the black-eyed man says to me.

“I don’t want to die,” I say.

“You won’t die, I promise. Why do you think you’ll die?”

“Are you going to give me real soap? Or fake soap? They gave people real soap in the gas chambers.”

He laughs. “This isn’t the gas chamber. It’s actually a shower.”

I open the door to the stall. “Will you come in with me? I’m not sure how to work the water.”

“It’s all the same,” he says. He turns the knob of the shower. “See, turn it this way to make it hot.”

“You make me hot,” I say, pulling him toward me.

“No, don’t,” he says.

“I need you to love me,” I say. “I need someone to love me. Please take me here.” I kiss him hard on the mouth, pulling down his pants.

“I can’t, I’ll get fired.”

“Don’t say that, just love me.”

We fall on the shower floor in a tangle of my nightgown and his pants. I get on top of him. The hot water falls on us as I push him into me.

Everything around me disappears. I feel as if I am floating on a cloud. We are in space, and are showered with flowers. Lilies and daisies surround me on the ground. I know I wasn’t being watched by anyone but him.

He gasps. “Oh my god.”

“I’m a bad person,” I say. “That’s why I’ve been chosen to save the world.”

“You haven’t been chosen for anything,” he says. He pulls up his pants.

“What am I going to do with you?” he says. “We’re both soaking wet.”

“I still have to take a shower,” I say. “Give me that soap. And towel yourself off.”

“Do you think you’re going to die now?” he says.

“I hope I don’t die,” I say. “I want to see more of those visions of lilies.”

“You saw visions?”

“You took me to a different place,” I say, as I take off my nightgown and rub myself with soap.

“This can’t happen again,” he says.

“But don’t you love me?” I say. “If you say you don’t, I’ll murder you.”

“Of course I do.” The black-eyed man looks down. “Just don’t tell anybody.”

“I’ll only tell the elephants. They’re in space watching us. Near the satellites.”

“Oh, God,” he says, and walks out of the room.

I don’t know why he is upset. Is it about the elephants? I don’t understand.

I take a shower and wash my hair with the soap. I know you’re not supposed to wash your hair with soap, but I’m in jail, or the jungle, where normal rules didn’t apply.

It feels fantastic to be clean and loved. I won’t tell anyone of our love affair in the shower. I come out of the bathroom and put on lipstick and eyeliner. I decide to wear my red sweater, and I run my fingers through my hair.

Everyone in the observation room tells me how nice I look. All the other animals in the zoo don’t look as good as me, since I am clean and adored at the same time.  Nobody has any idea what occurred. The black-eyed man is nowhere to be found. He is not behind the desk with the gray-haired woman.

Time goes on. The black-eyed man disappears. He moves to another planet. Our love affair was short, but I remember it vividly. His flesh with mine. We were one in the shower. I love to shower and remember. I don’t shower too often because they are still observing me, writing things down.

“When was the last time you had your period?” the gray-haired woman asks me in my room. I could hear the walls breathing around us. They told me to lie.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, when was the last time you had your period? Do you remember? You do get your period don’t you?” She touches my breasts.

“Don’t touch me,” I say, pulling away from her.

“I’m trying to help you. I think you might be pregnant.”

“How could I be pregnant?” I say.

“You know how women get pregnant, right?”

“Do you mean when the alligators eat your nose? That almost happened to me once in Florida.”

“No, that’s not what I mean. If a man does something to you, if you make love, you can make a baby.”

“Does it always have to be a baby? Could it be something else?”

“I’ll be watching you. I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m not okay. I’m here aren’t I? You’re all still watching me. You’ll never stop watching me. That’s your job. To torture me into submission. To make me tell you my secrets. I won’t tell you anything.”

“I think I know your secrets,” she says, patting me on the leg. “We have to do something about this.”

When she leaves the room, I start thinking about a baby inside me. I don’t want a baby. I think if I try hard enough, I could make the baby into something else.

I want to give birth to an elephant. I want to make sure that the thing inside me is a creature that can help me get away from here.

I imagine the tiny elephant growing inside me. I know it’s an elephant because that’s what’s floating near the moon. My baby and I will float in space together.


The months go on, and I feel the elephant grow inside me. She is getting to be a big baby. The people behind the desk watch me and take me to the doctor. They want to show me a picture of the baby inside my stomach, and they tell me it’s a girl, and she will look like me, but I don’t want a baby. I want an elephant. I know it will turn into one when it comes out of my body.

Everyone in the zoo looks at my stomach.

“You should stop eating all those Oreos,” a girl told me. “Look at your belly.”

“It’s my baby elephant,” I say. “Do you know elephants can walk as soon as they are born?”

“Wow,” she says. “You’re having an elephant. Did you have sex with an elephant? It must have had a really huge dick.”

“It wasn’t huge, but it was nice,” I say, rubbing my belly.

She laughs. The gray-haired woman searches me for the truth. But I won’t tell her. No matter what happens. I won’t tell anyone behind the microscope disguised as a desk that I am still the savior of the Universe even though I am going to give birth to an elephant.


The day for the birth arrives. I feel pain. The ambulance comes. They take me to a hospital. I push and push, like the doctors and nurses tell me. I don’t want to see the elephant, so I turn my head when it is born.

“Don’t you want to see her?” the nurse asks.

“I can’t,” I say, and I faint.

When I am awake, I am in a clean white room. I don’t know what they did with my elephant. I think they took her to the moon. I have to find her. I make it my mission to find the elephant near the moon.

So many things are wrong with the world. The elephant I birthed will make everything okay again. She will give the world hope. She will prove to the world that anything is possible.

I believe anything could be possible. I believe in love. I believe in all the beautiful things in the world. I am young. I am strong. Nobody can tell me that I’m not in touch with God.

Except God herself. God walks into the clean room. She says something that I can’t hear. They are taking the baby away to my family. Do I have a family? I didn’t have anything except the zoo and the observation room.

God leaves the room, and I contemplate the stillness. I have to leave. I will run. I’ll go far away. But I’m tied to the bed. And someone in the room is watching me.

I sleep and dream of my elephant on the moon. Some day, we will meet again.  We will fly to the moon and float in space, the way it’s supposed to be.

Shannon O'Connor holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She has been published previously in THE WILDERNESS HOUSE LITERARY REVIEW, ODDBALL MAGAZINE, WORDGATHERING and others. She writes in the morning, and at night, she works for the corporate grind. She lives in the Boston area, and enjoys reading while taking public transportation.

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