Ever since Baby Elephant told Rain he did not need her, Rain left. Without Rain, all the land as far as they could see became dry and barren. Plants were wilting. Lakes were drying up. In Baby Elephant’s territory, there was only one remaining waterhole that had not dried up. He kept it for himself, not sharing with any animal that was different from him.
Baby Elephant needed to wander away from the watering hole in search for food, so he asked Tortoise to be in charge of the water, leaving him with just one strict instruction: “No other animals are allowed to drink my water, not even you!”
Tortoise was perched on a rock while he kept guard. His chest was puffed out like a bullfrog because he was the one selected to watch over the water. Tortoise said to the birds in the trees, “When Baby Elephant sees me perform my duties well, he will realise that I am not that much different from him. Then he will reward me with water.” Tortoise didn’t yet know what was to come.
Under the pressing heat, the vapour lifted off the water’s surface. And out from the hazy layer, a mosquito emerged. It was a malaria-carrying mosquito. Mosquito questioned Tortoise, “Who do you think you are? You are not the god of the water. I am.”
Tortoise was slow on most things. He was slow to speak up and he was slow to retreat into his protective shell when the mosquito charged towards him. The malaria-carrying mosquito bit him on the neck. Tortoise felt the sting, the itch and the infection passing through his little body resulting in waves of fevers and fatigue. Nothing could fight it, so he tucked his legs into his shell, until his final breath was drawn.
From the tree above Tortoise, the bird of popular song was no longer singing her popular song.
Meanwhile, lion, giraffe, buffalo and many other animals from the surrounding dry regions were wearily commuting long distances to have a sip of water. They approached Baby Elephant’s waterhole, now very desperate to drink and they saw Tortoise lying upside down, lifeless. They concluded that the tortoise must have travelled so far to reach the water and collapsed to his death from thirst and exhaustion upon his arrival. They were deeply saddened for the poor tortoise.
Then, from out of the clouds, these nomadic animals heard a high-pitched voice project out.
“Stand back. You cannot drink this water!”
They wondered who was talking. They took a step closer.
“I said, stand back!”
Then they heard an irritating, high-pitched buzzing sound and they knew who was talking. The thirsty animals twitched their ears to swat the mosquito away.
The Northern White Rhino bravely stepped closer to the water. “Miss Mosquito, we are all very thirsty and tired, please share your water with us. But if it is too much to ask, would you at least allow me to have a sip?”
Miss Mosquito ignored Rhino, so Rhino asked, “Miss Mosquito, why can’t I drink some water? Is it because I’m white?”
“Yes”, said Mosquito.
Rhino drooped her stumpy neck and started crying. “There are already so few of us White Rhinos. I can’t afford to be yet another that doesn’t live on.”
Pink Flamingo approached Mosquito in confidence, showing off her pink feathers.
“No pink flamingos can drink from my water”, said Mosquito.
Blue Crane, who was standing next to Pink Flamingo, took one massive step away from Pink Flamingo with his long, angular legs. Mosquito noticed this and said, “The same goes for you, Blue Crane.”
Buffalo then stepped forward. “Miss Mosquito, why can’t I drink water?”
“Because you’re a girl.”
“This is so unfair!” wailed Buffalo.
Warthog rolled forward in his wheelchair. He had lost both his legs to a landmine.
“No-one without legs”, said Mosquito before Warthog could even ask.
Two male lions were holding tails. They stalked forward together.
“Out of my sight. No water for you”, said Miss Mosquito.
Mother gazelle stepped forward, brushing her fur to look fresh. Mosquito said, “I don’t know what you have, but it stinks. You’re definitely not drinking from my water!”
Jaguar, physically exhausted from the distance he’d travelled to find water, stalked forward. Mosquito saw Jaguar approaching, “You do not even belong here. You are from the Amazon! You are not welcome.” So Jaguar went to go lie down in the shade, breathing slowly and heavily.
Baby Elephant returned from his search for food and saw what was going on. He was outraged. Swinging his big trunk, Baby Elephant boldly spoke out to all the animals, “No one is drinking my water! Including you, Mosquito.” Mosquito’s laugh echoed until the small creature was eye-to-eye with Baby Elephant. She threatened Baby Elephant with his life, glancing down at Tortoise and his stiff legs in the air. Baby Elephant now realized his large size held no advantage, so he said, “We must vote on this”, looking around to the others for agreement.
“There will be no voting!” ordered Mosquito.
Without the Three Old Pigs, the travelling older group shrunk from eight to five. All of the seniors had been driving on bumpy dusty roads towards the only waterhole remaining, except for Old Lad who was gliding first class on his flying trunk. Bamboo Queen feared her dentures could dislodge. She slammed on the brakes; “I’m not driving on these bumps anymore!”
Everyone agreed except for Tusker, who was enjoying the breeze blowing underneath his sweating ears. To keep the peace within the group, Tusker parked his mobility scooter alongside the other scooters. Old Lad, who had difficulty breathing at the best of times, jumped off his flying trunk with his oxygen tank attached to his back and sat comfortably on the trunk of Tusker. They all walked the remaining distance on the dusty road. The heat continued to lay thick and heavy on them.
The more they walked, the louder and more distinct voices became until they were close enough to hear the conversations. They hunkered down behind the dry shrubs and bare sticks to inspect the situation. They were crouched down low, balancing over their plastic replacement knees. They were stunned at what was before them. They saw a lot of animals surrounding the waterhole, including foreign animals. It looked like a mosquito was controlling the group. Tusker didn’t remember any controlling mosquitos from his day. He scratched his bald head with his trunk. Back then, he was the problem. He was the one who told the animals to find their own watering hole when the rain disappeared, but now there was a mean mosquito in charge. The wild animals at the watering hole were dehydrated and their lives were at stake. Old Lad nudged Tusker in the side, “You’re the biggest one here! Do something!”
Tusker lurched forward. “Enough!” He had to pause and steady himself for a moment from a sudden head rush.
Mosquito and the other animals turned to see who had spoken up.
“Someone important once said there should be equal rights for all and special privileges for none.” Tusker had no idea who he was quoting, but it didn’t take away from its truth. “Let all the animals drink!”
The young, wild animals lifted their heads in hope. Mosquito, who felt she had been tested and disrespected, was enraged that Tusker brazenly and freely expressed himself, so she darted her long, malaria-infected nose into the middle of Tusker’ large forehead. The bite was immediately visible. It looked like a swollen red pimple. Tusker quickly took his place next to the frightened seniors. The bite started itching.
Scarlet was furious. “This is crazy”, she exclaimed. She grabbed Little Tree Pig’s empty jar, and quickly tried to snap the lid closed over the mosquito.
“Did you catch her?” shrieked Little Tree Pig.
They leaned in closer to look.
“No. You missed”, groaned the two Cranky Pigs.
The mosquito wasn’t caught. The wolf from Pig Town hadn’t been caught. Instead, the smoke above the water dissipated. The atmosphere appeared calm and there was no sign of danger. All the nomadic animals moved forward to drink water.
It wasn’t quite the heroic victory they envisioned, but they celebrated making water accessible anyway. They danced, sang along with the bird of popular song, and they drank freely. While they were celebrating, Tusker unexpectedly collapsed to the floor. He was sweating profusely, while shaking severely from chills. His muscles ached. He felt nauseous. He twisted, squirmed and cried in his discomfort. All the animals flocked around him.
“He’s got Zika!” cried the she-buffalo.
“No! He’s showing malaria symptoms. We must give him water for his fevers and then find the bush doctor.”
“There’s a bush doctor?” asked Old Lad.
“She means a magic healing doctor,” said Giraffe, “who performs a healing dance.”
They all rushed at once to the watering hole to gather as much water as they could for Tusker. Baby Elephant sucked up and held as much water in his trunk as possible. Scarlet scooped water up in Tree Pig’s jar. The others cupped water in their hands, which was dribbling through their fingers. Giraffe was hopelessly failing at her attempts to pick up water with her hooves. With the water they could hold, they all turned around to face Tusker who was now levitating in the air, being carried away by a scourge of mosquitos.
“STOP!” they shouted, but they knew it was too late.
Old Lad focused his attention on the old folk. “We need to continue! I’m going ahead on my flying trunk to survey from above. The rest of you must continue to the next planned stop: Red Town.”
Scarlet objected: “No! The Three Old Pigs were kidnapped by the bad wolf in Pig Town. Tusker was taken away from his own land. I refuse to get snatched away by the wolf in my hometown. It’s time we go home! This is too dangerous.” She shot Old Lad a nasty look. Her face was the colour of her hood.
Old Lad said calmly, “How do we expect to stop history repeating itself if we aren’t brave enough to step out of our comfort zones? You were the brave one who started this journey, something we should have done years ago. We can’t give up now. Let’s remember who we are doing this for. Are we together on this?”
In silence, they walked back to their scooters.