Margaret Den Dulk, Grade 11
The vast lake stretched for miles, every metre teeming with life. Zebra, giraffes, hippopotami, antelopes and almost every other kind of native African animal could be seen. Fish swam in the shallow water, and pelicans and other water life hunted them constantly for food. In the middle of the lake, on a raised mound of sand, was the pelican nest, covered in baby pelicans running around and playing. At this moment, the Kalahari Desert truly was paradise.
But this was not to last. The beautiful, life-giving lake slowly dried up as the desert once again gave way to the sun’s rays. The animals began to move away to find other sources of water. But the pelicans, filled with despair, remained, watching the other animals go. They stayed with their children, unable to leave them. The desert’s drought had come too soon for them; before the nestlings had learnt to fly. For weeks they stayed, long after the other animals had disappeared, long after the water had faded away entirely. One small pelican began to toddle away into the immense heat, unable to understand where the paradise it had been born into had gone.
Finally, after weeks of waiting, unable to do anything but stay, the adult pelicans made a decision; one that would stay with them forever. They walked a little way out into the desert, away from the chicks, and slowly, painfully, spread their wings and flew away.
The baby pelicans could do nothing but watch their parents go; too young to understand what was happening, too confused to care. With their families gone, they began on their final journey; a death march. Searching for the water that was now no more, they walked despairingly into the desert, leaving a trail of small bodies behind. The slowly dwindling group waddled through the desert, passing small fossilised fish left behind by the drying water and the bones of other animals picked clean by vultures.
Finally, only a tiny few, weakened and dying, were left. They had long given up walking and simply stood waiting, waiting for death to come.
Far above them, between the earth and the sun, clouds began to gather together, preparing for an assault on the sun’s heat. All through the night they streamed through the sky, ready to pour out their water upon the earth. And as the sun rose, the floodgates released, sending it down to the starved earth. The downpour lasted only for a moment, but it was enough. The rain had come at last; only too late. The small pelicans, having lived but a year, the last of their family; were nothing more than wet bundles of feathers, having re-joined the great circle of life.