I was rushed to the prison clinic for medical attention. I only regained consciousness some five hours later and by then, my uncle had gone back to the village. As soon as I regained consciousness, the events of the last five hours hit me again like a sledge hammer. The nurse that was attending to me realized I had regained consciousness and tried her best to calm me down. She asked me what happened to me and why I passed out. I narrated the whole story to her. There was no need hiding anything. Iris had already found her skin. I had lost her. I was so miserable that I thought of taking my life. The thought of my beautiful children however, drove the suicidal thoughts out of my mind. They were now my only hope.

My daughters bore a striking resemblance to their mum. I could use them as a memory if Iris indeed decided to leave me and go back to her magical kingdom. The thought of my children gave me hope and I hung on that hope with desperation. I sent a letter to the village and waited for a reply for two weeks without success. No reply came from anybody. 

The presidential election in the country was fast approaching. In the prison, news had filtered in that some of us would be pardoned and released. I prayed to God everyday that my name should be among those that have been granted amnesty. I really needed to go home and find out what was happening to my family, especially my wife whom I suspected had already left. 

It had been a month now since I passed out. One day, the prison superintendent asked all prisoners to gather in the courtyard of the prison. We were all hastily made to gather. There was dead silence when the superintendent appeared. He was accompanied by some prison officials. In his hand, was a long list on which were names of the people that were going to be released; that had been granted amnesty. There were twenty names in all. Unfortunately for me, my name was not on the list. I went back to my cell and wept like a baby. 

I had now resigned myself to my fate. I had resigned myself to the possibility that I was going to spend all the five years in prison without being granted amnesty. However, I badly needed to know what had become of Iris. I wanted to know if she had gone or not. I needed closure. I needed to know how my children were faring, just in case their mum had gone. 

After about three months, another encouraging news came to us, the prisoners. A new district attorney had been sent to replace the former one. There was word around that, that one was a kind hearted man and he was going to release many prisoners who had not killed, robbed or raped. He was going to put them on probation. That was my last hope of leaving prison without haven to serve all my complete five years. I hoped and prayed that I should be released. 

I was in my cell one afternoon when my cell mate came running in. He said the district attorney was in the building and was reviewing prisoners’ files. He said he heard him call my name. I was excited. I couldn’t believe my luck and I hoped and prayed that it was true. I went to sleep that night with a lot of hope. I felt like Solomon Northup in the movie, Twelve Years a Slave. I felt like the way he felt the night he wrote his letter that would lead to his freedom from captivity. 

The next day, through the iron bars of my cell, I saw a well-dressed gentleman approaching. He was going from cell to cell and talking to various cell mates. He seemed to be looking for someone. Finally, he came to my cell. He was accompanied by a small entourage of prison officials. He opened a file and asked. 
“Are you Mr. Robert Peters.” He asked.
“Yes, Sir. I am.” I said, excitedly.
“You may come to the superintendent’s office and sign some papers. You have been released.”
“I beg your pardon, Sir.” I said, wide-eyed.
“Yes, you have been released. Now come with me.”

I couldn’t believe my new found freedom. I was able to breathe the free air again. I was given some money by a warden I had befriended. I went straight to the park and boarded a car. My destination was of course, my village. I got to the village around late evening. My children ran towards me with all the joy in this world. There was a general round of tears from everyone. I was happy, very happy to be home again. However, my happiness wasn’t complete. I hadn’t seen my wife. 

“Where is my beautiful wife?” I asked. “Where is Iris.”
No one could answer me. I was led into the house by my uncle’s wife. I was given a seat to sit and told the entire story. I was told Iris had come home one day with a big bag. In it was her elephant skin, though no one knew what it was at that time. She was in a happy mood all day as she washed and cleaned the skin. She waited until her children were back from school, kissed them goodbye and then to everyone’s astonishment, she wore her skin, became and elephant and ran into the bush. Her children were confused and wept bitterly. 

I was alarmed but not shocked because I had already sensed the whole thing while I was still in prison. I got my children together after everyone had left and told them the entire story about how I met their mother. The eldest ones were able to understand but entreated me to go back to the forest and get their mother for them. They thought it was that easy.

It had been a year now and I had already begun to get used to my life without Iris though I still missed her with everything in me. However, one day, I was at the back of the house when I felt the presence of someone behind me. I quickly turned around and realized I was staring right into the eyes of my beautiful wife. Words alone cannot describe the happiness I felt. I ran towards her and hugged her with all happiness.

“Iris, my beautiful wife. You came back. Oh my God. You came back.”
“Yes, it is me. Flesh and blood. I came to see you and the children because I have missed you all.”
“Please don’t go back. Tell me you won’t go back. You won’t go back, will you? Please!!!” 
She smiled and then said.
“Tell me what you want.” 
“What can I say or do to make you stay?” I asked.
“Just ask me to.” She said.

I carried her in my arms and went straight to the living room. There was serious celebration that night. There was enough to eat and drink for everyone. My wife was back and I had to make merriment. When everyone had gone and we were alone, and Iris had made sure the children were safely in bed, we went into the bedroom and she told me why she came back.

She said she was angry with me at first for stealing her skin and was very happy to reunite with her elephant friends. However, as time went on, she missed me and felt guilty to have left me while I was still behind bars. She also missed her children terribly. She had no choice but to discard her elephant skin and returned to us. She said her future was with us and not in the elephant world. I was so happy and grateful that she was here for good. I apologized sincerely and promised to be a good husband forever and forever. 
“Please make love to me.” She said. “It’s been ages.”



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