I've been working on this short story, and I finally felt ready to share it with you. :)
But first, let's take a virtual visit to O'ahu.
Here we go!
Pork on the Pali
A striking speckled piece of coral rolled over the sands of Castles Beach and into Chris’s hand. “Ooh, that’s a keeper,” he said. Satisfied, he dropped it into his mesh bag, heavy with shells, coral, and lava rocks from the Kailua shores.
His cousin Lei washed up near him with her bodyboard, wiping saltwater from her face. Although she was his age, he always felt like a little keiki compared to her. Chris held up his prize. “Look at this one!”
“You know you can’t take those back to California, right?” she warned him. “It’s bad luck.”
“Really?” Chris frowned. “How dumb. Did the locals just make that up because they want tourists to pay waaay too much for those things at shops?”
Lei let out a sigh of exasperation before tightening her wet ponytail. “Nah, it’s a real thing.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I want to go back to Grandma’s.”
Lei’s big brother, Kalani, was still surfing out on the water. “Let’s go!” Lei yelled, waving at him. His cousins could’ve easily stayed another hour, Chris knew, but their mom had told them to follow his lead: he was their guest, after all.
After Kalani rolled in with the swell, they hiked back to get their sandals. “Why didn’t you come out with us, cuz?” Lei asked. “You scared of the fishes?”
“No,” Chris muttered, slipping into his tennis shoes. But really, the ocean did scare him, especially when he couldn’t see the bottom.
“You had fun out there playing on the sand, brah?” Kalani asked with a teasing chuckle as he carried his longboard.
Chris sighed. Even though he was Hawaiian on his mom’s side, he never could get used to the beaches or the humidity. He relished the cool, crisp weather of the mountains, always preferring long sleeves and pants over shorts and sandals.
“Whatcha gonna do with all those shells?” Lei asked.
“Take them home to look at them under my microscope,” Chris admitted.
“For real? You have one microscope?” Kalani’s eyes got wide. “You want to be a scientist, yeah?”
“Our own little Jimmy Neutron over here!” Lei giggled.
“He’s got the same hair,” Kalani said, knocking Chris’s hat off and tousling his hair.
“Okay, I get it!” Chris scowled. He swore to get them back before returning to California.
Nearby, one of many wild island roosters searched for food around the grasses on the side of the road. “Shooo!” Chris stomped his foot. The rooster didn’t budge, and his cousins laughed harder.
A light drizzle began to fall, adding to Chris’ bad mood. As soon as they arrived home, though, Grandma Dottie fixed them each a plate of her fried rice with Portuguese sausage. Chris felt a little better with some warm food in his belly.
“Oh, since I hafta drive us back home to Honolulu,” Kalani said between bites, “you need to know this important rule, little cuz—”
“Another dumb superstition?” Chris rolled his eyes.
“Oh Chris, you’re a smart cookie, but this legend’s true,” Grandma said as she washed dishes. “It’s the story of Pele and Kamapua’a, the demigod.”
Chris snorted. “Just like the tooth fairy and Santa—totally real, right?”
Grandma waited patiently to speak again. “He was a hog-man, a shapeshifter,” she explained. “He and Pele both had fiery tempers, and it was a chaotic relationship.”
“And then they split,” Kalani added. “But then they also split the island, too.”
“So remember: you’re not supposed to bring any pork from this side of the island to the other side, which belongs to Pele,” Grandma warned.
“See. It’s real,” Lei said, her voice growing insistent. She shot an annoyed glance at Kalani.
Chris grew quiet again, stewing in the memory of the teasing he’d endured earlier.
Using his fork, he cut the last tiny slice of sausage on his plate. He held it, hesitating for a second. Then Chris turned around to reach for his backpack hanging on his chair. He snuck the piece of sausage into the front pocket.
The late afternoon sky turned deep orange with purple streaks as they loaded the truck and said goodbye to Grandma Dottie, giving her long hugs and kisses on the cheek.
They drove away, listening to the local Jawaiian music on the radio during the half-hour trip. The sky grew dark, illuminated by a full moon. His cousins sang along with the music, but Chris kept an eye out for the looming mountain pass.
As the truck approached the tunnel, the air around Chris grew thick and heavy. His stomach sank with dread.
Without warning, the truck’s engine sputtered and stopped, the brakes pressing down seemingly all by themselves. Chris’ arms were covered in chicken skin.
“What the . . .” Kalani stepped on the gas pedal, but the truck didn’t move. “Brah, did you bring some pork with you?” he demanded. The trade winds picked up, howling through the nearby darkening trees.
Kalani turned the key in the ignition, but the old truck engine squealed like an injured pig and shut down again. The sound made Chris grimace.
“No.” He shook his head but couldn’t meet his cousin’s eyes.
“Why are we stopped then?” Lei asked, her voice tight with worry.
Chris paused. Was this a mistake? he wondered to himself.
Another strong gust of wind rushed through the valley.
“Man, you can’t mess with this!” Kalani stepped out and slammed the door.
Chris couldn’t stand it any longer. “I was eating some fried rice earlier, and I—”
“With the sausage?” Lei cut in.
Chris grimaced. “Yeah, but . . .”
“You musta dropped some of that somewhere.” Lei stepped out, and Chris followed. The wind grew stronger, almost blowing his baseball cap off. A faraway bird shrieked, as if warning them.
The joke had gone too far, and the truth bubbled to Chris’ lips. “I think it might have fallen in my bag.”
Kalani shook his head, fuming. “Ohana or not, I’m gonna kick your okole when we get home.”
Chris searched his bag for the one tiny piece he’d deposited. The wind howled louder. It shook the leaves in the surrounding trees, as if the valley itself was angry. He brushed his fingers across the front pocket of his backpack. To his horror, it was empty.
“Where did it go?” Chris unzipped the pocket right behind the first one. Nothing. “I swear, it—”
“Gimme your bag!” Holding his flashlight, Kalani looked inside for the sausage. The light flickered, then died.
Kalani tossed the bag on the ground outside the truck and turned it upside down, shaking the contents out. His books, his Nintendo switch, his pack of gum: all of it fell onto the damp road. Chris winced, but he didn’t dare complain.
“Keep looking. I’ll check the truck!” Kalani threw the backpack at Chris. A bright green mist emerged from the trees near the highway. It spread in their direction, moving faster by the minute. There was nowhere to go.
“Check your shorts!” Lei yelled.
Chris slipped his bag back on and emptied his pockets. To his shock, a tiny piece of sausage jumped out of his left pocket and rolled onto the ground.
“There it is!” Lei pointed at it.
“But that wasn’t my piece . . . .” Chris sputtered.
Lei sprinted to the passenger seat. “Get inside! Hurry!” Kalani shouted, slamming the door.
Chris ran toward the truck, but a deep, eerie bark stopped him. Heart pounding, he turned around.
Suddenly, a luminescent white dog approached, growling viciously at the three cousins.
Kalani got out and grabbed an old stick from the truck bed. “He’s hungry. Give ‘em the rest of the pork!”
Chris hesitated. “I don’t have any!” he shouted, reaching for the door handle.
Before Chris could get inside, the dog lunged, his jaws clamping onto his backpack. Chris tried to wriggle out of it. But the dog’s strength overpowered him, pulling him back.
“Help!” he screamed, losing his grip on the truck door.
With a snarl, the dog yanked harder, causing Chris to fall back onto the road.
“CHRIS!” Lei yelled.
She and Kalani could only watch in horror as the dog dragged Chris away, his legs disappearing into the green mist. Terror, confusion, and regret filled his wide eyes. The beast dragged his body into the darkness. Chris’s desperate cries echoed through the valley.
“Noooo!” Kalani cried. Startled birds shrieked into the night sky. The leaves shook. Then they settled back down on the thick curtain of trees.
Afterward, everything fell silent.
Trembling and whimpering, Lei crept out of the truck, the engine now idling again.
In the eerie quiet, Lei and Kalani searched in a daze. The dog was nowhere to be seen, and Chris and the remnants of pork vanished with him.
Kalani backed away, heading for the driver’s side door. Lei saw something sitting on the road, illuminated by the truck’s headlights. She hesitated. Then when she stepped toward the light, she came across her cousin’s found prizes: coral, shells, and lava rocks strewn around the concrete, where the road met the edge of the jungle. Her hand shaking, she reached out to touch them to make sure they were real. She remembered the warning she’d given Chris about the island’s treasures. He thought he knew better. He thought he’d take them back to California.
But on this night, Hawaii would keep her treasures exactly where they belonged.
That's all for October. I’ll go back to my regular newsletter next month. I hope you enjoyed this spooky tale!
Some updates, musings, and sharing of inspirations.