I gave it a good stretch and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. On the journey into consciousness, I realized a hand was loosely clutching one of my breasts. “Oh, Jesus,” I thought. I looked over to see my travel companion deep in sleep. I decided against waking him and slid his hand from my chest. I couldn’t help but not give a shit. Tom was a bit of a doofus. And while I wasn’t wearing a bra, at least I was wearing a t-shirt. So there was no skin-to-skin contact.
I slid my legs from the sleeping bag expecting to feel their silkiness. I was disappointed to find rigid crumpling. I’d forgotten I slept in my jeans.
I hurriedly unzipped the tent and thrust my legs through the opening. My feet fished around, found my sandals, and worked them on. I grabbed my nearby bikini-top and awkwardly heaved myself upright, mindful of the small gap I’d to squeeze through. Once through the tent’s opening, I elongated my torso in a full body stretch. The sound of pounding waves greeted my ears. I looked to the water and saw the bright sun reflecting from its surface. First order of business: Putting my bikini-top on without taking off my shirt. Second order of business: ‘Where do I piss?’
I could either scurry into the jungle and find a spot to squat or I could wade into the water and let it rip. I opted for the water. It had more charm. I slid my jeans off to reveal the bikini-bottom I wasn’t planning on changing from for awhile and lay the stiff denim onto a large rock. I gingerly/awkwardly made my way over the black lava rock, glad no one was around to watch. It must’ve been a pretty unimpressive sight. Arms waving about.
The water was cold against my legs. It made my mouth hiss and my heart race. I looked down and thanked my sandals for being strap-on and water proof. It would’ve been a real bitch lacking either of those attributes. The rocks were mercilessly sharp and everywhere.
The water gradually made it to waist level and I wished for my sunglasses. Squinting, I peered into the sky and opened my bladderal floodgates. Nice. I finished up and decided to take a proper swim. So I slowly waded ashore, sexually slid off my shirt (can’t pass an opportunity to arouse even if no one’s around to witness), and tossed it along my pants.
I made my way back into the water, mindful of the area I’d urinated, and dove under when comfortable with its depth. The water encompassed my senses, both mental and physical. Cool oblivion swept around me. I surfaced into the bright sunshine. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the sun’s shape. I lowered my head and wiped the water from my eye sockets to open them.
I tiptoed around, finger-paddling the water while exploring the edges of the quasi-lagoon I was in. It was semicircular with about 50 feet of diameter. The shallow water was complemented by a shallow rock-wall, allowing open-water waves to crash in and consistently freshen the pool.
I swam around for several minutes then went back ashore. I momentarily neglected my clothing to bask in the pristine sunshine. After some quick absorption, I slid into my shirt. My torso was still wet, so the shirt clung.
I walked past the open tent flap and saw Tom. He had a forearm on his forehead in the classic ‘I’m awake, but refuse to accept it’ pose.
“‘Morning, Tom,” I said.
He grunted, rolling and lifting. He rubbed his face and said, “Hey, Caroline..How are you?”
“Yeah, good. The weather’s amazing..How’d you sleep?” I asked.
“Nh,” he sniffed. “Very well, thanks.” He groaned and slid from his sleeping bag.
We’d been on the Big Island of Hawaii for two days. Both recent university graduates, we decided to head for sun and surf. I was to be on the Big Island for two weeks then cruise to Oahu for a waitressing job I’d set up over the phone/internet. I asked Tom to come along for the companionship. He was easy to talk to and harmless. The kind of guy I could bend to whichever will I chose. We’d been friends for a couple years, so I knew I could maintain the friendship level or use him for a fuck if it came to that. He was heading continental as I went to Oahu, so he’d just be something to help pass the time.
“How did you sleep?” he asked, emerging from the tent bleary eyed. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, so I noticed the red, circular tattoo on his left shoulder. It read, ‘Coca Cola’. Every time I saw it I muttered, ‘Fucking Christ,” to myself. I guess it could’ve been worse.
“Not too bad. I’ve never been a good tent sleeper, but I still feel pretty fresh,” I confessed.
“Yeah. I know what you mean. It’s tough to get comfortable on the hard ground..Aaah, the weather is nice,” he said, stretching. “How’s the water?”
“Pretty good. A little cold, but you get used to it,” I said.
“I see you already went for a full swim,” he said, looking at my wet hair then briefly glancing at my body.
“Yeah,” I said, looking down to study my toned form through the wet shirt. “Couldn’t resist.”
“Mmhm,” he said, casually/potentially-nervously looking away. “I think I’ll go for a swim too.”
“I fully recommend it,” I said, squeezing the water out of my hair. The strands felt different than usual. They were thick and gritty while normally soft and welcoming. I liked it.
“Join me?” he said, rubbing his hands together.
“No, I don’t think so. I just finished up..Enjoy, though,” I said, turning around to end the exchange.
“Of course. Thanks.”
I went back to the tent, unzipped the flap, and kneeled on its floor making sure to keep my sandals outside. I rummaged my rucksack to find a book and my sunglasses. I pulled them out, grabbed a towel, zipped the tent back up, and found a nice spot in the sun. I put my sunglasses on and lay the towel down to sit. I took off my shirt and spread it next to the towel so it would dry easily. A breeze tickled my back’s skin. I still wasn’t used to outdoor exposure of my naked flesh. It’d been a study intensive winter-spring progression at university.
I picked up and opened my book. I read for a couple minutes, but got bored and closed it to lay back and catch a few rays. The sun was pretty intense so I gave myself a 15 minute time limit.
Tom eventually came over. He let his presence be known by flicking water on me. My skin’s sensors popped at the droplets. I lifted, putting a horizontal hand to my forehead for sunblocking. He quickly averted his eyes then brought them back.
“Getting some sun,” he commented in a near-question.
“Yep,” I said, raising my eyebrows in preparation for boredom.
“Check this out,” he said, tossing something onto the ground next to me. “I just found it near the water.”
I reached over to pick the object up. It was a lava rock with a small plant growing from the surface.
“Cool,” I said, looking it over then holding it up for him to take back. “I guess it’s a palm tree?”
“I’m not sure. Looks like it could be. But it’s too young to tell..Maybe I’ll go plant it,” he said.
“Yeah, you should,” I said, closing my eyes and laying back.
“I didn’t know plants could grow out of rocks this..I suppose volcanic rock is unique in that it has plenty of pore space to grow into. Look at the way the roots dig down in there.”
I didn’t attempt to look. “Mmhm.”
Tom took the hint. I heard him leave.
The sun beat down on my face. Even with my eyes closed it was difficult not to squint. I rolled over and put my chin on interlocked hands.
“So, where are you gonna plant that thing?” I called out to Tom.
“I’m not sure. I need to find a soft spot in the soil and something to dig with...The ground around here is pretty tough,” he answered. “It’s mostly fresh lava rock.”
“Yeah. That lava rock is solid stuff,” I said, reaching down to wipe sweat from the back of my thigh.
“True. I think I can manage though…See, here we go,” he said, padding over to me. “I can use this.”
I raised my eyes to see him holding out a stout piece of drift wood. Its ends looked jagged enough to dig with.
“That could work,” I said, turning my head on its side to signal my resigning part in the conversation.
Not long after, I opted to cool off. Sweat was collecting. On my way to the shade, I made a stop in the water for a rinse.
“Aaaah,” I sighed, as the cool water swept my sweat away. I dunked under, keeping my head submerged for as long as possible. I counted just over 60 seconds. “Huuuh.” I took a big gulp of air on resurfacing.
I looked ashore and saw Tom walking over with a big grin.
“Done,” he said. “Got it planted.”
“Oh, yeah? You find a good spot?” I asked, lifting my arms to run my hands through sopping hair.
Tom stumbled a bit as he checked out my goods.
“Indeed I did.” His smile briefly evaporated with the stumble, but quickly returned. “Its placement has good sunlight and there’s plenty of room to grow.”
“Where is it?” I asked, slowly coming out of the water. I made sure to watch my step on the treacherous rocks.
“It’s over here,” he said in a tone implying he wanted to lead me. “Come on.” And that established it.
I lagged behind and watched as he walked to a spot near the treeline. He turned as I caught up.
“Eh?” he asked, in search of approval.
A short stem with a single leaf jutted from the topsoil.
“Aw. It’s cute,” I smiled. “What’s its name.”
He thought on it for a second. “Caroline, of course.”
“Wow..Cool..I’m honored,” I lightly laughed and turned before the exchange evolved into a moment. I didn’t want things to get complicated too soon. With a one-girl,one-guy travel team, the opportunity was there. And I had the belief that every guy wanted to fuck me. Even my buddy Tom. “Thanks,” I said, briefly turning back then walking on.
“You’re welcome,” he called after me.
“So, what d’you wanna do today?” I asked, slowing.
“I don’t know,” he said, following after. “We could start off by going to town,” he suggested. “Get something to eat.”
I noticed the rumble of my belly. “Yeah, I could go for that.”
“Cool..We have to pack up first, though,” he said.
“Right,” I agreed.
“Shouldn’t take long,” he added.
I walked to the spot I previously lay and picked up my towel/book. Going over to the tent I saw Tom’s ass popping from the opening, so I turned to the ocean and watched the wave action ‘til he dragged out all of his shit. Once he’d rallied his belongings, I crawled into the tent and got mine. I shifted them to the rocky soil just outside the tent’s entrance.
“Alright,” I said, turning to kneel by my possessions. I haphazardly stuffed t-shirts, bras, and other belongings into my backpack then drew its drawstring at the top. My sleeping bag’s sleeve lay on the rocks beside me. I picked it up. I searched for its companion and found it, cramming the down-filled mummy-bag into the sleeve. “I’m pretty much ready,” I said, synching the sleeping bag’s bag.
“Yeah. Me too,” said Tom, turning. “We still need to pack up the tent, though.”
“Mmmhm,” I said, standing to get a better look at the tent. I waited until Tom made the first move.
Tom made the first move.
“Alright..We need to take all the stakes out of the ground first,” he said, bending to uproot a stake at the base of one of the tent’s framing-poles.
I skirted to the tent’s other side and pulled out a couple of metal stakes. When they’d all been removed Tom said, “Alright. Now we need to take these pins out of the poles, then the poles out of the hoops,” examplefying.
I followed his lead in removing the framing-poles from the tent’s hold. Once the framing-poles were free, we telescoped them into an eighth of their former length. Tom gathered and slid them into a nylon bag. He then scurried around the unshapely tent pressing all the air out of it, flattening it in preparation for folding.
“Do you need me to do anything?” I asked, hands upon hips.
“Nah. Don’t worry about it. I got it,” he said, folding the tent into itself. “This tent is really well designed. It’s pretty easy to pack away.”
I watched as the housing shrank to a manageable size. He rolled the square into a cylinder and slid its condom on.
“Well done,” I said, patting him on the back. “You’re a good boy.”
“Thanks,” he said, smiling with contention. “So.” He looked to the ground around, scanning.
I put my packed sleeping bag into a designated space on my backpack and pulled the securing-straps tight. I then hoisted the pack onto my back. “ ‘k. I’m all set,” I said, buckling the waist-support.
“Okay, cool. I’m nearly there too. Just have to put the finishing touches on my backpack,” Tom said while bent over, adjusting his pack. “Here we are.” He stood and fit his backpack to back. “So.”
“Let’s go,” I said, lifting my eyebrows.
We walked up the slope that led to a road. Down the road and around the corner was a hostel with a row of rental bicycles out front. My mouth watered when I saw them.
“Maybe we should get a bike,” I said under the strain of my backpack.
“Yeah. That’s a good idea..But it might be better to get one in town,” Tom answered. “There’s probably a bike rental shop or something with better prices. And bikes,” he said, looking over the hostel’s selection.
“That’s true,” I said, looking over the bikes as well. They weren’t stellar.
“Unless you want to get one now,” Tom said, turning to me with raised eyebrows. “Are you getting tired?”
“No, no. It’s fine. Let’s check out town. See what it has to offer,” I said. We’d walked along that road on the way to the beach, so I knew we weren’t far from the center of town.
After ten more minutes at a casual pace, we made it to a grocery store called ‘Double Plus Stuff’. The doors slid open and we grabbed a cart. We strolled the aisles opting for things like beef jerky and yogurt drinks. After checking-out we re-deposited the cart and walked outside.
“Hey. Backpackers,” my ears caught from behind. Tom stopped to turn.
“How’re y’all doing?” I heard just before turning, myself.
“Pretty good,” Tom said to two guys sitting on a half-wall right outside the store’s entrance.
“Good deal, good deal,” said one, jumping from the wall to come closer. He was bearded, blond and wore a t-shirt with a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it. When he got near enough, he held up his hand in want of a high-five.
“It looks like you guys are backpackers too,” Tom said, fiving the guy’s hand then gesturing to their backpacks.
“Yeah, that’s right, man..Where are y’all from?” the blond asked.
“Texas,” returned Tom.
“No shit,” the other guy said. “My sister lives in Austin.”
“Oh yeah?.Great town,” commented Tom.
“Sure. That’s what she says, but I’ve never been there..Is that the city you’re from?”
“Yep. We went to school there,” Tom said, motioning to me with the ‘we’.
“Oh yeah? How was it?”
“Oh, man. I’m so jealous. It’s supposed to be amazing over there,” the blond said, shaking his head while smiling. “And what about you, miss?” he asked, turning to me. “Did you like it?”
“Sure did,” I said. “Very nice city..Where’re you from?” I asked, looking from one stranger to the next.
“We’re from Florida,” the second stranger said.
What part?” Tom asked in my absence of a follow-up question.
“Naples? I don’t know it specifically..Where is that?”
“It’s on the gulf side. Close to the tip.”
“I see. Well, that’s cool,” said Tom “How long have you been here? In Hawaii.”
“Three or four days,” the second stranger said. “We rented a car and we’ve just been cruising around.” He motioned to a nearby car while saying so.
“Yeah. That sounds like a pretty good way to do it,” said Tom, admiring their ride.
“Ah, it’s fuckin’ awesome,” the bearded blond said. “We’ve seen turtles and lava and shit.”
“Lava?” I asked.
“Yeah. The active volcano, Kilauea, is, like, twenty miles south of here,” he explained.
“Yeah..How long have y’all been here?” he asked in return.
“We just got here a couple days ago.”
“Yep,” Tom added, nodding.
“Oh shit. Well, it doesn’t sound like y’all have seen anything yet,” one of them said.
“Yeah. Why don’t y’all tag along with us? Cruise around the island. See some whatnot,” the other said, exchanging eye-contact with both Tom and me.
I could feel Tom look to me, but I didn’t immediately look back. I briefly reviewed the two guys, sizing them up. One had a pony-tail and the other had a beard. I wasn’t going to fuck either one, but they seemed decent enough. Especially in having a car.
“Sure,” I shrugged, turning to Tom. “I guess so.”
He smiled. “Yeah.”
“Cool,” the two said.
The second stranger jumped from the wall and grabbed his bag. “Throw your shit in the back and let’s roll,” he said.
Both boys began walking to the parking lot. I followed their lead. They seemed to be heading towards a mid-sized Toyota Camry. Red.
“Here we are,” the blond said, popping the trunk.
Tom removed his backpack and placed it into the trunk’s bed. I did the same.
“So, I’m Jeff,” the non-blond said, holding out his hand to me.
“Hi. Caroline,” I said, shaking it awkwardly. I wasn’t used to giving handshakes.
“Hey. I’m Tom,” Tom said, holding out his hand. “Thanks a lot for letting us do this..It’s very nice of you.”
“Sure. Happy to help,” said Jeff, taking Tom’s hand. “And hey, the more the merrier. Right?”
“Sure. I agree.” Tom turned to the blond. “Tom,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Hey. I’m Felix.”
Felix turned to me with an extended hand. “Felix.”
“Hi. Caroline,” I said, shaking his hand. That shake’s grasp was better having had the recent practice.
“Alright. Let the adventure begin,” said Felix, tossing up the car keys. He caught them then unlocked the car’s doors.
We piled into their rented ride. It felt good to be in a more stable situation. Impromptu camping is excellent, but having a set of wheels really strikes the right chord.
“Did y’all have a place that you wanted to go in mind?” asked Jeff.
“Not really,” answered Tom. “We were just gonna kind of play it by ear,” he said, turning to me.
I nodded. “Yeah. I’ve got a Lonely Planet on Hawaii, but as for actual plans..” I trailed off and let my shoulder-shrug speak for me. Even though the person who asked the question couldn’t see it.
“Okay. Well, we were talking about heading up to Waipio Valley..What do you think of that? Do y’all know the place?”
Tom and I had heard of Waipio, but didn’t know much about it. After Jeff told us a few facts, we were sold. It was the location of ancient Hawaiian settlements. It was decorated with waterfalls, canyons and rivers. And it had horses. Sold.
We drove north along the coastal road, taking in the scenery. Clouds would truck past the sun, briefly throwing the land in shadow only to open and allow the sun’s rays to blare on the greenery and nearby blue water. Rain dotted the short journey, offering bursts of showers between stints of sun.
We made it to a city called Honokaa in just over an hour. We stopped at a roadside burger joint. I ate an order of fries. The boys had burgers and milkshakes. I tried a taste of Tom’s milkshake. Pretty good.
Jeff bought temporary tattoos from a coin-operated tattoo-dispenser near the booth seating. He gave one to each of us. Mine imaged a skull with a rose jutting from one of the eye-sockets. I went to the bathroom and applied it to the underside of my forearm. I was pretty pleased.
After admiring our faux ink, we piled in the car and continued down the road. Signs guided us to a lookout station. An information post stated it was possible to see Maui from the spot on a clear day. If I strained my eyes and tapped into my imagination, I could see it. But the horizon was a bit misty, so I doubt I actually could.
“Y’all ready?” asked Jeff.
We got back in the car. Felix turned the engine and we moved to the brink of the valley’s slope. The view was stunning. A vale of majesty stretched across the scene.
The highrise we viewed from was matched by one of equal height on the valley’s opposite edge. Through the valley ran a bisecting river which spilled into the sea. Greenery was dense and vibrant.
“Holy fuckin’ shit,” someone said.
I agreed. “Breathtaking,” I said.
Felix steered the car to the slope’s edge and we began descending. The gradient was huge. It must’ve been 30%. It felt like the tires would slip from the road and we’d freefall into the surrounding shrubbery.
As we descended, I could see degenerate cars planted in the roadside treetops. Our path crossed waterfalls and lushery before we made it to the valley floor. I was surprised to find evergreen trees greeting our arrival.
We drove along a dirt-road lined by conifers and scattered with ponds. I was impressed to see the Camry handle some of the water bodies. They were extensive and looked to be deep. I half-expected water to seep through the doors while crossing a couple particulars. But it didn’t.
Soon enough the road widened and we entered an area sprinkled with tents and SUVs.
“This place is supposed to be haunted,” said Felix, slow-driving.
“Oh yeah? How’s that?” asked Tom.
“Well, this spot was one of the first settlements on the Big Island. People have lived here for a long time. So, that being the case, a lot of people have died here..Especially when tsunamis came through. Apparently, tsunamis killed off several colonies..I mean, shit, did you see the shape of this valley? If a tsunami came through here, it would tear this whole place up. Channeling all the way back,” he said, sweeping his hand toward the valley’s interior.
“Yeah, sure,” Tom said, thoughtfully. “I could see a tsunami doing some damage in here.” He looked out the car window, craning his neck to inspect the valley’s dimension.
“But if a tsunami came through wouldn’t it drag all the people out to sea? Along with their souls or whatever does the haunting?” I asked.
“Hm..Probably a valid point,” said Jeff.
I turned from looking at the valley’s interior to looking at the ocean. It was about twenty-five feet past the trees. Felix continued driving until a bed of rocks stopped further progress. He reversed the car and parked between a couple of trees. Once the engine settled, I opened my door and stepped out. I gave my torso a stretch, noticing Jeff’s lingering look at my body. I turned and put the ball of my foot on the car’s tire to stretch my calf muscle.
I heard movement in the trees beyond the car. I turned to look and caught sight of a fucking horse. My jaw and arms dropped.
“Check that out, man,” I said, flinging an arm in Jeff’s direction without looking.
“What?” he asked, turning to me then following my gaze. “Oh yeah. A horse.”
“What? Where?” asked Tom.
“Over there,” I said, pointing.
The horse was walking away and almost out of sight.
“Shit. That’s a horse,” said Tom, crouching a bit. “I didn’t think there would actually be horses here..When you said the valley had horses, I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Horses. Whatever’..But a horse. There it is.”
“And there it goes,” said Felix.
After watching the horse walk away I asked, “So what’s with the horse? Why are there horses in this valley.”
“I’m not sure,” answered Jeff. “I guess they’re farmers’ horses that’ve escaped or something..But I’m not really sure.”
“Farmers’?” asked Tom. “Are there farms in the valley here?”
“What do they grow?”
“I think taro,” Jeff said, looking to Felix.
“Taro..I don’t think I know that plant. What, what is it?” asked Tom.
“It’s used to make poi,” said Felix.
“Shall we?” Felix said, gesturing to the rock bed that’d stopped the car from continuing.
“Sure,” someone said.
We followed Felix’s lead.
Just past the rocky barrier was a sandy beach. I navigated the rocks and plopped onto the sand. The sand was lighter and sandier than the stuff I’d seen on the previous beach we’d been on, but nowhere near maximum potential.
I turned to the ocean and watched the waves roll in. They were large. And consistent. It was a long stretch of beach, making for nice, clean waves. Surfers dotted the waters and sands near the treeline we were walking away from. I checked out the merchandise. Not bad.
We came to a river dumping into the sea.
“Watch yourself. The current can be pretty swift,” a bystander mentioned as we neared the waters.
“Yeah. It looks that way,” said Tom. “Thanks much.” He smiled and gave a small wave. Tom turned to me and asked, “Do you want to cross?”
“Yeah. I think so..I’d like to see the other side.”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle it?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t tried,” I smiled.
“Haha. Yeah, that’s true.”
I reached the water’s sandy bank and stopped. Jeff and Felix had already begun to cross, but I wanted to wait ‘til Tom made the leap.
“How’s the water?” Tom called to the two. They looked to be slightly struggling.
“It’s alright..You just have to be careful. The current is pretty powerful…It’s probably not as strong out there,” Jeff said, pointing seaward.
“It’s a fuckin’ bitch,” said Felix, swaying his arms in a balancing maneuver. “I don’t think you’re gonna make it without getting more than a little wet, Caroline.”
I didn’t respond to his prediction. I just stood, staring at the rushing water; contemplating my options. I dipped a foot in to feel the force. It was hefty. And my body-weight hovered around 100 pounds. So Felix was probably right. The force of the current would knock me right over.
The sand at the water’s edge crumbled and fell in. I backed away.
“Do you want me to carry you?” Tom asked me.
I turned to him. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” he said, rubbing his neck. “I think it’ll be difficult for you to get across without help.”
I looked to the water again. I knew he was right. “Okay,” I answered. Tom was fairly strapping and I was pretty slim, so I figured he’d be able to handle it. And the extra weight would probably help stabilize him. “That sounds good..Thank you,” I smiled.
He walked over and held his arms in the forklift position.
“No, no,” I smiled. “How ‘bout I jump on your back? I think that’d be better.”
“Oh..Yeah..That probably would be better,” he said, turning to face the water.
“Yeah.” I stepped up and hopped on.
“So..You all set?” he asked, turning his head.
“Here we go,” he said, stepping off the edge into the water.
I could feel his body tense. My grip tightened. There were a few jarrings along the way. And Tom’s body vibrated under the steady strain. But it was a fairly smooth run, overall.
He lunged up onto the opposite bank of the river and said, “Here you are, Caroline…That wasn’t too bad.”
“No. Not at all.”
I slid off. My clit caught an electric jolt with the movement. Nice.
“Thanks, chief,” I said. I put my hands on my hips and took a deep breath. It felt good to’ve cleared the obstacle.
“Sure. I hope you enjoyed the ride..Were you scared?” Tom asked, following Jeff and Felix.
“More concerned than scared..It wasn’t very life threatening. Just dry threatening,” I said.
I swiveled my head to take in the surroundings. It was awesome. In scale and degree of merit. The cliff face before us was huge. It must’ve been three-quarters of a kilometer high. And the beach we were walking on stretched a similar extent.
I turned around and had to stop. The sight was first-rate. Probably one of the best scenes I’d seen to date. A waterfall flowed from the cliff we’d descended, into the sea. The river we crossed ran through the scene, spilling into the sea as well. Everything was blue or green as could be. My knees trembled and my heart darted about its cavity.
“Wow..This’s incredible,” Tom said, snapping a photo with his camera. It was disposable, so he wound the dial afterward.
“Yeah…Really,” I said without turning to him.
The spray from the waterfall enveloped me. I could feel its influence wrapping around me. A cloud shifted and the sun brightened. The scene glared, burning into my psyche. I lifted a hand to lessen the sun’s load. Squinting my eyes made my mouth open a bit.
With the sun came color. Too much color threatened overexposure. My eyes felt saturated. I could hear birds and my heart darted again. I wanted to touch someone. To caress them and transfer some of the infatuation I was experiencing. I thought of Tom and the sensation sizzled out.
I turned to Tom and said, “Okay. Yeah. This’ll do.”
He turned to me as I turned back. “Yeah. Definitely,” he said.
“Look at the way the waterfall’s mist captures the sunlight,” I said, pointing.
“Mmhm. That is quite delightful..I like how the waterfall shoots out of the mountain. Look at that. It’s like a jet stream..Well, not like a jet stream. Like an air jet stream. Just like a stream that’s jetting I guess,” Tom said.
“Hahaha. Sure. I’ll go for that.” I clapped my hands then said, “Alright. Very good,” and turned to walk on.
“Unbelievable..What great vibrations.”
The word vibrations made me miss a step. “Yeah. For sure..Thoroughly impressive,” I smiled, turning to him and slowing so he could catch up. “There’s something about waterfalls that really does it for me..The [topographic] relief and the water..It’s a nice combination.”
“Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more,” said Tom.
We caught up with Jeff and Felix. They were standing still.
“Check it out. You can see Maui from here,” Jeff said, pointing.
“Oh yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s just right there. It doesn’t look far at all.”
I followed his point to see the looming landmass. It was just beyond the valley’s wall. I stared at the green blob for a full minute, reading its message.
“I hear Maui is nice. I-We’ve never been,” said Tom.
“Yeah, me too..On both accounts. Heard it’s nice but’ve never been,” Jeff said with a laugh. “Nice beaches, supposedly.”
“I’m sure it’s touristy as hell,” said Felix.
“Yeah. Probably.” I agreed.
“But there’s supposed to be a great nightlife,” Felix continued.
“Oh yeah?..How’s the nightlife on this island?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Probably nothing spectacular..We haven’t gotten too deep into the scene,” Felix said looking at Jeff. “But it could be there. And the other side of the island is supposed to be pretty different from this one.”
“How’s that?” asked Tom.
“Well, we haven’t been. But we’ve heard it’s really touristy. White sandy beaches with palms trees and old dudes wearing panama hats and knee-high socks.”
“Lovely,” I said.
“Definitely on our list,” Felix said, smiling and rubbing his belly.
We basked in Waipio’s atmosphere by sitting in the sand. I leaned back on my elbows to deepen my relaxation while admiring the ocean. The sand was gritty against my skin but doable.
The boys began throwing rocks into the water. I attempted chucking one, but was unsatisfied with the result. So, I rolled my t-shirt up to the bottom of my bra and lay back. The sun felt nice. It wasn’t too harsh. Just enough to make my skin tingle.
“What if we go exploring a bit,” someone suggested.
“Okay,” was the general consensus.
I got up and followed the boys past the inland-treeline. The wood’s density was somewhere between. There was a good amount of greenery, but plenty of room to get around.
Stumbling through the forest, we didn’t have much aim. Jumping over fallen trees and sweeping aside branches were the only tangible goals. We took a turn. The trees almost thickened, but not really. Eventually, a clearing opened before us. Something large lay in the middle. We closed in.
“What the hell is that thing?”
It looked like an animal of some kind. I could hear flies buzzing.
“Holy shit. It’s a dead fucking horse.”
The stench was wrenching. It smelled like someone’d taken a big shit in a bucket of bleach. I grabbed my stomach and put a hand to my facial orifices.
The horse’s back was facing our approach. As I rounded its grounded body, I could see the problem. It lacked a complete head. Just below the right eye socket was a large gouge that seemed to go through the horse’s skull. It could’ve been a gunshot wound. But over time the hole had propagated with coming insects and decay, growing to envelope most of its face; showing its teeth and threatening the cerebral cavity’s secrets.
“Wow. Take a look at that,” said Felix, nearing the horse’s head. He peered over it with care. As if he might fall into the hole.
“Yeah..That’s, that’s..something,” said Tom, squinting.
“I wonder what happened,” I pondered aloud.
“Yeah. I don’t know,” said Jeff. “It looks like it may’ve been shot or something.”
“Oh yeah? You think so?” asked Tom.
“Yeah. Check out the gnarly hole right there,” Jeff said, pointing. “That looks like the work of a shotgun.”
Tom cringed but closed in. “Yeah,” he said quickly, backing away. “Wow…Did you see that, Caroline?” Tom asked, referring to the hole in the horses head.
“For the most part,” I said, inching closer. “It looks pretty intense.” I stared at the gore, unblinking.
“Yeah. For sure,” Tom returned.
I went closer. The smell was overbearing. I breathed through my mouth, but could feel the thick air grating my throat.
The sight was impressive. I’d never seen such a mess. A cornucopia of deathly colors collaborated to make a truly gruesome image. I got an eyeful and stumbled away, taking a deep breath when sufficiently out of range.
“Awh. That’s disgusting,” I choked.
“Alright. Who’s gonna piss on it?” asked Felix, laughing.
“I think that’ll be you, bro,” answered Jeff.
“If you insist.” He started unzipping his pants while walking over, but stopped short. “Hahaha.”
“Amazing..So do you guys want to move on?” Tom asked, exchanging glances with the group members.
“Yeah. I’ve seen enough,” I said.
“Sure,” the others agreed.
We walked on, touring the area. The sun was getting low in the sky and there wasn’t much to see, so we headed back to the beach shortly after leaving the horror. As we looked at the ocean, we faced east. So the setting sun was behind us. Deep yellows and oranges played with the quick-moving clouds overhead.
“Doesn’t that cloud look like a box of matches?” asked Felix, pointing skyward.
I looked to where he directed.
“Where?” someone asked.
“Right over there,” Felix answered. He further extended the hand he was pointing with. “Just to the left of that big one.”
I saw what he was saying. With the shadows and all, the cloud had a weird resemblance to an open match-box.
“Yeah. I see it,” I said.
“Ah. See? Caroline sees it..There it is,” Felix said, walking over to me. “High five.” His hand was raised.
I held mine up and he slapped it. I laughed and looked to the ground.
“Do y’all want to smoke a joint?” asked Jeff.
“I’m down,” said Felix, quickly.
Tom looked to me. I shrugged in an affirmative-heavy neutral.
“Yeah. That sounds pretty good,” said Tom.
“Excellent,” said Jeff, taking a seat. He pulled a plastic bag out of his shorts-pockets.
I watched as he unraveled and opened it. He dumped its belongings. A lighter, a packet of papers, and a smaller plastic-bag landed on his lap. I took a seat and stared into the ocean. Its consistent waves mesmerized my eyes while my ears were occupied by hearing the light sounds of Jeff’s efforts. Crinkling papers. Crackling plastic.
“Alright. I think we’re in business,” I heard from my left. I looked over and saw Jeff holding a large cone-shaped joint.
“That looks like a winner,” said Felix.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
Jeff passed the joint to Felix and he lit it up. My nostrils caught the sweet smell of marijuana. Felix tried passing it to me but I said, “Why don’t you go that way with it,” pointing to Tom. He was on Felix’s left anyway. Tom then Jeff took their hits before it reached me. I took one and passed it on.
“Only one for the lady?” asked Felix as I passed the joint to him.
“Yeah. I’m trying to watch my figure,” I said.
“Haha. Fair enough,” he said, taking it from me.
We continued smoking ‘til the joint was finished. I only had one more hit. Afterward, we sat and chatted about various inconsequentials. How nice the place was. What might’ve happened to the dead horse. Personal histories. Where we were going to sleep that night.
“There’s a good spot we could camp at down south,” one of the semi-veterans suggested. They claimed there was a nice public beach with proximity to a hip area.
“What’s it called?”
Once the sun had sufficiently set, we decided it was time to head on. We strolled back down the beach and stopped before fording the river. Resources were gathered and I hopped on Tom’s back for the second time. Even in our inebriated-state and the darkness there were no mishaps in crossing the river. We made it back to the car and piled in. I let out a sigh of relief when feeling the softness of the carseat.
“Ahh. That feels good,” I said aloud.
“Yeah. You really appreciate the creature comforts after a few hours in the wild,” Tom replied.
Felix started the car and drove it along the wooded and wet road ‘til reaching the bottom of the incline which led out of the valley. He steered the car onto the upward slope. We made it about ten feet before the car couldn’t climb any further.
“Mother fucker. The slope’s too steep,” said Felix.
“Shit, dude. Put the brake on,” said Jeff, against the sound of the struggling engine.
Felix did so and we sat.
“Great,” Felix said, putting the car in reverse and slowly backing down. He positioned the car to aim at the sloped road.
“What are you doing?” asked Jeff.
“Mounting this bitch,” replied Felix. “Brace yourselves.” He floored it. We slowly rocketed to the incline, lurching when the front wheels made contact.
That attempt brought us thirty or forty feet closer to the top.
“Fuck,” said Felix, throwing on the brake. “What the fuck,” he stated.
“It doesn’t look like the Camry has enough power,” said Tom.
“Yeah,” agreed Jeff.
Felix released the break and floored it. Smoke poured into sight from somewhere and we slowly reversed. The transmission grated.
“Fuck,” he said again, putting the break back on.
He re-steered the car down the slope and made another attempt with similar results. We returned to the bottom of the hill for the third time.
“Alright. So what the hell are we gonna do?” asked Felix.
“I suppose we could just camp down here until morning. Then wait for someone to give us a tow tomorrow,” suggested Tom.
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” said Jeff. “We’ll have a lot better chance of getting help in the daylight..We might as well just wait..There’s no way we’re gonna get all the way up this hill on our own.”
“Yeah, I just hope someone will have a car or truck powerful enough to get them and us up the hill,” I said.
“Totally..But we would just need a boost. If we tie a rope to someone’s car they can give us some pull while we finish the job with our own engine. It’d be a team effort,” said Jeff. “And the boost we’d need probably wouldn’t be too demanding.”
“Right. Probably not,” I said, updating my understanding of the situation. “And I don’t think camping down here for the night would be too bad,” I added.
“So is that the consensus? Are we staying down here tonight?” asked Felix.
“It looks that way,” said Jeff.
Felix turned the car around and drove down the puddle-ridden road. He stopped when the road opened and parking was available.
“So, we need to find a spot to put our tents,” said Jeff.
“It looked like there was a good area on the edge of the trees and beach,” said Tom.
“Yeah. I know what you’re talking about..Right there on the boundary between each,” said Jeff.
“Yeah. Exactly,” returned Tom.
Car doors opened and we stepped out. I followed the boys to the place mentioned. It was near where we crossed the river. Under the trees it was dark. But once we got into the open and the moonlight went unimpeded, our surroundings lit up. We searched the ground to decide on a spot. A nice mix of sand and soil would make for good ground to put a tent down for the night.
“Here we go. This looks good.”
We walked back to the car and got our gear, locking the doors when saddled.
“I heard we’re not supposed to camp on this side of the river,” said Jeff.
“Oh yeah? Where did you hear that?” asked Tom.
“I don’t know. Some dude told me. He said that this side is, like, haunted or something.”
“Haunted? That’s bullshit..I’m not too worried about it,” said Felix.
“Hm,” said Tom. “What do you think, Caroline?” he asked me, smiling.
“Yeah. I don’t mind sleeping on this side of the river. I’m not too worried about it either.” I wasn’t a big believer in ghost stories, so I didn’t mind.
“Fair enough,” Tom returned. “So.”
The tents erected and we prepared for sleep.
“What about a lights-out joint on the beach?” Jeff suggested.
“Mmhm. That sounds about right,” said Felix.
“Lady and gentleman,” Jeff said, looking from me to Tom. “Are you in?”
“Yeah. I could smoke,” I said.
“I think I’ll refrain from smoking. But I’ll go down to the beach with you guys,” said Tom.
“Cool, cool. Let me get to business then.” Jeff pulled out his baggie of paraphernalia and a flashlight. He sat down and began the rolling process. It didn’t take long for him to call out, “Finished.”
“Rock and roll. Let’s get to it then,” said Felix.
The group agreed.
We walked down to the beach with Felix in the lead. On the way Jeff offered for me to light the joint. “Hey, do you wanna light this thing up..Caroline?” He held out the joint and a lighter.
“Sure,” I said, accepting his lighter and the joint. I lit the tip of the joint, inhaling. My lungs awakened. The sensation spread to the rest of my body. I passed the joint and we continued smoking until it was finished.
While smoking, we made conversation recounting the day. Afterward we agreed it was bedtime. We returned to camp and went our separate ways. Jeff and Felix went to their tent while Tom and I went to ours.
“Nightie night,” said Felix.
“Good night,” Tom and I returned. We entered then zipped our tent.
I didn’t have much trouble getting to sleep that evening. It’d been a long, full day.
But in the middle of the night, I could’ve sworn somebody was trying to get into the tent. I awoke and saw shadows moving across the tent flap. Nothing came of it and I’m not even sure I was conscious. I remember it briefly scaring the shit out of me, though.
The morning came soon after. I asked Tom if he’d heard or seen anything, but he said no. Later, I found Felix to be in a state. He was shaken-up by someone unzipping the tent during the night. Jeff pleaded ignorance, but Felix was adamant. He said someone unzipped the tent and stepped a foot inside. Felix’d kicked at it and it disappeared.
I related my experience. Comparisons were made, but we ultimately shrugged it off as just something that happened. There wasn’t much more to be done.
We packed our belongings and shuttled them to the car. There, we discovered the doors to be unlocked even though it was specifically remembered having locked them.
“That’s weird..I remember locking the doors,” said Felix.
“Make sure nothing’s missing,” said Jeff.
Satisfied everything was in its right place, we took our seats. I fished for a granola bar as Felix turned the car on.
“What the fuck?” he said loudly.
“Piece of the fucking starter is missing.”
“What? What do you mean?” asked Jeff, leaning over.
“Right here. Look. This piece is missing right here,” said Felix, pointing to the steering column.
“Oh yeah..Well that’s weird,” Jeff said, staring at the area.
From my vantage point, I could see what he was referring to. A section of the metal ring, encompassing the starter unit, was gone.
“Why would someone take that?” I asked.
“Who knows? But let’s get the fuck out of here..This place gives me the fucking willies.”
Felix drove the car down the access road. We lurched as water-filled divots were hit with a decent speed. The hill was attempted again. Unsuccessful.
We decided to wait at the bottom of the hill and ask people with 4-wheel drive vehicles for a tow. Our car was parked and we opened the doors to wait it out.
The first few people we asked were unresponsive. Then someone agreed to give us a lift. But they didn’t have proper tow-ropes and neither did we. We struggled with our options. We suggested going back to the parking zone to see if anyone had tow-materials, but they were in a rush. So we had to let them go without us.
We sat roadside for a while longer, asking everyone who came by if they could give us a tow. Eventually, we worked out a deal to pay some locals a hundred bucks for a lift. It took us nearly half an hour to get all the way to the top, but it happened.
By that time, the sun was on its way down. We used the public toilets at the top of the hill then went to a grocery store in town. I got some nutty-chocolate and a yogurt drink. Tom got cookies, coke, and a log of lunch-meat while the others got various unknowns.
We were back on the road by 8 pm. The sun had just set. We jammed to radio-supplied tunes and made it to the coastal road, which linked to Kehena beach, an hour and a half after leaving the grocery store.
I liked the road. It was wind-y and hill-ridden with a view of the ocean. But because the sun had set, the view during our drive was dim.
The terrain quickly went from sparsely-populated shrubland to banana-tree infested tropical forest. Driving through such animated lands by moon and head light was a trip. Especially with the quick transition.
Felix pulled off onto a gravelly shoulder declaring, “This is it.”
He stopped the car. We exited. The drive was long enough to make me hobble when lifting from my seat. I shook the lethargy out of my legs and walked to the trunk.
“Does anyone have a flashlight?” asked Jeff. “It’s dark and it can be a pretty tricky climb.”
“I do,” said Tom.
Tom dipped into the car, fished in his bag, and brought out a head lamp; applying it to his forehead and turning it on. He looked at me and I squinted, turning from the bright light above his eyes. He tilted the light down and asked, “Better?”
I turned back to him. “Yes..Definitely,” I said, smiling.
“Okay, let’s head,” said Felix.
I grabbed my backpack and we followed Felix’s lead. He took us to a forest-inlet a few meters down the road.
“It gets pretty treacherous in these parts, so be careful,” he warned.
He was right. The path leading down to the beach had several sheer drops. They were only a few feet high, but still. Sharp rocks were all around, so impalement wouldn’t’ve been difficult.
It took about ten minutes to get down the forty foot decline, because we only had one flashlight. Tom’s headlamp. So he had to assist with everyone’s descent. Fortunately the lamp was quite powerful, so he would go down first then turn around, blanketing the cliff face with light for the rest of us to see.
Walking onto the beach was nice. Large waves rolled in while reflecting the moon’s beams. And the beach had black-sands, which produced an eerie effect under the nearly full moon’s light.
We walked to the beach’s back edge. A vertical cliff-face towered at least fifty feet above the beach’s sand.
“This place smells like fuckin’ piss,” someone noted. They were right. It did have a distinctly urine-like aroma. “Let’s move further down the beach.”
We positioned ourselves between a few trees and erected the tents. It didn’t take long. And the powerful lull of waves quickly crooned me to sleep once I was inside our tent. The next morning I woke with the sunrise. I checked my mobile’s time. It was 6:23 in the morning. I estimated having fallen asleep sometime before 10 pm, so I felt that was enough.
I left the tent for a stretch. I stared into the ocean while twisting the sleep from my limbs. It looked inviting, so I finished up my regimen and shed the little clothing I was wearing. I skipped down the beach in my bikini and dove through the first wave.
The energy of the ocean was intense. It pulled me in several different directions at once, but I swam on. I made it past the turbulent region and broke the water’s surface with my head. The swells were big. I could feel myself rising and falling considerably.
I looked further out to sea. Something was swimming on the water’s horizon. At first panic pumped through my bloodstream. Sharks. Then I remembered hearing something about dolphins populating the Hawaiian waters. I focused and zeroed in. I could see the crescent-filled figures dolphins were popular for sporting.
The adrenaline that’d previously coursed my veins was replaced by endorphins and I swam onward to meet them. It took effort but I made it to where I’d originally seen the herd larking about. By the time I got there, they had swum on.
I panted, trying to decide if I should catch them up. The group looked to be fairly far out, so I figured against it. Just as I turned from the gang of dolphins to check my surroundings, I heard a loud splash from close behind. I whipped around and saw the wake. Just as the first ripples hit me, a dolphin lunged from the water before me to do a vertically-oriented horizontal spin. My mouth opened and seawater splashed in. I spit and coughed, looking on the spot the dolphin’d landed. The place was only a matter of feet away. Maybe ten.
“Wow,” I said to myself. A wave of something swept through my body. It had to be a substance similar to serotonin, but I’d never felt it before. It’s like the dolphin had infused me with some mystical formula in its jump.
Another dolphin arced nearby. It didn’t pass directly over head but it was close enough. The spring that’d sprung in my body before, recoursed. My scalp tingled, my heart felt of gelatin, and my body floated from the water. I turned to see where the dolphin landed. The wake tickled my chin.
I heard a splash behind me and arounded. Another wake preceded a pair of sequential jumps. My loins burned and I swallowed. It stung of salt.
The show continued for some time. Dolphins swam around, underneath, and over me to create for a heavenly environ. It was unlike anything I’d experienced. Really something else.
When the dolphins and I were mutually content with their exploits, I eventually made it back ashore. Getting past the undertow was difficult. I had to relax my body and let the waves take me in. It was tricky sticking, though. The recessing waves wanted to drag me with. In order to conquer them, I had to submit myself to a repeated pounding, getting closer with each in/out set then unleash a burst of energy to haul myself to dry land. By the time it was all done with, I was drained. The ten minute docking-session took it out of me.
I beached and flipped over, exposing my tummy to the sun. It took a few minutes to adequately catch my breath. My chest gradually decreased in heave until my breathing steadied. Once satisfied, I got up and stumbled to the tent finding Tom on its outskirts.
“Hey,” he called. “Went for a swim?”
“Yep,” I panted, making my way to him.
“How was it?”
“Really..Really cool,” I said, lacking proper qualifying words. “I swam with dolphins out there.” I displayed my teeth and turned to point at the place in reference.
I went on to describe my experience with the acrobatic dolphin troop. Tom was impressed and intrigued. The dolphins’ shapes could be seen playfully moving about, so he went for it. Removing his shirt as he walked down the beach, it sailed back when he flung it, then himself into the water. I watched as he made his way out to the dolphins’ territory. They put on a similar show. It lasted a lengthy amount of time.
I couldn’t help but be amused by his trials in coming inland. Mostly because I’d recently experienced the same and knew what it was about. He came to me gasping for breath.
“Huh uh. Wow..Uh..Un-freaking-believable..huh.”
“Yeah?.Have a good time out there?” I asked in return.
He put his hands on slightly bent knees, lowered his head, then raised a pointer-finger to represent a request in gathering his breath. I turned from him to check on the aquatic-mammals. They were still frolicking.
“That was unreal,” he finally said, lifting.
“Yeah..Definitely,” I said with a wide smile.
“Dolphins jumping over my freakin’ head,” he said, skimming his scalp with an open-palmed hand. “Wow.”
“Haha,” I laughed, recollecting.
“Truly magical,” he said. “The way they envelop you..Truly…I’m at a loss for words.” He looked up, shrugged, and smiled. “So. It was that spellbinding..I’m bound in spell.”
“Haha..Nice. That’s not a bad place to be,” I said, puckering my lower lip.
Tom gave a bit of a spasm and looked at his watch. “Yeah..Haha..What do you say to some breakfast?” he said, looking to the tent.
“Yeah..That sounds good.”
We walked over to the tent and Tom unzipped its flap. He dipped in and fished around. Rocking back, he produced Fig Newtons and a small carton of mixed-fruit juice.
“Here we are,” he said, detracting the Fig Newton tray from its wrapping and holding it up to me.
“Thanks,” I smiled, grabbing a few fig-filled Newtons. I took a bite of one and felt the flavor rush to my receptors. Sweet.
“Do you wanna..?” Tom asked in incomplete sentencelery, pointing to the nearby ground.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, lifting my eyebrows while taking another bite.
We walked over to the spot he’d motionally-mentioned and took a seat in the sand. I was close enough to a tree to lean against its trunk, so I did so. I partially faced both the ocean and Tom. We ate in silence, staring at the waters. He offered the juice and I took several swigs; washing the figgy Newtons down. My stomach was well satisfied and I leaned deeper into the tree.
“Aaah,” I sighed.
“What?” Tom asked.
I turned to him. “Nothing,” I said, shaking my head.
We turned back to the ocean, watching in silence until Jeff and Felix exited their tent.
“Good morning,” said Felix.
“Hey. Good morning,” said Tom.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Do y’all know what time it is?” asked Felix.
“So. It’s 9:30,” offered Tom after looking at his watch.
“Aha.” Felix quickly looked to the ocean. “There’s a gathering happening fairly soon,” he said.
“Oh, yeah?.What kind?” asked Tom.
“It’s this thing down the road called Ecstatic Dance.”
“What’s that?” Tom followed.
“It’s a, like, mid-day rave session. It sounds pretty interesting. We haven’t actually been. Just heard about it.”
“Uhuh..A mid-day rave, uh? It does sound pretty interesting, but can you elaborate at all?” continued Tom.
“Well, I don’t know much about it, but a bunch of people from around the area get together and dance to this dj’s beats..It’s kind of like hippy church,” he said.
“Hippy church?” I said. “Sounds like it could be good.”
“Yeah. From what everyone tells us, it is,” said Jeff.
I looked to him. “Right. You haven’t actually been yet,” I said, reiterating.
“Nah. We’ve only been here less than a week, so we haven’t had the chance.”
“But everyone says it’s the shit,” he continued.
I nodded. “Cool.”
“So, do y’all wanna go?.It’s pretty close to here,” said Felix.
I looked to Tom and gave him a ‘yes’ expression. He turned to Felix and said, “Yeah, okay..Sounds good.”
With it settled, we packed up our shit and brought it to the car at the cliff’s crest. It took some doing, but it was alright. We threw our belongings in the trunk and entered.
“So. Where are we off to?” asked Tom.
“Just this place up the road. It’s not too far,” answered Felix.
We took off and headed in the unknown direction. The opposite from which we’d come. Our destination wasn’t far down the road.
“I’m pretty sure this is it,” said Felix, pulling into a drive lined with assorted flowers.
A gravel parking lot opened beside a semi-crescent domed building. Felix parked the car and we got out.
“So this is, like, hippy to the max..People going nuts and getting naked and shit,” he described.
“Great,” I said, rolling my eyes.
We walked toward the pavilion. I saw ocean just past a belt of trees. My heart settled.
There was a door on the far side of the building. We went to it. Tom opened it and we shuffled inside. A gravel path edged a large wooden dance-floor. Atop the dance-floor was a group of people, 30-strong, sitting in a circle epicentered by a tall bald man. We halted upon entrance, not sure what to do. The tall man smiled and waved us in then raised his eyebrows and pointed at our feet. I looked to them and over, noticing rows of shoes lining the wall. We slipped off our footwear and soft-stepped our way to the circle.
“We have some new recruits,” the man said. “Can we open up a little bit here?” he continued with a soft voice while motioning for people to spread.
A gap widened in the circle and we four slipped in. The man smiled at me and I nodded.
“Okay. So. As you may or may not know..this is Ecstatic Dance.” He mildly clapped.
A light cheer erupted from the audience.
“And, as you may also know..we have some rules…First,” he said, holding up a pointer finger, “no frowning. Only smiles under this roof.” He supplemented one pointer finger with the other and raised both.
“Second.” He went back to upholding only one hand. But this time forming a peace sign. “No shoes on the dance floor,” he said, pointing down. “Scuff marks get pretty nasty on this floor.” He awkwardly swiped at the floor with a foot. “Third.” He held up three fingers. “If you come at someone with an aura and they’re not interested, back off..I won’t have uncomfort here,” he said sternly. “And fourth..Have an ecstatic time!.This is ecstatic dance after all.” He clapped a couple times and spun around on one foot. “Okay..Let’s do names..I’m Will,” he said, pointing to his chest with both hands. He then pointed to a random girl and said, “To the left.”
And so on, until the domino got to me. I could feel my heart racing. “I’m Caroline,” I said, thankful it was smoothly executed. No voice-breaks. Just the right amount of sexuality.
The circle continued until ending on a girl sitting next to the one it started with. “Okay. Very good,” said Will, clapping. “Now..Do I have any questions, comments..compliments?” he said, striking a pose to bouts of laughter.
“I’d like to share,” someone said. I looked to where the comment came from. A hand was raised over some guy with long dark hair. He was mildly attractive. “I just want to thank everyone for being here,” he said, clapping. It spread. A brief applause rippled. “And hope for an enlightening experience in everyone,” he said, once the sounds’d died down. Another ripple of applause propagated.
“Wow,” I said inwardly. I wasn’t accustomed to that mentality. Growing up in a small west-Texas town didn’t afford me much access. I went to school in Austin so I’d been introduced to neo-hippies, but it was still a novelty.
“Okay,” Will said, clapping. “Why don’t we get started.”
He walked over to the dj booth in the corner and began gearing up. People placed themselves, waiting. The music started. It was somewhat slow. Very trance. There was some mystical movement in the members about. Wave-like motions were made with hands. The ceiling was stared at. Knees were bending and lightly bucking. I watched all this with wide eyes.
A woman in a red shawl and blue dress spun by me. My focus followed her path. She veered toward the dj booth and along it, then near the far wall. She never stopped spinning. I looked to my right and saw a man with a shaved head. Tattoos covered the entirety of his bald skull. Large lobe rings opened gaps in his ears while a nosering and three lip rings accessorized. Another nearby character looked to be about 60. He was shirtless while sporting a purple skirt. Nice.
The music picked up and I noticed my leg bumping. Tom was standing just behind me to the left. I turned to him. He gave me a ‘where exactly are we?’-look. I smiled and turned back, moving closer to the melee. Will, the dj, was busy moving and doing it. Large headphones saddled his bald head, but one earpiece rested above its designated ear. He made a quick shift and an effect settled into the beat. I moved closer. A pretty girl with a nosering was getting funky close by. I watched her chest and booty heave. I felt my own breast begin to bob back and forth.
The beat dropped. So did my ass. I shook it and cooked it. Whatever that means.
I was never before a big advocate of electronica. But the music and energy of the room really made me move. I couldn’t help but shimmy between and amongst the motley crew populating the dance floor.
I looked to Tom. He caught my eyes and gave me a smile. I smiled back then turned to a boy with text tattooed to his left side. It sprawled across a large portion of his torso. I couldn’t help but concentrate my attention upon him. His tattoo was consuming while his looks were boyishly handsome. I imagined dancing with him.
The music’s tempo picked up and someone whooped. I turned in its direction and saw a topless woman gently moving about. I was amazed by its commonplace. No one around seemed to notice.
I could feel my feet moving more drastically. The music drew it from me. I swung around and moved across the room, swaying and dipping to the beat. It was a rush to thread the needle through all the people. I double-backed halfway after reaching the rear-end of the room. I landed next to the guy who’d raised his hand and delivered the good tidings before our dance. He turned to me and gave me a big smile with wide eyes. My teeth showed in smile and I danced.
Looking over the room, I saw limbs flail as the music reached breakneck pace. A stream of sweat rolled past my eye. I wiped it away and picked up my intensity. My hamstrings ached with exertion. I barreled through it and flung my head back to look at the ceiling. A hand went behind it and I did a, kind of, one-sided chicken dance after bringing my head back down. That didn’t last long, but it felt alright. I lowered my head, ran hands through my hair, then shuffled my arms to and fro while hips swayed. I rubbed my stomach and closed my eyes, savoring the sensation.
Someone yelled and it spread. A series of howls went around and I felt myself let one out as well. It sent a wave of adrenaline through my body. I could feel my heart bustle. Limbs lashed out. I accidentally hit someone. I turned to give an apologetic look, but they didn’t seem phased. Their apathy fueled my apagy. Arms and legs swirled in complimentary motion.
The music eventually slowed. My dance-rate did too. Half an hour after the peak, the rhythmic-pace slowed to something near its initiality. People resumed a trance-like method of motion. I walked to the sidelines and scored myself a paper cup filled with water. Chugging it down, I refilled the cup and again slammed its contents back. The water jug was still bubbling by the time I’d finished drinking.
I walked back onto the dance floor and undulated to the music. It wasn’t long before people were lying on the floor’s wood panels or slow dancing arm-in-arm. I closed my eyes and lightly oscillated.
The music stopped and Will came out from and around the dj booth. People watched his exit and instinctually began forming a circle similar to that of the one we walked in on. Nothing was said until everyone positioned.
“Thank you everyone..For sharing that with me,” said Will. His tone was low and his hands were intertwined. “It’s always a pleasure to see people interacting with such grace and compassion..I am truly honored to be a part of the wealth I see during ecstatic dance.”
I looked around. People’s heads shook while eyeballs appeared soggy. I could feel my own glazing over. Will’s sentiment seemed heartfelt.
“I only hope that everyone in the room was able to achieve a similar state of joy to that I received from today’s session…It was inspiring to see some of your auras at such vibrant frequencies.” He gave subtle nods to a select few.
I tried to follow the deliveries but it was difficult to be sure. People were tightly encircled.
“Something was created today,” Will continued. “During our assembly..I could see it in the air overhead..It was something tangible. Something real. Something genuine…Does anyone know what I saw?” he asked.
He looked around. No one said anything. Probably in avoidance of interrupting his train.
“Love,” he said.
I looked to the floor.
“I saw love..Pure love..It was beautiful..Like a mystical mist. Rising up and over the crowd,” he said, lifting a flattened hand while looking to an upward angle. “Thank you for that..Thank you for letting me be a part of your love,” he said, raising his hands to the prayer form.
Under normal circumstances I probably would’ve rolled my eyes with statements like those, but I couldn’t help feeling empathetic. There was definitely something special created by the group. Something nice. And warm. Propers to Will for being able to stimulate such energy.
“Would anyone like to add?” he asked, looking around.
A girl with thick dreadlocks and a bandana holding them back, raised her hand. Will acknowledged her.
She nodded and said, “I’d like to thank Will for such an excellent experience..You are a bright shining star.” She held out both hands in equal-sign fashion then began clapping. Everyone followed suit. I myself, dished a hearty helping. Will smiled and raised both hands saying, “Alright. Alright.” The applause died down and someone else raised their hand. Will gestured to a shirtless, beard and long-hair sporting, man.
“I took notice at something during the dance,” he said. “At the height of energy, I looked around to feel it. I was so appreciative to see everyone really harnessing their chi. It was like everyone had a direct line to the chi channel and they were pumping. It was really expanding.” He nodded his head and looked around.
‘Yeah’s and ‘Mmmhm’s dotted the audience. I shifted sitting positions.
“My third eye is vibrating,” someone said.
“I can sense everyone’s aural pulse,” someone else said.
My eyebrows raised and I could feel an, ‘Oh my Jesus,’ coming on. I refrained to continue smiling. Various other astro-projection-esque comments were made while I looked on. Will finally thanked everyone for coming and we all dispersed.
I walked to where my sandals lay on the gravel, fetched them, then leaned against a wall to put them on. During the dance I’d taken my t-shirt off, exposing my bikini top, but neglected to refit it and instead flung it over a shoulder.
I looked to the doorway and saw the boy with text scrawled along his body, leave. I was feeling particularly sexual, so I pulled the drawstring on my sandals and headed in the exit’s direction. Tom intercepted me.
“Hey. What did you think?” he asked with wide eyes and smile.
“Yeah. It was good,” I nodded, sending both hands through my hair. Tom quickly looked away. “What about you?”
He turned back to say, “I thought it was really cool. Unlike anything I’ve ever done, really.”
“Yeah. For sure..Definitely one of a kind,” I said, lightly laughing.
“Haha. Yeah. I’d agree with that..What did you think of the music?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, swelling my lower lip. “It was alright..Wouldn’t usually like that kind of music, but it did well.”
“Yeah. It fit the mood and the way people were dancing,” he observed.
“Mmhm…Did you see some of the characters out there?” I asked, looking around the room trying to cast a line with my face.
“Haha. Oh yes. There were quite a few..My favorite was the topless old woman with dreadlocks and armpit hair.”
“Hm..I don’t think I noticed her,” I admitted.
“You didn’t notice her?.How is that possible?.I couldn’t look away..She’d just spin around with her arms up..Hww,” he made, quickly shaking his head side-to-side in efforts to rid his head of the image. “Look, look. There she is,” he said, mildly directing my attention across the room.
I saw who he was referring to. It was the same woman I’d seen in the dance’s initial stages, spinning about. I overlooked her dreadlocks before.
“Mmhm,” I said with recognition. “Did you see the dude with skull tattoos and facial piercings?”
“Yeah..Wild stuff, huh?” he said with a cringe.
We walked past the people scattered about and made it outside. A guy with auburn hair was chopping coconuts near the building’s entrance. He was apparently selling them as drinks. He’d chop off the top and shove a long straw into the hole. Each went for a dollar.
“Do you want one?” asked Tom, lightly touching my arm. His head jerked.
I thought on it and said, “No.”
“I think I’m gonna get one,” he said, walking over.
I almost immediately regretted my decision. A coconut would’ve been a refreshing treat after such intensity. I was a fan of the coconut flavor. A good blend of sweet and savory.
Tom came back sucking on his straw. “Want some?” he offered, holding out the strawed coconut.
“Sure,” I said, wrapping my lips around the straw’s tip. I gave a long draught. It was tasty. “Thanks,” I said, releasing it.
“No problem,” Tom laughed on the verge of nervously.
“How is it?” the first guy to raise his hand in circle-time asked, pointing to Tom’s coconut. He swept his hair aside after doing so.
“Yeah. It’s good. Do you want to try some?” Tom asked.
“Nah. Thanks, man,” the guy said, patting Tom on the shoulder. “I think I’ll just get one..Thanks for the endorsement,” he said, looking from Tom to me and walking to where the auburn was chopping coconuts.
I watched him walk then turned back to the entrance. People were loitering all around. I’d say close to twenty or so.
Felix and Jeff walked up. “So what did y’all think?” asked Felix with a big grin and sweat residue glistening about his face. He licked his lips upon looking at my eyes.
“Yeah. It was really cool,” said Tom.
“I really liked it,” said I.
“Yeah. That was badass,” Felix said, clapping heartily.
“I worked up quite a sweat,” I said, just noticing the stick of my skin.
“Shit. Me too,” said Jeff, wiping his face and looking at the fingers which did so.
“It’d be nice to go for a dip in the water,” suggested Tom.
“Yeah. Well, the big thing to do after the dance is go down to the beach we slept on. There’s a drum circle..You can go swimming there,” said Felix, looking at the people surrounding.
“A drum circle, huh,” said Tom. “That could be interesting,” he followed, looking to me.
“Yeah,” I concurred.
“Well then let’s get,” said Felix, heading towards the parked car.
We followed, Tom slurping on his coconut. The four of us got in, Felix started the engine, and we took off. The sound of gravel under-tire was fleeting. We quickly made it onto the paved driveway then the road. In another couple minutes we were pulling off to a shoulder near the beach where we slept the night before.
The trek down was much easier in daylight. We made it to the cool black sands in two minutes. People were scattered atop the beach. Skin blazing. Some were naked. Most were at least shirtless. I attempted averting my eyes but exposed flesh was everywhere.
A circle had already formed and people were banging away on various types of drums. Even more were standing around watching. I lightly scanned the audience for the tattooed boy, but didn’t see him.
We pulled up to a spot on the outskirts. Tom brought a towel, so he laid it and we plopped down. I shifted to side-rest on an angled elbow while the other two travel-companions went into the midst.
The rhythms were nice. They did a good job of continuing the theme of ecstatic dance, but with more relaxion. I closed my eyes and listened to the medley of pulses supplied by drums and rolling waves.
Eventually a joint was passed my way and I took a couple puffs. It was strong stuff. I fully reclined and watched the picture show behind my eyes. I remained in that state for quite some time.
I was roused to find another joint being passed my way. I accepted and freshened my buzz. The stuff was equally strong. I had a scattered conversation with Tom. I think it was about the people populating our immediate presence. Not sure.
I eventually got up and walked around. Naked children played while people milled, listening to the music. Someone sang. I looked to see it was a black man. Some guy started talking to me about the naked children. He was good looking so I let the conversation linger. He offered me weed, but I declined. I was stoned enough. He propositioned a sit-down. I accepted because he seemed decent enough. We sat and chatted about personal histories. He, like I, had just graduated. But from the Colorado School of Mines. I was impressed. It was supposed to be a considerably good school.
The conversation shifted toward fish then ecstatic dance. He wasn’t there for that day’s session, but the one a week before. He then told me about the Hari Krishna dinner dished every Sunday night. I was piqued. It was a free vegetarian-pizza feast for anyone who wanted. Some gospel was spread then pizza and the like were devoured. I was sold.
The sun set. But not before us, from behind. The guy said he and some others would be heading to the Hari Krishna dinner soon. I told him I’d run it past my cohorts and it’d probably be cool. He caressed my hand as I stood. I smiled back and turned.
I found Tom talking to the only other guy who didn’t seem to fully belong. He wore a collared shirt and short hair. Similar to Tom.
“Hey,” I said, walking up. “Did you hear about this Krishna thing?”
“Uh, no. What Krishna thing?” Tom returned.
“Well, apparently there’s this free dinner done up by some Krishnas down the road..They have vegetarian pizza and dessert..It sounds pretty good,” I said, lifting my eyebrows.
“So, yeah. Free pizza, huh,” he said, stroking his chin. “Where is it?”
“Supposedly just down the road..A few miles, maybe.”
“It sounds good to me..We should probably run it by Felix, though. He’s driving.”
“Sure,” I said, jerking my head in the opposite direction to him.
Tom nodded. “It was nice to meet you, ,” he said, shaking the man’s hand.
“Likewise,” the guy said, smiling.
We scouted the area with failing light. It didn’t take long to find Felix and Jeff. They were sitting with a group of people, smoking a joint. We walked up. Jeff held a joint up to me. I smiled and waved it off saying, “No thanks.”
“Do you guys know anything about this Krishna dinner?” Tom asked.
“Yeah..That’s that pizza thing. Right?” Felix said, looking up with bleary eyes. It was dark but they could be clearly seen.
“Yeah. That’s right..Are you interested in going?”
“That was the plan,” returned Felix. “Nothing like a free dinner,” he smiled.
“When does this thing kick off? Do you know?” asked Tom.
“I’m not sure, but we’ll probably head over there within the hour,” said Jeff. “Does that sound good to you?”
“Absolutely..We’ll come find you in about an hour,” said Tom. “If you want to leave before then just let us know, please.”
“Surely,” said Jeff. He turned to me. I smiled and winked then followed Tom off.
I saw the guy I’d been talking to earlier, sitting in the same spot. Instead of acknowledging him, I sat with Tom on his towel. We talked of the Krishna gig for a bit before the guy came over.
“Hey,” he said, offering a small wave. “Can I sit with you?”
“Sure,” I said, gesturing to the ground.
“Thanks.” He looked to Tom. “Hey, I’m Jim,” he said, holding out his hand.
Tom accepted and said, “Hey, Jim. I’m Tom.”
“Good to meet you,” said Jim.
“Yeah. Good to meet you too,” offered Tom. “Whereabouts are you from?”
“Washington,” he said. “A town called Yakima.”
“Hm. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it,” said Tom.
“Yeah. Neither had I,” I said, reflecting on when Jim had told me his origin.
“It’s not very big..I think it has less than a hundred thousand people,” he said smiling.
“Where in Washington is it?.Is it close to Seattle?” asked Tom.
“Mm..Not really. It’s about two hundred miles southeast of Seattle.”
“Aha,” said Tom.
“How’d you like it?” I asked.
“I don’t know..I guess it was alright. Kind of boring though,” he answered.
“Yeah, sure. Most places people grow up in probably are.”
“Definitely,” he said smiling. “I think it’s a rule or something.”
We went on to chat. Some time later, Felix and Jeff rolled up to see if we were ready for rocking. We were. Getting up, Jim said he’d get a ride with his group. We agreed to meet later and parted ways. But not before our eyes danced.
Scaling the rock trail in darkness was tricky, but not as difficult as going down. We made it up and got in the car. Felix turned on the engine then the lights and set to driving. He seemed pretty stoned, but I wasn’t concerned.
“Alright. I got directions from some dude..So hopefully he knew what he was talking about,” Felix slowly told us.
“Yeah, sure. Me too,” said Tom, looking to me.
A car left its brights on while passing, momentarily blinding me. I shielded my eyes with a stray hand and wondered if Felix suffered the same temporarity. A bolt of distress tore through me.
We passed the ecstatic dance locale. I turned to watch it pass. Five minutes later we made a left.
“Alright, the dude said we, like, take a left at the top of the hill after the ecstatic dance place..And this looks like it’s probably it,” he said, leisurely turning down the road. It ran perpendicular to the coast.
Soon enough he pulled into a gravel drive. Cars were scattered across the property, a makeshift parking lot keeping track. Felix found a place, parked, and we got out. The air was a bit thicker than it’d been by/on the beach. I inhaled deeply, catching culinary aromas. My lips puckered and I slid fingers into my shorts. The compact pockets wouldn’t allow for much more than fingers. Maybe knuckles.
I followed the boys’ lead. They walked past a calciated greenhouse and along a lifted house. An empty garage defined its superterranean-foundation. Around the house’s corner sat a picnic table under an elevated tarp. We ascended a staircase to its right. People milled on the balcony across from a sliding glass door. The boys took off their shoes and added to the hordes littering the wooden porch. I followed suite.
Felix and Jeff opened the door and slid inside. Tom turned to me.
“So what do you think?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I returned.
“Do you wanna go inside?” he followed.
I looked to the people populating the balcony. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?”
“Yeah, alright. I don’t know.” He gestured for me to go first. I pursed my lips, insisting.
He went inside and I tagged.
Thirty youths sat on the floor and various chairs amidst a large, bearded, older-gentleman holding an acoustic guitar while gracing a rocking chair. He had very Santa-similar features and was speaking with closed eyes. Tom spotted a space on the floor and sat. I beside him.
After listening for a few minutes, I caught the gist. The man’s monologue was something about how a napkin could be folded. I quickly lost interest with all the fresh faces to gaze upon. Everyone looked to be about my age. All the seasoned peoples who’d been at the beach were nowhere to be seen. It was somewhat refreshing. I leaned back and stretched my quadriceps.
The man’s rant lasted another ten minutes then he busted into song. Strumming the guitar, he sang something about Krishna. Everyone seemed to be joining in, so I hummed along. That rap session lasted about half an hour. A girl passed out fresh flowers during so. She gave me a lei. It consisted of yellow hibiscuses and smelled heavenly. Sniffing it didn’t grow tiresome before dinner was served.
The man wrapped things up unceremoniously and people shifted. Tables were set out and food was put upon while the patrons formed a line. Tom and I found its end. I peered at the food from where I stood. It looked plentiful and smelled delicious. My stomach rumbled. I put a hand to it.
“Well, that was interesting,” said Tom.
“Sure was. What’d you get from it?” I asked, hoping he could give me a synopsis.
“Shit. I don’t know,” he said, reading my question accurately and rubbing the back of his neck. “He was going on about a lot of random stuff..I think at one point he mentioned how we’re all ducklings and Krishna is the mother..It was mostly proverbial kind of stuff.”
“Mmmhm,” I said, nodding. “Sure..That’s what it seemed like…I didn’t catch much.” I smiled and throttled Tom on the arm.
“I figured as much,” he said with a half smirk, half frown.
It took just over five minutes to make the table. I grabbed a plate while my eyes scanned. I immediately saw two fully-loaded pizzas. A girl on the table’s opposite side told me one was vegetarian and one was vegan then asked which I’d prefer. I opted for the vegetarian with a smile. After placing the pizza on my plate, she offered pasta. It looked good, so I asked for a small helping. Further down the table, someone else offered a piece of vegan chocolate-cake. I declined and moved to the door. I turned, waiting for Tom. He quickly followed.
“Inside or outside?” I asked.
“I don’t know..What do you think?” he asked back.
“Why don’t we check out the balcony,” I suggested, walking without waiting for a response.
People cluttered the area. I skirted surveying eyes and found a spot on the balcony’s corner. We’d have to eat standing up, but that was okay. Tom settled on the corner’s other leg and we dug in. The pizza was fucking good. Well prepared and cooked al dente. It’d been a long day, so I devoured mine quickly. Downing both pizza and pasta took less than five minutes.
Tom finished at the same time. He offered to fetch seconds. I couldn’t resist. He took my plate and scurried off. I called out “Thanks” and immediately set to looking for the boy I’d met on the beach. Nowhere to be seen.
An awkward cat with a shaved head and acne moved in soon after Tom retreated. “How did you enjoy the sermon?” he asked with a gentle voice.
Before answering I stared at him for a few seconds. He held my gaze. “Yeah. It was pretty good..I didn’t catch all of it, though. We got here late,” I confessed.
“Oh, well, that’s alright. I’m sure you got the overall message,” he said with a casual smile.
“Yeah. Yeah, sure,” I said.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Texas,” I said. “You?”
“New Jersey. But I live here now.”
“Yeah..It’s great here. I really like it,” he said, looking around. “The situation is great. I get free housing and meals for a minimal amount of work.”
“Free housing and free meals?” I asked. “Oh, you mean you live here. Like, on the property.”
“Yeah. Well, sort of..I live at a different location, but I’m closely affiliated with the house here..I have dinner here every night.”
“Is that right?.Is it pretty good?”
“It’s excellent. Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.”
“Wow. That’s a bold statement,” I said. “But I could see it being pretty good, I guess.”
“If you like the pizza, you’d love the other food..Really nice,” he said, kissing the tips of his fingers, detonating them.
“What do you have to do?” I asked, intrigued.
“Not much. I fertilize plants and pick fruit. That sort of thing..It’s farm work.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” I said.
“Not at all. But the deal is sweetened by what you get in return.”
I stared on.
“Relaxation and meditation techniques with a bit of spirituality,” he said.
It didn’t sound too bad. I’d always been interested in meditation, but never had the chance to delve deeply. And I liked how he focused on that aspect before the spirituality. It could’ve been a sales technique, but I was definitely fishing for my purse.
“That sounds cool. I’ve always been interested in meditation, but I’ve never really had too much experience with it,” I said.
“Yeah. This is the perfect place to do it,” he said, lifting both hands horizontally while swiveling his head to look around.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“‘Cause Hawaii has beautiful scenery and the right kind of pace. When you live on the big island, you live by the sun not your watch..You get up and go to bed with the sun’s light,” he said. “It’s not as go go go here..You’ll see.”
It’s true that I’d been more in tune with the sun’s cycles since arriving on the island. Tom returned. The dude retreated saying, “See ya,” with a wave. I offered a small one in turn.
“Who was that?” Tom asked.
“I don’t know. Some guy,” I shrugged, looking to the plates full of food.
“Here you are, madam,” he said, handing a plate to me.
“Thank you,” I said, mouth salivating in preparation.
We continued with dinner, me scouring the scene for Jim. Felix and Jeff found us. They were accompanied by some douche who felt it necessary to tell me how beautiful my eyes were then try to stare into them. I wasn’t having any of that. Tom and I went downstairs to walk the grounds ‘til it was time to go. Not seeing Jim was a disappointment. It would’ve been nice to at least flirt a little.
“Hey, do y’all wanna check out the lava?” Felix asked with wide eyes as we walked to the car.
“I don’t know..What does that mean?” said Tom.
“There’s a lava flow a few miles from here..We can drive then we have to walk for a bit to see it. I’ve heard it’s fucking amazing.”
Someone looked to me. “Yeah. Sounds good,” I said.
“It’s settled,” Felix said, running to the car.
We drove back the way we’d originally come. But instead of taking a right, up toward civilization, we continued along the coastal road. Soon after the potential turn we entered the parking lot of a Kava bar and parked.
“Here we are..We have to walk from here,” Felix said, cutting the engine.
“Yeah. We got the inside scoop from someone at dinner,” Jeff said, turning to look at Tom and I. “When we went to see the lava before, it was from the other side.”
“Oh. You can go in from the other side?” Tom asked.
“Yep. So let’s go,” Felix said, opening his door and hurling himself out.
We followed. The air was cool and quiet. I could hear faint sounds coming from the ocean and closing Kava bar while looking up to the dense spread of stars. They twinkled. My skin tingled.
I heard commotion and turned to see the boys tinkering in the car’s trunk. I walked over to watch.
“I can’t find my-Ohp. Here it is,” Tom said, lifting a headlamp and fitting it to his forehead. He flicked it on and turned to me.
I squinted and he quickly looked away. “Sorry,” he said.
“That’s alright,” I returned, slowly raising a hand to my eyes. I inhaled then went where I’d been sitting to grab my daypack. I shouldered it and looked to the stars again.
I unshouldered half my bag to unzip the large pocket and check my water supply. Sound. I refit the bag, walking toward the ocean. I tugged at the dangling excess of straps and slowed.
“I think we’re all set,” said Jeff, catching up to me. “Are you ready?” he asked me.
“Sure am,” I said, puckering the portion of lip between my mouth and nose.
“Excellent,” he responded. “Here’s a flashlight for you.” He held out a bulky number.
“Oh. Actually, I have one,” I said, reaching to my back pocket and producing a pen-light. I twisted the top, light flicking on.
“Alright. There you go,” Jeff said.
“I think we have to go this way,” he said loudly, having turned to wave at the others. “So, I guess we just go up this way then take a right and walk ‘til we see lava,” he said to me with a big smile.
“Alright. Sounds good to me,” I said, swinging my arms.
There was a path carving through hummocky terrain. We walked along it for about half a mile then
“This looks like a good spot,” said Jeff, pausing to look right.
“Sure does,” I agreed.
The going was more strenuous having left the path. Very up and down, side to side. And the land became more aggressive. The loose sand and sediment quickly shifted to rapid-cooled vesicular lava. Sharp as nails. One wrong move would cost an ample amount of blood.
At one point I almost fell, but Jeff was able to catch me. I thanked him profusely for his skills to pay the bills. Catching a person mid-fall is no easy feat. So I kissed his cheek and made sure to give his arm an extra-sensual caress.
Soon after, Tom ate shit. It was a bloody mess. I didn’t see the fall, only the after-effect. His right side was mangled. Right shin, knee, and wrist were shredded. Vibrant red blood spilled readily. It painted the jagged rocks around and seemed to glow in the moonlight.
Jeff had bandages in his backpack. He was able to wrap most of it up, but it took some time for the blood to slow flowing. The gashes were deep and wide. Probably unnecessary of stitches, but who knew. We carried on after Tom was all patched up.
The horizon’s red glow of lava appeared to be approaching. Its visual aura seemed to meet that of the moon’s. Anticipation bubbled through my bloodstream. I noticed the parch of my mouth. I parked each foot on a different rock, saddling a chasm. It felt good. I fetched my water bottle and took a few swigs. I put the bottle back and caught up with the paused group. They awaited my ass.
“Holy shit..The ground is melting my shoes,” Felix said eventually.
I looked down. The land did seem to have more stick than usual. I uplifted one of my shoes to check out the sole. It looked fine, but I could faintly smell burning rubber.
“Huh,” I said, staring at the ground. The cracks between solid rock glowed red. My mouth formed an ‘o’. “Wow,” I whispered.
“Is this safe?” Tom asked.
“I’m sure..I’ve heard several accounts of people coming out here,” said Jeff.
“Yeah, but this far?” Tom returned.
“Sure. When we came in from the other side it was the same situation. No problems all the way to the lava. ”
I looked up. My scalp and neck prickled with the word ‘lava’. I swallowed hard.
“What do you think, Caroline?” Tom asked me.
“I say we go for it,” I said boldly, straightening my back. “Fuck it.”
“Okay,” he said with lifted eyebrows. He didn’t seem amused.
We carried on. I made sure to watch my step, doing so lightly. I hesitated in putting my full weight on any rock too soon. The others held similar practices. With the dual effect of Tom’s spill and the red-radiance between rocks, our pace halved.
The lava’s glow, which’d seemed to near earlier, wasn’t really. After an hour and a half it looked to be just as distant. I had urges to request an acquittal but suppressed them. We’d gone too far to turn back.
Then, all at once, we were upon a river of lava.
“Holy fuck,” someone said.
Lava could be seen casually flowing down a channel about two feet wide. It ran three or four feet from the rock’s surface.
I was shocked. The stuff was fierce. It carried such magnanimousness. I felt honored to be in its presence.
I heard loud laughter. Looking in its direction, I saw Felix urinating into the lava stream.
“Oh Jesus,” I said, quickly turning with a snicker while putting a hand to my brow.
“You’re a real class act, Felix,” said Jeff from my other side.
Felix’s only response was a whoop and more laughter. He finished with a ‘Yes’ and a loud sigh of relief. I had to commend him for following his primal urges. Mainly because the only harm caused was to his respectability.
I rounded to see Tom staring into the lava. I walked over to him.
“Pretty impressive,” I said.
He looked at me. “Yeah.” He turned back. “I wonder what it would feel like if it touched your skin,” he said.
I inhaled quickly. “I don’t know. But you’d probably be hard pressed to find volunteers for experimentation,” I said, smiling at him.
“Yeah.” He smiled, but kept his gaze focused on the flowing lava.
We stayed at that let for a while. Absorbing the lava’s glory until someone suggested we carry on further.
“What? You mean like cross the lava?” Tom asked with grave on his voice.
“Yeah,” said Felix. “What’s the big deal?.It’s a couple feet.”
“Yeah. A couple feet over lava,” Tom said, boldly.
“I think we can do it,” I injected.
Tom looked to me. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah. Why not?.I think it’s doable.”
“Crossing the lava,” he said in limbo between question and statement.
“Yeah. Sure.” I walked to the edge of the flow, took a deep breath, and leapt to a stable looking rock. No sweat. Except for my pits, palms, and crotch.
I looked back at Tom. His mouth and eyes were ablaze. “Caroline,” he said. “I can’t believe you just did that.”
“Alright,” exclaimed Felix. “Rock and fucking roll.”
I turned to Felix then Jeff and shrugged.
Felix came across. After, Jeff.
“Come on, Tom,” I said, beckoning to him. It looked like he was about to put up a fight, but he didn’t. He made the leap and we carried on.
“Where exactly are we going?” Tom asked grumpily.
“There’s a huge lava flow up ahead,” said Jeff.
“Great,” Tom mumbled.
We aimlessly walked along the heated surface. I didn’t know what to expect and I’m not sure the others did either. Felix and Jeff had seen it, but they still seemed a bit clueless. I looked up to the moon and noticed it’d climbed higher in the sky since last tracking it.
A heavy red glow steadily neared. Tangibly so. It was sure to come from a definitive source close by. Soon after narrowing the source’s relative coordinates, I could see sparks spitting from waves which crashed against the rocky coast. I assumed a large helping of lava spilled into the water thereabouts. My palms prickled with sweat. I wiped them on pant-legs while licking my lips.
The temperature hadn’t risen significantly, but certainly noticeably. I stopped and went for another drink. The boys waited. I smiled at each in turn. Tom didn’t look my way.
“I think we’re almost there.”
I looked down. A deep red emanated from the cracks. A metallic jolt cruised through my body.
“Holy shit. Check this shit out,” Felix said, staring down while waving us over.
We quickly but carefully made our way to him. Closing in, I followed his gaze. He stood over a hole the size of an orange. Lava rushed past the peephole, a foot below.
“Ooh, shit,” said Jeff.
I was speechless.
“I’m heading back,” said Tom after seeing the aperture.
“What?” I asked, turning to him. “Why?”
“I’ll see you back at the car,” he said without stopping.
“Tom,” I called with hands on hips. “Come on.” I looked to Jeff.
“I’m carrying on…Pussy,” I finished through clenched teeth. I doubt he heard, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Felix gave me a high five to retribute.
“Shall we?” asked Felix, gesturing ahead.
“We shall,” I said.
It only took ten more minutes to reach the place where lava poured into the ocean. We couldn’t see a distinct surface flow, only the fireworks produced when lava met water; and a web of deeply-glowing red spread over several square meters ahead.
We stood, savoring the flavor. It was sweet and spicy.
I closed my eyes and pictured the subterranean lava-course running into the sea. The image was engorging. I turned my head and lifted the hardened surface from the pulsating-red cracks, betraying the lava’s physical identity. Intense.
I opened my eyes with a loud hiss. A dense wave of sparks and steam rose as a fresh batch of lava was extinguished.
Those were the only comments made for a twenty minute time-span. After which someone asked, “Are y’all ready to leave?”
“Sure,” was the response.
I peered hard, mentally capturing details, and turned to walk away. My eyes felt drained, but they rallied. I stepped cautiously, using my arms to balance.
Jeff was talking about how he felt the lava’s energy, but I couldn’t focus on things he said. My brain was flooded. Scattered images of what I’d witnessed barraged my thought-chute. We quickly made it back to the rabbit hole. Felix stopped to inspect. I looked toward the ocean while Jeff went on about interpretations of that and his previous lava-sighting.
All of a sudden, I heard a ruckus. It briefly sounded of rocks crumbling then the loudest most penetrating scream I’d ever heard. My heart beat sideways. I quickly turned to see Felix submerged in rock from the waist down. My mouth dropped while Jeff ran to his side.
The look on Felix’s face was aghast. Flame’s licked up his t-shirt as Jeff tugged at his erect arms. Jeff pulled him free, dragging him away from the hole on his belly. I could hear Felix’s t-shirt rip over his silent screams. I stumbled toward the two, nearly tripping in the process.
Jeff beat at Felix in attempt to extinguish the flames. I whipped my backpack around and scored some bottled water. Hastily unfastening the cap, I poured it over Felix’s trouble areas. They were many. My bottle exhausted. Jeff followed my lead to pour his water on Felix. That did the trick. All live fire’d been snuffed.
Looking at Felix, I almost backed away in a daze. From the midsection down, he was a mess. His clothing was charred and shredded while the flesh that showed through was spent. His feet had lost their shape.
Felix appeared to be unconscious. Jeff bent down to check his breathing and pulse. After doing so, he looked at me. I stared into his eyes without expression. His face, the same.
“Is he-e-” I choked on my words. I couldn’t finish my question.
“He’s ali-ive,” said Jeff, having similar trouble.
I stared for a second longer then looked back to Felix. His face was deep-red and his body smoked. He didn’t look to be in good shape.
“What do we do?” I asked, turning to Jeff.
“I’ll go get help,” he said, standing quickly.
“What do I do?” I asked, matching his stand.
He looked back to Felix. “Can you..wait here?” he asked.
My head lowered, eyes finding Felix’s charred parts. “Yeah..I think so,” I said, unsure of whether I actually could.
“Okay,” he said, touching my arm to quickly stumble off.
“Hurry,” I said, watching him go.
I looked down to Felix. “Felix,” I called. Nothing. “Felix,” I repeated without response. I didn’t know what to do. I found a nearby rock fit for sitting and popped a squat. I didn’t want to be so close I had to deal with the horrific imagery, but I didn’t want to be too far in case quick-action was needed.
I hugged my knees and called, “Felix” again. No acknowledgement. Tears formed in my eyes and I crawled closer. I looked at Felix’s eyelids. I thought about touching his shoulder to attempt rousal, but I couldn’t do it. I shuddered and backed to my sitting spot.
Ten minutes went by without input from anything other than the steady lull of crashing waves. It seemed like hours. I kept the time by rocking back to forth and looking at my cell-phone clock.
I recrawled to Felix’s comatose body. I checked his cooked flesh. In spots it was difficult to distinguish between jeans and meat. I tugged at a loose scrap of t-shirt. It stuck and I stumbled back to my seat.
What seemed like an incredibly long time later, a staggering light showed on the horizon. I watched its jittering course. It took awhile to reach me, but when it did Tom’s face was revealed underneath.
“Hi, Caroline,” he said.
“Hi,” I returned, standing.
“Where’s Felix?” he asked.
“Over here,” I said, shining my flashlight on him.
Tom went to kneel beside Felix’s body. He scanned, checking the breath and pulse. He looked at me with sunken eyes and said, “He’s dead.”
I bit both lips together. Tears formed. “Really?”
“Yeah. I think so..He doesn’t have a pulse, and I can’t feel his breath..And his eyes are unresponsive to the light.”
“Ooh,” I moaned.
Tom came close and awkwardly hugged me. The terrain wasn’t conducive. “How are you?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I responded.
“Why don’t we sit,” Tom said.
I nodded and we found appropriate places to sit in silence. It felt like forever before anything happened.
“I’m going to check the body again,” said Tom.
“Okay,” I crackled.
Tom got up, positioned, and stooped beside Felix’s body. “Nope. Nothing,” he said after several minutes of perusing for signs of life.
I rested my lips and chin between knees in response.
“So, how did it happen?” Tom asked, coming back to my side and sitting.
“I don’t really know. I was turned the other way. But I guess he fell through that hole we were looking at earlier.”
“Mmmhm,” he said. “I figured something like that might happen.”
“Tom,” I said, annoyed.
I didn’t answer.
“So, where’s Jeff?” I asked some time later.
“He drove the car to find help.”
“That might take awhile,” I said.
“Yeah…There were houses near the beach we slept at last night. I think he was heading there..So that wasn’t too far.”
I lay back. The ground was uneven and sharp. I didn’t last long. A couple minutes saw me back in an upended fetal position. Tom paced about, looking to Felix’s body every few seconds. I’m not sure what he was looking for, but he didn’t seem to fatigue. Our formula lingered.
Two man-made lights appeared on the horizon opposite the lava flow. I eventually found it to be Jeff and an older gentleman.
“Alright. I called nine-one-one,” Jeff said, panting. His chin was bloody. “They should be here soon…How is he?”
Tom nor I said anything.
“Has he woken yet?” Jeff said, finding the body to kneel beside.
We still said nothing. I stood.
“Felix..Felix,” Jeff said, shaking Felix’s body. “Felix, wake up. Help is on the way.”
He bent down to check vital signs. Slowly lifting, he said, “He’s-” Jeff couldn’t finish without swallowing first “dead,” he continued.
“Yeah. I think so,” Tom said.
“Oh, shit,” Jeff said, beginning to cry.
I looked from him to the middle-aged man. The man looked back at me with wide eyes. Probably wondering how he’d come into the situation.
We three stood, watching Jeff cry over Felix’s body for a few minutes. Tom bent down and patted Jeff’s back. I put a seashell-shaped hand to my mouth and let the tears materialize.
Tom withdrew, but Jeff stayed stooped beside Felix’s body. I watched his spasmodic back, removed from the situation. My brain felt detached. I was a pair of ogling eyeballs unwilling to process. It felt quite relaxing. But I was too distant to enjoy such a simplety.
Three men wearing uniforms seemed to appear from nowhere. Two wore paramedic’s uniforms while the third wore a police uniform. The policeman and one paramedic kneeled next to Jeff, asking what happened. The officer took notes over Jeff’s account. The paramedic inspected. After a casual scan, the medic nodded to his colleague. The nodee removed his backpack and pulled out a sheet of black plastic. He tossed it to the first and continued digging in his bag. As the kneeling paramedic unfurled what looked like a body bag, the police officer continued to question Jeff. By then it was mostly character identity. Where Felix was from. His age.
The second paramedic crouched at Felix’s feet and helped the first work Felix into his body bag. The police officer tried to wrangle Jeff’s attention while this occurred. After Felix was bagged, they placed him on a stretcher the paramedics’d quickly assembled.
The medics lifted Felix’s stretcher and began walking toward the Kava bar. The police officer rose and gestured for everyone to follow. The officer continued talking to Jeff while the rest of us hiked in silence.
Our trek back took just over an hour. When there, the policeman recommended Jeff ride inside the ambulance while Tom and I follow in the rental car. The middle-aged bystander was to head home. We all agreed, saddling up.
The ambulance took off with me and Tom on its trail. I found it interesting the ambulance’s sirens ran silent. They matched the rental car’s cab. The only comment made between Tom and I was a curiosity in where the hospital would be.
It took fifteen minutes to make the hospital. We parked and followed the policeman, Jeff, and the stretcher-sporting paramedics. We were told to wait in the reception room while Jeff went back with the others. Jeff looked particularly strung out. Only in the light did I notice how bloody he was. His chin, hands, and legs were covered in blood from a probable fall when rushing to find help.
Tom and I took seats in a row of chairs bolted to the wall. We watched a corner-situated television. A news channel was switched on but muted. Neither of us made an effort to remedy that even though the surrounding silence and sterility of the hospital was disturbing. Their combination made my thoughts linger on the events of the evening. My mental projector looped the reel of Jeff dragging Felix from the lava-hole. I couldn’t shake the image until I went careening into sleep.
That evening’s dreams were particularly taciturn. The only thing I remember deals with kicking a soccer ball. With the side of my foot.