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.
Daylight came sooner than expected. The chairs Tom and I resided in were next to a glass-paneled entrance, so it was easy to see the rosy fingers of dawn approach. In finding sunlight on the sky, I looked to Tom. He was out cold. I thought about nudging him awake, but didn’t. Instead, I got up to explore. My first stop was the vending machines across the room. I considered getting a pack of sour gummy worms, but repressed the urge.
I walked to the drink machine, inserted the necessary coinage, and ordered a Coca Cola. The drink rattled down. I retrieved it and popped the top to take a long draught. Quite refreshing.
I looked to the hospital’s reception desk. A dark-haired woman sat behind it, head down. I couldn’t tell if she was snoozing or slaving. I walked toward her. Seeing her the former, I continued past the desk and down the corridor. The hospital’s hallway was void of any life signs. I listened intently, trying to pick up sounds of activity. But nothing.
I wanted to find Felix and Jeff, but I didn’t want to disturb randoms. I tiptoed the length of the hall twice without results. I skirted the reception desk. The woman was still sound. And pushed through the hospital’s entrance doors. The sun was covered by a cloud, but blue skies were not a rarity. I’d say 60 percent of the stratosphere was obscurity free.
I lowered my gaze to the vegetation across the way. It was dense. I couldn’t imagine piercing its walls, the thickness was so profound. I walked to the road’s edge and peered down to up. Deserted. I pulled the cellphone from my back pocket and checked the time. It was 7:30 in the morning.
I went back inside to see Tom was stirring.
“Hey,” I said out of boredom and want of steering my brain from the situation.
“Hey,” he groggily returned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“How’d you sleep?” I asked.
“Pretty well..What time is it?” he asked, looking to his wrist. “Ooh,” he moaned.
“I haven’t seen Felix or Jeff yet,” I said, “I can’t find them and no one’s approached me.”
“Really?.That’s interesting..I wonder what the deal is.”
“Don’t know. But I walked the halls looking for them.”
“Maybe we could ask reception,” Tom said, standing.
“Yeah, I don’t know..The lady’s out cold,” I said, nodding my head in her direction.
“We’ll see.” He walked over and put his hands on the counter. “Excuse me,” he said.
“Excuse me,” he repeated a little louder.
The woman slowly roused. She looked up bleary eyed.
“Can you tell us where our friends Felix and Jeff might be?” Tom asked.
“Mmm,” she said, looking down. “I think they’re in room sixteen.” She didn’t look back up. Even when Tom said, “Thank you.”
He and I walked in the direction I’d gone earlier. We looked for room sixteen, but didn’t see it until we passed through a set of double doors. It was at the end of the hallway, on the left.
Tom knocked on the door. Nothing sounded from within. He knocked again, opening it immediately after. The room was small and rectangular. Jeff was sitting in a chair. His head rested on the wall behind and he appeared to be asleep. We entered. His eyes opened.
“Hey,” Tom and I said in unison.
Jeff mumbled something.
There was one other chair and a table furnishing the room. I sat in the chair while Tom took a lean against said table.
“Where’s Felix?” Tom gently asked.
“In the morgue,” Jeff said coldly.
Tom nor I said anything at first. That was a difficult statement to respond to.
“Wow,” said Tom. “How’re you doing?”
“Huuh,” Jeff exhaled deeply. “I dunno..Whatever..Shit happens kind of thing.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” responded Tom.
“I’m sorry,” I said, walking over and putting a hand on Jeff’s shoulder.
Tom fished for something in his pocket, then held out a clenching hand to say, “Here are your keys, man.” Jeff took the offering with mumbled thanks in response.
“Hey. Do y’all have anything to gnash on. I need something to eat,” Jeff said, looking from Tom up to me.
“No,” I returned. “But there’re vending machines in the reception area.”
“Oh yeah? Score. I’m gonna go grab something,” he said, quickly standing to bolt out the door.
I looked to Tom. His eyebrows rose. My attention turned to the chair opposite me and I walked over, sliding in. I let out a sigh and stared at Jeff’s empty seat. Neither Tom nor I spoke or moved. We stuck with that formula for awhile. After ten minutes I said, “I’m gonna go check on him.”
“Okay,” said Tom. “I’ll stay here.”
I stood and exited the room, briskly walking through the double two-way doors. I came to the vending machines without seeing Jeff.
“Have you seen my friend, Jeff,” I asked the woman at reception. “He’s tall. Has brown hair. A pony tail.”
“Yeah. He just left,” she said.
“He left?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“I just saw him leave,” she said, gesturing to the doors behind me. Her expression said she thought me dense.
I turned around and walked through the doors. I checked the spot I remember Tom parking Jeff and Felix’s rental car. It was empty. My jaw dropped. I ran to the road and looked both ways. Deserted. I cruised back inside and to the room holding Tom.
“He left,” I said, bursting through.
“What?” he asked.
“He left,” I repeated. “Jeff left.”
“He left?.What, like he drove away?”
“No shit,” he said, going fully upright. “Where the hell did he go?”
“How should I know?” I said, throwing up my hands. “But he definitely took off.”
“Took off,” he said slowly. “I-Fuck.” His eyes popped open. “All our stuff was in there,” he said, bounding out the door.
Realization hit me. Our stuff was in there. That was definitely a problem. Backpacks, sleeping bags, personal possessions went with Jeff. I had a small purse with my essentials, but that was it.
We ran out the hospital doors, Tom first. He went to the parking space that’d held Jeff and Felix’s rental car. As I’d previously assessed, it was empty. Tom looked to me with wide eyes and said, “Well, where the fuck did he go?”
“Shit,” he said, looking to the ground. “Do you think he’ll come back?”
“I have no idea.”
“Shit,” Tom responded.
We stood in the parking lot, thumbs up our asses a bit longer. Eventually I said, “We should check with the receptionist for a phone number..Maybe he put down his cell phone number on a form or something.”
Tom’s eyes popped and his nostrils flared. “Genius..Caroline, you’re a genius,” he said, squeezing my tricep then power walking into the hospital. I followed.
“Excuse me,” he said in attempts of politely-bold.
The still-conscious receptionist looked at him with dullen eyes.
She didn’t verbally respond, so Tom continued. “We’re wondering if you might have our friend’s phone number.”
“Why would I have your friend’s phone number?” she asked.
“Uh..I don’t know,” Tom said, briefly looking to me. “Did he put it on one of the forms he filled out, maybe?”
“Hm,” the woman thought. “I don’t know..What do you need it for?”
“Well, he took off with the car and all our stuff is in there,” Tom said, gesturing to me and himself.
“Hm,” the woman repeated. “Why was your stuff in there?”
“Because we were travelling together,” Tom said, on the verge of annoyance.
The woman didn’t seem to notice. She bent down and pulled a manila folder from somewhere. She opened it and handed Tom the sole piece of paper residing within. He quickly grabbed it saying, “Thank you.”
His eyes scanned. “Aha,” he said soon thereafter. “Here it is.” He cocked the paper my way and pointed to some handwriting.
“Mm,” I said, not entirely sure what he pointed at.
“Miss, can we use your phone?” he asked, turning back to the woman.
“You can use the payphone,” she said sternly. “This isn’t a public phone.” She didn’t reference anything in particular.
“Okay. That’s fine..Can you tell us where the pay-”
I interrupted to say, “You can use my cell phone,” while holding it out to him.
“Oh. Great. Thanks,” he said, taking it. “Nevermind.” He smiled at the woman, turned to me, then walked on while dialing. He held the phone to his ear and looked back at me saying, “It’s ringing,” in a hushed tone.
“Ohp, it cut to voicemail…Hey, Jeff. This is Tom. Caroline and I are just wondering where you went. Are you coming back to the hospital? You can call us back on this number. It’s Caroline’s cell phone. Thanks.” He lowered the phone, pressed a button, and handed it back to me.
My lips puckered. “He didn’t answer,” I said, taking the phone.
“Nope,” he sighed. “What now?”
“I guess we just have to wait,” I said, shrugging.
“Yeah.” His shoulders sunk.
“Can we wait here while we try to get a hold of our friend?” I asked the counter-woman while gesturing to the seats Tom and I’d previously crashed in.
“It’s a waiting room,” the woman said. “That’s what it’s here for.”
‘Thanks,’ I smiled, without saying anything.
Tom and I took seats. I dug in my purse and held a wrapping to him. “Gum?” I asked.
“No thanks,” he said, waving it off.
I popped a piece.
“Can I have your phone, though?” he asked.
I burrowed into my purse, found it, and handed it to him.
He dialed, held the phone to his ear, and grunted, “Mm.”
“No luck,” I commented.
“No,” he said.
We sat in that state for some time. Tom must’ve tried calling Jeff twenty times before asking, “What’re we going to do?”
“I don’t know..We could go into town,” I suggested. “Get something to eat.”
“But I don’t even have my wallet,” Tom complained. “Oh wait..Yeah I do,” he said fishing for it from his back pocket.
“And I have my purse,” I said, patting it.
“Okay..At least it’s something to do,” Tom said, slowly standing.
We walked out of the hospital to the roadside.
“Which way?” Tom asked.
“I think town’s that way,” I said, pointing uphill.
“Fair enough..We should probably just hitch from here. There isn’t much of a shoulder on that side,” Tom said.
“Yeah. I agree. We can see how it goes from this side.”
He and I moved to the left edge of the hospital’s entrance in case cars needed to turn in. Tom stuck out his thumb and I worked on looking hot. It didn’t take much effort. The third car that passed in the direction we gestured veered into the hospital’s parking lot.
“You cats need a lift?” an older black man said to us after rolling down his window.
“Yeah. Where are you headed?” Tom asked, walking to the passenger’s door.
“Pahoa,” he said simply.
“Perfect. Can we get a lift?” Tom returned.
“Sure..Hop in,” he said, giving me elevator eyes through thick spectacles.
Tom got in the front while I the back.
“Thanks a lot..We really appreciate it,” Tom said, sitting.
“You’re welcome,” the man said, righting his car to get on the road.
Idle chit-chat ensued. The man told us of where he lived. What he did. And the fact a previous hitch-hiker had given him a blow job that morning.
I wondered if that was true. It was only 9 in the morning. He’d’ve been off to a good start.
But hearing this, Tom was visibly uncomfortable. Restlessly shifting in his seat to dial Jeff again. Thankfully, Pahoa wasn’t far from the hospital. And the town was tiny, so any destination could be reached momentarily.
“Can you drop us off at the grocery store up ahead?” I asked, leaning forward.
The man moaned and slowly said, “Yes..I think I can do that.”
I slid back and said, “Okay..Thanks,” I said, uncertainly.
He pulled into the ‘Pahoa Natural Groceries’ parking lot and said, “Here you go..If you need another lift, give me a call.” He handed a slip of paper to Tom.
“Thanks,” he said between teeth. He closed the door and looked to me. I smiled and nodded to the store.
“Thanks,” I called, slightly bending down.
We walked toward the shop while the man waited in-car. Upon entering, I slid to a side and watched the car from the window’s edge. It slowly drove off, and I sighed with relief.
“So that guy was weird,” Tom said with lifted eyebrows.
“Haha. Yeah,” I laughed. “Slightly.”
We walked the store’s aisles grabbing at randoms to make an eventual purchase. I got a wrap, a container of locally-produced mango juice, and some raisins. Tom got a sandwich, a coke, and a big bag of cashews. We paid the price and exited. There were a couple under-cover picnic benches outside the store so we sat at one. It started raining. I looked to Tom and smiled. ‘Perfect timing,’ I thought.
“What?” he asked.
“Perfect timing,” I said, nodding exterially.
“Yeah,” he snorted, taking a bite of his sandwich.
I unwrapped my wrap’s packaging and took a mouthful. It was good. Chicken. Sprouts. Bell peppers. Some rice. All good things.
I looked at a graying bearded-man sitting on the next bench only to lean against the store’s wall. He wore sunglasses, but I could tell his eyes were closed. I shifted my attention to the rain. The drops were big. Individual bogies could be seen even though they came quickly. Splattering on the asphalt.
I noticed a rain-shaded bulletin board in the parking lot and wondered what it advertised. The pinned leaflets flapped intermittently. But the rain came straight down, so there wasn’t much rufflage. I took a sip of my mango juice, savoring the flavor. It was smooth, but tangy enough to make me wince. I looked to Tom. He quickly smiled, full bite behind his mandibles.
“Hey..How are you?” I heard from my right. I turned and saw the pock-marked Krishna from the night before. He was addressing me.
“Yeah. Pretty good..How’re you?,” I said.
“Good. I didn’t think you’d be here so early,” he said.
“Huh? What d’you mean?” I asked.
“I didn’t think you’d get here before me,” he returned.
I looked to Tom. He seemed as blank as me. I turned back to the Krishna with a lost expression.
“I’m meeting you here, right? So I didn’t think you’d be here before I was.”
“Uh,” I said, still puzzled.
“I’m here to give you a tour of the farm, right?”
“Hm,” I pondered. “I don’t..think so.”
“Samantha, right?” he said, loosely pointing my way.”
He stared at me for a second. “Oh, shit,” he said. “I’m supposed to meet a Samantha here. To take her on tour of the farm I work at.”
“I..don’t think that’s me,” I said
“Oh..Really?.That’s funny because I remember telling you about the farm last night,” he smiled.
“Yeah,” I smiled back. “But I don’t think we talked about me taking a tour of it,” I said, looking to Tom.
He stared on the scene, slowly chewing in deliberation.
“Right..Well, do you mind if I wait here with you?.She should be coming any time now,” the boy said, gesturing to the bench.
“No. Not at all. Help yourself.”
“Great. Thanks.” He sat. “Hey, I’m Joseph,” he said, holding a hand out to Tom.
Tom took it and we had a chat about the workings of Joseph’s farm. Some of it was redundant from my talk with him the previous night, but most was fresh information.
He talked of how long he’d been there. Why he’d been interested with it in the first place. What a day in the life was like. How many other and what kind of people were involved. It all seemed pretty intriguing. Especially the stuff about free room and board with minimal labor exchange.
Forty five minutes after his original rendezvous was supposed to take place, but didn’t, Joseph asked Tom and I if we’d like to join him in going back to the farm. We quickly mulled it over and decided in favor. We didn’t have shit to do or much to do it with, so we figured, ‘why not?’
Joseph led us to a beaten pick-up truck parked in the lot. He offered me to ride in the cab, but I opted for the wood-railing-encased bed. The driver smiled and waved as Tom and I hoisted ourselves into the back. A hard-looking man with a bald-topped pony-tail and callous eyes leaned against the bed’s railing.
Upon seeing him, I was uneasy with our decision. But once Joseph swung the tailgate shut, the man smiled and introduced himself.
“Hi. I’m George,” he said.
Through his loose-fitting cutoff t-shirt I could see the ‘U2 Forever’ tattoo planted on his left-chest. It made him anything but fearsome. His rainbow bracelet helped.
We three chatted while the truck rattled through tropical forest saddled roads. It was supreme. The air was cool and new while the scenery was inspiring. Colors baratted my eyes while the wind ruffled my hair. I rested my arms upon railing in T-square fashion and enjoyed the ride.
Half an hour into the tour, we pulled onto a driveway. I watched Joseph hop out of the truck’s cab and swing open a latched gate. We slowly drove through then stopped. Joseph and I exchanged a smile as he jogged back to the truck after re-securing the gate.
Fields littered with three-foot high plants whizzed by as we navigated a winding narrow-road. Eventually, we pulled onto a dirt-shoulder and the car’s engine died. Joseph and the driver got out. Joseph walked to the truck’s rear while the driver walked onto the plantation. I noticed his course was towards a couple men bent and laboring.
Joseph unlatched the tailgate, lowered it, and said, “Here we are..Do you guys wanna take a look around?”
“Sure,” I said.
I edged the truck bed while Joseph held up a welcoming hand. I took it and jumped to the ground. A jolt of cool coursed through my body and I smiled at Joseph. He helped the others down as I rounded the truck’s back to see our driver’s doings.
The driver was walking back to the truck as an Asian man followed him. The driver looked casual while the man behind was certainly irked. When they neared the rise of the road, the driver turned and said something to the other man. With that the second man took a swing. And another. The driver dodged both, tackling the other man to the ground. Fists were flung as the two scuffled in the dirt. Joseph ran over and pried the two apart. The Asian man continued throwing while the driver held up both hands in surrender.
“You’re always telling me what to do,” shouted the Asian man. “You’re always telling me what to do.” He lunged, but was held back. He didn’t seem to be packing much heat. His frame was thin and wiry.
The driver looked at him and around blankly. His expression was one of genuine confusion. He was probably in his late twenties and had a kind face. The opposition was probably late forties with weathered deliria etched into his facial skin.
I stared on the scene with a single eyebrow raised. The Asian man searched for support and looked at me. My mouth tightened. ‘How dare you look at me,’ I thought, giving him nothing. He quickly turned elseone.
A man with young eyes, but a lengthy beard walked up. He must’ve been the other man I saw working with the Asian. His eyes didn’t offer much. They were glistening and red. His mouth was ajar and his head slowly spun from/to whoever was speaking. Someone asked him a question. I couldn’t hear a response, but it was brief. I stepped closer.
The crew I originally came with moved to the truck while the other two backed off the road and watched.
“We’re going to the police station to file a report,” Joseph said to Tom and I.
“What?.Why?” asked Tom.
“Because [the Asian man] attacked [the driver] and we just want to make sure our statement goes on file in case something stupid happens or something,” he said, waving his hand and shaking his head.
“Ahaa,” Tom said slowly.
“Hey. I’m really sorry about that, you guys,” the driver said, approaching us. “I don’t know what got into him.” He looked troubled, but innocent.
“Yeah. Shit happens, I guess,” I said, looking to the blood oozing from the boy’s brow.
“Yeah..I’m Elandro, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand.
Tom and I took it in turn and exchanged names. Elandro continued to apologize and offer his confusion as we hopped into the truck bed. He swung the tailgate shut and headed up front. The engine rumbled to life and Elandro made a five-point turn. We meandered along the winding farm-road to return to the main one. The truck was driven for an area near the market we originally left from, rolling into a police station parking lot.
“Can you guys wait here?” asked Joseph after exiting the truck’s cab. “It should just take a couple minutes..Hopefully.”
We nodded in response.
I sighed and leaned against the railing, closing my eyes. My right hand strayed to them, offering a gentle rub.
“It’s like an episode of BJ and the Bear,” I heard George say.
“Oh yeah? I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know that show,” Tom retorted.
“Oh, man..Really? It’s incredible..And this situation is exactly like one episode.”
I opened my eyes just in time to see George pointing at the floor with the words ‘this situation’. His smile was wide.
“Cool,” said Tom.
“Bear was a monkey,” George said, collapsing into his knees with childlike laughter.
“Awesome,” said Tom, smiling.
I looked to the entrance of the police station. It was still. My head turned back to center, eyes closing. Eventually I heard voices coming from the station’s entrance. I looked over to see Joseph and Elandro in conversation.
“Alright..Sorry about that,” Elandro said, walking to us and resting his arms on a portion of the truck bed.
“How’d it go?” I asked.
“Yeah. It went well..I just filled out a report and that was that..Nothing too complicated,” he smiled.
“Cool.” I returned the smile.
“So, I’m really sorry about all this..I know you weren’t expecting this at all..It’s really putting you out.”
“No..It’s okay..No big deal..These things happen,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Elandro’d looked away, but quickly turned back. “So Joseph and I would like to offer you a place to stay..We don’t know exactly what your situation is, but we thought you might like a nice clean bed to sleep on,” he continued.
“Uh..I don’t know,” I said, looking to Tom. My interest had been piqued and by the look in Tom’s eyes so had his. I didn’t feel like bullshitting around, so I got to it. “Our stuff is in our friend’s car, but we can’t get a hold of him..A place to stay would really help us out,” I said, smiling sheepishly.
“Perfect,” he said, patting the bed and walking around the truck’s front. “We’ll fix you up.”
Before I could respond, Elandro was opening the driver-side door and slipping inside. Joseph gave me a smile and slid in his side as the engine turned. The door shut behind him and I looked to Tom, shrugging. His expression said, ‘Could be worse.’ I lifted my eyebrows in agreement and turned to watch our exit’s navigation. I felt slightly skeptical, what with the fight. But we needed a place to stay and they all seemed fairly harmless. We could stick around for at least a night, sussing it out.
The drive consisted of a half-an-hour duration through a medley of terrains. We saw tropical rainforest, grassland, and city-scape. The truck pulled into a compound of buildings which consisted of houses, industrial facilities, and junk piles. Random shit littered the lot we parked in.
The truck quieted. Both front doors opened simultaneously. Joseph and Elandro swung around back.
“Here we are,” said Joseph. “Home sweet home.” He opened the tailgate.
Being the girl of the group I was obliged to demount first. I stepped to the edge, took Joseph’s offered hand, and jumped down. A small cloud of dust erupted in my landing. I looked around, absorbing the scenery. It was a bit derelict, but I was up for the adventure. And it was somewhat standard for the part of Hawaii we were in.
“So you guys don’t have any stuff, huh?” Joseph asked after Tom’d made it down.
I watched George walk away without a word.
“Yeah, that’s right,” said Tom. “We left all our stuff in our friend’s car, and we can’t get a hold of him.”
“Really? Why not? Where did he go?”
“Don’t know..His friend fell in the lava, so we all went to the hospital last night. The guy didn’t make it, so our friend just took off without warning..I guess he was pretty upset,” explained Tom.
“Someone fell in the lava last night?” Elandro asked, obviously shocked.
“Yeah. It was a friend of ours..We were travelling with him,” I inserted.
“Wow.” Elandro looked to Joseph with wide eyes.
“That’s horrible,” said Joseph.
“Yeah. It was pretty bad.”
“Whew,” continued Elandro, looking to the dirt under foot.
We shared a moment of silence. Tom broke it by saying, “So..Thanks for letting us stay at your place. Caroline and I didn’t really have any even decent options..This is perfect really.”
“Excellent. Well then let’s take you to your quarters,” said Joseph with a ‘follow me’ motion. He launched into walking with a bit of a skip.
We followed him. He led us alongside a residence and through a tunnel of junk. The porch skirting a small house was teeming with shit. We snaked our way through to a lush garden. Brinking it was a huge outdoor kitchen, carved into one of the buildings. We passed it with Joseph saying, “There’s the kitchen..We can get something to eat after I show you guys your place,” turning back to us.
“Cool,” Tom and I said in sync. I noticed the gentle rumbling of my stomach.
Joseph led us up a staircase on the opposite side of the kitchen’s far wall. He opened a door at its end, flicking-on a nearby light switch.
“Alright. Here it is,” Joseph said upon turning around once he’d given us enough birth to enter.
I came in, head swiveling. The place was nice. It was an entire loft apartment. In my first glance, I saw a living room and kitchen.
“So here’s the living room and kitchen,” said Joseph, gesturing. “And then back here,” he continued, walking. “Is the bedroom.”
There was a good sized kitchen with windows in three walls and a double bed.
“Wow,” said Tom. “This is great.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“Good. I’m glad you like it..It’s all yours,” Joseph said, lightly lifting his arms.
“Yeah, sure,” he said with a smile. “We always keep it available for people who’re interested in working the farm..You are interested right?” he asked with lifted eyebrows.
“Good,” he said, clapping. “So are you guys hungry?.Elandro should be working on something right now.”
“I could definitely eat,” I said, looking to Tom.
“Yeah. So could I,” Tom followed.
“Great. Well let’s head down and see what we can find.”
I put my purse on the floor and followed Joseph to the door. He led us back down the stairs and around a wall into the kitchen. As was expected from seeing the rest of the property, the kitchen was a motley affair. All color and kind of pots and pans, furniture and food littered the place. The entrial wall nonexisted, giving the kitchen a very open feel, while a staircase rose up the far wall. It was sandwiched by doors. One at the top and another just underneath.
Elandro stood at a workstation, chopping something beside a well-hung stalk of bananas fixed to the ceiling.
“Hey,” he said, turning briefly. “How do you like your new place?” he asked.
“It’s great,” said Tom.
“Good..I hope you’re hungry..I’m making couscous with vegetables and tofu..Are you guys vegetarian?” he asked.
Tom and I looked at each other. “Uh..Not really.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind eating vegetarian cuisine..We don’t eat meat on the property.”
“Oh, right. The Krishna thing,” said Tom.
“Yeah. The Krishna thing,” Elandro said with a smile.
“No. Vegetarian is fine..We don’t mind at all,” I said.
“Good,” said Elandro. “It can be just as filling and delicious while it’s much healthier..It’s more pure.”
“Sure,” I said, thinking of how awesome meat could be. I looked over to see Joseph clearing the table. He scattered dishes and fruit to various nooks around the room then gestured to the tabletop saying, “You guys can sit down if you want.”
“Yeah, maybe in a minute..Do you mind if I look around the garden a bit?” I asked, pointing toward the greenery with my thumb.
“No. Not at all..Help yourself,” said Joseph with a wave.
“Tom..Join me?” I said, looking to Tom and jerking my neck.
“Yeah..Sounds good,” he said, walking toward me as I turned.
Overgrowth encroached upon the path. We pushed past palm fronds and skirted junk piles to navigate the place. It was lush and diverse. A multitude of flowers, ferns, and larger flora littered the area. We passed a mossy bird bath planted amongst it.
Walking along the path, we came to a big building that looked like some sort of workshop. It had large garage-type doors alongside windows through which tools and various machinery could be seen.
“What do you think this is for?” I asked Tom.
“I’m..not sure,” he said slowly, peering through a window.
“Hey are you guys ready for dinner?” Joseph asked, running up.
“Yeah, sure,” Tom said, shrugging while looking to me.
“Alright,” Joseph said, about-facing.
We followed him back to the kitchen and surmounted its threshold. Four plates sat on the table, waiting. The food smelled good. We three settled while Elandro stood at the kitchen’s work station. He brought something over and set it on the table. It was a plate ridden by slices of eggplanted topped by some sort of cheese.
I looked from it to the plate in front of me. A greenish-brown, textured sludge rode it. It appeared off, but smelled delicious. Upon sensing its scent my tummy rumbled.
“Okay. I’d like to say something before we eat,” said Elandro.
He began praising Krishna for Tom and I’s delivery, but I couldn’t focus. The meal looked too good and I didn’t give two hoots. When he finished up, I dug in. It was delicious. Both soft and savory, the main dish slid right down.
I plucked one of the eggplant slices in the table’s center and took a bite. Excellent. The cheese and herb combination harmonized nicely. I shoved the rest in my mouth, chewed, then went back to the couscous medley.
“So where’s George?” Tom asked.
“Oh. He likes to spend his evenings alone,” Joseph explained.
“Really? Huh..Any particular reason?”
“Mmm,” Joseph said, pausing in thought. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.”
“Hm,” Tom responded. “Okay.”
We ate quickly. In five to ten minutes each plate was cleaned.
“There’s still plenty more..Let me get you guys seconds,” said Elandro standing. He went to the counter and grabbed a large pot. In turn, he came to our empty plates and filled them with steamy piles.
I looked on mine eagerly. I leaned over it to inhale the savory vapors rising from. Its richness tricked my brain into believing the steam was tangible food. I salivated then swallowed and forked a heaping helping.
That serving was eaten in the company of conversation geared toward what tomorrow would hold. Joseph and Elandro wanted to bring Tom and I back to the farm and give us a proper tour after breakfast. We agreed. The least we could do was pitch a few hours labor in exchange for the accommodation.
Dinner was finished quickly after reaching the next day’s plan. Tom and I offered to clean up but were boldly refused. We bid the night’s tiding and retired to our loft. Upon entering I realized how tired I was.
“So how are we gonna do this?” I asked. “Who’s gonna sleep where?”
“I don’t know. What’re our options?” Tom followed.
“Well, I think we’ve got the bed and this couch,” I said looking down the hall to the bed then pointing at the living room’s couch.
“You take the bed and I’ll take the couch,” Tom offered.
“Okay.” I didn’t put up much fight.
I went to my bag and bent at the knees crossing my fingers. Fishing within, I found my toothbrush.
“Yes,” I said, grateful I’d put a few toiletries in my purse.
I pulled the toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste out, taking them to the bathroom. I brushed my teeth then left the utensils on a shelf above the sink.
“Good night,” I called out as I steered into the bedroom and shut the door. It’d been a long day, so I was ready for a rest.
“Good night,” I heard in return.
Thankfully, clean sheets were neatly tucked into the bed. I unfurled them then stripped to my skivvies. I slid in and stretched, rolling onto my side. The day’s exploits left me exhausted. I fell asleep immediately.
I dreamt of Jeff and Felix. Felix refell into the lava while Jeff ran away wildly. Looking back and screaming. The lava’s flames turned into blue streamers. Made of paper-like material, they fluttered excitedly as if tied to the tongs guarding an electric fan’s blades.
The next morning, I opened my eyes to see sunlight pouring through the room’s windows. I closed them and inhaled deeply, slowly exhaling. My eyes widened but kept closed.
I lay in bed for some time. It was hard to tell if I fell asleep again. If I didn’t I was close. I finally swept the covers from my body to sit at the bed’s edge. I looked out the room’s windows then stood and walked to one for a better view. I could see the disheveled grounds partially obstructed by trees and buildings. Sunlight radiated through quick-moving clouds.
I stretched again then found my pants and slipped them on. I walked to the door and through it into the living room. Tom was still asleep on the couch. I sat on its edge next to Tom and began petting his head. He slowly woke.
“‘Morning sunshine,” I said as he opened his eyes.
“Hey..‘Morning,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”
“I don’t actually know. Let me check.” I got up and walked to my purse. I found my phone inside, pulling it out. “It’s 9:21,” I said to Tom from across the room.
“Oh. Okay,” he said, sitting up.
“Do you wanna go outside and do some exploring?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, slipping out of his sleeping bag to stand.
I searched in my purse and found an energy bar. I unwrapped it and took a bite.
“Do you want some?” I asked, looking to Tom and slightly holding out the snack.
“No, I’m alright..That’ll just make me hungrier I’m sure.”
“Yeah,” I said, taking another bite. “Mmm,” I moaned. The contention wasn’t just due to the delicious breakfast bar. In spite of the recent tragedy and a lack of belongings, I felt pretty good. The stress resonating from school and upheaval had faded with the sun, surf, and sense of adventure.
I sat down, leant my back to the wall, and savored the flavored.
“Aaah,” I sighed again.
“What?” asked Tom.
I slowly turned to him. “Oh, nothing..Just enjoying myself.”
“Hm..Cool,” he said.
I finished the bar and stood, well satisfied. My clit twitched and I licked my lips.
I walked back into the living room. “Outside?” I said, thumbing to the door.
I looked Tom up and down. He was wearing shorts but no socks. And I knew he would put some on because he hadn’t been wearing anything other than shoes.
He sat on the arm of the couch and addressed his socks and shoes. I slipped on the sandals I’d left by the door. They felt smooth against the soles of my feet. I opened the door and stood in its threshold, waiting for Tom. He came and we descended the stairs.
The air outside was cool and crisp. I took a deep breath and held it, getting high from the purity. I stopped at the kitchen’s entrance and put my hands to hips.
“Which way?” I asked, turning to Tom.
“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging.
“Alright,” I said walking down one of the paths.
We slowly passed the industrial building with tools and the like scattered inside. It was given a cursory look, but nothing more. Past that was a small overgrown-garden. It looked to have been cared for at one time, but not recently. Loose rows of some nondescript plant were strangled by heaps of weeds. Banana trees grew in bunches behind said garden. I looked to their breadbaskets, but they didn’t seem to be carrying much.
Tom and I veered to the left and down a driveway leading from the garage. It headed toward the main road. But not before it reached several dilapidated trucks and a small shed. One of the trucks looked to be about thirty years old and was completely rusted over. Spare parts had been scavenged, leaving it quite stripped.
Hearing something, I looked to our left. George was spraying plastic barrels with a hose.
“Hey,” called out Tom, waving.
George continued to spray, unaffected. Tom walked closer keeping up the wave. George finally took note, halting the spray. A smile spread across his face.
“Heey..Good morning,” he said, walking to Tom and giving him a hug. Tom laughed. George dropped the hose and approached me for a hug. I welcomed it. “How’re you guys this morning?” he asked.
“Good, good,” said Tom. “How about yourself?”
“Very well, thank you,” George returned. “And how are you little lady?” George asked, turning to me.
“Yeah, pretty good,” I said with a slightly heightened pitch.
“What are you doing here?” asked Tom, nodding to the barrels George had been washing.
“Oh. Mister Okazaki wants me to clean out these barrels here,” he said, fetching the hose he’d dropped to the ground.
“Aha..Who’s Mister Okazaki?” Tom asked.
“Mister Okazaki. You haven’t met Mister Okazaki yet?” George asked, looking from Tom to me.
I shook my head. “No,” said Tom.
“Oh, well you definitely will..He owns this property. And the farm.”
“Ah. I see..Okazaki?..What is that Japanese?” Tom asked.
“Uh..Yeah, I think so,” George said, briefly blasting a barrel with the hose.
“Cool.” I almost didn’t hear Tom over the hose’s spray.
“What are you guys’ plans for the day?” George paused spraying to ask.
“I think we’re gonna check out the farm again,” I said.
“Ooh, yeah. Right. Cool. Me too,” George said with a smile. He looked to Tom, who smiled back.
The lull led me to ask, “Why didn’t you eat dinner with us last night, George?”
“I don’t eat cooked food,” he answered.
“You don’t eat cooked food?” repeated Tom in question form.
“Yeah. I only eat fruits and vegetables..And nuts and seeds.”
“Really..Why?” I asked.
“That’s how the cavemen did it,” George said, sending a stream of water at one of the barrels.
“Is it?” I asked myself. “Didn’t they also cook animal flesh over the fire?” I continued, but thought better of voicing my cognition verbally.
George stopped spraying shortly thereafter to set the hose down and walk to the porch of the house behind him. He returned with a knife and pineapple.
“Does anyone want some pineapple?” he asked, popping a piece into his mouth. His knife retained sawing to sever another hunk. He freed a piece then held it out to Tom and I.
“No thanks,” said Tom.
“Sure,” I said, walking closer with hand outstretched. I plucked the offered piece from George’s knife and put it into my mouth. I bit the gelatinous mass. Juices and flavor exploded into my mouth.
“Wow,” I gargled.
“Good, huh,” George said, chomping. “They grow in the garden around back.”
“Really?.Excellent,” I said through a mouth full of pineapple pulp and saliva. My salivary glands were churning at full capacity with the fiercely flavorfilled fruit.
Just then Joseph approached from around the house nearby. “Goood morning,” he said, cheerfully.
“Good morning,” Tom and I returned in unison.
“Good morning,” George lagged.
“How did you guys sleep?” Joseph asked Tom and I.
“Yeah, good,” said Tom.
“Very well,” said I.
“Cool. Cool. So the loft was alright for you?.Everyone was comfortable?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” I said, answering for Tom while looking to him. “Tom took the couch,” I continued.
“Yeah? How was that?” Joseph asked.
“Quite good, actually,” Tom answered.
“And how was your sleep, sir?” he said, referring and turning to George.
“Good. Thanks,” George nodded.
“Grand,” Joseph said, clapping his hands. “Now who’s hungry?”
I looked around. “I could probably eat,” I said noticing the hunger in my belly. Its appetite had vastly increased over the past few days. Lack of stress and ample good vibrations kept it cranking.
“Really?.Shit, Caroline. You’ve been eating since we woke up,” Tom declared.
I shrugged and smiled sheepishly in response.
“Is that a ‘me too’?” offered Joseph, lightly pointing to Tom while lifting his eyebrows.
“Uh..Yeah, I guess so,” Tom said, tilting his head.
“George?” Joseph asked, directing both pointer fingers to George’s chest.
George’s response came in the form of smiley pineapple munching.
George held up a chunk of pineapple in offering.
“No thanks.” Joseph waved a palm, smiled, and turned to walk in the opposite direction. “Why don’t you guys come on back to the kitchen with me?” he said over his left shoulder. “We’ll get you something to eat.”
Tom and I looked at each other then began following.
“See you later,” I said, giving George a gentle wave.
“Yeah, see ya,” Tom followed.
“Okay..Bon appetite,” George said, through a mouthful of pineapple.
We followed Joseph, navigating the junk piles steered through the night before. Elandro was in the kitchen cooking something once again.
“Hey,” he said, with half a turn as we approached.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hey,” said Tom.
“What’re you cooking there?” I asked.
“Eggs with peppers, onions..tomatoes..mushrooms..and spices,” he said while studying the mix.
“Wow. It smells good,” I said, inhaling deeply.
“Yeah,” he slowly whispered. The wok he was wielding jarred and its contents sizzled with new vigor.
“Why don’t you guys take a seat, and we’ll get you set up,” Joseph said, gesturing to the kitchen table.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, walking to the table and helping myself to a seat.
Joseph sat at the table with Tom and I. We discussed our sleeping arrangement. Joseph’s too. Apparently he slept in a van on the property. He liked it but wanted to move to the farm for more solitude. I told him of my uncertainty in dealing with that much alone time. Tom agreed, but Joseph was adamant. He thought it would help in his meditation and whatnot.
The food was served. Quite delicious. I ate until full. It didn’t take long due to my snacking beforehand. After everyone was satisfied, Elandro said he was going to make us a desert drink. We were pleased.
While Joseph collected the dishes, Elandro collected various fruits and set to chopping them at the kitchen’s workstation. Tom and I looked on eagerly. Joseph was still washing dishes when Elandro brought Tom and I tall glasses filled with some sort of fruit concoction. He returned to the workstation and fetched two more glasses setting them on the table. One in front of him and the other at the empty seat.
“So what is this?” Tom asked, sipping at the glass’ rim.
“It’s a power drink made from oranges, bananas, pineapple, and noni juice,” Elandro responded.
“Noni juice? What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s juice from the plant we grow at the farm. Noni..Haha. Not that many people have heard of it,” Elandro smiled. “It’s this fruit that we make into juice for people to drink as a health tonic.”
“A health tonic?” said Tom.
“Yeah. It has all sorts of health benefits..Like antioxidants and vitamins and stuff.”
I nodded, puckering my lips.
“It’s really good for you..I take a shot of it every day,” Joseph turned around to say.
“Sounds good,” I said, not particularly convinced. I drank the drink anyway, picking out the flavors of each fruit mentioned. The anomalous bitter taste was assigned to the noni.
Overall the mix was quite nice. I told Elandro I thought so. He seemed pretty pleased. Tom was the first to finish his drink. He let out a loud sigh of satisfaction upon completion. “That was great,” he said.
“Thanks,” responded Elandro.
“No. Thank you,” returned Tom.
“You’re welcome. I’m just glad you enjoyed it,” Elandro smiled.
“Definitely enjoying it over here,” I said, lifting my eyebrows while giving the drink another sip.
“What am I missing over here?” Joseph said, swooping in to grab his smoothie. He put the glass to his mouth and gave it a taste. “Yeah,” he said after a long draught. “This is awesome..Good job, Elandro.”
I finished and brought my empty glass to the sink. I squeezed some soap onto the sponge and began washing.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Joseph called.
I gave half a turn and said, “No, I don’t mind. I’m already finished anyway.” I put my glass in the drying rack then sat back down. Tom and I crossed paths on my way to the table. He was up to do the same.
“So what’s the plan for today?” Tom asked, sitting.
“Well, like we talked about yesterday, maybe we’ll check out the farm,” Elandro said, smiling. “How does that sound?”
“Yeah. That’s cool,” I said. “When were you thinking?”
“Oh, I don’t know..How ‘bout an hour?” Elandro said, looking to his watch.
I glanced at Tom and said, “Yeah, sure. That’ll work.”
“Yeah,” agreed Tom.
“Good. So just be out by the truck in an hour,” Elandro said, standing. He put his glass in the sink and walked off.
“See you then,” Joseph said, mimicking Elandro.
Tom and I sat at the table a bit longer, talking of the meal. After a couple minutes’ reflection we retired to our quarters. I brushed my teeth for the second time that day, then braided my hair. Its thickness was evident. I chalked it up to the dense ocean-air.
“I think I’m going to take a walk around, before we head out..Care to join?” Tom offered, approaching.
I thought on it and said, “Nah. I think I’ll relax for a bit..How much time ‘til we’re off to the farm?”
“Uh,” Tom said, looking at his watch. “About forty-five minutes.”
“Yeah..So, I’ll just come back up before we go,” he said. “You sure you don’t want to come?”
“Yeah,” I smiled.
Tom walked out the door and I into the bathroom. I washed and dried my hands then stepped into my room, fetching my purse en-route. I sat on the bed digging through the bag on my lap. I quickly pulled out what I was looking for. It was a white cylinder with a conicular tip at one end and a key chain at the other. The shaft’s size was that of a standard machine-gun shell.
It had been several days since my last session and I was ancy. The time was ripe. I shut the door and plopped back on the bed. I unbuttoned my pants and slid them off. My panties followed, but only down to mid thigh. I flicked a membraned switch at the base of the key chain and applied the vibrating tube to my clitoris. I scrambled back to rest my head on the bed’s pillow.
My heart rate and breathing pace immediately escalated. The electric buzz of clitoral stimulation coursed through my body. I let out a long moan and continued moving the vibrator on its counter-clockwise course.
A multitude of thoughts careened through my mind. The trend started with kissing cute boys. Mostly boys I knew, but some I didn’t. Strangers who I’d crossed paths with or met briefly. And film stars. Then my mind took me to the depths of memory. I placed myself in situations that’d actually taken place. Getting fingered by Rob Reeves in the bathroom just down the hall from 19th century American Literature. While class was in session. Or cowgirl riding Jeffrey Finnigan.
I plunged the index and middle finger of my left hand into my vaginal canal. A shudder cruised down my spine and I sighed. I pumped them in rhythm to the motion of my vibrator. The sensations escalated. My vagina began pulsing. I could feel it coming. My chin lifted and my body quaked. I held my breath and savored the orgasm. Glorious.
I slowed my rhythm but continued. I thought of the best episodes of sex I’d had, picking up the pace. The vibrator briefly halted atop my clitoris. I savored its flavor, continuing the plunge. My tongue migrated to my lips and did a round. Getting into the moment, the hand holding the vibrator wandered to my nipple and began massaging. I immediately realized its place was down south. It returned. The sensation felt fresh and welcome.
I planted myself in a sexual escapade and pumped. My vagina was incredibly wet. It didn’t take long before my second orgasm was building. My heart beat through my crotch. I shook as the orgasm tore through. It was better than the first.
My hands collapsed by my side and I lay still. Aside from my heaving chest, which pulled for air. I noticed the gentle hum of my vibrator, so I flicked it off. The sun showered through the window. My head lolled to one side, soaking up the sun’s rays. A hand migrated to my belly and I focused on my breathing.
I heard the door to the loft close and I opened my eyes. Footsteps drew nearer. My head slightly lifted.
“Caroline, are you almost ready to go?” Tom’s voice asked.
“Uh, yeah. Gimme a minute,” I said shifting quickly.
I righted my pants and panties, threw the vibrator in my purse, and stood to finish finessing. Feeling satisfied, I opened the door. Tom was sitting on the living room’s couch.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
He held up a magazine entitled ‘Home Living’. It looked quite dry.
“Wow..Cool,” I said. “So are we taking off?”
“Yeah. Everyone’s waiting for us,” he answered.
“Alright. Well, I’m ready.”
“Me too,” Tom said, standing.
We walked down the steps and out to the front clearing. Elandro, Joseph, and George were loading bags of fertilizer into the truck’s bed.
“Lookin’ good boys,” I said as we walked toward them.
They paused their work to watch as we approached. I feel the lion’s share of attention was on me.
“What’re you loading up?” I asked.
“Fertilizer,” responded Elandro. “We’re gonna do some fertilizing on the farm today.”
“Cool,” I said, stopping to plant hands on hips.
“We’re almost finished,” said Joseph. “Just another minute or so.”
“Fair enough,” I said, moving to the side.
Tom pitched in.
“Alright. I think that’ll be enough,” Elandro side, brushing his hands together. “Let’s go.”
“Do you wanna ride up front?” Joseph asked me.
“No thanks. I’ll take the back.”
“Definitely,” I said, excited to ride through the jungle in an open-topped truck bed again.
“Alright. Hop in then,” he said, walking to the edge of the bed, smiling, and holding up his hand for me to take.
I grabbed it and allowed him to help me up. I found a spot on the bags of fertilizer. I wanted to lean against them, but be close to the side for optimal viewing.
Tom came in after. Then George. They settled as the doors to the cab closed. The car ignited and its tires began rolling. I watched the property disappear as we turned onto the road and drove away. The truck quickly picked up speed. Greenery at the road’s edge became a blur. At first I tried to focus on its detail but realized we were moving too fast. My eyes relaxed and I watched as the unfocused imagery passed.
The drive’s scenery remained the same for about twenty minutes. Then it thickened and a canopy covered the road, blocking most sunshine. The vegetation had shifted to something a bit thicker and more green. The air felt cooler and more pure. Filtered.
Twenty more minutes of driving through the setting brought us to a side-road blocked by a locked gate. It was different from the entrance we’d used the day before.
Joseph hopped out and unfastened the gate. He swung it open and we drove through. Once through we stopped. He closed the gate and jumped back into the truck. The place looked somewhat dissimilar, but largely the same with where we’d been the previous day.
Rows of shrub-like trees passed as we negotiated the farm’s windy road. The truck pulled off to the side and stopped. Both of the truck’s cab doors opened.
“Okay. You guys ready for a little action?” asked Elandro, clapping.
Tom and George said something in the affirmative.
Joseph lowered the tailgate and said, “Alright. Hop out.”
We did so.
I felt the gravelly ground under my feet as I walked from the truck.
“So we’re gonna do a little fertilizing today..If that’s in agreement with everyone,” said Elandro lowering his tone. He jumped into the truck and tossed a bag of fertilizer from the pile to the horizontalled tailgate.
“Sure,” we agreed.
“It’s relatively simple.” He jumped to the ground and cut the bag open with a knife he’d produced from his pocket. “You take the bag like this,” he said, hefting it. “Then you just sprinkle some of the fertilizer around the base of the plant like this.” He walked to a noni tree and demonstrated. “Not too much. Just a small amount..Easy enough, right,” he said, turning to us.
“Okay. So we just have a couple hours of that..Not too big of a deal,” he smiled.
Nobody looked particularly enthralled by that last statement.
“Who wants this one?” Elandro asked, half-lifting the bag he’d made an example of.
“I’ll take it,” said Tom.
“Okay. Here you go..Just try to stick to some sort of pattern..I mean, it’s not that big of a deal if you fertilize a plant twice, but try not to let it happen..It’s pretty easy to tell which plants have already been done, but still,” Elandro said, turning to fetch another bag. He grabbed one and cut it open. “Here,” he said, handing it to George.
George took it, looking through the opening.
“And Caroline,” he said to me. “Since you’re not quite as big as these guys here, I’ve got something for you.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
I watched as he sliced open a bag, filling a bucket with its contents.
“I think this’ll be easier to handle,” he said, offering me a standard-size black bucket.
“Oh. Cool,” I smiled, accepting its handle.
“Just fill it back up whenever you need to.”
“I think I can handle that.” I took the bucket with both hands and held it between my widened legs. My posture slackened so the load cleared my loins.
“Why don’t you guys spread out so you don’t overlap,” said Elandro, sidestepping me to raise his voice. “I’m gonna go check on some other parts of the farm with Joseph..We’ll be back in a couple hours to see how you’re doing.” He turned and walked back to the truck. “I’m putting jugs of water here in case anyone gets thirsty,” he said, lowering a jug from the truck bed to the road’s surface. Joseph lowered another.
“Are you okay here?” Elandro asked, turning to me.
“Yeah. I think I should be alright,” I answered, looking down to the bucket filled with fertilizer.
“Good. Good..Well, we’ll be back soon,” he smiled. “Enjoy.” He fronted the truck, opened the driver’s door, and stepped behind the wheel.
“Don’t worry about it too much,” Joseph said with a timid smile. “It’s no big deal.”
“Okay. Thanks,” I said, smiling back.
I swung around and waddled to the road’s edge, bucket between my legs. I looked over the rows of noni deciding where to start. I chose a spot equidistant from where the boys had spaced each other and headed over. It wasn’t far.
I bent down, grabbing the bucket’s bottom with my left hand and tipped it to pour some fertilizer at a noni tree’s base. I moved on to the next and performed the same action. I continued the pattern, sinking into the groove. It was quite relaxing in that I didn’t have to think much. I could autopilot my way through it.
The boys seemed to be in the same trance because I didn’t hear a peep for some time. As I went back to the truck for a refill, Tom called out, “So how’re you doing, Caroline?”
“Pretty good. You?”
“Yeah. Good..I’m definitely getting into a rhythm here,” he responded.
“Sure,” I said, walking back to where I’d left off after refreshing my fertilizer stock. “Me too.”
I pinpointed the last tree I’d sprinkled with fertilizer pellets and moved on to the next. I noticed a bit of fatigue in my back. I straightened, continuing into an arch. I rotated at the hips to get a good stretch in. It helped. Not entirely, but somewhat.
Eventually, I heard the truck bound around a bend, heading our way. I looked up to watch its arrival. Dust slowly rose in its wake as the truck stopped in a spot near the original stopping place. I lowered my head to the bucket of fertilizer and got back to it.
“Alright. Quitting time,” Elandro called out.
I didn’t have a time piece, so I had no idea how long I’d been out there. But it didn’t feel like long.
I shrugged at myself and walked to the road. The others climbed onto the road as well.
“How was it?” Elandro asked.
“Good,” returned Elandro. “How’re you guys on hunger?..Are you ready to eat?”
“I could eat.”
“Alright, then let’s saddle up. We’re heading out..Grab some lunch,” Elandro smiled, clapping his hands together.
“So, we’re finished?” Tom asked.
“Yep. For today.”
“Cool,” Tom said, turning to me with a mild smile.
“Yeah..Let’s go,” Elandro said, as he full-arm gestured for us to follow.
We hopped into the back and Joseph put the tailgate into place. He pat it a couple times then walked to the truck’s cab and climbed in. The engine came to life and we were off.
Tom, George, and I exchanged satisfied glances. It hadn’t been too hard of work and we weren’t out long. Certainly well worth the food and lodging.
The bags of fertilizer I’d rested on during the earlier ride had shrinken considerably. So I stood beside the truck bed’s railing and lay my arms atop the wood to look on passing scenery. The rows of noni trees swept past as we drove through the farm.
Joseph hopped out and did his thing once we made it to the gate. The truck pulled onto the public road. It was a much smoother cruise. Wind rattled my hair. I fished in my pocket and found a hair band. I applied it to head, tightening my locks. That remedied the wind.
We drove for some time, eventually pulling into a gravelly driveway. A well constructed homestead drew closer. The truck stopped just before a patio-covered parking area. I scanned the house. It was quite nice. Large. Fairly new. Good taste.
I went to the back of the truck bed, waiting for Joseph to unlatch the tailgate. He did so and smiled at me. I returned it as he held his hand up to me in offering of help getting down. I took it and jumped to the ground. The other two truck-bed-riders followed.
Elandro called for us to come as he walked under the covered area. We did. A white Toyota was parked by the door Elandro walked through. He beckoned us to follow while crossing the threshold.
The house was very suburbiatic. Freshly sterilized and prim. We walked through a labyrinth of tiled hallways and eating areas to arrive in a carpeted sitting room. Several people were milling. Some with instruments, some without. Everyone looked at us to break into a smile. Everybody save one. A boy sitting on the couch with his shades on looked towards us stoically.
A man wearing glasses and holding an electric guitar walked to us. He said a name as he held out his hand to shake everyone’s in turn. A notable trait was his pepper flavored hair. I later learned he owned the house.
Another man with dark skin, dreadlocks, and a bass guitar extended his hand after the man with glasses had finished. The pair’s radio amp-connection allowed them to walk freely.
Introductions were made to include the drummer and audience members. I got to the boy behind sunglasses and found his name was Drake. Or that was his last name and it’s what everyone called him.
The new arrivals and I found seats on the two couches and floor. At that the room was pretty full. The band began to play. It was typical Christian-type rock. Heavy on the guitar and praise.
I sat, listening. Bored. I entertained myself by bobbing my head to the music and pretending to welcome it. It was melodic enough to mildly enjoy. The lyrics were a bit sappy, but they could be appreciated if not too critical. At the very least it was nice to see live music.
The set lasted for almost an hour. Thankfully, there wasn’t much gospel afterwards. We moved to a large porch at the back of the house where food was promised. A woman was setting up a table with various feed. It looked good. There were finger foods and big serving dishes filled with pasta and the like. We were told to dig in. A line formed, so I queued. It had been a rigorous day so I loaded up. A mountain of food developed on my plate and I retired to one of the porches side-railings.
I set into a potato casserole with cream and vegetables. It was awesome. I looked up upon finishing to see the boy in sunglasses leaning against the railing near me. I remembered his name as ‘Drake’. He was chewing a large mouthful, looking casually about. He noticed my gaze. I lowered it as he turned to me. I started forking some green beans. My peripherals caught his approach.
“Hey. You’re new around here, huh?” I heard him ask.
“Yep,” I said without looking up.
“How do you like it so far?”
I looked at him. “Yeah, it’s good. I’ve only been around a couple days, so it’s hard to tell at the moment.”
“Right, right..It’s pretty good. Lots of pluses. Free food. Nice people. Not much work..But there are some downsides,” he said.
“Oh, yeah? Like what?” I asked to his shaded eyes. “Can you take your sunglasses off? It bothers me.”
“Yeah, sure. Sorry,” he said, sliding them to the top of his head.
“That’s better..So what are these downsides?” I asked.
“Well, first of all, the whole thing is a cover up for a drug ring,” he said nonchalantly.
“Cover up? Drug ring? What’re you talking about?” I asked, nearly annoyed by the blatancy of his statement.
“This stuff isn’t really Krishna affiliated. It used to be, but the church excommunicated them a few years ago.”
“What? What are you talking about?” I repeated, looking around to see if anyone was in earshot. Nope.
“Yeah, there’s this organization called ICON or ISON or something. It’s like international society of something or other. Anyway, they severed ties with this branch of Krishna a few years ago because of all the shady dealings it was doing,” Drake explained.
“Shady dealings? What like with drugs?..What do you mean?”
“Well, the farms owned by this group don’t only grow noni,” he said. “Weed for sure. And other stuff maybe.”
“Okay..What might this other stuff be?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure ‘cause I haven’t been here very long.”
“Of course,” I quickly inserted.
He smiled. “But word has it they grow and process poppy for heroin.”
“They make heroin here?” I asked, looking around. I saw the middle-aged man with peppered hair laughing to an attractive woman of probably late-thirties. “I don’t know,” I continued.
Drake followed my gaze. “Looks can be deceiving…I need some more food,” he said, pushing himself from his leaning position against the railing. With that he walked away. Tom arrived in his wake. He briefly turned to watch Drake leave.
“What did he have to say?” Tom asked.
“Uh..” I was still trying to process all he’d said. It’d been a heavy conversation. Not long, but certainly weighty. “He just talked about..the.f-farm,” I said, looking to Tom.
“Oh yeah, what about the farm?.Has he been here long?”
“Uh, I’m not sure exactly how long he’s been here. I didn’t ask,” I said.
“Uhuh. So what did he say?” he asked, biting into a cob of corn.
“Not much really. We didn’t talk long,” I said, avoiding the truth. It didn’t seem reasonably to delve just then.
“Hm.” He took another bite of his corn. Tom seemed more interested in his food than Drake.
I looked to my plate. There were some carrot-spears and cherry tomatoes. I began popping those into my mouth while looking over the balcony. A well-manicured clearing separated the house from a wooded area by ten meters. The trees populating the woods were tall and broad. The house felt isolated.
“This stuff is pretty good,” said Tom.
I looked to him. He nodded at a forkful of pasta.
“Is it?.Let me try some,” I said grabbing my fork and diving in. He didn’t have a choice. I spun my fork into the pasta concoction. A couple revolutions captured a good amount. I put it into my mouth, savoring the flavor. It was good. Sweet and tangy. “Mmm. Nice,” I said, through a purse-lipped mouthful.
I looked over to the food-filled table. I’d cleaned my plate, so another visit was tempting. I decided on a salad. I walked over and began forking greenery onto my plate.
I looked up. The man with peppered hair turned from me to the table. He put something on his plate as I said, “Hi,” and smiled.
“Your name is Caroline, right?” he half-questioned.
“Yeah..Remind me of your name again,” I said, turning to him. “I’m sorry. It’s just, so many names and..” The hand which wasn’t holding my plate did a little dance in the air to supplement my mild explanation.
“That’s alright,” he said, putting down his plate and holding out a hand. “Griffin.”
I put down my plate and shook his extended hand.
“Nice to remeet you,” I said.
“Likewise,” he smiled. “So what brings you to Hawaii?” he asked.
“Oh, you know. Just kind of running away from the real world.”
“Why’s that? What are you afraid of?” he asked, tossing a food morsel into his mouth.
“Nothing in particular. I recently graduated, but don’t really feel like getting a real job. So I came here..Just to kind of see what happens…I have a waitressing job setup on Oahu in a couple weeks, but I’m heavily reconsidering it,” I said, pouring salad dressing on my vegetables.
“Uhuh. Uhuh. Uhuh..Why’s that?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking around. “I’m having a good time here. No reason to cut a good time short.”
“Very true. You should definitely enjoy the time you have..So you’re enjoying your time here with us?” he smiled.
I briefly looked around. “Yeah, for sure..It’s very nice..Everyone’s very friendly and welcoming. I really feel at home here.”
“Good,” he said, genuinely satisfied at that answer. “I hope the trend continues..But if you’ll excuse me, I have a woman to serve.”
I looked to where he was eyeing. The woman I’d seen him speaking with earlier was watching us with a broad but light smile. I assumed her to be his wife.
“Yeah. Of course..It was nice to meet you.”
“You too. Absolutely,” he said, smiling then walking on.
I turned to where I’d left Tom. He was still standing there. I walked over to him. A food-filled fork was on its way to his mouth. I swung around and went in for a lean next to him. He shifted, but no word-exchange was made. We ate our food in silence.
I finished my salad and turned to the woods past the porch. I set my plate down and stretched, staring into the woods.
“Mm. That was good,” said Tom, making a turn to put his plate next to mine.
“Yeah. Very satisfying.”
“So..What do we do now?” Tom asked.
“I’m not sure..I guess wait around to see what happens next. We’re certainly not the ones calling the shots.”
“Yeah..I just hope we don’t have to do any serious praying or anything. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it.”
“What?” I asked loudly, turning to him with faux disappointment. “Come on, Tom. Buck up.” I gave him a slap on the back and a big grin. “I’m sure you’ll pull through whatever it is they have in store for us..This is a pretty sweet deal.”
“Yeah, yeah. Maybe,” he said, lowering his head to look at our feet. “I’m pretty full.” He straightened and put a hand to his belly.
“Yeah. Me too,” I agreed. “That was good.”
“Yes, it was.”
We stood, staring into the woods, speechless. I was trying to locate where sounds originated. A rustling leaf, a bird’s song, the wind’s affect. It was a pretty casual undertaking due to the difficulty in scaling my accuracy.
“So what are we gonna do, Caroline?” Tom asked, turning to me.
“What do you mean?” I answered.
“I mean should we stay here on the farm? Or should we find some other place?”
“What? Why would we try to find another place?” I asked, turning to him.
“I don’t know..It’s just kind of weird here,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Caroline. Come on..We listened to Krishna rock for an hour before eating..And they don’t even eat meat,” he said, raising his hands in alarm.
“Don’t you feel weird about being here? Taking food from these people?”
“Nah..I’m pretty cool with it,” I said, drawing my lips into a downward pucker. “What other options do we have, Tom?..All our stuff is gone. We don’t have anywhere to go. We don’t know anyone. And we can’t afford to stay in a hotel.”
Tom looked at the palm of his hand in response. “Can I see your phone?” he said, finally.
“Why?” I asked, defensively.
“Because I have a weird feeling about this and I want to call Jeff again to see if we can get our stuff back,” he answered offensively.
I looked around for a split second. “Well, I didn’t bring it with me..It’s in my purse, which is back at the house,” I said, putting my hands on hips.
Tom sighed loudly and walked off. I watched him go.
“What’s his problem?” I asked myself.
I turned back to the woods, contemplating. I didn’t understand why Tom wanted to leave. Sure it wasn’t an ideal scenario, but it was pretty good. We’d certainly been setup.
I picked up the plates that Tom and I had left on the railing and turned to bus them. I saw Elandro talking with the dreaded man seen earlier and George. I veered towards them and waited for a lull in the conversation.
“Hey, Caroline. Have you meet Reese yet?” Elandro asked, turning to me.
“Uh, yeah. But only briefly..Inside. When we first came in.” I smiled and looked down to my plates in explanation for why a handshake wouldn’t be happening.
Reese reached over and pat my armside. He was pretty attractive, so I welcomed it with a smile.
“Hey, Elandro. Where can I put these plates?” I asked, turning to Elandro.
“Uhm. How about over there?” He said, pointing to a spot on the serving table. A couple other dishes had accumulated.
“Cool,” I said, “Did you see where Tom went?”
“Uh,” he said, swinging his head around. “No, not really..Why?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m just looking for him,” I smiled.
“Oh..Okay,” Elandro said, with seeming hesitation.
“It was good to meet you again,” I said, towards the dark gentlemen with dreadlocks.
“Yeah. You too.”
I turned while smiling, giving George a nod on the way. I walked the plates over to where Elandro had indicated and set them down. I swung around and lightly leaned against the table.
“I heard you’re looking for your friend.” The middle aged man, Griffin, came upon me from the right.
“Uh. Yeah, I guess.” I glanced at him then looked to where I’d told Elandro. He and Reese seemed to be in the same position I’d left them. Griffin must’ve overheard. “It’s no big deal though. I’m sure he just went back to the truck or something,” I said, shaking my head.
“Yeah,” Griffin said casually.
“I’m gonna go look for him,” I said, to him through the corners of my eyes.
“Do you mind if I tag along?.I’m curious to hear about Texas,” he said with a warm smile.
“No. That’s alright.”
“So, what’s your favorite thing about Texas?..The lone star state.”
“Hmm,” I thought. “Probably the food..There’s definitely some excellent food,” I said.
“Oh, yeah? What kind of food do they have there?”
“All kinds,” I answered. “Barbeque. Tex-Mex. Sea food..It’s all really good.”
“Wow. Yeah, that does sound good,” he said with a smile on his voice. “Is the sea food made in the Cajun style?”
“Yeah..Sometimes. But not all the time..I’d say Cajun is pretty popular though. Especially in the east. Close to Louisiana.”
“Mmhm..Do you like Canjun food?” Griffin asked.
“Definitely..You?” I returned.
“I haven’t had too much. But, yeah. I think so..And Tex-Mex. I like that. That’s pretty tasty.”
We carried on talking of Texan trivials while looking for Tom. We went down to the truck. He wasn’t there, so we continued looking along the driveway and foregrounds. Not there either. We searched throughout the house, but couldn’t find him. Griffin became noticeably annoyed. For good reason. A stranger was wandering about his property.
We eventually returned to the porch. I immediately noticed Tom talking with Drake.
“There he is,” I said with a sigh of relief and mild finger-point.
“Hm,” grunted Griffin.
“Thanks for helping me look for him,” I said, smiling while lightly touching Griffin’s arm. I was surprised by how unresponsive he was to this. I supposed his marriage had accustomed him to the touch of a woman.
“No problem,” he said half-casually, walking on to meet with his implied wife.
I veered towards Tom and Drake.
“Where the hell were you?” I asked Tom assertively. “We looked all over for you..Griffin’s pissed.”
“The guy who owns the house..Where were you?” I repeated.
“Oh, really?” he asked, looking around me. “I just went looking around.”
“Mostly the house,” he answered.
“You went looking around the house? What’s wrong with you? Why?”
“I don’t know. I was curious,” he said, slightly blushing.
“Curious..You’re like a child,” I said, annoyed. “Do you have no respect?”
“I didn’t look around much.”
“Tss,” I scoffed, turning away. “I’m not impressed.”
We three stood in silence. A minute lapsed before Drake said, “What do you think was in the potato salad?”
“What?” I asked, turning to him.
“What do you think was in the potato salad?”
“I don’t know. Potato salad ingredients,” I said.
“Yeah, maybe,” he said, thoughtfully.
My brow furrowed. “So what did you find in the house, Tom?” I asked, turning to Tom.
“Pretty standard stuff..Nothing to cause alarm.”
“Hu,” I exhaled sharply. “Were you expecting to find something to cause alarm?”
“So ungrateful,” I said under my breath. I shook my head and looked around. The porch had cleared other than Joseph. He was wiping down the table food had been on. Without a word I walked from Tom and Drake over to Joseph.
“Hey. Do you need some help?” I asked.
“No. I think I’ve got it,” he said, turning to smile. “There’s not very much left to do anyway,” he added.
“Oh. Okay…So..What’re we gonna do after this?” I asked.
“We’ll probably head back to the house.”
“Cool,” I smiled. I didn’t much feel like getting into more Krishnatics.
I started to turn as Joseph said, “I’ll just finish up here and we’ll probably be on our way.”
“Cool,” I repeated then clapped my hands with a wide-arced arm-swing. “That was really good,” I added.
“The food..And the singing and whatnot,” I quickly amended.
“Oh, yeah? You liked that?” Joseph asked with a boyish smile.
“Yeah. For sure. It was good.”
Joseph kept his grin and went back to wiping the table. I wandered back to the boys whom I’d left standing by the rails. There was some idle chat about something or other. Not long later Joseph came and collected us. We followed him through the house and gave our goodbyes to the hosts and other attendees.
When we made it outside, I was surprised to find that Drake would be coming with us. He hadn’t stayed at the house the night before, but he usually did.
We piled into the truck and made our way. Bystanders waved as we drove off. The drive was nice. The evening air was cool and crisp. Perfectly tempered. Drake and Tom rambled on while I enjoyed the ride. George was in a similar state to me.
We pulled into a driveway just as my eyes began fading. Although only about 8 pm, it was completely dark outside. And ever since acclimating to Hawaii, my day’s cycle largely revolved around the sun’s presence.
The lightly familiar setting of the Krishna compound came into view. A feeling near relief washed through me. The truck stopped and we got out. I stretched upon arrival to the ground. It felt nice.
Elandro told us there were leftovers in the refrigerator if we were hungry. He and Joseph retired to their separate quarters. Tom invited Drake up to our place and we went. They took a seat on the sofa in the living room while I brushed my teeth. When finished I bid them a good night and went into my room. I had a brief flirt with my book, but my eyelids grew heavier with each word read. I eventually crashed.
The next day was similar to the previous. We awoke and had breakfast. This time Drake joined us. When finished, we had a bit of chill time before heading to the farm. I spent it reading. One of the books I’d brought was entitled, ‘The Beach’. By Alex Garland. I was getting really into it. It fit well with the tropical backdrop. And I liked the lead character. He seemed like a cool guy.
After our down time, we went off to the farm. While there an ancient hippy helped us water the noni trees. He must’ve been in his 70s. Flowing white hair accompanied him.
It didn’t take long for Elandro to feel satisfied with our efforts. After hydrating the noni, we went to Griffin’s for song and food.
Things went like that for the next couple weeks. I dug it. It was simple. Routine started to change when Mr. Okazaki returned from his holiday.
Mr. Okazaki owned the noni farm and the house we were staying at. He was a short Japanese man of middle-age who had perpetually bloodshot eyes. He’d apparently done quite a bit of surfing in his younger days, so the saltwater had permanently affected his eyes. That’s Elandro’s explanation.
In his older days Mr. Okazaki had come to acquire something like 10% of the private land on the big island of Hawaii. His family was into real estate and left everything to him. He owned farms and waste disposal plants. Apartment complexes and tracts of forest.
Okazaki’s return also brought Elandro’s wife into the picture. I’d vaguely remembered Elandro mentioning her. But until she showed, I’d completely forgotten her existence. He didn’t talk of her much. And I’m still not quite sure why she went on holiday with Okazaki. She certainly brought back a souvenir though. She was pregnant.
Impregnation obviously hadn’t happened on the trip because her belly was noticeably swollen upon return. But it was news to Elandro, so consummation couldn’t have been long before.
Things started off well with the pair’s return. Elandro was in high spirits at the presence of his wife. She was young and spritely with a cute face. And a little one was on the way. I could understand his elation.
Okazaki didn’t seem to affect much ‘cause he was rarely around. Business meetings and property checkups kept him off campus or out-of-sight most of the time.
“Okay, so Mister Okazaki wants us to make a pickup real quick,” Elandro said as we were loading into the truck. “Shouldn’t take too long.”
None of us in the truck-bed said anything. We just nodded absently.
The truck took us to the farm, but a different entrance than we’d been before. Joseph opened the gate as usual. We drove down the path to stop in an overgrown clearing. Elandro stepped out of the truck and walked to spot behind some trees. He returned with a fifty-gallon drum between his arms. It was green and plastic. I watched as he put it into the bed with us. Joseph helped with the next several. There were five total.
“What are these for?” Tom asked.
“Just storage,” answered Elandro.
“Storage,” Tom repeated.
With that we went back to the house.
“Okay. Labor for the day is just to clean these barrels,” Elandro said, lowering the tailgate.
The four of us in back hopped out.
“There’s soap and hoses just in front of the house here,” Elandro said, gesturing to our right. “George, can you get things set up?..Joseph and I have to take care of some stuff.”
“Yeah, sure,” George said slowly. “No problem.” He went off to fetch cleaning supplies as Joseph and Elandro unloaded the drums from truck-bed.
I looked from Tom to Drake. They both seemed apprehensive for some reason. I didn’t have any reason to be, so I followed George to help him rally. We uncoiled a hose from its holster and dragged it to the driveway. I stood with hose in hand as Joseph and Elandro set the barrels near me. George gathered bottles of cleaning solution.
Once Joseph and Elandro finished unloading the drums they got in the truck with a “Bye” and drove off. Their brief behavior was odd, but I didn’t think on it too much.
“Ready?” I asked Tom and Drake. I held the hose up and pulled its trigger. There was a gun-shaped nozzle at the end to regulate flow. A burst of water shot into the air, drizzling down on us.
“Wouhouhou,” said Drake, giving a light shimmy. “That’s cold.” He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt, so the hose mist had come in contact with a large portion of his skin.
“So,” Tom said with a sigh. He walked to and picked up a bottle of cleaning agent. He lifted it to head level and read the label. “Mmhm.”
George walked past me and unscrewed the cap on a barrel’s mouth. He peered into the hole then turned to me and asked, “Can I see the hose, please?”
I planted the hose handle into his outstretched palm.
“Thanks,” he said. He put the nozzle into the opening and blasted. A good bit of the barrel filled with water. Then he twirled it around and upended it to dump. The resultant liquid was murky yellow and smelled like paper.
“What was in there?” asked Drake, stepping closer.
“I don’t know,” followed Tom, following.
“Ah. Ah. It’s burning my eyes,” said Drake, rubbing furiously at his eyes.
“Really?” said George with concern.
“Hahaha.” Drake lowered his hands to laugh. “No.”
“What do you think they’re gonna do with these barrels?” asked Tom, turning to George.
“I don’t know..Elandro said store stuff in ‘em,” George responded, lifting the barrel and shaking it to get all remaining water out.
“Alright. Let’s get to it,” said Drake, clapping.
We put cleaning solution in the barrels, swishing and rinsing until clear liquid poured from the barrels’ mouths. That was the best we could do.
“That should do it,” said Tom with his hands on hips.
“Yeah. I guess we’re finished,” said Drake with a smile. He walked to a dilapidated car parked in the driveway and leaned on its rear right-side door. He pulled out a package and began rolling a cigarette.
“Hey. What are you guys doing?” I heard from behind. I turned to see Elandro’s wife, Jill, standing belly out with hands on her hips.
“Hey, Jill,” I said warmly. “Oh, not much. Just finished washing these barrels,” I said, turning to her and taking a couple steps closer.
“Oh, okay. What for?” she asked with a head cock.
“I don’t really know. Elandro just told us to.”
“Oh, okay,” she responded. “So, what are you gonna do now?” she asked me.
“Hm, I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess we’re not going to Griffin’s. At least for a bit..So, I don’t know..What about you?” I asked.
“I was gonna do some knitting. Do you wanna help me?” she asked with widened eyes.
“Sure. I’d love to,” I said, excitedly. I always enjoyed quality time with Jill. She was a sweetheart.
I turned to look at the boys. George was peeling an apple with his knife while Drake smoked a cigarette. Tom was talking as Drake listened. I gave them a sweeping wave and let Jill lead me.
“Bye, girls,” shouted Drake.
“Bye,” followed Tom.
“Bye bye,” said George. It was a bit muffled, so I assumed he’d popped a piece of apple into his mouth.
Jill walked to the kitchen and took a seat at the table. I sat next to her. She gathered her knitting supplies and explained what she was doing.
“Can you hold these?” she asked, lifting several strings.
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, taking the strings between fingers.
We talked of her pregnancy and how it was coming along as she maneuvered knitting needles about the thread. She said things were going well and her doctor was satisfied with progress. This sort of thing.
I turned to watch a truck pull into the driveway. Elandro and Jeff exited to talk with the three others standing nearby. After a brief chat the barrels were loaded into the truck-bed and the truck drove off.
Jill and I continued knitting. Good headway was made on her expected child’s pajamas.
“Do you know if it’ll be a boy or girl?” I asked.
“No. The doctor says it’s mature enough to tell, but Elandro and I don’t wanna know..We want it to be a surprise,” she said, smiling.
“Oh, okay.” I didn’t subscribe to the surprise thing. If I was to have a kid I’d want to know which kind it would be. Preparation is key.
We sat chatting and knitting for several hours. Eventually Elandro and Joseph returned with containers of food. They laid it on the table and offered us to eat. I was pretty hungry. It seemed Jill was as well. We ate until filled. It took awhile because we intermittently ate and knitted.
The food was good. Tomato marinara with garlic bread. Some salad makings were sprinkled into the pasta. It wasn’t the best sorting, but it was alright.
Night came quicker than expected. Jill and Elandro retired to their loft apartment. So did I. When I walked in, Tom and Drake were sitting on the couch.
“Hey,” I said, upon entrance.
“Hey,” they each responded.
“What are you guys up to?” I asked with a smile. I was still high from my knitting session with Jill.
“Just chillin’,” said Drake.
“Yep,” added Tom.
“Cool.” I began walking back to my room.
“Hey, Caroline. What do you think those barrels were for?” asked Tom.
I turned. “I don’t know,” I said shrugging and shaking my head. “Storage.”
“Yeah, but of what?”
“I have no idea. I haven’t really thought about it..Why?”
“Well, we’re pretty sure we know where those barrels came from,” said Tom.
“Oh, yeah? Where?”
“A chemical refinery.”
“A chemical refinery?..Okay..So?” I said, shaking my head. “What does that mean?”
“Well, chemical companies pay businesses to take waste off their hands so they don’t have to deal with it,” said Tom.
“Yeah. It can get messy,” added Drake.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “And?”
“Well, we think Mister Okazaki is illegally dumping the waste then using the barrels..Also, possibly illegally.”
“What? That’s a pretty bold accusation. Why do you think that?”
“Just kind of a hunch,” said Drake.
“Hahaha,” I laughed. “Does this go back to your theory about how these aren’t really Krishna and they deal drugs, Drake?”
“Yeah. It does,” he nodded.
“Okay. I’m going to bed..Let me know when you have some hard evidence,” I said, turning and walking into the bathroom.
“We will,” called Tom.
I brushed my teeth then went into my bedroom, closing the door. “Goodnight,” I heard from the living room.
“Goodnight,” I responded.
I slid into bed and briefly read my book. ‘The beach’. I was in the middle of the scene where Jed and Richard return to the real world on the rice run. Quality.
Without reading much I closed the book and shut my eyes. I quickly awoke the next morning. I lay in bed without moving. Just focusing on the sun’s warmth and its light through my eyelids.
I got up and dressed. Entering the living room, I saw the boys had slept in the same position I left them. I snuk over to Tom and began tickling the underside of his nose. He awoke with a start and croaked, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I said, in a completely different tone.
Tom rubbed his eyes as Drake stirred.
I stared at Drake. He noticed. “Good morning,” he smiled.
“Good morning..How’d you sleep?” I asked.
“Good.” He stretched. “I guess.”
We eventually went for breakfast. Eggs with spring onions and buttered toast. It was good. And hearty. Later on we drove to the farm. That day we were to pick noni fuits and put them into mesh bags. It was only difficult when the bag neared full.
Elandro told us we’d be left for several hours that day. Much noni needed to be picked, so he wanted to give us ample time to do it. Four hours. It wasn’t a huge amount of time. But it seemed that way when our average work day consisted of 1.5 or 2 hours.
A couple hours into the shift I was bent down pulling a noni from its stem when I heard footsteps stop behind me. “Hey, Caroline. Come check this out,” Tom’s voice said. I turned. He gestured me to follow while walking on.
“Where are you going?” I asked after him, annoyed.
“Just follow me. I want to show you something.”
I erected, setting my bag of noni down. I trailed Tom as he walked through rows of noni.
“Tom, can you at least tell me where we’re going?” I asked.
“We’re almost there. Please, Caroline. Just come,” he said, slowing and turning to catch my eye.
“Fine,” I huffed.
It was not long before coming upon a large shed. Tom entered without a word. Drake was leaning against a work table, smoking a cigarette.
“Hey,” he said, smiling wide.
“What’s going on? Why did you bring me here?” I asked, curtly.
“Take a look at these barrels,” Tom said, pointing to a couple barrels nearby.
I looked at them.
“Okay..What am I looking for?”
“I guess they look like the barrels we cleaned yesterday..So?”
“True. They do..Now read the label on them,” Tom instructed.
I went in close to look at the label.
“I can’t. It’s in Chinese or something,” I said, backing off.
“Actually it’s Korean,” said Tom, exhaling cigarette smoke.
“Wow,” I said to him.
“Look under that part,” said Tom.
I leaned in again. Underneath the Korean text was English. Part of it read, ‘Kilauea Noni Juice’..‘Healthy and Whole’. Then there was an address that ended with ‘South Korea’.
I stood up, mouth dropping. “What is this?” I asked.
“Look inside,” said Tom.
I unscrewed the half-loosened lid and peered inside. The blatant scent of noni juice hit my nostrils.
“Oh my god,” I said, “There’s noni juice in there.” I put the top back on and backed away. “You don’t think these are the same barrels we cleaned yesterday do you?” I asked, looking to Tom then Drake.
“I don’t know,” said Tom. “I don’t think these are the exact same ones. But they’re not far off.”
“‘Cause we didn’t clean those very well,” I said. “We just rinsed them out, really.”
“Yeah,” said Drake.
“So what’s going on here?..Are they using those barrels to ship noni to South Korea? ‘Cause that’s what it looks like. But that couldn’t be right,” I said, rapidly shaking my head.
“That’s what it looks like to me too,” agreed Tom. “But we don’t know for sure..These aren’t the same barrels that we cleaned yesterday. They have different markings on them. But they could easily be from the same batch.”
My mouth lowered then I put my hand to it. I looked at Drake. He was casually smoking his cigarette.
“So, what does this mean?” I asked, turning to Tom.
“Well, if it is what it looks like then Mister Okazaki should be in a lot of trouble.”
My mouth relowered and I planted my hand back at it. I looked to Drake. He nodded. I sighed and said, “What should we do?”
“Drake and I were discussing that?” said Tom. “We’re thinking we can report him to the authorities with an anonymous letter.”
“An anonymous letter,” I repeated dryly.
“Yeah. We can just write a letter and take it to the police station downtown.”
I stared at a pair of pruning shears hanging on the wall.
“Do you think that would do anything?” I asked without taking my eyes off the shears.
“Maybe. Maybe not..It couldn’t hurt, though.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“We should get back,” said Drake, throwing his cigarette but through an open window.
“Yeah,” agreed Tom, pursing his lips.
We walked out the door. I silently found the way back to my bag of picked-noni. It felt heavy upon lifting. I mechanically added fruit to it till full. When it was full I dragged the bag roadside, depositing it next to the others. I did that twice more before the truck returned.
“Alright. Lookin’ good, gang,” said Elandro loudly. “I think this’ll do for the day,” he said, nudging one of the noni bags with his foot and a smile.
Tom, Drake, and I slowly trudged to the truck. George was already standing by it.
“Why the long faces, guys?” asked Elandro. “We’re finished.” He clapped.
“Yeah. It was just a long day, that’s all,” explained Tom.
“Right. Well, we’ve got a feast waiting for us at Griffin’s..Who’s hungry?” he asked, looking between us three.
We each muttered something in the affirmative.
“Wow..Glummy Guses,” said Joseph.
“Yeah, what’s the deal?” asked George.
“Nothing,” I said. “Just tired.”
“Okay. Well, let’s go,” said Elandro, performing a circular finger-sweep to signify movement. “Really good job today guys..Very nice.”
We tossed the bags of noni into the truck-bed then climbed in ourselves. Before leaving the farm, we dropped the bags off at a processing facility. A few men I’d never met brought the bags from the truck to a wooden building.
The drive off property felt bumpier than usual. And the ride to Griffin’s house seemed to take a long but short time at once. It was weird. Seeing the contrast in George’s mood was odd as well. Even though no words were exchanged, I could feel the lightness of George’s tone compared to ours. His matched that of the cool air which swept over us. Ours matched the darkness of the evening.
We arrived at Griffin’s house and jumped out of the truck. There wasn’t much rock-praise left after our entrance into the living room. We sat for a short time then went to the porch for food. Silence hung heavy between Tom, Drake, and I. It was probably a combination of reluctance to speak within earshot of our company and flabbergastion at the circumstances. Light conversation was made with Griffin and his wife then we headed back to the house.
“Was something wrong tonight, guys?” Elandro asked us as we made way back to the loft-apartments on property.
“Nah, man. It was just the day’s labor..Tough stuff today,” said Drake.
“Yeah. I think a good night’s sleep will help,” said Tom.
“Okay..Well if you need anything or want to talk or whatver, just let me know..I’ll be in my room,” offered Elandro.
“Yeah,” added Joseph. He turned around to briefly walk backwards. He was in front of us, but wanted to make eye contact.
“Thank you,” said Tom.
“Thanks, man,” said Drake.
“Yeah. Thanks, Elandro..and Joseph” I said with a weak smile. Elandro and Joseph were such nice guys. I wondered if it was possible for them to be caught up in things like illegal dumping and the drug game. But even if Okazaki was taking illegal action, Elandro and Joseph wouldn’t necessarily know about it. And the drug thing seemed a bit far-fetched.
We said goodnight to Elandro and went up to our apartment. Tom and Drake stayed in the living room while I went into the bathroom. I entered and stared at myself in the mirror for a bit. After that I brushed my teeth. Slowly.
“Good night,” I told the boys.
“Good night,” they replied in sync.
“Hey, Caroline..I think we’re gonna write a letter tonight and take it to the police station tomorrow..Are you cool with that?” asked Tom.
I turned around. “Yeah..I guess so,” I said, not knowing if I should object. “Just,” I said without really knowing where it was going. “be careful,” I finished.
“Okay..We will,” responded Tom.
“Goodnight,” said Drake.
“Goodnight,” I mumbled, then went into my room, shut the door, and collapsed on my bed.
I fell asleep without having pulled the covers over myself. I awoke the next morning in a daze. My head held something. Some funk. I pushed myself up and tried to stretch it out. That helped, but my head still clung to something. Something heavy.
I eventually went downstairs for breakfast. That morning we had cantaloupe with granola. It was good. Only halfway through breakfast did I notice Tom wasn’t around.
“Where’s Tom?” I turned to Drake, asking.
“I don’t know..Didn’t you see him this morning?” he returned.
“No. I guess not,” I said, thinking on it. “Hm. That’s weird..He’s usually around by this time.” He would occasionally do his own thing, strolling into breakfast midway through. But he’d never be too late.
I got up from the table and took my plates to the sink. “I’ll wash these in a minute. I’m gonna go see if Tom is upstairs,” I said to no one in particular.
“Okay,” said Elandro.
“Yeah,” followed Jill.
I climbed the stairs steps and entered the apartment. I did a quick search, without finding him. I went back outside and did a brief perimeter patrol, heading back to the kitchen table when finished.
“I can’t find him anywhere,” I announced.
“Really?” said Elandro. “I wonder where he is?” He took a spoonful of granola.
“That’s strange,” said Jill. “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.”
“Yeah..For sure,” said Drake, thought obviously careening through his mind.
“I’ll go check the loft again. Maybe he’s in the shower or something,” I said, walking off.
I went into the bathroom and ripped the shower curtain open. Nothing. I walked into the living room, searching. A piece of paper on the coffee table caught my eye. I bent down and picked it up. It was a handwritten note which read, “Caroline, I’m sorry to leave in such a rush. I have important business to attend. I’ll be back in a few days. Tom”.
I read this twice then flipped it over to find the other side blank. I squinted at the message, changing my perspective to see if it helped clarify. Not really.
“The police,” I thought to myself. “He must’ve gone to the police…Shit. What am I gonna tell everyone.”
It was a bit of a dilemma. I obviously couldn’t tell them he went to the police. And I couldn’t make up some other excuse for his absence because I’d been the one looking for him. I went downstairs deciding to play like I didn’t know. Because I didn’t.
“I found this,” I said, putting the piece of paper on the table between Elandro and Jill.
Elandro picked it up and read. “Huh,” he said. “What does this mean?” he asked me.
“I have no idea,” I said, shaking my head.
Jill took the piece of paper from Elandro and read it. “Important business?..What does that mean?” she asked.
“No idea,” I said, continuing to shake my head.
“What?..Let me see that,” said Tom reaching across the table.
Jill handed him the paper. He looked it over and grunted. He put the paper down the stroked his chin, “That’s weird,” Drake said, looking at me.
“Yeah. For sure..I have no idea where he could’ve gone,” I said, looking over the three.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll be alright,” said Elandro, lifting from the table and walking to the sink.
“Yeah. Sure,” I agreed.
“So, let’s head to the farm in about an hour,” said Elandro.
“Okay,” I said.
Tom nodded while Jill sipped at her tea.
I turned without another word and scaled the steps upto my loft. I sat on the couch and closed my eyes. I wondered what Tom was up to at that moment.
Not long later I heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I said.
The door opened. Enter Drake. He sat on the couch at my feet. I drew my legs in and sat up further.
“So Tom took off early,” Drake said matter-of-factly.
“Oh yeah? What do you mean? Did you guys not plan it?” I asked.
“Not really..We’d finished the letter, but decided on going to the cops tomorrow.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?” I asked.
“Well..I don’t know. I guess, just..because,” he answered.
“Uhuh,” I said in thought. “So I ‘spose he just decided to go on his own.”
“Yeah, I ‘spose so..I have no idea why that would be though. It didn’t even come up.”
“Hm. Weird,” I said, squinting.
“Well, whatever. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing,” Tom said, standing. “Okay. I’m gonna go down and chill until it’s time to go..See ya,” he said with a light wave and a walk to the door.
“Later,” I said as he opened the door and disappeared.
I oozed back into the couch and closed my eyes. Thoughts of Tom ran through my mind. It wasn’t very comfortable so I eventually wandered downstairs. Jill was still sitting at the kitchen table so I joined her. She was reading a book on baby names.
“Wow. Baby names,” I said.
“Yeah. It’s so interesting,” she said with a wide smile.
“Yeah. I can see that..Do you have any particular names in mind?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, closing the book and putting it on the table. “I really like Claire or Amy if it’s a girl and Calvin or David if it’s a boy.”
“Hm. Yeah. Those seem good,” I said nodding. I was a bit surprised. I didn’t know her well, but I thought Jill would be the kind of girl to choose a name like Leaf or Rain or something. I found myself respecting her a bit more. Those hippy names never carry much weight.
“I just can’t decide..But there’s plenty of time,” she said, raising her voice a couple octaves.
“Definitely..When is it due?” I asked.
“March fourteenth,” she answered.
“Oh. That’ll be nice. With Spring right around the corner.”
“Yeah. I think so too.”
The conversation moved to what arrangements would be made when the baby arrived. Okazaki was apparently having a house built for the expanding family on a property near to the farm.
Elandro came in and gave Jill a kiss then told me it was almost time to go. I got up and said goodbye to Jill, giving her a hug. I felt so affectionate toward her. Elandro and I walked to the truck where Drake and George were waiting. After getting in the truck-bed and we’d started moving, I noticed Joseph wasn’t coming with.
“Where’s Joseph today?” I asked George.
“Beats me,” he said, shrugging.
I looked to Tom. He pulled a similar maneuver. I forgot about Joseph’s absence en route to the farm. But it was apparent when we stopped at the gate and Elandro was the one opening up. It was the first time Joseph hadn’t joined us, but I didn’t know if it was cause for concern. I shrugged it off.
Elandro pulled to the side, got out, and explained the day’s aim. To water as many noni plants as possible in two hours. I was down with that. We each got a watering can and were told where the spigot was.
The day’s labor was pretty chill. It was nice, but didn’t help take my mind off Tom and his whereabouts. I hoped for the best and left it to him. I knew he was a big boy and could handle himself.
Elandro showed up a couple hours after taking off. He had popsicles waiting for each of us.
“Thank you,” I said as Elandro handed me a popsicle. It was red.
“Alright,” said Drake. “Rock and roll.” He received a purple one.
“Ahaha. Thanks,” said George. His was green.
“So how was it today?” asked Elandro.
“Yeah, it was good,” said Drake.
George and I nodded. We were both busy with the frozen treats.
“Cool,” said Elandro.
We chilled and finished the popsicles before heading out.
“Does anyone want to ride up front with me?” offered Elandro.
“I will,” I said, volunteering.
“Alright. Hop in,” he waved.
The two boys got in back while Elandro and I got into the cab. He started the car and began driving. It was the first time I’d ridden in the cab. Definitely a different experience. It felt bumpier and more removed. In the truck-bed I had legs to absorb some of the shock and there was little confinement from the reality of nature. In the cab, the rocks and road-divots went directly to my core via seat and the interior setting felt slightly isolated.
“So I was talking with Jill about baby names earlier,” I said, turning to Elandro.
“Oh, yeah? Cool..But you’re not gonna tell me what she’s decided on are you?” he asked, briefly turning to me with a smile and mild laugh.
“I don’t know. I don’t think she’s made a decision..Do you want to hear what she’s choosing between, though?”
“Nope. I’m leaving that up to her. She’s the mother, so I think she should have the final say in the baby’s name,” he said, making baseball’s ‘safe’ signal with his hands.
“Yeah, I guess so..But you don’t even want to know which names she’s thinking about?” I asked.
“Nah..Like I said, I’m just gonna leave that to her,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, lifting my eyebrows. “Sure.”
I’d never talked of baby names with a couple about to have a baby, so I wasn’t sure if that was strange. It seemed it, but I didn’t know.
Elandro moved the conversation to the new house Okazaki was building for them. He’d just been to it and was quite excited at the progress.
“It’s coming along nicely,” he said.
It sounded like a sweet place. Two bedrooms with a full kitchen, living room, and screened-in porch. It was to be right around the corner from the farm.
“Cool,” I said to it all.
After a lull in that conversation-session set in I asked where Joseph was.
“He had some stuff to do on one of the other farms,” Elandro said.
“Oh, okay. When will he be back?” I asked.
“Probably tomorrow. It depends on how long his goal takes to achieve,” said Elandro.
“Yeah. Okay,” I said. I wanted to ask what Joseph’s goal was, but the way Elandro said it made me hesitate.
We pulled up to Griffin’s and got out. The living room had a few more people in it that day. I took a seat next to a pretty girl with a nose ring. After the concert we went and had food on the porch. It was pizza alongside various fixin’s. I chatted with the noseringed girl about our backgrounds while eating. It was nice. The food was good and she was interesting.
Once dinner finished, Elandro rounded up George, Drake, and I so we could go back to the house. The drive was nice. George rode up front with Elandro. Drake and I sat in the back.
“Why were there so many people at dinner tonight?” asked Drake.
“I don’t know..Do you think there’s any particular reason?”
“I’m not sure. It just seems weird to me,” he said.
“Really? Why?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It just does,” he said, shaking his head. “And where the hell did Tom go?” he asked loudly.
“What do you mean? We know where he went,” I answered.
“What? Do you think he went somewhere else other than the cops?” I whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said, lowering his head to give it a shake. “Something’s going on here.”
“Hahaha. What are you talking about?” I laughed. “As if there’s some great conspiracy happening or something?”
Tom looked at me with cold eyes. “Caroline. You’re being stupid. You’re not thinking..They’ve got you brainwashed.”
“What? Fuck you,” I said, resentful. “Nobody’s brainwashed me.”
“What about the popsicles. The extra people. The pizza. We never eat pizza,” he said, throwing up his arms.
“So..Elandro was just being nice. And why shouldn’t we eat pizza?”
“What about Joseph? Where the hell is he? And why did Tom disappear without telling anyone?” Drake said in a harsh whisper.
“How should I know?..Look. Drake. You just need to relax. You’re getting all worked up over nothing..You’ve watched too many movies, so you think there’s some great mystery that needs solved or some bad guy that needs defeating..Real life just isn’t that interesting. I hate to tell you,” I said, giving him a pat on the shoulder.
“Whatever,” he said, looking off. “You’re not thinking properly,” he mumbled.
“Pssh,” I scoffed. “Yeah, okay.” I stood up and leaned against the truck-bed’s railing to get a view of the passing scenery. It was calming. Drake had some interesting points, but he seemed to be worked up over nothing. “So what if we had pizza,” I told myself. “Or popsicles..Yeah, things could be connected. But in a good way.” Maybe the farm was doing well. Which was why there were niceties. Joseph was gone to help with some surplus or something. And there were extra people because a break/celebration was in order. Why not? And Tom was gone because he was a jackass.
We made it back to the house without any more conversation. Drake went off to his room, not saying goodnight. I watched him go, shrugging it off. “Whatever.” I followed Elandro into the kitchen.
“Hello, sweetpea,” he said to Jill. She was sitting at the kitchen table, knitting. Elandro walked up behind her and kissed her on the cheek.
“Hey, Caroline,” she said to me.
“Hey,” I said, sitting down next to her. “How are you?” I asked, touching her knee.
“Good..Look,” she said, holding up a half-complete set of baby-pajamas.
“Ooh..Nice,” I said, grabbing its corner for a hands-on inspection. “It’s coming along…What about the baby’s name?” I asked. “Any progress there?”
“I’m out of here,” Elandro said quickly. He kissed Jill again then walked off.
“Hahaha,” Jill laughed. “Ah. Not really. I’m still kinda stuck on those four I told you before.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” I said.
Jill and I sat a bit longer, just kind of reiterating information already discussed. The baby. Upcoming living arrangements. These sorts of things.
I soon grew tired and excused myself to bed. “Goodnight,” I told Jill.
“Goodnight,” she said sweetly.
I trucked it up the stairs to my apartment. I entered then looked at the couch and thought of Tom’s absence. I offered it little energy before brushing my teeth and hitting the sack. It had been a long day. I was drained, so I fell to sleep quickly.
The next morning I awoke feeling refreshed. I remembered Tom wasn’t around so I rubbed one out. Quality. I slowly dressed and wandered downstairs. That morning’s breakfast was only attended by Jill, Elandro, and I.
“I wonder where Drake is,” I said aloud.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” both Jill and Elandro said in some form.
I didn’t give his whereabouts too much attention. We finished breakfast. French toast. Then I went up to my place and got ready for the day’s work. I didn’t have much to do, so I ended up reading my book. The Beach. I was at the part where the people Richard had been watching start to head his way.
I reached a decent stopping point and closed the book to go downstairs. Jill wasn’t at the table, so I went for the truck. On the way I met Elandro.
“Hey,” he said. “We’re just about to take off. Why don’t you hop into the truck.”
“Okay,” I said.
He hurried past me and I went on. George was standing by the truck. He waved. I walked to him and asked how his breakfast was. It sounded light but nice. He asked me how mine was and I told him about how my mom used to make French toast for the family when I was younger. So it was always a treat for me.
George jumped on the truck then lowered his hand to haul me up. We stood in the truck-bed, waiting for Elandro and Drake. Just then I heard my name called out.
I turned around to see Drake peeking around the corner of a nearby building. His hand was raised and his sunglasses were on.
“I’m not going to be able to make it anymore..My mom called and I’m going home,” he said quickly.
“What? What are you talking about?” I asked, taking a couple steps closer. The truckbed limited further progress.
Without more explanation he was gone. I heard the truck-cab door open and turned to see Elandro getting in. Before I could say anything, the truck was moving.
“That was weird,” I said, turning to George.
“What was?” he responded.
“How Drake is just leaving so suddenly.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so..It happens pretty often around here,” said George with a disinterested face.
“Yeah. We get a lot of seasonal workers..Nobody really stays long,” he explained.
“Huh,” I said.
The drive to the farm seemed to take longer than usual. Or less. My perception was significantly distorted. Drake’s announcement was bizarre. “Why was he just peeking around the corner? Couldn’t he have come out into the open and said goodbye properly? Why was he so quick about it?” These questions pounded through my brain. Repeatedly.
We pulled up the driveway to a house I almost didn’t recognize. I’d been there several times before, it just didn’t register properly. It was the house gatherings were open to the public at.
The truck stopped and I looked to George. “What are we doing here?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, lifting his eyebrows and shoulders to shrug.
Just as I was about to hop out and question Elandro, someone came running up to the truck. It was the noseringed girl I’d met the night before. She waved. My mouth dropped, but I eventually returned the wave. She went to Elandro’s window. Words were exchanged and she came around back. She lowered the tailgate and started climbing in. George went over and helped her up. I was too confused to move.
“Hey,” she said with a smile.
“H-hey,” I said with a stumble. “Why are you here?” I asked, bluntly.
“I’m going to be working with you today,” she answered.
“I don’t know,” she said, looking around. “I guess you guys are short some laborers or something.” She looked from me to George.
The truck started and began moving.
“Yeah. We just lost one,” said George.
I felt my mouth open to say, ‘Yeah,’ but nothing came out.
“Uhuh. So here I am,” she said, lifting her arms in presentation.
Her demeanor was so positive I couldn’t help but lighten. The ride from house to farm took about ten minutes. On the way, she talked of her living arrangement at the house. She had her own family-size tent. It had two rooms and was made in the 50s. “Solid,” she described it.
We made it onto the farm, winding past fields of noni. The truck stopped between two rows. Elandro got out and came to the tailgate. He lowered it and explained our mission. Fertilization. We received bags of fertilizer and got to it. I was still a bit skittish, but the noseringed-girl helped calm me. Her energy was uplifting.
The hours quickly ticked by. Elandro was pulling up to retrieve us before I knew it. Once again, popsicles were distributed. I got green. Marina, the noseringed-girl, got red. And George got purple. We sat, slurping the popsicles in the warm sun. It was nice.
When finished, Elandro took us to Griffin’s for dinner. A macaroni casserole was on the menu. Quite delicious. During the meal, Marina asked if she could come back and stay in my loft. I accepted as the company would be nice. I never asked for the reason of request.
We rode back to the house talking of photography. It was nice to have a hip chick to converse with. I appreciated it, realizing it’d been a while. Jill was sweet and friendly, but she wasn’t particularly rock and roll. I liked Marina’s flavor.
When we returned, Jill was sitting at the kitchen table reading a magazine. She looked up, “Hey, Marina. What are you doing here?”
“Oh, you know. Just crashing I guess.”
“Alright..Welcome,” she said, standing. Her chassis was inflating greatly. The girls gave each other an awkward hug. Jill’s belly looked difficult to negotiate. Once they separated I moved in and planted a kiss on Jill’s cheek.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Good. Good,” she declared with a smile. “Sit. Please,” she said, gesturing to a couple chairs at the table.
Marina and I sat. We three talked of the day, how we all met, the bond. It was nice. I appreciated the ease with which Marina joined me and Jill. There was no jealousy or social struggle. The addition was quite smooth. I was grateful to be in the company of such awesome women.
Bed time rolled around. Jill went off to hers and Marina accompanied me upstairs. I wouldn’t have her sleeping on the couch so she slept in bed with me. It was cozy. She complimented the space well.
We awoke then showered in turn. Breakfast was a feminine affair. The only male who would’ve showed, Elandro, didn’t. It was nice, though. A pan of eggs with vegetables had been cooked up for us. We ate accordingly.
The day’s affairs played out similar to the previous. Minus Drake’s sordid goodbye and Marina’s pickup. Dinner was consumed at Griffin’s then Marina came back to sleep in my bed after a late-night rap-session with Jill. A fine day for sure.
The next day marked three since Tom’s mysterious disappearance. His presence was already slipping. I was concerned of his whereabouts, but not as much as I should’ve been. Tom was a good friend and I was just kind of accepting the fact he may not return. It wasn’t conscious, I just didn’t feel afflicted.
The days rolled into weeks. By then I’d completely lost Tom. His absence was a blip on my radar. I’d remember I was travelling with him, but move on quickly. Sadly, his face congrued with others I’d come across in my travels. Jeff, Felix, Drake, the guy I met at the ecstatic-dance post-party. They were all part of the same passing moment. It was a shame Tom fell into that frame. I didn’t realize.
Shit. Joseph had been completely wiped from my recollection. It was weird. He’d been such an integral part of my life for a time. But after he disappeared, I didn’t give him a second thought. I’m not sure why. Usually I’m on top of things, but the farm did something to me. It was like a painkiller. Things just didn’t matter. When I even cared to think about them.
“Hey, Caroline.” I turned from washing the dishes to see Marina.
“Hey,” I said sweetly, getting back to the dishes.
“I was wondering something.”
“Oh, yeah?..What’s that?”
“Well, I was talking to Elandro..And he said it might be good to get some other people in our loft.”
“Yeah? What do you mean?” I stopped washing and turned. Both hands stayed in the sink.
“Well, that loft is pretty spacious, yeah?”
I nodded with hesitation. I didn’t want anyone to spoil the order of things.
“So he was thinking we could both move into my old tent. Remember the one I was telling you about. Huge and awesome..It would be so much fun,” she said, excitedly.
“Ahh,” I said, processing.
“I mean, we probably don’t have to. I’m sure they can figure something else out or whatever.”
I thought about all the good times we’d had in the loft. It was a nice place filled with good memories. But it did belong to someone else. And I wasn’t paying for it. “Yeah, sure,” I said. “Why not..It’ll be fun.”
“Yay..Okay,” Marina said, jumping up and down to rub my arm. “So I think they’ll want us to move in the next couple of days..Is that cool with you?” she asked.
“Yeah. Sure. I guess so.”
Marina did a little pop and lock dance. “Groovy,” she said, then went away.
I reattended the dishes ‘til finished. Afterwards I climbed the flight of stairs to the loft. When I entered Marina was sitting on the couch, reading.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Slaughterhouse five,” she responded.
“Oh. I’ve heard that’s good..How is it so far?”
“Yeah. Definitely good.” She closed it and smiled. “How were those dishes? D’you kick their ass?”
“I sure did..Wwaah.” I lifted my hands into proper kung-fu form then gave a hasty kick.
“Nice,” she said.
We bullshitted about for the remainder of the evening. Sleep was a bit longer in coming than usual ‘cause my mind pondered on the loss of our loft. It was a shame. She’d treated us well. But it was alright. The upcoming space was sure to hold some good happenings.
The next day Elandro joined us for breakfast. “So is that alright, if you guys move to the other property?” he asked, looking from me to Marina.
“Yeah. It’s okay,” I said, after Marina looked to me.
“Cool. Cool,” said Elandro. “Maybe you can start packing up tonight, then we’ll make the move tomorrow.” He lifted his eyebrows to punctuate.
“Yeah, sure. I don’t really have any stuff to pack, so that shouldn’t be a problem,” I laughed. Elandro and Marina also laughed. Jill smiled.
The day’s progression followed a normal course. Dinner at Griffin’s was Greek salad with assorted nuts, seeds, and vegetables. It was good. And it felt healthy to eat.
That evening Jill, Marina, and I stayed up late. We talked of future rendezvous and the like. It was to be Marina’s and my last night on property. Jill would have trouble getting out much before the baby’s birth. But after that it was on. No problem.
Marina and I finally crept to bed at sometime around three in the morning. I started dwelling on the future move, but realized how tired I was and fell asleep. The next morning was fairly standard. We had breakfast then Elandro said, “Make sure you have all your stuff ‘cause we won’t be coming back.”
Emotion welled inside me but I said, “Okay.” I looked at Jill. Her face showed something. She started to cry. My face tingled as it flooded with blood. Water welled in my eyes.
“Oh, Jill,” Elandro said, rubbing her back. “She’s not going anywhere..She’ll just be down the street.”
“I know. I’m sorry..It’s just..It’s just,” she stuttered while huffing. “The baby.”
I watched her get up and waddle away.
“Jill,” I said, following after her. I caught her up and put my arm around her. “Elandro’s right. I’ll just be down the street…I’m not going anywhere.” I touched my forehead to hers. It was difficult giving her a proper hug with the insulated-watermelon to negotiate.
“Mmm mm-mm-mmm,” she whimpered. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“I’m gonna miss you too,” I returned.
It went on like that for quite a while longer. I didn’t want to leave her before she was ready. It could mess with her hormones. And I didn’t really feel like it. I was enjoying the moment. But eventually, I got my purse and went to the truck with Elandro and Marina. George was waiting for us. He was chewing on something that looked like grass. My arrival made a smile stretch across his lips.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I returned.
“Heard you’re moving out.” He skirted the truck to climb into its bed.
“Yep. ‘Fraid so,” I said, nodding with pursed lips.
“That’s too bad.”
“Nah, it’s gonna be awesome,” said Marina, putting an arm around me. “And you’ll still see us George..Right around the corner.”
“Cool,” he smiled.
The work that day was noni picking. We each got bags to fill with the fruit. It wasn’t too strenuous and was done before I got bored. Elandro picked us up to go for dinner at Griffin’s. Some sort of stew. It was good/filling.
Post-supper we drove to the Krishna headquarters. Marina, Elandro, and I headed to the house while George stayed in the truck. We passed the set of open garage doors and went up the set of stairs. I felt weird. Like fine hair was coursing through my veins.
Elandro took off his shoes and slid through the freshly opened sliding-glass door. Marina and I followed. The place was pleasantly scented. It smelled strongly of weed. Marina nudged me with her elbow. I looked at her to catch a couple eyebrow twitches and a grin. I returned it, knowingly.
A guy and girl were sitting on a couch in the corner. They looked at us and nodded.
“Where’s the Sriman?” asked Elandro of them.
They shrugged behind bleary eyes.
I could hear Elandro exhale sharply. “Wait here,” he said, turning to us.
“Okay,” returned Marina.
My sight landed on the couch-sat couple. Their heads rested on the sofa’s backing. Lids largely covered their eyes, but the whites could still be seen. They were zonked.
“They’re looking pretty out of it,” I said to Marina without taking my gaze from them.
“Yeahah,” she laughed. “Totally.”
We waited silently. I looked around the room, taking it in. I’d been before, but it seemed different without so many people. My only time in the room was supplemented by hoards of people attending the open-assembly each Sunday. Sans masses it felt more domestic. Books lined walls. Carpet covered the floor. Long-stemmed lamps populated a couple corners. It reminded me of my grandparents place. Then I remembered the space-cadets navigating the couch and their likeness shattered.
“What d’ya say?” asked Marina.
“Huh?” I said, shaking the fog and turning to her.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Oh, I don’t know..This place kind of reminds me of my grandparents’.”
“Oh, yeah?” she smiled. “That’s cool.”
“Haha. Yeah..But not them particularly,” I said, loosely pointing to the couch-rangers.
“You mean your grandparents don’t have junkies glued to their couch?”
“Noho. Not really,” I said, smiling. For some reason I noted Marina’s use of the word ‘junkies’. But only briefly.
Elandro finally appeared with the bearded preacher following.
“Caroline, this is the Sriman,” he said to me, gesturing. “He runs the show around these parts. He’s a great man.”
I’d already met the man before, but I’m sure Elandro was doing it more for his sake than mine. We shook hands. The portly man never met my eyes. “Nice to meet you,” I said, with his sweaty hand in mine.
“Yeah,” he grunted.
Awkward silence ensued.
“So, Sriman, how’s Father Ted doing?”
“Hahaha,” the man laughed. “Good. Good.” He turned around, smiling, and walked away. Elandro followed.
Confusion set in. “Who’s father Ted?” I said to Marina through a corner of my mouth.
“Hahaha. It’s this Irish show about three priests living on an island. I’ve never seen it, but I know the Sriman loves it,” she said at low volume.
“Oh, yeah?..I’ve never even heard of it.”
“Yeah. It doesn’t get much attention over here. But it’s huge in Ireland.”
“Hm,” I said, downloading.
“Here. Come on,” she said, turning to walk outside. I followed.
The night was nice. A cool breeze swirled. I looked up to the sky. Stars shone brightly. I inhaled deeply. The air was crisp.
“Aaah,” I exhaled.
“Yeah,” said Marina. “Let me show you the tent, uh.”
She descaled the stairs and headed down a path. I persued. We wound through a thicket of shrubs and short trees. Various paths branched off the one we walked. The air grew heavy with the sweet stench of marijuana.
“Wow. It really smells like reefer out here,” I said quietly, not knowing who was in earshot.
“Yeah, we grow pot,” Marina said loudly.
“Oh.” I didn’t know how to respond to the boldness of the statement or her tone. So I left it at that.
Marina came to a large structure and stopped. It was light enough to see, but too dark to tell what the structure was. Marina made a move to the side and tinkered with something. Light intensified. Marina held a kerosene lantern. It illuminated us and a tall green-gray canvas tent.
“Here we are,” smiled Marina. “Home sweet home.”
I adopted the smile as she pushed the tent flap aside and swept in.
“Come on,” she said, holding the flap back.
I glided past her.
“Can you hold this?” she asked, handing me the lit lantern.
“Sure,” I said, taking it.
“Thanks.” She tied that tent flap open then went to where its opposite was and did the same. “Alright,” she said, turning to clap. “Thank you.” She let me give the lantern back.
The tent had an entryway about one by two meters. The full walls were painted. One had a large tree with various items fruiting from it. The other wall had a mermaid sitting on a seaside rock.
Marina drifted through a shredded cloth which separated that room from the next. The adjacent space was larger. About four by four.
“Wow..This is pretty big,” I said, looking to the ceiling of the first proper room.
“Yeah. It’s pretty sweet,” she said, smiling wide.
This room had a large rug covering the floor. A tattered sofa. A table with laptop aboard. A small chest of drawers. And a mobile which hung from the ceiling.
“So this is the living room,” she said. Her free hand helping display.
“Yeah. It’s nice,” I said, nodding my head. “I like it.”
“Cool..Thanks…Here. This is the bedroom..Sorry. Can you hold this again, please, Caroline.”
“Sure,” I said, taking the lantern from her.
She rolled up a hanging canvas flap and tied it off. I handed the lantern back and we went through the doorway. The bedroom was similarly sized to the living room. It had a large mattress with two sleeping bags. A coat stand. And a wooden armoire. The walls were scattered with paintings, crafts, and multi-colored handprints.
“So, this is where we’ll sleep.”
“Cool,” I said.
“I hope you don’t mind sleeping in the same bed still..I assumed that would be alright,” she said, looking from me to the mattress.
“No problem at all..Sounds good.”
“Excellent,” she said with a near squeal. “Hey. Do you wanna smoke a jay?” she asked.
My lower lip lengthened. “Sure,” I said.
“Great.” She walked to the armoire, opened it, and reached for something on the top shelf. She signaled for me to follow while walking into the living room. I did. She sat on the couch and pulled something from under it. A plastic bag of weed was placed upon the tray she’d just retrieved. I scanned the tray. It was a bed-tray with a scene from E.T. printed atop. It’d been awhile since seeing the film, so I didn’t know the exact scene portrayed by the tray. But the boy and alien were looking at something in the sky. It was shining brightly on them.
Marina set to breaking up the sweet-smelling bud. I watched as a thin mound of finely-separated weed formed. She transferred the weed to a long paper then rolled it into a mild cone.
“Do you want to hear the best advice for joint rolling I’ve ever gotten?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
“Okay..So you have your right and left hand,” she said, gesturing accordingly. “While you’re packing the weed, only move your right hand down the length of the paper..I guess you could do it with opposite hands, but whatever,” she smiled. “So your left hand stays by the filter and your right moves along it..Like this.” She changed the orientation of her hands to display. “Then. When you’re rolling it up. You never take your left hand from the paper..Like this.” She began rolling the left end which held the filter. Her fingers twirled the paper tightly around the filter. No contact between paper and fingers was lost. The assembly ended toward the base of both fore-finger and thumb. She licked the length. “And there you have it,” she said, holding the joint up for me to see.
“Wow. Nice,” I said. “It does look rather crisp.”
“Sure. Sure. I think we’re in for a treat,” she said, smiling.
“Alright. Cool..Let’s light ‘er up,” I said.
She produced a lighter and struck it. The flame danced about the joint’s tip, igniting it. Marina puffed a couple times, then drew the smoke into her lungs. She passed it on. I took it and inhaled the tangy smoke. It tasted good. The weed was strong. I immediately felt it. It’d been awhile since smoking, so the second hit set me in.
I passed the joint back and slumped into the couch. My eyes closed.
“Here. Caroline. Do you want any more?” I felt Marina’s touch alongside the offer.
“Nah. Thanks. I’m good,” I said slowly.
Oblivion tore through me. For the next several days. All Marina wanted to do was smoke. We’d eat and work on the house’s farm, but blazing was squeezed between each activity. I was sent into a dull warmth. The weed was potent without paranoia. Senselessness enveloped.
I’m not one-hundred percent on what happened the next week or so. The only thing duly noted was that Marina and I were no longer working the noni farm. We labored at a farm on property. And a different crop was being cared for. Not sure what type of plant it was. I didn’t ask too many question or make too many intelligent observations. I was always baked. Even if I wasn’t baked, I couldn’t think clearly. My mind had lost its keen edge. The reefer was grinding my shit down. For sure. It took a serious episode to snap me out of my funk.
I was walking a pale of seeds down the trail. My mission was to deliver the seeds to a group of planters. On the way I passed a supply house. It was a small, plastic shack with gardening tools and various fertilizing agents. I veered from the trail to it because I knew a jar of juice was kept inside. And it was generally fresh. When I opened the door, I noticed something wasn’t right. A man was sitting on the ground. His head slumped into his chest and he looked to be unconscious. I stared at the figure for a couple minutes. I don’t feel any thoughts went through my head. Thoughtless mesmerization of the scene ensued. Hard to tell for how long. Probably a full two minutes.
I finally set the pale down and bent to the figure. I didn’t want to touch the person, so I snaked my head into a face-peeking position. When seeing their face, I knew I recognized it but couldn’t tell from where. I poked them. Nothing. I poked them harder and said, “Hey.” No response was given, so I lifted to search for the jar of juice. I found it atop a table. I unscrewed the lid and set to drinking. The warm mango juice slid down smooth. It was delicious. I couldn’t help but drink half of the large jar. I re-secured the lid and trod toward the door, giving the droopy character a passing glance. A flash of recognition flared. I bent down again and lifted the person’s sagging head.
“Joseph,” I said aloud. I dropped his head ungracefully. Remembrance for the boy poured in. I looked about his body, searching for evidence. The telltale signs of heroin usage were present. A rubber cinch. Hypodermic needle. And scarred arms.
“Holy shit.” The quiet words lingered in my mouth.
I stood then kneeled back down. I stared at Joseph’s face before slapping it. Many times. Lightly at first, but steadily heavier. I was hitting him pretty hard before I stopped. The hypodermic needle in his hand caught my eye. I pinched it out to inspect. The chamber was empty but the needle held a film of blood. The willies went through me and I dropped the prop. I moved it from Joseph’s lap to the ground.
I looked at his track-marked arms. Varying degrees of scarring were displayed. Some wounds were quite fresh while others were caked and scabby. A more metallic set of willies went through me and I wretched. Nothing came out though. Another foul tasting belch found its way up and I turned.
I stared at the wall wondering what to do. I turned back and waddled closer to Joseph. I leaned in to look at his face then put my hand under his nostrils. I couldn’t feel anything. But I wasn’t sure if I was operating properly ‘cause I didn’t want to touch his face. That could’ve been skewing my read. I adjusted and put my two forefingers on his wrist. I didn’t feel anything at first. Then I changed position a couple times, finally feeling something. I couldn’t tell if it was my own pulse though.
“Oh my god,” I heard from the doorway.
My head jerked to the source. A man I’d met before but couldn’t remember the name of, was standing there.
“What happened here?” he asked.
“I-I don’t know. I just found him here,” I explained.
“Shit. Wait here. I’ll get somebody.”
Before I responded he was gone. The exchange left me tingly. I turned back to Joseph and retreated by stumbling away. I saw the scene through the eyes of that man and felt soiled for being involved with such a circumstance. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I didn’t know anything about what’d happened and I wanted out.
I stood. Before I knew myself, I was careening down the trail. Coordination never came. It felt like my first time running in a while. I couldn’t grasp proper form. Sticking to the trail didn’t happen either. I barreled into a bush. Just after freeing myself something slammed into me. I was tackled to the ground. I squirmed. Something struck my head. Hard. Just above the temple. I moaned reaching for the well of pain. Darkness.
I awoke. It was dark. My eyes adjusted to the light. I tried moving but realized I was bound. My hands were tied together and secured to something above my head. Cold sweat prickled. I shifted and found my hands tethered to a metal ring fixed in the ground. I pulled at and fiddled with it for some time. Sound.
By then I was breathing heavily. At that I noticed the tape on my mouth. I tried screaming. Nothing more than muffled moans escaped. My body flailed violently. Suppressed wailing and thrashing let for a length. Until I was exhausted and seeing stars. I lay on the floor, drained. After gathering my resources, I gave exertion another go. Little result.
I looked around the room to gather surroundings. It was fairly large. No distinctions other than a door at either end of the room. I lay in a corner close to one door. Its flap was drawn. I paused, staring at the flap. I slowly looked around the room again. My eyes rested on the rug underlaying. I feel my jaw would’ve dropped had it the opportunity. I was in Marina’s and my tent. Its living room specifically. The faint aroma of marijuana caught my nostrils. I looked at where the mobile used to hang. To where the sofa used to sit. To where the chest of drawers and table used to be. Then I looked at the weathered rug. I tried sitting up. It was difficult with my hands bound the way they were.
I quietly sat, my arms in an awkward position. Listening. Trying to pick something up. There was very little. I could tell it was daytime by the light shining through random pinholes in the tent’s canvas. I could feel the emptiness of my stomach, but I wasn’t hungry. It was an odd sensation.
As the light coming in through the tent’s pinholes began to fade, I heard footsteps pass by the tent. I tried to garner some attention but very little commotion was created by my efforts.
I exhausted myself with thoughts of who’d imprisoned me and why. I eventually fell to a superficial sleep. Some time later I awoke with a dull light cascading. My eyes slowly opened. Three men stood before me. One was the Sriman. The other two I recognized, but couldn’t name.
“You look pretty fuckin’ sexy,” said the Sriman.
I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me. It didn’t seem like it. He moved closer and I retreated. He grabbed my legs and pulled. I screamed, but no sound came out. He lay on my lower body. If movement was possible I’d’ve been violently shaking. I could feel subdued tremors ripping. Another man came to me and lay on one of my armpit grooves. Sheer fright tore through my system. The sudden pressure, helplessness, and terror set me to urinating. Soon, I couldn’t budge an inch. No movement was possible.
Then something happened. Euphoria washed over. The men released me. Dull warmth rose around my body. I lay, letting the sensation massage my cares away. Apathy swept around me, enveloping and inveloping. Inside and out I was awash with carelessness. Mental and physical pain dwindled. Everything was hunky dory.
I awoke after sleeping. Every cell in my body felt shitty. I was nauseous. My skin itched. My mouth was dry. My arm and vagina were sore. I focused on my sore vagina. I reached for it, but found my hands still bound. My legs rubbed together in search of answers. Soreness ensued. My shit had definitely been fucked with. I began balling. Really letting it out. I dry heaved several times. Snot came out of my nose, but I couldn’t do anything about it. My skin itched fiercely. My wrists hurt. The inner crook of my elbow hurt. My mouth felt sticky and I cried.
That went on for some time. Cycles of crying, wretching, squirming, going dizzy. It was incredibly unpleasant. Probably the worst day of my life. The men came in much later. Two were the same. One was different. There was a brief struggle before everything washed out. This time the tub was deeper. I sank and sank. Warmth washed. It was. Serene.
My eyes peeled open the next day. The itch was deeper. More ingrained. Soreness. Nausea. I wanted to cry out. To run. To breath. But I couldn’t. I was trapped. Not only bound in my bonds. But also in my body and mind. I wanted freedom. From everything.
I lay still for a while. My eyes the only movement afforded. They darted back and forth. I heard someone coming. I closed my eyes, pretending to sleep. Light shone. It grew brighter as someone approached. I refrained from movement. I heard tinkering. Something hit my lips, but I was too removed to respond. It was a tin filled with water. The coolness slid into my mouth and down my throat. I gobbled it. The affects reached the extent of my being. I felt it in my heart, appendage-tips, and consciousness. Revitalizing.
The water stopped. More tinkering. Something pressed against my lips. It felt like bread. My stomach seized at the thought of eating. My head rolled back. Through the slits of my eyes, I could see the silhouette of someone’s head bending close. All of a sudden something happened. A well of anger, hatred, disgust, and rage began in my core. It bubbled up through my spine and into my head.
I head-butted the cunt. I could feel the crunch of his nose breaking. He stumbled back and landed on the ground. I placed his face and landed a couple sharp heel-kicks. The man lurched, but nothing more. I must’ve shocked him into silence.
I adjusted to get a good look at the guy. Through the blood, breakage, and brain fog, I recognized him as one of my assailants. A wave of something I’d never felt coursed through my body. I wanted to scream, cry, run forward, and back at the same time. My senses tore at each other.
Reality caught up with me. I turned to my bonds, then the unconscious man. “Maybe he has something that can cut this stuff,” I thought, referencing the rope-like material binding my hands.
My feet wandered to his person and began searching. I immediately felt something with promise in his pocket. I worked it out. A switchblade. Score. I maneuvered it into my hands. Much squirming was necessary. My hands took the blade and opened it. Sawing through the cord was tough but doable. Thirty minutes of consistent knife-action saw me free.
I stood. My muscles felt hollow. My bones fibrous. My heart danced at a wake. Wild, unchanneled, and confused. My skin felt like a chalkboard. But all of it was sensed from afar. Like I was feeling things via television.
I felt the blade in my hand and walked to the floored man. I stood over him looking down. I couldn’t recollect my rape, but I knew what’d happened. I checked my thighs and vagina just to make sure. Yep. Tainted.
I kneeled down to stare at the man’s heaving belly. It disgusted me. His shirt disgusted me. His facial stubble disgusted me. His watch disgusted me.
I unsheathed the blade and watched it glimmer. I squeezed the handle, resting the point on the man’s chest where I thought his heart to be. “My captor. My rapist. My imprisoner. My torturer..” I thought to myself. “This man needs to die..Heavily.”
I plunged the blade hard and deep. His skin held the hilt of the blade. The man spasmed. I expected to hear blood gurgle from his mouth. Like in the movies. But it never came. Blood did pour from his wound though. Profusely. I stepped back as the floored filled with it.
I stared at the scene. A wretching lament wanted to come out. I suppressed it. That was an odd sensation. ‘Cause I did so from an adjacent place.
I skirted the man’s feet and went to his other side. The one without much blood. I fished for his wallet and found it. I opened it. All the essentials. I went into the front pocket which hadn’t held his knife and found a mini mag-lite. I unfastened his watch and pocketed it. Thankfully, I was still wearing clothing and shoes but no bra or panties.
I went to the entrance/exit and turned to look at the room. It was unappealing, so I left. I stopped at the edge of the trail to make sure no one was coming. The coast was clear, so I slipped into the woods off the trail’s opposite bank.
My mental map of the area was pretty good. I knew if I kept to one direction I could reach the road with about a kilometer of hiking. No sweat. I set off, trying to keep quiet. I looked at the man’s watch. 3 pm.
“Fuck,” I said between teeth.
There would be people about. That would make things tricky. A wave of fear and confusion came over. Tom popped into my head. Then Marina. Then the men who’d come upon me. I clenched my fists and teeth hard. I looked around. I was standing, so I squatted down to be less visible.
My body felt like shit. I was machinery in desperate need of an oil change. My jaw-muscles bubbled with tension and I moved on. My belly felt empty and I moved on. My legs felt like arms and I moved on. My hair seemed to hurt and I moved on.
I came across a shed in the middle of the forest. No trails led to it. I thought that odd. I circumnavigated it carefully. Watching the structure with mindful eyes. I went closer. To the door. There was a fastening agent with an unfixed-lock hanging. I lifted the lock, unfastened the latch, then put the lock back and went inside.
The first thing I saw was a table with a bottle of liquid on top. I picked up the bottle and unscrewed its lid. I smelled the mouth. Nothing. I put it up to my lips for a test. It was water. I guzzled the whole bottle. It felt amazing.
Immediately upon finishing, I noticed the deep stains on the table in front of me. Sloppy but consistent. They were everywhere in varying degrees. I touched one with my finger. It felt smooth.
I looked to the left. An array of knives and carving devices hung. For the derelict of the shack, they were surprisingly shiny and well groomed. I reached for one, but didn’t touch it. I turned, studying the shack. Tattered curtains covered two windows. Flies buzzed around a large Tupperware-like container. It looked as though it would hold sporting goods or something. I went to it and lifted the lid. A blast of stench hit my nostrils. I let the lid fall and backed away.
I started walking out the door, but a mental snapshot-flash stopped me. I went back to the plastic box and re-lifted its lid. I held my breath while inspecting. It was difficult to say what I was looking at. The helter-skelter didn’t make much sense. Its color varied from crimson red to salmon pink. But there was little definition. It wasn’t alive, but it seemed to moved. Looking back, I’m guessing maggots. There were also clumps of hair.
On the hair discovery, I stumbled out the door. I collapsed to the ground, retching. Transparent vomit came out. It was solely water. I tried to get up, but couldn’t.
I must’ve passed out, ‘cause when I came to it was dark. I could hear voices in the distance. I scrambled away from them. A thicket of trees was closeby. I dove for those and lay in wait, exhausted. I settled on my chest. My heart pumped so hard it was actually lifting me into a throttle. Granted, at times of low-volume I’d been nicknamed ‘Jane Skellington’, but still.
Lights came into view and I seized. I wasn’t trying to move, but I could tell it wasn’t an option. The swinging lights were accompanied by something like two men’s voices. I saw them.
“Uuhh.” I groaned at the level of chemicals pumping through my blood. I was flooded.
One man dragged at something hefty. The other opened the door. His voice escalated. I assumed it dealt with the fact I’d fucked with the lock.
I was wrong. They didn’t seem to notice ‘cause they went inside, shutting the door after them.
I have to admire my heavy set of testicles. Figurative testicles. Because at that point I got the hell out of there. Not sure how I gathered the energy. It was certainly an autopilot situation.
But I scrambled and stumbled my way to the road for an indiscernible amount of time. Could’ve been five minutes. Could’ve been fifty. The mag-lite I carried was lit, but not illuminating my course. So I barreled through branch and bush, collapsing once in the clearing of the road-side.
Oceans swirling down the drain.
Is your insurance presently pired or is it expired?
My mom making French toast. The sizzling fry is too loud.
Tom’s Coca Cola tattoo.
Drool coming from my mouth.
“Aaeeh,” I moaned.
An excerpt from the music video, ‘Renegades of Funk’ by ‘Rage Against the Machine’.
“Quiero que mirarte en los ojos.”
“It was one of those days,” crooned a crooner.
My classic preschool-drawing of a tree with bushy foliage and an owl perched in the tree-trunk’s hollow. The owl’s eyes look evil.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” a voice moaned from the plastic box of hodge-podge residing in the shed.
I heard the rush of a car pass. My head lifted. It settled back.
A car door shut.
“Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yeah, shimmy yay.”
My skin was touched.
“He moves in mysterious ways.”
The hum of a motor.
A feather floating.
Followed by another.
A nasty laugh.
A cute kid dressed up like a vampire for Halloween. His mouth explodes in a teethy, lunging bite.
A flash of pain through my arm crook.
White lights spreads.
I fly through a cloud and the sun bursts through. It’s engrossed by a vivid blue sky.
“I-I just feel like fly-in’.”
“I wanna hold you’ hand.”
“Hey..Hey. Wake up.”
One eye lifted. The other followed with a sticky snap. A girl’s face hovered above mine. I recoiled with wide eyes.
“Where the fuck am I?”
“You’re in the hospital,” she answered sweetly.
“The hospital..Why?” I said, with angst.
“A man said he found you on the side of the road..He brought you in.”
My eyes darted. “A ma-n.” I choked on the word. “Who?”
“A tourist named Bill..He was on a scenic drive and saw you on the side of the road.”
Relief almost washed over me.
“Who-o..was he?” I asked again.
The woman touched my arm. It snapped back instinctually.
“His name was Bill. I think he said he was an insurance broker…Oh, and he paid for your treatment,” she said with a smile. “So, that’s nice.”
I heard her, but wasn’t listening. I stared at the wall blankly. Not sure how long I was doing that ‘cause by the time I noticed, the woman was gone.
I noticed a presence at my arm and looked down.
“Gheaeya,” I said, seeing an I.V. in my arm.
I wanted to escape it, but the thing was inside my arm. I petrified, looking at it. Mouth agape.
Another unclear lapse of time. But it shouldn’t been a decent stretch ‘cause my mouth was incredibly dry when I finally closed it.
I slowly reached for the I.V., touched it, then recoiled. This happened several times before I was finally able to rip the thing from my arm. A jolt of electricity coursed through my body when I did so.
“Ha-ah-aah.” Sweaty hands went to my face, closing its eyes to the sensation in my body.
“I’ve gotta get the fuck out of here,” I thought to myself, searching the room desperately.
Clothes hung from a chair back. I recognized them as mine. I slid out of bed and tried standing. My legs crumpled, dropping me to the floor before I slowly rose. A series of swaying steps brought me to my jean-shorts and t-shirt. My body felt like ABC gum. I removed the clothing from its perch and dressed.
I looked at the window then walked to it. It was closed but could open. It slid smoothly along its tracks ‘til all-the-way up. I peeked out. My room was on the first floor, so I swung a leg over the sill. I shifted my weight, hopped out, and closed the window behind me.
I looked both ways then made a decision. My right seemed the way to the road.
I edged the building. My hands slid along the painted concrete blocks and I rounded a corner. More forest. I turned around and went to the opposite corner. There was the road. I went for it, awkwardly walking. I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes. The gravel under foot felt sharp, but ineffectual.
I stood by the side of the road and checked my pockets. There’d been no tampering. I still had the man’s wallet, his flashlight, watch. I opened the wallet and counted the money. I ended on one hundred and thirteen dollars a couple times, breathing heavily.
Just as I closed the wallet and re-pocketed it a car pulled over.
“Need a lift?” a woman wondered aloud, leaning down to speak through a lowered window.
“Where’re you going?” I asked, unsure where I was going.
“The airport,” she said.
“Sounds good.” I opened the door and slid in.
“You’re not wearing any shoes,” she said, pressing the accelerator.
I looked at my feet. A lapse of time passed.
“Hey,” the woman said.
I looked to her and realized she was a person for the first time. I instinctually jerked my eyes to the road.
“You’re not wearing any shoes,” the woman repeated.
“Oh..Oh, yeah..I’m not,” I said, staring at my feet again.
She reached for the backseat and pulled something forward.
“Here you go.” She leaned forward and put it at my feet. On the way her arm brushed my leg. It felt like metal on metal. I spasmed and leaned against the passenger door. I watched her hand retreat. I could see its pores and felt nauseous.
“Are you okay?” the woman asked.
I looked to her eyes, averting quickly.
We drove in silence for some time.
“So, where are you going?” she asked me.
“I don’t know..Where are you going?”
“The airport..I’m heading back to Connecticut…Hartfort..That’s where I’m from.”
I didn’t respond.
“So..Where are you going?”
“Oh. Yeah..The airport,” I said.
“Perfect..That worked out well.”
I looked out the window to watch scenery pass. We made it to the Hilo airport after a long bout of silence.
“I have to take the car back to the rental agency..That’s where I got it,” said the woman.
She pulled into a thin parking lot, just off the loading/unloading zone of the airport. I looked to my feet and noticed the woman’d put a pair of pink flip-flops at them. I struggled, but got them on. I exited the car. The woman went to the car’s back-end while saying something, but I wasn’t paying attention. She shut the trunk and started walking away. I slowly followed. She made it to the service window. I stopped then turned to the airport’s entrance equidistant from both it and the service window. Five meters from each. I noticed the people walking about. There seemed like a lot.
“Caroline,” I heard my name called. I turned in the direction it’d come from.
The woman was waving at me to join her. I stared blankly. She turned and I walked away. In the airport-entrance’s direction.
I felt on edge. Like each person who passed was about to lunge on me. The slightest movement or look in my direction sent me stumbling away. I asked a security guard where the toilet was. All my resources were necessary to pull it together long enough to look the man in the eye. Once. Hastily.
I got the directions and cruised. My feet were the most agreeable things around, so I stared at them while walking. Pink flip-flops. I wasn’t walking properly so the legendary ‘flip’ and ‘flop’ never came. I got more of a muffled squelch with a bit of bass. The sound seemed felt rather than heard. I could be wrong on that though.
I made it into the toilet and passed by the mirror. My reflection made me pause. I went to the mirror and checked myself. I guess I’d forgotten what I looked like, ‘cause the image I saw seemed foreign. The girl I saw was hollow with empty eyes. Life had been drained from the face. Scratches and shadows blanketed my skin. I ventured closer to look at the scratches.
“What the fuck are those?” I asked myself. I couldn’t match the marks with my willy-nilly path through the woods.
I looked at the blemishes for some time. People came and went through the room. There was another sink with mirror above, so I continued staring at all the lightly cracked scabs, unbothered. None were very big. Some looked like nothing more than a row of freckles. But I counted twenty-seven on my face alone.
I washed my hands. The water felt awesome. It reached my face and felt even better.
“Aaahh,” I sighed with wobbly knees.
I leaned on the sinks ledge and fell into nonconsciousness with the water running.
Lips being licked with a bloody tongue.
The feeling of a free-fall.
“Aaah,” I screamed.
I jerked into reality with a touch on my shoulder. I looked to it. There was a hand with a older woman connected to it.
“Are you alright, dear?” she asked with concern on her face.
My body snapped upright. The woman shut the water off as she stared at me. I feel we exchanged the same abhorred expression. It didn’t take long for me to break the spell and bolt out the door.
I awkwardly jogged through the outdoor corridor of the Hilo airport. People were probably gaping, but I didn’t notice. I went inside and found a ticket counter.
“Hhuh,” I huffed.
“Hello,” a woman behind the counter said to me.
“Can I get a ticket to Texas?” I asked, hurriedly.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter,” I said, looking at my hands.
“Okay.” I heard typing. “I have a ticket from Hilo to Houston for five hundred and fifty five dollars,” the woman said.
“Do you want it?”
“And how will you be paying?”
I pondered then pulled the man’s wallet from my pocket. I opened it and slid out a credit-card, putting that on the countertop.
The woman took it, looked at it, and said, “This says Jared P Filasko.”
I nodded, feeling my throat tighten at the thought of the man I’d murdered. I pictured his blood-saturated body on the floor of my tent.
“I can’t accept this,” the woman said, handing the card back to me.
I shook the bloody mess from my head and took the card back. My hand was shaking heavily, but I don’t think the girl noticed. I stole a glance at her as my hand quickly retreated. She was chewing gum and looked bored. I could’ve been off, but I pinned her age at nineteen.
“Okay. What’s the furthest I can get with this?” I asked, pulling cash from the wallet and placing it between us.
The girl counted it. “I can get you a ticket to Kauai with this,” she answered.
I nodded. “Okay.”
The girl typed something into the computer, took the money under-desk, and gave me change while a printer cycled. The print finished. As she tore it loose, I tensed. She handed me the print-out. I accepted it with the money-filled hand and turned to walk away.
“You’re looking for gate number three,” the girl called-out after me.
I briefly turned with a smile, but kept walking. Faster. I looked at the ticket. It was valid for a flight from Hilo to Lihue two hours later.
I feel I went in circles looking for the departure gate, finally finding it. The 1.5 hour wait for take-off was brutal. I paced, bit my nails, found the toilet and my reflection, looked through the man’s wallet, scratched bloody gouges into my arms, and graphically recounted past events intermittently. It was awesome. And in the turmoil, I almost missed my flight. Someone had to ask if the departing flight was mine. I boarded and eventually found my seat. But help was needed to read my ticket and find its corresponding seat. I couldn’t do it alone. Several people were involved in the process. And I made eye contact with no one.
I could barely hold it together when someone closed in to help. I tensed, broke into a cold sweat, and looked for an escape route. I had to stop myself from running away several times. Actually having started, but turning around.
When sitting in my seat, I couldn’t begin to consider making small-talk with the pleasant-looking couple at my side. I just flipped through the flight magazine until the stewardess handed out pairs of headphones. I ripped the packaging from my headphones and put them on, plugging the cord into its jack. I switched through the channels, landing on a jazz station. It sucked.
I volleyed between the jazz station and every other. They all blew nearly equal, so the jazz-station sufficed. The seat-belt signal ignited, the captain made a few words, and we took off.
With the take-off I felt totally serene. The thought of making a crash landing mid-pacific was euphoric. It took my mind off recent events and focused on the intensity. It was magical. I’d had such constant nausea over the past days, I didn’t notice it anymore. But as we gained altitude, my unsettled stomach made a shift. It was no longer the dull discomfort of anxiety. It was the sharp sensation of g-force. I rode it.
Once it was finished, I went to the toilet and tried masturbating. It kind of worked. I didn’t get off, but I had a nice ride. The subtle pressure of potential human presence on the other side of the door nagged. And my reflection bothered me.
I smarted up, washed my hands, and returned to my seat.
“Here..The stewardess brought these for you,” said the woman in the seat next to mine. She handed me a bag of pretzels.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, sitting.
I was finally getting hungry. So I popped open the bag and began snacking. The salty treat tasted delicious. My hunger welled and I ate greedily. But for some reason, the eats opened a flood-gate and rational realization began hitting me. Before, my mind’d been a random clutter of flashbacks. The pretzels awakened an order and logic to my thought. Questions and concerns started coming up. “Where did Tom really go?..Why was Drake’s leaving so weird?. Did the farm really produce and sell heroin? Were they murdering people? Who was Marina? Was she in on it? What about Elandro? Jill? Griffin? His wife? How many times had I been raped? How many other people had been in my situation? Was Tom killed?” I thought back to the tuft of hair I’d seen in the shed’s plastic container. It was similar in tone to Tom’s.
“Uuuuhhhh,” I groaned loudly. Eyes turned to me.
My insides felt like shit. I wasn’t just nauseous. It was something deeper. Like my soul was in a vice. I vomited. Not much. But enough to register. I could hear sharp inhalations from around the cabin. A flight attendant was on me immediately. She thrust a barf bag at me and asked, “Are you alright, ma’am?”
I looked at her face and retched. Nothing came out, but the woman shrieked and backed off. The plane’s people went into an uproar. The attendant’s vocals set off a wave of commotion. People were turning in their seats, speaking loudly, getting up to catch a better view. All the attention sent me into convulsions. I was shaking. Not wildly, but almost. I caught a person’s eyes and went into a retching fit.
“Hahahaha,” a gruff voice laughed.
A shadow crossed my vision’s path.
I saw myself stabbing the man from a third-person point-of-view.
“What would your father think?” my mom asked, displeased.
A clock with the time 5:45.
Something flew over me, but I couldn’t see what. I craned my neck to see and became dizzy.
“She needs to see a doctor,” I heard.
“Yeah,” someone sighed.
My eyes slowly opened. Vision was blurry. A figure on the right moved.
“I think she’s waking up,” a woman’s voice said. “Hey,” it said, closer.
“Aaah,” I screamed.
My arms flailed and the figure fell back. Vision crispened. A man was leaning over the chair-back of the seat in front of me. Staring.
“Aaah, I screamed again. My head lurched back then forward all at once. I think I head-butted the man, but I’m not sure. I ran down the length of the empty plane, past a hostess, and out the exit. I made it into the terminal, but couldn’t keep my composure. I was falling all over. My sense of direction wasn’t any better. I probably passed the exit a number of times. But I just couldn’t get it.
Eventually, I made it outside. The cool air felt awesome on my face. I was shaking though. That episode’d left my empty. I was running on fumes and my body felt it. I was dizzy, shaking, and nauseous. I retched. Several times. My hands fell to knees and I spit the extraneous saliva my mouth was producing. Nothing solid came out ‘cause I hadn’t had a substantial amount of food in my belly for some time.
“Hey. There she is,” I heard exclaimed from behind me.
I turned and saw three people. One was the stewardess, another was holding his nose, and the other was a cop.
Adrenaline scoured the walls of my circulatory system. It burned. So it certainly lit the fire. And since I was already in a runner’s starting stance, I just took off. The start was a bit wobbly, but I found my footing soon enough.
I ran. I ran from the airport personnel. I ran from the man. I ran from the tent. I ran from Tom. I ran from heroin. I ran. I ran from the farm. And I ran from myself.
I woke before my eyes opened. I could hear something familiar, but I refrained from using sight to help decipher. It was rhythmic. And non-melodic, but calming. The beauty was in its simplicity.
The sound sent something into the air I could taste. “Aaaah,” I exhaled slowly. I licked my lips. They were dry and cracked. My mouth’s shit-similar flavor overpowered the air’s and I made a face.
I hauled myself onto elbows and peeled my eyes open. My head was swimming. I looked around to gather the setting. I was in a thicket of greenery on the edge of a long white-sands beach. Waves rolled into the beach consistently. The sun was up, but not high.
I looked over the water. Its influence was instant. The pressure inside my body abated. I still felt like shit. But it was on open shittiness. Uncorked. I could feel the potential for its vacancy.
My mouth was desperately dry. I scanned the area for salvation. Little was offered.
I struggled to a stand and stretched. It helped some, but not much. I felt hungover. And like everything that’d happened in recent times was a dream.
I walked along the beach and noticed I only had one flip-flop on. I stuck with it for a bit, but ditched it soon enough. The sand almost felt good against my feet. It was soft and smooth. But too much toxic waste flowed through my veins for anything to feel good.
There was a gap in the treeline which ran the beach’s length. Through it I could see a building.
“Water,” I thought to myself. I tried licking my lips again. It didn’t work.
I veered from the waterfront to climb a shallow rise. The rise leveled into a grassy field. A small structure with a car parked nearby stood across the field, one hundred meters away. The car put me off, but my thirst vanquished.
As I walked, the warmth of the beach faded. Thoughts of recentries flooded in. A cold pain grew in my core. It was hard to tell what might be hurting, specifically. But something was definitely emitting a sharp ache.
I finally dragged myself to the building. Over a fence and through a short hedge. I took a long draught from the spigot sticking out of the structure’s side. The water was warm and tasted of iron, but I didn’t care. Drinking made me realize how thirsty I was. The drink almost felt good, but there was still that blanketing discomfort to dominate my faculty.
I got my fill, gave a loud sigh while wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, and headed back to the beach. On the way from grass to sand, I noticed a person at one end of the beachy stretch. A brick dropped in my intestines. My throat tightened and I turned to walk in the opposite direction. Trudging through the sand was a hasty operation. All previous enjoyment vanished knowing a person was at my back.
Thoughts of what the person was doing there morphed into realization that I was going looney tunes. “Will I ever be normal again?..Will I ever be able to talk to a person again? While looking them in the eyes?”
I panicked and ran a hand through my hair.
“Shit,” I said, staring at the abnormally large dosage of stray hair in my hand. “My hair is falling out.” I could feel my scalp prickle and my insides burn. My knees went and I collapsed onto the ground. “Uh-u-u-uh-u-uh,” I uttered, convulsing.
I started crying, frightened by what my body was doing. Pain came in waves, but the convulsions stayed steady. I lay on the ground shaking and crying for some time.
Then, something happened. Some scent hit my nostrils and crept into my head paving things. I took a deep lungful and my body stopped shaking. I lightly lifted my head and inhaled once again. Warmth flowed throughout. I could feel the smell in my extremities. It bubbled with life.
I lay there, letting the fragrance carry me to a different place. It was so gentle and accommodating. After its effect wore off, I slowly rose and looked around. The ocean was doing its thing nearby. I turned further and looked down the beach. There were a couple people a long way off, but they didn’t seem to bother me. More bothersome was the guy sitting next to me. I noticed him from the corner of my eye while looking down the beach.
“Aaaah.” I screamed but stayed still. The scent anchored me.
The man hardly moved. But he did begin humming. Long, consistent, soulful hums.
“Oooooohhhhhhmmmmm,” he sounded several times.
I couldn’t help but be mesmerized. And for about fifteen minutes he never opened his eyes or shifted position. He just continued with the rhythmic chant.
I wanted to get up and leave, but I couldn’t. I was rooted by a combination of the scent’s calming effect and the man’s peaceful tone. His cool, intelligent, and old-man-handsome face helped.
I could sense the collection and wisdom in his features and manner, so I let the trend continue. Watching the waves consistently come to shore until the man broke his regularity by asking, “How many islands are in the Hawaiin chain?”
I stared at the man for a length. He never opened his eyes. But I didn’t answer until he repeated the question. His voice’s pitch and rhythm were identical in the first and second effort.
“I don’t know. Like six or something..Right?” It felt good to stare at the man’s face without eyes watching back.
“Mm. I don’t think so,” he said slowly. “There are eight public islands in the chain and over a hundred in total.”
I continued staring at the man’s face without responding. He didn’t move until asking another question several minutes later. “Which island did you just come from?”
I didn’t immediately answer. I wanted to see if he’d repeat the question.
“The big island,” I said after five minutes of silence.
He nodded. “Have you been to this island before?” he asked after another couple minutes of silence.
I shook and lowered my head.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” he followed.
He pulled a guitar from seemingly nowhere and asked, “Do you mind if I play?” His eyes remained closed.
“Mm-mm,” I sounded. The denunciated negatory.
The man began playing a song. It was ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. He played well. And even included some trumpet sound with his mouth. It was really nice.
I watched the waves roll and the sun rise to the tune. Negative energy drifted from me and out to sea. I could literally feel things leave.
“Aaah,” I sighed, stretching my legs.
The man finished playing. No words were said or exchange made. We sat in silence. I was facing the ocean, watching it and reflecting. My brain ran a mile a minute going through recent events. The same memories and questions threaded the needle. Cranial pressure built and my head throbbed. With all the thoughts, I couldn’t continue my seaward-stare. My head grew heavy and sank into my lap. I wanted to cry. And I did cry, but only a bit. Tears streamed down my face. But I wanted to ball. Just really let it out. I couldn’t though. Something was holding me back. Some inner mechanism was locked. I couldn’t open up. Maybe pride.
Just as I could feel myself being sucked into the vortex of shame and hatred, the man began playing his guitar again. At first I didn’t recognize the tune. I was too swept up. Then it hit me. He was playing ‘Holes to Heaven’ by Jack Johnson. His voice was sound.
My heart tingled and my head lifted. I turned to look at the man, eyes soppy. I saw his face and burst into tears. I lost it. My body convulsed with breathtaking wails. Through them I could hear the man continued to play. This helped. His steadfast eventually settled me.
By that time, I realized he was playing a different song. It was ‘You Give Me Fever’ by Peggy Lee. He was doing an exceptional job of working a rhythmic drumming between his strums. I couldn’t help but watch his hands move about the guitar. It was impressive/mesmerizing.
He stopped. I stared. We both seemed to wait for something to happen.
“Are you hungry?” he asked me.
I searched for it.
“Hm..Well, I am…I think I’m gonna go,” he said, standing. His eyes were still closed. “You should come,” he said, walking away.
I watched him go. He strolled down the beach, holding the guitar’s head so its body thrust behind his right shoulder.
The further he got from me, the faster thoughts flooded into my psyche. Trodden memories and uncertainty for what I was doing on the island poured. My stomach turned to knots and my brain burned.
I got up, stumbled, and ran after the man. It was a tiring endeavor. The sand was unconcerned by my state. It gave nothing.
I made it to the hedge the man’d gone through. I stopped. My heart was thumping. I had difficulty telling if it was due to the physical exertion or anxiety for the unknown. Probably both. I thought about what may lay beyond the hedge and my body seized. There was no voluntary movement. I toppled to the ground, convulsing.
I cried. I cried with frustration. I cried with frustration for myself. I cried with frustration for myself and my situation and wondered if it would ever leave me. I wondered if I would ever be free from the prison of my recent past.
The volume on crying cranked up. “I’ll never be normal again,” I thought. It consumed me. I could feel my lungs caving. Searched for breath. In the forced recession, song notes found my ears. I couldn’t tell from where they came or the melody. But they certainly offered a gap in the rainclouds of despair. The gap widened, letting in light. My crying slowed then ceased. The music continued. For a decent length. I must’ve been huddled up at the foot of said hedge for a while. But the playing consistently continued. I could hear it wasn’t too far away, so I gradually gathered the resources necessary and stood. Into a hunch. That was all I could muster.
Pain shot and massaged through my body. I hobbled through the hedge with difficulty. The music was louder on the other side. I looked up to see the oldish man leaning against a car, playing the guitar. Eyes shut. His image sandblasted through the grime and soot coursing through my veins. I felt genuine relief for the first time in days. My body erected further and I walked to the man. He finished the song he was playing. ‘Follow You Down’ by the Gin Blossoms. And rested the guitar’s base on the ground.
“Can I come with you?” I asked.
He lifted the guitar, opened the driver’s-side door of the car he’d been leaning against, and slid in guitar-first. I slowly walked around the car’s front end and got into its passenger seat. The seat was soft and inviting. I let myself sink into its padding with a sigh.
The car started. Not gracefully, but well enough. The salt-rich air of Hawaii was hard on any mechanism. We drove from the parking lot. The man rolled down his window. Wind swept in and ruffled my hair. He noticed this and rolled it back up. Mostly. A small crack allowed a flapping sound and some ventilation into the car’s cab.
We headed in a direction which kept the coast to our right. The passenger side. I stared out my window into the ocean. Thoughts battered my brain. I rolled the window down a touch. The seeping wind felt nice on my face. It distracted me. The ocean’s color felt nice on my eyes. It distracted me. And the hum and vibration of the car’s engine eased my tension. Slightly. I still felt on edge about being in the car with a stranger. I’d’ve thought I might’ve learned my lesson. Apparently not. The man had a fatherly wisdom about him. I felt comfortable in his presence. Little else had the same affect.
It started to rain and the man turned on the stereo. He pressed a few buttons and Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ began playing. I adjusted the seatback to get more recline. I listened to the rain and Bob Marley. It was soothing.
We drove along a windy coast. Past farms and small towns. Mountains and rivers. The drive was quite relaxing. I actually dozed off for a time. When I awoke we were pulling up a drive with manicured flowers at its entrance. It was dark.
My head and eyes swam. I saw everything through watery goggles and foggy interpretation. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes. A yawn escaped. I stretched with a groan. I was slammed with an onslaught of memories. I tried shaking it off.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“We’re at a place called the Aloha Hale,” the man said.
“The Aloha Hale?..What does that mean?”
“It means the ‘Hello House’,” he said.
“The hello house,” I softly repeated.
The man steered toward a metal box with a pole anchoring it to the ground and stopped the car. He reached through his window to poke the thing with fingers. I shifted, realizing there was a number pad on the box’s face. A gate at the car’s frontend swung open and we drove through.
A small structure passed on the right. The shed’s plastic box and its contents flashed through my mind. I quivered heavily.
The road narrowed and wound. We pulled off into a gravelly clearing after passing a large well-lit building. The car stopped then turned off. The man opened his door and got out. I followed.
“Wait here, please,” he said as I erected.
He walked off in the direction of the lighted building. I watched him. I leaned against the car and looked up at the night sky. The dark backdrop was a perfect contrast to the fiercely lit stars.
The man was gone awhile, but I didn’t notice. I got lost in the array of stars densely populating the darkness. And the graphic images that would periodically appear amongst them. When he came back, he had a plate of food and utensils.
He handed them to me saying, “Here ya go.”
I couldn’t see anything on the plate. I studied it, trying to decipher. The man picked up on this and said, “It’s broccoli with cheese on potatoes. And a garden salad..I assumed you might be vegetarian.”
The food was hard to see, but its image in my mind stirred up a memory of hunger. I licked my lips and sank the fork into a potato. I brought it to my mouth and noticed the man was gone. I bit into the soft potato, savoring its warm flavor. When it slid down my throat and hit belly, a burst of pain floored me. I doubled over, dropping the plate. It broke, sending bits of food to the surrounding rocks and my shins. I heard footsteps run toward me. A hand touched my back. Knowing it was a human hand made me vomit. Another set of footsteps approached.
“Get back,” the man growled in a harsh whisper.
My stomach heaved. Liquid erupted from my mouth. I collapsed to the ground shaking. I could feel the soft wetness of food and maybe vomit, but I didn’t care. Rocks dug into my body, but I didn’t care. My concern was consumed by the waves of pain cruising through my core and thoughts of my old tent.
A long time this lasted. Until something came over me. It was carried on a smell. Much the same way the man had gotten through to me. But this was heavier. I felt sedate. Like a caged big-game animal being prepped for transport.
I was heavy. My arms were heavy. My eyes were heavy. My lips were heavy. My mind was heavy.
I could feel myself being carried. But not really. I could feel water being poured past my lips. But not really. I felt a cool breeze blow across my skin.
I regained a decent amount of consciousness and looked around. It was dark, but I could see well enough. I was in a small room on a big bed with curtains partially circum-drawn. Candles were lit and two of the walls seemed to be nothing more than mesh-screens. The ceiling and walls were weird. It took me some time to realize they were the same. The structure was triangular in shape.
I searched. A glass of water was on a bedside table. I lifted it to down the lot. I re-rested my head and succumbed to sleep almost immediately.
I awoke during what seemed to be the next morning. Sunshine was bright and the air smelled warm and sticky. I lifted and swung my legs over the bed’s edge. My eyes wandered. In the light, more of the room I resided could be seen. My initial observations were mostly total. The only additional noteworthy was the screened-in porch just past the door next to my bed.
I stood up to explore, but felt weak as hell. My legs were chocolate, melting under the sun of my body weight. My stomach felt eternally hollow. And my head wasn’t connected to the rest properly.
I sat back down on the bed and gave it another doze. I awoke. The sun was still up. My stomach felt hungered. I thought I might find food if I looked for it. I searched and found some. There was a plate of food perched on a stool near the door. It looked good. I reached for the plate and hauled it onto bed. It was some sort of lasagna-type dish. Delicious. It was easy on the stomach so I could down some. Not much, but a bit.
I finished half then set the plate back on the stool. I sighed and stretched. Enjoying the solely white interior of my room. It felt quite light.
I ventured standing. It went well. The food’d given me strength. I skirted the tiny table between bed and entrance to open the screen-door. It squealed. I stepped onto the porch, admiring its simple beauty. A couple chairs and a hanging plant populated the space. I closed in on the plant. It wasn’t very big, but it glowed a vibrant green. She breathed with life. I could feel her revitalizing affect.
Confidence welled inside me. I stepped onto the entryway past the porch and felt gravel under foot. A red tarp mirrored the gravelly path overhead. They were both about three meters long. I conquered them, stepping onto the grass. I saw a person walk past. It was a man with a shaved head. My mind’s eye saw the Sriman approaching for some reason. I lost my shit and ran back inside. I dove into bed, knocking over the plate half-filled with food.
I shook as my head buried deeper into the pillow. The first drugging episode haunted my mind. I started to remember more about the incident. The rape itself. The men on me. In me. I vomited. Thankfully, I was able to move my head to the side of the bed.
I groaned. I moaned. I thrashed. Images tore through my brain estate.
“Aaaah,” I yelled in frustration.
I cried. And cried. I couldn’t rid myself of hazy memories.
“Knock knock,” I heard someone say.
I turned to the door. Because it was mesh-screened, I could see through. The man was standing behind it. Eyes closed.
I stared at him. Unsure of what was happening. The man stood there, frozen. A look of calm, cool plastered to his face.
“Can I come in?” he eventually asked. It must’ve been five minutes after his instigation.
“Yeah..Sure,” I said.
He opened the door and stepped up/in. His eyes opened, immediately finding the mess on the floor.
“Hmmm,” he said, sidestepping it. “Do you want some tea?” he asked, looking at my feet.
Tea would at least help wash the funk from my mouth. “Okay,” I said, reaching out for it. I wanted to ask what type it was, but didn’t.
I took a sip from the cup. It wasn’t too hot. I couldn’t place the flavor, but it was quite nice. Soft with mild sweetness. I could feel it warm my insides, starting at my stomach then spreading.
I downed it. Honey residue oozed along the cup’s bottom before I tilted it back upright.
“Here..I’ll take that,” the man said, gently holding out his hand.
I planted the cup. The man placed it on the corner of a cabinet. He walked to the door opened it and said, “Do you mind if I take a seat?” pointing to a chair on the porch.
He wasn’t looking at me, but I shook my head in hopes he’d get the message. He did. The man took a seat, facing the hut’s gravelly path. The opposite direction to me.
“So how did you sleep?” he asked.
After a long while of silence I said, “Good.”
“Do you know what this place is?” the man asked, eventually.
I didn’t answer.
“Simply, it’s a yoga resort,” he said, talking to the exitry path. “People come here for a vacation. Others live and work here..The staff consists of about forty people separated into four different groups..The kitchen crew. The groundskeepers. The housekeepers. And management…The people working under management are volunteers. They don’t get paid, but they get free food, accommodation, and in my opinion a great existence..They have complete freedom to do as they please as long as it doesn’t affect their work or the guests in a negative way..Both guests and staff have access to seminars on basket weaving and poetry writing. Aromatherapy sessions. Dances. Water massage..The list goes on.”
I was trying to listen. And I’m pretty sure I heard everything, but it was difficult to focus when my mind kept straying to images of the man I’d murdered.
Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I wiped them away while snorting the snot from my nostrils. The man may or may not’ve noticed. I couldn’t tell. He made no movement or sound once he finished talking.
I lost myself in thought and recollection until the man asked, “Would you like to join us for dinner tonight?”
“Who?” I asked.
“Me and some others..Staff members.”
“I..” I trailed off without finishing.
“How about you think about it..I’ll be back with some food and something to clean that up.”
He gestured to my vomit and the food on the floor while standing, then was gone. I watched as he walked out of sight. I collapsed on my bed face down. My mind was a mess. Flashbacks of recentries dance with thoughts on where I was and what I was/would be doing there. My head ached. The lining which separated my brain from skull throbbed all around. My entrails felt heavy and awkward. My tongue felt hot and sticky. I lifted my head to search for water. There was none.
My head collapsed on the bed, defeated. I closed my eyes and tried to find void, but couldn’t. Mental images rattled. I felt sweat prickle on various points of my body.
“Let me just..clean this up,” I heard a soothing voice say.
I quickly turned to it. The man was bent down fiddling with the mess on the floor. I noticed a tray filled with food and drink sat on the stool near the door. I briefly watched the man shovel hunks of food/vomit into a bucket. It didn’t do much for my stomach so I turned away.
To avoid an unwanted flashback I created my own. I thought of the time I went hiking at the base of Mount Denali in Alaska. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. Colors in flora and fauna almost drowned out my kidnap/rape/murder episode, but details kept trickling in until finally flooding my mind.
I turned to the man and watched his body bob while cleaning. It soothed me somewhat.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said, looking up to me.
I looked away, then cursed myself for my skittishness.
“It happens,” he continued gently.
He finished cleaning and asked, “Do you want me to show you around the grounds?”
I thought about my options. I could stay alone in my room, pining over my recent past or go with him.
I looked around the room. Its scenery was infused with horrific stills in my inner eye. I answered, “Okay.”
“Do you want to eat any of this food or do you want to go now?” the man asked, gesturing to a plate filled with food.
I looked at the plate. It held an array of sliced fruits and baked goods. Breakfast food. And it looked good enough, but the thought of eating didn’t entice me.
“Let’s go now,” I said.
“Sounds good to me.” He stood. “Would you like to bring anything with you? Or perhaps change your clothes?..We won’t be gone long, so I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said, looking at his hands.
I looked down at the clothes I wore. I noticed them, but I didn’t download and process the information. “No. I’m..okay,” I said, taking a big gulp of saliva upon completion.
“Good. Follow me then,” the man said, stepping through my hut’s threshold.
He walked along the hut’s gravelly path and onto grass. I followed. The sun was shining. We passed trees.
The man stopped walking and deposited the bucket he’d cleaned my mess into. “These are outdoor showers. You can use them or one of the few indoor showers. I’ll show you those shortly,” he said, gesturing to a hybrid structure which mixed wooden-posts and sheets of plastic with big-leafed trees. It was a pretty large affair seeming to include several showers and plant species. But the thought of showering outside didn’t appeal to me.
The man carried on. “This is the bathroom area,” he said. “You’ve got several toilets and sinks at your disposal..But again, there are various indoor options.”
I nodded, looking at the rectangular construction. It was open-air with a row of sinks on one side and a row of toilet stalls on the other. The man continued waking.
“I think you saw this building when we came in last night..It’s the head office and gift shop,” he said, pointing to a well-manicured place with a parking lot and supplemental vegetation. “I can take you inside later..Around back is where the offices for running this place are.”
We walked across the graveled parking-lot in front of the building and turned its corner. The man opened a nondescript door on the building’s side and entered. I followed.
“This is the bulletin board. And these are the mailboxes for employees,” he said, gesturing toward a cork-board filled with loose papers tacked to it. Then to a series of cubby-holes open on either end. The papers tacked to the bulletin board were of all sizes and colors while the cubby holes were uniform in size but not content. Some were bustling with stuff while others were empty. Through the empty compartments I could see into another passage. It appeared more narrow than the one we were in.
“This is pretty much the information center,” the man continued. “The bulletin board can be populated by announcements about hikes in the surrounding area, information sessions, or just general notes meant to be read by everyone..These mailboxes,” the man said, turning to the boxes, “are usually of a more personal nature. Here you’ll find things like work schedules, letters from home, or notes from friends here on the property.”
I nodded, taking it all in. Very loosely. I was listening but processing little.
“This over here,” said the man, walking on, “is one of the indoor bathrooms..You can use it at anytime.” He fully opened the ajar door and flicked on the light. He went in, allowing me to view it, but I refrained.
“Okay. Why don’t we head up to the loft?”
I doubt he expected a response. I turned and shuffled a few feet then waited for him to switch off the light and take my lead. We exited the area through a different door and turned to the left. He guided me around the building’s corner and up a set of stairs.
The door at the top of the stairs was on a squeaky hinge. And it sprung back after the man held it open for me while gesturing to pass then entered the indoors himself.
“Here’s the computer and one of the indoor showers,” he said, pointing at a computer to our right and a bathroom at the hall’s end. The hall was narrow with a string of side-by-side screened-windows on one side and three doors on the other. “If you want to use the computer, you should reserve it. There’s a clipboard for signing up by the mailboxes and bulletin board downstairs…The shower is available anytime it’s available,” the man said with a chuckle.
One of the hallway’s three doors opened and a youngish boy of asian ancestry stepped out. I petrified while my sweat glands produced. Perspiration filmed my entire body and I lightly shook.
“Hey, I thought I heard voices out here,” the boy said.
“Hi, Rob,” the man said. “This is a potential new recruit..Caroline.” He turned to me and I nearly fell as I stumbled backwards. The frame between two windows caught me.
“I hope he’s not scaring you away,” the boy said, stepping closer.
My mouth dropped and I feel my face read ‘sheer horror’. The boy stopped mid-step and backed away with a look of confusion on his face.
“It’s been a long day,” the man said. “Why don’t you give us a minute.”
The boy nodded, backing up to shut the door from which he’d come.
“How are you?” The man asked, slowly putting his hand toward me.
I looked at it and tried to answer, but couldn’t. My mouth didn’t even attempt to form words. My brain wanted me to, but there was a complete communication breakdown between the two. So I cried. I was ashamed of my affliction. I was ashamed that I couldn’t make eye contact. I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle strangers making my reference. I was ashamed that I couldn’t fucking speak when someone whom I at least slightly trusted asked me a question.
It wasn’t a loud lamentation, but it was consistent. The man stood by my shaking side until I slid to the floor, ten minutes after initializing. Then he sat by my side.
Eventually, I was coaxed back to my A-frame accommodation. I collapsed into bed and the man left me be. For the next week or so, I barely left the place. The man would bring me food and I would scurry to the nearby indoor-toilet, avoiding all eye-contact.
The man would sit on my porch and play the guitar for hours at a time, chatting about this and that between songs. He never asked me anything too personal. His questions were always steered towards my preferences. Like what my favorite music was. What my favorite mode of travel was. Or my favorite destination.
It seemed to help. I felt my capacity growing. I still had heavy flashbacks and crying/helpless-shaking sessions, but they were becoming more mild and infrequent. It didn’t take long before the man and I were going on drives along the coast or eating at the outdoor cafeteria after everyone had vacated. Things were getting better.
I’d been living on the Aloha Hale property for over a month. Progress away from complete isolation was being made. The time allowed me to emerge from under the influence of influency. At least with the man I met on the beach. Whose name was Sam.
When I first met him I couldn’t string sentences together properly. I would stutter or get stopped-up with anything more than a few words. Over time and with regularity, I eased back into casual conversation. But only with Sam. I couldn’t properly meet anyone else. I could compose myself in other people’s presence- my body didn’t shake when nearing theirs -but eye contact was still at a minimum. It took a jolt to snap me back into social grace.
The jolt occurred at a painting session being held in one of the gathering halls on property. I attended roughly a month and a half after coming to the resort.
Sam told me about it. He said it was a regular event and everyone usually had a good time. The clencher was that I wouldn’t have to come in contact with anyone. I’d just stand in front of a canvas with paint and be allowed to do my own thing. It sounded good, so I let Sam escort me.
“Knock knock…Are you ready for some creative expression?” I heard Sam ask from my entryway. I was reading a book he had given me. It was a compilation of short stories travelers had written about adventures they’d gotten into. It was published by ‘Lonely Planet’.
I put the book down and said, “Yeah. I think so.”
I was a bit nervous. I hadn’t gone to any of the functions put on by the community at Aloha Hale. The closest thing was attending communal meals. But even then I would only sit in proximity with Sam. And my back would be turned to the majority.
I slid my legs from the bed and set them on the floor. My feet each found flip-flops and I stood.
“Alright. Let’s go,” Sam said, putting his hands together without clapping them.
I followed him out of my A-frame and into the darkness of night. Lights sporadiçed the property we walked through. I was lost in thoughts about what the night would be like. If I would freak out and start seizing on the floor. Or if I would be too nervous to handle the sociality of the event and bolt. Or if I would paint something particularly disturbing.
Sam guided me around the corner of a building and through its entrance. I’d seen the building before, but’d never been inside.
Sam held the door open for me before it swung shut behind us. The building appeared to be one large room. There was a low concrete floor at the entrance. It ran the length of the building alongside a raised wooden floor. The wooden portion tripled the width of the concrete flooring.
Sam motioned to his feet while slipping off his flip-flops. I followed suit then followed him onto the raised wooden-dancefloor. I looked at the ceiling. It peaked with an old-school tent style.
There was only one person in the room other than us. It was an older woman with slim hips and a Mediterranean complexion. Her well defined eyebrows complimented her strong face. But her clothing opposed in nature. She wore a wrap of skirt and shawl.
As she approached, her smile and hand extended to me. I was able to hold her gaze for longer than my usual flicker of eye contact. Nice. She took my right hand with both of hers. They were warm. And soft.
I looked at her and she said, “You must be Caroline. I’ve heard so much about you.”
I smiled shyly, blushing.
“Here. Let’s get you set up,” she said walking off, her clothing/drapery flowing with the motion.
She grabbed some items from a low table then walked along a row of easels. She walked all the way to the end of the row and put a set of paint and brushes on a high narrow table near the last easel.
“Okay. So tonight you will be using temper paints to make your creation,” she said boldly. “Now I don’t want you to think about anything else in the room..The only things that exist during this time are you, the easel and these paints,” she said, gesturing to each in turn.
“Distance yourself from reality and create something in the realm of peace…That’s your prompt..Peace,” she said, staring at me with warm but strong eyes. I looked from them to the easel.
“So forget everything else except for your prompt and your tools..And let your spirit carry you..To peace,” she said, walking on slowly.
“Do you know what to do?” Sam asked from behind me. I turned sharply with his voice and answered, “Yes…I think so.”
“Good,” he returned. “Well, I’m going to go get set up for my own project…So good luck and let me know if you need anything…I’ll be just next to you, so it shouldn’t be too difficult if the time comes,” he said, smiling.
He walked away. I turned and watched him to notice others entering the building. But I didn’t take much note in the short time I saw them. I turned back to the blank easel before me and tried to remember my prompt. It took me a few seconds to arrive at ‘peace’.
I thought about different ways to interpret the word. The strongest representation I could come up with was the age-old symbol for peace. So I started working out that tri-divided circle with the color blue. After completing that, I went to filling in each section with a different aspect of peace. One field had a forest with trees and small animals. Another field had an ocean with all manner of animals. And the final field was filled with a bright sunny sky lightly populated by puffy white clouds.
The session kept my head level. I was so involved that my mind hardly strayed to thoughts of murder and rape. I didn’t stop painting or living in the moment for what seemed like hours.
As I neared completion on my project I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw the hostess. She was looking at my colored easel with an unreadable expression. Her eyes shifted and met mine. Our eyes were locked for several seconds then she closed in and found my lips with hers. But it almost wasn’t a kiss ‘cause no movement was made. Our lips just touched.
I must have closed my eyes because I don’t remember looking into hers at point of contact. She softly held her lips against mine while oblivion enveloped. I’m not sure how long we stood like that, but probably not long.
“I like your picture,” she said.
I opened my eyes and looked from her to my painting.
“Thanks,” I said blankly.
For the next several minutes I stared at my easel in a daze. I’m not sure what I was thinking about. Or if I was thinking at all. The quasi-kiss had washed a calm over me, ebbing at the banks of my thought process.
Eventually, Sam helped me clean up my supplies and take my painting down. He said that we should leave it in the building until surely dry. I agreed and let him lead me back to my A-frame. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep that night. My mind was an unloaded weapon.
The next morning I awoke feeling fresh. I propped myself up and looked around. It had been a long time since I actually felt good upon waking. In recent times I’d either felt bad, or at the most numb. But that morning I woke up feeling good. My body pumped with endorphins. The birds sang and the sun shone. And a hunger rumbled in my belly.
I got out of bed, dressed, and slipped on my flops. I was feeling particularly saucy so I strolled to the cafeteria for breakfast. Since residing at the Aloha Hale, I hadn’t yet stood in line for food. Each time I ate, Sam’d delivered me the food.
The cafeteria was setup buffet style. A row of food was complimented by a couple servers who asked what you wanted then dished. I couldn’t look any of the servers in the eye, but at least I could respond without hesitation.
I left the line with a pile of food. I stared at the pancakes and fresh fruit. The granola and yogurt. My mouth watered and my stomach rumbled. I didn’t sit next to, but near to people.
I ate my food silently, staring at my plate and its morsels as I consumed. The people around did a good job of not paying me too much attention. Every now and then I could feel someone’s eyes on me, but it didn’t last long. My meal was relatively comfortable. I couldn’t linger after finishing, but at least I lasted through its entirety.
I went back to my A-frame and dallied for a bit but felt restles. So I left and walked around. I first walked to the entrance of the resort and crossed the main-access road. I moved through a tropical thicket to meet the sea. A rocky cliff-face overlooked its waters. I stood in the sunshine, absorbing the sun’s rays while listening to the pound of the ocean. The salt-water spray on my sun-warmed face was invigorating.
After a dose of nature’s most powerful offerings, I crossed the road back onto Aloha Hale property. I couldn’t think of anything particular to do, so I steered towards Sam’s A-frame.
‘Knock, knock, knock’ I knocked on Sam’s door.
There was no answer.
I opened the spring-hinged door and peeked my head inside. No one was there. Just as I was about to leave the premises, I noticed Sam’s bike leaning against his A-frame’s outer-wall. I thought twice and decided to take it for a spin.
I wheeled the red Schwinn into the open and mounted it. The bike was already in a high gear, so it was easy to pedal across the flat grass. I made it to the entrance gate and swung a left at the main road.
“Aaaah,” I sighed aloud as the wind swept through my hair.
The motion, and spirit of the bike ride felt great. It felt good to move my limbs while wind rushed along my skin. Sun-lit scenery whizzed by to saturate my soul. I passed close encounters with cliff-faces that overlooked the ocean. Gargantuan trees that towered above and tickled the sun. Enormous hills which were difficult to mount, but once done, carried me via downward-momentum.
The road was thin and windy. And there were no shoulders framing the two narrow lanes. But there was little traffic to fight with. In an hour of riding, I saw one truck which passed going the opposite direction.
A sign on the right side of the road approached as I rode. ‘McCaugh State Park’ it read. With this I veered off the main-road and onto the park’s feeder-road. Pine trees densely populated the area. And a thick bed of pine-needles buried the forest floor. It was pretty dissimilar to what I’d been riding through along the way. The change was welcomed.
I rode through the park slowly, sussing out the lay. I passed a concrete pavilion with a fire pit and four picnic benches. What looked to be a restroom stood nearby. I continued riding ‘til reaching the edge of the park, where rock met water. I put a foot down to pay respects to the ocean. I kicked it and hung a right, raising the bike’s gears so I could casually ride along the rolling bed of pine needles. Its shock absorption made me guess the bed’s thickness. I had know idea, but I imagined somewhere around a foot. Especially considering jagged lava rock probably lay beneath.
Riding, I came across a ring of loose boulders. They sat atop the pine-needle bed and looked to’ve been placed intentionally. I stopped riding and hopped off my bike. It’d been my first time fully-standing since leaving Sam’s A-frame. So I sprung the kickstand and lifted my arms for a full-body stretch. I inhaled while doing so. It felt amazing. My activity-drained muscles pumped with feel-goods and my lungs filled with salt-purified air.
I rested my frame into a casual standing position then walked the perimeter of the stone circle. It was about thirty feet in diameter. I wondered what its purpose was and imagined ancient Hawaiin rituals taking place there. Fire and grass-skirt sporting islanders dancing about the place.
I wanted to hop from rock to rock along the circumference of the circle but didn’t. Instead, I walked to the edge of the cliff for a look onto the water. The scene reminded me of New England. Tall pine trees near a craggy cliff face which battled powerful ocean-waves.
The sight and sound were immense. Ten foot waves crashed against ill-placed rocks. Aural ‘boom’s and explosions of sea-water were sent into the air. I neared the edge to get better perspective. The atmosphere’s intensity sent adrenaline through my blood stream. A particularly spirited wave splashed me with water. I inhaled sharply. The water was quite cold.
I backed from the cliff’s edge and went exploring through the woods. I was surprised at how different the terrain was from other places I’d been in Hawaii. There was little underbrush. Only towering pines and mats of pine-needles. I felt I wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was. So I went back to my bike.
I cruised through the park, enjoying its nature and the freedom of riding a bike. Without much drive to continue exploring, I made my way back to the Aloha Hale. The ride back was fulfilling. It had grandeur in sights, sounds, and sensations.
I rode onto property and headed directly for Sam’s A-frame. When I rolled up he was outside, sweeping his porch.
“Hey,” he called out, noticing my approach.
“Hey,” I said, coming to a stop with a smile.
“Went for a bike ride, eh?” he asked. “How was it?”
“Great..Sorry I didn’t ask to borrow your bike.”
“Hahaha. It’s no problem. I would have let you borrow it anyway...Where did you go?” he asked.
“I went down to McCaugh Park,” I answered.
“Really? That’s quite a distance..Probably upwards of 5 miles…Are you about to collapse?” he asked, pantomiming a fall.
“Hahaha. No..I feel good.”
“So it was worth the journey..How did you like the park itself?”
“Oh. It was awesome…The bike ride there was very nice. And the park is incredible. Nice scenery and all that..This day in general has been really good,” I said, looking to the sky.
“Yeah,” he said, following my gaze. His face lowered to look at mine with a smile. “It is a good one…That wasn’t your first time in McCaugh, was it?”
“Uhm, no. I don’t think so..Didn’t you drive me down there at one point?”
“Yes. Yes, I think you’re right,” he answered, pondering with a smile behind his stony face. “We went along the cliffs and found those caves didn’t we?”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Of course..That was a good day as well,” he smiled. “Hey. I wanted to show you something..Come inside and take a look at this.” He rested the broom he was holding against his A-frame’s wall and went inside. I followed.
I watched as Sam rounded his bed and grabbed something from a narrow table. He brought the item back and held it out to me. It looked to be a hand-crafted frog. Made from baked clay.
“Oh, wow,” I said, bending my head near. “It looks great..Did you make this?”
“I sure did..I made it for you.”
I looked from it to him to see his smile.
“You made it for me?” I looked back to the frog. The thing was mostly mouth. A red tongue hung from the middle-pinched mouth while eyes sat on top and legs/arms sprouted from the mouth’s corners. It was glossed to a high shine and kind of surrealist. I liked it. Endorphins pumped. “It’s cool..Thank you.”
“Not a problem..I’m glad you like it.” He held it in his left hand, picked it up with his right, and offered it out for my hands to take.
It was heavy.
“So, it’s about dinner time. Do you want to head to the lanai?” he asked.
I thought, taking stock of my hunger. It was adequate for a meal. “Yeah, sure..Let me just put this in my A-frame,” I said, lightly lifting the sculpted frog.
“Okay..Can I tag along, then we go from there?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. Let’s do it,” I said, turning and walking out Sam’s A-frame door.
We stopped by my place so I could drop off the gift then we moved to the lanai/cafeteria. It was about 7pm so the venue was bustling.
Sam and I had our plates filled then he asked, “Do you want to sit over there?” as we exited the line. He motioned to a spot near people I recognized, but didn’t know.
“Uhm. Yeah. Sure,” I said. I was on the fence with sitting so close to others.
We sat at the end of a group of people. Sam struck up conversation with the lot, while I quietly ate. He introduced me and I gave some subtle nods, but refrained from letting any conversation develop.
I finished quickly and excused myself to leave. After putting my dishes at the bussing window, I noticed Sam had followed me.
“Hey. How do you feel?” he asked. “You weren’t exactly a chatter-box over there.”
“Haha. Yeah. I don’t know. I just didn’t really feel like talking I guess.” My good mood from the day was beginning to wear thin.
“Okay. That’s understandable. Sure…Are you heading back to your A-frame?” he asked.
“Yeah. I think so..I’m gonna call it a night.”
“Me too..Do you mind if I walk back with you?”
“No. Not at all.”
We began walking in the A-frames’ direction. About halfway along the trail, we turned a bend. There, I saw a man lying in the grass next to the trail. My mind instantly flashed to the scene in which I’d killed one of my rapists. The position of the man, his physique, the lighting, my distance from the body; were all nearly identical to the image my mind’d downloaded just after I killed the man and was about to leave my tent.
“a,” my mouth lightly sounded as my body went into a violent but brief spasm. The quake floored me.
The next thing I remember was Sam carrying me to my A-frame and laying me on its bed. The vivid image of my bloodshed wouldn’t leave my minds eye. I could barely see reality through it. It was the strongest representation of the episode since it’d happened.
My body sweat and my mouth went dry. I moaned. Sam lit candles in my room. From seemingly nowhere he produced a wet washcloth and placed it on my forehead.
“Thanks,” I said. It almost didn’t seem like it was me speaking. My consciousness felt so far removed from the present.
I remember laying back, some sort of music, then it was morning. Sunshine streamed through the lets in my A-frame. I rolled about in it. My feet and hands felt the softness of my bedsheets. Flashbacks arrived, although less severe than the night before. I tried drowning them out with a book by my bedside. It almost worked.
About an hour after awakening, I heard a knock at the door. It was Sam.
“Come in,” I lightly called.
“I brought you breakfast,” he said, opening the door.
I wasn’t hungry. “Thanks..That’s very sweet of you.”
“And I brought a friend..Do you mind if she comes in?”
“I guess not,” I said, shrugging.
Sam came in, dancing around the door while holding it open. Behind him, a small Asian woman entered.
“Hello…Oo. Ve’y beautiful girl. Ve’y beautiful,” she said, rapidly waving with a wide smile.
“Hi..Thanks.” I mildly blushed.
“How a’ you?” she asked.
“I am good. Thank you ve’y much…I rea’y rike you’ A-frame. Thank you for coming me in it.”
“Yeah..Sure…You’re welcome,” I said, almost confused by the woman’s level of English.
“I want ask you something..Can I ask something?” the woman asked.
“Uh. Yeah. I guess so.”
“Good,” she said with a smile. “I wan’ you be my person for massage.”
“Uh..You want to massage me?” I asked, trying for clarification.
“Yes, yes,” she said, nodding vigorously.
I turned to Sam out of mild confusion.
“She’s with a group called the Calltree Wellness Group..They basically learn how to give spirit massages.”
“Spirit massages?” I questioned.
“Yeah, I’m not exactly sure what principles the group works with..But it’s been around for awhile…The name Calltree Wellness Group has been translated from Japanese..Which is where Suki here, is from. Japan,” he said, placing a stray hand on the woman’s shoulder.
The woman nodded and said, “Uhuh, uhuh.”
“Huh,” I sounded. “So she wants to give me a spirit massage…Why?”
“Well, the group is looking for volunteers and I submitted your name..I thought it might be a good thing,” Sam said, shrugging. “Why not?..Free massage.”
A massage did sound pretty good. Especially a free one. “Yeah, okay,” I agreed. “When will it be?”
The woman clapped then said, “Eight ‘clock tonigh’..We meet on Lanai,” she said.
“Okay. Sounds good..See you then…Thanks.” I smiled.
The woman stared at me for a bit, giving mild bows and giggling.
“Okay, so eight o’clock it is,” Sam said, lightly putting his arm around Suki and leading her from my A-frame.
“Thanks for bringing breakfast,” I said, as the pair left.
“You’re welcome,” Sam called over his shoulder while walking away.
I looked at the food, wondering if I could eat it. ‘No’ was the answer I landed on. My stomach didn’t hold a tinge of hunger.
I lay back in bed and looked at the white mosquito net that hung from the A-frame ceiling. I studied its folds’ propagation for a short time. The rest of the ran something like that. Staring at inanimate objects, occasionally flashing to cerebral images of my kidnapping.
Just after 6 pm, Sam came ‘round to my place.
“Hey…” he called. I returned. We continued with conversation as we made our way to the lanai for a meal. I didn’t want to eat too much before my spirit massage, so I kept it light. A salad with various vegetables. A small portion of some lentil dish. And a single pastry.
8 o’clock rolled around soon enough. Suki appeared on the lanai’s wooden flooring. She walked to Sam and I.
“Hi,” she started.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” said Sam. “Did you get yourself some dinner?” he asked her.
“Yes. Yes,” she said, nodding vigorously. “I eat with my group.”
“Aha. I see..How was it?” Sam followed.
“Good. Ve’y good.”
Chit-chat was scrapped and Suki took me by the hand to lead me to a room near the lanai. Suki opened the door, still holding my hand. The place was layed-out with about fifteen massage tables, scattered randomly. I was pointed toward a particular table and asked to mount it. I did.
Other people were getting situated as I lay flat upon the table’s surface. It was a matter of minutes before Suki was running her hands over my body. She wasn’t touching me, just moving her hands over my body’s length a couple inches above. I could feel her hands cut through the air close to my skin.
Then, without hesitation, she went for it. She dug her hands into my ass and massaged/kneaded vigorously. After a full minute, I turned back to her to get a view of what was going on. She kept at it. I looked around the room. Other people were getting somewhat normal looking massages. I re-glanced back at Suki then returned my head to resting on the table’s surface.
The spirit massage lasted roughly twenty mintues. Suki finished things off with a couple squeezes of my back and neck flesh.
“Okay. You can get up now,” she said softly, having bent close to my ear.
I slowly rose and shifted my feet to the ground. I stood and felt the affect. A calm had come over me. Eventhough the bulk of the energy had been relayed to my ass, a tangible serenity enveloped my entire body.
I stretched and felt the endorphins flow through my almost numbed anatomy. “Thanks,” I said with a smile to Suki. “That was good.” I felt slightly awkward about the fact she’d focused on my butt, but whatever.
“You had lot of blockage,” she said. “I try freeing it.”
“Thank you. Yeah. I feel much better.” And that was true. I did feel better. My body felt more like mine. I wasn’t trapped inside it so much as before. I took a few steps and felt the flow. “Aaah,” I sighed to myself.
For the next ten or fifteen minutes I had a struggled/broken conversation with Suki about where she was from and how she got into the Calltree Wellness Group. It was interesting enough. But after a bit I felt spent. So I excused myself and went back to my A-frame. I lay on its bed, staring up.
While lying, I decided to make Suki a ‘thank you’ card. After falling asleep for the night, I got up the next morning and went looking for supplies. I knew of a small building on property dedicated to creating personal art. I went there first. It was well removed from the center of activity, but it was bustling with supplies. There were more artistic options than I knew what to do with.
I eventually found a normal sized piece of paper and some colored pencils. I set to making Suki a typical half-fold-over card with decoration on the front and one of the central panels. It wasn’t very elaborate, but it was colorful.
When finished, I went looking for Suki. I didn’t know where she would be, so I went to reception and asked. The woman behind the desk told me the Calltree Wellness Group was on an outing. But if I wanted to give someone a message I could leave it in the group’s mailbox. I thought on my delivery options. Should I give the note directly to Suki or should I leave it in her mailbox? I felt little would be lost in the mailbox. And it might be a nice surprise. So I put the ‘thank you’ in the group’s mailbox and went to see Sam.
I cruised his A-frame but he wasn’t there. I decided he must be on his work detail with the laundry crew. I went looking and found him at the laundry building. He was in the midst of separating sheets to put in the washing machines.
“Hey,” I called to him, while walking up.
“Hey,” he returned with a smile, keeping at his labor. “So how was the spirit massage last night?” he asked.
“Yeah, it was good. Really really nice. I liked it..Kind of freed up some energy or something.”
“Oh yeah? Well, that sounds worthwhile.”
“But it was weird ‘cause Suki pretty much just focused on my ass.”
“Your ass?” Sam questioned. He maintained his work without batting an eye.
“Yeah..It was a fairly standard massage aside from the fact it was concentrated on just my ass.”
“Hahaha. Well that sounds pretty nice.”
“Yeah. Yeah. It was alright. And like I said, it really cleared up some blockage or something..At least that’s the word Suki used.”
“Blockage. Sure..I suppose that’s some of the intention with these spirit massages.”
“Yeah, well it worked..So I made Suki a thank you note for it,” I said.
“Oh yeah? Well that’s a nice gesture,” Sam said with mirth on his voice. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate that.”
From there the conversation steered towards Sam’s work detail. What he did and how he liked it. With that the topic of my own work service came up. Sam asked if I was ready to start working and I said, “Yes.”
He said he would talk to the labor manager and get back to me on what was available. I said it “sound[ed] like a plan.” The remainder of my day was spent reading and eating. But I felt great in doing so. The energy coursing through my body seemed much more pure. Less scattered and irregular. It felt like I’d had an oil change.
The next day Sam brought up my work detail at breakfast, “So I talked to the labor manager and she said you have a couple options.”
“Okay. Cool. What are they?”
“You can either work on the laundry detail with me,” he smiled. “Or you can work in the kitchen.”
I thought about this. I could work alongside Sam- which would be nice. and comfortable -or I could work in the kitchen. With food. Which I fully appreciate. And it would be nice to do something without needing the shelter of Sam’s wing.
“I’ll work in the kitchen,” I blurted out.
“Okay,” Sam said, seeming surprised but somewhat satisfied. “Are you sure? You can think about it. You don’t need to make the decision immediately.”
“Okay..But yeah, I’m kinda sure. I think it would be good for me..And I’ve always had a softspot for food,” I said.
“Hahaha. Sure,” Sam laughed with a big smile.
We carried on with breakfast and decided that the next day would be good to take a tour of whichever faculty I chose to work with.
While we walked back to the A-frames, I asked Sam if I could borrow his bicycle. He agreed, so I took it for a spin. I cycled down the road to McCaugh park. The ride and the park were excellent. I spent a length of time meandering through the park’s trees and pine-needle bluffs. It was delightful.
After a bit I made my way back to the Aloha Hale. The sun was on its last leg so the atmosphere was filled with golden light. It was magical.
I rolled up to Sam’s A-frame feeling serene. He wasn’t around, so I deposited his bike and went back to my place. Dinner didn’t have immediate appeal, so I lay in my bed and half-closed my eyes. I wasn’t tired enough for sleep. But I made it to that zone between waking life and sleep. Glorious.
After exiting that state, I felt famished. I walked to the lanai and got myself some grub. Standing in the buffet-line and watching the hubbub behind the counter made me feel I’d chosen my work-placement well. The energy level looked high but consistent and accessible. People were bouncing about but in a casual way.
I took my plate of food to one of the lanai tables and sat. A baked-beet dish and potatoes with cheese were eaten that session. It was good. And filling. There weren’t many people eating while I was there. So no one approached me. It was a relaxing meal.
After eating I went back to my A-frame and listened to an old tape Sam had given me along with a walkman. The tape was the Cranberries album, ‘Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?’. It was my first time listening to the album its full length through. Before that I’d just heard select hits on the radio. It was good.
I fell asleep while listening to the album. It was the first day, since their happening, that I hadn’t thought about my atrocities once.
The next morning I awoke to a repetitious click. The walkman I had been listening to was trying to continue past the tape’s end. I pressed ‘stop’ and took off the headphones. The sun was shining. I closed my eyes tightly and stretched. I got out of bed to continue the stretching session further. After completion I fully dressed and headed to breakfast. Once my plate was full of food I went looking for a seat. I found one next to Sam.
We idly chatted until our food was consumed. During the meal we agreed to Sam giving me a tour of the kitchen once done. So after putting our plates and various accessories at the bussing station, Sam showed me into the kitchen. He gave me a tour of the facility making sure to describe the various duties performed at each station. The chopping station. The mixing station. The rinsing station. And the station where you cleaned items which couldn’t go through the industrial washing machine. It was fairly interesting. And Sam was very informative as he’d worked the kitchen detail in the past. I was anxious to get started. My days were becoming boring and I felt mentally fit enough to reenter the mix.
Sam told me I would be put on the schedule starting the next day. And I could check the work schedule next to the mailboxes. There were two eight hour shifts each day. I would start with four per week. My first was to be the morning shift. It began at 6am.
The rest of the day was spent watching movies in the communal room with Sam. Above the lanai was a space dedicated to relaxation for the staff. It had a television with plenty of dvds and an area for sitting to play boardgames or have conversation. There was a phone with which you could receive or make calls from. A phonecard was necessary for making calls. And there was an area for exchanging unwanted clothes. You could drop them off or pick them up. It had good stuff sometimes. People would leave the property without being able to bring all their belongings, so they’d leave them there. I got a flashlight and a cool pair of shoes. And I assumed that’s where Sam got the majority of the clothing he’d given me. I’d come on property with next to nothing.
After watching ‘Joe Vs. the Volcano’, ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’, and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ I was ready to call it quits. I bid Sam goodnight and went back to my A-frame. I read a bit then passed out after programming the alarm in an old watch Sam had given me.
Beep Beep Beep
I rolled over and checked the time on my new Casio wristwatch. 5:30am. I groaned and got out of bed to stretch and put on clothing. It’d been awhile since I’d woken at that hour so I was groggy. I eventually stumbled to the lanai and poured myself a cup of coffee. That did the trick straight away.
I pushed through the screen door entrance of the kitchen. A person whose sex I couldn’t immediately recognize was standing at the head chef’s table. They heard me enter and looked up then walked over with a big smile.
“Hey. How a’ you?” The person had short, bleach-blond hair and looked to be of native Hawaiin descent. “I’m Vic,” she said. It was a woman. I was first thrown by the bulky stature, short hair, and husky voice, but soon realized the true nature.
“Hi. I’m Caroline..Good. How are you?”
“I’m great,” she said with a smile. It felt genuine. “You ready ta get sta’ted?”
“Yeah, I think so. What should I do?”
“How a’ you with cutting? You feel comf’table cutting?” she asked, walking over to the cutting station.
“Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable with it I guess.”
“Good..Can you cut these vegetables into quarter inch thick slices then qua’ta’s please?..Like this. Watch.”
She took a zucchini from the clear-plastic container and began cutting it into thick slices. Then she stacked the slices and cut them into quarters.
“Can you do dat?”
“Sure,” I said with confidence.
“Okay. Get sta’ted please.”
She walked off and left me with the container of vegetables, a knife, and a cutting board. I set to it. Others arrived while I sliced. They introduced themselves. Two guys and a girl. The guys were friendly. One was effeminate. The girl had blond dreadlocks and was quite cute. Eventhough the guys were nice and one was potentially gay, I was a bit standoffish towards them. But the girl and I hit it off immediately. She was cool. Intelligent. Seemingly softspoken, but not. Her name was Maggie.
The shift went well. Consistent work set the time to fly. We made and served breakfast. Then cleaned that up and did the same for lunch. There was plenty to do, but it wasn’t too stressful because there were an adequate number of workers and I was the only one who didn’t know the ropes. And everyone was very helpful in showing me where and how things were.
I finished the shift and stumbled back to my A-frame. I was exhausted. I lay on my bed and passed out immediately. It was 3pm. I slept until 4am the next day.
The sleep was sound. I awoke in what I remembered to be the same position I slept in. And I felt fully refreshed. I was wide awake upon rousing. No half-cocked consciousness.
I read for the next few hours and made it to breakfast at first call. 7am. Breakfast was tasty. And incredibly satisfying. I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before but definitely could’ve put it away. That first kitchen shift had worked up an appetite. And I was scheduled to work the evening shift that day. I was ready for it. But first, I made sure to take Sam’s bike for a ride to McCaugh. I was totally addicted to that place. The freedom, sights, and sounds. Great stuff.
I came back to the property just in time to fetch my hairnetting-hat and run over to the kitchen. And not a moment too soon. Technically five, but I treat every job as if it starts five minutes earlier than it does. Bosses love that.
The next week or so was fairly routine. I’d read, work, go for bike-rides, talk to Sam, watch a movie here and there. But one night about two weeks after I started work things were shaken up a bit.
I was watching a ‘Friends’ dvd with Maggie. We were having a good time laughing and supplementing the tv show with our own wit and humor. After we’d filled on the quirky antics of the show, Maggie invited me back to her A-frame for some wine.
“Hey, do you wanna come back to my A-frame for some wine?”
“Sure. That sounds great.”
We walked back to Maggie’s A-frame somewhat arm-in-arm. Not exclusively, but almost.
“Wow. I like the way you’ve decorated the place,” I said upon entering her A-frame.
“Where did you get all these materials?” I asked, fingering one of the prints hanging from her lofted bed.
“Uh,” she said, turning from pouring wine. “I got that one from the art shed..Some of the others I got from the community bin.” She was talking about the clothing and supplies exchange in the communal area above the lanai.
“Nice. I like them,” I said, looking around.
“Thanks,” she repeated sweetly. “Here you go.” She turned and handed me a generously poured red wine.
She had a couch underneath her lofted bed. She invited me to sit on it with her.
“Yeah. Thanks,” I said, taking a seat next to her.
Things started with fairly normal conversation, but they escalated quickly. I don’t remember the trigger or who kissed who. But all of a sudden we were in the midst of a zealous make-out session. Then before I knew it my pants were slipping around my heels and Maggie was diving into my vagina.
That was special. She was good at it. I came within the first two minutes. Hard. Leg shakes and everything. I grabbed the nape of her neck and swooned. She slowed down but ultimately kept going after my first orgasm. After another she came up and slipped off my shirt then unhooked my bra. She kissed my nipples on her way up to my mouth. We maintained lip-lock while I de-robed her. Her skin felt soft under my fingers as I ran my hands along her body. I gently pushed her to the other side of the couch and worked my way down. Her bright pink nipples were perky and neat. Her freckled body begged me to go further. I got to her vagina, briefly hesitated then sank my face. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I soon extrapolated from masturbation and the guys who’d eaten me out. Soon enough I was having her cum. It felt great. A rush of juices flowed into my mouth and I swallowed. I worked my mouth back up to hers. Sloppy kissing ensued.
We then moved to a 69 position to get ultimate efficiency. That was fun. Finger-fucking joined the tonguing and sucking. Good lord. I’ve never had so many orgasms in one session. It was incredible.
We eventually exhausted and lay side by side. Staring into each other’s eyes. Maggie was beautiful and had a set of eyes to match. I pet her dreaded hair and arm/back skin. Their texture was dissimilar but equally inviting. I fell asleep.
When I awoke, it was to conversation. I opened my eyes and saw that Maggie was talking to a boy who also wore dreadlocks. His expression was one of bewilderment. I saw his eyes scanning and followed their gaze to see what they were filling with.
“Aah,” I screeched, realizing I was naked.
There was no blanket or sheet on the couch to cover with, so I lunged for my clothes and attempted to rapidly put them on. It probably would’ve happened faster if I’d taken my time, but that wasn’t really an option. I eventually managed then scrambled from the A-frame without saying a word to either of them. It was a pretty embarrassing situation. I saw it through the eyes of the boy standing above. Two beautiful, naked women asleep together on a couch. Wow.
It was dark out, so I had a somewhat difficult time making it to my A-frame. But I did. I remembered that I had work the next morning, so I set my watch’s alarm. I could’ve been upset about the earlier happenstance, but I wasn’t. I fell asleep feeling confident and satisfied.
The next morning I awoke well rested. That’s what four and a half orgasms the night before’ll do. I stretched to let the lingering endorphins from the evening before course through my limbs. It felt amazing. I was so energized and full of life. I almost ran to get started on the morning’s shift.
Vic was manning that morning’s shift.
“Hey,” I said with a brief wave.
“Hey,” she smiled brightly. “Someone inna good mood this mo’nin’.”
“Yeah, I guess so..How’re you doing today?
“Good good..But I gotta kille’ fuckin’ backache,” she said, putting a hand to her lightly arched back.
“Sorry to hear that..How did it happen?” I asked.
“I’m not su’e,” she said. “I think it happen when I was takin’ out the trash yeste’day.”
“Shit..Well I’ll get it today,” I said.
“Thanks, Caroline. You a sweethea’t.” She smiled and lightly touched me while turning to get back to her work.
I smiled in return and got to chopping that breakfast’s vegetables. Serving time came ‘round so I took placement at the buffet-line. Breakfast only had one server while the other meals had two servers each. I was serving pancakes with syrup and scrambled eggs with mixed vegetables.
I was in a chipper mood, so I gave everyone a nice smile with their food. When Maggie came up she was obviously off, only making brief eye contact. At first it gave me pause, but I dropped the thought after a few minutes. I wasn’t going to let our slight morning-after encounter bother me. I was in too good of a mood. So I laughed at the situation.
The remainder of the shift was excellent. Vic and I had a few laughs while our co-workers chipped in. Merriment was the theme of that morning. Lunch rolled around and the merriment was lost to a juggling of tasks. But the light tone shone.
Soon enough we were done cleaning up lunch and the shift was over. Vic asked if I’d help take out the trash and told me she had a surprise for me on my return. I obliged. When I got back she asked me to follow her. I agreed to. While walking we talked of inconsequentials.
“You wan’ smoke one joint?” Vic asked when we made it to the smokers’ tent- a pavilion-style tent situation on an open patch of grass between the lanai and A-frames.
I thought on it. It’d been awhile since smoking weed. The last time would’ve been with Marina. I shuddered at the thought, but conquered it.
“Sure. Sounds good,” I said, feeling a smoke would be a good thing with my current mood.
Vic pulled out a big joint and lit it up. She took a couple puffs and passed it my way. I didn’t want to get too high so I took moderate drags without holding them in. The weed tasted exceptional.
We sat, stoned, on the lawn chairs under the tent talking of pig spits and native Hawaiin recipes. Our conversation carried on for at least an hour. It felt good. Vick was cool. The weed and weather were nice. My spirits were high.
We eventually went our separate ways. I back to my A-frame to soak up the buzz. I lay on my bed and let the THC do its thing. I didn’t fall asleep, but I definitely dreamed. There were horseback rides and gym competitions. I had another session with Maggie. And a bike ride to McCaugh. All within the comfort of my homely A-frame.
The chill session left me famished. But before going to dinner, I stopped by Maggie’s A-frame to see if she was interested in walking to the lanai together. As I approached I heard voices from inside.
‘Knock knock knock,’ I knocked.
I waited about two minutes before knocking again. I heard whispering then some movement-rustling. Maggie opened the door.
“Hey,” I said, cheerfully.
“Hey,” she said soberly. She quickly followed with, “What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you want to go up to dinner together.”
“Hm. No. I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she said.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Well my boyfriend’s here,” she said, slightly opening the door as she turned to look at him. His face was stony.
“Okaay,” I slowly said.
“Sorry,” she said with a bit of bitch in her voice. She shut the door and I turned confused.
“What was that?” I asked myself.
Maggie was more available the night before. It even seemed she prompted the previous night’s escapades. And now she was being standoffish? I supposed it had to do with her boyfriend. But I thought guys liked when their girlfriends fooled around with other girls.
I shrugged it off and moved on. I went to Sam’s A-frame to see if he was up for supper. I found him and he was. We went to supper and had good food/conversation without mention of Maggie. Garlic chicken mixed with talk of a hike to the lava flow. The day after the next there was to be a communal hiking-expedition across the cooled lava to see the active stuff. I wanted to go.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone approach. I turned to find it was Suki.
“Hel’o,” she said with a bright white smile.
“Hello,” Sam and I returned in unison.
“Hey, did you get my card?” I continued.
“Yes, yes. Ve’y nice..Thank you.”
For the next several minutes we had a confined conversation. Suki’s English wasn’t world class, so it was somewhat of a struggle. Once the conversation wound down, we finished dinner then retired. Two days later I awoke to the morning of the lava hike.
I felt fresh. I felt ready for action. And I could feel the day’s potential fulfillment furnishing my inner living room.
I walked to the lanai for an early breakfast. The air was thick with morning condensation. But its temperature was cool. I felt like whistling on my walk but didn’t.
I piled my plate with food, anticipating an arduous day. I ate eggs, a waffle, assorted fruit, and nut-sprinkled yogurt. It was good. Sam came around just as I was leaving.
“You ready?” he asked, clapping his hands and rubbing them together.
“Indeed, I am,” I smiled.
“Good. I’ll see you out there then..Do you know where and when we’re meeting?”
“Excellent.” Sam gave me a lingering smile then walked away.
I went to my A-frame and got a few things ready for the day. I was fortunate to belong to such a sharing community, so I had stuff to round up. A flashlight, a pair of jeans, a tank-top shirt, and a few snacks went into a bag I’d gathered from the community give-away place.
I felt thirsty so I went to the nearest bathroom and filled my water bottle from the tap. I took a long draught of water. When I returned to my A-frame, I plopped onto the bed and read a few pages from my book. By then it was time to meet with the people leaving for the hike. I shouldered my bag and walked to the parking lot near the front office. A quick count told of five people milling around one of the community vans. One of them was wearing a t-shirt that read, ‘professional amateur’ in lowercase lettering. The rest were gently chatting and mostly men. Three guys and two girls. The individual wearing the t-shirt was a girl. She had acne and braids at either side of her head.
“Hello, Caroline,” the group greeted me as I approached.
I returned with various forms of ‘hello’. I recognized all, but didn’t know each of the people personally. Light conversation continued for Sam to arrive. With his arrival, everyone who’d signed up was present. We loaded the van with backpacks and various essentials then piled in.
When settled, Sam turned to me and said, “You forgot your lunch..Here.” He handed me a brown paper bag. It was busting. Probably with food.
“Oh, right..Thank you,” I said brightly. “Good memory, Sam.” I stroked his arm and bat my eyes. “That might’ve been a tough hike without enough fuel.”
“Yeah. You might be right.”
A man with long brown hair and a scraggly beard put the van in reverse and backed from the office’s parking lot. Enough birth became available, so he popped it into gear and drove on.
It didn’t take long to drive then park at the foot of the crystallized lava flow. The van’s sliding door slid open and we poured out. The sky was hazy. The temperature was temperate. They seemed good conditions for a hike.
I rubbed my hands together and softly said, “Alright.”
“Have you hiked the lava before?” the girl with the ‘professional amateur’ t-shirt asked.
“Uh,” I said, thinking. My mind flashed back to Felix’s lava-death. It felt like a lifetime before. “Yeah. I have..You?”
“No. This will be my first time,” she said, excitedly.
“Oh, cool. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it..It’s pretty hard not to,” I said, smiling.
My mind flashed to Felix again. I almost shuddered, but suppressed the urge.
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard,” the girl said.
I’d never properly met the girl so introductions and all that were made. She was from Minnesota. Minneapolis. And between school terms on Christmas holiday. She was a little spark-plug. Full of anxious energy.
The van’s driver was also the organizer of the event. He called everyone together. We circled and lowered our heads for a Hawaiian prayer. It was at least somewhat fulfilling. I could feel an external force flow through me. Stimulating.
After the prayer, the organizer shared his hiking schedule with us. Everyone agreed it was reasonable so we saddled up and took off. Our pace was good. Not too fast and not too slow. The awkward movement along randomly-placed razor-sharp lava rocks took me back. A layer of imagery from the night Felix died draped over my eyes. I could still see the present, but consistent flashbacks grew thick. I almost believed it to be night because the flashbacks were of nighttime scenery. But not really.
Thankfully, the flashbacks didn’t bring ill will. They were purely visual. No emotion. So I dealt with them and carried on.
We were making good time. Our group size and pace were just right. And no one among us was particularly girly.
After about an hour of casual conversation and light hiking, we stopped for a water break. It was refreshing. The sun was getting more intense, so I asked Sam if he had any sunscreen. He did. I borrowed it from him and spread a thin helping on my exposed upper-skin. I wasn’t doing any sunbathing so I left my legs out of it. I plugged the bottle’s cap and handed it back to Sam.
We continued on, coming across an area that’d been blocked off with reflective-surface barrels and plastic crowd-control tape.
“I wonder what’s going on here,” someone said.
I saw the landscape through my eyes the night Felix died. That was the spot. The hole Felix had fallen into was somewhere within the confines of the sectioned area.
I wanted to tell everyone. Give them the inside scoop. But I thought better of it.
“I don’t know. There’s probably some dangerous area there. Maybe someone got hurt.”
I heard Felix’s screams and could feel the blood leaving my face.
“Let’s go around it.”
No attention was called to me even though I felt I was drenched in guilty evidence. We skirted the problem area and carried on.
The rest of the hike out was uneventful. We made it to a democratically decided-upon stopping-point and stopped.
Besides the girl wearing the ‘professional amatuer’ shirt and I, there was one more woman. She took off her clothes. It was nice because she was a bit older. So it wasn’t overly sexual. But she was still fit and good looking. So it wasn’t a disaster.
Someone brought drums. They started thumping those while chanting. And not too loudly. The person was right next to me, but the sound they created was in the background. It went well with the sound of the crashing waves. We weren’t far from craggy coastline.
With the hiatus, I pulled the food from my brown bag. There was a wrapped sandwich, a mandarin orange, some pretzels, and a juicebox. The sandwich stole the show. It was ham and cheese with a variety of fresh vegetables. And it was lightly baked. It had just the right crisp.
As the sun set and darkness came, the red glow from lava could be seen emanating the night sky. A few people wanted to see the lava close-up, so they continued on while I and a couple others stayed back. I wasn’t interested in getting any closer.
I beat on the drums for a bit, then walked to where the rock met water. I looked to the sky. A red glow danced with the dense blanket of stars. I let myself become entranced.
I heard wandering voices approach and broke from my trance to walk back to the resting place.
People were describing what they’d experienced.
“It was amazing.”
“My shoes started to melt.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“The energy was so powerful.”
It was all similar to what I’d been witness.
After savoring the flavor for a time, we took off. Back the way we’d come. It was dark, but each person had a flashlight so ample light showed the way. One person took a spill, but it wasn’t bad because they were wearing jeans. That shielded their skin from the bloodthirsty lava rock.
Scattered chatter accompanied the crew enroute back to the van. It was lighthearted and fanciful. The ride back to the Aloha Hale was the same.
The van pulled into the public parking lot. I got out, tired. It was only 8pm, but I felt I could fall asleep for the night. Hiking in the sunshine ’d sapped my strength.
I said ‘goodnight’ to a few people then walked along the reception area to round its corner. Someone was standing at the desk, talking to the attendant. I turned the corner and looked through the windows to get a side-view of the conversation. I could feel my heart stop beating for three seconds. One…Two…Three…
Jill stood at the reception counter with a wrapped baby in her arms.
After a night of toss-and-turn style sleep, I arose with a head full of thoughts and a body full of battery acid. The central questions were: “What the fuck is Jill doing here?” and “Does she know I’m here too?”
Nervous energy charged through my system. I couldn’t decide on what business Jill would have at the Aloha Hale. I didn’t see Elandro or any of the other noni-farm residents. So that eased my mind somewhat, but not much. I couldn’t trust Jill. I’d not known her to be involved in the darkside of the farm, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t.
The fact she had a baby was kind of comforting. But the farm was still the source of the most evil I’d ever seen. A baby didn’t outway. Not nearly.
I couldn’t leave my A-frame. Thoughts of recent happenings poisoned my processes. I’d mostly gotten over them, but Jill’s re-entry into my life brought a lot of baggage. It was difficult to deal with shit when it all came flooding back at once.
Every bad thing that’d happened to me since my arrival in Hawaii came back in kaleidoscope fashion. Felix’s accident. Tom’s disappearance. Drake’s disappearance. The kidnapping. The rape. The murder. The mental and social distance I experienced afterwards. It all pitter-pattered on my consciousness. I tried to block it out, but that was difficult. Some success was made. It took a lot of concentration.
I lay on my bed, focusing on my breath and thinking happy thoughts. It sort of worked. But every now and then Jill’s image would seep into my cognition and I’d worry that she was there to kidnap me back. Or kill me. Or get Elandro to do these things. I’d have to get up from bed, pace back and forth, and find a soothing breathing rate. It would work a bit, but not entirely. That wasn’t a fun morning.
Just after lunch, Sam came by. He knocked and I opened the screen-door.
“Hey. I haven’t see you all day..What have you been doing?”
“Just kind of freaking out,” I answered.
“Freaking out? Why?”
I hadn’t told Sam about everything that’d happened to me at the farm. But I’d told him some.
“Someone from the farm is here,” I said weakly.
“From the farm.” His eyes grew wide. “Really?” he asked, coming inside and shutting the door. “Who?”
“The pregnant girl I was friends with..Jill,” I said.
A flash of relief showed on Sam’s face. “Okay. Well at least it’s not what’s-his-name.”
“Elandro,” I said.
“Elandro,” he repeated.
After a short silence he asked, “When and where did you see her?”
“At the front desk last night. Just after we came back from the lava hike.”
“Hmm,” he said in thought. “Do you have any ideas about why she might be here?”
“I have no idea,” I said. Toxic chemicals flowed through my veins as I tried to imagine Jill’s incentive.
“I see..And you said you saw her speaking with the receptionist last night?..Who was it? Who was working reception?” Sam asked.
“Uh,” I said, thinking. “It was [Random Name].”
“Okay. I’m going to get to the bottom of this..Wait here,” he said sternly, opening, exiting through, then shutting my screened door behind him.
I watched him go, figuring he would find [Random Name] and ask her what Jill had said.
The conversation with Sam had settled me slightly. I lay back on my bed. Poisonous thoughts would come, but they were easier to escape knowing Sam was on the case.
It seemed like a good while before I heard a knock at my door.
“So what’s the deal?” I quickly asked.
“Okay..Well I found [Random Name] and asked her about Jill.”
“And..” I said, egging him on.
A smile cracked on then vanished from his face. “It seems she’s not in much better shape than you were when you first arrived.”
“Yeah. She checked in under another name and is apparently quite spooked.”
The cynic in me asked if she could be faking. “Do you think she’s faking it?” I asked Sam, aloud.
“Don’t know. But I’ll definitely pursue this further..She might could use the attention anyway.”
“Yeah,” I agreed absently.
Sam turned and walked out. “Sit tight. But there’s probably no cause for alarm..Actually, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to head up to the lanai and grab a bite to eat,” Sam smiled. “You haven’t had anything to eat all day, yeah?”
I thought on eating. It didn’t sound like a bad idea. I’d been cooped up all morning. And I was starting to feel slight pangs of hunger. “Yeah. Yeah, I haven’t. So I might.”
Sam left. I gave it a quick primp and went to the lanai for lunch. I had tuna salad with leafy-green salad and fruit salad for dessert. It was a salad themed meal. I enjoyed it.
Afterwards, I went back to my A-frame. I felt restless. Questions about Sam’s progress plagued me. I lay back-down on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. A whirl of thoughts circulated. I tried taming them, but it was tough. I eventually nodded off into a kind of half-sleep. Hovering between dreams and reality. It felt good.
Several hours later, Sam came by my A-frame. I let him in and he began talking.
“Well. It looks like Jill is definitely in a state. Like I said, not much different from how you were when you first arrived.”
“Oh yeah? Why do you think that is?..Any ideas? Did you find anything out?” I asked.
“It’s hard to say. I couldn’t get much information from her..She’s fairly standoffish. Especially regarding her baby,” Sam said, somberly.
“Hmm,” I said in thought. About my own arrival to the Aloha Hale.
“I think she needs some time..Much like you did.”
“She’s obviously seen or experienced something that’s upset her…But she’s better off than you were, I’d say..She could at least talk to me while making eye contact. Albeit she kept our conversation short, but if you remember you couldn’t do much in the way of civilized communication,” he said.
“Yeah. Yeah, I remember.”
“Good. You shouldn’t forget that..That was definitely a character building experience,” Sam said, sternly.
“Right.” I felt warmth towards Sam’s fatherly features. I’d talked to my own parents on a regular basis since coming to terms with shit, but it wasn’t the same. I had more relative experience with Sam. Even though I hadn’t told him everything that’d happened to me while on the farm, I’d told him more than I’d told my parents. And that gave him license to patronize.
“So let’s give it some time. A couple days..Then we’ll get to the bottom of her appearance.”
The uncertain days were tense. As time progressed my thoughts of Jill’s intentions lessened, but they were still pretty heavy until getting to Jill’s reason for being at the Aloha Hale. Like Sam said, it happened a couple days after our conversation.
Sam and I were sitting on the lanai, enjoying a casual lunch. There was no particular agenda for the day as we both had work off. Just as I put a forkful of short pastas into my mouth, Jill exited the service line with a plate of food. The pasta I’d put into my mouth sat, unagitated, while Jill took a seat. My gaze didn’t move from her face. I don’t even think I blinked while watching her hunch over her food, eating to herself.
Near the entirety of her meal went by without incident. Including me chewing my food. Sam was in the same daze, so not much reform from captivation was made.
At the end of Jill’s meal, she seemed to realize our staring. She looked over, saw me, and froze. For a couple seconds, our eyes locked, then realization came over her. She gave a little yelp, sprung up from her chair, and ran off. Sam’s and my eyes followed her. After she was out of eyeshot, Sam and I looked at each other. Without a word, we got up and followed.
We made it to the A-frame commune. Sam said, “This way..Her A-frame is this way,” with a wave.
I silently followed.
We slowly approached her A-frame. Commotion came from within. We both peered through the screen door. Jill was frantically running around. Maybe collecting things. It was hard to see detail.
Sam gave me a quick look then knocked on the door. Jill stopped in her tracks to look in our direction.
“Hello,” said Sam. He raised his hand for a quick wave. “Can we come in?” he asked.
No vocal response was made. Only air escaping through her mouth. So Sam opened the door.
“Hello,” he said again.
I was about to give a greeting but refrained. Either consciously or un. I couldn’t tell.
“How are you?..How was your lunch?” Sam asked casually.
Jill looked from him to me. Right when her eyes connected with mine, she threw the object in her hand. It hit me right in the kisser.
“What the fuck?” I said, lifting a hand to my mouth. I almost got angry, but found the situation amusing/relieving. At least it was obvious she wasn’t there to assassinate me. She was far too spazzed out for that.
I started to lightly laugh. With that, Jill leapt at me. Before I could react, I was in the throws of a warm embrace. I didn’t really know what was happening, so without solid options, I just let it.
I lifted my hand and gave Jill a gentle stroke. Sam’s eyes caught mine. My eyes shrugged at the situation and I got back to it. I could hear Jill begin to cry. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept it minimal. I stroked and embraced.
That went on for some time. Sam later told of it taking fifteen minutes to wrap up. Or progress. It went from quiet embrace to Sam and I asking if Jill was alright while she sat on her bed and explained that she wasn’t.
She went into detail about how she’d caught one of the farm-hands trying to kidnap her baby. And when she told Elandro, he was very nonchalant. Then he got defensive and claimed Jill was mentally unstable, so he was going to take the baby and let her, Jill, rest for a few days.
She said he was crazy about it. She thought he was going to hit her. The night after it happened, she was able to slip away and board a plane to Kauai. There wasn’t much in a plan of action, she just wanted to get off the Big Island as soon as possible.
Sam and I asked how she’d come to find the Aloha Hale. Jill told us she’d been hitchhiking, and the driver of the car which’d picked her up recommended this place. He’d said it would be good for her.
Sam and I looked at each other, nodding. Then we asked her of her intentions. She said she didn’t really know. Getting out of harm’s way was priority number one.
“Of course,” said Sam.
After a lengthy conversation, Sam offered for Jill to get some rest.
“I agree. You must be tired,” I said.
“Yeah. I guess I am, but I’d really be more comfortable if you stayed,” said Jill with puppy-dog in her eyes.
I briefly glanced at Sam. “Yeah. I think I can do that,” I said with a smile.
“Great..I’ll be off then,” said Sam. He’d already been in a standing position. So he shifted toward the door, opening it. “I hope you two have a good time,” he said with a sparkle in his eye.
I watched him go, then turned my attention to Jill. “So, how’s the baby?..A bit shaken up over all this?”
“Actually, she’s fine. She’s hasn’t really been any trouble at all,” she said, turning to the portable baby bonnet on Jill’s bedside table.
“What’s her name again? I can’t remember if you’d decided by the time I..left,” I said, almost choking on my words, but pulling through.
“Caroline,” she said softly.
My mouth opened, but I was speechless. I could feel water coming to my eyes. I tried to form words, but nothing came out. My lower lip bobbed like a fish’s and I went in for a hug. We held it, caressing each other. Then Jill backed out and gave me a kiss on the lips. One turned into several. It evolved into a passionate dance. It seemed all our emotions associated with shared experience on the farm were pouring out through our bodies.
One thing led to another and we were undressing each other. No words were exchanged. Things just naturally progressed.
Jill’s breasts were glazed. The recent pregnancy had probably plumped them up a bit. Slightly stretching their skin so it was smooth and featureless. Shaving off the past several years. Her nipples were perky and red. Probably anticipatory of a feeding. I put my mouth on them and felt their stiffness.
Jill began massaging my crotch. I could feel waves of wetness inside my vagina. Moans and sighs bounded and careened off the walls and ceiling. Ecstasy was being reached.
We made our way into a 69 position, pleasuring each other’s vaginas. Tongues and fingers tangoes with labia lips and inner vagina walls. Orgasms were reached. Cum lapped.
This went on for awhile. It was hard to tell the duration. But afterwards, we were both exhausted. We lay back in Jill’s bed lightly caressing each other. No conversation was made, we just let our actions linger.
Eventually, I fell to sleep. Warm and satisfied. Thoughts of how special Jill was gently floated though my consciousness until I was lost in oblivion.
Oblivion didn’t seem to’ve lasted long though. I awoke with a start. Someone was in the room. My heart briefly seized. The overhead light flicked on. There stood Sam and Elandro. Staring down at Jill and I with devilish grins on their faces. In my study of their beings, I noticed the red splotches on their shirt.
“Blood” blasted through my mind.
“Caroline?..Caroline?” Jill screamed.
I turned to her. Fright from seeing Elandro was still on my face. I was about to say something, but noticed she was looking to the baby bonnet at her side.
Still spellbound I turned to the two men at the foot of our bed. My eyes moved back and forth between them. Logic wasn’t registering. I couldn’t figure out what Sam was doing standing next to Elandro. It didn’t make sense. My brain couldn’t even wrap around the fact that Elandro was there. At the foot of my bed.
My heart started pumping and my mouth went dry. I began panting. I looked to Sam as if to ask, “What the fuck is going on?” But I didn’t. He got the point though.
“We’re here to take you back to the farm, girls,” said Sam.
“Take -us back- to t-e f-arm?” I asked, my mouth a mess.
“Yeah..You’ve been away for too long. We miss you,” said Elandro.
My wide eyes looked to Elandro, then back to Sam. Sam started leaning in. I kicked him in the face hard. He was knocked back. I grabbed Jill’s hand and pulled with all my strength. She gave a little squeal. I uprighted. Jill got to her feet on my side of the bed as well. It was just next to the door. Elandro made a move for us. I jerked open the door, and it hit him squarely in the face.
I took Jill’s hand and pulled her through the open door. We ran..And ran..And ran, without looking back. cb