From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 27, Summer 1985, Full Moon

From “The Night of the Kepalo”
                               By Michael R. Sakamoto

. . .
           Wes pushed his way through the overhanging bush, flipped the hood latch and pulled at the trunk's hood. The hood opened and he fumbled for the retaining bar and finally got it inserted in the hole which held the hood up.
           “Where's that oil stick?” he said, trying to comfort himself with his voice. The thick silence enveloped him quickly and seemed to make his voice sound foreign to him.
           “Where are you, you bastard . . . ,” he said under his breath. Finally his hand touched the ringlike hook of the oilstick and Wes pulled it out carefully, trying to keep the precious oil from dropping off. Gently he pushed the oil off of the stick making sure that as much of it would hit the leather bushing and not fall on the fender of the pickup. Suddenly the pickup shook gently. The valve stem rocked on the slick curved fender. The movement caught him totally unprepared and the largest drop of oil missed the leather bushing and dropped on the fender. Again the pickup shook, this time violently.
          Wes' arm hairs bristled. He looked up only to see the images of the pipe racks and total darkness around him.
           “Who's there!” his voice came out weakly. Nothing but the darkness answered him. He stood stone still listening with all of his senses. Then the sound of something moving through the bush caught his ears. It stopped and moved again. Without thinking he picked up a rock and threw it in the direction of the sound. The movement stopped. He picked up more rocks and threw it in the same direction.
           “Damn dogs,” he said, trying to convince himself as to exactly what it was. He could hear the rocks land but the sound of movement was nonexistent.
          Without hesitation Wes scooped up as much of the spilled oil as he could get and smeared it onto the leather bushing. “I hope that's enough,” he said, almost pleading. He struck the match and then realized that he hadn't even tried pumping the lantern. He flicked out the match and pumped the lantern with a few quick determined pumps. The swollen leather bushing missed on the first and then second stroke, but grabbed at the walls of the pump and then started to build up the badly needed pressure.
           Wes struck another match, turned the valve and the lantern burst with comforting light. The lantern pulsated for a while, alternating from an odd orange to a full white light.
           In a minute the lantern settled down and the light became steady. He held the lantern up high as he worked his way down the trail. The spiderwebs were amazingly abundant and several times he stopped to check if he was still on the trail. One especially thick web blocked the way at about the middle of the distance down. Well formed and with a big yellow headed spider perched in the middle. Wes couldn't find a way around.
           Carefully reaching down he looked for a stick to tear at the web with. A crunching sound reached his ears and the hairs at the back of his neck bristled. Again the sound moved and then stopped. Still in the crouched position he picked up a rock, turned and tossed it in the direction of the sound
Nothing. He could hear the rock tear through the foliage and then hit the ground, but nothing moved.
           Holding the lantern high the sound once again moved, this time it moved hurriedly through the bush to his left and then stopped. More rocks went flying in the exact location of the sounds but nothing moved.
           Again the sound of movement in the dry underbrush could be heard making its way. Wes stood mesmerized trying desperately not to listen but he couldn't help but hear as it made its way through the bush. Again it stopped this time only ten feet away from him in the bush.
           Frantically Wes picked up a dry branch, tearing at it to get it broken off the thick floor matting. The branch would suffice and he quickly started to tear at the mass of webbing. The sound once again moved toward him. The huge yellow spider grasped the end of the stick and was tangled up in the mess of webbing. It slowly unraveled itself and started to work its way down to his hand.
           The sound of the bush moving filled his mind as he tore at the webbing. By the time the webbing was sufficiently destroyed the spider was almost at his hand. Once done Wes frantically ran down the trail still clutching the stick. The light of the lantern fully illuminated the thinning trail and the sounds of his labored breathing filled his ears.
           Siu's lantern light was clearly visible as he made for the high lava bluff. The ohia trees were all gone now and the pahoehoe was the only thing left. Wes stopped at the bluff panting heavily, dropped the stick and switched his lantern to his right hand. He held the lantern high and could now see Siu and Leiola in the encampment.
           The movement on his right arm made him see the spider. By now it was at his elbow, huge and slowly moving. Stunned and almost hypnotized by the spider, he screamed. The spider stopped and dug in its legs and lunged for the flesh of his arm. The sting of the bite instinctively made him recoil and he frantically wiped at the spider. The spider hit the ground and quickly made for a crack in the lava and disappeared.
           Wes stomped at the crack madly trying to kill the spider. He winced at the sting and watched as the swell increased in size in a matter of seconds. He started down to the camp.
           Leiola greeted him with her limited amounts of sympathy and failed to notice the beads of sweat that were forming on his forehead.
           “Found the lantern, huh,” she said with a false concern.
           “I guess that I did leave it in the pickup after all.”
           “What took you so long?” Siu asked as he still fumbled with his tackle.
           “Shaddup!” Wes said as the pain cruelly worked its way up his now swollen elbow. His face was ashen white and his knees felt the unsteadiness of semi-shock, saliva dribbled down his half open mouth and his brow was gnarled and beaded with sweat. He put the lantern down by his pack and sat down with his back to them. His mouth tasted of brass, the swelling had grown and his hand was beginning to tingle and feel a little numb. His breathing was still labored and it took him several minutes before he had the breath to try and turn to face them.
           Wes tried to turn, but he lacked the composure so quickly changed his mind. With his left hand squeezing down on his right arm he sat on the lava for an hour before the dizziness came. The piercing pain was now gone, but the lantern in front of him swayed on the ground as if on a pendulum. Periodic blurring of images followed and he began to feel sleepy, his eyes felt like lead curtains.
           Through the garbled night sounds he could barely see clearly. The ground moved as if it were smooth waves of rock. And the sounds of the night began to sound like talking people, sounds of arguing people, people in a violent confrontation, and finally a windswept scream of a man.
           He suddenly felt the warmth of blood on his right ear. Unknowingly he had fallen to his right side and torn a portion of his scalp on the sharp pahoehoe. The deep head wound gushed copious amounts of blood, neatly coating the lava rock and then slowly seeped down into one of the lava cracks. Wes felt nothing but the warmth of the blood on his now soaked collar.
           Deep down the small red channel wound itself down the column of lava. It worked itself down dropping some fifteen feet at a time till it reached the end.
           The small red drop struck the bottom of the cave landing in a small puddle of water. The thick blood smeared itself in the thinning water turning into a warm orange. More drops worked their way down the crack to be splattered on the white skull that lay in the narrow confines.
           “He must be tired,” Siu said as he turned around and checked his leader. Both Leiola and he were still at the edge trying desperately to ignore Wes. The fish weren't biting so their boredom was beginning to get to them.
           Leiola turned and looked and saw Wes lying on his right side with his back to them.
           “Hey, never mind sleeping now,” she called out to him.
           Not getting any response she turned and cranked on her bait. She jerked once and felt the lead embed itself in the coral bottom.
           “Oh, no . . . I'm stuck!” she said as she jerked back on the rod several more times. Siu looked at her and knew the ritual complaining that she would go through because of this and simply chose to ignore her tantrum.
           “Shit, I just retied this leader and now look.” She pulled on the rod steadily and watched the full bend of the rod. Nothing happened and the rod remained fully bent.
           “It's stuck for sure,” Siu said as he cranked his bait up the cliff to help Leiola break the line. After dropping his rod, Siu grabbed the tip of Leiola's rod and pulled on the line till he felt the line break.
           An intense coldness rose up and suddenly enveloped them. Siu looked at Leiola and saw that frost was coming out of her nostrils and mouth as she breathed.
. . . .

Bio: At the time of publication, Michael was a freelance writer, photographer, illustrator, and video photographer living in Hilo. The cover of this issue illustrates his story.

Mahalo for reading!

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