The Story Teller: A Hawaiian Ghost Story
Kawika was the kind of man that wore a shark tooth around his neck for protection, a rabbit’s foot on his keychain for good luck, and always held his breath when he passed by cemeteries to keep his belly button from growing after he dies. Every Saturday night, he would go to the kawa bar and tell stories of supernatural experiences from his life. People would crowd around his stool, hanging on his every word. They all knew that none of the stories were true, but they would come back every week to hear him tell another. Kawika was known as the best storyteller on the Big Island. He would spend the whole week composing the next tall tale—each one better than the last.
“One night,” he began his story as he always did. A hush came over the crowd as people gathered around. “Me and the boys headed to Mana Road with a case of beer. I got an eerie feeling as we drove on the gravel. Shea wasn’t helping; reminding us not to look into the rearview mirror in fear of seeing Kalama’s face.” The younger people in the crowd whispered. “Oh, do some of you not know the story of Kalama? Well, let me digress.”
Kawika took a sip of his kawa and narrowed his eyes. “The most common legend of Mana Road is about a young girl, Kalama, whose name means "flaming torch.” It is said that this young girl, walking with her mother, died on Mana Road by a brush fire. Many believe that Pele caused the fire. Pele was in love with Kalama's father, but couldn't have him because he was a human. Many people have reported seeing brush fires that end up being false alarms. The legend says that Kalama is embarrassed by her burnt face. She’s a young girl, probably your age,” Kawika said as he pointed to a teenage girl. “To this day, she hides in the backs of visitor's cars to avoid being alone. If the driver dares to glance in their rearview mirror at her deformed face, her image will burst into flames.
“So, we kept driving along the road that night toward the abandoned cabins, and as we approached the two, crooked trees, we saw another car. As we pulled alongside them, my friend, Kimo, popped his head out the window and yelled, ‘Howzit? Wanna party?’ No one answered, so we decided to get out of the truck and check on whoever was there. As we got closer to their car, we noticed the Budget Rent-a-Car symbol on the license plate. ‘It’s a tourist’s car,’ I said, but no one answered me. I turned around and I was completely alone. The truck was there, but my friends were gone. I thought of yelling out for them, but I couldn’t make a peep. I don’t know what it was, but something just told me I had to leave.
“I got into the truck and reached for the keys, but they were gone. I looked around once more for my friends and came to the conclusion that they were probably messing with me. I took a deep breath and for an instant, I forgot where I was and glanced into the rearview mirror.” Kawika took a long sip of his kawa as the crowd gasped, holding onto his every move. He reached his hand out in front of him, like he was trying to grasp something. “Her blood-red eyes were looking right at me and she was trying to grab me, like this. I jumped out of the truck, slipped in the gravel and began to run as fast as I could away from Mana Road. Behind me, I could hear screams and trees breaking. And when I got to the fence, I looked back. A giant cloud of smoke and fire covered the entire field and I could see the figure of a young girl dancing through the flames. I went back the next morning to find my friends, but everything looked the way it did twenty years ago, just a simple dirt road and a large grassy field.” The bar filled with applause and laughter. Kawika swung his chair back, facing the bar and said, “One more, Joe.”
“That was a good one, ‘Wika. Giving me and the young ones quite a scare.”
“Well, I’m glad you all like my stories.” After he finished the lot of free drinks he got from admirers, he drunkenly walked to his old Chevy pickup and struggled to push the key in the lock. It was at this time each Saturday night that he found himself sad to be alone. He rolled the windows down to keep him from falling asleep and turned the AC on full-blast. He stopped to relive himself on the side of the highway. It was late and the road was empty; Kawika unzipped his jeans and leaned against the wooden railing that separated the road from a long, steep drop-off. He was thinking about next week’s story when a gust of wind caught him by surprise. This wouldn’t be the best place to fall, he thought and stepped away from the posts.
He zipped up his pants and started to make his way around the truck. Halfway there, he realized, maybe this wasn’t a bad place to call it a night. If he drove anymore, he might not make it to next week’s performance. The driver’s seat was warm and he leaned back, closing his eyes. “One night,” he said to himself, imagining the crowd next week and the captivated look in their eyes when he begins to tell them about his made-up experiences. He began to doze off, slipping further into his dreams, when a tap on the window woke him.
“Kawika,” said a soft voice. Kawika opened his door and slipped out of the truck. The road was empty. There was no one there.
“Hello? Who’s out there?” he said. He made his way behind the truck, looking out onto the dark ocean.
“Kawika,” the voice repeated. It was coming from the drop-off. He looked down into the blackness, seeing nothing but the shadow of trees blowing in the wind. “Kawika, help me,” it said and Kawika felt a force pulling him away from the road.
“Who’s there? Do you need me to call an ambulance?” Kawika held onto his necklace, begging the shark tooth to give him strength. He went back to his truck to call for help, but when he tried to find his phone, it was gone. I must have left it at the bar. Joe’s probably still cleaning up. He decided to get his phone and call someone to help the voice that had been asking him for help. He got into the driver’s seat again and felt the ignition for the keys. Then his pockets. They were no where.
“Kawika,” the voice repeated louder than before, as if it was coming out of his own mouth. Kawika ran out of the car and down the road. There wasn’t a car in sight and he was miles away from anybody. “Kawika, help me.”
“Fine! What is it? Where are you? Show yourself,” he said, clinging to the shark tooth around his neck. He began to spin in a circle to see all around him. The ocean, the drop-off, his truck, the road. The ocean, the drop-off the roadside and the road. He stopped and slumped onto the ground. “What do want?” he cried.
Next Saturday, Kawika was excited to tell his new story and sat down in his favorite seat at the bar. “The usual, Joe,” he said, but the bartender ignored him, pouring drinks for the others. “Joe. What’s going on? Can I get one?”
“Yeah, I heard that too,” Joe said. “I mean, nobody knows where he went. He didn’t go into work this week and no one’s seen him, but you know Kawika. He could be doing research for his next story.”
“What do you mean? I’m right here,” yelled Kawika, but no one noticed him—no one even glanced over. “I’m right here!” He picked up a glass bottle and threw it against the window. The glass shattered and everyone ran for shelter.
“Who threw that? Get the hell out of my bar,” Joe yelled. “Who threw that? No one?”
Kawika took a napkin off the counter and scribbled a note to Joe. Joe, help me. I threw the bottle. You can’t see me, but I’m here. HELP. Kawika He put the note on the register and went outside to get some fresh air. Kawika tried to talk to people and even touch them, but he got no response. He could hear Joe yelling from the bar, “Who left me this IOU in Hawaiian? You know I can’t read that. Kawika? Anybody remember what that means in Hawaiian?”