“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kali fumed, as she tried to connect her phone to the hotel’s guest Wi-Fi and pull up her reservation confirmation. Easter Island had unreliable cell service.
“Miss Mana, we realize you have a reservation but there’s been a mistake. We're terribly sorry, but our hotel is overbooked, so the best we can offer is for you to share a suite with another guest. That guest has already been staying with us for three weeks, and he has graciously agreed to split the cost,” the desk clerk did his best to apologize.
“He?” Kali protested and pulled her deep brown hair away from her face. Her bronze cheeks were flushed with frustration. “You’re forcing me to share a room with a male stranger?”
The Chilean clerk was clearly becoming flustered, “Dios mio…Miss Mana, we’re not forcing you to do anything...we are offering you another option besides returning down Mount Terevaka to Hanga Roa city in search of a vacancy.”
Kali Mana put her credit card on the counter, “Fine. What’s his name?”
The hotel clerk smiled and attempted to change the subject as he scanned her plastic, “His name is Doctor Nalu Ohana…and I believe he’s Hawaiian, like you.”
“My father was Polynesian…I am from Brooklyn…and so was my mother,” she remarked, annoyed.
The man tried his best to console her, “Rest assured, Miss Mana, we will do everything humanly possible to make your stay enjoyable. At most, you will only need to share the suite for eight nights, that’s when the good doctor will have to vacate the island. As you know, non-residents can only visit us for at most thirty days…then, if you wish, we will give you the full suite for the price of the standard room you originally booked for the remainder of your stay.”
Kali seemed noticeably more relaxed as she put her credit card back into her purse. “That’s good to hear…thank you, although I may be staying longer than my allotted thirty days.”
The clerk handed her a keycard, “How so?”
“If my emigration papers are approved, I will soon be a citizen of Rapa Nui, and I may need some additional time to find myself a permanent residence.” Kali accepted the key and checked the room number. She preempted any further conversation by saying, “I only have a couple of bags. I can handle them…so I won’t need any assistance. Thank you sir, I’ll be seeing you around the property…likely sticking to the restaurant and pool.”
Kali made her way to her room; it was late, nearly midnight. She quietly entered the suite, so as not to disturb its current resident. To her relief, the suite had one shared living space between two private bedrooms, each with their own attached bathroom. Both bedrooms had their own closet, safe, and French doors onto a shared patio deck with an outdoor fireplace. She pulled her two bags into her room and closed the door behind her; the doctor must be sleeping, she thought
She was tired, so rather than unpack everything, she just put her purse in the safe and quickly changed into a nightgown before checking out the shared outdoor space. She gripped the iron railing while her silky gown and long hair danced with the tropical evening breeze and its cool refreshing fingers tickled the skin under her thin nightdress. Curiously, she tried to peak into the doors to the adjoining suite, but the drapes were drawn; I’ll meet him in the morning, she assumed, and she likewise closed her drapes and collapsed into her luxuriously comfortable bed.
Kali slept very late; it was nearly noon, but when she opened her curtains and stepped outside, her roommate’s windows were still covered. She decided to shower and slip into a two-piece bathing suit. Putting on a sheer cover-up, she took her phone and keycard poolside. At the pool bar she purchased a light breakfast of pastries with black coffee and proceeded to spend the afternoon reading downloaded books on her phone while enjoying the sun.
That first evening, Kali returned to her room and dressed for dinner…and she neither heard nor saw any activity next door. After dinner she enjoyed some wine on the shared veranda…and still there was no sign of the mysterious doctor.
She followed virtually the same routine for four entire days and nights before working up the courage to check on him. Before heading down to the pool for breakfast in a flowered bikini she actually tried to open the adjoining room, but she found it was locked. She placed her ear to the door and detected what sounded like faint snoring. So, he sleeps during the day but where does he disappear to at night?
Kali found the answer to her question just before dinner that night. When she returned to her suite, she saw a handsome, somewhat older gentleman on the veranda. He was definitely Hawaiian, like the desk clerk had mentioned, and was dressed in a casual shirt and canvas cargo pants; atop his curly black hair was a brown leather Australian slouch hat, and he sipped a glass of Chilean red wine.
She swapped her sheer cover-up for an opaque red one and joined him on the deck via her own patio doors. “Hello…Doctor Ohana I presume?”
Her roommate filled a second glass for her and bid Kali welcome, “Please Miss Mana, call me Nalu. Come…have a seat and join me in a pre-dinner libation.”
“You can call me Kali,” she accepted his invitation by gracefully taking her seat and putting the freshly poured burgundy beverage to her equally wine-red lips. She swallowed the sweet dry wine, and addressed the obvious, “So, Nalu, how come it took four days for us to meet? You’re more reclusive than me.”
The Hawaiian laughed, “More reclusive than you? What do you mean?”
“Well, I mean, I’ve been here for four days and have done nothing but relax by myself at the pool and eat quiet dinners alone before privately spending some time here on the deck and going to bed.”
“But Kali, that sounds to me like a wonderful way to relax on vacation,” Nalu swigged the wine remaining in his glass and refilled it with what remained in the bottle.
“I’m not a tourist, Nalu.”
“Neither am I,” Nalu approved. “But if you’re not here to visit the moai and engage in the tropical ecology, then why did you come?”
Kali twirled her wineglass and watched the legs run down the inside of her glass. “I’m hopefully here to stay. I’m in the process of becoming a citizen.”
Nalu raised an eyebrow inquisitively, “Really? What do you intend to do for a living here?”
Kali shook her head, “I guess I don’t really need a job…you see, I recently divorced from a, how shall I say, very well-to-do husband. I figured I’d just stay here at this hotel until I found something more secluded.”
Nalu laughed again, this time much louder, “Ha! More secluded than an exclusive hotel on a remote island that’s more than two-thousand miles from the continent of South America? What made you choose Rapa Nui over say, Pitcairn or Mangareva islands? Are you hiding from someone?”
The question seemed to catch Kali by surprise and she almost choked on her drink. She composed herself enough to answer his spur of the moment probe, “I guess you can say I’m trying to get as far away as possible from my ex-husband.” She set her wineglass down on the small table between them and added, “To answer your question on why Easter Island…well last year, I took one of those DNA tests which confirmed my father’s ancestry could be traced to one of about a hundred remaining natives residing on Rapa Nui in the late nineteenth century.”
Now Nalu’s interest was seriously piqued, “You say you’re no tourist, but you can trace your roots to this very island. Do you really have no interest in the moai? These massive statues were erected to represent your deified ancestors and provide the living everything they needed…health, fertility, and fortune. This is why these huge faces along the coast look inland…to watch over and protect the people.”
Kali retrieved her glass and took another sip, “You seem to know a lot about the island’s history. Is that why you’re here?”
Nalu smiled, “Yes, I’ve been here for nearly the entirety of my allotted thirty days, but have been unable to complete all my objectives. I have doctoral degrees from the University of Hawaii in both Ancient Polynesian Culture and Pacific Islands Studies. You haven’t seen me, because I’ve been doing most of my work at night to avoid the guided tours and tourists, as well as to not intrude on their experience.”
“Just what sort of objectives does a doctor of Polynesian ancients perform at night?” Kali asked directly as the wind blew her rosy cover-up open to reveal her alluring and shapely figure.
Kali did her best to collect her wildly flowing dress as Nalu chuckled, “How about I tell you more over dinner, Kali? I have a couple hours before I need to commence my work, so go ahead and refresh yourself, and I’ll meet you in the hotel restaurant.”
She agreed, and Nalu excused himself to get them a table. Kali arrived wearing a green and white Polynesian palm-print dress with a waist-high slit that exposed the flawlessness of her long slender and richly tanned legs. All she needs is an orchid in her hair and she’d be the aspect of Rapa Nui royalty, he imagined.
Over a four-course meal of fresh seafood, which included crab cake and scallop crudo appetizers, with a main course of baked tuna, and key-lime pie for dessert, the doctor told Kali all about how he’d excavated two huge eyes made of coral with obsidian pupils. He said these ocular objects were originally essential parts of each and every moai, and the two he’d acquired were pristine. He’d found one on the north coast and the other high on Mount Terevaka near several toppled statues. Previously only one eye was ever discovered and it currently resided in one of the island’s museums. He disappointedly explained to her that he’d have to register his discovery with the Consulate before leaving the island. However, rather than bask in his success and simply leave Rapa Nui to write another series of papers or books, Doctor Ohana desperately wanted to do so much more. He explained how the moai statues were assembled from a quarry of volcanic stone to embody important deceased ancestors. Once the eyes were mounted, priests of the Ancestor Cult could commune with the gods through them! The last four nights he had been driving a rented two-door mini-van from the hotel to Ahu Akivi, a location on the slopes of the main volcano, where seven moai stood sentry. Once Nalu had figured out how to properly affix the coral and obsidian ovals on the central statue, he’d performed almost every religious and cultural rite he knew from his years of study in a futile attempt to commune with the spirit of the moai.
When he was finished, he ordered cocktails and neither of them spoke. Kali really didn’t know what to say, but she couldn’t deny that his story was intriguing. Sipping her after-dinner drink she finally gave voice to her thoughts, “Everything you described is quite fascinating; after hearing the history, I suppose I’d enjoy visiting some of these moai. Perhaps I’ll schedule a tour with the concierge tomorrow.”
Nalu quaffed his drink and set the empty glass on the table. “Tomorrow? How about right now? I could use a hand lifting the two ocular orbs into place. You can experience one last attempt to speak with the gods, before I resign myself to wrapping up my expedition. What do you say?”
Kali finished her cocktail and stood up from the table, “The New Yorker in me says that I should checkout of this hotel and return home, but the Polynesian in me says aloha!”
Doctor Ohana clapped his hands, “Excellent! You will not regret your decision. I’ll get my truck.”
Together they drove the dark and empty road to Ahu Akivi, and when Kali eventually opened the passenger door, the clock on the dashboard read 11:34. She got out and gazed through the darkness at seven great shadows in the tropical moonlight as Nalu opened the van’s back doors to assemble the necessary equipment for his theurgical experiment.
As he worked, she asked him, “Why do these seven face the sea, when all the others face inland?”
“Because Ahu Akivi is a particularly sacred place…and these seven were setup as an observatory of sorts to commune with the spirit world.”
Kali stared without blinking at the moai as Nalu setup several tiki torches to provide light near the base of the centermost statue. As he did this, the moai’s ancient chiseled mouth and protruding nose became less and less like simple slabs of volcanic rock and more and more ominously lifelike in the flickering flames. However, its coal eye sockets remained blackened and dead. The doctor setup a ladder and some sort of pulley system before calling Kali over to help him with the eyes.
The eyes were lying flat on the floor of the van on top of several blankets with more blankets between them. The white ovals were nearly as tall as a man and the obsidian pupils were as big as garbage can lids. They weren’t particularly heavy but Nalu was happy to have some help. Mounting them in their respective sockets took considerably less time than it previously had taken, and it was not even one o’clock yet. Once they were in place, the doctor disassembled the cables and pulleys, and returned both them and the ladder to the van.
With its ghastly blanched eyes restored and shimmering in the moon glow and torchlight, the statue became almost alive, and Kali found she was so mesmerized by the affect that she didn’t even notice the obsessed doctor creep up behind her and knock her out cold with a blunt object.
When she finally came to, she was lying on her back, naked and lashed to stakes in the earth at her ankles and wrists. Blood had congealed on the side of her face, and she could taste the salt of her own gore at the corner of her mouth. Looking over her was a man in native priestly garb wearing a masked headdress not that dissimilar to the visage of the giant moai that loomed behind him. She knew it was Doctor Ohana, and she cried out in utter terror when she saw he held a long curved and deadly ceremonial dagger; a skull with coral and obsidian eyes adorned the base of its hilt.
“Excellent, you’re awake. Now we can begin the ceremony,” said the voice behind the mask.
“What ceremony? I should’ve listened to my New Yorker side!” She screamed again, “MONSTER!”
Her fear echoed off the volcanic mountainside in vain. Nalu’s familiar laugh was muffled behind his mask, “Ha! Nobody is out here to help you, Kali. The ceremony of the Ancestor Cult will first marry us, and then I will sacrifice my new wife to bring the aspect of the moai to life. Once done, I will be the new high priest of the Ancestor Cult, and I alone will be able to speak to the gods!”
“You’re insane! Besides, I’m already married!” she tried to negotiate.
“You said you were divorced.”
“I LIED!” Kali shouted.
“No matter; I’m sure it will have no bearing on the ceremony,” he shrugged as he knelt down next to her nakedness. She struggled savagely against her bonds while he went through some strange sacramental gyrations that ended with each of them wearing matching shell and shark teeth necklaces. The projections scratched her chest, leaving small rivulets of blood in her cleavage.
Kali stopped struggling as she felt the stake at her right hand loosening and saw the doctor of death raise his sacrificial knife to strike her down. “NOW WHAT?!” she hollered.
She couldn’t have known, but Nalu smiled wickedly behind his mask, “Now what? Now Miss Mana, you will die, and then I will cremate your corpse to merge your mana, or spirit, to the statue itself. It will then resume its sacred duty and act as a protector of the island’s living, while I will be the only high priest on the island that can commune with Makemake, the creator god!”
As he brought down his knife to slash her tender throat, she pulled with all her might and yanked the fifteen-inch iron stake from the ground. In an instant, it was in her right hand and the majority of its length was completely embedded in the witch doctor’s chest. He rolled to the ground next to her as his lifeblood spewed from his horrific wound.
She didn’t waste any time, and immediately untied the nylon ropes binding her left wrist and ankles. Once free, she knelt next to the doctor’s dying body and whispered, “I told you I lied. I’m not divorced. My husband is dead in a crawlspace in Brooklyn.” Kali giggled at the irony and added, “Now I’ve killed my second husband too.”
The spike had pierced Nalu’s lung and he coughed blood when he strained to speak but the only words that came out were, “Crem…cremate me…burn me…and you…you will be Makemake’s…wife.”
For a brief moment, Kali considered taking Nalu’s advice, but no, two dead husbands was quite enough. She decided to just hike back to the hotel and take up permanent residence in her private suite.
The wide-eyed statue looked dreadfully forlorn as his potential wife turned her back on him.