Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 27, 2017

"... Pieces of April..."

My father always proudly told the story of how our grand ancestor, Yuen, was among a handful of Chinese immigrants who lived with Kamehameha the great. The men were single bachelor's from Canton and there was not a woman among them from their home country. As a result, they intermarried with Hawaiian women. Although some of the Hawaiian women were of a lesser bloodline relation to Kamehameha himself, that did not matter to my father. As far as he was concerned we were royalty, therefore as much as the Yuen clan was indeed part Hawaiian, our Chinese side was the emphasis whereas our Ali'i bloodline became my father's way of lording it over his other Chinese friends who were a part of the Acacia Club.

The Beginning

February  1977, I was a spoiled bachelor living in an old-style Chinese mansion in Nu’uanu with nine bedrooms and just myself. I was out late one night with a bunch of my friends at Smith’s Union Bar in Chinatown. The place was packed wall to wall and even if you were dancing you could only do the two-step in place. During the nights' debauchery and dancing, I'd become soaked in sweat and so I went outside to get a breath of fresh air. That’s when I saw April. She was stunning, no makeup, no lipstick but just.….glowing with beauty. However, when she talked, that’s when I knew she was all of sixteen years old and not of age at all to be in a nightclub but she somehow managed to get in with a fake ID. I introduced myself and we made small talk. Afterward, she turned around and abruptly disappeared back inside and lost herself on the crowded dance floor. I could only watch from the bar as her body moved effortlessly to the music. She seemed to be dancing by herself and completely ignored anyone who would try to dance with her or buy her a drink. When the place finally closed at 4 in the morning, she made it a point to specifically find me to ask for a ride.

“Where you live?” I asked.

“Nowhere now,” April replied.

She told me that her parents were a traditional Chinese family who had arranged a marriage between herself and the son of longtime shoe dealer who owned several stores throughout the islands. “Chun Kim Chow? Are you kidding?”

April said that she wanted nothing to do with it and so her parents kicked her out. Without a second thought, and because I wasn’t thinking with my brain, I offered her a room in my house and assured her that it was cool and that the offer was sincere.

 And so it was.

I took her out to eat at one of the Saimin houses and then we headed back to my place. I offered April the biggest room in the house but she opted for the smaller room just off from the stairway that led to the second floor.

“What about school?” I asked. “And clothes or money?”

“I can ask one of my uncles for some cash, it shouldn’t be a problem,” April said in a casual manner. “I’m really tired,” she said. “Can we talk about it in the morning and then figure everything out?”

I figured why not? I headed upstairs to my bedroom. The following morning I find April in the kitchen, she’s already prepared breakfast for the both of us. She’s dressed in one of my office shirts and a pair of my jeans. She tells me that she goes to Roosevelt high school which is where I drop her off. I ask if I should pick her up in at the same spot, but she tells me not to worry, she can find her way back to my place. It doesn’t occur to me right at that moment that she has neither a folder or school books.……and the most important thing of all is that I forgot to ask her about her last name. I was a part-time property manager for my father, which was basically my other job when I wasn't spying on a cheating husband on behalf of a suspicious wife who hired me to do just that. I had a full day ahead of me. It's a funny situation because my dad and I don’t talk, it’s my mom who’s the peacemaker really and she doesn't seem to mind that the old man and I communicate through her.

 I was coming back from checking up on a property on River street that day, I was in my car at the corner of Hotel and Bethel when a bunch of Hari-Krishnas came dancing and singing through the crosswalk. I knew one of them, she used to be a classmate of mine from high school, Lyn Worthington. I put my sun visor down in the hopes that she wouldn’t see me but it was too late.

“Gerry?” She said in her best earth mother voice. “From high school?”

“Uh hey Lyn, how have you been? You look different...” I tell her with a half smile that is completely insincere.

“Gerry, death is around you. It’s all over you!” Her face went from that shallow cheek fasting look to that of wide-eyed genuine concern.

“Is that what they teach up at that Krishna place in Nu’uanu? Fortune telling?” I wiggled my fingers and she got upset.

“This has nothing to do with Lord Krishna! I’ve always been psychic throughout high school and I’m telling you that death surrounds you! You have to be careful!” She insisted.

The next thing I know, there’s the sound of cars beeping their horns behind me and people yelling.

“See ya’ around Lyn,” I tell her as I drive off.

Whenever I roll up to the roundabout driveway in my home, I always enter through the kitchen. It’s always been a habit of mine since I was a kid, and old habits are hard to break. The first sign that April was already home from school was that the kitchen was spotless. All the dishes were put away and things just seemed to be a lot cleaner. The door to April’s room was open but she wasn’t in it, in fact, it looked as if she’d never slept in it at all. I was on my way up to my room when I stopped dead in my tracks, I see my bedroom door open and I see April standing at the foot of my bed completely naked. Her back is facing me, so she hasn’t a clue that I’m there, but even before I can think or feel anything, April reaches behind her neck with two hands and.…….she removes her skin from her body like it’s a piece of clothing. Standing there is a hideous demon-like creature, in my bedroom with its fricking skin ON MY BED.

I back down the stairs slowly and as best I can, I make my way out of the kitchen and head to my car. Luckily, my old Plymouth has quiet mufflers so I’m pretty sure she or IT, didn’t hear me at all. I can’t tell you why but for some reason I found myself thinking of the only possible person who could help me; and to think earlier that same day I did my best to avoid her, Lyn Worthington. The temple was easy enough to find and without much effort, so was Lyn. She was sitting out in the front counseling someone when she saw me, she quickly got into my car and told me to drive down to Nu’uanu and to pull into ‘O’ahu Cemetery.

“You can’t enter the holy grounds of our temple with death at your side!” She was no longer her earth mother self, but the old Lyn who hung out in front of the girls' bathroom in high school. “The moment you stepped out of this car, you would have defiled the grounds of our sacred temple! I shouldn’t even be here with you!”

“Then why’d you get in my car?” I shouted back.

“Because I saw it on you the second your car pulled into our driveway! I had to get you out of there!” She paused for a moment and took a closer look at my face. “You saw it didn’t you?”

“Yeah, it was in my bedroom, but what the hell is it?” I asked.

“You brought it home with you,” She was right.

“I met her or IT at the Union Bar last night, her name is April,” I asked her.

“Your Chinese, I’m Haole but I know more about your own culture than you do, doesn’t that make you feel stupid?” She wasn't condescending when she said that, she was genuinely sad and she was right. My beef with my father made me pull away from what was rightfully my heritage, but I did it to hurt him. The less Chinese I became, the more it whittled away a piece of his heart.

“Lyn, what is it?” I asked again.

“Hui de pifu,” Lyn's Chinese was perfect. “It’s a demon that wears it’s human form like painted on skin, human skin,”

“Painted Skin?” I asked.

“Hui de pifu.…painted skin,” She confirmed.

“What the hell do I do?” I asked.

She sighs and says, “When all these different races immigrated to Hawai’i, what do you think they brought with them, aside from their foods and religious beliefs?”

“I dunno!” I shrieked.

“Their ghosts, spirits and demons,” Lyn said.

“What do I do Lyn?!” I was exasperated.

“That I don’t know,” she said. “I’d tell you to go see a Taoist priest but Taoism in Hawai’i has been westernized so much, I don’t think they know what to do,” she got out of my car at that point and told me, "I'll walk back to the temple, don't worry about dropping me off. Just be careful Gerry okay? It would be such a shame if you died so young."


 I drive down to the empress theater on Nu’uanu and Beretania and I call my mother from a payphone. The cleaning lady answers and tells me that my parents went to my place. I hang up and immediately head up the road to my home where I’m met by several police officers who have converged on my property. My dad’s imperial crown sedan is parked in the roundabout and I’m met by a police officer when I get out of my car. They ask me who I am and I tell them and they grab me and cuff me. I’m taken down to the police station and questioned but no one will tell me anything about what the hell is going on and why they wouldn’t let me talk to my parents? They ask me about when I last saw my folks and I tell them that I saw my mother a couple of days ago, when we had lunch at Wo Fats

 At that point, our family attorney Simon Ching drives up and tells me not to say another word. In turn, he tells the officers that I haven’t been arrested for anything and that he’s taking me home.

They let me go.

He tells me I can’t go back to my place because I’m a suspect in the murder of my parents, he says the neighbors and passersby heard horrific screaming and at one point they saw my father being dragged back into my house but by whom and what, they don’t know. They were found with their hearts torn out.

A chill comes over me but I can’t say anything to Simon, he wouldn’t understand. I know he sees the look on my face and he asks me if I know anything but I lie and tell him that I don’t. Anything I say in regards to what took place in the last twenty-four hours will make me look like a nut job and that, in turn, will make me the number one suspect.

It wasn’t old news that my father and I didn’t get along but the officers asked me if I hated my father bad enough to want to kill him? With nowhere else to go, I head to the only place I can think of, my parent's house. Their domicile is one of those traditional Chinese houses with the red painted walkway and that leads up to the stairway that is painted in the same color. The house sits on the slopes of Punchbowl or "Puowaina" as our Hawaiian neighbors called it, and rightly so. The name closely translates to, "Hill of Sacrifice." As a child, I recall hearing strange chanting noises coming from inside the crater late at night, Mr. Kamaka from next door would tell us, kids, that it was the ghosts of the ancient Ali'i and kahuna, performing the old sacrificial ceremonies.

 My parents performed a different kind of sacrifice so that their only son could have a good life, this house and everything in it said so. Every shelf, every decoration, every picture, and ornament screamed sacrifice. I felt smaller with each step I took into the old place where I grew up, eventually, I found my way to my father's study. The small room was filled with the scent of his Aqua Velva cologne and on his desk was a jar of See Mui that he made himself, I sat in his leather-bound chair and immediately felt all the exhaustion of the day's events suddenly take its toll on me. Simultaneously, I gazed at each bookshelf that took up space on each wall from floor to ceiling. Every book in my father's collection had to do with culture, spirituality and the otherworldly, not just in the realm of Chinese thought but from around the world. This was the only time I ever really took notice of it, strange that a businessman like him would have a library like this? I took a deep breath and happened to look up at the space above the door to my father's study. Mounted to the wall was my old Wudang wooden sword, thank goodness I paid attention and actually learned something from my father who taught me the Wudang technique. Before I knew it, I dozed off and had the most unusual dream. My father was standing in front of his desk wearing his favorite dark blue polo shirt, there was a huge hole in the left side of it, where his heart should have been. His face was deathly pale and his expression was stoic, he didn't say a word. All he did was point to the Wudang sword above the door. Memories of him making that sword for me from Koa kept flashing through my mind.

"Koa is heavy, but that's good. You get used to the weight and it will make you stronger, you make your grip firm but don't choke it. You develop strong wrist but your sword arm is supple, when you strike, you strike like a whip, not a stick." He would say this over and over to me, again and again.

Looking at him now in the dream, I suddenly realized why we grew apart over the years until we couldn't stand one another. It was me, as I got older, things got harder, school, work, life. My father was old school and in his world men were never supposed to whine or be weak, men took the lead and never gave up when life got hard. Men worked to feed their families no matter what, men never forgot to show filial piety to their parents and ancestors, men took care of their wife and their children and did everything they could to give them a good life. That's all he ever tried to teach me, he just wanted me to stand up and be a man when life got to be too difficult, but I used my Mom against him because she always took my side. I wedged her between him and me so I could get the car I wanted, so I could go to the club and buy the expensive clothes and date the wrong girls. I did it so I didn't have to try and every time he opposed me, I hated him even more.

In the dream, there was an urgency in his eyes, a life or death stare. Tears were brimming as he pointed to the Wudang sword. It all hit me right at that moment, I knew what I had to do.



 I entered the perimeter of my property from the back wall and saw that all the lights in my home were on and all the doors and windows were open. So much for using the stealth of darkness as my shield in the late night. Standing at the foot of my stairs to the front door, I could hear "Rhiannon" on my record player from somewhere within the house, she was expecting me.
She was in the very place that I least expected her to be, one would think that a demon would hide and then capture you when you weren't looking, but she didn't need to hide. It was a bold and arrogant statement, what with her or IT living for so long among humans, once she was found out, the cards were already bare on the table. The only move left was to go all in or lose everything.
I could hear the water running and the sound of dishes being washed, I'm not sure how you feel about that, but considering everything that happened earlier, it's quite unsettling.

There she was, standing at the sink, not so much putting dishes away in the rack, but piling them one on top of the other. It wasn't who I was expecting either, it wasn't April, it was my mother.

"I don't know why you have to be so sneaky, I know you're coming, you know I'm here, just enter the room, right?" My mother or IT said.

"Son-of-a-bitch," I gasped.

"I couldn't help myself, I had to try on your mother's skin. It's okay, usually, I don't wear old people but your mother is different! I like her," she was smiling through my mother's smile and I wasn't mortified as I was a second ago. I was pissed. "You came empty handed Gerry?" She observed. "How did you expect to defend yourself and go out fighting like a man? Oh but you're not a man, not really. Your mother's skin tells me that she had to fight all of your battles between you and your father, that's why you're so useless as a grown man. When I was wearing April's skin I was surprised that you didn't try anything, you were very much the gentleman instead. Or maybe you were just so henpecked that you couldn't get it up for anyone else but your mother?"

The element of surprise was one thing that my father taught me when I learned Wudang from him. He said it was like poker, never have a tell, never flinch, never telegraph your intentions by your body or your thoughts. Kill with the first blow, kill with brutality and without mercy.

"Regret later," my father would say. "Live now."

While the Painted skin demon babbled on about incestual Freudian slips and revelled in hearing its own voice, I unleashed the wooden Wudang sword from the scabbard that was tied to my back and struck with a wide arching blow. My entire body was relaxed and my breathing was even. the blow only intensified at the last second before the sword parted the Painted demon's head from its body. The movement was so sudden that as the head left the body, it kept prattling on about the perverse yearnings of Elvis for his dearly departed mother Grace. As the demonic black smoke left its body, I gathered it all in my father's empty See Mui jar. I ate the entire contents on the way over, I'm sure it was going to suffer for it later on. The physical form of the demon dissolved into nothing, and I must have sat at my kitchen table for hours, almost numb to the experience. I stared at the sword for hours before I finally broke down and cried, my father was the sword, everything he taught me or tried to teach me later was contained within this wooden blade. I hated myself and it would be a while before I would get over it.


The fingerprints that were found in the house and on or about the body of my parents belonged to a sixteen-year-old local girl named April Chock. She was a student at Roosevelt High school who disappeared one day while walking from her second-period class to her fourth-period class. Somewhere on the campus, she'd vanished and no one had ever seen her again. Yet, how does one account for fingerprints that belong to a missing person? Did April just show up one day to brutally murder a local Chinese couple only to disappear again?

She did resurface, but just for a brief while. However, at that time she wasn't April Chock, she was a painted skin demon.

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