Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 28, 2018

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2018 #3


Hula is a beautiful and exquisite art and for those who are meant for it, the rewards of what it has to offer are priceless. Hula is also a jealous art and much like other art communities, it is rife with gossip and high drama.
In rare cases, hula is also a community where curses are conjured and cast forth. Many years ago a particular hula school was set to perform at a very prestigious event for a group of very important dignitaries who were visiting Hawaii. It was of utmost importance that the hosts of this event make a lasting positive impression.  The kumu hula was meticulous and he had his halau (school) practice for the event six months ahead of time. The sessions were relentless and oftentimes brutal, but for what the kumu had in mind the almost militaristic practice was necessary. A month before the performance, the students went to the mountains and gathered material with which to make their finery, dyes, and costumes. Particular ferns were required for their spiritual symbolism as were certain plants for the beautiful dye that it would bring forth once they were mashed into a pestle. Though not traditional, the yards of Pellon served as the alternative material to kapa and fine malo were fashioned from it. It's fabric drank in the process of the dye as if it were a man who had not had a single drop of water for days on end. The rust color along with the black designs of geometrical triangles was bold and filled with strength.

The final week before the performance, the studio was marked with tape that reflected the exact dimensions of the space where the halau was due to perform. This way every student would know their spacing and what mark to hit when the time came. Were it a casual performance, the requirements for staging and blocking would not be so stringent.

Soon it was the evening before the performance and the kumu held a full dress rehearsal and expected everyone to dance full out which of course they did, However, one student whose dancing ability was brilliant did not take kindly to a snide remark given to him by another student. In reply to the remark, the brilliant student gave his fellow halau brother half the peace sign. The perpetrator of the remark happened to be standing just in front of the kumu but a little off too the side. The kumu saw the gesture and thought it was meant for him. He immediately exploded and cast the errant student from the halau but demanded that all material be returned on the spot. The student obliged but spat on every fern and dyed costume he'd made before handing it over and rather than hand it over to the kumu, he walked up to his teacher face to face and dropped the materials at his feet.

"Ha'ule ka lani," the student whispered. " 'O'opa ka wawae, kuli 'oko'a ka pepeiao."

The student turned and left the halau, never to be seen again. The rehearsal went on without him and an hour later, everyone was sent home. That night, the kumu was visited by a horrible nightmare where some strange force lurking under his bed began to pull the sheets and blankets downwards with him tangled in it. To his horror, he saw that the blankets were covered with the same geometrical triangle designs which were dyed on to the hula costumes and that all the material seemed to be pulled and gathered at the bottom corner of his bed. There at the bottom is the errant student....waiting. His flesh is black and filled with large armor-like scales, his eyes go from a cat like yellow and then to black, and then red. His forked tongue darts in and out of his mouth covered in a black sheen. The former student is pulling his kumu toward him, he hears a break in the sides of his jaws and now his mouth is fully wide open, wide open enough to swallow his kumu whole. In the nightmare, the kumu screams a high shrill scream as his legs and then his torso is swallowed by the creature who was once his student but was now his reaper. The disgusting sound of wheezing and gurggling is heard and the kumu screams again, he can literally hear himself being eaten alive. In the next second, he finds himself sitting up in bed drenched in sweat.

The next morning several attempts are made to call the former student but there is no answer from his cell phone or his landline. His e-mails yield no replies either. A visit to his apartment reveals that it is empty. The landlord tells the kumu that the student suddenly picked up and moved out overnight.

That evening as the halau is prepared to go on they are stunned to see that the theater is filled to capacity. People are turned away at the door and eventually the facility posts a sign which says, "SOLD OUT."

On the microphone, the kumu introduces the hula which they are about to perform and explains its relevance to the event and its attending dignitaries. The three beats on the ipu heke are given and the halau offers the kahea. 'Ae, ho'opuka i kai o ka la i unulau!'

The chant is bombastic and the ipu heke provides a driving beat which seems to move the dancers across the bare stage like a dark wave surging toward the waiting shores. They move as many in body but one in mind but soon there is a glitch. A few dancers are noticeably off cue while the adornments of ferns and ti around their necks, wrists, and ankles are coming undone. A few fly off and land dead on the stage while others sail off into the audience. A noticeable gasp comes from the crowd. The dancers are thrown from their focus and they begin to bump into one another. The scene becomes like a bottlenecked traffic jam at the Punahou off-ramp. One dancer is rattled to the point that he trips over his own feet and falls flat on his back. The rest are caught up in the unexpected commotion and are unable to hear the kumu's chant over the din of disappointment and regret from the audience. The kumu calls the dancers to leave the stage and verily apologizes to the house and removes himself and his halau from any further embarrassment.

Backstage the theater manager is so infuriated that he addresses the kumu and yells at him to leave immediately. They are not even given the chance to change out of their remaining finery and costumes. The kumu tells everyone to meet back at the halau studio in half an hour where they can all change their clothes. A half hour later while the students are changing out of their costumes and into their normal everyday clothing, their kumu crucifies them with curses and brutal personal indignation. Meekly some of the students say that suddenly they could not hear the kumu's chant even though he sat less than ten feet away from them and used a microphone. Others who lost their finery said it felt as if 'hands' were undoing the tightly bound material. Others claimed that they felt unseen hands pushing them one into the other.

The kumu notices that one of the relatively newer dancers is about to put his costume away but sees something unusual on it. He walks forward and yanks the costume from his student and then he hears a wheezing and gurgling sound coming from within the folds of the material. The kumu screams and throws it to the floor! Everyone watches in horror as one of the geographical designs takes on the shape of a human face. It appears as a profile first, but then the profile turns to the kumu and in full view of everyone, it blinks. Save for the din of traffic on the nearby freeway, the neighboring homes were jolted awake by the screams emanating from the within the confines of the hula halau.


The kumu would find out later that the student who he extricated from his halau appeared at the door of the relatively new student the following morning after his exile. Somehow, he had rested the costume he'd given back to the kumu and was now at the door of the relatively new student, asking him if he wouldn't mind wearing it so that his own efforts in making it wouldn't go to waste. The relatively new student not knowing any better accepted the offer and wore the costume. Today, the halau no longer exists and the kumu lives in a Buddhist temple somewhere in Kalihi hoping that a holy life will relieve him of his unending nightmares.

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