Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Mar 15, 2022

Ulana 2022

Visits to my grandparent's house required a long drive from the north shore to the back of Nu'uanu Valley, where they lived in an old southern plantation-style mansion. We mostly saw my grandmother, who loved us and spoiled us with many things. My grandfather kept to himself on the third floor of the home, leading to a pair of winding stairs that would bring you to the attic, which was his study. He only opened the door for our grandma because she spent time with him there. My father, his brothers, and sister, my uncles, and my aunt were also privileged to enter into grandpa's study because they were his children as well. However, he never opened the door for any of us grandchildren. My dad said that grandpa knew the sound of each person's knock, and that's how he knew who to let into his study and who not to. This is not to say that my grandfather was a complete hermit. He'd come down for lunch or dinner or when he needed to make himself something to eat. Of course, if there was company over the house, he was the consummate host. But he was very strict about us grandkids trying to interject ourselves into grown-up conversations. My dad tried to tell grandpa one time that that kind of thing was something for himself and his siblings from back in the day. "It's a different time, Pops; we include our kids on everything."

"In your house, you do," Grandpa held my dad's eyes for a few seconds and went back to talking to the people who were visiting for dinner. I remember that was the first time I had seen anyone shut my dad down without him quickly formulating a reply. Our grandmother was different; of course, she loved us, and we could practically say and do anything we wanted until we got busted by our folks. Every time before we would leave, she would sneak candy and money into our pockets. Not my dad or his brothers and sister could protest because grandma would always say, "You be quiet, I could die tomorrow for all you know, and your last memories of me will be your telling me not to spoil my grandchildren! That will be on your shoulders!" There was never a reply to that from any of the adults. I didn't realize back then that grandma's word was law; grandpa just went along with whatever she wanted. One time, in the sixth grade, I had a horrible case of pneumonia. I came down with a cold and ignored it, but also, my parents were busy during that time, and they really didn't catch it. Of course, the fluids built up in my lungs, and that's how I got it. I ended up going to the doctor three times, and each time pneumonia came back. As I understood the events in the way that my father would explain it to me years later on, I had come down with pneumonia a fourth time. He was at his wit's end by that point; without even thinking, he threw me in the back seat of his car, and he and mom drove straight to my grandparent's house. My mom called ahead so that when they arrived, my grandma was already waiting at the front door. My dad carried me into the house just in time to see grandpa coming down the stairs. As it was told to me, grandpa took me from my father's arms without a word and brought me upstairs to his study. Everyone was floored, and they didn't know what to say. Even now, I have bits and pieces of what transpired, but what I do know is my grandpa healed me with Hawaiian medicine. Presently, it's years later on, and grandpa and grandma have long since passed. Us grandchildren inherited the house, and we all agreed to split everything evenly. I got grandpa's study. In front of me is a box marked 'Recordings For Analū.' In the box are a bunch of evenly placed digital recorders; on top of the recorders lay a piece of paper, and written on it in grandpa's handwriting, it says, 'Stories Recorded During Analū's Pneumonia.'
On the top of each digital recorder was a tiny piece of paper with a number on it written in ink. Each article was covered by clear scotch tape. The box was nearly filled to the top with these digital recorders, and I wasn't going to know how many there were unless I listened to every one of them.

 "Shit," I sighed to myself. "No better place to start than from one."


Pressing play, I heard white noise and then a child's voice. "What is that, grandpa?"

"Pōpolo berries, drink it now; itʻs good for your pneumonia. It will help take it away," for as scary and intimidating, stoic, and looming as my grandpa was, his voice was so soothing. It was disarming and a far cry from the man I remembered who only needed three words to take you apart. "You have to drink the whole thing, Analū, otherwise youʻll never get better."

"How come my sick wonʻt go away, grandpa?" My little self asked.

"Because itʻs, not just a sickness," he said plainly. 

"Not just a sickness?" I could hear the croak in my young voice.

" Itʻs also a curse," my grandpa confirmed.

"On me?" I squealed weakly.

"On your father," my grandpa said. "But sent to you, to make your father suffer."

"Who would do that?" My gosh, listening to myself, I realized that I was actually in my grandpa's study. The Sanctum Sanctorum was the holy place where only grown-ups could see. 

"Has your father told you the history of our family?" He asked.

"The history?" Even now, I'm laughing and tearing up at how much I didn't know and how new I was to everything.

"How our family began," he stated more than asked.

"No, grandpa," I replied. "He hasn't."

"A long time ago, long before everything," he began. "There were two sisters, one older, one younger. They were opposites from the time they were born, not the same, and therefore, did not get along."

"How come?" I heard the curiosity and awe in my voice.

"Because of what they represented," my grandpa replied. I can't describe to you what the tone of his voice was like except to say that I could feel it creating magic right on the spot. 

"Represented?" I said slowly, trying to enunciate the word correctly so that my grandpa would be impressed.

"Yes, represented," he confirmed. "The older sister represented the ocean and all forms of water; the younger sister represented fire in all of its forms. So you can see how the two might have clashed while growing up, and as they got older, they both realized that it was in their best interest to stay as far away from one another as they could, to keep the peace."

"So, what happened?" I was hooked, and it was only the beginning of the story.

"The younger sister, the one who represented fire, was quick-tempered and very impatient. She had come of age when it was time for her to learn how to manipulate fire, but not just any fire as we know it. Nothing lit from a match, or like how one might see flames from an oven, but molten fire from the earth,"

"Like lava?"

"Not like lava, it was lava, but the name for lava and the name of the younger sister were one and the same," my grandpa said. "Pele," his voice dropped to a reverent tone. "Her uncle Lonomakua was the keeper of the volcanic fires, and it was he who taught a young Pele to stoke the flames until she could manipulate it with just her thoughts. One day, while teaching Pele lessons in how to make the molten flames explode so that they burst into a high fountain a mile up into the sky, a messenger arrived for Lonomakua and he had to be called away. "That's it for now," the uncle told Pele. "We'll continue when I get back." But this was a young Pele and at the time it was not in her nature to be patient and she began to summon the flames from the earth and raised the molten fires until it got higher, and higher, but soon it was too high, and it became too much for her to control. You see, Pele and her older sister lived on the very same island, but as I said before, they stayed away from one another to keep the peace. One stayed on one side while the other stayed on the side that was hers. Pele, raising the fountain of lava higher than she expected saw that it became much too big and that it spread too far and too wide. The fountain of molten fire spread to the older sister's side of the island and burnt it to a crisp. What was sad about that, is that there were people living on the older sister's side of the island,"

"No," I heard myself gasp.

"Yes," my grandpa confirmed. "Her family, men, women, and children, all wiped out completely."

"Oh no, no," my voice cracked.

Young Pele was horrified at what she'd done, but even worse, she was worried about what was going to happen once her older sister found out. Immediately, she went to her mother Haumea and told her everything. Needless to say, Pele's mother was upset, but more than that, she was concerned about Pele's life. "Your impatience has caused you to do something so foolish that you must now leave your homeland and sail away or die. There is a canoe waiting for you at the beach, gather your family and go now! I've sent your eldest and most sacred brother Kamohoali'i, the king of sharks to guide you on your way. Come, embrace me now for this last time, for I do not know if I will ever see you again," tearfully young Pele and her mother Haumea held on to one another. Then, her mother hurried her down to the shore and onto the double-hulled canoe. Haumea gave wisp of her breath to the canoe to fill its sails and send it and her children and grandchildren on their way. "Don't look back," Pele's mother called out. "Lest you only see tears."

The following morning as the sun rose in the east to cast its light on the older sister's side of the island, her double-hulled canoe had just appeared on the horizon. At first, she thought that the sun was yet rising which would give a good reason as to why her home appeared dark. But it remained dark the closer she approached until she saw that the entirety of her homeland was burnt to a black crisp. All life, plant, animal, and human were gone. Thin ribbons of smoke rose here and there, but no life to speak of was present. Within the bowels of the older sister's being, she who was called Namakaokaha'i, a single name boiled forth with such fury that it raised the ocean behind her to come forth and wash away any remaining evidence of what was once fire. Once that was done, she was going to find the architect of the black burning blight on her land, and wipe that person and her name from existence forever. That was her younger sister, Pele.
There was silence in the study, I uttered not a word, but my grandpa continued. "Ah, but the hour is late. When you're up tomorrow you'll continue your medicine, and get lots of rest. In the evening, we will pick up where we left off so we can continue to ulana," I, like the voice I heard on the digital recorder was disappointed to be brought to such a height of wonder, horror, excitement, and adventure only to be told that the story would have to wait because my bedtime had already arrived. My younger voice and mine almost harmonized, "Nooooo...!" be continued

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