Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 30, 2022

Die, Live 2022


As a kid, I used to ride past here with my father. It seemed seedy and antiquated back then as if all the dirty parts of its past cluttered itself in this one part of town.

I never liked it; there was just something repulsive about the whole place. That is the reason why I never imagined that I would find myself waking up in one of those second-story rooms off Hotel Street. Yet, here I was, with not even my eyes opened and already feeling the onslaught of the worst hangover in all of creation. I take that back. I can't blame nature for my headache because I'm the one who created it. Maybe all it took was a mixture of bad booze and bad company.

Damn, lousy company; that's right. I slid my hand across the wrinkled sheet until it met with the smooth, warm flesh of someone's backside. Rolling over slightly, I cracked my left eye open, and there she was, whoever she was. Shoulder-length hair tousled around her bare shoulder like a voracious waterfall frozen in time. Brown skin, she's local or Asian or something. I don't know. I can't remember one detail from last night, not that it matters. I sit up out of bed, and my feet touch the cold bare wooden floor. For a moment, I wonder how many other feet have imprinted themselves in this same space? I put my undershirt on and then my blue flannel over it. I stand up and step into my jeans and then my boots. I head to the bathroom to clean up. It's not a five-star hotel bathroom, but considering the demographics, it's clean. I'm mindful enough not to use her toothbrush, but I put some toothpaste on my tongue and swish some water from the spigot around my mouth. She must use it a lot with high germ-killer tastes in that one. When I return to the bed to retrieve my waist belt, which I left wrapped around the bedpost, I see she's already awake and sitting up with no clothes on.

 I look at her and chuckle, "I forgot to shower the sex off of myself."

"We didn't have sex; nothing happened," she said.

"Nothing happened?" I questioned.

She shook her head and raised her eyebrows. "Not a thing."

"Well," I sighed, "fair is fair." I took my wallet out of my front pocket, removed three one-hundred dollar bills, and placed it on the sheet in front of her.

"What is this?" She's confused now.

"Even if we didn't have sex, I mean, still, it's your time," I reasoned.

"Oh my god," she put her head down and laughed. "You don't remember anything, do you?"

"Maybe when this hangover goes away, I will," I replied. "Besides, we both woke up with no clothes on; how did we not have sex?"

"You really don't remember?" She asked.

"No," I shook my head. "I don't."

"Well, first off, you should get going. Secondly, I will call you in three days, you'll know it's me because I already punched in my name and number on your phone. Third, if this were any other situation and you went to give me money the next morning like you just did? I would have beat your ass. Now get out."


Like clockwork, she called me three days later on the dot. I mean, like a literal second after midnight. The name Kara Manners appeared on my phone. I figured it had to be her? Even before I said 'hello,' she was already talking. "I'm outside; open your door."

I could hear her voice echoing on the other side of my thick, reinforced wooden door, so I opened it. Again, no, hello, how are you? Or go straight to hell; she just walks right in and stops in the middle of the living room floor. She turns to look at me first, and then she looks at the timer on her phone. "You're gonna drop dead in five seconds; when you come back to life in the morning, I'll explain everything."

"What the hell are you talking about? You come into my place and start feeding me this bullshit?" I asked. Simultaneously she's counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Dammit to hell, if she wasn't right, I dropped dead right on the spot.


My head felt like my brain would throb right out of my skull. Everything ached my joints, my back, and my soul. Something was wrong; it wasn't something a doctor could fix because it felt off-kilter. I willed myself to sit up on the side of the bed but slowly, not in one swift motion. That would have probably amplified my headache tenfold. There's a bit of comfort, at least; I recognize the texture of my own bedsheets under my thighs and buttocks. I'm home, not in some strange dive hotel, no tell. It's a struggle to stand up and go to the bathroom, but it doesn't come without a few grunts and groans before I can manage it. When I pull the door open, I see her from my peripheral, sitting in my bed, naked. "Have you figured it out yet?"

"What the fuck?!" I jerk so suddenly with fear that I let out a lip-slapping burst of flatulence. 

"Gross," Kara moaned. "Go clean up, and I'll explain everything after."

No argument from me, I stepped into my shower and turned the water on full cold. No gasp once the water ran over my head. I was used to it. I was awake and wide-eyed by a little bit of the Irish Spring body wash. I dried myself off with a bath towel while walking back to my bedroom. Kara sat there with her legs folded together. "Do you remember anything from yesterday?"

"Yeah, you barged into my place and told me I was going to die, and that's the last thing I remember," I said while drying my hair.

"Do you remember your workmates?" She asked. 

"My workmates?" I questioned.

"The guys you work with, do you remember their names?" She pressed.

"Uh, yeah, uh, Terry Warner, Blane Iwasaki, and Clayton Szeto," why was I having difficulty remembering their names?

"What was the last job you guys did?" Kara asked.

"Uh, those caverns, those lava tubes under the old Indigo Restaurant," I replied.

"What about them?" I got the impression that Kara already knew the answer to the questions she asked.

"Gaseous fumes from underground were seeping up into the restaurant; we were supposed to go and find the source...I can't recall anything after that." Man, my head was beginning to throb again.

"The four of you never found the source. You got turned around somehow and ended up going down the wrong lava tube," Kara said.

"You mean cavern," I corrected her.

"You started out in the caverns, but you ended up in a lava tube," she said.

"What's the difference?" I asked.

"Those caverns were also a part of the old opium dens back in the day, the lava tube that you and your friends ended up in? It led to the underworld." She said.

"What underworld?" Now I knew she was crazy.

"The realm of Milu is where all the Hawaiian people who have recently passed are escorted to by their ʻAumakua," She began. "Then thereʻs those who lived a life without honoring their parents or gods. They have no ʻAumakua; they have to sit in the branches of a rotted ʻUlu tree as shadowy human figures with red glowing eyes. Or they have to roam the treeless plains of the earth, feeding on spiders and mosquitos."

"What?" I squeaked.

"You can't remember anything because you and your friends were sucked down into the underworld. All of you were in a place you shouldnʻt have been, so you were taken. You are the only Hawaiian among your friends, so you were kind of let go and sent back." She looked at me with a bit of irritation.

"What?" I squeaked again.

"You have an erection," she deadpanned.

"Well, what do you expect? You sitting on my bed naked, and Iʻm standing here naked, and the fan is blowing on me, I mean..." I shrugged my shoulders.

"You know what? "She shook her head and laid herself back on my pillow. "Cʻmon, letʻs do it." She saw my momentary hesitation, and it only irritated her more. "Cʻmon! Get over here!"

"Well, arenʻt we gonna hug and kiss first?" I asked.

"Get over here," she growled, pointing at the spot between her legs.

I crawled onto the bed and grabbed her ankles to part her legs, but she became transparent the second I touched her. I jumped off the mattress, stumbled backward, and fell on my hamper. Somewhere in there, Iʻm sure that I screamed like a girl. She crawled to the end of the bed and let out a sigh. "Go take another shower, and Iʻll be waiting for you in the kitchen."


"Kara Manners is my ʻstage nameʻ, so to say. I grew up as an only child in a Hawaiian family; my parents were beautiful people and poured affection on top of affection on me. They set the world at my feet and gave me anything I wanted," Kara said while staring at the kitchen counter. She wore the same clothes yesterday when she appeared at my front door. She is a beautiful Hawaiian woman; I can see how plucky she is. "Being spoiled like that didnʻt really work out for me in the long run. I could not cope in stressful situations and did not know anything about being responsible or accountable. Once I graduated high school, and I was out in the world? I sank straight to the bottom. I couldnʻt hold down a job to save my life, so I tried college, but that didnʻt work either. The short story is that I was beautiful and very useless. I didnʻt know how to do anything for myself because my parents did everything. I was only two years out of high school when they suddenly passed away. My mother had terrible asthma, so she died in her sleep one night, my father was really broken up, and like me, he didnʻt know how to function without my mom. He passed a month later. If you havenʻt already guessed, I fell into the wrong crowd and got into drugs, and things got so bad I ended up having to sell my body to support my habit."

"That still doesnʻt explain why you go half invisible when somebody touches you," I said.

Kara nodded, "I know, Iʻm getting to it."

"Just saying," I put my hands up.

She took in a deep breath before she began. "Even in the ʻ60ʻs, some girls knew about the caverns under Hotel street and most of Chinatown. We were never sure if the pimps knew, but that was where we'd take personal clients. That way, the cash was ours, and we'd have a little something that was our own. Lucky me, though, the night I take a wealthy client down into the caverns, I find my pimp waiting for me. I don't think I ever ran so fast, but I got lost even with my little flashlight, just like you and your friends. I ended up in the same lava tube that led to the underworld. There were no ʻaumakua waiting to guide me, not even my parents. I was put on the dark rotting branches of an ulu tree at first. Then, Milu, the underworld god, came and cast me to the plains of Kaupeʻa. I was a formless shadow, feasting on any bug that crept or crawled, for how long I donʻt know, but it was a lonely and desolate place. The immeasurable grief and regret you feel for not doing what you should have done while alive are indescribable. It is worse than the weight of a dense ton of rocks on your shoulders, but you carry it with you as a reminder of your transgressions when you were a living being. Time on the plains of Kaupeʻa does not exist; there is no night or day, no before or after. All that exists is now. Now, must have been when Milu appeared and snatched me from Kaupeʻa and brought me to the surface. I was back in the room where I lived when I was alive; you were lying there on my bed. He stripped me of my clothes and told me that I would have to lay with you every three days and that with my body, I had to absorb your nightmares as you slept. In the underworld, Milu recognized you as a descendant of those family members who came to his realm with honor and aplomb. Your ancestors were admirable in filial piety to their elders and gods. Because of that, he returned you to the surface, but you had to die at the end of every third day to spend time in the underworld to atone for trespassing. The rest of the time, you live as a human being."

"Do the nightmares go away?" I asked.

"No," Kara said. 

"That's why I couldnʻt have sex with you," I said more to myself than her.

"Thatʻs why," Kara confirmed.

"If Kara Manners is your stage name, what is your Hawaiian name?" I asked.

"That name I cannot speak until I am done," Kara said. "So, do you understand now?"

"I understand," I rubbed my eyes. "So what now? Do you live with me from now on or what?"

"No," she replied. "I just come back every third day."

"And for me, it's just life as usual?" I asked.

"Yeah, but you might want to re-think getting involved in serious relationships, especially with me having to be in your bed." She said. "It might be hard to explain."

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