Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 24, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #33 Liquify

Many kids rode their bikes in the gulch near our house. It was a neighborhood thing; everyone, at one time or another, hung out or met up in and around the gulch. The gulch was lined with thick bushes profuse with giant red hibiscus flowers. Whenever you rode your bike down the path, you could not help but brush up against them and get some yellow-spored dust on your arms and shirt. Our mothers hated that because it took several washes to get it out, and if we threw our stained shirts in with the regular laundry, it would spoil the rest of the clothes. Because some of our friends disappeared in the gulch, we were warned not to play there or, at the very least, not to go alone. Inea Mills was the first to vanish. At the end of a long afternoon, everyone's internal clock knew it was time to call it a day and go home. I remember we all began riding off, but Inea stayed behind, determined to master jumping the ramp without killing himself. We all took off, but not without promising to see Inea the next day at school. He never showed up, not that day, the day after, or the month later. It's been two years, and no one's seen him. Since then, Inea's parents know they drop 'Elau before school and pick him up after. He's not allowed to leave the perimeter of the house. He's Inea's younger brother. Next was Randall Bautista.
We were at the gulch one Saturday afternoon setting up the jump ramps. We'd move the ramps further apart each time we completed a jump. At some point, everyone gribbled on our bikes, dirt in the mouth and everything. Randall was the only one who completed each jump the further away the jump ramps were parted. In our boyhood minds, the ramps were fifty feet apart, but they might have been ten to fifteen feet. "I have to ride farther back," Randall pointed down the path. "More space and time to build up momentum!" He disappeared down the trail at the gulch to gain more space and ramp up more power to make the jump. Randall never came back. Three more kids vanished after that. It made five in a month. Ira Pihilo and his sister Marlene, then Calvin Yamashita, Senator Masa Yamashita's son. Heads rolled, and the news filmed Senator Yamashita standing near the entrance to the gulch, tearfully pleading his case for the return of his son. Calvin, like the others, disappeared. A fence was put up to block access, but because it was a state road, the military might have needed it one day just in case; the fence was taken down, and we returned to riding our bikes there. 

Unknown to the public, police staked out the place over a few nights and got nothing. There is no sign or indication of anyone or anything lurking about or laying in wait to set upon someone and kill them. On the last night, after a week of nothing, the police brought the K-9 units to the stakeout. The second the vehicles pulled up, the dogs were already agitated. Their partners left their squad cars and let them off the leash. There were three of them; two shepherds took off full tilt down the path. One stayed back, whimpering and very reticent to follow the other two. 

Within days, every officer available and unit conducted a large sweep of the gulch. They came away with the bulletproof vests that belonged to the K-9s but nothing else. Publicly, it was said that the two K-9 officers might have been led by feral pigs into the gulch and then killed. Privately, there was no proof that ever happened because no bodies were recovered, but the people needed something so that the death of the two shepherds was not meaningless. 

One day after school, I got home early, did my chores and homework, and headed to the gulch. Hardly anyone came around; if nobody was there, I wouldn't chance it alone. Today, though, Vili and his brother McShane were there. Two big Samoan brothers in the 6th grade. They were really nice and hilarious. They were testing their new BMX dirt bicycles by jumping off the makeshift ramps and skidding out in the dirt. Because the brothers were so big, their shirts were covered in the yellow spored dust from the giant hibiscus flowers. 

"It's Kawika, heyeehey!" They waved. "Ka heke o na pua, heyeehey!" 

If I haven't said it earlier, my name is Kawika, like the song by Palani Vaughn. I get teased about it constantly, but they harmonize when Vili and Shane do it. 

"How come you guys are here by yourselves?" I asked. "Shouldn't you be worried?"

"Us? No way," Vili scoffed. "Whoever's been taking our friends should worry!"

"Yup," McShane puffed out his chest. "I like see dem try!"

As if on cue, the branches of the thick hibiscus bushes reached forward like long, thin fingers, snatched both brothers into their thicket, and folded in on them. In seconds, the Vaiamu brothers were liquified like bugs within the confines of a Venus flytrap. That's how everyone disappeared, for god's sake! The yellow-spored dust marked the victims of this giant shrubbery or whatever it was. They were consumed and liquified to nothing when they got close enough. I hadn't gone down the path, so I didn't have any yellow dust on me, and yet the thin roots of the bush had already wrapped themselves around my tires. I left my bike where it was, and I ran, looking back long enough to see my bike and the brothers' bikes being also liquified in the thicket. 

I am years later in my adulthood, overlooking the gulch. It's warehouses and facilities for the city and county. The man-eating thickets are all gone. It's just the same, considering there's a brand new development overlooking the gulch, not just me. We all get consumed, one way or the other.

Artwork: Edwin Ushiro.

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