Once Upon a Time in Hawaii

Materialized by Melissa Llanes Brownlee on Wednesday, December 21st 2022.

We glide to the boats on silent waves. Our paddles slicing through the waters. Our war canoes hidden in the darkness of a new moon. We are grateful for it. The Kahuna said their visions told them this was the night. We sweep around the outside of the bay so that they can’t see us. We make sure to hide in the darkness. We climb up the anchor lines, keeping our canoes close, pieces of kapa along our hulls to keep them from making a sound. We have knives made of wood and shark teeth, their hilts gripped tightly in our mouths. We will kill all the men we see, throwing their bodies overboard, to be put in the canoes. We are shadows. We catch a man leaning against a rail. We slice his throat and throw him over for our brothers below. Another man is at the top of a long pole we climb as easily as a coconut tree, our blade almost removing his head from its stem. We have to leave him there, to honor him later.

The Kahuna tell us that the men in the rooms below will help us. They are useful. We are confused by what we see but we know what rooms are, what floors are, what sails are, these are not new to us. We had prepared ourselves for the strange way of things aboard their boat. We are not shocked when we can’t open doors by pushing on them. We twist cold protrusions and they open. We are lucky and we thank Ku. The men are sleeping and we tie them up with the rope we have slung around our bodies. We don’t want them to cry or shout so we put kapa in their mouths and we carry them easily on our shoulders. They weigh as much as children to us. We gather all of the living men on the top floors of their boats. Their eyes blaze at us but we know they will be grateful for their lives. Their boats are ours. The rest of their crews are on shore sleeping off their dinner and awa. We had made sure their food was seasoned with calming herbs to let them sleep deep, making sure they wouldn’t wake up in the night during our raid. The men we have captured try to fight us. They are lucky we are so gentle with them. The Kahuna tell us to set them in the longhouse with the other men when we return. We burn more herbs inside the longhouse to keep the new ones calm as well.

The Kahuna tell us to bring out the one we believed to be Lono, their leader. We walk among the sleeping and drugged bodies and lift him up. His face filled with troubled dreams. Maybe he knows what is to come. Maybe not. We lay him before the Kahuna, gathered here for this moment. They talk among themselves, choosing one of us, asking me to step forward. You will take his life, and in doing so, capture his mana as your own, they tell me. I nod and kneel, readying my blade. His eyes flutter open as shark teeth slice through his neck, the blood spraying across the sand. In that moment, the world shifts and I know there’s more to come.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reckon Review, The Hennepin Review, Cheap Pop, Five South, Cotton Xenomorph, Parentheses Journal, Empty House Press, Sugar Sugar Salt and Indiana Review. She is in Best Small Fictions 2021, Best Microfiction 2022, and Wigleaf Top 50 2022. Read Hard Skin from Juventud Press and Kahi and Lua from Alien Buddha. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.