Rodney E.J. Chang

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Joseph Wilcox had just moved up to Kamekame Ridge in Hawaii Kai. He had a rim lot that offered a splendid panorama of the beach and bay below. The homes constructed on this early 1990s ridge development were big and expensive. Joseph’s custom residence had just been constructed. However, the landscaping was not yet in. It was still all rocks, weeds, and dirt. He dreamed of the day when he would be sitting in his backyard gazebo, sipping a mai-tai, and looking down at the sunset over the bay through planted palm trees along the back boundary of his property. Beyond that it was a steep slope with rocks, dry brush, and small straggly trees.



Before his family home was constructed, his neighbor to the upside had already completed their home. Nice palm trees, rows of ornamental plants, and colorful flowerbeds graced the spacious backyard. A sprinkler system with an automatic timer kept the tropical landscaping lush. Joseph hoped his own yard would look as elegant someday.



There was a retaining rock wall in the back, separating the property boundary from the mountain slope that descended down to Kalama Valley a couple hundred feet below. The valley used to be wilderness but now it was a large subdivision with tract homes numbering in the hundreds.



On the neighbor’s low rear rock wall, Joseph spotted a column of stacked black lava stones. There were about seven, oval rocks, with the largest on the bottom and the smallest at the top. They were perfectly balanced on top of each other, without the use of adhesives or cement. On the sides of the base were wilted flowers and some spoiling bananas and mangoes. When he saw his neighbor, Russell Nagata, mowing his thick green lawn, Joseph asked about the display.



“It’s for good luck.”



“For what?” asked Joseph. He and the family were from Arizona.



“Did you know we have built on sacred land?”



“What are you talking about? It’s just Honolulu’s suburb of Hawaii Kai.”



“Not in the old days,” said Russell, a local boy. “This area, higher up than most of the community of Hawaii Kai, is a new development, as you can see from all the vacant lots up here. It was undisturbed until just a few years ago. The homes you see below in the valley have been there for over three decades.”



“Up here sure offers a great view of the valley and the bay. That’s why we have to pay so much for these exclusive lots.”



“It’s because of this vista that the grounds upon which we are standing are sacred,” said Russell. “From up here it’s the perfect lookout to observe what activity is happening on the coast as well as in the valley.”



“What activity?” asked the newcomer homeowner.



“Enemy warriors. Sorry to tell you this, my friend, but you just bought land where in the ancient days, the ‘night marchers’ used to patrol.”



“Who are the ‘night marchers’?’” asked Joseph, not acquainted with Hawaiian history.



“Centuries ago – way before Columbus discovered America, Hawaiians populated this valley. They sent nightly scouts out, carrying torches for light, to patrol their village location in the valley. That included climbing up this ridge to get the best view of the bay. From here, if attacking canoes were arriving, they could signal below with conch shells to warn the villagers of the impending attack. In the old days, different tribes attacked each other all the time. Many times they arrived in canoes from adjacent islands. It was customary to invade and slaughter other villagers, capture their women and children, and take male prisoners to be slaves or to be used as human sacrifices to their idolatrous deities.”



“Good grief,” said the previous mainlander.



“Yeah, back in those days, even if the natives lived in a paradise, life could be menacing and tragic. And also very spiritual and supernatural.”



“So because of this legend about long dead pagans, you have that stack of rocks behind your house?”



“Yes, and so should you. It’s an offering to the night marchers in order to keep them away.”



“You’re saying they are still around?” “Yes, still patrolling as spirits – centuries later. Before you arrived, there’s been sightings by some neighbors, claiming they saw shadows with the form of humans along the ridge with glowing lights in a row.”



“Must have been hikers at night,” said the disbelieving Joseph.



“I’m just warning you. And if ever you spot one, don’t ever look it straight in the eyes. You could lose your mind or even die.”



Joseph laughed in disbelief. “That’s ridiculous and so superstitious.”



“Well, don’t say you weren’t forewarned. Oh, there’s another thing. Sometimes the marchers only appear as black, shadowy balls. Hector Jasinski, across the street and two houses above mine, said he thinks he saw a few last month, floating along the sidewalk across the street from his house. There was enough light from the streetlights, and he just happened to be looking out his front window very early in the morning.”



“Well, all this talk about night marcher makes for good fairy tales. But we’re Catholics and don’t believe in such things. You know, no ‘false gods’.”



“My family is Buddhist, but that didn’t stop me from putting up the local offering. You know, just for good luck…just in case….”



The two men changed the subject, gossiped a bit longer about the neighborhood, then went back to their own home improvement activities.



Joseph, with his own beliefs, of course did not place a similar rock formation on his newly constructed back retaining wall. It abutted his neighbor’s, with its token to the spirits. To the mainlander Joseph, it looked trite and unsightly, a contradiction to their stately homes.



A few days later, Joseph was in the back to work on a project. He needed to gather some loose rocks outside his property and carry them over the wall where they would be used to construct a flowerbed. Before going over the two-foot high wall, he looked again at the nearby offering and chuckled to himself.



What a stupid superstition. I thought my neighbor Russell was sharper than that. Look at the flies all over those rotten fruits. It’s so disgusting. Marching ghosts around my property. Now I’ve heard everything. How ridiculous. I mean, isn’t it the dawn of the 21st century and this fellow is worried about pagan rituals? And he suggests I place one too? Gimme a break!



With a sneer, Joseph spoke out towards the valley in jest, offering, “Hey, you mighty Night Marchers. If you’re really out here, I invite you to come on in and visit. We’re nice folks with lots of hospitality! …Of course I know you won’t come, because you don’t exist!”



It wasn’t long thereafter that he was outside the wall, crouching a few feet on the outside slope of the wall. As he kneeled to lift a rock, out from behind a larger boulder rocketed an aggravated yellow jacket wasp. Joseph had no time to react. It was suddenly there, on his face, and it stung him good. The sting caused Joseph to bolt backwards from his bent over position. As a result, he lost his balance and fell backwards, hitting his head against the retaining wall. That was two injuries to the head in only a second. He survived the crisis, not being allergic to wasp’s toxins and not suffering a concussion. But he now had acute pain from the sting on his face and from the throbbing welt on the back of his head.



But that wouldn’t be the last peculiar occurrence that would happen that day.



In the evening, Joseph sat with his family of five in a breakfast nook next to the large kitchen. The sky was a red glow as the sun was about to set at the horizon over the bay. It was starting to get dark inside the house. The furnishings were casting long shadows over the thick carpet. The only lights on at the time were the small light bulb over the kitchen cooking range and the elegant chandelier suspended above the breakfast nook.



The dining area was designed as a circular bench that surrounded a round table. An open arc that permitted sitters to slide in and sit at the table breached the circle. At the moment, Joseph sat on one end of the circular, leather-upholstered bench. His wife and three kids sat further in. Facing his father, Timothy, his four-year old son, sat waiting to be served his portion by his mother. From the corner of his eye, Joseph thought he detected something moving. As he turned to the right to look across the way where the refrigerator was located against a wall, he thought he caught a glimpse of a moving black shadow. It was about a foot and a half in diameter and seemed to have floated swiftly pass the refrigerator. But he couldn’t be sure if he had seen anything at all. He blinked a couple times, to see as clearly as he could, and then looked again. Nothing was there.



He thought to himself, Hey, all this talk about night marchers is starting to get to me, playing games with my head – already assaulted in two places. But then another part of him considered,



But if there was something, my son, facing directly towards the refrigerator from his seated position at the table, would have seen it. He doesn’t appear to be alarmed over anything. I’ll ask, he’ll say he didn’t see anything, and that would prove it’s just my tired, old eyes.






“Yes, Daddy?”



“Did you see anything just now by the refrigerator?”



“You mean …the black ball?”



The next day, Joseph erected on his backyard wall an offering of stacked stones with fresh flowers and fruits at its base. He consulted his neighbor Russell for the exact specification for mounting such a token to the spirits as dictated by ancient tribal custom. He wanted to make darn sure that it was constructed correctly.