MARCHERS OF HAWAII KAI
Rodney E.J. Chang
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
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.
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.
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.
for good luck.”
what?” asked Joseph. He and the family were from Arizona.
you know we have built on sacred land?”
are you talking about? It’s just Honolulu’s suburb of Hawaii Kai.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
activity?” asked the newcomer homeowner.
warriors. Sorry to tell you this, my friend, but you just bought land where in
the ancient days, the ‘night marchers’ used to patrol.”
are the ‘night marchers’?’” asked Joseph, not acquainted with Hawaiian
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
grief,” said the previous mainlander.
back in those days, even if the natives lived in a paradise, life could be
menacing and tragic. And also very spiritual and supernatural.”
because of this legend about long dead pagans, you have that stack of rocks
behind your house?”
and so should you. It’s an offering to the night marchers in order to keep
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.”
have been hikers at night,” said the disbelieving Joseph.
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.”
laughed in disbelief. “That’s ridiculous and so superstitious.”
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.”
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’.”
family is Buddhist, but that didn’t stop me from putting up the local
offering. You know, just for good luck…just in case….”
two men changed the subject, gossiped a bit longer about the neighborhood, then
went back to their own home improvement activities.
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.
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.
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!
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
visit. We’re nice folks with lots of hospitality! …Of course I know you
won’t come, because you don’t exist!”
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.
that wouldn’t be the last peculiar occurrence that would happen that day.
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.
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.
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,
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.
you see anything just now by the refrigerator?”
mean …the black ball?”
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