Morning is a bitch. A big hairy bitch with teeth. My skull was splitting. Sunlight hurt in major way. My eyes were also killing me, a consequence of sleeping with my contacts in. I can hear the snails crawling in the palm tree outside. My tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. It's a bad, bad, bad hangover. Next to me, Summer is oblivious. David is awake. He pokes me gently, having heard my return to consciousness moaning. I open one eye, wincing at the brightness. He looks like I feel. He's got that battered look of someone who has way overindulged. He's found the Tylenol, my contact solution, and what's left of the bourbon.
My glasses however are missing.
I carefully disentangle myself from Summer without disturbing her. I wash down the Tylenol with a health swig of bourbon, and peel my contacts out, quietly cursing. The contacts case presents itself in short order. I could put in another pair, but my eyes really hurt at the moment. Quietly, we scour the cabin for my glasses case. David finally locates it underneath one of the side tables. Now that I can almost see again, life is nearly back to normal, with the exception of the brain tumor I have between my eyes. I really need to check my email so he and I decide to take the laundry up to the little town bordering the Valley.
Summer apparently couldn't sleep without tidying up. All the blankets we'd gotten whipped cream on had been carefully rolled together. David said she'd been at it for quite awhile. He gathered his washing as I got my laundry and the laptop and we set off.
It's very quiet around here at nine in the morning. David drove us up to the lip of the canyon. He brought his camera and was merrily snapping away at the scenery. The view from up above is quite dramatic as the sheer cliff walls drop away into the ocean. Waterfalls abound, and the black sand beach is protected from eroding by huge lava protrusions. A couple of surfers braved the deadly surf and undertow to master the ten and twelve foot swells. We found the laundry, and waited patiently for the owner, who showed up on Hawaiian time.
I was able to get a signal from my cell so I plugged it and the battery pack into the laptop and did some wireless surfing. I caught my PA online and gave her the information from Mr. Lucky's license. She said she thought she could track it down and would have information for me in a couple of hours. David and I were the only customers Mr. Tanaka had, so we chatted with him a bit about the Valley and its history. We had all three of his machines going, and he more or less left us in charge of his place while he went into Laupahoehoe for parts for the fourth machine.
We drowsed on the porch, alternately getting up to check the status of the elderly washing machines. David told me that he never really did fall asleep last night. Apparently between the bracing shower and Summer's cleaning frenzy, he just couldn't sleep. A motorcycle interrupted our half nap.
"Fuck!" David snarled. We both dove inside the door as our friend trundled by on his bike. Fortunately, we'd parked the car behind the building. We watched as Mr. Lucky went into the vacation rentals place. I'd had the presence of mind to not rent the place under my own name. Clearly, he got nothing out of the rental agent, as he was back outside within five minutes. We watched him wander down to the bookstore and buy an ice cream. He went inside and wandered around. David scooped up my ball cap that I'd been wearing and tucking his braid beneath it, plopped it on his head. He looked a bit like the elephant man, and I almost laughed.
"Let me know if he starts to come out." he said and strode across the street.
I stood indolently in the doorway, mimicking the locals who hung out on their lanais to talk story to the neighbors. My blond hair was something of a dead giveaway, so I rummaged through my laundry and found another hat. I hoped I'd pass for a surfer. David was checking out the bike. He disconnected a spark plug wire as I had done. He apparently found something because he came steaming back fairly quickly. He went around the side of the building and I couldn't see what he was doing. He came back a few minutes later and was holding up a small device. We'd been tracked all along.
He's about to launch the small bug down the side of the mountain but I stopped him.
"I've got a better idea." I said.
"What, are we going to crawl up a tree and throw coconuts at him?" He's just pissed so I let the snide remark slide and grin evilly at him. We collect our laundry and leave Mr. Tanaka's keys on his lintel. I slide the bug into my pocket, as I have the perfect place for this little offering. We go back to the Treehouse, and Summer's awake and wants to go to the beach.
So, we walk down the river edge and skirt the taro patches. The Pacific is an unbelievable color of blue juxtaposed against the black sand. In my backpack was the laptop, a couple of magazines, my towel, my tanning lotion and a couple of water bottles. David and I flop into the sand, still feeling the effects of last night. Summer is remarkably recovered; she's off playing in the waves like a little surfer girl.
I plug in the laptop and manage to get a signal so I am trying to raise my assistant again. She finally shows up and I tell her about what we found, then she starts naming names and sites that she found. I show this to David, who impresses the hell out of me by swearing in French and in English. He recognizes the name of our tormentor. He tells me the guy is a well- known cyberstalker. Great. Well, my assistant did some serious vandalism to his site so it will be a while before he can fix the problem. Long enough for me to institute legal action, as she captured content as well. I goof around on the net for a while until David literally puts his hand over the keys.
"You work too fucking much." He comments
"Am I keeping you awake?" I ask, concerned that the rattle of keys was contributing to his insomnia.
"Nah." He lay back in the sand, and I thought he'd gone back to sleep. I tried to read one of my magazines, but my eyesight was too fuzzy. I guess I need new glasses. I finally gave up twitching around and lay back in the sand with my arms behind my head. The clouds were wispy cotton candy poufs floating in an ocean of cerulean blue. They blended so well with the horizon it was hard to tell where the sky left off and the ocean began. I was drifting in this pocket of near nothingness and David suddenly asked me a question.
"What?" I said having not really heard him.
"I said, did you mean it when you said you'd close your eyes and think of Wales?"
I open my eyes and he's rolled over on his side to face me. He's got that masked expression on his face, the one that tells me nothing about what he's really thinking. I could give him a flip answer, but instead answer honestly. "I think it would depend heavily on the person and the situation"
"And you'd be drunk." His tone is so dry and flat, and I am wondering where this conversation is going.
"Drunk is kind of a normal state for me." I replied, "But you know that already."
"Yeah, I guess I do."
A long silence ensues. A fairy tern wheels above us, looking for a place to land among the rocks, out on the lava protrusions. The clouds spin themselves into impossible shapes dictated by the whim of nature or high altitude air wind changes. I liked the idea of the former better. The tern and its mate are fishing for food. The swells are getting larger, as the tide comes in. The surf breaks hard against the outcroppings and the spray forms a rainbow.
Softly he says, "Its not so bad, really."
"Uh-huh." He's not looking at me. He's watching the ocean but I can see that his mask has slipped a bit.
"I won't lie and say it's not painful. It is for a bit always. But the sensation of fullness is indescribable. And sometimes, I just need to be filled."
"So its really all about sensation with you?"
"Well, " He rolled over on his back. "A mouth is a mouth; an ass is an ass. It really doesn't matter because it is all just pure sensation. Its the feeling that does matter, the rest is arbitrary."
"You've got the best of both worlds then." I said trying to be flip.
"Oh yeah. Lucky me."
This caustic response makes me think a bit. I would have asked a few more questions but Summer came dancing back about that time.
She wants to find the huge waterfall at the back of the valley. I know where the trailhead begins and it suits my purposes anyway so, we start hiking back there. We have to stop back by the Treehouse, because the trail is too rough to walk in flip-flops.
As I am pulling on my hiking boots, I notice something on Summer's suitcase. Closer inspection reveals that it's another bug. I pry it off and then examine my own luggage. Nothing. I tell David and he tears his duffel apart more or less. Nothing on his duffel either. Good thing our pervert is not really interested in us I guess. We check every possible place there might be another bug, and find nothing. In a way, I am relieved. Two bugs I can deal with, although I don't like it. I pocket the other one, and as an afterthought, I grab the waterproof torch and stick it in my backpack. If I am right, I will have need of it later.
It's a long hike to the back of the Valley. Most of the lands back toward the back are Kapu to strangers. The drug growers own most of the land there, and venturing into their domain can be fatal. There are multiple booby traps and automatic devices set to trip up the unwary. We stay on the trail, deliberately announcing our presence by laughing and being silly. A long time ago, I wandered into one of the pot grower's fields quite by accident, but I never forgot it. I even remember where I turned, having gotten disoriented by the thick jungle. I find the old track, barely discernible now, in the undergrowth. I instruct Summer and David to give me twenty minutes. If I have not returned by then, they are to leave, go to the airport and get to Honolulu and their flights for home as quickly as possible.
Summer doesn't want me to go, and David wants to come with me and we spend ten minutes arguing. I bluntly explain to David that I know this area better than he does, and some one will have to protect Summer. She makes some acid remark about my noble streak, which I choose to ignore. He doesn't like it. But, in the end I get my way.
I leave them standing on the trail, anxiously pacing around and talking loud...hopefully providing a distraction if there are any watchers nearby. I walk carefully into the heavy growth and fight my way through. The jungle is much thicker here than it was the last time I fucked up and did this. I am not sure the lack of maintenance is a good sign. I remember two obvious obstacles and one that nearly got me, so cleverly was it disguised. I find the first two and feel a little better.
I skirt an area that doesn't look right. The grass is wrong, so it's probably a pit trap with sharpened stakes at the bottom. That right there tells me there has been a change of ownership of this field and I really need to be cautious. Local boys who grow for their use and profit tend to be forgiving about accidental incursions. Local Syndicates are not. I had a bad feeling. Oh yeah, definitely bad. The trip wire was disguised, and I nearly hit it with my foot. The scary part was that there was a second one right behind it. Somebody was taking no chances. I edged my way around the huge canopy and saw row after row of well-cultivated plants. Mature plants. I took one of the transmitters from my pocket and rolled it carefully into the field. It came to rest about ten feet under the canopy. Not as deep as I would have liked but good enough. I had to back track quickly as I had only about seven minutes.
I was jogging as fast as I dared through the underbrush and damned near hit another trip wire. I dove over it instead and hit my elbow pretty hard. Hissing in pain, I made it back to the main trail. David and Summer were a little further up the path and I joined them. We then continued our little hike at a fast clip, climbing back into the Valley. The stream that comes from the waterfall becomes a river further down the valley. Here, it disappears completely into an underground lava tube. We scramble over rocks in the dry streambed. A recent earthquake must have opened up the lava tube draining the stream. It's eerie. There is a bit of a mist rising and I feel like I have entered the hollow hills or something. It's a very surreal experience. The vines cling a little more here; the ferns are a little more verdant. The flowers grow in lush profusion; wild tangles that search out our hair. I swear there was a white dog following us. Madame Pele has made her appearance.
Reaching the waterfall was a relief. The falls plunge all the way down the cliffside, some three hundred feet in a spectacular cataract. The noise of the falling water is tremendous. Summer grins and starts stripping. I am hot from my exertions so I join her, stripping down to my swim trunks. David doesn't bother. He pulls off his shirt, socks and shoes, and strides in. He bobs back out about two seconds later.
"Its Cold!" He exclaims
Summer shows her water nymph side; she jumps in and doesn't complain about the chill. I walk in carefully. It's very cold, having been created by runoff from Mauna Kea. But, its deep enough to have thermo clines so I find a warm patch quick enough and tread water there. The sun makes a welcome appearance and it quickly gets warm enough to keep swimming.
Summer wanted to wash her hair in the pounding water so we tried to assist. It was pure comedy because the current was swift and the water was falling with such force. We were getting pummeled pretty hard and without my glasses I was next to useless so we gave up. Summer then decided to do her impersonation of a mermaid sunning herself on a rock, leaving David and myself to explore. I attached my shoelace to my glasses, and put the lace around my neck in an attempt to keep them on. Then, I took the waterproof torch and the other transmitter and began looking for a cave entrance.
I'd brought along a plastic sack and carefully wrapped my glasses and the transmitter in it then carried it and the torch in my mouth. The waterfall about beat me to death. I thought I had seen something earlier when we were trying to wash Summer's hair and it bore further investigation. Sure enough, there was a break in the wall behind the waterfall. I was not entirely sure the optical illusion was natural. I did have to dive under the pounding water and come up from the other side, and my ears popped, as I had to dive rather deep. The turbulence under the waterfall was fantastic and the current was very swift, but once I got past it was easy swimming. I came up on the other side, and swam between the rocks. When I surfaced, I was behind the cataract in a mostly dark cave. The water provided illumination and I could see outside; the water was a natural curtain disguising this place. The pool I was in was relatively still; it was warmer than the water outside.
Bubbles ringed the outer edges and it occurred to me that this was a flooded steam vent. I swam to the edge and the water was much warmer. It was deep and I hung onto the wall while fumbling for my glasses. I put the shoestring around my neck and adjusted them so I could see. I used the torch to look around. The ceiling was very high and there was a great deal of drip water falling. Lichens formed a glowing carpet across the top of the cave. It was very serene but surreal. The back of the pool was worn, like many things had been dragged up the side, out of the water. The rocks were actually worn down. I didn't want to set foot in the cave. It was clearly a kapu place, and probably a burial site.
I took the transmitter and tossed it into the cave. If the transmitter could even triangulate in here, it should give Mr. Lucky pause. At least, I hoped it would, anyway. I was so busy contemplating the petroglyphs on the ceiling that I did not heard David.
"What are you doing?" He said softly, almost in my ear and I nearly jumped out of my skin
Unfortunately, I turned fast enough for the shoelace to break and my glasses went spinning into the deep.
"Fuck!" I snapped as I tried to catch them. We both dove after them, trying to keep them from disappearing into the silt at the bottom. A few minutes hunting and I was despondent. I hyperventilated and dove again, trying to find the bottom with my hands. David snagged the flashlight from me, as he can see marginally better than I can. He dove again and was combing the bottom. I followed him and we both were feeling along the edge of the pool. I moved just right and when he tried to surface, he plowed right into me. His skull cracked mine and a jolt of pain dazed me. I shot to the surface holding my head. It hurt enough for me to see stars.
"Ow! Oh Fuck!" He says and I think I cracked him pretty hard too.
I am going to have such a lump on my temple.
"Are you all right?" He asks, concerned now as I am still holding my head. Not only is my vision fuzzy now its blurry as well.
"Silly fuck. Come here!" he says and pulls me to him. Gently his fingers explore my temple, and I wince.
"You are bleeding a bit, better get you out of here." He says.
"That's cause your heads so fucking hard." I say, and try to laugh.
It's dark enough that I can't really see him, only his vague shape in the gloom.
"I'm sorry." He says quietly, and his fingers dance a fast butterfly down my jaw.
He strokes my face, and even though my head is pounding, the sensation is not unpleasant. Then, he does something that startles me completely. He very lightly kisses me, and puts his forehead against mine.
"Just so you know," he says softly, "I want you."
He takes a really deep breath and continues, "I won't fall in love with you. But, I wanted you to know."
I don't know which has me more stunned, the blow to my head or his confession. He lets go, and I grip the wall as he dives beneath me. He surfaces less than a minute later, and he's got my glasses.
We swim and make it to the other side of the waterfall, and the sunlight really hurts my eyes. Summer fusses over me. David hands me back my glasses; the frames are a little bent but no worse for wear, and nothing a pair of pliers can't fix. Between my elbow and my head, I am a wreck. But, the transmitters are taken care of, and I hope so is Mr. Lucky. I lay out on Summer's rock, and they are both afraid I have a concussion so they both keep poking me. Summer's got some Tylenol, so I take a couple and a health swig from the flask in my backpack. A few more swigs and I am feeling a whole lot better. They are clearly concerned about my drinking. Summer fusses at me more, and David more or less confiscates the flask.
The tiny slice on my head finally quits bleeding. It wasn't serious, just messy. They finally leave me alone, with the exception of an occasional poke to make sure I am not in a coma. I lie there for about thirty minutes, then get up and retrieve the flask from David's backpack. If he'd really not wanted me to find it, he'd have thrown it into the waterfall. Summer's dozing in a patch of sunshine like a kitten. I don't see him anywhere. My headache is much better. I just need a drink. Badly. When I have achieved a state of practical numbness only then can I contemplate what he said to me.
Numbness will be elusive, I can tell. I am drunk by the time we pack up midday to walk back. But, I can still feel the tiniest twinge of headache and I think Mothra has come to rest somewhere under my ribcage every time I try to really think about what he said. The safest solution is to drown it all, and that's what I am working on. David is ahead of us on the way back, Summer and I walking a whole lot slower. She, because of really inappropriate footwear and well, for me the world has a soft haze that has nothing to do with my twanged glasses. We are discussing what to cook for dinner when David comes back through the trees and drags us off the path.