Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Tiki Statue by Derek Muk

Two anthropology lecturers go on holiday in Hawaii and discover a statue with occult powers; by Derek Muk.

Avner was busy talking to a fellow passenger about meditation when Albert Taylor woke up from a deep, restful nap. He was surprised he was able to sleep at all considering the noisy engine of the plane. He checked the clock on his cell phone: Damn! Three more hours to go. His mouth was dry so he swished down water.

"So how many days is this meditation retreat that you're going to?" the fellow passenger asked.

"It's a week long thing but we're only going for three days," Avner replied. "You see, this whole trip is about trade offs. My buddy, Albert, asked me to go and I said I'd go if we could spend a few days at this retreat. I had read about it a while back and heard good things about it. Albert isn't really into meditation, though I'm encouraging him to do it more often. He basically wants to do all the touristy stuff in Honolulu. I'm fifty-fifty on that sort of thing so we made a deal. He agreed to go with me to the retreat and I agreed to do the sightseeing for the remainder of the days. I think that's fair. I haven't been to Hawaii since I was in my late teens so it'll be interesting to see all the changes."

Avner, sitting in the aisle seat, was around Taylor's age, early fifties, with shaggy salt and pepper hair, narrow eyes that looked Asian in appearance, wearing a pair of glasses.

"Oh, you'll love it," the passenger said. "Say, has anyone told you you look like Richard Gere?"

"Yes. But the ladies think I'm more handsome."

The passenger laughed. "So you two are both teachers at Berkeley?"

Avner nodded. "Anthropology. Pretty dry stuff, you know? Don't wanna bore you."

"Aw, I love that subject."

Taylor smiled, poking his head across the empty seat between him and Avner. "Cool! Take our classes then!"



The hotel accommodations were awesome. They both had spacious rooms, linked by a connecting door, high up on the 18th floor that offered breathtaking views of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

"Oh, yeah!" Taylor said. "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!" After putting his luggage away he flipped through a travel book and some brochures he had. "Hey, let's go to the Polynesian Cultural Center first." There was excitement in his voice.

Avner rolled his eyes. "You're like a kid in a candy store. What's with you and all the touristy stuff anyway? And didn't you go there before?"

Taylor nodded. "It was fun. That's why I want to go again. C'mon, Av, deal's a deal."

Avner chuckled. "I'm starting to regret our little agreement now. Can we modify this sacred deal?"

"No, not if I'm going with you to the retreat!" Taylor continued thumbing through the travel book. "After that we'll stroll around Waikiki Beach and check out the hot lookin' babes, then head on over to Diamond Head."

Avner put some of his clothing into a dresser bureau. "Hey, are you forgetting I'm a married man, bro? Caroline's gonna wring my neck if she finds out I'm scoping out women on the beach. Easy for you to say, being a hot, single bachelor and all." He laughed, folding a Hawaiian shirt and putting it into the bureau. When he was done, he changed into cargo shorts and flip flops. Then he put his laptop on the room's table and turned it on. "Let me shoot a quick email to Caroline and Abraham. Let them know we arrived all in one piece."

"She should be in Southeast Asia by now, right?"

"Yeah." After the laptop booted up, Avner began typing. "Abraham's probably in his dorm room playing on his computer or texting some girl."

Taylor suddenly felt lonely, knowing he didn't have anyone to email or call to let them know he got to the islands safely. Oh, well, the price of being a hot, single bachelor.



The first three days were spent at the meditation retreat, which was located in the popular North Shore area. The building itself was an airy, sprawling beach house with a hippy, bohemian flair to it. Everyone was very kind and gracious and the two professors met quite a number of people from Berkeley and the Bay Area. Taylor thought that some of the attendees' super duper friendliness bordered on pretension and lost track of how many vegetarians and jewelry makers he schmoozed with. But damn, the tofu and spinach lasagna they served for lunch was delicious!

He had never meditated for so many hours consecutively. He didn't think he could do it but he did. His lower back hurt from all the sitting. It was during a conversation with a gregarious shaman that Taylor learned about this mysterious Tiki statue at the Bishop Museum.

"People say it's cursed," Taylor said as they were leaving the beach house.

Avner frowned. "Cursed? Oh, no, don't tell me! Now we're gonna go on one of Professor Taylor's Occult Files adventures! In pursuit of this statue."

Taylor looked at him innocently. "Hey, I just want to check it out, that's all. We'll be in and out of there in a flash, I promise."

Avner chuckled, patting him gently on the back. "I'm just playing with you."

Taylor drove their rental car to the museum, which was back near the Waikiki area. After purchasing tickets they went inside and looked for the statue. When they couldn't find it an employee escorted them to the ancient carving, hidden in the back recesses of the Hawaiian Hall.

Taylor nodded his head towards the statue. "So is there any truth to the rumor that it's cursed?"

"Well, if you don't consider two near fatal accidents in one week a curse, I don't know what you'd call it," the employee chuckled.

"Were these accidents recent?"

"Yes. And get this, at the start of this week my boss got his car broken into. I'd say that's a straight up curse right there."

"Did he touch the statue, move it, or damage it in any way?"

"He did move it," the employee recalled. "That's all I know."

Taylor smiled. "Thanks. May we speak to your boss?"

The supervisor's nametag read, TED, and he chatted with the two near some lavish feather headdresses worn in the past by Hawaiian royalty. Groups of families made their way through the exhibit hall, snapping pictures and talking loudly as tourists often do. A child kept stamping his greasy hands on the display glass even though there was a sign clearly prohibiting such behavior, and the child's parents stood near him, not saying anything. Ted caught this immediately and ordered the child to stop. The family walked away, not apologizing or anything.

Avner shook his head disapprovingly. "Lame ass tourists. I leave it up to my buddy, Albert, to take me here to tourist heaven."

"It could've happened anywhere," Taylor shot back.

"So how can I help you two gentlemen?" Ted asked, clasping his hands together.

Taylor brought him up to speed about the statue. "Did you damage it or spend a long period of time with it recently?"

Ted shook his head. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Why do you ask?"

Taylor gave him one of his Occult Files Magazine business cards. "I publish this little magazine where we feature articles on unexplained phenomena. I thought an article about a cursed statue might be interesting."

Ted grinned in amusement. "All right! You know who you should talk to? Our curator. She might have more info about the statue." He took them to her office in another building. Taylor and Avner felt the tropical humidity hit them immediately when they stepped out of the air conditioned confines of the museum. However, as they approached her darkened office they noticed the door was ajar. Ted carefully stepped over to the door, peeking inside, a frown on his dark face as he pulled away.

"What is it?" Taylor asked.

"That's odd," Ted remarked. "She was here earlier soaked in paperwork. I talked to her in here."

Looking through the crack of the doorway, Avner saw an overturned coffee mug on the floor, the murky liquid having drenched some papers. Ted whipped out his Nextel phone and chirped away. "Joanne, do you copy? This is Ted."

Silence. He waited a few beats before calling her again. Silence again.

Taylor didn't want to vocalize it at the risk of jinxing the situation even more but in his head he wondered: Could this weird incident be the work of the Tiki statue? Or is it merely a coincidence? He looked at Avner who simply shrugged, scratching his shaggy salt and pepper hair. Avner pushed his glasses up his nose.

Seconds later, the lights in the building were killed and they were engulfed in darkness. Ted's Nextel chirped to life. "Hey, boss man, we just had a power outage in the museum."

Ted sighed, chirping back. "Brilliant! Did someone call the electric company?"

"We're already on it."

"Excellent. Hey, have you seen Joanne?"

"No."

"Okay. Thanks." Ted took out a pen flashlight, guiding Taylor and Avner down the hallway. "Well, gentlemen, I apologize about the sudden power failure. Don't know what happened."

When they got outside the building, someone ran up to Ted, their face bleach white. "I think you'd better take a look at this."

Taylor and Avner, their curiosity piqued, followed them to the parking lot of the museum, where sitting behind the steering wheel of a car, her hair all tousled, was a woman babbling to herself. Mascara ran down her sweaty face. She didn't acknowledge them.

"Joanne?" Ted said, studying her carefully. "You okay?"

She continued talking in gibberish, hands clenched on the wheel.

Avner's brow furrowed. "What's she saying?"

"Hold on a sec," Taylor whispered, listening carefully.

Suddenly, Joanne, her eyes bulging out, screamed aloud: "Damn pagans! Filthy heathens! Slaughter all those squealing pigs!" Then her voice dropped back to the same monotone level as before and she resumed speaking in gibberish.

"She's speaking in tongues," Taylor finally declared.

Ted's jaw dropped open. "Say what?"

Taylor looked at him gravely and said: "She's been possessed by a demonic entity."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Ted said. "You mean like exorcist type stuff?"

"Yes." Movie references were always a good way for common laymen to comprehend.

"So what do we do?" Ted asked innocently.

"Well, you guys are in luck because it just so happens that this type of thing is my specialty."

Avner nodded at Ted. "Trust me, man, you're in good hands."

Taylor ran to the rental car, grabbed a duffel bag, and rushed back to the scene. "First, we need to take her to a quiet area."

"We can use my office," Ted replied, helping Joanne out of the car and gently escorted her back to the building. Once they were inside his office, Ted slowly sat her down in a chair and closed the door.

Then Taylor strapped her wrists down to the armrests with duct tape, secured her chest and waist to the chair with tape, and tied her ankles together. After that, he brought out a vial of clear liquid from the duffel bag along with a crucifix and a copy of the Bible.

"Wow, you're not joking, are you?" Ted asked, his eyes wide. "This is for real!"

"You bet," Taylor answered.

"How can we help, Al?" Avner asked.

"If Joanne tries to get up or tries to break free hold her down," Taylor instructed. "Now, if we can just have some silence while I begin the exorcism." He began by saying a brief prayer before opening up the Bible. This was followed by him reciting something in Latin.

Joanne's face twisted into a vicious snarl, cursing Taylor.

He continued speaking in Latin until she calmed down. Moments later, however, her arms tried to break out of the restraints and Avner held her down. Taylor resumed his Latin and she spat at him. Ted stared at his coworker like he had just been slapped in the face.

Taylor started reading a passage from the Bible and the action gradually pacified Joanne until she was in a sleep-like state. He waited a few moments until he detected no more signs of the demon. Then she slowly opened her eyes, looking at them, her eyes conveying confusion and astonishment.

"Oh, my God, what happened?" Joanne asked, looking at Taylor and Avner curiously. "Who are you guys?"

"Do you remember what just happened?" Taylor asked her gently.

She shook her head.



"So you think the Tiki statue was responsible for all that?" Avner asked, scratching his shaggy salt and pepper hair.

Taylor frowned. "I'm not sure. There may be a direct correlation, assuming it is cursed. I did some research and found out that the statue was stolen from the indigenous Hawaiian people by European voyagers who traveled to the islands back in the 1600s. After that, it was taken back to England where it remained part of the Queen's art collection for many years before it was stolen by an unknown party. Then somehow the statue wound up in France for a period, Germany for a bit, before landing in the hands of a famous art thief. He had possession of it for decades. Oddly enough, not much is known about the statue following that. And ironically, it somehow managed to find its way back to its homeland of Hawaii. I was hoping that Joanne could help us out with more background information about the statue but it seems she's suffered amnesia after the exorcism."

"What do you mean?"

"She has absolutely no knowledge of it, either acquiring it for the museum or any details, at all."

"Weird!" Avner said, pushing his glasses up his nose.

"Looks like we got some detective work cut out for us, Av."

"'We'? Whoa, wait just a minute, buddy! I agreed to come with you to Hawaii to do the touristy stuff, not get entangled in one of your casebook Hardy Boys mysteries. That's where I draw the line, mister. Sorry, I came here for vacation, to get away from stress, not create more of it. You're the one that promised to be in and out of the museum in a flash, remember? Now look at where we're at."

Taylor looked away. "Yeah, sorry about that. That was selfish of me. Well, we can still salvage a vacation out of this, that I promise."



Avner changed into a Hawaiian shirt, looking at himself in the mirror of his hotel room. He kept the same cargo shorts on. "Wait till Caroline and Abraham hear about this!" he quipped. "An exorcism in Hawaii of all places! Beats goin' surfin', I tell ya! That about caps the trip right there." He sat behind his laptop and started typing an email.

"Which countries are Caroline and her girlfriends going to again?" Taylor asked from his room via the open connecting door.

"Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos... aw, cool! Got some pictures from their trip. Check this out, Al."

Taylor came over and looked at the photos on the screen, grinning. "Awesome! Looks like they're having fun."

"Well, I just shot Caroline an email saying our little trip tops theirs for the moment. That exorcism did it for me, partner! Never saw anything like that before! I still have goosebumps."

"They've been known to make lasting impressions, that's for sure," Taylor agreed. "How's Abraham doing?"

"Studying and goofing off as usual at school. He's gonna attend his cousin's bar mitzvah next week. You met my nephew, Saul, at our barbeque, right?"

"Yes. Real smart kid. Knows his stuff about anthro."

"He should teach our classes!" Avner laughed.

"Yeah! So, how does Hawaii compare now to the one you visited in your late teens?"

"Good question. Uhhh, it's more commercialized now from what I remember, more touristy. More glitzy, packaged, polished, and Disney-Club Med like."

"Family friendly," Taylor added.

"Yes! Thank you!"

"Sounds like you would've had more fun in Southeast Asia," Taylor said quietly, feeling that lonely, no wife, no kids feeling again.

Avner looked at him. "Hey, I didn't say that. Like I said, it's been a thrill ride so far." He saw the travel book in Taylor's hand. "Why don't we take a look-see at that Polynesian Cultural Center?"

After a fun filled, exhausting day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, the two had dinner at a local ramen restaurant in Honolulu's Chinatown. Taylor ate some noodles while Avner kicked back and drank sake. The joint was packed solid full of locals and gaudily dressed tourists. It was stuffy and hot as Hades. Avner thought back about how Taylor kept prodding him and prodding him about going on this trip. He was so damn persistent! Taylor kept shoving that Hawaiian travel book in his face, trying to entice him. Boy, did he make a fantastic salesman for the state's tourist industry!

"Man, I'm beat!" Avner sighed, closing his eyes. "Say, I was doing some thinking while we were at the center, Al. If you want to go back to the museum and check out what's going on with that statue, that's totally fine by me. I'll give you some slack."

"Okay. Thanks. Coincidentally, when we were at the center I received a call from the museum. They said there's been another bizarre incident concerning the Tiki statue."

"Oh-oh! What happened this time?"



"Were you able to dig up any other info on the statue?" Avner asked.

Taylor shook his head. "I'm surprised there's not much out there. Before our trip I even went to our department's library to see what nuggets of knowledge we had on the subject of Tiki gods, Tiki lore, legends, myth, mysticism, that sort of thing. We have the general spectrum of information but nothing too esoteric. But then I talked to this local medicine man here in Honolulu and he said before the statue arrived at the museum there were zero paranormal happenings. Unfortunately, he doesn't know where it came from."

"What about others at the museum?"

They approached the administrative offices of the Bishop Museum. "Strangely enough, everyone's a blank slate here, too. Maybe the statue does have the power of amnesia."

"That would account for Joanne not recalling anything," Avner said, pushing his glasses up his nose.

Ted, the supervisor, greeted them. "Thank you for coming once again."

"On the phone you sounded vague," Taylor said. "What seems to be the problem?"

"Follow me." He led them to an office down the hall. Sitting at a table was a tanned, good looking man of mixed ancestry. He wore a security uniform with a nametag that read: Stewart. However, he did not acknowledge them or look at them, for his once dark eyes were now glazed over with a white, glaucoma type film. And his right hand gripped a pen tightly, scribbling words furiously and quickly on a white sheet of paper. He wrote nonstop, like a machine, his cursive handwriting twisted, large, and violent, ready to jump off the page.

Taylor casually looked down at what the man had written. Most of it was gibberish, some of it was actually coherent sentences, some disjointed, random thoughts, and another percentage was just profanity and vulgar, obscene words. The word 'Kill' was repeated over and over. Two sentences caught Taylor's eye: 'No one is innocent. All these squealing pigs must die! Butcher all these pagans and heathens!'

Taylor frowned disappointedly. "It's the same demon. How long has he been like this?"

"Two hours," Ted replied.

Avner shook his head. "Good grief!"

"You are now witnessing automatic writing, folks," Taylor said. "When an entity, usually demonic, uses a human being as a vessel to channel their thoughts through the process of writing."

Ted raised his eyebrows. "Wow, I'm learning something new every day!"

Taylor backed up and whispered to him: "Did Stewart handle the Tiki statue excessively or damage it in any way?"

"Dunno," Ted replied. "He works the graveyard shift every night. We can check the security tapes and see. So you're saying anyone that handles it or spends enough time with it gets cursed?"

"That's my theory," Taylor mused. "I recommend that you guys quarantine the statue at once so it doesn't possess anyone else."

"It's been taken care of."

"Good. Where did you put it?"

"We locked it in an underground storage room and informed all employees to stay clear of it."

"Excellent."

Ted looked at him, puzzled. "So what's the fate of the statue?" Then he nodded his head at Stewart. "And what about him?"

Taylor returned to the rental car to get his duffel bag full of goodies and came back to perform another exorcism.

"You ever think about doing this full time and quitting teaching?" Avner asked. "Seems pretty lucrative."

"Nah!" he replied quickly. "I like teaching." After strapping Stewart to the chair with duct tape, he said a brief prayer and recited some passages in Latin, to which the demon inside Stewart responded angrily by cursing at Taylor. Those filmy, glaucoma glazed eyes of Stewart's bulged out and the most inhuman shrill uttered itself from the throaty caverns of his mouth. Avner and Ted, both stunned, just stared.

Taylor, undeterred, continued speaking calmly and firmly. But the holy words seemed to be having no effect on the entity. Still, Taylor soldiered on, remaining positive. The vessel known as Stewart tried to break free of the duct tape but the material held solid. Avner held him down just in case.

Torturous minutes passed, hours it seemed, where Taylor kept reading from the Bible. Yet the demon inside Stewart persisted, patient, biding its time, like a predatory animal cornering its prey and closing in for the kill, knowing it had all the time in the world.

"Is he gonna puke out green pea soup?" Ted whispered to Avner.

Taylor sprinkled holy water on the vessel and Stewart's face contorted into a mask of vengeful fury. The liquid silenced the demon temporarily. It wasn't long before it again tried to shred itself free from the duct tape, sending a violent ripple that knocked Avner to the ground. Suddenly, papers, books, and office furniture levitated off the ground and were hurled at the group of men. A chair missed Ted's head by inches! A legal pad was slapped hard against Avner's face.

Taylor splashed more holy water on the vessel known as Stewart and he reacted so hostilely that he and the chair fell sideways on the floor. Taylor grabbed his crucifix, knelt down, and pressed it against Stewart's forehead. A deafening, high-pitched shriek escaped from the vessel's lips causing Avner and Ted to cover their ears.

And at long last, the room was still and silent for a long time.



A scan of the security tapes, and of the statue itself, revealed that Stewart did accidentally chip a piece of wood off from the Tiki statue. When they questioned him, however, he didn't remember a thing.

"Amnesia," Taylor said. "Just like with Joanne."

"And the statue reacted angrily from the damage," Avner replied. "Seems like it has a life of its own."

Ted rubbed his dark face. "I know it's sacrilegious to do so but how do we destroy it?"

"Burn it," Taylor answered.

"How do you know that'll stop it?" Avner asked, pushing his glasses up his nose.

"Well, from my working knowledge of Tiki lore, flames will incinerate the soul of the evil statue permanently."

The trio got busy, transporting the statue quickly to a grassy clearing outside the museum, where it was left in a large steel bucket and torched. When it was reduced to a black crisp cinder Taylor turned away and looked at the clear blue horizon.



Avner sat behind his laptop, writing an email to Caroline about their latest adventures in Hawaii, ending it by attaching some more photos. Taylor felt less lonely this time watching him. He was having too much fun here in Honolulu to be feeling lonely.

"Where are they now?" Taylor asked, looking out Avner's hotel room window at the incredible view of Waikiki Beach below. He could stare at it for hours. The people on the famous beach were visible, their glistening bronze bodies baking under the sweltering sun.

Avner clicked open an email he received. "Second day in Cambodia. Wanna see some pics?"

"Sure." He walked over and stood behind Avner's shoulder, examining the photos. "Nice shots! Did you send her the recent photos of us?"

"I did. She says you're quite the photographer."

Taylor smiled. "I think it's time we took one last jaunt on the beach before we head on home. What do you say, partner?"

Avner closed his laptop. "Sounds good! Let's go kayaking again. That was fun."

"Okay."

As the two indulged themselves in a good time, several miles from Waikiki, on a secluded beach located in a remote part of the island, far, far away from any tourists, something had washed up on the shore. The tide pushed it further up on the white pristine sand. From far away it could've been mistaken for a small human body, a child perhaps, or that of a seal or animal. But upon closer inspection it wasn't a body at all, but a wooden statue...

4 comments:

  1. More things in heaven and earth..... Chilling and well crafted, this feels like the first chapter of further manifestations and struggles between god and evil?
    Thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  2. Hi Derek, Certainly anthropology has such a wide range of subjects to write about, and your man has the additional skill of performing exorcism. This certainly has the making of a much longer story as there has to be more to come and be resolved. I wasn't quite sure what you were aiming for, thriller adventure, or comical adventure it seemed to waiver between the two. I hope you continue writing this to develop the plot. James McEwan.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Derek, I'm back.
      Whether the first chapter of a full length novel, or a stand-alone story I enjoyed this tale of mystery. I liked the salt-n-pepper spectacle-raising bonhomie of the professorial duo, and could really imagine myself watching Taylor schmoozing with veggies and jewellery makers at the North Shore meditation retreat. Skilful integration of dialogue with narrative gives for an easy flow, and yes, I too would like to read more.
      Brooke

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