A Misadventure of Manny & Dax
Winds on the water lead to violent waves. Waves had a way of carrying things along. Shades of blues gave way to greens and back again. The ocean was its own body and longed to be pure. When it encountered unwanted guests or litter, it had the habit of cleansing itself of such filth.
One permanent tenant of the ocean was an Island just north Oahu and Molokai. The island was considered by denomination a part of Hawaii, but was without state law, government and most importantly tourism. Far enough away from Hawaiian hotspots, it lacking a port, air or sea, kept many visitors away.
Because of his experience, size and strength, Manny considered himself to be a man. However, on most days, he preferred to be a boy. Curiosity, imagination and his best friend Dax seemed to keep him young.
“We’ve never gone to the other side of the island.”
“You mean the haunted side.” Manny answered dismissively, yet with reason.
“Haunted smaunted!! That is just what they want us to believe.” Dax snapped back. His long, tangled jet-black hair stood almost on end, screaming what he really thought about tradition. Most other boys Manny knew, including himself kept their hair straight and under control.
“Remember the last time you thought we should do something they had told us not to?”
“Yeah, your sister’s spots went away and her hair grew back. Plus, we found out FOR SURE why we weren’t supposed to eat the lizards with purple scales.”
Laughing to himself, then out loud, Manny expressed, “She sure did look funny for a while though, right?”
“Yeah! Two weeks,” Dax laughed.
While he tried to come up with a legitimate reason to go, Manny’s thoughts were interrupted–
“Hey, come on man, we’ll have fun,” Dax plead, then accused. “But if you are afraid, you can stay here.”
“I never said I was afraid.”
Dax had already started into the trees. The enormous green canopy, the lush reds, oranges, purples and whites of the undergrowth were welcoming. Dax staying a few steps ahead and Manny giving chase propelled them into a race into the overwhelming newness and unknown. The many fragrant smells of the forest coupled with the sense of adventure were enticing. Before long, Manny found that the island was big enough for someone to get lost.
Slowing, he called after Dax, “Hey! Maybe we should head –“ but was cut short by the disappearance of Dax. An intense light gave way to an opening. At the bottom of a steep slope of sand laid a beach. Dax ran in circles, kicking up sand. Tumbling down and catching up, Manny could finally make out what Dax was yelling.
“AH ha ha! This is what they have been keeping from us,” Dax proclaimed as he was kicking off his shoes.
The vast ocean was getting to know the sand, in a more than friends sort of way.
Captivated, Manny took off his shoes as well and agreed, “This is wonderful!”
“It’s all ours too,” Dax laughed back, outstretched his arms and spun around.
Gaining his composure, once Dax had stopped, Manny’s smile evened out. The far side of the beach featured a dark mass. At the distance, Manny could not quite make it out. Curiosity peeked; he walked in the direction of the thing. The salty sea air had replaced the vibrant colors of the woods, its seductive smells.
“Aren’t you gl-,” started Dax, “Whoa! What’s over there?”
“Come on, I am checking it out,” Manny called back.
Manny liked the feel of the sand on his feet; individual grains working their way between his toes, almost tickling. The other tickle was in his stomach as he approached the object. The waves even sounded a half warning to shoo, but choked on its own words before getting the full word out. “shh, shhh, shhh” Over and over.
“What do you think that is?” Dax asked.
“Not sure yet. At first, I thought maybe a ship of some sort but it is too round for that.”
“Cool that we found it though, huh?”
“May… be.” Manny’s uncertainty stemmed from the tickle in his stomach. The sand beneath his feet became colder with each step. Each step revealed more. The dark, soft thing proved intimidatingly massive. It had skin; it was an animal. The skin was textured and rough in appearance.
“That’s too small to be a whale right,” asked Dax.
“And whales are smooth I think.”
The skin gave way to legs; a towering white point protruded from the animal’s far side. “Is that a horn or a tusk of sorts?” Manny wondered. Cautiously keeping his distance, Manny circled the animal. A blanket of an ear folded across the animals face. The ivory tusks, one full, to the sharp point, the other was broken, flat at its end, were separated by the final defining element. A hose of a nose that lay limp to the wet sand.
“What?” Dax’s intonation and face were saturated with confusion.
“It’s an elephant I think, I saw one once at the zoo in Oahu.”
“Is it sleeping?”
“Its body isn’t moving with breath. I think it is dead.”
“We should get out of here. What if it isn’t dead? And is about to spring up and destroy us?”
Jumping on the chance to be the brave one Manny retorted, “Don’t think something that size, SPRINGSup.” Then began to look around again.
“Well, even still, what if it is dead and someone catches us here and thinks we killed it?” Dax continued to back away.
“A stick, we can poke it and see what happens.”
“I don’t know, man.” Dax disagreed as Manny walked back toward the elephant
“Shha, ya right…”
“Okay then.“ With that, Manny stepped forward with the stick in his hand, his right arm extended. Manny wished he had chosen a longer stick.
“Wait!” Dax interrupted.
Startled, Manny stepped back. As he caught his breath asked, “What?”
“I think I saw it move.”
“You are just scared, that’s all.” Trying to hide the fear in his own voice. “Watch this.” Manny dropped the stick and reached toward the fold of skin that covered the face. He flipped the ear up and over the elephant’s head and gasped; stumbled back then fell.
The now uncovered, open dark eye of the animal stared right back at them.
The surge of shock froze them as it passed through every blood vessel in their bodies. Manny looked at Dax. The surprise still surrounded their eyes like sleepy in the morning. Then Manny smirked and Dax smiled back. The warmth of laughter from the ridiculous thawed them. Dax spoke first:
“Well, what now?”
“Dax, I say we get home before someone comes looking for us and we get in trouble”
“Yeah, but what about this thing?”
“What do you mean? We can’t take it with us!”
“Do we –“
“Tell no one! 1) We weren’t even supposed to be here, B) it’s ours. We should do something with it.”
“I don’t know. We’ll have to see, but I’m thinking we can do something with the bones and tusk. You know?”
“Yeah, that’d be cool.”
“Let’s get back. I’ll race you!”
Dax took off but Manny caught him quickly and the two left the dark mass and its dark eye behind, for another day.
The party was over in a hurry when they got back. Their parents were talking over at Manny’s place. His sister was sitting beside them, grinning in a “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” sort of way.
They all seem to speak at once “Where have you two been?” “We’ve been worried sick!” ”You’ve got some explaining to do!”
When the commotion settled down, Manny started to speak, “We –”
His father interrupted, stopping him with his outstretched palm. “We know everything…” Manny and Dax’s eyes met. “Your sister told us all about it, she said she saw the two of you take off into the forest.” Their stare broke and they then glared at his sister. “…I am not sure what you did in there all day but the forest is the way to the other side, the haunted side.” A confused Manny looked again to Dax who seemed to be feeling the same. “… And we cannot have you guys going off like that.” Manny started to wonder, “Did his father actually know they had gone all the way across the forest. “…So even though you may have just played hide-n-seek in the woods all day,” that would be a no, “… I am grounding you Manny, for a week.” This seemed fair to Manny since going to the other side was a yearlong community service contract as punishment. “… And Dax I am sure your father will do the same” Dax’s dad, arms crossed, nodded. “… You are not allow to spend any time with each other this week and will instead spend the time working off your curiosity.”
Dax started to speak but his Dad shot him a piercing look and said, “Don’t even; not now.”
Dax’s family left and Manny felt the weight of the circumstance fall heavy on his heart. He wished he could have stayed on the other side of the island. He wished the elephant had been a ship and they could have sailed away. Away from chores and rules, away from sisters.
He looked to his sister who now mouthed the word, “Sorry.”
Manny lifted his shoulders and shook his head in disappointment.
The next few days felt like Manny’s entire fifteen years doubled. His father wasn’t kidding about the labor either. That week he had to dig irrigation troughs, build a new fence, paint the fence, then repaint the fence because his mother didn’t like the color, clean up after the animals, and that’s in addition to doing all the household chores.
On the next to last night of his sentence, his father announced he was going away for a few days. Because he wasn’t going to be around and mom could use the help, Manny was going to be grounded until he returned.
Manny nodded and replied, “Yes sir.”
As his father left that night, he felt broken, as if he would never be able to escape, never be free again. It reminded him of when he was first learning to swim and his parents would keep backing farther and farther away, making him struggle just a little more. These thoughts and more, made it difficult to sleep that night. Just as he was finally about to nod off…
“Rat a tat tat!!”
Manny sat up so quickly he almost suffered whiplash.
Dax stood outside his window, now laughing at the scare.
“Man, I totally got you.”
“Uh yeah… it’s what 3 in the morning?”
“Yeah, so?… you aren’t grounded anymore, officially, right? Today is the day!”
“Well, I think it was supposed to end when the day actually began, that is sunrise
“Pish posh (and a little chuckle) the date is still the same.”
“…well my sentence has been lengthened.”
“What? Your parents su –”
“Shut up, my dad had to leave for a while and wants me to stick around”
“So? We will be back by the time your fam gets up. They wont need you while they sleep.”
“I don’t know man. What are we going to do anyways?”
“Check out the elephant that’s what.”
“Oh…” Filled with excitement and indecision, curiosity and confusion.
After a pause, “Nah nevermind, I don’t want you to get in trouble.” And Dax turned to go.
“Well you aren’t going alone?!”
“Sure why not?”
“Ugh!! One sec.” Manny scrambled throwing on his clothes, old shoes; grabbed a knife, his bandana and a half full water bottle. “Okay, lets go!”
Smiling, Dax replies, “Sweet action!!”
The full moon lit the way. The smells of the luscious landscape attacked him like a long forgotten memory. Manny and Dax bounced between trees, leaped over roots and stumps, even came close to swinging on vines. After a while, adrenaline took over and the boys seem to fly through the forest.
“It’s bigger than I remember”
“I know right?”
But just as the words were spoken, at the moment they thought maybe they had gone the wrong way, were lost and needed to turn around, they found their finish.
In unison, “Awesome!”
They tumbled down the hill again and spilled out into the soft blanket of sand.
The race was on. They ran in the direction they had remembered the elephant being. Taking turns taking the lead and kicking sand into each others face, after all they only had until sunrise or a little there after. The two, unfortunately had been paying too much attention to each other, the sand, the ocean sliding under their feet, moving them along as well, that they didn’t even see the two men.
In the same motion that they tripped the boys, they slung guns around and pointed them, locked, stocked and ready to go right into their faces.
Dax passed out; Manny stared back in horror.
Manny’s hands were bound with a twine made from some of the forest vine. He could feel the strands digging into his wrists. After binding his hands they wrapped a dirty, sweat-drenched bandana around his mouth and tightened it. This, if nothing else, kept him from screaming as they then blindfolded and carried away Dax. Manny thought that he was too scared too tired, to scream. The sight of his unconscious best friend being carried away had made things seem hopeless. It was the last image he would see before he, too, was blindfolded.
Thoughts ran in the vast depths of the darkness. Disheartened that they had taken his knife and dumped his water. To add insult to injury they had used his own bandana to cover his eyes. He realized that could still at least hear. The men were, from the best he could hear, taking them to the Captain. The Captain would then decide their fate. As surprised as Manny and Dax had been to find the men there on the beach, the men did not portray the same alarm. Everything seemed systematic and natural, as if they had done it before and would do it again. They carried on conversations about playing cricket, irrigation problems around their homes, and what they planned to do the next weekend. It was an everyday conversation during what Manny would deem extraordinary. There was a distinct rhythm to the bounce as the men carried him off as well. Rocking him ever so gently. Manny started thinking, hoping really, that maybe it was all a dream.
“Manny? Are you here somewhere?”
Finally waking, he called back, “MHMMPH!!” The bandana kept him from saying much.
“Manny? Keep making noises. I can’t see you, it is too dark.” While Dax kept talking to him, Manny continued to “MHMMPHMMPH.” Dax hit Manny’s knee and apologized as he followed Manny’s torso to his arms and bound hands. “Oh I get it.” then to his mouth. Once it was free from the musty bandana, Manny gasped as he stretched his jaw,
“What happened?” Dax asked as he managed to free Manny’s hands.
“Wait. Your hands were free?”
“Yeah. They were never tied up I guess.”
While rubbing the places the bindings has burned his wrist, Manny recalled, “That’s right! They gagged you and put a blindfold on you but didn’t tie your hands. You had passed out, I guess they thought you were safe.”
“I passed out?”
“Yeah, you passed out man. They bound my hands, gagged us, and then blindfolded us. They carried you off then me. I guess I fell asleep eventually.”
Dax told what he did remember, “I don’t know. I awoke a while ago and took off the blindfold only to have my eyes greeted with a deeper darkness. Ever since I took off the gag, I have been saying your name among other things.”
“Well it is so dark, like we still have on blindfolds. Where are we?”
“Not sure. I am more concerned with what is going to happen to us.”
“What if they come back and see us without our blindfolds on and gags in?”
“I hope we will hear them coming,” Dax reasoned.
“We need to get out of here.”
“But we can’t see!”
“The darkness will go away soon.” This voice was not from Dax or Manny but deeper, and richer. It was a man’s voice. It scared them both to sudden silence. The voice continued, “That is when they will check on us.”
Spooked, Manny asked, “Okay, who said that?”
“My friends call me Pak.” Responded the voice calmly.
After a moment, Manny asked, “Pak, are you blindfolded too?”
“No but my hands are tied. The twine has grown looser each day and they haven’t rechecked it but if you don’t have your hands bound at all, they wont be happy.”
“How long have you been here?” asked Dax.
“At least a couple days.”
“Do you know what’s going on?” asked Manny.
“I know everything; that’s why I am here.”
“How do you mean?” questioned Dax.
“I happened upon their operation following an adventure of my own. I asked about work so that I could investigate a little further. I became one of them. Once I had the evidence I needed, I told them that I didn’t want to be a part of what they were doing. I said I would keep my mouth shut, even move to another island if needed. They agreed, almost too easily, and let me go. Or so I thought. The next I knew, I woke up here, much like you. You two are just boys, right? You sound young?”
Before the incident both would have been offended by not being considered men. However, the night’s fright and fear had put them in their place. They were indeed merely boys, wishing their parents were there to help.
Manny answered, “Yeah just boys.”
Dax agreed, “yeah.”
“I think we can escape. Alone I wouldn’t have tried anything; but these guards are really lax and won’t expect the three of us to have put something together. “
“What do we do?” asked Manny.
“Well, one guard will come in the shed while the other waits outside. The one that comes in will check to see if we are still alive and then feed us and give us water. He will have heard stories about the new captives and be curious. I imagine he will walk past me and check you guys first.”
“You will both have your blindfolds on and gags in and pretend to sleep. Once he is all the way in and the door closes, I will rise up and choke him. Not to kill him but until he passes out.”
“Yeah? Cool—,” Dax started.
“Cool in the most serious way maybe,” interrupted Pak.
“I mean it is just like those Pakeli McOnakea’ stories that we have read and heard.”
“Yeah!” Manny agreed.
“Oh I see,” half-concealing a smile, “yeah, I’ve heard those too; you think about it however you need, to be at you best.”
Dax and Manny’s faces lit up with excitement at their chance to have an adventure like Pakeli McOnakea. Pak then had their attention more than ever.
“So after I’ve taken out the first guard I will put on his clothes and cap. Then I will go outside and somehow manage to take the other guy. We will then use their gear to get to safety.”
A faint light had begun to creep through cracks in the planks of wood. As it grew more and more light and Manny grew anxious for the time when a guard or two would come. The light increasingly revealed Pak. He appeared older. He figured Pak was in his forties because he looked older than his dad but not as old as his grandfather or even his oldest uncle. He was tall, with large arm and leg muscles. His head was bald; possibly shaved because it was not bald in the way age makes one bald. He looked like he had a couple of bruises, maybe had been in a few fights. He didn’t seem to be someone you wanted to make angry.
Pak had been correct in the timing. The guards came when it was just light enough to see everything, but not quite bright. The boys waited with their blindfolds on and mouths gagged. The conversation of the men was jovial and comfortable. They were playing “rock-paper-scissors” for who would come in the shack. The one who lost came inside; he was still talking to the guard outside, telling him he wouldn’t let him win again. He stopped talking just as the door shut and approached the boys. He had just pulled down Manny’s blindfold when Pak grabbed him from behind. The two fell to the ground. The guard passed out. Pak got to work binding, blindfolding, and gagging him.
The boys wanted to shout for joy, but Pak seemingly sensing this onslaught of excitement already had his hands over their mouths. Then put a finger up to his own mouth signaling them to remain quiet.
Pak finished putting on the uniform and handed the Manny a pistol and Dax a club. Just as Pak was turning to give them more information, the second guard’s voice was getting closer.
“Hey bro, hurry it up in there. I’m getting hungry.”
The second guard swung the door open and Pak forced the butt of the rifle straight into his forehead while kicking him in the chest. He didn’t even have a chance to be surprised. Neither did the boys; Pak already had the guard tied up and in the corner with his friend before the boys realized anything had happened.
“Whoa,” said Dax.
“Awesome!” followed Manny.
Calmly Pak nodded and smiled.
Though the sun was now at full blast, its heat had not quite caught up. The oceans cooling breeze sailed through their hair and past their skin. Manny’s heart was doing well to keep up with his feet and mind. The shack had been on the edge of the forest so they continued along its brim. Manny and Dax were struggling to keep up.
‘When are we going to cut up into the woods?”
“I don’t know. I could use a break though.”
“You two keep it down; we will work then rest, rest comes soon enough… you just keep up.”
Manny started to notice something familiar about the man’s attitude. He had proven his strength and ability to get out of a tight situation, all while remaining calm. His fatigue wouldn’t let him think on it much further. They were going up the side of a cliff that overlooked the water and flirted with the floral fringe of the forest. It was all Manny could do to keep moving, one foot in front of the other. So focused on his form he almost plowed into the back of Pak, but stopped just in time.
“There they are!” exclaimed Pak.
“What? Where?” Dax asked.
Manny made his way around the two to see if he could examine the scene as well. Within the same moment that his eyes took it in, his head turned and his eyes met Dax’s. “What in the world?” They asked each other and Pak, all at the same time.
“Exactly,” was all the answer Pak was willing to give.
Manny thought about how he had once seen a picture of a cotton field with rows and rows and rows of small white cotton blooms. This time the rows and rows and rows were of something much larger something much darker.
He started, “Are those—?”
“Elephants?” Dax finished.
“What do you know about the elephants?” Pak questioned.
The boys told their story from the week prior. They told Pak how they had played in the forest and eventually found the beach. While playing along the ocean, they happened upon a single elephant. Pak listened attentively and nodded, as he understood.
Then he explained, “That was what they call a swelling swimmer or runaway.”
“But we found it on the beach.”
“Right, at some point the elephant fell or most likely slid off of the boat”
“Wait, what boat?” asked Dax.
Hesitantly, Pak said, “I may as well tell you. After all, we are in this together now. From what I could find out, the elephants are shipped over from Africa. A couple of the weaker ones go to zoo’s like the one in Oahu, but most are kept here to work, reproduce, or for… well, to be slaughtered.”
“Why haven’t we seen or heard anything about any of this?”
“It is called Huna Holomua Hui, which of course means Secret Progress Society. The reason they say they exist is for “the betterment of the settlement.” They keep this from the youth, because it is complicated, and unfortunately wrong.”
“If it was wrong, why did you do it?” questioned Manny.
“A child would not understand the system at all. In my limited time there, from the best I could tell, it has not always been wrong. I was completely behind the program as we were using them to work. I did not belong to the divisions that killed perfectly good elephants. One day, an elephant I was working with had some trouble. The bindings around its load had snapped and thrown off the balance of the beast. He fell and spilled the load of timber. A man ran up shouting. I thought he intended to punish the elephant with a whip. He guided the animal off and I followed to report the incident.”
“But it was worse than the whip?” impatiently inquired Dax.
“We were led to a pit, beyond the encampment that we can see now. The elephant was driven into the pit. At first I thought it was some sort of “time-out”. The guards then wet the sides of the pit making it a mud trap. When the animal tried to climb up it slid back down to where it had begun. Helpless in the base of the pit, it was fired upon until it was motionless.”
“Whoa!” responded Manny.
“That’s heavy.” affirmed Dax.
“So what did you do?”
“I quit; they seemed to understand. I had the evidence I needed to bring them down and planned to do just that. However, two days later, on my hike back through the forest they clubbed and captured me.”
“Right, like you said earlier.”
Pointing at the encampment, Manny asked, “So those elephants are all alive?
“Yeah and in corrals, ready for a hard day’s work. The harder they work the more they eat.”
“Can we do something about it?”
“Yeah, like freeing them?”
“That is my plan. If we can get inside unnoticed I hope to let them out; running wild they will surely find their justification in crushing the guards. As the elephants tire, I hope to calm them later with food of some sort, peacefully. Ideally, eventually, I will acquire a ship to get them out. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though. But you boys have done enough; you should run on home now, before any more harm comes to you.”
Manny and Dax looked at each other, then responded, “thanks but no thanks, we are here to help.” Neither of the two wanted to miss out on the opportunity.
“Okay, but it won’t be easy.”
“Easy was never interesting,” answered Manny.
“Well said, kid.”
“So if you are both in, here is the plan: since I already look like a guard, I will be the one to go. You two will remain close by, but stay near the forest and cover me. If I am in a minor pickle, jump out and knock the guy out or at least pose as a distraction so I can. However, if it looks like I have run into too much trouble, you should then abort the mission and head home for help. Should I make it, I will start by setting some of the elephants free and then allow them to run lose destroying the encampment.”
“Sounds good,” affirmed Manny.
“I think it will work,” added Dax.
“I don’t!” said an unfamiliar, deep, husky voice.
The three turned to its sound. A very decorated guard stood statuesque in front of a team of ten more guards. There were sounds and clicks of cocking guns all around them. Panning the perimeter, Manny noticed that they were indeed surrounded.
“Well, well, we all knew it was only a matter of time before you came back, Pakeli. We hit you over the head last time you tried to spoil our fun. We thought that would knock some sense into you; apparently not,“ sounded the Captain.
“Why did they call him Pakeli?” whispered Dax.
Manny whispered back, “I don’t know, but I’m guessing they aren’t his friends.”
“And you two!!” yelled the Captain. “When will you learn your lesson? Your fathers were supposed to keep you under lock and key for a few weeks, until you lost interest or your curiosity crumbled under consequences.”
“You don’t know? The saint, Pakeli McOnakea didn’t tell you, feed your dreams and give you hope? Tell you about your parents being a part of a plot, a secret organization that slaughtered innocent elephants for money.”
“He didn’t ment—,“ Dax started.
Manny jumped in, “Pakeli McOnakea?! I knew there was something familiar about you.”
Pak shot him a wink and nodded his head upwards as if to let him know everything would work out.
The Captain proudly continued, “Well, ole Pakeli McOnakea has met his match, this time. The question is, do we let the boys watch a hero die, crushing their hopes… or let the hero watch his fans fall victim, deeming him a failure just before his demise?”
The other guards laughed at their captain’s jest and bound the boy’s hands behind their backs. They tied Pak up even more than that. They then pushed all three prisoners down the embankment. The sand, which earlier had been so soft, now carried only coarseness as it crept into their mouths and noses and ears and eyes as they helplessly tumbled.
The men met them at the bottom and made plans to carry them to another holding cell, at least while they figured out which one to kill first. They talked as if the three prisoners would not understand them; maybe even like they were the elephants the guards were used to.
“Should we tell the boys’ fathers?” asked one guard.
“Yeah, maybe even make them issue the punishment,” suggested another.
“No, No!” vetoed the Captain. “Tell them nothing. I don’t need their involvement; they may be faithful to the cause but emotions can always throw off their mental stability. They would never agree to it. We must kill them and leave their bodies in such a way that it would be considered an accident.”
“Good thinking sir.” The two guards agreed.
As the Captain left, Manny’s own emotions could not be controlled. They ran loose throughout his body. He was shaking, with fear and fatigue. He was cold, dirty and hurting. He felt disappointment in his father, sadness for his hero. He felt hopeless; he had let himself and his best friend down.
A guard interrupted his thoughts, with a kick to his side. “Let me kick some of that dirt off of you boy.” Then the guard wiped his face clean of the dirt and said, “I’m gonna want you to be able to see this.”
Manny, heartbroken and defeated could then see. His friend, Dax had passed out again. This time it was Pak who he last witnessed being beaten and carried off. The guard picked him up over his shoulder and started to follow. It was then that Manny’s eyes turned upward. Funny how being at the bottom of one’s luck makes one look up. Manny, looking up, found that small bit of hope that he had needed. His sister sat atop a tree, atop the embankment, looking down on the whole ordeal.
Manny was wide-awake when he was thrown to the ground next to his hero, or former hero, now friend. Earlier he must have been eased down, with some compassion. There had been no such friendly interest this time. Though Manny ached, Pak’s bruises seemed to have bruises. He spoke to him, hoping for a way out.
Pak struggled to breathe, to respond, “What’s up kid?”
“Are you okay?”
“I will be, we will be.”
“How can you be so sure, so calm?”
“I just know.”
“Because you’re Pakeli McOnakea?”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“You didn’t ask. Plus, I needed friends not fans. I told you my friends called me Pak, so that you would be my friends and you would call me Pak, and maybe not be too moved by my legend.”
Then there was a silence, like the silence shared between people that have known each other long enough that they don’t have to talk to be comfortable.
“What happens next?”
“I’d say we have about an hour and then… well, you remember the pit?”
Manny’s face was caught in a portrait like state, horror hung on where hope had formerly been.
“But…” Pak started.
“Yeah,” answered Manny, as hope started to come back.
“I have a feeling we will make it out.”
Manny thought about mentioning his sister to Pak, but didn’t. He would prefer Pak’s plan that did not involve his sister. He wanted to think that he couldn’t put his hope in a younger, usually annoying, always tattling, mostly ruining runt like her. However, his found himself surprisingly missing his sister, his mother and sorry that he had ever felt ill towards them. Dax, starting to stir, saved him from his rumination.
“You okay bud?”
“Been better dude.”
“Pak says we don’t have much time, but thinks there will be a way out.”
“Of course there will,” Dax tried to shoot up with his excitement but possibly it was his pain that made him lay back down, “I mean he is Pakeli McOnakea, right.”
“Yeah, but you can call me Pak,” he insisted.
Like a wave coming ashore, Pak’s face gave way to a smile. He started to chuckle and the boys joined in; they fell into laughter, maybe even delusion, and the three friends forgot their fate. Holding on to a moment of hope, they were happy to have had such an adventure and to be a part of something bigger. Pak continued to keep his cool; it seemed to rub off onto the boys as well. That is until they heard other laughter, not filled with joy though, but more mischievous. The guards, three to prisoner, entered the cabin and ended their fantasy.
“The time has come,” one said, trying to act eloquently official.
“Now don’t go trying anything,” joked another.
The guards let them walk on their own but mainly because they didn’t want the burden of carrying them. They escorted the prisoners to the pit and kicked them, making them fall down the sides till they reached bottom. It seemed they were to die just as so many elephants had before. The pit’s scent was a remnant of the many massacres that had proceeded. It reeked of something beyond death. It was a smell of defeat.
“Any last words?” laughed the Captain. But before any of them could say anything at all, he continued, “but wait, that’s right, I don’t care!”
He then dropped his hand, signaling a command for the guards to wet the sides of the bowl. When the water stopped, the laughter continued. The men up top seemed to really be enjoying this. Pak, Dax and Manny were also soaked with humiliation.
The Captain barked another order, “Marksmen, take aim, let’s make them dance a little before finishing them –“
But the Captain was cut short by an overwhelming sound, like a thousands trumpets all out of tune resounding again and again. This jubilee was partnered with a thundering percussion. The ground beneath them shook.
Manny and Dax looked to each other, and then to Pak.
Pak smiled, “the elephants.”
Chaos followed. The Captain screamed orders to turn the guns to the elephants but the guards wouldn’t listen, they frantically spread. The elephants gave chase and stampeded over many of the men. The hot sun had begun to dry and harden the walls of the pit. The three stayed put though, to stay out of the commotion above. As the men scattered and the elephants tired, Pak decidedly directed the boys to make their move to the top.
It was a hard climb, especially for the emotionally and physically taxed young men. They endured and carefully climbed over the edge as to make sure no harm awaited them. Pak went over first, then said, “Why hello there young one!”
“Young one??” Manny and Dax both questioned before shooting over the edge to see for themselves.
There stood Manny’s little sister, KiiKii.
“KiiKii!” exclaimed Manny, he was happier to see her than he had ever thought possible.
KiiKii shyly asked, “Are you mad at me?”
“Of course not. I’m so—” but then he stopped short and, deciding to show his appreciation for her being there, hugged her tightly.
Dax interrupted their Hallmark moment, “What’s going on?”
Manny descended back to earth as well, “Yeah, how’d you?
“I didn’t, I well…” then hesitantly, “I told daddy.”
“Dad? Where is he?”
“With Dax’s dad getting the big efelants back in order?”
They all smiled at her mispronunciation but said nothing.
Pak stepped in, “where are they now, sweetheart?”
“This way, I will show you.”
The three followed the young girl to where the two fathers were in fact corralling the elephants. They were working really hard but seemed to manage well. The elephants had indeed tired. The fathers were using food to bait them back into the corrals. When they were finished up, the group met them at the gate.
Manny and Dax’s dads spoke first, each to his own, “I’m sorry son.”
In unison they retorted, “You’re sorry? I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” said Pak.
They all laughed.
On the long walk home, they each told their own tall tale version of the past day’s events. As it would turn out, the fathers had planned to leave the company much like Pak had. When KiiKii had overheard the plans to take over the operation, she climbed down and snuck in to tell her dad. Though it wasn’t a verbatim retelling, he was able to make out his own plan. It had become more than just stopping the torture of animals and about ending the organizations misguided work. It was now personal; it was now about his son. Manny and Dax told their adventurous epic, without the emotions, allowing them to sound all the more brave. Pak let them have their glory and commended the “young men”, no longer boys, on their actions.
In the days that would follow, the entire community made an unprecedented venture to the other side of the island. They all helped, young and old, male and female to board the elephants on ships back to Africa, to freedom. Exposed, the Captain was punished. He was sent with the elephants, that he had so long mistreated, to a foreign land. A monument was placed on the beach in memory of the slain creatures. In addition, security was established to disallow future misuse of power.
Manny and Dax would never see Pak again. They would however, continue to have many more exciting adventures of their own. They were more careful in where and when they went though, usually making sure their parents were okay with it. KiiKii was even allowed to come along. Of course, now that she could, she didn’t want to as much. Manny, was honestly, okay with this too.