The Trials of Tikulo

PART 1

Shaman
Who knows
Where the wind begins?
Or how far it blows?
Who knows?

Who can say
Where the wind ends?
How far away?
Who can say?

I wonder where
This wind upon my face
And in my hair
Has been.
I wonder where?

Has it filled the sails of junk boats off the coast of Myanmar?
Or swept the hats off people on the streets of Panama?
Or blown the steam from tea-cups around a Russian samovar?

I wonder.

Has it howled in the darkness of some bleak Antarctic plain?
Or whispered in siesta through the olive groves of Spain?
Has it rumbled underground behind a New York subway train?

I wonder.

Did it bring the Bay of Bengal the heaviest monsoons?
The Sirocco to Morocco? To Cameroon, typhoons?
Or just scatter things in Alice Springs and snatch a few balloons?

I wonder.

Has it found the cracks in ancient temple walls of Mexico?
Or mingled with aromas in the vineyards of Bordeaux?
Did it ruffle parrot feathers in the trees of Tikulo?

Ah Tikulo, Tikulo.

If I close my eyes, I can almost see those parrots perching there
And smell the wild spices floating on the balmy air
I can taste the golden sweetness of an island honey-peach
I can hear the ocean waves forever crashing on the beach.

And look, a fishing party has just rowed into the bay
The fishermen are singing, work has finished for the day
The children run down to the shore to help them with the catch
While the farmers stand and wave from the watermelon patch.
The women clap and shoo the chickens back into the run,
And the workers leave the cornfields once all the planting’s done,
Then the fishing nets are folded, and the kayaks cleaned and moored
The farming tools are stacked away and the morning’s harvest stored.
But still no chance to sit and rest, they leave the shores instead,
With bamboo baskets full of fish, seaweed and stone-baked bread.
And turning from the blinding sun, they escape the scorching sand,
For the comfort of the woods, which lie a spear’s throw inland.
Ah! The lush green of the jungle, the freshness of the glade,
Where the island’s forest-folk dwell in the cool calm of the shade.
There are smiles and salutations and the morning’s news is shared,
While the children swing on munkee-vines, a meal is prepared.
Then the elders ask for silence, and everybody there,
Holds hands with one another, and bows their head in prayer
We thank you, Goddess Vulkanu, for all that you provide!
For you, the choicest meat and fish is always set aside.’
Such wondrous food! Grilled coral fish, three roasted blackfoot pigs
With taytoes, beans and seaweed greens, sweetbark and coco-figs.
And everyone eats heartily – a feast fit for the King,
Washed down with jugs of water from the clearest mountain spring.
Every appetite is satisfied: the meal draws to a close.
It’s time to find a place to rest, digest, and have a doze.
They climb up to the shelters in the lofty bora trees,
Or laze in narna-hammocks that swing gently in the breeze,
Just the singing birds of paradise, the murmur of the stream
The people of Tikulo sleep, deep in peace, and dream….

But underground, there’s movement,
Something shudders, something shakes,
And while the island slumbers on,
A gruesome monster wakes…


Kapakahi
Eyes wide open, Kapakahi
We have woken from our sleep,
Thin blood, cold and hungry
Up then!
From this cavern,
dark and deep.

Slowly, slowly, Kapakahi
Taste the jungle on our tongues
Feel the sun upon our scales
Warm air in our rasping lungs

Creeping,
Crawling,
Kapakahi,
Wary always of the day
Sniff the slightest whiff of danger
Change our skin,
And fade away.

Zigzag,
Zigzag,
Kapakahi
Swamplands, thick muck, slimy, smelly
Hot sun baking
armour-plating
Cool mud on our underbelly.

Like a shadow on the sand dunes
Through the pampas grass
We snake
Always stealthy
Sleek our movements
Not a single sound we make.

Foolish humans, no protection
Weak locks on the storehouse doors
Break and snap them,
Kapakahi
No match for our vicious jaws.

Inside, quickly,
Clawing, eating
Smashing jars and ripping sacks
Sweet meat hanging from the ceiling
Fresh fish drying on the racks.

Licking thin lips,
Cruel smile,
Grinning
Let them try to work out how
They can catch us.
Never, never…
Hunger - satisfied,

For now.

Shaman
Hear the message on the jungle drums:
‘We - all – must - congregate
At – Chinwag - Rock, at - first – star - light,
Tonight,
And - don’t - be - late!’

All
Chinwag Rock! We gather round,
And take our seats on stony ground.
We come together to discuss
Affairs affecting all of us.
Man or woman, old or young,
Speak your piece or hold your tongue.
Let no-one’s question go unheard,
Hark every voice, heed every word.

King Hammahed
My friends, I woke today and said
to myself ‘Old Hammahed –
Be happy, you’re a lucky sort.
The world’s your oyster!’
So I thought…
Hear me friends! As you may know
There is a thief on Tikulo!
For the third time since the last full moon
The brute has struck!
This afternoon,
While we ate together, while we slept
Some… thing to the beach-huts crept.
It forced its way through padlocked doors,
And plundered all our precious stores.
Every jar of mussels smashed,
The sacks of rice and taytoes slashed.
Our stocks of meat, hung up to dry,
Are also now in short supply.
And all the fish we caught today?
There’s not one left, I’m sad to say.

Tikulan 1
Last week a cabin in the woods
Was looted too and all the goods –
The mint-tree nuts, the treacle berries,
Wild honeycombs and palm-rose cherries –
Were eaten, plus a dozen kegs
Of lotus juice, drunk to the dregs.

Tikulan 2
The week before, the thief attacked
the cornfields,
And then ransacked
the yam plot and the yukka patch -
We’ll have to grow them all from scratch…

King Hammahed
This creature’s smart, to say the least,
Much smarter than your average beast.
Three times it’s struck, and don’t forget,
We haven’t caught a glimpse as yet.
What’s more, each time that it attacks
It leaves no trace, no trail, no tracks.
‘It can’t be caught,’ I hear you cry,
‘We may as well not even try!’
Should we lay down? Accept defeat?
Soon there’ll be only grass to eat…
But there’s more than just our food at stake
No, no, my friends, make no mistake
The time has come to make a stand
And draw a line here in the sand.
To catch a thief! Everyone
Eyes wide open, from now on!
Keep storerooms double locked and barred,
With pairs of dingoes keeping guard.
Patrols will scout throughout the day
The forest, sand-dunes and the bay.
By night, watch-fires along the coast
With lookouts in each signal post.
Beat the tom-toms loud and clear
For hermit crabs not gathered here,
For each lone wolf and brown recluse:
‘There is a monster on the loose’
With such security in place,
Let’s see that creature show its face.
We start tomorrow, friends. Now go!
For one, for all, for Tikulo!

Shaman
Two peas in a pod,
Two birds of a feather,
It’s like seeing double
When you see them together…

The Sea Urchin Twins - Jet and Zam
We are the brave Sea Urchin Twins
And this is where our tale begins.
His name is Jet,
And his is Zam,
And everything
he is,
I am
Impossible to tell apart,
We’re both good-looking, strong and smart,
Fleet of foot and stout of heart,
The brave Sea Urchin Twins
Can you tell one from the other?
Would you mistake me for my brother?
Am I Zam?
Or is he Jet?
Can you spot the difference yet?
Identical in every way.
He’s a waif,
And he’s a stray,
Each of us a castaway.
The brave Sea Urchin Twins
Shipwrecked, many moons ago
Just off the coast of Tikulo
Lost, then found, half-drowned, half dead
Brought before King Hammahed
Who gave us food, a home, a name
His sons, his princes, we became
But still we are one and the same
The brave Sea Urchin Twins
And I’m the braver of the two!
Now Zam, you know that isn’t true
I’m at least ten times as tough as you!
Was I not the first to leap
Off Seagull Point, into the deep
Whilst you could only watch and weep?
I climb the tallest Bora trees
With speed and skill, with grace and ease
And chatter to the chimpanzees!
Well, while you’re up there, hanging, dangling
Spare a thought for me untangling
Fishing nets for deep sea angling.
Oh fish! Fish! Fish!
Fish-heads! Fish-tails!
All guts and gills! There’s always scales
Stuck underneath your fingernails!
That’s rich, Jet, I’d swear you’ve got
Wet jungle itch or fungee rot
Did you sleep in the yukka plot?
I trudge through sludge in quaggy bogs,
Nests of swamp rats, poison frogs,
To track down tasty truffle hogs.
Without complaint, I take the plunge
And trawl through seabed slime and gunge
Each time you want a new bath sponge
I pluck the spines off pukoopines
And strip the twines from kudzu vines
To make your precious hooks and lines.
Come fishing then, there’s room for two
I’ve more important things to do.
It’s a shame you haven’t got the guts
To help me gather cocoanuts,
But I know that heights make you uneasy
The same way waves make you feel queasy.
We need all the help that we can get
But you haven’t found your sea-legs yet.
So many clams, so little time…
So many cocoa trees to climb…
And while I’m there, you can be sure,
I’ll miss nothing on the forest floor
With an arrow ready in my bow,
If that beastly thief slinks by below.
The mighty Jet! So eagle-eyed!
You couldn’t catch it if you tried.
But if it swims past, have no fear,
I’ll kill it with my trusty spear.
Yes, Tikulo can count on me.
We’ll see, dear brother.
We shall see….

Shaman
Work is over and the day is done: the sun sets over Orka Head,
The men and women chat and laugh, the children settle into bed.
The guards patrol the camp to check that all is safe and sound,
But somewhere in the undergrowth, the beast still skulks around…

Kapakahi
Stupid humans, always talking,
Squawking ‘There’s a thief at large!’
Hatching plans to try and
Catch us,
Time to show them
Who’s in charge.

More than just a
Greedy feeding
Drives us from our lair tonight
Wicked feeling,
Thrill of stealing
Whets our monster appetite.

In the darkness,
Guards are yapping,
Dogs are snapping
Wait to sneak… past them
Now’s our moment!
Go then!
Just like playing hide and seek!

What’s this? New locks?
Higher fences? Strong defences….
Foolish pride!
Use our sharp claws,
Tunnel under,
Plunder on the other side.

Breakthrough!
Clawing through the flooring.
Kapakahi never fails!
Hear them clucking?
Ripe for plucking!
Pleasure
Ripples
through our scales.

Outside,
Stupid humans,
Searching.
Can’t catch what they cannot see.
Running ‘round like headless chickens…
Headless chickens!
Hee hee hee!

Shaman
The moon has dropped behind the hills,
But still it’s long before the dawn,
Then suddenly, the drums beat out,
And shrill notes sound upon the horn.
Dragged from their dreams, the island folk
Jump from their beds in fear and shock.
Wake up! Get up! Raise the alarm!
Emergency at Chinwag Rock!

King Hammahed
My people, I have called you here
With news that cannot wait, I fear.
All our efforts were in vain –
It seems the monster’s struck again.
Just like before: the same routine.
The beast slipped in, slipped out unseen
This time, the crime’s beyond belief
For earlier tonight the thief
Sneaked into the chicken coop,
Killed all the hens in one fell swoop
But did not eat a single one –
The monster did it just for fun.
I must confess this thievery
Has begun to take its toll on me:
By night, the creature haunts my dreams
By day, it stalks my thoughts, it seems.
I just wish, at the very least
We knew the nature of the beast…

Tikulan 1
I’ll tell you what killed all our birds –
A chicken vampire! Mark my words!

Tikulan 2
Nonsense! ‘Twas a man-baboon!
Driven crazy by the moon!

Tikulan 3
No! No! It was a jungle-sprite!
Those poor hens probably died of fright!

Taran-Chu
Your children might be filled with glee
To hear your tales of fantasy
But ghosts and goblins aren’t for me
I like things I can catch….
I'm Taran-Chu! I’ve made my name,
Earned my fortune, found my fame
By catching beasts and hunting game
I’ve yet to meet my match…
Through driving rain and howling gales
In a leaking boat with tattered sails
Harpooning giant blubbah whales
It’s a wonderful pursuit…
I must have slit a dozen throats
Of spike-horned kajmir mountain goats -
To make hard-wearing overcoats
There’s just no substitute…
Those savage huggermugger bears!
I’ve risked my life outside their lairs
To lure them to my lethal snares
I do so love the thrill…
But I need a challenge, something more…
Ferocious than a sabre boar
(I’ve scoffed those piggies by the score)
A worthy foe to kill…
I heard your message on the jungle drum,
King Hammahed, and had to come.
Armed to the teeth, full hunting gear,
Three days hard trekking brings me here,
I haven’t slept, washed, drunk or eaten,
I’m thick with sand ticks, weather-beaten
By day, half-baked, by night half-frozen:
Such is the path that I have chosen.
Now great Vulkanu’s granted me
This golden opportunity.
A trial to prove myself, to test
The deadly skills with which I’m blessed.

King Hammahed
Our Goddess answered our prayers too -
Welcome fearless Taran-Chu!
You’ve joined us in our hour of need.
Your prowess is renowned.
Indeed,
The branches of your family tree
Grow strong with hunting mastery:
Your Granpopah, old Scor-Peo
First taught me how to use a bow.
His aim, so perfect, it was said,
He could part the hair upon your head.
And how the features of your face
Transport me to another place,
And bring to mind another time!
Another huntress in her prime….
Your Momah, yes, the fierce Tai-pan,
The deadliest of all your clan.
As sweet as coco-caramel,
Exotic as a pearl as well.
I swear she broke a hundred hearts;
Stopped thousands with her poison darts.
With you, her dotah, on our side
The thief can run, but cannot hide.
So tell me, how do you suppose
You’ll catch it though, when no-one knows
Exactly what we’re looking for?!
We’ve never seen the beast before…

Taran-Chu
Pray, sit awhile, King Hammahed
And put aside your fear and dread
Hear a yarn old Scor-Peo
Spun for me many moons ago
Cracked with age, and close to death
These words caught on his rattling breath…

Old Scor-Peo
Far and wide I’ve travelled, child,
For creatures great and small,
For animals both rare and wild –
Kapakahi rules them all.
A lizard king with vice-like jaws,
Saw teeth and poison bite,
With whipcrack tail and razor claws,
A monstrous appetite.
He changes, any time he likes,
His colour, shade or hue,
And blinds his prey before he strikes,
Or disappears from view.
How did I kill it? I don’t know…
It took all my skill and pluck,
A dozen arrows from my bow,
Vulkanu’s grace,
And luck.
But Kapakahi’s death-cries
Still send shivers down my spine.
I see his yellow, gleaming eyes
Whenever I close mine.
The most bloodcurdling brute by far
That ever I confronted.
If you meet one, be sure you are
The hunter, not the hunted.

Taran-Chu
King Hammahed, I’d bet my life
The cause of all your recent strife
Is my Grandpopah’s old foe reborn:
A Kapakahi, a new-laid spawn.
Years, in the darkness, hibernating,
Drawing shallow breaths and waiting
For the perfect time to venture out
From its filthy, stinking pit, no doubt.
Hesitant, at first, it feeds
On maggot eggs and centipedes,
Then slowly, surely, growing fat
On blister-toad and canker-rat.
Every day becoming stronger,
Its body: bigger, thicker, longer.
And sharpening its skills, to boot
Ripening like a poison fruit.
Now fully grown, the lizard creeps
About you, while Tikulo sleeps
And though these pilferings might slake
Its gnawing empty stomach ache
I fear we’ve yet to see the peak
Of Kapakahi’s evil streak.
No matter now, the die is cast,
Its reign of terror will not last.
Kapakahi! Be prepared
To be pursued, caught out, ensnared.
My weapons sharp, my nets are weighted,
The lasso’s looped, the trap is baited…

King Hammahed
Taran-Chu, then rest assured,
Yours will be a fine reward:
Pearls big as plums, and gems the size
Of oztrij eggs and tygahs’ eyes.
Precious stones and finest gold -
More treasure than your packs can hold
Kill the beast! Bring me its head!

Taran-Chu
It shall be done, King Hammahed!
Now beat this message on your drum:
Kapakahi, here I come!


PART 2

Shaman
Who knows why the wind blows?
Who knows why?
Like tumbleweeds upon the dunes, the summer days roll by.
And with each sunrise on Tikulo
The island is reborn
From the darkest depths of gloomy night
To the beauty of the dawn.
So waking from their slumber
The Huntress, King and Twins
Cast off their dreams and nightmares
As another day begins.
Jet and Zam
We dreamt about the storm last night,
The very one which brought us here,
We woke up trembling till daylight
Released us from the crushing fear
Of shrieking gales and stinging rain,
Each lightning strike, each clap of thunder,
In sleep, we watched the hurricane
Rip and split our lives asunder.
We saw once more that fatal flash,
Which set alight our family boat.
The burning mast fell with a crash.
Our world aflame, but still afloat.
The storm raged on, the fire roared,
On furious waves, we pitched and tossed
But cruel fate swept us overboard
And in that moment, all was lost.
There on the deck, amid the flames
Our parents could not hear our screams,
We cried out when they yelled our names,
But no-one hears your cries, in dreams.

Taran-Chu
Dreams of trekking, double-checking,
The bat-caves, pits and furrows,
Abandoned lairs of buktoof hares,
The bajjah sets and burrows,
The sunken holes of bunka moles,
Every snicket, nook and cranny,
Each swampland bog, each hollow log…
This Kapakahi’s canny.
I picked my brains over remains
Of rotting rats and rabbits
So to surmise from their demise
The lizard’s eating habits.
I sat last night by campfire light
And studied island maps
To find its nest, and choose where best
To lay my lures and traps.
The groundwork’s done, my web is spun,
Let the waiting game begin,
The fly will make one grave mistake,
And the spider will close in…

King Hammahed
I dreamt I was a child: a bright eyed boy again,
Too young to know the trials of weary older men.
I dreamt I climbed a mountain and didn’t even stop
To rest or catch my breath before I reached the top.
On the mountain grass I laid back, watched the birds and butterflies.
Below: the patchwork island, above: the rolling skies.
And at my side a boulder, that I prised up with my hand
Then I pushed it, oh so slightly, no idea where it might land.
It turned and slowly tumbled - I sat up to watch it roll,
And I realised in that moment, it was out of my control.
With gathering momentum, down the mountainside it flew,
Smashed into other stones and rocks, and sent them tumbling too.
And they thundered toward the village, faster than a boy can run,
While I could only whisper to myself ‘What have I done?’
And I could only whisper in my sleep, ‘What have I done?’

Shaman
He's been feeling the strain since the thievings began,
But in spite of the pressure, the King is a man
Who for his people, his island, still does all he can
Now he summons his boys -
Hammahed has a plan.

King Hammahed
My sons! it’s good to see you. Come join me! Sit awhile.
It’s been so long since this old face of mine has cracked a smile.
But you boys! You raise my spirits,
You calm my troubled mind,
And if only for a moment, I feel I can unwind.
I’d love to light my smokeleaf pipe and drift off in the haze,
Regale you both with stories of my glorious younger days.
But time is of the essence and those days have gone, besides, somewhere on our island,
Kapakahi still resides.
Still deceiving us and thieving all our food.
And every theft
Means less for us to share around – soon there’ll be nothing left.
Still no word from Taran-Chu – not a peep, no sight nor sound.
Since the meeting up at Chinwag Rock, it seems she’s gone to ground.
Where is she boys? I’m worried sick!
She puts her life at risk
Just being out there, in the wild, with that ghastly basilisk.
What’s more, last night, I had a dream:
Though its message was unclear, something in that nightmare filled my heart with icy fear.
Call me superstitious boys, but I can’t escape the notion
That disaster’s rolling towards us and I’ve set the wheels in motion.
What if Taran-Chu should fail?
How would the village cope? Just us, against the beast, again!
If she’s our only hope
Then we need her here! By our side!
We need her expertise!
Her presence in the village would put all our minds at ease.
So I must act accordingly, as befits my royal role:
A steady hand, stiff upper lip: cool, calm and in control.
I‘ve thought long and hard about the course of action I should take.
I must confess, my decision was not an easy one to make.
It pains my heart to ask you boys to undertake this quest,
But of all the island-folk it’s clear you know Tikulo best.
The forests, swamps, the caves and coves, each beach and sandy shore – there’s no spot on this island you two haven’t been before.
The only thing that matters now is finding Taran-Chu.
Bring her back here, in one piece – that’s all I ask of you.
No thoughts of grand heroics, of dying nobly for our cause.
Killing Kapakahi is no concern of yours.
Just promise me you’ll be home soon; safe, sound and at my side.
Here, take these gifts, mere tokens of a father’s love and pride:
To my Captain of the Ocean - Zam,
I give this lucky charm –
A perfect golden concha shell!
May it keep you safe from harm.
For my Master of the Jungle,
This magic amulet,
Carved in finest bora wood.
May it protect you, Jet.
Vulkanu’s grace be with you both until we meet again.
So go, I send you out as boys,
Come back to me as men.

Shaman
Meanwhile in the jungle,
The Huntress and her prey
Take a step toward each other -
A deadly game's in play...

Taran-Chu
Success at last! Long days have passed
But I’ve had a stroke of luck.
Just now I spied, with glowing pride,
A footprint in the muck.
It clearly shows splayed reptile toes,
The imprint of its scales,
And deep-cut scores of lizard claws,
As thick as swamp rat tails.
Another here! Not quite as clear,
But a footprint nonetheless –
Which makes its stride as long and wide,
As a kariboo’s I’d guess.
With lumbering gait, the heavyweight
Pushed through the tangleweed,
For there, beyond the lilak fronds,
Its fading tracks proceed.
I’ll follow then, where lesser men
Would no doubt fear to tread.
The cobweb shakes, the spider makes
Her way along the thread…

Kapakahi
Smirking at the tiny termites,
Working on their mighty mound,
One swipe with our massive tail
And send it,
Crashing
To the ground.

Sneering lips with smeared-on honey,
Bumbling bees: ‘Protect the hive!’
Desperate trying, stinging, dying…
All to keep their queen alive.

Human beings,
Just like insects,
See them run! No time to shirk,
Making sure the stores are well stocked…
The more we steal, the more they work.

Birdbrains, nitwits, twits and boneheads,
Slaving in the blazing sun.
All their efforts count for nothing.
Rob them blind each night,
What fun!

Watch them praying to Vulkanu,
Trusting in their fat old king,
Pinning hopes upon the huntress.
As if she can do anything.

Perhaps she thinks we haven’t seen her?
Blundering ten steps behind.
Trying to trace our tracks and trails,
Trying to get inside our mind.

Let her come then, let her chase us!
It’s all a game, why can’t she see?
Every clawmark, every footprint,
We leave them all
deliberately.

Shaman
We join our young twins as they duly prepare
To spend their first night camping in open air
But what is this place?
Neither here...
Nor there...
It's No Man's Land.

Browned off with each other for they could not agree
To pitch in the woodlands, or nearer the sea
Now they're stuck in the middle, as glum as can be
It's No Man's Land.

It's not easy to sleep in those pampas grass thickets
With the swarming mozquitos, sand-ticks and crickets,
When you're cold, tired, hungry and feeling homesick
It's... it's...
It's No Man's Land.

Zam
We should have camped close to the ocean
Taken shelter in one of the caves
Where all you desire is a warm driftwood fire
And the lullaby sounds of the waves.

Jet
We should have camped deep in the forests
Built a giant hide up in the trees,
And at the end of the day, drifted off in the sway
With the rustling of palms in the breeze.

Zam
We should have camped close to the ocean
Where the pickings are richer by far
Cockles ripe for the taking, soft shell crabs for baking
With seaweed and fresh caviar.

Jet
We should have camped deep in the forests
Where the truffles are simply divine
And the mangoes can grow big as melons you know
And the grape juice flows straight off the vine.

Zam
We should have camped close to the ocean
With nothing obstructing our view

Jet
We should have camped deep in the forests
In the heart of the hullabaloo
Used our treetop reserve, taken shifts to observe
From above, eagled-eyed

Zam
Used the stars as our guide
Swept the shores, combed the beaches,
The outermost reaches

Jet
Forayed further inland

Zam
Drawn our plans in the sand

Jet
If I had my way

Zam
If I had my way

Jet and Zam
On our mission to find Taran Chu

Shaman
While the boys turn in and hit the hay
Taran-Chu's still wide-awake -
Wide eyed as a bush baby
but coiled tightly as a snake
And ready in an instant
To strike - make no mistake
This evening there's no time to rest
There's so much more at stake...

Taran-Chu
Watching, waiting, concentrating,
All my senses heightened,
I know my death could be one breath
Away, but I’m not frightened.
I asked the Gods to weigh my odds,
But still I’d risk it all -
For fame and glory, another story,
And a stuffed head for the wall….
It must be nearby. I can hear my
Heart beat like a drum.
My breathing steady; I’m armed and ready:
I feel the moment’s come.
But how to spot a beast that’s got
That colour-changing skin?
These leaves provide a place to hide:
It perfectly blends in…

Kapakahi
We’re watching you, intrepid huntress!
Such fearlessness, so brave, so bold!
Still, only human, still pathetic.
Couldn’t even catch a cold!

Weak sense of smell and feeble eyesight,
All soft skin and brittle bones,
Blunt teeth and claws, no natural weapons,
Just pointed sticks and pointless stones

And here we are:
Slick, quick and vicious.
Easy for us to be smug!
Give her one last
taste of victory,
Before we squash her like a bug…

Taran-Chu
Wait I see it! That must be it!
Those colours! Bright as day!
Coral pink turns blue as ink,
Flame red turns ashen grey.
What a sight in black and white!
Now lime green! Now maroon!
Now aubergine! Now tangerine!
Now yellow as the moon!
Now violet -
like a lightning strike -
Move Taran-Chu! Don’t fail!
Grab it! Snatch it! Grasp it! Catch it!
Seize the lizard’s tail…

Shaman
A face of grim determination,
Fury burning in her eyes,
From the bushes bursts the huntress
To take the monster by surprise

She flings her arms around that tail,
And pulls with all her power and might.
The reptile thrashes, wild with anger,
Will not give in without a fight.

But Taran-Chu pulls even harder:
Her muscles bunched and taut with strain,
To drag the beast into the open
Where it can be caught and slain.

Riiiiiip!
A sound that sends her reeling!
She falls back in the sticky mud,
And in her hands, a tail, still wriggling,
Its thick end torn and slick with blood.
And in a flash, the beast is on her!
It crushes, pins her to the ground!
And never once has Taran-Chu
Known fear and terror so profound!

Two grinning mouths of jagged teeth
Two pairs of eyes, so pale and cold
Two heads!
Two heads!
Both raised in victory.
The monster shrieks and shines like gold.

Kapakahi
Tricked you! Fooled you! Stupid huntress!
A game us lizards like to play.
Cast ours tails off – clever decoy! -
To flee from beasts and birds of prey.

Didn’t know that
Did you, human?
Ah well, a final lesson learned.
The hunter has become the hunted!
Funny how the tables turned.

While you stumbled, slipped and fumbled,
We seized our chance
(Too slow! Too slow!)
Now we have you
In our clutches
Nowhere left for you to go.

Do we disgust you? Freakish monster!?
Mother Nature’s cruel joke?
Two heads? How? – one simple answer:
A single egg, a double yolk.

Cracked through that hard reptile eggshell
From its snotted slime, we hatched
Eyes blinked open, first time ever.
Saw each other.
Grew attached.

One by one, we killed our siblings.
Life is better on our own.
No-one else to share the spoils.
No contenders for our throne.

Now Kapakahi, King of Lizards,
Lives to fight another day
And as for you, our little huntress,
A kiss to send you on your way…

Shaman
The filthy creature leans towards her
And bites her lightly on the cheek,
And Taran-Chu, once proud and valiant
Feels suddenly so small and weak.
Then laughing, Kapakahi leaves her,
And lumbers off into the wood.
And she cries,
She cries,
Alone, defeated,
Its deadly poison in her blood.

Taran-Chu
The sun is setting on a dying day.
A wondrous sight! It always made me smile.
The evening tide begins to ebb away.
Lay down my weary head and rest awhile.
To think that on this spot I’ll meet my fate,
Upon this bed of leaves and dirty ground.
My huntress’ heart and soul to separate:
The first to earth, the other heaven-bound.
The inky darkness comes so soon tonight,
And sadness washes over like a wave.
No village fires, nor stars, no moon to light,
My lonely journey onwards from the grave.
As wolfish death comes snapping at my heels,
I am the hunted: this is how it feels.

Shaman
Who knows when the wind will blow?
Who knows?
Somewhere a dingo barks alone.
Somewhere a cockerel crows.
There's a mist on Mount Vulkanu's peak
When finally dawn breaks.
The wind blows through the pampas grass
Somewhere a young boy wakes....

Jet
I woke up first this morning, so while my brother slept
And the island slowly came to life, into the dawn
I crept.

Across the rocks of Lobsta Bay, to the solace of the trees.
I picked the tallest cocoa-palm and clambered up with ease.
But my pleasure turned to sorrow when reached my treetop perch,
And I whispered sadly to myself ‘Too late. Call off the search’.

For I saw those dark shapes circling
and spiraling overhead.
Vultures…
There and then I knew that Taran-Chu was dead.

Shaman
So peering through the canopy at those harbingers of doom,
The Sea Urchin twins, with heavy hearts
Trudge through the jungle gloom.
Through the nettlebrush and tangleweed, to the quiet forest glade,
Where Taran-Chu lies fallen at the end of her crusade.
All is quiet in the jungle, for death hangs in the air,
And the boys hold hands together and bow their heads in prayer.

Jet and Zam
Wondrous Goddess, Great Vulkanu,
Spirit of the mountain peak,
Hear the prayers we bring before you,
‘Tis your comfort that we seek.

She was once our daring huntress -
Strong, intrepid, in her prime.
Evil Kapakahi
Has cut short her life before its time.

Take her soul then, Holy Momah,
Far from all this pain and strife,
Hold her hand and lead her to the
Wonder of the afterlife

Guide us too, your island children,
We are young and know not how
To carry out our fahda’s wishes.
Help us – what should we do now?

Shaman
But how those prayers fall on deaf ears,
For Great Vulkanu lies asleep.
Divine and dormant,
Far above
The shadows of the jungle deep.
Still, there's magic in those shadows
A hoodoo-voodoo dark mystique
And foul all-knowing jungle spirits
Rise up like swirls of smoke and speak....

Jungle Spirits
Goddess, you say?! She pays no heed.
Where is she in your time of need?
No matter now, for in the trees,
We spirits hear your ardent pleas,
We’ll fill your head with fantasies,
Desires and ambitions

Shaman
For all is grim and ghastly here.
No place is this for two young boys -
They shrink from every grisly sight,
And shudder at each sickly noise.

Jungle Spirits
‘Come back as men’ your Fahda said,
So listen to your hearts instead.
Will you return as you were told,
Like lost lambs, bleating, to the fold?
Or ruthlessly pursue those cold
Desires and ambitions.

Shaman
The bubbling scum in brackish pools!
Dry scuttling of vile stinging things!
Wet slitherings under slimy rocks!
The slap of flapping leathery wings!

Jungle Spirits
Kapakahi rules Tikulo now.
Tell us then, will you allow
This beast to undermine your schemes?
Kill it! Though the prospect seems
Alarming, think about your dreams,
Desires and ambitions.

Shaman
The snap-trap weeds with twisted thorns,
Pale bitter leaves and poison fruit.
From nasty seeds grow wicked things.
In darkness, evil things take root.

Jungle Spirits
For to the victor go the spoils!
Come through these treacherous trials and toils –
Return triumphant!
To Fortune! Fame!
The glory of your tribe’s acclaim!
Their tears of joy and wild applause!
Think boys! It could all be yours!
Coffers full of gleaming treasure
A life of luxury and leisure
And even when you’re dead and gone,
Your names in legend will live on…

Shaman
And so in this disgusting place,
Soon dark ideas come to the twins
Jet’s green eyes glitter greedily,
Zam licks his salty lips and grins…

Jet and Zam
Yes! We’ll use Taran Chu as bait,
lay a lizard trap and wait,
then kill the brute and celebrate
Our desires and ambitions.

Ratanui - the swamp rat
Today out on my morning stroll
In the scrub beyond the waterhole
My ears pricked up, I gave a sniff
I heard a sound and caught a whiff…
A village kid! Well, what a sight!
I swear I nearly died of fright.
The deepest jungle’s not the place
For a member of the human race.
So strange to see one of them roam
Far from the comfort of their home.
But not the strangest thing I saw
Today, my friends, and that’s for sure.

At first I thought it was a dream,
A mirage in the jungle steam,
I asked myself ‘Can this be true?’
Not just one face out there, but two?
And sure as Ratanui’s my name
Both those faces were the same!
Twin village kids! No, I’m not lying
The scene was truly mystifying.
What were they at? I hear you ask
Dead set on some demented task –
They beavered on all morning long
In those woods beyond the billabong….

Shaman
With handmade spades they dug a pit –
So deep - they disappeared in it
To line the bottom with the likes
Of jag-bamboo and barbwood spikes
To pierce the flesh and snag the skin
Of any beast that fell within.

Back up on top, they laid across
A flimsy bed of mulch and moss:
Unwary monsters would not know
The perils of what lay below.
They unpicked creeping vines and slung
Them over branches so they hung
Straight down into the shaded glade
Above the pitfall that they’d made.

And finally the twins had time
To cake themselves in muck and slime
To camouflage their skin as well
As cover up their human smell.

The trap set, Taran-Chu – the draw
To bring the lizard back once more
And ready to accept their fate
The Sea Urchin Twins sat tight to wait…

Ratanui
All this I saw with my own eyes –
Would I tell tall rat tails to you guys?
I would have stayed, upon my word,
But something in the bushes stirred -
The Double-Dragon! Sly and leering
Swaggered out into the clearing.
Before that lizard smelled a rat,
Back to my natural habitat
I scarpered quick, no looking back
Who wants to be a lizard’s snack?!
Hear the thunder of the jungle drums?
It’s the rumble in the jungle chums!
Kapakahi or the twins?
Frankly I don’t care who wins.
One man’s joy, another’s sorrow….

We’ll be eating well this time tomorrow!

Kapakahi
Pale eyes gleaming, spittle streaming down our chins.
Our hunger growing
Forked tongues flicking, licking, picking up scents.
Stomach juices flowing.

Here she is, our pretty huntress.
Stench of death, so rich, so sweet.
Do we savour every flavour?
Or scoff her like a tasty treat?

Shaman
In the trees, two pairs of eyes, wide open now in wild surprise and fear!
Hot blood! Cold sweat!
Zam’s mouth so dry, Jet’s palms so wet
Their thumping hearts, their chattering teeth -
The monster stalks by underneath.

Kapakahi
First of many – little huntress.
Newfound taste for human blood.
No more crabs, bats, rats and rabbits.
Days of scrabbling, gone for good.

Kill them all and build our kingdom.
Rule the island – that’s our aim.
Hear us, fear us, all Tikulo,
Kapakahi is our name.

Grinning, winning, just beginning.
Claim our prize and a take a bow.
Relish this first taste of victory -
Who is going to stop us now?

Shaman
But wait!
The fight’s not over yet!
For shrieking like a banchee bat, comes Jet!
And in swings Zam behind!
Their fears forgotten, now they’re blind with rage!
Before the beast can think, they spatter him with blue squid ink.
‘Haha! We’d like to see you try to change your colours now!’ they cry,
And up their munkee vines they climb, escaping in the nick of time,
As Kapakai spins and sees the faces of its enemies…
Its furious crimson skin shot through with sticky stripes of inky blue,
Its reptile eyes black, filled with hate,
Its voice like chalk-stone scraped down slate –

‘Your King’ it mutters, with a smirk, ‘sends boys to do his dirty work!
Smooth-chinned scruffy twins no less.
Have you come to save the brave huntress?
Come for glory? For the sport?
Two heads better than one, you thought.
Two heads! Hee hee! Too late! So True!
We’ll teach you sprats a thing or two’

With that, the lizard grabs the vines and reels them in like fishing lines,
And clumsy Zam, his balance poor, comes crashing to the forest floor.
In a flash, the monster’s there - its two mouths snap, catch only air –
Zam dodges left and sidesteps right, avoids the lizard’s poison bite.
So quick, so nimble: he evades those claws as sharp as razor blades.
With well-aimed sticks and rocks, fights back against the monster’s wild attack.
Jet yells down from the trees ‘Zam! Here! Spike him with your fishing spear!’
But the keen edge of its glass-tip fails to pierce those horny reptile scales
And nothing slows the beast’s advance – it seems the twins don’t stand a chance…
Zam struggles on, while Jet lets fly a hail of arrows from on high -
A dozen strikes, to no avail, save one – the raw flesh where its tail was torn away - A direct hit!
The twins cheer at the sight of it!
The pain of Kapakahi’s roar fuels Zam’s fighting fire once more –
A rush of blood!
A battle cry!
The beast rears up!
Zam’s spear raised high!
He valiantly goes charging in to stick that thick reptilian skin.
Another strike!
The monster reels in shock and rocks back on its heels,
Licks this fresh wound, grins and then, with claws extended, comes again.
‘You still believe you can defeat us? With puny sticks and arrows beat us?
Enough of these games, scrawny sprat. Playtime’s over, now take that!’
A backhand swipe! A hefty clout that nearly knocks Zam’s teeth clean out
And sends him sprawling in the dust: bruised and battered, breathing just
Inches from the covered pit, so close to falling into it.

Weak at the knees and bleary-eyed, nowhere to run, no place to hide,
Zam wonders, ‘After all we’ve done, is it over? Has the monster won?
If so, then let this golden charm but for a moment bring me peace
And calm my heart while I recall those souls who fell, those that will fall:
My village friends, brave Taran Chu, my parents - gone, my fahda who
Then took their place as best he could.
And Jet, my only flesh and blood!
My brother! Jet! At least we tried!
Pray meet me on the other side!’

Through the jungle steam, through Zam’s dim daze,
The lizard looms, its eyes ablaze,
Its forked tongues flicking, jagged claws, and poison dripping from its jaws.
Zam shuts his eyes, too scared to face the beast –
Its footfalls gather pace.
He cowers and –
faster -
holds his breath and -
faster, faster
waits for death.

Just like a keztral when it spies
A mouse and plummets from the skies
So Jet – Zam squarely in his sights -
Dives boldly from the giddy heights.
‘Brother! Take my hands!’ He cries
As headlong toward the ground he flies.

Zam sneaks a peak and disbelief
Turns first to horror then relief –
For stretching back into the trees
And tied around Jet’s feet he sees
The longest, strongest bungee vine!

He jumps!
Their fingers intertwine!
Fists grip wrists!
The vine near breaks!
‘Hold on!’ Screams Jet, ‘For both our sakes!’….

The monster darts towards the drop
Senses danger, but does not stop,
And shrieks in fury as its prey
Is snatched from death and pulled away!
White with rage – a desperate lunge
Proves to be a fatal plunge -
The creature crashes through the bed
Of ferns and mulchy moss instead….

The boys watch from the instant
That the monster slips and falls
To the bottom of the deadly pit -
Where now its body sprawls.

Its scaled flesh torn and tattered
And its reptile hide run through
On the wicked thorns of barbwood twigs
And lengths of jag-bamboo.

But those eyes still glitter darkly
As they focus on the twins,
And across its blood-stained faces
Spread a pair of evil grins…

But at last it feels the pull of death -
The light fades from its eyes,
And sinking back into the filth
Amongst the gathering maggot-flies,
With a noise like twenty rattlesnakes
It heaves the heaviest of sighs…

And the scourge of all Tikulo,
Cruel Kapakahi dies.

EPILOGUE:
Shaman
The jungle drums are beating.
Grapevine murmurings in the trees.
Rumours echoed on the waves,
And whispers on the breeze.
There’s something in the air no doubt
But only time will tell
If an ill wind blows through Tikulo
Or these winds of change bode well.

The village people feel it too
None more than Hammahed -
One moment filled with hope and faith
The next, despair and dread

King Hammahed
‘If I should see my boys again
I swear I don’t know whether
I would jump for joy, cry like a child,
Or knock their heads together!
Please bring them back Vulkanu
Just hear this old man’s prayers
For I would gladly give my life
Goddess, if you spared theirs.’

Shaman
The midday sun beats down and
Underneath its fiery gaze
There! Shimmering on the sand dunes
Like a mirage in the haze,
Two figures in the distance
Stumbling home on blistered feet
Each painful step an effort
In the fierce Tikulo heat
Battle weary, walking wounded
Their clothing ripped and stained
Bruised black and blue and bleeding
Every muscle pulled and strained

Against the glare, the villagers
Shield their eyes and squint to see
Those two familiar faces…
Is it really? Can it be?

‘It’s them! It’s them! The Twins! The Twins!’
A great halloo of shouts and cheers!
The crowd hug, punch the air in joy!
Some struggle to fight back their tears.
The old folk dance, the young girls swoon,
The fishermen burst into song,
And strong arms lift the boys aloft
And sweep them through the happy throng
To Hammahed, who beams with joy
And gazes at them, teary eyed:
His boys - the heroes – have come home
He seems to almost swell with pride.
His voice cracks as he softly says
‘I thought I’d lost you two’ and then
He hugs them both as though he never
wants to let them go again.

Zam pulls away and turns to show
The crowd the concha shell which hangs
Around his neck, now set within
a row of fearsome lizard fangs

Jet clears his throat, so all the crowd may hear

Jet
My noble king, we let you down, I fear
‘Go out as boys, come back as men’ you said
To save brave Taran Chu, but no, instead
We made a stand, firm and resolute
In our desire to kill the evil brute.

Zam
And what a fight! A true battle between
Man and beast, such as there has never been.
For the lizard was a terrible foe
Effortlessly matching us blow for blow
To the very end, it struggled tooth and claw
But fear not King, Kapakahi is no more

Jet
Where the huntress before us fought but failed -
Be proud! The bold Sea Urchin Twins prevailed.

Zam
There were moments when I thought that all was lost
And victory did not come without a cost:
These broken bones, cuts and bruises will heal
In time, but my dreams, my memories, I feel
Will forever bear the scars of that day.
Scars that may fade,
but never fade away.

Jet
Like legends.
And so it is, we gather on full moon night
With the elders at Chinwag Rock, by firelight,
And listen to those enduring stories
Of our island’s heroes, their past glories
And daring deeds from many moons ago.
This is our history.
These are the trials of Tikulo.
And so too one day, elders will tell
The tale of the how the Kapakahi fell
At the hands of a true hero. Lest we forget,
Let it be carved in stone. His name was Jet.

Zam
‘His name was JET!?’ Brother, are you insane?
Has the midday sun addled your brain?
It was I who killed Kapakahi
While you cowered and quivered up a tree!
When our people cried out, I answered their call
And near gave my life to save them all.
No matter now, when all is said and done
The trial is over and the war is won.
As for legends, take them Jet, have your fill
Of the fame and glory; carve your name where you will.
Myself I've no time for petty traditions -
They do not interfere with my dreams and ambitions.
I have simpler tastes and ask only one thing
For the part that I played, if you please, mighty King
I'll take the treasure:
That marvellous hoard
Of pearl, gold and gemstones
Will be my reward.

King Hammahed
Come now my boys, you're behaving like fools!
What need have you Zam for a chest full of jewels?
And as for you Jet, do not needle your brother -
I am certain you both fought as hard as each other.
No more squabbling then, I insist - make amends
And share your success amongst family and friends.
It is time to rejoice - you have slaughtered the beast!
Sound the horns! Bang the drums! This calls for a feast!

Jet
Not yet, King, not yet.
Zam
We must settle this now.
We are not the two boys you sent out anyhow.
The Sea Urchin Twins still
But only in name.
The jungle has changed us.
We're no longer the same.
Our eyes have been opened.
A new age has begun,
And your time is now over.
Your work here is done.
I'm no longer your prince.
I was never your son.
So make way!
Move aside!
There can be only one.

Jet
I am Jet of the Bora!
Lord of the Wood!
In the heart of Tikulo
I am life-giving blood.

Every tree in the forest,
From the root to the shoot
Every branch, every bough
Heavy laden with fruit.

I'm the fresh mountain spring.
I'm the peace of the glade.
In the heat of the day
I'm the cool of the shade.

I'm the lone wolf that howls
In the dark of the night.
I'm the fleet-footed wild-cat.
I'm the eagle in flight.

Stand with me Tikulo!
Brother, take heed -
From the day we were born
I was ready to lead.
Bora Tribe
We are Bora! We are Bora!

Zam
I am Zam of the Concha!
Lord of Sea! Lord of Sand!
Fuelled by the fire
That burns under our land.

I'm the sense of adventure
That yearns to explore.
I'm the wanderlust spirit.
The desire for more.

Every fish in the ocean,
Every shimmering dune.
I'm the sparkling surf
In the light of the moon.

I'm the towering waves
That smash on the shore.
I'm the adamant rocks
Which stand firm and endure.

I'm the last hopeful line
Cast into the sea.
I'm the fierce barracuda
Which fights to be free.

Join with me then, Tikulo
For I pity the fool
Who does not accept
I am destined to rule.

Concha Tribe
We are Concha! We are Concha!
Bora Tribe!
Bora! Bora!
Concha Tribe
Concha! Concha!

Shaman
Who knows
Where the wind begins?
Or how far it blows?
Oh Tikulo, I know.

Who can say
Where the wind ends?
How far away?

I can tell you.
My beautiful Tikulo,

I know.