The Isle of Matatoka
Matatoka, the tiny island nation in the West Pacific, was known for many things; beautiful beaches, beautiful women, and a beautiful history of folklore.
The natives of Matatoka passed stories down from generation to generation. Some of these stories were intended to teach the future generations while others seemed eerily out-of-place and painfully cruel.
A van, which may have been larger than the plane we flew in on, picked us up from the airport. My mother, father, my older brother, and I gazed out the van window as we drove to the hotel. There was nothing on this island that appeared anything less than dream-like.
The van driver was an old man, born native to the island. He spoke English clearly, but softly. On the ride the driver told us a few tales of the island. One story was about trapping souls in stone likenesses to keep them on the island. He turned to us and said, “It never gets old. I love seeing new faces. Don’t you, Mr. Tiki?” He said to the tiki on his dashboard, to no response. He laughed uncontrollably for about 30 seconds before returning to his driver duties.
The hotel was composed of water’s edge villas. My parents gave my brother, Jeremy, and me our own separate villa. He had just turned 17 a month prior and I was 13. We had rarely been on our own, but we hardly fought like brothers typically do.
Mom told us that, given our exhausting journey to Matatoka, we could take a nap before dinner, but not to be late. Jeremy and I dove headfirst into the beds and slept with reckless abandon.
The sound of Jeremy’s panicked voice woke me up.
“Dude, wake up, we overslept! Mom and Dad are going to be furious!”
“Hold on, Jer.” I said. “What time is it?”
“I don’t know.”
None of this made any sense. I felt as if we were asleep only a few hours, but it was completely dark outside and quiet. I didn’t hear any voices, or music, or the sound of waves.
“Okay, Jeremy, relax. What’s the problem? Just check your phone.”
“I did that! It’s dead. Yours is dead. The clock on the wall is stopped at 12:00. The digital clock next to the bed is blinking 12:00.”
“Jeremy, stop, you’re really scaring me. This isn’t funny.”
“No crap. I know it isn’t. I – I just didn’t want to leave the room alone.”
My older brother never showed fear. He looked different than usual; he looked nervous. This wasn’t a prank, although I really hoped it was.
We stepped outside the villa into the still night.
There wasn’t any noise, or anyone walking around. The main building of the resort was pitch-black.
“Jeremy, what’s that?”
Just beyond the trees, I spotted what appeared to be embers coming from the other side of the island.
“Oh wow, it looks like a fire. That must be where they are!”
We left barefooted. Side-by-side, Jeremy and I sprinted down the shoreline until the horizon revealed an enormous fire pit, but no people, just stone sculptures surrounding it.
“Jer, what’s going on there?”
“I dunno, but there’s somebody walking around it!”
Jeremy ran ahead, while I tried to keep up. I snagged my foot on a rock of some kind and tumbled across the sand. When I turned to look at what I hit, I saw it.
It was a stone carving, a tiki, stuck in the sand with a face staring back at me. I knew it was just a carving, but it felt no different than looking at someone and feeling a human connection.
“Help. Heeeeeelp me,” the stone whispered.
He vanished. The only person I saw was a man as he walked toward me. It was the van driver.
“Come now, boy, join us!” He exclaimed and let out the uncontrollable laugh I had heard earlier.
I scrambled to my feet and ran back. His laugh could be heard all the way back.
Nearing the villa, my legs collapsed. I remember going head first into the sand. After that, the next thing I heard was the sound of my mother’s voice.
“Honey, are you okay? I told you not to be late for dinner, we need to be there in 5 minutes.” She said.
My mother stood over me. The sun was bright behind her.
“Mom! Where’s Jeremy?”
“What? You’re Jeremy, don’t be silly, we’re going to be late.”
“No, Mom,” I demanded, “my brother! Where is he?”
“Oh, Jeremy, if you want to call that little stone tiki-man your brother, fine, but you can’t bring it to dinner.”
I looked back at the villa porch. A small stone sculpture looked back at me.
“Jeremy?” I said.
“Heeeeeelp meeee,” it replied.