“You’re kidding, right?” Kirby asked. “Kumai, you take on murderous divers, firearms, knives, and hand-to-hand combat, but you draw the line at spiders?”
“And snakes. I draw a solid line at snakes.”
“Well, then you’ll forgive me.”
“For what?” She asked.
Kirby shoved her forward. “Move! Now.”
Shots fired behind him and ricocheted around the cave they had left.
“Hold your fire!” Someone shouted. “Climb up after them.”
Kumai was motivated at this point by several forces. There were the gunshots to consider. However, they were not her biggest worry since they might kill Kirby and then she wouldn’t have to do it herself. Mostly she felt compelled to get to where she could shake out her hair, brush out her clothing, and brutalize Kirby.
She scrambled through the narrow gap, leaving Kirby to follow in the dark. If he dared. The rock pile dropped suddenly below her. Before sliding a descent, she swung her feet around in front of herself. Behind her Kirby grunted. A pelting of rocks came down on her back. She dashed away from the base of the slope then turned off her phone to prevent becoming a lighted target.
She wanted to flail around and brush out anything creepy that might have hitched a ride. Some distant grunts and rock tumbles indicated activity either from Kirby or a pursuer.
Then there was silence.
She sat and caught her breath. Then she held her breath to listen. Nothing. Something tickled her neck.
“Kirby!” she hissed.
A flash erupted from the top of the rock heap and a bullet spat behind her.
Someone grunted. Rocks rattled and fell. She heard footfalls and more scree sliding down the slope. She wanted to turn on her light to know what was going on. Concern for Kirby welled up and wrestled with her instincts for survival. She switched on the light and held it far out to the right in case someone aimed for it.
“Whoa!” Kirby exclaimed, stumbling backwards. He shaded his eyes. “Can you point that down, please?”
“Kirby! You’re okay!” she exclaimed and leapt up to hug him. “How did you do that?”
“Somebody left me up there in the dark. So I waited for a light in order to follow you. But some guy, actually it turned out to be a woman, followed us and fired on you. That gave me her position and I lunged.”
“If you’re really okay, could you do something? Fast?” She handed the phone light to him.
“I get the phone now? Your request must have something to do with spiders.”
“You pushed me straight into them. Please, just check me over. My skin and hair are crawling.”
Kirby took the light and checked her. “Phantom spiders.” He announced.
“I didn’t see white ones. Are they in my hair? Get ’em out, please!” she squeaked and shook out her hair while batting her head.
“Kumai.” He reached out to calm her. “They’re like the emperor’s new spiders.”
“Emperor Spiders? There’s no such thing as a harmless spider.” She whimpered.
Kirby chuckled. “Yes, well, these can only hurt you if you let them. As in, you are imagining them.”
“Ach.” She huffed. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Wanna lead?” He asked, extending the light back to her.
“Would you mind?” she asked.
They were well on their way farther through the tunnel when she thought to ask, “Is the woman back there, um, neutralized?”
“She was out cold but still alive.” Kirby said.
“Could she walk?” Kumai asked.
“I didn’t revive her to ask.” he said then asked, “Why?”
“We should run now.” she whispered.
Kirby took her hand and pulled her alongside him. They raced through the tunnel, hearing curses and rocks skitter behind them.
“Go go go.” Kumai urged. She pulled her hand free to pump into a full sprint. “Don’t stop!”
Kirby poured on the coal.
Their pursuer had slowed but was not far on their heels. Kumai had only seconds to drag large rocks across the center of the tube in a random line. Then she found a heavy stone that she could lift overhead.
If Kirby looked to check on her, he would be returning at any moment. If he used the light, he would be a walking target. Kumai had the odd wish that their attacker would hurry up and get to her first.
She stood to the side and listened. The rock felt cool and heavy against her stomach as she cradled it. Then she heard breathing.
The sound seemed like it was coming from Kirby’s direction, but some foot shuffles she heard were from the other direction.
Then a woman cursed, stumbled, and cursed again. Frantic shuffling followed, then a grunt, then silence.
Kumai waited. She still heard breathing, but it was faint, and some of the breaths were ragged. She lifted the rock overhead, then risked whispering, “Kirby?”
“Kumai!” Kirby exclaimed, illuminating his face by the phone screen as he turned on the LED. He scanned the rock gauntlet and found a woman sprawled in a painful face-down posture.
Kumai stepped closer to check. When she saw blood pooling from the woman’s skull, she set aside her rock.
Kirby studied Kumai, then shone the light on her, “D’you do this? You okay?”
“I just put the rocks in the path. Didn’t have to hit her. I’m good.” Kumai kicked a knife out from the woman’s hand. “Is she…”
“Yes.” Kirby said. “She’s going to be hurting for a while.”
“Okay, phew.” Kumai sighed and bent down for the knife.
Kirby checked the woman’s vital signs. “She’ll live. Let’s go.” He put out his hand for Kumai.
“Just a sec.” Kumai patted down the woman and emptied her pockets. She put everything into the KTA bag except the knife which went into her pocket. “Ready.”
As they walked, they maintained a brisk pace, but not so fast that they couldn’t hold hands. After a while, Kirby stopped, squeezed Kumai’s hand and said, “Good job back there. That was fast thinking.”
Kumai felt her body relax. “I didn’t know until you said that, but I was expecting a dressing down.”
“You’re insatiable.” Kirby chuckled and fished in the KTA bag, “But you’re going to have to wait for a real bed. Water?”
Kumai laughed, took a drink, and then kissed Kirby. “Are you always this easy to get along with?”
“I don’t see how a rebuff is easy to get along with.”
“It was a rain check.”
“Ah.” Kirby drank. “Can you keep moving?”
Kumai stretched. “I’ve got more in me. Can’t promise that I’ll be mobile tomorrow.”
“We may even see tomorrow.” Kirby said, his voice tinged with amazement, “Thanks to you.”
“Okay. ‘Nuf talk. Let’s do this.”
They walked in silence. Kumai’s thinking was disrupted by tumultuous ideas. Foremost was the threat to her freedom because of how much she was growing to like Kirby. Those feelings did not pair well with her inclination toward wanderlust. If only Kirby liked the ocean and to travel.
Then she beat up herself for not appreciating how wonderful Kirby had been. He handled stress well. Only one test of his character remained: a slow internet connection.
If he held her heart, then what would happen the next time she got rock fever, wanted to pick up stakes, and have a change of scenery? His answer for that would be a trip to Las Vegas.
“Ugh.” Kumai said.
“What?” Kirby asked.
“Oh, I was thinking about… brussel sprouts.”
“I like brussel sprouts.” he said.
Of course you do.
“But lima beans? Huh uh. Or okra. That stuff is too viscous to be a food.” Kirby said.
“You know what would be so good right now?” She asked. “One of Hawaiian Style Cafe’s Loco Moco’s.”
“Broke da mout. Scoops of rice. Hamburger patties, eggs over easy, brown gravy on da top…” Kirby said it like he was reciting rap lyrics.
“Want my onions on yours?” He asked.
“Sure.” Kumai chuckled.
“Okay. New game.” Kirby stopped. His stomach growled.
“May I see my phone?” she asked.
“Oh sorry.” Kirby handed over the light.
“No, I don’t have to be in charge of it. I’m just thinking about its battery life. If we get somewhere with a signal, we’ll need some power to call for extraction.” She shut off the LED and checked her battery read out. “Eleven percent.”
“No signal?” he asked.
“I have Wi-Fi turned off.”
“Okay. Don’t try it yet. Let’s continue walking, but in the dark. It’ll be slower going, but I think I see a glow of light ahead.”
“Where?” she asked, covering her screen.
“Shut off your phone and let your eyes adjust.”
Kumai waited in the dark. Amazement grew as she pondered that she had offered for Kirby to be in charge of her phone. “This is serious.” she muttered.
“Yeah. But we’re gonna make it out of here. That blue has to be early daylight.”
Two hundred yards farther, they emerged from the cave. Kumai wanted to shout and do a victory dance. But she still didn’t know if they were clear of pursuers. She turned on her phone and the WiFi. “Three bars!” she exclaimed. Icons popped up for several messages and missed calls.
She punched Sage’s contact and the call went to voicemail. She ended that and tried Tommy. That call also went to voicemail, announcing that the mailbox was full. Kumai sighed, punched END, and tried Bonnie.
“Have you ever heard a busy signal on a cell phone?” Kumai asked.
“Um.” Kirby thought. “Can’t say I have.”
Kumai put her phone to Kirby’s ear. “Whoa. Old school. That’s gotta be Bonnie’s, right?” he asked.
Kumai chuckled, punched END, and asked, “Got anyone we can call?”
“Um.” Kirby shuffled his feet. “All my numbers were in my phone.”
“Oh for pity’s sake.” Kumai scoffed. “How about your brother? Surely you know that number?”
Kirby looked at her and tilted his head. “Nope.”
“How is that possible?” she asked.
Kirby stepped closer, put his hand over the phone in her hand, and purred, “Sage is probably your closest friend, so you tried her first.”
“Yeah?” she asked.
“What’s her number?”
“Five, Five, uh, no, Nine, Eight, Five, Five…” Kumai shuffled her feet.
“Didn’t you just dial it? Seconds ago? But maybe there’s someone you call more often, maybe about work? I’d guess that would be Tommy. What’s his number?” Kirby grinned.
“Okay. Okay! Do you know anyone’s number?” she asked.
“I memorized your number, in case I ever lost my phone.” He said, “And work.”
“Okay.” She pulled up the dial pad. “What’s the work number?”
“Nine, Nine, One.” He said. “I think.”
“You want me to call 911? Emergency dispatch? Okay, fine, do you want police, fire or ambulance?” She put a hand on her hip and waited.
“Ambulance.” he said. “We can nap in an ambulance.”
“Okay…” She punched the three numbers, then said, “Ambulance. We are lost in a lava field somewhere between Kawaihae and the Kohala upper road… mild injuries, two people both ambulatory, sufficiently hydrated. Possibly being pursued by armed assailants.”
Kirby hiked over to a ridge to look for landmarks. There were only more ridges and valleys of lava. He listened. He heard water on rocks.
Kumai joined him, her phone put away.
“They gonna use your phone’s GPS to locate us?”
“How’d you know?” she asked, then remembered that Kirby was one of them. “Oh.”
Kirby pulled her close. “Looks like we’re gonna make it.”
Kumai sighed and rested in his arms, enjoying the vast view. “Is that water I hear?” she asked.
“It’s possible that we can hear the surf from even this far away.”
“Yeah. But this is a steady flow. Surf noises come and go.”
“A waterfall?” Kirby asked.
“Worth finding out.” Kumai looked behind them at the outline of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai mountains. “The heat will be brutal when the sun comes up.”
They found the waterfall. At the top, they spread their clothes to make a large white X on the black rocks. Wearing only their shoes, they hiked down to the pool of water below.
Kirby stopped, removed his shoes, and put his toes in. “Woo! That’s chilly.”
Kirby was staring at her.
“What’s wrong?” She asked. “Am I overdressed for the occasion?” Then she looked down to see Kirby’s piqued interest. “We might get wet down here. Did you bring a raincoat?”
Kirby smiled and lifted a bundle rolled inside the blanket, “A little one.” He spread out the blanket. “Let’s not swim beforehand or the raincoat will be too big.”
Kumai chuckled, “That water is cold.” She lay down on the blanket and Kirby followed.
They rested for a while. When Kirby heard a search helicopter approaching, he folded his half of the blanket over Kumai and sat on a nearby rock with her phone.
The dispatcher called, confirmed that they were the people at the waterfall, and told Kirby, “The pilot can find nowhere safe to land. You are just below the Kohala Road. I’ve dispatched an ambulance crew and police to cover you. Hold your position. If it looks safe, will you be able to hike uphill in fifteen minutes?” she asked.
“Yes. Thank you.” Kirby said.
“Kirby?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yeah. ‘Fraid so. But I can’t chat Elise. We need to save the phone battery.”
“Of course. Be safe. A hui hou.”
“Mahalo.” Kirby said and ended the call. He walked over to Kumai. “We have time for a quick swim. Wanna?”
“I dunno. That water’s pretty cold…”
“And then we need to hike uphill outta here.” he finished.
“Swim it is!”