Night Marchers

	Keola, his dog and I had  hiked for about six days down the coast of

the Big Island starting at Punalu'u on the King's trail. We were good friends 

and experienced hikers so we carried only light suppies and mostly 

fished for food and drank water from the cool, brackish springs.  We 

spent most of our days exploring the lava 

tubes and caves we came across.  

	One night we camped in an old fisherman's stone hut.  We were tired 

from hiking all day, so we ate and  then crashed out early.  In the dead 

of that night, I began to hear the  terrifying crunch of countless 

footsteps pounding toward us on the  broken a'a lava field.  I was 

really never so afraid in my entire life,  as they just kept coming, 

closer and closer, those frightening footsteps  getting louder and 

louder.  My logical mind was screaming that this was  impossible, there 

was not a soul around for miles... was I having some  kind of mental  

breakdown?  The brackish water? 

     Yet still the footsteps advanced as each moment became louder and more 

intensely  frightening  then the one before.  Keola whispered in a voice 

cracking and dry,  "Don't  look up, don't move, and don't scream".  Time 

seemed somehow distorted  as they trampled by endlessly, mere inches from 

the opening of the enclosure. 

     Even after the ghost brigade had passed, I lay face down, 

with my heart pounding, my mouth  parched and trembling.  I really and 

truly thought that we were going  to die.  (And I could not understand 

why the damn dog hadn't even made a sound.)  Keola told me later that 

Hawaiians call  them "huaka'i po"- the night marchers. They were the 

spirits of dead warriors perhaps fallen in some battlefield near to our 

camp.  These restless souls knew no peace as they marched off again and 

again to some strange and deadly unfinished battle.  He

said that he had been told as a boy, that had we looked directly at 

them, they would have stopped briefly to kill us and then continued on 

their way.

     Years later now, whenever I hear the crunch of footsteps on 

a gravel path, I am taken by the memory of  that night.  Immediately my 

hands get clammy and I feel a major chill on  the back of my neck.  The 

brief flicker of insanity flies across my mind like some wretched bird.  

And I am once again on the lava field in that dark, hopeless night.  

Pressing my face into the black void of my  sleeping bag, I can hear them 

as they begin to advance. The rough lava  crackles underneath their 

feet.  And with each ghostly step, they are coming closer and closer.
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