The next two stories have become part of our Quisel family lore and, as such, morphed into somewhat silly and grotesque inside jokes between Tom and me. On Monday, Dec. 9th 2013, Tom and I made the long drive to the west part of the island, where we’d spend a night camping in a more isolated area on the island. Along the way we, we stopped at a fruit stand. Tom picked out a papaya. I had had enough coconuts at this point to discern which ones I preferred and so asked the gnarled and bent over vendor for a coconut that tasted sweet and was easy to chew.
She leaned forward so she was only a few inches from my face, peered deeply into my eyes and crowed, “So, you like the flesh of the young coconut.” For some reason, a flush of color rushed to my cheeks and a guilty grin spread across my face. “Yes” I said, “I like the flesh of the young coconut.” She pointed her finger in the air and declared, “Ah ha!” as though she had just uncovered some deep secret about my inner psyche then picked out one of the juiciest coconuts I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. To this day, more than three years later, during the most inappropriate times, Tom will peer deeply into my eyes and cackle, “So, you like….” and I will dissolve into a pile of giggles on the floor.
The second Quisel mythos inspiring event occurred while we were camping in Koke`e state park. While re-reading my journal entries from this time period, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t mentioned the haunting event. I think somewhere deep down inside me I knew it would be an unforgettable event so journaling wasn’t necessary. Perhaps I should have, because, depending on who you ask, Tom or me, you’ll get a different version the story, this is mine.
We decided to spend some time at higher elevation, so we could experience colder temperatures and different variety of animal and plant species. Koke`e park offered just that and is described as a lush, mountainous park with waterfalls, a campground, a museum, panoramic ocean & valley views. It was all of these things and, after sunset, it was also completely deserted. The campsites sit in a grassy area beside the woods and around each one was a semi-circle of tall, lush hedges that you couldn’t see over and made our site feel a bit like a cocoon.
There was an abundance of chickens in and around the campsite. More chickens than I had ever encountered in a state park, or, anywhere, actually.
We had a brilliant day hiking through a lush, back country trail that wasn’t exactly well tended. This spot was technically “on trail”.
Afterwards, we must have taken our boots off to give our swollen feet a break then cooked a simple meal over the camp stove, but I don’t remember any of that. What I remember is how the sounds of the wilderness enveloped me like a blanket as I fell asleep, shortly after the sunset and how I cuddled closer to my inhouse radiator, aka Tom, for warmth.
I remember waking up in the dead of night to a noise that seemed like it was only inches from my head. It was a sound wholly different from the ones I had fallen asleep to, and my brain interpreted it as a large, multi-jointed metal farm tool hitting packed earth, and then being dragging along the earth until in chinked against something else, making a sharp metallic noise.
I knew instantly that this noise wasn’t a part of the natural, local soundscape and received a vision of a psychopathic murderer on a rampage leering over our tent. I knew in only the way a mostly still asleep person can know things, that there was nothing I could do to protect myself from his bloodlust and, so, the best I could do was enjoy the last few minutes I had with Tom.
It was at this point that Tom’s hand gripped my shoulder,”Rachael, are you awake? I think there’s someone outside the tent.” He shook me gently but insistently and repeated himself, his voice a shaky, high pitched whisper, breathy panic squeezing his words.
“It’s nothing,” I whispered into Tom’s ear so the murderer couldn’t hear me, “It’s just the chickens.” A loud, “Chink! Chuuuuug, clunk!” sounded right next to us, just outside the thin tent walls, “The….chickens?” He whispered, half believing me, “Yes, it’s just the chickens, go back to sleep.” I squeezed him tighter and he lay back down, his heart rate slowing down, “Yeah…those chickens….they’re really loud.” and fell back to sleep.
We woke as soon as the first pink streak of dawn stretched across the sky and began packing up the tent. We packed the site up in record time.Neither of us spoke to each other. Despite both of us badly needing showers, neither of us so much as mentioned heading over to the campsite facilities to brush our teeth. I don’t think I even changed my clothing. Within minutes of waking, we were in our rental car and the doors made a secure sounding, ‘click’ as Tom locked all four of them at once.
We were halfway down the mountain before Tom turned to me and uttered the first words of the morning, as quiet as a heart attack, he said, “Rachael, that wasn’t a chicken.”