The Wages of Spite

The man didn’t believe them when they told him stories about the ridge. He was a headstrong young man with a love for scrambling, a form of rock-climbing. Once he saw the ridge of “the Mountain Woman,” he knew he had to scale her peaks. “Don’t anger the Mountain Woman,” they said. “She will take her revenge." Her name was Laka and all of the inhabitants of this island had respect for her and her brother mountain, a smaller and less impressive ridge called Menehune. But the young man was determined. He set out to climb her.

The young man began at first light. He brought his camping gear and was prepared to camp on the ridge top tonight. The climb was difficult and he slipped and fell on the loose debris of the slopes often. But he pushed on, determined to make the top before dark. He made it to a small plateau just below the top peak. He took a few minutes to look around at the beautiful sunset at the end of the day. Magnificent view, he thought. It was worth the climb and all the struggle. As he looked around, he saw why they called this ridge a woman. In the light of the setting sun, the ridge looked like a woman lying on her side with her head looking up to the stars. He pulled out his camera to capture that beautiful image. Off in the distance, he could see the Mountain Woman’s brother. Funny, he thought. From here it looked like a young man lying down and looking out to sea.

He decided to set up his tent here, rather than on the peak of the ridge. This small plateau would be the Mountain Woman’s lips, he thought. And that peak would be her nose as she looked at the stars. He took more pictures to capture this moment. By the time he had everything set up, it was dusk, and he decided to disregard the island people’s superstitions. He made a fire right where the Mountain Woman’s lips were. As soon as the fire was well established, he began to hear a rumble beneath him as if a minor earthquake was happening. A second, stronger earthquake happened that began to worry the young man. His fire was shaken apart and was beginning to go out. He quickly gathered the scattered brush and branches of his fire and coaxed the fire back to life again. When it was going again, the rumbling beneath him stopped for a while.

When it was completely dark, a few minutes later, the fire on the mountain, as seen from the village by the sea was blown upward into the sky along with everything on the face of the Mountain Woman. Laka had blown her top and was erupting violently into the sky. After several minutes, a strong pyroclastic flow had started down the side of the mountain and moved toward the village below. But the wary people in the town had already evacuated when the blast began. After all, Laka and Menehune were the children of Pele.

The Wages of Spite

Jim Hall

Fayetteville, United States

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Artist's Description

Some say that superstitions usually have some basis in truth. Others are unbelievers. But none of the latter group of people can usually be found on volcanic islands. JH

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