The children were nestled all snug in their beds / While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads
-Major Henry Livingston, Jr.’s “Night Before Christmas”
Kanashibari” is the Japanese word for the “choking spirit known for sitting on the chests of half-asleep people and suffocating them… [that] in recent years has been closely associated with the medical condition called sleep paralysis,” writes Alex G. Paman in Asian Supernatural Including Hawai’i and the Pacific.
When I was a little girl, this cold, fickle demon visited all too often and I’d lay immovably, lips and lids agape, screaming without sound at the ceiling. When I did manage to move and muster a yelp, mom would come running down the stairs to help. She’d coo and stroke my forehead and tell me to focus on sugar plum fairies–which was ironic because the recurring nightmare of my youth was of The Prune Monster.
Oh, The Prune Monster. That loathsome beast. Muscle memory has it so that, to this day, I still bound my parents’ back porch steps two at a time, so as not to give him a chance to grab at my ankles. It’s dumb, I know.
But I haven’t dreamt of The Prune Monster in more than 20 years–until, that is, last night. (But before I embark on this week’s ramble, I’d just like to note for my fellow wordies that the only time that the letters “m” and “t” are found in succession in the English language is with the word “dreamt.” Scrabblephiles might find that tidbit handy if ever consonant laden, or for the occasion when writing “dreamed” seems less poetic. OK. Back to The Prune Monster.)
So I dreamt that I was standing outside McDonald’s, eating a Quarter Pounder (which I suppose is a nightmare in and of itself) and all these big, sticky fledglings are falling out of a huge ulu tree. Their malformed down is dripping with Freedom Fry grease and the less fortunate of the fallen have splat their skulls on the pavement. But one enterprising bird has somehow landed on an abandoned skateboard, quickly discovering that if he flaps his ash black wings and squawks enough, he can propel himself on polyurethane wheels, much to the drive-thru’s delight. It’s at this point that I’m hit by a truck.
The old woman who just ran me over jumps out of her lifted Ram and starts accusing me of being a hooker; that Wailuku’s no place for that kind of business, old as it may be.
“Look, lady, I’m not a hooker. I’m worse: a writer. And that’s worse because we’re paid less and bend over more,” I say, holding her out at arms’ length to stop her from poking my cheekbones with her ruby ringed fingers.
“No lie, eh! I know what you are! See, I’ll prove it,” and with that she walks to McDonald’s back door, opens it, and shouts inside: “Anyone who eats a Quarter Pounder is a whore!”
Touche. She walks back to me looking smug, and suddenly we’re best friends sitting at a Vineyard Street bar that, unfortunately, does not exist outside of my dreams. There’s a back room filled with poker tables and pinball machines, a whole corridor dedicated to darts and the free bar snacks consist of lembas bread and soft French cheeses.
Dozens of empty sake bottles start accumulating on the table and as we knock ‘em back, vivid daytime colors dim to night shades of jade and amber. It’s then that another aged lady, frocked in an old and ostentatious mu’u mu’u, walks through the door and spots my drinking pal. She charges, lunging across the table and scattering sake bottles as far as Hana. I leap to defend. Hell, I’ve always, um, dreamed of breaking up a bar fight!
“How dare you!” yells my new friend (who I’ve quickly forgiven for fracturing my clavicle). Confused, I realize she’s yelling at me. “You should have let her hit me. I’m a bad person and have deserved it for too long.” She walks out of the bar and climbs into her Ram to sulk with self pity while I’m left to console her weeping attacker.
“You must know why I had to do that,” says the woman, snot dripping into bosom. And in the way that dreams build a back story into your brain, I did–but it’s a tale too sad for telling.
“I gotta get out of here, man,” I tell the bartender, and he laboriously writes out my tab, bottle by bottle, on a tri-page carbon receipt book.
As I try to walk home, a precocious transvestite grabs my arm and unloads her life story. “Just great,” I say aloud, worrying what the neighbors will think. She peels back her wig to reveal she’s really a pretty girl, dressed as an ugly boy who’s dressed as an even uglier woman. But she’s kind, albeit confounding, and I’m rather enjoying our conversation until, mid-sentence, The Prune Monster crawls out of her throat.
Milky eyes bulging from oil slick skin, he falls to the sidewalk with a quick, sick plop.
“Prunes! Give me prunes!” That’s all he yells. That’s all he’s ever yelled.
His tentacled fingers reach for my ankle, but for the first time in a lifetime of encounters, I do not run though I want to. It isn’t easy.
Instead, I reach back and my fingers find his throat. I choke and choke and choke until he’s limp and his evil eyes disappear in an orange vapor.
I light a cigarette, then his corpse, and go home.
To read more Kula Kid with links and photos and stuff, and to leave comments, visit mauifeed.com/kulakid