South Seas Adventure

South Seas Adventure
By Ellie Dauber  © 2000

It took George and Leo three weeks to reach what Captain Jehosephat Sheppard, an 18th Century officer in His Majesty's Navy had called Schooner Island. "Whatever else he'd done or said in his life," Leo thought when the island first came into view in the window of their seaplane, he's certainly been right about the island. That mountain at the south end still looks an awful lot like an old style sailing ship."

* * * * *

Leo had been the one who found the old captain's logbook - or a part of it at least - in an old bookstore just off campus. He'd picked up the book more out of curiosity than anything else. It had been misfiled with a bunch of textbooks. He took one quick through it, tossed $5 on the counter, and ran back to the graduate dorm.

"I found it, George! I found our thesis."

"What?" George looked up from his PC. "What do you mean, _our_ thesis? Haven't you found a topic yet?"

"Are you on-line?"

"Yeah, why?" George looked up at his roommate as if Leo were crazy.

"Check Ashcrombe's Index. The keywords are 'South Pacific Cultures' and 'Schooner Island'. See if there's anything."

George linked to Ashcrombe's web page, a master index of every anthropology journal for the last sixty years. He typed in Leo's keywords, and they sat watching the "Searching" message blink for a _very_ long five minutes. Leo let out a "Whoop!" when the message "0 Items Found" came on. He gave Leo the map coordinates from the captain's log. (The records in Ashcombe's were also set up for geographic searches; sometimes you didn't have keywords, just a rough location.) It took even longer this time, but the same message came up at the end of the search.

"What's all this about?" George said.

"Listen," Leo said. He opened the book to a page he'd bookmarked with a dollar bill and began reading.

"A full thirty days we stayed on that island, refreshing our supplies with fresh meat, fruit, and much smoked fish. The water barrels were scrubbed clean and refilled."

"I was hurried in this work for more than one of the crew had admitted to a desire that we stay. This I could readily understand for the climate was most hospitable, the island a place of great beauty, and the people most friendly --especially some of the younger women. We were then some twenty months and more out of England, and I, myself, was tempted more than once by a sweet smile or a glimpse of bare skin."

"Yet I found myself at the same time repulsed by the pagan rites - I hesitate to call it a religion - of these people, bizarre rituals whose like I had not seen or heard in all my years sailing through these waters. The garishly painted bodies, heads hidden by obscene masks, the drumming, and the screams. We suffered through the worst of these things towards the end of our stay on this island, and they shall haunt me for the remainder of my days."

"Two nights before we left that island, they had held their festival at the full of the Moon. They had made no secret of the festival, and they had urged my crew and myself to come and join in their worship. One look at the costumes they were preparing, they marks they placed on their bare flesh, and most of us demurred."

"Four crewmen, however, gave in to their curiosity. They were never seen again. Only the remains of their clothing were ever found - all ripped to shreds. Were they human sacrifices to some strange gods, perhaps even the victims of cannibalism? We never knew."

"I asked one of the natives, a young man of, perhaps, twenty, whom we had earlier hired to help in our hunting. He claimed no knowledge of the whereabouts of my men. Indeed, all he could talk about was his new bride. Apparently, those strange midnight screams had been some sort of group wedding for several of the young men."

"Wait a minute," George said. "Polynesians don't do group weddings."

"Right, and they marry in the daylight, so their gods can all be witness. This a totally unknown culture."

"Just waiting for two _brilliant_ anthro students to document in their thesis."

"How much money have you got left on your student loan?"

"About $1200. What's the credit limit on your Master Card?"

"My folks notched it up to $7500. How about you."

"About the same. Between the two of us - and what we can borrow from the Department's equipment - I think we can make it."

"Shall we drink on it, _Dr._ Jessup?"

"I think a small celebration is in order, _Dr._ Freeman."

* * * * *

It took about ten days to make the travel arrangements and scrounge the necessary equipment. The TA who maintained the Department's video equipment loaned them two old but serviceable cameras and a case of film cassettes in return for the promise of a copy of any tapes with buxom naked (or near naked) women. He had a profitable sideline mixing such films with bits of old porno tapes and selling them to frat houses and lonely undergraduates.

Their shots and passports were up to date. Any working field anthropologist kept both current out of necessity. Both of them had finished all the classroom work for their doctorates. They were expected to spend the next term preparing their thesis papers. Travel was by tramp steamer with any number of trading stops. The last leg, by seaplane, took about six hours. Thus, it was almost exactly three weeks to the day after Leo had found the book, that they first saw their objective, Captain Sheppard's discovery, Schooner Island.

* * * * *

The plane circled the island twice, then landed in the waters just outside a sheltered cove on the eastern side. The village was on the beach within the cove, about fifty feet above the shoreline.

The natives had been drawn by the sight and sound of the seaplane. A number of men ran to the water. Five outriggers were launched and quickly crossed the waters of the cove to where the seaplane floated.

"I'll open the door, so you can palaver with these blokes, but don't leave the plane - or even stand up to give them a clear shot - until you're sure they're friendlies." Jake Mulrooney had been flying seaplanes in these waters since his retirement from Her Majesty's Royal Australian Navy over fifteen years before. Tanned almost as dark as the natives coming towards his beloved plane, he was a cautious man in some ways. As he often said over a cold beer, "That was how you got to be an old pilot flying out there from Hell to Nowhere and back again."

The natives, it seemed, were also cautious. Only one outrigger came out from the cove and approached the plane. An older man, wearing the robes and headdress of a village chief, sat between the two younger rowers. George could see spears on the floor of the outrigger, loose and easy to grab and throw.

"I am Kahimi, headman of this place. Why do you come here?" He spoke English with surprisingly little trace of a local accent beyond the formalized style.

Leo answered. "Kahimi, I am Leo and this is my friend, George. We have come here in peace to learn of the ways of your people."

"Why? Do you not have your own place - your own ways? Why do you come here to learn ours?"

"It is a belief of my people, Kahimi, that by learning the ways of others, we can learn more about ourselves. We believe that all people are alike in many ways. If we learn what is alike and what is different about ourselves, it may be that we can even learn how to live together in peace and friendship."

"You do not come to change us and our ways?"

"No, Kahimi. How can we learn how your ways are different from ours if we try to change them?"

"If you come in peace, then you are welcome." Kahimi turned and shouted something to the other outriggers. George and Leo recognized the language he was speaking. It was a widely used Polynesian tongue that they both spoke fluently. Only, Kahimi's accents were different, and some of his words weren't recognizable. It got better and better. This was an archaic variant of the language, closer to the form it had several centuries before. The language alone was probably worth a paper or two by itself.

Two of the other outriggers drew up along side the pontoon of the plane. "Ashtitu will help with your things," Kahimi said. He said something in Polynesian, and one native climbed out onto the pontoon. George and Leo handed their gear out to him, and he passed it, item by item to the natives in the outriggers.

Mulrooney was still suspicious. He sat at the controls the entire time. "Just in case," he said with just a hint of a smile. The seaplane's motors were primed, and he could be airborne in a little over a minute.

It took over a half an hour to transfer the last of the clothes, camping gear, and equipment into the two outriggers. These natives might speak an outdated language, but they had a modern respect for the equipment. Once the first boat was loaded, Ashtitu climbed back in and helped row back to shore. The second out rigger took its place by the pontoon. A second native -- Kahimi never mentioned his name -- climbed onto the pontoon to help with the loading.

As the second outrigger, now also loaded, pulled away from the pontoon, Kahimi called out again. The remaining two approached. "These will take you in to our village," he said in English. George climbed into one.

As Leo stepped off the pontoon into the second, Mulrooney called out to him. "Remember, test your radio as soon as you're ashore. If I don't here from you in an hour after I leave, I'll be back."

"Yes, Mother," Leo answered.

"I mean it kid. We haven't agreed on any pick up time. No radio, and you're stuck here until I get curious - which I seldom do -- or somebody else just happens by. This far off the shipping lanes, that could be months. Maybe years, so don't forget."

"We won't, Mulrooney. Hey, and thanks."

"Part of the service, kid. Good luck." The two rowers pushed away from the pontoon. Mulrooney shut the door and revved the engines. The seaplane was out of the water and heading home before Leo's outrigger was halfway back to shore.

* * * * *

Almost as soon as the first two outriggers landed, the natives had formed aBaggage brigade. By the time George and Leo stepped ashore, much of their equipment was piled in a heap outside a small hut at the edge of the village. The two students jumped out of the boats and ran up to Kahimi who was standing near the hut supervising.

Kahimi turned to the pair. "This hut is yours for as long as you wish to stay here among us."

"We don't want to put anyone out of their home," George said.

"This is no one's home. This is a hut for guests, for those who come to trade with us from the islands to the west. Now it is yours."

"But --"

"We thank you for your offer, Kahimi," Leo interrupted. He picked up one of the cameras and walked into the hut.

"What are you doing?" George said, following him into the hut.

"Trying to keep you from getting him mad at us. Look, people have been writing about how generous the Polynesians are for over two hundred years. If the hut is empty, let him give it to us."

"Yeah, I guess. I just have a feeling we're getting set up for something."

"Look around, man. This place has got to be more comfortable than that tent we brought. Besides, look at this place," he waved his arm in an expansive gesture. "The place's decorated. We've got enough samples of handicrafts in here to do a good elementary analysis of their technologic and esthetic structures. It would've taken us weeks, maybe more, just to collect this much stuff."

The pair checked the radio. Mulrooney greeted them warmly and reminded them that he wouldn't be back unless called. They unpacked their gear and settled into the hut.

* * * * *

They spent the next few weeks cataloging the technologic level of the islanders. They watched the people at work and at play, and asked a great, great many questions. Once every few days, they held a session long into the night to review their findings.

The villagers were an offshoot of a fairly common branch of the Polynesian people. Based on their styles in dress, their techniques with wood and shell, and the way certain words were used, they had been isolated some 300-400 years before. Kahimi confirmed this one night when they got him talking about the history of the island.

The villagers had learned the trick of fermenting a local yam into a more than tolerable brandy. Kahimi came by the hut every so often at night with a large woven jug full of the brew. He sipped it slowly as Leo and George asked about the history of the island. He said it gave him a chance to practice his English, though he never did get around to explaining where exactly he'd learned the language.

"During the War of the Tuhogo," Kahimi began one evening, "our ancestors set out in three large war canoes on a raid. They angered the gods of their enemies' village by what they would do. A great storm came up and blew them far away from their home island."

"They drifted in the sea for many days, fearing death from Sun or shark and praying to their own gods. At last, their prayers were answered. Far off in the distance, they saw the 'Blanket Peak'. They rowed to the island just as a storm -- as bad as the first one -- began. They beached their canoes as quickly as they could and ran into the forest with all that they could carry."

"Three days the storm raged while they hid from it in the forest. When it could not get them, it took out its anger on their canoes. There was little left. our ancestors came out of the forest happy just to be alive. They had their tools and, in time built this village and made the island our home."

"Amazing, George said. He checked the tape recorder to make certain that he had gotten the story. "It's a good thing that your ancestors were on their way back from the raid when the storm hit."

"Why do you say this?" Kahimi asked.

"Because then they had female prisoners. Otherwise, you and your people wouldn't be here."

Kahimi laughed. "The gods provide." He looked strangely at Leo and George, then laughed again. "The gods always provide."

"Do you know the name of the island your ancestors came out from, Kahimi?" George asked.

"Or the one that they attacked?" Leo added. The war Kahimi had mentioned was well documented in the historical record. Europeans had arrived in Polynesia while it was still being fought, and a number of traders had gotten rich selling guns to one side or the other. There were cultural differences between the two sides. Knowing which side Kahimi's ancestors had been on would give a baseline to the study of the current village culture.

"The name 'Togo-ahu' has been handed down to us. Some stories say that it was our ancestor's home island. Others say it was the island that they attacked. I am sorry that even I cannot be certain."

"It's easily enough understood," George said. "Your ancestors were on both sides. The fathers told one side of the story; the mothers told the other. Over time the two got mixed together."

Kahimi smiled. "Yes, it must have been that way." He took another sip of his drink. "Is there anything else you would know from me?"

"Kahimi," George began. "Since we have come to your island, you and your people have been very kind. You gave us this place to live and work." His arm swept through the arm to indicate the hut. "You have let us watch you at work and at play, all the things of your life."

He paused, and Leo took up the point. "You have even let us see some of your worship. We saw the blessings and prayers when that new fishing canoe was launched, the prayers when young Paluwa went into the jungle alone and the rejoicing when he returned as a blooded warrior with the wild pig."

"Yes," Kahimi said. "We have shown you much of our way of life. This is what you asked of me when you first came here."

"We have seen your rituals of daylight," George said. "But not those of the night." He and Leo had practiced this questioning. It was the style that the elders used in their council sessions with Kahimi.

Kahimi's smile vanished. "Night? What do you mean 'night rituals'?"

"Kahimi, you know of the old book. It was how we learned of your island in our far away land."

"Yes, you told me of this book. It is the writing of a man who came to this place many, many years ago."

"Exactly," Leo said. "And in this book, the captain tells of a night ritual, a wedding. He says that the men of the village painted their bodies and wore strange masks. His men did not go, though they were invited. And that night, they heard drumming through much of the night."

"And you would know of these things?"

"Yeas, Kahimi, we would. It was the captain's tale of this things -- as much as anything else - that made us wish to come to this island."

"Yes, yes," Kahimi was frowning now. "And you wish to see this?"

"Yes, we do."

"Outsiders may not see -- not watch and study these ways, but they can be a part of them - if that is what you truly wish."

"We wish it, Kahimi. To study your ways, to understand them, that is why we have come here."

Kahimi sighed. "Then, perhaps, you _should_ be a part of the pihali-aliahuu, the 'change to marriage' ceremony." He looked out the window at the Moon. It was only a thin crescent, but growing night by night. "In four days, four nights, will come the night of the full moon. We will hold the ceremony then."

"Can you tell us anything more about the pihali-aliahuu?"

"It is our oldest ceremony, handed down from when our ancestors first came to this place." He finished his drink in one gulp and rose from his chair. "There is much to do before this ceremony. I say 'Good Night', and may the gods bring only good dreams to you."

"Thank you, Kahimi. You cannot know how much we appreciate this kindness."

Kahimi was at the entrance to the hut. "You do not know what you have asked." He walked through the hanging beads that acted as a sort of door and disappeared into the night.

* * * * *

The next four days went quickly.

George and Leo spent most of the time in the hut finishing their notes on several types of native craft. Togu-ahu was a large island several hundred miles to the northwest. It was the home of one of the leading groups during the ancient war. Its men had gone on raids of other islands, while it had been raided several times during that war. Now that they knew to look for them, George and Leo found several of the features of Togu-ahu crafts in the goods they had collected. "Yet another paper," George said.

* * * * *

The day of the ceremony came, a sunny day with a bit of a breeze from the southwest. The village was unusually quiet. George and Leo saw the village elders gather at Kahimi's hut for some sort of meeting. A number of the younger men of the village waited outside. They were called in one at a time, as if being interviewed for something.

George ran into one of the men later in the day. "What is happening at Kahimi's house," he asked in Polynesian.

"What do you mean?" The young man looked at him strangely, as if he were looking for something. "Why do you ask this of me?"

"Because I wish to know. We have made no secret that we are here to learn your ways. The ceremony tonight, my friend and I have asked to be there because we wish to see the ways that you honor your gods and each other."

"The ceremony, the pihali-aliahuu, oh yes, you will be there. That is why it is to be held."

"If you know this, if you know that Kahimi is willing to let us see the ceremony, the pihali-aliahuu, then why --"

"Let you see it." The man laughed. "Oh, how little you understand what you have asked. You will see it. You will see it very well." He walked away, laughing as he went. Once or twice, he looked back and laughed even louder.

George stood confused for a moment, trying to understand what had just happened. When that didn't happen, he went looking for Leo.

He found his friend standing by a path near their hut. The path lead out of the village and up through the jungle to the mountain the natives called "Blanket Peak", the oddly shaped mountain that had inspired Captain Sheppard to call the place Schooner Island. He was sitting on a large stone watching men carrying oddly wrapped bundles up into the jungle.

"Hey, Leo, what's going on?"

"I don't know." He paused to glare at a smiling young man walking up the path with what looked to be some sort of chair strapped to his back. "And they won't tell me."

"Yeah, I've noticed that. Have you tried looking for yourself?"

Leo gritted his teeth. "They won't let me do that either. When I tried, they stopped me."

"Did they threaten you, pull those knives they carry?"

"No, that was the weird part. One of them, Liliji, started to, but the others yelled that he shouldn't - or couldn't, I'm not sure which. Then four of them just picked me up and carried me back down to here. Liliji said that if I tried, they'd just carry me back down."

"They don't seem to mind you sitting here watching, though."

"No, but they won't answer any questions either. It's weird. They never tried to keep anything secret from us before."

"I know. I'm not sure if we should be mad or worried."

"I'm going with mad. If they were going to do something to us, I don't think they still let us walk around like this."

"Yeah, but where could we go?"

"There's always the radio. Kahimi, at least, knows that we can use it to get in touch with Mulrooney. He can be here in a couple hours."

"I suppose you're right. Well, we'll find out soon enough."

"Why don't you go back to the hut and check out the gear we'll need for night filming. I'll stay here. They don't mind my watching - or taking notes." He held up a notebook, one of the many they had filled with information about the island. Leo had sketched several of the bundles as they were carried past him.

"Done. See you later." He turned to go, then added, "remember, Kahimi said that he'd meet us at the hut at dusk. It seems we get an escort up to wherever the ceremony's going to happen."

"I just hope it isn't an armed escort." He turned to quickly sketch a second chair being carried past him. "Well," he said as he drew, "we'll find out soon enough."

* * * * *

At dusk, the two friends were sitting at the entrance to their hut. Leo had the video camera loaded, with several spare cartridges in his pack along with a photolamp that would let them shoot in total darkness. George was carrying spares to all the equipment, several sets of lens, and a special digital still camera in his own pack. He also had a tape recorder with plenty of batteries and twelve hours of audiocassettes. Whatever this ceremony was, they wanted to be certain to record every detail.

They watched a group of ten men, Kahimi in the lead, approach. Almost all had painted designs of various sorts on their chests, arms, and legs. George took several shots as the group approached. "So the Captain's 'garishly painted bodies' turn out to be a fairly standard set of Polynesian ritual symbols," he said almost disappointed as he put the camera down and the ground next to him.

"Yeah," Leo said. "Did you notice, though, that most of the symbols are of the war and sea gods? Shouldn't a wedding have more of the hearth and fertility symbols?"

"Kahimi said this pihali-aliahuu ritual was linked somehow to their landing on the island. It happened while they were on a raid at sea, so I guess those were the gods invoked."

"I guess." Both stood as the natives stopped a few feet away from the hut. Most of the group were tribal elders, though there were four young men and one boy among them. Itimii, Kahimi's twelve-year old nephew, heir and apprentice, stepped forward. He was carrying some sort of necklaces made of seaweed woven with jungle grasses into a narrow rope. Tiny bits of coral and colored wood were strung along the rope.

"These for you," Itimii said in English. "You wear for pihali-aliahuu." He held the necklaces out for the two men to take.

George and Leo looked at the natives. Four of the younger men were wearing similar necklaces. One was the same as the two being offered to the two Americans, the other three were in a second pattern, all identical. George and Leo took the necklaces and put them on. "May we photograph these necklaces before we go," Leo asked. When Kahimi nodded, George took several close-up shots of each of the two styles.

He put the camera back in his pouch, and the group started up the path. At the edge of the jungle, they were met by several other men carrying elaborately woven full-headed masks. The masks were dyed to match the symbols. The masks were rather grotesque -- they had to be similar to the ones the Captain had mentioned -- painted with symbols much like the ones on the men's bodies.

The elders, including Kahimi, put on one style that reminded Leo of a giant fish, a representation of the sea gods, no doubt. These masks covered the entire head of the wearer. Three of the four young men put on simpler masks. These were somewhat elongated and only covered the face of the wearer. Yellow fertility symbols were painted on in a pattern similar to wedding masks worn on some of the islands to the north, including Toga-ahu.

Leo tried to stall, so George could take more photos. "Kahimi, can you tell us the meaning of these masks?"

"When we get to the plain below the blanket, I will explain all."

"Can you at least tell me why most of you are wearing masks, but this man," he pointed to the one wearing a necklace similar to his own, "and George and I aren't given any to wear?"

"When the pihali-aliahuu begins, all will be made known to you." He shouted a quick "Forward" in his Polynesian dialect and the others began walking up into the jungle. A number of men with lanterns carved from large shells walked along with the group.

George fell in next to the one native without the mask. "Who are you," he asked in dialect.

The man didn't even notice that George was there. He tilted his head, as if hearing something far off, but never answered. George repeated the question three more times before giving up. He did noticed that the man seemed a little dazed. He was walking hesitantly and seemed uncertain as to where he was going.

They walked over a mile, always upward. Eventually, George saw the jungle thin out. They were nearing the "plain", a clearing perhaps a quarter mile up the side of the mountain. As they approached, drums began to beat.

The clearing was square, perhaps a hundred feet on each side. In the center was a large stone firepit ablaze with logs. George worried about how that mass of light was going to affect the video. Well, the Department had some computer enhancement equipment; maybe it can be edited down.

A small altar had been set up about half way from the edge to the clearing to the firepit. Six chairs, the sort they had seen that afternoon, were set up a distance away. The chairs were in two groups of three, one to the left of the altar, the other to the right, about twenty yards apart.

Itimii came over to George and Leo. "Kahimi says you are outsiders. You have done no real wrong to us. He lose some face, but he offer you a chance to leave."

"What," George said. "Leave now and miss the pihali-aliahuu?"

"Leave. Leave this clearing. Leave this island. And never speak of what you have found here."

"Thank your uncle - thank Kahimi for his offer, but we want to stay to witness the ceremony."

"Yes," Leo added. "And whenever we do leave, we will be telling many, many people of your island and your people."

"Why does Kahimi think we took all these pictures and wrote down so much? We told him that we wished to study your people. Doesn't he think that we will share what we learn with others of our own people?"

The boy ran off without another word. The pair watched him report to his uncle. Kahimi shook his head, making the entire mask move. He clapped his hands and shouted "We begin" in Polynesian.

The three young men in the masks came over and lead George, Leo, and the lone unmasked man over to the one set of chairs. "You sit," one of the masked men said, and they did.

Now drummers began to beat out a low rhythm. Kahimi said something to his nephew, and the boy came over to stand between Leo and George. "Kahimi says that he sorry, but you must now go do pihali-aliahuu. He say I stay. I tell you what it mean."

"Thank you, Itimii, and thank Kahimi also." He tried to lean forward to get the video camera out of his pack. He couldn't move. "What the hell? Leo, I can't move. Can you."

Leo tried. "No, no I can't. Itimii, what's happened to us."

"The magic of the necklaces keep the pihal from leaving."

"Magic? What magic?"

"Ancestors come here after great storm. Forty-five warriors, twenty prisoners - all enemy warriors - and fifteen pigs. Storm destroy canoes, so they cannot get home. They pray to gods for help, any kind of help. The leader, also Kahimi, have a dream. "Sea god come to Kahimi; show him how to make necklaces. War god say, make twenty of each kind. Put all of one kind on prisoner. Put all of others on twenty bravest warriors. Bring to this place at full of Moon and pray to them. Miracle happen."

"Miracle?" Leo said. He was trying to move, to get up from the chair, but nothing, nothing dammit below his neck seemed to be working.

"Twenty marriages," Itimii said, "and by the next year, twenty babies. The others knew what must be done. They draw lots. Soon ten more marriages. We are children of the children of those babies."

"This is nonsense," George said. "How could an island with sixty-five people, all male, produce babies?"

Leo answered him, "the same way two grown men can't move, magic. Somehow they're going to turn us into women."

"Again, I don't believe it. It's drugs or hysteria or something. Besides, what about number three over here next to me?"

"Kanaruu get drunk. He kill Ashtitu's woman by mistake. Now he _be_ Ashtitu's woman. He go first, so you see what happen."

"This is still ridiculous. I don't --" George stopped as the drumming became louder and louder. A strange chanting began among the men in the clearing. The chant included the names of the sea god and the war god and of Kanaruu and Ashtitu. George and Leo couldn't make out much of the rest. It was a part of the local dialect that they had never heard before.

Suddenly, they heard a moan from Kanaruu. "It begin," Itimii said, his voice cracking with excitement. George and Leo found that they could turn their heads. They looked at Kanaruu who was able to move again. His body seemed to be spasming for a moment, then he began to move almost sensuously to the chant.

Kanaruu's eyes were wide with fright. He rose from the chair and began walking, dancing -- it was hard to tell which -- sensuously towards the other group of men. As he walked, he seemed to be shrinking. His hair, cut in the warrior's style to just above the shoulders, grew down to reach almost to his waist. He grew thinner throughout his body, especially at the waist. Then his hips seemed to widen and his figure grew remarkably curvy. Woman's curves.

About halfway to the men, he suddenly tore at his waistband. His skirt, about as long as a Scottish kilt, fell to the ground. He danced around it, turning so George and Leo could see him from the front. No, their eyes told them, see _her_ from the front. Kanaruu had somehow grown an impressive pair of breasts. And at his groin, there was nothing to see but the familiar inverted triangle that marked the way to a woman's sexual organs.

Kanaruu was smiling now. She turned and ran the rest of the way to the men. One stood and took her in his arms. They embraced, and the man - it must have been Ashtitu - picked up his naked bride and carried her away.

The drums and the chanting had stopped when Kanaruu and Ashtitu has embraced. Now it began again. "Now you will become pihali-aliahuu, brides of the change," Itimii said. "Welcome to our people."

"Fight it," George said, but Leo barely heard. The drumming, the chants were invading his soul. He moaned and tried to fight what he was feeling. It was strong within him and growing stronger.

The two men felt as if the whole world had vanished except for the chanting. They felt the rhythm and felt their bodies began to move to it. They rose from their chairs because that was what the rhythm told them they had to do. Something, something in the chant was calling them to the side of the two other men sitting across from them. Something that they had to answer.

As they walked, their bodies changed, the better to feel the rhythms of the chant. They grew smaller, thinner. Their skin became more delicate, even as it darkened beyond a rich tan to the coppery brown of the natives. Their waists grew narrow, their limbs more supple to better dance the rhythms of the drums and the chant. Their hair straightened and grew dark brow, almost black as it grew down to their waists.

Beneath their shirts, their useless, silly shirts, now far too big for their bodies, breasts grew in firm and round. They could feel their nipples tighten in arousal and rub against the fabric as they moved. It was a most pleasant feeling.

Their hips, their wider, childbearing hips swayed to the rhythms of the chant. The motions seemed to suck in their male genitals until these shrank within them transformed into the female equivalents. Their new organs tingled. They were warm and wet - and empty. But the chant told them to be happy for relief was sitting not far away.

Their husbands were sitting not far away. But could those wonderful, manly men want them in these stupid male clothes? "Never," the chant said, and in desperation, the two women tore their clothes from their body, tore them to shreds in their eagerness. They stopped and stood naked, except for the necklaces, before their husbands. Before their lovers. For the men stood and embraced their brides, kissing them and fondling their bodies.

George and Leo remained in these new forms. They knew who they had been, their lives, their memories, and their ambitions. But the chant told them how little those things meant. It told them that, from this time on, they were Showashaa and Ehileawa. It was so much better, it said, to be these two women; these happy women with their virile new husbands.

Showashaa and Ehileawa found to their horror, then their amazement, then their joy that they agreed. They giggled in delight as their new husbands carried them back to their huts to consummate the marriages. There would be time later to destroy the notes, to lie to Mulrooney. They were happy as the chants told them to be happy. They would not let anything destroy that happiness or ever, ever make them leave their homes and their husbands on this island.

The End

Please note that I resisted the temptation to call this story

"George and Leo Get Lei-ed".

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