Happy Halloween! Although the tsunami scare and frightful images of Hurricane Sandy have put a damper on this season’s festivities, I wanted to share this story with you all. I wrote this for a fiction contest for which I ended up being ineligible, so instead of it going to waste, I present to you…


The ʻĀkalakala Street Curse

There was a dark cloud hovering over the residents of ʻĀkalakala Street and despite the breezy trades, it wouldn’t go away.  The perpetually heavy air made every burden more tedious, and people clamored each morning to get to school or work just to escape the ominous atmosphere. There had been a streak of bad luck plaguing them since a feitecera (Portuguese witch) moved into the last house on the street. She could ruin your life with one point of her bony finger in your direction. Family pets were dying of unknown illnesses, roofs were collapsing, bathrooms were flooding, and most of the children younger than four years old were suffering terrible whooping coughs. Tūtū knew something was up when her mango tree gave no fruit and her pīkake tree withered.

Every day, precisely at three forty-five in the afternoon, the feitecera would take her walk. The children would stop playing and go inside, animals would hide and the birds would disappear. Even the wind dared not interrupt her daily walks. It was so quiet that her shuffling footsteps across the pavement could be heard from one end of the street to the other—reverberating off the houses… shuff shuff shuff… up the right side of the street and down the left.

“Don’t look her in the eye,” Tūtū warned, “and keep the dogs away from her. If she speaks to you, be respectful but don’t ever seek her out!” Every day we would hold our breath until the shuffling passed our house.

One afternoon, Mapu was walking home late from school with her nose in a magazine, popping her gum and blasting her music through her headphones. She didn’t hear the … shuff shuff shuff… of the feitecera’s footsteps and walked straight into her. The two of them sprawled out on the sidewalk, repelling each other like oil and water. The air crackled with energy and Mapu’s heart beat out of her chest as the old witch stood up. Shocked and afraid, Mapu mumbled a quick apology and ran away. But the old witch was not forgiving. She straightened her kerchief, pointed a pale, knotty finger at Mapu’s retreating form and picked up the forgotten magazine, pocketing it with an evil smile.

Mapu wasn’t the same after that. She would stare into space for hours, and at night, she would cry and shake with fear from nightmares, saying she could hear her outside the window … shuff shuff shuff… coming for her. Only Tūtū knew the old ways, the effects of a curse and how to lift it. So, one day as the old witch was taking her walk, Tūtū invited her in for tea. The feitecera  gave a slow, knowing smile at the invitation. She stared at the threshold of the door for a long time before taking a cautious step inside. Hiding behind the sofa, we listened as she shuff shuff shuff-ed across the living room and into the kitchen. We held our breath, everyone bone still as we waited to spring our trap.

“I know who you are and what you’ve done. I demand you end this praga (curse) you put on my granddaughter!” The witch cackled smugly and pulled Mapu’s magazine from the folds of her skirt.

“You leave me no choice,” said Tūtū and when she gave the signal, we placed a broom upside down against the door frame, bristles pointing to the sky. A broom outside your door can protect your house from evil spirits, but a broom inside, is how you trap a witch.

The feitecera spun around so quickly the bones in her neck cracked. Her cataract covered eyes bulged and her pupils disappeared into a fathomless black. She was angry. An inhuman snarl contorted her features and her thin lips opened into a vicious yellow grimace as she growled obscenities in old Portuguese. Her varicose veins, visible under her almost translucent skin, resembled spider webs. Moving faster than we’d ever seen, she tried to leave but kept falling back as if there was an invisible barrier keeping her in.

“I will release you, only if you end your curse and leave this neighborhood,” Tūtū shouted. With a grumble and a snap of her fingers, the witch reduced Mapu’s magazine to a pile of dust and the curse was broken.  Tūtū herself removed the broom from the door frame, and the witch flew out like a whirlwind storm, never to be seen in the neighborhood again.

The air is much lighter now, but sometimes when everything suddenly grows quiet, I think I can hear a shuff shuff shuff of feet, and I still hold my breath.