The place is called Rapa Nui, or as it is better known, Easter Island. You know. That tiny island way the hell out in the ass end of the Pacific, far west of Chile. I think it was around there Captain Cook and his crew had trouble finding basic things like food and water. And I don’t remember if it was around there that the boat . . . er, the Essex, had its problems with a troublesome whale that basically sank the ship and left a bunch of guys stuck in a couple of whaling boats fending for themselves, and eventually they had to fend off each other too, as in that taboo most people don’t like to talk about. No. Not incest. Cannibalism.
Think it was around there.
And that’s where we’ve been taken today, courtesy of Ostium. Through door number 222, which ended up being a nice, normal door on the regular old streets of Ostium. Find the origin of that mental tug, turn the handle, step inside. Done. Aaaand get transported back to some point between the eighth and nineteenth centuries, though it looks to be more on the earlier side with the whole lushness of vegetation and trees surrounding us. But we’ll get to that in due course.
I don’t know what it is, but I feel especially spiffy today. Just on top of the world, pretty much. I’m not gonna lie, I am a little achy from last night’s . . . er, let’s say romp. Well, more like last afternoon’s that lasted into the night. We did get some food in us . . . Eventually. But this morning, after a very restful night’s sleep, I’m just feeling A-OK. Like everything is going just right with the world. Of course, our world is a little different now, since we’re no longer connected to it, and there’s really only Ostium, but let’s not put a dampener on things. It does seem like it might get a little boring sometimes, going through a new door every day, getting taken to another world and time, but doing it over and over again, bringing that artifact back each time. Putting it on the map table. Oh, and we did eventually manage to add that piece of pottery from the Anasazi settlement to the map table, so don’t worry about us forgetting about it. All done and taken care of, albeit a little delayed when compared to our usual rigorous schedule.
But life is just grand right now. Can’t get me enough Ostium. Even though it’s not always clear what we’re doing all of this for. But at least there were no more bodies of those men that Monica sent through a door to deal with. I talked a little more with Monica about them and just what bad people they were. I’m never one to condone violence, and the thought of killing is . . . Anathema is a strong word, but it’s not hard enough. Abhorrent. The thought of killing another human being is abhorrent to me, but when hearing about what those men were like. What they did to Monica and Steve. How their lives were ruined because of it. How finding Ostium was a godsend. It gave Steve an exit, a place of release, somewhere to get away. And then when Monica had no choice, she had to follow, to end the pain and suffering, and follow her heart. It just feels right. Both what Steve and Monica had to do, but also what those men did to them, how they treated them . . . It’s almost like they got what they deserved. And she didn’t outright mur . . . Kill them. She sent them through that door alive and well. If they didn’t know what they were getting into, they should’ve stayed away. They came once, found nothing. That should’ve been it. But no. They had to come back for more. To be sure. And they got what they deserved.
How those we’ve found so far died remains a mystery. Perhaps their deaths were carried out somewhat peacefully. Maybe it didn’t hurt when the end came. Perhaps the blackness came and swallowed them hole. Atomized them. Then reconstituted them in another place, another time, and that’s how we found them. Lives gone, bodies left. Whether we’ll find more remains to be seen. The coast was all clear yesterday at least.
And as for Steve. His circumstances were very different for entering into Ostium and its doors. Akin to ours one would say. Just like Monica, I believe he is alive in there somewhere. We’ve just got to find him. It’s our job now, not just Monica’s. He’s got to be very lost and we need to help him. I have my own part to play in finding out what Ostium wants with me and why I am intrinsically tied to it, but also to find Steve alive and well. Of hale heart and mind. Those are our goals.
~ ~ ~
But getting back to Easter Island. Rapa Nui. It means “Big Rapa,” coined after the slave raids of the 1860s. According to the evidence, archeology, and what historians have been able to deduce, the island was first settled sometime in the eighth century, presumably from people reaching the island by ship. Well, not presumably, certainly. They didn’t have any other way. They couldn’t exactly fly from South America to the island. Right? But they must’ve enjoyed a wealthy time of prosperity with all the growing vegetation and abundant wildlife that had been protected for so long in isolation. Like all islands that have little interaction with other places, when people or invading species first land on the island, pretty much all the fauna there doesn’t know what to expect. They’ve never seen anything like this invading being before and don’t know to necessarily run in fear and/or terror before they’re attacked and killed. Capturing and eating that original wildlife must’ve been pretty easy.
But as the population grew, the toll on the resources of the island began to rise. The big problem with an island is that those resources are never infinite: eventually you’re going to run out of food. Of wood from trees for building stuff. Or vegetation for using however you see fit. This seems very likely what started to happen to the people of Rapa Nui. And then the island was discovered and more outsiders came, and the slave traders, and everything pretty much went to hell for them.
Nowadays, there are some descendants surviving, getting by with what remains, and profiting a little from the considerable tourist trade.
So, getting back briefly to the name Rapa Nui, Big Rapa. So named because of its resemblance to the island of Rapa in the Bass Islands of the Austral Islands Group. Though the explorer Thor Heyerdahl thought it was the other way around. Te pito o te henua or “the Navel of the World” is also purported to be its original name. And according to oral tradition, its original name might’ve also been Te pito o te kainga a Hau Maka, or “the little piece of land of Hau Maka.” And the Spanish refer to it as La Isla de Pascua. But enough about white dudes asserting their right to naming an island with native peoples they know next to nothing about.
Let’s move on to what the big draw is to tourists and archaeologists and explorers and anthropologists each year.
They are the mighty stone monoliths carved by the people of Rapa Nui between 1250 and 1500. If you’ve never seen one before it’s like a big thick stone statue, with the head about a third the size of the body. The chest is bare, nipples carved in relief, and lines along the sides likely describing arms. They’d make great door stoppers, you know, for likely a really big giant. In earlier times the statues were scrubbed to a smooth surface with pumice rock. Since it’s a volcanic island this wasn’t too hard to find, though apparently this smooth surface erodes pretty quickly with the natural elements. The Moai are thought to represent chieftains, leaders and important ancestors of the Rapa Nui. The more recent Moai had representative topknots of the chieftains they were meant to be, known as pukao, made from a reddish rock known as red scoria.
While a large number of moai were left at the quarry site, there were still over 900 that were dragged to various sites all over the island using a system of sledges and sheer human strength. Though that’s where a lot of those trees went: into making those giants sledges to carry those giant, heavy rocks. The tallest moai, called Paro, was 33 feet high and weighed over 90 tons; the heaviest moai Ahu Tongariki weighed an impressive 95 tons. One unfinished moai would’ve been a true giant among the rest of the moai, weighing almost 298 tons and would’ve been a whopping 69 feet tall.
Yeah, I know. Hold on to your butts.
~ ~ ~
And here we are on Rapa Nui from long ago. It’s an island full of life and greenery. Of course, there’s no real sign of animal life but everything floral is having a hell of a time. And there are a few moai around making themselves proudly known, standing majestic on green hills looking down on their creators with all the power and dignity the creators were trying to imbue them with. It’s . . . It’s fucking incredible. It’s like seeing the pyramids how they were originally, or that perfect looking Sphinx, or the original pristine Golden Gate Bridge, that magnificent looking Statue of Liberty, a bright shining beacon from afar, and that pinnacle of architectural excellence, the Eiffel Tower.
Dragging Monica behind me, I run over to the nearest one, which happens to be about a hundred yards away, so it actually takes a bit of running, but the closer I get the more I can feel Monica speeding up, then matching me, feeling the thrill of Ostium and this door, and this unique, incredible place. We reach the giant moai together, out of breath, like a couple of kids racing each other down the hill to the park. She seems just as ecstatic as me to be this close to something this awesome.
We just bask in its majesty, its perfection, until we regain our composure .
The very surface of the moai shines, and sheens in the sunlight, giving it an almost ethereal look, as if it were something sent down from on high by a greater power.
“So, in case you haven’t guessed, the artifact is up there somewhere.”
“What? Are you fucking kidding me? Of course. Of course it is. This is fucking Ostium! This sorta shit isn’t scripted.”
“The good thing is, after the last door, I’ve gotten pretty good at climbing, if you catch my drift.”
“No kidding. Well, the good thing is I’ll be right under you ready to catch your ass when you fall.”
“Good. That definitely helps my confidence. But no checking out my ass while I’m climbing.”
“Honey . . . That’s all I’m going to be checking out.”
With one giant shit-eating grin on my face, I start climbing. While the surface is pretty smooth, there are lines and carvings here and there to give the body of this big moai definition. Using these, I ascend from the side of the moai. This guy’s a big sucker, probably around thirty feet. But I’m in the zone now: skillfully using my hands and feet to find whatever crevice or handhold I can use to hoist myself up higher. I’m not sure where the artifact is on the moai, but it’s up there somewhere. Because this is one of the older moai, not the ones that will get made two or three hundred years in the future, there’s no topknot or pukao to deal with, just a big head with a triangular nose and those divots for eyes. I bet it’s in one of the eye sockets. Can’t really be anywhere else.
I start to wonder why Monica didn’t offer to climb the moai. She probably could’ve done it in a half or a third of the time that I’m doing it, and made it look good. I wouldn’t have been worrying about her falling at any point, unlike she is with me. I give her a brief look down and she sends me back an encouraging wink.
I got this.
But this isn’t for her. She’s looking for Steve. I’m all about the artifacts and the place. That’s my domain. So it just wouldn’t be right to have her do this part. It’s not a chivalry thing, it’s just the way things are done in Ostium. For all I know, Monica could try and find the artifact and not find it at all. She doesn’t have my honing sense, but also it might not appear to her. It might simply cease to exist. Just like she can’t get through the doors on her own. She needs me.
Huh. It’s something I haven’t thought too much about before. I knew she needed me to help her, with Steve, and continuing through the doors of Ostium, but when I lay it out like this, Monica is basically helpless without me when it comes to this place. She couldn’t do a thing without me. It gives me power over her, which being Monica, I’m sure she’s not a fan of.
But it hadn’t really occurred to me before. Interesting.
Okay, I got this.
I’m starting to feel close to this moai, not just because of physical closeness, but because we’re going through a lot together, with he being the vessel for the artifact and my having to climb all over him.
You might say there’s something between us . . . Or not.
I reach the sculpture’s eyes and find them sunken and empty.
I have no other option but to keep going up and at the very top of the moai on the flat surface of his head I find it.
It’s a little birdman effigy. Well, to be exact, it’s half man half bird. It happened a little later during the span of the Rapa Nui culture, as the leadership veered from the sole chiefs to a warrior class. That birdman figure was the symbol of the warrior class. Seems kind of weird and interesting at the same time to see it here, since it’s thought with the rise of this “birdman cult” as it’s known, they’re pretty sure the construction of moai stopped. Nevertheless, I know it’s the artifact. I pick it up, feeling its stony weight, and put it safely in a pocket.
And then begins the fun of climbing back down this sucker, which is never as easy as climbing up. Monica is watching me below. I give her the thumbs up, turn around and start inching myself down. It’s going okay, I’m taking it real slow; watching where my feet go, making sure they have a solid purchase and then easing myself towards the ground, while gravity keeps trying to make me do it much faster . . . And easier. It’s about halfway down that what I thought was a secure foothold turns out not to be. Maybe there’s a bit of dirt or moisture or moss there. Whatever it is, my foot slips and with that goes my leg and then the rest of me. Then I’m falling backward and away from the moai. I have time to think I’ll land on my back which hopefully won’t be too bad. I lift my head to avoid a cranial collision and cry out “Monica!”
And then I land. On Monica. But it really isn’t that bad. She’s absorbed and fallen back with my fall, letting my trajectory bring her to the ground. We’re both a little sore and bruised but nothing like I would’ve been if she hadn’t been there to catch me. I roll off of her, our breaths once again strong and fast. I look at her and see her looking at me. We start giggling and then laughing really loud. It’s a combination of fear and release and feels great. And then I’m crawling over to her and kissing her. And she’s kissing back and it’s just awesome. Our hands run over our bodies and soon belts are loosened and clothing is shed. Monica like some prophylactic magician whips out a condom from somewhere and that’s when I know we won’t have to cut this canoodling session short.
“Wait,” she says as I’m about to start. “What about the blackness.”
“Don’t worry. I’m holding it back. We’ve got time.”
“Sure. But don’t make it too quick, okay?”
I give her my winning, beaming smile, and then I’m kissing her again.
~ ~ ~
We make it back to the door in time before the blackness reaches us. Not a ton of time, but a decent cushion. It’s clearly visible, speedily making its way toward us.
Just before we step through, Monica turns to me and says: “And in case you’re wondering: we’re totally in the mile high Ostium club now. It’s only members.” Then she’s gone.
On the other side it’s back to the clock tower and this time we take care of the artifact on the map table right away. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but from one nerd to another, doing this definitely reminds me of Ghostbusters, after they’ve caught the ghosts in the trap and put it in the storage containment with the extremely powerful protection grid.
Light is green. Trap is clean. And it actually is an iridescent green in this case.
~ ~ ~
Over dinner I talk more about Rapa Nui with Monica and that’s when a thought occurs that I voice across the table: if we were in an earlier time of the Rapa Nui culture, when the moai were pretty new, the population would’ve been considerable. In the many thousands. It wasn’t until later, centuries later, that there was a decline and deforestation and people started dying. And after the slave trade the population obviously plummeted. At one point it was as low as 111 people. But we weren’t there at any of those times. It was much earlier when the people were plentiful and happy. And now they’re not there anymore. Snuffed out because of Ostium. Because of the door. And because of me.
These are the thoughts that begin piling onto my conscience like a football being smothered by a hill of football players: nothing can stop it.
Monica tells me I can’t think like that. There’s no way of knowing. Why would Ostium be doing this if all those people were dying because of it. It just doesn’t make sense. There has to be a better reason. A better purpose for all this.
This appeases me a little, but not fully. I tell her she’s right and move on to another conversation. Inside, I’m not so sure.
After dinner’s all done and cleared away Monica says she’s going to take a shower. As she goes in to the bathroom and strips down to her birthday suit, she says: “Care to join me?”
It doesn’t take me long to shed my own clothing and join her under the hot water.
We have another amazing time. And afterwards we’re both ready for bed.
Because tomorrow’s another day, and another door.
~ ~ ~
Monica: The guy’s finally asleep. I gotta hand it to him, he’s got some stamina. Of course. We are doing it a lot. That’s probably helping. And while I’m doing what needs to be done. So I can find Steve. Still, it ain’t bad. Ain’t bad at all. I’m having a real good time. Mr. Cutey’s actually great in the sack. Who knew? Being a video game developer and all. Will wonders never cease.
I try. I keep trying. But he keeps remembering. The suffering. The death. The cost he thinks Ostium is causing. He’s not sure. I know I’m not sure. But I gotta keep him focused. Keep him going. Without him the ball game’s over. No doubt. But so long as I can keep him happy. Keep him going. Keep this train running. Then everything will be fine.
Got close today though. In that Easter Island place. I was ready for him. If he fell. And fall he sure did. But I knew how to catch him. How to take the fall. And then one thing led to another. It was all good. It was all fucking great in fact. But going back. To the door. He never even saw the body. Another one of them. Couldn’t tell who it was. Black hair. He was face down. Got what he deserved. Like the rest of them. Good riddance. Maybe I need to go through them all. Find every single one of their lifeless bodies. Before I can find Steve and find out just what the fuck happened to him.
But still. Today was good. Really good. It was fun being in that place. Running with him. Fucking him. Got all the juices flowing. All the emotions running.
I kinda don’t want this thing to end.
Time will tell. I guess.