Thursday, March 3, 2011


The stars, at least the ones Talukua knew all his life, were gone. The old priest waited for the sun to set as he done thousands and thousands of times before. However, no one could have imagined the change that was to take place--not only for Talukua--but for every man woman and child on the small south Pacific island hundreds called home.

Brilliant yellows, stunning oranges, and burning reds blazed in the sky as dusk bid farewell to the day. Talukua, the highest religious figure in the village, sat in front of his humble palm-frond roofed hut and rested. This day had been a difficult one. Several islanders came to him earlier seeking advise, wisdom, and general council. He was the group’s grandfather
figuratively, though never literally.

Talukua was tired, more so than usual. Many of the day’s dilemmas put extra strain of the old one’s brain. Dispensing wisdom was for a younger man, thought Talukua. He wondered if his village would allow him to stop, as his health would surely fail in the coming years. A feeling of relief began to swell in his aged heart even though he knew this could never be.

Traditions surviving millennia set the rules eons before him. Talukua would retain his responsibilities until either his physical health or his mental abilities failed him. And only until he could no longer hear the voice of the Gods would this Terrestrial calling end.

At the end of each day as dusk engulfed the endless sky, Talukua sought comfort from the stars--the same comfort he afforded others. The stars never swayed, never varied their place in the heavens. And so Talukua waited for his favorite time of day.

Only tonight was different. Talukua knew immediately something was wrong. The first star to appear, the eye of Malukia, the Goddess of Life, did not show at its appointed time. Talukua knew when this should be. The tide, the macaws, even the spider monkeys told the seasoned leader when the first star of the heavens released its small but beautiful light to the believers down below. But on this night, a night like all others, the space was void of the celestial illuminate.

It took but an instant for the old man’s mind to understand the implications. No good could come from a star failing to show itself in the night sky, and since it was dusk’s first star that went missing, the gravity of its meaning was more ominous than anything else that could have happened on the quiet beach.

Quickly Talukua scanned the beach. He wanted to yell out, to warn all his villagers of the impending doom that faced them all. He saw very few on the beach that night. Only a handful of people came to the ocean’s edge anymore. Talukua had seen generation upon generation of young people slowly turn from their elder’s ways to embrace the “modern” world, but this last generation appeared to be worse than them all. The young children today never listened to their parents, let alone the village leader. They were loud, the stayed up too late and night and arose too late in the morning. They spent the hottest part of the day relaxing in the shade of other’s huts, eating and laughing without embarrassment, and when the sand was not so hot, they spent time chasing each other and playing games for hours and hours. No, the youth would not be on the beach tonight. They would be lying in each other’s arms dreaming of the day they would marry and start families of their own.

Though many stayed away from the beach on this night, a handful ventured to the water. Several children, too young to be burdened with the physical responsibilities of the sea, ran and played games as their parents eyed the young and thought them the cleverest children in the village. For Talukua, the vision of playful youth and watchful parents brought feelings of joy and sadness for his own children. There was a time when Talukua ran as these children ran, and later, brooded on the beach as his own children scampered with their friends. The years separating the young father of yesterday and the old man of today were many. Familiar pains, those Talukua had unsuccessfully tried to bury, returned as they always did to the man’s heart. His wife, who was so strong and wise and loving, died in childbirth along with their third child. Talukua knew he would never again marry. He gave his heart entirely and when his wife died, the part of him that allowed him to love another as a man loves a woman forever died with her.

His remaining children looked to him as both father and mother from then on. Talukua tried as best he could to raise his children, but they were both taken from him in their youth, the beautiful daughter--the one who looked so much like her mother--died from a monkey bite, and the son, trying too hard to be a man, drown in the sea as he was fishing with those much older than himself. The entire village mourned for the family’s survivor, so much so he became a village elder, the youngest ever to be anointed as such. The culture recognized when a member suffered more than most and felt they had knowledge and wisdom to benefit all. Talukua knew the reason for his early ascension and vowed to turn his heartache into something positive. He honored his loved one’s memories by helping others; it was a decision made years ago, so many years ago.

The moments of reflection lasted a short time, however, a flicker of hope burned in Talukua’s chest as he awaited the arrival of the next star. Surely this star would enter the darkening skies. A single point of light would announce to the Heavens that Poliuua, the God of War, had indeed come to protect the worlds of day and night. The first star would be the tip of Poliuua’s mighty spear, followed quickly by the two bright eyes of Ozlimooi, Poliuua’s huge snake, the serpent on constant guard throughout the night. Surely Poliuua would not fail Talukua in the time of greatest need.

It’s not known how long Talukua waited for the spear, but the spear did not come, nor did the serpent’s eyes, nor Poliuua’s head. Instead of friends, no one greeted Talukua on the warm summer evening. Frantic, Talukua scanned the skies. There must be an explanation! Something must have happened to make this night different from all others! A reason must be found!

And then he saw something low in the horizon. It was a light, a bright star flickering in the south. Talukua was not sure he saw it at first, but as the light of the sunset continue to fade, he could not look away from the piercing light. One might think seeing a star, any star would bring comfort to the old man, but the reaction was just the opposite. If Talukua was afraid before, he was terrified now, for this star on which he stared had never before appeared at this place in the sky. It was new. It was foreign. It was evil. It was wrong!

As the gravity of the situation rested upon Talukua’s mind another star, just left of the other found its way through the dark. Soon another appeared and another until slowly thousands and thousands of tiny lights blanketed the sky. To Talukua each star, each light was a lie, fornication to the Gods. The enormity of the situation caused Talukua to bury his face in his hands and cry.

It took a while for the old Polynesian to get control of his emotions Tears brought relief to his soul. Perhaps he cried for the stars, perhaps for those in the village who used him for comfort, or perhaps it was for his wife and children. He didn’t know, nor did he care. It brought healing, much needed healing.

Darker and darker it became. Still Talukua remained in front of his home; strange stars continued their entrance. An unseasonally cool breeze rolled off the sea, hitting Talukua gently in the face, caressing him, calling him home. It was only then when Talukua noticed something. No one was on the beach. The families previously enjoying the summer evening had gone home. But families previously enjoying their time on the beach did not bother Talukua nearly as much as the lack of anyone else, either on the beach or at his home. No one came to speak to him of the terrifying sky that lay before him. Not a single person questioned the loss of the Gods, those who controlled the village and everyone in it. It was at that moment Talukua knew he was truly alone, not only in front of his home, but alone from everyone, the village, his family, everyone.

Again Talukua gazed upward to a confusing scene of lights where lights should not be. Their hold upon the old man’s mind was broken only by the continual cascading of water against the sand several feet from where he now stood. The water, maybe that was the answer to all his questions. After all, the water had not changed, it remained the same warm salty mixture it had always been. Talukua always thought the ocean to be a cruel mistress. It had taken his son, robbed him of his posterity. No, the stars were the ones to trust. They were the sentinels, the guardians of all that was right and good.

But it was the ocean now calling to the old man, beckoning him, wanting him. The ocean, the mother of all life desired his return and Talukua found the draw irresistible. The old man, the last of his family, left the front of his bamboo hut and began walking slowly toward the water’s edge. He did not look again to the Heavens--the same Heavens that had betrayed him. He had left them forever just as they had forsaken him.

Talukua did not pause as the first wave gently touched his ankles, nor did he slow his progress when a stronger wave knocked against his arthritic knees. As the old man continued deeper and deeper into the sea’s loving arms a joy never-before known to him swelled inside his heart. It was the relief he so longed to possess, the reward for living a life full of sorrow and pain.

There was no one who saw the village elder disappear silently beneath the foam of ocean waves, no one to record the last moments of a spectacular life. Talukua was gone never knowing the mystery of the stars, why none of the constellations--not only in his world but also for the entire planet--had forever changed. He would never hear the great scientists try and explain the sudden--and seemingly unrecorded--relocation of the planet Earth to a completely new solar system. Even if he did hear the endless theories and counter-theories of so many “learned” men and women, he would not have understood it. To Talukua he only knew the last friends he ever had were gone and there was nothing left for him but the sea.

*Photo from FreeFoto.Com (

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