20: Build

Power was as potent a drug as Pisiv had ever tasted. More fulfilling even than his beloved kava, intoxicating in its addiction and like all such compulsions, one to be craved when it could be felt slipping away.

He wanted Neri back. The eloping of his daughter with the foreign captain had wounded him deeply, damaged his reputation. He’d borne such high hopes for her, a good marriage planned to a strong island man would have strengthened his own position in the village. He needed to bring her back, banish the aliens, so the island could live happily ever after.

The false security of temporary power often brought such delusions, but rare was the man in thrall to its grip to realise such insanity for what it was. Pisiv was not a rare man, although on Crab Island it was rare for anyone to be as drunk as he.

Kava was a great lubricant to persuasion. The muddy liquid, made from ground and mushed root, supped in carved wooden bowls under the nakamal, brought a heady high. Pisiv’s love of the island liqueur meant he’d built a stronger tolerance to its effects than his fellow villagers, or so he thought. In truth, his eloquence was less heightened than the ears of his listeners were dulled, but no matter, his words still rang loudest.

His beady eyes were well trained in watching the comings and goings of the village. He knew Aime would be off seeing her beau up the hill. Perhaps she would bring back news of the aliens, if Farah and his boys had seen the foreigners in their escape. It didn’t take long to get the truth out of the nervous chile when she returned that eve.

The news felt like a godsend to Pisiv. His nemesis, Farah, who had wounded him all those years ago with false platitudes and a steady stance had finally made a mistake. Now, everybody could see that.

“He has grown apart from us over the years,” said Pisiv. “And this proves where he stands. Farah is not one of us, not anymore, if he ever was. When was the last time he enjoyed a bowl under the nakamal? When was the last time he fished with us?”

Keener ears wondered when Pisiv had last fished, but their mouths remained silent. Easier to leave talk to those whose tongues flowed easier. So it was that opinion was formed and strategy laid, by a loud minority more enthused than a silent majority.

Many believed Farah to be a wise man, they’d known him all their lives. Sure, he kept himself to himself since Chay had passed, but that was the way of some men, as different as all could be. They did not wish him harm, but wished themselves far less also.

“We have their guns here,” said Pisiv. “We have their boat. We outnumber them. They can be driven away. If we don’t act, we will be the ones driven away.”

Fear. As potent as power when instilled in the flock. Pisiv’s chest swelled when he saw the wide eyes in his congregation. Fear taken with them to their beds, fear that would still be in their heads the next morn.

That sun up, machetes were carried and rifles loaded, albeit groggily. Some didn’t bother with the bullets at all, not really understanding how they worked, kava making a sore head too tired to figure such complexities. They could still be used as good beating sticks even if they didn’t go bang. However, Pisiv did load his and the feel of it gave him strength.

Only eight men were ready to make the march up the hill. The numbers disappointed Pisiv, he’d expected near everyone to join him in the crusade. Still, he was glad Massif was one of them. Big, strong Massif, hungry for respite for his spittled face and bloodied nose.

Those who stayed in the village trusted in God, not Pisiv, to calm the waters once more. Once the sun had risen so bright and warm, bad tidings from the night were banished from their minds as the day’s fishing, picking and cooking became far more important. Just as a passing storm meant rebuilding their huts every season, so too would the day’s toil bring peace back to the island.

Some prayed for Farah and Pisiv to resolve their differences, though no-one prayed for the foreigners, they simply didn’t spare them a moment’s thought.



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