A spooky story for Halloween…. and a real one.
Mario toed the piece of black lava with the tip of his shoe. The black rock glittered like a magical glass in the golden Hawaiian sunlight. The dips and curves of its surface reflected like a prism, sparkling like a million tiny gems of every conceivable color. He’d never seen a rock quite like it. Anywhere.
He bent down and scooped it up. It was no larger than a quarter, but the sharp edges bit into his tender fingers unrelentingly. He turned it so that it caught the light again. The color sparked to life. His dark eyes stared, mesmerized, at the dazzling array. Hawaiian basalt sparkling in the sunlight.
Mario had stifled a yawn as the tour guide yammered on during the short hike. Something about a curse – a myth that the goddess Pele was protective of her volcano and the lava rocks that she created and that under no circumstances were you to take one of the rocks home with you. Removing it from the volcano was like stealing it from Pele’s home. And she would exact revenge on your soul for doing so.
Mario didn’t believe in goddesses, or bad luck, or curses for that matter. What a bunch of hooey.
He glanced around at his tour group, slowing his pace so he fell to the back of the pack. When he was certain no one was looking, he slipped the little rock into his pocket. But he didn’t notice the ghostly eyes peering at him from behind the thick of the jungle. The shiver that ripped down his spine with the next gust of wind was easily ignored. After all, it was a bit chilly here on the summit this morning.
Excited as he was about his prize, he didn’t pull it out of his pocket until he was safely back on the U.S. mainland. He had been far too busy with sun, sand, and surf on his vacation. Fishing the chunk of basalt out of his pocket, he held his prize up to the lamplight. It glittered with color just as it had on the island. Satisfied with his trophy, he set it on the living room bookshelf for all to see.
It didn’t happen all at once. It was more of a slow burn, the way lava creeps across the landscape and torches the ferns, one by one. The shelf the lava rock sat on randomly came disjointed and fell. The kidney stone – the first ever in his life – hit at 2 in the morning Wednesday. He thought he was going to die until it passed. Then, he came home three weeks later to find his dog had jumped the fence and was hit by a car while he was at work. The same job that he received a layoff notice for a month after that. The woman he had intended to propose to that autumn left him for another man, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
When Mario came home from his last day on the job, he stopped dead in his tracks. His house had been robbed and ransacked. As he stood in the doorway, his eyes fell on the glittering piece of lava rock from Hawaii, sitting untouched on the repaired shelf, smack in the middle of the chaos. Suddenly he realized that the curse was true. Just as he had been robbed, he had stolen something too. Pele, goddess of the Hawaiian volcanoes, was indeed exacting revenge on the thief who had stolen a piece of her property.
The moment he hung up the phone with the cops, Mario snatched the rock off of the bookshelf and stuffed it into a box. He sent it back first class to Hawaii with a note of apology, and request to the recipient at the park service to return the rock to the ground from where it came.
Mario’s luck slowly began to turn its way around. But what had been done was done, and he could never get back what he had lost. Nor could he ever shrug the eerie sensation of someone always watching him.
Mario’s story is not unique. Each year, various venues in Hawaii receive countless lava rocks in the mail from people who pocketed them as souveniers and regret it. The find notes tucked into the boxes, that are full of regret for luck and lives turned sour.
Is the curse real? Or nothing but hogwash?
The flip side of this story – aka the logical side – states that park rangers created this so called curse, and began spooking tourists in order to keep them from taking rocks and minerals from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Or perhaps it was a tour guide looking for a sizzling story to enthrall his guests. Most people agree that the story is not old lore; that it was made up sometime in the 20th century, but has certainly been adopted into urban legend.
Besides, we all deal with ups and downs in life, and unexpected twists and turns. Not all of them are good, and heartbreaking tragedy can happen to the best of people. Who’s to say that such storms of bad luck weren’t going to happen on their own to the very same people who brought Hawaiian basalt home with them?
I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you believe about Pele’s Curse. But be prepared to deal with the consequences if you do decide to bring a little chunk of lava home with you. Personally, I’d leave it right where you found it for the next person to admire.
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