Living with The Firewalkers of Fiji

Paranormal Activity

I looked out the kitchen window and washed my plate. The moon was growing full but barely visible behind the clouds. It glowed soft and bright, illuminating the cumulus nimbus like a lamp behind a window curtain. The crickets, frogs, and dogs fought each other for the reigning soundtrack of the night.

We’d concluded another night of kava drinking and gathering of friends and relatives in David’s honor. (Over a week of consistent visitors and more were still expected to come). With the funeral right around the corner, we were preparing for the service as well as an influx of guests. Felix and I spent most of the day at the Suva market purchasing food and grog for our future guests.

When we returned, Ro Mereani had a favor to ask of me. “David’s sister is unable to fly down for the funeral. She lives in England, you see.” she explained, her hands twisting around a stack of printer paper, “But she sent an e-mail with a few words she would like spoken at the funeral. And you are a good reader and speaker. Will you represent her during the service and read her tribute to her brother?” She handed me the stack of papers with the speech. The words felt heavy in my hands; there were so many of them.

I accepted, of course, but immediately grew anxious about it. Since The Skirt Debacle with the chiefs, I was on my best (and most conservative) behavior. A hundred different ways I could flub up the speech flashed through my overly creative imagination. I didn’t need another reason for the chiefs to raise an eyebrow at the strange European girl. But the funeral would not be a day about me or my insecurities. I needed to get over it.

I searched the patches of sky for a familiar star pattern. Even the stars are different here, I thought. I dried my dish with discontent.

It’s not that I minded sitting in on the ceremonies of tribute to Talei’s father, or helping with the laundry lists of tasks left to complete before the funeral. Fijians were extremely welcoming of me and my unusual presence. But it was emotionally heavy work. And I felt out-of-place. And lost. And confused. And and and…

I guess you could say I was in a constant state of discomfort, never feeling fully at ease.

I put my plate away, nodding recognition to ants marching from the cupboard down the counter and out the door, carrying their spoils of sugar granules and bread crumbs. At least I was getting used to the sight of creatures I would’ve thrown a fit upon encountering in my house back in the States. This was the tropics. If you didn’t have bugs you didn’t have food.

My stomach sloshed with grog and restlessness. I said goodnight to Ro Mereani and Felix and quietly made my way to the spare bedroom. I stared at the ceiling for a long time pondering my feelings on my situation.

Even with my new-found anthropological approach and ‘cultural experiment’ attitude, I knew on some level I was disappointed. I had come to Fiji with a very high expectation of how I was going to spend the trip. It involved a good amount of bumming on a beach and surfing. Of course, no-one ever said that’s what Fiji would be like. But one showing of Endless Summer II and my mind was convinced that was all it could be.

I was at a loss for how to help and felt like with even all that I was doing it wasn’t enough. And I was angry with myself for being disappointed. And I felt strange observing such an intimate moment when I had no part in it.

I sighed and rolled over, pulling the sheet up to my chin. “Talei, what have you gotten me into?” I whispered. The words fell heavily off my lips and soundlessly on the floor.

It took longer than usual to fall asleep. But eventually my thoughts drifted off to the rhythm of crickets chirping. The dogs and frogs had long since tired of their game and gone to bed themselves.

In the middle of the night, I heard footsteps in the room.

I froze, not daring to open my eyes. Had Felix snuck in to grab something? I listened carefully. No, I could hear him snoring through the door. I heard an echo of laughter. I opened my eyes to witness the moonlight pouring in through the windows, creating a spotlight for the figure smiling down on me.

Talei’s hair, neck, and wrists were dripping in pearls. Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight. She crouched over the mattress letting her curls fall near my face. I didn’t move. I watched her breathlessly. I was surprised at her presence but not afraid. She looked ethereal with that glow about her. Or was it the light reflecting on her gossamer gown?

“Talei,” I whispered, “Why have you brought me here? Why did you choose me? It’s all wrong.”

Her rosy lips spread into a toothy grin and she laughed. I could hear it echo but it was faint, as if the sound were passing through water. She brought a jeweled finger to her lips and murmured, “Shhh.” I could almost hear her taunt, I know something you don’t know. Then she winked and my eyes felt heavy. I drifted back to sleep.

I woke with a jump in the morning to the sound of Ro Mereani starting the wash out back. I lay motionless in bed, recounting what had happened in the night. What the hell was that? I turned my head to the spot where she had stood. Was it a dream? Or did I have one of those paranormal encounters you see on SyFy?

I sat up and wiped a bead of sweat from my brow. I checked my phone. Not even seven in the morning and it the humidity was already suffocating.

My mind started racing. I threw on clothes while I attempted to collect my thoughts.

There must have been some purpose to her visit, even if it was just a dream. What did it symbolize? Had I conjured a mental image of her because I was longing for guidance? While it was the most plausible answer it didn’t sit right.

It had all felt real enough. And why had she been so cheeky? What was with her laughing? Did she think this was funny? I suddenly felt angry. My drowning in this moment was funny? Or was it funny that this was all happening at the same time?

The thought stuck with me for a moment and I thought back to what Ro Mereani had said to me the day her husband died. She seemed so convicted in her words. “Hilary, I think Talei was waiting for you to arrive to take her father to the other side. And I think he was holding out to meet you to know that Talei enjoyed her last few weeks on this earth. Yes. That was it.”

I bit my lip. I thought that coming to pay my respects to my deceased friend was heavy enough, but did she know something I didn’t know? How the hell was I supposed to do her bidding if she only laughed at me? And what if I failed her?

I looked to the door. And what the hell was I going to tell her mother?

22 Comments

  • Reply

    clisanti

    October 24, 2012

    If you look a things this way you went to Fiji to sort of get closure on the loss of a friend. Yeah things got real heavy real fast, but now after all you have gone through with these people you have almost become part of their family, a second daughter even. You may have gotten more then you had bargained for but now you are serving a greater purpose. There will always be time to be a bum on the beach. Trust me I have been doing just that my entire life…

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 26, 2012

      I got chills when I read this, mostly because ‘second daughter’ is a term that has been thrown around a lot.

      Thanks for the perspective, support, and encouragement. As always. =) And I’ll definitely take it from you!

      One of these days I’d like to come beach bum with you. You know, and learn from a pro ;).

  • Reply

    Felix Colatanavanua

    October 24, 2012

    How beautiful.. you made me cry – oh how I miss Talei and Dad – Thank you for being here during this hard time. You are a true blessing to all that know you, and I am grateful to have finally met you.. :D

  • Reply

    wisehorses

    October 25, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this experience, it’s like hearing news from her, from Talei. News that she is alright, she is happy even, and she knows something you don’t know. Good. Now whatever that knowledge is, it may continue to haunt you, I’m afraid, but try not to worry about it, and pray for us all please. Talei chose you to come and see, probably because your mind was troubled, as you explained in your blog post, I think the message you can take with you from all of this is that you need to be humble, that there are powers and things we (here on earth) know nothing about, and so therefore we must place our faith and guidence not in ourselves alone but also in the outside: look to the moon, the stars and the sun always even in times of trouble and stress. And bless my dear cousin Talei always, now reunited with her beloved father, my uncle David. May they always be at peace together with eachother and with God. Amen. ( from cousin Sophie xx)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 26, 2012

      Hi Sophie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I had no idea that my blog was reaching David’s family, but I am so happy to hear it has. Though I met him only briefly, I am thankful to have met him. A truly inspirational and wonderful man, indeed!

      Everyday I feel blessed and humbled and in awe that I was able to be a part of your family’s lives. And it is my pleasure to share this experience with you.

      I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for you and your family to be dealing with the loss of your loved ones and know that I think of you and pray for you constantly. Lots of love.

  • Reply

    Browsing the Atlas

    October 25, 2012

    Give in to your intuition. It may have been her.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 26, 2012

      =) Thanks for not calling me crazy. Even though I certainly feel it!

      Have you ever had a moment where you felt in touch or in tune with loved ones that have passed?

  • Reply

    Les Petits Pas de Juls

    October 25, 2012

    I read Felix’s words and I can only tell you that yes, you were there for something, because Talei’s family needed you here at that moment even if it was unexpected and unpredictable. your meeting with her, your meeting with them is part of something so you can play a role, even if you still don’t know what it is. someday, when you have enough feedback, you’ll discover the true meaning of your presence there at that time. All you have to know, is that people cherished your presence and you have found a new family and new friends. Maybe that’s all Talei knew you didn’t … and she might know more! you never know what’s gonna happen!
    Keep being true to yourself and good to others.
    Fiji will have been quite an experience.
    I’m thinking of you all.
    Jul’

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 26, 2012

      Thank you so much Jul!

      I feel like I’ve been swallowing the moments more than experiencing them, but I know (like you said) many moons from now I’ll better understand all that’s happened. It’s been a roller coaster ride, but I am always thankful to be on it!

  • Reply

    Troy in Las Vegas

    October 25, 2012

    Interesting that this post comes one year to the day of you posting “In Memory of Talei Jones”

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 26, 2012

      ::gasps:: I had no idea I did that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. That’s weird… only because it was unintentional! What do you think it means?

  • Reply

    travellingmo

    October 29, 2012

    Oh sweet Jesus, that is too much. I refuse to believe in ghosts because I’m a scardy-pants but that sounds too perfect to not be real.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 1, 2012

      Haha! I kind of feel the same way. That’s the main reason why I don’t see scary movies (some things you just can’t unsee, you know?)

      But it’s a weird situation. There’s a lot of strange happenings in Fiji…

      • Reply

        Felix Colatanavanua

        November 3, 2012

        You what to hear something freaky about Fiji – I shook hands with and talked with my Grandfather – who died 12 years before I was Born..

  • Reply

    Laptop Logo

    December 1, 2012

    I think whole my body has turned into a body of ice.

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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