Ahu woke at the sound of thunder. She reached out to hold on to Ahuahu but he wasn’t lying beside her. She called his name and said “Hold me while the thunder shakes.”
In the dim light she could just see him standing at the entrance to their house. He returned to her and wrapped his arms around her. He loved to touch her but instead of continuing to caress her he said “It is thunder, yes. But it is more than that, the ground is shaking too. The gods in the mountains far to the west are angry. Can’t you feel them stamp on the ground?”
Ahu released him from his hug and put her ear to the floor and could sense the vibrations. “What should we do?” She asked.
Ahuahu drew her towards the doorway and pointed out far to the west “Look the mountain is on fire.” Above the line of the treetops the sky had turned a fiery red and the smell of smoke and sulphur was in the air. Ahu started shaking. “We are not safe here, are we?”
Ahuahu shook his head, “No we are too close to the hot springs and there may be a big wave from the sea. We should go to higher ground. I will talk with Kamaka.”
Ahu looked doubtful, she didn’t want him to leave her but nodded her head and said “Be quick, I will pack a few things.”
Kamaka was reluctant to leave but Hoata agreed with Ahuahu.
“We will all go together’ she said.
They told their neighbours who hadn’t thought about leaving or the impact the earthquake would have on their lives. A few decided to come too but most wanted to stay in the village.
Ahu was ready when Ahuahu returned with Tangaroa and some provisions ready for take with them. They made their way out of the village and were joined by Kamaka, Hoata and baby Paikea as the two girls begrudging left their beds to come with them too. About twenty or thirty of the village came with them all arguing where the best place would be other than in their beds.
Ahu and Ahuahu decided that the high sloping ground close to the Ngerengere village would be safest, clear of the valleys and rivers and where the tree cover was sparse.
As dawn brightened the darkness they could see a plume of smoke from the mountain forming a cloud stretching out toward the sea. Every few minutes a mighty eruption would take place and ash and rocks could be seen ejecting from the crater. Barely seconds later, the ground would tremble and everyone would quickly lie down on the ground to avoid being knocked over. The children were crying, even Kamaka’s two teenage daughters were sobbing. As the ash cloud continued to spill out of the crater the sky gradually darkened as the sun was blotted out. Eventually the volcano quietened down and the little group on the hillside were able to stand up again and to fetch water and to feed the children and themselves.
As the ash cloud was slowly pushed away by the wind it brightened up and everyone started talking of going back to the village. Ahu glanced at Ahuahu and then across to Kamaka.
“While we are here I will go up further and see if Ngaire is all right. Then we might go back.” She said to Ahuahu. Hoata nodded “I will come too. She has never seen Paikea and now his is nearly three.”
Kamaka however was all for going back to village straight away, Ahuahu said he would accompany the two women up to the ngerengere settlement then meet them later that evening.
“Have you never been up here before” Asked Ahu.
Hoata shook her head. “You have taught me how to be brave. It will be my first time.”
They found the settlement quite quickly. There had been no panic there. As they called out for Ngaire they could see the smoke from their fires. Ngaire and one or two other leper women came out and greeted them with nods and smiles but they did not touch.
“Were you not afraid?” asked Hoata.
Ngaire shook her head and with a little smile on her face said. “When you are an ngerengere there is nothing left to fear. The worst has already happened. If the shaking ground brings visitors we will welcome it every time.”
Ahu went forward and placed a little parcel on the ground for Ngaire.
“We have a little dried fish with us. Please accept this gift from us.”
“Ahu, how I wish I could rub noses with you. Even if you came empty handed it would be gift just to see you”
They stayed and talked for a little while and Hoata explained that Paikea was Kamaka’s boy and she was his wife now.
“He needs to laugh a lot,” said Ngaire.
“He laughs with Ahuahu," responded Hoata indicating Ahuahu who was sitting on the ground a little way away from them. "They fish together.”
Ngaire grinned all over her face. Shook her head and protested, “I meant he should laugh with you.” Then she rocked to and fro with merriment.
Hoata blushed as she responded. “Ahu said you would make her smile.”
They left the ngerengere while it was still light and made their way back to Black Sands. It took them some time with the occasional aftershock making them sit down on the ground. There were no fires or smoke to be seen in the village. As they approached they could see that the whole place was flooded and that a few people were wandering about dazed at this new catastrophe. A tidal wave caused by shocks out to sea had overwhelmed the village when they were away.
Hoata screamed out Kamaka's name as the full impact of this new disaster struck home.