art by Shot Hot Design
by Lavie Tidhar
"Ol Man Amerika oli gat sam problem naoia," Verity said.
Brett said, "What do you mean the Americans are having problems now?"
Brett was tall and lanky and white. He was a teacher. Verity said, "Oli gat wan samting olsem sik. Mi harem long radio."
After six months on the island Brett's Bislama still wasn't all that good, though he was trying. He said, "there's a sickness in America, and you heard it on the radio?"
Brett went in search of a radio.
"Awo," said Moses, the engineer. He had studied in New Zealand. "Hemi no gud tumas."
That is very bad.
They were sitting in the nakamal, discussing the news. It was very dark and everyone spoke in hushed voices. They were drinking kava. The bark had to be peeled off the root and the roots then had to be chopped and minced and mixed with water. The resultant drink was brown and made the mouth numb and made everyone sensitive to sound and light.
Hence the darkness and the hushed voices.
"I tried to phone home today," Brett said. He was smoking a cigarette to try and counter the taste of the kava. "But I couldn't get through."
"Hemi wan nogud nakaimas," Moses said.
"This is bad... this is bad magic?"
He had listened to the news, but the only radio station they could get was from the Solomon Islands. They had said some sort of virus had spread across America, and it was turning people into--it wasn't clear what.
"Ol man I kakai man," the Solomon Radio announcer said. Which meant cannibal...
It was hard to believe people back home were actually eating each other. But the news spoke of chaos, of mindless drones shuffling down main roads, biting and tearing flesh, infecting others in their turn.