The moon is a slice of melon afloat in an inky sea. By pearly light, the lush jungle becomes a fantasy of half-seen shapes full of half-heard sounds.
Here, the subtle flutter of feathers, the strident shriek of a bird disturbed by drifting shadows.
There, an answering caw from another species.
Here, the stealthy tread of furred paw, a clash of teeth upon unsuspecting flesh, and a cry of something dying.
And there, in tall grass at the edge of a clearing, the susurrus of sighs, wet mouth movements, satin-smooth slap of skin on skin.
“Ah, Vanui,” breathes a husky, masculine voice, its owner lost in overgrown vegetation. “A moment ago, I felt strong enough to crush rocks in my hands. Now you have made me weak as a newborn nufa-liki. And look, I am bleeding where you bit me!”
Comes a rustle, a muffled giggle. A feminine voice laden with the sultriness of tropical night, “I am sorry, Pukuoa. I lost myself in you. You taste sweet as a mango.” Then, a hint of bedevilment… “Did I hurt the big, strong warrior?”
“It is nothing, Vanui. In your arms I feel no pain. So bite where you will. It will hurt only when you have left me.”
In silence, Vanui’s slim brown hand lifts to tease the tufted tip of a pollen-loaded night-flower, descends to entwine with Pukuoa’s strong, mahogany-hued fingers on the rise.
“But do not go yet, my love,” the young man says. “Stay beside me a little longer.”
Her response is delayed by busy lips and caressing hands. “Aoea!” The word the girl utters, depending on inflection, is able to convey a wealth of emotions. “I cannot. I must return soon, my true joy, before my husband”—the word is spit out as though it were bitter fruit—“misses me.”