"I used to do construction but I don't work much since the visions," Renzo says.
I wait a few strokes as we tread the warm coastal-pond waters of Ahalanui, the King's Bath. Hesitantly, I inquire, What visions?
Renzo's back arches, his head snaps back, his jaw drops open, and his eyes roll up. At first, I think he's been startled by the foraging coral fish. The Moorish idols and damselfish have been nibbling my body—a cleansing of loose skin, I'm told—as we bob along with other floating heads. The fish just had three square meals on me, I think, ambivalent about this natural "spa" treatment.
But it's not the fish. "There he goes," says his lady friend, a haole like Renzo, who lives with him on a few hundred farm acres. Her eyes tell me not to worry about the seizure—it's routine.
Renzo's composure returns as quickly as it left. But as he proceeds to tell me about his vision of the imminent cataclysm, the seizures punctuate his speech. He says, "This island is going to blow apart." His head snaps back then instantly returns to neutral position.
"When?" I ask. I almost don't want to make him keep suffering the jarring ticks as he recalls his vision. But he speaks with cool, convinced clarity and seems eager to reveal the details.
"Very soon," Renzo says. As he expounds on the catastrophe, I realize he is not alluding to a major eruption of Kilauea, which still oozes red hot lava here on the Big Island, turning the seawater to steam. Having entombed the village of Kalapana in 1986, it continues to swallow city-size chunks of land.
Renzo's certitude about this macro event, which we're on the brink of, is compelling. When he's not seizing up, despite his sixty-some years, he has the charming demeanor of a schoolboy. I'm not sure—is he possessed or prophet? But I'm curious.
Possessed seems more likely as Renzo divulges such details as "the hot lava will react with saltwater to create a sort of nuclear bomb, the water will move faster than the speed of light, and the entire western United States will be inundated." (Should I move from my home in California?)
The conflagration-cum-deluge takes place over a period of nine days, Renzo specifies. I flash on the significance of "number nine." The Beatles' "Revolution" song comes to mind. (Nine was John Lennon's birth date and a sound that he found funny when repeated.) That 1968 song and Renzo's long hair remind me I'm in a tropical tie-dyed paradise of hippies, young and old, growing weed in nearby Pahoa, walking around with last-gasp roaches clinging to lips, and living off the grid.
"I have to ask, Renzo," I say, "were you on drugs?"
No, he assures me, he was not. He says, "I was crying a lot and praying for my children when the visions began." He says he has told his neighbors not to worry when they hear him screaming, another involuntary reaction. Renzo's friend adds matter-of-factly, "electricity is going to go away," and Renzo adds something about a photon belt. Just before I swim off, he says, "Those whose reality is only what comes through their five senses will suffer most from the cataclysm."
Books from the Author: