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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    NANNY RIMA AND THE TANGATA PIRO by Craig Young
    August 7, 2013  Short stories   Tags:   

    Up in Northland, the Nga Puhi iwi hold sway. It was, and still is, an area of breathtaking natural beauty and nearly continuous indigenous Maori settlement.

    When Auckland fell during the early stages of the Zombie War, the marae up that way embraced their returning kinfolk with open arms and used their own intimate knowledge of the land that they had cherished, and which had nurtured and supported them for generations, against new intruders- tangata piro (“rotten people”), or zombies.

    The traps set were humble, simple but effective, honed by years of scrapping with central government over alienated Maori land and property. Nets were woven, tripwires were secured, sticks were sharpened to use as spears once more, and knife blades affixed to their ends to give them advantages in hand to hand combat. There were other unwelcome surprises for tangata piro if they came calling. Lacking awareness, caution and reasoning, zombies easily blundered into them and were promptly dealt with.  In fact, that seemed to be a staple of indigenous communities that survived the Zombie War- most of those who had retained core cultural values and control over their own destiny successfully and effectively fought back, not only in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

    Not every Zombie War story has to involve a fierce and determined warrior. For example, if someone met Nanny Rima Korowhai, they’d have seen an elderly Maori woman who tended to her marae’s livestock and vegetable plots, happy telling stories to her mokopuna (grandchildren). Yet, this unassuming, tenderhearted character was a hero, many times over. She just didn’t talk about it all that much.

    One story from her time there may help to demonstrate this. One afternoon, Nanny had almost finished reading a Terry Pratchett story to the moko, when the distant alarm bell rang down the valley. Nanny tutted to herself, put away her knitting, and called to her elder moko:

    “Irihapeti, Eruera, you get the wee ones onto the bus and up to the main marae an’ tell the men an’ ladies up there we got piro trouble.’

    “Nanny, will you be okay?” Iri asked, a quaver in her voice. Nanny Rima embraced her favourite grand-daughter and whispered:

    “I seen off worse’n this, Iri love. Don’t you worry about me. This marae been here for hundreds of years an’ I’m not about to let those piro ruin what all of us here worked for all those years. They need you, e hine. You strong, smart an’ brave, and so is Eru.”

     

    With reluctance, Iri kissed her Nanny goodbye and let her go, as she and her cousin Eruera marshalled and strongarmed the other mokopuna onto the trusty if rusty and groaning marae methane-fuelled bus. With its usual backfiring hiss and roar, the venerable old vehicle started up and rattled and complained down the road. Arms around two of her youngest cousins, Iri looked back at the rapidly diminishing form of the old lady as she waved at them from the dusty backroad.

     

    Nanny read the signs of the whenua (land) down the valley and used her binoculars, a keepsake from her time as a Vietnam War nurse almost half a century ago now. There were flocks of small animals and birds fleeing from a particular area within the forest. Up at the marae, she nodded to herself:

    “That’s right, you stupid piro. You all walk toward those bells and see what happens. Me, I got better things to do.”

     

    Altogether, there were about fifteen of the zombies, cadaverously thin through lack of human flesh now, and if they had still possessed any reasoning or human motivation, some might have called them desperate. They were oblivious to what was about to befall them amidst the deceptively calm and sedate grandeur of the Northland forest. Nanny Rima was a determined old woman. She’d survived the Vietnam War, seen off government land grabbers and gangs trying to corrupt the young ones with drugs, and, sadly, pakeha raider gangs who had tried to seize the marae and its surrounding land for its food. But at least those ones had a brain, not like these piro. Oh, she knew it probably wasn’t nice to call them “rotten people” in the reo, but Anika up at Waitangamoa was right- they did stink!

     

    Watching from a hill above them, after negotiating a flying fox jump, she saw three of the piro stumble across her concealed stake pit, oblivious to the signs of piled vegetation that might have alerted a more wary and cautious intruder. The greenery collapsed into the pit, impaling them on the densely packed wooden spikes below. Avoiding the harsh and guttural cries of their fellows, two others roared their rage and fury at the slender elderly woman on the hill, as she waved and caught their attention, across the jerry-rigged wooden stepbridge.

     

    The piro knew nothing of written language, whether English or te reo Maori or Cantonese or Hindi, so they staggered past the signs that would have warned them about the hazards ahead. But of course, Nanny had intended that when she supervised the construction of this, and other bridges, throughout the marae and the rivers and canyons threaded through it.

     

    The bridge swayed menacingly as the piro crossed it, heedless of their impending fate. Rotted and preweakened wood began to groan, crack and splinter beneath their heavy footfalls, but still, they continued on, intent only on reaching the frantically motioning, cunning old woman at the other end. The inevitable happened and the wood collapsed altogether, sending the piro spiralling down to the sharpened rocks below, and another two headhits.

     

    And so it went on, throughout the afternoon. Two fell to prepositioned rocks that crushed and immobilised them, so she could spear them in the head. All that fishing for kai moana (sea food) for the marae placed her in good stead. Three more perished when they crossed a tripwire unaware and triggered a booby-trapped wood alcohol keg, with a lit fuse and resultant explosion that could be heard for kilometres around.

     

    The remaining five lurched up the road, aware that their companions had vanished around them, and Nanny dialled Waitangamoa up the road:

    “Marama? The piro are on the move. Could you tell Shirley and Hemi to get that rig of theirs on the road? You know, the big one with the bulldozer fitting and the blades on it? They’re headed your way. Yeah, scared them off. Get the men an’ ladies back out to do clean up an’ get rid of ’em.”

     

    With the threat removed, Nanny Rima went along the course of her obstacle route, checking that all of the piro were dealt with, and disposing of the one or two that were not with a large carving knife to the head. Thankfully, there were no Maori amongst them this time. Reclaimed former Maori piro were a different matter. If possible, it could be arranged that their iwi could be identified and they could be returned to their ancestral lands for burial. If that wasn’t possible, they were buried, with all due ceremony and recognition, in the marae’s cemetery out the back.

     

    And finally, there was a satisfying crunch up the road. She rolled up her sleeves, walked back to the marae and got down to the real work of the day, namely preparing meat and veggies for her horde of hungry mokopuna. When the bus rolled up, the moko and their parents returned to the marae for a good meal, and Nanny Rima finally finished reading her Terry Pratchett bedtime story to her grandchildren, before tucking them into bed and kissing them goodnight.

     

    When the official envelope arrived a month later, Nanny Piro was bewildered to find that she’d been awarded the Order of New Zealand honour for the day’s work: “Who, me? But all I am is an old lady who looks after her moko and tends to the cattle and veggies here. I’m not a warrior.”

     

    Except warriors can come in different shapes and sizes, sometimes deceptively so.

     

    THE END

    19 Comments

    1. And the meek shall inherit the earth. Great story!

      Comment by Lightheart on August 7, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    2. Those Nga Puhi women are pretty tough and resource full , I should know, I married one!! cool story bro

      Comment by mean maori mean on August 7, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

    3. Like it! I like intertwining the culture smoothly.

      Comment by JamesAbel on August 7, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    4. Great story as usual!!

      Comment by Luke on August 7, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

    5. A warm and light, breezy return to the original Tales of World War Z format.
      Thanks for the share!

      Comment by bong on August 7, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

    6. Nicely done.

      Comment by Terry on August 7, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

    7. I didn’t think a story about killing zombies could be so gentle … I loved it.

      Comment by Jasmine DiAngelo on August 8, 2013 @ 1:40 am

    8. Two thumbs up!

      Comment by John the Piper's Son on August 8, 2013 @ 3:08 am

    9. A true kiwi survival story, I love how you wove NZ history, traditional Maiori and European culture into a tale of survival. I have often thought traditional Marae with the fortified walls, pits, and safe zones combined with tribal Iwi structures would be an advantage in the Z war, but could never have imagined how it would come together. You have captured a future Aotearoa and a new reborn Northland that is a better future than the current reality. Empowered indigenous communities thriving in a post apocalyptic world. Simply brilliant Craig.

      Comment by Craig on August 8, 2013 @ 3:16 am

    10. Loved it.

      Comment by Gunldesnapper on August 8, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    11. So, here’s a challenge for any US, Canadian and Australian readers out there. How would your country’s indigenous people respond to a zombie apocalypse? Would they have a tactical advantage, given that they have an intimate knowledge of the terrain that they’ve lived on for generations, as well as a strong incentive to resist this latest threatened incursion against it?

      Story ideas, anyone?

      Comment by Craig Y on August 8, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    12. That’s an awesome challenge, Craig Y. I currently live in the Cherokee Nation capital (in Oklahoma) and this thought intrigues me. I think I’ll have to look into it.

      Comment by JamesAbel on August 8, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

    13. I’m amazed Craig Y at how you manage to be so prolific. You must constantly be looking off to the distance with the ‘I wonder’ face. And then you write it all down and share it with us. Thanks.

      Comment by Justin Dunne on August 8, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    14. It’s hard to say, Craig. Not to point out semantics of the question (no one person can live for generations unless they’re undead:) ), but I don’t think any one group would have an advantage over any other, even if the land on which they live was passed down unadulterated for generations. Survival would be based as it always has: luck of the draw, and where you are when it happens. As far as stories go, I’ll see what I can churn out tonite and chuck over the fence to poor Pete. Lots of guns, and lots of descriptions of guns forthcoming! Great read, btw. You really do have a knack for laying down history, then focusing in on the characters.

      Comment by John Kelly on August 8, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

    15. I’d really look forward to reading it, James. Might be worth doing some background research into Cherokee history and traditions.

      And John, you do raise a good point about tactical advantage and luck of the draw. However, one lesson of guerilla warfare, I believe, is that if you know the terrain intimately, it pays dividends in long term defensive strategy, not to mention morale.

      Comment by Craig Y on August 9, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

    16. THIS BLEW ME AWAY!!!
      Well, I feel stupid. I asked for it and you delivered in spades. What an original concept and well delivered. This was not only one of the most original pieces I have read, but also thought provoking. Really, I have an affinity for “Tribal indigenous peoples surviving and even thriving in a place out of time with what we normally connect them with. I’m a huge fan of Mike Resnick, and He has an entire universe based on mankind taking over the stars and basically doing to the Aliens that we come across what white Europeans did to Africa during the Colonial period. If you like this story, I would highly encourage anyone to read Mike Resnick’s works. Most are out of print now, so used bookstores! Anyway, I loved it Craig, I am only comparing it to Resnick because I thought it was that good. It makes me want to pull out Kirinyaga or Ivory. And the Ultimate trilogy of it’s kind, Paradise, Purgatory and Inferno, 3 planets that are allegories of African countries. The first book, Paradise is an alagory for history of the Republic of Kenya. Purgatory is about Karimon, An alien aligory for Zimbabwe, and Inferno deals with Falligor which is Uganda basically showing how interference by outsiders can lead to the corruption of the tribal norm. Inferno climaxes in a history mirroring the rise and rule of Idi Amin.
      Here he is using Scifi in a possible future to teach us lessons about our past.
      Your stories give me a feeling similar to the works of Resnick. Before your stories, I knew nothing about the Maiori, and even though this is a work of fiction, I feel like you have captured some aspect of their lives and outlook on things. Using fiction to teach truth is a very engaging and interesting way to learn.

      Comment by Dennis on August 11, 2013 @ 1:09 am

    17. Well, even today Maori make up the backbone of our armed forces and the valour and courage of the World War II Maori Battalion is legendary in New Zealand. And there wouldn’t be a worldbeater All Black rugby union team without its Maori component.

      It’s good to see this one get such a positive reception. Again, I’m really interested to see how other writers might handle the indigenous resistance to the zombie apocalypse angle. Or, for that matter, how the Appalachians and hardscrabble areas in Europe or North America might fare.

      Comment by Craig Y on August 11, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

    18. Finally a story that doesn’t involve a single crazed warrior weighed down with guns and testosterone attacking the undead on their own term. Loved it.

      Comment by Matt W. on August 14, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    19. Never underestimate the determination of a resolute grandmother dedicated to the welfare of her grandchildren!

      Comment by Craig Y on August 14, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

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