The Wild Hunt
November 17, 1979
Werner Zurfluh

editing and proofreading by Forrest Freis
e-mail: Homepage Glossar (in German)

November 17, 1979 / 02:00
... Alone and with no fixed route, I am hiking somewhere in North Africa in the manner of an old style globetrotter - being conscious about the fact, that my physical body lies sleeping in bed at home. Time is unimportant because I have no obligations or responsibilities. Completely free and independent, I am fully alive in the here and now and in total harmony with my surroundings and with the situation in which I find myself. Having journeyed for quite some time in the area, I know it well and have developed a friendly and natural rapport with the native population. Thus, I travel with the ease and comfort born of experience.

In a small Arab village where crowds of people bustle through narrow alleys that run between low white buildings of flat construction, I meet two Europeans. I immediately recognize them as followers of a woman who has recently established a type of Ashram in this part of the desert and who now jealously controls her paying, faithful, and blindly obedient followers like a flock of sheep. I quickly learn, in the course of my conversation with these Europeans, that they have been instructed to bring me to their leader. They insist that I must accompany them, and I gladly accept their invitation, as I happen to be in need of a place to stay the night.

In the Ashram, the master is introduced to me. She is a lady between 55 and 60 years old, relatively small grown, dynamic in the appearance and somehow tyrannic. Very soon it becomes clear, that she dominates her apprentices and tolerates no objection. However, I do no hide, that I will leave the Ashram in the morning to continue my quest. But this intention is not convenient for her at all, because own decisions are undesirable. Furthermore she thinks, that I must remain.

I agree to remain at the Ashram for awhile. Yet, after I have stayed for some time, I once again prepare for my departure. Expecting resistance, I am careful to conceal my plan, but my intention finally becomes known. This creates upheaval in the Ashram. The leader's power is shaken in all the chaos and threatens to shatter completely, simply because I wish to remove myself from the sphere of her influence without her consent. A vehement confrontation occurs in which the leader, weakened considerably by the skirmish, nearly suffers a heart attack, and an open enmity among her followers results from my decision to leave.

Amid the chaos arising from my decision to depart, I am able to slip away relatively unnoticed. The followers of this "great master" claim to be on the path of higher knowledge, but their behavior has proven quite the contrary. Their pretension to enlightenment seems dangerous to me because it is combined with an immense and growing hunger for power. Whoever leaves the group without the leader's approval commits an inexcusable act, a shameless crime in the eyes of the leader and those loyal to her ...

Soon I am at the edge of the desert, out of sight of the Ashram, and I must consider further action. The master and her followers will now surely leave me alone. They know nothing about how to survive in the desert, which is but a waste-land for them, and furthermore, they have no knowledge of my plans.

At a marketplace outside the village, I buy a dromedary from a nomad. After some haggling we arrive at an appropriate price: less than 3000 of a currency too strangely named to be remembered, although at the time I knew it and could also speak the language of the natives fluently.)

I mount the camel and set out on one of the many caravan trails that stretch in all directions from this place. I notice that a small caravan is leaving the oasis. Since it is headed in the direction I wish to travel, I join it. To travel alone would be imprudent under the circumstances, as I cannot be sure that the members of the Ashram will not pursue me, the leader having shown herself to be neither especially tolerant nor given to self- restraint. She has also proven vindictive and stubborn in her refusal to admit that there are people over whom she has no power. Being able to rely on a very good animal that can withstand the rigors of the journey to come calms me somewhat, allaying some of my concerns

With great astonishment, I notice a heightened precision of detail in the things around me: the sand-colored dunes, the clear dome of heaven, the manufacturer's stamp on my beast's bridle, the pale color of the creature's fur, the saliva dripping from its mouth, the heavy odor of the animal, the way it walks and snorts. Everything around me is unique to the desert. There are no incongruities. I AM in the desert - even if my physical body lies in bed at home.

Another phenomenon is remarkable. Often (during an experience of this kind that takes place outside the confines of the physical body) it seems to me that my perception is limited to one sense: for example, to sight, hearing, or the sense of smell alone, to the exclusion of the other senses. I lack somehow the body-feeling in its totality. I look at the world in an unaccustomed way, as if through eyes that are foreign, not my own. Because of this sensory limitation, much escapes my perception. In these situations, something is missing, giving me an incomplete and imperfect picture. Yet enough perceptual elements are present to give a clear understanding of the situation. Indeed, this condition alternates with another, in which I perceive ALL bodily sensations, making my instinctive grasp of the situation immediate and complete. Sometimes, when I am in a situation which is totally at odds with my everyday life, I am surpised at the coherence of the event - but I do not over- analyze it.

After riding for about an hour through the desert we stop short unexpectedly. I dismount and stand at the edge of the caravan trail. Sand flows around my feet and is whipped up in great whirls by the wind and carried away. I wear the loose clothing and headgear customary in the desert, so that I am indistinguishable from the other riders. This nomadic disguise is further protection against discovery by my pursuers.

In order to pass the time, I walk around a bit. And then, walking back to the trail's edge once again, I notice a cloud of dust approaching our resting place at a tremendous speed. The pace is really uncanny! Within barely a minute, a rider may be seen within the cloud. He is riding a black racing dromedary and is accompanied by three or four additional animals. I speculate that these others must be reserve or pack animals, yet their purpose is not clear. Thinking that perhaps I may negotiate with the rider the price of an animal, I step onto the path, calling out to him loudly, "I offer 4000...for such an animal!" That is an enormously high price, but a racing camel would be worth it. And my offer is so good that the wild rider will not likely refuse it.

Excited by the approach of the rider, the other travellers rush over. Such an event here in the desert is most unusual. Even more peculiar - bizarre in fact - is the silence. Despite the frenzied pace of the rider, no sound can be heard. Everyone watching looks stunned. But the face of the mysterious rider, who appears to be a warrior, stares stubbornly straight ahead. He appears not to notice us at all and seems distant from earthly concerns, caring about nothing and nobody. If someone had been standing in his path, he doubtlessly would have been pushed aside or relentlessly overrun!

I see with astonishment and fear that behind the warrior, at a distance of about 200 meters, a dark mass is moving. As it nears, I realize that it is an army of riders, their mounts the black to dark metal-grey of the most noble and precious breed - the fastest, best, and most enduring racing dromedaries. There are hundreds of the animals, all, without exception, black to steel-grey. No one among us has ever seen anything like this. Here an army of immeasurable power and unbelievable wealth rages through the desert. I am overcome by naked fear, pure horror, and the other travellers of our caravan appear to be equally terrified, as far as I can see amid the whirling torrents of sand and dust.

Absolutely miraculous! This must be the fabled sultan! His legendary army is rarely seen but is said to ride on the hunt in the desert with a herd of the most valuable dromedaries. Yet where they ride no sound is heard - or is it that the roar of their passage is so great that it is deafening?

I throw myself to the ground on the edge of the trail and bury my face under my arms, making myself as small as possible to avoid detection. It would be unthinkable if someone in the army noticed me. And to think that I had dared address the lead rider in an attempt to purchase his camel! Insanity! This alone would have been reason a thousand times over to kill me.

The army roars along and passes away, its power and strength directly palpable to all who watch in amazement. For a time, I dare not look up for fear that I might see something forbidden. The sovereign could be accompanied by his daughter. In which case, I would catch the merest glimpse of a princess before being cut down by the warriors' blows!

Though the moment seems endless, the Wild Hunt passes at an incredible pace, its rows finally thinning out. After the rearguard has passed, I dare to look up at the caravan trail. The main body of the army is disappearing on the horizon to the right. Yet now and then a single black camel runs by, loaded with a small tent. Sometimes a black figure may be seen, staring straight ahead without a glance to either side.

The insane thing about the whole experience is that, because of the army's outrageous speed, a kind of dust-free tunnel forms in its wake, so that no one in the caravan has any difficulty with the sand. All can breathe and ride in completely clean air, while outside the tunnel storms of sand and stones whirl violently. I perceive some of this, but in this case, my perception is closer to sensing or intuiting. The impression of the uncanny is reinforced by this phenomenon of the tunnel.

Finally the last of the dromedaries run past carrying rather large tents. A woman peers out of one of these. Her gaze by chance falls on a man lying in a confused state at the trail's border - namely on me. The woman is quite pretty, though of no outstandiing beauty. She seems to be an unimportant servant who, perhaps, is resting from her duties.

As soon as this woman spots me, she gives orders to stop. Then she orders that I be brought to her. This is a completely mad event, because at her word the entire convoy stops instantly all the way up to the foremost rider. I have barely recovered from my astonishment and terror at being noticed, when I am grasped and born on either side by two powerful black-robed warriors, their faces ominously hidden from view. They carry me directly to the woman and hurl me up into her tent, the sides of which have been drawn up, allowing the passenger to look out. This is the reason the woman was able to see me.

I am only too aware that any resistance on my part would mean instant death, so I do not attempt to escape. Having surrendered control of my body to these strangers, I realize that the army has begun to move forward. The mysterious woman is gone, and I find myself crouched on a camel in a spacious tent. Surveying my surroundings, I feel like a slave who has had no time to prepare for the dramatic turn his life has taken.

An immeasurable row of riders sweeps forward. Tents sway back and forth, and dust wells up in great walls to the left and to the right. Behind the Wild Hunt is an inferno sand and stones. Anything in the army's path is obliterated. Entire villages appear to collapse, flattened by the raging army, yet people hardly seem to be harmed. They run hither and thither, frantically trying to escape, driven by the fiendish powers unleashed by the Hunt. From my position I am able to watch in perfect safety everything that happens. I note that already we have passed another desert village.

Where will this wild ride end? Presumably at a fabled city in the Mediterranean. but what will happen to me then? And the woman - what does she want from me? Does she need a man? I have no illusions that the answer to this riddle might be that simple. Inwardly I prepare myself for experiences beyond my wildest dreams.

My attention is drawn once again to the tunnel of air so strangely free of dust. This stunning phenomenon, caused by the great speed at which we travel, allows the riders to look straight forward, their vision unimpaired by sand and dust. I am also aware that I am probably the only mortal in this group. I cannot help but wonder what my fellow travellers back in the caravan will say about my disappearance. They must have witnessed my abduction. What legends might they tell their grandchildren one day?


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