Darkness had descended very quickly, and the foliage of the trees that
had been glowing green a little while before was now very dark and heavy.
Don Juan said that if I paid close attention to the darkness of the foliage
without focusing my eyes, but sort of looked at it from the corner of my eye,
I would see a fleeting shadow crossing my field of vision.
"This is the appropriate time of day for doing what I am asking you to
do," he said. "It takes a moment to engage the necessary attention in you to
do it. Don't stop until you catch that fleeting black shadow."
I did see some strange fleeting black shadow projected on the foliage
of the trees. It was either one shadow going back and forth or various
fleeting shadows moving from left to right or right to left or straight up in
the air. They looked like fat black fish to me, enormous fish. It was as if
gigantic swordfish were flying in the air. I was engrossed in the sight. Then,
finally, it scared me. It became too dark to see the foliage, yet I could still
see the fleeting black shadows.
"What is it, don Juan?" I asked. "I see fleeting black shadows all over
"Ah, that's the universe at large," he said, "incommensurable,
nonlinear, outside the realm of syntax. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico were
the first ones to see those fleeting shadows, so they followed them around.
They saw them as you're seeing them, and they saw them as energy that
flows in the universe. And they did discover something transcendental."
He stopped talking and looked at me. His pauses were perfectly
placed. He always stopped talking when I was hanging by a thread.
"What did they discover, don Juan?" I asked.
"They discovered that we have a companion for life," he said, as
clearly as he could. "We have a predator that came from the depths of the
cosmos and took over the rule of our lives. Human beings are its prisoners.
The predator is our lord and master. It has rendered us docile, helpless. If we
want to protest, it suppresses our protest. If we want to act independently, it
demands that we don't do so."
It was very dark around us, and that seemed to curtail any expression
on my part. If it had been daylight, I would have laughed my head off. In the
dark, I felt quite inhibited.
"It's pitch black around us," don Juan said, "but if you look out of the
corner of your eye, you will still see fleeting shadows jumping all around
He was right. I could still see them. Their movement made me dizzy.
Don Juan turned on the light, and that seemed to dissipate everything.
"You have arrived, by your effort alone, to what the shamans of
ancient Mexico called the topic of topics," don Juan said. "I have been
beating around the bush all this time, insinuating to you that something is
holding us prisoner. Indeed we are held prisoner! This was an energetic fact
for the sorcerers of ancient Mexico."
"Why has this predator taken over in the fashion that you're
describing, don Juan?" I asked. "There must be a logical explanation."
"There is an explanation," don Juan replied, "which is the simplest
explanation in the world. They took over because we are food for them, and
they squeeze us mercilessly because we are their sustenance. Just as we rear
chickens in chicken coops, gallineros, the predators rear us in human coops,
humaneros. Therefore, their food is always available to them."
I felt that my head was shaking violently from side to side. I could not
express my profound sense of unease and discontentment, but my body
moved to bring it to the surface. I shook from head to toe without any
volition on my part.
"No, no, no, no," I heard myself saying. "This is absurd, don Juan.
What you're saying is something monstrous. It simply can't be true, for
sorcerers or for average men, or for anyone."
"Why not?" don Juan asked calmly. "Why not? Because it infuriates
"Yes, it infuriates me," I retorted. "Those claims are monstrous!"
"Well," he said, "you haven't heard all the claims yet. Wait a bit
longer and see how you feel. I'm going to subject you to a blitz. That is, I'm
going to subject your mind to tremendous onslaughts, and you cannot get up
and leave because you're caught. Not because I'm holding you prisoner, but
because something in you will prevent you from leaving, while another part
of you is going to go truthfully berserk. So brace yourself!"
There was something in me which was, I felt, a glutton for punishment.
He was right. I wouldn't have left the house for the world. And yet I
didn't like one bit the inanities he was spouting.
"I want to appeal to your analytical mind," don Juan said. Think for a
moment, and tell me how you would explain the contradiction between the
intelligence of man the engineer and the stupidity of his systems of beliefs,
or the stupidity of his contradictory behavior. Sorcerers believe that the
predators have given us our systems of beliefs, our ideas of good and evil,
our social mores. They are the ones who set up our hopes and expectations
and dreams of success or failure. They have given us covetousness, greed,
and cowardice. It is the predators who make us complacent, routinary, and
"But how can they do this, don Juan?" I asked, somehow angered
further by what he was saying. "Do they whisper all that in our ears while
we are asleep?"
"No, they don't do it that way. That's idiotic!" don Juan said, smiling.
"They are infinitely more efficient and organized than that. In order to keep
us obedient and meek and weak, the predators engaged themselves in a
stupendous maneuver-stupendous, of course, from the point of view of a
fighting strategist. A horrendous maneuver from the point of view of those
who suffer it. They gave us their mind! Do you hear me? The predators give
us their mind, which becomes our mind. The predators' mind is baroque,
contradictory, morose, filled with the fear of being discovered any minute
"I know that even though you have never suffered hunger," he went
on, "you have food anxiety, which is none other than the anxiety of the
predator who fears that any moment now its maneuver is going to be
uncovered and food is going to be denied. Through the mind, which, after
all, is their mind, the predators inject into the lives of human beings
whatever is convenient for them. And they ensure, in this manner, a degree
of security to act as a buffer against their fear."
"It's not that I can't accept all this at face value, don Juan," I said. "I
could, but there's something so odious about it that it actually repels me. It
forces me to take a contradictory stand. If it's true that they eat us, how do
they do it?"
Don Juan had a broad smile on his face. He was as pleased as punch.
He explained that sorcerers see infant human beings as strange, luminous
balls of energy, covered from the top to the bottom with a glowing coat,
something like a plastic cover that is adjusted tightly over their cocoon of
energy. He said that that glowing coat of awareness was what the predators
consumed, and that when a human being reached adulthood, all that was left
of that glowing coat of awareness was a narrow fringe that went from the
ground to the top of the toes. That fringe permitted mankind to continue
living, but only barely.
As if I had been in a dream, I heard don Juan Matus explaining that to
his knowledge, man was the only species that had the glowing coat of
awareness outside that luminous cocoon. Therefore, he became easy prey for
an awareness of a different order, such as the heavy awareness of the
He then made the most damaging statement he had made so far. He
said that this narrow fringe of awareness was the epicenter of self-reflection,
where man was irremediably caught. By playing on our self-reflection,
which is the only point of awareness left to us, the predators create flares of
awareness that they proceed to consume in a ruthless, predatory fashion.
They give us inane problems that force those flares of awareness to rise, and
in this manner they keep us alive in order for them to be fed with the
energetic flare of our pseudoconcerns.
There must have been something to what don Juan was saying, which
was so devastating to me that at that point I actually got sick to my stomach.
After a moment's pause, long enough for me to recover, I asked don
Juan: "But why is it that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico and all sorcerers
today, although they see the predators, don't do anything about it?"
"There's nothing that you and I can do about it," don Juan said in a
grave, sad voice. "All we can do is discipline ourselves to the point where
they will not touch us. How can you ask your fellow men to go through
those rigors of discipline? They'll laugh and make fun of you, and the more
aggressive ones will beat the shit out of you. And not so much because they
don't believe it. Down in the depths of every human being, there's an
ancestral, visceral knowledge about the predators' existence."
My analytical mind swung back and forth like a yo-yo. It left me and
came back and left me and came back again. Whatever don Juan was
proposing was preposterous, incredible. At the same time, it was a most
reasonable thing, so simple. It explained every kind of human contradiction I
could think of. But how could one have taken all this seriously? Don Juan
was pushing me into the path of an avalanche that would take me down
I felt another wave of a threatening sensation. The wave didn't stem
from me, yet it was attached to me. Don Juan was doing something to me,
mysteriously positive and terribly negative at the same time. I sensed it as an
attempt to cut a thin film that seemed to be glued to me. His eyes were fixed
on mine in an unblinking stare. He moved his eyes away and began to talk
without looking at me anymore.
"Whenever doubts plague you to a dangerous point," he said, "do
something pragmatic about it. Turn off the light. Pierce the darkness; find
out what you can see."
He got up to turn off the lights. I stopped him.
"No, no, don Juan," I said, "don't turn off the lights. I'm doing okay."
What I felt then was a most unusual, for me, fear of the darkness. The
mere thought of it made me pant. I definitely knew something viscerally, but
I wouldn't dare touch it, or bring it to the surface, not in a million years!
"You saw the fleeting shadows against the trees," don Juan said,
sitting back against his chair. "That's pretty good. I'd like you to see them
inside this room. You're not seeing anything. You're just merely catching
fleeting images. You have enough energy for that.
I feared that don Juan would get up anyway and turn off the lights,
which he did. Two seconds later, I was screaming my head off. Not only did
I catch a glimpse of those fleeting images, I heard them buzzing by my ears.
Don Juan doubled up with laughter as he turned on the lights.
"What a temperamental fellow!" he said. "A total disbeliever, on the
one hand, and a total pragmatist on the other. You must arrange this internal
fight. Otherwise, you're going to swell up like a big toad and burst."
Don Juan kept on pushing his barb deeper and deeper into me. "The
sorcerers of ancient Mexico," he said, "saw; the predator. They called it the
flyer because it leaps through the air. It is not a pretty sight. It is a big
shadow, impenetrably dark, a black shadow that jumps through the air.
Then, it lands flat on the ground. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico were quite
ill at ease with the idea of when it made its appearance on Earth. They
reasoned that man must have been a complete being at one point, with
stupendous insights, feats of awareness that are mythological legends nowadays.
And then everything seems to disappear, and we have now a sedated
I wanted to get angry, call him a paranoiac, but somehow the
righteousness that was usually just underneath the surface of my being
wasn't there. Something in me was beyond the point of asking myself my
favorite question: What if all that he said is true? At the moment he was
talking to me that night, in my heart of hearts, I felt that all of what he was
saying was true, but at the same time, and with equal force, all that he was
saying was absurdity itself.
"What are you saying, don Juan?" I asked feebly. My throat was
constricted. I could hardly breathe.
"What I'm saying is that what we have against us is not a simple
predator. It is very smart, and organized. It follows a methodical system to
render us useless. Man, the magical being that he is destined to be, is no
longer magical. He's an average piece of meat. There are no more dreams for
man but the dreams of an animal who is being raised to become a piece of
meat: trite, conventional, imbecilic."
Don Juan's words were eliciting a strange, bodily reaction in me
comparable to the sensation of nausea. It was as if I were going to get sick to
my stomach again. But the nausea was coming from
the bottom of my being, from the marrow of my bones. I convulsed
involuntarily. Don Juan shook me by the shoulders forcefully. I felt my neck
wobbling back and forth under the impact of his grip. The maneuver calmed
me down at once. I felt more in control.
"This predator," don Juan said, "which, of course, is an inorganic
being, is not altogether invisible to us, as other inorganic beings are. 1 think
as children we do see it and decide it's so horrific that we don't want to think
about it. Children, of course, could insist on focusing on the sight, but
everybody else around them dissuades them from doing so.
"The only alternative left for mankind," he continued, "is discipline.
Discipline is the only deterrent. But by discipline I don't mean harsh
routines. I don't mean waking up every morning at five-thirty and throwing
cold water on yourself until you're blue. Sorcerers understand discipline as
the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our
expectations. For them, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without
flinching, not because they are strong and tough but because they are filled
"In what way would the sorcerers' discipline be a deterrent?" I asked.
"Sorcerers say that discipline makes the glowing coat of awareness
unpalatable to the flyer," don Juan said, scrutinizing my face as if to discover
any signs of disbelief. "The result is that the predators become bewildered.
An inedible glowing coat of awareness is not part of their cognition, I
suppose. After being bewildered, they don't have any recourse other than
refraining from continuing their nefarious task.
"If the predators don't eat our glowing coat of awareness for a while,"
he went on, "it'll keep on growing. Simplifying this matter to the extreme, I
can say that sorcerers, by means of their discipline, push the predators away
long enough to allow their glowing coat of awareness to grow beyond the
level of the toes. Once it goes beyond the level of the toes, it grows back to
its natural size.
The sorcerers of ancient Mexico used to say that the glowing coat of
awareness is like a tree. If it is not pruned, it grows to its natural size and
volume. As awareness reaches levels higher than the toes, tremendous
maneuvers of perception become a matter of course.
"The grand trick of those sorcerers of ancient times," don Juan
continued, "was to burden the flyers' mind with discipline. They found out
that if they taxed the flyers' mind with inner silence, the foreign installation
would flee, giving to any one of the practitioners involved in this maneuver
the total certainty of the mind's foreign origin. The foreign installation
comes back, I assure you, but not as strong, and a process begins in which
the fleeing of the 'flyers' mind becomes routine, until one day it flees
permanently. A sad day indeed! That's the day when you have to rely on
your own devices, which are nearly zero. There's no one to tell you what to
do. There's no mind of foreign origin to dictate the imbecilities you're
"My teacher, the nagual Julian, used to warn all his disciples," don
Juan continued, "that this was the toughest day in a sorcerer's life, for the
real mind that belongs to us, the sum total of our experience, after a lifetime
of domination has been rendered shy, insecure, and shifty. Personally, 1
would say that the real battle of sorcerers begins at that moment. The rest is
I became genuinely agitated. I wanted to know more, and yet a
strange feeling in me clamored for me to stop. It alluded to dark results and
punishment, something like the wrath of God descending on me for
tampering with something veiled by God himself. 1 made a supreme effort
to allow my curiosity to win.
"What-what-what do you mean," I heard myself say, "by taxing the
"Discipline taxes the foreign mind no end," he replied. "So, through
their discipline, sorcerers vanquish the foreign installation."
I was overwhelmed by his statements. I believed that don Juan was
either certifiably insane or that he was telling me something so awesome that
it froze everything in me. I noticed, however how quickly I rallied my
energy to deny everything he had said. After an instant of panic, I began to
laugh, as if don Juan had told me a joke. I even heard myself saying, "Don
Juan, don Juan, you're incorrigible!"
Don Juan seemed to understand everything I was experiencing. He
shook his head from side to side and raised his eyes to the heavens in a
gesture of mock despair.
"I am so incorrigible," he said, "that I am going to give the flyers'
mind, which you carry inside you, one more jolt. I am going to reveal to you
one of the most extraordinary secrets of sorcery. I am going to describe to
you a finding that took sorcerers thousands of years to verify and
He looked at me and smiled maliciously. "The flyers' mind flees
forever," he said, "when a sorcerer succeeds in grabbing on to the vibrating
force that holds us together as a conglomerate of energy fields. If a sorcerer
maintains that pressure long enough, the flyers' mind flees in defeat. And
that's exactly what you are going to do: hold on to the energy that binds you
I had the most inexplicable reaction I could have imagined.
Something in me actually shook, as if it had received a jolt. I entered into a
state of unwarranted fear, which I immediately associated with my religious
Don Juan looked at me from head to toe.
"You are fearing the wrath of God, aren't you?" he said. "Rest assured,
that's not your fear. It's the flyers' fear, because it knows that you will do
exactly as I'm telling you."
His words did not calm me at all. I felt worse. I was actually
convulsing involuntarily, and I had no means to stop it.
"Don't worry," don Juan said calmly. "I know for a fact that those
attacks wear off very quickly. The flyer's mind has no concentration
After a moment, everything stopped, as don Juan had predicted. To
say again that I was bewildered is a euphemism. This was the first time ever,
with don Juan or alone, in my life that I didn't know whether I was coming
or going. I wanted to get out of the chair and walk around, but I was deathly
afraid. I was filled with rational assertions, and at the same time I was filled
with an infantile fear. I began to breathe deeply as a cold perspiration
covered my entire body. I had somehow unleashed on myself a most
godawful sight: black, fleeting shadows jumping all around me, wherever I
I closed my eyes and rested my head on the arm of the stuffed chair.
"I don't know which way to turn, don Juan," I said. "Tonight, you have really
succeeded in getting me lost."
"You're being torn by an internal struggle," don Juan said. "Down in
the depths of you, you know that you are incapable of refusing the
agreement that an indispensable part of you, your glowing coat of
awareness, is going to serve as an incomprehensible source of nourishment
to, naturally, incomprehensible entities. And another part of you will stand
against this situation with all its might.
"The sorcerers' revolution," he continued, "is that they refuse to honor
agreements in which they did not participate. Nobody ever asked me if I
would consent to be eaten by beings of a different kind of awareness. My
parents just brought me into this world to be food, like themselves, and that's
the end of the story."
Don Juan stood up from his chair and stretched his arms and legs.
"We have been sitting here for hours. It's time to go into the house. I'm
gonna eat. Do you want to eat with me?"
I declined. My stomach was in an uproar.
"I think you'd better go to sleep," he said. "The blitz has devastated
I didn't need any further coaxing. I collapsed onto my bed and fell
asleep like the dead.
At home, as time went by, the idea of the flyers became one of the
main fixations of my life. I got to the point where I felt that don Juan was
absolutely right about them. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't discard
his logic. The more I thought about it, and the more I talked to and observed
myself and my fellow men, the more intense the conviction that something
was rendering us incapable of any activity or any interaction or any thought
that didn't have the self as its focal point. My concern, as well as the concern
of everyone I knew or talked to, was the self. Since I couldn't find any
explanation for such universal homogeneity, I believed that don Juan's line
of thought was the most appropriate way of elucidating the phenomenon.
I went as deeply as I could into readings about myths and legends. In
reading, I experienced something I had never felt before: Each of the books I
read was an interpretation of myths and legends. In each one of those books,
a homogeneous mind was palpable. The styles differed, but the drive behind
the words was homogeneously the same: Even though the theme was something
as abstract as myths and legends, the authors always managed to insert
statements about themselves. The homogeneous drive behind every one of
those books was not the stated theme of the book; instead, it was selfservice.
I had never felt this before.
I attributed my reaction to don Juan's influence. The unavoidable
question that I posed to myself was: Is he influencing me to see this, or is
there really a foreign mind dictating everything we do? I lapsed, perforce,
into denial again, and I went insanely from denial to acceptance to denial.
Something in me knew that whatever don Juan was driving at was an
energetic fact, but something equally important in me knew that all of that
was guff. The end result of my internal struggle was a sense of foreboding,
the sense of something imminently dangerous coming at me.
I made extensive anthropological inquiries into the subject of the
flyers in other cultures, but I couldn't find any references to them anywhere.
Don Juan seemed to be the only source of information about this matter. The
next time I saw him, I instantly jumped to talk about the flyers.
"I have tried my best to be rational about this subject matter," I said,
"but I can't. There are moments when I fully agree with you about the
"Focus your attention on the fleeting shadows that you actually see,"
don Juan said with a smile.
I told don Juan that those fleeting shadows were going to be the end of
my rational life. I saw them everywhere. Since I had left his house, I was
incapable of going to sleep in the dark. To sleep with the lights on did not
bother me at all. The moment I turned the lights off, however, everything
around me began to jump. I never saw complete figures or shapes. All I saw
were fleeting black shadows.
"The flyers' mind has not left you," don Juan said. "It has been
seriously injured. It's trying its best to rearrange its relationship with you.
But something in you is severed forever. The flyer knows that. The real
danger is that the flyers' mind may win by getting you tired and forcing you
to quit by playing the contradiction between what it says and what I say.
"You see, the flyers' mind has no competitors," don Juan continued.
"When it proposes something, it agrees with its own proposition, and it
makes you believe that you've done something of worth. The flyers' mind
will say to you that whatever Juan Matus is telling you is pure nonsense, and
then the same mind will agree with its own proposition, 'Yes, of course, it is
nonsense,' you will say. That's the way they overcome us.
"The flyers are an essential part of the universe," he went on, "and
they must be taken as what they really are-awesome, monstrous. They are
the means by which the universe tests us.
"We are energetic probes created by the universe," he continued as if
he were oblivious to my presence, "and it's because we are possessors of
energy that has awareness that we are the means by which the universe
becomes aware of itself. The flyers are the implacable challengers. They
cannot be taken as anything else. If we succeed in doing that, the universe
allows us to continue."
I wanted don Juan to say more. But he said only, "The blitz ended the
last time you were here; there's only so much you could say about the flyers.
It's time for another kind of maneuver."
I couldn't sleep that night. I fell into a light sleep in the early hours of
the morning, until don Juan dragged me out of my bed and took me for a
hike in the mountains. Where he lived, the configuration of the land was
very different from that of the Sonoran desert, but he told me not to indulge
in comparison that after walking for a quarter of a mile, every place in the
world was just the same.
"Sightseeing is for people in cars," he said. "They go at great speed
without any effort on their part. Sightseeing is not for walkers. For instance,
when you are riding in a car, you may see a gigantic mountain whose sight
overwhelms you with its beauty. The sight of the same mountain will not
overwhelm you in the same manner if you look at it while you're going on
foot; it will overwhelm you in a different way, especially if you have to
climb it or go around it."
It was very hot that morning. We walked on a dry riverbed. One thing
that this valley and the Sonoran desert had in common was their millions of
insects. The gnats and flies all around me were like dive-bombers that aimed
at my nostrils, eyes, and ears. Don Juan told me not to pay attention to their
"Don't try to disperse them with your hand," he uttered in a firm tone.
"Intend them away. Set up an energy barrier around you. Be silent, and from
your silence the barrier will be constructed. Nobody knows how this is done.
It is one of those things that the old sorcerers called energetic facts. Shut off
your internal dialogue. That's all it takes.
"I want to propose a weird idea to you," don Juan went on as he kept
walking ahead of me.
I had to accelerate my steps to be closer to him so as not to miss
anything he said.
"I have to stress that it's a weird idea that will find endless resistance
in you," he said. "I will tell you beforehand that you won't accept it easily.
But the fact that it's weird should not be a deterrent. You are a social
scientist. Therefore, your mind is always open to inquiry, isn't that so?"
Don Juan was shamelessly making fun of me. I knew it, but it
didn't bother me. Perhaps due to the fact that he was walking so fast,
and I had to make a tremendous effort to keep up with him, his sarcasm just
sloughed off me, and instead of making me feisty, it made me laugh. My
undivided attention was focused on what he was saying, and the insects
either stopped bothering me because I had intended a barrier of energy
around me or because I was so busy listening to don Juan that I didn't care
about their buzzing around me anymore.
"The weird idea," he said slowly, measuring the effect of his words,
"is that every human being on this earth seems to have exactly the same
reactions, the same thoughts, the same feelings. They seem to respond in
more or less the same way to the same stimuli. Those reactions seem to be
sort of fogged up by the language they speak, but if we scrape that off, they
are exactly the same reactions that besiege every human being on Earth. I
would like you to become curious about this, as a social scientist, of course,
and see if you could formally account for such homogeneity."
Don Juan collected a series of plants. Some of them could hardly be
seen. They seemed to be more in the realm of algae, moss. I held his bag
open, and we didn't speak anymore. When he had enough plants, he headed
back for his house, walking as fast as he could. He said that he wanted to
clean and separate those plants and put them in a proper order before they
dried up too much.
I was deeply involved in thinking about the task he had delineated for
me. I began by trying to review in my mind if I knew of any articles or
papers written on this subject. I thought that I would have to research it, and
I decided to begin my research by reading all the works available on
"national character." I got enthusiastic about the topic, in a haphazard way,
and I really wanted to start for home right away, for I wanted to take his task
to heart, but before we reached his house, don Juan sat down on a high ledge
overlooking the valley. He didn't say anything for a while. He was not out of
breath. I couldn't conceive of why he had stopped to sit down.
"The task of the day, for you," he said abruptly, in a foreboding tone,
"is one of the most mysterious things of sorcery, something that goes beyond
language, beyond explanations. We went for a hike today, we talked,
because the mystery of sorcery must be cushioned in the mundane. It must
stem from nothing, and go back again to nothing. That's the art of warriortravelers:
to go through the eye of a needle unnoticed. So, brace yourself by
propping your back against this rock wall, as far as possible from the edge. I
will be by you, in case you faint or fall down."
"What are you planning to do, don Juan?" I asked, and my alarm was
so patent that I noticed it and lowered my voice.
"I want you to cross your legs and enter into inner silence , " he said.
"Let's say that you want to find out what articles you could look for to
discredit or substantiate what I have asked you to do in your academic
milieu. Enter into inner silence, but don't fall asleep. This is not a journey
through the dark sea of awareness. This is seeing from inner silence."
It was rather difficult for me to enter into inner silence without falling
asleep. I fought a nearly invincible desire to fall asleep. I succeeded, and
found myself looking at the bottom of the valley from an impenetrable
darkness around me. And then, I saw something that chilled me to the
marrow of my bones. I saw a gigantic shadow, perhaps fifteen feet across,
leaping in the air and then landing with a silent thud. I felt the thud in my
bones, but I didn't hear it.
"They are really heavy," don Juan said in my ear. He was holding me
by the left arm, as hard as he could.
I saw; something that looked like a mud shadow wiggle on the
ground, and then take another gigantic leap, perhaps fifty feet long, and land
again, with the same ominous silent thud. I fought not to lose my
concentration. I was frightened beyond anything I could rationally use as a
description. I kept my eyes fixed on the jumping shadow on the bottom of
the valley. Then I heard a most peculiar buzzing, a mixture of the sound of
flapping wings and the buzzing of a radio whose dial has not quite picked up
the frequency of a radio station, and the thud that followed was something
unforgettable. It shook don Juan and me to the core-a gigantic black mud
shadow had just landed by our feet.
"Don't be frightened," don Juan said imperiously. "Keep your inner
silence and it will move away."
I was shivering from head to toe. I had the clear knowledge that if I
didn't keep my inner silence alive, the mud shadow would cover me up like
a blanket and suffocate me. Without losing the darkness around me, I
screamed at the top of my voice. Never had I been so angry, so utterly
frustrated. The mud shadow took another leap, clearly to the bottom of the
valley. I kept on screaming, shaking my legs. I wanted to shake off whatever
might come to eat me. My state of nervousness was so intense that I lost
track of time. Perhaps I fainted.
When I came to my senses, I was lying in my bed in don Juan's house.
There was a towel, soaked in icy-cold water, wrapped around my forehead. I
was burning with fever. One of don Juan's female cohorts rubbed my back,
chest, and forehead with rubbing alcohol, but this did not relieve me. The
heat I was experiencing came from within myself. It was wrath and
impotence that generated it.
Don Juan laughed as if what was happening to me was the funniest
thing in the world. Peals of laughter came out of him in an
"I would never have thought that you would take seeing a flyer so
much to heart," he said.
He took me by the hand and led me to the back of his house, where he
dunked me in a huge tub of water, fully clothed-shoes, watch, everything.
"My watch, my watch!" I screamed.
Don Juan twisted with laughter. "You shouldn't wear a watch when
you come to see me," he said. "Now you've fouled up your
I took off my watch and put it by the side of the tub. I remembered
that it was waterproof and that nothing would happen to it.
Being dunked in the tub helped me enormously. When don Juan
pulled me out of the freezing water, I had gained a degree of control.
"That sight is preposterous!" I kept on repeating, unable to say
The predator don Juan had described was not something benevolent. It
was enormously heavy, gross, indifferent. I felt its disregard for us.
Doubtless, it had crushed us ages ago, making us, as don Juan had said,
weak, vulnerable, and docile. I took off my wet clothes, covered myself with
a poncho, sat in my bed, and veritably wept my head off, but not for myself.
I had my wrath, my unbending intent, not to let them eat me. I wept for my
fellow men, especially for my father. I never knew until that instant that I
loved him so much.
"He never had a chance," I heard myself repeating, over and over, as
if the words were not really mine. My poor father, the most considerate
being I knew, so tender, so gentle, so helpless.