PÉTERFY Gergely - Guide for Unicorn-hunters
Útmutató egyszarvúvadászoknak

The Gulf of Martyrs is located east of the Black Perch Cape and is accessible only by way of the narrow shoreline that connects the two. Some claim it is also possible to get down there through the ridge; in 1827 a hunter pursuing the unicorn supposedly made his way through the thick shrubbery of the maquis and reached the Gulf of Martyrs, but there he disappeared. (Why the unicorn always flees towards the Gulf of Martyrs is a mystery.)
     It seems this hunter was not the first one who succeeded in crossing the ridge. According to hearsay, there was a certain Julomio or Julokio (in the Gasquavir language the name means "one with inflamed eyes") who passed through this impassable route more than once. Moreover, he spent three entire days sitting on the sharp edge of the cliff without taking his eyes off the unicorn for even a moment. They also say this Julomio was the first one to realise that if the unicorn is being glared at fixedly and persistently, it does not run away, perhaps it is not even capable of running away; but stays there within sight, puffing and hoeing the ground with its hoof.
     By the way, there are also other rumours about this Julomio circulating among the Gasquavirs. They say he came from a strange land, did not speak their language, nor did he ever utter a word in any other language either. It seems he was forced to leave his homeland because of some great, unspeakable sin. He scraped a pit in the ground for himself far off from the houses, covered it with leaves, and that was where he lived. He wore a catskin cape and a red silk loin-cloth. Night and day he held in his hand a gnarled rosewood stick burnished by time, and tapped on the ground with it incessantly, even while asleep. The Gasquavirs considered this to be an act of penance for his sin, and did not mock him because of it. Julomio, they say, never asked them for anything. If they gave him something - bread, water, figs - he accepted it without thanks and consumed it, not voraciously, but in a leisurely manner.

        According to the most plausible version, it was the Gasquavir women who ended up chasing him away; because they, who can look so seductively at every stranger with those deep, fiery, black eyes of theirs, kept visiting Julomio's stinky pit at night, but to no avail. No matter how much they whispered above him, no matter how much they strutted around him with legs trembling from desire, they could not wake him from his deep and listless sleep. Only the monotonous tapping of the stick could be heard from the pit, and this sound permeated their dreams, it drummed in their ears while they were milking or making love, and it drove them to crying-fits. They made accusations to the other women's husbands about their wives, they grew to hate one another, at dawn they fought fiercely and silently at the backs of the gardens, and in the end they conspired against Julomio. Every time Julomio's name came up during their communal meals at the big tent, the women exchanged conspicuous and mysterious smiles. They nicknamed their sons Julomio, they made comments to their husbands insulting their masculinity, they whispered Julomio's name in their slumber, until the otherwise meek and idle Gasquavir men got fed up, and one night they went out to Julomio's pit, kicked him out of there, cudgelled him and chased him away.
     Many Gasquavirs thought they could still hear the tapping sound of his stick from the surrounding mountains even months afterwards, a few women still went out to his pit at night, each of them firmly convinced that he would return and especially to her; but no Gasquavir saw Julomio again for many years to come.
     Then one very muggy, very still August afternoon he appeared. The Gasquavirs were taking their siesta in the shade of the big dinner tent. Only the children were playing outside in the dust, and they had never seen Julomio before. First only the tapping of his stick could be heard, and this sound made a few old women who had once been part of the events quiver. The tapping sound of the stick grew louder and louder, and finally Julomio himself appeared at the end of the road. He hadn't changed much, only his catskin cape had gotten a little more frayed, and his stick a bit shinier. There he was, walking down the road in the swirling dust, and a unicorn was following him peacefully, obediently, like a dog.
     At least, that is how the Gasquavirs tell it.
     No one has ever captured, no one has ever tamed a unicorn. The unicorn does not retreat into the depths of fragrant forests to die: unicorns are and then they are no more. As long as the unicorn is being gazed at steadily, without eyes blinking or the attention slackening, it is there; as soon as one's attention is diverted or sleepy eyelids close, the unicorn disappears.
     The unicorn has to be pursued for years before one can catch sight of it. There are no traces. Its gait is silent. An increase of light indicates its nearness: some sort of unfathomable glow in the distance. It is at these moments, when the unicorn-hunter catches sight of the glow that he is furthest from his goal, from possessing the unicorn. The Black Perch Cape and the Gulf of Martyrs entomb the corpses of countless hunters, who, blinded by the glow, staggered into its deep waters full of seaweed, and perished there: as this light is the unicorn's last disguise, its last attempt to avoid being seen and being captured by someone gazing at it. But that's no way out. When catching sight of the light, one cannot dismiss it by saying that of course, this is the unicorn's last attempt to flee, and thus this light should not be followed because then the unicorn gets away forever. Nor is it possible to follow the light, because it lures the hunter into the Gulf of Martyrs. It is an enigma, a complete enigma, how Julomio managed to tame the unicorn.
     The Gasquavirs are a mysterious people. They live day in, day out - so they say - among the unicorns, yet it never occurs to them to posses the unicorn with their glance. An adult Gasquavir male with any sense of self-respect ignores the unicorn. Only the children amuse themselves by trying to catch the unicorn off-guard during its afternoon repose and gazing at it. In order to avoid blinking, they prop their eyelids up with tiny sticks, and they don't take their eyes off the unicorn, which stays there under the olive-tree and doesn't move. Of course, the kids quickly get bored because nothing happens; sooner or later they are distracted by something else - an eaglet toddling in the high grass, pebbles falling from the sky, - they stop gazing at the unicorn, and it slowly trots away.
     The Gasquavir men, nonetheless, celebrate the rite of the Neverclosing Eyes every year at the time of the first full moon in May. This celebration is the greatest possible trial for a Gasquavir man. When the full moon rises they gather at the Tent of the Eye, which otherwise stands empty all year around. They sit down on the ground in a circle, make a fire at the centre of the tent, and start gazing. They are not gazing at the fire, they are not gazing at one another, they are gazing. They may not close their eyes for three days and three nights, their attention may not be diverted, they must concentrate only on gazing. If someone blinks, falls asleep, or thinks of something else, the others take note of it.
     At the end of the third day they stand up and go to eat. (This meal also marks the end of the women's celebration: they may spend these three days occupied with themselves, doing as they please.) They go to eat, then they sleep for a day. Then comes the punishment.
     They make a list of those who violated the law of gazing, they add up the number of violations per person, and the transgressors are cudgelled. Each transgression incurs a different number of blows: blinking the least, being distracted the most. Strangely enough, falling asleep is punished less severely than inattention.
     The beating is carried out with particular cruelty. They strike fiercely, as hard as they can, seeming almost bloodthirsty, and they do not mind where the blows fall. Each of them knows how much punishment his sin incurs, but no one protests even if the number of blows actually exceeds the condign penalty, since they all know that he who has sinned against the gazing, deserves all punishment.
     The punishment is carried out on the Rock of the Eye, an otherwise undistinguished limestone slab. By the end of the day, when all sinners have expiated, the rock is sticky with blood. It has been the case time and again that all the Gasquavir men were found guilty, everyone cudgelled and everyone was cudgelled.
     It is quite possible that with such experience and skill any one of the Gasquavir men would be able to tame the unicorn; the Gasquavirs, however, do not care about the unicorn.
     The self-torturing nature of their celebrations and the insane cruelty involved are conspicuous. The Gasquavirs live meekly and idly all year around, they lie in their hammocks, and move only while turning from one side over to the other. All the work is done by the women, including the most strenuous tasks. The only thing the men seem to be occupied with is recovering from the wounds incurred at the previous celebration by the start of the next one.
     The day after the ninth full moon following the celebration of the Neverclosing Eye begins the celebration of Julomio.
     About fifty yards south of the houses there is a circle-shaped, bare plot of land. They say this is where Julomio's pit had once been, though that is hardly believable, since in another one of their stories they say that at the time Julomio lived among them, they were still living up in the mountains. Anyway, in this place no grass, no bushes, nothing at all grows. It is here that the men gather at dawn and stand around the patch of ground. When the sun rises over the Black Perch Cape, and the first beam of rays penetrates into the deep glen where the Gasquavirs live, the oldest man stands in the middle of the circle and starts stamping his foot on the ground. Besides that, complete silence reigns in the glen. They tie the dogs' jaws up with straps to keep them from barking, they give the children poppy decoction to make them sleep, and the women sit in the big dinner tent without uttering a word; they speak only with their glances.
     Only the sound of stamping can be heard. They shift their weight onto one leg and with the other heel they stamp on the ground as long as they are able to; then they do the same with their other foot. They continue stamping, switching from one foot to the other every so often, until they collapse from exhaustion. Then the next man takes over, and he continues until he loses consciousness as well.
     For three days and three nights the sound of this stamping fills the glen. If every man has had his turn before the three days are up, the one who started takes over again, and so on, until the dawn of the third day. By that time many of them are dead; the last ones are treading on bloody mud. This is the celebration of Julomio.
     They say that Julomio himself had taught them to do this. Yet, of all their stories about Julomio, there is not a single one where any mention is made of Julomio ever having taught them anything. When someone points out this contradiction to them, they just shrug their shoulders and look suspiciously at their interlocutor.
     The unicorn is the most beautiful and most peculiar animal in all creation. In the Gasquavir language the unicorn is the highest degree of comparison. The gait of the most beautiful woman is like the unicorn's, her glance is humble and threatening like the unicorn's, her magnificent, serpentine neck is like the unicorn's.
     Once someone is overcome by a longing for the unicorn, he is never again able to free himself of it. The unhappiness of many people - which they cannot identify, and for which they do not know the reason - stems from unrecognised longing for the unicorn. If they were to catch sight of the unicorn, capture it with their gaze, they would no longer be unhappy. These happiness-seekers are the ones who go on to become unicorn-hunters.
     They say there is no feeling more wonderful than being followed by a tame unicorn. It is, however, impossible to express this feeling in a simile, since the only thing that could be said is that it feels like being followed by a tame unicorn.
     All the hunters started with the assumption that unicorn-hunting should be learned from the Gasquavirs, who - according to their own allegation - live among the unicorns. Nevertheless, no hunter, nor any other inquisitive observer, has ever seen a unicorn anywhere around the Gasquavirs. If someone asks a Gasquavir lying in his hammock - his head and body lumpy and scabbed from the countless wounds, his ankles purple and swollen, - where the unicorn is, the Gasquavir looks around surprised, then shrugs his shoulder and says, how on earth should he know, it was here just a minute ago, grazing next to his hammock.

Translated by KÁLDOR Edit

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