The Wild Hunt


 (courtesy of paganspace.net)

Bit of strangeness in the wee hours.

Another sleepless night, this one not courtesy of my husband’s snoring.  Went to bed around 9:30 (a little early for me, but not drastically so) and began tossing and turning by midnight or thereabouts.  Finally got up at around 1:30, fed the cats, made a cup of tea, and went into the office to toodle on the computer.  Did a little Facebooking (where is everyone at 2 am?)  Did a little virtual window-shopping with an eye toward Christmas gifts for a couple of friends (she’s easy to buy for, he’s difficult).  And then a sound came out of the night.

It began with a single bark.  We have  neighbors with dogs, so I figured it was the collie-shepherd mix next door or maybe the black lab up the hill.  Then other voices chimed in with barks and howls.  Coyotes, I thought, and smiled.  I like hearing them, although I’ve been told that the howling signifies a hunt or kill, the calling together of the pack.  I went to the front door and eased it open to the night to listen.

This was…different than those other times.  A few posts back, I wrote about premonition, of the wisdom inherent in listening to your sixth sense when it rings you up.  Mine was on full alert.  This wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced.  A yowling underscored the canine howls and yips.  It wasn’t a fisher cat.  I thought at first that perhaps some neighbor’s shadow-roaming puss was next on the menu, but my instinct said no.  This was something else.

Yes, I’m a writer and yes, I have imagination (too much of it sometimes; I’m definitely prone to flights of fancy), but I’ve heard coyotes sing in the night and this was not the same sort of thing at all.

As I listened at the open door (and all of this — my listening, my reasoning and attempt to parse out what I was really hearing — took place in seconds), the wind (of which there had been none, I’d swear to it) rose in a wild gust, shaking the trees.  I heard branches breaking (or were they footsteps in the fallen detritus of prior storms?) and there came an immense sense of presence, of something large and decidedly masculine moving through the woods.  The beasts (coyotes? dogs?) gave vent to a final wild chorus of howls and yelps and went dead silent, their noise cut off as though someone had garroted them.

Or called them to heel.

I didn’t wait to hear the wild blowing of Herne’s horn (or Odin’s or whoever it is that leads the wild hunt — there are many legends).  I didn’t wait to meet them head-on.  I closed the door, went back into the office, and kept my eyes averted from the window, unwilling to meet the gaze of whatever lurked out there.  (It’s bad news for mortals who see the wild hunt.)

It was a little unsettling…and yet rousing at the same time.  There’s a wonderful scene in writer Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series where young Will, last of the Old Ones, sees the Wild Hunt.  Had I been dressed, might I have stepped out onto the porch to face the night and that eerie call?  Might I have been drawn to follow the brace of crying hounds in their flight?  Had the Hunter extended his hand, would I have taken it?

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About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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