Standing in the square at the beginning of the running of the bulls, my head slowly bows and glances over my feet. Almost as if they are about to buckle beneath, my legs felt hollow and weak. Standing strong full of energized life and really up for a short run is how imaginatively I’d prefer the legs with the chancing auspicious challenge ahead. Asking of my little legs over the next few minutes of life, to not just steadfast weaving with a ducking and diving but to do their earnest and save my little life. Combining a sleepless night and the emotionally charged occasion right now legs and body is more like wobbly shaking jello.
I placed both hands on my knees as my empty stomach turned underneath the skin. An embarrassing movement rises inside and almost threats to paint the concrete in a pink and browning piece of art. This kind of attention nobody wants while in a tightly packed crowd. Luckily, this time it stops just short of my throat. But not avoiding a taste that rose up coming out through the sensitive nose was a sick odour as the eyes spring and fill, blurring the vision.
My head fuelled by the adrenaline pumping through my body and felt as if flowing from wall to wall via all networking veins. Adrenaline stocked with a shot of steroids has put my mind into a fight or flight battle and is identical to a dubious tripping on acid state. On the edge, a very real place exists where everything can go either way. This pre-destined moment feels personal with knowing you are in some kind of internal challenging fight. As the struggles rebound over in your mind, there is a swinging back and forth between the heavens and the hells. This game of fear has built to new heights than ever previously felt before. A duo of parallel emotions rose as equal, fear and wonder built with a rising anticipation as in any journey into the unknown.
Is this going to be the worst imaginable day my mind is stuck. Stuck in a loop and circling the most negative of negative thoughts. Is the worst of this day merely the beginning to my end? My thoughts feel edgy already visioning an impact and seeing myself standing blindly as the one-tone beast mows me down from the rear. The atmosphere darkens inside my head and another precursor as I feel the slight drifting towards hell. Like the closing in of a storm you just know cannot be avoided.
A descending into the realms of shock while this, only a segment of the journey is about to begin. As a deterrent to overcome all fear and to keep the clouds at a distant distance, my mind focuses on the least drastic outcome of an injury free fate. Opening a tiny gateway to another reality, I look skywards to see the relieving sight. Filling my eye’s was the perfectly sun lit clear marble blue sky and the atmospheric beauty, our gateway to the infinity of space.
Time for hope & God
I ask god; please go gentle by letting me survive. Agonizing through my eye pupil is the slow movement of both hands. Even the trembling of knees is running in ultra-slow motion. As if someone, something is bending the world in my vision with a deliberated stuttering of time. Swallowing to push back the sandpapering taste as I take one hand off my supporting knees and reach out to hold on to my friend for extra steadying and slowly pulling myself back up. Jeff, a young easy going Australian and travel companion asks.
“You ok mate?” “Absolutely” I reply, “but I do not think it was the greatest of timing you know what.” Not wanting to shear with the immediate crowd what the “what” exactly might have been.
On Sun Up
Before arriving into the beginning of Pamplona’s running of the bulls, morning had broken at the camping ground located ten miles outside of the city. The sun rose radiating a hot amber warmth, only typical for this part of the world and the middle of Spain. While gathered in small groups in the tabled courtyard are the young travellers from all over the world.
During the night, the atmosphere was a state of awoken cosmic flow and an oneness, bipartisan to any recreational acid trip. The vibe had engulfed us all, all who had sat there. Who chatted and laughed until the dark of the night went by unnoticed from the new day’s light. A conglomerate of colour and cosmic flow of time raced at warp until the brakes firmly slammed. Stopping so much as if an exterior force and almighty god had hit some kind of simulation pause.
Starting this day there was no time to prepare once the female voice sang out from the edge of the large courtyard and a loud radiant pitch screeched between and underneath the lengthy sheltering vines. “The busses are ready to leave now!” The ‘now’, she had really emphasised and sounding as if she had said with a controlling authoritative schoolteacher’s voice, “now all you kids.”
Those who sat there ushered amongst themselves” oh, ah, wow man.” Including myself all seemed to take a moment to register, with a “where the fuck am I.” The night had simply disappeared to this deterministic and in the now, unexpected morning. Nobody sitting escaped the utter surprise of this day sneaking up on all, like the cheetah to its prey.
‘Oh shit this is why i am here and how did we arrive so quickly?’ Realising, not only had the night evanesced, the previous week also had raced by. The adventure travelling in vans had been freeing and chaotic at the same time but now the sands in an hourglass have submerged all memories as if in a distant far away past. The reason for joining my London friends on this journey had arrived, leaving barely enough time to check wallets are in pockets while racing for a bus.
Stumbling towards the buses, and confused by the sheer number of starter motors and smell of the already rumbling diesel engines. I have to ask myself which one is mine? Amongst the confusion, I took a moment to question why I did not listen for once in my life to my rational mind. Whilst peering down on the piece of cardboard held between my fingers in front of the eyes. I inspected it for any defects, a signal, or any sign that clearly spells out (bad trip). As if the little picture should have a happy or sad face. You know as you do, even though you cannot identify shit, you still do it anyway.
That tiny piece of cardboard I knew had the power to go wrong, very wrong. Exploiting all at once your insecurities and turning you into an instant paranoid schizophrenic cat. Or something equally manic, an Einstein alien creature from planet Zolecopherrinoidorgus. Totally forgetting about tomorrow’s agenda, I think it over and come up with a suitable argument. ‘There is a chance it might go extremely different, eye opening and right’, then without any delay sticking it on my tongue leaving any further thoughts on the matter only wasted.
What is done is done and keeping in with the spirit of this adventure, moments are rarely preconceived and most certainty nearly always lacking in any planning. On these types of holidays or breaks from reality things just happen and there is no going back once that little piece of cardboard has connected to the saliva on your tongue.
Monitor Awakens Hell
“Uh which one Jeff, we don’t belong to any of these busses” I ask. Don’t matter, just get on any one they will not mind. So we both head for the closest with a door open. Every seat has a body occupied and taken by those who have had the benefit of a good night of sleep. The all-nighters, trippers mostly have to stand in one of many busses organised and all fired up ready to go for one of Europe’s largest yearly festivals.
Positioned at the front of the bus and assuredly capturing everyone’s attention the monitor screen is on repeat with the running of the bulls from 1984. Any coincidence to the year was like reading as a demon’s clue. As I felt an all-powerful second wave, exploring another dimension as my body from the middle of the bus hyper thrust back to the front. Stopping with my face planted immediately in front of the monitor and screen.
Usually a thought of approximately half an hour after dropping a piece of cardboard but this was 8-10 hours later “what have I done?” All eyes on the bus transfix to the screen to the right of centre Isle and nobody would have escaped the thoughts I am having. “Is that going to be me? Am I maimed brutally next?”
Absolute carnage is the only description of such a bad year at the world-renowned festival and the running with the bulls. The carnage happened because in the confined and very narrow streets, every bull turned 180 degrees. Soon as the front leading bull disoriented by it’s slip and cause of a sudden turn, confusion set in to the herd and the remaining seven or eight fatefully were to follow suit.
To the rear, the unstoppable flow of runners has forced a random group of people to the front. Those un-fortuitously chosen were seriously lacking in any luck. When suddenly cast into the bull’s destruction’s path finding they are now a reflection in the bulls big bloodshot eyes. The wildebeests have selected those for the sacrifice and to the waiting starved crocodiles.
The bulls, assimilated like a herd of starved crocodiles and as a collective all did the same thing, charged. Some would find this the most ridiculous position to put oneself in, when a runner is helpless but to accept fate. Avoiding the stampeding bulls and entanglement of panic-stricken people was hopeless as all odds seriously diminished if he/she with hope headed for the safety of a barrier.
For those caught in front there was no avoiding it, a swarming of bees without wings, just a frantic of elbows and arms connected to hands, which grabbed and pushed. All in a chaotic self-defence to his or hers own attempt on avoidance, and all wanting to survive.
They scrambled for and up the sides of the 10-foot barricades. None of them are saved, by such a thing as a welcoming angel’s hand. Waiting and guarding the tops is the opportunist and evils pushers. Through the monitor screen, the evil hedgeman line up to staff the barriers that set blocking the narrow side streets. The camera angle from above shows chaotic motion on either side of the fence as the hedgmem clamber all over each other in an attempt to be on the front line.
Upon reaching the top, the runners’ attempts at an escape soonly halted with their hands ferociously ripped off the top timbers by the waiting hedgemen. Throwing them back on the unavoidable path and hurtling, grasping at nothingness before crashing into the paved concrete. Fellow human beings do not discriminate between young females and old. The human types, who are purposely guarding waiting to make those pushes show no discrimination nor mercy because they love to push as if, in these moments they are the rulers to the sacrifice.
Knowhere to Hide
Every recess has a hoarded covering keeping the street almost perfectly straight. If you were a rat between these buildings and amongst this chaotic crowd, your fate now flattened because there is no escape or tiniest recess to hide. And every exit to side streets has solid timber barricades keeping runners and bulls contained. As far as those who push are concerned, if you are foolish to start then you have to find a way to finish. There is no such a thing as half journey’s in the running of the bulls.
Three Foot Horns
There was no escaping fate for the many who attempted the run of 1984, they were ravaged, maimed and some killed from the mad charging one tonne beasts. The people caught in front as if in a cartoon. When caught in the catchment between both horns they are flung metres or pound into the ground. All who are on the bus now have the same image impregnated like a cow’s branding burning into their brain. The image is of a massive 3-foot horn, driven up piercing straight through the man’s centre thigh.
Impaled straight through his hamstring from the rear almost down to the bulls crown leaving two and half feet of horn left to protrude the front of his leg. The man’s blood ran down smearing the bulls head red. Flung side to side as if a ragdoll tightly fixed, bouncing off the century old stonemason walls and the large timber barriers. His body now used as an extension and third horn, a tool for taking out, mowing down more people.
“Need food” I say to Jeff trying to change thoughts and prevent the nervous atmosphere and energy flow that had quickly spread via a silent murmuring crowd from getting the better of me. Everyone is mostly dressed in white with their red bandanas tied around heads, necks, or hinged on the hip and belt, hanging down at the side. “Me too” he replied.
Decision on Hell
Of course, last night’s festivities and the dropping of an acid trip did not now seem the best of ideas. Nevertheless, we are wide-awake because of the drug and our senses hijacked into hypersensitive mode. In full flowing slow motion, like in Spielberg’s saving Private Ryan. While they hit the beach a mental shock took over, surrounded by explosions and the half but still moving bodies. Our scene, nowhere near as horrifying but there was no guarantee that what too truly fear, waits with fate just around the corner. How did I get here? Why am I here? Does this really make you a man or a fool? After all, this is a position only self-inflicted where mortality played with like any game of chance.
Hell yes I have to do this, nothing could stop me. I was going to run with the bulls and by this, I meant with them. Not, way out in front, only with them. Not even the onset of what now felt like a descending towards a paranoid schizo cat would deter us. Jeff and I are the only ones standing and ready to run from our groups. Which consist of an old ambulance filled with the girls, none foolish to run, and nine other Kiwi and Australian blokes, our convoy of three vans from London to Spain.
Why Dont Run in Running with the Bulls
From the center of the square, Jeff and I can see others perched on the wooden barricades that surround us setting the perimeter. Calling out to them, none of them wanted to run. On the journey down, I told them of my mission motivated by a previous experience and the combination of a friend Anton’s story. The story I had witnessed of his run. At least having been told and given the choice to run safely or not, was only beneficial to those who listened I had thought.
Explaining their decisions not to run was they too might have watched the video of 1984. Truthfully, if this was my first time and someone firstly explained the choices and then watched 1984. I would have found peace in every reason why I had not needed to run and a no, was definite. Then throw in a sleepless night on acid and you have a question blocked by a telepathic reactive (no). Long before, you were able to ask.
Why Run in the Running of the Bulls?
Jeff, who was working as a cycle courier back in London obviously had taken the story and decided, the story only fuel for why now he needed to run. Nothing was ever going to stop him, not even the sabotaging of our memories all stained with blood and the shocking and if nothing, evil brutality of human spirit that remained from the hedgeman of 1984. The challenge and Spanish tradition we both just had to experience proper. From where the challenge grew and why only explained via the fuller picture, with Aaron’s almost accidental but the most bravado’s of runs and journeys beginning 2 years previous.
Warning – Some animal cruelty
To be Continued…
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