“Are you dead?”
“Yes,” said the hunter, “as you see. Many years ago, yes, it must be a great many years ago, I fell from a precipice in the Black Forest–that is in Germany–when I was hunting a chamois. Since then I have been dead.”
“But you are alive too,” said the Burgomaster.
“In a certain sense,” said the hunter, “in a certain sense I am alive too. My death ship lost its way; a wrong turn of the wheel, a moment’s absence of mind on the pilot’s part, a longing to turn aside towards my lovely native country, I cannot tell what it was; I only know this, that I remained on earth and that ever since my ship has sailed earthly waters. So I, who asked for nothing better than to live among my mountains, travel after my death through all the lands of the earth.”
“And you have no part in the other world?” asked the Burgomaster, knitting his brow.
“I am for ever,” replied the hunter, “on the great stair that leads up to it. On that infinitely wide and spacious stair I clamber about, sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, always in motion. The hunter has been turned into a butterfly. Do not laugh.”
“I am not laughing,” said the Burgomaster in self-defense.
“That is very good of you,” said the hunter. “I am always in motion. But when I make a supreme flight and see the gate actually shining before me, I awaken presently on my old ship, still stranded forlornly in some earthly sea or other. The fundamental error of my onetime death grins at me as I lie in my cabin. Julia, the wife of the pilot, knocks at the door and brings me on my bier the morning drink of the land whose coasts we chance to be passing.”
Kafka, The Hunter Gracchus