“There’s a wolf inside you,” that’s what Steve always said.
He had an animal for all of us. The small kid with the bad vision, he had a secret badger at his core. The blonde that never wore anything but a ponytail was secretly a snake. Steve himself, with his quick and snappy punches was a scorpion. And I, I was a wolf.
There was something true about his animals, I can’t deny that. The more hours I spent in his lessons the more I saw the animal in each of us. The way the blonde moved quickly from side to side; the way the bespeckled kid was slow to attack but vicious and unstoppable when he was close – it was all there.
I liked being a wolf. Steve said it was a bad animal to be.
“Wolves need their pack,” he always said. “You should never hunt alone.”
First my parents had signed me up for wing chun classes. They said that they wanted me to exercise more. In reality they wanted me to gain self-confidence, but that’s not something you tell your child.
I certainly gained self-confidence and my physique and posture certainly improved. For that alone I should have been thankful. But the classes changed me in more profound ways. I admired Steve for the way he spoke and moved. There was never a single grain of doubt in his words and actions. His whole being was just one of conviction, a life of certainty. I wanted to be like him, I wanted breathe that conviction, I wanted to soak my life in his certainty. I succeeded and I learned the consequences.
“Wolf,” he said. “My life is not for you. You lack control.”
I laughed whenever Steve said that. Everybody else in my life reminded me on a daily basis that I was too controlled, too obsessive about things and too careful with my decisions. Even my own mother told me to be more spontaneous.
“Mistakes are okay,” she said. “They are the only way to grow.”
I started with 90 minutes per week. Soon it became 90 minutes three times a week – and I was not the only one.
The group was always small. Sometimes new members joined for a trial session but they rarely lasted more than two times. The few that stuck always were sucked deeply inside. If there had been more lessons per week I would have taken them.
Instead I spent my time online, watching fight videos on Youtube or reading about new techniques and other martial arts.
I tried kickboxing and karate one time each. I was disgusted. At the time I didn’t know why – the lesson structure wasn’t too different from ours. The techniques sure were different and in my opinion less efficient, but still the elements was there.
Only in retrospect I realize what I was missing. It wasn’t the martial art itself that bothered me, it were the instructors. There was no depth, no character, no philosophy. The instructors had other jobs and other lives and they talked about the idle things of daily news, gossip and small talk that our lives are filled with.
Every word Steve said had meaning. His life was nearly that of a monk – training, solitude, teaching. He had his own vegetable garden and the income we provided was all he needed to survive well.
I also have to admit that every word that Steve said got stuck in my mind. He didn’t speak much, but whenever he spoke more than a “straighten this” or “faster” to correct our form his words lingered for hours or even days in my mind. His words were transplanted in my head.
“Doubt has no purpose.”
“Feelings are dangerous.”
“Those that require true friends will never have them.”
“Action is the manifestation of thought. Thought is the manifestation of belief. Belief is the manifestation of your self.”
Hundreds of his slogans were lodged in my brain. When I think of them I hear them in his slow and steady voice and see the hint of a smile on his face.
But nothing sunk deeper into my mind then the concept of the wolf. I don’t know whether I always was the wolf, but I certainly became the wolf.
I had been shy before – suddenly I was an observer instead. I observed, ready for the sudden leap.
I had not cared much about my family before, but when I became the wolf I also learned to live with my pack. I was there when they needed me and they trusted me with an intensity I had never known before. Even my friends grew closer to me; grew into a pack that ever more was centered around me.
I had always appreciated moments of solitude. Only as a wolf I learned to love the night.
That was my downfall.
My nightly walks became a habit. Around 11 or 12 at night I left the house, to roam the streets and forests. I watched animals and humans alike, on their trees or through their living room windows.
Over weeks and months my walks extended. My fear of the dark faded away night by night, my worry about being seen dissipated when I learned to walk in ways that go unnoticed.
There was never boredom on those walks but at the same time I also did not see the world. The longer the walks got the more my mind focused on itself. “Walking meditation,” that’s what Steve called it.
The first months of walking meditation there were thoughts and images. I heard the voice in my head and saw images projected on the black canvas of my mind. Thoughts and worries, troubles and memories, movie scenes and poems, erotic images and forgotten faces.
It was a surprise to me when the thoughts faded away.
“The healthy mind does not require thoughts.”
In conversation with Steve I always called it the blank mind or the empty mind. He called it the good mind.
When I talked to myself I called that state with just one word: Purity.
For me my mind was not empty. There were no thoughts and scenes, instead there was a pure intensity, the purity of true emotion. In some moments I felt love, in others hate or wisdom or anger or serenity. But all those emotions were pleasant. Even pure hate was not unpleasant, it was abstract and not targeted at anything in particular. It was pure in the sense of purity, distilled to its very essence as a feeling, a state of being.
The buddhists are right when they say that meditation can replace sleep. With every week my walks lengthened and my sleep got shorter.
I don’t know when I stopped sleeping. I just noticed someday that I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept.
I remember it was in early April when I came home in the morning to find my parents already at breakfast. They had stopped worrying about my nightly walks and on most mornings threw a “Good morning!” in my direction when I made my way up the stairs. But that morning my mother looked at my father and nodded. My father waved for me to come over.
“Look,” he said, pointing at the morning paper. “Please be careful on your walks.”
A picture of a smiling young man covered the front page.
“Second Man Murdered,” read the headline.
That day I learned what determination is. Without any thought, without a single grain of doubt, I knew my mission.
In those nights I grew my hate and anger. They were still all-encompassing, but from one moment to the other they were directed, focused, targeted, and for the first time I understood why Steve never lacked certainty.
At night I prowled the streets, ready to leap forward and grab my prey. My walks circled around the blocks where the men had been murdered. I didn’t even pay attention where I walked, my mind was pure and focused and retreated in itself.
Then I found the third victim.
I had been on the same street not even half an hour before and now his body lay there in a large puddle of blood. His limbs were broken in several places each. There was a large cut or gap in his neck.
I ran two times around the block and into a few nearby streets before I called the police. Nobody was to be found.
They questioned me. They thanked me for calling them.
“Serial Killer Claims Third Victim,” wrote the news.
I knew I was hot on the killer’s trail. I could only have missed him by minutes.
My prowl became excited, restless, impatient. I walked fast, sometimes I even ran.
I was only three blocks away when I heard the sirens. A couple on its way home had heard a loud high-pitched scream. They followed the noise and found the fourth victim.
I arrived in time to see the body; to see the ripped off limbs and the gaping hole in his neck. I walked off quickly, ran through the neighborhood, jumped fences, climbed on roofs – nothing.
Just a night later, around 4 am, I found number five.
He was still twitching when I came around the corner, the puddle of blood had not yet fully formed. His arms had been torn off at the shoulder and thrown aside, one of his legs lay in the gutter. But the most prominent feature was that his throat was ripped open; the it looked as if half of it had been ripped off the body by force.
I didn’t bother calling the police. I knew I would get him; I had been in the same street only minutes before; I knew he could only be seconds ahead.
I ran from one side to the other, squeezed between cars and glanced in ground floor windows.
It was in one of those windows. There was a bright street light just to my side. I saw him in the reflection in the window.
He had pale skin. He grinned. There was blood in his face.
“No control,” that’s what Steve said. He was right.
I can’t stop going out at night. I can’t stop the anger and hate growing. I tried to force myself to stay inside, but I can’t stop what I’ve started.
The wolf licked blood.
He walks the street silently; he knows how not to be seen.
After he strikes he sinks on the floor and howls loudly. The police are waiting for the sound already; they are patrolling the streets at night.
Still, they are too slow. They never check the roofs.
The next one is number ten.