The Sacred Book of the Werewolf

Chapter Two


It's hard to get used to this sight. People have muscular spasms, and at such moments the client looks as if he really is lying on an invisible body. His entire weight is supported on his awkwardly twisted wrists, or sometimes on his fingers. Normally a man could never deliberately hold himself in that position for even a few seconds, but in a trance he can stay in it for hours. Similar phenomena are repeatedly described in the literature on hypnosis, so nobody will give me a Nobel Prize for the discovery. And I don't need human fame anyway. I don't need anything from human beings except love and money.
I have always felt that the means for maintaining eternal youth that has been laid open to me on the Great Way of Things is rather shameful, although I reject all accusations of vampirism. I take no satisfaction in stealing another being's life force and I never have done. Moral satisfaction, I mean. There is no way to vanquish the physiological aspect, but that is not subject to moral judgement: even someone with immense compassion for animals can tuck into a bloody steak for dinner with his stomach gurgling, and there's no contradiction involved. And apart from that, unlike people, who kill animals, I haven't taken anybody's life for centuries now, at least not deliberately. Accidents happen, but a night spent with me is less dangerous than a flight in a Russian helicopter in conditions of average visibility. People fly in helicopters in conditions of average visibility, don't they? Of course they do. I'm the same kind of helicopter - only, as Bruce Springsteen put it, I can take you higher.
And apart from that, I don't believe that it's personal when I draw energy from someone. A man who eats an apple doesn't enter into a personal relationship with the apple, he just follows the established order of things. I regard my role in the food chain in a similar fashion.
The energy that serves for the conception of life does not belong to people. Entering into the act of love, a human being becomes a channel for this energy and is transformed from a sealed vessel to a pipe that is connected for a few seconds to the bottomless source of the life force. I simply require access to that source, that's all.
'And now lie on your tummy, sweetheart,' the Sikh said. 'It's time to try something a bit more serious.'
Anal sex is the favourite sport of portfolio investors. There's a simple psychoanalytical explanation for this - just try comparing the prison slang term 'shoving shit' with the expression 'investing money' and everything should be clear enough. Personally, I'm all in favour of anal sex. It generates an especially large discharge of the life force from the male organism, and that's the best time for gathering energy.
Setting aside my book, I closed my eyes and performed the usual visualization - the yin-yang symbol, surrounded by eight blazing trigrams. Then I pictured myself as the dark half of the symbol and the Sikh as the white half. A white dot began to glow in the centre of the dark half, and a similar black dot appeared in the centre of the white half.
The white began growing darker and black growing lighter, until they swapped places. Dilettantes believe that this is the most advantageous moment to disconnect, but I always work with the method known as 'the bride returns the earring' - the poetic name given to it in the Middle Kingdom six hundred years ago.
If you steal someone else's life energy, it's important not to provoke the wrath of heaven and the spirits with your greed. Therefore, I allowed the situation to proceed into the phase of reverse development. The flow of energy halted and then turned back on itself. My visualization began changing rapidly. A black dot appeared in the centre of the light half of the yin-yang symbol and a similar white dot appeared in the centre of the dark half. And it was only when the dots had become clearly visible that I broke the energy link and dissolved the visualization in the void.
After a big win in a casino, the right thing to do is not to leave - it's better to lose a little, in order not to provoke resentment and anger. And it's the same in our line of work. In ancient times many foxes were killed purely because of their greed. But then we realized we had to share! Heaven does not frown so darkly when we show compassion and return part of the life force. It might seem like splitting hairs, but the difference here is exactly the same as that between an armed robbery and a privatization auction. Formally speaking, in the latter case there is no crime for the spirits to punish. But there's still no way you can trick your own conscience, so it's best just to leave it out of things.
The Sikh got up off the bed and wandered into the bathroom. When he came back out, he lay down, lit up a cigarette and began speaking in a relaxed voice, telling the pillow beside him some story out of his life. After coitus, men become garrulous and benevolent for about half an hour, owing to the release of dopamine into the brain as a reward for fulfilling their duty. I didn't pay much attention to what he was saying. I wanted to finish reading about how a black hole behaves when gravitational collapse reduces its diameter to a distance shorter than the event horizon.
I thought I could detect an erotic subtext to these astrophysical models, and my conviction was growing that Stephen Hawking wasn't writing about physics at all, but about sex - only not about squalid human intercourse, but the grandiose cosmic coitus that gave birth to matter. Surely it's no accident that this great explosion is referred to as the 'Big Bang'. All the most sacred mysteries of the universe are concealed in the darkness of black holes, but it's impossible to look into a singularity because it doesn't emit any light, like a bedroom when the lamp's switched off . . . Basically, I thought, astrophysicists are nothing but voyeurs. Except that voyeurs sometimes manage to glimpse someone else's act of love through the gap between the curtains, but physicists have been cheated by fate, and they have to imagine absolutely everything as they stare into ink-black darkness.
When he'd finished smoking and talking, the Sikh set to work again - he settled on his side and went at it for a long time. The regular creaking of springs was like a soothing lullaby. And I committed the most stupid blunder a fox can possibly commit during working hours. I fell asleep.
I actually only dozed off for a moment and then immediately woke up again. But that was enough. I sensed I'd lost contact with the Sikh and when I looked up, my eyes met his, staring wildly. He could see me just as I was, sitting on a chair with my trousers lowered and my tail sticking up behind my back. And that is a sight no one should ever see, apart from the mirror and the spirits.
The first thought I had was that I was facing a Taoist exorcist. This was a totally absurd idea because:
1. The last Taoist capable of hunting foxes lived in the eighteenth century.
2. Even if one of them had managed to hold out until modern times, he would hardly have been able to disguise himself as a bearded Sikh with an Oxford accent - that would have been 'too freaking much'.
3. Since I work according to the method 'the bride returns the earring', Taoists have no formal right to come hunting me.
4. Taoists never come three times in a row.
But the powerful fear of exorcists of evil spirits is built into our genes, and in moments of danger we always think of them. Some time I must tell you a couple of stories about those guys, then you'll understand the way I feel.
A moment later I realized this was no Taoist, but simply my client, who had slipped off the tail. It was an appalling sight. The Sikh was opening and closing his mouth like a fish just landed on a riverbank. Then, in an attempt to gain control of the body that wouldn't obey him, he lifted his hands up in front of his face and began clenching and unclenching his fingers. Then he groaned hoarsely several times and suddenly bounded to his feet.
At this point I finally unfroze and made a dash for the bathroom. The Sikh came rushing after me, but I slammed the door in his face and locked it. In moments of danger my mind works quickly; I realized immediately what I had to do.
Every bathroom in the National has a red and white cord hanging out of a little hole in the wall. I don't know what it's connected to, but if you tug on it, ten seconds later the phone in the room will ring, and a minute after that someone will knock on the door. I pulled the cord and dashed back to the door of the bathroom.
The next few minutes were rather nerve-racking, while I waited for security to arrive, and shuddered at the furious blows on the door, counting to myself and trying not to hurry. The Sikh was pounding as hard as he could, but I managed to hold him back without too much trouble - he wasn't a large man.
The phone rang after exactly twenty seconds. Naturally, the Sikh didn't answer it. When the blows stopped after a minute or two, I knew there were other people in the room. They were just in time - the door was already coming off its hinges. I heard the sound of furniture being overturned, the tinkle of broken glass and a garbled shout that sounded liked 'kali ma!' It was the Sikh shouting. Then there was silence, broken only by the distant honking of car horns.
'That's fucked it,' said a man's voice. 'He's a goner.'
'Lucky he didn't take us with him,' said another voice.
'True enough,' the first voice replied.
It was better to let them know I was there myself than wait for them to find me. I called out in a plaintive voice:
The door opened.
There were two hulks standing in the doorway of the bathroom - dark glasses, suits, flesh-coloured wires dangling from their ears . . . A regular cult of Agent Smith, I thought. And, incidentally, that would make a great religion for security men - after all, the Roman legionaries worshipped Mithras, didn't they?
One of the security men began muttering to himself - the only words I could make out were 'three nineteen' and 'call'. He was-n't talking to me.
As far as I'm aware, their microphones are hidden behind the lapels of their jackets, and that's why it often seems like they're talking to themselves. Sometimes it looks very funny. I once saw one of these goons searching a woman's toilet - opening the doors of the cabins and chanting: 'There's no one here . . . There's no one here at all . . . The window's blocked off by a party wall . . .' If I hadn't known what he was doing, I might have thought he was pining over some failed lovers' assignation and pouring out his grief in iambic pentameters.
'Did you pull the cord?' the second security man asked.
'Yes,' I said, 'but where's . . .'
The security man nodded towards an open window. The glass was broken.
'Over there.'
'You mean . . .' I said, making big round eyes, 'he's . . .'
'Yeah,' said the guard. 'Came at us like a lunatic the moment he saw us. Was he doing drugs?'
'What drugs? I've been working here for a year now. Everybody knows me, I've never had any problems.'
'Well, now you do. What did he want from you?'
'I didn't really understand,' I said. 'He wanted me to give him something called a fisting. I said I didn't know how, and then he started . . . Well, anyway, I hid in the bathroom and pulled the alarm. And you saw everything else.'
'We sure did. Got any ID on you?'
I shook my head. Give your passport to these guys and you'll never see it again.
'Maybe I could go? Before the fuzz gets here?'
'What do you mean, go? Are you crazy? You're the main witness, ' the security man said. 'You'll have to testify about what you were doing here.'
That definitely wasn't part of my plans. I evaluated the situation. While there were only two of them there, I still had a chance of avoiding any hassle. But it was getting slimmer every second - I knew the room would soon be packed with people.
'Can I go to the toilet?'
The security man nodded, and I went back into the bathroom. I had to act quickly, so I didn't hesitate for a second. I dropped my pants and freed my tail, bent over and opened the door. I did it very abruptly, and the guards immediately turned to look at me.
I believe a man reveals what he's really like in that second when he's already seen a fox's tail but not yet fallen under its hypnotic influence. A client usually has enough time to express his response to what he's seen. And that's enough to tell you who you're dealing with.
All the crude, narrow-minded losers screw their faces up into grimaces of sullen disbelief. But the faces of people who have the potential for inner growth express something like delighted surprise.
One of the security men wrinkled up his forehead and frowned. The other gaped in amazement (I could see his eyes even through his dark glasses) and opened his mouth like a little child who's just seen the birdie the photographer promised him. It looked really sweet.
Of course, I couldn't completely remove my imprint from their memories - to do that to someone, you have to shoot them in the head with a pistol. All I could do was change the context of the memory - I planted the suggestion in their minds that they'd met me in the corridor on their way to the suite. Then I made them go into the bathroom. As soon as the door closed behind them, I picked Stephen Hawking's book up off the floor, dropped it in my handbag, pulled up my trousers and skipped out into the corridor.
There was another security man standing on the stairs. When he saw me, he gestured for me to go over to him, and when I reached him, he ran his hand over my buttocks, forcing me to squeeze my tail in between them as tightly as I could. In any other situation the least he would have got for that was a bruise pinch. But right then it still wasn't clear how everything was going to work out, so I just slapped him on the hand. He wagged his finger at me, and then this gesture flowed smoothly into a different one, as his index finger and thumb connected and started rubbing against each other.
I understood. Girls like me usually hand over a hundred dollars on the way out, but under the present circumstances of force majeure, it was being suggested that payment should be made on the spot. I took a portrait of Benjamin Franklin out of my purse and the guard grabbed it with the same finger and thumb that had just been rubbing against each other. There was a certain kind of beauty in the economy of movement - from threat to reminder to acceptance. As the Japanese swordsman Minamoto Musashi said: 'You can tell a master from his stance.'
I walked down the stairs decorated with fleurs-de-lys and made it out into the street without any further adventures. A crowd, including several militiamen, had already gathered to the left of the exit - that was clearly where the unfortunate Sikh was lying. I walked in the opposite direction and a few steps later I was already round the corner. Now all I had to do was stop a taxi. One pulled over almost immediately.
'Bitsevsky Park,' I said. 'The equestrian complex.'
'Three hundred and fifty,' the driver answered.
Today was his lucky day. I jumped into the back, sat down and slammed the door, and the taxi carried me away from the disaster that had seemed inevitable only five minutes earlier.
I had nothing to reproach myself for, but my mood had been spoilt. Apart from the fact that an entirely innocent man had died, I'd lost my job at the National - it wouldn't be wise to show my face in there for the foreseeable future. That meant I'd have to look for other ways to earn a living. And starting from the very next day - my funds were running low, and the hundred dollars I'd given the security guard had thrown my budget into deficit.
An acquaintance of mine used to say that the evil in our lives can only be overcome by money. It's an interesting observation, although not entirely flawless from a metaphysical point of view: what we should really talk about is not victory over evil, but the opportunity to buy it off temporarily. But without money evil is triumphant in just a couple of days, that's proven fact.
I could have got rich, if I earned my living dishonestly. But a virtuous fox must support herself only by prostitution and never, under any circumstances, exploit her hypnotic gift for other purposes - such is the law of heaven, which it is not permitted to transgress. Of course, sometimes you have to. I myself had only just fuddled the brains of two security guards. But you can only do that kind of thing when your life and freedom are in danger. A fox should not even think about gullible money couriers. And if the temptation becomes too great, you have to inspire yourself with examples from history. Jean-Jacques Rousseau could have been swimming in money, but how did he earn a living? By copying out music.
Getting a spot in another hotel wasn't easy, and for the foreseeable future I could only see two alternatives: streetwalking and the Internet. The Internet seemed more attractive, after all, it was at the cutting edge of modern progress, and selling myself on its fibre-optic sidewalks would be stylishly futuristic. How interesting, I thought, everybody's always going on about progress. And what does it all mean? Just that the oldest professions acquire an electronic interface, that's all. Progress doesn't alter the nature of the fundamental processes.
The driver spotted my gloomy mood.
'What's up,' he asked, 'someone upset you, love?'
'Aha,' I said.
He'd been the last person to upset me, when he named a price of three hundred and fifty roubles for the journey.
'Don't you pay 'em any heed,' said the driver. 'You know how many times a day people upset me? If I thought about it every time, my head would be like a great big balloon full of shit. Pay 'em no heed, I tell you. By tomorrow you'll have forgotten all about it. And life's a long business, you know.'
'I know,' I said. 'But how do you do that - pay no heed?'
'Just don't, that's all. Think about something you enjoy instead.'
'And where do I get that from?'
The taxi-driver squinted at me in the mirror.
'Isn't there anything you enjoy in your life?'
'No,' I said.
'You don't mean that.'
'Yes I do.'
'All nothing but suffering, is it?'
'Yes, and so's yours.'
'Well, now,' the taxi-driver laughed, 'you can't know about that.'
'Yes, I can,' I said. 'You wouldn't be sitting here otherwise.'
'I could explain. Only I don't know if you'd understand.'
'Well, get you!' the driver snorted. 'Do you think I'm more stupid than you are? I reckon I ought to be able to understand, if you can.'
'All right. Do you understand that suffering is the material out of which the world was created?'
'That can only be explained with an example.'
'Well, give me an example then.'
'Do you know the story of Baron Munchhausen, who pulled himself out of a bog by his own hair?'
'I do,' said the driver, 'I've even seen the film.'
'The foundations underlying the reality of this world are very similar. Only you have to imagine Munchhausen suspended in a total void, squeezing his own balls as hard as he can and screaming in unbearable pain. Look at it one way and you feel kind of sorry for him. But look at it a different way, and he only has to let go of his own balls and he'll immediately disappear, because by his very nature he is simply a vessel of pain with a grey ponytail, and if the pain disappears, then he'll disappear as well.'
'Did you learn that at school?' the driver asked. 'Or at home?'
'Neither,' I said. 'It was on the way home from school. It's a long journey, I get to see and hear all sorts of things. Did you understand the example?'
'Sure I did,' he replied. 'I'm not stupid. So why's your Munchhausen afraid to let go of his balls?'
'I told you, then he'll disappear.'
'Maybe it would be better if he did? Who the hell needs a life like that?'
'A good point. And that's precisely why the social contract exists.'
'Social contract? What social contract?'
'Every individual Munchhausen can decide to let go of his own balls, but . . .'
I remembered the Sikh's crayfish eyes and stopped. One of my sisters used to say that when a client slips off the tail during an unsuccessful session, for a few seconds he sees the truth. And for a man this truth is so unbearable that the first thing he wants to do is kill the fox responsible for revealing it to him, and then he wants to kill himself . . . But other foxes say that in that brief second the man realizes that physical life is a stupid and shameful mistake. And the first thing he tries to do is to thank the fox who has opened his eyes. And after that he corrects the error of his own existence. It's all nonsense, of course. But it's clear enough how these rumours get started.
'But what?' the driver asked.
I remembered where I was.
'But when there are six billion Munchhausens holding each others' balls arm over arm, the world is in no danger.'
'That's very simple. Munchhausen can let go of himself, as you so correctly observed. But the more someone else hurts him, the more he hurts the two that he's holding on to. And so on for six billion times. Do you understand?'
'Shee-it,' he said and spat, 'only a woman could come up something like that.'
'I have to disagree with you again,' I said. 'It's an extremely male picture of the universe. I'd even call it chauvinistic. There's no place in it for a woman at all.'
'Because women don't have any balls.'
We drove on in silence.
No point in denying it, sometimes it happens that you lay something heavy on someone, and your own heart feels lighter for it. Why is that? It's a mystery. Never mind, let him think a bit, it's never done anyone any harm.
The next morning the business with the Sikh was in the news. It wasn't what I went onto the net for, but some lousy worm had set my home page to '' and I'd never got around to changing it. I forced myself to read the article right through to the end:
The public will soon start thinking of the National hotel as a high-risk zone. With the terrorist attack that took place right outside its door still fresh in the memories of Muscovites, another alarming incident has just taken place: yesterday a forty-year-old businessman from the Indian state of Punjab killed himself by jumping from a fifth floor window. At least that's the story of the two security guards employed by the hotel who were with him at the time the tragedy occurred. They claim that the guest from India summoned them by pulling the special alarm cord, and then when they entered the room, for no apparent reason he took a run and jumped out of the window. He was killed instantly when he hit the surface of the road. It has been established that shortly before his death the businessman had received a visit from a female denizen of the demi-monde.
Why the fifth floor, I wondered, when his suite was number 319? Ah yes, they had that swanky European way of numbering the rooms - the first two floors didn't count, so number three nineteen was on the fifth floor . . .
Then my thoughts moved on to that mysterious French word 'demi-monde' - the 'half-world'. Why, I wondered, wasn't it the quarter-world? If you followed that method of word formation, consistently you could define the precise depths to which a woman had fallen. After two thousand years my denominator would probably have been pretty impressive . . .
And then suddenly, at long last, I started to feel ashamed of my own insensitivity. A man with whom I had, in a certain sense, been intimate, had died, and here I was counting floors and doing fractions. The intimacy may have been arbitrary, hallucinatory and temporary, but it was still appropriate to feel some compassion, even if it was as insubstantial as our intimacy had been. Yet I didn't feel any at all - my heart flatly refused to generate it. Instead I started thinking again about the reasons for the previous day's outrageous events:
1. The reason could lie in the astral background of the hotel National, where the dancer Isadora Duncan and the KGB's founder Felix Dzerzhinsky hung side by side in the photo-gallery of 'honoured guests'.
2. What had happened could have been a karmic echo of one of those bloody business rituals they're so fond of in Asia.
3. It was an indirect consequence of India's recoil from the teaching of the Buddha in the Middle Ages.
4. The Sikh had been a worshipper of the goddess Kali after all - why else would he have shouted 'kali ma' as he threw himself out of the window?
I have to explain that sometimes I have as many as five inner voices, with each of them conducting its own inner dialogue: and as well as that, they can start to argue with each other over anything at all. I don't get involved in the argument, I just listen and wait for a hint at the right answer. These voices don't have any names, though. In that sense I'm a simple soul - some foxes have as many as forty of these voices with very long and beautiful names.
The old foxes say these voices belong to the souls that we consumed during the primordial chaos: according to legend, these souls made their home in our inner space by entering into a kind of symbiosis with our own essential nature. But that's probably all just fairy tales, because every one of the voices is mine, although they're all different. And if you follow the old foxes' logic, you could say I myself am a soul that someone else consumed some time in the depths of ancient antiquity. All this is no more than pointless juggling with the various summands, it makes no difference to the sum total that is A Hu-Li.
These voices mean that foxes don't think in the same way as people: the difference is that several thought processes develop in our minds instead of just one. The mind follows several different paths at the same time, keeping an eye open to see which will lead to the light of truth first. In order to convey this peculiarity of my inner life, I designate the various levels of my inner dialogue as 1), 2), 3) and so on.
These thought processes don't intersect with each other in any way - they're absolutely autonomous - but my consciousness is involved in each one of them. Some circus performers juggle a large number of objects at the same time. What they do with their bodies, I do with my mind, that's all. This peculiarity means I have a tendency to draw up lists and break everything down into points and sub-points, even when, from the human point of view, there's no real need for it. Please accept my apologies if you come across such lists broken down into points in these pages - it's exactly the way everything happens inside my head.
Picturing the dead Sikh to myself as accurately as I could, I recited the requiem mantra three times and went to to find out what was going on in the world. Everything in the world was just the same as it had been for the last ten thousand years. I rejoiced briefly in the headline 'America Ponders Mad Cow Strategy' and then went to my mail server.
Together with an invitation to increase the length of my sexual organ and a zip file that I didn't open, despite the alluring subject of the message ('Britney Blowing a Horse'), there was a quite unexpected pleasant surprise waiting for me - a letter from my sister E Hu-Li, who I hadn't heard from for ages.
I had known sister E since the times of the Warring Kingdoms. She was a terrible rogue. Many centuries ago she was famous throughout the whole of China as an imperial concubine by the name of Flying Swallow. As a result of watching her fly, the emperor lived for twenty years less than he could have done. After that E Hu-Li was punished by the guardian spirits, and she began keeping a low profile, specializing in rich aristocrats, whom she milked dry in the peace and quiet of their country estates, away from the eyes of the world. For the last few hundred years she'd been living in England.
It was a very short letter:
Hi there, Ginger,
How are you? I hope everything's going well. Sorry to bother you for such a trivial reason, but I need to consult you urgently about something. According to my information, in Moscow there's a Shrine of Christ the Saver that was first demolished completely, leaving not a single stone in place, and then restored to look just the way it used to be. Is this true? What do you know about it? Please answer quickly!
Heads and tails,
Strange, I thought, what's all this about? But she had asked me to reply urgently. I clicked on the 'reply' button.
Hello, Carrot-Top,
Up here in the north everything's still the same as ever. I'll write in more detail some time, but meanwhile here's the answer to your question. Yes there is a Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (that's the correct form) in Moscow. It was blown up after the revolution and restored at the end of the last century. There really wasn't a single stone left standing - for a long time there used to be a swimming pool where it had been. But now the swimming pool has been filled in and the cathedral has been built again. The cultural significance of this event is highly ambiguous - at one of the demonstrations I saw the slogan: 'We demand the restoration of the Moscow swimming pool, barbarously destroyed by the cleptocracy!' Since I personally have never visited either the first or the second facility, I have no opinion of my own on this subject.
Heads and tails,
I sent the letter and went to the site
It looked very picturesque - even most of the pop-up ads were subject-related:
SUVs had appeared even among the condoms. The market was seeking out new approaches and niches: I came across 'Occam's Razor' condoms with a portrait of the medieval scholast and the slogan: 'Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate' - 'One should not multiply entities without necessity'. I used to know William of Occam personally. I remember him chasing me round his house in Munich, and two centuries after that the Reformation began - for some reason the two entirely unrelated events have fused together in my memory. But I had no time now for reminiscences - I had to compose an ad for myself quickly, and to do it I had to familiarize myself with already existing examples.
Fortunately, there was a huge number of them. I found one feature of the genre rather amusing: many of the girls brightened up their notices with a few inserts in verse that had nothing to do with the list of services on offer - it was a kind of verbal piercing, and I decided to have a go at it as well.
An hour later my text was ready. A demanding critic might perhaps have described it as an eclectic compilation, but I wasn't trying to make a name for myself in literary circles. My announcement began like this:
I'm a bright and nimble maid,
Mistress of the intimate trade!
Just the way you like it, a bright smile and slender waist,
Service classical and anal, passion geared to every taste.
The second couplet, separated from the first by an empty line, was not linked to it by rhyme or rhythm - they were like two different earrings in the lobe of one ear. It looked and sounded really authentic, just like what the other girls did. The lines of verse were set in bold script and the information followed: