By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
He refuses to disclose where he lives. Anyone who knows, he explains, would be in danger if a criminal tried to use him to get to the Wall Creeper. "It's like the Batcave," he says wryly, though he's quick to point out that he's never been a big fan of comic books. Getting him to reveal his real name is clearly not an option.
The tale he divulges over several weeks is impossible to verify. He won't disclose the names of relevant locations, and he says the few people who are close to him, like his father, are reluctant to talk. But the veracity of the events he describes seems less important than the assurance with which he describes them. Each of his stories, each of his memories, is real enough for him to have created the Wall Creeper.
He ran and ran. The freshman boy who would become the Wall Creeper ran every afternoon through the hot, barren plains of South Texas. He ran alone, three to four miles at a stretch, until he could hit a 5:25 mile and had somehow willed away his asthma attacks. He ran even though he hated it, even though it left him ragged for the grueling tae kwon do classes he took later each afternoon. He ran to keep sane, to block out the physical and verbal abuse he suffered at school. He ran so he'd be able to fight back.
And he ran because something inside him told him he had to, that the agony he felt was leading up to something, that he was destined for something great.
It wasn't always like this. When he was younger, growing up in suburban Oklahoma, there was nothing to run away from. Playing street hockey, learning Christian ideals of right and wrong from his strict but loving parents, watching Batman (the ones with Michael Keaton, whom he considers the only real Batman) — it all seemed right. He especially loved the peach tree in his yard, the one that grew fruit so fat and juicy it would split from within. He'd climb up the tree's trunk and nap within its thick branches, just as he'd shimmy up light poles and scale chain-link fences. He climbed because it was exhilarating and was something no one else could do, and because at the top he got to live, just for a moment, in his own special world.
He can't remember exactly when things changed. For reasons he can't explain, his recollections are fractured and disjointed, his memory cut short by parts he seems to have blocked out. One of the turning points, however, came on a night when he was eleven or twelve. Walking home from a street hockey game, he saw a teenager leading away a young girl he knew, saying to her, "I'm going to take you home, and we'll see what's under your skirt." Hearing that, something snapped. He attacked the teenager, he says, fighting until the older boy ran away. After that, things get fuzzy.
He says he took the girl to her empty house and, to watch over her once she was inside, quietly scaled the one-story residence and waited on the roof until her parents returned. That was his first "wall creep," he says now, a technique that would later become his signature move. For a while, though, the whole episode seemed so incredible, he wasn't sure it had actually happened; as he wrote about the wall-creeping part of the night in his journal last year, "Someone inside me (probably a lie) tells me this."
Whatever happened, the episode changed him.
"That night, I realized the dark underside of the world," he wrote. "People as a whole squirm and are crippled by their lies, false beliefs...expectations and society. This perversion could not be ignored by me...I decided to be something inhuman to exonerate myself from human weakness, at least in part."
The human weakness he witnessed around him only worsened when, not long after this incident, he and his family moved to Texas. His memories of middle school there are bleak. A gray prison of a school building, with no heat or windows to let in the sun. First-period physical education classes spent running the school grounds in ragged gym clothes, the early morning haze illuminated by the piles of burning trash school workers would ignite. Bullies everywhere, attacking the new kid and scrawling curse words all over his clothes.
High school was no better. It was a sprawling warehouse-like place packed with 7,000 students. Someone like him got lost in the flood.
While he was locked away in these dismal fortresses, something new and fierce was growing inside him, struggling to get out. "In the turmoil of this dangerously weak emotional state was born a new face," he says now. "While most kids my age succumbed to apathy, not really caring about others or what was morally right, I became filled with empathy, to the point where I knew I would sacrifice myself for another."
He needed a body to match his taut new mental state, so he took up tae kwon do and a rigorous running regimen, even though he hated it. He had no choice, he told himself; he was destined for something great.