The Demo Tapes Part 1 – Raze
When she had finished speaking, she stared at me.
I looked at her rather intensely.
She glared at me openly. Perhaps she lacked a sense of etiquette, or perhaps the intensity came from an underlying edge—perhaps more than an edge—of…something.
“And as a result,” I continued, “I’m now in control of our group.” I think I spoke too loudly. Hopefully she will just think I’m nervous…
She was rather loud, but she didn’t seem nervous. There was something disconcerting about this woman. She had black, shoulder-length hair. Her skin was unhealthy, pale, and her eyes had the intensity of sleep deprivation. “You are telling me that you have taken control of the Caironea gang?”
“The…Alexandre gang now.” I think I spoke too loudly. STOPISHOULDSPEAKONLYWHATISNECESSARY
I noticed something strange about her mouth.
“You said your name was Alexandre Dirge.”
IVERUINEDITRUINEDI I couldn’t tell if she had asked me a question or if she had simply made a statement. IRUNIEDIRUINEDDONTTELLALLJUST LETHERLOCKYOUAWAYAND
When I had received her letter, I was certain that it would lead either to some sort of attack, or perhaps a joke. Yet here I am not fighting. Further, those who play tricks do not typically also confess murder to the Captain of the Guard. I felt that I had heard the name before…Dirge.
“I may have a proposition for you. I should arrest you; however my operation would be undermined if, through justice, you were detained. For this reason, I will trust you to return here again, tomorrow. At the same time.”
LOOKATWHATYOUVEDONE I looked at her rather intensely. I waited a moment. I took a few breaths, and then I opened my mouth to speak. “——”
“This does not mean that you will escape the law, however…” I was in no position to, on my own, make promises; but I needed to entice her return. “You may be able to make partial atonement if you aid the Kingdom.”
I closed my mouth then winced. I wondered what she had in mind. When I confessed, I had been hoping this would be it, that all this would be over.
I saw her wince. I also saw her mouth properly, saw her teeth. This woman had a full mouth of broken—seemingly violently, perhaps even purposefully—broken teeth.
I assumed that meeting with the Captain of the guard herself, meeting with Natasha Rhye, would guarantee my arrest, but it seems that I’ll…have to return tomorrow ANDLOOKATHOWIFAILMYSELFIFAILMYSELFEVERYTIMEIFAIL I took a breath. My eyes focused on the city wall behind her, and then it came back to me; and what had put me in this situation in the first place. OHNOWHATHAVEIDONEIVEFORGOTTENMYOHNOOHGODOHHOW COULDIFORGETMYOWN……
“Partial atonement if I aid the Kingdom…” HOWCOULDIWHATHAVEIDONEWHATHAVEIOHNOWILLIBE
I could see it in her face again, that edge of…madness perhaps. It seemed to have heightened. I said, “I can rely on your return, then?”
IBEABLETOFULFILLMYORIGINALINTENTIONHOWCOULDIHAVEFORGOTTENMYOWN “Yes, I will return.” I made the mistake of giving a courtesy smile. I realized, and quickly covered my teeth.
I confirmed my observations on her mouth. I had thought that there was something disconcerting about her, but perhaps it was her situation. Or perhaps both are the case.
Morning was coming. I could see the light.
X̟͉̘̻͌̉ͦ̋̈́́́̚͝ ̵͖̟̥̞̪̻̲ͭ͛ͩͩ͋̃X̲̠ͨ͐͛̇͛̇̀ ̎ͨ͋͒̐̂҉́͏̹X̳͙͇̘ͬͯͯ̓̕͡
I took the day to do research, in addition, obviously, to my job. I spoke to some of my own guards, then to Vinth, the Captain of the Castle guard, and then gave up on receiving any information of use. Though; my guard, Finch Dirge Zeth, informed me that his mother’s name was Diesel Dirge. I did not ask about Alexandre, though perhaps there is some relation. Captain Vinth, too, had some information about a Hail Dirge in the underground gang, but I did not believe her to be the Dirge I sought.
I next spoke to the Solune Agent, Janna Rhye; my sister. The agents knew of the Dirges. There was a Dirge already running a gang: Diesel Dirge, she whose group occasionally raided the neighbouring town. There was also another Dirge, in another group. I assumed that this was Hail. Janna said there were three gangs: Diesel, across the Kingdom; Caironea, to the north east; and Horith, underground in Murdock, my city.
Perhaps the young Dirge was not lying.
ASINGLECHILDISLIKEASINGLEPARENTUSELESSANDDAMAGEDANDYETMOTHER IS THIS NOT US? AND WHY? WHO IS TO BLAME? And I had forgotten…
X̭̫̥̱ͯ̔̅ͅ ͓̲̲̙͉̣̰̌͗̒̒̽̑͠X͚̳͌̋ ̸X̴͕͇ͭ
“Are you willing to take on this task? The gua—”
She must have some motive, though why she was so willing when there was, possibly, family in neighbouring groups, I was not sure.
WHOISTOBLAMEWHOISTO And now, it seems we have been rewarded with providence, mother. CANYOUSEE this is a divine gift? The deal will help us.
“When should we take on this…operation?”
“I could have the guard ready in two days.”
“Of course. If you only just took control of the gang, then you will need to gain at least some semblance of trust from them. Right now there is something else I need from you.”
“I will put it very simply. First, the guard will help with the operation. You must initiate, but we will provide the motivation. Then, of course, we will aid with clean-up. That is first. Second, I need evidence. This is to be a large operation. Three parties will be involved. I need evidence of your words that Caironea is truly dead. Finally, you need to send your gang on some sort of small mission to prove to them that you are capable.”
“That’s only two,” GAINTHEIRTRUSTGA “because the way I’m going to… —The task I have in mind is the public shaming of the body. We will take it and abandon it outside the city gates.” I looked at her rather intensely, and pointed past her to the walls that loomed behind us.
Perhaps it was madness indeed. I did not think too deeply on it. If this woman could coordinate a gang of fighting men in this task, she would certainly be capable of the rest. We agreed to meet again in exactly one week.
X̷̶ ̛X̢̀ ̧͏X͢
We worked for six days. By the sixth, the group had enough confidence in me to perform the task.
We dragged the body to the city gates and dumped it. Propped him up against the doors. Someone wanted to pin the corpse with stakes through the shoulders, to nail him up, but we were spotted. The guard does their job, it seems. WERANAND on the seventh day we rested, and I met with Natasha.
“I made sure the guards saw you, to heighten the experience. Should the operation succeed, your term will likely be greatly shortened.” Especially if, as I suspect, you acted in self-defence…and who did you kill but a known criminal?
WEARESOCLOSESOCLOSESOCLOSEMOTHERSO “When is it?” CLOSESO
I covered my smile.
“Before we part, you must tell me Horith’s location. Then, I will tell you how our end of the operation will function.”
X̷̸ X̵͘ X̶̛
True to her word, the Captain provided motivation. ANDAPPARENTLYSOMEOFUSHAVEACONSCIENCE A member of Horith’s gang, a man named Vinth, brought news from within the city.
Perhaps there is something—fortune, I suppose—on that young woman’s side. We did not need to create a scenario by force, rather, our undercover guard Vinth had something for us. Horith’s gang was intent on expanding and overthrowing first the Alexandre gang, in its perceived newfound weakness, and then later the Diesel gang. Monopoly over independents. Vinth simply played the part of a concerned neighbouring member.
“We will take them pre-emptively,” was responded to with mostly cheers. It seems my past mistakes as a tactician were either forgotten or…were not as grand as the corporal punishment I received for them would suggest. I tried to clench my teeth, felt pain, gave up, and then began to assemble a plan. That had been my task before all of this FAILURE had occurred.
X X X
Lined pockets. We broke the windows shortly after beating the door in. We moved in headfirst; me first. It seems our architecture of aggression comes into reality faster than theirs. We caught them unaware, men at the boardroom table. I commanded the assault, rocks streamed out, beating flesh, and then swords were drawn. I commanded the rest to other parts of the building, and then I moved ahead.
The controlled chaos, organized mess, took to the background as I skulked the building, searching. The noise was all finally on the outside of my mind. Through the roar of dissent, I heard a saccharine laugh. I drew my sword and opened the door.
We had watched them fill their pockets with stones and then storm through the front. Then I told my guard to wait until it became loud, and then wait a few more seconds. We would fall upon them when they were weakened.
“You did this, didn’t you.” He had her by the neck. “That daughter of yours, you told her!”
Horith had made the mistake of trying to intimidate her. At the point of death, Hail Dirge had a habit of…laughter. “How wonderful I must be, how powerful, to have the ability to be in two places at once!” She giggled.
He turned in time to receive a cut across his face. His eyes widened, which I took as permission to drive my fist into his throat. I kicked him to the ground and smiled openly. “In the middle of a siege, your first instinct is to find someone to blame. Oh…” I put my foot on his chest, and then looked around, “Do you hear that? Listen. The guard is here.”
The Solune Guards is trained and skilled. Our weapons, seemingly simple rods of steel, beat past the swords most criminals choose to carry and keep us committed to blunt force instead of blood.
“Everyone who survives—which should be most of them—is to be run through the courts.” We poured in, interrupted the partially-completed battles and began, with ease, to finish them on both sides’ behalf.
“No, mother you have to go!”
She said, “Where?”
“Out.” I pointed to the window, breaking and clearing it with my sword. She looked at me with deep apprehension. Reading my face, she gave a tragic smile and then…laughed. She leaned in close to my face and whispered, “I’ll see you some other time then. And…take care of yourself my dear.”
I nodded, we said goodbye to each other, and then she climbed stupidly out the window.
Shortly after, Captain Rhye appeared at the open doorway.
If you got this far and haven’t realized that there are two narrators, the one aligned to the left, and the one aligned right, this sentence is here to inform you.
The Demo Tapes is what I’m calling the work, or versions of work, that I put in my most recent literary portfolio. Why? Because “portfolio” sounds boring, and “demo tape” sounds cool. I also love the music reference.
Raze references a song itself: Architecture of Aggression was the year-long bud of inspiration for this narrative. Please check it out: