Nights in the Red City

Sound lingers, hovers around for a while, is absorbed by objects and preserved like aural amber; sound memory, sonic fingerprints. I point the microphone at the pillow, at the bloodstains on the pillow, and switch on the machine.

Every emotion, every action with an underiding intention, has it’s own specific frequency, just like all colours have frequencies along the spectrum – from infrared to ultra violet. With the machine set to record I run the microphone over the rubied pillows, the bed sheets, the duvet. It’s a good surface for keeping sound, soft, traps noise like a wasp in a honey jar, a fly in sap. I’m quietly working my way towards the smashed window pane, methodically sweeping each shard of glass when Yuri stomps in, his size elevens sending sonic shockwaves reverberating across the hardwood floor.

“Hey earphones,” he shouts, “You still here!”
I switch off the machine and place it down carefully.
“Sergeant,” I reply, “You know how this works, I need complete silence or the evidence will be contaminated.”
“And you know it’s all just a load of pointless bullshit anyway. We’ve already got the killer; the husband’s being questioned in the station right now. Sick son of a bitch cut off her wedding finger.”
If this remark was intended to make me flinch it doesn’t work.
“So anyway,” he continues, “Take your little box of gizmos and get the hell outta here. O.K!”
The Sergeant watches me carefully wipe down the microphone, pack up the case and make my way to the door.
“We don’t need you, you know,” he shouts after me.
I don’t reply.

This room is my life. This is where I tune in to the past and pluck out the things that others will never hear; the reels and faders and levels of truth. I take out the recording from this morning and attach it to the master reel. Now, sound memory only sticks around for so long, fades away, dims out. You see it’s all back to front, remembers the last memory sharpest, clearest. So I loop the tape over and click the large orange button into the ‘on’ position. The room hums into life, lights up like Red Square at Christmas, and I relax back into my chair and wait.

The first frequency is high pitched, the kind of soprano trill that could shatter glass or burst an eardrum. But I’m ready for this, volume turned down low, murder always ends in the same rawnaked way. First time through I just let the frequencies flow, like links in a chain, words in a sentence, letting the sound wash over me until it eventually fades into the distance. Then I rewind the tape and start again.

Now’s where the fun begins; each sound can be broken down, split into sections, spliced, repeated, slowed down. I hear the patterns, loop the strongest emotion, the spike, amplify it and replay it over and over, watch the levels hit their crescendo and slowly lap back down. I isolate the two main frequencies, the killer and the victim, fade out the victim’s channel and hone in on the killer’s. I’ve seen it all before; crimes of passion always sound the same. The anger is stronger but sadder, alloyed with jealousy and lust, and the pitch is high, keyed in a minor or sharp minor. But this sound isn’t like this at all; the pitch and key are frighteningly constant, steady, controlled. I fade the victim’s channel back in and turn the volume up. Here it comes, the victim’s fear escalating in overlapped discordant flats until the soprano death zenith, but still, on the opposite level the killer’s frequency remains unchanging, detached, cold. The victims frequency deflates and disappears into white noise, silence holes expanding, sonic gas disappearing but really only being sucked in, like the whirlpool before a typhoon.

I turn off the machine and sit in the silent half-light. Beads of perspiration are pouring down my forehead, both palms are moistened with sweat and there’s a distinct stiffnesss in my crotch. After a few minutes I reach up and take the tape off the reel, then, cradling it gently in my arms, I lower it gently into the large, metal kitchen sink. I strike a match, drop it into the sink and watch the tape slowly but irreversibly curl and glow to a melted, undecipherable mass. Once the cremation is complete I wash the remnants down the plug hole, then, taking the key from around my neck, I walk to my other special room, the one where I keep all of my trophies; a pair of heels, a bracelet, a pendant containing a lock of hair, and now, in a rectangular velvet box, a woman’s amputated ring finger, with the wedding ring still attached.

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Tim Waltho

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