Author: Guede Mazaka
12 o'clock. Midnight.
The bells are ringing. But then again, in Mexico the bells are always ringing. Every single non-religious shithole is within throwing distance of a house of Him. The Grand Most High Fucker of All.
These bells are different, Sands finally notices, after the aggravation and rage has crested. After all, there's not much else he can do but listen. Considering he's tied to a fucking hospital bed, drugged to his eyeholes and bored out of his mind. Maybe it was a bad idea to try to claw that fuckass doctor. Even if it'd kept him from getting a thermometer up to rectum. Blinded and weak Sands may be, but he ain't no fool, and in Mexico, you didn't stick anything into yourself you didn't buy/steal yourself.
But yeah, the bells. They've just finished, the last ring too deadened and too deafening at all once. It's like Sands is listening to the Ave Maria from under the floor, with the choir standing directly above him.
And then there's the presence. "Get the fuck out," Sands snaps, yanking at the wrist straps even though he's sure he looks utterly stupid flapping his hands like a penguin. "Visiting hours are closed."
"But you can hardly suppose that a good agent would arrive when he's expected, Agent Sands," answers a smooth, deep drawl. The other man precision-cuts the ends of his words, rolling the middles. Faintly foreign, too. Oxford prof. slumming it.
"Didn't you limpdicks wrap up our little debriefing already?" Sands questions, flopping back into his half-baked pillow of brick. "And in case you missed the memo, I was retired as of high goddamn Gary Cooper noon. So fuck off. Out of your jur-ris-dic-tion." He puts an extra dig into the third syllable.
"Well, then, Mr. Sands," says the other man, showing off his own cutely snide chops, "I believe you are mistaken as to my identity. Though that is certainly no surprise. You humans, you're so reliant on your feeble senses." Beginning as calm, the voice rises and roughens as it comes closer. "Take one away, and you're more helpless than the proverbial babe in the woods."
No footsteps. No breath, damn it. Sands is woozy, but he knows pharmaceuticals and he shouldn't be hallucinating yet.
"I am not a member of your pathetic Central Intelligence Agency. I would not even bother destroying an organization so badly muddled and incompetent that it would let someone like you handle a coup d'état." Back to serene arrogance. Hackles spikes all along Sands' back.
"Really, sir," Sands retorts acidly. "I can hardly expect anyone in the intelligence business to have any sense of humility, but logically speaking, it would seem rather hypocritical for a dead man to advise a living one. As you seem to have fucked up, after all. Or perhaps it was fucked off? Was he pretty?"
Growling, mechanical grinding of teeth. "I. Am. Not. A. Man. You idiot! I have superior reasoning skills, unaffected by your petty emotions. I don't rot, I cannot be wounded, I cannot DIE!" The yell precipitates to a brutal whisper, almost stirring the air in Sands' ear. "Whereas you can. You thought you too were perfect, didn't you? I've seen it before, and it always amazes me. The sheer nerve of you humans. The heights of self-delusions to which you will climb just to justify your pointless lives."
"You should really stay away from the German school," Sands interrupts, quickly tiring the other man's self-righteousness. "They build some fine cars and guns, but their philosophy sucks the proverbial cock."
A dry chuckle falls out of the air. "A strange custom, that mankind puts so much stock in glibness and 'pluck.' Very well, Mr. Sands. As I cannot speak to you, then what would you say to me? What pearls of wisdom can your exemplary life offer?"
Sands opens his mouth, but nothing comes. His vocal chords hang loose in his throat, and his mind takes a sudden, dizzying drop back to reality.
"Exactly," agrees his visitor. "Nothing. That's what you were born. That's what you are. That's what you will return to."
In desperation, Sands forces air from his lungs, but all that comes is an unintelligible croak that cuts the air in two as the presence leaves.
A single brassy chime marks the hour, and suddenly there are fingers brushing over his face, jerking to a stop at the bandages over Sands' empty sockets. "You're blind," his new visitor remarks, wondering like a child.
"Yeah. It happens," Sands answers sardonically, still shaking from his last conversation. He can't feel any weight on the bed beside himself, and his hands, stretching their tethers out to the farthest, graze no body. "Probably shouldn't take those off," he continues, not especially caring. "It's no beauty under there."
"I wouldn't know," laughs the other man. Floating tenor, but soft like feathers. "I'm blind, too."
"Really." In spite of himself, Sands takes an interest. "How come? A girl?"
"Yes," says his visitor, startled. "How did you know?"
"Lucky guess." Sands rolls his head sideways in hopes of finding a cooler spot. There isn't one; the A/C in this hospital is absolute shit, and the night heat only makes the sterile reek even stronger. "It's always a girl. Bitches."
"She wasn't-" Indignant rebuttal cut short, then modulating to sympathy. "You were fighting. I wasn't; at least, I wasn't fighting her. I love her."
"Good for your fucking life, then," Sands taunts. "Listen, you want to have a pity-fest, do it yourself. I'm not in the mood for swapping sob stories."
A long silence occupies the space before the other man speaks again. "Can you see? At all?"
"Are you mentally-deficient?" snarls Sands. "At all? Of course I can't, you shit-brained Casper. They scooped the whole fucking eyeballs out."
"Yeah. I know." Strangely, his visitor doesn't sound riled. "I still have some of mine, but…they were burnt. With this huge cable." The disembodied fingers begin to skate over Sands' cheeks again. "But I could still see some things, afterward. Not like-not like normal. Different things that I couldn't if I'd kept my eyes."
"So? You aren't me," Sands replies, tone meant to be scathing and instead coming out defiantly wistful.
"I know. I don't know anything about you," the other man admits. "I don't know much of anything. But I know you can choose. There's always choices, and there's always something worth making a decision about."
For the second time that night, Sands loses the words. He can only lay there as gentle lips brush his forehead, and a gentle voice wishes him good luck.
Chime twice, shimmering around the ward.
The third is silent and, somehow, solid. Solid as his-and it is a he, because by now Sands can't bring himself to imagine otherwise-predecessors were ephemeral.
Sands is angry and trembling and afraid of his fear. So he anticipates the introduction, makes his grab for control of the dialogue. "Well, hello there. So nice to meet you, no-name, despite the fact that I can't actually meet you. Slight problem with the eyes-" Sands turns his head back-and-forth "-and the hands." Which he lifts into the air. "Hopefully, you can see. It's just be so cheap if I got two of a kind."
"I'm guessing you're here to offer me the two doors. Or maybe it's three-nah. It's always two, isn't it? Life and death." Sands lowers one hand, and turns his still-raised one palm-up. "All right. Let's see. On one end of the scale, we've got death. Nastily final. No certain destination, and I don't even know where they'd stick my stinking corpse. But then again, I'd have to believe in an afterlife in order to care about my body, and that presupposes a higher power. Which, if there is one, has royally fucked me over. And so I couldn't give a damn. At least it'd stop the goddamn visits. They're giving me a migraine."
Re-lifting the other hand, palm to the ceiling, Sands does his best impression of blind justice's solemnity. He revels in the irony for a moment before going on. "Life. Current prospects: shitty, but with a chance of vengeance. Bit of effort shall be required, but hey, the warm-and-fuzzies of a bullet blowing off flesh should make up for that. Except yeah, don't have anyone left to go after, now, do I? 'less I feel like chasing down that fucker El, and thereby saying he's worth the fucking waste of time. Damn. This is hard. Gimme a moment."
It takes a moment for Sands to register the boots clomping across the tile, and by then it's too late. There's already a hand crushing his throat, and another smashing his nose and lips closed. Struggling futilely, Sands runs through every curse he knows before his head starts that permanent downward whirl. When his lungs begin to seize up from the burn, he's begun on the wishes and maybes.
And then-air. Loss of pressure. Hard gasps bowing his body up, Sands discovers that even blind, he can still see the diamond explosions as the blood and oxygen rushes back to his head and heart.
"You cannot pick between life and death until you've known both," comes the shocking, accent-slurred remark. "And now I've shown you."
"El," Sands pants. He twists toward the voice, and fuck-
Sands watches the mariachi leave, mind lead and heart fire. Unconsciously, his hands curl in till blood seeps out of his fist to dot the blankets.