Author: Guede Mazaka
El never knows when he'll have them.
They come without warning, like death in the night. The wind blows, and he shuts one pair of candles in sleep, only to find another pair already lit, casting shadows where there should be sun, and light where there should be dark. He wishes he could blow them out, but he doesn't know how.
Perhaps he does. There's a tiny, tiny scar-more like a pinprick-hidden in the crow's feet about his left eye. Too drunk on tequila courage, he'd missed the first time, and Fideo had slapped the knife away before the second. But he's too sober now, for that. All he can do is wait and watch.
For Domino, he saw almost immediately after he met her. For Carolina, it took even shorter: he saw before they crossed paths, saw the music stop and the darkness walk back into his life. He didn't understand then, and tried anyway, but eventually, the wind caught up and he was made to know. And now, he sees without cease, horrors flickering through the night skies before his eyes no matter how many of their daytime counterparts he kills.
Even with a bullet through them, his nightmares don't know when to lie down and rest. Like him, he supposes, twisting his mouth wryly. He doesn't know when to stop, because the red of the sign and the red of the blood are too alike to differentiate. He sees 'halt' emblazoned everywhere, and so he's learned that it means nothing, tells nothing, says nothing.
Something squishing under his boot, grinding into the dust, and him looking down to find eyes looking back at him. Brown-ringed, too perfect to ever exist in the waking world, too beautiful for the burgundy and black oozing out of them, covering the underside of his shoe. That's what El saw three nights ago.
The scar on his hand, running through its width and bleeding anew like a saint's stigmata. Blood running down his arm, dripping whorls over the ground. Two trails, two guitar cases. One too heavy, one too light. And a mound of dirt heaped up over an unnamed grave. That's what El saw two nights ago.
Shifting worlds of sand, stretching to the horizon and back, sucking and swallowing like the very devil around him. A bird plummeting from the sky into his hands. A falcon, small and black and fierce despite its broken wings. It fixed him with a dark glare, so familiar, and that's what El woke up with last night.
A man, spitting and proud-headed in midst of the ruins, meeting him with a cackle and falling into his arms with a whimper. Sterile bitterness of the hospital wafting out through the doors behind them, a stench that El hasn't braved since he staggered out-so long ago, it seems now-leaving wife and child deep in the earth. That's what El saw in the daylight, scorching hot on his face and chilling on his back, except where the arms had wrapped around him and refused to let go.
A heart-a real, human heart-ugly and wizened and beating in his hands as it melted into his fingers. That's all he's seen tonight.
But his are no longer the only nightmares in the room. Eyes burnt with no sleep, body too tired to rest, El turns to the restless one lying next to him and tears off the cheap clothing, startling the dreams away. He has those eggshell wrists tied to the headboard and that sharp collarbone in his mouth before he can think, too fast for him to see anything but a blur. But the man beneath him doesn't fight. Arches up instead, spreads his legs. And throat eating itself away in its own acid, El stoops and dives, devouring the offering.
Tastes skin, tastes hair, tastes blood and saliva and everything. Loses himself in tight hot velvet, throws up the curve of the cheek and the sweaty bend of the back as barriers against the visions. Blinds himself in sex, as he couldn't in life. And screaming, Sands deafens him.
It's awkward for a moment afterward, reluctantly dragging back to the reality of grime and darkness. El loosens the wrists from the headboard, but tightens the loop holding them to each other, not sure what's solid and dying, and what's air and ever-present. Almost as if he understands, Sands lets the mariachi do it. Winces at the bite of leather, but then rolls and breaks open cuts on El's lips, drinks the liquid copper straight from the other man's mouth.
Bread of body, wine of blood. Meal of God. But El doesn't trust in God.
"I dreamed," Sands breathes raggedly into the hollows of El's throat. "Wire strings tied all over me. Jerking till they cut." Shivering, the American is nothing like the crafty demon that once offered El roasted flesh.
El closes his eyes inadvertently, and then snaps them open, yanking the other man closer. "I saw a knife," he tells Sands. "I don't know what its target was."
"Show me how to use it," his bruised and shaking companion asks, burrowing in as if El was shelter. The mariachi closes his eyes again, deliberately, and then even more slowly, lets them crack half-open to study the still-healing scars on the other man. "Later," he says, and it's a promise, black and eternal.
He hadn't seen anything, a moment go. He doesn't mean to, this time. Never again.