“Can you hear the drums,” the General yanked the man’s head up so that he could look into the bloodied and bruised eyes, “Fernando?” he jerked his head back down again Fernando felt nothing.
“They are counting down the remainder of your life,” the General spat in Fernando’s face, the spittle mingling with blood from the wounds in his head. “I remember long ago,” the General laughed waving a languid arm at the sky, “another starry night like this.”
In the firelight that played softly in his eyes Fernando could see a memory, a man softly humming, playing the guitar. A bugle calls, the memory fades. Fernando raised his head; his mouth opened, his dry tongue licks at the broken lips as a distant voice swims through the throbbing in his mind from across the courtyard. He turns his face toward the sound. A woman is yelling she is being beaten to ground by the soldiers. She sobs bitter tears, her face ground into the dirt beneath unjust boots, a barrel nuzzled to her cheek. Every minute, every second seemed to last an eternity. They had been so young when it all began riding across the Rio Grande: they would shout and sing for liberty.
“I can see it in your eyes, Fernando.” The General tugged at the blood caked ropes that tied Fernando to the post. The wall behind him pock marked with bullet holes where so many of his brothers had made their last stand. “I see those memories of nights so long ago, eh?” The General whirled around grabbing Fernando by his hair thrusting his head back against the post. “You-think-that-you-can-still-win?” he pounded out the words with Fernando’s head upon the post. Face to face a wicked sneer curled the corners of his mouth. “There’s no regret.” The General turning his back gestured to the soldiers.
Fernando raised his head at the sound of the rifle bolts being drawn back. The General whirled around. “Look at you, old and grey. And what is this?” The General yanked the collar from Fernando’s shirt. “You think that God can help you?” Grasping Fernando by the hair he jerked his head from side to side, “Look around do you see him anywhere? Do you?” The General stepped back surveying his handiwork as he tugged a laced handkerchief from his top pocket his hands trembling as he wiped the blood from them.
Fernando raised his head to the heavens, a single tear rolled from his eye. “My God, my … God.” His lips trembling revealing his shattered teeth and bloodied gums. “Why have you forsaken me?” his voice dry and rasping. He closed his eyes listening to the sharp wrap of the drums.
The General laughed to himself as he walked triumphantly from the scene tossing his handkerchief high over his head. Fernando watched it tumble and flutter as it fell to the ground kissing the earth with its silken touch.
The walls of courtyard erupted on all sides. Guns fired, cannons roared, smoke swirled.
Fernando recoiled, his eyes sprang open. He gasped. Pain tore right through him as another bullet scarred the wall. He could hear the dull rhythm of his own heart thumping in his ears. The world swirled around him voices and gun fire merged in a cacophony of life’s final song. Voices everywhere calling his name, a white light flashed before his eyes then the deafening sound of a single gunshot rang in his ears. The General was standing before him blood trickling from the corner of his mouth his eyes wide staring at the wet blood on his hand. His body arced as the silver blade burst through his chest.
“Fernando,” the woman cried, her blood soaked blouse stuck to her heaving chest as she fought for breath. “It is finished.” Pulling the sword from the General’s body she cut the ropes that held Fernando to the post catching his him as he fell into her arms. Too weak to support him she collapsed to the ground cradling him to her bosom. She could feel the heat of his blood on her skin as it mingled with her own. Choking back the tears she laid Fernando across her lap his arm fell lifelessly by his side.
Unable to stem the tide that had welled up inside her, she wept gently wiping the blood from his face with her tears. “If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend.” Closing his eyes she kissed him softly for the last time. “Fernando.”