Sand into Glass
[11.15.01] » by Luke Taylor
the Mercy Seat I climb,
head is shaved, my head is wired,
like the moth that tries to enter the bright eye,
go shuffling out of life,
to hide in death a while,
anyway, I never lied..." - The Mercy Seat - Nick Cave & the Bad
It gets everywhere, into clothes, food, ears, eyes. Hylas Iachimo had thought
it was bad enough at the beach, but since he had arrived at Corel Desert
Prison, affectionately known as "The Sandpit," it got a whole lot worse.
The sand was all over him as he sat on the bonnet of a rusted-out car, rolling
a cigarette in the baking desert heat. I can see why this places makes such
a good prison, he though as he popped the fresh cig into his mouth. The
combination of heat, thirst and sand in this hell-hole was enough to remove
anyone's will to live, let alone escape.
shadow passed across Hylas, and he was glad for the momentary decrease in the
temperature. It didn't last long, as the figure casting the shadow sat next to
him on the car.
Iachimo. Was I in your sun?" A voice said, high and reedy.
funny, Davis." Hylas said, not looking up. Davis Matouya was the nearest
thing he could have to a friend in the place. It wasn't exactly the ideal
climate for meeting people. Well, for meeting people that wouldn't kill you for
looking at them funny.
gonna give me a drag of that?" Davis asked. Hylas handed him the roll-up.
all I am to you? Free smokes?" Hylas complained.
yeah." Davis blew out a stream of smoke through his nostrils that Bahamut
would have been proud of. Hylas snatched the cigarette back.
I'm touched." He said as he laid back on the hot metal. The two men fell
into silence, watching the distant sandstorms that scoured the landscape. Half
an hour, maybe forty minutes, passed before either of them spoke.
hear they set you a date." Said Davis, quietly.
to hear that."
be." Another silence, wind moaning gently in the distance.
the day then?" Davis asked.
Friday. The 13th."
They got some sense of humour, don't they?" Yet another pause. "Well,
I gotta go. Things to do, you know how it is. See ya 'round." He pulled
his bulky frame off the car and waddled off toward E-Sector.
The thing about deserts is that while they are
scorching hot during the day, at night they are cold enough to freeze the
unwary to death. It was a common fate for the new inmates of the prison,
especially in the winter months. Hylas had quickly learnt that the only way to
survive was to improvise: the "authorities" who ran this place
certainly didn't provide anything. And why should they? This was a human
dumping ground. The worst of the worst occupied these barren wastes, waiting to
die either by natural methods or execution. Most people welcomed execution. Of
course, a few people made it by the Chocobo races, but that was only a few.
Only a few got the chance to race, and most of them lost. In fact, during his
seven year spell down amongst the dunes, Hylas had only heard of one person
who'd made it, that spikey-haired kid from a few years back who seemed to get
into fights wherever he went.
had gotten lucky when he first arrived. He had found a tiny gap between the
wrecked shells of a pair of oil tankers which lead to a small opening,
protected from the wind and sun. A few night-time scavenging trips had provided
him with plenty of protection from the elements, and he was probably the least
uncomfortable of all the inmates. No-one knew about this small haven, not even
Davis, and he intended to keep it that way. Although he didn't have long to
hide it, because next Friday he wouldn't have to see this place again.
years down in this hellhole, for something he didn't do. Most of the people
down here would say the same. Not all, because some of them were, in a perverse
kind of way, proud of their crimes. But the majority of them protested their
innocence until they were blue in the face, or the person they were throttling
was blue in the face, whichever came first. Hylas was different in the fact
that he was actually innocent of the crime he was accused of.
right, so he wasn't exactly innocent. You couldn't survive in the slums of
Midgar and stay pure as the proverbial driven, but handling stolen goods and
maybe the odd assault hardly constituted a death sentence. But if it's the word
of a Shinra executive against a materia dealer from the slums, who's the court
It never snowed in the slums, even in that winter
seven years ago that was the coldest on record, according to Debbie De-Lite,
the busty bottle-blonde that hosted the weather reports on Shinra's news
channel. No snow in Sector 3, just ice on the water tanks and the breath of
it's inhabitants slowly winding up toward the plate. Hylas could remember it
well, especially as he did a brisk trade in fire materia then, from people
wanting to supplement the warmth from overstrained Mako reactors. Lots of
houses burned down that year, he recalled.
ran a materia shop back then. It wasn't quite legitimate, but compared to some
of the other stuff that went on around him, it was almost wholesome. And he had
a wife then too. Kristen, the reason for his current situation. Hylas thought
that while he was out earning them a living, maybe looking towards having kids,
she was at home being the dutiful wife. He didn't pick up on the little signs,
the hushed phone calls, the occasional new trinket that she could never have
afforded, until that one day when he decided to take the afternoon off and go
that happened then still seemed very clear to Hylas. The ticking of the clock
on the mantelpiece booming in his ears, the dust swirling and falling in the
candlelight as he made his way to the back bedroom to find his beloved wife and
surprise her with the bouquet of flowers he'd bought from a pretty young girl
in pink on his way home. The door creaked as it swung open to reveal his wife,
his love, his Kristen half-naked in the arms of a man he'd never seen before,
but knew anyway: a Turk, the jacket of that trademark blue suit flung
haphazardly onto the bed, their bed which was now being invaded.
pairs of eyes turned to look at him, one guilty, one mocking, and inevitably
the red mist descended. He lunged across the room, toward the trained,
efficient, professional killer that was holding his wife. Looking back, it
wasn't one of his brightest moves. Kristen scurried out of the way as the two
men wrestled across the room, exchanging blows. Hylas knew how to handle
himself in a fight, because you didn't survive in Midgar unless you could look
after yourself, especially if you ran a shop in the slums. The Turk looked to
be taking a bit of a beating, Hylas could feel the man's blows becoming more
and more sluggish as they fought.
it happened. Hylas punched the Turk, and he staggered back onto the bed, where
his blue jacket laid. In one quick movement, his hand flashed into the jacket
and pulled out a gun. Small caliber, mako-assisted, materia-equipped handgun.
Hylas knew he was already dead even before the trigger was pulled and the
mako-powered bullet was headed straight for his chest. But the bullet never hit
him. Wordlessly, no exclamation or scream of terror, Kristen jumped in front of
the bullet as it sped towards her husband. She caught it right through the
heart, then it lodged against the spine, or so the coroner said. She had no
chance. Hylas caught the falling body, dead before it reached his arms, and sat
cross-legged on the cold stone floor. Holding his dead wife in his arms, Hylas didn't
notice or care as the Turk walked calmly over to him and pistol-whipped him on
the temple, knocking him out cold.
came around just as the police arrived, alerted by some neighbour. The Turk had
put the gun in Hylas's hand as he lay unconscious. The neighbours had heard the
sounds of a fight. Hylas couldn't name the Turk. The court's judgement was
quick, no chance of appeal, and Hylas was shipped off to The Sandpit. And soon,
very soon, his time in one Hell was about to give way to another.
Friday rolled around quickly, which Hylas
appreciated. Nothing would have been worse than it dragging on. It's good to
get these things over and done with for everyone involved. A few of the more
sociable inmates gave their condolences as the day approached, and a few said
good riddance, but on the whole no-one cared. Too many people had passed
through in the same way for them to register more that a tiny ripple on their
life, so why should Hylas be any different?
then, it was here. Ten-thirty A.M. on the date of Friday the 13th, armed guards
from the Saucer politely asked him to follow them to the execution chamber.
Hylas followed wordlessly, conscious of the eyes of the prison population
burning into him as he trudged away from the grit and sand and into the clean,
cool execution room. He wondered how many of those eyes were jealous of him.
to the sweltering heat of the desert, the holding room before the execution
chamber was bliss. Cool steel and an air-conditioning unit meant that at least
Hylas's last few moments, however long that was, were in relative comfort. The
guards had taken his few belongings, crammed him into orange overalls that were
at least three sizes too small for him and left him in the cell without a word
while "Ol' Ramuh", the prison's ancient electric chair was set up.
a while, the large steel door slid back and a priest entered, clutching some
huge holy book or other nervously under his arm and with a look of apprehension
contorting his features. Hylas smiled inwardly at the man's obvious discomfort
at being locked in a room with a "murderer", but he kept his face
straight, to unnerve the priest if nothing else. The man, now sweating
profusely, sat on a chair opposite Hylas and placed the book delicately on his
lap. After a moment of embarrassed silence, the priest began to speak.
hello, m-m-my son..." the old man stammered. "I have c-come to offer,
th-th-that is, I am here to comfort y-you in you, errm, final moments..."
nice of you." said Hylas, still not changing his expression or posture.
The preist thumbed through the book nervously, which Hylas could see was the
Chronicles of Saint Ajora, which his mother had made him read when he was very
then, is there any, any, anything you wish to conf, errm, repent for?" The
priest kept his eyes firmly down on the book. Hylas stood up suddenly, and the
priest yelped in shock, dropping the tome on the floor.
the point? There's no point in regrets, and especially no point in searching
for divine salvation." Hylas glanced at the priest. "No
offence." The priest sat silent, rigid with fear. "Look, this isn't a
videogame, you can't save what you've done so far and start again if it goes
wrong. I have nothing to say."
priest stared at him for a second, then gathered up his book and darted to the
door with an agility which Hylas mentally commended the old man on. Hylas sat
back down, and waited.
enough, Hylas was sitting on the chair, strapped and bolted and ready for
disposal. This was it, he thought, finally out. Out of the prison, out of life.
A myriad of thoughts cartwheeled through Hylas's mind, vying to be the last.
Who would miss him, he wondered? No-one, was the answer. Would he be remember?
Doubtful. He figured even the Turk that killed his wife had forgotten it. What
would he have changed if he could have done it all again? He'd have gotten out
Midgar long before that pustulant sore of a place, with Shinra at it's rotten
heart, polluted him and ruined his life. Either that, or he'd have found some
way to nuke the place and do everyone a favour.
thought of his father, vague memories of lab coats, bristly hugs full of
stubble, strange chemicals and that night with the materia fireworks up in
sector three when he'd ridden on his dad's shoulders as the rockets flew up and
almost touched the plate before exploding in rainbow fountains of shimmering
colour. He thought of his mother, austere and firm at times and loving and
gentle at others, but always within the law of God, and that day when they were
snatched from him, the day when love and hope had died from his heart, until
the time he met Kristen.
before the warden pulled the huge lever, Hylas looked around at the faces of
the observers, somber and uneasy with the sense of impending death.
innocent." said Hylas, flat and plain. The men in the room did not flinch.
And then, with a nod to the observers, the Warden pulled the lever with a
clunk. Metal moved, gears grated, a circuit was made and fifty thousand volts
of Mako-generated electricity flowed into Hylas.
shuddered as the power coursed through him, making him writhe and thrash in the
chair, wildly swinging his head from side to side. The observers stared
glassy-eyed at Hylas's macabre death-dance, until the power was finally stopped
and Hylas slumped back into the chair, head hanging down. The prison doctor
gingerly walked over to Hylas's limp body, but when he was about a yard away,
Hylas sat up and opened his eyes. One of the observers fainted.
What... What? stammered the doctor. "He should be dead!" Hylas
twisted his head from side to side, clenching and unclenching his fists.
have to perform the procedure again." said the Warden. "Chapter
seventeen, paragraph nine of the regulations. Please, everyone, step
crowd, which had moved slightly closer to gawp at the freakish sight of the
electrocuted victim, backed off again, and within a minute, the Warden had
slammed that heavy switch again, with the same effect, and the same contortions
of Hylas's body ensued. Again, the power died down, and everyone took a
collective breath to see what had happened this time. Again, Hylas sat up, and
the doctor shook his head slowly as the other stood around, slack-jawed and
this cannot be happening!" He flustered, waving his arms around.
"No-one could survive that!"
mumbled something under his breath.
what do we do now?" the doctor asked the Warden testily. The Warden
gulped, his Adam's apple bobbing along his scrawny neck, and he turned back to
the book of regulations. After a few minutes deliberation, the Warden looked
back to the assembled crowd, and signalled that the process must be repeated
again. Some groaned, some sighed, some were silent, but none of them could bear
to look at Hylas. And so, for the third time, the great lever was pulled.
performed his morbid jig for the crowd again, more violently that the last two
times. The metal straps which bound his arms and legs cut deeply into him,
until blood seeped from his wounds and stained his orange overalls a dark
brown, and a crimson stream trickled out from each of his trouser legs. A loud
crack was heard in the room as Hylas's wild dervish of motion coused his arm to
snap, bending the wrong way. The power began to fail in the prison complex, and
the lights grew dim as the engery was rerouted from them and into Hylas's
thrashing body. And Hylas was smiling the whole time of his third execution, a
faint grin transfixed upon his lips. After what seemed like an eternity, the
power was finally shut down, and once again the prisoner slumped down into Ol'
flooded into the room, extinguishing the sounds of electrocution, and with
expectance and awe, the doctor began to examine Hylas. This time he didn't move
as the doctor lifted his head up to give Hylas some dignity. He took Htlas's
blood-soaked wrist and felt for a pulse. He found one, weak yet insistent. The
doctor, close to cracking stepped away from the chair as Hylas's eyes opened
slowly, wincing with the pain of his broken arm. The room broke into mad
confusion as the spectacle was debated, and no-one knew what to do.
me..." said Hylas weakly. No-one heard him in the commotion. A moment to
regain his composure, and Hylas spoke again, louder this time.
me." this time he was heard, and all eyes were fixed on the prisoner.
"Warden, please read chaper seventeen, paragraph twenty-eight, sub-section
Warden, too shocked by events to argue, read the passage numbly. "In the
event that a prisoner should survive three successive execution attempts, as
outlined in chapter seventeen, paragraphs one though six, the prison is
automatically seen as pardoned by God and must be released immediatly without
the possiblity of further of execution attempts. Any futher execution attempts
made after this for the same crime will be treated as Murder, as defined by chapter
3 of these regulations."
guess that means I'm free." said Hylas, and the room simply stared at him
executions of Hylas Iachimo was the talking point of the whole of the Corel
region for the next three weeks, and gossip was rife. Rumours reached Hylas's
ears of how he had survived the wrath of Ol' Ramuh. Some said he was pardoned
at the last minute to become a Turk, some said he had been swapped for another
prisoner, and one even said that Hylas was some kind of Summon Monster, which
he thought was quite amusing. But soon, the Meteor appeared, and all talk of
Hylas was lost as that presence in the sky, that huge red eye that seemed to be
watching them, hurtled towards the Planet. Hylas thought it quite ironic that
as soon as he escaped from prison that he was condemned to another death
sentence. But at least this time it was shared by everyone. Once the
controversy surrounding his non-death had subsided, Hylas went back to the
prison. He owed someone a favour, and he always paid favours back.
Matouya had the honour of being the first person ever to receive a visitor at
Corel Desert Prison, and he was rather surprised to see Hylas waiting for him.
They said nothing for a second, until Davis burst into laughter.
so funny?" asked Hylas. Davis tried to pull himself together.
just some absurd shit, isn't it? I mean life, ya know. We're all gonna die
soon." He pointed up at the Meteor, hanging in the sky like some kind of
obscenely bloated eavesdropper. "But then again, you'll probably
survive." He grinned at Hylas, flashing crooked teeth. Hylas smiled back.
how did you survive then? I guess you've heard the rumours?" Davis said,
I've heard a few."
you're not a Turk, then?"
no." spat Hylas.
job, I hate those slimy bastards. You a Summon Beast, then?"
do you think?"
dunno, it could happen. Okay, okay, did you kill all the guards and
I killed them all with my mental powers while I was strapped to a two ton hunk
of metal." Hylas said gravely.
Davis perked up at this.
Hylas said wearily.
how the hell did you do it then, 'cos no bugger else can figure it out!"
come here." Hylas turned his back to the guard which was watching them
from the guardhouse a few metres away. He opened his mouth and put the hand of
his unbroken arm in, and began groping around in his mouth.
the hell are you doing?" asked Davis, and Hylas waved for him to be quiet.
Davis shut up. Eventually, there was a tiny click and Hylas pulled his hand out
of his mouth. Cupped in the palm of his hand were four of his back teeth.
not my real teeth..." Hylas turned the teeth over, and Davis could see
they'd been hollowed out. Inside the hole in the middle of the teeth, a green
orb and a blue orb glittered softly as the desert sunlight fell on them. They
were surrounded and linked together by a pair of metal slots, which were in
turn fitted snugly into the four false teeth.
asked Davis in a hushed voice.
My pride and joy. A master Bolt and an Elemental, linked. I made it myself, and
it worked. I was quite surprised."
was silent for a while, deep in thought. "Wait a minute." he said.
"You mean... that absorbed all the electric damage?!" He stared at
Hylas, jaw hanging open. Hylas afforded him a small smile.
was surprised it worked..." said Hylas again.
friend, you are a genius! A bloody genius!"
you dare tell anyone." Hylas said. Davis gave him a "Who, me?"
wouldn't." Davis replied. Hylas held the teeth out to Davis.
shook his head. "Wouldn't do me any good. They've replaced Ol' Ramuh with
lethal injection." Davis grinned. "I don't suppose you have a master
Bio on you, do ya?"
was kidding. Anyway, it doesn't matter. I figure we only have a few days until
the rock hits, anyway."
never know." said Hylas.
if somehow we are alive later, make sure you come back and visit, will
will." said Hylas, and shook Davis's hand, slipping a piece of paper with
a map to Hylas's little hidey-hole into his palm, and making a gesture to keep
quiet to Davis. The guard lumbered out of the hut where he had been sitting and
told them that the visit was over.
care, Hylas." said Davis.
too." said Hylas, and he turned and left Corel Prison once again, for the
I hope you liked it. Any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line.
And a special thanks to everyone at the Northern Crater message board for the
lopvely things they've said about the fic and for just being damn nice people.