Here it is, kids! As promised on twitter, the rewrite (okay, the re-re-rewrite). I’ve also been thinking about the wisdom of getting so darned excited, I just kinda go off and post things prematurely. I’m gonna work on that, but I’m still gonna get excited! Deal with it…

New! Improved! Now with more dialogue and less expostion! It’ll be easier to make it into a comic that way…

June 15, 2003

It began on a normal day like any other. Ahmed Akbar was a brilliant young man, going off to the school where he was the youngest teacher on staff. He slung the worn messenger bag that contained his lunch and the test results from his students over his shoulder. He kissed his wife, Sanaa, on the cheek and their infant son, Raheem, on the top of his head and went to the front door of their modest two room house on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Al-Awja.

The door wouldn’t open.

Since the bombings and the American invasion, the door frame had shifted.

Too proud to leave his house by the back door, it had been the same comical story every morning for months now because Ahmed felt it was, “too insignificant a thing to bother with.”

“Ahmed, I swear, you must fix that door,” Sanaa laughed. “It embarrasses me to have to tell our friends to go around back to enter our house.”

“Sanaa, my love, we are lucky to even have a door after what has happened around here,” he reminded her but then added, “I will fix it on our next day of rest. I promise.”

She looked down at the infant in her arms. “Do you hear that, Raheem? Your father will fix the door on Friday. He promised. We will see.”

Ahmed pushed up hard on the latch and to the left and the door opened. “See? I told you I could open the door,” he smiled. “Friday,” he promised and left the house, slamming the door behind him to close it. It shook the china on the shelves and the baby started to cry.

Later that morning, a squad of American contract soldiers were patrolling the neighborhood. This had become a common sight and there didn’t seem to be any cause for alarm.

They came to Ahmed’s house.

Sanaa was sitting in her chair and reading with Raheem asleep in her lap.

The soldiers knocked on the door with their rifle butts and Raheem woke up crying. Sanaa got up to answer the door but she couldn’t open it.

The soldiers, hearing the baby crying on the other side, knocked louder and demanded that it be opened.

Sanaa tried to open the door again but couldn’t with Raheem in her arms.

“I can’t get it open. Please go around to the back!” she cried in her native tongue, which the Americans could not understand.

“You hear that? Sounds like a baby’s crying,” said the squad leader. “We got reports of insurgents in the area and it looks like somebody doesn’t want us to come in. Kick down the door!”

Two men kicked in the door on its hinges, knocking Sanaa backwards. Raheem fell out of her arms and she struck her head on the corner of a table, killing her instantly. Raheem’s neck was broken in the fall and Ahmed Akbar’s little family lay lifeless on the floor.

“Now what?” exclaimed one of the American contractors.

“Well, she seems to be the only one home. No terrorist insurgents here,” said the squad leader. “Let’s get the hell outta here!”

“Yeah,” said one of the men, “the corporation’s not payin’ me enough to get involved in a murder investigation, even if was an accident!”

Rather than trying to offer assistance, they left Sanaa and Raheem on the floor where they lay and ran.

A few blocks away, the leader said, “Okay, that never happened. Am I clear?”

The rest of the squad agreed and nothing more was said or done about it.

After school, Ahmed came home and, seeing the door open, ran inside and discovered that life as he knew it was over. He screamed as he sat on the floor in the pool of his wife’s blood, holding his lifeless family in his arms until the neighbors came.

“Murdered at the hands of the American infidels!” he said quietly at the funeral. “I hate the Western dogs that brought war to my peaceful world. I will strike back!” he hissed between his teeth.

After he said his final goodbyes to his little family, his wife’s uncle approached him.

“I know of a man who can help you to avenge the death of my brother’s daughter and grandson. If you wish, I can have him contact you. Not now, but when your head and your heart are clearer.”

Ahmed looked at the man through enraged eyes and said, “Please. I cannot let this travesty go unpunished.”

A few days later he was visited by a man from a secret organization that was so secret, it had no name, nor seemingly any members that knew about each other. He recruited Ahmed to join the fight, and told him he would be able to get his revenge against the capitalist mongrels that were ruining the world with their vile arrogance, spreading hatred wherever they went. The mild mannered schoolteacher was transformed into a terrible angel whose only mission was to avenge the death of his family.

His handler, known to him only as Kadin, met with him at his house and told Ahmed of their plan for him.

“Right now, there is a young American that we are grooming for a position in the American government. He will start out as a junior banking executive. In a short time, he will get involved in local politics. From there, with our influence, he will become mayor of his city and then governor of his state. From there, he might become a Senator, a Congressman, or even President of the United States,” Kadin told him.

“But what has that do with me?” Ahmed asked. He was becoming a bit perturbed. “How does this American fairy tale have anything to do with me?”

Kadin smiled. “Because, my young friend, that young man I just spoke of?”

“Yes,” Ahmed’s impatience was growing.

Kadin clapped his hands together and exclaimed with delight, “That young man will be you!”

Ahmed’s mouth dropped open. “What? How?”

“We know you are the same blood type, and you possess the correct bone structure and body type. You wear the same size clothing, and even your shoe size is the same as the American. That is why we chose you for this mission. The physical changes you will undertake will be only to your eyes and minor facial features, along with a slight modification to your voice box so you will have his voice.”

Kadin took a photo, an 8 X 10, full face head shot of the American from a folder. He handed it to Ahmed.

“Do you see how alike you already are?”

Ahmed looked at the photo. He did look a great deal like the person in the photo.

Kadin pulled out another photo. It was of Ahmed.

“Put them side by side, my young friend.”

Ahmed held one picture in each hand and brought them together.

“The similarity is astounding. We could be brothers!” he exclaimed.

“Do you see? Now imagine all those things I told you about, happening to you. Can you now see your place in our jihad, impatient one?”

“I think so,” said Ahmed, still a bit dazed at the concept. “Tell me more, Kadin.”

“Once the operations are concluded, and while you are recovering, we will teach you to speak flawless English with intense speech therapy. Your body will be trained to move the way the American does and you will learn all of his mannerisms and other physical traits that make the American unique.

“When your transformation is complete, you will fool even the most sophisticated facial recognition systems. You will become the American.

“The American has no idea that right now he is being monitored and videotaped, even as he sleeps, so that you will be able to study his every movement and facial expression until, with the help of our team of experts, you, Ahmed, will be able to walk and talk and move through the world exactly like him.

“You will replace the American.”

“But how can you just replace a person?”

Kadin placed his hand on Ahmed’s shoulder and said, “It will be easier than you think. The less you know, the better, until the time comes. We have done this before, many times. Do not worry yourself, my young friend.”

Ahmed thought about this.

“And when the time is right, you and others like you will strike a powerful blow to cripple the infidel American machine from the inside. We cannot fail!”

“When do we begin?” Ahmed asked.

“Would right now be too soon?”

“Oh,” Ahmed was taken aback. This was all so sudden. “No, right now would be fine. Can I just be alone for a few moments to say goodbye to the memories of my family?”

“Of course. I will wait for you in the car. Take your time. Come out when you have made your peace and are ready to begin your glorious journey. Bring nothing with you. We will provide everything you need,” Kadin said, and he slipped out the back door.

Ahmed went into the bedroom and picked up Sanaa and Raheem’s pillows and held them to his face. He breathed in the scent of his family one last time. He took his favorite family picture from its frame, folded it, and put it in his wallet.

He heard Kadin start up the car and pull it around front.

He struggled with the front door for the final time and stood in the doorway to his little house, angry tears in his eyes as he remembered the joy and laughter that had once filled this home. Walking out for the last time, he slammed the door.

He heard the sound of breaking china as he stalked away to begin his new life.

So what do you think?


(the sound of crickets, wind blowing…)