Sûrah XV
"Verily We created man of potter's clay of black mud altered..."


The seventh of thirteen siblings, Ahmed Al-Hijr was born to a rock-encrusted destiny, raised and precipitately recruited in the slums of West Beirut, wherein the giving of birth to many ensured subsistence for an ill-fated few. Ahmed's was a slim chance, once he took his place on the streets among innumerable excess urchins, sharpening his survival skills at an early, unripe age, cultivating cunning and an appetite for martyrdom. Infant, toddler, child, adolescent were names for normal stages through which Ahmed passed with little normal delineation, struggling to secure the bare-bone basics: clothing, food, and shelter ever his daily aims. What meant ideology, in so practical an environment? What meant Al-Islam, in a world devoid of hope? Everything, simply stated. And Hezb-Allah was everywhere looking for fedayeen, those willing to sacrifice life itself for Allah and the Party's righteous cause. Violence given a purpose, brutishness reshaped by discipline, Ahmed's tendencies blossomed whence devoted to jihad—his first assignment surveillance: observe, find fault, report transgressions of his neighbors, regardless how niggling:

  • a curl dangling loose from the chador (scarf)

  • laxness in fastening the hajab (veil)

  • entering toilets with right foot preceding (the left was punctiliously  prescribed)

helped Ahmed learn tam'yeez (to discern right from wrong), and thereby give weight to indictments—grown legend, when puberty lent his commitment true passion, when hormones gave zeal to dogmatic decrees, when acne defaced all save flawless intentions, his efforts rewarded, his fervor unleashed, promoted from witness to scourge.

Smokers of hashish incurred mostly censure, the practice disparaged as sordid, depraved, unless it were done as a form of devotion to fathom enigmas, to plumb depths Divine, to embolden those chosen for doling comeuppance— through beating, or stoning, or slashing with knives, or (Ahmed's nefarious favorite) disfiguring, splashing transgressors with acid: face, eyes; whichever part sinned drew his hallowed reprisals, his handiwork widespread, both feared and defamed (though none of his victims claimed innocence).

Thence came his passage to manhood (age fourteen) and the title "assassin" (from the term hashashim) which Ahmed exactingly earned. At first messily. A blow struck for Allah should be swift, sure, and mighty. His had been drawn out, inept, worse yet, weak. The mahdur addamm (him whose blood must be spilled) had been stunned, was all, bludgeoned, but far, far from purged, the punishment due such an unfaithful whoremonger left unaccomplished. He might have been spared... had the smoker-of-hashish proved less than intrepid. But failure was not to be brooked or condoned. Rectitude needs must prevail.

Ahmed, accordingly, hid, deep in shadow, outside the brothel's dank entryway, armed, equipped with a truncheon, his nerves like a briar patch. Sweating; he could smell himself. Antsy; he itched. A prickly heat rash spread from armpits to belly. Knuckles went white. He heard footsteps. Jaw clenched, he recognized him who gave talks at the Mosque, extolled Muslim morals, warned youths to spurn vices that he, two times monthly, covertly indulged, after rapping his signal on the whorehouse's door—where Ahmed, prepared to enforce the Sharia (regardless of consequence)...

Too soon / so quick / the cudgel deflected / a shocked backward stagger / an upraised arm fending off worse compound fractures / blood vessels ruptured / blue bruise slow to seep what was red but looked black in the ill-lighted threshold / where seconds protracted to input minutia on teenage self-consciousness mauled by chagrin / demise held at bay by an unabridged pause wherein details, gory details tattooed Ahmed's memory, as if dues for his meting out pure just-desserts must be paid by enduring this slow-motion tempo, prolonging the second dull "THUD" several fold, exposing awareness of the strength it required to dislocate his weapon from the wound it inflicted, to which it adhered with a lip-smacking suck, resisted the blunt-end's untimely extraction lest finally it wrench free to rear, strike again, deliver an impact so crippling it dazed, occasioned a hitch in the wheeze wheezed unceasingly, triggered a skip in the unyielding pulse, though neither surrendered to the next blow, nor the next, as chunks of the caved-in skull shifted, congealed, made mishmash of that which defines humans beings, reduced now to dead meat unfit save for curs, unless death refused still to blind wide-eyed panic, to extinguish what stared from a pulverized phiz—cursed, double-cursed, by the youth whose persistence delivered the sinner to Hell.

Tense, enraged, Ahmed extracted his prick from his pants, intending to piss on the miscreant's corpse, an action his hard-on delayed.