The Long Game

He was born Hayyan Haddadi.

He was born of war torn places and scarred, disfigured faces.

He was born to be a dagger.

Long before he would be known as Albert, he was a young, skinny brown boy with a quick smile and an even quicker mind.

Which was why he was selected, why he was made to go at such a young age away from his parents, onto a tanker across the Atlantic, and arrive early one morning on the Yucatán peninsula.

He was instructed early, as he began losing that quick smile, and as he began his transformation into a brooding, unbreakable zealot, that he was never to forget his mother tongue, but that his Spanish, and later his English, was to be flawless.

Buenos días, me llamo Alberto. Por favor dame unos pesos. No he comido en tres días.

“Please, mister. I haven’t eaten in many days. I’m very hungry.”

He didn’t need the money. His people always had food, always had shelter.

For God was good. Great, in fact.

But panhandling forced him to know how to speak. How to get people to pity him. How to let him into their lives, even if for a few moments.

And in their pity he saw their weakness.

So they would give him metal eagles, Mexican or American, and he would bring them back each night, showing them how resourceful he’d become. How well he had taken to the training.

How sharp the dagger was getting…


Some years later, he crossed over, after making his way through the inner arch of Mexico, near where Matamoros and Brownsville kissed.

He was ten by then, sinewy and strong for his age, and to everyone he encountered, undeniably Mexican.

He remembered the chill of that night to his last day. The breeze coming in from the Gulf, the lights of America at last in his sights.

But just as quickly as he was across, he was heading north, to San Antonio.

There he would learn other languages, to prepare him for his future.

cout<<“Hello World, this is Alberto”;

Learning to code came as easily to him as everything else.

It was another stone against which the dagger was getting finely edged.

As was enrolling in Junior ROTC, playing football, and being the Good Immigrant.

As he grew from a child into manhood, his smile returned.

But it never reached his eyes.

And the dagger grew ever sharper.


“What ever happened to Albert?” Andy Jensen asked one summer afternoon, several years later.

“Martinez? I heard he went into the Navy or Army or something. Never heard from him after graduation.”

“Oh yeah? I guess it figures. He was always into that shit, right? Dressing up in those uniforms for that Rot-See class.” Andy opened the cooler, which by this point was mostly filled with cold water, a few remaining floating ice cubes, and the three surviving Natty Lights from their beer run the day before. He grabbed one of these latter and opened it up with a well-practiced motion.

After taking a long draw and letting out an impressive belch, he said, “Hey Leland, you remember that night Albert started speaking in tongues? He got sick and was burning up, remember? Fuck that was weird.”

Leland just nodded. He was still nursing a Natty Light (and a hangover) of his own, but a wrinkle of a thought came over his face. It did sound like a bunch of gibberish, those noises Albert had made, drenched in sweat and thrashing in his bunk.

What he really remembered, though, was that right before the nurse got there and they took him to the hospital, when it was just Leland looking over him as the rest of the guys went for help, was that Albert seemed to come out of it for a few seconds.

“Leland,” he said in the darkness, “I am the dagger. You will be made to suffer.”

“Why me?” Leland asked reflexively.

“Not just you, my friend. You will all suffer,” he said, a horrific grimace growing on his face.

Then Albert passed out, for which Leland was quite relieved.


What’s the rest of the story?

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