Lex Talionis

AN: The lex talionis is a law of equal and direct retribution:

The world is new and fresh. Eden. Men speak with Gods .Men are gods. They willed the world to be thus. The rivers arranged so, sparkling in their mirth, bountiful and boundless in their benevolence. Sparkling, brighter than any jewel, tinkling and splashing their way to quench the thirst of all.. Land not parched into obscenely geometric cracks, split into strange patterns of distress, nor sifting with every errant wind. Laden with trees- it should be so. Verdant, fecund, fertile. Even the poisonous verdure I shall embrace. Trees with bent boughs provide luscious succulent fruit. Golden corn, golden skin, companionship. I shall not end it here. Not here, where the rock warms in the unforgiving sun.

The gummy viscosity of time tautens for him to notice that his feet are burning and pulls them into the realm of the shade, that embracing partial darkness that lets him live. Their nails cracked and yellowed, skin hardened and split in man places. His feet he sees, often for great lengths of time. Perhaps for the first time he contemplates his feet. And in moments of lucidity he feels incredulity at the fact that these ugly appendages are his. There is nothing else save the rocks and the sea and the sky and the sun. The others, they will not let him look for long. The sun blinds, the sea nauseates and the rock oppresses. They do not forgive naked scrutiny. He dare not look too long.

He is dying and he yet makes aesthetic judgements. The last sunset lacked subtlety. This day’s would perhaps never come. He thinks the sun feels on him just like a twig must when a magnifying glass is brought to bear on it, an instant before the vapour emerges from clear air and unfurls into kinetic smoke. Then one puts it out or not, depending on how compatible one was feeling with the house staff.

Not a twig but a bug. That bug. He remembers the details of facetted eyes in the encyclopaedia. Space-centric spherical vision is conceptually closer to the ommatidia than mammalian eyes. The regency picture viewer of his grandmother’s was an adequate magnifying glass and available immediately. In a trice he had run to the quite un-musty library and pilfered the ivory and jade object. Then to his mother’s rose garden for the ladybug beetles that crawled an unhurried existence there. He had soon spotted one resting on a leaf that was on eye level. He focussed the lens on the bug-- its spots were enlarged. He saw the pollen on its black legs, its wings hidden beneath the colourful suit. It would not stay still on the leaf; he moved his own head closer to the grotesquely enlarged head of the bug. It looked evil. It stared at him with malignant intensity; he started back. And then held the glass gingerly at a distance from the leaf. The sun struck it an angle. It was a matter of focal length. The dazzling beam hit the ladybug so that it skittered off the leaf. Fell–clumsy, mechanical and absurdly overturned, on to the grass. But the next bit was intention - to keep it in sight and focus the beam of light, that light sabre photon death-ray till it seemed to deflate and was just a corpse on the ground. He had made a feast for the toiling ants. The picture viewer did not find its way back to the library. He believed somebody was sacked in consequence.


He looked up…About three more hours of daylight. The sun was bearing on him directly now. He felt ravaged, persecuted, and helpless. He had written down the words in imaginary writing on the rock on the third day. Catharsis that he never availed of when he was paying hundreds of dollars for its suitable application He crawled up, levering himself up on creaking, powder-dry joints and felt the lichen beneath his scrabbling fingers —also the rough, adamant surface of the basalt that had withstood the sea. He walked around the rock to a part that still hid in shade. The sea droned on in the background. Evil, authoritative, disciplinarian Neptune. Fiercely bearded and of long, unkempt mane, he taunted him with his constant, unremitting assault on the island and on his ears. He heard the screams some time later. Then he slowly closed is mouth. He needed more of his magical amanita-Soma.

The land was made fruitful and man was given dominion over all…


Part 2

His next dawn was after the previous one, of that he could be certain. Maybe. Time had shed its inexorable linearity and proceeded in odd bundles, back and forth between dream and wakefulness and the realisation that the boundary between the states of consciousness was fairly pliable. He recognised again the fractured reality induced by the amanita mushrooms, from his teenage years of chemical excess. That thought was almost humorous. Lex Luthor depended on drugs for his life. He was feeding on the mushrooms and lichens for food, noble savage that he was, (he still retained his sarcasm, he was glad to notice.) In the unquestionably correct pursuit of survival, he also found the additional benefit of the god’s Soma. Food that allowed him to pursue the universal imponderables. He communicated with root causes, solved the mystery of being and consciousness, of self and world. He was, and he knew. Then, like a wounded bird, he plummeted back-- down, down to the little barren island captured forever by the turbulent embrace of the ocean. The genial embrace of the drug wore off to leave him hyper-aware of his condition; his helplessness and the impotent rage that thrummed in his head till he felt it would explode.


He made a resolve that day-- it may have been his fifth on the island or his thirty-third, his idea of time had lost its soothing, accepted rationality. The moon could be of the next month, and mechanical aids had long since deserted him–his chronograph, tested to some absurd depth underwater, had given up the ghost to its first encounter with real brine.

This could not go on…

The fungi were playing with his mind, dulling the edge of his rage, and taking the urgency and the righteousness off retribution. In his mind he could almost forgive his father, forgive Helen, not obsess over Clark, do nothing but wallow in the emptiness of absolute denial. Or absolute truth. This must stop. He stood, up and walked along the narrow ledge that had housed him for the past few hours in its damp sea-sprayed shade.

He found what he was looking for after a search amongst the debris at the foot of the rock face. A sharp stone that he was able to sharpen into a jagged edge by hitting with another. This edge- raw, primal, glistening with minerals and potent in its indescribable age, he lifted up like a ritual axe–the first man, the first day, the first tool, and brought it closer to his skin. The dry and chapped skin that had been burnt by the sun as he dozed in careless slumber was tougher than he thought, and resisted the first gentle caress of his weapon. The next time he was quicker, harder, one fast stroke downwards and sideways, and it was done. The lifeblood welled rich and cheerful into slow tentative beads and then flowed down his hand onto the ground.



Part 3

One needs a hook to hold the bait, and a line to hold the hook, and the rod to hold the line — that is the concept of the fishing line. When one has none of the components of a long chain of teleological means, one must improvise.


He needed bait; his blood flowed ruddy and inviting into the shallow trough made by the sea as it encroached once again to proclaim its dominion over the rocky outcrop that had defies it for so long.

He felt the enormity of the gamble in his veins, as the precious corpuscles mingled with the vastness of the solvent body, becoming one part in billion in a few excruciatingly short seconds. But he was relying on the blood lust to be stronger, for his quarry to detect the life leaking into the sea. He thought of piranha, and hoped they had some distant relative in these seas. Long forgotten memories of Jaws emerged in vivid kaleidoscopic detail–and none of the sharks in the montage resembled cardboard any more. The reassuring memories of popular culture returned his mind to sobriety, the familiar territory of kitsch and the glorified mundane adjusted his paradigm of existence, till, almost, he was Lex Luthor once again--scion, slave and son.

It was a strain on his imagination to visualise the faint discolouring of the water near his finger. He reminded himself to feel the sting as the salt bit into his ravaged flesh–that constant, immediate, real pain would prevent him from slipping into delirium again. And the precious blood, priceless fluid would be in vain. He waited, tense, poised, coiled in painful anticipation with a sharp stone uplifted in his hand to strike as soon as anything took the bait. His eyes blurred with the strain as his muscles protested against the enforced rigidity, but he revelled in the defiance of fatigue. Here was goal achievable, a foe apparent and vulnerable to determination. He laughed in his head, appreciating the return to a familiar philosophy of life, savoured the sensation of ambition, the glorious rush of power. This was his life.

And then he felt it. A quick nip, and despite his anticipation, he could not control the instant knee-jerk reaction, his arm flailed, and the quarry scuttled way–a crab. Now that he knew what he hoped to catch, he was prepared for the next time, and with unmitigated patience he carefully opened his wound again and restarted the vigil.

By sunset he had caught three crabs and devoured one raw, feeling the flesh of the crustacean sympathetically give life to his. He had never been so aware of food as when he tethered, with narrow strips torn from his shirt, his other two captives to large flat stones on his home ledge. They would live till he needed to eat again; for already he could smell the ready putrefaction that chased the dead flesh of the first crab. H buried the remains to act as bait for the next session of fishing, for Neptune had accepted his first libation of blood and he believed the sacrifice sufficed the moment.