He's not used to pain.
The sensation itself is such a foreign concept he's not entirely sure the pulsing in his head is exactly what he's feeling. Sleepily he reaches over to his nightstand to knock away the alarm clock he's sure he's beaten to get up but finds his arms unwilling to move at the pace he wishes. Trying to turn onto his side results in discovering the rest of his body is just as unwilling. He opens his eyes to nothing but a solid black wall staring back as he continues the struggle to move. Gritting his teeth against the heaviness of his body and the ache in his mind, he pushes his hands down thinking he should be feeling the comforting warmth of his sheets instead of the bed of muck his fingers meld themselves into.
He tries to scream but the only thing to escape his throat is the last pocket of air from his lungs rising in bubbles around his face. His brain throbs inside his skull and the pain, god the pain, travels down his spine in a million pricking needles. Struggling against the bonds of his murky entrapment he shifts his body side to side with newfound energy fueled by panic, his mind unified with the single thought that he wants out. He's never been hit with signs of claustrophobia before. He's never been in a situation where being trapped (minus the affect of the meteor rocks) was a problem. Meteor rocks. They must surround him.
Finally his hands and face break free from their bonds and his eyes focus only a bluish brown haze in front of him. He isn't sure what the hell he is doing underwater. Pushing the realization aside he claws at his feet, digging as fast as his heavy arms will allow. When he's finally free his arms flap up and down until he's high enough to start kicking with his feet. His lungs ache for fresh air as he continues his descent upward, eyes focusing through the haze to the rays of light shining just above.
Closer, he thinks, just a little closer.
When he breaks the surface he sucks in a gulp of air so big he nearly chokes and falls back under. Spinning in slow circles he sees that he's not too far from land and makes his way toward the edge of the water. Once out he collapses to his knees stomach clenching as he gags and coughs out the last remnants of cold brackish water from his lungs. He tries to stand once his breathing regulates but is only met with fresh throbbing in his temples. He lies still until it passes, kneeling uneasily before taking another cautious step.
The swaying and the pain subside and he looks around trying to determine just where exactly he is. The countryside is littered with various small lakes and ponds and he needs a more familiar sight to determine just which one he found himself at the bottom of. A few more cautious steps and he thinks it's okay to walk. Hugging himself slightly as he moves he can't remember feeling this bad without the assistance of the meteors. If he thinks about it, he can't recall noticing the familiar green glow under the water. He bites his lip against the ache. It feels as if the marrow in his bones sing out in little sonnets of hurt.
Briefly he wonders if he still has his speed but doesn't want to waste what little energy he has finding out. His stomach growls, complaining to the rest of his body that it craves sustenance. Patting his jeans he realizes that even with the small chance he would have some kind of food hidden away in his pockets, it would be soaked through with inedible pond water.
The dirt path seems to stretch forever before him, leaving him to feel helpless like the tortoise forced to watch as the hare's tail dashed ahead of him. It feels like hours walking along, his shoulders in a slight hunch, feet scuffing along beneath him, before he sees the house and the end of a curve in the path he recognizes as the Emerson's. The furthest farm out on route 5 that still qualified as being within Smallville's town limits.
He briefly considers knocking on their front door and asking to use the telephone to call his parents, or maybe even Pete, to come out and get him. But he quickly dismisses the idea for lack of a plausible explanation for why he decided to take a dip in their pond fully clothed.
The wind kicks up a little, washing his still wet form over in a wave of goosebumps. He sneezes. His brow creases together. So that's what it feels like.
Reaching the highway he turns his head up and down the road and begins to head back into town. He vaguely wishes for someone with a familiar face to pull up alongside him and offer a ride. Lex seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to him and being stranded somewhere on the side of the road.
It takes a good five or ten minutes before he realizes that not only has no familiar face passed him by, no strange ones had either. That might not have even have struck him as odd if it weren't for the absolute silence surrounding him. Not a bird chirped or flew by, not a deer crossed the highway, and not a dog barked somewhere in the distance.
He once read that the most terrifying thing in the universe was nothing.
And besides the sound of his waterlogged shoes squishing against the asphalt...
Nothing is all he can see or hear.
Instinct leads him back home. He thinks it must have taken at least an hour to make the walk all the way. His clothes downgraded themselves from soaked to damp during the journey but he still can't wait to be able to change into some fresh dry ones. He had plenty of time to think of what he would tell his parents. He already knew his dad is going to jump to the absolute worst conclusion he can think of, and probably chastise him for something he isn't even aware of, let alone had any control over. And mom will just look at him with that wide-eyed expression of hers before vocalizing her worry.
Upon reaching the front gate all the dread of the upcoming conversation drained from him only to be replaced by the dismay that his family might not be there for it.
The barn lay in a massive pile of broken and smoldering wood, the once red paint now melted and charred black.
"Mom!" He shouts. "Dad!"
No reply. Only his echo and then the deafening silence.
He tries to focus his eyes into x-ray mode to see if there are any bodies under the pile but can't. He runs as fast as he can to the pile, tossing away planks not as easily as he expects he could. The wood is still hot enough to the point it singes at his hands.
What is going on? He thinks in vain. Why can't he run? Why can't he see through the wood? Why does his head still hurt? There are no meteor rocks on the farm. His dad had made sure of that the day they found out what they did to him. What is the deal?
No answers seem to offer themselves up and he moves away from what used to be his sanctuary. The only consolation he can find at the moment is the fact that he can't smell the unforgettable stench of burning flesh. A fleeting wish that he never knew it at all.
Looking toward the house it seems to have faired, at least structurally, better than the barn. Though by looking at the eight-foot hole punched through the living room it isn't by much.
"Mom!" He calls again. "Dad!"
He scans the horizon looking for any signs of life but is not surprised when he comes up empty. One look at the silo and he thinks of the leaning tower is Pisa. The truck, oddly enough, sits untouched next to the shed. Frustrated, he runs his hand through his hair and closes his eyes longing for any resemblance of memory. The five W's swimming around his thoughts seem to want to devour it. Who, what, where, why and when. Sighing he makes his way toward the house calling out for his parents every few seconds. He treads carefully onto the porch avoiding holes and broken beams. The couch isn't in the living room. By the looks of it, it seems like it was tossed out the window. Half the banister is ripped from the stairs and pictures litter the entire hallway floor.
Jagged splinters pose idle threats as they jut out from cracked support beams. He runs his hand cautiously along the walls, keeps light on his toes so as not to suddenly fall through the floor. In what used to be the kitchen he leans against the counter littered with dust and debris. He pinches the bridge of his nose with the renewed pulsing in his head, and lets his eyes drift shut. He feels his fingers travel along the countertop across the dust, dipping, swirling, and arching. Feels the invisible strings pulling at them. When he looks at what he's done his stomach drops down an already shaky trail to his feet. What stares back at him, written is his native tongue, is the sign for power.
His first thought is to wipe it away. Make it disappear. Pretend it isn't there. But his fingers retrace the lines, waiting, wanting to make more. Clark turns his head away and quickly wipes the counter clean. He knows what it read. He's just not sure he wants to know what it means.
A quick glance through the upstairs room reveals nothing but the change of clothes he's been looking forward to. Oddly enough the second story remained untouched in terms of destruction. His parent's room is just (he assumes this anyway) as it had been this morning. Same with his room, same with the bathroom. He sits on the edge of his bed as he slips on his jacket and tries to think of a game plan. There had to be someone out there somewhere. Despite the absolute emptiness he feels it cannot possibly be complete.
On the way out of his room he catches his reflection in his mirror. The person looking back at him is someone he barely recognizes. Eyes blackened, bloodshot, and baggy. Skin pale almost to the point of transparency, plastic wrapped around his cheekbones. He stares down at his hands, sees bruises he hadn't noticed before, cracked skin. He keeps thinking meteor rocks but doesn't feel the sickness everywhere. Just dull annoying ache. He places a quavering hand upon the glass.
Not me, he thinks. That's not me.
His fist shatters the unwanted visage, glass splitting the skin between his knuckles. Pulling back his hand he marvels at the blood protruding from wound, pain crawling up his wrist and arm. The slow angering thought that he isn't going to be able to stop whatever's out there. Not when he is so weak.
His brow creases in confusion. It's not a description he associates with himself. It hasn't been for quite sometime. He isn't sure where the thought formed itself. He clears his mind and tries to return to the task at hand.
One last look at the disarrayed image before he heads to the bathroom for a bandage and a couple of aspirin for good measure.
He walks the entire perimeter of the farm checking and rechecking all the possible spots his parents might have hidden themselves. Some place he isn't aware of. He's already trying to sum up his enemy. When he has to fight someone, rarely does he have time to think things through. He acts on instinct and luck and the knowledge that he isn't going to be hurt. Quick glance at his crudely wrapped hand. That isn't going to work this time.
The aspirin seems to be working on the headache, and being out in the sun feels almost recharging in a way. The fields are still freshly tilled waiting for seeds to be planted. That's what he should be doing out here. Helping his dad with a new crop. Not walking through everything he knows and loves as they reveal themselves gone and broken.
Incidentally he finds the cows still out in the pasture. Some fried, some gutted, some just simply dead. He walks around them shaking his head. Everything... All gone dead. He heads back to the house. He'll take the truck and head into town trying to find, well, anybody. As he walks his mind works quickly against the enemy. Thinking of its attributes. Strong, quick, and brutal. Everything already obvious. He thinks he can see something underneath it all but can't quite wrap a coherent thought around it. But over time he knows it will form into something.
Something, he thinks. Is always better than nothing.
While the completely overwhelming feeling that everything is absolutely wrong hangs in the air like thick fog. Nothing could prepare him for the bodies.
He parks the truck in the first space he spots and makes his way slowly toward them. Littered across the sidewalks and streets of downtown as if they were simple bits of trash tossed aside. Blood. So much blood. It stains the concrete in vast pools, puddles, or slowly drying patches. So many faces stare blank and lifeless. He knows them. Passing by each one in daily routine, not knowing names exactly but by sight, by job, by common ground. All lay bruised, battered, and beaten. Some in whole, in half, or in pieces. Eyes and forms cold.
As he walks he can hear them whispering. Begging for their lives. He keeps his gaze locked forward, taking in the sight of his once lively town reduced to no more than a rotting skeleton failing to decompose. Not wanting to peer into someone's final moment of agony. So much death making him wish he were blind.
Welcome to Smallville.
The sun beats down, mid-afternoon heat gearing up for its warming grace, causing the smell to waft and grow. He now can recognize the unwanted knowledge of burning flesh. It turns his stomach so much he falls helpless to his knees retching out what little there is in his stomach. All the destruction. All the people. All his powers and abilities useless to prevent any of it.
Wiping his mouth with his sleeve he leans back still resting on his knees, keeping his breathing shallow. He can feel the hope of finding someone alive fade away with each passing second. The fact chills him to the bone. He closes his eyes briefly, the warming affect of the sun seeming to make his tired aching body feel the slightest bit better. Curious about just what effect it seems to have, he unwraps his hand to examine the cut only to find it already closed. The skin pink and puffy and looking like it had days to heal. He stretches his fingers. No pain either. Shaking his head he puts his good hand on the street to push himself up, and watches as his other moves of its own accord. Fingers skim across a puddle of blood, dipping into it, warm and sticky. The revulsion in his stomach churning up again but remaining subdued.
Seconds later, written in the blood of someone he may or may not know, is the symbol for will.
The first thing he notices about the Talon is that the bottom two letters are missing from the sign. Looking up at it curiously he wonders how it could have happened. The thought is fleeting because he knows it applies to just about everything surrounding him. There's a car lying upside down, just in front of the doorway, directly below the sign. It's front end crushed as if it'd been dropped straight on the grill. Quick look at the sign again.
Or thrown, he thinks.
One of the doors hangs from a single hinge and the other simply isn't there. He peeks his head inside, not bothering with a hello, and quickly scans the layout before making his way in. More people. More death. It starts to scare him that the sight is becoming less and less surprising.
The cappuccino machine lays smashed and broken in two in the middle of the floor. Table and chairs overturned and tossed about in no order, some even embedded into the walls. Bits of porcelain lay like broken snow in various clumps throughout the shop. He can smell coffee in nearly everything. Fine powder coating like dust. He focuses his eyes experimentally, testing his weakness, fighting through the drain. The x-ray field of vision comes in spurts, a TV failing for a proper signal. He sees more people behind the counter and some in the backroom. Trying to escape no doubt. He accidentally kicks the remains of a ceiling fan and sends it skidding into a stack of trays miraculously untouched next to a toppled over garbage can. He looks closely at the people, seeing past their faded twisted forms, faces he knew personally. It stabs his heart like a red-hot poker. He was friends with some, acquaintances with others, some merely sharing classes at school.
He looks to see if anyone of them could be Pete, Chloe, or Lana. Quick circle around the spaces where the tables once sat and finds no one fitting his friend's description. He doesn't think Pete or Chloe would be in here yet, still too early by his watch, though time doesn't matter much at this point. Chloe he hopes, is at home, or at the Torch office blissfully unaware. Or that Pete is on a date out of town, also being none the wiser. They are both foolish thoughts. Hope, he thinks, can be either salvation or damnation. Right now he's leaning toward the latter.
He knows Lana is here somewhere. He doesn't bother to try and think otherwise. Saturday is her main shift; she runs it all day. He can feel the hair on his arms stand on end. Imagining looking into Lana Lang's cold dead eyes is a thought so black no light can possibly escape. He's just waiting to fall into the void.
Once he rounds the counter he sees her. And for the briefest moment feels such relief. She lay face down, and for the most part is intact. She could still be alive. Just unconscious. Maybe a concussion. Maybe even pretending. He chooses to latch onto to that false relief for as long as he can, because his eyes see that her body is too still. That her back does not rise and fall with rhythmic breathing.
Her hair lies in a cascade down her back. Still smooth and flawless. Shiny black and perfect. The red-hot poker stabs his heart a little deeper, the hook twisting and causing it to burst and bleed down his chest. His hand is on her shoulder and she is so cold. His breath catches in his throat when he rolls her over and stares into dark vacant eyes.
She is not bruised.
She is not bloody.
Her neck once decorated with a piece of his planet, a piece of himself, now twisted at an impossible angle.
She is in one piece to torture his deteriorating mind.
Gently, he runs his fingers across her cheek. Over lips he only dared to kiss under the influence of substances beyond his control. Across a smooth forehead he does kiss in this final moment.
Lana Lang is dead.
He feels the hope drain so easily from him. No one is left alive. He knows that now. Feels it in every agonizing second of understanding the fact. Tears stream down his face, each droplet of water like burning lava. Singing, sizzling, scarring. The scream escapes his throat, his head tilting upward to damn the world for letting this happen. Pain, rage, and loss pouring from a no longer painful skull shattering remaining glass.
The heat blasts from his eyes, instantly setting the ceiling aflame.
He carries Lana's body outside and makes his way back to the truck.
He does not turn his head back as the Talon burns to the ground.
He buries her next to her parents. His gradually returning strength makes the digging process go by a little faster, but not easier. He can feel them all returning. The heat vision, the x-rays, the speed. Halfway through the hole he removed the bandage from his hand to find the cut fully healed. The bitter thought of too little, too late pulsing inside his mind.
He finds a rock flat enough to serve as a headstone and places it over her grave. Mustering what strength he has he punches her initials into the stone.
It feels like hours standing there.
The girl he always imagined as his great love. The emotion to remain forever unspoken. To remain forever unfulfilled.
He breaks his eyes away from the fresh dirt and walks back toward the truck.
He wonders how many more he will find before it all comes to a close.
It kills him that he knows the answer.
There are no cars in the parking lot. Whether that is a good or bad thing remains open for debate. The main building itself looks mostly intact. He imagines only the outside is untouched. As he walks up the main steps he listens intently, sniffs the air, and makes his way inside. The hallway is clear. Nothing dead. Nothing broken. The unnerving quiet pumping like a cruel heartbeat. He checks the office and finds it empty, as it should be, it being Saturday and all. He walks slowly through the first floor, taking his time, peeking into each classroom. He could use his speed. He knows he can. But part of him is afraid to use his physical abilities. After burning down the Talon without really intending to he doesn't think it wise. He walks around as if he's normal. It may be pretend. But it feels like he needs it.
A quick double check of everything with an x-ray scan, working far better than it had two hours ago, he sees that he missed someone in one of the science labs. He doubles back and finds the body unrecognizable. He's pretty sure he didn't know whoever it was. He didn't have biology in this classroom. Sighing he makes his way back into the hall.
On the stairway one of the steps creaks as he walks on it, the sound echoing through the cavernous hallways. He pauses and presses all his weight onto the step again, listening to the echo, letting the sound wash over him. For a moment it feels like company. Someone at the other end saying hello. He keeps it up until the novelty wears off.
There is no one there.
He is all alone.
He doesn't bother checking all the classrooms manually on the second floor. There is only one he's really expecting to find. Another scan of the upper rooms reveals two more bodies. One in the bathroom at the far end of the floor, and the other right where he knew it would be.
The smell of acrid flesh hits him long before he reaches the door. He pauses a few steps from the doorway, taking shallow breaths and wondering if he should even bother. He knows it's her in there. The day of the week never mattered if there was work to be done. It doesn't make it hurt any less. The more he thinks, the less reason he finds to confirm her death. He knows it's her. Knows it in his rapidly recovered bones. He turns away but finds his legs frozen in their spot. Like his body knows something the rest of him doesn't.
Steeling himself, he makes his way inside. The scent of charred flesh is rivaled, though not overwhelmed, by scorched wood and paper. The once dominant wall of weird now nothing more than a pile of ash. Paper that isn't burned covers the floor along with overturned chairs and computers. He finds it odd that the rest of the school is basically untouched, but the damage starts in here. Memories of so much time spent in this room flood his mind and the steel inside of him nearly crumbles to powder.
Chloe, what's left of her, lay curled into a ball in the corner just under the window. Her faceless skull tilts backward, mouth open in the mockery of a smile. His hand shakes uncontrollably as he reaches for her. Skin that once felt so smooth under his touch now non-existent. Cells fused and sizzled against blackened bone. He thinks of their chaotic friendship. Being at opposite sides of the spectrum almost constantly. Arguing. Laughing. Teasing. Almost dating.
Tears slip down his face. More fire against his skin. He doesn't know what to do. He can't think of anywhere to take her. He doesn't know where her mother lives and can only assume her father is out there somewhere dead. His fingers hover above the bones, not wanting to touch but feeling to need to so badly. With Lana there had been something left. Something to say good-bye to. Chloe is just a shadow of a body. Turned inside out. The part you're supposed to love but never see. He stands and backs out of the room. He figures she would have wanted to be surrounded by the things she loved. Even if they are just as gone as she is.
Once he pushes the door open he immediately recognizes Pete's battered beaten body lying in a heap on the bathroom floor. Kneeling next to his friend he can hear the shaky shallow breaths wracking his already fragile frame.
"Pete," he says softly, trying not to let the relief that at least one person is still alive, show through his voice.
A groan slips from Pete's bloody lips and he turns his head painstakingly slow in Clark's direction. Gaze trying to focus through swollen purple eyes. Clark sees the recognition in them, before they widen, and he tries to edge away.
"Pete," Clark says again, gently grasping his friend by the shoulders. "It's me. It's Clark."
Pete still tries to move away, legs kicking weakly against the tile, before his body collapses failing to grasp anymore energy.
"What happened to everyone?" He asks. "Who did this to you?"
Pete tries to reply the only sound emerging from his throat is the gurgling of blood.
"Nevermind," Clark says quickly, seeing that speaking only causes more pain. "It's not important now. We have to get you some help okay? I mean the hospital is still there right? I'll go find someone and bring them here and they'll fix you up and you`ll be fine. Okay? You're going to be just fine."
Pete shakes his head slowly; eyes pinching shut in a wince from such simple movement. Clark feels his heart rampage inside his chest. Punching and pounding and crying out. He knows his friend doesn't want to die.
"I'll get them," Clark promises. "Whoever did this to you, to Chloe, to Lana. I'll find them. I'll show them what happens when they hurt the people I care about."
Pete struggles to speak again; mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. Clark cradles his head into his lap, Pete too weak to try and push him away. He finds just enough strength to move his hand to Clark's chest. Pointing his finger directly in the middle and jabbing twice before falling back down. Clark doesn't understand the gesture. He thinks it could be a silent farewell. Could be a sign of agreement with his promise. Pete can't explain himself. He doesn't have much time left. Clark can feel his heart slowing and whispers soothing empty words of assurance until his chest stops moving.
He is aware of the fresh tears sliding down his cheeks but this time he can't feel them. He has blood on his hands.
The kind that will never wash off.
A sea of red yellow gold greets him as he approaches the mansion. Lex told him once that it had been imported brick by brick from Scotland. He never knew whether to believe him or not. What he does believe is that a building supposedly made of brick shouldn't be burning so easily. He walks through the mangled iron gates, bowed outward and arched like warped harps. Past the driveway the lawn crunches underneath his feet, the fire sucking nearly all the moisture from the air. If Lex is still in the house he doesn't think he'll risk looking for him. He doesn't want to find people anymore. He's come to the conclusion that no one is left standing.
He sits in the dry grass and watches as his best friend's house slowly fades away. As he sits and thinks the unsettling thought that there is no enemy to be found and defeated emerges into the forefront of his mind. There is no one. There is nothing. He's been an alien all his life. It takes the literal interpretation of isolation to truly make him feel like one.
His eyes begin to itch and he rubs at them casually. He isn't sure where to go from here. Maybe the Sheriff's station. He can look for a radio or a working phone. If that doesn't work he can head for Metropolis and alert the authorities. He never had time to think about it before, but shouldn't someone have alerted them when this all started happening? Wouldn't someone in the outside world notice something like a town just magically dropping off the face of the Earth? Smallville certainly isn't the biggest city in Kansas, but it's not that hidden.
He rubs at his eyes again. He can imagine helicopters flying overhead loaded with the police, or even so far as the Army. He can see himself being interrogated for hours being asked the same questions he's been repeating in his head ever since he opened his eyes. Who are you? What happened here? Can you tell us what they looked like? Why are you still alive? What makes you so special?
The itching becomes uncontrollable before a burst of heat irrupts from his eyes, his head tilting and bobbing. Writing. The heat fades and he covers his head in his hands pushing himself away from the grass before getting engulfed in flames. Once he hits concrete his takes his hands away to view what he's done.
Burning and smoking in the dried out grass, is the symbol for victory.
He ends up back at the farm for lack of a better place to go. Parking the truck next to the rubble of the barn he gets out and scans the wreckage for signs of his parents. With his strength and vision back he wants to double back on everything he'd searched before. But he thinks he already knows that they're not here. Angrily he pulls up boards, concrete, and pieces of equipment from the pile and tosses them as far as he can. He punches through the rubble, hands splitting through wood and steel. Pain never registering on his nerves. He keeps at it until he forms himself a nice little hole.
Everything and everyone he's ever loved is dead and gone. He wishes he could join them. He screams until his throat gives before shuffling out of the hole. He picks up the truck and thinks of tossing it on the house. Or throwing it across the field, or maybe even breaking it in two. Beads of sweat form on his forehead, the strain of indecision shining through. He drops the truck and falls to the ground breathing heavily. Frustration and desolation wrestle across his emotions before the ear splitting squeal overtakes his entire mind.
Uselessly covering his ears he staggers to his feet, the noise guiding him toward the feed cellar to where the key no doubt lay. He slips down the stairs landing face first in dirt. He's not used to pain and the screeching is nothing short of agony. Crawling on his hands and knees he hurries to the key half buried in damp Earth. As soon as his hand makes contact the wail ceases and he drops onto his stomach in relief.
Too much death.
Too much emptiness.
Too much pain.
He wants it all to stop. To wake from the nightmare that became his life. He wants to rise from the ash and walk up the stairs to see his parents waiting for him. To walk down the middle of Main street and see downtown teeming with life. To walk into the Talon and see Lana, Pete, and Chloe all sharing a laugh over cups of coffee. He laughs bitterly. What would have once seemed so normal now seems only a dream.
Pushing himself back up he moves to place the key in the ship, but briefly wonders what it was doing so close to it in the first place. Too late to pull it away, the key jumps from his hand spinning into proper alignment, before slipping into its rightful place. As the ship buzzes to life he notices a design scribbled into the dirt. Funny, when he lay on the ground he didn't remember his fingers moving, but guesses the detail isn't particularly important.
The design is recognizable beyond the knowledge of his native language. It runs deep in his being. His blood. What lies etched in Earth next to his ship is the family crest of the House of El.
Still staring at the crest he hears the protective shell retract itself revealing the cradle he once lay in. Moving his gaze to the familiar and still unnerving message, he frowns at the words. At the intent. Being raised all your life to be a good person, then suddenly being told that none of it mattered, that a world that gave you up, sent you here for their purposes, will never ever sit well with him. His frown grows deeper when he realizes that he's reading the message in the first place. It never shows itself without the heart. After the first, and what he thought to be the only time, of seeing it. He and his father put both the key and the heart in locked boxes and buried them on opposite ends of the farm. He doesn't remember retrieving either of them, let alone putting them back into the ship.
He moves to pull it out when the ship engulfs itself in light. As it begins to hover he backs slowly away, its power source whirring to maximum. He's almost to the stairs when a beam of light shoots straight through his chest, lifting him clear off the ground. He's felt this before. But this time there are no words. No message. No knowledge.
Just blinding light filling him with white-hot rage.
He's not used to pain.
The physical manifestation of it being such a foreign concept he's not entirely sure it's what he's feeling. His eyes open to a setting sun sinking below a dreary sky. The fading light stabs at his eyes like needles, fresh pain attacking a fragile mind. Rolling onto his back he keeps his eyes closed. Muscles sore and bones raw. He can't quite remember what happened.
Flashes of destruction and death.
The sun finally dips below the horizon and he opens his eyes again, the soft twilight not feeling as harsh. Turning himself over to his stomach he feels his hands dip into soft wet mud and he looks to see himself at the edge of an unknown body of water.
He remembers this. Waking up before. Weak and tired and hurting. Surrounded by water. Mind a haze and no idea what was going on.
He feels the itch form itself deep within his chest. An intense heat he can't scratch away. He claws at his skin trying to quell it but it only burns deeper. Blindly he throws himself into the water, the cool calming sensation washing over him in instant relief. He floats under a few minutes, enjoying the serenity.
Flashes of the key and the heart and the ship.
Gathering his bearings he makes his way back to the surface, treading water and moving toward land. He stays hunched down and on his knees, his hands pushing themselves into the mud. Fingers working without thought. When they're finished he stares at four symbols.
The family crest of the House of El.
He remembers everything.
The rage, the pain, the faces.
So many people begging for their lives.
He remembers waking up afterward. Face down in a pond on the edge of town. Wandering around clueless as ever. Looking for someone to fight, to blame. Never once seeing the underlying truth in a world of lies.
He peers back over the edge of the water. His invisible enemy revealing itself in his reflection.
The guilt and anger crashes like a wave. Mangling his conscious into unparalleled anguish.
"They are a flawed race," a whisper teases in his mind.
He bites his lips so hard he tastes blood. Part of him agrees. Gives in. There are no more ties to his human side. He's wiped them out like wheat before the sickle. He still wants to fight. Needs to. This is not who he is. This is not what he was raised for. But he is so tired. So weak. So human. There is no choice in what he must do. He feels it in an aching mind, sore muscles, and tired bones.
What his father sent him for.
What the ship guided him to.
Kal-El. Last son of Old Krypton.
Clark Kent. First son of new.
He once read that the most terrifying thing in the universe was nothing.
But now it seems that even nothing, has something to fear.
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