“All in favour?”
Seven of the crabs snapped their claws.
Two, who had not snapped, scuttled away, retreating across the sand back to the sea.
“The motion carries. The turtles will be given occupancy rights to two thirds of the eastern beach for the mating season, with boundaries to be clearly demarcated, provided that they don’t encroach or disturb the nesting pools already established thereof.”
Crablord surveyed the scene with pleasure. For the first time in a few days he had managed to host a council on the issue. He had formed one prior, but he could not achieve a quorum of councillors, preoccupied as many of the crabs were with their own mating rituals. But the issue with the turtles was pressing; their appearance had led to conflict, and so Crablord was determined to have things straightened out.
With his business thus attended to, he stood and walked up the beach back to his makeshift hut, constructed as it was from leaves and dry driftwood. It kept the beating sun from his skin — a godsend in weather such as this; interminable summer for as long as Crablord had known.
Crablord was not like other crabs. He was taller — much taller, in fact. Several feet so. He had less legs that usual; some of the other crabs had wondered if he had lost them in battle, perhaps with some lobster. His outer shell was in fact not shell at all, and he had a soft and squishy exterior. Any shell he had, the crabs supposed — if he had any at all — must have been buried deep inside. His claws were useless at snipping, though they could achieve a limited amount of snapping.
No, Crablord had not arrived on the island in quite the same way as the other crabs. For those who now served on his council, Crablord’s appearance had come as something of a surprise. He had appeared out of the water one day, as if from nowhere, washing up onto the beach like a whale. Indeed, he was much a whale to the crabs as Crablord was to a whale. And yet, unlike a beached whale, Crablord had regained consciousness. Unlike a beached whale, he had found himself much better suited to life on land. It was his sojourn into the sea which had been unpleasant and unexpected. In many ways he was something of a reverse whale, and his beaching was really a return to normality.
Normality on the small island had taken some time to establish. It was a lawless wasteland, devoid of any civilisation until Crablord made his appearance. Though he was unsure of quite how he got there, he had determined to make the best of his situation and bring order to the chaos. He had transformed the island into a civil state, forming its council, electing its members, and duly appointing himself as the benevolent leader. The crabs, for their part, seemed enthused by the project. They investigated their new leader with much curiosity, and took part in civil life as vigorously and enthusiastically as any ruler might hope his subjects engage.
Others had not been so keen on this visiter’s style of leadership, looking at him with fear and hesitancy. The gulls had flown away when he walked towards them. The iguanas and lizards had similarly fled. But the crabs had been more acquiescent, accepting his leadership without much resistance. And so it was that the crabs, under their fearless leader, came to rule the small island, with its small wooded area, rocky outcrop, and stretching sandy beaches. It was they who laid down the laws, and they who enforced them.
Crablord lay in the shade under the great leaves that formed the roof of his shelter. He took a sip of water from the gourd he had fashioned into a bottle for himself. He was lucky that there had been some freshwater on the island, really. He contemplated his good fortune as he lay in the shade, tempted to have a siesta after his hard work leading the council this morning. But he resisted. There was still more work to be done.
“Rawk,” said Jasper the parrot, who sat perched on the windowsill, staring inwards towards Crablord. Jasper was Crablord’s chief adviser, one of the few birds who dared approach him.
“Quite right,” Crablord replied, closing his eyes. “But I don’t know what can be done about them. The seals often persist in running the iguanas away from the rocks. But the iguanas never come forward for help. How am I suppose to launch an armed intervention into the Rock Lands without an invitation from the aggrieved party? Otherwise it’s just an invasion.” The iguanas, suspicious as they were of Crablord — doubtful as they were of his claim to authority — preferred to suffer alone than invite some unknown force into their land. What would stop Crablord from leaving once he had driven the seals away? Better the devil you know, the iguanas believed.
“Rawk?” Jasper replied.
Crablord sat up and looked at the parrot. “Launch an invasion? Are you mad? What legitimate claim would I have to power, should I do this? Why should the iguanas accept my authority?”
Crablord sat thoughtfully, scowling at a spot on the wall as he threw the idea around in his head. “So you’re saying that the very presence of chaos in the Rock Lands is evidence that the iguanas are no longer fit to rule themselves? My leadership would no doubt improve their lot — it would be crime for me not to intervene.”
“Interesting… interesting…” Crablord stood up. “But how can I convince my soldiers to risk laying down their lives to bring order to some god-forsaken part of the island?”
“The rock pools? Yes, yes… new homes, natural resources…” Crablord paced around his small hut, nearly knocking it over in his excitement. “But before we can launch an invasion, we need to lay some foundations. The people will not accept blind adventurism into a foreign land. Spread dissatisfaction — get word out to the other parrots.”
The birds of the island were the vessel through which information spread, and with Jasper by his side, Crablord had ultimate control over this media machine.
“We need the crabs to become dissatisfied with their lot… we need them to think that the grass is greener — that the rock pools are clearer — in the Rock Lands. We need to breed resentment against the iguanas. We need them to hate that the iguanas are squandering this gift that they have been given, allowing the Rock Lands to become desolate as a result of their inability to defend it from the seal menace. Yes — go now, spread the word.”
And with that, Jasper flew off, his bright green wings flapping, his blue and yellow tail — which matched his blue and yellow head — disappearing into the distance. It would take some time for Jasper to layer the new agenda into the channels of information. He could not introduce the ideas into the news cycle all at once — the people would become suspicious. No, laying the foundations for military intervention would take time. Crablord would call a council meeting on the issue shortly. Once the people had been primed, then he would put forth a motion for war. Then he would extend his reach beyond the beaches he ruled, beyond the woods he called his home, and across the whole island. The Rock Lands: the last outpost; the last region where Crablord’s influence did not yet reach. He would rule it soon. But he could not do so without the support of his followers. Until such a time that they could be brought on board, he had earned himself a nap.
The council was formed in the early hours of the morning while the sun was still low in the sky. Fourteen crabs were in attendance. Word had obviously gotten around. Claws were snipping and snapping incessantly as the crabs debated the motion that had been put forward by Crablord.
There had been an uneasy truce between the iguanas of the Rock Lands and the crabs of the Beach for some time. Neither liked to disturb the other. Some of the crabs brave enough to venture into the rocks had found themselves attacked by some of the birds who lived there — allies of the iguanas no doubt — who picked them up, dropped them from a great height, and then ate their insides after the shell had smashed.
Attacking the rocks would be dangerous, and they knew it. Many a crab would lose their life.
But things were different this time, for they now had Crablord. No bird could pick up Crablord and drop him from a great height. Further, Crablord seemed to have a way with the aerial species. His chief adviser was a parrot. Though the crabs were somewhat suspicious of those with wings, they trusted their leader to select his advisers judiciously. Jasper, judiciously selected, was perched on a branch a little way back from the beach, watching the action, and Crablord turned to look at him. Jasper nodded, and Crablord nodded back. He surveyed the crabs, snipping and snapping before him, and raised his hands for silence. The crabs duly turned and looked at him.
“My friends,” he began, “it has come to my attention that the iguanas are under threat in the Rock Lands. They have long been disturbed by the seals. They are desperate, but proud — pride is to be respected, for sure, but our fear of offending them should not put us off going to their aid. They are in desperate need of proper rule, and the security that comes with it. Look at what we have achieved here on the beaches.”
Crablord spread his arms wide, and the crabs responded with a clickity-clack of claws.
“We have peace, prosperity, and order. This has been my gift to you. But why should we be selfish? Are the iguanas undeserving? No. We should not allow them to punish themselves with their pride. We should bring them our civilisation, so that they might live like we.” A single crab snapped angrily, and Crablord turned to look at him. “What is in it for you, you say? Of course, I cannot ask you to help the iguanas and bring peace to the Rock Lands at complete cost to yourselves. No, your reward will be access to the natural resources that the rocks have to offer. Now, what say you? Shall we bring peace to the Rock Lands?”
There was a final wave of snipping and snapping, clicking and clacking, before Crablord put the motion forward.
“All in favour?”
Nothing. Crablord looked at the solitary crab.
One sole click.
The crabs hugged one another. Mothers bid farewell to sons, fathers standing resolute and unmoved, holding in their emotions.
Crablord watched on, holding back a tear, allowing himself to appreciate the sacrifices that these crabs were willing to make for the greater good of the island.
He stood, rising from his knees and leaving an imprint in the sand. He brushed sand from his legs and his torn, ragged shorts.
“Let us have it, then,” he said. Crablord turned, leading the vanguard of scuttling crabs behind him. He walked across the beach, his bare feet sinking softly into the sand with each stride. He held his head high, his mottled and shabby hair and beard blowing gently in the breeze. The wind, coming from the sea, cooled the red skin of his exposed torso.
The general and his troops marched onwards, leaving the sandy beach, curving around the island onto the pebbles. The pebbles transitioned into rocks, and soon they knew that they had entered enemy territory. This was the first official act of war. A surprise attack, though the iguanas, who would have picked up the chatter from the birds, must have expected it.
Crablord lead the way, climbing from rock to rock, moving high and low over the treacherous terrain. He was careful to avoid the slippery surfaces, covered as they were by seaweed, electing to tread on the rocks that had been baked in the sun, or which remained untouched by the tide. The crabs duly followed, slower, of course, but persistent. Crablord admired not just their bravery, but their tenacity, their willingness to follow their leader into battle.
Soon they reached the resting place of the iguanas. The iguanas, however, were not lounging in the sun as they so often did. No, they were dotted around, looking cautiously over their shoulders, and scuttling around nervously. What a pitiful lot they were, unable to rest and relax in their own homeland. Crablord looked intently at the reason for their disturbance. Several seals were sat on the rocks closest to the water. These were the smoother rocks that offered passage into the sea, and from which the iguanas liked to scuttled and dive into the cool, crystal waters. The seals barked and wharfed at the intruders. They did not like the look of Crablord and the crab army that was emerging behind him. Their posture turned aggressive, their grey bodies rising and falling as they turned to face this threat.
Crablord stared down at his enemy. Here he was, the great liberator, come to rescue the iguanas from this threat. Their debt to him would be paid in their servitude. They would be his new subjects. Crablord, Lord of the Rock Lands, Protector of the Iguanas. He took a breath, inhaling the sea air and centring himself. It would take all he had to bring freedom to these proud and destitute people.
Crablord began his attack, the crabs snipping and snapping their war cry behind him.
“Shoo!” He yelled, waving his arms at the seals. “Shoo! Shoo!”
The seals, startled, barked in bewilderment. The birds — gulls and finches who had been hopping around the rocks between the seals — shot up into the air, their wings flapping powerfully and noisily, adding to the din.
“Shoo!” Crablord kept yelling as he ran forwards, arms still high and flailing.
The seals, unable to withstand this onslaught, turned and fled. They waddled, flopped, slipped, and slid back into sea from whence they had came. Crablord stopped. The rocks were now clear. He had been victorious. For how long, only time would tell, for the seals were sure to return. But for now, he could present himself as saviour of the iguanas. He turned to face his new subjects, who had begun, in celebration, to return to the rocks. The crabs had already started playing in the rock pools.
“Friends, countrymen!” Crablord called. “We are now one island, one people, bound together by one law. I have brought you peace, democracy, and freedoms! Freedom of association, freedom of trade! You can now be the creatures you were born to be, free from threat. Iguanas and crabs, the Beach and the Rock Lands, together as one under my rule. My first order as ruler of this island will be to create a composite council, with representatives from the Rock Lands and the Beach. We can meet in neutral territory, in the Grass Lands at our island’s centre where I have my residence. Rejoice, friends, for you are now free, and the island now has peace!”
This last sentence was met with a cheer. The crabs splashed and snapped in the rock pools, the iguanas purred, rasped, and coughed, and the bird squawked as they returned to the rocks. Jasper flew across, sitting delicately on Crablord’s shoulder. He smiled at his adviser. Today had been a good day.
The crabs gathered around the body that lay in the sand, snapping at it and scuttling around it as they investigated. They were not used to bodies laying on their beaches. This had happened once before, long ago — so legend had it — when Crablord came to the island. None of the crabs alive today had been there when Crablord arrived, of course, though the stories had passed through the generations. None had believed that such an event could happen again. But here, in front of them, it was evidently clear that it had.
The body shifted, and the crabs scattered. Its arms moved, the hands forcing themselves into the sand, pushing the torso away from the ground and into the air. The head lifted, the face covered in the white grains of the beach, the eyes squinting and looking around. The mouth was dry from sand inhalation, though the underside of the body was damp still from the sea. The back had been dried by the baking sun, however, and so the body was awash with sensation as feeling returned to the body’s occupant. He lifted himself wearily onto his knees, and then stood, shaking as his feet struggled to maintain balance.
“Hello?” He called, his voice hoarse. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
Crablord’s eyes opened. He sat up in his bed — a collection of dried grass and leaves all bound up together. The strange voice was coming from outside his hut. Was he imagining it? It wasn’t possible. He hadn’t heard a voice like that for many years.
“Jasper,” he said, “what is that?”
“Rawk!” Said Jasper.
“You cannot be serious?”
Crablord shot up and ran out of his hut, standing, blinking in the sunlight, staring down the beach at the figure standing there. The figure, shielding his own eyes from the glare, hobbling forward in the sand, stopped.
“Oh, thank God!” The figure said. “Thank God there’s someone here! Do you have any water? I’m so parched!”
“Who are you?” Crablord asked, looking suspiciously at the figure on the beach.
“I— my name is Wilfred, I’m— do you have any water?”
“How did you get here? How did you get past the border security?”
“Border security?” Wilfred said with bewilderment, looking around him.
“Yes. Do you have a passport and visa?”
“How did you get here?”
“I— I was on a ship, and we ran into a storm. We sank, but I managed to grab on to a piece of driftwood. I must have been washed up here.”
“So you’re a refugee?”
“What? I suppose…”
“You’ll need to apply for asylum then.”
“What? Look, I just need some water…”
“You’ll need to apply for asylum. See Douglas, the immigration officer.” And with that, Crablord turned and walked back to his hut, still feeling the stress of being accosted by this unwelcome newcomer.
The newcomer looked around him in complete and utter confusion for anyone who might be Douglas the immigration officer. There was no one around him on this beach. Was he dreaming? Where the hell had he found himself?
A small crab came up to his feet and began nipping at his toes. Wilfred stepped back warily, trying to avoid the pincers. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his sweaty wrist, doing nothing about the moisture that was leaving his body. If only he could stop sweating, for he needed all the water he had to remain in his body. There must be freshwater somewhere, for this man — the unusual figure by the hut — had made a life for himself here. Wilfred began stumbling up the beach to the hut, the crab following behind him.
“Please,” he said as he reached the hut, “I just need some water. Is there anything drinkable here?”
Crablord pushed past the leaves that covered the entrance to the small wooden frame he called home. “Is he eligible?” He said, looking downwards. Wilfred followed his gaze to the crab on the floor. The crab snapped its claws. “Hmm. Very well, then. Come with me,” he said, turning again to Wilfred. He walked through the grass land, moving past the tall trees. “Some of these bear coconuts, some mangoes, some bananas. Eat your fill, but no more. You may use the leaves of the palm trees and driftwood to construct yourself a shelter, but be mindful not to erect anything bigger than the hut here.” Crablord gestured to his own hut that they were leaving behind. “That is as big as building regulations allow. Here,” he said as they reached a small pond that sat almost dead centre of the island. “Take some water from here, but only as much as you need, never more. Don’t urinate or defecate near it.”
Wilfred dropped down to his knees by the pond and began slurping away at the water, thrusting his cupped palm into the water and bringing it swiftly to his mouth, driven by the needs of thirst.
“I said have no more than your fill,” Crablord said, irked by the newcomer’s greed. “And use a hollowed out coconut or something, not your hands. You’ll make the water dirty.”
The newcomer stopped, feeling his stomach ache and swell as the water rushed into it, and he winced at the pain.
“Make your shelter some way away from the pond,” Crablord continued. “The building regulations stipulate that structures cannot be within thirty feet of fresh water supplies.”
Wilfred nodded, feeling the pain in his stomach subside as his body readjusted to the ingestion of fluids. “What is this place?” He asked, as Crablord turned. “Who are you?”
“I am the Lord Protector of this island; the united republics of the Beach and Rock Lands, ruled here by my council at the Grass Lands. I am the executive branch of government, and my council is made up of the crabs and iguanas of the island.”
Wilfred looked back, stunned. “So what should I call you?”
Crablord thought for a moment. “Lord Protector is fine,” he decided. With that he turned and walked away, leaving Wilfred to construct his shelter.
Back in his own hut, he peered out of his window, hiding himself covertly behind the frame as he watched the new arrival try and pull down some palm leaves and pull together driftwood.
“What do you think, Jasper? A genuine refugee? Or an agent from another power bent on subterfuge and sabotage? A spy, perhaps…”
“Yes, very possibly. What do you suggest then?”
“You’re right, we can’t second guess his intentions just yet. Douglas seemed to think him genuine enough — or at least he had no reason to doubt his story as of yet. But we’ll keep a weather eye on him, see if he slips up.”
He watched as Wilfred pulled together the wood, trying desperately to prop them against each other to create the frame of a tent. Wilfred looked back, aware that the strange, wild-looking man, with his sunburnt, skinny frame, was watching him. Why didn’t he help? How the hell was Wilfred supposed to create a shelter from scratch? He was a far cry from his home now, completely out of his element. A castaway on a desert island. If he were alone, he would have preferred some company. But here, he thought, perhaps being alone wouldn’t have been so bad.
“What are you doing?” Crablord shouted, running towards the stack of sticks that Wilfred had put together.
“I was just going to make a fire,” Wilfred replied.
“Here? Are you mad? This completely goes against the fire codes — you can’t create a fire in the grassy area, so close to the trees and buildings. Do you want the hole thing to go up in flames?”
“I was going to put some stones around the base to contain it. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“The regulations were put in place for a reason, you fool! If you want a fire, you’ll have to make it on the beach.”
Wilfred sighed, and picked up his sticks, moving them to the beach and dropping them in the sand. Crablord stood some feet behind him, and Wilfred felt the eyes of the Lord Protector drilling into the back of his head. Wilfred knelt by the sticks, arranging them into a triangular stack, and kept two back. He placed one perpendicular to the other, and began passing it through his palms as rapidly as he could, trying to generate friction and heat. After a while, the point of contact began to smoke, and Wilfred threw some dry leaves and grass on top. They caught fire, and soon the kindling took. He was quite pleased with himself.
Crablord had been stood behind, frowning at Wilfred’s exploits. Finding little fault in what he had achieved, however, he set about collecting the fruits that would serve as his dinner. He left Wilfred to collect his own.
The newcomer, coconut in hand, sat by the fire, watching the sun set behind the horizon. The sea stretched out on all sides as far as the eye could see. It dawned on him that the island was completely isolated. Crablord came and sat down nearby — close enough to feel the effects of the fire, but not so close as to imply any form of camaraderie or good feeling.
“So this island has a lot of rules,” Wilfred observed, half trying to make conversation, half trying to figure out just what he had gotten himself into. Had he fallen out of the frying pan and into the fire?
“Yes, I suppose,” Crablord agreed. “As Lord Protector, it has been my duty to bring order to the island. I established this society alongside the creatures of the island — the crabs, mainly — and together we founded and agreed upon a constitution. I was sworn in as Lord Protector for life, and the crabs sit on the council as representatives and legislate. It works very well, and we have come up with a system of laws to which we are all bound. We agree to regulate our conduct for the greater good of our society.”
“I see,” said Wilfred with slight amusement. This man had clearly been left alone on the island for a long time. A regular Ben Gunn. “Well now that I’m here, might we rethink how we govern this place?”
Crablord laughed. It was the first time he had laughed in a while, and there was something sinister about it. “Oh my, no! You are a refugee here — you stay at my pleasure. You are not a citizen, and you can’t have any say in the laws, not until you can pass a citizenship test. You must show that you are able to understand and abide by our laws, that you respect our constitution, before you can be admitted to our society.”
“But we are two men here, now. Before you had been alone, and I can understand that you needed to do something to keep yourself from going mad, but you cannot expect me to abide by some laws I had no hand in making?”
“Why not? I did not ask you to come here; you arrived uninvited, and came unwanted. You are a guest in this country. You cannot simply arrive and start to change the laws to suit your own will. Had we arrived here together at the same time, you would have had a hand in forming the constitution with us, but you did not.”
Wilfred stared back at Crablord, who was busily eating his coconut. He slurped away at the juice inside, and then munched on the interior. “I did not choose to come here,” Wilfred said after a while.
“I believe you,” Crablord said, though this was something of a lie. “That is why we have shown you pity, my cabinet and I, and allowed you to stay.”
Wilfred ate his mango with deep uneasiness. He took each bite slowly, staring into the fire and trying to avoid making eye contact with the Lord Protector. “So what was the basis for this constitution of yours?”
“It grants full rights of citizenship to the crabs, and has recently been updated to provide equal citizenship to the iguanas,” Crablord said. “It establishes the territorial boundaries of our society, including this area — the Beach — and now also the Rock Lands. The Grass Lands have been identified as the rightful home of the Lord Protector, giving the executive some separation from the lands that he governs. The council will duly be held there. The crabs and iguanas have been been given the right to sit at the council, with votes taken on each matter. There are rules governing how councillors are elected. When the council sits, motions pass into law with a simple majority, and with enough councillors to constitute a quorum of five percent of the population. The size of the population is estimated by a yearly census.”
“Yes — I go around and count how many crabs and iguanas there are.”
“There’s several other foundational rights set in there — the right to freedom of expression, an outline of how the Lord Protector chooses his heirs, and so on. There is also the outline of how the judicial process works. We can get into the details later.”
“Right. And what laws are there that I should be mindful of?”
“There are various codes and regulations regarding building safety and fire safety that we have already established… citizens have a right to property, and that means that there are laws against theft and larceny, against fraudulent behaviour. There is quite detailed contract law… there’s also laws regulating social interaction, establishing what constitutes assault or battery, laws defining murder and manslaughter, and so on. Essentially, we expect citizens to respect one another, not to interfere in business that has nothing to do with them, and to respect the rights of consent to enter into deals, engagements, or interactions.”
“And the crabs and iguanas understand and obey these laws?”
“Correct. Well, the crabs have been living under them a lot longer than the iguanas, who have been newly inducted into the civil state, having emerged only recently from the state of nature, but yes. All are expected to understand and obey the laws.”
“And do they?” Wilfred pressed.
The fire crackled as Crablord paused for thought. “Generally, yes. That’s not to say we don’t have our troublemakers — what society doesn’t? But most are respectful to the needs and rights of others, and we live here peacefully enough. Let’s hope your arrival doesn’t disturb any of that, hey?” Crablord let out another laugh, and Wilfred joined him with an uncomfortable chuckle. Crablord still needed practice, it seemed, to perfect a laugh that sounded genuinely jovial and good natured, and the sound of it as it was made Wilfred deeply uneasy.
The days passed with Wilfred learning enough about life on the island so that he might pass a citizenship test. He grew increasingly frustrated, however, with the complexity of the laws. With each passing day, he came to understand how the Lord Protector had come to be like he was. There was nothing to do on the island. Every day that passed was the same as the one before. The sun beat down overhead, the creatures moved around from one spot to another, and all Wilfred could think to do was eat, piss, and shit.
He tried to make his home as comfortable as possible. He learned a lot about the building regulations this way: the quality of driftwood and dead branches he was to use; the appropriate size of leaves; the correct way to bind it all together. The Lord Protector had clearly developed, through trial and error, the best way to build a hut.
Wilfred had also been entrusted with some responsibilities. He was instructed to visit the Rock Lands and make sure that the iguanas weren’t kicking the crabs out of the rock pools, that the birds weren’t eating the crabs, and that the seals didn’t return to the rocks. He was dumbfounded by the number of treaties that seemed to have been formed between the animals. The birds have been given free rein of the trees in return for eating the insects that might have a parasitic effect on the fruits. The lizards were told to make peace with the bees that buzzed from the flowers.
Despite his progress in learning about all that had come before him, Wilfred was becoming more and more disillusioned. The Lord Protector constantly watched him distrustfully, following him about at some distance after he sent Wilfred off to do his tasks. He was always there, standing behind a tree in the Grass Lands, his head poking out and his eyes staring beadily down at Wilfred.
Wilfred grew increasingly sick of eating coconuts and mangoes, too. The Lord Protector’s insistence that the creatures of the islands were citizens or subjects in one form or another meant that none could be considered food.
One night, as he sat by the fire next to the Lord Protector, Wilfred voiced his concerns.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he said. “I’m hungry all of the time. I can feel myself growing weak. Can we please drop this stupid charade, and act like humans again?”
“What are you talking about?” Crablord was growing used to having Wilfred here, and had almost considered him ready to become a fully-fledged citizen. Almost.
“Can we stop it with these rules and regulations, with all these treaties and agreements? I get that you needed something to keep you sane here, but this is getting ridiculous now. You have to admit that things are different now that I’m here, and that we can’t keep behaving like this. This isn’t a real society; this is a fiction that you’ve created to help yourself cope.”
Crablord looked back, shocked at this outburst. “This society is very real, and the bonds between the citizens are strong. We look out for one another here.”
“Oh, spare me, you deluded fool.” Wilfred stood up, leaving his fruit half eaten by the fire, and sulked back to his hut. Crablord watched him walk away, deeply concerned at this outburst. He had been right not to allow him to become a citizen, after all.
Crablord finished his meal and let the fire die out before walking back to his own hut. He heard Wilfred grumbling as he walked back, and in his own hut he lay down in his bed, staring at the ceiling. The room was illuminated now by the pale moonlight.
“Oh, Jasper,” Crablord said, mournfully. “I don’t know what we can do with this man. We have been so good to him, shown him every kindness, but he hasn’t appreciated it one bit. He came here as a refugee, but all he wants to do is disrupt our society. Can he not see that we have taken care of him? Such a greedy fool. I think we may have to deport him.”
“Rawk,” Jasper agreed.
In the morning, while Wilfred sat guarding the Rock Lands from the seals, Crablord called the council to a vote.
“The newcomer has worked hard, but unfortunately he has failed to assimilate. If he continues to remain on the island he will become a danger to our constitution and to the foundations of our society. The man has unfortunately caused a wound on his arrival, and rather than healing, the wound has become infected. I move that we deport him immediately before he can cause further damage. All in favour?”
Ten of the eleven crabs in attendance snapped their claws, and seven of the twelve iguanas coughed and sneezed.
“All opposed?” The remaining crab and the other five iguanas communicated their vote here. The iguanas, who saw the work that Wilfred put in to defending the Rock Lands first hand, clearly had strong sympathies. And yet these holdouts were not enough to save Wilfred from his fate.
“And with no abstainers, the motion carries. I’ll go and break the news to the newcomer.”
Crablord walked from the Grass Lands where the council had been held to the Rock Lands where Wilfred was sat looking out at the sea. He turned as he heard Crablord walking behind him.
“I’m sorry for my outburst yesterday,” he began. “It was uncalled for. I’ve just been feeling so overwhelmed by everything that’s gone on, and I miss home so badly. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I know that we have to get along until we are rescued, so there’s no use me picking fights here.”
Crablord stopped, and looked back pensively at Wilfred. The man had grown his own beard, and his hair, too, had become shabby and long. Crablord gave him an apologetic look. “The council have voted,” he began, ignoring Wilfred’s apology, “and we have decided that it’s time for you to go.”
“It’s time for you to leave,” Crablord repeated.
“Leave? And go where?”
“That’s not my concern. You haven’t assimilated properly, and we don’t think that you ever will.”
“But I can’t simply leave — we’re surrounded by sea.”
“Again, that’s not my concern.”
“I can’t swim anywhere!”
“I don’t care, I just want you gone.”
“I don’t care.”
Wilfred stared back aghast. There was a long silence as the two men looked at each other, neither breaking their gaze with the other. “Well you’ll have to make me,” Wilfred said finally. “Otherwise I’ll take a piece of this island for myself. You have your beaches and crabs, and I’ll stay here on the Rock Lands. You have your half, and I’ll have mine, and we can share the food.”
Crablord’s eyes burnt red as he stared back at Wilfred. Anger alighted in the back of his mind, and the fire reached into his throat. This usurper, this infiltrator, intended to steal away Crablord’s land, assume the title of Lord Protector of one the island’s two republics, and secede from the Union. This was unacceptable.
“You can’t do that,” Crablord said finally.
“Sue me for it,” replied Wilfred, who turned around again to face the sea.
“You can’t do that,” Crablord repeated, but Wilfred ignored him. This only served to enrage him further. “Look at me,” Crablord said, his voice fierce, the anger permeating its very essence. Yet, in much the same way that Crablord could not laugh with appropriate humour, so too did he fail to convincingly channel his anger into intimidation. Wilfred looked back at him, but there was pity, rather than fear in his eyes. This only made things worse.
Crablord stormed towards Wilfred and pushed him off his rock. Wilfred stood, finding his balance as his feet hit the rocks below. “Hey!” He yelled. “Calm down, there’s no need for this!”
“I told you that you can’t do that!” Crablord asserted again.
“I want you to leave!” Crablord advanced on Wilfred, staring at the man through his mass of tangled hair as he climbed over the rocks.
“Look, you know that I can’t,” Wilfred said, backing away.
“Well you can’t have my island! The people here depend on me!”
“What people?” Wilfred yelled in his frustration. “Listen to yourself! Just let me live here in peace until someone comes to rescue me, and then I’ll be out of your hair…”
“I can’t let you do that,” Crablord said, and with that he approached Wilfred and shoved him as hard as he could in his chest. Wilfred was caught off-guard by the force of his push and lost his footing on the slippery rocks beneath his feet. He fell backwards, his arms waving as he tried to grab on to something. His hand found a piece of rock that jutted outwards, but his fingers slipped as they tried to gain purchase. His body fell against the stones beneath him, and his head smacked on the hard surface. His eyes glazed over and went blurry as the pain filled his mind, and then he lay still.
Crablord kept advancing on the figure that lay twitching as a pool of blood formed around his head, mingling with the sea water that gently washed up around him. “I told you that I can’t let you do that,” Crablord repeated, still blind in his fury. He knelt down on Wilfred’s body and picked up a loose rock from nearby. He brought the rock down upon the man’s skull. “You can’t have my island,” he said, bringing the rock down again. “You won’t disturb my society.” The rock came down one more time. “You won’t hurt my people.” The rock came down one final time onto the battered skull.
Crablord stood up, and picked up Wilfred’s legs. He pushed them outwards, letting the sea take the body. The rocks were stained with red, though with every push and pull of the tide, the evidence was washed away until no more was left. The body floated out to sea, and Crablord was left alone again on his island, feeling secure in the knowledge that peace had been restored.
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