“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.
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