and all of its related elements are copyright © 2001 - 2007 Tollin-Robbins Productions, WB Television and DC Comics. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Chloe returned to Martha.
News of Clark had already reached her. Lana had called, Martha had explained, and she’d heard his voice.
Though Chloe had the tapes and files in her car, she couldn’t bring herself to show the woman what her son had gone through. She paraphrased, instead.
“He was taken to a lab,” she said. “I found the key in the caves, and so I started to suspect that he hadn’t quite gotten to his ethereal classroom in the North.”
“And you found him?” Martha asked, her voice breathless.
“I found where he was kept. I think… I think he escaped.”
“Thank God,” Martha gasped. “But Chloe, I think that he’s been affected by black Kryptonite.”
Chloe’s eyes widened in shock. “Black Kryptonite?” she asked. “Green, red, silver… black?”
“It turns him into his Kryptonian personality,” Martha explained. “Like how Jor-El programmed him. The same rock has turned him back, before. Lana was with him, but her cell phone hasn’t been working since this morning.”
“I can GPS it,” Chloe said, pulling out her laptop and glancing around for an Ethernet cord.
A few hours later, they drove into the driveway of a hotel. Clasping hands, with the black-K in a bag, they stormed the lobby. Martha became Senator Kent, demanding the room number of “Kal-El” and the respective key.
But the door wasn’t locked.
Lana sat cross legged on the floor. She was wrapped in a robe.
“I didn’t want to leave until dark,” she explained to a shocked Martha and Chloe. “My clothes are kind of skanky.”
“He’s gone,” Martha asked desperately.
She held out the note.
“I know about him, Mrs. Kent,” Lana said. “He’s an… alien. He says he’s gone home.”
Chloe and Martha looked at each other, but neither one explained to Lana that Krypton had been destroyed; that Clark was the last of their kind.
Martha returned to the car to grab some extra clothes and Chloe helped Lana to her feet.
“He loved me,” she said. Their eyes met, and she continued, “That’s all I needed to know.”
Chloe smiled sadly and stroked Lana’s hair. She knew Clark better than Lana; he was never planning on leaving the planet. The letter had been to comfort her; to make her complacent so that she wouldn’t look for him.
Chloe and Martha helped Lana into the truck and they drove back to Smallville. Martha set Lana up in the guest room since Chloe was already using Clark’s, and she stayed the night, despite her responsibilities in Topeka.
Once Lana was settled in bed Chloe and Martha sat down at the dinner table across from each other, and they knew, without speaking, that neither one of them would ever stop searching.
Kal hovered somewhere above Egypt. When he closed his eyes, he could hear the sounds of the world. His senses had been much sharper since he’d escaped.
When he listened like this, it was clear to him that the world didn’t deserve his anger. It was the noise of children that convinced him. He could hear the music of laughter and the sound of sobbing and it was innocent and pure and needed to be protected.
He thought of how naïve he’d been before. He remembered how much he’d loved Lex, who had turned into such a… a monster. He remembered how he’d devoted himself to Lana and how he’d lied to her, to protect her, he’d believed. He thought of how she had spun from man to man and back to him, eventually. It nearly hurt him that it no longer hurt; that he no longer cared for her as he did.
Clark Kent, he thought.
He closed his eyes. Even now, it was hard to stop lying; even to himself.
Because when Lex had pressed that black meteor rock to his chest, he had been terrified that the spirit of Kal-El, the true son of Krypton, would come bursting forth like an angry beast that had been caged for years. He had thought that he would take over, like he’d done before, and leave Clark Kent as nothing but a passenger in his own body.
It hadn’t happened like that. Instead of an explosion, there had been a shift, like a strong current. What he experienced was a singular moment where suddenly understanding had flooded every molecule of his being. And though he had pressed Clark Kent’s memories away, pressed his humanity as far back in his consciousness as he could, he hadn’t become a different person.
He hadn’t become a robot, brainwashed by his biological father.
Kal opened his eyes and looked down. He’d drifted somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, he let the truth fill his mind; he realized that he was himself. Clark Kent, Kal-El, or someone new.
He understood his powers, his purpose and his heritage. He remembered, though he often wanted not to, his humanity and history.
At the time, in that lab, he had known what it would take to be free again, and with terrible efficiency, had done it. He had executed his plan; he had taken back his life.
And he had still been Clark. He had become a horrifying version of himself; sculpted by the months of isolation and torture and solidified by the black stone. The stone had given him knowledge and confidence.
He had suddenly understood that he could move fast enough, even in his weakened condition, to tear the box from under his skin. Though he hadn’t seen the sun in months, his ribs where the box had been fastened had snapped and healed within a few seconds, and as he smacked Lex across the room, his own blood flew from his fingers and painted the walls.
The world had slowed. He had watched as the guards had started to pull guns from lead holsters, and he disabled them before the Kryptonite bullets could clear the lead protection. He turned last to Sean, and tore the boxes from his hands before knocking him out.
His blood had sprayed over the walls. He stood silently for a second; he hadn’t been the one to destroy the equipment that littered the room, but he was responsible for the human debris.
He had reached down and picked up the black stone; known, in that moment, that it would never hold sway over him again.
He had glanced at the mirror that hid Dr. Williams and some nameless woman.
The shards of glass hadn’t finished falling to the floor; the Dr. Williams senior and junior were in each of Kal’s hands. His anger had been pure and conclusive. One of these men had betrayed him and put him here. The other had ensured his continuous pain and discomfort; had taunted him and treated him like an animal.
Unceremoniously, he’d thrown them into a room. The younger man was still passed out, but the gray haired Dr. Williams stared at him.
“Clark,” he’d said. “Think of your mother. Think of that boy she loved.”
Kal had looked at him blankly.
“You killed that boy,” he’d said before he had done what he’d sworn never to do; what he’d never thought himself capable of doing.
His powers were getting stronger every second that the wretched box was out of his body. He’d started the fire around them with his eyes; and ability that they’d never torn from him. He had enjoyed how it had shocked the doctor and how he’d looked upon Kal as though he were the devil.
When he returned to the experimentation room, he’d stepped over the guards and picked Lex up delicately.
He’d walked slowly to the room where he’d spent every dark, horrifying night wishing he could see the stars.
“Clark?” he remembered Lex saying.
“No,” Kal had replied. He sat on the edge of the bed. Lex had tried to sit up.
“God,” Lex had hissed.
“We’re more alike than you know,” Kal had said softly, quoting Lex. “We both have this… darkness. I tried to protect you from it.”
“Why me?” Lex sounded scared. Kal couldn’t remember ever hearing him scared before.
“Not you,” Kal had whispered. “I meant all of you.”
Lex’s face had twisted, and deep in the darkness of the Mediterranean Sea, Kal could still see that deformed, horrified expression.
He could still see how Lex’s blood had bubbled around his finger tips, and how it had sounded, pathetic and plastic, as he’d punctured lungs.
He could hear the pop
of each finger jammed between each rib.
And the earth shaking crack
of his sternum breaking. Lex hadn’t screamed.
Finally, Clark had looked at the corpse. His hatred was gone. He didn’t feel scared or disgusted or guilty; he felt empty. He had gone to the sink in the corner of the room and washed his hands. He’d moved through the facility as though in a trance; he’d traced each memory of Lex in his mind and tucked it away, so that it was nearly as though he’d never existed.
He had heard the guards stirring. He hadn’t cared if they escaped.
He had heard a woman crying. He hadn’t really minded if she lived.
He could hear his heart beating.
He had torn the metal door at the end of the hall off its hinges. He could smell smoke.
Somewhere in the world, he could smell smoke, even now.
It had been so long since he’d seen the sun.
As he’d stepped out of hell and back into the world, he’d tilted his head back and remembered what it had been like to be Clark Kent. Now, as he watched the sun rise from miles above the earth, he remembered again: everything he’d done and everything that had happened to him.
He remembered his mom and Chloe, waving at him, his backpack over one shoulder and the farm house behind them.
He remembered Lex, grinning at him from across a pool table.
He remembered Lana, kissing him softly on the cheek after their walk in the cemetery and first real conversation.
And he didn’t think that he could recover from this. He didn’t think that this was a place he could come back from.
Unbidden, he thought of Lois Lane, and how she’d entered his life in a blaze of headlights and awkward grins. He’d asked who she was, and she’d replied as though he were an idiot not to already know.
A brief smile surprised his face and his eyes came open. He looked down and realized that he’d passed over the Mediterranean and was pretty close to the Swiss Alps.
Maybe he’d never be the Clark Kent he had been; maybe he’d never be able to forgive the people who’d captured him and humiliated him; but that didn’t mean he’d never heal.
And as the yellow sun came out fully from behind the mountains, he let strength and warmth fill his body. Shifting from his passive position, he let his ugly thoughts fall away.
The scenery blurred beneath him and land became the Atlantic Ocean, which soon became land again, and ahead of him, the green faded to white and he paused, only for a moment, over Kansas before heading north.