Times Past, 1970
Shiva’s Last Case
Part 3 of The Replacement
For the past decade, Shiva and Kali have been a heroic duo like none other, while Martin and Lily Martine spent several years in wedded bliss. But those happy days seem to be over forever, as Martin watches his wife become unhappier than ever, becoming more of an enemy to him in his own home. Can Martin find out what is behind his wife’s misery and make things better, or will this be the crisis that finally puts an end to his super-career?
As the mighty blue-skinned super-hero called Shiva, Martin Martine loved to fly. It was the greatest thing about his alter ego. He could fly for hours, if he wanted, while ignoring the world below. He’d known better than that, though. His gift was not for him to enjoy in such a frivolous way.
Besides, his wife Lily would be angry, because he was late for their anniversary dinner. She was often angry with him these days, and he didn’t know why. Even the wisdom of Brahma would not help solved this domestic mystery. He and his wife were now in their early thirties and had been married for twelve years, and had been a couple for even longer.
Seeing the restaurant ahead, Shiva landed in a nearby alley. Saying the magic word, he transformed back into the tuxedo-wearing Martine Martine. He walked to join his wife, who stood waiting for him at the door with one foot tapping impatiently on the sidewalk.
Martin smiled at his lovely wife. He had known her since they were teenagers, and he had loved her all that time. He wanted more than anything to make things special between them again. “Happy anniversary, Lil!” he said, offering her a small jewelry box.
Lily Martine took it but still wore a frown on her heart-shaped face. She opened it, glanced briefly at the contents, then snapped the case shut. “It’s nice,” she said, with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.
“What’s wrong, Lil?” Martine asked, concern marking his face.
“I’ve just finished with my doctor,” Lily said. “We’re not going to have children, Marty. I am infertile.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Martin, trying offer his wife some kind of comfort. He moved forward to hold her close, but she rebuffed his attempt, pushing him away.
“Let’s just eat, Marty,” she said, sounding extremely annoyed, her usual tone these days, much to his dismay. “We can talk about this later.” The Martines went into the restaurant in silence.
Martine sat through dinner, barely tasting anything. Despite everything he had tried to do, all the little gestures that she usually found cute, Lily didn’t talk or respond to anything he said to try to make her feel better. Finally, the torture was over, and the couple had finished with the pretense of civility.
Lily walked to the alley where Martine had landed earlier and said her own magic word, “Rakasha!” A golden rain erupting from the ground brought the four-armed, ebony-skinned form of Kali into existence. Without even a glance back to her husband, she took to the air.
Martine had run after her, then said his own word as soon as he was out of sight from people on the street, transforming back into the mighty Shiva. But the short delay had been all Kali had needed to vanish into the night sky.
Shiva searched for her through the long night until the sun came up. Even before he begun the search, he had known it would be futile, but he tried anyway. Still, as long as she was in the form of Kali, Lily Martine could disappear in a flash.
As time went on, Martin Martine tried to talk to his wife about their problems, attempting without any success to bring her out of her depression. But his every effort was rebuffed with monosyllabic replies and silence. He began to patrol more as his alter ego, while trying to work out some way he could help his wife. The world had changed so much since they first became super-heroes. Married women were working outside of the home and assuming several of the same responsibilities that men had, except for compulsory armed service. But the women’s liberation movement also had its darker side. Already Martin had seen several of his friends getting divorced, something that was virtually unheard of back in the 1950s. If things didn’t turn around, Martin was worried that he and Lily were headed inevitably in the same direction.
One night, as Shiva soared over Fawcett City, he saw a strange blue light on the ground behind a jewelry store, so he descended to investigate further.
Suddenly, a large fist closed over his ankle and smashed the hero into the asphalt. Shiva saw a mass of flesh with powerful arms and legs and eight tentacles growing from the shoulders. The thing’s head was a blob on top of the body without a connecting neck. Before Shiva could overcome his shock, the thing had swung him over its head, then down into the ground again. Pieces of asphalt flew into the air from the impact.
Shiva’s first move, once he regained his senses, was to free his ankle from his new enemy’s grip. He wondered where this guy had come from briefly as he popped the massive hand open with a single thumb press. As he slashed his other three hands upward with his full strength, the monster seemed to splash apart under impact.
Leaping to his feet with the agility of Garuda, Shiva was surprised at the results of his blow. He did not gloat, because he saw the monster was bringing itself back together for another assault. The wisdom of Brahma suggested a solution, if it would only work.
Shiva grabbed the thing by its arm when it was completely together. Then he hurled it up in the air. He flew up after it, somehow knowing that the monster could not fly on its own, then smashed it in midair with both left hands.
The thing sailed toward the horizon uncontrollably, crossing the terminator line and vanishing in a puff of smoke at the first touch of the sun.
Shiva frowned as he wondered what was going on.
Martin Martine spent the next few days trying to figure out what his attacker had been, as well as trying to please his wife. He had very little success in either endeavor. He could not find a description in any book in the library he had consulted on the problem. It was almost as if the creature had been created on the spot and placed there to ambush him. He often wished he could seek out the old wizard’s help, but he hadn’t seen Shazam since that day seventeen years ago when he first gained his powers.
Lily avoided him when she could. She hardly spoke to him when she couldn’t. Martin’s patrols as Shiva started to become erratic as he tried to support her and help in emergencies at the same time.
Maybe what was called for was a vacation, he decided. Maybe some time away from other people and the world’s problems would help clear the air between them. Arranging for a few days off at work, he packed camping gear for Lily and himself, and the next day he drove his sullen wife out of the city.
Martine headed for the park where he and his wife had walked parts of the Appalachian Trail on their honeymoon. Feeling as enthusiastic as a schoolboy about his plan to rekindle their romance, he set up camp for them as his wife waited in silence. But when he was done, and he turned around, she was gone.
The young man sat down on a fallen log in dismay. Lily had never done that before. Surely there was some other reason for her behavior than the loss of potential children. After all, they could adopt a child to raise as their own. Why this sullenness and coldness toward him? What had he done to deserve all this?
Feeling that all this self-pity was uncharacteristic of his usual positive outlook on life, he decided to take action and said, “BVSSGG.”
The gravity-defying blue rain set loose the form of Shiva to soar through the sky with the ease of an eagle, determined to find out the truth. The hero flew immediately to the office of his wife’s doctor. It was child’s play for him to pick the lock on the door, though his conscience did slightly bother him as he did so. No matter. This was more important. He quickly searched for and found his wife’s medical file.
A look of complete shock passed over the blue-skinned hero’s face as he stared at the paper with disbelief. According to her medical records, Lily had not come in for an examination in two years. Who had told her she was sterile? More importantly, he asked himself, why had she believed the lie?
Taking flight once more, Martine was troubled by his discovery. Shiva flew home as fast as the speed of Garuda allowed. Once there, he opened the door to his home, intending to search his wife’s calendar for a clue to her odd behavior.
Someone murmured in his basement, and the sound barely registered on his acute hearing. He followed the sound, floating off the floor to preserve some element of surprise.
The murmuring became chanting as he approached the door to the basement. Pulling the door open, he descended the small set of stairs with some measure of trepidation, and the basement’s overhead light displayed a shocking scene before his eyes.
On the basement floor, his wife Lily and some older woman were making low, unholy-sounding chanting noises over a chalk drawing on the ground, seeming to be in a trance as they did so. As he watched, the diagram glowed brighter and brighter. Shiva did not need the wisdom of Brahma to tell him that this had to be stopped.
“What are you doing, Lily?” Martin cried out as he approached the two women. But as soon as he got a good look at the older woman, he realized that he had made an error. That was no mere woman, but some kind of demoness with giant horns sprouting from her head. How had he not noticed that right away?
Tentacles began to emerge from the drawing, and it was painfully obvious to the hero what was going on. He just didn’t know if he could believe it.
Shiva flew at the demoness, hoping to cut off this dark ceremony at the source, as he saw it. But his wife blindsided him, kicking him through the wall. As he dug himself out of the earth, he began to realize that he would have to fight his wife to stop this madness. He would have to stop Lily.
The demoness laughed a wicked laugh at his predicament. “My father created you to be heroes!” said Blaze. “How wonderful to help one of you to destroy the earth!”
“You haven’t destroyed it yet,” said Martin, launching himself through the air at his wife as the wisdom of Brahma whispered to him.
Shiva and Kali crashed together, sending shockwaves throughout the basement. And as they began dueling in midair, they seemed to vanish at the speed they were throwing blows at each other. Finally, Martin seized her upper hand with a colossal throw, and Lily’s transformed form cratered the concrete out from the force of the move.
Hovering over the expanding tentacles, Shiva began to say the words for banishment.
“No!” cried Blaze. “You can’t stop the spell!”
But Martin continued speaking without interruption, even as Lily slowly dug herself out of the ground.
In a desperate cry of rage, Kali launched herself at the chanting Shiva. But she missed her mark, and the hero instead deflected her into the diagram as he continued to chant his counter-spell.
A moment later, the portal closed, dragging both the tentacled creature emerging from it and Kali herself through it into the dark realm where the rest of the creature lay.
“What have you done?!” shrieked the demoness.
“Saved the world one more time,” said Martin Martine, his voice bitter.
“You have ruined yourself,” said Blaze. “How can you be a hero after this?” The thing vanished in blast of flame.
“I’m not,” said Martin, and he began to chant again, this time for a very different purpose, one which he was sure the old wizard had prepared him for.
The battlefield that had been their basement began to right itself, replacing all the broken walls, floors, ceilings, and furniture, erasing the evidence quietly and surely. And then invisible waves flew out at great speed, reaching across the globe in seconds, completely wiping away Lily Martine’s very existence, piece by piece.
Finally, there was only one thing left to do, so Shiva finished the spell.
As he spoke his magic word, “BVSSGG,” for the last time, a loud clicking noise could be heard in the air, as if a lock was turning.
The echoes of the sound died in the air just as Martin Martine wondered what he had been looking for when he had gone down into his lonely looking basement. Perhaps tomorrow he would remember, or perhaps not.
Martin sighed and returned upstairs to spend another lonely night at home.