by Dan Swanson
Lily Lovelace Martine had never been happier in her life. Last year she had married her longtime boyfriend Martin Martine in a May wedding, and life seemed to get better every day. Her acting career was taking off, too, as tonight was opening night for her first lead in a big Broadway play. As well, her confidence in herself seemed to grow every day, Martin’s new business was starting to take off, and, to top it off, by simply saying her magic word, she could magically change into her secret identity of Kali, an avatar of the Hindu goddess of creation and death, possessing the power of Shazam, making her the most powerful woman in the world. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Shiva: Times Past, 1958: The Birth of Kali.]
She knew she was beautiful as Lily, but she absolutely loved the powerful and exotic form of Kali, when she stood six-feet, eight inches tall, had four arms, a long mane of blood-red hair contrasting with coal-black skin, and yellow flame glowing from her eyes. Kali’s attire was just as stunning — she wore a dress of fine links of real gold, cinched at her waist by a belt of silver, with a flawless diamond the size of her hand inset into the clasp. Her sandals and the circlet that kept her hair back from her face were both made of braided platinum. She wielded the power of Shazam in the cause of right, and the best thing of all was that she could share her heroic life with her husband, for Martin Martine was the alter ego of Shiva. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Shiva: Times Past, 1953: The New Kid.]
Lily knew that, just as Kali was longed after by millions of men around the world, Shiva was drooled over by as many women, despite, or perhaps because of his exotic, almost bizarre appearance. Not quite seven feet tall, with light blue skin and four arms, muscled like a weightlifter, he had a third eye in the middle of his forehead, and a shock of red hair that stood straight up almost like a fire blazing around his head. He wore a chain-mail tunic and armlets of gold, and he was a perfect mate and match for Kali. Let them drool. There wasn’t another woman on the planet with a chance at her man.
She burst out laughing, drawing startled glances from the other diners, and an affectionate smile from Martin.
Martin Martine was also feeling good. His new business didn’t give him much time to get out and join Lily for lunch, but opening day for her first lead role on Broadway was a special occasion.
Over the years, Martin had discovered that his heroic responsibilities as Shiva made it impossible for him to follow someone else’s schedule in his civilian identity. This had caused him a lot of grief; coaches wouldn’t keep him on athletic teams because he was unreliable, and despite his quick intelligence, he did poorly in school because he was always missing classes. In college, he had realized that he wouldn’t be able to hold down a regular job after he graduated, so he decided to go into business for himself as an independent financial auditor. He’d had to start small, but his growing reputation for excellent service had finally landed a client from the Fortune 1000. Three or four others had recently made inquiries, and it appeared that Martine Financial Audit Service might have to start turning away clients soon. And he would be turning only twenty-three years old later this year, with most of his productive years ahead of him.
So the loving newlyweds had decided to celebrate today, meeting for lunch in the famed Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Martin poured the champagne, and they raised their glasses in a toast. But before he could speak, the midday sun darkened. A few people ran up to the windows to see what was happening, and the screaming began. A giant flying saucer had blocked the sun and was descending slowly on Central Park. Suddenly, the restaurant became chaotic as everyone started screaming and running.
Reflexes honed by years in the hero business spurred Martin and Lily to their feet, and they were able to escape the press of panicked diners fighting desperately to get off the patio and run toward the dubious safety of the buildings surrounding Central Park. Almost instantly, that panicked exodus left them behind as they had expected, and together they said their magic words.
“BVSSGG,” in a mellow baritone, came Martin’s word, calling on the powers of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Svargapati, Garuda, and Ganesha.
“Rakasha!” in Lily’s sultry voice, granted her the same powers as Martin, though the gods she called on were a mystery to the pair.
Their magical transformations were as different as their words — a mist of gently glowing blue raindrops rose from the floor, wafting past Martin, and he vanished, to be replaced by Shiva. Beside him, a hot red flame blasted from the floor with a deafening roar, engulfing Lily, then vanished, leaving her wrapped in oily black smoke that cleared to reveal Kali. And the two heroes flashed into the sky.
The giant saucer, almost as big as Yankee Stadium, continued to settle slowly toward Central Park. “There are people still in the park! We have to help!” Shiva roared, and the two heroes vanished, leaving behind twin sonic booms.
With speed of Garuda, Shiva crisscrossed the landing zone, carrying people to safety. When he realized that Kali wasn’t with him, he pressed his powers even more, and the bewildered citizens who had seconds ago been enjoying the crisp but beautiful day in the park were astonished to see literally hundreds of Shivas — as he moved from one place to another, leaving behind only a fading after-image in the eyes of the watchers. If there was an obstruction in his way, he didn’t waste the time to go around it; anything more than a few inches high was stripped away, as if Shiva was building a putting green for a giant.
Even at his most amazing speed, he had been sure that alone he wouldn’t have time to finish evacuating the innocent bystanders from the landing zone, but he finished easily. Puzzled, he turned his attention skyward and realized that Kali’s back was pressed against the bottom of the giant ship, and her arms and legs were splayed outward as she strained to slow its descent — and was succeeding. He was almost stunned by this incredible feat; he hadn’t even considered trying this himself. It seemed, though, that she had reached the end of her strength. When she saw that the area was clear, she relaxed somewhat. The aliens chose that moment to increase their downward thrust, and the giant ship slammed to Earth, smashing Kali underneath like the giant golfer’s foot smashing a bug.
The earth trembled like a magnitude four earthquake, and Shiva could hear people screaming and windows shattering. He hoped that none of the nearby buildings would collapse, but the civilian emergency crew were going to have to earn their pay without his help right now. Kali might be dead. He flew at the hull of the ship at terrible velocity, planning — if he had a plan — to tear it to shreds. So fantastic was his speed that when he bounced from the hull, the ship slid sideways a few feet, tearing a giant trough in the ground and producing more shock waves. Shiva was stunned unconscious as he was thrown up and away, and when he finally recovered, he found himself lying on the bottom of the harbor.
The wisdom of Brahma had been at work while he was senseless, and he realized that being smashed into the ground couldn’t hurt her, regardless of what was doing the smashing. She couldn’t be flattened against even the hardest bedrock; the rock would shatter, compress, or flow, and she would be forced into the opening that was created, just as a golf ball would be forced into the softer soil of the putting green if the giant golfer had stepped on it. She had probably been stunned, as he had been, but she had likely already dug her way free and was engaging the saucer at this very instant. He flashed skyward, and such was his speed that for a split-second he left behind a Shiva-sized tube of vacuum extending from the harbor bottom to the surface. He was back in Central Park before the waters could fill that tube.
He hadn’t been gone long, Shiva estimated. Kali was pounding on the saucer with little effect — no, as he got closer, he realized she was pounding on an invisible barrier about a hand’s span above the hull of the saucer, a nigh-indestructible force-field. She was trying to find out just how indestructible it was. He angled his flight to join her.
Abruptly, he was engulfed in something pitch black and fluid, like pudding or gel, or thick tar. It impeded his movements and slowed him down, but it was too viscous for him to shatter it, and he couldn’t grab it to tear it; it just oozed out of his grip. He drove downward with all his power, hoping to splatter it against the ground below, and he felt the results as he slammed into the force-field that was holding this goo around him. Good; here was something he could attack. He set to work finding out just how indestructible this field was.
And he had no luck at all. The gel interfered and slowed his every punch and kick to the point of being ineffective, and he couldn’t grab the force-field and tear it. He flailed about uselessly for almost a minute, which was a really long time for someone with the speed of Garuda, and then settled down to think. With the strength of Shiva and the speed of Garuda neutralized, he was going to have to rely on one of his most underused powers, the wisdom of Brahma, to escape this trap.