Twilight of the Odds

by Gene-Michael Markette and Gary Higney
(or something like that) © 2002

Kali sat in the cluttered hotel room and stared at a rerun of Baywatch.

No way, he-she-it thought, this could have stayed on the air for all of those years without some sort of divine intervention. And it sure wasn't mine.

He-she-it picked up the phone and hit the 0.

"No, Mr. Kale," a tired voice answered, "No one's been here looking for you. There wasn't anyone looking for you 5 minutes ago. And there probably won't be anyone looking for you when you call again 5 minutes from now." Click

Kali cradled the phone, unsatisfied. That clerk sounded bored, tired, and incompetent. He-she-it considered cursing him with bad karma for his next 20 incarnations, but decided against it.

Just then, there was a soft rap on Kali's door. Multiple raps, in fact. Before Kali could respond to the rapper, the door swung open and Shiva shambled in.

"I'm going to kill that desk clerk. There isn't a single cube of ice in the machine. Do you realize what this heat is doing to my martini? I said that a convention in a motel in Death Valley was a bad idea, didn't I? But you liked the name, didn't you! You said: 'Hey, let's get all the gods together and have our conference someplace different this millennium!' You said..."

Kali sighed and clicked the remote, ratcheting the TV's volume up a few notches to drown out Shiva's rant. It was going to be a long day... and an even longer millennium conference. Kali decided to try the desk clerk again. Maybe by this time that call had come through.

He-she-it reached for the phone just as it rang.


Children's voices singing:

"He's got the whole wor-old In his hands

He's got the whole wide wor-old In his hands

He's got the whole wor-old In his hands

He's got the whole world In his hands."

Smarmy overdub:

"Friends, are you confused, bedazed, befuddled?

Are you searching for guidance, for relevance, for truth?

Are you gaaaaakkkkkkkkk!"

Various voices:

"What happened?"

"What is this stuff?"

"I don't know but his mouth is full of it."

"Hey, what's with the kids? What are they doing?"

"Why, those little . . ."

"I didn't think they were old enough to . . ."

Click. Hum

"And that's another thing: this sexual identity crisis of yours." Shiva tssked. "It's making you grumpy. It's making me grumpy. C'mon, already. How hard is it to make up your mind? Are you a he, a she, or an it? I mean, it's tough enough to choose an outfit . . ."

Kali, still in the lotus position from morning calisthenics, levitated lightly from the bed, and scooted through the air toward the room's incommodious closet.

"I don't have to choose, and you can't make me," He-she-it insisted, more out of a desire to annoy Shiva than to take a stand. "Why are you so hung up on my gender all of a sudden?"

Shiva went into lift-off and floated up right behind Kali. "And why are you using expressions like 'hung up', all of a sudden?! You sound ridiculous. That's no way for an ancient god to speak. It's . . . ungodly. In fact, if you ask me -- Hey!"

Kali had floated serenely into the motel room closet and the door swung shut right in Shiva's flustered face.

Speaking directly to the false grain barrier, Shiva continued. "I hate it when you do that. You're acting like an adolescent instead of a million year old deity!" Shiva's all-seeing eye blinked. "Sayyyy... is that what this is all about? Are you having some kind of an age-and-gender identity crisis? Because if that's what you're up to, I'd say it's a little late in the game to start -- OW!"

The closet door swung back open suddenly, hitting Shiva squarely in the forehead.

Now dressed in cut off shorts with Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson patches on them, Kali sailed out of the closet. He-she-it did a poor job of pretending not to be amused at Shiva's rubbing of the rapidly blackening Third Eye.

"Serves you right." Kali said, "Now hurry up or we're going to be late for Vishnu's Tupperware thing."

The phone started ringing again.

"You get it," Kali said, buttoning his-her-its tunic and adjusting the boa. "It's about time you did something around . . ."

"Weirdo godling's room," Shiva said, picking up the phone. "He-she-it's not available at the moment--busy crossdressing and trying to photosynthesize at the same . . ."

"Give me that!" Kali snarled, grabbing the handset. "Hello? Who? No this isn't Amon Ra. No, you've got the wrong avatar. Avatar. Ay-vee-ay . . . how would I know what it means? Listen, you called me, I didn't call you. Well, you didn't get him so try again." And he-she-it slammed the phone back into its cradle.

"Who was that?"

"Someone looking for Amon. I wish that son of a . . . "

A knock sounded at the door.

"Maid service!" croaked a suspiciously un-maidenly voice.

Kali excitedly spritzed on some Teen Spirit cologne and started shoving Shiva toward the window. "Well, that's the maid so you'd better fly."

"What?" Shiva shouted. "What is WRONG with you?!" Get your holy hands OFF me! You are acting SO weird I --"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, now hit the road and I'll see you in the conference room later."

Kali pushed the still sputtering and indignant Shiva out the motel window, not even glancing back as Shiva landed amidst some scruffy shrubbery.

Kali hurried toward the motel room door, muttering, "Now be cool. Be cool . . ."

He-she-it took a deep breath, patted his-her-its chest with a number of hands, and opened the door.


Three hours later, Shiva opened that same door.

"What's the matter are you deaf? I've been pounding on that door for ten minutes!" Several bags full of Tupperware containers clattered to the table. "I guess you've never . . ."

Shiva stopped. Kali was suspended in mid air above the bed.

But Kali wasn't levitating.

Kali was trussed like a bad Houdini impersonator: strapped, roped, tied, and hanged from the walls and ceiling.

Gagged, too.

"Kinky," Shiva said, sitting and peering upward. "The eight sets of handcuffs are a nice touch.

"Mpppph, mpppphle, mpppph," Kali mppphed.

"What's that? Am I still mad at you?"

"Mpppph, mpppphle"

"Why, how could I still be mad at you? Just because you pushed me out of a 12 storey window? Hey, the shrubbery broke my fall. Just because you stood me up and I had to go to a Tupperware party alone. Shiva. The Destroyer. A Tupperware party. Nothing incongruous there, right?"

"Mpppph, mpppphle"

"And then I come back--overtopped with Tuperware, I might add---to find you wrapped in afterglow--well, anyway, wrapped--following a dilly of a dalliance with some bimbo or bimbi or Bambi for all I know . . ."


"And you're wondering if I'm still mad at you," Shiva leaned back, peered at Kali closely. "You know, some folks can say things just by using their eyes . . ."

A moan and a mppph this time.

"Take you, for example. Now, your eyes are saying something to me right now. Not sure what. Could be: 'Cut me down. Let me free. Get me a Pepsi.' Something like that . . . " Shiva reached for the phone: stopped. "But, you see I can't do any of those things because this is a crime scene," Shiva made little "quote" marks in the air. "And if I got you that Pepsi, I might disturb some evidence," More little quote marks. "So you just have to wait until I call the local gendarmes . . ." And Shiva reached for the phone again. Stopped again.

"No. Can't use this phone. Might be fingerprints," Shiva stood. "Gotta go to the front desk."

Louder mpppph.

"Hey, don't worry. Everything's gonna be fine. Just hang in there," Here, Shiva opened the door, "Until I get back."



Kali's eyes widened in apprehension as the closet door slowly swung open and, from within its mothball-smelling depths, a raspy, unmaidenly voice whispered hoarsely: "Mmmmaid ssssservice."


Shiva returned, half an hour later, with Vishnu, Krishna, and Ganesh tagging along, giggling wildly all the way down the hall. They burst into the room as Shiva shrieked, "Get a load of our pal Kali, trussed up like Dabney Coleman in Nine To Five!"

"Oh, I loved Dolly Parton in that, didn't YOU?" said Ganesh with a flick of his trunk. But the others were ignoring him.

Kali was not there, trussed up or otherwise.

Instead, there was a note, safety-pinned to a small figurine of Kali which was suspended from a noose.

The note read:

One down, one million more of you to go.

--Yours devotedly, D. Isside

x x x

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