Decamot of the month

30 Jun 2018-Gardening Leave

Decamot inspired by the following items: javelin, policeman, universe, belt, Jack, forest, flag, skipping rope, Harrogate, river

Shiva Dhesi was enjoying his retirement. He'd been working in the RHS Harlow Carr gardens near the spa town of Harrogate as a volunteer for nearly 15 years. His employer had been a little sceptical when he'd first applied for the post. Shiva appeared to be in his late 50s and he was convinced that either Shiva's physical ability or his interest would flag before long; but neither had.

During the interview, several factors had gone in Shiva's favour: his enthusiasm, his energy, his extensive knowledge of the flora of North Yorkshire, and his willingness to work for nothing! Shiva brought to the position extraordinary insight and unusual methods (including chanting, meditation, and yoga) which Monty, the head gardener, allowed him to try out. Initially it was to humour Shiva, but it didn't take Monty long to realise that Shiva had an almost preternatural gift for horticulture. Everything he nurtured turned to blooming glory.

Anything that required sandy limestone thrived in Shiva's care. The Marsh Helleborine flourished. The bilberry never looker better. The Peace roses had never appeared so radiant nor the perennials so hardy. After a decade and a half of Shiva's green-fingered touch, Harlow Carr was the envy of all RHS gardens in the UK.

And as for Shiva Dhesi, the passing years appeared to have no affect. He still looked like a very fit man in his late 50s. He was, of course, older than that. Much, much older.

*****

Shiva's sense of contentment began to unravel when he saw a man in a policeman's uniform with a bag slung over his shoulder making his way through the turnstile at the entrance of RHS Harlow Carr. He was a nondescript man of a little under six foot tall, with shortish brown hair flecked with silvery grey and brylcreemed backwards. He had a well-trimmed white moustache and was wearing wire-rimmed sunglasses with large lenses tinted a 1970s shade of light brown. But for the somewhat dated look, he could have passed anywhere unremarked. Shiva, however, recognised him immediately. He had been the bane of another lifetime. His presence here sent a river of cold sweat pouring down his spine. He was here and now he was heading in his direction. He set his hoe to one side and waited for the inevitable confrontation.

The man stopped in front of Shiva and made a point of looking closely at his RHS staff name tag.

"You're going by your real name again, I see," he said.

"What do you want Mr Lieber?" Shiva replied.

"Please, call me Stan," he said giving Shiva a warmthless smile. "Everybody does."

Shiva said nothing. He was waiting for Stan to answer his question.

"I've got a job for you," said Stan.

"I've already got a job."

"Which you'll have to put on hold for a while."

"I'm not interested."

"I'm not asking if your interested," said Stan. "I'm telling you: I have a job for you. One that requires your ... special talents."

"I've put that world behind me."

"I know. I helped you. I wrote you out of it."

"So why are you bothering me again after so much time?"

"Because things have changed."

"Changed how?"

"There are more supervillains than ever before, and the situation is getting out of control."

"And who's fault is that?"

"Partly mine, I'll admit."

Shiva snorted derisively.

"But not mine entirely," Stan continued.

"Who else's?" demanded Shiva.

"The opposition have become the Dark Corner, we needed to keep up. They ditched Batman's utility belt, threw away Wonder Woman's skipping rope of truth, and removed Superman's sense of humour. They gave us the Dark Knight, a First World War combatant, and the Man of Steel in a black cloak. We had to fight back - what else could I do?"

"Retire?"

"Can you see me retiring?"

"It's not like you need the money. You've no alimony payments to make - you were married to Joan for nearly 70 years and your only daughter has long since left the family home."

"Retirement is not an option," said Stan definitively. "I devised a plan: to give the fans what they wanted in the short term, and steer them back to the path of levity. I gave them Civil War to satisfy their violent craving, and followed it up with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a little comic relief. But look what happened?"

"How ya gonna Keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen paree."

"Exactly. They demanded that The Guardians had to enter the fray and so I gave them Infinity War."

"And let me guess," said Shiva. "They clamoured for more?"

"The public's appetite for epic battles between good and evil has become insatiable."

"An appetite which you ignited in the first place to line your own pocket and have been stoking ever since."

"True," Stan admitted. "But it's gotten out of hand. Now they want Armageddon, but I don't want to give it to them. And so I need to send you back to restore some sort of order."

"Get someone else."

"There is no one else."

"There are plenty of other choices."

"Name one."

"David Bruce Banner. You could send him in to knock some sense into everyone."

"It would never work. David's fine, but his green monster has no capacity for reason."

"Peter Parker then."

"He's just a kid, he doesn't know jack about the wider picture."

"A kid? He's been around for over 50 years. Surely he's learnt something by now."

"I wrote him as a pimply teenager, and that's how he's remained. No character development."

"Well if you will keep rebooting him, what do you expect?"

"Out of my hands," said Stan dismissively. "That's what the public demanded. First Maguire, then Garfield, now the baby-faced Holland - they love Spider-Man young and cheeky."

"How about Thor. He's steeped in strength and worldly wisdom, and does a good line in mean and moody."

"Only within the realms of the Icelandic Ragas. He's out of his depths in this latest escalation."

"How about the Human Torch."

"Too inflammatory."

"He could light the way to mankind's salvation. "

"Now you're being asinine," said Stan.

"So how about Tony Stark. He's got the fire power and the funds, the technology and the brains."

It was now Stan's turn to snort derisively: "Yeah, and an ego to match. It was Iron Man that got us into this mess. He'll want to win the war and rule the world as an autocratic dictator."

"So much for 'with great power comes great responsibility'."

"I knew you'd understand," said Stan, with a glint in his eye. "We need a superhero who combines the power to destroy evil with the wisdom to preserve humanity. Not to mention the charisma to carry the fan base with him. We need your brand of ancient mystic eastern wisdom."

"Even if I wanted to, which I don't, I can't help you," said Shiva.

"Why not?"

"I no longer have the power of destruction. I..."

Stan interrupted him as if quoting from a book and making quote marks in the air with his fingers: "'Sacrificed the ability so that you could channel your chakra to preserve life and to nurture instead.' A fine bit of writing you must admit."

"Pretentious twaddle I felt."

"For a graphic novel, I'd say it was rather prosaic."

"Well you would, wouldn't you."

Stan's unconvincing smile spread wider as he said: "And I can just as prosaically change your future too."

With that, he removed from the bag slung over his shoulder a sketch pad and pen. He started to draw. He turned the page to show Shiva what he'd drawn: A figure, clearly a stylised version of Shiva, using a hoe to tend a patch of garden.

Stan added a narrative box, and read out as he wrote: "'The destructive power never truly left him. It gradually began to build. Like a pressure cooker seeking release.'"

"What are you doing?" asked Shiva.

"'He could feel a deep rage inside himself. Steadily growing.'"

Stan drew a second picture lower on the page. This time the figure was shaking with rage and smashing a flowerpot. He added a narrative box and read out as he wrote: "'Until finally the fury had to explode. Destroying the power to preserve.'"

"I feel nothing," said Shiva. "You must be losing your touch."

On a new sheet of paper, Stan drew Shiva in silhouette with his hands raised to the heavens. Lightning appeared to be emanating outwards, radiating from his finger tips.

Stan added a speech box and in it wrote a single word: "WHY?". He then added a new narrative box. He wrote and read: "'Now whenever he came in contact with organic matter, it withered to his touch.'"

Shiva looked down at the ground. The grass around his feet started to turn brown. He look in alarm as the rose bush that brushed his arm started to shrivel and the petals fall to the floor.

"'And everything he had touched since the Day of Reckoning ... started to whither and die.'" Stan wrote and said.

Everywhere around them, trees, bushes, herbaceous borders, shrubs, and flowers began to droop. Suddenly Shiva could hear the deafening roar of a forest of trees that he'd planted scream out in agony. Shiva fell to his knees with his hands clamped over his ears.

"Noooooo!" Shiva shouted.

Stan's inane grin never left his face.

"Stop it please," Shiva pleaded.

"Will you help me?" asked Stan.

"Yes," said Shiva sounding defeated. "Yes I will."

Stan removed the last page from the sketch pad.

"You sure?" asked Stan, raising his eyebrows.

Shiva, staring in horror at his own hands, said: "Yes, yes, yes. Just stop this from happening."

Stan produced a cigarette lighter from his pocket. He held a flame under one corner of the page. As fire took hold, the greenery around them began to recover.

Shiva looked at the ground and was relieved to see it slowly return to its normal colour. He looked at the rose bush and watched as a new bud appeared and than slowly opened. All around him vegetation began to return to life. Without another word, he stood up and started to walk toward the exit of RHS Harlow Carr.

Stan calling after him: "Aren't you forgetting something?"

Shiva looked round. Stan was holding his hoe. He tossed it towards him. Shiva caught it easily, his reactions as sharp as ever. As he did so, he could feel it change. It became heavier and colder to the touch. He looked down at his hand and to see, as he knew he would, that it had transformed into his plandanium javelin, the weapon of destruction that he'd hoped he'd never need to use again.

He looked up and was going to fire a final caustic comment at his tormentor, but Stan Lieber had already disappeared.

With a heavy heart, The Javelin set off to save the Marvel Universe one last time.