Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
 
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Very Practical Effects

by Jennifer Kennett




A thunderous rumble echoed around the cave as rocks came crashing down.

“We need to get out of here,” Barbara said, her long blonde hair wafting as she looked to and fro at the onslaught. The Golden Amulet hanging between her heaving bosom.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Come on,” Duke replied, holding the burning torch up high. He grabbed Barbara’s hand and pulled her from their hiding spot. As they reached the mouth of the cave a shower of rocks covered the entrance. They were trapped. Barbara screamed. The floor began to shake, and the deafening rumble came closer.

“What’s that?” Barbara brought a manicured hand to her full red lips as Duke stood in front of her, his heaving pectorals and biceps tensing under his khaki shirt. The rumbling grew louder and louder. The ground shook more and more. They stood at the mouth of the cave eyes darting, gripping each other tightly and bracing themselves for the oncoming danger.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

Duke and Barbara looked around. Then looked at each other.

“What is that?” Barbara said again, bringing her hand up to her full red lips again in the same fashion as before.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

Both Duke and Barbra turned their heads ever so slightly to the left, even though they knew they shouldn’t, trying to get the Director’s attention.

Nothing happened.

“Cut,” the Director shouted. Oh great, Josie thought. “Where is he? Where is Clod?” he turned to Josie, spit hitting her face.

“He... he was here a second ago,” she said flicking through the call sheets on her clipboard hoping it would provide an answer.

“He left,” the Gaffer shouted from the other side of the set. “Nearly knocked over my rig.”

Around the sound stage Josie could hear the crew members groaning. Why did this have to happen today? The cameramen were turning off the cameras and put them back to the starting spikes. The special effects team stopped the cave rig from shaking. The sound technicians turned the rumble off. Duke and Barbara, better known as actors Harrison White and Sheena Wilde sat down on their folding chairs which were brought over by some sheepish looking assistants.

“See,” the Director gesticulated at Josie, “now everything has come to a standstill on the most expensive day of filming! And why? Because you couldn’t keep tabs on-”

“I will go and find him sir; I am very sorry!” Josie walked backwards as quickly as she could and away from the Director’s ramblings about the good old days of puppets and CGI.

She stomped, head down, out to the courtyard, the laces of her boots flying up and down. Gripping her clipboard to her chest she tried to breathe easy. She had told Clod the importance of today, over and over again. He had promised he would show up on time and behave. She had believed him because she wanted to show him some trust and kindness, even though he was pretty intimidating to look at. But now she was regretting it because he was just the same as any other actor, a diva.

As Josie rounded the corner, she covered her eyes against the bright afternoon sun beating down on the studio. Up ahead all the movie stars trailers were parked, behind that was all the stunt cars and scenery store and behind that was her destination. Clod’s trailer. Fashioned from four old storage containers welded together to accommodate the width and height of whatever his kind were.

Approaching the container, she took a deep breath and raised her fist to knock. The knock was deep and metallic. After a moment there was scuffling, and the door swung open with a low creak.

Josie stepped inside and saw Clod lying on his makeshift chez lounge of fifteen super king size mattresses. He was twelve feet tall and covered in dark green and blue scales. His tail was tucked to his side with a drink balanced delicately on it. His stumpy legs were crossed at the knee. His claws were picking at a pallet of grapes which he ate a bunch at a time, stems and all. Two huge slices of giant marrow, which the studio grew especially for Clod’s cosmetic routine, covered his huge eyelids.

The light bulb mirror that covered one wall was so bright Josie had to face away from it. She breathed deep and spoke calmly. Shouting at him never worked.

“Clod, are you feeling well? You left the set just before your scene...” she said watching him put more grapes into his huge mouth. Clod lifted the slices of marrow from his eyes with his claws and turned his head to her. A grumbling groan left the monsters mouth and echoed around the container. Josie did not understand.

“Clod said,” Imogen, Clod’s interpreter appeared. She was always skulking around and jumping out from Clod’s shadow. “He will not be joining anyone on set today as he has discovered a discrepancy in his contract.” She spoke through her nose and had grey hair pinned back tightly.

“What might that be? I can’t believe there would be any discrepancies. It was a long negotiating process when you signed with the studio in the first place Clod,” Josie gripped her clipboard tighter.

Another grumbling groan and some wafting of his giant claw as he explained his reasons.

“Clod says,” Imogen replied, “That he was talking to Stoneclaw, who signed up with Universal Studios, and she gets paid twice what Clod does. Clod wishes for his pay to be brought in line with that of his counterparts as he has more physically challenging roles than Stoneclaw.”

Josie stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Stoneclaw was the worst monster Clod could have spoken to, by all accounts she was a bigger diva than Clod. Josie wanted to argue but she needed to get him off his enormous bottom and onto set.

“Alright, I can have a word with the director who can pass on your concerns, and we can get things worked out. Now please, Clod, this is the most expensive day of filming, it’s the climax of the film and we need to be finished as soon as we can.”

He lay back down and was putting the marrow slices back on his eyes. Damn it, she thought, she was losing him, but then she had an idea.

“Clod,” she said, “You are the star today and we need you.”

She saw the side of his dagger tooth filled mouth rise. That got him.

*****

After the short negotiation, and Clod elaborating on his points as they walked back to the set, he was in make up being prepped for the big climax of the film. Josie filled the director in on the details.

“Physically challenging? What does he mean physically challenging?” the Director shouted. Josie tried to quiet him, she didn’t want Clod or Imogen hearing him.

“He said that in the scenes with any projectiles or weapons he is hit and prodded too hard by the extras and has to endure real physical pain. Danger money was the phrase he used.”

The Director rubbed his temples where a vein was getting larger. “I will pass it along,” he exhaled though gritted teeth. “I tell you something, bring back practical effects and CGI. It was much easier when the monsters were just tennis balls on sticks. The only problems we had then were the actors.” He looked over at Harrison and Sheena who were shouting at their assistants, one of whom looked like he was about to cry, as they had their make-up touched up and sipped from elaborate drinks.

“Right, places people,” the Director shouted and in a flurry of activity the crew put everything back into place.

Josie went around to makeup and saw Clod sitting on his hind legs, a makeup girl in a cherry picker was using a roller brush to apply extra dark powder to his face.

“Are you ready?” Josie said. “This is your moment.”

Clod didn’t look at her, but she saw the side of his mouth lift again.

*****

A thunderous rumble echoed around the cave as rocks came crashing down.

“We need to get out of here,” Barbara said, her long blonde her wafting as she looked to and fro at the onslaught. The Golden Amulet hanging between her heaving bosom.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Come on,” Duke shouted, holding the burning torch up high. He grabbed Barbara’s hand and pulled her from their hiding spot. As they reached the mouth of the cave a shower of rocks covered the entrance. They were trapped. Barbara screamed. The floor began to shake, and the deafening rumble came closer.

“What’s that?” Barbara brough a manicured hand to her full red lips as Duke stood in front of her, his heaving pectorals and biceps tensing under his khaki shirt. The rumbling grew louder and louder. The ground shook more and more. They stood at the mouth of the cave eyes darting, gripping each other tightly and bracing themselves for the oncoming danger.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

The ground shook and the rumble echoed.

Duke and Barbara looked around. Then looked at each other.

A loud roar filled the sound stage as Clod, or in the case of the movie, The Monster Guardian of the Golden Amulet, emerged from the darkness. Another loud roar as he burst forth claws raised and jagged teeth bared.

Barbara screamed and Duke looked like he wanted to. Josie gripped her clip board tighter. She had to admit, you couldn’t beat a real monster. She could feel the ground shaking as Clod thundered towards the two shivering actors.

Duke lunged forward torch in hand and swung it. Clod brushed him aside and he flew across the stage (on wires which were attached to a rig and he landed on a crash mat out of shot.) Clod then reached down for Barbara and took her in his grasp. The cameras swept around to get better shots of her and Clod’s face.

He roared so loudly Josie felt the air around her shake.

“Stop, stop” Barbara or rather Sheena shouted. That wasn’t in the script, Josie thought. “Stop, stop filming right now and put me down!”

“Cut cut!” the Director shouted. Clod grumbled and placed the seething actress back onto the ground. “What’s wrong Sheena?”

“You,” Sheen pointed viscously at Clod, “You spat on me! How many times have I told you not to do that! It ruins my hair!”

Clod groaned and mumbled. Imogen, appearing from nowhere again, climbed onto the cave rig and stood between Clod and Sheena. “Clod said that he is doing a naturalistic performance and if he happens to produce some spit, he cannot help it. If this were a real situation you would not care about a little spit as you would be in mortal danger.”

“I don’t care, this isn’t real! It’s a movie and I am not paid to be in real mortal danger! I’m paid to look good!” she shouted.

Clod groaned again, his huge scaly hands going to his huge scaly hips. He continued groaning as Imogen listened hard to try and translate but before she could relay and before Sheen could reply he turned, nearly taking out the sound rig with his huge tail and walked off. Again.

Josie sighed as the Director barged towards her. Holding up her hands she said, “I’m going, I’ll get him back.”

Here we go again, Josie thought. Monster and actors alike. Divas, the lot of them.


THE END


2024 Jennifer Kennett

Bio: “I started writing speculative fiction after studying Drama and Theatre at university. The strangeness of the latter definitely led to former. I have previously had work published in Mad Scientist Journal, The Weird Reader and Ab Terra Flash Fiction.”

E-mail: Jennifer Kennett

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