Beneath the Mask, by Inkblitz

This story appeared in the AnthroCon 2018 conbook. Inkblitz has graciously agreed to let us repost it here.

Metal squealed as a massive, scaled foot came down upon a row of cars, crushing them as though they were nothing more than tin cans. Somewhere underneath the mighty paw, sparks ignited gas fumes, causing plumes of flame and smoke to erupt underneath. Yet the gray scales, tinged with flecks of blue and hardened to the strength of diamonds, barely even singed underneath the flames.

The enormous, saurian kaiju reared its head back in a roar that shook the very foundation of the earth around it. It towered over the cars and people fleeing the streets, a true behemoth of epic proportions. Dark gray scales, mottled with blue, had taken everything that the military had thrown at it, and yet only had singed the hardened carapace. Its thick tail, tipped with razor sharp blades, lashed back and forth behind it, smashing through buildings as if they were made of little more than cardboard.

Screams of fear and panic echoed through the streets as citizens scrambled for their lives. But the monster paid them little heed, as if they were little more than tiny dolls. It stomped forward in single-minded abandon, its clawed paws leaving prints the size of busses in its wake.

As the beast rounded into the center of the metropolis, jets tore through the air near its head. A squadron of fighters in close formation sped past, rockets dropping from their undersides. Flames plumed along the kaiju’s lizard-like maw as the missiles struck, and the beast let loose another roar. It swiped at the jets with its forelimbs, but the crafts were too fast, slipping past its claws. They soared past the lumbering monster and sped away to prepare for another run.

The Kaiju snarled, and turned after them. It bent down, its arms reaching for a long semi-truck abandoned on the the streets. And as it did, something snapped in the back of its neck. Followed by another snap. Abruptly, its head began to fall forward, sliding off of its neck. With a thud, it landed on the semi-truck it was reaching for, crushing it.

“CUT!”

The head of a feline woman poked out from the top of the heavy Kaiju costume. Her triangular ears were splayed back against dark hair that was laying flat against her head. Thin gray fur of a lykoi cat across her muzzle gave her an almost scruffy appearance, like that of a B-movie werewolf. The rubber costume appeared massive against her, its neck hanging down to her collar without its head.

“It wasn’t my fault this time,” Janie Grace, the actor behind Mightor the Kaiju, protested. She picked up the saurian head, which slumped lifelessly in the costume’s paws. On the back of the head, several straps that were meant to keep the head in place even during fight sequences was frayed, likely with age.

“Don’t care.” A squat duck, wearing a black beret and a disgruntled expression, waved his winged hand in her direction, but didn’t even bother looking at her. He sat in a chair with the word ‘Director D’ on back and was busily going over scripts. “Just get it fixed.” He then lifted his megaphone up to his beak, causing his voice to become amplified. “I want a full reset in five minutes!”

The set was a flurry of action at the director’s order. Set designers scuttled on stage, grabbing broken pieces and replacing them with fresh ones. A young husky man pushed on the rubbery Kaiju suit’s paw to make Janie move, grabbing several crushed cars out from underneath.

“Five minutes?” Janie asked, incredulous. She teetered briefly on one foot before the husky hurried away again, then stomped her foot down as he left. The set shook slightly on its frame setup, intended to make the kaiju stomping more realistic. With a scowl, she pushed the head off into the hands of the brown and white dappled mare from costuming that had come to collect it. “I need a break, at least a half hour!”

Slowly, the Director turned his head towards her. He glared past his beak, appearing menacing without the need for teeth. “A half hour? Are you nuts? I want to finish this shoot TODAY. Five minutes, and that’s it.” He turned away from her, muttering about ‘Amateur’ and ‘not worth her salary’.

“Um…” A quiet voice, soft and almost whispery, spoke up.

“I said-”

The director rounded about, his megaphone up to his beak. He stopped mid breath, and glared at the mare that had taken the monster’s head. His eyes narrowed dangerously. “What?”

“Uh…” The pony mare shuffled on her hooves. She looked as though she would have done anything to not be under the director’s gaze. “It’s just that, it’s going to take time to fix this.”

The director pinched the bridge of his forehead between feathered fingers. “And just how much time will it take?”

“F-fifteen minutes, maybe?” She fingered a clasp nervously. But as she turned her head, she winked in Janie’s direction. “You don’t want it to fall off again, do you?”

Janie held back a sigh of relief, and tried to not look too grateful for Maria’s intervention. After three years, she had grown to befriend some of the costuming staff– especially those that tended to her costume. Maria always seemed to be quietly working away on costumes, never getting in the way. Yet she was the victim of one of the director’s famous death glares. Many others in the industry would have begged for forgiveness and fled.

The Director snarled as best as he could through his beak, then turned abruptly from the mare. “Fine! Fifteen minutes break!” He shouted through his megaphone. Then, rounding back on the women, he shook the megaphone at them as if it were a loaded weapon. “But I want that fixed, and I want it on your head in fifteen minutes time or else you’re off this movie! You’re just a costume actor, I can replace you with a dozen others just waiting in line!”

He waddled off towards the food tables, leaving them in stunned silence.

Janie couldn’t breathe. She clenched her fingers into a fist, her entire body trembling with rage that had nothing to do with the Kaiju costume she was wearing. Maria broke the silence first. “I guess I had better go fix this…” she said, and began to turn away.

“Don’t bother,” Janie snapped, and began to tug at the flap that hid the zipper on the back of the suit. Her lips were pulled back, and she showed fangs as she talked. She’d had enough. “If he wants to get another costume actor, he can just get another costume actor. It’s been like this for two movies, I’m not putting up with this for another.”

“Oh no,” The mare said, flabbergasted, “You mustn’t!” When Janie looked at her crossly, she retreated a step. “I mean, you’ve been the actor for Mightor for two movies. No one else can take your place!”

Janie half hunched over to pull the zipper down, but couldn’t grasp it. Maria took the hint, and began helping her from the suit. The collar of the suit fell from her shoulders, the feline’s blue bodysuit showing underneath.

“You heard him, dozens could,” Janie said, and pushed the rest of the suit off of her body. Padding in the suit had given it a bulky, animalistic appearance, but underneath was a lanky and trim lykoi cat. The bodysuit itself made it almost look like she had been shaved. “Might as well make it easy on him,” She said, and walked away from the suit.

“Wait!” The mare grabbed ahold of Janie’s wrist.

“Look, I don’t want it anymore,” Janie said, wrenching her hand from Maria’s grasp. “I’m done with him and this gig.” She stomped away, pausing only to kick an errant toy car in her path.

Unlike the lead actor, Janie didn’t have her own room. She shared a desk in a side room along with the rest of the minor actors, and even that was something she had to fight for. At least she had her own assigned one, and she was content with that. Her personal effects were strewn about it, but someone had taken the time to actually fold her clothes and left her a fresh bottle of water on top. It was more than usual, for sure.

Janie grabbed her clothes, and turned to leave. But as she did, a cheerful chime issued from somewhere in the bundle, interrupting her angry thoughts. She rummaged into them, and pulled out her phone, its screen lit up with a text from Maria. ‘Don’t leave,’ the message read, ‘Found this online, plz watch it’. It was followed by a video link. Janie tapped it, and a video labled ‘Best of Classic Movie Monsters 2017’ popped up.

“Really?” Janie rolled her eyes in disbelief. With a sigh. she set her clothes aside and tapped play. As the video loaded, she twisted the cap off of her water.

It showed various clips of low budget movie monster films that had been released the year before. It showed clips of other movies that were familiar to her: The Mothman Chronicles, Slender from Downunder, and The Thing Not From The Bronx. Over the clips was a young man’s voice going on in in a faux hardcore, almost heavy metal singer tone about what he thought about the monster and why it deserved a spot on his list. They were clearly making his voice deeper to make it sound edgier to go with the high action shots, but it didn’t quite work as the reviewer intended.

Janie polished off her bottle of water, barely paying attention to it until a clip of The Might of Mightor 2 came on, announced as the reviewer’s top spot. She nearly choked at what she saw.

“And for my number one monster of 2017 is Mightor, worn by Janie Grace!” The voice announced in its best ‘hardcore’ tone, followed by a guitar riff. “The suit is not as flashy as the new Mothman suit, but as you can see in the clips, Janie brings this creature to life in true movie magic! In none of these other movies do we see the creature react so realistically to being pummeled with explosions, or move so slowly and laboriously, as if it were truly an incredibly large monstrosity! Just watch the way she moves the head to indicate emotion in this clip. The shadow gives the rubber suit the impression of true intelligence!”

Janie’s jaw hung open. Someone actually thought her acting was good? She scrolled down, and comments from the meager channel’s viewers agreed with the voice’s assessment. Some thought the narrator was crazy, others mocked the old style costumes, but a majority agreed with the video. As she read comment after comment, she had to blink back moisture that formed at the corner of her eyes.

She had always avoided the reviews. Low budget monster movies never got good ones, so she didn’t see the point. Yet to see such a positive review, and others agreeing, had soothed her rage as quickly as it had come on.

“Five minutes to shoot!” Someone shouted near the set.

Janie wiped her eyes hastily with the back of her paws. She glanced from her phone, to her clothes, then back to the set.

“We are rolling in ten, nine…”

# # #

Mightor stood hunched over at the edge of the miniature city. It swung its arms from side to side, claws clenched and then unclenched. It was fierce, it was powerful. It was the scourge of the modern world. It could take anything the army could throw at it.

Its great, lizard-like head turned, and a dapple mare was reflected in its shining, green eyes. Just slightly, the head canted, the shadows making it look as though the monster was smiling.

“And action!”

“ROAAAAAARRR!”

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We Won't Let Your Light Escape, by Neotheta, via FurAffinity
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-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.

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Sleepover! by FreelanceManga, via DeviantArt
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-The Gneech

The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.

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A Bit of Friendship for Tempest by Yakovlev-vad, via DeviantArt
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The PTBAF Art Spot highlights some of the best in furry art, selected more-or-less at random by our staff. PTBAF supports the rights of artists and creators and our policy is to only post items by permission or otherwise consistent with applicable copyright laws. If your work has been used erroneously or you have any concerns, please contact us immediately.