The Creature Without a Feature
by Jeff Schnaufer
The building trembled.
“There’s something outside to see you, Mr. Z,” the receptionist said.
The casting agent kept his eyes on the computer screen before him. He did not bother to move.”Which one?”
The receptionist gazed up, up, up into the sky, where she saw the monster towering over the building.
“It looks like Ling.”
Mr. Z sighed and rubbed his eyes.
There was a loud creaking sound. Mr. Z turned off his monitor and looked up at Ling, who had removed the roof of the agency.
“Hey, Z,” the monster called down to him.”I heard that CineGiant needs a monster for a flick being filmed in some village over on the coast.”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“Saw it in the trade classifieds. What’s the place like?”
“The village? The bugs there’ll eat you alive.”
“I can handle bugs.”
“I don’t know if you’re right for the part. Ling...”
“What are you talking about?” the monster said, opening a mouth large enough to swallow Mr. Z whole. “Look at these teeth.”
“Eating the villagers isn’t as big a sell as it used to be.”
“What do they want? Size? I can stomp any village and damn near any city on this little blue planet.”
“Size doesn’t matter anymore.”
“What the frick does matter, Z? You haven’t sent me out on an audition in almost two Moons. I got back rent due. You know what it costs to get a place for somebody my size in this burgh?”
“It’s not just you, Ling. No Xenos are getting calls.”
“It’s that fricking new FX lab, isn’t it?” Ling growled.”The one up north.”
Mr. Z. shrugged. “It was bound to happen. What’s it been, almost twenty years since you landed here? Special effects have come a long way.”
“Do all the studio chiefs on this planet have memories as short as they are? Me and the other Xenos on this mudball have made millions for them!”
“You can’t really blame the studios, Ling. It’s almost cheaper for them to put a monster costume on a native and add some special effects than to pay one of you Xenos to come in for a few weeks, destroy a village and eat all their livestock.”
The monster leaned menacingly close to his agent. Mr. Z could feel the creature’s hot, vile breath on his face.
“Maybe me and a few of the guys should go over and eat all the techies in those special effects labs,” the monster hissed.
Mr. Z pointed a finger at the monster in warning.
“Don’t be causing any trouble. You remember what happened during the strike. Military nearly wiped out the whole industry trying to keep you monsters in line.”
The creature lifted its head up and smiled.”Yeah, that was fun, wasn’t it?”
“You want my advice?” Mr. Z said. “Think smaller. Get a spot on a game show. Or host some children’s program. Write a book about your experiences since you landed here and hit the talk show circuit.”
“Are you saying I’m obsolete?”
“Look, Ling. You were scary twenty years ago. But there hasn’t been a new Xeno here since.”
“Just give it some more time. This planet is a magnet for aliens from all over the galaxy. Breathable atmosphere, plenty of water, lots of edible life forms. Some other Xeno will come to check it out sooner or later. Then you’ll all be running and screaming from it, just like you did when I first got here. Until some studio signs it to a contract, then it’ll be back to work for all the Xenos.”
“You don’t get it, Ling. There’s a whole new generation of viewers and, frankly, they’ve seen everything you Xenos have had to offer. You’ve stalked our seas, terrorized our largest metropolis and walked all over our war machines. In Frick’s name, you’ve even fought each other for our entertainment. Audiences are looking for something new.”
“But I’m a fricking alien!” the monster roared.”The only job I’ve had since I’ve been here is as a movie monster. What am I supposed to do, get an alien makeover? I can’t just drop a few hundred feet like you would drop a few pounds. This is who I am.”
The monster nervously began to pace back and forth. Below him on the streets, natives scrambled to get out of the way.
“What am I gonna tell my wife? We’ve got a baby coming in a few Moons. Oh, frick, I couldn’t handle moving back in with her parents.”
“I warned you not to marry a native, Ling.”
The monster stopped pacing. It’s horrible, bloodshot eyes suddenly looked pitiful and plaintive.
“Come on, Z. Aren’t there any gigs out there?”
The casting agent glanced at his computer. “Well, there is this one thing that came in this morning. But it really calls for a special talent.”
“Tell me. I’m sure I can do it.”
“Can you sing?”
“Majestic Pictures is trying something new. They call it a monster musical. Calls for giant aliens doing synchronized swimming in the middle of the ocean while belting out tunes from their homeworld. You know any, Ling?”
“Sure, sure,” the monster said excitedly. “Yankee Doodle. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. I even know the Macarena. I told you I majored in theatre before joining the space corps.”
“Tell you what. Earthling. Why don’t I make a few calls and get back to you in the morning? In the meantime, I’ll put 1,000 credits in your account. Catch up on your rent and take the little lady out somewhere nice. Maybe dinner on a suns-set cruise.”
A wave of relief seemed to crest over the monster.
“Thanks, Zerlax. I won’t let you down. And call me Gordon, okay? Ling — or Earthling — is so formal.”
“Sure, Gordon. Just do me one favor when you leave, okay?”
“Put the roof back on softly. The insurance for this place is costing me a tail and a tentacle.”
Copyright © 2007 by Jeff Schnaufer