Dragon Lady by John Joss
The agent, Adam Willoughby, opened a folder and pushed a costume rendering over to Wendy. She picked it up, studied it. It was bizarre, incredible.
“What is this . . . thing?” The actress could not accept what she was seeing, could not conceal her revulsion.
“That ‘thing,’ as you phrase it so fastidiously, is you, m’dear. Or will be, by the time we’re finished. Spectacular, isn’t it?” He smiled a crafty smile at her. The American special-effects man, Chet Masters, reached for the sketch and whistled quietly. This was the British agent’s five pounds of prime flesh, with blood, as predicted.
“Looks like a kinky Madame Nu,” he exclaimed. “A Dragon Lady from some Asian myth. Far out!” He could not contain his grin of approval.
“Dragon Lady! I like that, Chet,” replied the agent. “Should appeal to the prurient interest of the groundlings. Only it’s not really that bad. Sort of a combination of Children’s Hour and Grand Guignol.”
“How does it work?” Masters guffawed at the juxtaposition. His professional interest in the costume’s technical aspects was stimulated. He knew from experience that in exotic costumes and special effects the inhabitant was irrelevant, invisible, anonymous—in sci-fi, horror movies and so forth. Or, as Wendy might have described it, a bit of a giggle.
“Basically, it’s a cunning mixture of fetishes. The outside is black leather. Very effective. One of the world’s most misunderstood materials, y’know. The headgear is the key. See how the eyes seem to emit beams of light. Each eye lens supports a powerful light source that will seem to probe the audience as she moves her head.” Wendy smiled. The mysticism of costume once more. She was on familiar ground now, her initial disgust abating.
“Wendy is getting the picture, you’ll find.” Willoughby smiled, self satisfied, noting that the actress and special-effects man were already into the idea. “Her initial British reserve will not endure . . .”
Wendy laughed aloud. “What an elaborate put-on,” she exclaimed. “Yes, that opening is obscene, even turned ninety degrees. Really intended to be touched and not seen, if you ask me, despite all the rowdy magazines.” She was privately outraged by Willoughby’s casual dismissal of her sensibilities, but some of her earlier misgivings were dissipating a little. “Why? Why all the technology?”
“Publicity, mostly. Chet’s Dragon Lady will get to the public in lots of ways. Remember, this is the era of cheap thrills and instant gratification, and she’ll deliver in spades.
“When the Dragon Lady hits initially, in the arenas in which she will be used, we’ll choreograph her as if she’s not a person at all, but an exotic machine. Mechanical movements—you can imagine it. In this age of technology, that should get the word going.” Willoughby chuckled, his ample belly undulating.
* * *
Wendy stood at the studio mirror and examined her person, as recreated by Chet Masters: the padded latex suit and hood that sleeked her hair down, seal-like. The false breasts, triple-D or better, savagely upthrust, jutted provocatively, far beyond her own, derisively self-described ‘poached eggs.’ The stiff latex corset enclosing her body, extending from diaphragm to hip bone, laced her in cruelly: a Victorian wasp waist in spectacular contrast to the seductively padded hips and buttocks. Chet’s criterion was that the viewer should respond with ‘that couldn’t possibly be a person, could it?’ The secret, he said, was to push it almost to the grotesque, then draw back a hair.
Chet insisted on the corset and the latex suit because they permitted the padding to be integrated smoothly and effectively with Wendy’s lissome body. She would be able to move freely under the tight leather suit that would be her visible epidermis. The latex would retain her inevitable heavy sweat—built-in slimming, which she hardly needed.
“Dynamite bod,” quipped the American insincerely, slapping her playfully across the false latex buttocks. “Pity it’s not real, but one can’t have everything—”
“Real!? Hah! You call 46-22-40 real. You’ve pushed it almost over the edge, Chet. I can hear the slavering studs in the audience, as they look at the Dragon Lady—me, remember: ‘Real or not, I’m going to grab me some of that’!” She smiled to cover her nervousness
“Here, let’s get this leather on. You’ve got to learn to live with this stuff—” Chet helped her wriggle into the black leather suit, with cunningly hidden zippers inside the calves and wrists, up the back to the high neck. Then he zipped the platformed, spike-heeled boots up the back, so that the frontal view was one smoothly sculpted form, a voluptuous black obelisk that shone dully in the studio lights. She teetered on the six-inch heels, feet arched painfully, body contorted, ‘breasts’ upthrust. Could she possibly get used to this costume, she wondered?
Her head and body felt warm, strange in the latex suit and hood, under the exterior leather skin. She suddenly remembered reading somewhere that leather and rubber were the only materials on earth known to block the body’s natural aura. That positive feedback of her aura, reverberating inside and unable to escape, would have profound psychological effects. That these effects stimulated the outrageous games played in private by European and American sophisticates, and many in Japan. She felt sudden, unexpected strength and power welling up inside her. It felt good.
Chet offered up the front of the helmet to her face and she felt the leather surface contact the exposed oval of skin around her eyes, nose and mouth. His fingers laced the back opening systematically, top to bottom, tighter and tighter, until her face and head, and the front of the helmet, were a single solid entity.
She turned to the mirror again but she was no longer visible. The reflection was of a strange black creature of incredible female form. The black-lensed eyes gave the impression of an evil insect, unblinking and malevolent, ready to kill and devour its prey. Yet it was her, under the bizarre helmet. She struggled to hold onto her identity. It was not easy.
The back still needed to be secured, over the tough, elasticized material where the lacing held the front securely over her features. She felt Chet’s thumb press below the right eye lens, three fingers above, on her forehead, little finger below the left eyepiece, despite the helmet’s rigidity. The rear half attached to the front with spring clips engaging slots, from below the ears on each side, all the way over the top. Chet forced the back shell firmly in place. Wendy felt the clips engage. Chet’s hands fell away. There was a gentle but insistent pressure on every inch of her face and head, to external appearances a seamless shell. She raised her hands, sealed into the gloves integral to the sleeves, fitted with long red claw ‘nails’ that were bulbs. The halves of the leather-covered helmet fitted so well that she could barely feel the seam where they were locked together.
She sensed Chet fiddling with electrical connections behind her but she could only stare at her image in the mirror, transfixed. Now she was invisible, thus possessing infinite though undefined powers. The light sources in the eye lenses obstructed her straight-ahead vision but she discovered that she could look around them to see acceptably. Suddenly the eyes of the figure in the mirror came alive. Twin beams of light stabbed out like daggers, piercing the studio’s subdued light.
“Fantastic! You’re really the Dragon Lady!” Chet stood back to admire his handiwork. Wendy turned her head and watched the light beams follow. Another sound, adjustments behind her, and the lights on each nipple and in each finger and thumb ‘nail’ came on, then the strobe atop her helmet, then the obscene red light, creating an array of daggers and a pulsating beacon with which she would attack her audience. Wendy turned, faced Chet and focused all the aimable lights on him as he stood there smiling in triumph.
“Aaaaaaarrrggghhh!!!” He staggered back, clutching his chest as if in agony, collapsed on the floor, writhing. “You’ve got me, Dragon Lady,” he gasped. “You’ve killed me with your light daggers.” He got up, brushed off, laughing hysterically.
For an instant the costume’s spell was broken, and Wendy’s inner sense of power was punctured. She sat down on the stool, shaking with silent laughter at his antics. Instantly the costume’s mystical power returned to envelop her in its intimate and inescapable embrace.
(This is an excerpt from the novel “Simia,” by John Joss.
Copyright © John Joss 2001. All rights reserved.)