Last Dance (Audiobook) 🎙️ a Capepunk Superhero Fiction Short Story 🎙️ by Stephen T. Brophy


Tall Tale TV! Scifi and Fantasy Short Story Audiobooks LAST DANCE
Stephen T. Brophy “This place used to be Heaven,” a cigarette-smoked
voice wafts my way from a barstool two down from mine. Nothing about the décor, vibe or clientele
of Little Maxy’s on South Wayside even vaguely suggests anything divine or celestial in origin. It’s the kind of down-and-out, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it
stripmall dive that’s just right for henchmen, lackeys and third-tier supervillains to network,
backroom deal, and drink ourselves blind between gigs. I hear the words and I know I’ve got three
options, each with its own set of sub-options–A) mind my own beverage and my own business and
1) pretend that line of patter wasn’t directed my way, 2) hoping whoever said it won’t take
insult and start shit anyway; B) give them my full attention so I can determine
whether this voice emanates from someone worth 1) fighting, 2) fucking, or 3) both; or C)
sneak a sidewise glance and see which option between A or B is the right call. Being not yet that drunk and still sore from
a knockdown drag-out with Lawman and Open Carrie the night before, I opt for C.
What I get in my left peripheral is a glimpse of someone I should’ve clocked upon entrance,
mostly because in my line of work it’s the smart play to clock everyone in my immediate
vicinity at pretty much all times. But seeing as who’s seated nearby is a woman
“of certain age” I know right away why I missed her. Poor thing’s reached the point in life where
she’s living in Section 8 housing on the border of Used-to-Be-burgh and Invisible City. Doesn’t help that she’s hiding whatever she’s
got under an out-of-season puffy winter coat and a pair of sunglasses with lenses the shape
and very nearly the size of Magnavox TV screens, never mind the fact that this bar’s a black
hole where light rarely enters or escapes. Not to mention she’s screened herself in a
vaporous veil of tobacco haze and hunches over her cocktail like it’s the last thing
she’ll ever own in the world and someone might try to swipe it out from under her. “Like what you see, guero?” she asks, and
under that sultry carcinogenic gravel I can’t tell if the accent’s Cuban or Puerto Rican. “You mean there’s a person under all that?” I ask, not bothering to twist my barstool
and give her the full appraisal she seems to be begging for. “Person? Pfft. Baby, there’s a legend under all this.” With that bold declaration I finally do turn
a little and give her at least some of my attention because honestly what the hell else
have I got going right now? “Well, this is where legends are born,” I
say, coming on all big and booming, the loudest, pretend-happiest guy at the corner watering
hole. She lets her shades slide down her nose just
a little, taking in the riffraff and rabble peopling Little Maxy’s with a contemptuous
roll of her big brown bloodshot eyes. “More like where sorry losers come to die,”
she spits with that sibilant Spanish hiss that makes a certain kind of gringo–namely
me–weak in the knees and firm in the nethers. “But it used to be Heaven. It really did.” “Do tell.” I feel kinda lame using the expression, so
I dress it up in very badly British-accented irony. “You never been to Heaven?” I smile at that, enjoying the ridiculicious
notion of an evangelical atheist such as myself ever passing through the Pearlies. “Can’t say I have. And while I got every goddamn good reason
to doubt I’ll see the long side of thirty, I don’t imagine at my current rate of damnation
that’d be the name over the door of the dive where I’d choose to wind down for eternity. Besides, there’s not a chance in hell I’m
on the guest list.” “I’m not talking about Los Cielos, pinga. I’m talking about disco!” There’s fire in her smoggy voice that wasn’t
there before, and I swear I can see her eyes light up even through the opaque lenses of
her drugstore sunglasses. “Before my time. Thankfully.” I’m pretty sure I demonstrate as much distaste
for her preferred musical genre as she just did for all my gathered associates and acquaintances,
whether I mean to or not. I mean, ‘c’mon, it’s 1993 and I’m a white
dope on punk, a post-adolescent manboy on permanent testosterone overload. I want guitars that sound like chainsaws with
melodies like the grinding of bone, a rhythm section at war with itself, the soundtrack
for a doomed and blood-soaked world. The closest I get to boogie-ing down is taking
on Nazi skins three at a time in mosh pits at the Vatican or Axiom while the Big Boys
or the Butthole Surfers spike my brain with blitzes of angst, rage and high weirdness. She flicks her three-inch-acrylic-taloned
fingers at me dismissively and regards me with a sneer that reveals the sparkle of a
diamond embedded in her left front tooth. “Big bad boy too cool for soul, but you’ll
learn. There’s more to this life than misdirected
anger and fuck-you fingers stabbing the eye of Madre Tierra. There’s actual joy and warmth and sunlight
to be found up in this bitch if you kick open the saloon doors and go out there looking. I mean, really, what’s a strong young man
like you doing wasting daylight inside a smoky-ass pocilga like this? You should be out there soaking up life, fucking
some beautiful girl…” Again she lets the sunglasses dip as she takes
in my leather pants and vest over bare muscled chest. “…or boy or whatever you’re into…” “Hey,” I start, all macho manhood-threatened
indignant like how dare she think a man’s man like this could ever… She cuts me off with a long throaty laugh
that has the odd effect of making me a little angrier and simultaneously shaming me to shut
my ass up. “Chill, gran chico. All, I’m saying, the problem with boys like
you today, you don’t know how to dance.” Considering I weigh just shy of a fifth of
a ton and frequently fire bullets out of what most people call a right arm, I wanna tell
her that there aren’t that many boys like me, but one glance around Maxy’s kinda disproves
my point. Even my steel-plated skull is more of a henchman
trendsetter than an out-and-out rarity these days. “Yeah, well it’s not really compatible with
my lifestyle,” I say, regaining my cool and wondering if I should maybe dial it down on
all the studded leather gear, which is meant to look Punk As Fuck and not S&M biker boy. “Explains why you’re sitting alone at a bar
on a beautiful day. You wanna get with a quality…” She shrugs, again casting aspersions on my
hetero bona fides. “…individual…you really should be able
to bust a move or two.” “So, what’s your excuse? I mean, you’re in here drinking your day to
death same as me.” “Ah, but you see, I came here with a purpose.” “As does every barfly ever.” “I’m no barfly, honey. You ever seen me holding down this stool before?” I gotta admit, I ain’t. “I haven’t dared come into this place in over
fifteen years. Not since I lost the lease. Couldn’t bear to see what’d become of my beautiful
home.” “You used to own this joint?” “Este inodoro? No. I was the ruling goddess of Heaven.” “You just love sayin’ that, doncha?” “You don’t name a place Heaven if you can’t
have a little fun with all the metaphors. Anyway, this place used to be alive. Jumping. Off-the-hook. Diverse. And I don’t just mean ‘guy with a squid for
a head’…” She nods over at the pool table, where Suicide
Squid is currently rookering Rawbone the Living Skeleton. “…though he would’ve been welcome, too. We let everyone into Heaven–gay, straight,
trans, post-human, subhuman, nonhuman, homo sapiens, homo erectus, homo superior, every
kind of homo you can imagine, plus extradimensional beings, alien fungal spores, whatever you
are–as long as they came to play, and with open hearts and minds, there was always room
in Heaven.” “Sounds like a goddamn utopia,” I say with
a sneer. “I woulda had a hard time not kicking down
the walls and unleashing a few thousand rounds.” I wave my prosthetic arm for emphasis, even
though it’s currently a skeletal mech hand and not a belt-fed mini-gun. She’s a good two feet shorter than me, but
she still manages to make like she’s looking down on me. “Oh, such a tough hombre. Is that fun for you, all that cool late-millennial
cynicism? I hope it’s fun to spew, because it’s goddamn
boring to listen to. But at least you understand how I feel.” She sighs and looks around the room again,
squinting like she’s trying to see through the ruins of the present to whatever cheeseball
pantywaist pseudo-glory clung to the space way back in the Great Lost Whenever. “I know its day has come and gone, just like
mine, but I’ll be damned if I can stand to see my dreams end up like this. A nice cleansing fire is about the only thing
that could repair the damage done to the one true Paradise I ever knew on Earth. And I am here…” and as she says it she slides
down off her barstool and lets her oversized winter coat drop to the floor in one languid
motion, revealing a form-fitting sleeveless jewel-studded jumpsuit and a body that still
does it justice. “…to turn this mother out.” Someone comes in the front door and I’m momentarily
blinded by a blazing white-hot sunburst as the light hits her outfit, which I just then
realize isn’t rhinestone-bedazzled; she’s tricked out like a freakin’ human mirror ball,
one head-to-toe, Afro-to-roller skates reflective surface that dazzles the eye. And all of a sudden I know exactly who she
is. “Sequin…?” She glides backwards on her skates, beckoning
me with one hand while she points at the jukebox with the other. As soon as she does, Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”
stops dead in the middle of Randy Rhoads guitar solo and after the click and clack of changing
discs, a slow-burn jam starts up and takes me a hot minute to recognize as Donna Summer’s
“Last Dance.” To be dead honest, I’m pretty sure that song’s
not even actually on that jukebox. Or wasn’t until Sequin wished it to be. She reaches the middle of the room and kicks
backwards with one wheeled foot, sending the pool table sliding to crash against the lip
of the old stage. Squid and Rawbone are too stunned to react,
and bad as they both are, they aren’t really the girl-hitting kind; it’s that kind of old
school chivalry that’s cost us all a time or three in a throwdown. Superchicks do not play. “Dance with me, gran chico, and I’ll tell
you about the good old days.” *** Saying I’m a bad dancer is like saying a Stage
Five hurricane is lousy weather; it does nothing to define or encompass the scope of the terribleness. It doesn’t help that every move the old girl
makes is effortlessly fluid, rhythmic, sexy, perfectly timed and executed, all in spite
of having the worst possible partner on the floor she could ever be cursed with. She might as well be performing Swan Lake
around a maypole for all that I’m bringing to the table. But the craziest thing is that while she coaxes
and guides me without ever acknowledging the futility of her cause, it doesn’t seem to
bother her one bit. Matter of fact, she seems downright overjoyed
that someone’s dancing with her at all, even a clubfooted lummox with the musical ear of
a tone-deaf howler monkey and all the moves of a flatlining patient twitching in spastic
time to the defibrillator. “You’ve heard of me then?” Sequin says as she slides by me with a sassy
smile that shaves twenty years of her Earth Mama features. “When you said you were a legend…I figured
it was only in your own mind,” I huff back, barely pretending to try and keep up with
her ceaseless flow. “Sometimes I think maybe it was,” she replies
with a wink that makes me fantasize about having some kind of Harold and Maude/”Maggie
May” thing with this crazy old broad. “You were Houston’s favorite street hero…” I pant. “…back in the ’70s. Protector of club kids, immigrants, junkies
and winos…” Pant-pant. “We used to call you…” Pant-pant. “…the Avenging Disco Godmother.” “Favorite female hero. Ahead of every superwoman, there’s a man hogging
the spotlight and making sure you’re in his shadow.” “Oh yeah…who was that guy…you used to
run with? Blackhawk?” She comes to a complete stop mid-glide, and
I’m briefly aware of all the henches and hood rats and hard guys gathered around the periphery,
all eyes on us, a few amused, a couple enthralled, most of them glowering dangerously. “Blacknight,” she says, and there’s a heaviness
in her voice, a sense of all the decades between and the exhaustion that’s come with it. “Whatever happened to him? He wasn’t on the scene too long, huh?” “An African-American vigilante taking on crime
outside the law in 1970s Texas? What the fuck you think happened to him? He foiled the attempted kidnapping of Mayor
Hofheinz’s daughter by Killer Queen and Dr. Void and the cops gunned him down. Hasn’t been a black man willing to put on
a mask in this state since. Meanwhile, Dr. Void gets a 312-year prison
sentence for his laundry list of crimes but turns out he’s immortal so he’ll actually
get to see daylight again in another century or so. Texas justice.” She resumes moving as Donna Summer kicks in
with what I hope is the climactic round of the chorus to this epic disco jam that’s way
longer than I remember, probably because I’ve never sat through the whole thing before. I do the white man’s overbite and awkwardly
spasm just the parts of my body above the waist, and only keep that up because I find
this out-to-pasture heroine of historic Houston endlessly fascinating. “So you can see…” she says, taking me by
both hands and using me to spin in faster and faster circles as the dance anthem builds
in intensity. “…why I need to tear this place down to
the beams and rafters and kick-stomp the shit out of all the creeps, crooks and ne’er-do-wells
pissing, shitting and puking all over its sacred memory…” My jaw–still my own real flesh and bone at
the time–drops open, I’m pretty sure. Not so much because of her intentions, but
because I’m mildly panicked that she’s serious and might go through with it and maybe get
herself killed. Also slightly anxious that she’s gonna come
after me first. She swings in close so that we’re hip to hip
and somehow she’s spinning my bulk right around with her petite curvaceous frame, which is
clearly still packed tight with well-maintained muscle. “Not you though, sweetie. I like you. And I make it a policy to never ever fight
with my dance partners.” She hops up and wraps her legs around my waist,
still somehow keeping us both moving in dizzying circles through sheer force of will, and plants
a warm wet kiss on my mouth with her full Latin lips. After what seems like nowhere near long enough,
she pops free and whispers sultrily in my ear, “So unless this place is super-duper
special to you for some godforsaken reason, I suggest you clear out right after this dance.” She leans back and keeps us spinning, her
arms extended, fingers outstretched toward the crowd as if she’s pointing out to herself
who she plans to take on and in what order as she observes them from her upside down
vantage. The song ends and I don’t so much set her
down as she springs free of me, somersaulting into a perfect wheels-first landing and gliding
around like a gold-medal figure skater doing a victory lap. “Sequin, I…” She presses a finger to her lips and keeps
moving, and I can tell she’s building up momentum, moving now to a song only she can hear. I realize there’s nothing I can do but stay
and help, which would get me in dutch with every fellow hench in Houston and turn my
rep to overnight shit; or try to smack her down myself, gently enough that I can get
her out without serious injury to either one of us. But she’s already forgotten about me, doing
her lazy circles, cracking her knuckles like a cage fighter, rolling her head and neck
on her shoulders, totally entering warrior mode. That’s a switch that can’t be unflipped a
good 89% of the time, and for anyone in nothin- to-lose mode, that number shoots to 110 pretty
quick. I think maybe at least the right thing to
do is to give somebody a heads-up as to what’s about to go down, but then I’d just be stacking
the odds in favor of the house. I cast a look around the room, all these guys
and gals that are supposedly my peers, my business associates, my friends and fuck buddies. There’s the Familiar, a total creeper who
uses dark magic to get on bosses’ good sides and into women’s panties; Elementa, a weather
witch who a lot of us are pretty sure is responsible for the current drought conditions in most
of the Southwest; Wreak, who I think mighta tried to kill me for my share of the Laredo
job; Thundra, who definitely tried to kill me in her bedroom on multiple occasions; the
Expositioner, who talks too goddamn much; Sinkhole the Subterranean, who pretty much
everyone wishes would stick to the sewers instead of bringing his stink topside; Motherfinger,
the gangster’s moll who killed her lover-boss Bigshot to take over half the Baytown rackets;
and Killer Queen him/herself, who’s seen better days but is nonetheless due for the reckoning
he/she’s about to receive. Plus Suicide Squid who owes me four hundred
bucks; and Rawbone, who’s just a dick. Fuck ’em, I figure. They can either hold their own against a seen-better-days
badass superheroine with a hard-on for a final blaze of glory…or they can’t. In my effort to leave our makeshift dance
floor, I realize the whole room’s on Tilt-a-Whirl from all the spinning Sequin just put me through
and instead of stumbling back in the direction of the bar I end up going the opposite way
and kind of staggering into the jukebox, where I lean for support. I look down at the song selection and notice
there’s a lot of disco on offer now, most of which I don’t even recognize except by
all the “Boogie-this” and “Disco-that” and “Dance-a-rama-blah-blah” in the song titles. So I drop in a couple of quarters and punch
up Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.” Seems like an appropriate mood-setter for
what’s about to go down, and even this diehard grindcore-and-grunge grump has to concede,
it’s a pretty damn fine little pop song. As I sidle past the bathrooms and toward the
back exit, I risk a last look back just as Sequin snaps her long-nailed fingers. The whole place comes ablaze with light as
a spot hits her mirrored outfit, strobing as she goes into a low spin, one foot kicked
out, no contact yet, taking her time, enjoying the moment, the music, the last gasp blast
from the past. It’s not until I’m out in the parking lot,
fishing for the keys to my truck, that I realize my stupid mistake. I shoulda played “I Will Survive.” Stephen T. Brophy is the author of the self-published
“The Villain’s Sidekick,” a novella about the redemption of Duke “HandCannon” LaRue,
a cybernetic supervillain’s henchman with a machine gun arm, a steel plated skull, an
iron jaw, an ex-wife, a precocious six-year-old daughter and an extremely sordid past. He’s currently working on a full-length novel
that will tell his entire history, from losing his limbs in a war in the Middle East to getting
his first cybernetic upgrades from a fugitive Nazi doctor working for an ex-supermodel turned
Central American drug queenpin in the Mayan jungles of Mexico. Brophy lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful
wife, his wiseass daughter, two dogs and a manageable mortgage. For more information you can find him at STBrophy.com,
or find him on Goodreads and Amazon. Oh gosh, I loved this piece. As a kid born in the 80’s, this just to me
back to all the stories I used to love. I haven’t checked out Stephen’s novella yet,
but I can guarantee you I’m on my way to go get it right now. The way he mixed superheroes and 80’s tropes,
I just absolutely died for. Make sure to keep an eye on this guy. And if you’d like to get more scifi and fantasy
short stories, be sure to subscribe to this channel. I’m Chris Herron and that’s it for today’s
Tall Tale TV.

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