Illustration by Will Hobbs
In my opinion, my husband is a genius when it comes to table top role-playing games. When it comes to ideas and variety of storytelling techniques, there are few I’ve encountered that can compare to him. (For those of you unfamiliar with the kind of games I’m talking about, I’ll direct your attention to an interview with game designer Steve Kenson who did a great job discussing RPGs for beginners.) Jim has this neat ability to see or hear a snippet of something and suddenly just whip out a great idea. Routinely I’ll sit with him in the car and just start throwing out random thoughts and ideas about something he’s considering and generally the dumber the suggestion the more likely it is that he’ll evolve it into something awesome. One example, a villain who is a master of Feng Shui that kills people by rearranging their rooms in a way that blocks the necessary flow of energies for survival. That started with me suggesting that if a game is set in modern day San Francisco you needed some kind of hippy/new age villain.
It’s that kind of awesome that made it so when one day Jim said to me, “How about a disco martial arts setting?” I knew it could be bad ass. All the fun of the 70’s, complete with disco music and dancing, but the martial arts were actually a part of the disco dances of the era. I immediately fell in love with the idea. In fact, I loved the idea so much that I instantly came up with the idea for an introduction vignette in which one of those disco warriors talks about the time in her youth spent fighting a secret war couched in disco. Of course, my fangirl levels of excitement can’t actually force Jim to create something when his head isn’t in it, so my little story has been just hanging around on my computer waiting for some love. That’s when I decided that although I’m not really a fiction writer, (or a writer, for that matter) this story was pretty fun and that I would share it with Magical Buffet readers.
So here, for your enjoyment I present to you what I’m currently calling “The Age of Disco”…… (By the way, I totally call dibs on the disco martial arts idea! Mine! Mine! Mine!)
I’d been watching her for months. Three or four nights a week I see her climbing either out of, or back into her bedroom window. The whole neighborhood is populated by the aging, those of us racing towards retirement. A veritable paradise to a 16 year-old girl looking to sneak out of the house; just wait until all the “old folks” are asleep and the night is yours. I doubt she ever realized that I’m a bit of a night owl.
Tonight I watched her climb out of the window and race off into the night. After her departure I climbed up and stuck a note to her window, “Come over tonight, or I’ll rat you out to your parents. Tina” She’ll come, I know her type.
I was once a 16 year-old you know; climbing out of my bedroom window, catching a cab, hopping the subway, and dancing my way through every disco club the city had to offer. I wasn’t out for a thrill and I wasn’t looking for love. I just wanted to dance. Fortunately, as I’m sure my young friend has discovered, when you’re a 16 year-old girl willing to show a little skin, there isn’t really a line you can’t jump to get into a club. I’ve noticed the smudged ink on her hands; she’s been stamped at a multitude of bars.
After months of dancing my way through some of the finest, and sometimes sleaziest, discos the city had to offer I finally settled on my home base. It was a small storefront club. It boasted none of the trappings of most other clubs; no velvet rope, no bouncer, no neon sign; just a small plaque by the door with the name “Tony’s”. The interior was relatively drab. There was a small bar, a wooden dance floor, and a modest raised platform where the DJ spun some of the best disco the era had to offer. Yes, good disco. I had danced there for months before I finally met Tony.
There was a rumor that Tony, despite being an African American, had actually spent 10 years in China before returning to the U.S. to open his club. I assumed it was a rumor designed to give a sense of international chic to what most people would consider a dumpy, small time disco bar. One night I was out on the floor, dancing with some schmuck who thought he had a chance, and the next thing I knew, I was dancing with Tony instead. He was older, and black, and everything my parents would fear for me if they knew I was out on my own at sixteen. If they had ever realized what had happened to me, I would have never seen the outside world again.
Disco has a hidden heart, pulsing with a secret rhythm that if tapped into can change the very fabric of reality. Tony had been to China. The monks there taught him the most secret and sacred of martial arts. Tony hid the moves and beats within the very disco music dominating the dance floors. It turned out there were dozens of factions, some good, some bad, and some neutral, infiltrating the popular culture through disco to fight a secret war with the enlightenment of mankind on the line.
I became a warrior in low rise blue jeans and platform shoes. I was Tony’s devoted disciple and he rewarded me with powers normal men could not imagine. I danced in a fury for a better world, risking my life and soul for those who could not dance for themselves. I was just a girl, but I gladly sacrificed what was left of my childhood to become a soldier, and how was I rewarded? How were we all rewarded? With ridicule. Me, and my fellow warriors of disco, became a joke, a punch line to a decade of excess. Good or evil, it didn’t matter in the eyes of the people. We were jokes, and we were done.
It’s hard to sacrifice so much only to lose so much more. Tony tried to hold onto to hope. He went to every two-bit radio station’s “disco sucks” rally to try and reason with the populace. He would dive into piles of burning LPs, trying to save the precious records of our greatest battles, all the while being jeered and pelted with beer cans. Soon enough “Tony’s” was boarded up, if you drove pass it today you would find a Starbucks. As for Tony, he disappeared. Rumor has it that he lost his life to the dark forces that worked so diligently to destroy the age of disco. However, I hope that he returned to China to work with the monks that tried so hard to enlighten humanity.
Of course, either way, he’s gone. Now I’m an unmarried, 50 year-old disco warrior, stuck waiting for a teenage girl to knock at my door. And right on time, I hear the knocking.
“All right Tina, I’m here like you asked. What’s your deal?”
“Drop the attitude missy and help me move this trunk.” Curiosity compels her, just like it did me years ago. She helps me with an over-sized locked trunk.
“Now sit down, shut your trap. You’re going to learn something tonight young lady.”
I pull the chain from under my shirt; the key dangling from the end unlocks the trunk. I pull out a record player and plug it into the wall outlet. With great care I dust off a pair of wooden platform shoes and place them in front of my young companion. Next to the shoes I set the pair of large golden hoop earrings that I unearth from the pouch they are kept in. Lastly, I pull out a single record, “Main Course” by the Bee Gees.
“These, my young friend, are our weapons. With these we fight against the oppressors. These things represent freedom, power, and potential. What we do with these things, determines our destiny.”
“Okay Tina, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you can tell my parents about sneaking out. I’m out of here.”
“You will stay right there!” I order. I put on the earrings, and slide on the shoes. I carefully remove the album from its sleeve and start it playing.
And with that, I begin to dance.
When the song ends I open my eyes and look at the 16 year-old sitting on my sofa. Her eyes gaze up into mine, with tears running down her cheeks, and she says one word, “Master.”