The Fourth Floor

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In every direction there was snow as far the eye could see.

The terrain contained no trees, no mountains, no buildings, and certainly no people—just snow, drifts, and fluttering snowflakes. The sky was an oppressive gray, and in the distance the sky and snow seem to converge into a faraway, frigid precipice.

Amid all the snow, it was a wonder he hadn't frozen. It was cold—not cold enough to kill—but more than cold enough to be uncomfortable. Cold enough to be discouraged. Cold enough to be cynical, because hope had become encased in ice.

Every night, Curt Saddler returned to that snow covered tundra in his dreams. The first time he had had the dream, in the early days of his prison bid, he considered it a nightmare, but its recurrence over time and bland predictability had garnered the dream a familiarity within his spirit. He didn't always have the same dream of being alone in the snow, though. On the nights he was spared, it was simply a function of choosing not to recall his dreams - as if when there was no snow, there was no dream.

However, each time his fitful slumber returned him to the snow, he saw himself walking—step over step— towards a destination unknown. For whatever reason, when he cried out in frustration or chose to stand still and become swallowed in bitterness, he awakened to an urine-drenched mattress. He made the connection quickly, standing still in his dreams was akin to pissing on his reality. To walk, to proceed (even if there was no clear destination) provided a modicum of emotional balance. So on many nights, mired in a far-reaching radius of snow, Curt stepped toward oblivion.

It was with good reason that he slept as infrequently as possible, giving his body a minimal sustenance of rest. His mother worried that his restless spirit was his way of attempting to recoup those years lost in prison. He never told her or anyone about the dreams, but did acknowledge that "recouping" had become part of his modus operandi.                    

Before he was locked up, Curt was a party DJ in New Hollis's then burgeoning hip hop scene. DJ Coolmaster Chilly C was his moniker, and he personified it by the torrentially rhythmical cutting and scratching he did on the turntables. In his prime, he had reworked the hook from Grandmaster Flash's "Girls Love The Way He Spins," into a calling card that signaled he was about to transform the dance floor into competitive haven for b-boys or breakdance crews. To add to his mystique, he was always accompanied in the DJ booth by a pretty woman dressed in heels, a swimsuit, large scarf, and an oversized furry hat. Whenever the accompanying woman was asked about her ironic attire, Curt had coached them to say "Coolmaster Chilly C is SOOOO HOT, he gives me the chills." Corny as it was, that line was always worth a few laughs.                    

Laughter that endured until the Coolmaster was charged with cocaine possession. Like a number of the celebrities he admired, Curt adopted a cocaine habit that he believed contributed to his wizardry on the turntables. Occasionally, promoters would pay him in cocaine. He had become so nonchalant about his growing addiction that the furry-hatted bikini model would provide small measuring spoons for him to snort during his performance. He would say, "Baby, Chilly C needs a little girl," and within seconds, she would provide a cap or two to snort. Normally, Curt was a humble spirit, but when he used cocaine he referred to himself in the third person.

Rumors spread that once Curt snorted, the dance floor would shift into a high-intensity overdrive. Perspiration soaked through clothes, along the walls, and even dripped to the floor. Patrons knew that when Curt interspersed a chant taken from the rhymes of the Cold Crush Brothers over driving instrumentals, he was building toward a climax. The "Cold Crush, Cold Crush, Cold Crush" chant would be the cue that Curt was taking it to a more intense level. Whenever he went to that level, partygoers would later leave the club happily spent and swapping stories about how the DJ had saved their lives. It was too bad he couldn't save his own.

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