Only four months previous, a much happier Joshua Curwen had managed to slip his way into a party at the Fire Brand Records building through a sense of cunning and tact that he didn't possess now and certainly had not possessed then. The word luck' was potentially a much better explanation of it, but Josh had just held on to the hope that there was skill involved. Two weeks afterwards, when the fire ripped through the warehouse and first floor, he had admitted that it had been luck.
At the time, he had been employed in the music store on the ground floor, sorting albums from the bands that walked through to the lifts almost daily. He had watched them; idling at his work and staring enviously across the shop floor. Sadly, the local accent and complete lack of musical talent had made him something of a point of ridicule amongst the assorted rich folk who wandered up because of those lifts.
Some of the odder experiences were the days when a solitary musician would wander in to check out his name on a CD, or a manager looking for a band member who had curiously vanished from upstairs, or the strange one who never spoke a word, but just offered a big smile and a thumbs up before the lift carried him away. Julia's arrival in the morning was always something of an organised catastrophe involving Josh trying his hardest just to get out of the way without ever quite succeeding. Her scorn was something to avoid, but she was intent on coming through his workplace before getting to her own. Matthew Cooper used the security door through the warehouse, but Julia was always looking for something to ridicule.
It was after closing up one night that he noticed just how busy the car park was. The Fire Brand building was usually quite busy, but it was mostly casual customer clientele browsing the ground floor looking for the next big thing. While the upper floors were always busy, the accrued transport had caught Josh's attention, and drawn him back inside of the building where he could lock himself in.
Something was going on upstairs, and that was the entire reason that he had gotten the job in the first place. He had been determined to be in the right place at the right time, and this didn't just look like it - it was it. The gift of retrospect was a gift indeed.
He had been the last person there, so there had been nobody to explain himself to when he bolted the doors from inside and slipped back to the lifts across the shop floor. Inside, a moment of reticence caught him. The buttons on the lift were labelled not just by number, but also by the name of the Senior Producer of the floor. This was momentarily confusing, but the simplest of thoughts informed him that only one Senior Producer was known to fill his floor completely. It also told him that he had not seen Julia leaving the building yet, and her nightly inspection of his poor attitude and demeanour had become quite important to him. Smiling, he had pushed the button for Matthew Cooper's floor and the lift had followed his instruction without question.
Despite having never been above the bottom floor before this day, navigating Cooper's honeycomb had proven quite simple due to the wall of noise coming from a lonely direction somewhere across the building. It was an interesting game to play, and one that he remembered strangely fondly considering that he was basically just following a noise to find his way.
It was entirely worth it.
There was a room, at the back of Cooper's floor, that was unlike any other room that Josh had ever been in. It was large, tall and dressed up to look almost Victorian by design. It was almost like a ballroom, but fitted with a stage and a performing electric requiring band. The band was one that Josh had recognised from one of their CDs that had been played downstairs quite often.
Another thing that offset the image was the dress sense of everybody at this party. There were no fancy ball gowns, and the only person who had worn a suit Josh had immediately identified as Matthew Cooper himself. Everybody else was much more modern in attire. The occasional few had donned dresses for the occasion, but the vast majority were in either loose or skinny jeans, drinking copious amounts of the available alcohol and bouncing around to the music. This was most certainly a Cooper party. Nobody else matched him, but the room most certainly did. He couldn't control people, but he could certainly control his surroundings.
Concerned that he might stand out if he stayed framed in the doorway, Josh had pushed forward into the party with his breath held. He had been smart enough to drag his jacket on over his work shirt before he had come up, but he still felt a little obvious. For a while he just moved through the room, examining the people and their activities and discussions. Music was the topic of choice, but this came as no great surprise.
It was while he had been trying to listen in a little too intently to an explanation of the vacancies at Fire Brand that Josh had made the single most impressive mistake of his life. In the attempt to walk out of somebody's way, he had walked directly into somebody else, chest to drink, and covered her tidy blouse in vodka and coke. Watching it fall, he had seen it cover her chest and stain.
I'm so sorry, he muttered quickly, Can I-
Josh shut up a moment later when the woman had pulled her blouse apart, tearing off several buttons in the process, and revealing a blue tank top underneath that had not yet been touched by the staining liquid. She sighed in relief, bunched up her ruined blouse and shoved it in her bag before turning back to him and saying: shh. I've been trying to get out of that thing for hours. You're doing me a favour, but you might be doing me a bigger one if you look me in the eye instead. These things don't like to draw that much attention when I'm not wearing a bra.
This had made Josh pull his eyes up straight away, and that was the first time that he had locked eyes with a woman that he later came to know as both Emily and Harmony. At the time, he had had no idea that there were two women hiding there, and the party would offer him no information either way.
What's your name? he had asked her.
Womanly, had been her response, before she had stuck out her tongue, grabbed hold of his hand and beckoned him elsewhere.
They moved together across the room, slipping through groups of people, topics of conversation and styles of clothing. Her target was not obvious until the moment that they had ended up outside of the room and walking.
Show me around, the woman had whispered to him, holding on to his arm and leaning her head against her shoulder. I've never been to a big place like this, and it's all business and no pleasure. If I hear one more person telling me that they're the next big thing I might just have to bite bits off of them.
The command had settled into his mind strongly, but he had absolutely no idea either where he was or where he was going. This fact had registered in his mind only briefly though. There was a girl on his arm and she had just ripped off her top. In fact, he could even feel that she wasn't lying about not wearing a bra. Thinking was an abandoned concept, and Josh had pushed open the next door that they came to and felt around inside for a light switch.
This was another of those moments that the older Click put down to luck, while the younger Josh called it a sense of cunning and tact. As it happened, he found the switch quickly and the light that came on shone over an empty practice room. There were a few scattered papers that his hazy memory reminded him of, but mostly just trailing wires and unused amplifiers. The main drawing point of the room had been the Complete Circuit poster on the far wall. This was another of Cooper's more well known bands.
The woman, as he knew her then, led the way into the room, supposedly no longer after any sort of tour. Before he had closed the door behind her, she had started talking: What exactly do you do around here, by the way? she asked. If you were staff, you wouldn't be allowed to leave the room. If you were a musician, you wouldn't want to leave the room with all the producers and people there. Either you're very strange or you're just determined not to make a success of your life. What gives?
Josh explored all of the potential lies that could emerge from his mouth in the next couple of minutes. There were so many different ways that that moment could have gone, but Click had always been happy with his eventual decision.
I'm a manager, he explained, while at the same time explaining nothing. I'm new to the Fire Brand line-up, don't have a band yet. I'm here hoping to interview for the position.
He had heard mention of a new manager position opening up in one of the many conversations that he had been privy to in the party room minutes beforehand. There was no intention in his mind of applying for the position, but this was where the sense of cunning and tact had come in very useful. From there on, everything had moved far too quickly for him.
Ah, so you're Click then, are you?
Yes, Josh lied quickly.
Waking up was unpleasant. The dream memory had swam in and out of time and focus. At times, it had seemed almost present, but at other time far behind him. When he opened his eyes, the almost total darkness was enough to bring him back to the fact that he was back in his claustrophobic prison cell of a bedroom, living the life that he had so painstakingly forgotten to prepare for. A stinging cough that briefly tore through his throat reminded him that he had been stupid enough to be smoking again last night. That was a habit that he hadn't missed.
It had been Harmony that had pushed him into his current stroke of supposed good fortune, but despite the many favours that her brash confidence had done him, Emily, the cute and cuddly, had been the one to steal his affections. Harmony had taken many men in more ways than Click could possibly even imagine. By contrast, Emily was practically a virgin trapped in the same body.
Before he could pursue this thought deeply enough to enjoy his morning erection, the hangover headache struck at about the same time as his mobile phone began to vibrate between his two pillows. Retrieving it from this perfect little silencer, he could see Julia's name once again on the screen. There was a woman that had quite a hold over him due only to a memory of his first working place. The failed student that he was could quite easily have the current dream crushed if he continued to ignore this phone call.