Fear The Dawn: Chapter 1

Aidan was having a wonderful dream. He was a wealthy and successful executive for a big firm, he had a big house with a great yard and a pool, and a kind and beautiful girlfriend who thought the world of him. People listened to what he had to say and sought his advice, and they even always laughed at his jokes. He was important, secure, and knew his place in the world. Things were so perfect that deep down he knew it couldn't be real, but he still wanted to enjoy it for as long as he could.
Sadly, dreams invariably end, and in the waking world Aidan was none of those things, merely a simple clerk for a small lending company of no great importance. He longed to go back to sleep, but there was no time for further delay if he was to make it to work on time. He got out of bed and looked out the window at the darkened sky, then set about getting ready for his day.

Boarding the 7:30 AM train to Central Station, Aidan selected a seat near the window and watched the people bustle about outside. It was still dark out, as it often was at this time of year, but for many the day had already begun. Traffic was already starting to back up along the main street out of town, while others fought through the lines at the station to catch the northbound train before it departed, all for the sake of getting in to the big city bright and early. He sighed and tucked his briefcase into the alcove beneath his seat. Somehow, leaving for work before the sun came up always made the day feel twice as long.

The train was filling up now. The 7:30 was never as packed as the 8:00 AM, but most of the seats would be taken soon enough. A handsome young man in a suit and tie took the seat next to him, and immediately set up a laptop computer on his lap and began to work. “It could be worse”, Aidan thought. “At least I don't have to start working until I get into the building.”
The conductor's voice rang out over the intercom. “601 Northbound, headed for Central Station.” The doors closed, and a moment later the train started to move.
Aidan glanced over toward the front of the car, and the man beside him subtly tilted his screen away from him and gave him a suspicious glance out of the corner of his eye. “Like I care what you're working on”, he thought, rolling his eyes. He turned back to the window, resting his cheek on his fist, and watched the train pull away from the station as his furtive neighbour tapped away on what was no doubt a top secret document of vital importance.
It was a clear night. This far away from the city, you could see a few stars in the sky. At least on this side of the train he didn't have to see the moon to remind him that he should still be in bed. Closer to the ground, a small forest of evergreens slowly passed by outside and then gave way to the coastline. The land dropped away into the water as the train pitched upward slightly to climb the long bridge over the bay that would take them to Central Station.

Aidan looked down at his watch, it was 8:04. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, gradually restoring colour to the world. Back at the station, the second train would just be departing, for the people who held more lenient jobs. As the rising sun bathed the bay in yellow light, he found his thoughts turning to the day ahead. He had been working on a case yesterday afternoon, but he had to put it on hold for the evening because he needed some information from another branch and they had already closed. Hopefully they would get back to him this morning, so he could file his report nice and early, but he'd probably have to call and remind them. They were always slow at the western branch. Aidan kind of wished he could work there, imagining himself putting his feet up on his desk and just letting the phone ring while he sipped lemonade through a straw.

The train finally pulled into the station at 8:23. His neighbour didn't seem to want to stop typing, like a student frantically trying to finish an exam after the bell had gone. “Time's up”, he said, getting up to retrieve his briefcase. The man grumbled something under his breath and closed up his computer, then impatiently forced his way into the line of passengers exiting the train. “Is that the kind of attitude it takes to get ahead?” Aidan wondered silently as he waited for a chance to get off the train. He had time enough to get where he was going.

Central Station was a sea of people, as it was every morning. He clutched his briefcase tightly to his side and walked briskly through the crowd, weaving past and around others as was second nature to everyone who made this daily commute. He considered stopping at the little coffee shop near the exit for a bagel, but the lineup was far too long this morning. He'd get something to eat later. Outside, the sun was shining now, but it was still fairly cold, so he didn't waste any time crossing the two blocks to his building. The doors opened automatically and he stepped inside.
Good morning, Aidan”, the receptionist greeted him as he entered the lobby.
Good morning, Nicole”. He nodded to her as he passed by and entered the waiting elevator. He pressed the button for the seventh floor, and took a moment to adjust his hair in elevator's mirrored walls. The doors opened, and he unlocked the door with his security card and took a seat at his desk.
There was no message on his phone, so he wrote a little note to call the western branch again at 10:00 and stuck it to the receiver. He took a short stroll over to the coffee machine, then returned to his desk and unlocked his drawer and retrieved a stack of papers.

Today he had some mortgage applications to review, which meant going through the applicants' credit reports and employment information to make sure they could make their payments. It wasn't exciting work, but he had to be thorough, because they tracked bad loans back to the staff member who approved them. This couple both worked, the man was a pharmacist and the woman was a waitress who was claiming additional income from singing in local bars and nightclubs. “What a strange couple”, he remarked to himself. “How would they ever meet each other?” They were looking to buy a modest house in the suburbs and his salary alone would easily cover the payments. There didn't seem to be any issue with their credit reports and the criminal background check turned up nothing, either, so he approved it. “Good luck to you”, he said quietly to himself, filing their application away.

Aidan wondered if he would ever buy a house. Currently, he was living in a small apartment across the bay. It wasn't that close to his job, but the rent was cheap and it was in a nice, quiet neighbourhood. He made a reasonable salary and he could probably afford something better, but he simply didn't see any reason to move right now. He was living on his own and his spent most of his time working, so he didn't need anything fancy, and if he lived closer to his work they would just want to call him in more often. People rarely bought houses alone, either, and his love life was nothing worth talking about. He rarely met any girls and when he did it never went anywhere. “I'm still young”, he told himself, “I've still got plenty of time left”, but truth be told, he didn't feel all that young anymore. He was already very settled into his current way of life and things seemed unlikely to change any time soon.

It was past 10:00, so he decided to place his call to the western branch. A man picked up the phone, and told him he didn't have all the information together right now, but he'd call back later during the day. He crossed out “10:00” on his note and replaced it with “1:00”, knowing that information would never arrive on its own, and sipped a bit more of his coffee before returning to his approval forms.

Lunchtime came at last, and he retrieved his sandwich from his briefcase and headed down to the cafeteria. It was little more than a little room where they could eat, as the only food for sale were snacks and drinks in the vending machines, but it gave him a chance to get up from his desk for a bit. He had a friend from the fourth floor that he ate lunch with, Daniel, and he was already down there when he arrived.
Busy morning?” Dan asked him. He seemed like he was already about half done eating.
He shrugged. “You must have left early. I didn't get out too late.”
Well, you know how accounting is in the middle of the week. On Friday I probably won't get to eat lunch at all, so I don't see any harm in taking a few extra minutes today.”
Dan never actually missed lunch.
Oh yeah, it's already month-end for you, isn't it? I can't believe it's almost November already.”
Yeah, time marches on. Did you know I'll have been here five years in May? It feels like things have barely changed since I started.”
You expected excitement and change in the world of accounting?”
Well, in my life too, you know. They never tell you in school just how stable everything is going to be once you get out. After the frantic pace of assignments and exams, the speed at which the real world turns seems kind of jarring.”
Aidan considered it for a moment as he chewed on his sandwich. “You get used to it.”
Dan nodded. “That's what's so shocking, you get used to your job and then bam, five years are gone. That's already longer than university, but it feels like much less.”
It's only been 4 for me, maybe next year will be a whirlwind of excitement.”
Dan laughed. “Good luck. Did you catch the game last night?” he asked, changing the subject.
Nah. If I wanted to watch a bunch of amateurs create turnovers every few seconds, I'd play the game myself. They're terrible this year, and it doesn't interest me too much anyway.”
Their best player is still out, they could get better. Besides, you have to have something to root for, right?”
Aidan swallowed the rest of his sandwich. “If I'm going to get invested in something, I want it to be something I have some control over. Look at the time, we'd better head back up.”
They returned to the elevator and Dan got off at the fourth floor. Aidan refilled his coffee mug before heading back to work.

Back at his desk, he called the western branch again. “Oh”, said the man on the phone, “yes, I have your information, I was just about to call you.” He rolled his eyes. Surprisingly enough, they had managed to track down the man who had defaulted on his payments and disappeared, and were able to garnish his salary at his new job to recover some of the money. That helped. If the money could be at least partially recovered it wouldn't count against him so much. He also felt a bit satisfied knowing that someone had been prevented from cheating the system. With that matter resolved, he returned to his big stack of papers.
After a long and tedious afternoon of checks and balances, quitting time finally came. Aidan glanced out the window again, this time the sun was already starting to set. Packing up his case, he hurried downstairs and back to Central Station, as he really didn't want to miss the 6:15 train and have to wait for the 6:45, his day had already been long enough. Luckily, the lineup at the ticket counter was not long and he made it with a few minutes to spare.

Most people had gotten on the earlier trains, and the 6:15 was not very full. Not only was he able to get a window seat, no one took the seat beside him. The sun was already low in the sky by the time the train pulled out of the station, and it would be well dark before he got home. He sighed. Another day had come to an end. He glanced around the mostly-empty train car to see which other poor souls shared his fate.
There were a couple of middle-aged men sitting and talking to each other near the back, they both had grey hair and were wearing suits and were probably middle managers. He saw a nervous-looking young man in business casual attire who was probably new at his job and working late to try to make a good impression, and a couple of men around his age in suit jackets with short, tidy hair, who probably worked for financial institutions like he did. There was also a girl with long brown hair sitting alone, but she was staring intently out the window and he couldn't get a clear look at her, and finally, a mother with two children, probably returning from a day of fun in the city. The kids were still excited and were poking each other and chatting away, and it brought a smile on his face to see someone enjoying themselves. He turned back to look out the window as the train started to cross the bridge over the bay.

When he finally got back to his home station it was much quieter than it was in the morning, with only a few people still around at this late hour. Most of the shops had already closed up for the night, only a little coffee shop was left open, and there weren't many people inside. He decided to pick up a cookie for the walk home. It was completely dark now, which was partially why he was glad to live in a quiet part of town. He passed a few people out walking their dogs, but otherwise the streets were nearly empty in the evenings. It was almost 7:30 when he finally turned the key to his apartment and went inside.

Aidan flipped the nearby switch, lighting up the tiny living room. His apartment was very small, with only one main room containing a brown love seat, a television, a small desk with his computer on it, a chest of drawers, a small closet, and his bed. To the left of his computer desk was a door to a tiny bathroom. On the same wall nearer to the entrance was his little kitchen, which contained a fridge, stove, sink, toaster, microwave, and a few cupboards. The entire place was very cramped and narrow, you couldn't walk past when the oven door was open and the fridge opened right into the back wall. He changed out of his work clothes, removed his dinner from the freezer and put it in the microwave, and set about preparing a sandwich for tomorrow. When his dinner was finished, he took it over to his desk to eat. It was a packaged meal of rice, vegetables, and some chicken. They were pretty good and very quick to make, but he did get tired of them sometimes.

By the time he finished eating it was about 8:00 PM. He spent a bit of time messing about on his computer and watched a little bit of television, but he found he had little appetite for either. Dan was right: Four years had flown by, and he didn't have much to show for it. He had a couple hours to himself now, but all too soon the night would be over and it would all begin again. He walked over to his window, and looked up at the night sky. It was clear again tonight, and the stars were out. “Something has to change”, he thought. “There was a time where I was excited to wake up in the morning, these days I just wish I could stay asleep. I have to find that motivation again. I don't want to fear the dawn every morning.”

Not having anything else he wanted to do, he decided to turn in early. “Everything begins with a good night's sleep”, he thought to himself as he crawled into bed. He shut his eyes and thought back to his university days, where they had worked hard, but always had fun, too, and to the dreams he had left behind.

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