Fear The Dawn: Chapter 2

You must... get out of here...”

He stood there, staring at a reflection of himself.

Please... You must escape from this place...”

A voice called out to him. It was a woman's voice, but he couldn't quite recognize it. It seemed to be coming from above him, or maybe behind him. “Where are you?” he called back to it. He looked around himself and was greeted by his own reflection on all sides, some larger than others. He reached out towards the image of himself, and his hand brushed a pane of glass. He ran his hand along the mirror, but his side quickly struck another wall. He turned, still running his hand along the glass, and started moving towards the smaller reflection of himself he now saw before him.

No, not that way! Come to my voice!”

Who's there?” he asked, to no response, then he almost fell sideways as the mirror under his arm suddenly ran out. He turned to see a corridor leading that way that he hadn't spotted before. He started down the hallway, but then something made him stop. The hallway opened to a large room, surrounded by mirrors on all sides, but in here each one contained its own image, more like a picture than a mirror. “What is this all about?”, he demanded.

Please, just come back. Everything will be all right.”

Aidan glanced back towards the hallway he had just left, but his curiosity was too strong. He walked closer to the mirror beside him for a closer look, and the image inside the mirror became clearer. It was a reflection of himself, but here he was laughing, and he seemed very happy. He turned to his left, and in this one, he looked upset, though he wasn't sure why. Aidan walked down the corridor, passing by images of himself eating, talking, running, playing, crying, and many other such things. In some of the images, he was younger than he was now, as though he was looking into his past. Then he came to the end of the corridor, and the reflection in front of him showed him at his desk, looking completely bored and expressionless.

Please, no”, said the voice. “Don't go any further”.
Why are you bothering me?” He demanded of the voice. “I don't know you!”
The voice sounded hurt. “You can't mean that... after all we've been through.”
The image in the mirror became hazy. “I don't think I've ever met you”, he told the voice. He put his hand on the mirror again, then quickly drew it back as the image seemed to change under his touch. When he looked at it again, the mirror showed a dark silhouette, with horns and a tail.

It doesn't matter”, the voice said. “Just get out of there!”

Aidan reached out towards the dark figure, but something was pulling him back. He threw his whole body towards the mirror, but as he did so, the image disappeared, and he fell right through. Through the mirror, and past the ground, he was falling, falling...


Aidan sat up in bed and rubbed his forehead with his left hand. “What a weird dream.” He tried to recall the details, but it was already growing hazy. His sheets were on the floor, so he picked them up and remade the bed. “...Escape from this place”, he remembered, and he recalled the bored image of himself he had seen. “Is my subconscious trying to tell me to leave my job?”

He milled over it a bit more as he took his morning shower. “A woman was calling for me in the dream, as though we knew each other”. He wondered if that was what he really wanted, more than a new job. He hadn't really thought about it lately, but it had been a very long time since he'd been on a date. He shook his head and dried himself off. “What I was really hoping for was to get a good night's sleep”, he lamented, looking back at his bed wistfully, but morning had already arrived. He popped a couple slices of bread in the toaster, combed his hair and dressed himself, then ate the toast and grabbed his sandwich and an orange for lunch. He tossed them in his briefcase and he was on his way.

It was cold and miserable outside this morning. The wind whipped through barren trees, chilling him through his overcoat. The moon was still shining bright, and a few stars twinkled in the sky. He hurried along, anxious for a warm cup of coffee. A bus passed by, picking up a few people waiting under a street lamp, the squeal of its brakes the only sound disrupting an otherwise sleeping world. “I should get a car”, he thought, but a parking space at the apartment building was expensive. “I can afford it”, he told himself, but he probably still wasn't going to do it. He often thought about making changes to his life, but they rarely came to fruition.

He arrived at his local station early enough for a cup of coffee, which made him feel much better, and he picked up a newspaper for the ride in to work. He wasn't able to get a window seat today, but it didn't really matter. He chose a seat near the front, stowed his briefcase, and opened up the paper. He started with the business section, reading a report about the current state of unemployment and inflation, but he quickly found himself on the comics page instead. Most of the strips were from continuing storylines and he didn't read them often enough to know what was going on, but he still enjoyed the momentary break from seriousness it afforded him. He had drawn a comic for the school newspaper back in university, it seemed like so long ago now. He smiled, remembering one of the strips he had done: A bunch of business executives were stranded on a deserted island, and they were holding a strategy meeting to determine what they should do. They discussed the housing market, the federal reserve, and subsidies for farm workers. On the next panel, they were all dead. Econ students loved that one.

Despite the cold weather, Central Station was just as full of activity as it always was. Aidan shivered a little as he got off his train and hurried inside the main terminal, where it was warmer. He had long since finished his coffee, but a quick look at the line made it clear there was no time for another one, the only thing to do was hurry to his workplace and the free drinks contained therein. Heading back outside, he joined the throng of people crossing the main streets to reach the tall office towers that loomed over the station. The light turned green, and he hurried across and past the glass doors to the warmth of the lobby. On cold days, there was a certain appeal in getting to work, at least the temperature was nicely controlled. He took a moment to warm himself up.
Good morning Aidan, cold one today, isn't it?” the secretary greeted him.
Yes, very”, he said, collecting himself and heading for the elevator. He waved to her as the door closed.

As usual, a big stack of papers were already waiting for him, but with a fresh cup of coffee in his hand, he felt ready to get right to work this morning. He plucked the top paper off the pile and his eyes immediately lit up. In his hands he held an application for business capital. He didn't get to process these often, but they were far more interesting than mortgage applications or student loans. In truth, he wasn't senior enough to decide whether or not the company would undertake a venture like this, he was just responsible for doing a few background checks and then passing it up the chain, but he still liked reading them anyway. He sipped his coffee as he leafed through the application.

It dealt with art, which he knew nothing about, specifically the production and sale of some kind of special paint. There was a website mentioned in the application, so he loaded it up on his computer. It was fairly basic, but gave some information about the products they sold and had testimonials by some artists he had never heard of. From what he gathered, it was currently a business that was being run out of someone's home, and they were looking to expand to a retail storefront. He ran through his credit and background checks on the applicant, and looked up some of the artists the site mentioned to see if they existed purely for his own curiosity. It all seemed legitimate enough, so he stood up from his desk and looked across the room to see if his supervisor was in his office. The door was open, so he picked up the application and knocked on the door.

Do you have a minute?” he asked, poking his head in the door.
Certainly. Come in, my boy.”
His supervisor was a rather round man with short grey hair and a matching beard He wore thick glasses upon his large nose, and a fancy suit with a striped black and white tie. He was a good-natured man, but terribly dull. As he sat down, Aidan briefly wondered if he would be just like this in the future.
I have a business application for you, sir.”
Already looked it over, have you? Excellent. Put it on the pile, will you? I'll see if I can get to it today.”
He placed it on top of his supervisor's rather large “in” pile, and he doubted it would be looked at today or anytime in the near future.
If you have a minute, sir”, he continued, “what sort of process will that application go through before it gets approved? And how long would it be until I'd be able to do that part?”
His supervisor adjusted his glasses and turned to face him. “Oh, the usual, you know. We have to look over the market sector they're in, their business model, their current earnings and their future earnings potential. And the amount of money they're asking for, of course, compared to the amount of risk involved. It's all very rigorous.”
You don't ever just go with your gut when you think a proposal sounds good?”
He laughed, a great, deep laugh, fitting for a big round man. “Oh ho! There's that famous Aidan sense of humour again. Now, I may be mostly gut, but when it comes to business, that's all up here”. He tapped the side of his head with his index finger and laughed. Aidan chuckled a bit nervously. You always had to laugh at the boss's jokes.
He figured his second question had been ignored, and he started to get up to leave, when the boss interrupted him. “Keep working hard, Aidan, and you'll go far here at Walder Financial.”
Thank you, sir”, he replied. A promotion didn't seem to be in the works any time soon.

He returned to his desk and started working through the rest of the applications, which were largely student loans. The second university term would be starting soon, so he'd have a ton of these to process over the next few weeks. These were even more straightforward than mortgage applications, pretty much everyone was accepted without question for a student loan, as long as you were actually enrolled somewhere and filled out the paperwork correctly. As he filled in fields and filed papers away, he found himself thinking back to that strange dream he'd had last night. That voice had been telling him to get out. Was he happy here? It wasn't very exciting, but it was very stable. He could probably get a job as an accountant at a small company if he wanted, and he'd work fewer hours, but those companies were much more susceptible to going under. Perhaps just before the company went bankrupt, the accountant could transfer all of the remaining funds to his own account and then vanish mysteriously, never to be seen again. He smiled at the thought, but he knew it would never happen.

Actually, he didn't even know what he'd do if he had more time. He'd become so accustomed to working long hours that he found he didn't have a lot of other interests to busy himself with. In university, he liked hanging out with his friends, but they were all busy too now, so that wasn't really an option anymore. He'd probably just watch more TV and sleep a bit more. He sighed, realizing that he had already become just as dull as his boss. At least he still had his hair.

The monotonous nature of his life was still weighing on his mind when lunchtime came. As usual, Dan was down there first, and was already partway through a bagel when he arrived.
Tomorrow's Friday”, he noted.
Don't remind me”, Dan groused, looking up from his bagel. “I've got so much to get through tomorrow.”
Do you have any plans for the weekend?”
Not really. Do you want to go to the bar and watch the game after work tomorrow?”
I guess”, Aidan said, not really having anything better to do. “But what about the rest of the weekend?”
I don't know, I'll probably watch some TV and do some work around the house”. Dan still lived with his parents. “Did you have something planned?”
No, it just seems like that would only take like half a day. What about the rest?”
Where's this sudden interest in my private life coming from?”
I was just thinking, I don't really have many interests outside work. I feel like I need to do something more with my life.”
Dan shrugged. “So write a book or something.”
He rolled his eyes. “I don't have that kind of time. What would I write about, anyway?”
I don't know, you're the one with too much time. Didn't you use to write for the school newspaper in university?”
Yeah, I wrote a comic for it. But university is full of comedic potential. Nothing funny happens around here.” He gestured extravagantly with his hands: “So earlier today, this lady says to me, 'hey, I came in for a mortgage application, but this form is for a boat', and so I says to her 'here's the problem, you need an application 4-D! This is a 4-B!'”
If you add in something about spilling you coffee I think it could work.”
He sighed. “I think that ship sailed a long time ago.”
Well, if you're not happy with the way things are now, you need to try something that's different from your regular routine.”
Aidan looked down at his cup. “I guess I could try switching from 'Southern Blend' to 'Tropical Sunset'”, he said, dryly.
Woah, take it one step at a time, we don't want you to wind up in the hospital.”
'So what are you in for?' 'Oh, I switched over to Tropical Sunset and it was so life-changing that I spilled coffee all down my pants”.
Dan chuckled. “See, you've still got it.”
Aidan was less convinced.

The afternoon went by terribly slow, but quitting time came at last. He shut down his computer, locked up his desk, and hurried down to catch the train. It was dark out, and looked like it might rain. He hoped it wouldn't, but he wasted no time getting to the station. The train was busier tonight, and he had fewer seating choices available. He chose a seat towards the middle on the right side, as it was one of the only ones where he could get a window seat. There was almost nothing to see out there besides his own reflection, though, it was already so dark out. The train pulled out of the station, and no sooner had they gotten underway did the rain start to come down. It was really raining hard, and the window quickly fogged up from the condensation. He stood up a bit to wipe it with his hand, and he noticed that the person sitting in front of him was the same girl from yesterday, sadly gazing out the window at the rain. “I suppose rain has that effect on everyone”, he thought, watching the rain pound on his freshly-cleared window. “There's something very wistful about it. It makes you think of all the things you've lost, or never had.”
The rain fell loudly on the bay below as the train passed by, bringing his long day to an end.

It still hadn't cleared up by the time the train pulled into the small station. He hadn't brought an umbrella, and from the looks of it, very few people had, many of them now lined up at the little convenience store in the hopes of buying one, but they wouldn't have nearly enough for everyone. The girl didn't have one, either, and he felt kind of bad for her, but he quickly lost sight of her in the crowd. Then he remembered he did have something in his briefcase. Retrieving the newspaper from this morning, he held it over his head and ran home in the rain.

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