Fear The Dawn: Chapter 13

His alarm went off on time that morning, but it didn't matter, Aidan had been awake for a few minutes anyway. He sat up, stretched, and switched the alarm off. He was feeling well-rested this morning, with no strange dreams troubling him to change his life. “My subconscious couldn't be dissatisfied with last night”, he thought, getting out of bed.

He could still hardly believe it had happened. It had been ages since he'd talked to a girl he didn't work with, much less been on a date. What had possessed him to try to talk to her? She was very pretty, yes, but that wasn't usually a big deal to him. Maybe it was something about the way she was always sitting all alone that called out to him. He shrugged. It didn't matter, however it had come about, it had paid off in a big way, he could hardly wait for the weekend. He popped a couple pieces of toast in the toaster and walked over to the window. A few snowflakes fluttered by, not enough to build up anywhere, just enough to announce winter's arrival. It was kind of pretty, though, and the view from his window really was quite good, it had been a long time since he'd noticed it.

He ate his breakfast, picked up his briefcase, put on his coat, and headed off to the train station. The snow continued to blow about as he walked, but it wasn't terribly cold out and he was on time today, so he took his time. Some children were playing as they waited for a bus, trying to catch snowflakes, which made him smile as he walked by. He arrived at the train station early enough to get a cup of good coffee from the donut shop, and used it to warm his hands as he sat on the train. He watched the sun come up over the bay out the window and couldn't help but feel optimistic. “I think things are finally starting to change for me.”

He arrived at work right on time this morning. “Good morning, Nicole”, he greeted the receptionist before she even had time to notice him, averting any possible reprisal for the last few days.
Good morning, Aidan. Cold morning, isn't it?”
Oh, it's not so bad”, he said cheerily as the elevator arrived. “Have a nice day.”
Upstairs, he got himself another cup of coffee, sat down at his desk, and got straight to work on his in pile.
Good morning Aidan”, his boss greeted him, “it's good to see you in bright and early this morning.”
Yes sir”, he replied. “No temporal mishaps this morning.”
Good, good, I knew I could count on you.”
He had already made good progress on his pile by lunchtime. He retrieved his lunch and headed down to the cafeteria, and he even got there before Dan, though not by much, he had only just finished taking out his sandwich when he arrived.

So first you skip lunch and now you're down here early? What's next, tomorrow you won't have a sandwich?”
I don't think the world is ready for that level of culinary upheaval yet.”
Dan sat down and took out his lunch. “So what happened to you yesterday?”
What DIDN'T happen to me yesterday?”
You didn't eat lunch, I already know that part.”
Well, it all started with my alarm not going off, so I got to work about an hour late. I already had work to catch up on from yesterday, and my boss was none too pleased about it. Not only did I not get lunch, I had to work really late to get all my work done.”
That doesn't sound like you.”
You don't know the half of it”, he said, coyly. “That's only one of the things that happened yesterday.”
Oh?” he raised his eyebrow. “Don't hold out on me.”
Well... I kinda met someone.”
A girl. We're going out this weekend.”
You met a girl?!” he exclaimed much too loudly, embarrassing Aidan. “Who? When? How did this happen?”
Geez, keep it down. We take the train together. We finally got a chance to talk while we were waiting for the train last night. I asked her out to coffee and now we're going on a date.”
This is huge news!”, he exclaimed, not keeping it down. “Where are you going to take her?”
I don't know, to a movie I guess.” He hadn't really thought that part out yet. “Do you know of anything good that's playing?”
Well, what does she like?”
Aidan rubbed his face with his hand, a bit embarrassed. “Actually, I don't really know too much about her yet, we've only known each other for a little while. She's an artist, so maybe something animated?”
Well, you're on your own there. But still, you've got to tell me all about it. I want all the details.”
The details will have to wait”, he said, finishing his sandwich. “I have to get back to work. I can't afford to be late again right now.”

In truth, he wasn't really in that much of a rush, his pile was mostly under control, but Aidan was glad to get away from that conversation, even if it meant getting back to work. “My life could really change a lot if this goes somewhere”, he thought, suddenly feeling a bit anxious. If he had a girlfriend, maybe he'd need to find another job, one where he didn't have to work such long hours. And they'd probably have to move into a bigger place, and get a car. The thought of it suddenly seemed daunting, and he found himself sweating a little. He pulled a paper off the top of his pile and took a deep breath to calm himself down. “No sense getting ahead of myself”, he thought, “life is just like this pile, as long as you take it one page at a time you can make it through the whole stack.”

As it turned out, the next application was another business request. This one was something technical, for a company that manufactured some sort of electronic components. They were looking for capital to get a new product to market, and as he leafed through the application he quickly found himself face to face with several circuit diagrams.
Oh boy, there's a reason I didn't go into engineering.” The diagram just looked like a bunch of scribbles to him. “I'm glad I'm not the one who has to figure this out”. He looked over the company's quarterly financial earnings and their net holdings, and they were solvent, but they had most of their money tied up in whatever this thing was, it was definitely a crucial time for them. Aidan scribbled down a note “Basic finances okay”, and stuck it to the document with a paper clip. He then added “good luck” below it, and dropped it off in his boss's office, who wasn't back from lunch yet. “It's a crucial time for me too”, he thought to himself, imagining some angelic version of himself up in Heaven reviewing his existence and deciding his fate in much the same way. “But I can't have bad karma, I pay my bill every month!”, he pleaded with the imaginary Aidan, chuckling to himself. He scribbled something down about that when he got back to his desk. He never had time to draw comics anymore, but he still wrote down material if it came to him just in case he ever had a use for it again.

There was not much joviality in the rest of his afternoon, he had to place a few phone calls to the western branch, and finally succeeded at getting through to someone, but beyond that it was all just filling in forms. Thanks to his short lunch, however, he was mostly done the pile by 4:00 PM, when his boss dropped by to check on him.
Hello Aidan, it's good to see you making good progress today. I got your note, it was very amusing.”
Oh, pardon me, sir. I just don't envy the task of evaluating that proposal. I wouldn't even know where to start.”
Well we always start in the same place, my boy, with the money – How much they want, and how long they want to pay it back. Everything starts from there.”
Aidan scratched his head. “But we'd have to know which is a good risk and which is a bad one.”
You might be surprised how flexible we can be with that. Here, you don't seem to busy, why don't you come into my office and I'll show you how we go through the process? You did seem interested in learning some of this stuff.”
He could scarcely believe it, in all the time he'd been here he'd never had an opportunity like this one. He dutifully followed his boss into his office and sat down.

So, let's take a look-see”, his boss said, leaning back in his chair, “just what is it that they want our money for?”
It's something in electronics. Apparently it's going to make computers twice as fast as they are now.”
Ghastly stuff, computer hardware, moves too fast. It's too much for an old man like me.”
So what do we do? Turn it down?”
Now now, Aidan, what did I tell you was the first step?”
The money.”
That's right, how much do they want, and for how long?”
They're asking for two hundred thousand dollars, and the term of the loan is six months.”
Well now, if the term is that short, they must be fairly confident that they have a lot of money coming to them.”
But what if they don't? With a term that short, we won't get a lot of interest payments on the deal.”
Smart boy!” he said, pleased. “That just means we'll have to charge them a higher rate.”
It still seems like the risk is fairly high, though, if this product doesn't work or doesn't sell, we won't get anything back.”
That's true, but this loan isn't for a lot of money, so we can tolerate a little risk, just as long as we set the terms right so things are more likely to work out in our favour.”
Two hundred thousand dollars isn't a lot of money?”
He laughed heartily. “My boy, the financial world works on a very different scale from you or me. Two hundred thousand is just a drop in the ocean of big business. And besides, we won't be bearing the entirety of the risk ourselves, we can sell a stake in this loan to investors, allowing us to make guaranteed profits even if they default.”
Wow, it's like we're getting money without even doing anything.” Aidan was having another idea for one of his comics.
When you have money, if you invest it wisely, you can always turn it into more money, that's one of the things that makes this country great.”
At some point, aren't we actually required to know what we're investing in?”
Oh sure, I'll have a consultant look over those schematics to make sure they're not compete rubbish, we have to do our due diligence lest our investors claim we sold them bad loans, but that's not so hard.”
What do you know, maybe I could do this job after all.”
His boss laughed again, this time so hard it looked like he might fall over in his chair. “There's a lot more to it than that, but it's like I keep telling you, my boy, 'work hard and you'll go far at Walder Financial'.” For the first time in a while, it seemed like that might actually be true. “Off with you, now, I have some phone calls to make.”
Yes, sir, thank you very much.” Aidan let himself out. The Aidan in the sky must have approved a big deal for him in the last 24 hours, he thought. “But if the firm wins either way, just what does that mean for my life?”

Aidan finished all his work a bit early that evening and decided to clock out a few minutes earlier than normal. It meant he wouldn't have to run quite so much to make it to his train, though now that quitting time had arrived he was starting to feel like doing it anyway, the thought of seeing her again was already playing on his mind. As he reached the lobby, he saw Dan talking to Nicole, and he tried to sneak by to avoid having to answer more questions about his upcoming date. Unfortunately, Dan must have heard the elevator doors open.
Aidan! Just the person I wanted to see!” Dan greeted him enthusiastically.
Aidan, I hear you've met someone, that's great”.
Oh, come on, how many people have you told? I just met her yesterday!”
Not too many. Anyway, I know you need to get to your train, you can tell me about it on the way. Good evening, Nicole.”
You don't even take this train” Aidan protested warily as Dan questioned him.
Yeah, but I'm in no hurry. Can I meet her?”
No, that would be weird.”
Well, then you've at least got to tell me what she's like.”
I told you already”, he said, rolling his eyes. “She's quiet, she's an artist, and she seems smart.”
What does she look like?”
Well, she's very... I don't know, what's the word... sleek? She has really nice brown hair and eyes.”
Oh come on, that tells me nothing. On a scale from 1 to Nicole, how are her breasts?”
Aidan shoved him. “It's time for you to head home, doofus.”
Fine, but I'll be expecting more out of you tomorrow.” He finally left. Aidan reached the station, which was absolutely packed, as usual. Getting out early had not made even a slight impact on the size of the crowd, but he wasn't concerned, he made a beeline straight for his train, not wanting to wait any longer to see her.
As he entered the train, he quickly scanned the seats, but she wasn't there. He looked again, but she definitely wasn't on the train.

Of course, she had been working late last night, she did warn him that he might not see her again this week. Still, his heart sank. For a brief, crazy moment, he considered getting off the train to wait for her, but he knew he couldn't do that. She might have believed that he had to work overtime last night, but a second time would just be too suspicious. No, he had to take this train, but it was still a few minutes until it departed, perhaps she would show up. He took a seat and watched out the window for her, anxiously. A few minutes later, the doors closed, and the train departed without her.
Well, that's just how things go”, he tried to tell himself, but he had been waiting all day to see her, and he really felt disappointed.
He watched the train pull out of the station out the window. The sun had just recently set, leaving the whole sky tinged purple. “I bet she would have loved to see this”, he thought. “It's too bad she's stuck at work.”
Then he had a terrible thought – What if she had to work late the whole week? What if he didn't see her before Saturday, and she didn't want to go on their date? Then what would he tell people? Why had Dan already gone and told people about it? He smacked his forehead with his palm, he was feeling frustrated just thinking about it.
Calm down”, he reassured himself, “she gave me her number just in case that happened. I'll just have to be patient and try to wait.”
And so he waited patiently as the train slowly headed for the little station across the bay.

If that afternoon had been tough, the evening was even worse. Alone in his apartment, he had nothing to distract himself from idle thoughts. “This is crazy”, he told himself, “I just met her yesterday, we haven't even been on a date yet. I shouldn't be over-thinking it so much.” He tried to take his mind off it all by cooking himself something a bit more elaborate for dinner, he fried up some scrambled eggs on toast with a few slices of bacon, but it wasn't really working. The dinner turned out fine, but then he just wished he had someone to share it with.

By 9:00 he'd had enough. “I could stop this. I have her number. She must be home by now, we could talk for a while, and then I wouldn't have to worry so much.”
He located the little piece of paper where she had written her number and stared at it as he stood by the phone.
No”, he decided, eventually, “I'm not calling her tonight. That would just look pathetic. She said to call on Friday if I hadn't seen her. I'm definitely at least waiting until tomorrow.”
Still, it wasn't easy to wait around that evening. He tried to content himself with TV, but he wasn't very interested in it. Now that his mind was focused on her, he didn't want anything else. “How do things always turn out this way?” he wondered to himself, “Just this afternoon I was so happy about it.”
He decided to turn in early, but he wasn't able to get to sleep quickly, he couldn't stop thinking about her.

When he did finally fall asleep, he found himself alone in the hall of mirrors again, searching for something that still eluded him. “You have to get out of here”, the voice told him.
Is it her?” he demanded of the voice. “Is it her that I'm looking for?”
No, please, you have to leave this place!” was the only reply.

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