Fear The Dawn: Chapter 47

Was it real?
It had certainly felt real enough in the moment, but even now as he laid awake in bed it already seemed much harder to believe.
He wanted to believe it. It felt as though a great burden had been lifted from his soul to see Nisha again, and know that she was well and had forgiven him, but that was precisely what made him sceptical. Had it really happened, or was his desire to be free from his guilt so strong that his subconscious had concocted that entire absurd scenario?
Aidan sat up in bed. The man knew about the dream with the train, but of course, if he was merely a creation of his own mind, he would know everything he had ever known. There was no way he could ever know for sure if that dream was real or not. But did it even matter? He had felt so happy and free. Maybe it was finally time to let her go and move on with his life.

Aidan pulled back the blinds from the window beside his bed. The sun was shining brightly, with hardly a cloud in the sky. Far below, cars drove slowly by along the road, a woman was walking a dog, and children were playing in a park. A flock of birds flew past, stopping for a moment on a power wire before taking off again.
The world goes on without me”, he thought. For the last ten years he had waited for her, agonizing over this choice, but life continued as it always had. As he stood there, watching that scene, he was reminded of a morning a very long time ago, when he had lamented that his life felt like it lacked direction. Then he met Nisha, and she taught him to enjoy life in a way he had never known before. Those days had been magical, but when she left she took that with her, or perhaps he gave it up on his own. Either way, as he stood there that morning, he knew one thing for sure – he wanted to live again.

The train to central station was quiet this morning, probably from families trying to get an early start on the long weekend. Aidan hadn't thought to ask for the day off, but the peace and quiet suited him fine as he opened up his paper and bit into his bagel. There had barely been any lineup at the coffee shop today. As he walked up to the counter he couldn't help but think about Nisha and that man, sitting at the table by the window. He wondered if he would be reminded of them every time he stopped in there from now on. It wasn't a bad feeling, just a bit nostalgic, a lingering memory of happy times spent with friends. Come to think of it, he did feel as though he remembered the man now. He was very dour and serious, but he felt as though they had been friends once. What was his name? He couldn't recall. That information was locked away in a part of his mind that he just couldn't get to, at least, not right now. As he leafed through his paper, he realized that he did believe that dream, not because he wanted to escape his guilt, but because of the connection he felt with the people he had met there. He turned to the comics section and had his first good laugh in a while.

He arrived at his building in good time, got a coffee, and retired to his office. He had some paperwork to see to, which was simple enough, and a bunch of technology articles to read that he barely understood at all. His former boss had always said that there was money to be made on any investment as long as you packaged it the right way, but the technology sector was a dangerous market. It was difficult to put a positive spin on an investment when the company itself had up and vanished without a trace, as many of them did, and it took a very keen eye to tell the difference ahead of time. He was very reliant on his employees, they were fresh out of university and technology was like the gospel to them, but their enthusiasm sometimes hampered their judgement, and he was an old man who barely understood their new voice mail system. He was starting to see why there hadn't been a ton of competition for this job when it opened up.

He heard voices from the room outside, informing him that his employees had finally arrived. They weren't quite as punctual as he had been when he was in their position, and they certainly fraternized a lot more, but they could be good workers as long as he kept an eye on them. He poked his head out from his office door to find them all gossiping about something.
Good morning boys, another busy day today, so let's get to it!”
Yes, sir!”, they said hurriedly, taking their seats.
He kept an eye on them for a few moments before closing his door again, though he knew they'd quickly be back to socializing. One of the articles he was to read the morning was about the launch of a fancy new phone that everyone had been looking forward to for a long time, even he had heard about it a few times. It was actually launching this afternoon, perhaps that might also have contributed to the emptiness of his train this morning. The article gave an in-depth explanation of all the new features, but as someone whose phone was still attached by a cord they all seemed superfluous to him. “It'll never catch on”, he thought, putting the article down and returning to his computer.
I'm becoming my old boss”, he thought, catching a glimpse of himself in the reflection of his screen. He still had his hair, though it was starting to lose some of its colour, but he had put on a fair bit of weight and he had found himself saying and doing a lot of the same tired things his boss used to do. Moreover, he was starting to see himself as an old man, becoming very set in his ways and unwilling to learn new things. In truth, he wasn't really that old yet, there was still time for him to grow and change. He picked up the article about the phone again and tried to imagine how he and Nisha might have used it when he was younger. The ability to send short messages to each other during working hours probably would have been nice, but phones had been doing that for a while now. It seemed it could also play games, but he never really had a lot of interest in those.
I can't wait to get mine!”
It's going to be so amazing!”
They were talking out on the floor again. He was becoming increasingly sceptical that any real work was going to get finished today. He went back to his paperwork, but his mind wasn't in it and progress was slow. He really needed some peace and quiet, but they were still talking about it over there. He opened his door again.
Pardon me, boys, but I couldn't help but overhear you talking about that new phone”. They all fell silent and slunk down in their chairs, like puppies that had been scolded. “It so happens that I could use a report on the functionality of that device, so I might be able to let you leave work a bit early this afternoon to go pick it up, assuming all of your work is done, of course.”
Their eyes lit up, and they all got right to work. It wasn't so hard to motivate them after all, and more importantly it would ensure the office was quiet enough to work in the afternoon. “I guess I can be a cool boss after all”, Aidan thought, tilting his chair back for a moment before getting back to work.

6 o'clock finally came and he packed up for the evening, being one of the last ones to leave the office. Even the receptionist was already on the way out when he reached the lobby. Outside, the sun was setting, painting the sky a bright orange that seemed to bid an appropriate farewell to the work week. The sun had long since set once he finally set foot in his apartment for the night and he set about preparing dinner. He didn't have many plans for the weekend, but somehow he felt that he needed to go out and do something for a change. He contemplated going over to that sports bar on Saturday night, but then he had a better idea.
He looked over at the little scrap of paper on his dresser. He hadn't looked at it since that night at the party, but he knew he couldn't keep putting it off.
There's something I still need to do”, he had told the people in his dream. It seemed easy to say when he was asleep, but thinking about it now he felt terribly nervous. He wanted to just watch TV and put it off until tomorrow, but if he did he might lose his chance. He finally managed to pick up the receiver and dial the number on the little piece of paper. At first he thought she might not pick up, but it seemed he hadn't missed the boat on this yet.
Tina? Are you busy this weekend? Well, I thought maybe we could go out for coffee sometime. Saturday at 1pm? All right, I'll see you then.”
He put the receiver down. The rapid pounding of his heart assured him that he was definitely living again.


It certainly wasn't easy at first. It quickly became apparent that they couldn't just go back to where they had left off, too many things had been said, and they had changed a lot since they were young. Even choosing a place to meet was not as simple as it had once been, he knew better than to choose to meet at Ellie's Diner or the coffee shop where he had met Nisha, there were just too many conflicting memories there. In the end he chose another coffee shop further into town that he had never been to before. It seemed like a good place to start over, but as they sat there sipping expensive coffee and barely saying a word he started to have second thoughts about his choice to come here at all. He excused himself for a moment to get more sugar but it was really just an excuse to leave the table.

This is way harder than I ever thought it would be”, he sighed as he stirred another spoonful of sugar into his cup. He hadn't met anyone new in a long time, not since Nisha, and it was becoming clear that he didn't really remember how to do it. How did they ever meet in the first place? He met Tina very soon after he started university, he remembered that much, but the specifics of their first conversation had long since faded from his memory. It hadn't been anything substantial, that was why he couldn't remember it, they had just joked about whatever class they had just taken or something like that. It was so effortless back then, they didn't plan how they would interact with each other, it just happened.
He took another sip of his coffee. It had to be at least half sugar by now, but it was still terribly bitter. “Maybe I'm over-thinking this”, he thought, putting the coffee back down on the counter.

When he returned to the table he found her still slowly nursing her cup and generally looking miserable.
Do you want to go out and get a slice of pizza?”, he offered. “This coffee is terrible.”
It really is”, she agreed readily. “Give me a cup of Ellie's coffee any day. This is just steeped cruelty.”
Come and try our new bitter roast – Its bleak taste will make you question the existence of concepts like 'love' and 'happiness'”.
She laughed and looped her arm around him as they left the restaurant. “And all for only $6.99!”
And after that it was all right.

A few dates later they finally found themselves back at Aidan's apartment again.
This really brings back memories”, she said, running her hand along the couch. “This place has barely changed at all.”
The couch was new, and so was the TV and some of the other furniture, but she wasn't wrong. The layout of the room was exactly the same, his kitchen was still so small you couldn't walk past the fridge with the door open, and the bed was still the same one that they had shared once before. He had rarely given it much thought, but now it made him feel a bit embarrassed. She had changed so much, and yet he was still living in almost the exact same way as when they had first met.
The view is still nice”, she said, opening the blinds and bending down a bit to look down at the street.
Looks pretty nice from here too”, he said, admiring her. She had put on a fair bit of weight since they had first met, but she still dressed very confidently and he still found her very attractive.
She laughed and wiggled her backside for him. “You never said anything like THAT to me before. Do you know how long I spent dropping subtle hints and trying to get you to realize I was interested in you?”
Well, I figured it out pretty fast after you took your clothes off for me.”
She laughed and put her arms around his waist. “I should have done that much earlier, it's all you guys understand. Do you want to see me do it again?”
Very much so”, he replied, kissing her.
She released him and slowly slipped out of her shirt and pants. He was surprised to see that she was wearing similar lacy white lingerie to that first night. She was much more curvaceous now than she had been when they first met, and he was shocked to find that neither his age nor the fact that he had been in a relationship before reduced the excitement he felt upon seeing her body.
I'm glad to see you still like me”, she said, drinking in the expression on his face. “Come on, don't just stand there, help me out.”
She took his hands and placed them on her breasts. They were wonderful, and it had been far too long since he had done something like this. He eagerly helped her out of the rest of her clothes and he held her naked body against his own.
You're still gorgeous”, he said, “I totally don't deserve someone as good-looking as you.”
No you don't”, she teased, lying down on his bed, “making me wait all this time. You owe me fifteen years' worth of sex, so get over here and let's start making up for lost time.”
They made up for the first week or so that night, and this time there wasn't an ounce of hesitation in his mind.

Mmm,” she sighed happily, caressing his body when they were finally finished, “I wasn't really serious about expecting you to make up for lost time, you know. I hope you're not too worn out”.
He laughed. “It's all right. I've wanted to do this with you for a long time, too.”
So why did you turn me down all those years ago?”
Aidan was a bit taken aback by her question, he had thought by now that she was going to let that slide. “Are you sure you want to talk about that now? It's not really the most romantic thing to talk about.”
She stroked his chest with her hand and snuggled up to him. “It's okay if you don't want to, I've just always wondered about it. Was it something I did?”
He sighed. “I have no idea how I can even begin to explain this. You probably wouldn't believe me even if I told you.”
Well, I'm all ears.”
No, it wasn't something you did, it was Nisha.” He sighed again. “This is going to sound totally crazy, but... we knew each other from a previous life. I had some strange dreams about her before we ever met, showing me things from a life that wasn't my own. It seems like I hurt her in a previous life, and I couldn't be at peace until I made it up to her. It hadn't started yet when we first met, but when we were about to have sex something in my mind told me that I couldn't be with anyone else until I settled things. Then Nisha and I finally met and, well, I screwed up again, but in the end it all worked out. She's happy now with someone else, and so am I.”
Well, I must admit, in all the time I thought about it, I never came up with that explanation. I kind of thought that maybe you were just the one guy in the world who hated blowjobs”.
Hey, I'm trying to be serious here.”
Sorry”, she said, grinning at him. “So who was I in your previous life?”
He rolled his eyes at her. “I knew you wouldn't believe me.”
Well”, she said, “it's not that I don't believe you. No one really knows what's waiting for us beyond this life. Maybe you really did see what you think you saw. I guess we'll find out when we die, but until then there's still a lot we can see and do together. Or am I getting too ahead of myself?”
I don't think so”, he replied. “This time I have a feeling that this is going to last.”
They laid there and cuddled for a while, enjoying the moment. Eventually she poked him in the side and climbed on top of him, a playful look in her eyes.
How would you feel if we made up for a bit more lost time? Now that I know you've got nothing against blowjobs I kind of want to try again.”
He laughed. “I can't believe you seriously thought it could have been that.”
They had a good laugh together and indulged their passions a bit more. It was so effortless being with her, just like it had been all those years ago. This was right, there was no questioning that now.


Don't worry, you'll do great”.
Tina's support helped, but it did little to reassure him. This wasn't his first time performing material in front of a crowd, but it was certainly his first time being in a place like this. Big names had performed on this stage, some had even been big at the time. He wasn't tonight's headlining act, but it was a completely surreal experience to be here all the same.
You're on in five minutes, hope you're ready up there.”
That was Mickey Stouts, the comedian he was opening for. He had seen Aidan performing on the open mic night at a local bar and invited him to open for his show the next week. He would probably never have accepted if he had known that he was performing at the same comedy house he had visited with Nisha all those years ago. He was totally not ready for this, but here he was, about to go up in front of a hungry crowd in less than five minutes.
Good luck, honey”. Tina gave him a last kiss for luck, then retreated into the wings. Aidan took a deep breath to steady himself, and then the curtains opened.
There were hundreds of people out there. The place was nearly packed, and all eyes were on him. He was not ready for this, he could barely remember his material, and his throat felt like it had a big knot in it. But he had really never been ready for much of anything in his life, he just always did what came naturally and things usually managed to work out somehow. That was all he was, take it or leave it.
So, who out there has a mortgage?”, he began.
He ran through the foibles of the insurance market, from the larger-than-life personalities of its prominent members to the varied and comical hypocrisies that were so ingrained into the entire system. He even got a few laughs. He knew full well that he was never going to do something like this again, but he would always remember that he had done it.


One night, many many years later, he found himself in a distantly familiar place from deep in his past.
You have to get out of here”, a voice called to him. He had heard it before, but it seemed like a lifetime ago.
Aidan found himself in a strange room full of mirrors, where a voice pleaded for him to leave. Even though it had been so long that it had almost completely faded from his memory, once he was there he remembered it again. He walked through the room with his hand on the wall, carefully feeling out the holes in the walls.
Please, you have to get out of here”, that voice pleaded with him again.
The reflection in the mirror was of a younger man, not quite the one who had been here before, but not the one who had just gone to bed, either. Indeed, he seemed to be about the age he had been when he and Tina had gotten back together. Perhaps that was how he liked to remember himself. He came to a hallway, and he slipped inside the passageway hidden along the side.
Inside, he saw the progression of his life reflected in the mirrors. First he saw his childhood, which he barely remembered anymore, it had been so long ago. Next came his university days, he had been so naive and carefree back then. Then there were his early working days, where not much had happened, but this time the mirrors did not stop there. He saw Nisha, and the happy times they had spent together. Despite the way things had ended, he had made peace with that time in his life, and it felt warm and nostalgic to see it again. Then came the period in his life where he withdrew from the world. There was little to see here, though there had been a few happy times, like when he got his promotion and his old boss's retirement party. Next he saw the time he spent with Tina, and the life they had built together. He looked upon this part most fondly of all, reminiscing about his loving wife and the joy she brought to him after he had almost given up on himself. Lastly, he saw an old man, telling stories to his friends' grandchildren about a magical world where cats walked into people's dreams and helped them with their problems. It had never become a TV show, but he hoped Nisha would have been happy all the same. Finally, he came to the last mirror at the end of the hallway, where the great shadow resided. He peered into the mirror, and the shadow swirled and shook, until finally it took the shape of a siamese cat with vivid blue eyes. He looked into the eyes of the creature, and he realized that there was no trick to this last mirror, the reflection he saw in the glass was his own true face.
So it was me all along”, he realized. The dream had never controlled his destiny. He was the one who chose to follow Nisha, to be with her and love her, and to withdraw from the world after she left. For so many years, he thought this path had been dictated for him, but in truth it was only his belief that made it so. It all seemed so silly now.
Please, you have to come back.”
That voice again. He had never really paid it any heed. Who was it? What did they want? He turned around to see if they were behind him, but there was no one, just the hallway leading back the way he came. He tried walking back down the hallway.
Yes, that's right, come back”, the voice told him. “Please, come back.”
He walked back out of that hallway, and turned back towards the first room, the voice offering him encouragement all the way. Finally he came back to the start, and he went the other way. The mirrors became more and more sparse out here, until eventually they faded away entirely, leaving only a darkened clearing and a great, wooden ship that he had once called home.

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