Chapter 1: Convenience Store
The sound of shoe soles tapping quickly on the old brick floor has faded over time. Two men were pulling the baby away as if they were pulling a tiny creature ready to throw it into the slaughterhouse. The child couldn't scream because his mouth was covered with a rag. It was even more impossible to escape the grip of both of them.
The two men suddenly opened the car door until the footsteps stopped behind the shiny black pickup. Inside the car was a stainless steel cage with blood stains everywhere. The child's eyes widened in fear when he saw several other children lying motionless on the car floor. All of them were covered in blood from head to toe, like in a horror movie.
The child was suddenly caught by two men using plastic drawstrings to tighten his wrists. Before he had time to struggle, the eyes of the children inside the iron frame suddenly opened in his direction.
“Damn it!!!!” Aurora panted. Her whole chest was wet with sweat, making the T-shirt stick to her body. She pressed her hand to her chest to control her breathing, gradually becoming too much for herself. Aurora rolled her eyes. The room was yellowish-grey, cramped, old enough to suffocate. Aurora breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that she had just had a bad dream.
Aurora mumbled: “f**k! That dream again! For four years now… why does it keep bothering me?”
Aurora looked at her watch. It was almost five in the morning. She lazily woke up, tossing and turning, thinking about what work she would do today. Aurora quickly got up, went straight to the bathroom, and then more than thirty minutes later, she hurriedly left the house with the hastiest look possible.
While doing personal hygiene, Aurora suddenly realized that she had to be at the store fifteen minutes before opening time because the store manager had announced it. He announced that today all employees must prepare to receive senior managers from corporate headquarters.
Aurora arrived at the store. Fortunately, she was there before the Store Manager showed up. A few other employees signaled her to enter the management area to attend for the day. Aurora is as agile as a ground squirrel.
She scrolled through the keyboard, turned off the computer, and quickly walked out of the management room like a ghost, even though she didn't check the results once. Aurora did not know that the more agile she was, the worse the network infrastructure and transmission at the store. No one name 'Aurora' is stored on the computer.
Aurora glides out of the little maze made of chemical cargo crates. Those crates were as high as a person's head and arranged in zigzag alleys that quickly led people to get lost. Everything was as quiet as a picture, only the sound of cars rattling outside the dusty road of upstate New York. Aurora found it poetic, while the others found it boring.
After going around the warehouse for a while to collect garbage from cardboard, another female employee stood looking at Aurora with a tired look, as if she'd bumped into some drunken guy at that crappy bar across the street all night.
“Aurora… you forgot your uniform, didn't you? Do you want to be recorded by the Satanists in the corporate office?"
“Damn it! I was in a hurry this morning! Should I go home now? Hey Helen, can you keep an eye on the store for me?"
Aurora looked down, extremely angry. Before she could say anything, Helen laughed arrogantly: "God, do you have a better solution? Today, I won't waste my energy staying here to work. Aurora, you can use my uniform."
Aurora rolled her eyes at Helen: "What about you?" Helen laughed, spread her hand out, and said cheerfully.
“Look at my new nails! I'm not stupid enough to break it. I'll find a way to talk to the store manager. And you can just roleplay me for the time being! The Satans in the corporate office won't know."
Aurora nodded and agreed to Helen's solution. Helen then throws Aurora a red shirt that looks even older and wrinkled than her hair. Aurora had no choice, so she hurriedly dressed and went out into the yard to clean the window.
Aurora's job for today is to clean up, and the others will focus on a bunch of data about the actual difference that the store manager doesn't know how to make up for.
After more than an hour of toiling with the shiny glass doors, Aurora stopped and leaned her back against the wall. She tried to ease her frustration and fatigue by enjoying the quiet atmosphere of the house—this deserted suburban street.
But this is also a place with a host of dangerous problems that people and authorities are still deliberately ignoring with its terrifying transformations. And it seemed only Aurora could feel upstate New York City dying in its dangerous sighs.
Aurora stood outside a convenience store, her eyes narrowed from the road dust from the tractors. Those trucks carrying containers of goods from the inner city lined up as if they wanted to occupy the entire road. The smell of gasoline, the smell of smoke, and the body odor of the drivers seemed to tear apart Aurora's nasal septum.
Aurora curiously turned her head to look into the distance, secretly surprised to discover a chain of congestion that could extend up to several kilometers. A driver standing next to him puffed out a puff of smoke and mumbled curses like crazy. He was too bored to live in a terrifying loop of urban-suburban traffic.
Aurora turned to look at the driver. She handed the bottle of mineral water still in her hand to him: "The shop's gift for the elite drivers like you. Remember to support us!”
The driver took Aurora's water bottle and smiled. Thank you. After taking a big sip, he could fully wake up, and his facial muscles were noticeably relaxed. He shrugged and looked at Aurora: "I'm crazy to believe what you say is true. Aurora, I'm old, but I haven't lost my mind!"
Aurora frowned at the driver. She nodded in agreement with him, then suddenly asked: "I haven't seen you much lately. Did you change the route?"
The driver laughed, then ran out of water bottles. He patted Aurora's shoulder and said: "I'm about to retire, so I don't take as many trips as before. I should have retired two years ago, but my pension fund hasn't allowed it yet. It's better now."
After the driver finished speaking, he said goodbye to Aurora. He returned to the truck and tried to move a bit more because the crazy drivers in the back kept honking their horns, creating a chaotic sound that, according to him, was the pride of his pride—long-haul drivers.
Aurora smiles. She enjoys making friends with them. The more friends she had, the more factual information she had that God only knew. Maybe, at some point, they will help her.
Watching the driver's car go a little further, Aurora felt strangely nauseous about the goods lying in the container. She sat on a nearby bench, watching the sky slowly turn a light gray as the clouds gathered overhead. Aurora stood up and wandered into the convenience store, wanting to spend more time there before the supervisors showed up. She had no free time to have fun when Helen disappeared like smoke.
Aurora sat on a chair, looked out, and was reminded of the Deputy Store. She was again assigned to clean the tables and chairs at the store. Even though this was someone else's job, she had to endure it in a tiresome way. Aurora silently cursed the Deputy Shopkeeper.
Suddenly, a shiny black car turned straight into the small courtyard in front of the convenience store. From the car, a young man with an elegant suit went straight to the convenience store with another man about the same age as the driver.
He seemed to ignore the existence of the people around him and went to the bathroom of the store with a few curses and nags that Aurora couldn't hear clearly. The man picked up a few packages of cakes and smiled softly at the store clerk. His courtesy made everyone feel more comfortable than the young man.
However, as soon as all the employees let their guard down, the man announced they were supervisors of the company's office. A rugged landscape immediately unfolded as the Chief Shopkeeper was not present, and the Deputy Shopkeeper froze in fear. She was always like that, only knowing how to be annoyed with her subordinates.
However, he did not make it difficult for people. He gave the papers to the Deputy Store to prove his identity and then reassured them: "You guys keep working as usual. We just looked at the store. If I have any questions, I'll ask you guys later!"