AN EXCERPT FROM
THE NEW DAWN BY DORIAN DAWES
Trigger Warning: This story contains elements of gruesome violence and body horror, as well as topics of mental illness particularly regarding schizophrenia.
ynn Abreski was the first one to notice that the cats were missing. Three cats, one calico and two tabbies always showed up at the backdoor of her diner every morning for food. On a Sunday afternoon in August their food bowls remained untouched. She would have never called the cops about such a thing, but the Sheriff happened to be sitting there at the counter when she walked back out of the kitchen. Sheriff Lisa Cunningham had been serving and protecting the good people of Oakridge for nearly 15 years. There were the occasional DUI's and domestic disturbances, and maybe a couple of bored kids find their granddad's beer and rob some neighbors of their sleep, but nothing too unusual. Certainly nothing their Lisa couldn't handle. Still, she'd begun to look like the job had maybe been a bit too much on her. There were always bags under her eyes, especially lately. The color of her hair had dulled significantly that year, and faded dingy bits of gray were creeping up through the roots. She looked tired, haunted--like a woman
who had simply seen too much and shared too little. It was the Sheriff though who commented on how distressed and out of sorts Lynn seemed to look that day. Lynn was usually dressed remarkably well in clothes that showed off how much she valued her morning workout and yoga routines. Her biceps could put most men in town to shame. Today her typically immaculate eyeliner was smudged from crying. Her lipstick had either been wiped off or she hadn't even bothered putting any on. "You all right, Lynn?" Lisa said, sipping her cup of coffee. Lynn shook her head. "Fight with the kids this morning. Been tough on them since Harold and I split up. I'll be fine...I manage. I was just-...oh it's stupid." Lisa set her coffee down on the counter. She reached over and touched Lynn's hand. "Just us girls here. Talk." Lynn sighed and turned her back, resting with her elbows against the counter. "The cats. You know, the ones that are usually out back every morning? I haven't seen them in three days. Do you think something happened? Maybe a dog got to them?" Lisa took a large swig of coffee. She set the cup down a bit more harshly than
she anticipated. It made a large clunk that caused her to wince a bit. Her brows were furrowed as if she had been deep in thought. "Careful, Sheriff. I only got so many of those." "Sorry, I'll make it up to you. I'll look into the cat thing." "Don't, it's stupid." Lisa grabbed her hat from off the chair next to her. She laid a tip on the counter and smiled. Lynn rolled her eyes a bit. "I've got a duty to all the citizens of Oakridge," Lisa said. "Even the furry ones." "I'll let the other girls know when they arrive, you stopped by and that this is for them." Lynn said putting the money in the tip jar. "You're a good woman, Lynn. This is a good place you got. It's important to us. All of us." Lisa waved farewell and walked out the door. Lynn faltered at the strange phrase. Not that compliments to the diner were all that uncommon. Lynn's Diner had been a fairly prominent establishment for the six years it had been open. It was the way the Sheriff had called it important, as if this place served some other function than good food and good service. She grabbed her purse and shrugged, walking to the bathroom.