The blue glow of the monitor bank made the room feel colder than it was. Inside of the mountain that overlooked the valley, hollowed out and made inhabitable by doctor Olson, one of one many volunteers sat quietly with their eyes focused on the dozens screens. Every so often, the click of a mouse could be heard—flagged recordings of suspicious whispers, footage of a single woman standing with her front door open for a solid hour, a couple disappearing into their closet and limping on their way out. Keeping Cascade Falls safe wasn't just about keeping the monsters out, it was about exposing and ridding the world of the monsters within. “More of them,” the technician spoke to the willowy figure behind him. “Disappearing into their closets for a while...some of them limp when they return.” Removing his glasses, Howard stepped closer to the screens, eyes hawkish as the volunteer played the footage back for him several times. “How many is that now?” he asked, having seen enough of the Richards. “Six, sir.” Slipping his glasses back on, Howard seemed to accept that. “Six,” he repeated with a nod, “minus last night's guest makes five.” Next to him, the technician remained silent as Howard stewed in his own contempt for the town's mounting defiance. “Do you have the time?” “Quarter to nine.” Down in the valley, a rotary phone began to ring. The bell was startling, enough to make Eric Reed flinch over his copy of the Cascade Falls Journal, the infrequent newspaper that had just started showing up on the doorsteps of residents after a month-long absence. Again, the phone rang, and while Eric may have thought to ignore it in his old life, that type of behavior was no longer allowed. Leaving the paper on the island counter, the tall man crossed into the sitting room and picked up the heavy receiver, “hello?” “Good morning Sheriff Reed,” said the inoffensive and artificially pleasant voice of another faceless someone on the other end of the line, “this morning, we would like to inform you of five insurgents who may have removed their tracking devices.” Subconsciously, Eric resisted the urge to reach for the back of his thigh and feel the small knot of scar tissue and something attached to his hamstring, but the camera planted in the overhead ceiling fan stopped him—he didn't even look up at it. “The list of names will be on your desk when you arrive to work this morning. Enjoy your day in Cascade Falls!” After hanging up without either of them saying goodbye, Eric's eyes fell to the old clock that was hanging on the wall. It was getting close to nine and if he didn't want to be late for work at the world's most useless Sheriff's office, he was going to have to get going. Leaving the paper unfurled in the kitchen, Eric walked over to the hallway to put his boots on. It was sometime in the summer, possibly late July or early August, but it was hard to tell when no one was allowed to keep track of the passage of time—either way, it was warm enough that Eric didn't need a coat. Outside of his large, slate colored Victorian, the sun was just beginning to peek out from behind the mountain and a pine-scented breeze was slowly working its way through every open window and door in town. It was almost perfect, so close to paradise that sometimes Eric told himself that he was happy, that he liked it in Cascade Falls and that it didn't matter that he'd missed the last eight years of his son's life, or had married someone who wasn't the mother of his child. Coping mechanisms were a funny thing and of the nearly four hundred residents in town, Eric had to wonder who else was struggling to survive under the weight of not knowing what was going on in the outside world. The Cascade Falls Coffee House was usually busy throughout the day, but it the cozy building was packed to the brim with people every morning, each one eager for caffeine to make the day that much easier. On his way in, people greeted him, their politeness was something that Eric had never gotten used to and most had accepted that he was sheriff the minute that he had been given the badge. Good morning, Sheriff. The usual? It was hard to imagine Casey Sloan as anything other than cheerful and compliant when only six months ago, she had been frantically wandering the streets of Cascade Falls in only her hospital gown, a trail of blood streaked down her arm where she'd ripped her IV out, and screaming the usual questions at the top of her lungs. Eric still remembered following her into the woods, chasing after her as she made a run for the fence the same way Leah had and the sickening feeling that overtook his stomach when he had given the girl, terrified and confused, back to Norma Spencer. In the future, there were sure to others like Casey, more brave runners and more unlucky victims. “Yeah,” Eric answered, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet, “cream, no sugar.” He pulled out a few dollars, always seeming to forget the sensation of plastic-like money, printed from decades ago and smudged in the corners—even an untrained could tell that it wasn't real. Handing the Monopoly-like money over the counter to Casey and stepped aside for the next customer to make their order. In the meantime, he made small talk with others, some friends and others acquaintances, all trying to be as nice and good as possible while cameras and microphones recorded the whole scene. Behind the counter, Casey came to the end of another pot of coffee just before she could make Eric's order. “It'll be a minute,” she said, offering an apologetic smile before she turned to make a fresh pot.