A strange party in a glass house. Linda felt lost among the guests, who were strange in their own ways.
All of a sudden, Linda had a strange feeling that she was being stared at. She glanced around and was rewarded with a quick glimpse of Leanne standing behind a glass wall. She wore a severe-looking, long-sleeved black gown. It looked like she’d been watching them before she hid behind the green wall. A glass wall doesn’t hide too much.
She watched Leanne make her way up the clear staircase. But maybe Leanne hadn’t been hiding: she could have been innocently climbing the stairs. Leanne was creepy. She was tall and skinny with long black hair, a serious look forever plastered on her long face. She was never seen laughing or smiling. In retrospect, she was hardly ever seen at all in town.
Sounds of laughter flowed in from the entrance. She turned and noticed Reece standing in the middle of a group of ladies—all giggling and vying for his attention.
He gave them equal attention. Maybe he wasn’t the recluse that people portrayed him to be. Reece was tall and ruggedly good-looking, but she couldn’t figure out his age. He had a full head of dark hair without any grey running through it. He could have easily picked any one of the beautiful women standing around him, but instead he chose a short and chubby brunette. She seemed to have a good sense of humor, since Linda could hear their laughter bubbling across the ballroom.
Todd said, “Reece is a good person. I hope he finds someone to replace his wife, who died this past year.”
“How did she die?”
“She died from old age.”
“How could that be? Reece doesn’t look old.”
He didn’t answer, and she decided not to pursue it any further for now.
The party at Diane’s house was underway. Linda was in awe of the glass ball of a house with its sparkling glass interior. The whole evening felt unreal, as if she was having a dream.
Couples were swirling around the immense dance floor. They were actually dancing in a large studio between Diane’s life-sized statues. Each sculpture was carved from clear glass: each one revealing a full-sized person. Linda found them to be too lifelike. She stood next to one and stared into it frozen face. She was startled by a fleeting expression of horror that seemed to cross over its features—as if a real person was trapped inside, staring out at her from within his glass tomb. Then the look was gone and the statue appeared lifeless once again. Her morbid thoughts made her shiver, prompting Todd to grasp her even tighter against his body. She smiled up at him and wondered how she could have been afraid of him. She was slowly brought back to reality by the quick tapping of someone’s high heels, approaching them. A beautiful blonde woman with huge green eyes, wearing a diaphanous white dress, came over to greet them. “Hi! Welcome to my party! I am Diane, your hostess,” she said as she glided over to greet them. Linda admired the tall blonde’s ageless beauty, while Todd made the introductions. Diane responded that she was thrilled that they’d come to her party, and then floated off to welcome other people who were arriving. Linda gazed around the exquisite room, immediately recognizing two familiar faces: Minnie and Frank, who appeared to be almost floating across the dance floor. Frank was formal in his tuxedo, while Minnie was cute and perky in her short white baby-doll dress. As soon as they spotted Linda’s group, they danced over. Over the loud music, Minnie explained that they’d gotten a babysitter for this evening. All of a sudden Minnie lost her happy glow, appearing both nervous and unhappy. She mouthed to Linda that they’d never missed one of Diane’s parties—no matter what. Frank, who was monitoring their hushed conversation, abruptly took Minnie’s arm and led her back to the dance floor. Linda knew that there had to be some hidden meaning behind Minnie’s whispered words. She was beginning to believe that everyone in town had their own little secrets. She wasn’t so sure anymore whether she wanted to unbury all of them: Who knew what would come up when these unearthed secrets were finally brought to light?
Linda and Shana had to find answers to what was happening to their town. Young girls were disappearing and never heard from again. Strange shadows were stalking them in the evenings. What was going on?
They followed Main Street until it ended at the sheriff’s office. A narrow dirt road led the rest of the way from town. It ran past the bed and breakfast and the huge isolated mansion, before it curved farther inland to join the bustling highway. The sun was perched low in the sky, making everything around them appear hazy. In the distance, Linda caught a quick glimpse of the bed and breakfast with its purple gingerbread trim. Then the building seemed to be floating in the air. Linda had to blink her eyes several times to clear her vision so that she could see the pretty house with its wide porch. She was afraid that she was beginning to lose touch with reality. They turned off the road to walk up the path leading up to the front door. Nothing seemed to grow anywhere near the house: only sand and pebbles. They climbed the stairs and walked right in, since the door was standing wide open. Taking time for her eyes to adjust to the dark room, she noticed Abe Halloway sitting alone at the front desk, looking up at them. His wife, Anna, was standing nearby, dusting the dainty furniture with a feather duster. Abe came around from the desk to stand before them. Anna stopped dusting to stand beside him. They looked like they’d just stepped out of the American Gothic painting of the overalls-clad farmers—they just needed a pitchfork between the two of them. She didn’t understand why Abe always dressed in overalls, while Anna wore dresses from another century. They were both smiling now, so Linda walked over to greet them with a huge smile plastered on her face. “Hi! We were just taking a walk and realized that we haven’t visited this house in a long time. We never see either of you in town anymore.” They didn’t answer, but just watched her. Linda decided to attempt a different approach—it might not be as tactful, but what the hell; they were in real trouble. “Something bad is going on in town. People are disappearing and are even getting killed. Not only are we afraid, but so are the fishermen and their families. Have you heard anything about the weird goings-on in town?”
the remote and little known rice terraces of yuanyang county in china’s yunnan province were built by the hani people along the contours of ailao mountain range during the ming dynasty five hundred years ago. the terraces, once planted during the early spring season, are then irrigated with spring water from the forest above, which reflect sunlight to create the images seen here.
photos by jialianggao, javarman, isabelle chauvel and thierry bornier
A work of art created by fields of rice.
All creatures of nature are beautiful, no matter what creature this might be.
Todd ran up the staircase. He first checked the living room. No flames were sizzling in the fireplace. Without the presence of the roaring fire, the room was dark. It felt much colder. He used his outstretched arms to guide him past the same worn couches and tables as he made his way through the room. Once he reached the cold fireplace, he was confused to find it empty of body parts or any remains of them. It was even clean of ashes or any evidence of a recent fire; even the walls and floor around the fireplace had been cleaned of any blood splatter. It was as if there never had been a fire or sizzling body parts dropping from the chimney.
“There was a huge roaring fire in this fireplace with bloody body parts falling into it!” Todd insisted, frustrated that everything had vanished.
Carl looked at Todd. “Were you drinking tonight?”
“I am not the only one who witnessed these things. Isn’t it obvious that the place has been cleaned?” Todd said to the deputy. He had to hold himself back from punching him in his big nose.
Sam yelled at Carl, “Todd has stated that there were dead bodies and body parts, so they were here.”
Carl looked down and remained silent—but not before Todd noticed the strange smirk cross over his face in response to Sam’s harsh words.
In silence, they continued with their search. The house had somehow rearranged itself: the rooms were now normal looking and nonthreatening. The pool wasn’t frozen any longer with blood but was clean and empty. The master bedroom was dark without the lit candles surrounding the bed. And the bed was empty of a bleeding skeleton…and its army of fat worms.
Todd was amazed that the deadly tricks could have been dismantled so swiftly and then hidden from sight. Who could have pulled this off in such a professional manner? Who was smart enough and deadly enough to plan each and every step so carefully? This had required patience and maybe even some supernatural assistance.
They had no choice but to give up their search for now and return to town. Todd wasn’t the least bit surprised to find the gazebo empty of candles, a noose, or a body.
“Maybe we should call off the outside help,” suggested Sam.
“I agree, we should handle this matter ourselves,” Todd agreed.
Todd watched Carl as he fell back behind them… skulking off into the night. He let Carl go; he didn’t want him around when they returned to Sam’s office, where he would overhear their future plans. He whispered to Sam, “Carl has run off again. We must keep him out of the loop from now on.” Sam nodded his head in solemn agreement.