Jeremy strained against his seat belt, pressing his face and hands against the car window. "Is it one of these?" "No honey, sit back." replied Jeremy's mother. "Good," sneered Ben, "these are all ugly. They have those ugly brick things around all the windows like at school." "Soo," said Jeremy, his face still pressed against the glass. "So, they're ugly. Our house had better not have them. And there had better be some trees, all these dumb new houses don't have any trees." "Let's all calm down, were almost there." "Yeah!" said Jeremy. Ben sneered. Jeremy shot back, sticking out his tongue and screwing up his face. Ben, although only 13 for a few weeks now gave his well practiced teenaged roll of the eyes and slumped back into his seat. "Jeremy, sit back. This is all the new development. Our house is much older, it's on the edge of all of this new stuff. The real-estate agent said back when it was built, it was in the middle of the wilderness. Now the road goes right up to it, but its still surrounded by woods. Plus there a small creek in the backyard." "A creek?" asked Jeremy. "It’s like a baby river honey. Like the one on your grandfather's farm." As the rental car continued, the houses passing by began to transform, almost as if time were moving backwards. At first the trees and bushes seemed to shrink away, while the coats of paint on the window shutters and siding grew more vivid. Soon the gardens lost their decorations and the driveways their chalk drawings and unattended bicycles, replaced by realty signs. "Look mommy, that house doesn't have skin yet." Jeremy shouted as they passed. "It's called siding stupid. Houses don't have skin." "Ben," scolded his mother, "that's quite enough. It is kind of like skin isn't it Jeremy. That house is still under construction. See, look at this one, you can still see the frame. It's like a skeleton that holds the house up." "They could leave it like that for Halloween. Then the whole house would be a costume." "Who's going to live in a house thats just a frame." Ben said under his breath. "Maybe skeletons would want to live there." said his mother. As they continued, more houses passed in various stages of development. Then all of a sudden the houses stopped and the road turned into a thick wood. Despite the bright sun out, the car grew dark and a little chilly in the shadows. To either side of the road stood tall, dense evergreens, some growing almost horizontally out of the sides of the hills that sloped up from the road. The trees came up so suddenly, it was almost as if the forest had swallowed the car, closing in even from both sides leaving only the bright swath of sky down the center, too high for sunlight to reach the road below. Jeremy peered into the trees trying to see what lay beyond them. Along the road shorter trees, small bushes and vines obscured the forrest behind them, but every once in a while Jeremy could see a void in the wall of vegetation to the trees in back. The forest floor looked remarkably clear apart from the bear trunks of the trees and an occasional fern. Jeremy though it looked like an empty wear-house he had once seen, a giant room with large concrete and steel pillars every few feet. Certainly not like the forests back home. Between the tree trunks, brilliant shafts of light struck the bear forrest floor, giving everything a dull orange-brown glow from the layer of dry pine needles. "Here we are boys." The road came to a small circle with a large planter in the center. At the far end of the circle was a narrow driveway, flanked on either side by two large pillars of brick, each with an ornate street light at the top. Standing in front of the left column was a carved stone statue of a rabbit, sitting on its haunches, with its head cocked at an angle. Before the right pillar stood the base of a similar statue, but the top half was missing, sheared off like the head of a radish. The car pulled up to the far side of the circle and came to rest on the shoulder of the road, just short of the drive. "Everybody out!" "Woah, are those our statues?" asked Ben. "Yep, the man who owned the house was a retired stone mason. There are little statues all over." "What happened to that one mommy?" "It's just very old honey. It must have broken off at some point." "See Jerr', that one was the big bunny's little brother, and he was always asking stupid questions, so one day, the big bunny pulled out his samurai sword and, SWOOSH!" Jeremy slowly crept up to the rabbit statue and walked around it several times, examining it from all angles. "What sword? I don't see a sword." Jeremy's mother was already making her way up the drive. "Come along boys, you can come see your new rooms." - The house was huge. The entire outside was covered in dark grey stones like a castle, most of which were rough, but some had been smoothed flat with designs or small carvings of animals. Along the roof the stones made a pattern that looked like the ramparts and battlements along a castle's exterior wall, and along the side of the house were a number of odd slit windows. Around the house were a number of large, dense hedged, and as their mother had promised, the grounds were scattered with dozens of stone statues of rabbits, turtles, squirrels, frogs, and and many strange animals Jeremy had never seen before. Jeremy excitedly pointed out each as they passed. "Look at that one mommy. What is it? It has a hat." Jeremy motioned to a small statue at the corner of the house which stood against a pile of rocks next to a rain downspout. "Its called a gargoyle." "Where do they live?" "They don't live anywhere." replied Ben. "Gargoyles are make believe honey, like dragons and ferries." The boys lingered in the entrance way, a broad path between two parts of the house that jutted out which was overhung by a sort of stone roof. The roof was held up by two more stone pillar like the ones back by the street, but this time much taller, and hanging from the center of the roof was another ornate lamp. The house was empty when they entered. No people, no furniture, no nothing. Jeremy's mother placed her things on a long counter in the kitchen and began digging through her purse for something. As she looked, Ben helped Jeremy open the heavy wooden door which had begun to close as the boys made their way up the steps. The door was one of two which made up the front entrance. Each was several inches thick and rimmed by black metal pieces fastened to the wood with rivets. "Take your shoes off boys, I don't want to get any of that mud on the new carpets, they were just installed." Ben quickly kicked his shoes to one side and bounded down a hallway. Jeremy had considerably more trouble extricating himself from his shoes. Jeremy had insisted on buying a pair of rainbow shoe laces he had seen in the airport in Minneapolis which were at least three times longer than necessary for his shoes. To take up the slack, Jeremy's mother ran the laces through each eyelet several times and then tied two large double bowes, which now refused to come undone. Finally he was able to simply slip his feet out. He tossed each shoe aside being careful to mimic Ben's technique, and then made his way towards the sound of his mother. When he reached the kitchen, Jeremy's mother was talking to someone on her cell phone. "Yes? Hi, this is Samantha Gala. I was hoping to find out if there's an ETA on the truck." Looking around, Jeremy could see all the trappings of a kitchen: there was a large stove set against one wall with a big metal vent above it; to the left of which were two oven doors nestled into the corner of the room, surrounded by cabinets with cross pieces and 5 little windows in each door. In the center was a counter top that came up out of the floor on more stone pillars, this time carved smooth with little pictures of grapes and wheat and babies with little wings. Jeremy ran his fingers over the carvings trying to make out what they were doing in each picture.