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Out back

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The house was a spacious farm number tucked in the woods near Jordan Lake. I was ready to sign a lease when I casually asked to see what it looked like out back. It was dark, around dinner time, so I used a flashlight to scope the yard. Everything looked as it should--small lawn spreading out from a tiny back stoop. But then I raised the beam into the forest. There, about 30 yards in, the light showed where the woods stopped and a giant pile of dead trees began. It was the back end of a landfill and it was three-stories tall.

I ended the house tour right then, jumped in my car and drove up to the top of the landfill. A pack of feral cats scurried in front of my headlights as I drove to the landfill's edge. I stopped and got out. The air smelled like disturbed clay and a strange mist was rising from the mammoth pile of decaying old trees.

Three stories below sat the house I'd nearly rented. With the feral cats hiding in the darkness, I thought about what the woman showing me the place said as I was leaving: "You can't really smell it."

Then I got back in my car, turned around and drove north on Big Woods Road.

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