Today a free book became available. Where I should have been finishing my second novel I became obsessed with a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. Now it is out. I can resume thinking about Bitter Cold as it should be. While you take a look at Double Dare please stop by KickStarter to support that effort.
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Excerpt from Temperature: Bitter Cold (Title Pending)
(Visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/temperature/an-effort-to-publish to find out more.)
Gold had a way of locking memories away when used to restrain the undead. Sally had learned firsthand this truth when Bo had cuffed her in the motel room so long ago. He had forgotten to keep an eye on the setting sun before it was too late and Sally’s first taste of what effects sundown could have on her took over. That night had been a whirlwind of emotional turmoil tucked in with a deep sensual vibe to seduce, and a flock of unbidden memories not belonging to her as it drove her after Bo for release. Where was her friend, Bocnic Drewings? She could only hope he was not far behind to save her yet again. Thinking of her own past cleared the fog out of her mind to comprehend her present situation better. The Cross had her now.
“I see the small struggles you are having with the restraints. I assure you they are for our protection as much as they are for your own,” Sally watched his mouth curl up into a half-hearted smile when he finish. “As time passes we will consider removing them, but for now – please do try to find them comfortable.
“Where are my manners today; I never introduced myself. My name is Demric. I already know you, Sally, because we tried finding you earlier before those decrepit creatures muddled your mind up with lies,” He looked at her with saddened eyes, nearly bringing his lips to form a pout. Sally was already sick of hearing his voice but without any way to escape she sat through his treacherous speech.
Words crackled dry from her throat as she spoke, “Why did you chase us?” If Sally had enough juices to form spittle it would have ended up in Demric’s face. Thinking it over she was glad not to have any or her actions might have made things worse.
“Isn’t it the way of law enforcement in your country to pursue the criminals with some amount of force? My men were only trying to do the same thing by saving you from a fate God only knows would have happened. I was not there; however, my men had reports you would be going to trial and we wished to intervene. The spells around the area kept us from making it in time,” Demric paused to catch his breath before continuing and stopped her from interrupting with a wave of his hand. “I would have preferred to scoop you up from such disaster had I the ability. It seems we reacted too hastily as you made it out alive. That culprit was with you when my men spotted movement near the road. They had to act fast or fend off the creature protecting you.”
Anger touched her words emphasized by the disappearing dryness that plagued her throat as she worked to moisten her mouth, “He is not some kind of creature! That man did his best to save me when the chips were down. He even offered up his own life to protect me during the trial.”
“There, there. No need to get hysterical over the minor trial. We know all about that and more,” Demric flashed a quick smile, for reassurance she thought.
Her disgusted look she gave him did not perturb Demric from continuing, “It was set up to bring you to us. A way to guarantee safe passage from those cursed lands they inhabit to us. We wanted you safe and sound…”
“Such language from a pretty girl. I know it’s hard to believe right now, but I already told you our efforts you think were to kill you had been directed to the one keeping you from us.” Demric shook his head for emphasis, “I wish you would see the facts clearly. Sally, our goal is not to convince you through torture; however, we will if it is what helps you to see the light.”
“You’re all crazy! How is that kind of treatment going to make me think any differently about the church’s motives? By the way, don’t call me girl again,” Sally said the last part almost too quietly for them to hear. She realized the threat would be laughed at. At least until she got free – she could be patient she hoped.
A chuckle escaped Demric’s lips as he spoke, “No, we just use time-tested methods that have worked repeatedly. Nothing against you, but your mind has been corrupted by otherworldly forces and we are going to help straighten you out.” He squinted at her curiously for a moment, “It won’t take long unless they made the influence burrow deep down into your subconscious. That might pose a problem, but you’ll live through anything we’ll do to you since meeting the afterlife means nothing to the undead.”
Sally stared in disbelief. How could someone become so twisted in their beliefs to accept such hogwash as he was spouting. It made her unable to reply. What the hell, she thought as the fear of what might come next covered her like a blanket; I have to get away from these freaks now.
As she struggled in vain against her bonds Demric called out to the man closest to Sally, “Knock her out for now. We’ll start in an hour.”
Shock fell over her face as the bulking man standing next to her lifted his rifle to strike her with the butt of his rifle. A voice from out of her view was Demric yelling, “Not like that…” but she never heard the rest of it as everything faded to black.
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I sat in shock.
Fire erupted around me; screaming could be heard from the farthest reaches of the ship. Loudspeakers echoed the captain’s voice to remain calm and proceed to the closet life raft for evacuation. I watched as the sun set low on the horizon casting shadows deeply across the ship’s deck making it hard for people see clearly through the smoke. From the left side of the vessel I could feel the reverberating explosions beneath the ship as massive pockets of smoke-filled bubbles tossed the ship back and forth. Panic and confusion ran amuck with the other passengers as I sat bolted to the chair. Some wandered around with hands holding bloodied towels or shirts to their head after an explosion shot pieces of the engine out of the smokestacks as if it were a canon; raining hot metal down upon the unsuspecting crowds walking along on open decks of the pleasure cruise. This trip was falling apart at the seams.
The commotion kept me locked in place, fear gave me no other choice but to stay where I was. I could not think beyond the lounge chair before me. I wanted to stand, but sat firmly in place. Something rocked the ship vibrating me in my seat. Nothing close by could have made the engine explode. A sudden scream had me staring down a child pointing just above my head. I ducked quickly as a shard of metal from the captain’s deck flew by me – barely missing me and I think shaving off a few hairs in the process. Looking back to her I took in her eyes pooled with tears. She was just seven years old standing among the mayhem without flinching.
“Where’s your mom!” I screamed out over the din of voices and bending metal of the ship’s interior. I know I should have asked better questions of the child, but that was the only thing coming to my mind at the moment. She just stood there in her swimsuit staring out into nothingness, not answering back.
I watched as passengers ran around her, never getting close enough to push her down. It was amazing to see her stand untouched by the mass of confusion. Ducking the metal object had brought me out of the stricken fear state I had been in, mostly. I could have told her to run for safety, but was there any place left on this floating coffin to be safe? At least I could move again, so I ran and scooped her up before the one of the ship’s smoke stack crumbled down to the deck below.
We made it under the port side decks while shifting against a press of people. It was hard follow signs indicating where the life rafts could be found with so many passengers moving the opposite way, the panic-stricken fright driving me barely kept me from dragging the little girl behind as fear drove me forward. The girl made no complaints as she trailed behind, not even a whimper escaped her. I would have been stark-raving mad by now if I was her age lost and mixed in with strangers, not knowing where to go next. I was not any better off at this age from being delirious.
I just hoped her mind was OK after all this was over. “We’ll find your parents,” I said over the crashing waves beating the hull. The wind had picked up some since I left my oasis of a lounge chair, but I did not pay it much mind. A life raft against the opposing winds would still be safer than sinking with this tin can.
The girl still did not respond to my voice. Was she deaf? A possible defect at birth? She looked perfectly normal to the naked eye. I had to know now if she could talk to me before it was too late. How was I going to find her parents if I did not know her last name?
Stopping in my tracks beside the railing, I knelt and brought the girl in close, “What’s your name sweetie?” I waited patiently for her to speak. Nothing.
“It’ll help me find your parents and you can be safe with them, then.” Still she stared back at me blankly. Nothing on her face to show me she understood what I said.
I tried once again to garner some kind of response with my words, “It’s going to be fine. We’ll make it back to land soon. The cruise liner left the mainland just hours ago. The smoke should draw their attention and bring help soon enough,” but she just stared at me.
All she did was hand me a seashell necklace on a cord with a small conch shell at its center. Dumbfounded by the offer I accepted it and stuffed the necklace in my pocket. We could not just sit here waiting for a fellow passenger to push us over the railing. We had to start moving again.
An explosion erupted from up ahead, throwing bodies overboard from the blast. The rent in the ship’s haul could be seen where I stood. A large rip ran up from the seawater to just below the main deck I stood on as I looked over the safety railing. A terrible crashing sound came from above as another smoke stack came tumbling down and smashing into the side of the ship. Our way to the life rafts was efficiently cut off. We had to go back.
We were about to be trampled by the onslaught of people running away from the destruction when the girl tugged at my hand. I looked down to see her pointing at an open door leading deeper into the ship’s hull. At this point anywhere would be safer than waiting here for those people to stomp over us; so I listened to the girl’s prompt for safety. Her random responses to our situation boggled me. She must surely be in a state of shock, but revived herself long enough to help only to return back to a catatonic state mere moments later. At least she followed along with me when I prompted her.
I don’t know how much longer I could hold it together for the both of us, but right now she only had me to rely on and it kept me moving forward, or I might have still been in that chair waiting to die. The hallway was dark from power loss, smoke filtered out of the door like thin wisps of fingers not clogging the way. I figured it would be safe enough for us to travel without choking and suffocating before finding the exit. We moved slowly along the passageway with my hand sliding along the wall as a guide. Moans and a deeper groaning sound could be heard farther down the hall as the ship cried out in mock pain. I stopped to listen for other sounds or voices. It was eerie to hear such noises from an inanimate object sound as if it could be alive. Those noises came from beneath me and were not reassuring at all. I wanted out of this dark place immediately.
The girl shoved me from behind for them to move on. Looking back from where we entered, I saw a virtual wall of people run by the door. That convinced me she was right. We had to keep moving to find some other way through to the starboard side before all the rafts were gone; if they were not already. One hand out in front of me guided us both along the wall in search of freedom from this possible deathtrap. I had traversed some of the ship’s interior before this happened, which gave me a little idea of how the corridors ran. One thing I could count on and hate was how the corridors did not run straight through to the other side. They all zigzagged in and out of each other to help support the upper and lower decks.
“The best way for us to get through this maze is to make the first left we can and run to the end before turning right again. We’ll keep doing that and before you know it we’ll see sunlight again,” I said to her a little too loudly and hoped I was right. It had grown eerily quiet since we entered the pitch black labyrinth.
“Come on,” I urged her. I had had enough of this blindness. We had to get back into the light of day soon or I was not going to be much use, crippled by fear at being hopelessly crushed in the darkness.
It seemed everyone else was outside searching for refuge in the chaos as we search for a way to join them. Was it ludicrous for me to rejoin the mayhem expecting there would be help waiting? I tried not to focus on the negatives and pushed forward. So far neither of them had been hurt. That was a God’s send for me. I just hoped it stayed that way.
I was getting nervous from making so many lefts and rights along the way that I thought we might have gotten lost. Faint light ahead was the reward after so many random turns down the pith black hallways. Sounds of breaking glass and shredding metal gave her chills about what might be ahead. “Stay close,” was the only thing I told the girl. Knowing no acknowledgement from her would follow.
An unnatural light lit the evening skies, orange and yellow in color. Fires were blazing from decks overhead. The last lifeboat dropped out of view as I looked out from the doorway. Our hope of getting off this sinking ship went down with those other passengers. I didn’t know what to do next. Asking for help seemed a stupid thing to do with so many other people running around clueless that I felt a little better about my situation. At least I still had my head on right.
Hope surfaced in me again when I took in what was cresting over the bow – land. The island we had left was coming back into view. Help would surely be on the way. She and I would just have to stay alive long enough for that to happen. Standing beneath a roaring fire would not help with that goal.
I dragged her out onto the main deck again and headed for the ship’s aft. It might also be where the little girl’s parent waited. I know I would be searching every part of the ship for my child if I were them; however, finding a focal point could work out better as a child might aimlessly wander until his or her parents. This was not the Mall where a child could wander out into the street and be lost forever. A ship offered isolation and limited range to walk away from. There was a good chance I would find them, or they find me with their child in tow, if I made it there. With the swimming pool at the aft of the ship it was the best place to begin looking. That was if they did not jump on one of the lifeboats first and think of their daughter second.
The space was filled with nearly a third of the passengers not able to escape from what I could tell. The good thing about seeing so many people came from their demeanor, they stood calm and relaxed compared to the mayhem going on the bow. I couldn’t understand why these people stood there amongst such destruction as calm as they were, so I looked in the direction they all faced. They all looked out across the ocean to the same place I did – the island.
The current must be pulling the ruined ship in to shore from a riptide. Hard to believe with such a large ship as this was, but needless to say it drifted backwards to the island. Knowing the ship would eventually sink no longer mattered to me. I knew we could swim or float the rest of the way in if we had to and be safe. My only concern came from the reefs under the water. We could be sliced up as the current sucked us to land. It was a risk I was willing to take for the both of us. I saw one of the lifesaver rings hanging on the wall and took it. I would use it for the little her to sit in while I guided it towards shore.
We walked calmly to the aft’s railing and looked out over the ocean below. Noise of cracking wood from the deck and screeching metal being bent beneath our feet did not deter me from staying close to the edge. We had something to float on and land stood only around twenty miles away now. I held tight to the ring in one hand and the squeezed the other hold hers. It was only a matter of time.
It all seemed so surreal to me with devastation happening all around us and the serenity of this island peacefully resting ahead. I looked on in horror as the tide between us and the island began to swirl in a clockwise fashion. A whirlpool was forming. Small at first, but growing in size much too fast to be natural.
I began to lose what hope I squandered on reaching land. Those life rafts I had sought out earlier were the first to be pulled into the watery vortex. Horror of a new fate looming ahead nearly brought her to her knees. We would all be sucked in without a way to fight against such strong currents. I looked down at the girl to express my disbelief of what I saw happening when the little girl had already turned her head to me first.
She was smiling.
“I’m sorry you have to die,” the grin never touched her eyes was being replaced with a frown, but only for a moment before she continued, “We can’t let strangers leave our little isle once they’ve stepped foot on our soil,” she told me in a shallow voice. I dropped both the lifesaver and her hand at the same time from utter shock.
“Our pact with the dark one won’t allow us to continue living if someone escapes. He requires souls for payment so that we can live forever,” laughter filling her tiny voice. The sound she made came out mature beyond her years. I think that was why she never tried to speak earlier. To keep from giving away any secrets. “The offering was made and you accepted it willingly. This is how it has always been.”
I stared on, terrified. She spoke to me of dying as if it happened all the time. Words refused to come to mind. I stood frozen in place knowing the end was near. There would be no escape, no rescue, nor a life to continue living. I found a strange feeling come over me. What did she mean about an offering being accepted? “This is all ludicrous! What have we done?” I knew there would not be a reply. I only had one thing left to do, to feel.
Acceptance. I would die and nothing could stop it.
I reached down with both hands and the girl allowed me to pick her up. I could not believe I was holding such an evil child in my arms, but there I stood looking out over the railing with her in my arms. The broad handrail was a perfect seat as the girl asked to be put there. I accommodated her and faced the little girl so she could look out at sea. What came over me next I am not sure to this day, but it seemed the sane thing to do at the time.
I pushed her overboard.
Some of the people around me screamed at the violent action I took, others stood paralyzed by my actions. I did not care. This little girl and her island full of demon worshiping freaks did not deserve to live on while I and the others aboard died. She was no longer a child to me anyway; only a child’s body with an aged and deformed soul.
What happened next was beyond unbelievable. Her arms flailed about in an effort for someone to save her. I would make sure that never happened. My luck held out as no one moved a muscle to throw anything overboard. As the water dragged the girl’s body closer to the watery grave of the whirlpool, torrents of green light flashed deep within the vortex’s center. Lightning struck out, curving back to the water in an arch. I could hear her scream even at this distance as the current drove her fast down into the funnel with the swirling seawater. I was not sure at first, but our ship began to slowly gain distance from the malicious vortex of water. The whirlpool appeared to move closer to the island, a growl of sorts emitting from the center as if it were alive.
When it drew close enough to shore I noticed those pristine sandy beaches from the brochure I had been won over by to take this cruise being drawn in with the whirlpool. The island was slowly being sucked down in increments like sand in an hourglass. I heard a bitter laugh gaining volume over the chaos and thought it had come from me. No, that whirlpool was alive somehow. I could hear a murmuring voice come from somewhere below, while devouring every bit of that island and whatever lived on it. Once the last palm tree disappeared I took a breath. I must have been holding it the whole time. Before I could take in a breath I passed out.
When I woke back up, I was sitting in a chair. The same chair I had started in before the ship started exploding. Panicked, I looked around at the other passengers. They all acted like nothing was happening. It was unbelievable. The ship looked just fine. No signs of sinking or disaster anywhere. I went to stand up for a better look of the ocean, and maybe the island I thought I just saw sink, when something fell out of my pocket.
It was the conch shell necklace. It had happened. All of it. This necklace must have been the gift she mentioned that needed to be accepted willingly even if I did not know it would kill us all. Maybe after I offered the girl to that monstrous whirlpool it offset the one gift for another and saved us all somehow. I won’t ever be able to understand what really went on, but I can be assured nightmares of it will be with me for the rest of my life.
Being literal has its good and bad days. My son taught me this the other day when he had a test about vocabulary. He had to memorize a group of definitions for the upcoming test and sharing was one of them. The phrase ‘oneself’ was used to explain how sharing was the process of giving to others the same amount as oneself. When he got his test the word ‘oneself’ was replaced with ‘yourself’ and he ended up getting the question wrong. Was it the school’s fault for teaching my son to learn in a way that requires him to only memorize the necessary answers for testing or the genetics I passed on to him? I might need to sit down and explain the fundamentals of thinking outside the box.
Yes, I am quite literal most of the time when I do just about anything. It is very possible I cursed him with that particular gene. More to the point, is it right to have a school teach for what will be tested? I say no.
To teach what is needed for a test is ludicrous. If I was taught about a war in 1776 without knowing why it happened so I could produce the proper answer on a test does not sit well with me. Standardized testing might be to blame in this instance. Our children are subjected to testing on a regular basis; however, they are only taught what will be on those tests. Is it fair to them? No.
What happened to the days when Teachers used a learning curriculum as a guideline instead of something carved in stone? Maybe someday we will learn from these new mistakes of teaching only the test and actually broaden the mind of the young again.
Now where was I? Oh, the early starts of religion and how they twisted under the corruption enveloped the world views. That should be easy to explain. Right. Like I want to touch on that with great detail even in the fictional world. I’ll let the first novel unravel religion about a third into the storyline. Religion (not just the ones we follow today) is so large it could fill a whole series of War and Peace size novels. Nope, going the easy route today. Sticking with the concept of zombies (undead).
In the novel Temperature: Dead and I explained how cemeteries put the undead into a near complete death-like state. There is a reason behind it I didn’t mention in the first novel. That part of religion came from believing in what was right and good. The correlation between the two ran parallel, which gave a resting place for the weary undead to seek refuge. When a need for them was great they broke free from the soil to protect the hallowed ground or return balance once more. This bit of history helped grow a fear of graveyards in general. Besides ghost taking over your body while in a cemetery at midnight, who wants dead body reaching up to grab ankles. Nowadays the undead use abandoned graveyards resting next to forgotten churches as supernatural prisons.
For lesser crimes, one of the undead might be buried for years based on the crime against the undead (the only crime they care to judge on). Heinous crimes would call for dismembering a body and placing each piece in separate graveyards to keep follower from digging up the convicted person and setting him or her free. By now you get the picture of how the undead cannot die. Now I’ll answer the question for the rotting, putrid flesh issue.
The ‘Deadman’s Drink’.
Corny name to be sure but the undead try not to mince words too often and call things what they are. This elixir made of exotic plants and other minerals make up the mystical concoction that keep an undead body looking young and whole. A smell still lingers like that of decaying flesh, which has to be masked by a spell so others (humans) don’t know what they are. Good way to hide from most humans, not so much from supernatural creatures. The drink is taken every forty years or so to keep up appearances. Some of the undead use this skill to enter into public office or start a career as a celebrity. Would you believe me if I told you Elvis was one? Why else are there so many sightings have he’s been declared dead so long ago.
Moving on, Spell casting is a tricky mess for some and nonexistent for all humans. Supernatural beings have the innate ability to cast magic around. It draws on what some might call a soul. For this very reason humans cannot weave spells or cast curses. Mixed breeds like the witches can do a little hocus pocus but it can drain them immensely. Witches are considered the redheaded stepchildren of the supernatural world. That said, they carry big sticks filled with ancient knowledge shared only between other witches. None care to offend a witch for she may come back with a vengeance.
Other supernatural creatures have long life expectancies with some regenerative powers to compensate, although, in the end magic will kill them if they draw too deeply. However, the undead have a battery like the energizer bunny. They will get depleted, but can recover without the fear of dying. Another reason they were built by the side of righteousness.
To be honest – there is more to tell about the undead and what they can do. I believe telling more might give away what comes next in the following two novels I have planned. For now, I hope you have enjoyed my tale of fictional history. Please leave comments below.
This was a long time coming and I have no clue why I waited to write this at all. I am about to shell out how the myth of zombies (related to Temperature: Dead and Rising) came to be. What I mean to say is some of the secrets behind the undead will be left for the sequel so I can limit how many spoilers are written here. The very idea on the undead walking among us unnoticed intrigued me enough to write the first of the trilogy. Why would the undead not be seen for what they are? Rotting corpses stick out like a sore thumb if you ask me. The idea started out simple and grew complex. I hope to keep the facts in order as I retell some of the story and make up the rest.
The word “zombie” will only be used as a reference point for you, the reader, as I recount the history of the undead with some of the lines blacked out to protect the innocent or of possible spoiler alerts being manufactured. We all know what a zombie is or could be, a flesh-eating monster craving brains without ever getting smarter from eating those brains. Likewise, their flesh is always falling off but never to the extent of becoming a pile of bones. Can’t have bones walking around without overlapping muscle and ligaments to hold them together, now could we.
There is where I always have an issue with zombies – chomping on the living and never falling apart; however, the undead can blend into the crowd and look like you and I on our better days. You are probably asking yourself, “Why would that be?” and you have the right to ask (Yes, we all talk properly in our own heads). The undead were created by the Powers-That-Be to work for them in the mortal realm. To whom are these godly being connected to? Good question – that’s why they’re unnamed. Did I answer your question? No, didn’t think so.
Him, Her, They, or It (if you prefer) helped create what we call Earth as our home. Good and Evil shared in shaping and creating this world to its current state. Chaos for the most part ruled us, but peace could be around the corner. At first, each would take turns developing an animal. The other would make one to devour the first. These challenges they played against each other made them realize neither could win. What did change the outcome was a new rule put in place and agreed by all – let what they had created grow on their own to determine the final endgame. Some of the creatures brought to life are now stories we tell children at night to keep them from venturing too far from the warm sheets they snuggle in bed with. Boogie Men, Werewolves, Succubus, sleeping giants, and the like became myths as did the undead I speak of here. These supernatural creatures lacked vital proteins once the gods abandoned them. Most of the supernatural hybrids died off, too weak to continue from lack of real food – that being the yet born humans. Although this new food source would prove difficult to catch.
Differences between Good and Evil created a distinct line between them as the creatures of the Earth grew and multiplied into free thinking beings; keeping the two opposing sides at arm’s length from interfering to influence the newly evolving creatures being born. From the first among the creatures to have individual thought each side agreed to introduce themselves and let the growing populous decide for themselves whom to follow. Grunts were made by the yet-to-be cavemen and decisions made. No matter how enticing the corrupted gods tried to make them sound better, good still won out. It was decreed one last meddling in the world of man would take place. A champion for each side would be born to guide humanity along. The side of Good chose what had passed could be renewed (giving us the undead), while the side of Evil gave rise to a single demon that could raise his own disciples.
From there on, the power-that-Be took a backseat in guiding the world they made to see what happened next. The undead grew at a steady rate of only a few a century and the demon made leaps and bound to gather followers. Each champion would spread the word of his or her ethereal being to worship and take unheard guidance from. Most of the supernatural beings that came about first joined the ranks of corruption, even some of those born for the righteous gods. Soon Good found less of a foothold on earth.
It was time The side of Good brought their champions into play. Unbeknownst to the rulers of chaos was the undead could not die. Evil had nothing to fight back with. No matter how many times it’s forces tore the undead apart they would just pull back together and fight on. The balance was brought back to normal and the scales even again between rivaling sides. The eldest fighting for Evil died; leaving behind less knowledgeable siblings. As time passed the reason of where they came from died also.
The undead became the guardians of balance for both sides. The eldest of them taking refuge in caves as they had before becoming undead. Those that knew the truth kept it to themselves because knowledge is power and the complexities surging from man’s own misguided thoughts hid the biggest secret the world would know. Even the single demon chosen to champion the ways of Evil saw how hiding the truth could serve a higher purpose. Such as misleading the number of religions and making them doubt what they believed. Easy to do when the people didn’t know what they believed in or worshiped.
I’ll stop here. Tomorrow night will be part two because it is after midnight and the blog is exceeding long. Someone might not make it to this line to find out I have more to say. Some of you might and I thank you for bearing with me.
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