Archive | September 2012

Secret Pain

Logan maneuvered the Wii controllers in unison, swinging his arms like a seasoned hockey player. The boy’s passion was obvious — rivaling that of the gladiators his game was designed around despite the disparity of size in his preteen frame.

The digital puck soared past a sprawling goaltender and into the net.

“Goal!”

Conner, Logan’s competitor, exhibited his own fervor as he chewed out the faux net minder. “What was that? Wake up and face the shooter. Stupid auto-goalie.” Conner was only a few weeks older than Logan, but already had sprouted seven more inches. He thought the added height would leverage him a scoring advantage in their rivalry, but his new friend proved to be resilient.

The boys met a couple of months ago when Conner moved into the neighborhood and over the summer they developed a healthy rivalry. Hockey quickly became their favorite battleground. They logged many afternoon hours carving digital ice, but there was more at stake this time. It was their final match-up before starting the 5th grade tomorrow with different homerooms.

Logan danced around the coffee table, punching the air like Rocky in training to celebrating his miraculous two-goal comeback to tie the game in the waning seconds.

“I hate it when you use the green Whalers jerseys.” Conner said, grumbling while he scratched at the bandage high on his arm.

“I know,” Logan said through a joker’s grin. “Green for good luck. Now, they’re gonna help me win this thing in overtime.”

Movement drew Logan’s eye to the bandage. “Uh, dude. You might want to stop scratching that. You’re making it bleed.”

Conner tugged his shirt sleeve down to hide the area. “That? Oh, I scraped it open on a nail head. My dad’s fixing the cellar steps.”

The boy’s eyes bulged suddenly. “What time is it?”

Glancing up at the wall clock, Logan answered. “Almost 4:40. Why?”

“Damn it! I gotta go.”

“What?”

“I have to be home before five or my dad’s going to beat my ass raw.”

“But it’s overtime of game 7. You can’t leave now.”

“I really have to go.”

Conner shoved some items into his duffel bag and sprinted out the front door.

Logan threw his controller and flopped onto the couch. “Shit.”

The next day Conner was a no-show at the bus stop. Logan looked for him all morning — peering out the bus windows, searching the halls between classes, staring at the slotted windows in the classroom doors — but his friend remained unseen. He was beginning to worry about why Conner might have missed the first day of school, when, from the cafeteria line, Logan spotted him sitting alone at the back table.

“You make it home in time yesterday?” Logan asked, placing his tray across from the lone dinner.

“Huh?” Conner said, visibly shaken from deep thought. “Oh. Yeah.” Then he returned to biting his cuticles and plowing the mashed potatoes from side to side with halfhearted fork movements.

Logan chewed on a dry hunk of meatloaf and eyed his friend. He didn’t look well.

Conner’s eyes were shadowed and heavy. His complexion was more pale than usual, earning him another notch toward the color of coconut Popsicle like the ones they used to get from the ice cream truck on Friday afternoons. Which he skipped on the last few times. Logan realized. And look, now he’s not eating his lunch.

“Not hungry?”

Conner shrugged and Logan glimpsed the edge of a new bandage just below his shirt collar.

“What’s that one from,” Logan asked pointing to the gauze dressing, “another nail head?”

“It’s nothing,” Conner replied in a distant tone. But, like a sudden May breeze, he warmed to the conversation. A light flickered to life in his eyes, chasing away the darkness of his frown. “Hey, you want to come over and replay Game 7?”

“Is it okay with your Dad?”

“He won’t be home till later.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I feel bad about cutting out on you yesterday. We need to finish that game.” Conner smiled. “I’m gonna hit my locker before class, so I’ll catch you after school, okay?”

Logan hesitated. “Yeah, sure, but aren’t you going to eat lunch?”

“What, and risk toxic mutation? I’ll hold out for something better.”

Conner dumped the tray into the nearest trash receptacle and walked out of the cafeteria.

A few hours later the boys were immersed in their championship game and amid the chaos of crosschecks and slapshots, taunts and complaints, they did not hear Mr. O’Barr return early from work, nor his calls for Conner’s attention.

The TV suddenly went dark. Conner’s father, an imposing figure, stood before them with the plug dangling from his fist.

“You’re not allowed to have guests over while I’m gone.” He said.

Conner’s complexion moved up another notch. “Dad. I’m… I’m sorry, we just wanted to finish our game from yesterday.”

The man’s frown drooped further with nostrils flaring above his thick mustache. “Sorry doesn’t unbreak the rules. Your play time is over. Go wash up and we’ll discuss this over dinner.”

“Could Logan—”

“Get your ass up there ‘fore I throw your goddamn Wii in the trash,” his father said, pointing up the steps. “And you better come down ready to eat this time. I’m not going to serve another uneaten meal in this house.”

Conner jumped to his feet and scrambled up the stairs.

Logan watched the confrontation from eyes wide with fear. He didn’t know what to do. Would Mr. O’Barr turn on him as well? Should he just leave? Was Conner safe? That was it. Safety. It all made sense now. His behavior. His lack of appetite. The nail-biting. The bandages and scars. Conner was being abused!

Mr. O’Barr rummaged around the living room, cleaning up the video games and controllers.

Logan was close enough to hear the man’s teeth grind as he picked them up.

“I swear to God, I’m…” The man stopped, took a deep breath, and faced Logan. “It’s time for you to go home.”

He pulled Logan to his feet, shoved the boy’s school bag into his arms, and promptly escorted him out of the house. The door slammed shut before Logan could turn around.

What should I do? He thought, hesitating on the stoop. Logan stepped down and started toward the curb when the muffled sounds of broken glass made up his mind for him.

He dug out his for-emergencies-only cell phone and dialed.

Ten minutes later Logan was back on the stoop, but this time he wasn’t alone. A black man dressed all in blue stood next to him. Logan straightened and puffed out his chest. He felt a tingling surge of power run through him at the thought of justice being served to help his friend.

The officer rang the doorbell then cupped his hands around his eyes to peer into the narrow windows along the door frame. After a moment he reached up to knock but the door vanished beneath his knuckles.

“Yes?”

“Mr. O’Barr, I’m Officer Emery and I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Conner’s father glared down at Logan then stepped aside to let them in. They followed him down the hall and into the kitchen. Officer Emery surveyed each room along the way. “How many people are present in the home, Sir?”

“Just me and my son, Conner.” Mr. O’Barr picked up a hand towel and started drying dishes. “Can you tell me what this is about?”

“In due time. Where is your son now?”

“Upstairs, washing up for dinner. Why?”

The officer’s eyes paused on shards of broken glass near the man’s feet. “Sir, what can you tell me about your son’s bandages?”

Mr. O’Barr stopped. His hands froze mid-circle in drying a dinner plate.

“Conner told me they were from skateboarding or street hockey or something like that,” he said, splaying his hands.

“He doesn’t like skateboarding!” Logan said, blurting out the words with his pent-up emotion.

“Look, Officer, I work a lot. It’s hard enough scrounging paycheck to paycheck each month, but to keep track of every little thing he likes or dislikes is—”

“Hobbies are one thing Sir, but injuries are your responsibility as a parent. Do you know the health of your child? What’s the story with the glass at your feet?”

“I knocked over my tumblers before you arrived. And, I don’t like your tone, Officer Emery.” Conner’s dad thrust a finger at the cop. “I raise that boy the best I can and you can’t—”

“Sir, I’m going to be frank. There are allegations of child abuse against you. Have you caused harm to your son?”

“What? Are you freaking kidding me? No. No, I haven’t.”

“There are witnesses to an increasing frequency of bandaged wounds.”

“He’s an active boy, for Christ’s sake! You’d worry if he didn’t consistently carry a red badge of courage.”

“Sir, the amount of badges have become excessive. Logan’s outcry for Conner’s well being is not the first. His school had alerted us to a potential problem just yesterday. They spoke to Conner and he was very uneasy about the conversation. He wouldn’t even allow the nurse to check his wounds.”

“Hey, I don’t want some incompetent nurse prodding at my son!” Mr. O’Barr snapped. Veins pulsed in his neck as his frustration swelled.

“Sir, I’m going to ask you again. Did you harm the boy?”

“No, goddammit, I’d never hurt him!” The man shouted and the wet plate slipped from his fingers and crashed to the floor.

The policeman jerked a hand to the Taser on his belt. “Mr. O’Barr. Stay calm or I will be forced to make you calm down.”

“Whoa.” Conner’s father slowly put his hands in the air. “It was an accident. I’m calm.”

“Good.” Officer Emery said and gestured to the kitchen table. “Sit down.”

The policeman, keeping an eye on Conner’s father, turned to Logan.

“Son, please go upstairs and check on Conner. Ask him to join us here, in the kitchen.”

Logan nodded and ran up the steps.

A moment later he screamed.

“Officer!”

The policeman’s instincts kicked in and within seconds he cuffed the father to a chair, shouted for him to stay put, pulled the firearm from his holster, and jolted up the stairs.

The second floor came into view one step at a time. Logan was standing in the hall, staring into the opened bathroom.

“Back away from the door.” Officer Emery said as he reached the top.

Logan complied, but moved with slow, clumsy steps like a sleepwalker, never taking his eyes off his discovery.

Officer Emery heard the sobs of a child and they weren’t from Logan. He moved laterally, with his gun raised, until the bathroom interior was visible. Taking in the scene before him, the office gradually lowered his weapon.

Conner sat on the edge of the tub, arms tucked between his knees. Tears dripped from his down turned face. He was only wearing boxer shorts and his wounds were exposed—the bandages had been removed.

Emery sucked in a sharp breath at the sight of them. They weren’t the kind of injuries he expected. Mr. O’Barr’ is one sick fuck! He thought.

The boy’s body looked like some sadistic kind of checkerboard — angular chunks of flesh were missing at varying intervals, but only in areas that could be concealed by summer attire.

Emery’s stomach clenched and churned. His heart literally ached at the sight.

Conner whimpered. A few drops of blood splashed to the tile floor between his feet and that’s when Emery caught sight of the razor blade.

“Conner,” the officer said, speaking in soft and slow negotiator tones. “We’ll get through this. Please, put down the blade. Don’t give up on us, now.”

Conner lifted his head and looked at the cop for the first time. His face was wrinkled with confusion. “Give up?”

“Stay with us. We care about you. Your father can’t hurt you anymore.”

“My father? He never hurt me.”

“What?”

“I… I can’t stop cutting.” Conner’s tears flowed in thick rivulets. “It hurts so bad, but I need it. I crave it.”

“We’ll get you some help.” Logan said, peering in from behind the officer.

“No, you don’t understand. I’m addicted. I don’t want real food anymore.”

Conner brought a hand to his mouth. An angular piece of flesh dangled between his fingers. He slurped it up and feverishly chewed the bloody morsel.

“The more I eat, the more I want.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2012 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

A Fouling Wind

Papa’s gone.  And I’m alone.  Again.

As dusk is swallowed by night, I peer through the glass of the front door at a world that carries on without me. In the dirty, etched glass that serves as my window into the world I rarely enter, the reflection I’ve grown use to stares back at me. As the years have passed, I’ve come to realize the face is mine. But I know it’s not the one I was born with.

There’s a smell in the air. It frightens me…

Outside, tall oak trees cast long shadows across the road that snakes past our home — sharp fingers scraping the pavement, desperate to crawl away from the setting sun. Their branches are engaged in an ages old battle, pummeled by the invisible fists of a foul-smelling wind. Between the rustle of leaves, I hear the roar of the metropolis that lives around me.  It must now stretch for miles beyond our neighborhood – a secluded enclave reserved for the city’s elite. We were once the families of the ruling class – the wealthy, the industrialists, and ‘the ones with the most to lose,’ as Papa would often say.

Automobiles rumble by in the distance, their angry horns bleating dissatisfaction. A trio of motorcycles growl, carving their own paths down paved streets far beyond where my eyes can see. Overhead, gleaming airplanes leave white streaks in their wake as they crisscross the sky. The patterns remind me of Tic-Tac-Toe played on scraps of paper with Mama, so many years ago. The din of the sleepless city invades this home that Papa built, as he says, ‘to protect us from the evils that dwell beyond our granite walls.’

Inside, my guts churn. Something’s coming…

Papa is a good man — a proud man. But even though he doesn’t say it, I know he’s also a very sad man. There was a time when Papa feared nothing. Now, it seems, fear consumes him. Sometimes I imagine I can see the terror that hides behind his eyes — wicked shadows living just below their surface. I can’t help but feel that he wants to make sure his fears find a new home, somewhere deep inside of me.

Papa doesn’t want me to go outside alone anymore. He never explains exactly why, saying only that so many horrors ride on the back of every wind, and that they’re particularly dangerous for a ‘little boy like me’ — a phrase he’s very fond of using.

While I often ponder what Papa sees on the wind, something tells me I already know, without him having to speak the words.

When the wind blows, I believe I can sometimes sense Papa’s fears. I smell their rotten odors as they arrive on the slightest of breezes. And their stench grows stronger as frenzied gusts howl through the trees. I like to believe that what I smell is simply the decay of the city; but deep inside I know it’s actually something far, far worse.

Deathhhhhh…

The thought turns my skin to gooseflesh.

While known for his honesty, I don’t know if Papa’s been entirely truthful with me. If nothing else, I fear he’s keeping things from me, sharing only what he wants in order to protect me from what he’s sure exists outside – ‘evils too dangerous for a little boy like me.’

I can’t count the number of times Papa’s told me how much he can’t bear to see me hurt. I know he’s talking about something much different than scraped knees or broken wrists. And I can’t help but think it’s my ruined face that has him so concerned.

Rather than risk his pain, I now try to do as Papa asks. I stay inside as much as possible.

Here, locked behind the door, I stare through the window and wait, watching day bleed into night and then back again. It’s an endless procession of time that marches past in a world that has forgotten I ever existed.

The wind blows harder. And the stench grows stronger. Oh, Papa, where are you…?

Today had been the same as most. Papa was dressed in a meticulously appointed suit — the creases of his pant legs pressed so sharp they looked as though they could slice a finger. Like clockwork, he placed atop his head a matching black top hat. When he dressed this way it reminded me of the days when he used to work at the bank. That was when Mama was still around.

“Son, I’m off to pay a visit to the Goldbergs. You remember Samuel and Rita Goldberg, no?” Papa asked. I nodded, even though I didn’t.

“I’ll be lunching with the Rubensteins, and then need to check in on the Schultz sisters before returning.  You know, they don’t have many callers these days, the poor, lonely dears.” I thought his last statement rather ironic.

This was almost verbatim what he said every day. Only the names changed from one to the next.

“And Robert, remember…stay inside.  Don’t open the door for anyone but me,” he said, pausing.  “You know how much I care for you, son. You’re all I have, and I don’t know what I’d do if anything happens to you…”

He stopped before uttering the final word, but I knew, even though unsaid, he meant to end his sentence with ‘again.’

Papa rubbed my head, mussing my hair.

“I’ll give Mrs. Rubenstein your best wishes,” he said, with a flash of a smile and a wink of his right eye behind which I was sure I could see the darkness that terrorized him. Then Papa was out the door.

He’s afraid. And so am I…

Hours had passed since Papa had left, and he was still not home yet. This was unusual, even for a man as busy as he.

Staring out into the dimming light, something felt strangely different about today.

That’s when I noticed the car approaching on the road. Anxiety chewed at my insides.

Oh Papa, Papa…you need to come home soon.

It was almost unheard of to have visitors these days. We never saw the friends or family who once streamed into our home for dinners, holidays, or simple chats. I suppose time takes its toll on everything, including the memories of those you once loved.

While not exactly out of the ordinary to see cars pass by on our private lane; it was a rare occasion when they actually stopped. Usually, they’d be filled with loud, drunken teenagers who’d roam across our lawn, not hesitating to relieve themselves behind hedges or at the base of our trees. This would continue until Papa grew weary of the cacophony and put an end to such escapades. He’d step through the doorway — voice booming — and send them scattering back to their cars where they were quickly on their way.

Taking special effort not to be seen, I hunkered down and peered through the bottom of the window in the front door.  Through the security bars bolted to the outside, I watched the car creep into full view. It was one of the late-model sport coupes that interested me so; but it was badly in need of a wash. Beneath the grime I could tell it was probably a brilliant red.

I gagged on the decay…

I breathed a small sigh as the car continued past, sure it would be on its way. Then came the tell-tale flash of red that erupted from its back end as the driver brought it to a halt. My heart slipped into my throat. I slid to floor.

The car was still, its engine rumbling in the early evening. A fine mist of exhaust belched from the tailpipe.

Then it backed up to our concrete walkway.

It’s coming here…

The shadows of the oak trees threw the car’s internal compartment into darkness. Somehow I knew this vehicle carried no mischievous teenagers, but instead something far worse.

The air around me was heavy with the smell of rot. It squeezed my body in its tight grip, choking me and calling to attention the hairs on the nape of my neck. The last time I had this feeling was so many years ago it was barely memorable. But the reflection of the gruesome face staring at me in the glass broke the dam that held my memories in check.

Oh Papa, Papa…WHERE ARE YOU?!

The windows of the car were tinted. It almost impossible to see inside. I noticed movement behind the darkened glass. It was nothing more than a shadow turning to look at me. Inside the darkness, a set of green eyes stared out at door behind which I cowered.

Cold fingers scraped my spine as its gaze located me through the thin layer of glass. My reflexes slammed me backward, away from the window.  I squeezed my body into the wall, willing myself flat, hoping to disappear and remain unseen.

Too late…

In the few minutes that my heart threatened to jump through my chest, an eternity seemed to pass.  Then, from outside, came the distinct sound of fallen leaves crushed by heavy footfalls as something crossed the lawn.

Then came the sound of leather soles on concrete.

Click… Clack… Click-clack…

No matter how much I willed it, I couldn’t summon the courage to peel myself from the wall and race to safety far from the door.

Click-clack.  CLICK-CLACK!

The shoes grew louder as they neared the door. Tears streamed from my eyes.

CLICK… CLACK.

It stopped.

Then the crash came, reverberating the door and echoing through the house.

My body frozen, I watched the knob on the inside of the door turn slowly — first to the right, and then back again to the left, creaking with each movement.

Drums beat loudly inside my ears, and my thoughts were a chorus of screams.

Again, the doorknob moved — this time a complete turn.

And the door opened. A foot stepped inside. Followed by a leg.

The crease in the pant was as sharp as a knife.

I ran to Papa, grabbing him tightly around the waist — an act I’d normally think better suited for a child than for the full-grown 14-year-old boy I was.

Rivers of tears flooded from my eyes. They flowed over the rugged landscape of my scarred face, salting my gums and dripping onto my tongue through the hole where my right cheek had once been.

Cautiously, I peered around Papa. The car was gone.

It was my imagination after all… Papa’s fears HAD found a new home.

But in the distance, the flash of brake lights caught my eye in the night.

A new breeze blew across the threshold of the open doorway. I could taste the hint of  rot as it dissipated into the cool, evening air.

It was then that I realized that Papa had been right. There are evil things in the world that are much too dangerous, especially for a little boy like me. And I knew it would be back.
(To be continued…)

~ Daemonwulf

© Copyright 2012 DaemonwulfTM. All Rights Reserved.

The Steps Of Fear

My feet: the damn things are cold again. Jesus, they’re frigid! Where was I tonight? What did I do? I feel dirt between my toes: clumps of something, half liquid, half congealed, beneath my finger-nails; and my clothing is shredded, not affording any perceptible function. I might as well be naked. The couch: yes, I remember now; I fell asleep here. Shit! My sleep already sucks; the sofa doesn’t help.I’m a somnambulist  and have been for as long as I can recollect. Fancy name. Yeah, I know. Sleepwalker is what everyone calls me except that little prick of a shrink. The high-nosed, tweed-wearing, pompous jerk thinks he has all the answers. The idiot knows nothing. I’ve been seeing him for years, lining his fancy-pants with my long green. I still sleepwalk, though. Every night.  Somnam man that I am irks my sweet, loving wife. One more thing for her to nag about. She told me to see Mr. Tweed, or she would leave. Stupid me: I should have helped her pack.I get up and go to the john, stopping to look in the mirror before I attend to business.

Damn, Harry, you’re a fucking mess! There is blood all over you. Your clothing, face, hands, and feet are covered in the stuff. Remember, man! You gotta remember!

In a flash, I run to the patio door, following the bloody tracks my feet left. The trail of blood extends across the cement, vanishing at the start of the lawn.

Settle down, Harry. Maybe it‘s nothing. Could be some dead animal you found on the lawn, a poor creature trying to find a place to escape from its torturer. That’s it. Something like that. You merely tried to help it.

A search of the yard does not show any animals. Nothing that sports a coat of fur anyway. In the corner, the one next to the crab-apple tree, is where a dark form lies. The light is bad, but I can sense something is there. I am in no hurry to see what it is, yet I must.

The damned tweed suit of his, covered in blood, not at all in the prissy, almost effeminate way he wears it, but a crumpled mess, surrounds his lifeless body. His head, off to a rather obscene angle, greets me.

Now what? Did I find him like this? Did I kill him? I don’t remember.

For a while, I merely stand and gaze down at him, trying to force memories from out of my brain. Zilch. Nothing at all comes to me. I walk back inside the house.

I sit on the couch and put my head in my hands, staring down at the carpet. What the . . .

A syringe sits on the rug, almost under the sofa and out of sight but enough for me to see. I pick it up and see it is empty. He must have injected me with this, but why? Why was he here?

My head swirls, thoughts caught in a vortex of uncertainty. Nothing rams through into any order of reason. Conflicting paradoxes flit everywhere, changing what might have been to things which cannot possibly be and yet . . .

Reasoning is here, within my house, yard, and mind. Pieces of a puzzle to be put together, analyzed, and remembrance made. If I killed my doctor antagonist, there must have been good reason, especially for me to do it in a state of somnambulism where merely walking about after waking from slow-wave sleep should not push me over the edge of sanity.

I remove my shredded clothes and toss them into the trash. Slipping upstairs naked, I look in on my wife, peacefully sleeping, before I go in to shower. Ah, the power of hot water running all over my body, shoving the blood down the drain, is so comforting. Even as I allow it to wash over me, a relaxed, tired feeling embraces me.

After toweling off, I walk into my bedroom and slide into bed, my nakedness feeling good against the flannel sheets. My wife moves up against me, almost purring. Instinctively, I react but stop.

Something’s wrong, Harry. She hasn’t wanted you for a while; she has been as cold as cold can be. And she’s naked. She never sleeps in the nude. Even when making love, she has always worn something. But she’s naked now. Shit . . . shit, the air is heavy with the scent of her juices.

I glide my hand around and, not surprisingly, find the sheets to be very moist.

Lie back, Harry. You’re tired. You need to sleep. Everything will be better when you wake.

The voice makes sense and I give in to sleep.

Still dark when my eyes open, I once again feel the dampness of the blood and the dirt wedged between my toes. I am alone in my bed, so refreshingly solitary. It is over.

Not bothering to dress, I walk downstairs and retrace my steps from earlier. Her naked body lies across his, her head wearing that same twisted look her lover has.

I smile and go back inside. Two showers in one night. One must be clean.

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2012 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

All Is Lost

So the moment comes, when redemption fades away.
It slowly curls like ashes beneath the light of day.
Darkness shreds my soul as I sink into the deep,
And somewhere high above me, the angels gently weep.

I rise, but I am Fallen; blackness taints my wings.
Cursed love, take my light and the agony it brings.
Don’t speak to me of lonely; I live upon its shore.
Bereft of all but anger, I ache for something more.

A loner among many, I crave the absent sun,
Chained beneath the burden of all that I have done.
Love is but a memory, a secret that I keep.
And somewhere high above me, the angels gently weep.

Humans dwell in darkness and bind it to their soul,
Unaware that greed and suffering are what will make us whole.
Their world falls to ruin, the consequences steep,
And somewhere high above me, the angels gently weep.

The Fallen dance and revel; their golden eyes do shine,
While they trace the scars that brand me—wings that once were mine.
Putrid demons rule, but my heart no longer cares,
My empathy has withered with vacant human stares.

Compassion is a gift, and once it’s thrown away
Nothing’s left to cage the Beast, and keep the dark at bay.
The Evil Prince of Lies awakes from his banished sleep.
And somewhere high above me, the angels gently weep.

So give into tragic fate, and let your heart grow sour.
Mourn the years that passed you by, and waste this very hour.
These are the things that please my kind and make them grow strong–
You’ll dance like puppets to the beat of their siren’s song.

My brothers I’ve abandoned to a deadly fate,
The hour is upon us, I fear it is too late.
Though the Light here has died, your memories they will keep.
And somewhere high above me the angels gently weep.

And somewhere high above me, the angels gently weep . . .

~ Adriana Noir

© Copyright 2012 Adriana Noir. All Rights Reserved.

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