Scribbles

The Chosen

The Chosen


His name is Eli Hoffman, and I have chosen him to be the hero. 

It was something I considered when he picked his sister daffodils after her bunny died. I wrote his name on my list and circled it when he chased off a fox who attacked the family’s chickens. However, it was when his father’s horse was bucking and kicked him down, and he got up anyway despite the broken ribs, that I opened my magic book and etched his prophecy in my blood. 

He will be the one to kill me. 

Of course, he is too young now. Only a child. Hair that shines like raven feathers in the sun and eyes that are as black and deep as ink pools. Eight-years-old. He won’t grow to be tall or exceptionally handsome. He’ll have to study hard with books, but he’ll learn the most by scratching down others’ stories and struggling to train himself. There’s not an ounce of magic in his bones, but he has grit and fire in his blood. 

He’s hardly the description of a knight who will one day slay the dragon, but maybe that is why I like him. 

Even now, he follows me towards the river. 

Eli wraps his hand around my wrinkled fingers. 

“Almost there, Auntie.” 

We walk past the city gates and down the forest trail. It is dusk, and wolf howls echo into the sky. Eli’s grip on my hand tightens.  

“Perhaps we should go back.” 

“No, child. We are almost to the river.” 

Before we can reach the banks, a wolf with luminous yellow eyes leaps in front of us. Eli screams. 

“Run child!” I cry, releasing his hand as the wolf sinks its teeth into my arm. Crimson blood falls to the forest floor. Eli is motionless, dumbfounded for a few seconds. The wolf growls and claws at my neck as Eli picks up a stick and tosses it at the beast, tears streaming down his face. 

The wolf rushes towards him, a black shadow of mangled fur, baring sharp teeth as yellow as the harvest moon. 

“Run!” I call out again, more weakly this time. Eli finally turns and flees. 

We watch him disappear down the forest path. The setting sun casts a red glow on the leaves. 

I peel back the skin on my arms, revealing my scales. The ancient wolf sits down beside me. His once arrogant head is bent low, and his eyes are dull with weariness. He does not even glance at the human flesh and blood I’ve shed beside him. 

“You know, he will kill you too,” I say. “You will die before me.”  

Eli would return as a young man to take vengeance for the death of Auntie Luka. Even now, he mourns his cowardice, though none blame him. He is only a child.  

The wolf blinks as if to disclose his indifference.  

I laugh. 

“I am tired too, old friend.” 

In ten years, Eli will return for the wolf, where he will almost lose an eye and receive a signature scar from his ear to chest. In another eight years, he will face the ancient bear of the north and the lion of the west. It will take another twenty years before he is ready to face me. 

I close my eyes and see myself dying. My scales fade and fall away, and my vision grows dim. Eli stands over me with a sword, once held defiantly against my chest, now fallen slack in his hand. A sad expression lines his face as he watches me bleed out. 

I will take many forms in Eli’s future: his departed mother, a beggar, a lost woman in the woods, an apothecary, and his lover. It is likely that I will lose my shapeshifting powers at my death, but I cannot be sure.  

His expression haunts me. What will he see me as when I die? 

I rise up to leave, and the wolf lays his head down on his paws and closes his eyes. He too longs for rest, to sleep beneath the soft brown earth, to forget time and forgive life. To finally be at peace. 

The wolf yawns and lets out a whining sound. He will try to rest, but he cannot sleep. None of us can sleep. 

The monsters of old, as they call us, once tried to rid the world of humans. We thought they were dangerous. But now, we want nothing more than to return to the earth who once summoned us to slay them.  

Mankind as a whole may be cancerous, but each individual is… peculiar. And their numbers grow so quickly. There will be no ridding the world of humans, so we will leave them to their devices and hope that they will not destroy what we have long watched over. 

My old friend opens a lazy eye towards me. He knows as well as I that we cannot simply lay down and die. If we are to leave the world to the humans, some of them must rise up to prove themselves. We will only depart at the hands of one bold enough to face us, and capable enough to defeat us in at least some of our might.  

It seems the humans are content to leave us weary and purposeless. They do not see the necessity to have a leader, to be brave, or to rid the earth of us, even as they take our land and suffer our wrath. So, I have chosen one from among them. Perhaps it is us ancient creatures who need a hero. Someone to finally give us peace. And we will have it, soon enough. 

He just needs a little more work. 

 
Photo by Ricardo Cruz  

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Scribbles

The Good Sister

The Good Sister


The first time Seth Johnson invited himself over to my house, I could feel the butterflies racing between my chest and stomach, but I told him I would be out of town.  

He’d been wearing that look. A partial smile. Soft eyes moving from my gaze to my lips. Head slightly tilted.  

The second time he asked, I told him I would leave the door unlocked.  

Only my sister would be home.  

When he texted me that he was here, I went downstairs to where he had already slipped in through the glass sliding door, and I led him up to my room. Along the way, we passed the living room where my sister was sitting on the couch. She gave us a passing glace, her gaze lingering a moment on Seth.  

“Hey Cassie, this is Seth. He’s my project partner.”  

He gave her an awkward wave.  

“Hey,” was all she said in reply, then she turned back to the TV.  

We went to my room, and Seth shut the door behind us. I sat on my bed and opened the book. Seth sat close to me, way closer than necessary. When I began reading the prompt, his fingertips brushed over my leg and my hand as he pointed at the words to follow along, even though his gaze predominantly remained on me. The touch sent chills up my arms.  

There was a slight knock, and Seth moved away, half panicked.  

“Hey is my charger in here?” Cassie stepped in and moved around the room, looking behind bags and under papers.  

“Yeah. Sorry, I borrowed it.” I unplugged it from behind my dresser and tossed it to her.  

When she left, the door didn’t quite close.  

Seth stared at me, that soft look in his brown eyes gone, but I stayed looking at the pages.  

“Where was I?” I mumbled before reading again.  

Seth moved closer, but not as close as before.  

The second time Cassie came in, it was for her migraine glasses.  

“Getting a headache?” I asked.  

“Yeah, I’ve been staring at the TV too long.  

This time, she left the door halfway opened.  

A frown was firmly planted on Seth’s face. His features were so sharp, each one like they’d been carved in stone.   

The doorbell rang, and Cassie announced that her boyfriend Tyler was here.  

Seth seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. He glanced at me with a sideways smile as he got up to close the door. He’d no sooner shut it when Ty gently knocked and opened it to invite us to watch a movie with them.  

Seth almost spoke up, but not before I slammed the book shut and said, “Sure!”  

Seth looked at me.  

“I thought we were going to study?”  

“We can study during our free period tomorrow.”  

In the living room, I sat in the armchair on the left side, leaving Seth to sit on the couch next to Cassie and Ty. He seemed to pout at first when Ty tried to make conversation, but he eventually warmed up and even smiled a bit.  

When the movie ended, I walked him back downstairs to the sliding door he’d come in. We made small talk, and he gave the suggestion that next time he come over when no one else was home.  

I smiled, keeping my lips closed.  

“I’m not allowed to have boys over when I’m alone.”  

He shrugged, still smiling, and said, “That’s too bad.”  

Later that night, as I washed my face, Cassie came in to return the charger that she agreed to continue loaning me.  

“That Seth boy seems nice.”  

“Mmm.” I shrugged.  

“He likes you.” She leaned against the wall of the bathroom and crossed her arms. Her eyes were slightly narrowed. “You know how dangerous that is.”  

“Cassie, nothing is going to happen.” I laughed, and seeing a spot on my teeth, I wet my toothbrush and began to scrub it.  

“Not if I’m here,” she mumbled, leaving. “I just know what happened last time. You lose control sometimes”  

“I won’t kill him, I promise. But, did you see how cute he was?” I grinned.   

Cassie laughed, revealing her own teeth.  

“He’s not as cute as Ty.”  

I’ll never understand how she manages to have a human boyfriend. Then again, she was always the better sister. 


Photo by Marlon Alves 

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fiction

Game Night

Game Night

It was game night. In the fifteen years since graduating high school, we’d only cancelled our monthly game night six times. Maybe seven. I couldn’t be sure.  

This month it was at Jena and Dan’s house, and the game was Pictionary. There was always a bit of Charades too because we probably didn’t play it right.   

Jena was a pharmacist, and Dan was a baseball coach. I was a doctor and was supposed to be the most successful. Cheryl and I had the biggest house, but we took turns where to have game night.  

We were in the family room, or something like that. About a nine-foot ceiling, white walls, a TV hanging on one, and decorative art on the others. The couches were a grayish suede. Maybe not suede, but not leather or regular fabric. A dark wooden table that normally sat in the middle had been pushed over under the TV, right next to the gas fireplace which wasn’t on, of course, because it was September.   

My eyes traced the glassy lines that flowed over the stained wood of the coffee table. Some were so dark they looked like oil. Six wine glasses were distinctly placed so everyone knew whose was whose, but instead of wine, cans of coke littered the table because Jamie was going to celebrate six years without a drink come next month. October 5th.  

Jack couldn’t make it, so Jamie and Donna were split up. Jamie on mine and Cheryl’s team. Donna on Jena and Dan’s team.  

Jack was dating someone. He was going to bring her tonight, but ended up not being able to make it. I had been really happy for him at first, but now I didn’t know how to feel.  

What was the score?  

I couldn’t tell, but it was probably the other team winning. All three seemed pretty excited. Even Jena. I wondered if she had any idea.  

It was our turn. I was supposed to up, but I forced a smile and explained I wasn’t feeling all too well. Again.  

Cheryl gazed at me for probably five, maybe six seconds. I watched her from the corner of my eye, and tried to read her expression.  

She went to the center and began drawing. Immediately, Jamie and Dan began calling out terms. It was some kind of flower, but Cheryl wasn’t the best artist. We used to joke about it. The drawing was just a circle with four simple petals. Cheryl probably didn’t know how to draw the exact flower, so began motioning with her hands for us to keep guessing.  

Jamie punched me in the shoulder.   

“You’ve gotta help me man!”  

I forced a smile, and said, “Tulip.”  

“Chrysanthemum, nightshade, orchid, daffodil!” Jena yelled.  

“Rose!” Dan grinned as he said it. It felt like a punch against my stomach.  

“Uhh…” Jamie snapped his fingers with eyes squeezed shut, trying to remember. “Uh, sunflower!” He pointed at Donna.  

“That’s your favorite, right?”   

Donna laughed.   

“Yeah, but not Cheryl’s.”   

Cheryl’s favorite was a hydrangea. Purple.  

She turned quickly and began furiously drawing more flowers. Still laughing, Donna called out, “Hydrangea.”  

Of course she would know. Donna was Cheryl’s best friend. I wondered how much else she knew.  

“Yes!” Cheryl grinned, then the realization dawned on her. “Aw, you’re not on my team!”  

Cheryl was beautiful. Slender limbs, round, hazel eyes, and blonde hair. It wasn’t a natural blonde, but she could pass for being one. She had been blonde when younger, like when we’d met in high school.  

I thought I was handsome, with my brown eyes and curly black hair. Same as in high school when we fell in love. I was a decent height. At least two or three inches taller than her. I felt my nose was too big sometimes though.  

“Okay, okay.” Cheryl picked up another card. She bounced on her toes. “Come on, my team.”  

How could she act so natural? There was a hole in my stomach that I didn’t know was there, and it just grew larger. I took a sip of coke.  

This time, lots of tiny dots and slashes and smiling stick people covered the whiteboard. She glanced my way and discreetly signed something. I think it was confetti or snow, but I looked past her and pretended not to see.  

The phrase was obviously related to a party, like Happy New Year, but everyone thought it was a birthday party, or a snow day, or a parade. Cheryl would’ve drawn a snowman, floats, or a cake if it was any of those.  

They would guess it eventually.  

“Hey, I think we should learn some sign language,” Cheryl had said to me one day around two years ago.   

I had just gotten home from work. I don’t remember how long I’d worked, but twelve-hour shifts could last anywhere between thirteen and sixteen hours on the right night, and it had been one of those nights.  

“Okay.” I’d sat down and held my eyes open as she went through all the different signs she’d learned. 

I made enough money for both of us, so Cheryl was a writer. She did editing and odd jobs but mostly focused her time on stories. I had wondered where she’d found the time to learn sign language. Maybe it was for a character. I should’ve asked.  

She thought it would be helpful on game nights, you know, if we used it sparingly and carefully. She had a smile that was so hard to say no to.  

I took another sip of coke, but my throat was almost too dry to force it down.  

“I’m trying to guess! Maybe if I got some help!” Jamie nudged me again, hard enough to almost make me drop my drink. “Hey, are you okay?”   

The room went quiet, and everyone looked at me. I try to focus only on Jamie, but the expressions of Cheryl and Dan still bled into my vision.  

“Yeah. Just really tired.”  

“He picked up an extra two shifts this week,” Cheryl said. She rubbed her hands against her sides and stared at me, but I blocked out the image of her face before allowing myself to read her expression.  

“Wow. Things at the hospital getting bad, huh.” Jamie’s face was scrunched up with his nose, eyebrows, and lips all wrinkled towards the center, meaning he was either concerned or thinking. Could he see it? Could he tell that something else was wrong?  

I didn’t know what to say, so I took another sip, but the hole in my stomach was so large that I thought I might get sick.  

Jamie was one of my best friends. We weren’t as close as Jack, but we were closer than Dan and I.   

Maybe that was the reason. 

“Hey, we’ll finish this round then end it,” Dan said.  

I stared at the ground between them and tried to watch for how they looked at each other.   

Dan was taller than me by several inches, and he had light brown hair and blue eyes. I thought my face was better-looking, but Dan was definitely more muscular. I didn’t have the time to exercise like I used to.  

They barely looked at each other, nothing more than what would be usual. Maybe. Perhaps they knew I was paying attention.  

“Hey,” Jamie whispered to me, but I shook my head. I couldn’t talk about this. How would I even begin to talk about this?  

“I’m just… dealing with a lot right now.” I tried to force down another sip.  

Jamie shook his head and shrugged.   

“Yeah, I mean. I’m just a foreman. I can’t begin to understand what you have to deal with every day.”  

“You guys, it’s your turn!” Donna elbowed Jamie.  

“Sorry! Sorry, uh…”  

Cheryl had drawn a box. There was a lightning strike and a pair of glasses. She didn’t seem nearly as excited as before.  

“Harry Potter?” Jena asked.  

“Uh… Uh, uh…” Jamie was snapping his fingers furiously, staring boggle-eyed at the drawing, like the answer was on the tip of his tongue. I smiled.  

Cheryl continued to draw, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I poured more coke into my glass even though it was still half full.  

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!”  

From the corner of my eye, I could see Dan staring at me. I had figured that in such a situation I would get angry and not be able to contain myself, but instead, the hole in my stomach grew bigger.”  

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?”  

“No, Donna got it,” Cheryl said.  

Everyone stood up and got ready to say their goodbyes and leave. Finally.  

“What’s up with everyone tonight?” Donna laughed as she asked.  

“When old doc’s not himself, there’s no use in meeting. He’s the life of the party.” Jamie grinned. I forced myself to smile.  

We had made our way to the porch, mostly because everyone was following me, and I couldn’t stand to be in that house anymore. I had to get away from those four white walls before I suffocated.  

I almost stepped off the porch when I turned to Jamie and Donna – Jamie had once been an alcoholic, and he ran a team of ragged misfits to any construction site that needed extra help, and Donna was the daycare worker who had gotten let go from her teaching position when the school decided it didn’t have the funds for a music program. They were the ones who should be struggling.  

“You two take care of each other,” I said. Both Dan and Cheryl were out of view, but Jamie stared at me wide-eyed. Donna also had her eyebrows raised.   

I was walking back towards the car when I heard Jamie ask, “Did he watch someone die or something?”  

I smiled.   

One thing Cheryl did do was convince me to give them enough money to put a down payment on a house. Jamie still had no idea, and I hoped he would never find out. I hoped Donna would keep up that lie about the school giving her a boost of unemployment for feeling bad about letting her go. I wanted to give him more money, and I wished I knew of a way possible to do it so that he would never find out, and then he could take Donna on a good vacation. Somewhere like Italy or Greece. That’s where Cheryl and I had gone last summer.  

The drive home was only supposed to be fifteen minutes, but it felt like at least three hours.  

Cheryl kept glancing at me, and I knew she was watching me from the corner of her eye. She was biting her lip because she didn’t want to ask me what was wrong. Maybe because this time, she was afraid of the answer.  

“So, work has been really rough lately,” she said instead.  

I didn’t answer. It hadn’t been a question but an obvious statement that didn’t warrant an answer. Still, the silence between us made the air much denser, until it was nearly impossible to breathe.  

I licked my lips because they were growing increasingly chaff from having to wear that mask all the time at work, and I had been forgetting to put on Chapstick.  

Cheryl stared at me for a long time, and there was this look in her eyes, in the way her mouth was curved, it made the hole inside me swallow up my stomach and press hard against all my other organs until I was struggling for air. I could feel hot tears forming behind my eyes, but I clenched my jaw and focused on the road.  

Going to game night had been a bad idea. A terrible idea. But, I had to see them in the same room together, to see if she looked at him the way she had once looked at me. I had held everything together for an entire week just to make it to tonight.  

And I saw nothing. Nothing on their part slipped.  

Why?   

Why had it happened?  

I wanted to ask but was terrified of the answer. There was no justification, but surely there had been a reason. What was it?  

Would she even tell me?  

Cheryl was staring out the window now, so my eyes moved from the road to the platinum ring around my finger that reflected in the streetlights as we drove past them.  

Where did I go from here? What did I do? How was I going to explain this to everyone? What would happen to her? Did I care? Should I?  

I didn’t know what to feel, nor did I even know what I wanted to feel.  

A single hot tear slipped out my left eye, but I carefully exhaled and clenched my jaw, determined that no more should escape.  

“So…” My voice didn’t crack. That gave me the strength I needed to continue. “The next game night is supposed to be at my house. When do you think we should tell them it’s cancelled?” 


Photo by Thilak Lees

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Just Another Nurse

Just Another Nurse


I like being with other people, even if I’m not actually with someone. I like to watch people. In a way, it makes me feel like I’m part of their lives. It’s probably a stupid feeling, but it makes me feel important. I am desperate to feel that way sometimes. 

Yesterday Jules told me to stop dating that married doctor, but I hadn’t known he was married. It would make sense why he bothered paying for all those hotel rooms, and never took me home with him, and never stayed the night.  

He didn’t believe me when I told him that I liked sleeping in my car, curled up on my side with a blanket and the seat all the way back like someone was holding me cradled against their chest. He said he wanted me to have a place to go because he felt bad for me sleeping in my car. Once booking my hotel, he always offered to stay with me. Just for a little while. All the signs were obvious, but the aching in my leaden bones was able to drown out all the whispers in my head.  

Brenda said I should keep dating him and tell him to pay off my student loans. 

I tried to call my mom. Twice. Her and my dad are traveling up north in their motorhome after losing their house in the protests. She says they don’t have service very often. It makes sense, and I know she’ll call me back sometime this week.  

I’ve never much liked working twelve-hour shifts. I like it even less now that I have to spend my time bathing people, mopping up accidents, and arguing with addicts about their pain med schedule. I’m just thankful they hired Cathy as my CNA. Without her, I could never survive having twelve patients. That’s double our limit, but the union disbanded. There’s no one checking to make sure they give us masks daily, or to make sure we’re not short-staffed.  

Jules is too scared to explain she has shingles because of what happened to Sarah. Sarah was pregnant and refused to work with patients who had the virus, so they let her go. It was in the name of protecting her health, and they even wrote up a report saying the hospital didn’t need her despite the incoming hordes of patients. 

I close my eyes, and the music washes over me. I don’t know what song this is, and I don’t care. Megan, Jules, and Brenda brought me here. They want to buy me drinks, but I don’t drink. They want me to dance, but I don’t dance. I just want to sit amidst the movement, and watch people, and live out a tiny piece of their lives as the lights flash, and pictures are taken, and videos are made.  

My friends are okay with that because I’m their safe ride home.  

I scroll through my phone, so the man three seats down who keeps glancing at me will think I’m busy and won’t try to talk to me.  

A text comes through from my sister. I had tried to call her five minutes earlier when I was sure the man would slide into the stool next to mine. Instead of returning my call, she texted, Why did you call? I stare at the words lit up on my screen until the notification disappears.  

Yesterday morning I asked the doctor if he was married, and he acted a bit strange. Said he was in the middle of a divorce.  

I went to the bathroom and vomited, then I blocked his number.  

Lunch today had a little buffet because Stanley brought sandwiches, Brenda brought cheese and crackers, Jules brought potato salad, and I brought baked beans. All store bought. We sat spaced out across the nurse’s station. It’s outlawed, especially thanks to the virus, but management wasn’t around.  

We piled the food on paper plates and ate in silence for the first ten minutes before Jeremy told a story of how the old man thought he could bandage one of the patients himself. He used a handful of cotton balls with not even enough wrap to go around the patient’s stomach. Jeremy said it looked like a murder scene with blood squirting out every time the patient moved. We all laughed and shared stories of having the old man‘s patients and how he was so nice but really needed to retire because his practices were as outdated as the days of Regan’s presidency. Megan showed up late with cupcakes for dessert.  

The musician sounds like he has a trace of an accent. I examine his shadowed appearance and try to decide where he’s from and how old he must be.   

Megan is attempting to dance with a dark-haired man. I overhear her giggling over how she hates orthopedics, or orthos as we call them, because they don’t know about anything other than cutting open a knee and tying some ligaments back together. She’s probably had too much to drink because she only talks about work, and a lot of times, it’s enough to make even the most desperate guys squeamish.   

After I blocked the doctor, he showed up that night, tapping on my passenger window. I should’ve parked somewhere else, and I knew that before I pulled in to the parking spot. He said that even if I hated him, he still felt too bad to let me sleep in my car because I am very special to him. In his hand was a bag with sub sandwiches. Dinner. He rode with me to the hotel, and I knew where it was going before he invited himself inside to use the bathroom. Curled up against the cold leather of my suburban doesn’t compare to someone who can hold you close and whisper lies that you are desperate to hear.   

Part of me felt sick, but I brushed it off as having donated plasma that morning. That $50 goes a long way for groceries. 

I will probably stay at Jules’s house tonight. It is the quietest since her divorce, and she has that spare room from where her kids are grown and gone. They all take turns dragging me over to their houses, but I really don’t think the parking garage is that dangerous. I park next to the wall and out of the light where no one can see me huddled under my blanket.  

My old landlady’s name was Jessie. I had just finished working four days in a row, and was a bit delirious when she tried to talk to me about raised rent prices. Sometimes, there’s a buzzing in my brain that dulls everything I hear and mixes up everything I try to say. It’s the same buzz I hear when patients or their families scream at me, and I can’t explain that I have eleven other patients, the doctors won’t answer the phone, and my CNA is hiding in the bathroom with a migraine. So, I just smile, and nod, and process their words as best I can. I do the same with Jessie and never burden her with the knowledge that the new prices mean choosing between my apartment and making my student loan payments.  

Most of my things went in storage. I only need two more months before I can request lower monthly payments. If they don’t raise taxes, I can afford to move back. In the meantime, the hospital has showers, a relatively safe parking garage, several friends with spare couches, and an adulterous doctor.  

The head ortho at our hospital is named Wilkins. Today I shadowed him to take orders. He was training a new doctor who actually had the guts to interrupt him mid-sentence, asking if he should help me first. There was probably a lot that I needed to do. The nurses seemed short-staffed. I probably needed to check on a patient or something. Anything other than follow them around. 

Wilkins laughed. He explained to the new doctor that this was my job. You see, nurses are like dornicks, little rocks used to prop doors open that you never notice or appreciate until there isn’t one around. That’s why he always likes to keep nurses around. 

The new doctor stared at him, stunned. Wilkins glanced at me, as if waiting for me to agree, then explained how when one nurse isn’t around, another can jump in and take over. Like little worker ants that just keep going, and going, and always find a way. So, I didn’t have anywhere that I absolutely had to be. 

I said nothing and walked away.  

The guitar solo washes over the crowd, and everyone sways in the same direction. Brenda grabs my arm and pulls me up, just as the man several seats down stands. He stares after us. We go to the mostly empty floor, and I empty my mind to join her in this awkward, embarrassing dance that makes us both laugh until tears blur my vision. Jules and Megan join us. I have to work tomorrow, but tonight, I don’t have to be a dornick, or a worker ant, or a mistress. I’m not even desperate to feel important.


Photo by Mick Haupt 
Story inspired by my sister, an RN, and her coworkers and friends.

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