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Archive for the ‘Horror Flash Fiction (1,000 words and less)’ Category

20115

 

The realtor enters first, staring in fascination at the outdated furniture and décor.  The air feels heavy with dust and it tickles the back of his throat.

Awkwardly, he remembers and steps aside to let the other man in.

The buyer steps inside after the realtor and, like him, stops to take it all in.  He scans the room, absorbing the old furniture, the layer of dust covering everything like a shroud. The dust in the air is heavy and gives his throat a dry tickle that makes him want to cough.

With a distracted nod to the realtor, he steps further into the house, feeling a momentary pang of regret for not taking his shoes off. “You are supposed to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home,” he thinks.  He looks around taking it all in.

“It’s eerie how the house feels like the family just left it moments ago, like they are about to come back at any time.  The house looks lived in, except for the thirty years of dust coating everything and the vague feeling of abandonment.”

The mostly green cover of a comic book left laying open on the floor catches his eye.  He picks up the comic book and looks at it, trying not to disturb too much of the dust clinging to it.  It’s unavoidable, his fingers rub smudges in the dust coating the old comic book.  The Thing, an orange blocky comic book creation made of stone, part monster and all hero.  On the cover, The Thing appears to be battling a many-armed green wall, the green arms surrounding him in a barrage of punching fists.  Marvel Comics, The Thing issue #21 dated March 1985.  The price on it is sixty cents.

The top front corner is curled from a boy’s rough handling.

He puts it down with a frown, wondering if it’s worth anything on the collectors’ market.  He can’t take it, though.  It belongs to the municipality, along with the property and its contents.  At least until after the auction.  He hopes the realtor didn’t notice it.

“How often do realtors scoop up gems like this without anyone ever knowing?” he wonders.

Against the wall on a stand, a tube T.V. with its faux wood exterior box, two front dials, and bent rabbit ears poking up from the top at the back, sits darkly silent, a haze of dust coating every surface.

He walks through the house, past a pair of socks discarded on the floor, and into the kitchen.

“Did you say they still lived here after the boys vanished?” he called to the realtor in the other room.

The realtor is studying the spines of books in a bookcase on one wall.  It’s made of the old particleboard that expands and crumbles when it absorbs moisture, which it inevitably does over time.  The shelves have some warping and bubbling, crumbled on some edges.

“Yes, I don’t know how long.  They lived here while the search for the boys was going, and for some time after the search was given up.”

“And the husband moved out, leaving the mother alone?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Months? Years? They locked the place when they took her away. Like I said, we’re the first to set foot in the house since they institutionalized her.”

He leaves the bookshelf and starts for the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the buyer walks around, taking in the two tea towels carefully hung on the oven door handle, yellowed and rotting with age.  The teakettle on the stovetop. On the countertop, a measuring cup sits next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Two bags he guesses are flour and sugar bags sit next them. The bags are faded and stained with age, the paper brittle with age, and even the larger print words hard to read.

“Looks like someone was going to make a cake.”

He turns away, circling the table, studying the place settings set with care.

An old tan rotary dial phone hangs on the wall not far from the kitchen table, where the person on the phone can sit down at the table while they talk, the coiled cord stretched from them to the phone on the wall.

The realtor walks in and looks around, his footprints in the dust coating the kitchen floor joining those following the buyer’s trail across the room.  “Weird, the table is set for four.”

“For her family.” It is said with a dull gravity that makes the realtor turn and stare at him.

He breaks the awkward moment.

“I’ll show you the bedrooms.  There’s three bedrooms, I think.”

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11985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

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20115

 

The key jams in the lock, not wanting to go in.

The realtor looks at him nervously and smiles.

“It’ll go in.  The key works.”  His grimace gives face to the lie.  He isn’t so sure it will work.

He fiddles and struggles with the key for too long before the rusting lock mechanism finally unwillingly gives and allows them access.

His smile is almost sickly with relief.

He turns to the prospective buyer, hoping yet again that this is not a big waste of his time.  His commission is going to depend on how much the house actually sells for.  It’s not the usual commission deal.  He is getting more than the average commission percentage, an unusual agreement made with the municipal office that wants only to unload the property and get it off their books, doubtful anyone will bother to bid on it.

This guy is the only person who has shown an interest.  He could bid a dollar, the lowest bid allowed, and walk away with the property for nothing, less than the price of a cup of coffee.

He tries the door, hoping it opens easily.  A warped door can turn off a buyer before they see anything else.

The door sticks in the frame and, after he puts some weight into it, gives with the dull sound of two pieces of swollen wood pressed against each other giving up the fight to hold together.

They enter the house and step back thirty years in time.

 

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The Woods-3.jpg“What is that?” Jesse looks around, alarmed.

Kevin is busy inspecting the object in his hand.  It is rounded with the mud and rotting leaves stuck to it.  He can’t tell what it is.

“Probably a squirrel.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse can’t stop looking around.  He feels off.  Something is wrong.

“Kevin,” he hesitates.

“What?”

“It doesn’t look right.”

“What doesn’t look right?”

“Everything.  It’s… off.  The color is off.”

Kevin looks at him.  “You are a goof.”

Jesse’s wide frightened eyes make him pause.  He looks around them.  Jesse is right.  His heart beats faster and his chest feels tight.  Everything looks a little off.  The color.  The light.  But it’s more than that.  Something he doesn’t know how to describe.  It’s just … off.

Slowly, he bends down and puts the unknown object back down, wanting to free his hands.

He stands up and looks around again.

“Now he’s got my mind playing tricks,” he thinks.  There is nothing strange at all about anything.  Everything looks exactly like it should.  Exactly like before.

“It’s nothing,” Kevin says. “You really are a goof.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Everything’s normal to me.”

Jesse looks like he’s ready to bolt.

“Go run home scaredie-pants,” Kevin sneers.  He turns his attention back to the strange item at the base of the stump.

Jesse backs away, moving back towards their yard.

Kevin bends over and picks it up.  He stands up and looks around.  He feels off.

Jesse is moving away and Kevin doesn’t want to admit he’s afraid to be alone in the woods.  He pockets his treasure and chases after Jesse.

They reach the yard and stop.  They both look around.

It all looks a bit … odd.

The color is off just a bit.  It all feels a bit odd.  Out of sync maybe.

The house is not large, a lower middle-income home, all but the windowsills and doors was repainted last year.  The paint of the windowsills is cracking and starting to peel.  A job their father has not yet gotten to.

The lawn, mowed only three days prior, is only just starting to show the sprout of faster growing grass blades reaching over the others, although the dandelions have already popped their heads up, flashing their yellow flowers to the sky like round smiles.  A bicycle lays discarded on the lawn and a swing set stands on one side of the yard waiting to be used.

It all seems a bit dulled, muted, a bit off color.  Like a television set that someone has buggered with the color settings on.

Jesse broke first, running for the house.

He falters, not watching and almost tripping on the bike laying discarded on the grass. Recovering, he keeps going.

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The Woods 2-Thirty Years Later.jpg

Two men are standing in the backyard of a small rundown house in an older middle-class neighborhood. One, wearing a cheap suit and shoes not suited to traipsing through grass, is looking at the house with a mix of uncertainty and mild remorse.  He had hoped the house would be in better shape.  The other, in jeans, shirt, and runners, is studying the trees and bushes bordering the back property line.

“I heard a couple of boys vanished in these woods years ago.” He doesn’t turn around to look at the man in the suit, his attention fixed on the trees.

“It’s a local legend.  Brothers, Kevin and Jesse. They were playing in their yard and vanished.”  The man in the suit turns around to look at the trees too.

“This yard?  They lived in this house?”  The man in jeans looks around at the leafy jumble of trees bordering the yard and stretching out past the neighboring yards.  You can’t see through them or tell how far they go.

“Yes.  To be honest, I was going to leave that bit of background out.  It’s not exactly a selling point.”

“How does anyone know they went in the woods?”

“They found one of the boys’ shoes next to an old tree stump.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.  No other sign of the boys was ever found.”

“And the house?”

“Abandoned.  Left to rot.”

“The family just left it?”

“The boys’ mother went crazy, I heard.  The husband wanted to sell the house and move, get away from the memories I guess.  She refused to sell.  She kept insisting the boys were still here. From what I heard she was obsessed with keeping the house exactly the way it was the day they vanished too.”

“Crazy.”

“Yeah, crazy.”

“So, the house is selling pretty cheap.  It wasn’t looked after?”

“The husband left both her and the house.  Walked away and never looked back.  She stayed in the house for a while, until she was committed.  As far as I know, no one has set foot in the house since.  It’s going to be in pretty rough shape.”

“You make one hell of a real estate agent, you know that, right?”

“Ha-ha, yeah, I guess I do.”

“Can I take a look inside?”

“Sure, let’s go.  I have to warn you, this will be the first time anyone has set foot inside that house in thirty years.  I don’t know what we’ll find.”

The house is an average lower middle-class family home.  Smallish, but not quite as small as the low-income homes across the way.  The windows are hazy with the grime of thirty years of neglect and the paint long ago cracked and much of it worn away by the weather.  The windowsills sag with rot, half eaten by time. The shingles are cracking and peeling up and back on themselves like over-cooked sliced potatoes, browned rather than charred and entirely inedible.  The long grass of the yard had recently been clumsily hacked down, hastily driven over by a municipal riding mower, the charge tacked onto the growing bill of unpaid municipal fees owed, including property taxes and the other inevitable costs of home ownership.  It is one of the unasked for services visited on negligent homeowners.

It is these unpaid fees which are the reason the home is for sale now.  The bank had tried to foreclose on the unpaid mortgage almost thirty years ago, only to find themselves tied up in legal purgatory pitted against the municipality trying to seize the home for unpaid taxes.

Lacking much interest on both sides, the issue dragged out and dragged on, court proceedings repeatedly pushed back, and finally slipped through the cracks of forgotten paperwork.  Until, close to thirty years later, when a bored clerk cleaning out the desk of a deceased co-worker took pause to read a page of paper among the stacks being shoved into the shredding bin, and accidentally stumbled on the outstanding unfinished business of this house.

The long forgotten house by the woods.

The bank had long ago written it off, a small piece of millions in bad debts, and the municipal office was granted free title without being aware of it.

Now the house is up for auction to collect the unpaid property taxes and municipal fees owed.

With most of the records from thirty years ago gone, and no one keeping track of this forgotten property, the best anyone could piece together and confirm owed on the property is the cost of the most recent grass cuttings.  The whopping price of fifty-six dollars.  Less than the price of a song and a dance. They don’t know when the taxes stopped being paid. Any taxes owed are moot. Nearly thirty years of taxes adds up to more than the run down property is likely worth, and ownership by the owners was given up long ago.

The place is a steal.

And in this condition, its value is in the land it sits on.  Any buyer would tear the house down and rebuild.

They reach the door and the realtor fumbles with the key safe looped around the doorknob, trying to remember the combination to open it.  It’s a rectangular box-shaped device locked over the skinny part of the knob like a padlock, housing the key to the door.

Finally, he opens it and releases its treasure, a worn looking house key with the color rubbing off and marred with bits of rust in the teeth.

 

*** Watch for the full-length novel ***

 

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The Woods

This story was first published in 2009.  It has been tweeked and improved for your reading pleasure.  Watch for a longer short story version to come.  The story has just begun.  Read on…

 

The Woods – a flash fiction story by L.V. Gaudet

 

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow lies heavy and wet, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees, a small rabbit nervously twitching its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” said the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stared stone faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallowed.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that ole’ stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but certainly is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hiked up his pants, which did not need it, and stepped forward on a mission. He marched purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly followed his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampered up to the high branches as they passed, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin had dared his younger brother to venture to. It is no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asked nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.”

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

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The Woods

By L. V. Gaudet

© February 2009

 

 

                It was an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked bark.  They clustered together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.  The land here lay low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees, stick-like saplings, and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

                These were far from a silent stand of woods.  A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some stretches abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds.  Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, was also nestled a small happy community.  The woods teamed with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds.  With the damp ground, they were a haven also for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever present blood sucking mosquitoes.

                It was a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest.  It had grown from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests.  The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.  Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

                Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still held secrets.  Some of these secrets were perhaps best left that way.

#

                The woods sat silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that looked like they belonged in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead.  The clouds hung heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

                The snow lay heavy and wet, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warmed.  In time, the snow would vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that would take a few months to dry up.

                Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures were conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day.  Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flitted about the skeletal trees, a small rabbit nervously twitching its nose as it sat motionlessly waiting.

                Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dared each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

                “I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” said the older and taller of the two boys.

                The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stared stone faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods.  He was not going to let his brother know how scared he was.  He could already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he had never been near enough to it to catch its odor.  It smelled in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker.  He watched a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screamed must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods.  He swallowed.

                “Can too,” the younger boy said, his voice cracking with fear.  “I bet you can’t go stand on that ole’ stump,” he countered.

                The old stump was a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that had long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods.  The stump remained, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tried to climb it and fell.  Its wood now was soft and crumbly with rot, its sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

                Kevin “humphed” at his younger brother.  He was just as scared, but certainly was not going to let his little brother know that.  He nervously hiked up his pants, which did not need it, and stepped forward on a mission.  He marched purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he would not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

                With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly followed his older brother.

                The little red squirrel scampered up to the high branches as they passed, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

                They reached the first point, the fallen tree Kevin had dared his younger brother to venture to.  It was no victory for either boy.  On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continued on.  He crawled over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight.  His forward march slowed more the closer he came to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

                Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse followed.  As he drew near the old stump where his brother had stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he noticed something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

                “What’s that?”  Jesse asked nervously.

                The boys would never be seen again.

 

 

***********************************

 

 

Bookmark The Woods by L.V. Gaudet (Horror Flash Fiction)

 

 

The Woods – published Feb 15/09  at Patchwork, an online horror e-zine bringing attention to domestic abuse through the horror genre.

http://www.patchworkproject.com/lvgaudet.html

  

 

 

 

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