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sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
Or even if you don’t do poetry, come join anyway!

Also I’ll jump in on this one. Coffee


sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
I forget, is going over the limit a bit acceptable? Like fewer than 70 words?

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Djeser posted:

You might get away with it if the judges don't notice.

Welp, poo poo.

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
Heuristic Inaptitude
1298 words

Dave crumpled the note and let it drop onto the glass covering his living room carpet. It wasn’t the first note promising violence, but this was the first brick to come through his window. Pinning down a culprit would be difficult; everyone knew it was his fault from the news reports. The day before a grim, weathered man from Mexico had stood on Dave’s doorstep and screamed in Spanish until Dave had to close the door in his face.

He didn’t bother cleaning up the glass. He flopped onto the couch, staring into the middle distance. He knew he should eat something, but his wife usually made dinner and NASA hadn’t been forthcoming with when she’d be back from the ISS. Dave continued to sit as the light failed and the house grew dark.


A month earlier Dave was being harangued by his wife, Margret, about the length of their lawn.

“Dave, I told you to mow it every day last week! The HOA is going to fine us twenty bucks a day until it’s cut! Will you just do this one thing? Please? For me?”

Dave rolled his eyes and waved her off. As Margret’s mouth dropped open, he made a quick exit into the back yard. He was sick of hearing about the grass, about the HOA, and he was sure Margret was exaggerating the fines. Still, mowing would at least keep him out of the house and hopefully give Margret time to chill out.
He got the mower out of the shed and tried to get it started. Dave hadn’t kept up with the maintenance, and so it took quite a few pulls before the mower banged into life. One of the things Dave hated most about his day-to-day life was crap like this: the endless monotony, whether it was dishes, or the lawn, or laundry, or work, or whatever. He knew he’d spend the next thirty minutes or so mechanically moving the mower up and down his back lawn and he was already bored.


The mower clunked heavily and shuddered to a stop. He’d run over a huge rock. Dave muttered a curse and flipped the mower to reveal not a rock, but a chunk of metal. It was essentially a chrome baseball, covered with spikes. It appeared to have some sort of booklet strapped to it with a rubber band. Dave reached down to pick the sphere up and cut his hand. Swearing further, Dave stuck the wounded finger in his mouth and gingerly grabbed the object with his other hand.

The booklet was glossy, like an advertisement you’d get in the mail. It had a picture of the ball on the front, proclaiming “Now Available! The ORB OF IMPRACTICALITY! Wishes granted!” Dave looked around, wondering how the thing came to end up in his yard. He knew there was a footpath behind his back fence, in between his house and his neighbor’s; it was possible someone had just tossed it over, but why would they do that?

Dave left the mower on its side and flipped open the booklet. It was three pages and listed out instructions.


Each step was accompanied by a little cartoon. Dave chuckled at the silliness of it. It was just some novelty junk. He cradled the Orb, wondering what he’d wish for if it was actually real.

“I wish I was a millionaire!”

When nothing happened, Dave scoffed. He turned to go show the Orb to Margret and crashed into a mound of rock the size of a sedan, jutting up from the center of his lawn.

“What in the hell…?”

The rock was granite and shot through with what seemed to be silver. As Dave would later find out with help from surveyors and a geologist from the nearby college, it wasn’t silver, it was platinum. Dave was standing on the largest contiguous platinum deposit ever discovered in North America. The geologist smiled when Dave asked how much she thought it was worth.

“Oh, you’re rich, but I have no idea how you’re going to get it out of the ground. This thing is big enough to stretch across most of the neighborhood. You’d have to rip everything up. Besides, I’m not even sure what the laws would say about mining a suburban neighborhood.”


Dave continued to use the Orb over the next few weeks. His wish for a lottery win was granted, but when he looked at the ticket that had appeared on his nightstand, he found it was for $10,000 and he’d have to fly to the UK to collect. When he wished for a latte from Starbucks, he woke up the next day to find out that his neighbor’s home had been razed and a Starbucks had gone up in its place. It might have been a case where the Starbucks was just the new normal and no one remembered the past, but the truth was everyone did remember, especially his neighbors. They were pissed and confused. Dave kept quiet about his involvement.

After several more failures, thankfully on a much smaller scale, he vowed to Margret he’d stop using the Orb. Besides, every time he used it, he ended up cutting his hands, causing him to fume.

“Why did the guys who made this think spikes were a good idea?”


The Starbucks had built a drive-through (or one had just appeared, Dave wasn’t sure) and traffic was clogging the local streets. Margret had been late for work four days in a row and threatened to leave him if he didn’t toss the Orb out. Dave, who had been just about to wish for a solution to the traffic problem, wished instead for Margret to just give him some space. Margret disappeared.

The call from NASA’s Director came through a few hours later, wondering just how Margret came to be on their space station. Dave told them he didn’t have any answers.

“Your wife said you might.”


He didn’t know who started the rumor that the Starbucks was his fault, but Dave was getting calls at all hours complaining about it. He had taken leave from work just to get some rest. He was sitting on the couch, watching TV and holding the Orb. There had to be a solution to all this if he could just think! When his phone rang, he picked up, hoping it was Margret, and was instead berated by one of his neighbors about their driveway being blocked. Dave hung up.

He put one finger on his temple, rubbing in an attempt to banish his growing headache.

“God, I wish coffee just didn’t even loving exist!”

It took him a beat to realize what he’d done. With growing horror, Dave looked down at the Orb in his lap. He wished again to bring coffee back, but soon the shouts of angry customers next door came through his windows. Dave dropped the Orb and scrambled into the kitchen, where he rifled through the junk drawer for the booklet.

Dave’s wish had wiped the coffee plant in all its forms from the face of the earth. When people realized they couldn’t get their coffee fix, were out of jobs, or in the case of coffee farmers found that they were without a source of livelihood, a large chunk of the world’s population melted down. In the kitchen, Dave sweated over the Orb’s instructions. Within the fine print on the back cover, he found a line of text that sent him reeling for the sink where he deposited his lunch from earlier that day.

“Warning! The ORB OF IMPRACTICALITY comes equipped with ten wishes only. THINK CAREFULLY!”

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
This is why I stopped participating in these. I can’t write stories for poo poo. At least it’ll give me a chance to fix the spelling of “Gekko” in my avatar :(

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Antivehicular posted:

The secret of TD is that the only way to get better at writing is to keep writing, so keep it up!

I know, it’s the same as any other skill :( I’m too sensitive about it. I guess if I leave the avatar on I have nothing to lose for the next contest.

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
In please

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
992 words
The Nerd must’ve been gutshot, seein’ he had time to crawl over and bleed out all over the box. Cowboy there’s got a bullet hole where his left eye should be. One of the Suits was a helluva shot. Crime scene geeks are gonna have to figure out which. Can’t be sure of who nailed the pastor, either.

“This is a lotta drat blood, are the lab people comin’?” Sheriff Jacob Johnson – JJ to his friends – wrinkled his nose at the coppery smell. His deputy, Pete, was checking the bodies for ID.

God, I’m sweatin’ like a pig in this heat. Fuckin’ crime scenes.

“I made the call. They’ll be here in twenty.”

Fuckin’ crime scenes in churches at the rear end-end of nowhere.

JJ glanced at the bodies sprawled across the stage. Seen poo poo like this before, with those Cartel assholes. A drug deal gone bad, most like.

“Look in that box yet?”

“No sir, didn’t want to move him before the lab guys got here.” Smart.

Using a pen, JJ shifted coke-bottle glasses off the Nerd’s face.

Don’t recognize him. Probably from Austin. None of these dicks look local, ‘cept for the pastor. Pastor likely wasn’t involved, though. Poor bastard got shot in the back trying to run out his own church.

“Got anything, boss?”

“Naw. Best guess, Cowboy’s protectin’ the Nerd, with the Suits on the other side.”

The sheriff moved around the room, gesturing over each pair. “Cowboy must’ve been a learned draw, seein’ how Nerd over there don’t have a gun and both of these Suits got plugged.”

Maybe one of ‘em got distracted by the pastor comin’ in. Could be what set the whole drat mess off.

Pete lifted a shiny shield from Cowboy’s pants pocket. “Uh, boss…?”

A fuckin’ cop? A single bushy eyebrow rocketed up over JJ’s eye. “Deputy, you best figure out who Cowboy is right quick.”

Pete nodded and called it in. JJ turned to investigated the box. Despite the carnage, the box stood out the most. His probing foot jostled it. It felt heavy. Besides all the blood, it doesn’t look anything special. Just a box. Inside’s what counts, I suppose. The briefcase on the other side of the room probably has some interestin’ insides too. Small bills, I bet. Unmarked.

“Gotta be drugs.”

“What’s that, JJ?”

“I said drugs. I’m of a mind to open that box.”

“Nothing stopping you. Crime guys will be here in a few. Marlene is getting me that cop’s name.”


Bending at the waist, trying not to let his gut get too jammed up, JJ used his pen to push the Nerd’s arm off the box’s top. He put a single fingertip under the edge of the box’s lid and lifted, peering inside. More wood.

“Is it drugs?”

“No, looks like another box.”

“Not drugs?”

“Nope, just more box.”

JJ heard the crunch of tires on gravel outside and stood, sighing audibly. Finally, I can get the hell out of this fuckin’ church.

“Pete, you finish up here with the geeks. I’m goin’ out for some grub. Get that box set on my desk when you go back to the station.”

“You got it, JJ.”


“You ready?”

“For sure, boss. I’ve never seen anything like this! It’s like that movie where John Travolta’s a hitman…” Pete chattered onward, but JJ paid him no mind.

Let him be excited. It’s just gonna be some drugs anyway: cocaine, or maybe heroin.

The Nerd turned out to be Samuel Wiscott, UT professor. The badge identified Cowboy as Tim Hadley, detective with the Austin PD. Dumbass professor dealin’, with off-duty muscle for protection. No IDs on the Suits, but that ain’t a surprise.

The lid opened easily, and JJ saw that he had been right; a second, slightly smaller box sat inside. It looked just like first. The purchase was slight, but he managed to slip the second box out and set it on a nearby chair.

The second box opened to reveal a third, and the third opened to show a fourth. Pete let out a donkey laugh, but JJ’s face pulled into a tight grimace. Ah, poo poo. Getting’ complicated, now. Once Box Four was out, though, he didn’t move to open it. The fourth box was bigger than the second. The gently caress is this? JJ held it close, eyeballing the dimensions. The third box was also bigger than the second. Not a lot bigger, but bigger. He put the fourth box back and as it collapsed slightly to slide into the third he felt his grip on reality skitter like a knifepoint sliding on glass.

A fat bead of sweat dripped into JJ’s eye and a familiar sense of self-preservation kicked on. The instinct that kept the sheriff alive through years of traffic stops and arrests now poured a quart of adrenaline into his blood and send his gun hand reflexively twitching toward his holster. His mind telescoped into the future. Will I just keep pullin’ ‘em out until I die? Fuckin’ boxes all the way down? The lizard part of his brain squirmed suddenly. What if there IS a box at the very end? What do you think’s in it?!

The deputy looked at his mentor expectantly.

“Pete, what’d you say that professor did, again?”

“Physics, it said.”

The sheriff sat heavily into an unused chair.

“Put all this poo poo back, Pete.”

“What are you talking about?! We’re not going to keep going? We didn’t find the drugs!”

“There ain’t no drugs. It’s just some science project.” Don’t ask any more questions, Pete. Just let it lie.

Pete huffed. “Well, what are we going to do? Call the college?”

“You don’t worry about that.” I’ll worry. I’m gonna worry this sumbitch right to the bottom of a deep lake. Assumin’ nobody comes to shoot us for it first. “You just go make sure that briefcase is logged into evidence proper and I’ll take care of this box.”

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
In please

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Entenzahn posted:

I will do this with up to three people

I’m game

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Entenzahn posted:

Thunderdome presents: Two Guys and a Pencil, a play by Entenzahn
989 words

“Huh,” Barry said.

“What?” Tom said.

“That’s it?” Barry said.

“Yeah.” Tom said.

You don't need this dialogue. Start with the next line.

The pencil was as standard as they come. It was thin. Brown. Pointy black end. Wood outside. Lead inside. It was a pencil. It was lame.

“That’s lame,” Barry said.

“Well,” Tom said, “that’s what I thought too, at first, but, you see, there is a trick to it.” This line reads weird. Like it's got bad mouth feel. There's just a lot of commas and "there is a trick to it" after a bunch of contractions seems oddly formal.

“Like what?”

“You can’t do anything with it.”


“No, I mean like, try to pick it up.”

Barry was not a very high-maintenance friend, but when Tom had told him of a great hidden treasure in his “spooky inherited turbo mansion”, he had expected something a little more, extravagante. This felt like the setup to a lovely Youtube prank. But alas, Barry came from a military family and following orders gave him a comfortable sensation of familiarity that sheltered him from man’s implicit obligation to question existence and/or the fabric of society. He went down on one knee. He reached for the pencil to pick it up. I'm on board with the zaniness at this point. You've done a great job giving it a very flippant, jokey feel.

But then he didn’t.


“I know, right?”

“What the gently caress.”

“I KNOW, right?”

He looked at his hand, dumbfounded. His five meaty hand tentacles looked back at him, equally confused. They had done everything their master had told them to. And yet, the pencil was missing from betwixt them. Ok, too zany. "Meat tentacles" and "betwixt" feels like you're trying way too hard to push the silliness.

“Hey,” Tom said, “is this a good time to mention that this room was boarded up when I found it?”

Barry ignored him. He tried to pick up the pencil again. But then he didn't.

“There was a note, too. I think. It may be cursed? I was pretty high.”

“How is it doing this?” Barry said.

“I dunno.” Tom shrugged. “Lying there.”

This wouldn’t stand. Barry had resolved to picking up the pencil now. No vaguely-defined metaphysical anomaly would keep him from fulfilling his new short-term destiny. This pencil would get interacted with.

“Let me try something.” Barry unfolded a dollar bill from his pockets and slid it under the pencil. Except he didn’t do that. He didn't punt the pencil across the room in frustration. Then, in a flash of brilliance, he decided to actively not-pick-up the pencil, which he did just fine.


"The devil's pencil," Tom said, nodding. These last three lines were solid. The interrupted curse made me laugh.

Barry didn’t give up there. In fact, the experiments went on for longer than either of them would eventually care to admit in front of their grand-children when they’d tell the exciting story of how they once tried to move a pencil around that one day.

“Okay,” Tom finally said. He crossed off attempt #114 in his notepad. “Surprise attack: complete failure. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn’t watching us.”


“And sorry again about the noodle thing.”

“Just…” Barry held up his hands. He never wanted to think of #46 again. It had been an affront to God.


There was silence between them. Silence, and a pencil. Silence, a pencil, and stale, musty air ripe with the exhausted breaths from one-hundred-and-fourteen failures. Come to think of it, maybe there were even more things between them, but let’s move on for now. It was ten in the evening. Time flies when you’re having fun.

“I should probably head home,” Barry said.


He looked at his phone. Fifteen messages. He’d missed dinner. Just now he realized that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. This was solid. The turn from silliness to weird dread was effective

“Maybe,” Barry said, “if we saw out the ground from around the pen, and then lift the piece of floorboard, we can carry it around that way.” Again, really awkward dialogue here. "Saw out the ground" feels like I'm not parsing it correctly.

Tom looked at him, weighing the pros and cons, maybe, or maybe asking himself which particular decisions in his life led him to this situation. You are, after all, the Willy of your own chili. “Okay,” he said.

There were no outlets in the room and Tom was too useless to own an extension cord, so Barry found himself sawing into the ground with a handsaw like a caveman. Truly, these were dark times, but them’s the breaks, especially after sundown. For some reason Barry had imagined to cut a square hole around the pencil and then realized that a circle was easier, so now the hole was starting to look like an oval where the first corner of the square would have been.

Now the day had been long and fruitless, and Barry was pretty loving tired. In fact, you might say his stubbornness started to give way for a yearning for nourishment and recuperation. With each thrusting motion, he felt a little stupider. He could feel Tom hovering behind him as well, restlessly pacing up and down at first until the steps were punctuated by a silent thud, and then, nothing. Tom had sat down. Finally, Barry stopped sawing halfway through.

“You know what,” Barry said. “This is stupid. It’s a pencil. I don’t care. Why are we sawing your house in half?” This whole bit about the sawing is not funny or useful to the story. I understand you're using it to transition into the next bit, but I think you need to find another way to do it. It feels like it's been light and snappy and it bogs the hell down here

“Maybe,” Tom said “maybe you’re right.” He stopped to think, which, as Barry had learned by now, was bad. ”Or maybe… that’s the pencil talking.”

Barry looked at the pencil. Then back at Tom. “I don’t care.”

“Alright,” Tom said, “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s forget about the pen.” Pen? Did you mean pencil? If this was a plot point or intentional, I don't get it.

But then they didn’t.

They looked at each other, helpless like two children in front of a tsunami. And they realized: they wouldn't do jack to this pencil. They would never forget about it either. They couldn’t. Never ever. They would spend the rest of their days in this empty room, if not in person then in spirit. This pencil was their life now and that’s how it was. Just two monkeys trying to make fire by smashing rocks together. And maybe, as their shells slowly withered away, and their minds faded to memories of failure after failure after failure, that it would teach them not to open up barred doors and look at cursed treasures like naughty little boys when they were being told to stay the gently caress away.

Or hey. Maybe it wouldn’t.

I did not like this on my first read. I thought it was stupid. But on subsequent read-throughs, it grew on me. I think you do a good job of establishing the silliness early, and then the late transition into dread was super effective. You've got a lot of fluff dialogue here, and some of it really bloats the story. Some people might want more details about the pencil or backstory or whatever, but I think your piece works much better as a streamlined, shorter piece. I didn't need anymore details than you gave me. The whole "haunted mansion" flippant comment could benefit from getting fleshed out a little more, however. I a bit conflicted on it. On the one hand, it is pretty silly and presented as is lends to the silliness, but on the other hand it might be fun to have more details like previous owners, etc.

The weakest part of the story (besides the title, obviously, it was terrible) was the sawing bit. I see that you were using it to transition into the next part of the story, but I actually got a little bored with those three sentences. I'm not sure what you'd consider doing differently, but I'm wondering if you even need it. You could just go straight to Barry having had enough and wanting to quit. Other sections that need more help are the bit about the noodles/"affront to god". I like the idea, but the execution was weak.

Overall you've got a silly/dread-inspiring story. I enjoyed it, but think it could benefit from being shorter, with less filler dialogue.

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
Tribal Council
936 words

The comments susurrated around the fire, nearly drowning out the surf from the night ocean crashing on the rocks below. The old man, BluesFan1995, stood before them, the wizening of his years evident in his missing teeth and the crags on his face. The golden Admin medallion swung heavy around his emaciated neck.


BluesFan1995’s words brought sudden silence as listeners in other side-discussions snapped their attention to the central circle around the fire. The crowd moved as one organism with a hundred arms, swaying in the ruddy light.

“The users demand a ban, my great Fan!” A high voice, etched with enunciation and punctuation missing from the speech of most, called from the dark faces in the back.


“It is I, Lady_Gumption! I request permission to speak!” The small frame of a middle-aged, bespectacled woman rose quickly and walked to the front of the crowd. Whispers caught like tinder as the users spotted the silver Moderator medallion on her chest. The Moderators had been silent on the issue of Puckmaster’s betrayal until now; their word would carry much weight in the eyes of the great Fan. The Ban was coming.


“Puckmaster spoke on the eve of May the Twenty-Seventh at 6:51 PM, and do did besmirch the great name of the Blues! The villain claimed to believe that the Bruins would win Game One!” At the mention of the Nameless Foe, the crowd booed and hissed. Fights broke out among those who thought themselves the most ardent.

Lady_Gumption, flushed with the heat of passion and buoyed by the cries of her supporters, whooped out an “LGB!”. The users picked up, each chanting along “Let’s go Blues! Let’s go Blues!”

The Moderator smiled at the power she held. She whipped a hand out, sweeping along the ducking crowd, until she pointed directly into the face of Puckmaster himself. The boy fliched.

“He claimed they would win! And they did! The Nameless won! Puckmaster brought the curse upon us! He should be Banned!”

The crowd seized this last indictment as an opportunity and grasped the arms of the youth. They dragged him through the coarse sand and threw him at the feet of BluesFan1995. The boy struggled but remained pinned under the blackened feet of the users around him.


“no i didnt say that i said i was worried the blues wouldnt win because bennington was looking kind of slow!”

The users gasped in unison at this blasphemy. Tears ran lines through the dirt on puckmaster’s face. He twisted his neck to see if BluesFan1995 had reacted. The leader remained impassive.


“plz BluesFan dont ban me! i wont post like that anymore!”


Puckmaster screamed incoherently as he was bodily carried to the altar that watched over the restless sea. The full moon shone down bright, illuminating the dried blood that spattered across the entire rock outcropping. With grim efficiency, the users holding his arm forced the boy’s head down onto the flat stone. Before his prostrate body, puckmaster could see out from the corner of his eye the grizzled elder bring a stone club forward.


The youth screamed again, keening over the wind, but it would not stop the swing of the club. The stone cracked against his skull, showering him in blood and sending him into the depths of unconsciousness. The users pushed his insensate body over the side of the cliff and it crashed to the rocks below.

The boy woke to sunlight peeking in through a thatch roof. He tried to move but saw that his limbs were bound tight in bandages. The sickly-sweet smell of medicine was heavy in the stagnant air. Out of his one good eye he could see a male face with laugh lines around the eyes, blonde hair, and a deep tan.

“He’s awake!”

“where am i”

“You’re in the Newbie Zone, young one. Rest easy. It will be a few days yet before you’re well enough to join the others. I am GoalieStud.”

Confusion washed in waves under the bandages of puckmaster's face.

“is this”

Goaliestud’s laugh boomed aloud in the tiny hut. “You must still be touched from your injuries! We found you broken and bleeding in the surf. This is, my friend, and you are welcome here. What is your name?”

“its puckmaster.”

For the first time, the Goalie frowned. “As I said, you must be touched. You can’t have that name, as there is an old man who we call puckmaster already. That name is taken. Are you sure this is your name?”

The boy knew that he couldn’t risk eroding the good will of this muscular man before him. He paused, thinking of his brief time on the island of The Hockey Gods had looked unfavorably on his posts there. Was this his second chance?

“I’m sorry, Goaliestud. You’re right, I must still be a little broke from my injuries. You can call me PuckLover.”

GoalieStud nodded and grinned. “Welcome, PuckLover. Once you are well I will show you to the Forest of the General Forum and from there the other fans can guide you around the island. I wish you well! Let’s go Blues!”

PuckLover grinned back. He was home.

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Would an airport be stretching the the parameters of the prompt too far?


sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan
Fair enough, thank you. I fly all the time for work and moving through the airport resonated for me in terms of the prompt. We’ll see what I can do.

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