Tag Archives: horror

A Night Among the Utes

by Matthew J. Barbour

cabin in the valley of the utesIt was supposed to have been a shortcut across the mountains. If I took the old road through the Valley of the Utes, I would meet up with the interstate around Raton. I had planned to stay the night there before continuing on to Denver, but now it was dark and I was still in the valley.

There were no lights along the road, which was littered with potholes. It wasn’t safe to keep going–not at night at least. I looked for a place to pull off, as if I expected someone else to come down the road. I hadn’t seen anyone for hours.

People must have lived in the valley at one time. Once in a while I could make out a cabin just off the road. All of them looked like set pieces out of an old western film. It didn’t look like anyone had lived in them for years.

The idea of sleeping in the car really didn’t appeal to me. I was going to have to shut the engine off. I couldn’t afford to run out of gas. This high in the mountains, it was already cold. So, I decided I would get some shut eye in one of the cabins. They all had chimneys, and I figured I could build a fire.

So the next cabin I saw, I pulled off the road, jumped out of the car and went inside. It wasn’t like I broke in. There was no lock on the door and no one was sure as heck living there still.

The cabin was a simple structure consisting of a single room. I stumbled a bit in the dark. There was a full moon outside, but between the ponderosas and the cabin walls I couldn’t see anything. I fumbled over to the hearth and lit a fire.

As the light of the fire filled the small cabin, I was surprised to find that it was still furnished. All of it looked like it had been sitting there for at least a hundred years, but back then they must have built furniture to last. I settled myself into a comfy rocker. Maybe this was an old film set, I told myself.

Sleep overtook me almost immediately, but before I faded off into the realm of dreams. I remember seeing what looked like a red stain on the floor in front of the fire place. Blood? More likely paint made to look like blood, but shell casings were scattered about too. It really was like something out of a movie. Definitely an old film set, I said to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I awoke to the sound of distant drums. It was like the beat you would hear Indians play at a powwow.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The room was dark. I must have been asleep for some time. The fire was nothing but embers.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The drum beat appeared to be getting louder. I got up from the rocker and stuck another log in the fire. It just smoldered and filled the room with black smoke. I coughed.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I thought about it for a moment. The sound wasn’t getting louder. Rather, it was getting closer. It was probably coming from the stand of trees just outside the cabin door.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I walked outside. It was still dark. I couldn’t see anything. The moon had sunk behind the ponderosas surrounding the cabin.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The noise was so close now. I must have been within a few hundred feet of the drummer. I called out. As soon as I did, the drumming stopped. It was silent for a moment. I wasn’t sure what to say or do.

Then, I thought I heard the door of the cabin swing open behind me. Gunshots filled the night air and I could have sworn I heard a woman scream. I didn’t look back. I jumped in my car and sped away.

Matthew J. Barbour is a speculative fiction writer living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs and writes for a number of regional newspapers.

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Green

by Cat Jenkins

Li’l sister saw it same time as me.

But her eyes kenned it differ’nt.

What I saw were green and noisome, like one of Granny’s potions. Like bile milked from a sea slug. But Sara got all gaspy and whispery; her face goin’ beatific. “Lookee, Rena,” she says to me. “Lookee.”

“Don’ touch it.” I pulled at her arm to make her leave. “Come away. Don’ touch it.”

“Why, it’s like a ghost or angel leaned down from Heaven, breathin’ pearly-green all over the mucky holes, all pretty and shimmery like dragonfly wings.”

I minded me to tell Granny to stop fillin’ Sara’s head with them fairytales. Don’ do no good to have nonsense flittin’ through yer head in the bayou. They’s enough cautions to be had ‘round ev’ry corner ‘thout bringin’ fancies into it.

The green stuff was oozin’ on closer like it were drawn by heat or heartbeat, and li’l Sara couldn’ take her eyes off’n it. So’s I pulled her back and herded her all the way home, tellin’ her never to go back there.

“But it’s booootiful, Rena! Like…like the moon and the sea got t’gether an’ conjured up elf-fire…”

I pushed li’l Sara up onto the porch, and acrost it, and into our room, and that shoulda been the end to it.

But li’l girls is a han’ful. That night Sara sneaked out.
We tracked ‘er next day, but lost ‘er back where that bile-green glow bubbled up from the mucky holes. We called and called and Mama wept somethin’ fierce…Granny, too.

But no Sara.

Couple nights later I thought I heard li’l sis callin’. Her voice had gone all chimey and tinkly, but it were callin’ my name, and who else’d do that? I went lookin’, but no Sara. Jes’ her callin’ from all differ’nt sides at once, seemed like. Next mornin’ afore the sun come up, I saw bitty footprints glowin’ green in the glimmer-light. They come out from the bayou to my window and then gone back.

Bile-green they was.

When I told, Granny and Mama shook me hard and said to pay them no nevermind. And they stopped lookin’ for my li’l sister. Stopped talkin’ ‘bout her, too. Stopped usin’ her name.

But I think I’ll see Sara again. Prob’ly soon. ‘Cause I keep hearin’ her chimey voice at night. And this mornin’, afore the sun washed it away, I saw the greeny glow’d come up again.

Only this time, I didn’ think it were bile-y, but pearly-soft and glowy.

And it were pretty like Sara said.

And it come all the way ‘cross the yard again.

Only this time, it come up the siding.

Only this time, there were some on my windowsill.

Inside.

Cat Jenkins lives in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is often conducive to long hours before a keyboard. Her stories in humor, fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror have been published both online and in print. She is working on her first novel, a psychological thriller with touches of magical realism. Read Cat’s blog. Follow her on Twitter: @CatJenkins11

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How Post-Apocalyptic Can Sodom Be?

fire and brimstoneCongratulations to the following authors who have received acceptances for the upcoming Biblical Legends anthology, “Sulfurings”:

  • John Vicary
  • Guy & Tonya De Marco
  • Melchior Zimmerman
  • Rie Sheridan Rose
  • David Anderson
  • Meg Eden
  • Nicholas Paschall
  • AmyBeth Inverness

Readers of the “Garden of Eden” anthology will recognize some of these names from the genesis of what we hope will become a popular anthology series. While a few more authors were unfortunate enough to receive rejections, about the same number are being held as potential inclusions.

In what we hope will not be precedent-setting, the garden gnomes have decided to extend the deadline for submissions until we believe we have a sufficient number to go to press. We hope you’ll consider submitting your work for this anthology.

What Kind Of Manuscripts Are Appropriate For ‘Sulfurings’?

We’re referring to “Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah” as apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature for what we hope are obvious reasons. The cities were literally wiped off the face of the earth. “Literally,” as in, we’re not shittin’ ya.

We don’t care if you consider the tale an untrue myth. We don’t care if you take it literally or metaphorically. We don’t care if you call bullshit on the story, its author, and everyone who believes it literally. Consequently, we don’t care if you are a Biblical literalist. What we do care about are great stories set in these two legendary cities that depict a struggle for survival among those who were there or a strong reaction among those who discover it in its aftermath.

So what does that mean exactly?

Why Some Manuscripts Were Rejected On The First Round

manuscripts rejectedThe editor of the Biblical Legends Anthology Series, yours truly, is concerned about three sets of values with regard to inclusions in any of the anthologies in the series:

  1. Quality. Obviously, sub-par submissions won’t be accepted. That means quality in terms of writing as well as in storytelling. We want well told stories. Period.
  2. Diversity. The kind of diversity that we are seeking is not some affirmative action type of diversity where minorities are given precedence over white guys because we believe that somehow all people of earth should be represented in our pages. This isn’t college. The kind of diversity we’re interested in is diversity in literary voices, tone, and style. In other words, we don’t want all the stories in any anthology to represent a single genre or subgenre of literature, nor do we want them all to convey the same biases or express the same tones and styles of writing. We realize we’ll never achieve this goal in its perfect complexity, but we do strive to put together a broad representation of weird literature that addresses the theme in each of our anthologies based on the submissions that we receive.
  3. Stated Parameters. Each of our anthologies is based on a particular Biblical theme. This is by design. As previously stated, we’re not interested in hermeneutical preferences. We ARE interested in quality writing within the context of well-told stories and diversity in expression within the stated parameters.

Most of our rejections are due to one or more of these values. If the writing isn’t tight or the story doesn’t meet our expectations on quality, then we’ll toss it aside. If we receive several submissions that express the same style or possess the same tone, especially if it falls outside the purview of the genre we are seeking – in this case, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature – then some or all of those manuscripts will be rejected. Finally, stories that don’t address the theme or that don’t fall within the stated parameters of the anthology as stated in our guidelines will also be rejected.

Multiple infractions will most definitely be rejected out of hand.

While we do not wish to be harsh, we must draw a line somewhere on each of these values that we hold dear. Sometimes, a story just might not gel with us. We might not even know why. Alas, we may be gnomes, but we are human.

Even Garden Gnomes Have A Little Grace

garden gnomes have graceWe don’t believe in trashing projects. We’re too tenacious for that. So we’ve decided instead to put out another call for submissions in hopes that we’ll get the kind of material we are looking for. After all, we believe strongly in “Sulfurings” and just as strongly in the series.

This round of submissions is open to everyone – previous submitters and new submitters alike. We’ve already received at least one submission and will keep the submission process open until we are confident that we have enough material to go to press.

In the way of clarification, here’s what we are looking for:

  • Apocalyptic horror – Imagine what it would be like to live in Sodom or Gomorrah and to see fire raining down upon you from on high. What would you do? Better yet, invent a character and tell us what he or she would do. Your character does not have to be human.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Literature – After the cities have been destroyed, what happens? Are there lingering survivors? What are they doing? How are they coping with what has happened? What about travelers? Are there creatures who discover the cities in their destroyed state? What do they do about their discovery?
  • Weird Tales – We love weird tales. Feel free to get creative. Your story does not have to adhere to all the facts of the story in its entirety. We reward those who employ creative license effectively. One of the things we have noticed about our current slate of submissions is an overwhelming number of stories where the author has tried too hard to ensure the story remains entirely accurate in its Biblical portrayal. Hence, many of the stories allude to Lot and his family or “Lot’s God” unnecessarily. The question to ask your narrator is this: Would this character living on the other side of town know who Lot is or understand that the city is being destroyed because Lot’s God commanded it, or would they just unexpectedly find themselves being pummeled by sulfurous rock, briny brimstone, and molten lava?
  • Absurdities – Modern life is full of absurdities. We gnomes don’t believe that this is anything new. It is probable that life has always been full of absurdities. We encourage you to note them.
  • Leave Lot, his family, and his God out of it – Not strictly. As noted, we want diversity. If allusions to these characters are necessary for the development of your story, then by all means, include them. But know that we will look at them with a suspicious eye. If there is a way you can tell a great story honoring the three values that we care about without alluding to the Biblical characters, then you’ll impress us much more.

Our number one goal is to publish a great anthology that readers will love and tell their friends about. We want it to receive the widest distribution possible, because we want to be known as publishers of great literature and because we want you to be able to say that you are a widely read author with a strong following. Many great writing careers have begun with anthologies.

How Horrific Do Want Your Sulfurings?

horrific enough?One question we’ve been asked a few times is some variation of “how horrific do you want your stories?”

We’ve been asked about swear words: “Is it okay if characters drop the fucking F-bomb every two sentences?”

We’ve been asked about the degree of horror within the horror: “Is splatterpunk allowed or is that too grotesque?”

We’ve even been asked how bizarre should our weird be and how weird should the bizarre aspire to: “Is bizarro too extreme?”

Our standard response is … Send it and we’ll work it out in the wash.

Truthfully, we won’t know if we like it until we’ve read it. In general, we don’t mind grotesqueness as long as it’s pertinent to the story. Weird for the sake of the weird or grotesquery for the sake of grotesquery might be sent packing. On the other hand, we’ve read bizarro and splatterpunk. We’ve written it. But our first priority is a good story that fits the theme of the anthology.

Having run the risk of being sufficiently vague, we invite you to send us your best stories. Our current needs are flash fiction and short stories. Word counts and other information can be found on our BLAS submissions guidelines page.

We’re good on poetry and nonfiction for now, but if you want to take a gander at it, feel free. Chances are, we’ll say we’ve read enough, but we’re open-minded.

Please send your submission according to these general guidelines. Send them to submissions @ gardengnomepubs dot com. And feel free to ask your questions to editor @ gardengnomepubs dot com.

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The Beast

by Jennifer Ann Margaret Patino

“Are you ready?”

The breath she takes in proves so.

Weapon drawn, he kicks open the door to their bedroom to face the beast.

The beast had been with them since before they got together. They didn’t know this, of course. They went along, as couples usually do, having no inkling of a clue of the dark force watching them. Waiting for them. The beast had patience. The beast could wait to devour.

The new house had been perfect. Just what both wanted. Just what both needed. Just enough seclusion to block the world out so they could just be. Be together. Be happy. Be in love.

The beast showed its face for the first time on a beach for the couple’s six month anniversary. It bared its teeth and terrified them. They ran. They fought it. They thought they’d won.

They were wrong.

Here they are fighting with all they have again. The beast is lashing out this time. Foaming at the mouth, snarling, biting, tormenting the woman over and over again, and the man can only watch as she is shred apart.

In the past, when the beast was especially angry, the man could only sit outside the door and cry and pound on it until his knuckles bled and he screamed and cried in agony for feeling so helpless. So powerless. So out of control.

Everything they tried to do to rid themselves of the monster forever was to no avail. First, no one believed them anyway.

“You guys are crazy…just chill,” was the consensus of their friends.

The church said they weren’t praying enough. Their families didn’t even want to answer their phone calls anymore. They had had enough.

The young couple decided they had had enough too. Both of them. This beast would be slain tonight. They came up with a plan quickly. A better idea. A better way. It would be easy. It had to be easy.

The woman was the bait.

He points his gun at her. He has no choice for he can’t see the beast. The beast is and always has been invisible.

He watches, shaking as she cries out to him. “Just do it!”

Her tear stained face is not enough for him. The bedroom that was once an artsy love nest has been destroyed. The man’s eyes dart around the room, taking it all in and trying to find something to let him know where the vicious force is so he can just shoot it. Wound it maybe? Hopefully kill it. Could the beast even be killed?

All these thoughts and so much more race in his muddled brain. The whiskey he drank before even entering the room isn’t enough to give him courage. The piercing screams from his wife aren’t enough either. Something has to be done. And fast.

The woman suddenly throws an ashtray near him. This isn’t part of the plan, but he trusts her intuition. Before either can blink he is facing the beast and fires off a shot. Three shots.

Glass shatters, she screams louder and the beast suddenly takes hold of her, lifts her off the bed, and slams her on the ground. She kicks, she punches, she does her best to roll away. She’s dying.

The gun is on the ground now. The man scrambles for it. The woman can barely see it as blood fills her eyes.

Her hand reaches out to him to help her, but the beast is not giving up. It’s not stopping. Its blows keep raining upon her. She is incapable.

The man realizes it’s now or never for the gun is so close and all fears he had of just firing blindly are now gone. He didn’t want to have to kill his own wife. He didn’t want it to come to this. She is going to die anyway, he thinks. I can’t save her from this.

He pulls himself away, gun in hand, and points it at her again.

This time she isn’t crying. This time she is not afraid. She nods.

The man places the gun to his head, pulls the trigger, and falls to the ground.

The woman stares wildly at the space where the beast once stood.

The breath she takes in this time means freedom.

Jennifer Patino loves to write. She started at age six and many have tried to stop her since. She often feels forced writing is crap and hates rules and regulations. If you feel like it, drop her a line on Facebook. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband.

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For Sale By Owner

by Toni Stauffer

police chalk crime scene dead body Tracey grinned at her husband Bob as she turned the key in the lock. The door opened easily and she pushed it open the rest of the way.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Bob asked, looking around.

“Yes, my sister said it’s been on the market for a long time. She also said if we like it she can get us a great deal.”

They walked through the door and Bob closed it, standing for a moment to take in the living room as he imagined what it might be like to walk through this doorway every day after a hard day on the job. He watched his wife as she ran a hand over the mantel and smiled.

“I’ve always wanted a fireplace. What do you think? Wouldn’t it be nice to have romantic evenings by the fire?”

Bob grinned, “I wouldn’t mind a fireplace, but you’ll have to fetch the wood. That’s woman’s work.”

Tracey rolled her eyes at him and stopped to examine the wall by the stairs. There was some sort of stain.

“Bob, honey, look at this. Is it rust?”

He leaned close for a look. “No, it’s splattered. Besides, I’ve never heard of dry wall rusting. It’s probably just someone’s poor attempt at decorating.”

Looking down, Tracey moved to the side and pointed down at the floor. “What about this weird chalky outline of a body? If that’s decorating, someone has a sick sense of humor.”

“Hmmm. Now that I like. It gives off a Hitchcock ambience.”

“Oh, be serious. Dani didn’t say anything about a murder. No wonder the house is such a deal. What if it’s haunted?”

Bob kissed his wife, “I’m not scared of a ghost. I’m sure we can handle anything like that. You know, call a priest or something. Maybe the ghost will do dishes.”

Tracey sighed, “You are always joking, but I think you’re right. I really do like this house and we have been looking for so long.”

She giggled and closed her eyes as Bob kissed her, whispering what he wanted to do with her in the master bedroom. Neither of them saw the chalky outline as it rose from the floor and stood behind them.

Toni Stauffer has published numerous stories in various horror anthologies and other publications. She lives in Columbus, Georgia with her two cats Xander and Ramses.

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One Haunt Too Many

By The Foogy Bear

old haunted houseMidnight.

Full moon.

Old rickety house with too many creaks, too many squeaks.

Joe looked at Ted. And Ted looked at Ned. And Ned looked at Fred, who looked at Bill, who said,

“Eh, what could possibly go wrong?”

So, with the last teeny bit of courage stretching thin amongst the boys, Joe, Ted, Ned, Fred, and Bill made their way slowly up the gravel path. The overgrown lawn — rather, the endless forest of nasty weeds and gnarly creepers, wild with years of neglect — made for such an adventurous approach that the boys almost forgot the old rusted gate they had scaled moments ago, which had disappeared behind them in the darkness. Poor Ned had scraped his knee on one of the gate’s spiky embellishments, and Bill’s handy-dandy pocket flashlight managed to get its lanyard caught on one of that mean old gate’s crooked nails. Not so handy after all? Too late to turn back now.

The boys tip-toed now, ever closer to the old rickety house. With the rotted-out planks of the porch in sight, Joe, Ted, Ned, Fred, and Bill ever so softly climbed the front steps, one shaky tip-toe at a time. Now huddled in front of the heavy wooden door, the boys strained to look into the dusty windows at either side. None of them tried to get too close though, feet glued where they stood. Was this really the best idea the little rascals could come up with on a boring Friday night?

Joe gulped the biggest gulp he’d ever gulped. Ted’s mouth was awfully dry, and Fred nervously watched something crawl around his shoe.

Determined to be the least scaredy-cat of the bunch, Bill rolled up his sleeves and, with some hesitation now, offered again,

“Um, what could possibly go wrong, right?”

Suddenly, the heavy monster-sized door of the stupid creaky house swung open on its own! Oh! just moaning and groaning as it went, why don’t you take your time you horrible, fiendish thing?!?

Good going, Bill! You with your ill-advised optimism! Those boys leaped through the air with the grace of Olympic athletes, and Joe, Ted, Ned, Fred, and Bill high-tailed it out of there as fast as their little legs could carry them.

Stupid monster door!

Stupid dusty windows!

Stupid creaky porch!

“HOLY MACARONI!!!” Ted hollered, finally finding his voice.

Curse you, nasty weeds and gnarly creepers!

Curse you full moon and chilly Friday night that should have been boring and not scary at all!

“Bill, wait up!” shouted Fred, trying to keep up with his friend. Bill may have been the least scaredy-cat of the group at the start of the adventure, but he was most certainly the quickest one off that porch!

Forget you, gravel path!

Ugh! More stupid, nasty weeds and stupid, gnarly creepers!

“Guys!” yelled Ned as they ran.

Double ugh! Even more stupid, nasty weeds and gnarly creepers! … Wait, something’s not right …

“GUYS!” shrieked Ned, now chirping at an intolerable decibel. “WHERE’S THE GATE???”

A look of pure, unabashed terror now flashed on poor Bill’s face, and the boy froze mid-stride, suddenly realizing he had no idea where they had been running and for how long. Of course, Fred ran smack-dab into Bill, followed by Ned, and then Ted, and finally Joe, whose short-sightedness was inevitably going to send the whole gang barreling into the dirt at some point, anyway. As if this night couldn’t get any better …

“BBBRRRAAAAIIINNNNSSSS”

The boys shushed-up real good at that. Something. Something vile. Something incredibly horrendous and insufferably unspeakable had called out in the darkness. And it sought brains.

YES, BRAINS! B-R-A-I-N-S, I tell you! The boys dared not to breathe, listening for something, anything moving in the dark. Ted did what he could for the group by making another plea to the great pasta deity. A silent prayer this time, though, as not to signal the dreadful creature with cravings for noggin meat.

HHHHHOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEELLLLLLLLL!!!!!

A wolf’s call suddenly pierced the night. Yes, a wolf’s! If you don’t believe me, just ask one of the boys! But please, not right this second, as Joe, Ted, Ned, Fred, and Bill cower together in fear. Even the slightest whimper of an answer may bring about most gruesome and untimely deaths for the lads …. And now you feel bad for doubting the validity of even a solitary syllable of this tale, don’t you? Every word speaks the truth, the ugly horrible truth!

Zombies — well, what else would have a hankering for noodle pudding? — and werewolves abound, the boys summoned a last hurrah of spirit, picked a direction, and sprinted off into the night as fast as they could. If only they could reach the gate to this dreadful piece of haunted real estate, they might escape in one piece.

NNNEEEIIIGGGGHHHHH!!!! BOOO! GIMME YOUR BLOOD YOU WRETCHED LITTLE THINGS!!!!

Suddenly, a headless, vampire-ghost riding a flaming stallion from Hell appeared before the boys, demanding every precious drop of their life source!

… All right, this is getting ridiculous. But you would totally piss yourself, too, if you were stuck in such a haunted, nightmare extravaganza. The night’s adventure could not have gone worse. Everything was terribly, horribly wrong.

Joe, Ted, Ned, Fred, and Bill did the only thing left to do: scream their bloody hearts out.

“Boys! WHAT THE FUZZLE IS GOING ON IN HERE?”

Bill’s father stumbled into the living room with a panicked look on his face. He removed the canvas ceiling of the pillow fort and saw Bill and his son’s friends curled up in the fetal position. They looked absolutely petrified.

Shaking his head, Bill’s father gave the boys some heart-felt advice about not letting their imaginations getting the best of them.

“… And stop reading so many comic books!” quipped Bill’s father as he left the room, rejoining his wife in the kitchen.

As the man sat down at the table, though, his smile faded. Slowly, a disappointed scowl took shape.

“Dear?”

“Yes, my darling?”

“Our pride and joy and his little buddies are getting the seizures again.”

“… oh?”

“I told you it was a bad idea to tell Bill about your uncle before he was ready. How can he possibly grow up to be a strong bloodsucker like his Dad if your damned kin scares the killer out of him before it awakens?”

Bill’s father gently massaged the gums around his fangs. Ouch! He needed to get more of that special toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. Ice cream was just too much of a bother these days.

“Darling, you know Uncle Jasper didn’t mean to frighten the boys that badly…”

“Bullshit. I’ve never liked that bastard, and you know it.”

The Foogy Bear is an empathetic, well-meaning bear who tries his best to be a good role model for the local woodland critter youth. Ever-watchful, the Foogy Bear is a protector at heart and is employed as a professional peacekeeper in the forest. But even bears need hobbies, and occasionally the Foogy Bear dabbles in creative writing.

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