Category Archives: Tales for the Twisted

Tales fueled by my strange mind.
Some will be short, some long.
All of them bizarre and…I hope…
A few will thrill or scare you.

LA CUCARATCHA (Not for weak stomached or easily offended)

Eunice Haversham loved to hate. She loved to hate people; she loved to hate politicians. She loved to hate big business, internet media, rock and roll music and screaming little children. She hated animals, hospitals, healthy food and infomercials. Eunice hated so many things that it is easier to explain what she actually liked. She liked daytime talk shows, greasy takeout food, (the more grease the better), powdered donuts, the kind that got all over everything when you ate them, and historical romances by Harlequin. She liked to spit and swear at the boy that delivered her groceries and listen to Neil Diamond records. Oh yeah, the Jazz Singer did it for her every time, she had all his albums and wouldn’t even consider buying those new-age cassette tapes or Compact Discs, which she also hated, Neil only sounded right on vinyl.

Back to the things that Eunice love to hate, the one thing she loved to hate most of all was Cockroaches. Those hard backed, multi-legged insects that were attracted to the food and dirt people left around their homes and gardens. Pesky little beasts that have been around for thousands of years and thrived on humanity’s lack of conscience to clean up after themselves. Oh yes, Eunice loved to hate cockroaches, or rather she loved killing the little beasts, which was why she kept dozens of cans of RAID on hand for just such an occasion. She never bothered with an exterminator, they were expensive and troublesome, and she preferred her own way of terminating the creepy little bastards.

There were black and red cans or RAID all over the house. Two in the kitchen, one by the sink and one in the pantry, three in the living room by her chair, one on the window sill by the front door. Three cans remained in her bedroom, one on either of her little night table and one more in the closet. She only had one can of RAID in the bathroom; it was small and didn’t require much. Whenever she’d see one of the annoying home invaders she’d grab one of the cans, scream ‘RAID, just like in the commercials, and release a steady stream of liquid onto the poor unsuspecting roach. Then she’d drop to her knees or lean in close as it squirmed and writhed and eventually ended up on its back with its useless, miserable legs pointed towards the ceiling.

Eunice had asked someone a long time ago, when she’d first heard about RAID, how exactly did it kill the bugs? She learned that cockroaches, and most other insects, don’t have gastric tract. When this poison sprays them, it builds up the gas in their little bodies and without a way to expel the gas, their insides pop and they die. That is what Eunice listens for, that little pop that tells her they have exploded inside, almost like a cork from a wine bottle, only such softer. Eunice looks forward to that subtle popping sound whenever she sprays one of the bastard roaches.

Eunice lived in a lower west side area of the city, a place that used to be quiet and peaceful, where people knew their neighbors and kids played in the streets together without concern. These days, her neighborhood has turned into a cesspool of welfare recipients and gang violence. Sirens squeal at any time of the day or night, rotten little youngsters let loose by irresponsible parents at all hours, playing their foul music and breaking windows on the uninhabited apartments, and drug dealers seemed to linger in every doorway.

Eunice used to like her neighborhood, but then the Blacks and the Mexicans moved in, the Muslims and the Chinese, all of them moving into her nice clean neighborhood, bringing their filth and violence with them and living off her government. Hell, most of them didn’t speak or understand a word of English, but that certainly didn’t prevent them from collecting that check every week.

Well, Eunice was just one woman, she didn’t have a say in the way the President was running the country, or the fact that he was running it into the ground. She was content to remain in her own little space and to hell with the rest of the world. She survived on her late husband’s military pension, awarded to her when he died in the war and her measly retirement pension from where she worked as a doctor’s secretary for almost forty years. She could have moved to a nicer neighborhood, but this was the house she and Bobby bought, right after he enlisted, and she refused to leave it.

She’d never had the inkling to remarry, she liked having her space and she could do without the sex, even with Bobby it was more chore than pleasure; her duty as his wife, but she loved Bobby, loved him with all her heart. Her father hadn’t approved of Bobby’s radical views, but Eunice loved him all that much more, because he clashed with her uptight minister father.

“RAID!” she screamed, as she spotted a cockroach crawling next to her chair. She giggled gleefully as it tried to outrun the death spray, but seconds later stopped, twitched a few times, and then went feet up. *pop. “Gotcha ya little bastard.”

She set the can of Raid back on the dinner tray and grabbed a doughnut from the package next to it. She’d make dinner soon, but she wanted to watch Jerry Springer first. He always had such trash on, and she enjoyed watching people make idiots of themselves.

After Jerry Springer Eunice washing the a few dishes and set them in the strainer. She also hated dishes, but eventually she had to do them or there was nothing clean to eat off of. A cockroach skittered across the counter next to the sink. Eunice grabbed her can and drowned it in a pool of pesticide.

“RAID!” she cackled and watched it squirm before going legs up. pop.

She smirked, grabbed a piece of paper towel, and covered the beast with it, pulling it off the counter and tossing it in the trash. She wiped at the leftover spray with another paper towel, then grabbed a fork from the strainer and retrieved her microwave dinner. Wandering into the living room, she settled before the television and switched on Maury Povich to see what little sluts were on today trying to discover who the father of their baby was. Stupid whores, if they weren’t opening their legs for everyone on the block they would know who the father was, instead they spent their day on their backs and collecting childcare from the government. Eunice felt blessed that she and Bobby had wanted no children; she would have drowned the whining, blubbering things at birth. Who wants something that constantly gushes from either end?

She set her dinner on the TV tray and pried off the plastic top, cursing when the escaping steam burned her fingers and knocked her fork to the floor. Bending to retrieve it was an effort, Eunice was not a small woman, she stood 5’9 and weighted in at 240, so of course trying to reach her pudgy hand beneath the flimsy metal dinner tray, while her ample bosom was pressed against it, was probably pushing her luck. Sure enough, the table flipped and her dinner went all over the floor.

She heaved herself out of the chair, knelt to scrape up the mess, and within seconds cockroaches approached from all angles, eager to be fed. Eunice grabbed her RAID and sprayed them, startled that so many approached at once, must be four…no six of the buggers. Pop. Pop. Pop. One crawling up her dress! Pop. Two more were trying to hide beneath the recliner. Pop. Pop. Eunice gripped the recliner and struggled to her feet, huffing and puffing, both from the effort and the fright that the roaches had given her. She obviously had an infestation. Maybe she should call an exterminator…No, she’d take care of the little bastards herself, she was sure there couldn’t be that many more, not after she killed an entire squad of them.

Moving back to the kitchen and dropping what was left of her dinner in the trash, she washed her hands in the sink. Her heart was ramming against her ribs, but she soon began to calm down, just as her doorbell rang. She glanced at the calendar and noticed that today was Friday, the day she had her regular order of groceries delivered. Good, she needed a pick me up. She opened the door to the young man who stood outside, frowning when she saw that he was black.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Adam, Mrs. Haversham. I’m delivering you’re groceries.”

Eunice’s eyes narrowed, her face creasing in an ugly scowl. “You’re not my regular boy-I don’t want no Blackie bringing me my groceries, How do I know you didn’t spit or piss in them? How do I know you didn’t drop ’em on the ground and put your dirty shit-colored hands on them? I know all about you people, how you sacrifice live chickens for your black magic, you cast a spell on my things, boy?”

Adam stared at her, shocked. “I…I brought them straight from the store, Ma’am, I ain’t touched nothin’ inside.”

Eunice grabbed the box. “Get the hell out of here then.”

“Ma’am…you haven’t paid…”

Eunice cackled and slammed the door. “Figure it out yourself. I ain’t given’ you any money to go spending on drugs, Blackie.”

“Mean old bitch!” the boy called, slamming his fist against the closed door, before storming off.

“Tell it to someone who cares, sonny,” Eunice smiled as she put her groceries away. She could imagine the story he would have to come up with of why he didn’t have her payment, stuttering and stammering about what happened. The manager will fire his as for lying, shouldn’t have hired him anyway; can’t trust their kind.

She pulled out an old box of cereal to make room for the new, and the box tipped over on the counter. Immediately the counter top swarmed with roaches. Screaming she grabbed her cans of Raid and sprayed at the roaches with vengeance, not stopping until a large puddle of insecticide and dead bugs lay on her counter.

“Je-zus!” She grabbed the trashcan, some paper towels and started wiping them into the trash. “Where are you bastards coming from?”

Once finished ridding herself of the bodies of dead roaches, she grabbed up her phone to call an exterminator. They wouldn’t be out until Monday, but she made an appointment with them anyway. Needing to settle her nerves, she grabbed a glass from the counter and poured a glass of juice. She made a face at the first taste, thinking that the juice had gone off, but it was from the new groceries so it couldn’t be. She checked the expiration date, still a week to go.

She poured the rest of the juice out. Dirty bastard probably did piss in it. Sweating now, she returned to the living room and flopped back in her chair. She’d find a sitcom or something to watch to calm her nerves, then she’d be fine. Picking up the remote she started to flip through the channels when she felt the first gastric urge to belch, which she did long and loud. Then a startling wet sounding fart expelled itself from her body and she almost laughed at the length of it.

“Good God!” she cackled. “That was a good one!” she slapped her knee, then realized there was more to come. A second and a third, each sounding worse than the original, and when the cramping in her stomach grew steadily worse, she hurried for the bathroom.

Running inside she hiked up her lounge dress and dropped her drawers just as the first wave of diarrhea hit. Oh God! Her stomach was on fire! That bastard kid had put something in the juice! She’d been poisoned, she was sure of it! She groaned and moaned as her bowels emptied and yet she felt no relief.

She was sweating more now, and the belching had started again. Her heart felt like it was going to punch right through her chest and her whole body started to itch like crazy. Finally, the diarrhea eased and she reached for the sink to heave herself off the toilet. She had to get to the phone and call for an ambulance, she needed a hospital and once they found out she was poisoned she’d sue that kid and his family enough that they’d still be paying her for generations to come!

Groaning from exhaustion and pain she eased herself up, took two steps and was hit by cramps so severe that she doubled over. She hit the tile floor of her bathroom hard and felt the excruciating snap of her hip as she fell.

“No,” she moaned. “Oh God it hurts!”

She tried to crawl towards the bathroom door, if she could just get to the phone…if she could just call for help. Another cramp hit and a wave of shame flowed over her, almost as painful as the break in her hip, as she felt her bowels release again, this time onto her pristine clean bathroom floor.

“Help me!” Tears of fear and frustration fell down her cheeks. She had no family, no friends, had alienated all of her neighbors. She could die here because no one would think to check on her. “Someone help me!”

Out of the corner of her eye she saw something skitter towards her. “Go away!” she cried slapping at the floor as a single roach stopped just out of reach and seemed to stare at her. “Get out of here!” another roach appeared, then a third, all lined up by the first, as if waiting for a command. “Get out of my house!”

Eunice grappled for the sink, lifted herself half way off the floor and managed to grab the can of Raid that sat on the corner. “Go away!” She sprayed the mist at them, watched the skitter off, then another horrific cramp hit her so badly that she felt bile rise in her throat.

She tried to belch, tried to fart, she didn’t even care if she shit on the floor now she just had to relieve this intense pressure but nothing worked. She cried and moaned and screamed as the pain increased until she felt like her stomach was going to explode. Her head lolled sideways, her hand still gripping the can of Raid and her blurry vision managed to make out the small warning label on the back.

WARNING: Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin. Avoid breathing spray mist Provide adequate ventilation of area to be treated. Cover or remove exposed food, dishes, or utensils and food handling equipment. Keep out of reach of children.

Flashes of all the times she had sprayed the insect killer, aroudn her living room, her kitchen, within range of her dishes, food. She’d never opened a window because she felt the air outside was too polluted. She never washed her hands after each spray, she’d been too busy enjoying their miserable little deaths.

“Oh God! Oh God!” Realization dawned, it had not been the grocery boy that had poisoned her, she had done this to herself by her own damned stupidity.

She threw the can across the floor, horrified, watched it hit the wall, spin and then come to a slow halt. Another pain hit her, this one ten times worse than the others and again no matter what she did she couldn’t seem to expel the pressure. She watched as the roaches started to appear again in the corner of her eye, across the room, and she swore she could hear their legs clicking behind her as well.

Roaches have no gastric track so they can’t expel the gas that builds up, eventually their bodies just explode.

But she wasn’t a roach! That couldn’t happen to her! She was a Human, damn it! She was Human! Terror caused her attempt a panicked crawl towards the door. She’d be okay if she got to a hospital. She’d be okay! She wasn’t a cockroach! She wasn’t a pest that fed off others, that was hated by everyone. She was Human, she mattered! She was Human!

She screamed as the roaches started to crawl up her legs and across her arms. Screamed louder as they seemed to swarm at the doorway that was still out of her reach, as if preventing escape.

“I matter! I matter!” she cried as they swarmed her, and the pressure inside of her grew. Frantic she rolled onto her back flinging a good many of the bastard roaches off of her, but the movement caused the pressure inside her gut to increase again. She cried out and curled her knees and arms inward as if to protect herself, as the roaches descended upon her.

“No! Nononononon…” POP!

That was how they found Eunice Haversham three weeks later, laying on her back in a dirty bathroom, her legs and feet in the air and a look of horror on her face.

 

cockroach-612098

 

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October 30, 2016 · 11:59 pm

Train To Nowhere

Leslie Daniels headed for the far side of the deserted subway platform, her rubber soled waitress shoes squeaking on the polished tiles as she walked. It had been a long day and she wanted nothing more than to get home, put her aching feet up and watch Letterman before falling into her bed with her cat Ruffles. She might even take a bath, if she could scrounge up the energy, but worried that she might fall asleep in the tub.

A movement in the corner of her eye caught a reflection in one of the glass-encased advertisements that thanked people for riding the subway. She suspected it was someone moving on the opposite platform, but when she glanced around she that she was the only person waiting for the train on either side. It must have been a bird flying by, yes that was probably it, or a loose piece of newspaper.

As she headed down toward the end of the platform she passed another advertisement, this one with a new movie poster, and again there was a figure reflected in the glass. Startled, she spun around, but found no one there. She was alone on the platform. She shook her head at her own paranoia and continued on past one of the tall columns, only to feel a feather softness touch the back of her neck.

Spinning around for a third time she called out, thinking someone was playing a trick on her. “Hello? Is anyone there?” Silence.

She put her hand to the back of he neck, trying to wipe away the feeling that had frightened her. Her arms broke out in goose flesh and a sudden chill crawled up her spine. She turned and continued on toward the end of the platform, her mouth suddenly so dry that she couldn’t form enough moisture to spit.

She slowed as she approached another of the encased advertisements, then slowly stepped before it and peered into the glass. The florescent lights of the subway reflected back and there was nothing else there but the poster. Berating herself for being foolish, she continued toward the end of the platform, but her steps quickened. She stopped finally and trying to ignore all the scenarios that her over active imagination was conjuring up pulled her compact from her purse to powder her nose. Not that Ruffles would mind if she had a shinny nose, but it would keep her mind occupied. She picked up the circular sponge and glanced in the mirror, dropping the compact when a shadowed face appeared next to hers.

Swinging around she saw that she was still alone. “Hello? Is anyone there?” She was not in the mood for games and there was really no where someone could hide in here. “If someone is there please come out!” The only response was her own words echoing back at her.

A gust of wind blew a newspaper across the floor and Leslie flinched from it, nervously. Her heart beat had increased and she was starting to sweat. She looked desperately down the tunnel, praying for the train to come, but the tunnel was dark and silent.

“There’s no one here,” she told herself, firmly. “You’re just being stupid. You’re alone and the train will be here any minute.”

At that, she heard the sound of the train and a dim glow appeared in the tunnel. Her heart rate started to slow, her fear easing. She pulled her coat higher on her shoulders as the vibration from the train set a ringing in her ears and the platform started to tremble beneath her. She bent to retrieve her compact and started to smile as she straightened, then saw the deformed face in the cracks of her mirror.

The high pitched squealing of the train break drowned out her scream as pair of hands pushed her from behind.

 

subway

 

 

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October 23, 2016 · 11:15 pm

Tree House

I remember the first day I saw that gnarled old Tree; it seems ages ago now. I must have passed the house where The Tree stood a dozen or so times, but as with many things, one gets busy and life interferes with the ability to notice simple things.

On this one particular day The Tree finally caught my eye and I stopped for a closer look. It wasn’t a small tree, hardly one someone would miss, but easily taken for granted in a city where everything is rush, rush, rush. It is somewhat expected to see the odd Tree on a lawn in the smaller neighborhoods, as it lets people pretend they are not entirely surrounded by concrete and noise. Nature in the city is regulated to the cooing of pigeons on the sidewalk and dead leaves blowing past the gutters.

The house that sat behind The Tree was not overly remarkable, an older 2 story home, painted a faded shade of teal, that had been obviously subjected to the elements over the years. The only real character to the house was that the top floor window, which extended out and over the lower portion of the house in a curved cylinder shape, was as wide as the lower portion of the house. Shutters hung to either side of the windows on both floors, painted a dark, taupe, but they were not movable shutters just accents for the windows as many older homes used to have. This house did not appear to have been lived in for a great many years.

The base of The Tree was directly in front of the house, perhaps the contractors had built the house over a seedling and it sprouted from beneath in retaliation, and the base was the size of the tires on a Greyhound bus, round and stout like an old fashioned rain barrel.  A trunk of chocolate coloured, solid wood rose just a couple of feet off the ground before twisting upward and away from the house at such an alarming angle that it was a miracle the Tree had not fallen over. It almost appeared as if The Tree was trying to escape the presence of the house. There were no leaves on The Tree, no birds or squirrels hanging in it’s branches, it was devoid of any form of life, except that the wood was a rich brown and obviously very much alive.

The form of The Tree intrigued me, and as a storyteller inspired me as well. I began imagining what The Tree might be running from, what it could be afraid of. Was there some sinister presence in the house, like the story of Amityville, or was The Tree the true evil, reaching out for new souls to capture little children to eat, like the one in Poltergeist?

The Tree

 

Now you’re probably thinking that I have simply seen to many horror movies and read to many Stephen King stories, but this tree would make anyone wonder, if they took enough time to really notice it. Every day and evening when I passed The Tree I was compelled to stare at it with wonder and I honestly believed that the thing was growing bolder, that it’s arms reached further away from the house and closer to the street, closer to me.

Finally, on one cold evening in December, as I walked home through layers of gently falling snow that covered the sidewalk, cars, and fences that I passed, I noticed that the The Tree remained untouched by winter’s hand. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground beneath, some on the house behind, but no snow on The Tree itself.

This was simply too much to ignore and I was compelled to investigate such a phenomenon. I had finished my shift at midnight and it was now almost one in the morning. There was no one on the streets of my quiet neighborhood, no cars, no people, and not even a stray cat. Having no audience to remind me that technically I was trespassing, I stepped forward onto the front lawn of the house. There were no lights in the windows, nor had there ever been in all the time I had passed by at night, which was why I assumed it was vacant.

My boots left small footprints in the snow as I approached The Tree and part of me, mostly stirred by my imagination, told me to get the hell out of there before The Tree came alive or some zombie came running out of the house after me. However, the logical part of me, who dismissed such happenings, could not contain her curiosity.

Two more steps closer and I was at the base of the Tree, looking up through the branches, which offered a decidedly macabre appearance. Reaching out with a gloved hand I touched The Tree, not knowing what to expect, but certain something would happen, and when nothing did I pulled back. The Tree didn’t come alive, a hand didn’t appear to pull me inside, and I wasn’t shocked into oblivion or turned into a toad, it was just a tree.

Somewhat disappointed I stepped back to glance around The Tree to the house. It didn’t look specifically ominous this close up either. Shaking my head at my own morbid stupidity I turned back toward the street, only then realizing how incredibly quiet it was.

When I say this, you must understand that while it is late at night, in the city there would still be noise. The sounds of all night streetcars on the roads, someone shouting from three streets over, usually teenagers out past curfew, and sirens in the distance can almost always be heard along with the humming of streetlights and neon signs. Instead, there was only a deafening silence with only the sound my own heartbeat to keep me company.

A feeling of unease settled over me and as I moved one foot forward back onto the curb. I glanced down and saw that the lawn, dusted with a thin layer of snow, remained beneath my boots. I took another few steps, able to see the sidewalk ahead, yet unable to reach it. Like an old Jimmy Cagney musical, the ground seemed to roll backwards with each step I took, giving the illusion of walking without actually going anywhere. Another step, and another, I was almost running, and still I could not reach the sidewalk, until I took a giant leap and was propelled backwards into the Tree.

Stunned and frightened I lay there in the snow, staring at the houses across the street, a small convenience store just up the road with cars parked in front of it. This didn’t make any sense! What had I gotten into? I could see everything just as before, but I couldn’t get off the damn lawn. Horrified, I watched as a car drove up the street in front of me, moving without any sound. There was no crunching of tires on pavement, no hum of the engine as it drove past, only absolute silence like a movie without the soundtrack.

I scrambled to my feet and walked around to the other side of the lawn and the same thing happened, movement without movement, walking without getting anywhere. I began to shout, hoping someone would hear me, maybe call the police, come to their doors to check out the noise, but the neighborhood remained silent as a tomb.

Desperate, I scooped up enough snow to form a ball and threw it, watching it land, soundlessly on the street. Then, I made the mistake of reaching my hand out, half expecting to feel an invisible barrier of some kind, like the one mimes often pretend to feel with their hands, but my fingers slipped through and I felt only air. I took my glove off, no, not air, I felt nothing, absolutely nothing and it felt horribly wrong. Even air feels like something, when it touches bare skin, when you wave your hand back and forth there is a slight change in temperature, a breeze, warm or cold, yet here there was nothing. I shivered, but not from the cold, and pulled my glove back on.

There was no sound, no feeling, and it was then I realized that my breath no longer fogged the air. When I tried again to move forward I felt a painful discomfort and I realized that my feet had fallen asleep. The prickling sensation ascended to my legs and intensified by the time it reached my torso, like a swarm of spiders had worked their way inside my clothes and embedded themselves beneath my skin.

I slapped at my chest and legs, ripped open my jacket expecting to see the insidious creatures, and found nothing. I spun around during my struggles, facing The Tree and the sensation stopped. That couldn’t have been just my imagination; my skin still felt like it was crawling, just not as strong. I stared at The Tree, it remained immobile and indifferent, but my chest was heaving like I had just run a marathon.

Still scratching at my chest and arms, I turned to look at the house. I could see no way around to the back due to a privacy fence, so my only choice was to go through it and hope there was an exit to the road behind. There had to be a back door, a house always had a front and a back door, didn’t it? Right, so that was what I would do. I’d go through the house to the back, shouldn’t be too bad.

Now, you are probably thinking isn’t it lovely how well I am adapting to the situation, aside from my spastic fit a few moments ago, but you have to understand… I HAVE read an enormous amount of Stephen King and so my sense of normality is somewhat different from others and I tend to adapt easier to the bizarre. I mean really, I suppose I could start screaming for help, okay technically I did try that, but I’m not yet crying hysterically, or praying because all is lost… that would only do for an hour or so and I would still be stuck now wouldn’t I?

So, over to the house I went, not really afraid mind you, just extremely cautious. After all, I had no idea what I would find in that house, but in it I must go. I couldn’t sit out here all night. Stepping onto the porch my foot immediately went through one of the boards and I twisted my ankle, which of course, was a wonderful start to my adventure. It hurt like a sonofabitch, but I was able to pull it out and continue.

I knocked on the door and received no answer, I think I would have been more surprised if there had been a response. The door was locked, and so I limped around the porch to the side of the house, hoping to gain access to the rear and put this Twilight Zone episode behind me. Oddly enough the porch only led into an outside wall of the house, with one door; also locked.

There was a smell here, to this day I can’t describe it and I have never discovered anything like it since, but it was strange enough that I proceeded with additional caution. A small window on the side, the top, level with the doorframe beside it, was slightly ajar by about an inch or so. It was too high up for me to reach but there was an old kitchen chair on the porch, rusted and with no backing, that I was able to climb on to boost myself up. Sliding my hand between the sill and the window I lifted it the rest of the way up, waited a moment to see if an alarm would sound or three-headed dog would take off my hand, and then I climbed inside.

Okay, I should mention here that whenever you climb through an open window, unlike in the movies, you should not expect a soft landing, nor are most people double jointed that they can start headfirst and land on their feet inside. I pulled myself through headfirst and that was pretty much how I landed, my scull and right shoulder bouncing off what I assumed was a kitchen counter.

Contusions aside, once I was through the window it was like falling into an open grave. The air was stale and rot with mildew, and an odd smell lingered in a darkness that was as black as the deepest pits of hell should be. Everything was so very still. It felt like a giant lump was starting to form on my forehead as I grabbed the counter and slowly rose to my feet. My shoulder and ankle ached, but now that I was inside I could only go forward. The street lamps outside could not permeate this dark, thick gloom and had I realized it would be so incredibly pitch black I might have considered other options.

Feeling my way around, wishing for the first time that I smoked because then I would have a lighter or matches, it appeared that the walls seemed devoid of pictures or ornaments. This must be what it was like to be blind, or dead, I suppose, but I didn’t really want to make that assumption right now. Groping my way across the wall, I was startled when I fell through a swinging door that led outside the kitchen into a narrow hallway. To the right a hint of silver light streaming through the panels of the front door and one of the smaller windows cast an eerie gloom over the bulky, white draped furniture of the living area. The walls remained in shadow, the light reflecting away from them as The Tree twisted away from the house. To my left was darkness and directly ahead was a staircase leading up, probably to that funky overhanging room in the front.

Well, since I was looking for a way out, the stairs would have been an asinine choice. Did you ever notice though that when the women in horror movies or slasher flicks are being chased by killers or zombies, they always run upstairs to get away from them? What are they going to do, jump out a window on the second floor, break their leg and wait for the killer to pick them off? Like I said, asinine. But that’s what makes for a good movie I suppose. If the characters had any real sense, they wouldn’t have been in that predicament in the first place and of course…if they were Texans, they could have shot old Jason or the screamer guy with the 357 Magnum they carried in their purse, for just such an occasion.

Sorry, I tend to crack jokes when I get to this part, I guess because what comes next isn’t really very funny at all. In reality, the fact that I can tell you about it without screaming is really quite surprising.

I moved closer to the wall, using my hand as a guide and wandered into the darkness. I came to what I thought was a door and pushed it open, a cold breeze greeted me. I assumed that this would be the way out. I could see the glow of moonlight up ahead and moved towards it, my boots a distracting clomp, clomp across the floor. I picked up speed as the light brightened through another open doorway and I was sure that I could smell fresh air.

Stepping through the door, I expected to see dark, open sky so was puzzled when to find myself in a child’s room instead. Well, wasn’t this a kick in the teeth? Who would put a child’s bedroom at the back of the house? Of course, I was taking for granted that I was at the rear of the home, stumbling around in the dark can play havoc on your sense of direction. Still, there was light coming from inside the room and I looked around to find the source.

Illumination from the street lamp outside streamed through the second floor window that I had seen from the street earlier, but how was that possible? It hadn’t felt like I had been walking upward and I had specifically avoided the stairs, so how could I have gotten into this second story room? I crossed the threshold and felt a hot flush crawl up my skin, followed immediately by a thousand raised bumps across my cold skin. I moved to the window and could see front lawn The Tree reaching away from the house.

Perplexed, I went back through the door, into the darkness and again felt my way across. The walls felt odd beneath my hands, not completely solid. I could have taken off my gloves to get a better understanding of it, but something inside me advised against this. The floor remained level, it did not appear to be rising or descending, or even curving.

On I went, through the darkness and the cold, searching for an exit, unable to believe that the house was so big, it looked so much smaller from outside. My head ached like a jackhammer was racing across the center of my skull and my ankle seemed to be getting worse with each step I took.

dark

I heard noises in the darkness, whispers, and sounds that I truly believed was either the wind or a product of my own over active imagination. They were so soft, you see, more like traces of whispers, and I had to question if they were even there. Like when you see something out of the corner of your eye, you turn and it is gone; the minute I stopped or cocked an ear to listen the noise stopped. And the smell, it was much stronger and I still have nothing to compare it to. It was like a mixture of seaweed, bleach, mud, propane and something…something else entirely. I had my scarf over my mouth and nose to try and filter it, to keep me from gagging.

After what seemed like forever I could see a light and moved closer, I realized that it was again the doorway to the upstairs room. This was getting silly, for all the walking that I was doing there had to be other doors than the one that led to this stupid room. I had not even seen the stairs again and could no longer find the window I had climbed through or the front door. I have never been particularly bothered by the dark but I was starting to be. The only light came from this room and it seemed that every path through the house led here. That wasn’t possible of course, but the fact that I was trapped in this house with the runaway tree was not exactly something for reality TV either.

On my third trip around, I’d had enough of the dark, the phantom whispers, and the smell and decided to try to open the window of the second story bedroom. Once outside again, I would at least have light and fresh air and maybe I could find another way around the house.  Ignoring that weird, flushed shiver and a moment or two of nausea as I stepped into the room, I was startled to see the light of dawn steaming through the window.  How long had I been wandering around in this Godforsaken thing?

I was starting to get really scared as I pulled my gloves off and ran my hands over the window frame, searching for locks or switches that would release it. There was nothing. No locks, no hooks, and the windows themselves appeared to be painted shut. No, on closer inspection, I could feel tiny rounded edges of metal…the window was nailed shut. To keep people out or to keep something else in, I wondered. That smell was filtering into this room and I started to gag again on the awful stench. I watched someone jog past the house and banged on the window to gain his attention, but he ran past without even glancing up.

I hit the glass and screamed as loud as I could, but the guy kept on going. I told myself that he had a Walkman on and couldn’t hear me; I needed the lie to keep myself sane. Then when two ladies walked past in the opposite direction, and they didn’t hear me either, I resigned myself to the fact that the room was probably soundproofed and I didn’t have the time to wonder why.

Turning around, I searched the room for something I could use to break the window, no longer caring that I was on private property. I just about jumped out of my skin when something skittered across my boot, but when I looked down I could see nothing. The complete silence of the room was broken by whispers in the dark, strange moaning and whimpering. Was someone playing a trick on me? No, who would have known that I would come in here?

In my frantic search for something to break the window with, I knocked over a small lamp and was surprised when it blinked on as it crashed to the floor. That was when I saw why the walls had felt so strange, they were covered in what looked like human flesh, many of it still covered in dry blood and hair, insects and God knew what else, stripped flat and stretched like wallpaper across the room.

My hand covered my mouth to keep the bile rising from my gut and spewing across the floor. Terrified, I backed up into the window. Click, click, clickity- click, the sound of someone typing, or perhaps nails tapping furiously on a desk, came from below and when something crunched beneath my foot I glanced down and saw millions of creeping, crawling insects. My eyes clamped shut. This isn’t happening; it’s all my imagination. All of this stuff wasn’t in here before; I’m just getting psyched out.

I dropped my hand and opened my eyes, prepared to see the room as it really was, dark, dull and quiet, but I was horribly disappointed. The lamp flickered out and a bluish glow descended upon the room reminiscent of the morgue scenes you might see in movies, with the overhead fluorescents flickering disturbingly. The light prevented my eyesight from adjusting properly and cast frightening shadows in the darker corners of the room.

I did not want to see what would come next and spinning around I slammed my hands against the window glass, demanding to be let out. Again and again I pounded on the glass until my hands began to bleed from the force of my fear.

Suddenly I could hear a strange scraping, like the tearing sounds of skin ripping from the walls. I froze in horror as the sound of shuffling crossed the room along with the crunching of insects underfoot as something moved closer. A single tear escaped my right eye and still I refused to turn away from the window towards the noise, terrified of what I would see. The smell was putrid, the whispers were now voices, groaning, crying in agony, and the shuffling, the crunching, the flickering of that damned blue light.

I covered my ears, wanting to block out the sounds, wanting to wake up from this nightmare. “You’re not real! None of this is real! Leave me alone, I don’t believe in you!”

I was so intent on my mantra of disbelief, so panicked, that it took me awhile to realize my hands and face were wet and when I looked at them, I saw that they were covered in blood, blood that was running down the window pane as if the house itself was crying for the lost souls hidden in it’s walls.

Something touched my shoulder and I screamed. The horrific blue light; that dead light that I hated, suddenly went out and pitched me into darkness. Seeing the horrors of that room was terrifying, not seeing them was even worse. I could still hear them, still smell them and now I was blind to them.

bleeding-wall

I felt the insects crawling up my legs, dropping into my boots, scraping the bare skin of my calf. Hands that did not feel like hands at all, touching me, tearing at my clothes, pulling at my hair, caressing my face, whispering their death curses and promising suffering beyond my imagination. I wanted to move, get to the door, better the darkness out there where the walls didn’t breathe and there were no sounds of ripping flesh and masticating insects.

Scratching at the window drew my attention as I battled with the creatures in the darkness, and spinning around I saw that The Tree had twisted its upper branches towards the house.

I pounded at the glass and I knew, or perhaps I was just desperate enough to believe, that somehow it was trying to help me. “I’m here! Let me out! Help me, please!”

The branches slammed against the window, the sound echoing in the room, as my hands beat on the glass from the inside. Suddenly, all movement and sounds ceased and a curtain of silence dropped over the room.  A flickering red glow was reflected in the glass, between my crimson hands, firelight catching on the lower frame of the door and steadily climbing up the walls caused me to turn and face whatever new horror was rising. The only sound now was The Tree outside, scratching vigorously at the window as it would in a fearsome storm.

The floor beneath me began to move again, like the Moonwalk attraction at a carnival, soft, mobile, squishy.  A vortex opened, where the door used to be, and through the black pit a face moved forward bathed in fire and razor sharp fangs, the gurgling sound of blood being fed through an enormous mouth. Sharp talon like hands reached forward and I knew that they were meant to peal the skin from my bones and feast on my brains, as it had the others

The house wanted to devour me and this wasn’t a dream. I glanced at the walls, wondering how many people had met their end here, how many people had joined Jeffery Dahlmer’s interior decorator. I didn’t want to be its next victim, I refused to be, even as I felt the talons crawling up my legs, tearing through my denim jeans and gouging bloody trails through the delicate flesh of my legs

I slammed myself against the window matching the ferocious efforts of The Tree outside as it thrashed against the glass. Finally, the window gave away and I dove outside onto the closest branch. A roar unlike anything I have every heard, or ever care to hear again, filled with such hatred that the hairs on my arms stood up, released from the room as the talons made another grab for me.

The Tree was twisting again, moving back towards the street, and I climbed as fast as my tired, battered body would carry me. I grabbed onto one of the higher branches, tried to keep from falling as it rose higher and swung away from the demon house. My hand paused against the smooth wood, yes smooth, like a baby’s bottom and not like a tree at all; which was usually weathered and crusted and embedding splinters into your flesh. I realized there were faces in The Tree, faces and forms and all of them were crying for release, their features warped in agony and despair.

I saw my own frightened face emerging beneath my hand and wondered if I had not made the wisest choice in choosing The Tree for my savior. I began to see myself being eaten like the child in Poltergeist and cursed at my own stupidity. Escaping one horror for another, skinned by demons or eaten by a Tree, what a freaking choice to have!

The branches continued moving, groaning and creaking until it was back in its former position. The limb that I clung to hovered directly over the street, well past the invisible barrier I could not penetrate earlier. The branches lowered, moaning and shuddering with the effort, until I could tumble from its grasp onto the sidewalk without hurting myself further.

I shivered as the cold air slapped the warmth from my cheeks and the freezing snow melted through the seat of my pants, penetrating the layers and chilling me to the bone. A car passed by, exhaled a trail of smoke from its exhaust that immediately filled my lungs. I began to cough, the sound almost drowned out by a street screeching into the subway station several blocks away.  My breath! My breath was making soft misty frost clouds and the sounds of the city surrounded me.  I had never felt so alive! I had never come so close to death!

I looked up at the Tree, which was now back in its former position, untouched by the falling snow and devoid of wildlife, once again still and silent. Carefully, I managed to pull myself together and rise to my feet and wondering if I had imagined the whole thing, but it was daylight, the city was coming alive and there was dried blood on my hands.

I looked away from The Tree, unable to see the faces anymore and unwilling to share anymore of its secrets. I crossed to the other side of the street, vowing to never go near it again, and when I reached home I wept.

I took a different road home after that day, unwilling to go back near that horrific house, although part of me always wondered about The Tree. Was it trapped on that sinister property, forever guarding that dark secret the house held, or would it one day escape, once it’s branches reached high enough an far enough? Or was The Tree part of the darkness, but for whatever reason decided to change course and rescue me?

After a while I stopped thinking about what happened to me in that house, and I moved on with my life. Then one afternoon, many years later, a friend was driving me home and he took that street that I had avoided for so long. I was compelled to look for The Tree and was startled to see that it was no longer there. The house had been sold, and the tree had been cut down. The house had been remodeled and sported a new paint job and a quaint little fence around the yard, and had a for sale sign in the front.

I asked my friend to stop and I stepped out into the warm summer evening. I was worried for the people who would but the house and what horror’s they might endure, without The Tree’s protection, but then, as I moved closer to the fence, I saw that a small seedling had sprouted from where The Tree once stood, and its tiny, fragile stems seemed to be reaching towards me. I smiled, returned to the car and wished The Tree good luck.

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October 17, 2016 · 10:05 pm

Hell of a Day

A curved boat peeked through the languishing mists and pressed across a blood red sea. A harsh metal taste sullied the air, leaving a putrid after taste in the mouth of the thin man standing at the base of a red rock cliff, awaiting the ancient vessel. Despite the oppressive heat that threatened to suffocate and scorch his very breath as it left his body, the man shivered.

The boat slid to a stop at the very tip of the ledge and a gnarled, mummified hand beckoned him aboard. Jasper Keening swallowed, hard, stepped over the side and into the craft. For reasons he could not explain he did not look at the tall, cloaked ferryman, fearing his fate would be sealed if he so much as cast eyes upon a creature who could sail such seas.

As they pulled deeper into the mists, the sounds of the red water lapped eagerly at the boat, slapped and clawed against it. The crimson sea concealed thousands of unspeakable obstacles that pounded and ground against the wood beneath Jasper’s feet. hard enough that he had to cling to the thin wooden plank upon which he was seated; lest he be thrown overboard.

He would not put his hands over the edge of the boat. He did not wish to see, to feel or know what or who was impeding their progress. Then, the wailing began, horrific, gut-churning cries of suffering, of fear, of death and he started to shake.

A hand reached up to Jasper through the waves, then a head peeked through; eyes gouged from their sockets, skin puckered with boils and a scalp smoldering. It was as if they were being boiled. Boiled alive in a sea of blood.

At last they were on the other side, and he left the boat post haste, eager to be away from the maddening cries, the endless sounds of torment. The ferryman pointed one long bony finger, indicated an ancient stone stairway and so up Jasper climbed, to the throne room of his host.

The figure towered above him and settled against a throne made of rotting corpses. She was at once terrifyingly hideous and profoundly beautiful.

“A…are you a daughter of Satan?”

She laughed and it was a horrifying sound, comparable to a tremendous thunder storm, mixed with a million shrieking crows, and a hundred thousand screams of agony. “I am no daughter.”

“His…bride?”

“Not for many times…” She smiled and leaned closer to him, her breath pungent and sweet, deathly and alive. “I am the Mother. I am Beelzebub. Lucifer. Demogorgon. Mantus, I am all of one. I am the Keeper of the Gates.”

Jasper’s eyes widened. “But…He is called the Prince of Darkness.”

“Must a Prince have not a Queen who birthed him.” Again her wicked smile sent shivers through Jasper. “Was it not Eve who led your Adam astray? Was it not Helen who men went to war for?”

“Wars for many reasons. For freedom and to…to protect ourselves from enslavement and…”

“It is not for debate you are here, young Jasper.” She rose and cacophony of cries rose to a fevered pitch. Instead of feet there were claws, enormous black claws that scratched against stone steps, slick with blood, that screeched like a million nails drawn across a chalkboard as she descended.

“T…then why am I here?”

“Because you are dead. And your soul is mine.”

Jasper heard himself scream, just before her powerful jaws enveloped him.

 

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DÉJÀ VU 

 

The maroon Aries K Car navigated the treacherously winding coastal road with an ease that illustrated the driver’s knowledge of the area. The sun was setting, the sky above deepening to a deep, royal blue, and accentuated by swirls of magenta and soft gold as it melted into the aquamarine of the ocean below. Wave after wave of white water crashed against the rocks at the base of the cliffs, working desperately to smooth the jagged edges then drawing back in wistful retreat.

A flock of seagulls floundered against multiple cresting waves, searching for unsuspecting fish as they littered the sky in pockets of white. The scent of a salty ocean, ripe with marine life, filtered through the open windows of the car, where a woman and young girl sat side by side.

The woman, stylishly dressed, sporting a bob of cropped blond hair, held a cigarette in her right hand as her left steadied the steering wheel. Boldly, she sang along to the tunes on the radio, a little off key, but no less cheerful than the originating artist.

The girl, no more than eleven, with the same blond hair only much longer, had her nose buried in a book and was paying no attention to the beauty just outside her window. She’d seen the view a hundred times before and didn’t care for the water, especially since she could not swim.

A sharp left turn propelled the young girl closer to the passenger side door, a slide to the right and then left again, drop a couple of feet, then start all over. The girl hated this road, hated that every time they went to her grandmother they had to drive on a path that was obviously made when a paver simply followed an intoxicated snake rather than his normal route.

Another sharp turn brought her head up and out of her book. Her mother sometimes referred to the edgy twists in the road as COD turns, which meant ‘Come Over Darling’, the girl believed ‘Call Of Death’ was more appropriate. The speed posted was 30 MPH, but her mother was pushing 50, now 60…65… She noticed that her mother had tossed out the cigarette and now held the wheel with both hands.

The woman’s mouth thinned in fierce determination as one black high heel continued to pump the breaks. The coastal view was whipping past now at an alarming speed as she fought for control of the car and swore. She glanced at her little girl, her dear sweet baby girl, her face filled with regret and then terror.

The girl was not surprised that the guardrail did not hold, but the sound of their car hitting it did startle her; like someone crushing a thousand pop cans at once. Her heart leap into her throat the minute they were airborne, a flush of heat swelled through her and gushed out with her scream.

The woman’s arm shot out across her daughter in a vain effort of protection, just before the car crashed into the water below. The girl had expected the landing to be softer, it made sense; as it was just water, but from a thirty foot drop it was like hitting concrete. The girl couldn’t tell if she had been thrown forward into the dashboard or if the dashboard and retracted back into her little body.

I can see underwater, she thought as the car started to submerge, and then a second later remembered she couldn’t swim. She felt her mother clawing at her, then realized it was to release the seat belt. Water rushed as she felt herself being propelled forward.

“Out!” the woman screamed shoving her daughter towards the window before the car was completely beneath the waves. Get out! Swim!”

“I can’t!” the girl cried. “Mommy! I can’t!”

“Do as I tell you! Swim!” The woman managed to push the girl through the window, then tried to release her own belt but found it wedged. She looked back at her daughter. “You have to! Now! Go!”

The girl, reluctant to leave her mother but too scared not to do as she was told, kicked and flailed until she reached the surface, but she was not strong enough, and ended up clinging to the back of the car as it sank. She was pulled back down beneath the waves and watched as the red glowing taillights of the car started to sink further and further into the deep, taking her mother with it.

She broke through the surface again, sputtering, crying for her mother, but there seemed to be miles and miles of ocean surrounding her. Her mother was gone, there were no boats, no sounds, no one to help her and she couldn’t swim.

Closing her eyes she sank beneath the waves again.

Jenny broke out of her daydream with a start. Her book had fallen closed on her lap while she stared out the passenger side window of her mother’s car. The winding road was boarded in places with steel guardrails to prevent a car from slipping over the side and crashing into the ocean below; but only in places. It was the areas that were left unguarded by these rails that inspired Jenny, caught hold of her imagination and refused to let go.

Unlike most eleven-year-old’s, Jenny didn’t daydream about movie stars, boyfriends or having nice clothes. Her fantasies were always morbid, surrounding death, destruction and tragedy. She never understood why her mind worked that way, or why she focused so much on people getting hurt, maimed or killed, but she’d come to accept it. She supposed that as long as they were just fantasies, it wasn’t wrong to think about them.

She glanced at the speedometer, much as she had in her daydream and saw it was holding at 50MPH. Her mother’s stylish black pump was pressing against the accelerator as the wind whisked away the ash she tipped off her cigarette.

Jenny looked up at the road, then back at her mother again; concerned at how familiar everything seemed. The speedometer was now at 60 and her mother was no longer smoking. She tightened her seat belt with shaking hands and heard her mother swear as the scenery whipped past them. Fear coiled its way into a heart that threatened to burst from her tiny chest.

She offered a silent prayer of thanks that she had taken those swimming lessons her mother had insisted upon just a few weeks prior.  Maybe having such thoughts were a bad thing after, she thought, just as they crashed through the guardrail.

A.H.

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May 2, 2013 · 5:15 pm

WATER COLOUR

The air is frigid inside the enormous mouth of the cave, offering little relief from the howling winds that toss around the flurries of snow across the freezing planet’s surface.

A figure stumbles against the darkness of the cavern, near blind as he feels his way further into the void, slicing his hands on the walls of jagged rock and ice that surrounds him. His foot slips and suddenly he is falling, tumbling, sliding until he comes to a brutal stop upon a cave ledge.

Shaken, breathless, he climbs to his feet and wipes the stinging ice particles that had attached themselves on the way down, away from the large cut across his forehead. Leaning heavily against a wall that, for the moment, appears to be blessedly smooth, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigarette lighter. After several attempts, with his numb fingers refusing to work the instrument, he tosses it away in frustration.

His teeth are chattering so badly that he is worried they might jump out of his mouth and scamper across the floor. His legs had long lost any recognizable feeling and were starting to deny the simplest of commands, such as walking. Trying to fold his arms around himself for warmth, he succeeded only in destroying his already precarious balance against the wall and slid down to his knees.

It seemed brighter down here, or perhaps his eyes were finally adjusting to the darkness. He doesn’t know if there is actually a light or just his own desperate hope of the possibility, and that it has to be coming from somewhere. He notices the sparkle of the walls around him as they continue to form ice crystals and paused in his delirium and considered how pretty it was.

The wind outside the cave was still howling, he could hear it moaning through the caverns and vibrating off the walls, like a vengeful banshee waiting to suck away his soul. At the present moment that would be preferable to freezing to death. For the first time ever in his life he felt the sting of defeat and prayed someone would come soon, would find him before he became part of this ice prison he’d become trapped in.

Oddly, perhaps because the numbness had started to penetrate his brain, he couldn’t recall how he had ended up in this God forsaken place, only that he had no equipment, no food, no water and was wearing only his usual jeans, T-shirt and an old raglan. None of it offered him protection from the brutal cold. He was so cold, so terribly tired and he wanted to sleep, God did he want to sleep, just to get away from the cold for awhile, but he knew if he slept he would never wake up.

He sat there shivering, curled into a ball trying to extend whatever body warmth he had left to all his numbed parts, his eyes drooped and he prayed for relief. He couldn’t even remember how long he’d been stumbling around in the cave, or if anyone was even looking for him. All he knew for certain was that he was cold, horribly, horribly cold, and scared; scared he would freeze to death in this ice cavern and never be found.

Suddenly, an ominous sound vibrated through the tunnels and he struggled to sit up and open his eyes. Looking around the darkness seemed intense and he could see nothing now, not even the little flicker of light that had given him hope. Intuition warned him to rise to his feet and get the hell out of there, that something worse than the cold would soon be upon him, but his legs refused to support him.

After many desperate tries, with nothing to catch a solid, firm grip on to lever him upright, he still managed to scramble to his feet and stiffly hobble forward. He had only gone a few steps when everything grew quiet. His fear increased even as he chanced a look behind him, into the abyss of darkness and saw the wave of ice and water charging towards him.

His eyes widened in fear, his mouth opened and he screamed…

Allison finished up her painting with a final flourishing stroke and smiled with satisfaction.

“All done, hun?” Robert asked, pausing behind his wife to admire the artwork displayed. “Wow! That’s fantastic!”

Alison beamed at him as she signed her name at the bottom. “I think I outdid myself,” she agreed. “I ran out of canvas in the minute of my inspiration so I borrowed some sheets from your desk; is that okay?”

“The ones on the desk? Nah, I was just flushing out a new character for my book.” He squeezed her shoulder and tapped his head.  “I’ve got everything locked in here, no worries.”

“Your new detective novel?”

Robert smiled and nodded.

“Allison set her brushes in a bottle of cleansing solution. “You’ll have to tell me more about it over dinner.” She rose. “Which I intend to order from La Ristorante, as a reward from our hard work.”

“Sounds great,” Robert agreed and watched her leave the room, before turning back to the painting.

It was a beautiful scene on what appeared to be an arctic planet, complete with a mountain backdrop and one large cavernous opening peeking out behind a tall flowing waterfall. He leaned closer and scowled at the small run of color at the bottom of the waterfall, looked like his wife missed a stroke. Strange, he didn’t see any other red on the painting.

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