Category Archives: ghost stories

Christmas River Ghost by Paula Cappa

Christmas River Ghost    by Paula Cappa

A Christmas Tale,  Thursday,  December 7, 2017

Merry Christmas to my readers and followers. I give you a free short story by yours truly (flash-fiction, 12-minute read). Snuggle in with a cup of hot spiced cider, a Christmas cookie, and the Christmas River Ghost.

 

 

They come—through the icy wind, between the naked trees, walking the bridge, by Eagle Hill River. On Christmas Eve, I come home to call the old time back. Holly wreaths, tea and sugar, apple cakes, a partridge in a pear tree. And a peacock hung dead with its speckled feathers in the pantry. ‘ Take the peacock, break its neck.’  That I remember with a shiver.

Tonight there is the good news of snow falling, the dark village sleeping beneath giant snow drops everywhere as I make my way through Main Street. The church steeple chimes do not sound yet, as it is not midnight. My mind calls up pixies and elves, the ringing of sleigh bells across the sky.

The house waits for me, shabby with the grief of those passed on. Spending Christmas alone has its virtue, my sister Annabella used to say, whose heart was ever open to charity’s claims and gift-giving. She would know about such solitude; she had spent many a Christmas alone. Too many times, my fault.

A Christmas Eve supper will sooth me: ham and apricots, a fresh biscuit, a glass of warm red wine with a cinnamon stick. The crabbed and wrinkled Scrooge breaks into my thoughts. Maybe I would read a few pages of Dickens. Remind myself of the miserly and cold-hearted man.

Snow pelts arrows at me as I stumble up the hill to the front path. I ring the doorbell just for fun, announcing my arrival to no one. Maybe Annabella will hear it. That is, if her spirit still lives here. Christmas ghosts are common, I’m told. Christmas miracles and all that—the arrival of the holy babe makes a holy night. If true, her presence would certainly reside in the kitchen especially. Her lilac perfume and the green ribbons in her light brown tresses every Christmas day. I can see her at the stove, blue eyes sparkling, her cheeks flushed with the holiday excitement. Home is such a magnet. In the front hall I nearly expect to hear her laughter just one more time.

The kitchen is the same as when I was a girl. Oak table by the frost-crazed window panes. That ancient curly-legged cast iron stove that spouted smoke at the ceiling. A white cupboard, open-shelved where pies would cool and tempt.

‘ Rose, take the peacock, break its neck, cut its throat.’

Again I shiver. “Time to make Christmas.” I warm the kitchen with Annabella’s boiling copper kettle and make a pot of orange tea in her china teapot trimmed in holly. I set my slice of ham, three apricots, and biscuit into the oven. The red wine steams with the cinnamon stick on the stovetop. The savory aroma is exactly as Annabella used to make it. In the library, I stack logs and kindling in the hearth as she did every Christmas when I was a child. Nothing like a roaring fire to set things right. For I must set things right tonight.

As I recline in the giant armchair, I decide against reading Dickens. No need for Scrooge now, nor the reminder of being arrogant and vain and stingy.  My tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Is this really me? I’m done with all that. Music will serve. I find Annabella’s old Christmas records. Sleigh bells ring … are you listening … walking in a winter wonderland.

‘ We cut its throat. Flay him, skin him, feathers and skin altogether.’ I squeeze my eyes shut to blink away the raw images. Such exquisite turquoise- and purple-eyed quills. Peacocks are perfect everlasting beauties. I shoot my vision out the side window. Through the snow, I see the old ice house still stands by the bridge. And that marvelous sledding hill that Annabella and I rode, sisters hanging on to each other at every curve. Veering right, veering left, flying high. I never minded numb fingertips.

‘ Draw him down tight. Keep the neck whole. Mind the dripping blood now.’  My breath catches in my chest like an ice block. I down the wine and head to the kitchen to check the ham. I set out my Christmas supper on the oak table and sit down. Later on we’ll conspire … as we dream by the fire … walking in a winter wonderland. The biscuit is oozing with melted butter. The ham juicy and tender. I add a dash of salt and pepper.

‘ Brine the bird with salt, sugar, a palmful of peppercorns.’ Annabella’s words repeat in my head. She always basted the peacock with beaten eggs and honey.   ‘To keep the meat moist and tender.’ And she never believed the folklore that peacocks were bad luck or evil-eyed spirits. ‘ Pure as snow,’ she was certain.

‘ Let’s roast him high as if he is sitting up alive—just like a king.’

Every Christmas she would carry the bird on a silver platter on her shoulder to the table. The breast dripped with golden gravy. Annabella dressed it with the tail feathers struck out in a wild plumage of color. Before we ate it, as was usual from our childhood days, we made the peacock vow of immortality, an honor to the bird’s ‘ love and beauty forevermore.’

Forevermore, Annabella’s favorite word to shout out every Christmas.

“Annabella? Are you here with me tonight? Please be here with me tonight.”

Silence at Christmas time can be unnerving. I listen closely for a moment. “Annabella?”

Words float into my mind.  ‘ Rose, remember the flocks in the woods. Remember the dancing peacocks when you were a little girl.’

I gaze out to the vast woods and recall the giant birds’ studded tails, how they twirled their feathers into violet hues. I would practically swim in those exuberant colors, getting lost in them. What loud calls they made, like urgent church bells. Each peacock seemed to walk alone, though, on his own path. I always wondered why. Still, I loved the luster in their eyes as I greeted them good morning and good night each day.

‘ Remember, Rose. The bridge. Our favorite spot by the river.’

Maybe Christmas ghosts are real. If I could be granted just one moment with her. One moment to say just two words. Within minutes I bundle up, hat to boots, and slosh out. Leaving tracks behind me in the snow, uphill toward the sledding hill, I stop at the foot of the bridge. The river is churning slowly with ice patches. Through the snowfall, on the far side, I see a tangle of shadows, pointed shapes, hot-blue barrel chests, and streaming colorful threads. Dark is present. I am not afraid of the dark. I walk across the bridge and stop midway. Only the soft sounds of the snowflakes surround me. And then I see them. The flocks. Hundreds of all-seeing eyes stare straight at me. The woods are full of peacocks, their plumage unfurled and radiant, just like when I was a girl. My heart shivers.

One by one they turn away from me and walk through the trees on their separate paths. No Annabella appears. Nor will she. I know that now. There is no such thing as a ghost. No extra moments to be given. No words allowed to mend the past. Too many years now since the river swallowed Annabella that Christmas morning. Her canoe overturned; her body never found. I should have been here.

We live. We die. Only the peacock’s flesh does not decay when it dies, Annabella used to say. ‘ They live on for all of us, these forgiving souls of wisdom.’

A single peacock comes forward from the woods now. He mounts the bridge where I stand. With his beak lifted, he trails a dusty green aura behind him. Regal beyond words. True blue, he holds all the secrets in his vibrancy. I so envy him.

The snow stops. The peacock curls his soft feathers around me and I smell his meaty flesh. He flaps his wings and cries out as if laughing at life. He follows me back to the house, just like when I was a kid. Peacocks are such gifts. “Goodnight, lovely peacock. Goodnight.”

Christmas chimes ring out from the church steeple. Midnight, holy night. His wings flare, his tail swings generously, rocking the darkness. He perches himself up on the backyard fence rail, letting his feathers drip down like tresses.

Inside the house, I sit in the armchair by the window. Does he know I’m watching him? The shifting iridescence of his colors in the sudden moonlight saturate my thoughts. Alone on my own path, I drift off to sleep in the chair. Were it not for the church chimes ringing in the holy babe on Christmas morn, I might not have woken from such a deep sleep. Scrambling to my feet, I look out the window to the fence. Gone. His claw prints are tracks leading back to Eagle Hill River.

There, in the pure white snow he had shed his full plumage. A wild fan of green-rimmed, blue-eyed feathers are glistening in the Christmas sun—standing upright, alive like a king.

“Forevermore,” I say aloud. “Forevermore, Annabella.”

 

 

 

 

 

In medieval times, peacock was served for the Christmas feast. The bird would be skinned, roasted whole and then redressed in its feathers to look as if it was still alive. Its beak was gilded with gold leaf and a piece of cloth soaked in spirits was inserted into the beak and set alight. It would be served by the highest lady of the house.

 

 

By many accounts, it is well known that the iridescence in the peacocks’ colors represent the reality of the spiritual world rather than the imaginary world. In Christianity, peacocks are a common motif representing eternal life, the peacocks’ feathered eyes symbolizing the all-seeing eye of God. 

Fra Angelico’s Nativity with a peacock on the stable roof.

 

 

Friends, do leave me a comment. This is my newest short story and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or, ask me a question, let me know if you would recommend this story to friends, or if you’re so inspired, write me a quick review. 

 

 

 

 

Christmas River Ghost. Copyright © 2017 by Paula Cappa.

All Rights Reserved. 

 

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Charles Dickens’ The Haunted House

The Haunted House (in two chapters) by Charles Dickens (1859)

Tuesday’s Tale of Ghosts    November 21, 2017

Have you ever thought of early morning as the most ghostly time? Dickens creates a spooky yarn in this odd story: a hooded woman with an owl, a one-eyed tramp named Joby, and a haunted house in the full of autumn. Perfect for a Thanksgiving ghostly read. Lively, Victorian,  spooky storytelling, and compelling in this portmanteau style story.

“A house that was shunned by the village, to which my eye was guided by a church spire some half a mile off—a house that nobody would take.  And the natural inference was, that it had the reputation of being a haunted house.”

So, our narrator gets his sister and friends to spend the night and discover the ghosts within.  The thing about this story is that Dickens co-wrote it with five collaborators (Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins among them), for his weekly series in All the Year Round. The book has 8 chapters and each written by a different author.

The chapters in the book are the following: “The Mortals in the House” (Charles Dickens); “The Ghost in the Clock Room” (Hesba Stretton); “The Ghost in the Double Room” (George Augustus Sala); “The Ghost in the Picture Room” (Adelaide Anne Procter); “The Ghost in the Cupboard Room”  (Wilkie Collins); “The Ghost in Master B’s Room” (Charles Dickens); “The Ghost in the Garden Room” (Elizabeth Gaskell); “The Ghost in the Corner Room” (Charles Dickens).

 

You can read Dickens’ two chapters  The Mortals in the House  and The Ghost in Master B’s Room here:

 

 

Read Dickens’ two chapters at Gutenberg.org

Listen to the audio (1 hour) on YouTube.com.  

Check out the full book on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

“An idea, like a ghost … must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”  Charles Dickens

Biographical highlight:  A Dinner at Popular Walk was Dickens’s first published story. It appeared in the Monthly Magazine in December 1833.  He adopted the soon to be famous pseudonym Boz. Dickens’s first book, a collection of stories titled Sketches by Boz, was published in 1836.

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Filed under Charles Dickens, classic horror stories, fiction, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic Horror, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, mysteries, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, soft horror, supernatural, supernatural fiction, supernatural mysteries, tales of terror

GREYLOCK Wins Best Book Award, American Book Fest, 2017

I am very happy to announce …
GREYLOCK wins Best Book Award by American Book Fest 2017. 14th Annual Book Awards: Winners and finalists traverse the publishing landscape: Wiley, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Rowman & Littlefield, New American Library, Forge/Tor Books, John Hopkins University Press, MIT Press and hundreds of independent houses. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.
“In Greylock, Paula Cappa has written a smart, entertaining supernatural thriller, in which a composer with a damning secret battles a ballerina scorned, while an embittered messenger from the Otherworld demands to be heard. Think Stephen King meets Raymond Chandler with a score by Tchaikovsky. The author’s passion for both the arts and the natural world shines through on every page, while a mysterious composition from old Russia, combined with the majestic songs of the Beluga whale, form the thematic backdrop of the story. Briskly paced and yet lovingly detailed, this novel was a genuine pleasure to read.” —David Corbett, award-winning and best-selling author of The Mercy of the Night.

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Peculiar Spirit of the Skies

The Shadow: A Parable   by Edgar Allan Poe (1835)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    September 12, 2017

 

In the city of Ptolemais, seven men meet at night in a closed chamber.  They are drinking purple wine. An unquiet glare of the seven lamps penetrates. Inside the chamber is a shrouded body.

Olinos is our narrator:  “YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows.”

 

This is a 12-minute read with a thrilling edge. It has been called a “rhapsody of gloom” and is one of Poe’s early stories. Great prose!

 

 

Read the short story here at Xroads Virginia Eduction web site.

Listen to the audio (8 minutes) on You Tube.com.

More stories at  eapoe.org  

 

 

 

Poe is credited for defining the short story form.  He created the first recorded literary detective, Dupin,  in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Poe was known to be obsessed with cats,  and often wrote with a cat on his shoulder.  His cat Catterina died the same day as Poe. In 1848 the author attempted  suicide. Some time later he posed for this daguerreotype.

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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A Horrible Grey Loneliness: The Little Ghost

The Little Ghost by Hugh Walpole (1933)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 25, 2017

 

 

Death is an amazing adventure, yes? If you’ve ever lost a loved one, dear friend or relative, you know that “horrible grey loneliness” that can haunt you in the most subtle of ways. Our narrator has a ghost story to tell you. He is a journalist, happily married with two children and living in Wimbledon. When his greatest friend Charlie Bond, a  man with a charming personality, dies suddenly, the reality hits hard. Missing Charlie in his life becomes a pervasive ache for our narrator, and he escapes for a short holiday to the seaside. Sometimes when you fight a memory, the strangest things can happen. Like when you think you are alone in a room—but are not alone at all.

 

Read The Little Ghost at Gutenberg.net . Scroll down to click the title.

 

This short story was published in the collection  All Souls’ Night.  Sir Hugh Walpole was a best-selling British novelist. He published  36 novels and 6 volumes of short stories.  Virginia Woolf praised his writing: “It is no disparagement to a writer to say that his gift is for the small things rather than for the larger. If you are faithful with the details the large effects will grow inevitably out of those very details.”

Joseph Conrad said of him, “We see Mr. Walpole grappling with the truth of things spiritual and material with his characteristic earnestness, and we can discern the characteristics of this acute and sympathetic explorer of human nature.”

You might also like The Silver Mask or the vampire narrative Tarnhelm, included in All Souls’ Night. 

 

 

Hugh Walpole Portrait, by Stephen Bone, oil on canvas.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome.

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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The Ghost of Jane Austen Walks Here on the Bicentennial of Her Death

Reading Jane Austen on the Bicentennial of Her Death

Tuesday’s Tale    July 18, 2017

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on July 18, 1817. She died at the age of 41, and the cause is still a mystery. An ongoing debate ranges from arsenic poisoning to Addison’s disease to tuberculosis to lymphoma to the far-flung idea of murder.

Because I feature fiction by so many dead authors here at Reading Fiction Blog on Tuesday’s Tale, it seems appropriate for readers here who follow this blog, or drop in regularly, that we take a moment to honor the ghostly presence of this most beloved author. If this blog is about anything at all, it’s about  famous past authors we still love to read. I am often haunted by dead authors; my goal has always been to resurrect dead authors’ works, call these ghosts back into our lives, and once again dive into their imaginary worlds by reading and rereading their works. But Jane Austen needs no resurrection. She is still widely read and admired as one of our greatest novelists.

Jane Austen (born 1775) remains an enduring author, and so many generations appreciate the compelling style and substance of her six novels. Her characters are fully human, living in the everyday world and struggling on to survive.  Did you know Austen wrote short stories? These titles, Lady Susan; Love & Friendship; Jack and Alice; The Three Sisters; Lesley Castle; The Watsons; Sandition; The Beautiful Cassandra; Amelia Webster; The Visit; Evelyn, are her earlier works. None is available in the public domain but for 99 cents you can download them to your Kindle via Amazon.

 

In Pride and Prejudice, here’s a peak at Georgian life from Austen’s perspective (6-minute video).

 

 

More At Home With Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage: This short video below (8 minutes) shows the Jane Austen House Museum in the village of Chawton, in Hampshire, where Jane lived for the final eight years of her short life.

 

 

Our lives go on here after we are dead through a variety of ways. Ghosts remain here like blurry photographs, shadows releasing breathy moments. Jane Austen is a lovely ghost among us. Can you hear her footsteps? What an apparition she  is in her little bonnet. Her words live on; the sound of her voice rings clearly.

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” 

I encourage you to reread one of her novels, watch the films, or spend some time with her short stories. I recommend Northanger Abbey, published after her death,  a satire on the Gothic novel.  What if  you were to live your life as if inside a Gothic novel? Of course, there is a castle, a locked room, and mysteries at every turn. Catherine Morland is a charming protagonist, spending time in the English society of Bath where illusion and reality, haunted ruins, friendship—and romance—become compelling storytelling with the flavors of dark humor. At about 200 pages, this short novel is an ideal read for a summer’s afternoon, swinging in a hammock beneath sun-dappled trees, or lounging beach-side with the splash and hiss of waves for background music.

You can read Northanger Abbey  on Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/121

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Listen to the full audio of Northanger Abbey here at YouTube.com.

 

Watch the FILM here at YouTube.com:

 

Jane Austen Banknote Unveiled, The Guardian.

Read The New York Times’ “Jane Austen Wasn’t Shy” here.    Visit Jane Austen’s Blog here. 


 

Jane Austen’s Grave at Winchester Cathedral

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Reading Fiction Tales. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Ghost by Moonlight, Anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Death

“A ghost seen by moonlight; when the moon was out, it would shine and melt through the airy substance of the ghost, as through a cloud.”  

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

Friday, May 19 is the anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s death in 1864. Hawthorne was 59 years old. On the evening of May 18 inside the Pemigewasset House hotel in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Hawthorne retired early after a dinner of toast and tea. During the night,  former U.S. President Franklin Pierce (who had traveled with Hawthorne to the White Mountains) awoke to check on his friend in the adjoining room. The former president placed his hand upon Hawthorne’s forehead. He found that Hawthorne was dead.

Some think Hawthorne is the least remembered author from Concord, Massachusetts compared to Thoreau, Alcott, and Emerson. The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables of course are his most famous  novels. But if you ever read his Blithedale Romance, you’ll likely never forget the drowning scene. Or his short story The Haunted Mind, which will certainly haunt your mind even after you’ve finished. The Ghost of Dr. Harris is another fascinating read and not exactly fiction—the story is one of his “sketches.”

Because Hawthorne is an author I admire, I’m taking this week to remember this American novelist and  read one of his forgotten “sketches” that he wrote while living  in Concord: The Old Manse. Please join me in remembering a diamond in our literature.

The Old Manse (1846) From Mosses from an Old Manse  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Between two tall gate-posts of rough-hewn stone (the gate itself
having fallen from its hinges at some unknown epoch) we beheld the
gray front of the old parsonage, terminating the vista of an avenue of
black-ash trees.

 

 

Read the full sketch at Literature.com/Hawthorne.

 

 

 

 

Visit the Old Manse website (now a national historic site open for tours) in Concord, Massachusetts, where Hawthorne lived for seven years with his wife Sophia. Sophia (a transcendentalist) often referred to the home as their “beloved old house.”  Click here at TheTrustees.org.  And yes, there are ghosts at the Old Manse. Tourists, tour guides, and others will tell you so. I’ve visited there several times for research for my own novels and stories.

More about Nathaniel Hawthorne at HawthorneinSalem.org. 

 

 

[The Old Manse, modern view from Concord River, MA]

[Sleepy Hollow, Concord, MA]

If you are looking for a ghost story with historical flavors about the Old Manse, try Between the Darkness and the Dawn, originally published by Whistling Shade Literary Journal.

This short story is now a Kindle Single, FREE for you this week on Amazon.com.

 

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