Tag Archives: Halloween

Trick or…

“Trick.”

“What?” Diana frowned., a protective arm on her five-year-old, who was covered by a bedsheet with eyeholes.  The child was clutching a plastic bucket fashioned to look like a grinning pumpkin, gripping it tightly as though it were a lifesaver.

Mr Lewton smiled humourlessly from his doorstep.  “You said ‘trick or treat’, didn’t you?  I choose the latter.”

Diana let out an exasperated sigh.  “Nobody chooses trick.  Look, just give the cute little ghost some candy and we’ll be on our way.”

“Excuse me?” Mr Lewton tilted his head.  “’Candy’”?  I’m afraid we don’t have any of that here.  This is England.  We have sweets.  We have confectionery.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Diana.  “Are you going to give the kid some sweets or not?”

“Tell me.” Mr Lewton folded his arms, one shoulder resting against the door frame.  “Do you encourage your offspring to accept treats from strangers the rest of the year?”

“Of course not!  But it’s Halloween.  It’s supposed to be a bit of fun.”

“We never did it in my day,” Mr Lewton sniffed.  “I blame the Americans.”

“So do I,” Diana nodded.  “But the kids see it on the telly, don’t they?  All of his friends are doing it.  Look,” she lowered her voice and leant forwards, “I spent fucking hours making that costume.  Please!  It’s been a long evening.  It’s damp.  My feet are tired.”

“So, go home.”

“We will!  You’re the last house.”

“Lucky me.”  Mr Lewton glanced over his shoulder, as if untold riches stood in his hallway.  “I could let you have an apple, I suppose.”

“Er, no.  Thank you.  But no.  It’s just that you hear all sorts of stories, don’t you?  People who put razor blades in apples.”

“Really?  I hadn’t heard.  What about a cake?  Homemade, fresh this afternoon.”

“Um,” Diana’s nose wrinkled.  “Again, you hear all sorts.  Laxatives baked in.  Or worse.”

Mr Lewton nodded.  “Well, if you won’t take my apples and my cakes aren’t good enough, then I’m afraid that brings us right back to square one.”

“It does?”

“Yes.  Trick, please.  I have no treats to offer.”

The child hung its shrouded head in sorrow.  Diana’s eyes widened with panic.

“Look!  Anything!  A breath mint!  A dog biscuit!  Please!  I don’t want my Lawrence to get upset.”

“Aw, diddums,” said Mr Lewton.  “Well, if you can’t administer a trick — which is false advertising, by the way, not to mention the demanding of confectionery with menaces—”

“There is no trick!” Diana cut him off.  She was wringing her hands and gazing at the sky.  The clouds that had filled the late afternoon with drizzle and premature darkness rolled away and at last the moon was laid bare.  A full-fat moon, bathing the scene in creamy light.

“No…” Diana despaired, staggering backwards.

Lawrence’s bedsheet was slashed to shreds from within.  A thing of fur and fangs and claws leapt for Mr Lewton’s throat.  Mr Lewton tried in vain to put his front door between himself and the ravening monster.

“What—” he gasped, toppling to the carpet.  “Is this – some kind of —”

“Trick!” Diana nodded.  She covered her ears while Lawrence fed.  She picked up the plastic bucket and gathered the spilled sweets from the path.

A cloud glided in front of the moon.

“Come on, Lawrence,” she called into Mr Lewton’s hallway.  “Let’s get you home.  There’s a good boy.”

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Wheatley’s Restaurant

“You see it’s not all pointy hats and warty noses,” Sharon laughed.  She took another gulp of Chardonnay.  “Modern day witching is breaking away from the stereotype.  I mean, you see it everywhere, don’t you?  Especially at this time of year.  The tall pointy hat, the black cat, the broomstick.  Frankly, I find it offensive, to me and to my beliefs.”

Across the table, Walter’s smile was wearing thin.  He had demolished the bread from the basket and was beginning to regret agreeing to this blind date.  He cast around for the waiter.  What was taking so long with the starters?  The sooner this evening was over and done with, the better.

This one calls herself a witch!  Ha!  It would be funny if Walter wasn’t so desperate.

“I mean, look at this,” Sharon was leaning forward and holding out her pendant necklace.  Walter played his part and feigned interest in the nondescript lump of whatever-it-was dangling from the slenderest of chains.  “This is my lucky crystal,” she announced proudly.  “As long as I’m wearing this no harm shall befall me.”

Walter nodded.  “It’s nice,” he lied.  It wasn’t; it looked like fossilised cat shit.

Sharon refilled her own wine glass.  “I mean, you seem like a nice fella, so I’m going to do you a special deal.  Free, gratis, and for nothing.  On the house!  Any little problem you want fixing, I’ll sort it for you.  Least I can do after this lovely meal — if it ever comes.  I think that waiter’s got lost.”

She laughed, like a cockerel being electrocuted.  Walter sent a look of pained apology to the couples at the neighbouring tables.

“So, come on then.  Let’s have it.  Don’t be shy.  Any little problem.  Anything at all.  And I’ll be happy to get it sorted.”

Walter blushed.  His shirt collar seemed tighter.  “I – uh –”

Sharon winked.  “I get it.  Say no more!  Say. No. More!”  She gave the side of her nose a conspiratorial tap.  “When I’m finished, you’ll never need to send off for those little blue pills ever again.”

Walter was aghast.  Frightful woman!  He would get up and walk out right then if — if only he weren’t so desperate.

“What will you do?” he squeaked in a strangulated voice.

“Well, that’s trade secrets!  But I will divulge that I shall be burning a few herbs and wafting them about by moonlight.”

“And that will do it, will it?”

“You’ll have no complaints.”

“And what if — No.”

“Go on, love; you may as well say it now.”

“What if my problem were of a more serious nature?”

Sharon’s shoulders and somehow her face shrugged.  “Like what?”

“Like, I don’t know, say, I’ve got a demon that needs banishing to the infernal realm.”

Sharon frowned.  “Are you taking the piss?  Because if you are, I can hex you right on the spot.  And don’t think I won’t.”

“No, please!” Walter reached for her hand, but she snatched it away, nursing the Chardonnay to her chest.  “I don’t know where else to turn.  I’ve read up on it.  It seems the only way is to offer a human sacrifice, and then the demon will go back whence it came.”

Sharon’s nose wrinkled.  “You’ve been watching too much telly, sunshine.  Like I said, modern witching isn’t like the films.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the little girls’ room.  Give that waiter a hurry-up while I’m gone.”

She trotted out to the toilets, seriously considering climbing out of the window.

When she came back, the restaurant was silent.  Blood was everywhere.  The other couples were slumped in ungainly postures, their throats ripped wide open.  At the centre of the carnage was Walter, shirt off, his torso awash with the blood of his victims.  He turned his yellow eyes to Sharon.  A forked tongue darted between his lips.

Sharon screamed.  The waiter appeared at her elbow.

“Is there a problem, madam?”

“No, not really,” she said, tipping him a tenner.  “It just would be nice to meet a man who wasn’t possessed by one of Satan’s ravenous horde.”

The waiter wrapped her coat over her shoulders.

“Don’t say that!” he laughed.  “If it wasn’t for you enticing them here, we’d soon go out of business.  Are you sure you won’t stay for the feast?”

“Nah,” said Sharon.  “I phoned an Uber while I was in the bog.  Broomstick’s in for a service. See you next week.”

He held the door open until she had gone.

Shadows crept from around the room.  Figures formed, beasts of horn, and fang, and claw.  They set to feeding on the newly slaughtered humans.  At the centre, a bewildered Walter whimpered.  The demon had left him.  Now if he could just tiptoe out before anything noticed him…

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Don’t Call Me ‘Pumpkin Head’

“You may go in now,” the doctor stepped out into the corridor and held the door open for the detectives.  “He’s awake, he’s sedated, so I don’t know how much you’ll get out of him.”

The older detective, Hodson, grunted as he entered the room. “Anything at this stage, doc, would be welcome.”

The younger one, Hill, nodded once.  He closed the door behind him.

The victim was propped up on pillows.  An IV tube snaked from his arm to a stand behind his bed.  Like a gallows, Hill shuddered.  He dismissed the thought.  The case was disturbing enough already without creeping himself out.

They showed the young man their badges.  Hodson barked out their names.

The victim had been found in the garden of the murder house, propped up like a scarecrow with a pumpkin on his head.  After the horrors they had discovered indoors, it was a blessed relief to find someone still alive.

“Take your time,” Hodson said kindly.  “Please tell us what happened.  Everything you can remember.”

An agonised expression flashed across the young man’s features.  He was as pale as the flimsy hospital gown he wore and his eyes had a haunted look Detective Hill thought he would never forget.  There were many things neither detective would be able to forget from that particular crime scene.

Standing at the foot of the bed, Hill activated a voice recorder.  The young man steeled himself.  He owed it to his murdered friends.  His voice was thick with emotion when he began, but he cleared his throat and launched into his story.

“It was supposed to be a party.  We were all invited.  The gang of us, from uni.  The rugby squad.  We got these invitations, just the address, the time and date.  And a what-do-you-call-it, a jack-o’-lantern made out of glitter.  All very mysterious.  But we thought we’d go along.  Free booze is free booze, right?  Well, we rocked up to the house and it was all dark, but the front door was open and there was candlelight inside.  I got the creeps right away, but that was the point, right?  It was all a prank, we were sure of it.  But we went inside.  Like idiots in a horror film.  And then the front door slammed.”

He gestured for a drink of water.  Hodson did the honours, hoping the kid wouldn’t see how much his hands were shaking.  The first victim had been found strung up on the front door, bound with fairy lights shaped like pumpkins.  They were in his mouth, in his head, glowing from his eye sockets.  The next two were in the kitchen, their heads replaced by pumpkins with leering grins.  The policeman who found their heads was sick on his own feet.  Their skulls had been skinned, the brains scooped out and replaced by candles.  The brains were discovered later in a plastic bucket, shaped like a pumpkin, which would usually be brimming with sweets for trick-or-treating children.

Closer inspection of the decorative streamers that festooned the ceilings revealed them to be the intestines of two other members of the squad.  Their severed limbs were stacked together to make a grisly statue, a beast of arms and legs in all the wrong places, a grinning pumpkin with human eyeballs its crowning glory.

Detective Hill swallowed hard as the poor kid in the bed recounted how they were picked off one by one.

“Did you see who did this to you, son?” Detective Hodson pressed, but gently.  “Do you know who did this to you and your friends?”

The young man fortified himself with another gulp of water.

“There was this guy,” his voice cracked.  “You know how rugby lads can carry on.  Bit of banter, bit of harmless joking around.  Well, this guy, a tall and spindly nerd, I suppose you’d call him.  He came along to try-outs for the team.  He never got out of the locker room.  We teased him mercilessly about his physique – or lack of it.  But most of all because of his huge head.  It was disproportionate to the rest of his body.  It was amazing his skinny neck could hold it up.  Pumpkin Head, we called him, as we shoved him around between us.  We shoved him under the showers. We stripped him off and stole his clothes. We flicked him with towels until he was red all over.  We went a bit too far, I think.”

The detectives exchanged glances.  You think?!

“What was his name, son?” Hodson offered an encouraging smile.  “Can you remember?”

Behind them, the door opened and clicked shut.  A shadow fell across the bed.  The young man’s eyes widened and he shrank back on his pillows in voiceless terror.  Detective Hodson turned just in time to see a blade slash his partner’s throat.  Detective Hill crumpled to the floor like a broken puppet.  The blade swished again.  Hodson held one hand to his gaping throat while the other fumbled to take out his gun.  Then he too collapsed in a heap.

The figure loomed over the young man.

“Jerry?” the young man gasped.  But surely Jerry had been killed.  In the kitchen…

The killer reached up and took off the face he had appropriated from the captain of the rugby squad.  It dropped to the floor with a sickening smack.

“Pumpkin Head!” the young man cried.  He twisted in the bed, reaching for the alarm button.

“Don’t call me that!” the killer rasped and lifted his blade high.

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Ducking Responsibility

“Now, then, Gertie, what’s this all about?” The sergeant pulled out a chair and lowered his careworn bulk onto it.  Across the table from him, the old woman preferred to stand, her bent frame as crooked as her nose.

“I am a witch,” she jutted her chin, the wart upon it bobbing.  “I demand to be tried as a witch.”

“I see.  You threw a brick through a shop window.  Hardly putting the dark arts to great use, is it?”

Gertie’s hunched shoulders twitched in a shrug.  “I know my rights.  You must duck me in the river.”

“Well, we don’t really do that anymore.  The shopkeeper is willing to let this drop if you pay for the damages and say you’re sorry.”

Gertie’s lip wrinkled in a sneer.  “I’m not sorry.”

“You just have to say you are.”

“Duck me in the river and I’ll think about it.”

The sergeant pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.

“Gertie, there’s no such thing as witches.  It was just a way of asserting the whatsit – the patriarchy.  They couldn’t have so-called wise women practising herbal medicine when the medical profession was established.  Such knowledge was deemed an exclusively male preserve.”

“Bollocks,” said Gertrude.  “Spare me the socio-history lesson.  It’s my religion, isn’t it?  I’m one of them wossnames, a Wiccan.”

The sergeant let out a groan.

“So what if you are?  If I duck you in the river, that would be seen as a hate crime.  Religious persecution or something.  You’re allowed to be Wiccan.  It’s permitted.”

“Huh!  It’s disgraceful.”

“Look, apologise to the shopkeeper and I’ll chip in for the new window.  How about that?”

“I don’t want charity.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I want to be treated with respect.”

“And half-drowning you would be treating you with respect, would it?”

“It’d be a start.  Then you can burn me at the stake.”

“Now, you’re being silly.”  The sergeant shuffled his papers together and got to his feet.  “You can sit and stew in here for a couple of hours.  Bright side: it’ll save on the heating at home.  I’ll write out an apology and you can sign it.  I’m not prepared to waste any more time on this nonsense.”

He barrelled out of the room.  A constable intercepted him with a cup of tea.

“Daft old bat,” the sergeant nodded at the door.  “It’s just loneliness, I expect.”

“Where are social services, that’s what I want to know?” sympathised the constable.  “We get them all in here.  They’ve got nowhere else to go.  It’s the cutbacks.  Nobody’s doing home visits any more, so they all wander in here and we have to pick up the slack.”

The sergeant blew on his tea.  “You don’t have to tell me, Jim –”

But the rest of the sergeant’s words were lost.  His uniform collapsed in on itself and crumpled to the floor.  The tea cup shattered and the constable gasped in horror as from the sergeant’s empty trouser leg there crawled a grey and warty toad.

witch-md

 

 

 

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Eddie

“Eek! A ghost!” The nurse laughed right in Eddie’s face.  “You’re a bit late, love.  Halloween was last night.”

“You don’t understand!” said Eddie.

The nurse exchanged a glance with her colleague at the reception desk.

“Pathetic,” she said.  “You’re not even trying.  How about you wave your arms about a bit and go Whooo?”

“And how’s about you listen to me!  There has been an accident; I don’t know how to put it more plainly.  There’s been an accident.  My friends.  The car.  We –“

He tottered.  The nurse hurried to him but he lowered himself onto a plastic chair.

“You have gone pale,” she said.  “Must be the shock.  We’ll get you a nice hot cup of tea.  Now, please,” she took the seat next to him, “tell me what happened.  Where did this happen?”

Eddie opened his mouth.  He couldn’t think of anything to say.  He couldn’t remember why he’d gone into the Accident and Emergency department.

“You take your time, love,” the nurse said, sounding a little more sarcastic than she’d intended.  She trotted away to see about the tea.

Eddie found the room fading into fog around him.  He was so confused.  Must have banged my head… he thought.  Must have got a – whatsit – concussion…

The nurse returned with a steaming cup from the vending machine.

The seats were empty.

“Where’s he gone?” she asked the receptionist.

“Where’s who gone?”

“The man.  He was here a minute ago.  Something about an accident.”

“Oh,” the receptionist gave a knowing smile.  “You’ve seen him.  You’ve seen Eddie.”

“Eddie?”

“Comes in every year.  Best to take no notice and he disappears again.  I’ll have that tea if it’s going spare.”

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Joanie

We don’t answer our door on All Hallows Eve.  Don’t get me wrong; we enjoy dressing up as much as anyone, but we don’t join in.  Not on that date, anyway.  We don’t wish to see the local children go without, so we deliver sweets and bars of chocolate to all the houses in the street before sundown.  Long before it gets dark, we are in the back room.  All our curtains are closed and our lights are off.  We sit quietly and we wait until midnight.  If we can make it to midnight, I know we are safe for another year.

I have one child left.  I don’t want to lose him.

He doesn’t understand why he can’t go out with the neighbours’ kids, dressed up to the nines, rattling his plastic pumpkin pail and filling it with sugary tweets.  He doesn’t understand why we don’t decorate the house or why we don’t carve scary faces into pumpkins.  Jack-o-lanterns don’t work, I could tell him but I don’t.  They don’t keep the evil away.  He thinks I am a bad mother.

“There’s someone at the door,” he says, climbing off his seat.  I seize his wrist, a little too roughly perhaps.

“There isn’t,” I tell him.

“But I want to see Petey’s costume.  At school he said he was going to be a werewolf.  He said he’d come around to show me.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, and it’s true.  “Perhaps he’ll show you a photo tomorrow.  It’ll be online; you can count on it.”

He’s not happy but perhaps he senses the fear seeping into my voice no matter how I try to speak evenly and without emotion.

We sit in silence.  He is grumpy, scowling at me – I know that, even in this gloom, and my heart aches.  I will make it up to him at Christmas, I promise.  I will make such a fuss of him at Christmas he will forget he had to miss another Halloween.

A scratching on glass startles us both.  This is a first.  This has never happened before.  Usually my daughter restricts herself to the front door.

“It must be Petey!” my boy cries out.  I shush him, the panic surging within me, making my heart thump against my ribs.

“Don’t!” I sob but I am too late.  My boy is opening the curtain and the room is filled with an eerie glow.  An young woman in the shape of my daughter floats in blue light, still wearing the fairy wings she wore that Halloween.  She tilts her head and looks with dead, shark eyes at the brother she hasn’t seen since he was a toddler.  She smiles and beckons with a fingernail like a darning needle.

“Come join us, little brother,” she says in a malevolent hiss.  “Now you are old enough.”

And I see there is no point in trying to stop him.  He is unbolting the back door, wide-eyed and excited.  And perhaps siblings are better off together.  Perhaps I’ve been wrong to worry all these years.  Perhaps I’ve been wrong to resist this inevitability.  Perhaps I have been a bad mother all along.

The last I hear of him as he takes her slender hand in his is, “Hello, Joanie! Mum didn’t tell me you were coming back.”

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Mr Brown’s Halloween

“No, I haven’t got any sweets.  This is England; we don’t go in for trick-or-treating here.”

Mr Brown tried to close his door.  His quiz show was paused so that wasn’t a problem but he did object to having to open the door and lose precious heat.  The little buggers in face paint and masks should be making him a donation!  But at that age, they don’t give a stuff about heating bills.  They don’t give a stuff about much at all.

Four pairs of eyes pleaded with him.  Two ghosts held out plastic buckets shaped like pumpkins.  Mr Brown glimpsed that some of the neighbours were buying into this Americanised nonsense and had given brightly-coloured sweets and small bars of chocolate.  Another anomaly!  Send your kids out begging and encourage them to get tooth decay into the bargain – if they lived long enough to develop cavities and weren’t whisked away by strangers and murderers and worse.  Give me a good old-fashioned British bonfire night any day of the week.

A little witch whose green greasepaint was smeared on her plastic cape looked ready to burst into tears.  Her rubber nose looked likely to drop off at any second.  Behind her, a taller boy, a vampire or something looked at him with red-rimmed, accusing eyes.

“Oh, bugger it,” grumbled Mr Brown.  “I think there’s some biscuits in the cupboard.  Wait there.”  He pushed the door to and padded away to the kitchen.  He knew very well there were biscuits – the expensive chocolate ones he kept in store in case Jeannie came to visit.  Not that Jeannie ever did.  Not for a long time.

He checked the sell-by date and then the calendar – what was he thinking, it’s Halloween, you old fool!  The biscuits had a week or two before they became toxic, gut-wrenching poison.  Heh.  He shuffled back to the front door.  Those kids had best be grateful.

He opened the door.  The two ghosts and the witch held up their buckets, smiles like smeared lipstick ruining their supposedly terrifying countenances.

Mr Brown divided the packet of expensive biscuits equally between them.  “Hey, where’s the other one?” he asked, realising he had some left over.  The ghosts and the witch looked over their shoulders with puzzled expressions.  “He was right there, all togged up like Dracula or somebody.  Wasn’t he with you?”

The witch shrugged.  “Didn’t see him,” she said.  “Thanks, Mister Brown.”

“Thank you,” sang the ghosts in unison.  At last Mr Brown recognised them as the Smith twins from around the corner.  Which would make the witch their elder sister, Louise.

The Smith children skipped away happy with their haul.  Mr Brown watched them go.  Nice kids, he thought.  Perhaps there was something to be said for this kind of thing after all.

He closed the door, looking forward to getting back into his quiz programme.  He gasped as he realised he was face-to-face with the Dracula boy.  Those red eyes were staring directly into his.  Mr Brown glanced down – the boy was hovering a couple of feet off the floor.

Before Mr Brown could say anything or ask the boy what the hell he thought he was doing, going into people’s houses like that, the boy’s lips parted, revealing a row of pointed fangs that did not look like they’d come from a toy shop.

As the boy fed, Mr Brown fell back against the front door.  It was painless, he was surprised to find, like falling asleep in a warm bath.  The last thought he ever had was he would need to get some more biscuits in.

In case Jeannie came to visit.

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Autumn Colours

Russets and golds and browns.  The leaves were gathering at street level like members of a massive suicide cult.  Some of the corpses skittered in the wind, made to dance like puppets on currents of air.  Jimmy hurried to the shop; his hood was lifted off by the wind but Jimmy didn’t mind.  It was good to be outside after being cooped up for so long.  A young boy shouldn’t be shut inside.  He should be free to run and skip and jump and laugh and enjoy the fresh autumnal air.  The air was brisk on his face – not cold exactly; it wasn’t thick scarf and gloves weather just yet.

The local shop – a kind of mini-supermarket – was the most brightly lit building in the street.  Jimmy could hear the twee music from several yards away as someone emerged with their fingers curled into claws around carrier bag handles like talons and their raincoat flapping as the wind snatched at it,  spreading like pterodactyl wings.

Jimmy hurried through the door before it could close again.  The warmth and stillness of the shop air struck him right away.  It was bright in there – too bright after his isolation in the darkness.  Jimmy frowned, screwing his eyes tight.

The display filled the front of the shop.  Orange and black: the colours of the season.  Skeletal figures were draped from the shelves.  Luminous skulls grinned, toothy and benevolent.  Chocolates and cakes, with specially redesigned packaging to make them look like pumpkins, were stacked high like bounty, like tributes to a pagan god.

Jimmy took in the sights with hungry eyes.  But there was no time for treats.  He had no money for sweets.  He had a task to perform and a trick to play.

Behind the counter, the assistant thanked the last customer as he handed her a few coins in change.  The woman left the shop.  The assistant’s customer-service smile dropped from his lips. Then his eyes met Jimmy’s and he paled.  He backed away involuntarily, elbowing packs of cigarettes to the floor.

“No!” he cried.  “It’s impossible!”

Jimmy levitated off the floor until his blank eyes were level with the assistant’s.  At the same time, tridents of lurid red plastic flew from the display and pinned the assistant to the wall.  The assistant whimpered in terror.  Piss ran down the leg of his jeans.  Jimmy cackled as the acrid smell rose to his dormant nostrils.

“You stink worse than me,” he laughed.

A headband with devil horns hovered in front of the assistant’s face, taunting at first, before ramming its plastic spikes into the assistant’s eyes.  When the screams had subsided, Jimmy floated down to where the man was cowering and sobbing and clutching his bloodstained cheeks.

“I reckon even without your sight you’ll be able to tell them where you buried me last Halloween.”

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