Anthology News

The guidelines for the new Song Story Anthology are posted here.  I would love to have some of my faithful participants featured in the collection.  Deadline is Dec 1, 2012.

Before I saw "Emma" one of the movies that prompted me to start reading Jane Austen, I discovered Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie "Sliding Doors".  A surreal contemplation on parallel universes, entirely too dark for the "romantic comedy" tag many critics gave it.

There are pivotal moments in our life.  We may not know it at the time, but our entire life changed because of a single decision we made or failed to make.

What would happen if your main character had made a different choice?  Would their life be better or worse?  Or would it simply be different?  Is the door figurative or literal?

According to the old saw, "Hindsight is 20/20."  What would we do differently if we could see the multiverse of possibilities before us?


This week's judge, Ryan Strohman won twice in the last three weeks.  Let's find out a little more about him:

Author of techno-thriller novels Project Utopia and Paradox, IT
operative, overweight runner and martial artist, proud papa, and all
around cool guy.

I'll be releasing my latest finished novel, Terminal Restraint, in the
next few weeks as an eBook. In Terminal Restraint, life was going
well for Cole Pierce. He had a decent IT job, a great group of
friends, and was about to propose to his beautiful girlfriend. But
after a series of unfortunate events puts him at jeopardy of losing
his job, and then a black magic spell cast on him by one of his
friends goes awry, his whole world is turned upside down. And it only
gets worse from there as he’s brutally attacked in his own home by an
unarmed intruder—taking him to the brink of death…or beyond. Follow
the action as Cole tries to understand what has happened to him and
put his life back together in this supernatural thriller.


If [I/you/he/she/they] hadn't opened that door

The Rules

  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the
    first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the one on the right.
  6. Have fun!

8/20/2012 05:21:43 am

If he hadn’t opened the door would things be different? Or did he even open it at all? In her more coherent moments, Miyu Farrowsdotter believed the door may have already been open and it was all a big coincidence that Papa discovered it just before those things came through.

Those things crawling around inside her, twisting her innards.

Other times the frail blonde felt that Papa must have opened the door and all of this was his fault. Maybe he deserved what happened to him, but every time she found herself thinking that she felt sick. If Papa deserved what happened to him, then she must deserve it too.

Those things hissing, screeching and bumping in her brain made it so hard to think.

Then there was Mama. The doctors said she died from complications in Miyu’s birth, but Miyu knew that those things took her away. But that was before Papa discovered the door. Or had he discovered the door? What if Mama had been the door? What if Miyu was one of those things?

Those things liked that thought; they purred and melted away Miyu’s pain in glorious warmth.

That’s how she knew she wasn’t one of them. They always lied, and anything they liked was bad. The night Miyu was born, the night her mother died, a new star appeared in the sky. Her father discovered it and called it the Snow Star after Mama.

Those things came from beyond the star, and one day Miyu was going to go to their nest and save her parents.

261 words

8/20/2012 05:44:43 am

"If you hadn't opened that door we'd be home and safe," Ralph shuffled back towards the wall, "instead of being stuck here waiting for that bloke to come back"
"I'm s...sorry Ralph, but I really believed we would find what we needed for the scavenger hunt in this place", Stephen dragged his hand over his face, smearing the dirt and tears into the sleeve of his already grubby jumper.
"It's okay, don't worry about it, stop snivelling and let me think".
Ralph couldn't help but wish he had decided to give the scavenger hunt a miss this year, but with the council changing the rules he really thought that he and Stephen had a good chance. Normally the rugby team, all twelve of them, split up and covered more ground faster than any other team and always won, but this year no one was allowed to split up so smaller teams had a better chance. 
They had only one item to get, a large metal hook and everyone knew that the old abattoir was the best place to look-they hadn't been the first to look here, the evidence behind the door they looked through proved that.
He didn't know who the girls were but he had seen them around campus, they had obviously thought to look here for the hook same as them-they found the hook, in fact they found several. The three of them were hung from the ceiling, large metal cattle hooks piercing each neck, blood, once flowing through veins, now pooled in the basins at their feet.
There was no clear way out for the both of them, Ralph knew that, one of them would have to sacrifice himself for the other and he knew it would have to be him. Just watching how Stephen, his best friend since primary, had crumbled when he saw the girls, Ralph knew that he would do anything to help his friend survive-even if it meant risking his life.
"Listen Stephen, that guy will come back at some point and when he does I'm going to attack him, that's your chance to run." 
Stephen looked at his friend, "Okay, I suppose that's a good a plan as any. You'll follow me out once you've got the guy to the ground won't you?"
"Course I will, then we'll get the police and everything will be fine" Ralph got up and stood near the door, unable to look at his friend having just lied to him for the first time.
It was at that moment that they heard the scrapping of a key in the lock, the door opened. 'This is my chance' thought Ralph, "Run fast, Stephen I'm not sure how much time you'll have"
As the door opened, Stephen charged, "I won't let you do this for me, Ralph, together we can both survive!"

8/20/2012 05:46:31 am

Silly me,, forgot word count : 473

8/20/2012 06:21:13 am

If I hadn’t opened that door, would things be much different? I would still be without my family, who were lost to the dark sickness, leaving me to traipse the Earth alone. Without making that choice, I would be but dust now with them. Although I do regret the loss of them, I do not regret continuing to live. I have seen many things and have been part of more. The Darkness that lives in me has shown me such sights that I would have never seen had I stayed mortal.

To see into another man’s heart is the greatest gift—to know all the evil he has committed. I hunt these men the most, to feel their life fill my mouth gives me satisfaction that have freed the world of these beasts. My Passenger is more satisfied with these as well. It does not demand more instantly after a feeding. I have seen that most are good, well-intentioned people. However, there are those with souls dark as night, all of who have acted perniciously and will pay for those deeds.

I do not deny that at times, I have craved the taste of someone more pure of stature and when I take them, I do so with great regret. I know that the world will be smaller without their kind deeds and nature but I cannot put them back to life or restore their shattered bodies once I have had my way with them. This regret is marginally smaller than the regret of remaining alone.

“You’re such the hopeless romantic,” the Darkness taunts. “Take them to dinner, wine and dine them. I don’t care. Have conversations filled with meaningless sentiment and when you are finished with your social, release their soul to me.”

“These are not the type of people that I would socialize with under any circumstances.”

“Why? You have so much in common with them. Your deeds are no different from theirs. No? Then find a nice girl to take to sup, if you don’t want to be seen in public with the likes of your meals. But in the end your actions will be out of your control and you will act on impulse. Actions you have committed over and over again, all have become second nature.”

The wind shifts around me, a sweet fragrance drifts to me down the rancid alleys. I close my eyes breathing it in. A memory of cherry blossoms and laughter on a sunny day bring me back to my ever-haunting question, if I hadn’t opened that door…


427 Words

8/20/2012 09:49:44 am

“If only you hadn’t opened that door,” Dr. Robins yelled to me.

“Do something,” I screamed back to her. “I’m going to die.”

I held onto the door handle for dear life. The slime was seeping through my pant leg and I could feel my leg hair clustering together in a big nasty matted knot. There were moments when the tentacle would loosen for a second, giving me hope, only to then shimmer further up my leg and wrap itself even tighter. Every time it yanked, the door would creak and you could hear the sound of the wood splintering. I was afraid the door was going to fall right off its hinges. I’d really be in trouble then.

The tentacle kept wriggling on the floor, leaving a huge trail of slime that they were going to make me clean up tomorrow. It was always something with these people.

“If I get out of this alive I’m going to quit,” I said as the tentacle pulled again.

“You said that when the giant spiders got loose,” Dr. Chester answered back. He was pouring the purple contents of a beaker over the tentacle. When nothing happened, he stepped back and muttered “interesting.”

“I mean it this time,” I said.

“You said that after you got infected by the moon virus,” Dr. Robins said, trying to wrestle the mop away from Vlad. Of all the people in the room, I thought Vlad “The Mechanic” had the best approach. When kicking the tentacle didn’t work, he picked up my mop and started hitting it.

“This is a very expensive life form,” she tried to tell Vlad. He let go off the mop and shook his head and shrugged. Even though he didn’t speak English, he knew as well as I did that these people were crazy.

“I don’t know why I put up with this. I can be a janitor anywhere,” I said. The tentacle pulled again and one the screws popped from the door handle. “Hurry!” I pleaded. “It’s going to eat me.”

“Relax,” Dr. Chester said, stirring the contents of another beaker. “I’ve got this under control. Why’d you open the door anyway?”

“I…I thought…”

“Go on,” Dr. Robins said with a big smile on her face.

“I thought…it said…Muffin Lab,” I responded, hanging my head. If my hands were free I would have covered my ears to avoid the laughter. Dr. Chester roared and spilled some of the liquid in his beaker while Dr. Robins nearly fell to the ground laughing.

“How did you misread that one?” Dr. Robins said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “It clearly says Monster Lab.”

“Shut up! Just get me out of here.”

449 words

8/20/2012 10:52:50 am

If I hadn’t opened the door that day, both in a physical and a metaphysical sense, I’m still at a loss to say what difference it would have made in my life. I can only say he did his best to try and make things right and I guess there’s something to be said for that.

He looked old…”weight-of-the-world-on-you” old. To be fair, he WAS old but there wasn’t any reason for him to look that used up.

When he spoke, his voice had a rasping buzz that set my teeth on edge. “Well, son, you gonna let me in or spend all day gawpin'?”

He asked the question in a rhetorical fashion and yet it took me a long time to compose an answer. Should I let him into my home? He’d thought nothing of walking out of OUR home when I was six and never coming back. Through the smeared-glass window of Time, I looked back on that day with the same feelings of loss and betrayal I’d felt then.

In the end, I could only step aside and gesture him in, a non-committal grunt being the closest to words I could come. It seems strange to me, in retrospect, I hadn’t noticed the small oxygen tank. It clanked, softly, as he wheeled it in behind him. Reaching to his side, he drew the mask from his belt and inhaled as deeply as he could. I remember thinking it certainly wasn’t a very deep breath.

I saw him seated on the couch and brought him the water he asked for. His hands shook and more wound up on him than in him but it seemed to help. He fumbled, distractedly, in his pockets before removing a crumpled pack of Camels. He was searching, I imagine, for his lighter when I took his arm. A frown and a shake of my head seemed sufficient. He grinned, sheepishly, and stowed them back in his pocket.

A part of me remembered that grin and it recalled good times. Still another part could have gone the rest of my days never having seen it again.

“Sorry about that, buddy. You’d think since the damned things are gonna put me six feet under I’d quit. Doesn’t seem much point to now, eh?”

So, that was why he’d come. He wanted to die with a clear conscience. In the end, I sat and let him talk. I suppose there was too much water under the bridge…too many bridges burned or some mixed metaphor or another for there to be any reconciliation but I let him talk.

He left that day much as he had so many years before. He was gone from my life but not from my heart or my mind. Some days I still think of him but not so many as I think he’d hoped, in the end, I would. Still, if it made his final moments in this life a little easier, I suppose I did owe him that much.

500 words @klingorengi

8/20/2012 11:01:04 am

“If you hadn’t opened that door, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” I’d run out of grenades and was getting low on ammo. Soon, I’d run out, and then, well. Unless God himself intervened...

“If you hadn’t put that sign on it that said to not open it, I’d have left it alone!” We both knew she would have opened the door no matter what I’d done.

The clip in my 9mm was spent. I ejected it, and put in the next to last clip I had. Damn! Whatever those things were, they were tough!

“As if that would have made any difference!” If only I could get the door closed again.

“Will you just shut-up and shut the frakkin’ door!” As if screaming at me would help anything. “I’m down to my last clip!” She pulled off a shot, and something landed with a nice loud “thunk” on the floor.

With that moment’s respite, I reached the door. I started pushing it too. Whatever was on the other side was pushing back. “Empty!” she screamed. I threw her mine, and my last clip. She started shooting again. Must’ve hit something, ‘cause the door suddenly moved. I pushed it hard as I could. As she fired the last rounds from my gun, the door finally closed. I heard it seal with a loud “clack!”

And just like that, the chaos ended.

I pushed the button on my phone. “Problem in 43, door 13. We’re gonna need a little help to clean up. Send a bio-hazard team.”

She shook her head. “Sorry.”

I laughed. Who knew what the things on the floor were. Looked like blobs of green jello with some black stuff floating around in it. They were from a different universe. Who knew what they were even made of. “When will you learn to not open doors between the branes? They’re there to keep the universes apart.”

She frowned, and stared at her feet. “I know. I did bad.” She looked at me. “We have to go through decontamination and reconstruction, don’t we.”

“Yep.” God only knew what we’d been exposed to. “For the good of our universe.” I wasn’t really looking forward to quantum reconstruction again. Having your molecules and atoms ripped apart, and put back together is never any fun. “Well... At least I’ll have someone cute to spend my time in decon with.”

She smiled at that. “You think I’m cute?”

I looked her over good. “Yeah.” Being trapped in decontamination with her wasn’t going to be all bad.

443 words.

8/20/2012 02:08:54 pm

“If I hadn’t opened that door…”

“If you hadn’t opened that door…”

“If I hadn’t…”

“Opened that door…”

“I’d be alive.”

“You’d be dead.”

“I wouldn’t be in this limbo.”

“If you hadn’t opened that door…”

“But I did.”

“You had to open it.”

“Pandora’s box comes in many forms.”

“Some look as innocent as a fire escape.”

“I’m going to step outside for a minute and have a smoke.”

“You know, those things are gonna kill you,” Doreen said.

“I’ll take my chances. Something’s got to do me in anyway, so I might as well go out doing something I love.”

“Just be careful. Roger’s will be back soon and you know how he feels about extra smoke breaks.”

“Screw him.” Joanne fished in her purse, pulling out a fresh pack. Smacking it sharply a few times against her palm, she headed for the fire escape, making sure to disable the alarm before opening it. She’d done this many times before. Mr. Roger’s, her boss, was strict about breaks. Two 15 minutes and a lunch; he even refused to allow any of the bank employees an extra bathroom break.

“They sell adult diapers, I suggest you invest in them” he’d told Joanne once, when he had caught her away from her window.

Benjamin Roger’s was a stickler for rules. Every morning he stood outside the bank, holding his pocket watch… a friggin’ pocket watch, as the employees arrived for work. Joanne had only been a teller for a week, when she failed to catch the bus that would take her within a block of the bank. She ran to the next bus stop and caught one that deposited her two blocks beyond her usual stop. She was five minutes late for work. Old Man Roger’s blocked the entrance with his body and informed her she was late and could take the rest of the day off.

“Without pay.”

“But I’m only five minutes late.”

“I did tell you when I hired you that I expect punctuality.”

“I can’t afford to take the day off.”

“Then you should have been on time. Next time, you will get three days off. After that your employment will be terminated.”

Every day, like clockwork, Roger’s left the bank at exactly eleven fifteen. He returned every day at exactly, twelve o’clock. Where he went, no one knew and quite honestly, no one cared.

Joanne usually took her unauthorized smoke break at eleven thirty, but the bank had been unusually busy. It was now eleven- fifty. She had only nine minutes to smoke and get back to her window before he walked in that door.

Putting a cigarette between her lips, Joanne waved at the guard by the front entrance, then pulled her lighter from her pocket and pushed the fire door open.

“It’s about damn time. I was starting to worry you’d given up smoking.”

The cigarette dropped from Joanne’s mouth as she found a gun shoved into her face.

Word Count: 497

Rebekah Postupak
8/20/2012 03:26:48 pm

If he hadn’t opened that door…. if she hadn’t paid so dearly to learn what each door would reveal....

Of course the story begins much earlier, long before the valiant courtier reached an unwavering hand toward the door on the right—long before the fierce, beautiful princess made her tiny gesture; long before, in point of fact, the ill-fated lovers met.

Everyone knew of our semi-barbaric king and his impartial judiciary system; fascination with an accused man meeting his verdict by opening one of two doors spread as far as the grey lands beyond the sea. Behind one door waited the accused’s perfect life companion; behind the other, a starving tiger. Innocence or guilt in the turning of a doorknob. How uncomplicated. How brilliant!

The courtier’s crime of loving the princess was beyond dispute. In recent months he had loved many women, a tragic flaw in one so young.

The princess’s failure to see what every other girl recognized after only a single interview doomed him doubly.

That I, her handmaiden, witnessed the looming catastrophe and did nothing, I suppose one might say sealed his fate permanently.

But he had courted me so ardently, avowing his passion in poetry and bright bouquets, that I too fell under his spell, if only for a short time; and I was too meek and penniless a maid to avenge myself after he abandoned me for more regal climes.

Imagine my surprise and horror, then, to learn after their shameful discovery that the king had chosen me—me!—to marry the charlatan should he open the proper door. Imagine my outraged blushings at being bedecked in jewels and silks and assured a lifetime of wealth and happiness with the faithless courtier if he were to avoid the tiger’s table.

Oh, how she glared at me in ill-concealed fury, the princess; how she wept and cajoled and threatened to know which of the two doors was mine.

After incensed entreaties failed, she turned to gold. She lined my hands and pockets with it until the weight of her pleas softened my bruised heart, and I professed to her which would be my door, and which the tiger’s.

And on that day, behind my door I dutifully stood. I had seen the fire in the princess’s eyes and the haughty confidence in his, and knew before they did what the outcome would be.

“I am on the left,” I had said.

“She is on the right,” the princess signaled to the swaggering knight, and to the door on the right he strode without hesitation.

Facing the door, he could not see her smug grin or her tiny gasps of excitement at the imminent violence.

Wrenching the right-hand door open, he would not see her collapse against her father in despair.

Ah, but he would see me, blazing in furious triumph. He would take my hand, trembling in fear for the first time in his life.

And he would be right, so very right, to be afraid.

500 words

8/20/2012 08:17:25 pm

Ghosts of the Past.

“If I hadn’t opened that door, I wouldn’t be in this mess,” I said, and ran a hand through my hair.

After twelve months I still felt uncomfortable talking about it, even though Steven; my therapist, insisted it was good for me. My nails were barely existent, and the circles under my eyes were now a dominant feature on my face.

“You saved countless lives, and they will be forever grateful,” Steven argued, his tone a mild rebuke.
I shook my head. “What about those who didn’t make it? The ones who were shot?” I countered, and that was the core of the matter; the ones who died.
“They would have died regardless, because of the bomb; I’m positive they would understand – if they could speak to you,” he replied, and we approached my ‘illness’.
“I don’t care what you say, they still blame me – regardless if you see them or not; I do,” I said, and narrowed my eyebrows.

I glanced over my shoulder and looked in her eyes: the eight year old girl who’d been shot in the chest. She was still crying, always those silent tears that judged me and my decision.
Her brother, who was older, kept throwing rocks at me; though they never actually hit it still felt horrible.
I shook my head and bit off a piece of my nail, it started bleeding.

“Rebecca, they’re not there. It’s all in your head,” he said, and then he closed his notebook. “Perhaps it’s time we talked about different kinds of treatment.”
“You mean an institution,” I edited, my voice sour. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than sitting in a white room surrounded by eleven angry ghosts.
“We’re not getting anywhere, and you cannot continue like this. I think we’ve reached the end of our road.”

I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. Twelve months ago, we’d all been taken hostage at the bank. Twelve months ago, I’d managed opening the back-door and get most people out. They had a bomb attached to one of the hostages, and they had guns. Eleven people were shot to death once they realized what I’d done; and then the bomb went off.

“I’ll find a way to make it right,” I said as the egg-timer went off – announcing our time together was over.

I unfastened the breaks on my wheelchair and started towards the door. “Don’t do anything stupid, Becca,” Steven said.
“I won’t,” I replied, and gave him a lopsided smile.

As I waited for the elevator I looked in the mirror. Two missing legs, three missing fingers, and that’s only what was visible. My whole body was covered in burns; I had no life – not anymore.

The young girl who always cried put her hand on my shoulder. Join us, her lips read, and it wasn’t the first time.

Perhaps it is time, I thought, as this life holds nothing for me anymore. I made my decision, and now all I needed was a plan.


Wordcount: 500 not including title.

Robin Abess
8/20/2012 11:06:21 pm

The Meeting

“If you hadn’t opened that door, I wouldn’t be dead right now.”

“Well, to be fair, neither would I.”

“Oh, who cares about you. You’re not important. I, however, am.”

Sonya rolled her eyes. Or would have, if she still had eyes.

“You’re the one who TOLD me to open it, if you recall.”

“Since when do you listen to me? You never have before, why did you have to start now?”

“Because every time I don’t, I get griped at. I’m tired of it, so I opened the damn door.”

“Don’t swear at me. That’s no way to talk to your older sister. May I remind you that it was terribly important that I be at that meeting?” Maria’s tone was huffy.

“May I remind YOU that you’re only older than me by one minute and the meeting was stupid to begin with?”

“How dare you?! Don’t you ever say that the Beauty League is stupid! It’s the most important thing in my life…or it was, when I had a life!” Maria’s voice broke. “I was finally Chairwoman, for God’s sake! Do you remember how long and hard I worked for that?!” She sounded hysterical now. Sonya was glad she couldn’t actually see her sister at the moment. She knew well enough what the expression would be – a mixture of derision and just plain dislike.

“How could I forget? You’ve certainly reminded me often enough. And just how were you going to get to the meeting, if I hadn’t opened the door?”

“Well…you should have known that there was a problem when you saw the note.”

“I told you I thought there was, and you still told me to open it, as I said. I’m sorry, when a note says ‘DO NOT OPEN, OR ELSE’ in huge capital letters, I tend to want to abide by it, but you insisted. I should have made you open it instead, but as usual, you’re too good to open a door for yourself.”

“This is getting us nowhere. I still MUST be at that meeting.”

Sonya thought about it a moment. “I think it’s a bad idea to show up, but if you’re determined, I might have an idea. Think really hard about the meeting, and I will too. Let’s see if together we can make ourselves appear there.”

“It sound preposterous, but I’m willing to try anything at this point. I refuse to let a little thing like being blown up rob me of what I’ve worked for.”

“On the count of three start thinking…One…Two…Three…”

Moments later, they found themselves in the meeting room at the Holiday Inn. Sonya smiled. “How about that?”
Grudgingly, Maria said “At least it worked. I’m going up to the podium.”

“I wouldn’t…” Sonya started, but realized her sister was gone.

When the disembodied voice spoke to the room, a scream rang out.

“You’re dead! You have to be. I paid good money…” The voice stopped, realizing what it was saying.

Pandemonium ensued from that point.

500 words {without title}

8/21/2012 12:07:56 am

“If they hadn't opened that door, the creatures wouldn’t have made it in. They had a chance if the doors had been shut. The noise that they made. The small, wiggling bodies. Why did they have to open the damn door!”

“Get your head on straight, Sue. It won’t do any good to panic.” John frowned as he put his ear against the door. “And keep your voice down.”

Sue chewed on her thumbnail, blonde hair spiked from her hand running through it. “I don’t know how they knew we were here. How did they know? Can they sense-“

“Shut up!” John hissed at her. “I’m trying to listen.” He snorted and put his head against the door, trying to hold his breath. They had retreated up the stairs but he didn’t think that would do any good when the things had been bouncing into the house. Sue panicked and ran upstairs. He hoped the others got out okay. There was a basement that they could retreat too.

He couldn’t hear anything and he knew better to open the door to peek out. That would just be asking for trouble. He knelt down and put his head on the floor, squinting and eye to peer under the door.

Several glowing eyes stared back at him. When they saw him, the noise started. Claws on the carpet and small <I>dooks</i> as the creatures started to work to get under the door.

He jerked before pushing himself up. “We need to go, now.”

Sue gave a wail, pulling at her air. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. They’re going to get us. We’re going to die.”

“Shut up and grab those sheets. We’re going to climb out the window.” He tore the bedding off and grabbed the sheets, knotting them together. They didn’t seem like they would hold very well but they were in a bad situation. It didn’t help that he had the one person who seemed to shatter into a bundle of crying at any obstacle.

Sue whimpered but picked up a bedside table and tossed it at the glass of a window.

John paused for a moment and stared. “You could have just unlocked the thing!”

“Don’t yell at me! I don’t know what to do and I can see their claws.”

The sounds the ferrets made were louder, more frantic. They knew their next meal was right there and it was sending them into a frenzy of wiggling and clawing. They were all trying to shove into the same place at the same time.

He didn’t know how things worked differently now that they were undead but he wasn’t going to wait around and find out. If they were lucky, none of them would be around on the ground so that they could run.

469 words


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