Every Inch A King

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Elvis Presley is signing for RCA records. The big time is just ahead. Why then does he have flashbacks to one of English histories most infamous monarchs?

Submitted: June 30, 2015

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Submitted: June 30, 2015

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The office at RCA Victor records was packed. There was a buzz around the room. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the twenty year old from Tupelo, Mississippi. The young man was already a regional star. His releases with Sun records and his performances of the Louisiana Hayride concert circuit had made Elvis Presley’s name locally.

Elvis was shown to the large desk. His father Vernon and his manager Colonel Tom Parker stood beside him. Elvis tried to keep his nerves under control. This was it. He was signing with a national label. He felt sad to leave the local label and the tours of the area but he was about to step up to the big time. This was something he had been working towards, and dreaming of for years. He looked down at the contract. The words seemed all a blur, not that he’d read it. The Colonel had assured him everything was in order. Elvis tapped his fingers lightly on the desktop. His right leg bounced up and down to a tune in his head.

The Colonel grinned and told the room that his boy was raring to go. Elvis smiled at the gathered people. He picked up the silver pen and signed his name on the line next to the date, November 21st 1955. The people applauded and whistled. Elvis nodded, thank you very much. A photographer stepped forward with his camera. Elvis smiled. The flashbulb stunned his eyes. Everything disappeared.

He looked around. He was no longer in the office at the RCA building. Geez, he wasn’t even sure he was still in the county. He was in a large ornate old fashioned cathedral. Everyone around him was dressed in strange old world clothing.

A choir sang in Latin on one side of the altar. The large wooden doors opened slowly with deliberate ceremony. An elderly man in the robes of a clergyman entered. Someone whispered that it was the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop moved gracefully down the aisle. A throng of twenty eight bishops flowed in behind him. The Archbishop called out to the congregation.

Vivat, vivat rex. Long live the King.’

At that moment a man and a woman entered. Over their shoulders were robes of purple silk velvet trimmed with white ermine fur. The man was around eighteen years old with red hair. He moved with the confident agility of a sportsman. The woman had long dark hair. She went down the aisle with a respectful pious air. They took their positions on the two ornate thrones on a raised platform at the front of the abbey. The Archbishop prayed over the couple and anointed them with oils. When he was done he turned to those gathered in the abbey.

‘Will you take this most noble prince as your king and obey him?’

As one the congregation called Yea! Yea! The Archbishop bowed and turned to the prince. He repeated the oaths. Then the Archbishop spoke again.

‘By the grace of God, King Henry VIII of England.’ he boomed.

The King stared out at the spectacle that he was the centre of. He had hoped and dreams in his eyes. The people looking on wondered what type of Monarch he would be. What would he be remembered for? What would his legacy be?

Elvis felt a hand on his shoulder.

‘Elvis?’

He turned. His father looked at him, concern on his face. All eyes were on him.

‘You alright, son?’

‘Yeah, sure, pop. Just trying to take it all in.’

He grinned. He shook his head. He got to his feet. The people gathered congratulated him. He tried to forget about the hallucinations of old England.

Elvis arrived home to the small house he shared with his parents later that evening. As always there were fans gathered on the sidewalk. They waited to catch a glimpse of their idol. Elvis pulled onto the drive and went over to sign autographs. The group shrieked and screamed as he approached. He smiled. He waved a hand. He made small talk, signed their papers and pictures. One fan in his early teens spoke as Elvis signed his notebook.

‘You’re the King, man.’

‘What did you call me?’

‘I said, you’re the King.’

Elvis thanked him but his mind went back to the vision he’d had earlier. He told the crowd he had to be going and shuffled to the house.

He spent most of January 1956 in the RCA studio. He recorded a wide variety of songs. He worked hard performing take after take until he was satisfied. Once they had enough material there was the matter of which track to release as his first single with the label. The company producer was pushing for a real rocky number. Elvis waited for the man in his forties to finish speaking.

‘Heartbreak Hotel. That’s the one.’

‘What? It’s too morbid to have as your debut single. We should go with something more upbeat.’

‘It has to be Heartbreak Hotel. Trust me.’

‘You don’t know the business, son.’

‘But I know music. I feel it.’

‘Should we speak to Colonel Parker about this?’

‘The Colonel leaves the music to me and I leave the business to him.’

The producer tutted in disagreement.

‘Release that song as my first single.’

‘Fine. But it’s your career you’re ending.’

Heartbreak Hotel was released on 27th January. The single topped the Billboard 100 for seven weeks. The hit song made Elvis Presley a huge star. In those weeks in early 1956 he became a household name all over the world. The public could not get enough of him. He could no longer walk down the street without being mobbed by fans. His shirt would be torn, his hair tugged and pulled. They all wanted a piece of him. Instead of a small huddle there were now crowds of fans and press photographers constantly camped outside his family home.

He performed on television for the first time. He appeared on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show. Elvis and the band gave it everything they had in front of the television cameras and the live studio audience. As they rocked through tracks such as Blue Suede Shoes and That’s Alright Mama the audience roared and cheered. Elvis buzzed off the electric atmosphere. At the end of the performance he saluted to the crowd. He bowed and hurried off stage. Breathing heavily and sweating he pushed through the side curtains and headed for the dressing room.

Instead of the corridor leading to his dressing room he emerged on a raised wooden grandstand. The stand was in a wide open field and was packed with spectators. A wooden fence ran across the field. Elvis pushed through the people until he reached the front of the stand.

The crowd applauded as two men on horseback appeared. They wore shining suits of armour. A third man appeared. He wore period clothing that included a hat emblazoned with jewels. The man announced the name of the two contestants. Elvis could not make out the first man’s name. Charles somebody, Duke of somewhere in England. The crowd applauded. There was no mistaking the second man’s name. The announcer boomed ‘His Majesty King Henry the Eighth of England’. The audience roared their support for their king. In his gleaming armour the athletic king saluted his people.

Both men were handed a wooden lance. Giving the crowd a bow they headed in opposite directions until they were at either end of the wooden fence. Charles was far to Elvis’s left, the King was almost out of sight on the right. Charles was in front of the fence ad the king was on the other side. Elvis watched in fascination.

A short horn blast sounded. The crowd yelled as the riders charged towards each other, lances raised. The thunder of horses hooves mixed with the road of the people. Elvis looked on.

The King caught the Duke in the shoulder with his lance. The Duke was jolted but managed to stay in his saddle.

‘A point for the King.’ the announcer declared.

The two men returned to their positions. They charged once more.

This time the King managed to somehow twist to avoid the Duke’s blow and connect with his own lance. The end of his lance shattered. The people shouted support as they approached the stand.

‘Three points and victory for King Henry.’

As the crowd clapped the two men dismounted. Henry bowed and waved to the crowd. He yanked his helmet free and threw it to his assistants. He shook the sweat from his red hair. His chiselled features glistened. He smiled. He looked at Elvis. He pointed a gauntlet covered hand. He waved for him to come down.

Unsure of exactly what was happening in this strange dream he moved down the wooden steps and walked into the English summer sun. He approached the armour clad king. Henry looked Elvis up and down. They were the same height. The King flicked out an arm, motioning that they should take a walk. Elvis fell in step and they strolled across the field.

‘You have come to visit us once again.’

‘Yes sir, that’s right.’

Normally Henry would have severely reprimanded anyone who did not bow and address him as Your Majesty but he felt an odd connection with the stranger. He sensed that the young man, of a similar age to him, meant no offence.

‘What art thou?’

‘I’m a singer.’

‘A singer? I have many talented musicians in my court. Who dost thou sound similar to?’

‘I don’t sound like nobody.’ Elvis shrugged.

‘Of course.’ grinned the King. ‘What do they call you?’

‘Elvis Presley.’

The King gave a bow.

‘Honoured to make thy acquaintance, Mr Presley.’

‘Elvis?’ came a voice from behind.

He turned. Scotty Moore, his guitarist and long time friend, was staring at him. Elvis looked around. He was backstage at the television show once again.

‘Hey Scotty, just catching my breath.’

The band’s drummer DJ Fontana barged into them. He suggested grabbing something to eat.

‘I can’t just walk into a diner any more. Places just go crazy about the second I walk in.’

‘We’ll get the burgers sent to us then.’

‘Deal.’

That night as Elvis lay in a hotel bed in a town whose name he couldn’t recall he thought about the strange visions. Why was he seeing Henry the Eighth? Elvis recalled the name from a class at school. Henry had lived in England hundreds of years ago. If he remembered correctly he’d had lots of wives. But why would Elvis be seeing the King? Surely they had nothing in common. Or did they? He sighed. None of it made sense.

He rolled over in bed. He picked up the receiver of the phone on the bedside cabinet. He dialled a number he knew as well as his date of birth. The phone was answered straight away.

‘Elvis?’

‘Yes, mama.’

‘How’s my boy?’

‘I don’t know. Things are getting real crazy. I’m seeing weird things.’

‘Are you in trouble?’

‘No, nothing like that. I just feel everything’s gotten out of control.’

The concern in his mother’s voice stopped him from disclosing the details of the visions he’d been having.

‘Is the Colonel working you too hard? He promised he’d look out for you.’

‘He know what he’s doing, satnin.’

‘Then keep strong. Things will work out the way they’re supposed to.’

‘Thanks, mama. Goodnight.’

‘Night, Elvis.’

By early 1957 the Presley family needed to relocate. Their house, while big enough to live, was not ideal now that Elvis was an international star. The crowds of fans and press filled the small avenue day and night. Elvis told his parents to look for a new place. He wanted somewhere on the outskirts of Memphis. He ideally wanted a farmhouse. A while later his father told him they’d found just the place.

‘Do you like it, mama?’

‘It’s wonderful.’

‘Then let’s go for it.’

As Elvis drove across Memphis with his parents they told him all about the place and its history. He pulled off the main road and through the wrought iron gates. He headed up the drive. He parked out front of the main entrance. He gazed at the white pillars. He smiled. He stepped towards the front door.

The Memphis building was gone. Elvis was alone in front of a large palace. Sunlight gleamed on the lead lined windows. A red and blue flag flew from one of the towers. Horse hooves came from behind. Elvis turned to see the King riding towards him. Henry wore a splendid jacket which shone with jewels. He grinned when he saw Elvis.

Henry leaped from the saddle and landed easily beside him. He beckoned one of his men. He tossed over the horse’s reins. The man bowed and led the horse away to the stables.

‘Welcome to Hampton Court, Mr Presley.’

‘It's beautiful.’ said Elvis. ‘Fit for a King.’

‘I like to think so. What do they call the place where you reside?’

‘I’m about to move into a new place. It used to be called Graceland Farm.’

‘Graceland. A wonderful name. I must visit this Graceland Palace one day.’

They walked through the large archway and into the palace. Elvis took another step. The King was gone. Elvis was on the threshold of the Memphis farmhouse again. His parents were behind him.

‘Looks like a palace, don’t it?’ Elvis said.

‘Welcome to Graceland Farm.’ said his father.

‘Graceland. I’m gonna keep that name.’

In 1958 Elvis Presley was drafted into the army for National Service. The press photographers swarmed around as he paraded in his uniform and had his famous sideburns trimmed into a style befitting a soldier. For Elvis the stint in the army was just at the wrong time. Things were happening, his life was changing. Fame, fortune and wealth were being heaped on him. He was trying to take it all in and still remain the boy from Tupelo. And now he had to serve in the army.

His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had Elvis record a string of tracks which would be released while he was away. He assured his young star that he would not be forgotten. Elvis hoped that once he’d done his stint in the army his life and career would resume. Then he could try and get his head round the changes that had happened to him.

While he was away in Germany he received a phone call from his father. Hours later Elvis was on a flight back to Memphis. He rushed to his mother’s hospital bedside. Gladys Presley died the next day. Her son and her husband were at her side. Elvis was inconsolable. His best friend, his satnin, the one who always knew what to say, was gone. He would never fully get over her death.

In the years that followed Elvis’ lifestyle spiralled out of control. There was just no way to handle it all. His head swam with the fame, the fortune, the pressure, the schedule. Elvis started taking pills to help him cope with the hectic schedule.

After a long busy day he needed downers to help him relax and get some sleep. After a drug induced slumber he needed amphetamines to wake him up and give him the energy he would need. There were over one hundred and fifty concerts a year across the country, endless television shows, and then he also had to cut records. It seemed he always had to be someplace doing something.

On the occasions he made it back to Graceland he fond his routine had messed up his body-clock. He would sleep during the day and stay up all night. There was another reason he favoured the night hours. He could go out at night without being mobbed by fans. He had all he had worked for but still felt that there was something missing. The world thought he lived like a King. They don’t see it, he thought, but I don’t have much of a life.

As the 1960s wore on Elvis churned out three films a year. His initial excitement at being involved in the movie industry had been short lived. He quickly realised that far from being a serious actor he was playing the same character in lame films that were little more than devices to sell cinema seats and soundtracks. Elvis knew deep down that this was not the way he had intended his career to go. He was prescribed pain killers by his personal doctor. They helped numb the pain that he was in. He savoured being numbed for a while. He quickly became hooked. It was okay, he thought, they’re not real drugs, they’ve been prescribed by Doctor Nick.

His relationship with Pricilla, the girl he’d met during his army service, was taking the strain. Despite his best intentions he could not help taking things out on her.

One evening Elvis and his entourage, the group that the press had nicknamed the Memphis Mafia, were partying at a Las Vegas hotel. They had the entire penthouse floor to themselves. They were gathered round a long table. They munched burgers, fries, ribs, hot dogs and anything else they wanted. Scantily dressed women worked the room, enjoying the attention of the men who were, to them, almost celebrities themselves. The women flirted and draped themselves over the men.

Elvis was chatting to a cute little thing from New York City. He asked her to fetch him another Coke. She smiled and nodded.

Everything went blurry. He was now in a dark panelled room. In the candlelight Elvis saw King Henry and his court. They were seated around a long wooden table. All kinds of meats were laid out. The diners had handkerchiefs draped over their left shoulders. As he crossed the room he noticed the way they were eating. They used a spoon and a knife. They grabbed meat from the dishes with their fingers.

The King was dressed as splendidly as ever. He wore as many gold rings as Elvis. He was in one corner in deep conversation with a pretty young lady. As they spoke the King touched her arm and neck with his thick fingers.

Elvis went over. The King beamed when he saw him. He waved his hands wide.

‘Mr Presley. Wonderful to see you at court once again.’

‘Thank you very much, sir. Though I really don’t know what I’m doing here.’

‘No matter. Thou art a friend of the King. I would that you stay and banquet with us.’

Elvis did feel a certain connection with the King. As the monarch showed him round the grand hall Elvis noticed how the man had aged since he had first had these visions. Perhaps the pressures of the throne aged who ever occupied it. And perhaps these were similar to the pressures that Elvis had heaped on him.

They spent an hour in conversation. Then as they headed across the room Elvis caught his foot on a loose floorboard. He fell through the air.

He landed on thick carpet. He was back in the hotel with his entourage. He got to his feet. His friends looked at him with concern. Joe Esposito, one of his oldest friends, jumped up.

‘You hurt, E? Did you faint?’

‘I’m fine, Joe.’

He squared his shoulders. Shook his head.  He did his best tough-guy stare. His lip flickered in that famous snarl.

The visions of the Tudor king blended in with the rest of the strangeness of being Elvis Presley. In fact, he laughed, having regular hallucinations of old England was one of the more normal experiences in his life.

On February 1st 1968 his wife Pricilla gave birth. Elvis and his entourage hovered outside the hospital room. Elvis paced the corridor nervously. He fidgeted with the gold rings on his fingers. He tapped one ring in particular. The ring was diamond crusted and had the initials TCB. He certainly hoped his wife was Taking Care of Business. He had butterflies in his stomach. He was going to be a daddy.

The cries of a newborn child were like music to his ears. A nurse opened the door a moment later. Elvis almost knocked her over in his eagerness.

‘Congratulations Mr Presley. It’s a girl.’

As he held his daughter in his arms he hoped that this little person would help get his life and his world back in some kind of order. He turned to his wife.

‘We’ve done it, satnin.’

Pricilla nodded and wiped a tear from her eye. He spent an hour with his little family. Promising to return the following morning he left his wife to get some rest.

Back at Graceland he padded upstairs to his bedroom. He went through the door.

He was in a small wood panelled room. It was night time. Candles flickered from their holders. King Henry paced the room. He looked upset and angry.

‘Good evening, sir. Everything alright?’

Henry stared at him, fury in his eyes.

‘The Queen has given birth to a daughter. A daughter.’

‘Congratulations.’

‘Pah! What good is a daughter? A king needs an heir. A male heir. An my name if to secure the throne then I must have a son. I shall have a son.’

Elvis said nothing.

‘Have thou any issue?’

‘What’s that?’

‘Any children?’

‘We’ve just had a daughter. Little Lisa Marie.’

‘My condolences to your house. May your next child be a masculine child.’

‘Well,’ Elvis shrugged. ‘she’s healthy and she’s might so I’m mighty grateful.’

Henry paused a moment before speaking.

‘Perhaps you are right. I must have an heir though.’

‘We have time.’

Despite his best efforts and hopes the arrival of his daughter brought no more calm to his chaotic life. He still felt like he was on a ship lost on a stormy sea. The next time he saw King Henry Elvis tried to explain about his life. They were sitting in his chambers. Church bells rang from somewhere outside. Daylight spilled in through lead-lined windows. Elvis sighed.

‘You’re the King. Do you ever feel like you have no control over your life?’

Henry was shocked. Nobody spoke to the king life that. To doubt the King in any way was treason and could cost you your life. But, yet again, there was some kinship between them. Henry shifted his bulk in the chair. He leaned forward. His eyes locked on Elvis. He spoke in a whisper.

‘I am Henry Tudor, King of England. An I wish for something it happens. Most men in my country would that they were in my position.’

He paused, choosing his words carefully.

‘But who can I trust? Every man in my court has his own agenda. It is not long between a man pledging his loyalty to his King and him being found guilty of treason. I can, alas, trust no-one. When I stay in unfamiliar lodgings I have a locksmith place new bolts on my sleeping quarters. My people search the bed straw for hidden daggers every night. A King’s place is not a place of comfort.’

‘I hear you, man. I just don’t have control of anything in my life. I got my manager and my record producers and movie execs telling me what to do. And I can’t leave the house in my free time without getting mobbed. I’m Elvis Presley but I’m nobody.’

‘I understand not thy words. But you must dictate, not those around you. If someone in my court dared to dictate to me then I would have his head. You must decide what you desire. Then you must see it granted.’

The words stayed with Elvis. Later in the year Elvis had a meeting with some television executives. The TV men were pitching an idea to Elvis and his manager. The show would be a Christmas special. Elvis would be singing Christmas Carols by an open fire. The Colonel nodded and said it sounded like a fantastic idea. Elvis shook his head.

‘The television special aint going to be a Christmas show. I want to do a rock and roll special. Let’s do something that shows the world that the King still has it.’

The Colonel asked to speak to him in private. Once they were along his manager turned on him.

‘Now, son, we do this Christmas show the way they want it. It will be a smash.’

‘I’m not doing it. The show is a chance for me to prove myself. I need this. I’ve been making those awful movies for years. I have to do a rock show my way. I won’t do some tacky special. You seen some of my movies? I wouldn’t pay a dime to see them. I wanted to be a serious actor like James Dean or Brando and look what happened.’

‘Elvis, we can’t-’

‘We’re doing this my way or not at all.’

‘But, the sponsors-’

‘Get yourself another performing chimpanzee and I’ll get myself a new manager.’

The Colonel flinched at the steely determination in his eyes.

‘Fair enough. A rock and roll special it is. Let’s tell the TV guys so we can get it moving.’

Elvis said nothing.

The show would become known as the ’68 Comeback Special. It would go down in history as one of his greatest performances.

In the years that followed Elvis slipped onto decline. His marriage to Pricilla broke down in the late Sixties. She could not live in Elvis’ crazy world any longer. She took their daughter away for all their sakes. Deep down Elvis knew it was for the best but it still felt like the bottom had fallen out of his world.

He was taking more pills than he could count. Despite the concoction he took he never really slept. He was also never really full awake. He would have his cook rustle up all kings of deep fried foods at all hours of the night.

His body physically changed. His weight ballooned. His once chiselled and handsome features became bloated. Elvis was aware he was in bad shape and ill health. Things were seriously wrong in his life and he knew it. But he felt powerless to stop it. He felt unable to change the direction his life was taking. He had a large group of people in his entourage but did not have one person he felt he could confide in.

His work schedule was exhausting. He had to work hard to fund all the people on his payroll. The fact that the Colonel was now taking fifty percent of his earning did not help matters.

Elvis saw King Henry as a man with similar problems to his own. They both had money, power and respect yet deep down there was something missing. Each man knew that they would be happier as an ordinary person. In later years Henry would execute those he suspected of treason. Despite lack of evidence to confirm his suspicions he would have people put to death. Paranoia, corrupt advisors and his own desires saw may lose their head.

King Henry’s weight soared. On certain days he would banquet on a staggering range of meats. He would devour copious amounts ranging from goose, veal, peacock and venison. After a jousting accident a few years earlier his left leg was now covered in sores and ulcers leaving him in constant pain. The agony he was in affected his judgement. Where as a younger, healthier man he may have listened to reason and trusted his judgement alongside the advice of men he trusted, now he made rash, angry decisions and listened to those he should have know better than to trust. He was twenty eight stone (392 lbs/177kg) and had red fleshy features. He was a completely different person to the fair athletic young man who had come to the throne.

One evening in 1977 Elvis was at Graceland. He went to the kitchen. Instead of the large kitchen with its refrigerators and ovens he was in a dark Tudor bed chamber. In the four poster bed was the huge figure of the King. Elvis stared in the candle light. The King looked awful. A man was at his bedside. He took a breath and spoke to his King. This man, Sir Anthony Denny, had the delicate task of telling the King that he was dying. He had to choose his words carefully for to predict the King’s death was treason. Denny explained as best he could that that in his judgement ‘the King was not like to live’. The King nodded. He understood. Denny continued.

‘His Majesty should remember thy sins as becometh every good Christian mad to do.’

‘I believe,’ said Henry. ‘that Christ in all His mercy would pardon all my sins, yeah, through they were greater than can be.’

He then asked that Archbishop Cranmer be summoned to his bedside. That request would be the last words of Henry VIII. By the time the Archbishop arrived in his bedchamber the king was unable to speak. The Archbishop was on one side of the bed, Elvis was on the other. The King looked at Elvis. He managed a smile and a nod. The King was ready. He had accepted his fate.

The Archbishop asked the King to confirm that he trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. Elvis saw the grip on the clergyman’s hand tighten. The King, by squeezing his hand gave his answer.

Less than an hour later the King’s laboured breathing stopped. The King was dead. Elvis looked down at the dead monarch. The dead face staring at the ceiling was his own. He gasped.

He turned away, knocking a pan from the stove in the Graceland kitchen. Elvis charged through his home. Tears ran down his face. He rushed into his bedroom. He kicked the door shut behind him.

He sat on the floor. He was saddened by the death of King Henry. He had been in contact with the man through all these crazy years. He had long since decided that far from being a symbol of madness these visions helped keep him sane. But something else troubled him. Elvis knew that their lives were connected, intertwined somehow. He knew that he did not have much longer to live. Yet again, the man thought to have everything had nothing.

In June 1977 Elvis Presley march on stage. He knew this would be for the last time. He belted out his hits with as much gusto an energy as his failing body could muster. Sweat poured from his face. His heart pounded in his chest. He pushed himself as hard as he could. He knew this was the end. He knew this would be his last performance. The Elvis Presley myth ended here. As he performed his mind went back to the early days. He saw himself as the slim handsome young man singing Heartbreak Hotel to excited crowds. He saw his mother watching from the wings as he sang Love Me Tender. All my dreams fulfil, he sang. Well, he’d given it his best shot.

At the end of the concert he saluted the crowd. Thank you very much! As he climbed in the back of his stretch limousine he heard the tannoy announce that Elvis had left the building. He removed his trademark gold sunglasses. He wiped a tear from his eye.

Just weeks later Elvis Presley was found collapsed in his bathroom at Graceland. Attempts to revive him failed. He was pronounced dead hours later. One of his entourage noticed a gold ring on his finger that he didn’t recognise. When he had the item examined he discovered that it dated back to Sixteenth Century England.


© Copyright 2018 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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