A Winter Tale... not joyous but not without peace

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Harvey can no longer bear the weight of his past. He has come to the end and sees only one conclusion to end his suffering.

His plan is simple, but the outcome is not what he expects at all.

Submitted: December 31, 2015

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Submitted: December 31, 2015

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The decision to return to the family cabin had not come to Harvey lightly. When he was younger he dreamt of bringing his own family here, but he never returned, not since his 19th birthday.

He managed to stay away for over 20 years. Sure his parents had made many trips back over that time, but Harvey always had a different excuse work: school, plans with his friends, or not feeling well. He didn’t want to remember what had happened down by the lake. He thought not coming back would ease the pain.

It didn’t.

Harvey sat looking out the front window of the rental car. From the ground to the top of the tallest pine tree a fresh blanket of snow covered everything. In the distance the lake covered in ice, and nestled in the center of it all was the family cabin. It had the appearance of a perfect winter wonderland.

With a grim pending sense of relief, Harvey grabbed a black duffle bag and left the warmth of the car. Snow crunched beneath his feet, and the porch steps creaked from his weight. It had been years since anyone had come to the cabin.

Once inside, an old familiar smell and feel brought memories rushing back: the fun weekend getaways, Christmases with his parents in the snow, times down by the lake and… the door slammed shut. A gust of wind pulled it from Harvey’s fingers.

The noise echoed throughout the large common room that was broken into a kitchen on the back wall, a dining area near the front windows and then the bulk a gathering space filled with chairs and a loveseat facing the wide fireplace. The only exit besides the front door was a small hallway that led to the bedrooms in the rear. Everything from the chairs to the dining table was covered in sheets as white as the snow outside.

Now half buried in the snow the cabin felt strangely sad and empty despite the furnishings. A loud thud made Harvey jump as a tree branch struck the cabin. Clumps of gathered snow poured off the roof outside the window.

The feeling of emptiness was also punctuated by the hundreds of family photos decorating the now barren walls and fireplace mantle were all gone. His parents in the last few trips said they would be clearing out things to get ready to sell the cabin. That was a sad thought… a sad thought that led to…

A dark thought that haunted him filling his mind and he knew it was time to get on with his plan. With a fluid swing of his arm, Harvey pulled one of the white sheets off the dining table. It fell to one side coming to rest on the wood floor. He dropped the black leather duffle bag on the table.

The thought was a distant memory, a memory filled with a darkness that would haunt him for days. His wife never understood his strange moods and he would do his best to bury them deep inside so no one could ever know, but it made him distant with his family, especially his children. As they got older he could tell they noticed.

Harvey was indirectly causing the family to suffer as his dark mood grew stronger over the years. He needed to make sure all the people in his life understood it was not their fault. So he planned to tell them and explain they never did anything wrong.

Harvey placed the three things he needed from the black bag on to the table. First was a laptop computer; it was to be his confession. Next, a full bottle of Scotch he placed to the right; it was to be his courage. And to his left was laid the solution, a 9-millimeter handgun.

He told himself it was this love for his family that kept him from doing this years ago. But now it was time and Harvey didn’t want them to remember his last moments as a horror scene, so he came to the cabin where the dark memory came from.

The sun had spent the day trying to get through the clouds but never managed to. The light from the nearby window would grow bright and then darken as more clouds crossed the sky. The table as well would grow bright and then dull again.

After pressing the power button on the laptop, Harvey went to the kitchen cupboard to get a glass. He could no longer let his past haunt him, so he was going tell them his dark secret… and then remove himself from the problem. Today he would even the score and let everyone else move on.

He turned back to the main room when the laptop announced it was ready by playing its warm-up music. For a second he thought he saw someone outside, but when he went to the window there was no sign anyone had been there. The snow outside was undisturbed save his own footprints or where the car pushed back piles from his drive off the main road.

The scene was eerily still compared to the city. Harvey again felt a cold chill causing him to turn away.

With a sigh he sat and began detailing the reason he wanted to end his life.

He did his best to tell the tale, stopping every now and then to take a drink when he began weeping. The Scotch helped him press on.

He told a tale some might not believe he had anything to do with. He constantly made apologies throughout the confession. Many were to his wife and children, some to old friends, but most were to Karen.

Karen was his high school sweetheart and the love of his teenage life. She was the girl who grabbed his attention and blinded him to everything… everything but his future. He didn’t realize how important his future was to him… until that day.

His eyes tried to focus on the laptop screen glowing in the dim light. Harvey's mind reminded him of the gun next to his left hand. This gave Harvey a cold resolve to keep writing and get it over with.

He put everything else he could into the confession with little regard to how the rest came out. Once he hit the save button, he just sat staring at the screen.

Now a little hazy from the alcohol, his eyes slowly turned back to the gun. It lay there patiently waiting. The light from the window continued to give everything a pale color, or was that a trick of the numbness in his head from the Scotch. The time had come. He turned off the laptop by closing the lid. Collecting the gun, he headed toward the door.

Harvey was finally going to escape all the pain and guilt rolling around inside his head. He was going to free everyone he knew from his troubles. “Yes” he said to himself, “they will have to live without me, but at least they won’t have to live with a murderer.”

Through the window in the distance Harvey saw a tree near the lake. It was the tree he needed to be under. Out in the ice and snow he was going to end his life... and suffering.

He grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it open. The cold from outside began to rush in but the door slammed shut before he could take a step.

Harvey looked at his hand, “How did that happen?” He wasn't drunk but his mind was muddled enough to chock it up as mere clumsiness.

He reached again but his hand froze a few inches away from the handle. The silver turn lock on the door made a soft clicking sound as it jostled back and forth. Dumbfounded Harvey just stared at the lock slowly continuing to move.

Without warning the dead bolt turned into place. “Hold it together,” Harvey mumbled as he went to unlock the door, “You can do this; it’s just madness setting in from the cold, the Scotch and... what has to be done.”

A familiar sound filled the air. Ready to grab the latch, his fingers froze like ice as the warm up music played from his laptop.

Harvey looked to the table the welcoming glow of the screen illuminating the chair he had been sitting in. The chair was no longer pushed out but was positioned as if someone was sitting in it facing the table.

Again he reminded himself “there is no way I'm drunk...” another thought occurred to him, “I must be dreaming.”

“Of course...” He said out loud, “I drank too much and passed out.” Not able to think of anything else, Harvey slapped his face as hard as he could with his open hand. “AAAHH!” the pain made his eyes water. When he opened them again he saw the laptop screen flickering.

Cautiously he approached the table from behind. His confession was open slowly scrolling upwards on the screen as if someone was reading every word.

Without thinking he slammed the laptop shut and jumped back from the table clutching it to his chest. The chair flung itself at him then landed on the floor.

Harvey waved the gun around the room, “Who.... Who's there?!”

He shook the gun erratically as his Scotch filled imagination began to run wild.

No answer came to his question, so he probed again, “I… I said… WHO'S...?!!”

The blinds around the room all started pulling down one by one, covering the windows, masking the room from the dull outer light making the common room nearly pitch-black.

Harvey heard something move in the dark, and with a jerk the notebook was pulled from his grasp.

He screamed and ran into one of the bedrooms slamming the door shut. He leaned against the heavy door with all his might.

Harvey watched as the door handle turned twice, then the door shook violently. He stumbled back into a dresser, which caused him to lose balance and fall to the floor. Picture frames rained down on him from on top the dresser. Every missing family picture was stacked in disorganized piles.

When Harvey regained his footing, the door fell silent. He quickly looked at only a few of the pictures lying on the floor and dresser. His face had been torn out of all of them.

Just over his shoulder he saw a shadow pass the window, but when he looked out, there wasn't anything there.

He turned startled when the bed creaked. It made the kind of sound as if someone had flopped down on the mattress.

“What's happening?” he thought. No one knew he was coming here, let alone where the cabin was. A prankster perhaps, someone hiding and waiting to surprise the next unlucky person who entered the cabin.

The sheet on the bed began to squirm as if something was moving around on top of it. Then the perfectly flat sheet sunk down to the form of a person lying across the bed.

Harvey was not sure what to do. After a few seconds he could not come to any other conclusion then to disprove what he was seeing. He forgot the gun in his hand and reached out with his left.

The white sheet was cold to the touch but still soft like the day it was washed. The impression moved like the invisible body lying there was shifting its weight. “I have to know... it's just a dream.” he kept telling himself; slowly his fingers gathered a corner of the sheet in his palm.

The impression stopped moving. It was now or never. Harvey yanked on the sheet to pull it off the bed. Much to his surprise it didn't move. He pulled again, but there seemed to be some kind of resistance.

“Harvey what are you doing?”, a smooth voice called out. Terror took hold of his mind. He ran to the door as it called again from the bed, “Harvey?”

Harvey franticly turned at the handle as his eyes watched the bed. The impression turned from someone lying down to one where you might think they were sitting on the edge of the bed. The handle gave way and he ran into the hall colliding with a small table.

Once he hit the floor he got up as quick as he could leaving the gun behind. “It was not possible. There was no way she,” were his only thoughts.

“Harvey!” The voice came from in front of him now.

He saw his laptop open and back on the table where it had been. His confession on the screen shown like a beacon in the darkness. He was transfixed as the mouse pointer moved across the screen on its own and paused over the word delete. In the glow of the light, Harvey thought he could almost make out the edges of a translucent feminine hand as it tapped the left select button.

“No!” Harvey gasped. He came here to confess to the horrible crime he had committed and in a single heartbeat four hours of writing were gone.

The voice became demanding, “Now, Harvey, the gun!”

The gun! Harvey scrambled back across the floor. It seemed like forever to find the weapon in the dark.

“Now Harvey...” without hesitation Harvey fired a shot blindly into the room. The sound was deafening. A small hole glowed through the wall as light could be seen from outside.

He felt something grab hold of the gun, but he wrenched it away and fired two more times. A bullet shattered a glass in the kitchen and the other a window in the common room which made a blind retracted back up bring light into the dark room once more.

The sounds of tearing cloth filled the room as all the cover sheets on the furniture began to ripe into long shreds. They flew to the center of the common room like a tornado.

Swirling taters and patches formed into an odd hunched-over disfigured human like shape. The head, it seemed, started to look around, darting this way and that until it fell upon Harvey's terrified face. A horrible voice like rocks scraping against each other called from it, “Haaarveeyyy.”

Harvey gave up trying to understand what was happening; he just wanted to make it stop. He pointed the gun at the tattered figure. His hand shook worse than before as he fired at the thing in the room.

Wherever his bullet went, the thing didn't care, it took a slow step toward Harvey, “Leeffft meee Harrrrveey.”

“Oh God,” Harvey ran for the door. It was still locked. His cold fingers couldn't work the latched.

It again lumbered forward another step, every movement accentuated by the hanging tatters all over it, “Soooo coollld Harrrrveeeey...”

Harvey looked at the thing with tears in his eyes, “Please...”

Another step closer, “Whhhhaat, I can't heeaarr you Buried sooooo deeeep in the snnooow, Haaarrrrveey...” When it said his name it made a whining noise.

He pleaded again a little louder, “Please... open… the.... door. I... I...”

It came closer still, “Iiiii waaaittted foooorrrr you, Harvey!”

“I’m... so sorry!” Just as it was upon him the door latch opened and Harvey stumbled across the porch and down the steps into the snow. He quickly rolled over a few times before he was back on his feet running and sliding to his car.

He fumbled for the keys from his pocket. The thing was at the doorway dragging one foot walking from the cabin.

“HARRR...VEYYYYYY!!!!” it screamed from the porch. Harvey yanked the car door open and jumped into the driver’s seat tossing the gun next to him.

It took a few tries but the car roared to life. He shifted into reverse as the dashboard tried to remind him about his seat belt. He watched the figure still reaching for him coming down the steps.

Harvey jerked the handle into the ”D” position and sped up the long snow covered drive to the road.

He was deaf to any sounds but his heart that pounded in his chest. His mind tried kicking back in desperate to comprehend what just happened, “WHAT THE HELL!” it didn’t go so well because all he was able to do was babble the same thing over and over,  “I MEAN, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!!!” His chest heaved as his frozen breath filled the air with every word, “WHAT THE HELL, WHAT THE...?”

He never slowed the car as he skidded onto the main road heading back to the city. His eyes were wide open, but his mind was blind with fear.

He almost didn’t see the person walking along the side of the road.

At the last second Harvey just missed the now blurred figure as he turned the wheel and veered down the side of the road coming to a stop inside of a large snow bank. The air bags didn’t deploy, causing Harvey’s head to slam into the steering wheel.

Pain blinded him. He could feel warm blood running down from the open wound above his left eye. When he was finally able to open his eyes a bright white light filled his vision. All the windows were covered in snow. The car was buried.

Harvey’s mind started to make sense of the situation.

He had crashed off the side of the road on the way to the cabin. He hit his head and had been lying unconscious in the snow having a wild dream.

A dream about a ghost. The ghost of Karen out for revenge. It chased him from the cabin and then onto the road.

Harvey tried to open his door “Awe come on!” he shouted, but the snow was too thick and the door didn’t budge. The others all yielded the same result.

His plan was to confess and then end his life with a bullet. This however was ironic. Now he was going to die like Karen did, bleeding from the head and buried in snow where no one would find him.

Unless... unless the person on the road he almost struck went for help.

He made an attempted at calling out, “HELLO!! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME!?”

No rescue came. At least nothing that sounded like a rescue. The engine was still on and rumbling. The vents were pushing cool air at him and he shivered a little from the cold.

Then he heard a strange sound. At first it was low but then it became just loud enough to hear over the engine purring under the snow.

It sounded like… scratching.

The sound seem to be coming from the windshield,. Harvey didn’t see anything and instinctively turned on the windshield wipers.

To his surprises the snow wiped away to reveal a perfect view of the frozen lake just beyond trees.

He refocused his vision to something closer. “What the…?” in the windshield there were words crudely scratched inside of the glass “You left me, Harvey.”

Harvey’s mind began to escape him again until he heard the horrible crying. At the bumper of the car was the tattered figure holding its face like it was weeping.

“NO!  I dreamt you!” he yelled with a hysterical laughter “You aren’t real!”

“On the contrary, Harvey…” came a voice next to him. He turned to see a young, icy blue skinned woman sitting in the passenger seat, “…It is quite real.”

Karen sat not three feet from Harvey. She was exactly the same as the day she died except for the blue skin. Her hair shoulder length and wavy the way she always wore it. Her clothes: a hand knitted green scarf, brown turtle neck sweater and blue jeans that tightly fitted her waist.

“No… ” escaped his lips.

“Yes, Harvey.” He looked out across the hood of his trapped car to the figure rocking back and forth as it cried out words he couldn’t understand.

Karen pulled her hair up in a pony tail, “Now let’s have a little talk.”

“You can’t be... here.” He whispered to Karen.

“I've been here for a long time, Harvey.” She glared at him with dark black eyes that seemed hallow against her cold blue skin. Then their intensity lessened, “But that's not what I want to talk to you about.” She seemed so calm, so matter of fact, “We need to talk about what you’re doing here.”

“Doing here” seem to ring through Harvey’s mind until he realized, “I’m here to…” he started crying, “…make things right between us.”

“Really? Because all I see you doing is exactly what you did 23 years ago.” Karen's sounded irritated. The thing outside wailed and took to pounding the hood of the car with its clumped fists.

“Harvey! Focus!” He jerked his attention back to Karen. “Ignore that part of me out there. As long as I am here, it will stay away from you.”

He did a double take on the creature and her, “What…? What do you mean?”

Karen let out an irritated sigh, “Something happened when I died, it’s like I split in two, and that's the part of me that still hates you. I must admit if you had come back 15 years earlier I might have let it tear you apart, but I have since had a change of heart.” Karen now sat facing Harvey as best she could in the passenger seat.

“You… you died, but then how can I see you? Am I going crazy?” He saw the gun lying on the floor and reached for it. “I need to end this now. I’m worse than I thought and can’t bring this on my family any more then I already have.”

Karen was faster than he was and grabbed the gun, “Really!?”

Harvey half cried and half pleaded, “Why do I need to suffer more for my crime? Do you want to kill me? Would that make you feel…”

“NO, HARVEY! Jesus, you are impossible.” She removed the clip from the gun and pulled the hammer back to remove the one in the chamber. “You are not dying here today! You are not dying here ever!”

“But I need to end the suffering. I have gone too long trying to hide it…” Harvey sniffled, “I need to...”

Karen pinched the bridge of her nose, “You need to listen to me for a second.”

“But…” he protested.

A cold hand struck his cheek almost as hard as his head had hit the steering wheel, “Harvey Morris, shut up and listen to the ghost of your dead ex-girlfriend!”

Harvey held his cheek and sat silently. The creature outside wailed somewhere in the distance, but Harvey forgot all about it.

“Listening? Good,...” Karen’s dark gaze fixed on Harvey's eyes, “You need to stop running away from your problems. You did it when you killed me years ago and you have been doing it your whole life. Now here you are trying to run away from the rest of your life by using a gun.” She waved the 9-millimeter in his face.

He said nothing.

“I had known you for a good portion of my life.” her voice calmed again, “And the one thing you seem to do when things got really tough is you would run away.” Harvey again wanted to plead his case, but Karen wouldn't let him, “If you had come back years ago or turned yourself into the cops that might have made a difference to me, but now here we are some 20 years since that time by the lake.”

Harvey blinked not sure what to say or even if there was anything to say to a ghost. 

She continued, “Harvey, it's too late for you to try and make amends for what you did. Regrettably what’s done is done.” She held up a wallet and flipped through the pictures in it, “You have a family,... you have two boys who would miss you. Probably more than you would ever know.” She seemed to be wiping tears from her eyes even though none existed. “A wife who looks very nice. She’d also miss you, I’m sure.”

Harvey cried. He felt the weight of everything crushing down on him and all he could do was cry.

“I was mad at you. Oh, God, I was furious with you. I came to tell you the most important thing I ever told anyone and you pushed me away.” Her voice took on a dark tone, “You pushed me into a tree.”

Harvey’s voice was barely a whisper, “I know... oh God, I know...”

“I laid there for hours in the snow, then weeks, followed by months.” Karen seemed to get a lump in her throat, “I laid there for years, Harvey, waiting for you.”

“Don't do that to anyone else. You were young then and you made a stupid mistake.” Karen paused to take a moment almost as if pondering what to say next, “An awful mistake you clearly won't repeat.”

Harvey hung on every word. She was right. He never meant to hurt Karen and he would never do that to anyone else. He just couldn't tell anyone what he’d done. Not his wife, not his sons or even his therapist. But Karen’s murder stuck with him even now sitting next to her, telling him what? That he should go on with his life?

She could see he was struggling with the whole thing and he just needed a push to get over it. “Harvey, what I'm trying to say is...” Karen made the action of swallowing hard, gathering the courage to say what came next, “…I forgive you.”

Harvey, didn’t how to process those last three words.

“Harvey did you hear me? I forgive you and I want you to go home to your family.”

“But… I murdered you.”

“Yes, you did, Harvey, and that's a burden you're going to have to bear the rest of your life.” Karen calmly sat back in her seat. “But don't bear it too hard anymore... it's over.” 

“I can’t sleep anymore or do much of anything else without seeing you lying in the snow. I fight with my wife. It’s hard to spend time with my sons, not to mention ruined my mother-in-laws birthday party…”

Karen pressed the wallet into his hands and squeezed gently, “It’ll be fine. Just go home and you’ll see.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. Karen didn’t say anything, but turned away to look out the front window.

“Did you hear me, I’m…”

“Yes, I heard you, Harvey.” She replied to him softly.

Harvey sat breathing hard; a strange sense of relief washing over him. He hadn't noticed that the thing outside had stopped wailing and was just silently standing there, almost with an air of impatience.

“So,” Harvey questioned, “What do I do now if you don't want me dead?”

Karen became uncomfortable in her seat as she stared at the tattered thing in the snow. Another thought was weighing on her mind, but she didn’t want to tell him any more then she already had, “If you kill yourself and admit to the thing you did that will just spin everything else out of control.”

“Everything else…?” Harvey tried to follow.

She saw the look on his face, “You will be tied to my murder, causing a new investigation into my death, which will devastate your family as they are questioned about it. Not to mention you’d be sending them into a hellish life without you.” She laid her head back against the seat, “Trust me, I know what that looks like. You don’t want to do that to them.”

“I guess I didn’t think about the details.” Harvey blinked the tears from his eyes and wiped his cheeks,”So you want me to go home and pretend none of this ever happened? That doesn’t seem right…”

“Harvey, it’s no longer about what's right. It’s about what I want. Since you killed me it’s the least you could do for me.”

Images raced into his mind, “I was so angry when you told me your... surprise. I had college waiting and a future all planned out in my head and… and… And I shoved you into the tree. I didn’t mean for you to die, but then you were dead, and I tried to hide what I’d done. So I…”

“Buried me in the snow, blaa blaa blaa… I was there, remember!?” She lay with her head still back and an irritable look on her face. “Look, I can’t take much more of this.” She gestured to the hunched over figure watching from the hood of the car. “Just stop running from your problems. Life is hard and having a family is hard. I'm sure my murder is hard on you, too. But I forgive you and want you to go home so no one else has to bear the same burden.”

The weight finally lifted off of Harvey for the first time since the day Karen died, “Soooo... we’re good.”

Karen smiled the way she used to when Harvey was trying to charm her, “Yes, Harvey, we’re good.”

And in a blink she was standing outside the car next to the tattered figure in the snow.

“Oh, and, Harvey, one more thing,” Karen called sweetly.

With a great amount of relief Harvey had not felt in years, he replied “Yes, Karen?”

Her voice was full of malice, “Sell the cabin and don’t ever come back again, or I will let this thing have its way with you.”

Harvey’s face turned pale again, but before he could protest, there was an explosion of snow and the car was propelled backwards onto the road. It came to a stop facing the city. Harvey put it back into gear and sped away as fast as he could.

Karen stood in the snow unphased by the cold snow raining down around her, the tattered figure turned to look at her, “Have its way with you? Really?”

Karen laughed not taking her eyes off the car as it went past some trees, “In the moment it just sounded right.” She smiled and turned to the figure as it unwrapped itself, “and you with this getup. What’s that all about?”

A young man of 20 something uncovered his face from the rags, “I was going for effect, thank you.” He bowed slightly.

Karen laughed, “Well, Kevin, I think it worked.” She saw Harvey’s car disappear around a corner as a van came from the other direction.

She saw a puzzled look on Kevin’s face. “What’s eating you, kiddo?”

“So you two talked for a while. What was that all about?” Kevin pulled some of the tattered sheets through his torso like it was nothing. “I don’t get why you told him to leave. I thought the plan was to drive him crazy until the day he died.”

“It was. Then I read his suicide note and how he had been torturing himself this whole time. Not to mention he would be hurting those poor boys and his wife.” Karen threw her arms up in defeat. “I just couldn’t do it.”

The van turned off the main road and headed down a long driveway to a red and brown cabin in the distance.

“Oh, look, the Johnsons are coming for the week, I bet.”

Kevin smiled as he removed the rest of the rags and tossed them into the bushes. “That means a warm fire and Christmas carols.”

The two turned and headed toward the cabin in the distance where the van was pulling up, “Honestly, though, I really don’t care if he kills himself. I just don’t want him to do it here.”

She paused and gestured around, “We have this all to ourselves; we don’t need his dead spirit sobbing and moping around, do we? This is our own peaceful heaven where the seasons change, animals roam free and we get the occasional visitors like the Johnsons who bring some family and joy to the lake.” Then her black eyes glimmered as if she was about to cry from a happy memory, “Besides, I have to give him a pass. He did give me you.”

Kevin hugged her, “Aw, that’s sweet mom. But could you do me a favor and...” he waved his finger at her face.

Realization dawned on her, “Oh, I completely forgot.” She closed her eyes and suddenly the teen Karen aged 15 years before his eyes. Her hair was the same length but had the sign of some grays. Her face lost its youthful round appearance, making her cheeks slender. When her eyes opened they had lost the empty blackness and returned to normal. She smiled at him, “Better?”

“Better.” He replied, turning toward the cabin and the family unloading the van, “But you know you’re a lot older than that.”

“Oh, you little creep! I swear I raised you better then that!” She threw a snowball at him. It passed right through Kevin’s stomach hitting a tree.

The pair laughed fading from sight, leaving no impressions in the snow as they continued to the Johnson’s cabin.

 


© Copyright 2019 Ed Smith. All rights reserved.

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