Hang the 'Cyst'

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hang the 'Cyst' is a short story that is based on the song "Hang The Cyst" by The Last Shadow Puppets. This short story takes place over the course of a few days during the 1692 Salem witch trials in which a 16 year old boy named Azariah finds himself wandering deep in the woods one day when he meets an unexpected guest. This work captures the traditional cruelness of witch trials in Puritan society, but contrarily suggests that perhaps the Puritans actually had a just cause. Did they?

Submitted: October 19, 2013

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Submitted: October 19, 2013

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The Puritans were harsh,

  but maybe they weren’t insane...

Hang the ‘Cyst

Written by Mirla Sales

  Based on the song by The Last Shadow Puppets

Salem, Massachusetts...1692

We call victims, “victims” for a reason, but sometimes the truth of the reason is not as obvious as we are led on to believe. After all, a blind society cares more about ‘the Flesh’ than ‘the Soul’ as this tale will tell of a boy who offered himself up to The Cyst...a boy previously known as Azariah, a name meaninghelped by God.

Some God, eh?

...........................................................

The woods are beautiful, relaxing -- the feeling in the woods is almost like drinking fine wine on a sunny, yet hazy summer day. The only difference is that this wine is laced with hysteria. Most certainly nothing to worry about though for a young, charismatic, 16 year old lad, Azariah. Truth be told he was only in the woods as the sun made its last appearance in the name of sport with a group of his acquaintances. Azariah was a most fair and handsome young man, with rich brown locks, and eyes as blue and inviting as the clearest sky: two colors that cause a great deal of contrast.

 In an attempt to conceal himself from his mates, Azariah wandered into a small valley. His mother and father had warned him about witches that were based deep in the woods, as the punishment for witchcraft was quite severe, but he never once had intentions of engaging in anything of the sort. Unfortunately, he interpreted this as...safety.

Pacing himself so he couldn’t get ahead of his senses, he slowly made the descent into the basin. He had never ventured into this area alone because he’d admit that he did have a fear of supernatural occurrences as well as the spectral realm. In his village of Salem, witches of both genders, even animals, we’re being captured and persecuted on a daily basis, and by persecuted, I mean killed. Why were they stripped of life? Well, the answer is very simple actually; they themselves were the evil ones.

...........................................................

Until this event that you shall soon witness, nobody had ever known or seen a being of witchcraft like The Cyst. As a matter of fact, still to this day no one has. The reason being, obviously, that the only one to ever accurately acknowledge the existence of The Cyst (apart from myself, though my identity shall remain confidential) was its only victim.

...........................................................

Azariah kept venturing downward. Despite the fact that he only had to cover a short depth, time felt distorted to him as he could feel the clock ticking in his chest slow and accelerate in Schizophrenic harmony. To steady the anxiety rising within him he would bring his fingers between his teeth and clamp his jaw. The sun beat down on his tanned forehead, causing a salty concoction to form at his pores. He also found himself gnawing on his fingers more vigorously, yet he was still not inflicted with any pain. The heat and haze of the day served to enhance the...phenomena.

...........................................................

“I am going to die out here.”

“It is your choice. But, why would I let that happen to a boy so precious?” 

...........................................................

As the moon crept out, the calm ambience of the forest was broken only by the gasps and spluttering of a mouse clamped in a wise owl’s talons. The innocent mouse was none other than Azariah. His eyes fluttered open in shock when his body had been drained of air to breathe. Azariah’s beautiful tan skin now appeared pale under the moonlight, but not solely because of the illumination. He desperately tried to speak, but the clutch on his throat only grew tighter as he struggled to relieve his lungs. Through his blurred vision and fatigue he could only make out a cloaked figure, but he swore he could make out eyes that burned with fire and passion.

Azariah was looming dangerously in and out of consciousness when he felt the cold yet heated grip on his neck release. Every instinct that coursed through his veins told him, “Run, Azariah! Scream!The only problem was...he could not. He felt sick to the bone, the bile rising up in his throat only choking him more. Finally, conversation broke out under the twilight.

“I am going to die out here,” Azariah choked out, tears springing to his eyes. He shivered violently when he felt a cold hand caress his cheek and heard a whisper in his ear.

“It is your choice. But, why would I let that happen to a boy so precious?” a soft, but gravelly voice spoke. Azariah tilted his head slightly to meet the gaze of a cloaked woman with eyes that shone like the sun that was currently absent. She greeted him with a slight smirk to accompany the glint omnipresent in her irises. 

...........................................................

Azariah parted his lips to speak again but was quickly quieted by a hand clamped over his mouth. He tried to form words, but the only thing audible was incomprehensible nonsense. Malice returned to the woman’s countenance as he felt a blade swiftly glide against his cheek causing him to cringe in discomfort. The tip of a black feather quill then brushed against his open wound. The quill was then placed in Azariah’s hand.

He was struggling for a decent breath of air and panic was starting to set in once again. The woman pulled a black book out of her cloak and opened it to a blank page. “Sign your name,” she said. No explanation was given. Azariah’s eyes widened in horror at the prospect of signing his name in a strange book with his own blood. It seemed oh so...sinister. With a hand still muting his voice, he shook his head in refusal.

“For the love of all that is unholy, sign it, now!” she demanded again, this time in a shrill screech, “Do it or die.”

...........................................................

It is times like these where we do not ponder the consequences of our actions or look to defend our dignity, for in that moment the only thing Azariah considered was that his decision would have a bittersweet effect on his life. Bittersweet because his signature would spare him his life, yet he had no clue what kind of evil he was signing himself away to. Just let it be known that, even though consequences may not register in our minds, they still exist.

...........................................................

Almost instantly, Azariah pressed the quill to the book’s page and began to write. His hand was trembling, resulting in a shaky signature:  Azariah Lawson

As soon as his name was complete, he dropped the quill and the hand was removed from over his mouth. He took a deep breath of relief, he was alive. Or at least that’s what he was hoping. In another attempt, he tried to address the cloaked woman.

“Who are you, what are you?” he asked, meekly. He braced himself for whatever response would come next.

“The Cyst”

A few moments ago Azariah had gotten himself into a sitting up position, but he was knocked backwards once more when he felt a strong burst of air impale his windpipe. With no other option, he closed his eyes and inhaled the cool air religiously. It burned, but satisfied his desire for air. Aside from his weakened state, Azariah felt alive again, although the energy that coursed through him felt foreign. He groaned in frustration at the position he was in. Where were his friends? How did any of this happen? What was going to happen now? His jumbled thoughts were interrupted when The Cyst spoke again.

“We are one now.”

Confusion and fear brewed in his brain at the words spoken to him, but before he could reply, the woman, her cloak, and her book all vanished. The night was still in its prime and Azariah was there, lying alone and distraught on the hard ground. Fear had paralyzed him, and he dared not move.

“Help me, God,” Azariah cried out softly. He repeated the phrase numerous times until it became a small wail, “Help me, help me, help me,” that called for the assistance of no one in particular. The call continued until he drifted off into sleep. The Cyst’s presence felt all too close to him and because of this he believed it would’ve been crazy to try to escape the forest at that hour.

Would it have been?

...........................................................

Morning dawned and Azariah was stirred from his slumber. He heard a bird’s call as well as a rooster’s crow, but those were sounds familiar to him waking up in his own household. He hesitated to open his eyes...had everything that had happened to him during the night been an awful dream or...reality?

Azariah opened his eyes and blinked until he could focus on the canopy of trees above him. He shuddered and his eyes widened as he ordered every muscle in his body to make a break out of the hell that had kept him prisoner overnight. His limbs would have happily obliged, but they were in restraints. His ankles were tightly secured to each other as well as his two hands. Never had Azariah ever despised rope so much. That was all it took to break his composure. He let out a frustrated yell followed by a bitter, “Damn you!” as he writhed around on the forest floor. Consequently, Azariah was not aware that the nature of his outburst may have just damned himself.

...........................................................

Just as quickly as Azariah had cried out, a group of townsmen came rushing out from behind some undergrowth a few yards away. He’d probably seen these men before but at the time none of their faces registered familiar. They were certainly bigger and stronger than him though. The three men approached him cautiously one with a pitchfork, and another with a bayonet. 

“How are you witch boy?” one of them sneered. An all too familiar feeling of panic was beginning to rise up in Azariah’s nerves.

“Stop, it is The Cyst.” Azariah replied helplessly. This earned him a blow to abdomen from a rock thrown by the third, and only unarmed man. Azariah turned to look at him, hostility obvious in both of their gazes. He was clearly the youngest male, not much older than Azariah himself, and cocky on top of it.

“Shut up!” the rock throwing boy barked. He grabbed Azariah by the collar of his shirt and dragged him up to his unsteady feet. With a man’s grip on each of his arms he was to be guided back into the heart of Salem. The journey back was already torture. He could barely walk with his ankles, tied which resulted in him practically being dragged by the two men. The third man with the pitchfork followed behind, occasionally prodding Azariah when he slowed their progress. Every time Azariah felt the rusted prongs of the fork make contact with the sensitive skin on his back, he only regretted signing that book more and more. To Azariah, it felt as if hours had passed before they even came relatively close to the border of the village.

The men had spent the time torturing Azariah and relentlessly asking him questions no poor soul would ever want to answer.

“What’s your name?” “Azariah Lawson.”

“Doing the Devil’s work aren’t you now?”

“Why don’t you get your ‘cyst’ to set ya free, eh?”

“How long you been doing witchcraft, boy?”

“Tell me, what is it like in hell?”

Azariah would have told them the answer to that last question, but it probably would not benefit his cause once he reached town.

...........................................................

The town buildings and people moving about soon came into focus. Azariah gulped as he dreaded whatever was about to come to him. He knew his people all too well; they were all Puritans and trembled in their boots at any mention of witchcraft. A reverend would probably question him upon his arrival. He knew he had been involved in witchcraft, but it wasn’t his fault? Azariah desperately attempted to formulate what he would say, but nothing would make any sense, and in fact it would just make him appear more suspicious.

Azariah felt his cheeks flush with shame and nervousness as people started to take notice of the spectacle. A young man tied at the limbs being dragged through the town square. Never had he ever wanted to escape a place so badly...oh what’s this? Never mind.

He dared not make eye contact with any of the gazes burningthrough him. However, Azariah could imagine their expressions of shock, horror, and judgment; they probably looked at him like they would a diseased animal. Everyone spoke in whispers that Azariah could not hear, and that caused fire to spark in his eyes. They were just as worried as him, yet they weren’t even in his position. That puzzled him because, they’d find out all the facts soon enough.

Sure enough, he was hauled over to the stocks, and the two men removed the rope ties from his hands and ankles. He looked at his wrists, they were red and burned from the friction cause by the coarse rope, but Azariah figured that was the least of his problems. He had been placed in the stocks which left him nothing to look at but the crowd of onlookers staring and glaring at him. He tried to maintain a pleasant appearance, but it was near impossible when he remembered the gash that was still on his cheek. He cursed under his breath because the circumstances were most definitely not in his favor.

The oldest man that had been a part of his capture, began to speak to crowd, “Townspeople of Salem, this young man, Azariah Lawson, was discovered in the woods early in the morning by my hunting party, in what seems to be a scheme of...witchcraft...”

Azariah clamped his eyes shut at the mention of the word ‘witchcraft.’ He could hear many people in the crowd gasp. He tried to shut everything out from the murmurs of the crowd to the booming voice of the man ruining his reputation. He didn’t need to hear everything that happened to him once more, but this time from someone he was not fond of. However, he tuned back in when he heard the man say something that sent him into denial.

“This young boy refers to himself ‘the cyst.’ He is obviously a witch and more so an enemy of God--”

“NO!” Azariah screamed. He felt like crying but forced himself to keep it together.

“Do you see how he is provoked by the mention of the most holy God? He is worshipper of the Devil, and yearns to plague others!” the man preached fervently. This sent many in the crowd into a parade of muffled hysteria. 

“That boy is a threat to our society, our family, and our children!”

“I’ve never heard of any Cyst and that worries me, darling.”

“What if he’s the reason why Eliza has fallen ill?”

“Our palisade shall keep him out, right?”

“Pshh palisade,” Azariah muttered. He’d had enough of these folk. They were all paranoid; every ranch home these days, even his family’s had a palisade to keep out trespassers. His temper was boiling inside of him, obvious from his flushed cheeks and painfully clenched fists. Finally, Azariah had had enough, and coming up with a clever retort, he says for only himself to hear,

“You’re a brokenfence in the yard of annoyance.”

The simple phrase filled him with a satisfaction unlike any other he’d ever felt so he repeated it again so it could be heard by them all,

“You’re a broken fence in the yard of annoyance!”

The crowd immediately started retaliating, but Azariah paid them no attention.

“ANNOYANCE I SAY!”

He had no idea what had overcome him, but his fire was doused only by seeing his parents shuffle and push through the crowd. Azariah couldn’t meet their eyes, and instead stared up into the midday sky for he found it to be much more pleasant.

“Azariah!” his mother wailed as she ran over to his wounded and distraught son held captive in the stocks.

“What in heaven’s name is going on here?” his father demanded of the men responsible for taking Azariah into custody. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Lawson I am afraid to inform you that your son was found in the woods last night in a questionable state and is suspected of...of witchcraft,” one man responded. Their eyes dilated in disbelief at the thought of their son being at the center of something of this manner.

“It cannot be true!”

“You are mad.”

“It must be a mistake.”

Mrs. Lawson was about to break into hysterics as she started sobbing into her beloved sons hair. No one offered to console the poor woman besides her spouse. Azariah could not bear to speak to her, so he only sighed. Instead the man began to speak again as if this was not affecting Azariah’s mother and father in any way.

“We shall bring him to the Reverend to be examined and then to Judge Danforth and Judge Hathorne. Together and with the guidance of a jury they shall decide what will be done with this young man!” He was addressing Azariah’s parents but was also projecting his voice for the other bodies in the square to hear.

...........................................................

Hang The Cyst!”

...........................................................

  The square went silent at the sudden outburst by a distressed woman. Strangely enough, its source could not be traced, but that meant nothing as others began to murmur their agreement on the matter. Azariah’s breath hitched for multiple reasons when he heard those words that had been shouted.

“It is not true! I am no Cyst nor am I even a witch! I worship God!” Azariah cried out. Deep down he believed he had said that 100 percent truthfully, but a voice different from his conscience kept saying, “Denial, denial, denial.”

...........................................................

Shortly after, Azariah was removed from the stocks and brought into the church to speak with the Reverend as the sun was starting to lower in the sky.

Azariah dreaded everything, but what choice did he have? This was no ordinary conversation; he would be interrogated for everything his life was worth.

“Hello, Azariah,” the Reverend said softly, “you hath done a very awful thing. Witchcraft is a very grave sin and is not one to go unpunished.”

“But, I promise I did not engage in witchcraft, it is not of my manner to disobey God,” Azariah said. To some extent that was true because after all he was forced to obey The Cyst and sign her bloody book.

“So, I take it that you love God?”

“I do.”

“Then tell me what exactly happened last night in the woods? Anything supernatural, unholy, or hellish?” the Reverend questioned.

“I--,” Azariah gulped nervously and took a deep breath before starting again, “I was looking for a place to hide and in the heat of the day I must have passed out. When I awoke I was in the clutch of a cloaked woman,” he finished shakily.

“Was she a witch, a servant of the Devil, tell me more boy?” the Reverend persisted with a disapproving look on his face.

“I am not sure...she made me uhm she--,” Azariah stopped as he tried to hold back tears and control his tone of voice.

“She what?” the Reverend asked, eyebrows raised, suspicion overwhelmingly present in his voice.

“The quill, blood, the cut,” Azariah said, nonsense spewing from his lips.

“Tell me boy!” the Reverend snapped.

“I signed the book!” Azariah howled, his sparkling blue eyes turning terrifyingly wild as they clouded over. As soon as he said it he fell to his knees on the ground and brought his head to the ground in his hands. Paying no attention to his surroundings he lost his wits calling out, “I am The Cyst, The Cyst, The Cyst, I am.”

The Reverend quickly called the town’s two judges into the room. Judge Danforth and Judge Hathorne allowed their jaws to hang down slightly at the sight of the spectacle that lay convulsing on the concrete floor.

“I believe he has signed the Devil’s book, and I am afraid to say he is beyond the point of no return. The boy even has also admitted to being The Cyst he spoke of earlier,” the Reverend reported.

“So is there a need for a trial?” Judge Hathorne asked.

“Since none of the previous reports of witchcraft have any links to any ‘Cyst’ I believe we should take extra precautions with this case and go straight to the punishment that you and Judge Danforth find suitable. Therefore, your answer is no,” the Reverend replied weakly praying to God he was doing the right thing.

“Good, so we shall have this young man taken care of in the morning and without having to bother our Salem residents for an inevitable verdict,” Judge Hathorne replied blankly.

This response hit the Reverend in a way that made him uncomfortable as he gazed over the poor soul lying on the floor.

 “Please your honor, do not speak like that, but still go through with what the law finds suitable,” the Reverend spoke sympathetically. “Take him away to a jail cell and in the morning I shall give him a blessing,” he said as he walked out the door to break the news to Azariah’s mother and father.

...........................................................

Two townsmen, who had been waiting outside, came in to collect Azariah and bring him to the jail. They hauled him up to his feet and began to make their way to the exit of the church. For a split second Azariah’s tainted mind was jostled back to the real world at the sound of shouting mixed with sobbing. He felt a pang in his heart, but his stare remained emotionally blank as he looked through the trouble in his beloved mother and father’s eyes. A beautiful boy on the inside and the outside, compromised by something so ugly.

Quite a shame, is it not?

...........................................................

Azariah was thrown in a cell just as the sun made its last appearance in the evening sky. After about an hour of sitting on the floor in a daze, he managed to pull himself together. He was deathly tired and wished for nothing more than to sleep, but at the same time he was afraid of what might happen if he surrendered up his consciousness. Eventually he couldn’t keep his eyelids raised so he gave in and tried to give his troubled mind some rest. He slept soundly for a few hours and awoke in the middle of the night. He sighed for there was still a while left until morning. Azariah was surprised when he had an undisturbed sleep, free of any visitations from The Cyst. What shocked him more was that he almost felt betrayed by the woman for not coming to him in his dreams. After all, he was going to die tomorrow. Not letting it affect him, he went back to his slumber. It seemed like everyone had turned on him besides The Cyst...his Cyst.

...........................................................

We take responsibility for what we deem ours.

...........................................................

Very early in the morning, before a cock had even crowed, Azariah was awake awaiting his death sentence. He paced the perimeter of his cell trying to accept his fate. His own God had clearly failed him, so he said a quick prayer to The Cyst wherever she was that she could save him like she had once before, yet he felt guilty immediately afterwards.

Azariah had been sitting with his face hidden in his arms for the longest time thinking about nothing in particular, when the Reverend walked into his cell. Azariah lifted his head wearily to look at him. Was it that time already?

“Greetings Azariah,” the Reverend said solemnly.

“Hello.”

“How are you, boy?” the Reverend asked not meeting his gaze. It was a stupid question indeed to ask someone about to be hanged, but Azariah gave an honest, straight-forward answer for the first time in a while.

“I’m afraid...”

The holy man gently placed his hand on Azariah’s shoulder.

“How about I do the blessing before a crowd starts to arrive?” and with that the Reverend started praying for the well-being of the poor soul. He clasped Azariah’s hands as he mumbled his words of prayer.

  “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

The Reverend concluded by rubbing oil over Azariah’s forehead in the sign of the cross.

“Amen,” Azariah replied quietly. As soon as the word passed his lips he could feel conflict bubbling inside his gut. It didn’t feel right; it didn’t feel like...him. As soon as the prayer was over, Azariah’s parents were let in for one last goodbye. His mother immediately wrapper her arms around him and sobbed quietly, the tears staining Azariah’s shirt. Azariah gripped her tightly and lightly kissed her cheek. After an embrace that felt like an eternity, the poor mother released her son and wiped the stream of tears that flowed down her face. Azariah’s father then stepped in to hug his son with a very audible sigh. He held back tears but it didn’t matter because the pain he felt was evident enough from his face. The loving yet somber moment Azariah and his parents were sharing was interrupted by noise from outside the jail. People were approaching whilst chanting something that as time passed became more and more comprehensible.

“...The Cyst...”

“Hang The Cyst...”

“Hang The Cyst!”

“HANG THE CYST!”

The Reverend’s eyes darkened.

“I am afraid it is time.”

Azariah’s mother began to wail...nothing would be able to prevent tears from falling from her eyes. His father placed his hands on Azariah’s shoulders and took a deep breath before speaking.

“Azariah, my dear boy, I want you to know that your mother and I believe that no matter what, the Azariah we know and love and that everybody would love if only they knew is still in there al...always,” he said choking up as he finished the sentence, pulling his son in for a final hug.

........................................................... 

Oh, there was never a truer statement.

...........................................................

Azariah had given each of his parents one last embrace, before two men came in to retrieve him. His mother and father dared not be witnesses to the atrocity that was about to take place. Before he was taken out, the men tied his hands behind his back with rope for the second and final time of his life. He was then led to a small hill that overlooked the town square. There was already a crowd gathering and it filled Azariah with disgust for his own kind. His anger was starting to mask his fear, not that he minded. Suddenly it hit him. He was about to be HANGED. How did he get here again? Azariah then remembered The Cyst, but he let it go as it would be better to not think about her. This was all her fault.

...........................................................

I’m sorry? Although...I shouldn’t be.

...........................................................

Azariah shook the thoughts because he was now having a noose placed around his neck and he was forced to stand on a small platform that would eventually be removed from under his feet. Azariah just stared down at them. He was perplexed by his feet which were holding him up for the time being, but would soon fail him. However, his eyes darted up when a hand tightened the noose leaving little to no space between the knob and his nape. That’s when he saw it.

...........................................................

From his perch underneath a tree atop a hill he could see down to the border of the forest. They locked eyes. There was The Cyst, lurking behind the crowd of people, out of their view. She was in complete control of Azariah. The noosed boy flung his head back, gazing up into the twilight, and broke out into a fit of delirious laughter. The men and women below just shook their heads at the spectacle. (We’re all allowed to pity...yes, even them.) Suddenly, the outburst was silenced. Oh, what a sight to behold! The evil possession seeming almost as if it had just...vanished. The boy looked normal again, in fact, he looked like Azariah. Hatred still burned in his eyes, and he furrowed his brows, but this hatred was more humane. The reason being that his hatred was now directed to the evil figure hiding safely in the shadows while he would soon give up his life for her.

...........................................................

“Men, it is all set and ready.”

...........................................................

The end was near, and Azariah knew it all too well. The end would come any minute now. Still, he figured he should try to put up one final fight, not so much for the sake of himself (since that was a lost cause), but rather for the blind souls of Salem before him who would still be in the presence of The Cyst after his departure from this life. This time his words were driven with passion rather than evil possession or hatred. His ice blue eyes pleaded with the crowd...

“Catch The Cyst.”

“Catch The Cyst!”

“Catch THE CYST!”

“CATCH THE CYST!”

The people just stared up at him dumbfounded by what he was saying, was he not The Cyst? Whispers began and immediately Azariah’s executioners made an effort to silence them.

“Ladies and gentleman, the boy is delusional!”

False.

“He seeks only for an escape from death!”

False.

“The boy knows not what he says, do not listen to him!”

Famous last thought: False.

...........................................................

  Eventually, silence returned to the town square thus marking the beginning of the boy’s final moments. Azariah’s palms were beginning to sweat as he clasped them tighter, while shifting his weight back and forth, anxiously teetering on the platform. One of the men gathered on the hill, walked over to get a ready grip on one of its stilts. When he pulled it away, it would all be over. The man looked up at Azariah and a second-long exchange transpired between the two. The emotion and thought that was present in this exchange is something we shall never know.

Immmediately afterwards, Azariah shut his beautiful eyes tight:  The Beginning. "...Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst..." He could not bear to watch the  scene of his death any longer; his expression had been pained enough. "...Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst..." A few seconds later a tear that had pooled at the corner of his left eye, departed  from its crevice and ran down his cheek: The Middle. "...Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst, Hang the Cyst..."  The boy opened his mouth and began to take a deep breath of air to calm himself, but this breath was cut short: 

The End. 

"Hang..."

...........................................................

The only question left is,

“Was he badly mistaken or guided?”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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