Felicity

terribleminds.com challenge for this week is travel. Go from point A to point B. limit 1000 words.  mine 994. http://wp.me/p1BAlV-felicity  

                     Felicity                                           Louise Sorensen April 23, 2012

The train is rolling along, eating up the hours, and I am loving it. Cornfields speed by, miles and miles of short yellow stalks. Planting hasn’t started yet. My boyfriend sits in the seat beside me playing a game on his phone. I wish this could go on forever.

But our drinks are coming. The porter is walking up the aisle, holding a tray. I see him in a vision– the train lurches, or he trips over a rough spot on the carpet, his arms go up, the tray flies through the air the drinks alcoholic missiles headed our way.

But no. Om…om…om. The moment freezes and plays backwards. The drinks sail back onto the tray, the tray flies back into the porter’s hand, his hands go down, all is as it was. I reach into my pocket for a pill. Crunch it down. It’s time, anyway. I’m not sure if these pills really work, or if it’s the placebo effect. But my mind is calming, the rough waters stilling. The squirrel in my head slows down to a walk, a crawl, curls up for a nap.

 I take my Bailey’s from the porter and sip. Shards of glass. My tongue is bleed… No. No glass in my drink. My tongue is not cut. I watch the miles go by through sleepy eyes.

Oh god no! How did I get on a plane? My medic alert bracelet clearly states… the engines sputter… the plane dives. I wake up, drenched in sweat. Cornfields have surrendered to forests. The train is whizzing by so fast I can’t make out individual trees, just a dappled blur of sun and dark. Queasy, I turn away.

 A thought intrudes. The train hits a log on the track, or we’re going too fast around a bend, or… time coils up as the accident gets ready to happen… I seize the future and force it back into… the rhythmic beat of the train wheels, solidly on the track. Everything is fine. There is no train wreck. There will be no disaster. I take a pill from my pocket and crunch it down, calming the storm in my mind. The episodes are coming stronger and more frequently. If it weren’t for the lives that would be lost if I went on a plane, I would fly now, just to get this life over with.

I’ve always known that I would die in an airplane crash. So I don’t fly. It’s been a darkling thought shaping my whole life. Because what I think, becomes reality. I can walk down the street and see a woman with a yellow daffodil on her lapel and a headscarf covering her bald head and think to myself, this woman will recover completely. And she does. I used to visit hospitals, especially the children’s wards, and think, these children will all survive. They will all recover. But I’d stagger the recoveries so as not to raise suspicions. At first I would check back and confirm that all the kids were well. After a while, I didn’t need to check anymore. I just knew.

When I was in my mid twenties, I began to have bad thoughts. Walking down the street, I would look at a woman in a yellow dress and think, that woman is going to fall down. And down she’d go. Those two cars are going to crash. Boom!

 I did a lot of damage before I discovered meditation, and how to stop accidents before they occur. I’ve never let an accident happen and then tried to make it unhappen. I don’t have the nerve. But I think it could be done. I’m sure that once I’m dead though, all of this will stop. Unless someone else is born to replace me. But they can have it. I’ve had enough.

I open my eyes. Someone I can talk to is going to walk down the aisle. Here she is. An elderly lady with white hair, a gray coat and a little hat with a pheasant feather.

 She is a fortune teller. Her gray coat changes to a red shawl. With a black paisley design. Her hair is darker. No hat. She will sit in the seat two down from me. And beckon me to join her. I get up. My boyfriend will have a nap. I look down at his sweet sleeping face.

The fortune teller says, “You have always believed you would die in a plane crash.”

“Yes. I feel it in my bones.”

“But the future is not fixed. You should know that, you set it up and change it all the time.”

“Oh! But I’ve always been afraid of flying. I’ve always known I’m going to die in a plane crash.”

“You could stop your heart anytime you want.”

“And finally be at peace. And the world would go on just fine without me,” I say.

“You just keep thinking those good thoughts, dear. Because there’s something really bad coming up. And you’re running out of time.” She gets up and leaves.

Geez. Wonderful. I go back and sit beside my boyfriend. Squeeze his warm hand gently, not enough to waken him. He has no developing aneurysm. There is nothing wrong with him. But there will be no Tyler Junior, no sweet Olivia. Not for me, anyway.

The train is approaching Montreal. This is as good a time as any. I won’t be dying in a plane crash after all. How silly to have feared flying all these years. I will be dying on a train. To make sure that no one can revive me, I will not only stop, but burst, my heart.

There.

Drifting.

See myself below.

Someone speaks my favourite quote.

“All shall be well… and all shall be well… and all manner of thing… shall be… well.”

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Death Visits

Chuck Wendig of terribleminds.com challenged us to write a 1000 word limit story that prominently features Death, the concept of death, or an exploration of death. But death must be front and center. I grew this story outward in layers from a skeletal frame. http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2T

        Death Visits                                          Louise Sorensen April 15, 2012

I think I’m alone in my office. Then someone clears his throat. A man dressed in a black robe and carrying a sickle stands in front of my desk. I shiver–security will never get here in time. He continues to stand there, swaying slightly, silent.

Nothing to lose, “Sit now,” I say, indicating a chair.

He takes the chair, and I move carefully to an identical one opposite him.

“I don’t have many friends,” he says, with a sniffle. His voice, not quite human, has deep echoes, like a huge empty space. There’s room under that robe to hide electronics. To give myself time to think, I pass him the box of tissues. He takes one. It disappears under his hood, reappearing soaked a minute later. I indicate the waste basket and he tosses the old tissue and takes a fresh one, holding it in one trembling hand. A human hand.

“You don’t have many friends…” I say, to move the conversation along.

“No I don’t you stupid bitch. I’m Death! Why would anybody like me? I kill people.” His voice explodes in the room.

My chest is tight. I struggle to remain calm, to show no fear. “You’re not happy in your job.“ Leaning back in my chair I force deep even breaths.

“I hate my job.”

“But you provide a very important service.” What am I saying?

“Yeah. But I don’t like killing people.”

Good! “You know it wouldn’t be good if you weren’t around.” Shut up! Quit talking! “Unless they… you know… they can find a replacement.”

“They wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.” He looks straight at me.

“Language, please.” There are limits. “You can’t take vacations?”

“I get every second weekend off and two months in the summer.”

“That sounds great!” I babble. “But who takes over for you? I don’t recall anything in the news about the death rate changing every second weekend.”

“Oh. There’s a guy who comes in to do it part time. I think he’s some kind of an angel. Needs the overtime.”

“Ahhh. So will you be doing this job for eternity… forever?” I ask.

“No.” Abrupt. He looks down and stirs a circle in the carpet with one booted foot.

“Well is there any chance of advancement?”

“I don’t know,” he says. I sigh. Why is he here?

“Is there anything you like about the job? Any perks?” I ask, straining to hear if anyone is nearby.

“Oh yeah. I never get tired, or drunk. I can stay out all night. And the girls are all over me.” He looks up. He may have mistaken my consternation for disbelief. He lowers his hood and I gasp. More beautiful than any living man. He raises his hood up again.

“I’m not happy,” he says.

“Why not?” I manage. My heart is a crushing pain. Even if I don’t die on the spot…

“I’m not happy with what I do.”

“Do you do a good job?” …I will never be the same.

“Yes of course!”

I pull myself together and wrack my brain for some intelligent counsel. “You know that people need your services?”
“Yes. But they don’t know it. And they don’t like me. They’re always fighting me. And they cry when I do my job.”

“Always?”
“Well, no. When someone slaughters a cow or a chicken, I’m right there making sure the job’s done well and usually nobody cries. Unless it’s somebody’s pet cow, or chicken, or pig. Or lamb. I had that happen once. They called him Charlie Brown. Funny name for a lamb. A ram, really. One little girl cried and refused to eat him, but the rest of the family, especially the girl old Charlie liked to butt in the knee, well, they laced into those lamb chops like there’d never be another meal. Warmed my heart.” Death babbles too. He pats his chest and it clanks. I’m not exactly sure what’s under there. But that face. I don’t like to think about it.

“I think that you have to understand about boundaries,” I say to him, trying to recover. My heart is beating so fast I think it will burst.

“Boundaries?“

“Boundaries. Boundaries protect us from harm. They help us know what to let in from the world, and what to keep out. You are in a position of power over people. But you can also be affected by them. Psychological boundaries help to protect us from pain. You perform a service that is vital to the survival of life. And although it may not always seem like it, people are grateful.”

“Yeah? Well they’ve got an awful funny way of showing it. They’re always fighting me.” Again with the fighting.

“Always?”

“Well, most of the time. Sometimes they’re happy to see me.”

“Do you ever do anything to hurt them?”

“Outside of taking their life? No. I’m as gentle as I can be. Even for the worst of them.”

“The worst of them?” I swallow.

“I’m not here to judge. I just have a job to do.” I’m beyond fear.

“And you do the best you can?”

“Of course!”

“That’s all anybody can do.” I check my watch. An hour has passed. If he’s going to take me, there‘s nothing I can do about it. I pull a book from the shelf. “I can’t loan this out, because it’s my only copy, but you should buy this and read through it.” I consider the insanity of my action, and pass him a pen and a piece of paper. He writes down the name and author of the book and sticks the paper in his pocket.

He stands up to leave, and my heart breaks.

“Come back anytime,” I say, both relieved and sad. “My door is always open.”

“I know. Bye Mom,” he says, fading into nothingness.

“Bye, Hon. Love you.”

“Love you too, Mom,” echoes in my ears.

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Green Eyes

The challenge at terribleminds.com Friday the 6th was to write a really gripping first sentence. I didn’t think I could write the right first sentence unless I wrote the whole piece, to make sure the first sentence worked. Word limit 1000, mine 979. Deadline one week.  http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2P

Green Eyes Louise Sorensen April9, 2012

I once knew a man who treated a yellow Appaloosa like a piece of crap. But that‘s another story.

I think I’m in love.

It all started when I got my new laptop. I’d been making do for years, with leftover games computers the kids had outgrown. Then suddenly I got this brand new state of the art laptop. Man!

It wasn’t long after, though, that I began to have trouble with it. It would heat up, if I was on a certain favourite website too long. And the Ctrl button was too close to the Caps button, so quite often I’d hit Ctrl instead of Caps and lose a whole story I was typing. A rocky start, but we finally adjusted to each other.

Then, my new lappie started blacking out on me. I could find no pattern or cause to its fainting behaviour. It just curled up its toes and passed out. After about a minute, it would slowly revive and give me an error message that the display driver had ceased to respond. If I had a nickel for all the times my own personal display driver has ceased to respond, I could retire. Some computers, like some people, are in my opinion, attention hogs.

I became less and less excited about ‘M’, as I called my lappie. As time went on, M’s display driver ceased to respond more and more often. I have weekly articles to write and do most, well let’s admit it, all of my research on the internet, so I was getting frustrated.

I guess M was getting frustrated too. This relationship was probably failing his expectations. So he did the ultimate. He crashed his hard drive. One day I tried to turn him on and he was lifeless. Unresponsive. I immediately phoned tech support and tried going back to factory reset. We’d already been through this a few times and it had always worked before. But this time M was gone. All my pictures and articles he had lovingly stored in his heart for me were in jeopardy.

Although I hated to do it, I called Dweebs R Us and got a computer guy out to do what he could for M.

The computer guy showed up in a yellow van with a big picture of a brown bear on it. I though this was a strange logo for a computer dweebs company. Turns out they come to help you with your computer when you can’t ‘bear’ it any longer. Well, I was certainly at that stage.

There’s no way I would ever let M leave my sight, so I paid a hefty fee for the computer guy, whose name was Marcel, I took that as a good omen, all the men in my life have had names that started with M, to stay for two days and replace the hard drive and set M up again.

Only it wasn’t my M anymore when Marcel was done. As I name all my computers M, as well as my car and my house, it’s my favourite letter, I had to keep calling my lappie M. Though he was so unlike the original M, I almost considered calling him m. But we humans can adapt to anything so I called him M, and it was no time at all before it felt normal.

Marcel said he had had trouble finding the place, and not to call him again. But I don’t let go of a good computer tech, whose name starts with M, that easily.

M had a few hiccups and teething problems, and I had to get Marcel back a few times.

“I don’t know how you have any reception at all out here in this forest. Don’t the trees block the signal?” he said one time.

Another time, “You sure have big dogs out here. I got chased a few miles. Don’t people out here teach their dogs anything?”

I didn’t want to tell him that they weren’t dogs. And there are no people but me. But maybe he already knew that because the next thing he said was, “Please don’t call me back again.”

Anyway, the next time M needed a check-up I called Dweebs R Us and asked for Marcel. Marcel didn’t work there any more. But they sent out Markus. Another M man. I knew we’d get along just fine.

Markus brought a brown paper package of goodies to install in M., Courtesy of the late Marcel. It only took a day for Markus to overhaul M, but the difference was miraculous.

Wires were sticking out all over the transformed M. He was keyed to turn on to my voice only, and had a touch screen that magically responded to my lightest caress.

“Marcel told me all about you and your needs,” Markus said looking deep into my eyes. I noticed his were green. One of my favourite colours.

“You got your wired adapters, your full body touch screen, and your lifetime battery,” he said. “You’ll never, ever, ever, have to call anyone to fix your computer again. It will never break down.”

And he was right. Now I can wander in the forest all I want. And I don’t have to go home even when it gets dark. I call M Michael now and he’s with me always.

When I touch his screen, he leans his face into my hand. He has the most beautiful green eyes and dark hair. I can reach right through the screen– it melts away at a touch. So far, I’ve only been able to draw out Michael’s hand through the screen. But I think, with a little wiggling, I can pull the rest of him out all the way.

Yesterday, he told me he was coming to get me.

I think I’m definitely in love.

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Soul Mates

This is in response to the terribleminds.com challenge to write a story that centers around a terrible lie. http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2K

Soul Mates Louise Sorensen April 2, 2012

From the cover of my cup of double-double, I watch as he saunters into the coffee shop. His butt is tight and lean on a nice hard body. So he works out. But not too much. The cashier flirts with him as he pays. Bitch! He makes a joke and she laughs. I grind my teeth.

I wait until he gets seated, then burn my eyes into the side of his head until he looks my way. It’s Friday, and almost time for my meds, but I’m feeling pretty good. I have half an hour to kill. He glances over at me. Not the first time; we’ve been playing this little game for months. But this is the first time I’ve felt like going further.

He gets up from his little single table, walks over to where I’m sitting and looms over me, forcing me to look up.

“Is this seat taken?” he asks, a glint in his eye.

I push the chair out. “It is now,” I say, cursing my lack of wit, but smiling anyway. I’m really much better with inanimate objects. They don’t require conversation.

“Do you come here often?” he says smiling. My god. As lousy a conversationalist as I am!

“Every Friday,” I manage to stammer, “I need to… I have an appointment over at the… ah… Yes. Every… I come here every Friday. How about you?” I grab my coffee with shaking hands and suck some down.

He takes a long draw of his coffee too. “Me too. Every Friday, that is. I have a… er… a thing I have to do. On Fridays.”

“So… Have you read any good books lately?” I ask. Then I cringe. Who reads books anymore?

“Oh yeah. Sure. I read… safe books. That is, I watch TV. That is… I watch movies on TV. Safe movies.” He has the most masculine voice. My face flushes, and I unzip my jacket a little to cool down.

“Me too!” Finally, something we can talk about. I watch safe movies too, because I am a good person.

“So did you see the one about the little robot who got separated from his family and was lost and finally found his family?” he says with a killer grin. He has very white teeth. Like pearls. They’d look very nice in a necklace against my skin.

I smile back. “Yeah. That’s such a good movie. I especially like the part where the killer robot is going to take the little child robot apart, but then the little robot talks to the killer robot and teaches him that kindness and goodness is the way. The one and true way and the only way. I really like that part. Because I am a good person. I would never try to take a little robot apart.”

“I agree completely,” he says. He has such beautiful lips. So soft. “I would never want to grab a little robot or a robot mother by the throat and squeeze them until their eyes popped out,” he says. “Because I am a good person too!”

I scratch my bicep. I have a special tattoo of a tick, there. When the level of my meds gets low, it starts to itch.

“I have to go soon,” I say, glancing at my watch. Time has passed so quickly! “It’s almost ten. I have an appointment in five minutes.”

“Oh,” he says, getting up. “Okay. I could walk you there.”
I look into his eyes, they’re green, and I am lost. “That would be nice.”

We leave the coffee shop. The clinic is less than a block away.

“I’m so happy you’re walking me to… where I have my appointment,” I say, glancing up at him. The sidewalk is crowded and he is frowning.

“You look like you don’t like crowds of people any more than I do.”

“No. I don’t like crowds,” he says. “But I don’t try to hurt them because I am a good person.” I smile up at him. He is such a good person.

A woman pushing a baby in a stroller passes us going in the opposite direction.

“That lady with the baby,” I say, “didn’t remind me of anyone at all I would want to cut to pieces.” I wince at the stab of pain in my arm. It fades to an itch.

“That’s because you’re a good person,” he says, turning to smile at me as we walk.

“That’s right,” I agree. “It isn’t good to hurt people. It’s important to show up for our jobs, watch safe movies, and come to our appointments every Friday. So we don’t itch,” I add.

“I used to be so smart,” he says, scratching his bicep. “I was a CEO. Now I can‘t even remember what I did.”

“Me too. Smart, I mean. I was an accountant. But only good people can fall in love.”

“And find happiness,” he adds.

We’re at the clinic. I claw at my bicep. It’s burning up. I have to get my IV soon or I’ll go crazy.

“Do you want to come in with me?”

He looks at his watch. “No, I have to go to my job.” He turns away.

“But we could meet for coffee next Friday,” he says, looking back.

“I would love that… but right now, I really have to go.” My arm is swelling burning all the way down to my wrist. I have to get my meds.

“Okay. See you next Friday,” he says.

I rush in to the reception area and the guard takes me in right away. Medication flooding my veins, the gentle voice of my counsellor is murmuring something I already know.

“It isn’t good to hurt people,” he says. “You will never hurt people. Today, and every day, you will not hurt people because you are a good person.”

“I met someone,” I whisper.

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Dance, Baby, Dance

The terribleminds.com challenge that inspired this story explores setting. We were given the choice of five settings. A lunar brothel, an abandoned amusement park, the bottom of the sea, an apartment during the Apocalypse, or a fairy tale forest. Limit 1000 words.  http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2G

 

    Dance, Baby, Dance          Louise Sorensen March 26, 2012

Springtime. Twilight.

The need is hard upon him. It’s time to give in.

Birds dreaming in the trees sleep on, sheltered from the echoes in the frosty air.

Harry rattles as he limps along. In one hand a heavy jug of water, in the other, his fingers are clenched around a flashlight. A lighted lantern dangles from that hand as well, in his determination to keep the night things at bay. A clutch of glow sticks hangs from his belt, a last resort if batteries or flame fail. A small canteen of water; all he will have for the whole night, balances out his weaponry.

Though he knows it won’t be enough, he takes a long drink of water from the jug. On one side, sand glows pink in the sunset. Waves wash calmly up the beach. On the other, is his destination.

He limps through the gate of the abandoned amusement park. Deeper and deeper in he creeps. A huge dragon comes into view, frozen in a standing position. Yesterday, Harry was here in daylight, and its painted sides were faded, peeling. This evening, though, its scales shine sharp and perfect, reflecting the last red rays of the setting sun.

Movement. Has the dragon stooped lower, its massive jaws opened wider? Does poison glisten from its fangs?

Harry stops and looks it in the eye. Wields his flashlight like a sword. Holds up his glowing lantern. A figure all in gray, hoping the dragon will recognize the spirit of a knight, if not the substance.

A flash across the dragon’s eye, and then it’s dark again. It settles back on its haunches, waiting for easier prey. Harry breathes again, and limps on, trying not to clank too loud.

The skirl of a pipe echoes down a river of rides. Tilt-a-Whirls and Caterpillars on one side and a mammoth roller coaster on the other all sigh in unison, sending the current of music on its way. One Caterpillar, black eyes shining in the lamplight, turns its giant head towards him, and whips its antennae back and forth.

Harry stops again.

Peace, Brother.

 The Caterpillar considers the lantern’s rosy flame, then accepts this greeting and resumes a slow trundle along its track.

A snort from the carousel. One of the horses, dark and gleaming in the waning light, stamps its foot. A sword gleams from its saddle.

Ride me.

Sorry old boy, not yet.

Taller and more massive than any medieval destrier, the horse lays back its ears. A whole stable of them froth and champ at their bits, on the wooden platform. Their hooves stamp a slow rhythmic drum beat. Boom… boom… boom. The carousel’s music starts up and it creaks forward, revolving slowly.

Harry rubs his sore leg and limps on. The drumming of the horses’ hooves is faster and faster until the beat is solid, then it stops. He looks back and up. The horses will be airborne, but he can’t detect them in the dark sky.

He reaches the centre of the park and stands in a circle of stones. A wheel made of stars twinkles into being ahead of him.

“This feels like the right place,” he smiles.

Fog rolls all around.

A fiddle howls. A pipe joins in. Green lights swirl from the mist and musicians take shape.

Magic seeps into Harry and the glamour slips over him like an old familiar robe. A line of mirrors appears, one within the other, reflecting a thousand images of him for a moment, a young man clad in black, lithe, strong, dark haired. He throws off his belt of lights and straightens his collar. Considers throwing his canteen to the side but rejects the idea with a grin.

The scent of bilberries, moss. His queen appears at his side. He opens his mouth to murmur her name but she stops him with a finger on his lips.

”Not until you stay,” in a silken voice. He shakes his head and they dance.

The music speeds up. A crowd of whirling figures joins the fray. Harry claps his hands and stamps his feet so hard he fears his bones will crumble. Magic seeps through him, a healing balm to his bruises and blisters. The heels of his boots smoking, he dances on.

Ale flows freely as the musicians pause for refreshment. Sweat pours off of Harry in a torrent and he drains his canteen. He’s careful not to eat or drink anything offered by the servants of the Fae. If he stays, it will be on his own terms.

The last dance is a waltz, and the music ends with a flourish. His queen tilts her head up and kisses him on the lips.

“Will you stay with me now?” The same question she asks him every year, on his birthday.

He laughs, full of himself, and magic, and youth.

“Not this time my love. But I’ll meet you here next year.” He smiles, tastes her ripe sweet lips, and the promises she holds.

The first light of dawn peeks over the horizon. Drawing a cloak of vapour about themselves, the musicians disappear. Fog wreathes his queen and she smiles and fades from sight.

The long walk out of the park is safe. All of the enchantments have gone with the night.

Except for the horse. At the carousel, it falls into step with him and escorts him to the entrance gate, its steel clad hooves silent on the pavement.

“One thing,” says the horse. “Are you ever going to take her up on her offer?”

“To stay with her? To live forever?” He stops and thinks about this for a moment. The night’s magic will wear off in a few days and he‘ll feel again the pains of old age.

“Tempting.” He turns to face the horse.

“Nah,” he grins, stepping lightly through the gate, ”I just love to dance!”

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The Fire of The Gods

The challenge at terribleminds.com this week was to write a story with the title  The Fire of The Gods. Word limit under a thousand. Mine; 999.

shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2B

 

The Fire of the Gods Louise Sorensen March 19, 2012

 

Life on Mars was good.

Until two years ago, when people started coming down with a fever. Most of them die, but the ones who recover… are changed.

Like me.

I’m reclining in a comfortable chair, but my arms and legs are strapped down. Mark, Singer, Rebesie and Idaho are staring at me, worried expressions on their faces.

Underground. Cold. An abandoned storage chamber so huge our voices echo. Behind me, our only light a frosted globe, is dialled down to a feeble glow.

Mark stands close, the heat of his body warming me as he checks my restraints. The heart monitor, brain scanner and record cube emit a chorus of strangled chirps when he waves them on, and he quickly mutes them. I smell burnt wires.

My heart beat slows. My team takes their seats.

I lean back and close my eyes.

And follow the double helix down.

A gift of Mars, this new ability. People who can start fires, throw lightning, and stop hearts with a thought. And see into the past.

Mars, you old god of war, what’s your game?

We are searching for answers.

Past star ships roaring to new worlds, past hordes of people blackening the face of the earth, past world wars, and holocausts and dark ages I speed, deeper and deeper into ancestral memory. I shoot past desert shepherds on yellow plains, tribal skirmishes on the long walk, savannahs dry, wet, dry, wet, faster and faster, until I overshoot my time.

I’m hiding under a log, gnawing on the finger bone of a giant. A scaly face leans down, and I drop the bone, scurry out the back of the log and up a tree. The monster down below cocks an orange eye at me and sniffs the air. Lumbers off with a snort. I eye his meaty fingers and give a defiant squeak.

Pushing back from this place, I slide forward in time, down ancient memories.

Walking through dry grass with a long line of my kind, I’m the only one holding my hand over my hairy brow for relief from the blinding sun. Thunder rumbles on the dark horizon. We skirt a pride of big cats sprawled panting under a thorn tree.

Our troupe leader halts, nostrils flaring. We all tip our muzzles up. Rain! The leader shambles on.

A change in the air. The fur on my arm stands up. A deafening crack! The male third from the front is struck by lightning. Everyone freezes, stunned. Then the rain pours down and we all scatter screaming.

Those of us not picked off by hunters regroup at the usual place. The leader is very excited. The two strongest males have dragged the body of our dead brother here. His skin is black, crisp. The leader is pointing to the sky, then the dead body, then the rain. He rips an arm off the dead body and gives it to the two strongest males. As they sink their teeth…I push out of this place and slide into further memories.

Another hot dry place. Lightning dances on the dark horizon.

I’m in the body of a little girl. We’re in a crowd of people standing a little ways back from a stone platform. Three men, bound and naked, stand beside the altar platform. A fourth man wearing a clean white robe, a priest, stands facing the crowd.

He holds a sharp knife in both hands and lifts it up to the sky.

“We offer you these our enemy, Oh Powerful One.” He whirls quickly and slits the throat of the first prisoner. Blood spurts and the man slumps. Two assistants grab him before he hits the ground, and catch his blood in a bowl. A murmur of awe comes from the crowd.

“Defeated in war, Oh Powerful One,” the priest continues, his robe dripping red. He whirls again and slits the throat of the second prisoner. Two more assistants catch the slain man and place the bowl under his throat to collect the blood.

The third prisoner growls something at the priest, spits at him. A muscular guard cuffs the prisoner and asks the priest a question. The priest nods no, turns and throws his hand out in a movement as graceful as dance, and slits the throat of the third prisoner.

“These we offer unto you, Oh Powerful One. That you may grant us rain for our fields,” his arm sweeps out to encompass the dry land, “sons for our women,” he opens his arms to the crowd, “and victory against our enemies!”

The crowd roars approval. Thunder rumbles in my ears. I feel a spatter of rain on my head and get out of there.

Next stop, it’s overcast. Raining. The air is a glittering gray sheet. I look down on the slimy surface of a log raft sinking under the weight of many people. The spiral edges of the logs hurt my small feet. Crowded against a woman, I warm myself from the body heat radiating through her sodden dress.

Lightning bursts from the sky, illuminating a man near the mast. Thunder smashes us all onto the deck. When I look up, the man and mast are gone.

I wait. Sure enough, the rain starts to slack off. A new scent is on the air. Land! A giant picks me up, my face rests against his hairy cheek.

A tap on my shoulder and I lose the ancestral thread. Someone is shaking me. My head throbs.

“Stop it!” Is it me, or is it Mark yelling? I open my eyes. The team is here, waiting for my findings. Mark unbuckles the restraints and rubs life back into my wrists.
“Learn anything?” he says.

“Maybe.” I’m thinking of the fire in the dome last night.

Lightning.

But no one was hurt.

Drought. Dust storms.

The stain of Mars on our skin.

Someone‘s got to die.

 

 

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A Sadness Runs Through Him

This story is in response to the terribleminds.com challenge; choose a song title from a random shuffle and write a story, limit 1000 words. I don’t have a gadget that gives me a random shuffle, so I asked my followers on twitter for one, and got from  @Carsonpeety ,  ‘A Sadness Runs Through Him’, by the Hoosiers. My story 1000 words. And I promised a friend I’d include a dog in the next story. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2s

A Sadness Runs Through Him    Louise Sorensen March 2, 2012

Erik sees the wheaten dog again, and his heart leaps. He walks towards it, trembling in every limb, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

By all the gods and goddesses, moon men, aliens and things natural and unnatural, he thinks, has it been thirty years already?

He flashes back to the first time. Screams in the night. He jumps up off his straw pallet, pulls on breeks and boots and stumbles outside. Thatched roofs of their huts burning, the villagers are pouring out of their homes like ants flooded from their hill. Armed horsemen, raiders, appear momentarily in the firelight, swords flashing as they run his people down.

He hears the thud of hooves and turns in time to see a horseman swing a heavy club down on his head.

He wakes up a day later. His wife, or was it his mother? No. A nine year old boy was not married yet, even in those days. It must have been his mother he remembers, walking out the door of the old hunting shelter, bidding him farewell.

Why? He doesn’t remember. No matter. A wheaten haired village cur soon joins him. Susie. He struggles to his feet, his head ringing. She looks up at him panting, and nudges him with her wet nose.

Walking slowly out of the shelter, leaning heavily on Susie’s neck, he follows snowy forest paths.

Stops regularly to listen.

Silence.

The sigh of the wind. Birds tweeting.

A twig crackles and Susie‘s head jerks towards the source. Glowing eyes peer at them through the tree trunks. Susie growls deep–head down, teeth bared, hackles bristling. The wolves dissolve back into the forest.

The village is smoking still. He follows the muddy path between burnt huts, the smell of smoke and roasted meat overpowering. A huddle of soot blackened people, young and old, forms around him and his dog. Home.

He vows revenge.

A small party of raiders returns to pick off survivors. The villagers have no weapons to match the sharpened steel of the horseman, but they have lured a herd of wild boars to the edge of the village with burnt offerings. They sic their dogs on the boars and stampede them at the marauders. In the ensuing chaos, pitch forks and axes do the job.

Erik and his people strip the enemy, toss the bodies into burned huts, and throw brush on top. Fire. No traces left. And the villagers have four strong horses, equipment and clothing to aid their survival.

It is a starving time. They melt deeper into the forest with their plunder and rebuild. They use the horses to work new fields, and send their best rider far away, to trade one of the stallions for a mare, another for gold. The village has been wounded, but survives. In time it prospers.

Erik puts on height and muscle, learns to ride and use a sword. He joins an army of other young men to travel far and destroy the enemy.

His sword drinks blood like a rushing torrent, but finally he is cut down. A deep slice to his neck, he tumbles off his horse.

Dark.

Dreaming.

Half heard voices.

He wakes up in a pile of mouldering bodies and struggles out. Again and again he gags at the stench and leans down to retch, but his stomach is empty. The field of battle writhes with a million crows blackening the naked bodies of the dead. He too, is naked, stripped by human death crows.

He spies a wheaten form at the top of the hill and hears the bark. It takes a long time to crawl over the bodies of the fallen and reach her.

Is it Susie, or not Susie? Not the dog he knew. He calls her Susie anyway. She sniffs out a few items–clothing, weapons, coins that the gleaners have missed, and he leaves the field of death alive and wealthy.

The village grows into a town.

“You truly can’t go back, Susie,” he says. The dog walking at his side looks up at him briefly, then tilts her head, inhaling the aromas wafting out of a street-side eatery. A small coin to bribe the innkeeper–he’s not leaving his dog outside. Another small coin and they dine well.

A dog’s age later, Susie is gone and he is a farmer again with a small holding and a pregnant wife. Catherine. His eyes fill with tears at the memory. She tries so hard to deliver the baby. The little girl Caitlyn survives. But Cathy lies in the ground behind the house. ‘Beloved Wife… Loving Mother’

Caitlyn is the joy of his life. She grows up and marries. She and her husband sail to the new world. And he never hears from them again.

Another wheaten bitch shows up and he knows it is time to move on. He and Susie sail to the new world to try their luck in the gold fields.

Climbing Chilkoot Trail in winter, a blizzard strikes. With no memory of time passed in between, he comes to his senses in the gold fields in early spring. Susie lies beside him waiting patiently. Sitting up he pulls out a fist sized nugget digging into his back.

He trudges into a miners‘ camp at the head of the Yukon River. His nugget brings him a tent and supplies. Miners flock to Honest Erik’s. He smiles. The gold peters out, Susie disappears, and he marries again.

So many fair and beautiful faces over the years. So many visits from the wheaten dog. He refuses to live in sorrow, but cherishes the joy of all the sunny wives and daughters.

So busy, this modern world. Different from the old, and yet the same.

He will not take another wife. He couldn’t bear it.

A man who cannot die. But oh so lonely.

His heart leaps at the sight of the wheaten dog.

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Cat Magic

The challenge at terribleminds.com last week was a 100 word or less, 5 sentence story, the shorter the better. To be posted on the terribleminds comment section by Monday 27th, noon. I was able to get a short, short story up there on time, even though we had snow and my husband and I went out Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, cross country skiing. So this is not my usual story. But a blog about what happened Wednesday. shortlink for this story http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2o

       Cat Magic         Louise Sorensen February 29, 2012

Today I had the vet come out to my home and euthanize two old friends.

Gucci was a tiny yellow fluff ball when my daughter brought him home as a kitten, many years ago. He grew up to be a big strong long haired yellow cat with the temperament of a T-rex. About three years ago, when he was ten, he got feline Aids. Since then, he has had his ups and downs, but was fine until two months ago.

Fifi was a beautiful calico cat. White with orange and grey tabby spots. We got her and two of her sisters from a neighbour down the street. Three little kittens for my three little kids. We lost her sisters Lillie and Mouf to a coyote, and an unknown injury over the years, but Fifi survived. She always kept herself pristinely clean. She was healthy until she was seventeen and a half, then started to deteriorate. Even with a huge appetite and eating well, she still lost weight.

Gucci, known to his friends as Mr. Gootch, mellowed with age and became a gentle sweetheart. But he still would snap at you if you hurt him in any way. In the last year, he started climbing onto my lap and spending some time there purring, and not biting. Astonished at first, we came to call these times “An Evening with the Gootch,” as he had never before been one to sit on a person. Always an enthusiastic food lover, towards the end, he has become weaker and weaker, unable to eat more than a tablespoon of turkey broth morning and night.

Today, he was too weak to get up and go to the litter and urinate. Not the first time. I had him on a towel over a layer of plastic, but he had moved over one seat on the sofa and urinated on the unprotected pillow and towel. I moved him to a clean dry towel, put all the towels in the laundry, and washed the wet pillows.

Fifi was as thin as a little skeleton and had had a minor stroke. She held her head a little to the right and no longer washed herself, at all. So her face was a mess of dried cat milk (specially formulated for cats and kittens). I washed her twice a day with a moist Kleenex, but it was not a cure, she still looked pretty dirty.

Yesterday, Fifi’s left cheek swelled up very badly. She was no longer comfortable, and kept coming to me, meowing gently, asking me to do something about her pain.

There was nothing I could do to help her except end her life.

 There was nothing I could do to help Gootch except end his life.

I am so sad.

November 25, 2010, I was finally able to rescue a little cat I had seen hanging around, abandoned on a deserted country road since Halloween. Three weeks he had been out in the cold. I stopped the truck and got out the first time I saw him and tried to catch him, but he ran away. The second time I saw him I was driving home in the pouring rain one night–he was huddled head down, by the side of the road, the cold rain falling down on him.

The third time I saw him, I happened to have a small bag of dry cat food that I had been using as dog training aids, in my coat pocket. I pulled the truck over, put it in park and immediately crossed to the other side of the road to try to catch the little cat.

He ran from me, so I squatted down, dug a handful of food out of my pocket, and held it out to him. He was dubious of my good intentions. I called and called to him and finally he approached. When he smelled the food, in his hunger, he chomped right into my fingers. I pulled my fingers out of his mouth and ripped them all to hell. Blood spurting all over. Then I picked him up–he was eating the food from my hand the whole time as I walked across the road, opened the truck door, and put him on the floor of the passenger side. I put more food on the floor, closed the door, and drove home, only a ten minute drive. Before we started for home, I noticed my fingers were still bleeding profusely, so I wrapped them in Kleenex.

 He ate the whole drive home. Not looking up, paying no attention when we accelerated, just stuffing his mouth as fast as he could. When we got home I picked him up, carried him past our barking watch dog Fred, unlocked the door, took him upstairs to a spare bathroom and set him down. Then brought in a litter box, a box with a towel inside, and food and water.

Then I phoned my doctor for an emergency appointment for cat bite. Long story short, I was on antibiotics for ten days for the cat bite, went to the hospital for a tetanus shot, and didn’t need a rabies shot.

Bareep, the name I finally settled on for the little cat, because that is the sound he always greeted me with, was skeletal, lousy, and had a huge swollen belly full of worms. His tail was all chunked up with feces. I don’t think he would have lasted another three days outside. It took three months to nurse him back to health, and another month to introduce him to our five other cats down stairs. Today he is a beautiful, long haired black cat. Also fat and round–his body’s reaction to starvation.

The strange thing is, a year after I rescued Bareep, our eighteen year old black cat Panther got sick with congestive heart failure. I had to have her put down, euthanized.

In September 2003, I rescued a long haired yellow cat, more a kitten, that I named Sinbad. He was almost bald from flea allergies, skinny, and not happy that I’d taken him away from his pride. With the previous owner’s permission.

I spent two months sitting by the large cage where we kept new cats to get our other cats used to them. He scratched and bit me constantly when I held out my hand. He hated me. Finally he got over his upset at whatever had happened in his life (he was unfavoured and unfed in his previous home overrun with breeding cats.) and accepted me. He was my special sweetheart and we loved each other. He took to life with enthusiasm and played and ate and purred and loved without reserve.

January 2004, a yellow cat we named Oscar showed up in our barn. He was sociable, intelligent, and came through the cat door into the house all by himself that summer and stayed. But earlier in March, Sinbad got hit and killed by a car. So it seemed like a replacement cat of the same colour showed up when I was about to lose a cat.

First yellow Oscar showed up to replace Sinbad, then black Bareep showed up to replace Panther.

About three months ago, I noticed a fat short haired orange cat hanging around our place. We’re out in the country where there’s very few people, and we’re about five hundred yards from our closest neighbours on each side. People, presumably from the city, often come out to the country and dump unwanted cats and dogs. Leave them here to starve to death or get killed by cars. Because often the abandoned animal is too traumatized to come near a person who might help them.
I think someone dumped that fat orange cat. He’s friendly, and much thinner now after three months outside. Thankfully we’ve had a mild winter. And we have a barn where animals can shelter and cats can catch and survive off mice. I’ve started leaving a handful of dry cat food outside our deck door for O.C. as I call him (Orange Cat).

But I can’t help thinking that orange O.C. showed up to replace yellow Mr. Gootch. And I’m thinking there should be a little female calico to take Fifi’s place.

Not that they can ever be replaced.

But there are spaces available, and that’s the way cat magic works.

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The Last Sandwich

This is a story in response to the FridayFlashFiction challenge at terribleminds.com, to write a story about making a sandwich. Word limit 1000. My story, 10000 words. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2j

    The Last Sandwich       Louise Sorensen February 20, 2012

There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing.

Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter. Bun, butter, cheese, meat. With the bread knife, I saw open the bun, and stick it into the toaster oven to heat up. The counter surface shimmers momentarily, then firms up. It does this sometimes.

My husband comes up behind me and hugs and kisses me goodbye. I lean back into him and smile. He’s off to work.

Outside, he scrapes ice off the windshield of the car. The scraping ends, the car door slams, the engine starts. Gravel crunches softly on the road as he drives off.

It is overcast outside, and very dark in here. The counter top, stove and refrigerator are all the same uniform gray, as if they are made up of one misty, insubstantial piece.

I am all alone now, in this big old house. The air feels hollow, only coating the edges of the walls. A high pitched emptiness magnifies every snap, creak and groan of the centuries old brick and mortar.

While the bun toasts, I watch the black and white television on the wall in front of me. There is some kind of cartoon on, but the sound is muted. I hear the theme song to a television program. I think of another theme song, and the music immediately changes to that. I think of listening to a third tune, and the music changes again. I realize that the music I am hearing is playing in my head. It is very loud and sounds exactly like it would if it were coming from the television.

The bun is finished toasting. Too hot to touch, I open the toaster door, spear it with a knife, and slide it out onto a plate. I do not smell the aroma of fresh toasted bread, meat, cheese, or anything else. My nose is numb. I have a little trouble catching my breath.

Although I notice no one come in, someone is here in the room, behind me. It feels like my husband. He must have come back for something. As he has already kissed me goodbye, I do not look around. I feel him stand behind me and stare at me a for quite a while. I am almost ready to turn around and face him, when he moves away soundlessly and goes back out. There are no footsteps or scrape of door opening or closing. He is very quiet.

I butter the hot bun halves and open the package of sliced meat. Placing slices of meat on the bottom bun, I close the package and put it back in the fridge beside me.

The cartoon plays on, something about a wolf driving a car down a long highway. As the car bounces up and down on the undulating surface of the slick, black road, the two white center lines roll like waves. Every now and then, the wolf’s smiling face leers out at me in a close-up. He has big white teeth.

Muted, the cartoon is very soothing, almost like a dream. I look down at my hands and realize I am buttering the top half of the bun again. I stop, and reach for the plastic wrapped block of cheese.

I sense someone enter the room again and stand behind me. Whether I can tell this by the sound of footsteps, body heat, or the way the air in a room is compressed by another person, I do not know. But there is someone there again. He, somehow I know it is a he, stands behind me motionless, staring at me. I can feel his gaze as strongly as if I were looking at him face to face.

But this time, instead of turning around and leaving, he zooms in soundlessly behind me. I feel him approaching like a furnace door opening. In a split second he slaps his heated form to mine, and breathes into the back of my neck.

I lift my head up from the sight of the sandwich ingredients and look straight ahead, paralyzed. A fireworks of sparkling orange fills my vision. I feel this being disperse himself into my back, his atoms blasting into the cells of my body in an explosion of heat from my head to my toes.

I stand paralyzed for an eternity.

Finally, I summon enough courage to put down the butter knife and turn around.

There is no one there.

The heat dissolves. My heart is pounding, my back covered with cold sweat. There is a muffled creak in a room nearby, and my heart races faster. A boom echoes from a room farther away. I begin to seriously consider the possibility of the existence of ghosts.

I look into the next room, the kitchen nook. Eyes wide open, I go over every square inch of the wall. Is there a larger shadow in the corner of the ceiling now than there was before? Is that where the being that tried to possess me, for that is what it felt like, is hiding? I struggle for breath and decide that I cannot live in this house a moment longer. I must escape.

I stand at the kitchen counter, pressed against it for support, for more than a few minutes. Finally I realize I must have had a waking dream. My first. It was completely realistic and believable.

But no one and nothing assaulted me. There is no black and white television on the wall in front of me, no cartoon playing with the mute on. No smiling wolf. No ghost.

Then I think that next I will be imagining that I am the ghost, caught in a never ending loop, reliving the last moments of my life over and over. I smile at the impossibility.

There is a cold spot in the kitchen where I am standing. Ingredients for lunch are laid out on the counter…

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Code Redd

This is a story in response to terribleminds.com challenge to ‘Write about an Unlikeable Protagonist in 1000 words or less.’ So I researched serial killers, under ‘What do Murderers Think?’ Warning;it’s dark.  Also, I notice the font keeps switching back and forth from the Ariel, in which I type it on my computer, to Times New Roman, which is the only font this free version of WordPress offers. My apologies.   shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-2e

Code Redd          Louise Sorensen February 12, 2012

“It’s so nice to finally meet you in person, Red,” Casey said, reaching out to shake his hand. A little taller than average, prison buff, red hair, she could see where he got his nickname.

Redd took her hand, noted her friendly open expression. “Yes. You too,” he said, with what he knew would be a small sincere smile. It would be such a pleasure to plug you right between your empty little blue eyes. He shifted his glance to one of his handlers, Hank, who caught his look and shook his head slightly, ‘No’. Well, aren’t you just a barrel of laughs.

They were standing around in the green room, waiting to go on. One of the Moonmaids, Masteela, had the top ranking talk show world wide, and his little pen pal Casey was going to tell Masteela, and the world, how she’d ‘saved’ him; rehabilitated him out of prison by the power of the written word, and Love. And they say psychopathic serial killers are incurable. Hehe. He allowed himself a slight humble smile.

“So,” Masteela said, after they’d been introduced to the studio audience and the cameras were rolling, “Casey, could you tell us how you turned around the life of this …unproductive male? No offence,” she said, smiling, turning to Redd. “None taken,” he said, nodding gravely. I’d love to rip your head off and drink your blood.”

“Well, it all began about two years before you people came to our planet,” said Casey. “I wanted to make a difference in the world, so I signed up to be a pen pal to a man in prison.”

“How generous of you,” Masteela breathed, leaning towards Casey. They’d altered their forms bloody fast after coming to Earth, these man hating shape changers. Matriarchal society. How can they love the women, and call the men shit? Masteela fixed him with a glittering eye and he smiled politely and looked down. Do you detect a little of what I’m thinking, Bitch? He calmed his thoughts, and knew that if she was receiving anything from him, it was an image of gentle waves washing up on a beach. You’d like to slash me with your Moonmaid arms, just like you do your own males, wouldn’t you? He suppressed a smile.

The Moonies had insinuated themselves into governments worldwide, practically outlawed males, and in four short years, the human birthrate was down to almost zero, and the Moonies had a strangle hold on the world economies. Because look where men running the world has got you. Consultants! He almost snorted.

“What do you think, Red?” chirped Casey, looking at him expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” he said smoothly. “I was daydreaming. What was the question?”

Masteela gave him a ‘what can you expect from a man look’. Don’t like me being here, do you bitch? But you like to indulge your little pet, Casey, and I’m her little pet. Tamed the bad old serial killer, didn‘t she? Wrote him sweet little pen pal letters in prison until she tamed the beast.

“We see the potential in all members of our society,“ Casey said, patting Masteela’s knee. The Moonmaid tossed her luxuriant hair back, preening. Her shimmering blue eyes, full breasts and hips and tiny waist were Casey’s for the asking. I don’t think she swings that way. Hehe. She’d run screaming from your natural form. Big black eyes, gray skin, sharp fins on the backs of your arms for slashing, long vulture fingers. He stifled a laugh. Stupid bitch! Can’t you see what’s happening, Casey? First the men, and no more men. Then the women, and no more humans.

 The Resistance had sprung up three years ago, when people had begun to see that the Moonies were not completely benign. Two years ago, men like Redd had been released from prison because of their unique ability to tell real humans from shape changers who were wearing a human form. Redd was especially valuable because he was a crack shot. Never missed. Shooting from a distance was one of the few ways to kill Moonies, as they could read the thoughts of most humans. Except for the most extreme psychopaths. Like Redd. He closed his eyes, imagining Masteela in his sights, slowly squeezing his finger on the trigger, the top of her head blowing off, black brain tendrils exploding all over the place…

“I said, how do you like your new job, Dear?” Masteela was saying to him, enunciating slowly, as though he were a five year old.

“Street sweeping?” he said. “I always thought I would be useful to society, Ma’am.” I killed my first human when I was fourteen, bitch. A little neighour girl. But that’s not a job, is it? That’s a life’s work. He would have given anything to stand up, place his hands around Masteela’s delicate neck, breathe in her cinnamon-cheese scent, and choke the life out of her, right in front of the studio audience. He looked around slowly. His handlers, Hank and Mike, highly trained mind shielders, were watching him from the wings. Punishment for disobeying the Resistance wouldn’t be a quick bullet to the head; punishment would be a one way ticket into a locked room containing an already pissed off Moonmaid. He’d seen a video of one in action. They liked to play with their prey. And then eat them alive. Starting with the tender parts.

“Pardon, Ma’am? Do I enjoy my work?” I’ll enjoy ripping you another one, that’s for sure.

“Of course he enjoys giving back to society, don’t you Red?” Casey said, smiling at Masteela. One shot to the head for you, Moonie. And then I’m claiming a reward, or somebody else can kill my quota of Moonies, fuck consequences.”

Yes, Ma’am, I enjoy my work.” He said to Masteela, then smiled at Casey. Business first, then pleasure.

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