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Valaria Aberdeen’s house stands alone on Brier Road and it stands alone because no one will go near it.

There were other houses up there too, but they’re gone now and all that’s left of them are their foundations. In some lots you might window frames and screens stacked in sloppy piles and here and there are wooden chairs and mailboxes.

And then there’s Valaria’s House.

There is no furniture in Valaria ‘s House but there is a mirror at the end of a hall where the doors rusted off of their hinges years and years ago.

The mirrors face is so clear that you might think you were looking out of an open window, in fact if your were standing in front of it right now I’ll bet you’d even put your hand out and touch the glass just to make sure that it wasn’t an open window.

The funny thing is-that’s exactly what the mirror is.

That’s what I’ve heard anyway.

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Every Halloween the Aberdeen Family hosted a Halloween Party.

Everyone wore costumes, everyone bobbed for apples, everyone somehow ended up in the attic to tell ghost stories and then everyone would stumble down Brier Road to their houses by moonlight leaving a trail of candy wrappers behind them.

Valaria Aberdeen loved to host her parties and at the last one she wasn’t her usual energetic self. She didn’t even dress up in one of her elaborate rental costumes-she wasn’t a lady pirate or a lady vampire or a sorceress or a belly dancer.

That year, she wore a black dress and a set of acrylic ‘fangs’ on her teeth and painted her nails black. She had smeared pale blue makeup on her face and penciled dark circles under her eyes.

She just shrugged when Mitchell asked about her costume and said to her husband who was dressed as a mummy  ” I’m just not really into it this year, so I guess I’m just going to be a boring witch” then she slammed her felt witch’s hat onto her head with the little ghosts sewn around the brim and then she stomped down the hallway to the kitchen.

Mitchell tried to cheer Valaria up; he helped her finish the decorating and he told her little jokes and reminded her of the fun from their past parties and then the door bell rang. 

As the guests started to arrive Valaria seemed to blend into the background and she would hardly talk to anyone. It wasn’t easy to avoid over 50 people in a room but Valaria found a way to do it and that’s exactly what she did for hours.

Sometime during the evening  Mitchell looked up and saw Valaria fussing at the table with the food and punch. She looked up and saw him and waved and then she went out to the kitchen.

At about Midnight she came bouncing out of the kitchen with a little wicker basket full of cookies shaped like pumpkins and cats and she was handing them out and laughing…not that thin laugh she had been using all evening but a heart felt laugh and when she saw him she held her basket up and said,” guess what Mitchell I’m into it after all…I’m feeling like my old self again”

” That’s great dear! ” he called out to her over his cup of hot cider.

Valaria winked at him and kept handing out her cookies.She joined him a few minutes later and he put his hand out and asked for one of her cookies.

Valaria looked stunned and hurt. ” Why would I give you one of those Mitchell? “

Mitchell said to her, ” Because you love me…”

Valaria rolled her eyes so far up all he could see were the whites of her eyes. God, he really hated it when she did that. ” It’s because I love you that you don’t get one Mitchell.”

From over Valaria ‘s left shoulder Mitchell could see Missy Jenson from next door start to do a weird little dance and then she started to spin around and around and as she did he could that she was crying and that her tears were red.

In a few seconds everyone in the room were  ‘dancing’ and they were shrieking and tearing at their throats. ” What have you done Valaria? ” Mitchell screamed, ” What in God’s name have you done?”

Mitchell watched his wife dance around the room and as she swung her empty basket from side to side he could hear her say,  ” Guess what I am? Guess what I am? Guess what I am?”

He chased her down the hall and when he caught up to her she was looking into the mirror her Grandmother had given them as a wedding present.

It was a large ceiling to floor mirror encased in a heavy silver frame and until that moment Mitchell never wondered  how  they had ever gotten that thing through their door.

Valaria was wiping  her face and when she turned around he could see she had taken off most of the thick blue makeup and the black eyeliner pencil from around her eyes.

Now her face  was dark, dark red and her lips were  black and then she pulled the hat off of her head with a flourish and he saw…

he saw Valaria Aberdeen.

Her pointed forked tongue snaked out from between her lips and she was feathering the hair away from the horns that she now had on her forehead.

” I told you I was feeling like my old self again.  Happy Halloween Mitchell” she said with a wink and then she turned and stepped into the mirror.

After that night people started to  move away from Brier Road.

Within days  the houses the next block over were abandoned and then the houses on the block over from that were abandoned  next and after awhile no one lived in that little town at all.

But if you’re feeling brave you can actually go up to Valaria Aberdeen’s House and you can walk in and go down the hall and look into that mirror…and if you stare into it and say, ” I know what you are Valaria Aberdeen…” three times…

She’ll give you a cookie 

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Nightfall From Faraway

this is a story from my crypt.

I bring it out when the weather gets bad.

enjoy! 

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In my hometown, which is a place called Faraway, a man named Mr. Nightfall stands under a pear tree full of light green poisonous fruit and waits for the Sun to set.

Mr. Nightfall is my neighbor and our streets, like all the other streets in Faraway are lined with deadly fruit trees and deadly gardens. All these dark shady places are kept and tended by people with pale faces and empty eyes and here in our town Faraway no one is Sane and no one really lives because no one is really alive in Faraway.

When Mr. Nightfall comes from Faraway sometimes he brings storms and in that wildness all you’ll see, all you’ll hear is Mr. Nightfall.

When Mr. Nightfall crosses your path and he settles over your town you’ll know he’s there because your skin will start to feel to tight and you won’t be able to pull air into your lungs.

Everything will seem… Faraway.

That’ when you’ll know Mr. Nightfall is close enough to put out his cold, dark hand and lay it over your shoulder.

Once I followed Mr. Nightfall to a city with stores and cars and a coffee stand where the woman who served me wore a picture on her chest of a creature with stars in her hair.

 I asked if the creature in the picture was from  the Well of Angra Lei and the Woman squeezed the cup of coffee so tight at the sound of my voice that the top popped off and the scalding hot coffee filled her eyes and mouth and she didn’t cry out.

Not even a little.

The woman had turned to stone, her face was frozen into a mask and her eyes had rolled up into her head and I could hear her someplace deep inside screaming and screaming and screaming and she will never stop.

They never do when they are taken Faraway.

Mr. Nightfall didn’ come back for me, he never turns back but he did call out to me and I followed him through the town and the entire time he cursed and spat and hissed like one of the cats that’ not really a cat from back home in Faraway and he said, “They know I’m coming.”

“Of course they know you’re coming Mr. Nightfall, don’t they always?”

“No, not like this they haven’t known me like this for centuries I don’t like this Miss Praecox. No I don’t like it at all.”

This time the people in this little town by the sea knew Mr. Nightfall was coming.

There were candles in windows and there wasn’t a soul on the street. They were locked behind doors and the curtains where drawn and they knew they were very aware Nightfall was coming.

As Mr. Nightfall crossed the city I stopped here and there and looked in windows and when I could I found people and I touched them, carefully, quietly with my left hand and I told them my name and their minds stopped liked old clocks.

I could hear it loud as thunder as gears and cogs and wheels that turn their minds
ground to a halt and I could hear what they took with them to Faraway.

My name.

” Enjoying your visit Miss Praecox?”

” I always do Mr. Nightfall.”

He reached out to pat me on the head and thought better of it, ” Just like you’re Mother, we were a team in our day to. We worked well together.

The Praecox have always done their best work with Nightfall.”

” So what’s happened here Mr. Nightfall, where is everyone?”

He held a newspaper up and showed it to me. I couldn’t read it of course and he ran a cold dark finger under the headline and read it to me.

” Hurricane Force Winds expected to Strike Seattle, Power Outages State Wide, locals ready for Nightfall and freezing temperatures.

 They were ready for me this time. Lord I hate the press”

” Killjoys” I said with feeling.

” Well, there’s always tomorrow, isn’t there Miss Demetia Praecox?”

I agreed because everyone knows Nightfall comes from Faraway and sometimes it brings madness with it.

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read more adventures from Faraway

HERE

Grave Thoughts

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Cebu Alacantara buries people for a living.

He digs the graves and puts in the liners, he lowers the coffins into the ground  and then he covers the graves and he does it quietly, quickly before the next family shows up for services and of course before the sunsets.

It’s at sunset that Leaning Birches Funeral Home and Cemetery closes for the day and opens for the rest of the night and the Staff goes home and Cebu, who is always the last one out,  locks everything up.

Cebu has been at the Cemetery for over 30 years now, and it was on his first day back in November that he and a Mortician were outside the gates waiting for their rides home.

Kousso Eyebright was new to the funeral home too and Cebu liked her right away. He had heard from the other three Morticians that Kousso was good with the families, handy with a needle and on her first case had rebuilt a dead woman’s face with a sculpture’s hand and a surgeon’s skill.

To be honest, that didn’t mean a thing to Cebu but he also heard that Kousso knew some wicked jokes and he was hoping to hear a few of them for himself.

Instead Kousso asked, just like you’d ask for the time of day or in the same tone of voice you’d use to order a hamburger and fries, ” So Cebu, tell me, what’s the best part of your job?”

” I dig graves Kousso, I don’t think there’s a good part to that. ”

” Oh sure there is, you just haven’t figured it out yet. I mean, none of us come to a place like this without being invited you know.”

” And your point is? ”

” Well, if you were invited and you showed up there must have been something that called to you…some little signal that you tossed out that said ‘ hey, I could really enjoy burying dead people for a living. I could show up in the heat and the cold and shovel dirt all day long’. And that’s to say nothing of the fact I’m the last person with the corpse before it’s planted.”

” Now, I had to embalm a guy today that I could swear had brown eyes, but when I put the eyecaps on they were green. Now that was creepy enough, no way would I wanted want to be with him…alone outside here when he goes into the ground.”

” Kousso? ”

” Yes? ”

” You’re weird, do you know that? ”

Kousso shrugged and said,” as a matter of fact I do.”

Then Cebu thought about it a little more and he asked Kousso, ” So you think we’re called to do this work, is that right?”

” You bet I do.”

” Who do you think is making the call Kousso?”

Kousso didn’t answer; she was looking across the street.

There was a lot there and in the middle of it was an empty building that over the years housed a hardware store, a pharmacy and until a few months before had been a flower shop.

The Cemetery Grounds Keepers had taken to going over there to cut the grass and keep the place looking halfway decent because they didn’t want an eyesore in their otherwise nice and quiet neighborhood.

But today there was someone out in front of the building.

A cat.

It was a small black cat that reminded them both of an owl.

The cat’s head was large and round and it’s body was plump and compact and it’s eyes were a deep dark orange.

And it was looking right at them.

” You don’t come to a place like this, you don’t just show up. I mean think about it. No one comes to a place like this without being called in…do they?”

” None of us ” Cebu agreed.

The little round cat uncurled it’s tail and stood up and stretched and then it started to walk towards them.

It crossed the street in the slow easy stride all cats have and when it got to where Cebu and Kousso were standing it sat back down in front of them, curled it’s tail back around it’s body and looked up at them expectantly.

Kousso, the woman born to be a Mortician said down to the cat, ” We close at sunset.”

The cat looked up at her and blinked and Cebu who knew this was no joke stayed quiet…but only because he was afraid of what he might do if he opened his mouth.

The Cat could have easily gone under the fence but it didn’t. It looked up at Kousso and twitched it’s whiskers at her.

Kousso reached into her purse and took out her keys, She unlocked the gate and pushed it opened and the cat walked through.

” Take your time, I’ll wait. ” Kousso said in her Funeral Directors voice.

” We both will. ” Cebu said.

And they did.

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Employee Of The Year

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Binnie Cardea worked  for a company called Bannatyne and Hayman.

Well, that’s not exactly true, she lived for a company called Bannatyne and Hayman, she existed  for Bannatyne and Hayman, she would have been nothing and I mean nada but another little fish in the big overcrowded fish pond of life where all the little fishes looked the same if it hadn’t been for Bannatyne and Hayman.

Each weekday morning Binnie Cardea’ s alarm clock would go off at 5:00 and she really did jump out of bed –just like the people in the commercials that advertise how grand life is if you buy the right mattress to sleep on.

Then she  would snap her alarm clock off with a happy tap and sing as she started her shower.

She would hum as she washed her hair and she even whistled as she dressed.

Then she  would collect her work tools from the sideboard in her hallway and…I kid you not – she would practically skip to her car.

One day Binnie got to work at 6:30am sharp, her tool kit clenched in her happy relaxed hand when she saw everyone, and that included the office staff, the salespeople and even the clean up crews standing around the workshop.

They were standing around with worried lines creasing their foreheads, no one was smiling or making for the box of doughnuts on the ‘treat bench’ that held their coffee machine and cups and the little ice color underneath where they kept their juices and pops and bottled water.

“ What’s up? “ Binnie asked with a song in her heart and a smile on her face to no one in particular.

“ The Morana’s are opening a plant up in Edgewater.” She heard a voice say from across the workshop and her heart really did freeze up in her chest- right along with the smile on her face.

“ Oh,” Binnie said and everyone turned to face her “ oh is that what they think they’re going to do?”

That’s what the Morana’s did…a company like the Morana’s did to small companies like B&H what the locusts do to crops and the cold virus does to anything with a respiratory system.

They invaded, they ate they destroyed and there was nothing you could do to stop them.

Here in the States, there’s really only one very big, very successful company like Morana and their line of products was impressive and their delivery system was unsurpassed which counted for a lot when your product line were coffins.

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Binnie went through her workday on that somber Tuesday without as much as a smile or cheery hello to anyone. Her dark cloudy expression was frightening, especially when she started to talk about those darn Morana’s and their “ production line o’ death” and she waved around her sharp little carpenter’s tools to emphasize her points.

Then sometime after lunch she had an idea, a brilliant one, an inspired one and when she punched the clock at the end of her shift she was whistling again and no one asked her what was with sudden change of heart.

It seemed like a good idea not to.

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The thing about Morana was that they were one of those 24 hour plants, someone was always going on or off shift and they were always in a hurry to go and very, very slow to arrive.

It only took a few days for Binnie to figure out what needed to be done, who was who and how to complete the task at hand.

After all , she hadn’t been made Employee Of The Year, Winner of the ” Coffin Design of the Year ”  Award as well as Employee Of The Month AND  Carpenter Of The Year because no one else competed.

Binnie Cardea was a company woman and a team player extraordinaire.

But she was also very, very self-motivated.

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One month after Morana opened it’s doors something happened that had never happened in the 50 years they’d been in business. They got backlogged.

Boy, did that cost them.

Do you know what happens when a funeral can’t happen on time because the Coffin didn’t show up? You don’t want to know because it involves the court systems and lawyers and judges and that my dear reader is to horrifying for me to go into.

It started out as a mystery and it stayed a mystery, Morana’s workforce clocked in and their co-workers would swear up and down they’d see them at their workstations. They just never clocked out.

It made for some morbid new stories: factory workers disappear into think air at Coffin making company.

It didn’t take long before “ The Production Line O’ Death Company” folded in Edgewater and that black eye forced them down all over the Country.

After all who would want to work for a company that ate its employees alive?

No one ever figured out what happened.

But of course someone knew exactly what happened and how.

SOMEONE always does.

In this case long after this someone had retired  she owned exactly half of B&H…but Binnie’s story doesn’t end there.

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Almost a week after she passed away at the ripe old age of 92 a construction company worker found all those people from the Edgewater plant in the basement of a little brick building not even two streets away from the big empty ultra modern building once owned by the Morana Corporation.

The Angerona Building has this stone elephant on its roof and it was built in 1899. It was used as a print shop, a restaurant, a gym and even a as a Church.

Then a family called Cardea bought it back in the 1970’s and rented it out for warehouse space.

But really what was interesting about the Angerona Building…what was interesting about all of the buildings on that block as a matter of fact were the series of tunnels that ran under the streets that once upon a time bootleggers used to move their inventory.

They could move from the train tracks and docks without ever once stepping foot above ground. The air wasn’t great, but it was dry and quiet and naturally sound proof.

Now, the ‘bootleggers doors’ weren’t really doors. Just holes in the walls that the bootleggers punched out themselves with sledge hammers to make their travels and deliveries more efficient.

There were bootleggers doors everywhere down along the waterfront in Edgewater, including five that were covered not by concrete but by plywood and plaster when the building that they led into was torn down. The name of the building is gone forever but the building that was built over its foundation is interesting…it’s called the Morana Building.

But this story ends at 333 3rd Ave West in the Angerona Building.

In its basements are 50…count them 5-0 wooden boxes lining an unlit tunnel that goes nowhere. Each one is nailed shut and each one holds an awful secret and each one bares the mark

PROUDLY HANDCRAFTED BY BANNATYNE AND HAYMAN           

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Devilbit Lake

 

Inspired By The Soul Food Cafe Alphabet Writing Prompt:

 “B is for the Blade of Grass”

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Baneberry Troublefield use to live out on Down Turn Road back when Down Turn was the only road going though Feverfew County. Now days you know that Feverfew is this historical place and people come from all over the world to see Devilbit Lake because it happens to be the deepest lake that exists anywhere in the world.

Devilbit Lake is bottomless and cold and shines green no matter what color the sky above it and it shines brighter by moonlight.

I’ve heard that Scientists think it’s some weird kind of algae that makes the Lake glow like that, but as much as I respect science I’d have to say in this case it’s a bunch of hooey and they WISH it was algae. If it were true then that would mean that Baneberry Troublefield was wrong and that would restore order to anybody’s universe after hearing Baneberry tell his story.

Baneberry was about 10 when his family moved out to Feverfew, his Father was a Doctor and his Mom was a nurse and they both worked at the Feverfew Sanatorium. They treated patients with these incurable diseases like TB and Leprosy back up there in the hills because that little town wasn’t even on the map and no one seemed to be in a hurry to tell the rest of the world it was there.

Feverfew Sanatorium wasn’t a bad place you know. It was just sad and lonely and packed from the basement to the attic where the Chapel was with people who never expected to leave its walls alive and most of them didn’t.

The Patients at Feverfew spent their days in beds or in little rooms with dark hardwood floors and windows that were never opened. But all of those windows looked out on the Lake because it was suppose to help remind the patients that the world was still out there.

Most of them asked, after a while for the curtains to be drawn because they didn’t want to see the Lake anymore. One of them told Baneberry’s Mom “ Nurse Troublefield, it’s that Lake. It feels like it’s watching me. And that awful man who sits on that rock…” they’d shudder and say, “Please shut the curtains”

After awhile Nurse Troublefield hardly ever opened them anymore.

No one asked why.

One day when the ward was empty and being made ready for the next group of unfortunates to be brought up (by train in those days) she found herself idly staring out the window when she noticed the lake was perfectly still. There wasn’t a wave or a ripple or as much as a cat’s paw making it’s way across the bright green water. She reached up for the cord to pull the curtain closed and the perfectly still green lake…

Waited.

That was it, Devilbit Lake was waiting Nurse Troublefield decided, to see who would move first. Only the lake was a body of water so how could it be waiting? She knew it was true, the Lake was waiting, who would move first?

The air around her got warmer and she could feel the sweat start to run down the back of her neck, she could feel it under her arms and her mouth was dry, dry and dusty. She wanted to itch her nose in the worst way but she refused to move and just as she was about to turn away the lake shifted just a little and she reached up and pulled the cord so hard the rod came down on her head.
After that day it was War.
 

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Nurse Troublefield made it her business to chart the Lake just like she would one of her Patients. She saw Nurse Martinez who was standing with her back to the window and talking to one of the Patients look over her shoulder several times in just a few minutes before she walked away from the window.

She watched Dr Grayford staring out the window for the longest time and when he turned around his pupils were so large that his eyes almost looked black and his skin was pale.

“ I thought I saw a man down there, sitting on the rock” Dr Grayford said “ but he wasn’t really there. I mean, “ he looked back out the window and back at Nurse Troublefield and then he walked out of the ward.

Dr Grayford rode the Corpse Train that night to the next town of Sherry and never came back to work again. Nurse Troublefield heard later that he left medicine all together and took over his family’s dairy farm.

It didn’t take long for Nurse Troublefield to fill almost 400 pages in her logbook with notes concerning the affect the Lake had on the staff and the patients at Feverfew. She spent all day going over them and then she decided it was time a closer examination.

Nurse Troublefield went down to the Lake itself and stood as close as she dared to it’s edge. The water was dark green at the edges and the further out towards the center it was lighter.

It was very quiet and pretty and she started to feel silly. After all, she’d let herself get worked up over water. It’s not like it had teeth or claws or could rob you at gunpoint. It was just still, quiet water.

That’s when she saw the man at the edge of the Lake for the first time. He was sunning himself on a rock and fishing. His hat was pulled down over his forehead and she thought he was whistling but then she realized the sound she was hearing wasn’t coming from him…it was coming from the Lake.

It hummed and echoed in on itself and the thick green water turned slowly in the center and the little spirals reached out and then were pulled back down again.

The man noticed Nurse Troublefield and stared back at her and sat there as still and as unreadable as the Lake.

Nurse Valaria Troublefield was use to that look, that emptiness, it was a death’s mask and it didn’t throw her off balance for a second. “It’s a lovely day to fish, isn’t it? “ She said.

The man said nothing in reply but he didn’t look away either.

“ You’re not here to catch fish though, are you?”

The man lifted his head and she could see his burned peeling lips and the dust and grime around his cheeks and mouth. He smiled and turned back towards the water.

“ My Patients at the Sanatorium up on the hill, they think the Lake is watching them, that it wants them. Some of the staff has seen things that have made them run away from their jobs and homes without a second thought.”

“ I think those are the smart ones. They’re the ones who got away. Aren’t they?”

The pole fell not with a splash into the water but with a small hollow click, and as the man stood up his movements were more spider like then human.

He turned to the Nurse and said to her, “ Come on in, the Water’s fine.”

Then he walked off the rock and was pulled down into the water and Nurse Troublefield thought of Quicksand as the water closed over the man’s head.

There wasn’t as much as a bubble, a ripple or a sound from the Lake but if it could have the Nurse was sure it would have been laughing. Worse yet, she really believed him…she really believed the water was fine and she almost followed him in.

Almost.

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As the days and weeks wore on it wasn’t just the people at the Sanatorium that began to notice the Lake. Stories about the Fisherman started and he began to not only show up at the Lake’s edge he started to show up on the Feverfew Loop Highway.

People would stop to ask the old man if he needed help and he would lean into the car and tell them, “ Come on in, the Water’s fine. “ and then he would straighten up and somewhere on the car would be a watery handprint that would be visible for days no matter what you did to wipe it away.

The rest of the people he talked too just disappeared and all they ever found of them were their cars or bikes or shoes somewhere near the lake.

So the question most people ask Baneberry Troublefield is, who is the Old Man and what is his connection to the Lake? Did he die there? Is he a ghost?

Baneberry has his own theory and I’ll take his word for it.

“ That old man, he’s a Bimini Twist” He’ll tell you.

“ A what?” You’ll ask.

That’s a non-slip double line fisherman have to use when they go for game like big billfish. Anyway that’s what he is. He’s an honest to goodness Bimini Twist; I don’t think he’s the bait. That’s what the Lake is. That Lake, it gets your attention. But the old man…he’s what brings you in.”

“ So who’s out there fishing Baneberry?” you’ll probably laugh.

Baneberry will laugh back at you and say, “ Why don’t you go out and see for yourself, I’ve heard the Water is Fine.”

That will stop you from laughing and trust me, it will stop you from pulling your car to the side of the road to offer help to little old men with fishing poles in their hands.

I hope.

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