A Girl of the Future
This story was written chapter by chapter over a period of about two and a half years. It probably needs a revision, and there may be a sequel. The story stands at twenty-one chapters spread over three pages.
If you want to contact me, the author, my email is NOSPAMehkuhall7@tacheiru.every1.net. And yes, this site is competing at and its owner is a proud member of ZOID CITY Community and Community Competition. Note: this is a violent and brutal story and it now contains some profanity. It may not be suitible for the faint of heart or younger readers.
Chapter 1 -- A Long Way From Home in Winter
I can still here the clip-clop of the horses hooves on the frozen earth. It was the coldest winter I remembered until then. I don't think it was my first winter. Someone had wrapped me up in a blanket. Charles; for that was his name, laid me tenderly down beneath a bush like Ishmael in the Bible. They made me study Scripture in school much later. When I would walk along the beach much later it was with memories of books dancing in my head.
Now the books no longer kept me warm. There were no familiar horses hooves. The big truck like station wagon rumbled on highway made smooth like carpet. "Oh the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and rounnd....All through the town." A woman sings her voice lusty. Sing like they sang in church. Sing a lullaby against the wind. I can not laugh at the joke that hides in your song.
Where do the horses go? They go in stables at night. On cold days they snort and their breath makes little puffs against the straw. I float over the stable door. I walk between the stalls. This is Charles' house on the mainland. The pasture smells sweet even in early spring. Several of the mares have foaled. I stand real close. I want them to sesnse that I am here. I wait until the sensitive stallion screams and sets them all off. I want to see Charles rush from the comfort of his house all worried. I want to see him and laugh.
"The baby on the bus goes...wah...wah...wah..." Oh please! "Weren't you ever a mother?" I want to ask. I can't get the words out....not yet anway but she turns to me because I must have made some kind of inquisitive noise. At least the song stops. It is then I see the cross on her chest and the clerical collar like a man's sticking out like a white ring from her black blouse tucked into black knitted pants that do not hide her rounded thighs. "A minister," I think and shudder. Then I see she is missing an eye. How did that happen?
She takes an arm off the steering wheel and slips it around me. She says nothing. I say nothing because I do not yet have my voice in a way that can do anything that can make noise. All I have is memory and memory is a curse. In another time, it would have been wiped from me when I was born or erased in the first eighteen months of life as I adjusted to a new surroundings and learned language. Now things are different.
The minister has the good sense not to say "tell me," so I shall tell you. I was born in the islands just off the coast of what is today Georgia. Winters were sometimes cold from the sea. It was a long and difficult birth. My mother was tall and not just because I was small. I saw her afterwards. She was tall and skinny. Two days I took to be born, and when I emerged the midwife knew the birth had damaged me.. I was blind in one eye. My hands were unsteady. I would never walk but somehow I could swallow and suckle to nurse. I could understand words, but my speech was never clear. If I got sick with the diseases of childhood, I got over them.
It became apparent after a long time that I would be around to be fed and not much else. I don't know what Charles told my mother. Perhaps he said I had been sold. Perhaps he said I was beinng taken to a doctor on the mainland. He never came back with me. We left in the afternoon. He found a place out of the way as the sun was going down, lifted me down off the wagon, and laid me down under a bush like Ishmael in the Bible, though I had not yet studied Scripture in school. I would not be going to school as a living person. The cold of the night hurt my fingers and toes. The village where my mother and all the others who grew indigo on the island lived may have been close but distance is infinite for someone who can not walk. I fell asleep and woke, horribly thirsty and lightheaded, fell asleep again with my hands, feet and legs hurting...and then the pain stopped.
"The only good thing about what happened to you," my foster mother on the other side explained to me is that "it's over with now and no one will get a chance to do it again." I was a bow legged spirit kid who left interestinng footprints in the sand, at least when it was sand on the other side and not on earth. I was bookish. Reading helped. Going back and learning the contours of the land helped. It even helped to see the main house. It made me angry but exceptp for upsetting, Charles' horses in the barn there was not much I could do.
In time the house became a ruin. I am not sure if it was the War Between the States or drink, or just not caring. Charles' descendents left it for the big city. The wallpaper sagged off the walls, and outside the paint peeled. Finally the porch pillars collapsed. The kudzu took over, growing from the exhausted soil.
The minister guides the car through twists and turns. She brings us under a car port by a big brick and stucco house surrounded by a wooden fence like a stockade at a fort. The gate has closed behind us. The minister does not open the garage door, half a dozen children do it. They are older than any of us in the car. A blond one with a hook nose takes charge. She folds her arms and inspects as the minister opens the passenger side door and I try to climb down. My muscles don't fully obey me but I manage a nice fall to my knees. I get up on all fours and make it to a standing position. I stick out my arms like a high wire artist and manage three steps on the garage floor before taking a spill. The minister orders me to sit while she helps some of the others down. How did they learn to walk already?
I am one of the last ones brought inside. It's a very big house though our room is the sunroom converted into a huge dormitory with white mattresses all over the floor. There is fod in the kitchen, porridge, rice, soup which I like and banannas. There are oranges on top of the kitchen counter. I remember oranges from the time right after I died. Oranges in a wooden bowl on a kitchen table. I want an orange now. I point. I try to talk. The minister with one eye unnderstands. She gets me the orange and even peels it. That is how I see that her finger nails are the color of wild roses. She gives me seclet after seclet.
I am glad I can not speak, because the things I would say are questions without answers: "Will you hurt me? Will you leave me in the snow? And what of all the others? Why are there so many of us here?"
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Chapter 2 -- Go Away Man
I smell coffee, long lived living-person's coffee. I remember the smell from Charles' house years ago and I curl myself tighter under my fleecey blanket on my mattress on the floor. I try desperately to send my mind elsewhere. I remember the mall with it's great skylight like a smokey glass pyramid. There were flowers in the center of that mall, piled in a tree, great scarlet and white amaryllis blossoms and rosey pink hibiscus forming a magnficient pyramid attended by a royal court of tropical foliage plants. Children played on real soft moss grown in a fenced in area around the tree. Grownups watched from the gallery. The children were less than a few months old but already they could walk and if pressed could speak. Their hair was combed and most of their faces were plump and attractive their eyes were bright. I thought of one of Charles' daughters who had china dolls except these were flesh and blood.
Would that be me? All I had to do was agree to it, hang out around a custom lab at the mall or one of the government centers long enough to influence the right sort of body. I'd get what I wanted and then I'd be alive again in a world so rich no one would even remember the village on the island or Charles' house.
Footsteps break that revery. It's a man in leather shoes. I don't like sleeping. I don't like pretending to sleep. If I lie there someone is going to get me. Someone is looking down on me, appraising me with judgement. This one can't work. This one can barely feed herself. All this one does is eat. I bury my face into the pillow. I hope the blanket hides my shaking.
The male voice says: "How many did you get, Lucia?" "Four this run," she answers.
"That puts us over the limit," growls the man. "In theory," she replies.
"No theory. The zoning board says eighteen children. Do you want to end up in court again?"
"Who's going to tell. Remember when Jesus was in the field roasting corn with his disciples?"
"Cut the Christian bullshit now, Lucia!"
"Watch your tongue, Larry. We'll get word to friends in due time."
"And until then..."
"What we've always done."
Behind my eyeballs a lightswitch goes on turning my world from black to brown. I burrow in further to hide in the blackness. "Go away man," I think. " Interesting bunch," says Larry, the man. "Hmmm...very dark color, haven't seen that in ages."
"It's a classic," Lucia responds. "She may even darken up a bit as she grows. There are some nice copper tones in the skin already. Someone in the Glynn County Center phoned the trouble line and that's what sent me across the state. Two of the other three are from the Tall Mall in Albany and the last one was abandoned in Coffee County by a family that should have done better."
"Sometimes," says the man, "I wish we had done better. I married you and assumed that there would be a family one day. I mean...when you walk through the mall or when you go to Atlanta, don't you ever want one of those...those..."
"Say it Larry: Those normal and beautiful children, a child you can be proud of... You want to ask me if there is more to life than this missionary zeal. You forget something Larry. God made all these children. They may have been conceived in a center as you and I were and as our parents and some of our grandparents were but Larry, that still doesn't make them any less human or their souls any less divine. That's why...and it's not Christian bullshit."
"Yeah, well what will you do if I lose my job?" Larry asks."What makes you think your job is in danger?" Lucia asks.
"Politics," he grunts.
"If you lose your job," says Lucia calmly. "We will have to make do."
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Chapter 3 -- Too Little for Vengance
"Move those mattresses! Now!" Uh oh...Lucia, the minister, is angry. It is a sunny morning because the world behind my eyelids is a lovely light brown. I make it dark brown and dig in. "Wake up sleepy!&qut; announes Reverend Lucia. Aren't you going to sing to me. Oh the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go...
"I know you're awake, come on sleepy." Reverend Lucia picks up my mattress rolling me on to the sunroom's cold floor. Gee thanks. I glare at her. "Up," she orders. I glare. I sit up and make it to my feet. I get four or five steps before I trip. I'm cold. I right myself and stagger to the kitchen door. "Not until you're clean," growls Reverend Lucia.
That is how I find myself in the bath. First I am slung over Reverend Lucia's broad shoulders. She smells of oily wheat. Her shirt is starched cotton. She always wears her clerical collar and big bronze crooss. When she bathes me, she tucks the cross into her shirt and rolls up the sleeves. Her arms are like great pink hams. Her hands are enormous. She is none to gentle. She rubs my scalp until it hurts. My own mother long ago and my foster mother certainly did not treat me this way. I start crying. Even if I oculd talk intelligibly I would still cry because some things are beyond words. My tears drip into the water.
Reverend Lucia's monstrous one eyed face becomes a wonderful blur. Hey how did she lose that eye anyway. Why doesn't she stick a glass one in it or put a patch over it. Reverend Lucia lifts me out of the tub and begins drying me while I sit on the bathmat. Then she hauls me atop the toilet seat with the towel wrapped around me like a blanket.
"Larry!" she cries "Bring me the next one." I watch Reverend Lucia pull the night shirt from a boy with blond curly hair. "You want more candy bar, you let me get you clean, understand..." I stare at my knees. I am thinking of the horses again, the horses in Charles stable. They were well fed and sleek. I think he bred and showed them like dogs. I am crying again. Am I scared? I thought I would never be scaird again. If things were just a little different I would be laughing.
After the bath there is someone else's clean and cut down sweat shirt for me. I had a soiled grey sweat shirt right after I was born. Rough hands with long fingers sponged me off and dried me down. Then they brought me a bit of hamburger that was mostly white roll and half a bannana and some ice water in a cup with a straw. They wrapped me in another blanket and laid me on the couch. Two of the kids in the tanks next to me had died. Half the kids in the room with me had died. I feared I would still sense them. I feared I would join them. It took me a long time to fall asleep curled in a ball on the couch back in Brunswick in Gwynn County.
When I awoke I was in the car with Reverend Lucia who has the big cross, one eye and magenta finger nails, who sings about wheels on the bus as if I were her own child who was pushed out of the warmth of her bloody womb, but Reverend Lucia wasn't pushed out of a womb either. She was born in the tanks. I don't know where or how just like I don't know how she lost her eye. I try to imagine how but I am too hungry.
I decide it's time to go to the kitchen. I can walk a few steps, stumble, crawl and walk again. Larry drinks coffee in the kitchen and some of the older kids are sitting at the kitchen table eating cold cereal in milk leaving over the fresh sweet milk. They look at me and I hear what he whispers under his breath. I try to lunge at him but hit the table bench instead. "take it easy," warns Larry.
Just then I hear the doorbell ring. I see Reverend Lucia's white cotton shirted back and I hear her make an unpleasant noise as if she has just been frightened. I wish I could sing her that stupid song about babies on the bus right now. I get to the kitchen door so I can watch
"Well good morning Reverend...." Reverend Lucia begins.
The Reverend wheres a tan robe and has a pink bald head that has a single long braid of wheat colored hair streaked with black sprouting from it. It is a fine stout braid that reaches well below his shoulders. His eyes are pale silvery grey and he is very tall. Around his neck he wears some sort of medallion that I can not place. He has both eyes and a big smile.
"Father Cooper is down in Albany," explains the tan robed man. "I'm Adam. Yes, that's a point of conceit. This is quite an operation you have here."
Reverend Lucia leads Reverend Adam into the kitchen. He looks at me. I am afraid he is going to utter that name again but instead he squats down. He is supple and flexible as an athlete yet I can't figure out what sport he would play. His braid disappears. I wish it would come out again. He smiles at me. He has very small teeth. He holds the amulet up to my face and then puts his hand over his face while with his other hand he steadies himself so he does not fall backwards.
"Are you alright?" asks Reverend Lucia.
"Yes," Reverend Adam answers. "The child's name is Najya. She chose it before she was born. It is not the name her mother or her mother's...employer gave her. It is better you call her Najya though. She is carrying way too much baggage. It is too bad there is no more social safety net. This child needs help.
This child needed help three hundred years ago and again last week when no one came to pick me up and they put me in a room to die quietly. I didn't die and when they cut open the womb, I breathed so I am here. "This child has had help in the last week," explained Reverend Lucia referring to those who dried me off and called the trouble line that would send for her.
Reverend Adam ignores Reverend Lucia and turns to me. "Najya," he says. "You are too little for vengance. You need time to grow and mature. Vengance is a burden. It eats you from the inside out."
Reverend Adam, what you know about vengance could fit in the white part of the little pinky nail at the end of that long pink finger of yours. Three hundred years and I was born without the blessing of forgetting. Three hundred years and the house lies in ruins. I saw the pile of kudzu. Somewhere Charles is of course still out there. I can not forget so I must remember. I don't have to go crazy about it but I will never forget. I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. You should be able to pick this up if that device around your neck enables you to read my thoughts. Now, what's with that stupid braid? Hair styles come and go and I suppose it is only natural that you want to show the world that you can grow a nice head of straight fine hair.
Reverend Adam drops his head. The braid hangs down like a fat sleak tail. I reach out to touch it. It is pleasently silky and there are even a few loose strands. Is it real? There is one way to find out. I imagine Reverend Adam screaming as I tug his braid as hard as I know how.
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Chapter 4 -- An Eye for an Eye
Reverend Adam shoves me away when he gets done screaming. I land on my rear which I do plenty of when I'm walking anyway. Then Reverend Adam goes to talk with Lucia in the kitchen. I hear the folding door slam and prick up their ears. It is fine to feel angry about a "priest" roaming around in your mind. It is quite another to remember what that priest and all adults can do to you.
I sit on the floor and don't try to listen. I don't listen because I can remember. How old was I? Older than I am now. It was late winter long after the night that Charles left me out in the cold to die. I could not only walk but fly. I did a lot of both. The shape of the land was my friend. That was how I saw my nother walking along the beach. She was tall, taller than Reverend Lucia or even Reverend Adam. She walked where the full moon turned the sand and the waves all silver and the clouds into white strands. It was cold but she didn't care. She was praying though she had forgotten the name of her gods. She missed me. She could afford to grieve now that she no longer had to feed me. Isn't that how it always is? They go along with what is ruthless and then cry later?
The sliding kitchen door opens. "It's OK," Reverend Lucia tells me. " You can come inside." I pick myself up and stumble in. There are ornages on the counter. I haven't had one all morning. I point.
"Uh uh...." cautions Lucia. "From now on you have to ask for everything. You can talk just like you walk. Tell me what you want, Najya."
"I wan' orange!" I blurt out, hoping that Lucia won't make me say please though I throw in a "pleeez" just for fun. Lucia hands me an orange. "T'ankyou" I tell her. I actually talk better than I walk. Of course the orange is unpeeled.
"Well aren't you going to peel your orange?" asks Lucia. I see where this is leading. They want an apology and begging these...I don't have words for it. This is NOT Charles' house, still.... Why do I feel so behind. I squat down on the kitchen floor and methodically roll my orange. I have small hands and I can break through the navel of the orange with one finger. Lucia hands me a piece of paper towel for the peels which I get off in small pieces. The more I do of this the better I get. She gives me a plate for the seclets. I realize suddenly that I have a whole orange to myself. "I bet I can ea' wi' a knife and fawk toooo" I tell Lucia and Reverend Adam.
"In a few weeks, perhaps," Reverend Adam tells me. "I sorry about the hair," I tell him. He nods. He pats me on the head. "You're going to be a good kid," he says. I wonder what makes him so sure. I look back up at Lucia and wish she would sit on the floor with me.
"Wha' happen to you eye!" I shout. I shout because just asking might not be good enough. I shout because I am sure she will pretend not to notice or understand. Instead, Lucia picks up the plate with my orange and sets it on the table. She invites me to take a seat.
"I knew from the time I was three or four years old," she began "that I wanted to serve God as a priest. It did not matter that I had been born female by my own choice. I have been both a nun and a monk in other lives. It did not natter that I Christianity had largely been replaced by the 'New Religion' and that it was ridiculed in the best circles. My parents got me so I would go to college and be a good student. I weent to college and then on to seminary.
"That meant that I went south. There was no viable Protestant Christianity in most of the North. There was a Baptist seminary in Knoxville, Tennessee. That's where I went. Larry whom I met in college followed me. I was already his wife. I completed my studies and near the end went out on an internship in the country. That was how I met the old believers.
"When they found out I was NOT pushed out of my mother's womb but born in the tanks the same way you were, they did not believe I could be a Christian or even a human being for that matter. I continued to preach and to minister to the old and the young and the sick. I ministered to those who were born as I had been and as you have been. I did all of that and they came after me considering me a spawn of the Devil.
" They tried to kill me. They beat me badly. They poked out one of my eyes. My mother and father wanted to take me home to Indiana. Larry wanted me to quit. I refused. When I graduated from seminary some weeks later, I was not given a post. This was common but many of my fellow students had been born of a womb and that was still felt superior. I would have to find my own ministry.
"Larry took me on a trip to Mexico to celebrate my graduation and what he thought would be the 'end of all that silliness.' I managed to tour a hospital and since I speak some Spanish thought I would stay in practice. The children were born behind the hospital, the ones from tanks and they always had too many. Some they hatched out. Others they let die. Some they hatched out and let die. I watched in horror. The Bible speaks out against things like that. God speaks out and you can read His word.
"One of the workers laughed at me and asked if I wanted one of the children he was letting go to take home. I told him I did and that was how it started. Snowflake, the one with the cute nose is from Mexico. That was twelve years ago. I had found my ministry.
"There are many in this town, here in Columbus Georgia, who have guilty consciences. Some give me money. Some adopt a rescued child or two. Some foster them. I make them feel good and give them a way to do good. They don't fully understand the cross around my neck or why it motivates me. That is alright. God reaches those He can as He can. I am His instrument. Do you understand?"
I look at Lucia and think of my mother walking up and down the beach. "You know your God," I say. "I know the one God who created Heaven and Earth," answers Lucia. " Nothing bad is going to happen to you here in this house or while I am in charge, Najya. Do you understand?"
It is not a question of understanding. The question is: Do I believe?
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Chapter 5 -- Not Too Little After All
When Rio finds words, she also finds music:
She says 'Oooh ooh I have an itch'
"Rio, don't you know anything nicer to sing?" asks Reverend Lucia. Rio is one of the four kids picked up on the night I was born about two months ago. The others are boys named Daniel and Jason. Daniel was adopted out two weeks after Reverend Lucia brought us to Columbus.
I thought that Jason would die of a broken heart. Jason actually got taken home by a family in Coffee County but then after a week they decided they didn't want him and a sibling called Lucia's crisis line. Daniel who is gone now and Rio are from a store in a mall in Albany. I was born in Brunswick, out in Gwinn County. Jason still does little for himself. He makes Reverend Lucia feed him even while the rest of us eat either with our hands or cut up food with a a fork.
Rio starts a new song:
Your father he was nothing
"STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!" screams Reverend Lucia.
"Are you pissed off at me?"Rio asks.
"That's an understatement, now go!" Rio takes off to the computer room with me in hot pursuit. "OK," she says pointing me to the console. "You say you can read a little." Yes, I can recognize letters and numbers on a keypad aren't so complicated and if I sit close to the screen. I lift up the keypad. The passcode is written in marker on masking tape. Rio pushes a blond hair out of her blue eyes and smiles. She wants to watch the Real Talk show where they have people who've done all kinds of nasty and lewd acts. The Real Talk and lots of other shows are filtered out of the entertainment system and it takes a passcode to get past the filter.
I stare at the writing. The numbers are wavy lines. I remember learning to read long ago after my short lifetime on the island near the sea. I make out the numbers and very carefully find them on the keyboard. I punch them in and see a yellow and blue banner on the screen. P-A-S-S-C-O-D-E R-E-L-E-A-S-E-D
"Alright!" whoops Rio. "The show is on in five minutes. Wanna watch with me?"
I shrug. We ought not to be messing with the entertainment center. If we were really smart we'd steal the housekeys and let ourselves out and go to town. We'd find a restaurant or a great shopping mall all festooned with flowers. We'd take some money too and go shopping. Rio's problem is she thinks small.
I head out of the TV room. Reverend Lucia, Larry, and Reverend Adam are in the kitchen. "I want orange please!" I announnce and Reverend Adam hands me one while Lucia gives me two plates, one for peels and the other for seclets. I sit down at the children's table and start rolling and peeling.
"Look," pleads Larry. " I know people on the zoning committee. I think I can get this complaint taken care of."
"We don't need another temporary stay," groans Reverend Lucia. "We've had that for the last month but I'm not able to place these children. Either the market is saturated or..."
"It's the contest," says Reverend Adam.
"That....But that's just a few royal families."
"It's open to anyone but the royal families must enter."
"It's barbaric! I mean making kids compete against eachother and crowning the winner messiah. There I said the word. It's disgusting and sacreligious and exploitive. You want more words"
"I don't want anything," sasys Reverend Adam. "You need to clean up your act so you can save some of these existing children.
"And it's not about getting a 'stay' this time" Reverend Adam informs Larry. "This is considered a house full of inferior goods. You have a limit of sixteen people and you have twenty-three under this roof. If you can't find homes for the children and given the contest you can't, you have to do something humane and decent."
"Alright," says Reverend Lucia. "I'll give you humane and decent. I'm a priest. That makes me royal. I don't have to obey zoning."
"Lucia!" screams Larry.
"If I declare you royal you'll have to be part of the contest. You don't want to do that," Reverend Adam interjects.
"And why shouldn't I?" Reverend Lucia asks. "I have the best potential team out there."
"And does that include the one who won't feed itself?" asks Reverend Adam. "The contest is only among kids born in the lasttwo nonths. That means Rio, Jason, or Najya will be the one they judge and then only one."
Lucia purses her lips together. She looks at me eating my orange very slowly. "She will do," she says. She means me. "I'm royalty now," she chirps. "By the way, how come you haven't had a child for the contest?" Lucia asks Adam.
"Because my brother is royalty and my house already has its children. Certain major orders are also exempt. We have to have referees. Alright let me get the papers."
"I don't believe this," moans Larry. "Lucia, have you lost your senses. That last bunch you brought in. We'll be humiliated."
"We'll see," says Reverend Lucia just as Jason toddles into the kitchen. He looks around wanting a cookie most likely then he heads straight for Lucia. He grabs her pant leg and points and lisps something else less than intelligible. Adam toys with the medallion arond his neck. "I think someone's messed with the television," he says.
I keep eating my orange, and watch Lucia and Adam file out. I feel sorry for Rio but not that sorry. I toss my orange peels in the garbage. After a while Adam leaves. Larry goes to his study to do business and Aunt Lucia comes looking for me. She takes out a print phone directory and sets it on the table. "Read me this," she says.
I don't read really well yet but I can make out the M-U-S-C-O-G-E-E in the first word of the phone book's title. "Why did you punch in that pass code?" she asks.
"Rio wanted to watch Real Talk" I replied. "Besides you had it out in the open. If you want to hide it you should really hide it."
"Don't worry," answers Lucia "I will. Meanwhile, Najya, you have some real work ahead of you. People are going to hate you because you're successful. They're going to hate you because your skin is dark and because you're adopted and your mother is Christian."
"I thought nothing bad would ever happen to me in this house" I protest.
"I'm sorry Najya," says Reverend Lucia, "but we're in this together. If we don't fight, there'll be no place for any of us."
"But I'm little! How can I defend this orphanage!"
"We'll figure it out.
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