The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Monday, January 03, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter I.)

Lucy Westenra's Diary. 29 September. Hillingham. — God shield me from what I have become and the harm I have done. There is a gap in my diary from before my death until tonight’s entry, the first I’ve written since rising as a vampire three days after my death on the 20th. Looking over my earlier entries is like reading of a stranger. The blank pages represent nights of horror and ecstasy that have changed me in ways even I cannot begin to fathom. Last night I hungered so I slipped out of my coffin, glided out of my crypt and stole a child from his home. He was asleep in his nursery when I tapped on his window and lured him to me. Like the child, I was dressed in a long white gown, but mine was intended for an eternal sleep. I opened his window, reached in, lifted him out and held him to my breast. Without crying, he went back to sleep. I was glad for his silence because I wanted his blood, not his life. I carried him back to the cemetery. In my 20 years of life, I had not known the fey mysteries of the night. The stars glowed brightly; I had never noticed how enchanting the shadows from moonlight could be. Only in death did I realize how much I had not been living. I walked between the rows of lichen-covered tombstones, angels on columns and kneeling lambs. The sleeping child looked so sweet in my arms, his head resting on my shoulder. I was eager to feel his blood in my mouth. I raced back to my cemetery to feed outside of my crypt. I had spotted the child on Hampstead Heath at dusk. His governess had sat nearby chatting with her young man whilst the boy and other children chased each other around a tree. One of the older girls pretended to be the ‘bloofer lady.’ From the shadows, I watched his governess come to collect him and followed them to his home. I waited with the patience of a practiced hunter for the lights to go out inside and signal it was safe for me to act. Once I had the child, I wanted to avoid the risk of interruption. The number of constables patrolling the neighborhood had increased after each of my feedings. My cemetery offered seclusion. My desire for blood made me impatient to be at him. I trembled with anticipation until I arrived outside of my tomb. I kissed the soft skin of the child’s throat and drank from the cup of innocence. Suddenly the harsh light of a lantern shined on me. Behind the glare I could see dear Arthur and three others blocking my way to my tomb. Caught up in my reverie, I had been taken by surprise. I clutched the child tightly to me, fearful they wanted to take him. I looked up and could feel a trickle of blood running down my chin. Arthur recoiled in abhorrence at the sight of me and the color drained from his face. As I saw him swoon, I felt shame followed immediately by indignant fury. Did he not love me? Was he not glad to see me? No! I hissed in anger at all of them. Then the crescent moon appeared from behind a cloud and a beam shined upon Arthur. He was so beautiful. My dear Arthur, I could never stay mad at him, not my Arthur. I could remember his strong, hard body as he pressed against me, covering me with gentle kisses and whispering his love. Count Dracula had shown me such unspeakable pleasure, such exquisite delight! The dead Count taught me to appreciate the fullness of life. Arthur and I had kept our desires locked inside us, but our denial seemed so improper to me now. What I had learned from the Count, I now wanted to teach Arthur. I cast the child aside to the ground. Arthur stood so tall and handsome, a truly noble and splendid man. Three of the finest men to grace the land had proposed marriage to me on the same day, but Arthur was the one I chose. “Come to me, Arthur,” I said as I wetted my lips. This was to have been our wedding night. “Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come.” Arthur and I started toward each other when Dr. Van Helsing stepped between us, holding a crucifix, the sign of our good Lord Jesus. But the cross that had always been a comfort to me now frightened me as if it burned with the flames of damnation. I did not understand. Was I cast out of God’s grace? I darted past them and ran like a frightened child seeking to hide under the covers of her bed. But my only sanctuary was a coffin in my crypt. As I tried to enter the door, I found my way blocked by an incomprehensible force. I turned to face them. Arthur, Quincey, Jack and Dr. Van Helsing shuddered in stark terror. These men had loved me and now they feared me. Reflected in their eyes, I saw the horror of my situation. I was dead. My life was over before I had the chance to live. I wanted to marry and spend my life with Arthur, to dance and sing and travel. At that moment, I recalled a horrific memory from my childhood. When I was 12, I was playing outside when I heard a scream. I ran around the hedge and saw an 18-year-old gardener had fallen off his ladder, landing on a blade of his pruning sheers. Blood gushed out of his neck and he screamed out. I shrieked with fright and he ran past me, holding his fingers to his neck as his life’s blood pumped out of him with red spurts. Our gaze met in passing for the briefest moment, but I do not think I will ever forget the look of horror in his eyes. He almost made it to the house when he collapsed. Other servants converged on him and one of the older housekeepers, his mother, collapsed in tears next to him. I remember thinking as he ran that he was as good as dead. I knew enough about anatomy to know he had cut an artery. For many nights I had nightmares about his death. My mother had patiently listened to my many questions. What must he have been thinking as he ran? Had he run to his mother hoping she could save him? Had he simply wanted her comfort at his end? Had he thought of the life that he would not get to live? Of the joys he would miss? Mother reassured me that the boy had been too much in shock to suffer such thoughts. But I already knew the true answer to my questions. I had seen the look in his eyes. Now I am dead. I may be able to run, but I am as dead as the young gardener. Trapped outside my crypt, my mind raced with my thoughts. I held myself still with my arms to my sides. I could hear the pounding hearts of my friends. The night was alive with the buzz of insects, the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees, the sounds of the living planet. I could smell the sweet scent of freshly cut grass and decaying roses on a nearby grave, the metallic and oily odor of the lantern, and the sweat of fear on the men. I did not want my existence to end even if it meant clinging to Un-Death. I had loved my Lord Jesus and had tried to live as Mother and my minister had taught me. At that moment, a part of me wanted the embrace of the Lord and the promise of eternal life. But I also feared I was cursed to spend eternity in the fires of hell. Here before me were earthly joys unimaginable. The end of existence might mean pain and suffering too easily imaginable! Dr. Van Helsing interrupted my thoughts: “Answer me, oh my friend, Arthur! Am I to proceed in my work?” Arthur dropped to his knees and hid his face behind his hands. A terrible sob erupted from him as forlorn as the cry of a sinner locked outside the gates of heaven. My heart went out to that dear, good man. I wanted to rush to his side and hold him. My carnal thoughts of before gave way to a desire to comfort him in his overwhelming grief over my death. This gallant man had loved me with heart and soul, treating me as if his only wish was to cherish me. “Please, Professor, don’t,” cried Arthur as his body trembled with emotion. “This is my dear Lucy.” Arthur looked up at me. His eyes were filled with sadness and love. As I held my arms open to him, he rushed into them. Either the expression on my face stayed Dr. Van Helsing’s hand or else Arthur’s action caught him by surprise, but the Professor did not stop him. I embraced Arthur as he shook with great sobs, his tears pouring down onto my bloodstained shroud. Kind Jack and noble Quincey walked up behind him. Quincey put a hand on Arthur’s shoulder and Jack gave Arthur’s arm a comforting squeeze. The Earth appeared to stop its rotation through the heavens as we held each other. Neither the Count nor the grave could break our bonds of true love and friendship. We did not speak. We had already bid our goodbye to each other at my death’s bed. We simply held on to each other. However, our circle could not last. The child began to cry and the sound reminded us why they were there and what I had become. I recalled my hunger. Arthur was so close and my need was great. Yet my love for Arthur was greater — at least for the moment it took for me to get him away from danger. I caught Jack’s eye and he understood. Jack gave me a quiet nod and pulled Arthur away from me. My three men wiped their tears on their sleeves. Quincey bent down and picked the child up, bouncing him and cooing, “You’re safe, little fellow.” Arthur turned to Dr. Van Helsing. “Do something for her! For God’s sake, help her! I cannot bear the thought of desecrating her body. I was to have married her today. Please don’t make us go through with this. There has been enough horror in our lives.” I trembled. My existence hung on Dr. Van Helsing’s answer. Dr. Van Helsing glanced with pity at Arthur, walked to the tomb and pulled off the wards that had blocked my way. Once he removed them, I passed through the closed door and into my coffin where I trembled in terror until the rising of the sun pushed me into a troubled sleep. “The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire” (an unpublished story by William Hope Hodgson) Carnacki’s curt and quaintly card of invitation to dinner had summoned me to his lodgings at Cheyne Walk on a rainy evening the 31st of October in 1913. I arrived to find him staring out the window. He nodded to me and I sat down in a comfortable chair to smoke a cigarette. After Arkright, Taylor and Jessop arrived and we greeted one another, we gathered round the dining table. We dined well, as usual during our evenings together and as nearly usual, Carnacki was nearly silent during the meal. The rest of us discussed a wide range of topics, from fighting in the Northwest Frontier of India to the growing tension in the Balkans. It was not until the plates were cleared and we took our wine and cigars to our accustomed armchairs that we could expect Carnacki to begin his tale. As we waited in quiet anticipation, I looked around at the book-lined walls, the worn leather furniture, the thick Persian carpets and the curious collection of objects on the mantle: a Tibetan skull cup, a kukri dagger and a brass bowl ringed with runic symbols. Carnacki had never married and over the years his rooms had taken on the comfortable air of a rather eccentric club. Carnacki leaned back in his big chair and opened his tobacco pouch. Once he lit his pipe, he sat for a minute collecting his thoughts before he spoke. “Before I begin, I must ask you Hodgson, as my friend and Boswell, to file this story away until such time as all of the participants no longer walk the face of the Earth,” Carnacki said. “My reason for this will soon become clear.” His request piqued my curiosity and I readily agreed. Carnacki gave me a friendly nod and without any further preliminaries, he began: “The other night during dinner, Arkright mentioned that he had seen a stage version of ‘Dracula,’” he said, puffing on his pipe. “That led to a question of whether such creatures as vampires truly exist. I do not believe my answer satisfied you when I simply said, ‘Yes, they do,’ but you were too polite to question me further. “I will tell you gentlemen what only a handful know,” Carnacki said. “The book by Bram Stoker published in 1897 is a mostly true account of events. One minor error is in at the end in Jonathan Harker’s afterword. He wrote ‘Several years ago’ but it was printed as ‘Seven years ago.’ A few other very minor errors crept in as well. There is only one deliberate falsehood in the book, and that is Professor Van Helsing and the other vampire hunters did not destroy Miss Lucy Westenra in her crypt as they claimed. My involvement with the tale, one of the most terrifying and deadliest cases of my career, begins there. “Late one afternoon on the 28th of September of 1893, a knocking on the door interrupted my reading. With eagerness, I pulled myself out of my chair. In those days, near the beginning of my professional life, cases were few and far between. “At the door stood Inspector Johnstone, the same man, you may remember, from the End House investigation. “‘Mr. Carnacki, sorry to rouse you out, but there’s a curious case I am investigating and I could use your assistance,’ the burly detective said to me with an embarrassed air. “I told him there was no need to apologize and to come inside at once. He entered and took off his hat. “‘It’s about the ‘bloofer lady,’ sir.’ “I had read colorful accounts in The Westminster Gazette and the other newspapers of the lady and her assaults on young children near Hampstead Heath. Under macabre headlines of ‘The Kensington Horror’ and ‘The Stabbing Woman,’ the newspaper stories of a strange series of events. Three young children playing on Hampstead Heath had disappeared over the course of three nights only to be found the following morning with small puncture wounds on their throats and weak from the loss of blood. The children had claimed a beautiful woman had played with them and then bit them, but the reporters had put the wounds down to a small dog or rat. “Yet it was obvious from the Inspector’s demeanor that he thought otherwise. I grabbed my coat and a valise with my investigative equipment and said, ‘I am your man, Inspector.’ “We stepped into the brisk, late September air to the waiting carriage. Steam came off the pair of horses. We climbed into the four-wheeler and the Inspector and I sat side-by-side. On the ride, the Inspector told me the details of the case, scant though they were. A police surgeon examined the victims and reported the children had lost a considerable amount of blood for such small wounds. When revived each of the children had described a sweet young woman, who led them off at night to play. “‘The queer thing is where does she go? We searched the area for her, but without success,’ the Inspector said. ‘We’ve stationed constables, good, reliable men, in the neighborhood. To be frank with you Mr. Carnacki, the children’s descriptions of the lady seemed so similar to the ghostly woman in that strange End House investigation that I immediately thought of asking you for your assistance.’ “The Inspector turned and stared out the side window. As he sat without speaking, I listened to the squeak of the carriage springs and the clop of the hooves and watched men lighting the fog-enshrouded gas street lamps. “‘There is more that makes me want your expertise,’ Johnstone said, as if there had been no pause. “‘What is it, Inspector?’ “‘One child pointed out to me where this ‘bloofer lady’ had disappeared. The ground was soft from the recent rain, but there was no sign of footprints. I searched carefully.’ “‘Perhaps the child was mistaken?’ I asked. “‘I do not think so.’ The Inspector reached into his pocket and pulled out a torn piece of white lace. ‘What do you make of that? I found it stuck on a furze bush next to a lonely cemetery where the child said the lady disappeared.’ “I studied it for some time and nodded to him. It looked to me like it was torn from either a wedding gown or a burial shroud. “After that, we spent the rest of the trip catching up with each other. I had taken a genuine liking to the Inspector during the End House haunting. “He had kept up with my career through mutual friends at Scotland Yard and knew where to lay his hands on me when he was assigned the ‘bloofer lady’ investigation. “We arrived at the cemetery and walked through rows of tombstones and crypts in the growing gloom of dusk. Johnstone had stationed constables nearby to cordon off the area at our signal. “Bundled up in our warm coats, we sat on foot stones in a companionable silence. A low fog settled over the graves, but the evening sky above was clear. The stars and crescent of moon shined down on us. The Inspector pulled out a flask of whiskey and passed it to me. I nodded my thanks. “My legs had begun to cramp when I spotted a curious sight. A pale, almost glowing mist, lighter than the surrounding fog, streaked across the cemetery. My eyes followed it, unsure what it was. I pointed it out to the Inspector, but I saw from his expression that he too had seen it. “As we waited, we spied four men creep into the cemetery and take positions near one of the larger ancestral crypts. “The Inspector and I looked at each other with surprise. The men hid themselves and kept a silent lookout, not realizing they also were being watched. “A woman, the ‘bloofer lady’ I quickly deduced, glided across the cemetery in a flowing white gown, holding a young toddler in her arms. “The fog swirled about her steps. The Inspector pulled out his whistle to summon the constables, but I whispered for him to hold off to see the strange, starlit tableau unfold. “The four men stood and cast light from their lanterns on the woman. Trusting to their distraction, the Inspector and I crept closer, crawling over graves for a better view. Peering around a tombstone, I witnessed the most radiantly beautiful woman I had ever seen turn on the men with an unimaginable ferocity. “Yet instead of attacking, there followed a touching reconciliation too private and personal to describe. Once they finished, however, the woman disappeared from my view by running into the crypt though I had not seen the door open. “One of the men said he would leave the child where a patrolling police constable would find the boy. When the man returned, they entered the crypt and carried out a lead coffin. The coffin was loaded into a nearby coach. “The Inspector and I stood, stretched and followed after the men, stepping carefully to avoid tripping over the foot stones. “‘A most peculiar case, Mr. Carnacki,’ said the Inspector with no trace of irony. “As we left the cemetery, Inspector Johnstone signaled to a hidden sergeant to dismiss the men. “We trailed the slow-moving coach from a distance, carefully staying in the shadows. Soon, we arrived at a rather large estate on the outskirts of Hampstead. The men unloaded the coffin and carried it inside. “Inspector Johnstone motioned for me to follow and we stepped behind a stone wall surrounding the property. ‘What do you make of this?’ he said. “‘She must be a lunatic who has escaped from their care and has been hiding in the crypt,’ I answered. ‘They have found her and that should put an end to the assaults. But she must certainly be mad to hide inside a coffin.’ “‘I cannot fault your reasoning, but I was in a better place to see the crypt door than you were,’ the Inspector said. ‘I would not admit this to anyone else, but I watched her suddenly become like a ghost and enter the crypt through a crack no thicker than a coin.’ “‘She did what?’ I asked in surprise. “‘She looked just like those floating specks of light we watched earlier in the evening.’ “‘Inspector, are you certain?’ In the light from a street lamp I could see the burly man’s face was ashen. “‘I am certain,’ he said. “I swallowed. ‘What shall we do?’ “‘Let us find out what is going on,’ the Inspector answered. “We crept up quietly as the men pulled the coffin out of the coach. As they each carried the coffin by a handle, the Inspector and I stepped from behind the back of the carriage. “‘Halt right there,’ the Inspector ordered. ‘I am Inspector Johnstone of the Criminal Investigation Division and this is Mr. Thomas Carnacki, a private detective.’ “With their hands occupied, the Inspector and I had the drop on them. They stood in wide-eyed surprise at us and it is a credit to their composure that they didn’t drop the coffin. One man began to reach inside his coat, but the Inspector patted his own pocket and said, ‘I wouldn’t do that, sir.’ “‘What is the meaning of this?’ demanded the one later identified as Lord Godalming. “‘We’d like a word with you, sirs, although I must warn you that anything you say may be taken down.’ “The Inspector asked the men their names. When the gray-bearded man identified himself as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, I exclaimed, ‘Not the medical professor from Amsterdam?’ “He nodded and I told the Inspector that Dr. Van Helsing was a renowned specialist in unusual diseases of the body and mind. “The Inspector asked Van Helsing to give an account of what he was doing in the cemetery and of the woman in the coffin. When the Professor declined to answer, Johnstone told him everything he had witnessed. “‘Your silence does not help you, sir,’ the Inspector told him. ‘If you cooperate, we may be able to assist you. But you must explain yourself.’ “Van Helsing shook his head. ‘There is a mystery here, Inspector, that you cannot understand.’ “‘Would it help you to know that I asked for Mr. Carnacki’s help because he investigates the supernatural?’ the Inspector asked. ‘They call him a ‘ghost-finder’ at Scotland Yard. He’s been called in to clear up several weird mysteries and I have never seen a case more in need of him than yours.’ “Dr. Van Helsing and the other men looked at me with hope. Van Helsing quickly introduced us to Lord Godalming, Dr. John Seward and Mr. Quincey P. Morris. ‘You are correct, Inspector, we do need assistance,’ Van Helsing said. ‘Before you, I place our story and you shall judge whether we are mad or whether you believe us.’ “The Inspector and I both agreed to listen with open minds. Inspector Johnstone motioned for the men to set the coffin down and they carefully lowered it to the ground. “In the cold pre-dawn light, Van Helsing told one of the strangest tales I had ever heard. He told us how Dr. Seward had consulted him after one of his patients, a young woman named Lucy Westenra, developed a mysterious malady. Her symptoms included sleep walking, nightmares and a curious form of anemia. ‘I examined her and came to a troubling diagnosis,’ the Professor said. ‘In vain we struggled to save her life, but, alas, the poor girl died.’ “Van Helsing grew quiet again. I leaned forward like a hunting hound that has caught a scent. I had been involved with countless investigations of the abnormal over the years. Nearly all turned out to have mundane explanations. I knew from what the Inspector and I had witnessed that this would not be one of them. “‘The lady you saw walking this evening is a vampire,’ Van Helsing said. “The Inspector exhaled loudly whilst I held my breath. Johnstone took off his bowler and scratched his head. ‘I believe you, sir,’ he said. ‘So help me I do.’ “The thought of a vampire in a coffin at my feet sent a thrill through me. For years I had made a study of occult lore, primarily hauntings and spectral apparitions. But vampire folklore was as universal as that of ghosts and spirits. “With eager anticipation, I asked the Professor, ‘What do you intend to do with her?’ “Van Helsing studied me with his dark, penetrating eyes before he answered. Then he said, ‘I have often told the others that God sends us men when needed. Providence has brought you to us at this time. I shall ask Lord Godalming to hire you since he would be the closest to a living relative the poor Lucy has left on Earth. Study her. Protect her. And protect others from her — even if it means cutting off her head.’ “‘Cut off her head?’ I exclaimed. “‘If necessary,’ he said. “I asked the Inspector what he thought of Van Helsing’s proposal. After all, it was his investigation into the abduction of the children that had led us there. “The Inspector pushed his bowler back and scratched his forehead. ‘As I see it,’ he said, ‘the matter is outside of the capabilities of the legal system. I could arrest her for the assaults of the children and take her into custody, but no jail could hold her from what I witnessed. And how could I explain to my supervisors, a prosecutor, a judge or a jury that she is a vampire? I would be laughed out of court.’ “Johnstone shook his head. He reached into an overcoat pocket and pulled out a cigar. He lit it with a match and inhaled deeply. Then he added, ‘It is not in me to act outside of the law. I could not cut off her head, as the Professor suggests. That is outside my authority. Her crimes, as I understand them, are not capital offenses. Mr. Carnacki, you would do me a great favor if you took on the case as Professor Van Helsing suggests.’ “I looked at the other men waiting for my answer. The chance to study a vampire closely was the opportunity of a lifetime. ‘Agreed,’ I said. “‘What shall you tell your superiors, Inspector?’ Lord Godalming asked. “The Inspector replied that he would tell his supervisor the ‘bloofer lady’ was a deranged woman who had escaped from her family, but had been found by them and was now back in their care. ‘It is true enough in its way,’ he said. The police would not make any statements to the press, but would let the investigation fade away. “As we made our plans, the sun had risen over the horizon painting the morning clouds a deep red. At my direction, I told the men to find a crate large enough to hold the coffin. I told them to take it into her room and to partially fill it with her native earth. As they left to carry out my directions, the Inspector arranged to meet me later at the house. Then he departed to report in to Scotland Yard. “I helped the others fill the crate with soil from the flower garden. The men had taken down her bed and placed the crate in the center of her boudoir. “We placed the coffin on top of the dirt. The room smelled of the rich, loam soil. I told the Professor I wanted to examine the vampire for myself. The other three left the room. Van Helsing pulled the thick curtains shut whilst I turned up the gas on the wall fixtures. My heart quickened as I leaned over the lead coffin and lifted the metal lid with a loud creak of the hinges. “I looked down upon a woman sleeping, it appeared, in the silk-lined coffin. Her complexion was as pale and smooth as a statue of polished white marble offset by lips the red of rose petals. Her hair was the gold of sunset at the end of a summer’s day.” Through all the years of gathering at Carnacki’s to hear his stories, Carnacki had never before waxed poetically. As I looked at the other listeners they appeared as shocked as I. Carnacki’s eyes held a faraway look like he was staring into the distant past and his voice trailed off in embarrassment. Jessop leaned over and refilled Carnacki’s glass from the decanter sitting on the small round table between us. Arkright tossed a couple of logs from the wood box onto the fire. He sat back down without saying a word, but I could tell from his expression that he was eager for Carnacki to continue his tale. Carnacki cleared his throat to cover his embarrassment and tapped out the remains of his pipe into the ashtray on the stand. As he thumbed tobacco into his pipe’s bowl, he walked to the fireplace, stuck a long sliver of kindling into the flame and lit his pipe. When he began speaking again, he had regained his composure and his voice held his normal conversational tone. “Although Van Helsing had told me she was a vampire, it still gave me a shock to see her. I realized that subconsciously I had expected to see her chest rising and falling from breathing, but she lay there perfectly still. “‘She must be very tired,’ Van Helsing said in a gentle manner like he spoke of a sleeping child. “I reached into my bag and pulled out a stethoscope I keep for listening at walls to find secret passages. I put in the earpieces. As I slid the end of it under her gown to her chest, my fingers brushed her skin and the coolness of her body startled me. No heat radiated from her. “I listened keenly, but of course heard no beating heart in her though my own blood-beat pounded loud in my ears. “As beautiful as she was, in the back of my mind, possibly at some primordial level, I sensed how dangerous she was. I won’t call her a monstrosity, but the unnaturalness of her caused the hairs on the back of my neck to rise. “It is one thing to have an open mind about the supernatural, to see the occasional ghost or vaporous entity or to hear mysterious bumps in the night. It is quite another to stand next to a creature out of mankind’s nightmares.”


Blogger Carnacki said...

Like the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, my narrative unfolds through a series of diary entries, letters, and a story orally told by an occult detective, Carnacki, to his friends 20 years after the events. I chose this form to remain faithful to Stoker's work. I also thought it adds to the mystery. Although an old-fashioned narrative structure, the popularity of online journals and hyperlinked text makes it a literary device current readers should enjoy.

1/04/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Carnacki said...

The scene with Lucy in the cemetery gave me a chance to use one of the best scenes in Stoker's novel, but to alter it to fit my version. I kept it as faithful to the original, using Stoker's description of Lucy's behavior (through Dr. Seward's diary) except this time from Lucy's point of view.

1/04/2005 10:26:00 PM  

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