Garden Warfare

πŸ“… Published on August 10, 2022

β€œGarden Warfare”

Written by K.P. Whitlomb
Edited by N.M. Brown
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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The meteorite that hit Southdale wasn’t especially spectacular. In the middle of one spring evening, it lit up the sky for a brief moment. It didn’t turn night into day by any means. It merely streaked across the horizon and settled with a distant popping sound far beyond the treeline of the small southern town. There was no fire, and there were no trails of sparks setting fields ablaze. The meteorite mostly deteriorated upon impact, like all meteorites. Up to five hundred would strike the planet Earth’s surface each year; out of these, only about ten were ever recovered due to impact sites being either in the ocean or the as-yet remote areas of the planet. And out of those ten, only those on private property would be available for the public to view. If a meteorite falls on government property like one of the great National Parks, the government has the right to it and can do whatever they wish to said fallen object.

The spring meteorite that some residents of Southdale witnessed was not one of the rare iron pieces that made up about ten percent of all meteorites. It was just a stone of incomprehensible make, and once it impacted the Earth’s surface, it mostly vaporized. However, that vapor was made of space dust and incomprehensible matter. And that space dust did not dissipate as quickly as the more material substance of the meteorite. Within moments of impact, the solid stone material was gone, but the cloud of dust from its contact shot out from the impact site like a shockwave. It coated nearby trees and layered over one unfortunate farmer’s field like a new film of fertilizer. A timely breeze came up and carried the invisible dust to the town quite quickly, though the residents wouldn’t witness its effects until the following day.

Wilma and Bart Cressman of Cressman Ranch saw the meteorite fall. They were mesmerized by the brilliant streak, though it was gone so quickly that neither was certain of what they had seen for a few moments after. Then Wilma’s phone rang, and Betty Heddy from across the road was on the other end of the cell, speaking in a flurry of rushed words about having seen the same comet-like phenomenon.

“Is your farm on fire?” the other woman asked Wilma with frantic phrasing. “I don’t see a fire, but is there a fire? That was awful close to your south field, don’t ya think? Shouldn’t you get Bart to go out and check the fields? What if there’s a tsunami?”

Wilma rolled her eyes at that comment. Wilma knew that her neighbor was being overly dramatic, as she usually was when her husband was out in town drinking their meager funds away. Betty was either showing her ignorance because there wasn’t a lake nearby for miles, and they’re sure it wasn’t a coastal ocean capable of throwing giant waves in their direction, not in a few miles and not for many hours’ drive away.

“Okay, Betty, you hush now. I’ll get Bart to take a look, and I’ll call you if anything happens-“

“But maybe you should come over here, where we know it’s safe-“

“I said it’s fine, now quit your fussing and get to bed, woman! You do not want to be awake when your husband gets home, hear?”

Wilma disconnected the call and rolled her eyes again at her husband. He sat next to her in the other of their twin white rattan rockers, smirking at his wife’s little dilemma. Betty was a great source of humor for Bart. He never tired of her old-fashioned relationship with her husband, the way she expected Wilma to behave the same, like a good wifey, a good farmer’s wife. For all her good heart and good intentions, Wilma was not that sort of wife. Bart wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You know I ain’t going out there just cuz Betty’s panties are in a twist,” he said wryly, picking up his can of beer from the table between their chairs and tilting the last drops of its cool contents down his throat.

“She’s just fretting because of Bill. You know how she gets. He’s gone drinking again, and she’s just out of sorts because of it. She probably saw the meteor and thought the world was ending.”

“I bet his phone blew up on the bartop when it went across the sky,” Bart said, then smacked his lips together, relishing the last taste of his lager. “Poor guy. Sometimes I don’t blame-“

“Don’t,” said Bart’s wife in a dark and warning tone. She was looking at him, he could see that from the corner of his eyes, and he didn’t dare make eye contact back. “Do not defend that bastard’s motives, nor his behavior, Bartholomew Cressman. Or you will find yourself heading right out to that pasture right now. I don’t care what time of night it is!”

Bart smiled. He couldn’t help himself. His wife got up from her chair and stomped along the deck that surrounded their ranch house, arms folded across her ample chest and nostrils flaring as she stared in the direction of poor Betty Heddy’s homestead. His wife was no Betty, and that was the truth. She was fire, and she was passion, and she was energy. There wasn’t a submissive bone in Wilma’s body, and Bart loved her for it.

The fifty-five-year-old farmer stood up carefully and quietly from his rocking chair and moved to stand directly behind his wife. He wrapped his large arms around her trembling form, resting his chin on one of her shoulders and smiling against her ear lobe.

“You are one helluva woman, my love,” he whispered. Long ago, he’d gotten used to her mood swings. He had learned to revel in her passions rather than resist her outrage. And from that, he’d learned her secrets and weaknesses. Kissing her on the curve of her neck, he grinned as she closed her eyes. He could feel her loosening up in his embrace, holding her all the more tightly.

“Now, why don’t we go upstairs and discuss why I shouldn’t head to that field tonight?” he cooed softly.

In the morning, Bart Cressman got up early and went ahead to the southern field Betty had mentioned. He’d left an exhausted but satisfied Wilma to get up at her leisure, knowing his breakfast would be ready when he got back to the house. As the sun began to crawl up over the trees in the distance, Bart smiled and took a moment to bask in its warmth. He loved his life, he loved his wife, and it would be a good day. Taking in a deep breath, he intended to fill his lungs with the healthy farm-fresh air of his land when suddenly he began to cough. He could feel it.

He couldn’t catch his breath. Looking around with wide eyes, Bart couldn’t see anything that would be making him struggle to breathe. No low clouds of smoke or dust. Yet each inhalation was like gulping paint or gas or some other chemical that burned his alveoli and wore his throat raw. He collapsed to a knee, his fist at his lips as he continued to hack and wheeze. Pulling his hand away from his mouth, heart pounding in his chest, Bart stared at the splotches of red – and green – that speckled his curled fingers.

That ain’t right, he thought before falling to the ground unconscious. In two minutes, he was dead. His body no longer radiated the warmth he had always been known for, and his clever mind didn’t give another thought to his lovely wife of thirty-five years, who was no doubt waiting for him with a plate of bacon and eggs and toast with fresh farm butter. In another two minutes, Bart Cressman got up on two shaky legs and turned towards his farmhouse, towards the smell of food. He stumbled and almost fell several times as he left the field and moved like a sleepwalker through the open gate and up the steps to his house. This time, Wilma Cressman was screaming as her husband attacked her, rather than the distant neighbor across the way. But nobody knew, nobody saw, and no one would believe what was going on.

Betty Heddy almost saw. She hadn’t slept a wink the night before because her husband Bill hadn’t ever come home. She had made him breakfast, not for the same reasons as Wilma, not because he’d earned it, but because if the food wasn’t on the table when he sat down, there would be hell to pay. And Betty was always the one paying.

She glanced across the fields between her house and Wilma’s but saw nothing amiss, not at first. Then she squinted and looked closer, drawing her gaze from the house in the distance and looking instead to the field closest to her own home. Was that greenery? Were those sprouts?

“That field has been dead for five years now,” the young woman quietly said. She was used to talking aloud, just to hear another person’s voice. Betty’s existence was lonesome, as Bill was a dedicated farmer and was always outside. The house was meant to be her domain, even though he had full say of what happened within its walls and without.

“I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” Betty quipped, dropping the thin flowery curtain from her fingertips and walking towards the front door with a click-clack of heels. Out on the porch, she took off her good housewife shoes and slipped on a pair of the muckers or mud boots resting along one wall of the porch. Then with a swish of her modest below-the-knee skirt, she stepped down the old wooden steps to the dusty dirt yard and peered harder at the nearest field.

She had been right, though, of course, she had to be wrong. Those were sprouts in the field, bright green and reaching for the sun. They seemed to be growing right before her eyes, and as she stood there, they went from two-leafed sprouts to fledgling plants with four or five leaves to a stem. And then, after a handful of seconds, they grew taller, thicker, and began to bear huge buds atop each plant.

Betty stared in disbelief, slowly walking forward towards the field until she was at its very edge and a single plant was directly in front of her. And as she let her mouth drop open, the plant itself lifted up and out of the soil. It curled its roots like it was curling the toes of a foot, stretching and coiling and then stretching again. It turned the heavy bud atop its stem towards Betty, and she swore she heard the plant sniff or inhale or breathe in from her direction. Was that a smell, or was it smelling her?

Surprised but unable to move suddenly, Betty clutched the edges of her brown knit cardigan closer over her chest. Her feet were solid in the Earth, but her upper body leaned away from the crazy plant. It leaned with her, its huge bulbous bud looming over her like a head or a face. And then it bloomed, the protective green sepal leaves slowly drawing back and away from the flower’s receptacle to reveal brilliant purple petals that as yet lay one over another over another, protecting the flower’s inner workings from sight. With a sudden and frightening burst, the plant popped its flower open and stared at Betty Heddy intently, yellow irises dotted with black slitted pupils atop the filaments within the flower’s center.

Betty fell back, her body unable to maintain the unnatural angle she had been leaning at. Landing on one hip in the dirt, she was still frozen to the spot. The huge alien plant leaned over her, opening up more and more petals as it came closer and closer. The pistil within its center seemed to Betty like one of the fancy terracotta bread ovens she’d seen for sale at the hardware store, a tall chimney shape attached to a bell-like base. But this pistil was topped with moving parts that drew in and out almost like the plant was breathing. Was that its mouth, she wondered, blinking as the thing came closer.

Yes, she realized too late. Yes, it was a mouth, and yes, the plant was breathing, and yes, now it was going to eat her. The flower dove down at Betty’s head, but she moved at the last moment, turning to scream and crawl away frantically from the abhorrent vegetation. But crawling was too slow for escape, and the flower aimed its next, glancing blow at her boots. The top end of its stigma sucked at her kicking feet, the curling fronds like stumpy but incredibly flexible fingers as it pulled her boots off and spat them to the side.

It wanted meat. Betty knew that now. This was no ordinary plant. It was a meat-eater. This was the result of that crazy meteorite that she’d seen yesterday. She had tried to warn her only friend about it, but Wilma wouldn’t listen. Wilma had thought Betty was simply afraid of Bill coming home drunk again, and while that was partly true, Betty had also been terrified of the falling star itself. Now she knew that terror was for a good reason, and as she reached a hand up to the steps of her porch, she screamed Bill’s name, Wilma’s name, the several names for God that Good Wife Heddy had learned in church not so long ago.

No one answered her cries. The plant’s flower began to suck up Betty’s legs, her skin burning where it disappeared between the sucking lips of the stigma. The eyeball-topped filaments were level with her shoulders as the stigma mouth moved up her legs to her waist. Betty Heddy grabbed one of her heeled house shoes with horror and dismay and struck at the flower, damaging one of its eyes. The eyeball oozed a poisonous-looking liquid that steamed in contact with the air. Betty shrieked as the other eyes beat at her relentlessly like clubs, forcing her to cower and submit. Then she felt something inside the stigma of the human-eating plant push her legs apart. What happened next, a good God-fearing Christian woman like Elizabeth Anne Heddy couldn’t fathom, but it was ever so unfortunate for her that it didn’t end in the death she had been fearing. It was much, much worse.

A shuffling sound from nearby perked up the senses of the people-eating plant, and it lifted its head along with the bloated body it had been mangling and mouthing. It dropped the female human’s swollen form to the ground from a height of six feet, and upon impact, most of the body broke apart. The woman’s upper half was left intact, an unfortunate affair for her because death would have been preferable to the agony of being a living incubator for the plant’s offspring. The lower half of the woman’s body broke open with a wet splatting sound, revealing squirming little green sprouts that struggled to get to their tiny root feet. As their human mother groaned in delirious unconsciousness, their plant mother emitted a warning wailing sound, similar to the trill of an ambulance or air raid siren, then turned its fully seven-foot height towards what was approaching.

Wilma and Bart Cressman were stumbling into the Heddy farm. They’d already made it most of the way down the long dirt drive without being noticed by the other new and much smaller alien plants growing in the once-dead fields nearby. Now that the most successful breeder plant among them had warned them with its trilling blare, the rest of the greenery in the fields began to grow in earnest, thrashing around and struggling to pull up roots from the ground and move towards the newcomers.

Wilma and Bart were not in a good way. They lay somewhere back in their house, littering the foyer floor where the two had first made contact. Bart’s chest had burst open, the strange invisible dust that he had inhaled having weakened first the tissues of his lungs, then the very meat of his torso and the bones of his ribcage. He had lost more than a few ribs altogether during his cannibalistic struggles with his once-living and ever passionate wife. Wilma herself was much worse off, with half of her face being completely torn by one of Bart’s huge clawed hands. She thought he was coming in to kiss her, coming in for round three perhaps, or had just decided not to head to the south field. She had been wrong – dead wrong. And now she was just dead, moving like the zombie she was towards a source of noise, commotion, and food.

That noise was her neighbor Betty, who considered Wilma her hero, at least in life. Betty had always respected the other woman, despite poking and prodding at Wilma’s independence constantly and questioning how Bart could ever be happy with a wife such as her. In reality, Betty had wanted to be just like Wilma. But now, as the zombified female moved closer and closer, there could be no two people more dissimilar than the two neighbor women. Wilma was death and decay and the finite epitome of entropy, walking onwards despite dropping heavy chunks of flesh, her clothing being torn and slowly turning to ragged shreds from the poisonous and invisible organic-devouring dust cloud. One of her eyes was falling slowly down her face, the optic nerve and stem of the eyeball tightly trying to hold on to the socket while the milky orb itself drooped lower and lower down Wilma’s torn cheek. Several of her fingernails had been torn or had fallen off, and her hands looked like those of a person decades older than she, who was suffering from crippling arthritis. They were curled inwards towards her palms even as she lifted her arms and reached for the wriggling Mrs. Heddy. Wilma was a zombie, her sightless gaze looking towards the moving mass on the ground with benign but hungry intent.

On the other hand, Betty was the epitome of life now that the plant had released her completely. It had finished its nefarious mission of impregnating her with its full pistil and ovary. The human on the ground twitched and moaned mindlessly as her lower half erupted again and again. Each wet and squishy explosion resulted in a new cascade of youngling alien plants, tiny squirming shoots that wriggled into the Earth and struggled to stand upright like their parent plant. Soon there was nothing left of Betty up to her hips; her womanly innards had become preserved in a clear jelly even as the skin around her pelvic cage came apart and fell away like wet tissue paper. The ball-shaped mass around her womb jiggled and writhed as new life continued to take hold within her uterus’s necessary and nutritious lining. In real life, Betty Heddy had never successfully conceived, not once in her years as a wife. Now she was the mother to an entire family of green alien sprouts. But like many human children, her offspring neglected and ignored her existence. Where they found dirt to dig into, their little rooting tendrils curled downwards while their trumpet-shaped purple heads lifted to their plant mother, watching its elongated trunk-like face as it growled and menaced the zombies coming into the yard.

Wilma and Bart paid the plants no mind. Even as seeking tentacles of swampy green or bright emerald tried to lace and latch on around their exposed ankle bones, the two zombies continued their plodding path towards the moaning mass of meat that was Betty Heddy. Bart reached the human plant-breeder first and fell to his knees next to Betty’s body, in better shape than his wife. His neighbor’s eyes were wide, either in fear or pain, her mouth slack and soundless despite the pink flush of life in her cheeks. She rolled her eyes from Bart to Wilma and back again, and it would have been a struggle to say she was ‘all there. She had been turned into an unwilling hatchery. Who could tell what the slime and poison from the mother plant had done to her intelligence and mind? Betty could not make any vocalizations now, utterly incapable of warding off her would-be attackers as her limbs lay immobile at her sides. She was defenseless.

When Wilma dropped next to her husband and reached for the wriggling woman’s body, several little screech noises came from the ground beneath her and Bart. The two zombies had unwittingly crushed handfuls of sprouts beneath the sharp protruding bones of their knees when they made an impact with the Earth. Careless of the mass infanticide they had wrought, they focused on Betty, their hungry but unseeing eyes moving up and down the woman’s remaining torso and limbs. Bart reached for the closest arm and held it up to his mouth. His crooked and ragged teeth, decayed by the dust like those of a crackhead or pipe smoker, still managed to sink into the plush flesh of Betty Heddy’s arm. Fresh blood squirted out at first, then began to ooze down the rotting mouth of the zombie as he bit and chewed the arm right down to the bone. Wilma lowered her head to Betty’s shoulder, biting hard as she could with only half a face and little of her bottom jaw. She somehow managed to dig her jagged teeth into the woman’s protective shoulder bursa, using her fingers to claw into the gaping wound and separate the rotator cuff from the scapula joint. Her digging fingers tore the tendons they found, and then with both hands, Wilma snapped the humerus bone itself in half effortlessly. Bart fell to his bony butt with the release of pressure and sat there holding Betty’s severed arm to his face, chomping away like a man who had been starved of food for weeks eating a cob of corn. Wilma was drooling over the gush of blood breaking Betty’s shoulder had revealed, letting the crimson vitae spew all over her broken face. She twisted her head side to side like a rabid wolf or fox, tearing further and deeper into her neighbor’s body with every twist.

The plant mother was horrified at the sound of the screeching sprouts. It raised one leafy limb and tried to swat at first Bart, then Wilma. Neither zombie paid the plant’s pointless jabs any mind, focused solely on devouring every bit of red meat and pink tissue of Betty that they could. But then a true hero appeared on the scene, a brand-new protagonist who had so recently been born and only now grown enough to free itself from the nearby field and make its way over. It was much taller than the plant mother, standing at least twelve feet high. At the very top of the alien life, the form was a massive bloom that could only be compared to a sunflower, with brilliant yellow petals that ended in dangerously sharp points and a dark core of bristling spikes where earthly sunflowers would have held seeds. It rushed up to the horrific scene and pushed the first plant out of its way. Then it began to spit.

The new flower, the sunflower, spat out its weaponized seeds from the middle of its enormous blossom. The brown-black projectiles landed with moist thuds against the rotting flesh of each of the zombies, penetrating only slightly into the decaying matter before beginning to sprout. But these sprouts were not individual life forms such as those released from the lower half of Betty Heddy’s body. These were time-delay bombs of vines, and as their tendrils grew and elongated, they began to wrap around the zombies’ bodies. The arm Bart had been munching on was mashed to his face as the strands enveloped him like thick ropey vines, tying up his ability to move. He was soon incapable of moving even one inch to either side, but still, his jaws tried to work up and down on the too-close arm flesh he was now forcibly holding to his face. Within a few seconds, the male zombie was so tightly wound up that he fell to his side in the dirt and couldn’t regain his balance or freedom.

Wilma’s face was buried in the torso of Betty Heddy, something the human would probably have appreciated if she had any intelligent thoughts left in her brain. Wilma’s clawing fingers had found the other human’s tender organs, her heart and lungs, and had begun to decimate them slice by slice. Betty’s usefulness as a host breeder for the aliens’ offspring passed with every inch of Wilma’s gnashing teeth getting closer to her heavily beating and overtaxed heart. Soon the zombie woman’s claws and mouth were upon the fist-sized organ, and it happily beat its last, ending Betty’s plight as a brooding vessel and releasing her into the arms of sweet and welcome death.

Though Wilma only had a single good eye, it was too coated with blood and too far into the human torso she was devouring to witness what was happening to Bart or herself. As the first seeds pelted her dress and flesh, she continued to push her head into Betty’s broken ribcage. When the seeds began to drape their rope prison around the zombie, they incidentally fused the two women. It was a closeness that in life Betty had always sought and that Wilma had always pointedly avoided. Now Wilma was the sister Betty had never had and always wanted, and Betty was the parasitic neighbor and co-dependent that Wilma had always envisioned her to be. The two were wrapped up together in dark coils that squeezed tighter and tighter each moment, forcing them to become one.

“What in all the hells?” came a man’s angry voice from around the corner of the farmhouse.

It was Bill Heddy. He held his granddaddy’s shotgun at his shoulder, loaded and ready. With his first shot, he blew the head off first the purple mother plant, then off a few nearby aliens struggling to join their leaders in the fray. Then Bill aimed for the giant sunflower, seeing it as nothing more than a target with its yellow and black coloring. It took two shots to destroy the head of the alien, and he had to dodge to avoid the scattering of seeds that came at him like tiny missiles, promising a tendril-laced death if they could but make contact.

“Betty?!?” Bill said with a gasp as he ran over to where his wife’s body was. She was part of a distorted mass now, definitely dead though, he could tell. But why was Wilma’s head shoved into his wife’s shoulder and chest at such strange angles? And why was there an arm against Bart’s face?

“Z…zombies?” he finally realized, reloading his gun as he gaped at the writhing tentacle-covered masses of his neighbors and spouse. “Y’all are zombies? What in all the nine hells is going on??”

Bill Heddy blew a hole in the Betty-Wilma shape and then in Bart Cressman’s head. Bits of zombie flesh flew everywhere around him. On the ground around the destroyed bodies were tiny little green sprouts, and these Bill stomped to death with his heavy farmer work boots. He looked up with a dazed gaze to the once-dead fields around his driveway, mouth opening and closing like that of a fish as he surveyed the damage.

How far had it all spread, part of him wondered. How far into town did this disaster go, or was it just the Cressman and Heddy homesteads affected? Bill was suddenly feeling much less guilty about having spent the night in the arms of Julie Tabers back in town. He’d been sleeping with the widowed woman for a year now, telling Betty he had always been late due to not wanting to drive drunk. He could have been home when this tragedy started if he hadn’t given in yet again to the wanton woman’s lustful ways. And he wouldn’t be the hero he now most assuredly was.

Bill Heddy tossed his shotgun onto his shoulder and shook his head. The sun was rising higher, and the morning was passing into noon. Lunchtime, and he still hadn’t been fed. Looking down at the obliterated corpse of his wife, he knew he wouldn’t be eating any time soon. He rubbed a hand across the scruff of his beard and wondered if he ought to head back into town, ought to try and see if there were more of these strange otherworldly monsters to destroy, or if he ought just to head inside and have a nap. He hadn’t slept all night, after all, not really.

With a sly grin and a yawn, foolish Bill Heddy turned and strode into his domicile, leaving the bodies of the zombies and the alien plant life to the bugs and flies. When he was out of sight, and ‘safely’ behind his front door, the bodies he had abandoned wriggled slightly, especially the combination corpse of Betty-Wilma. Despite the tendrils that held them together, somehow, the corpse managed to find its feet. Of course, they were Wilma’s feet, and they were still quite strong. Half of Betty’s body hanging from where Wilma’s head should have been, the corpse stood. Betty’s only arm dangled limply like an elephant trunk at the front of the strange and twisted abomination, then swung as the corpse turned itself around.

There was a commotion beyond the yard, out in the fields. There were sprouts still out there, determinedly digging into the soil simultaneously as they stretched green leaves up to the warm sun above. They thrived on photosynthesis, and they had been stalled in their growth only momentarily by the gunshots and stomping feet of Bill Heddy. They grew faster and faster, pulling their roots from the ground and ambling towards each other, communicating with shrill, trilling sounds. And as the Betty-Wilma corpse made its way to the road and then along its paved surface towards the nearby town, the alien plants procreated as plants do, with little care and discretion; soon, the Heddy fields that had been dead for years were full of writhing green masses of plants. Many stayed rooted and attempted to complete full growth and reproduction cycles within a matter of minutes if they could but survived the depleting nutrients in the fields. Many journeyed to the road, scenting the smell of decaying zombie on the wind and following it.

And while all of this took place, Bill Heddy threw himself down on his big empty bed and fell into a deep and dreamless slumber, unaware that life for him and all of humanity had inevitably changed for the worse.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
Please wait...

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by K.P. Whitlomb
Edited by N.M. Brown
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

πŸ”” More stories from author: K.P. Whitlomb

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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