The Light

📅 Published on March 1, 2022

“The Light”

Written by Bradford W. Lenmar
Edited by Craig Groshek
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


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Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand!  yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.
— Shakespeare, Macbeth

When I promised my, shall I say, partners (who will remain anonymous as long as they remain unfound), to help dispose of the body, I had barely imagined that I should really have to do it.  We had planned the murder for some time—the idea had originated with me, I must confess—but, after all, I had come to suppose that an opportune moment would never arrive. They were (and are, if still alive) experienced killers, which is why it was arranged that they should carry it out without my direct assistance, but our target was always too careful, too much on his guard, even when alone at night in his empty house.

This being so, I was surprised to the point of confusion when one of my partners called me that night.  I did not entirely believe him at first: I thought it as likely as not that they had changed their minds, reported our plot to the authorities, and set a trap for me.  But he convinced me that there was no treachery—“Just dress in black and don’t let anyone see you, not even us until you’re sure we’re alone,” he reiterated to me.  And shortly, I was on my way to the arranged meeting place, in front of the cemetery in which we had decided to bury the victim.  It had never been stated that the shovel I brought with me would be necessary, and indeed I brought it partly as a weapon in case they had betrayed me and I faced an ambush.  We were to rendezvous somewhere along the fence enclosing the cemetery, which one of my associates had rather brilliantly fixed on as the most inconspicuous place to hide the body.  I drove about three-quarters of the way before abandoning my car, as the newspapers have indicated, at the defunct gas station on Route 216.  The aptitude of my accomplices as murderers was shown once again in their choosing the night of the new moon to strike: I might as well have been submerged in a vat of tar, for all I could see without my car’s headlights.  Of course, this also made it more difficult for me to find the graveyard.  But, in this instance, being slow yet hidden was immeasurably preferable to being quick and discovered.  Besides, although I had supposed the time would never come, I had fairly well memorized the route, knowing that I should have to traverse it nearly blind.

I hiked up the hood of my coal-black sweatshirt and sneaked to the back of the run-down convenience store attached to the gas station.  Thence, I had about half a mile to travel through sparsely-wooded wilderness and heavily littered vacant lots.  For most of the trip, despite my aloneness and invisibility, I found myself stooping somewhat as I glided stealthily along.  I cannot say why I adopted this almost bestial posture, which did nothing really to make me harder to see or cause me to make less noise.  If any reason could be discerned, it was that I crouched to the ground under the beginnings of guilt for my unhallowed actions.  I had been touched by no conscious sensations of remorse all this time, if only because my surprise at having to do this at all had left me half-delirious; I thought only of what lay immediately ahead, without a moment of introspection or moral reflection.  Still, God knows what underlay my deliberate ethical apathy.

I arrived at the edge of the cemetery in about twenty minutes and tried to peer through the darkness in search of my accomplices.  The arrangement was that I should creep along the base of the iron fence until I found them at some unspecified point, where they would be waiting.  I proceeded according to plan, crouching as low as I could without going down on my knees and advancing cautiously.  I am not superstitious and find nothing particularly frightening about a cemetery at night, but the thought of getting caught, exposed as I was, naturally unnerved me, so that I halted, blood frozen, at every noise, however faint.  Fortunately, my associates were not far off, as I discovered when I came within an inch of colliding with one of them (hereafter “Jack Smith”), checked only by his raspy whisper: “Watch where you’re going; what’d have happened if I’d been a cop?  You need to be more careful, or you’ll wreck the whole job.”

My eyes had adjusted well enough to the darkness to discern, very vaguely, two human figures, crouching like myself—Smith and the other assassin (let me call him John Doe).  There was a large mass at their feet, Doe practically sitting on it, pressed against the fence to make it as inconspicuous as possible.  I did not have to ask whether it was the body.

“What’s that you have with you?” Doe grunted at me.

“It’s a shovel,” I said, lifting it slightly from my shoulder to show them better.

“Who the hell said anything about a shovel?” growled Doe.  “It’ll just weigh you down.”

“And it’ll have your fingerprints on it, most likely, if we get jumped and have to run away quickly,” added Smith.

“S-sorry,” I whispered back tremulously.  “I assumed since you said we were going to dispose of—it—here, we would need to bury it.  What should I—”

“Just hold on to it,” said Smith.  “It probably won’t matter.”

“So what are we going to do with him,” I asked, “if we don’t need the shovel?  Are we going to put him somewhere in the graveyard?”

“In an above-ground tomb,” replied Smith.  “There won’t be any freshly-dug earth that way—less to arouse suspicion.”

“Course, us sitting around here talking like this is going to ‘arouse suspicion’ enough if we don’t move,” grumbled Doe.

“Right,” assented Smith.  “Now that you’re here,” he said to me, “we need to act quickly.”

“How are we getting in?” I asked.

“There’s a hole in the fence right here,” said Smith, as Doe slid to expose a section where several bars had been bent or broken, leaving an aperture large enough for each of us to enter.

Doe was the first to pass through it, an operation which he performed with the ease and stealth of a rat.  Smith then carefully lifted the corpse, which was stuffed in a burlap sack, by what must have been the shoulders, and slipped its head and torso through the gap to Doe.  Doe continued to pull our victim along while Smith held the rest level and fed it through.  Once the body was wholly on the other side of the fence, Smith himself went through, with a motion that made me think of a snake.  I followed, sliding my shovel in before me, and we all, at last, felt free to stand up.  Smith and Doe lifted the sack containing the corpse between them after briefly surveying our surroundings for interlopers.  They carried their load quickly but, as ever, cautiously, toward the heart of the cemetery, and we all kept a vigilant eye out for any aberrant shadow which might forebode a human presence.

“Where’s the tomb you were talking about?” I whispered to Smith, by whom I stuck, generally finding him more pleasant company than Doe—a good conversationalist, at least, in contrast to our savagely inarticulate friend.

“Just over there,” replied Smith, with an inclination of the head in the direction of a large shadow which protruded above the endless rows of headstones—a shed of some sort, I thought initially, but surmounted by a shape which I could distinguish as a cross.  We had nearly attained it when suddenly Doe, who was walking almost sideways, halted and stiffened.  Though I could barely see him, I could tell that his gaze was directed, like a bloodhound that picked up a scent, past Smith and me.  Instinctively and without a word, Smith and I each shot a look in the same direction, but there was nothing in the dark shadows of the night except the dim outlines of gravestones and monuments and the fence containing them.

“What’s wrong?” Smith ventured to whisper after a moment of stillness.

I think Doe shook his head.  “Don’t know,” he said.  “Thought I saw something—like a lantern or something.  Seeing things—paranoid.” He tugged at his end of the body, prompting Smith with a low grunt, and we went onward as before, though I at least was more apprehensive of anomalies in the blackness which enveloped us.

I was indeed so intent on scanning the scene behind us that I nearly walked into Smith when he and Doe stopped in front of the tomb, which I had not realized we had reached.  It was, as I had perceived earlier, rather like a medium-sized shed, constructed of granite, with the winged figures of two stone angels stationed at either side of its doorless entryway—a rectangle of absolute darkness which even my eyes, adjusted to the night, could not penetrate.  My accomplices laid the body on the ground, and Doe crept silently through the tomb’s threshold, like a fox infiltrating a chicken-coop.  Smith whispered to me, “Leave the shovel out here; this is where we need a third.”

The silhouette of Doe’s bullish head shot out from the void into which it had plunged a moment before.  “Clear,” he said, and the head was once more lost in the oblivion of the miniature mausoleum’s interior.  Smith sprang for the shoulders of the body, and hauled it, with the soundless smoothness of a gliding ghost, the rest of the way to the brink of the abyss, then stopped, as if deciding abruptly that he should not rashly dive into its all-consuming blackness.

Of course, this was just my own interpretation of the action—based on nothing but the seeds of horror at my own doings which were beginning to sprout—and in a moment, Smith had made it clear with an urging gesture that he had only stopped in order to let me pass in before he dragged the corpse over the threshold.  Now it was I who hesitated: the chariness which a moment earlier I had ascribed to Smith really was starting to manifest itself in me.  A prompt “Hurry up” from Smith, however, impelled me forward into the angel-guarded void.  Almost before I had crossed the threshold, Smith had stepped in backward, pulling our victim after him and in the process shielding us from the minimum of light provided by the stars outside.  I felt as though he wished to forestall any attempts to escape out into the open air.

Suddenly the vault was filled with low light.  For an instant, I was frozen with panic—had we been ambushed?  But it was only, I saw, a tiny flashlight that Doe had taken out.  Though its rays constituted barely more than a faint glow, I was able to discern that occupying this small space were four granite sarcophagi, quite plain.  The tomb itself occupied my attention only for a moment, however, and before long, my eye had been caught by our victim, whom Smith had, unknown to me, dumped at my feet and begun to remove from the sack.  I found myself suppressing a gasp upon beholding the now-exposed face, half-hidden though it was in shadow, and indeed came within an inch of screaming.  It was too much, the sudden humanization which seeing the corpse’s face brought about; it was only then, I am left to suppose, that  I truly realized the enormity of what my comrades had done—of what I had demanded be done.  I am sure I would have run if Smith had not been standing in the way.

“What is it?” hissed Smith in reply to the noise I had let slip.  Doe, too, was glaring at me, dumbly inquiring, from the post he had assumed in the rear left corner, looming over the sarcophagus there.

“Nothing,” I muttered, with a shake of the head, rending my gaze from the body below. Doe’s flashlight suddenly shut off, and all was again lost in darkness.

“Everything’s all right; we can put ’im in this one,” whispered Doe, lest I should imagine that I had indeed slipped into nothingness.

The shadow of Smith vanished from the door-frame without a sound; his nearly-inaudible voice followed momentarily.  “All right, Doe and I will lift the lid directly off this one right here, and then we need you to hoist the body in.  Make sure it ends up under the one that’s already in there.  That means, take him out first—and get our guy out of his bag, too.”

I managed to mumble, “O.K.,” as I crouched and felt around for the corpse we had brought. My revolted hand lighting upon the burlap sack—and not, fortunately, on the ghastly bared face—I tugged at it.  I shuffled over to where I judged the feet to be, and rose as I completed the operation.  The soft rustling generated by this last exertion, the only sound to be heard apart from my own breathing, seemed to my strained nerves to fill the air like the detonation of a hand-grenade.  Even though I could see nothing, there was an element of profound disgust in the removal of the corpse’s covering.  I do not want to speculate about what made me feel this way; all I say is that, as with the baring of the face, I felt our victim’s humanity in a way which I had previously thought myself able to dismiss.  Perhaps, even, there was something emanating from the corpse itself, some subtle spiritual force; perhaps, unbeknownst to us all, it was silently crying for compassion, even now that no amount of compassion could help him.  Given the later events of that night, nothing would seem to me too strange to be true.

“Is it ready?” whispered Smith.

“I guess,” I whispered back.

“You ‘guess’?” rasped Smith.  “Is there something wrong?”

“No, no,” I said, “only, I’ve started—to think too much.  Almost having—second thoughts.”

“Too late for that,” growled Doe.  “Have second thoughts; slow down; get caught.  No turning back now.”

“I know,” I said.  “It’s just, I’ve—never killed anyone before.”

Doe rather indiscreetly allowed a snort to escape his chronically-flaring nostrils.  “A pussy, huh?” he scoffed.  “Well, get used to it.  Everything else kills; why shouldn’t you?  What makes you so much better than the rest of us?  It’s instinct, like a wolf or a lion.”

“Damn your animal instincts.  Where would you be without me to guide you?” Smith, offended by the reduction of his scheme to an instinctual outburst, could not abstain from rejoining.  “But, anyway, enough of—” He fell abruptly silent, and he and Doe seemed to silence their very breathing.  I froze, unsure what had provoked this behavior but sure that it could not bode us well.  Very cautiously, and holding my own breath as well, I pivoted my head in the direction of the entryway.  At first, I could not tell what had so struck my accomplices, but after a moment, I was able to discern a very slight irregularity in the blanket of night which enveloped the cemetery: a single point of light in the distance.  I could not tell what it was, whether a flashlight, or a headlight, or something else entirely—nor exactly how far away it was, whether in the graveyard or not.  I did not need to be told, however, that its presence might portend damning consequences for the three of us.  Indeed, as I began to think about it, I panicked outright.  It did not appear to be getting any closer, though it was certainly moving, albeit slowly—but was it possible that whoever was producing this light had been tipped off and knew to look for us?  Then it passed out of my line of sight, out of the rectangle of the threshold.

Smith’s voice, now a breath barely distinguishable from the breeze which blew outside, recalled me from my state of abject shock: “We’ve got to work quickly now—and silently.  Be ready to toss him in the instant we’ve lifted the lid.  Forget about putting him under the one already in there.”

Doing my best to make no sort of noise, I shuffled carefully to where I thought the sarcophagus must be and stooped to pick up the body.  Oh, the disgust I felt upon contact with the skin of its bare arm!  A cold creeping of my own skin nearly made me drop the corpse immediately.  Mind had to fight a pitched battle with body to prevent me from running off, screaming, then.  But I managed to confine the effusion of horror to a quiet shudder and to hoist my awful load to the level of its resting place, one arm under its armpits, the other under its knees.  The sounds of a puff of air from the ox-like nostrils of Doe, an irrepressible grunt of exertion from the unmuscular Smith, and friction between stone and stone told me that they had begun to lift one end of the lid.

Momentarily, Smith’s strained voice breathed, “In, now.”  But before I could move, there came a nerve-shattering crash of the lid colliding with the sarcophagus: Doe had let go, and Smith could not support the weight on his own.  Smith began to reprimand: “You imbecile, what—?”

“Look,” whispered Doe in a voice which barely constituted a sound.  I spun around.  There, again, was that strange light—no longer the minuscule point which it had been before, but a disk comparable to a full moon in size, and greater in luminosity.  I could still not judge the nature of its source, nor even whether it had come closer or simply expanded.  Strange to say, too, though it emanated a glowing halo which illuminated a moderately large space around it, the Light appeared to disclose nothing of a human presence or of anything which might be keeping it aloft.

“Get into a corner; don’t make a motion or a sound,” Smith commanded.  I did as he said and slid into a spot from which I could still keep an eye on the Light.  Its pattern of movement seemed to have changed, its course to have sped up and tightened, so that it went back and forth from side to side, like a man pacing, never remaining outside the rectangular window of my vision for more than a second.  Gradually, I became aware also that it was swelling, slowly, perhaps drawing nearer, and simultaneously beginning to be obscured by thickening fog.  And still, as the illuminated space inflated, there was—perhaps only because of the fog—not a shadow visible that might have betokened a living being, nothing but the endless ranks of grave-markers.  Was it some kind of illusion?  Had the three of us collectively gone mad?  As the Light increased in diameter, it grew eerier, even less earthly.  So I felt, at least, though at the time it was nothing more than an irrational conviction: an impression, perhaps, engendered by the odd effect of haze within, and total darkness without, the disc of inexplicable Light.

The rate of this disc’s growth seemed to increase with that of my heart’s pulsation; indeed, it must have been swelling faster, threatening soon to reach the tomb in which we had absconded ourselves for our unholy work, if unchecked.  It had desisted from its lateral motions; already it filled a third of our window of view, comprising an area greater than any flashlight I had ever seen.  Futilely I crouched down, cowering in my corner, trying to make myself as small and as near invisible as possible.

At last, I heard Smith’s voice whisper, panicking palpably, “We’ve got to do something about this: we may have to bury another.  Let’s hope there’s just one of them.” Accompanying this was the click of a handgun; Smith rose and crept to the portal for a better look outside.  He lingered there for a moment, then glided out the door.  I heard the faint rustling of the grass under his cautious feet; in a minute, I saw his outline—a black shadow in the shining intensity of the Light, rendered indistinct by mist—advancing slowly forward.  “Who’s there?” he called with slight trepidation.  Of course, there was no response.  He repeated his question, louder, answered again by silence.  Finally, he ran onward, lost almost immediately in the fog and blazing over-brightness of light.

I expected shortly to see the Light disappear and perhaps hear the report of the pistol, but after several minutes neither event had occurred: the only change was that the Light ceased entirely to move and expand.  Perhaps, I thought, it was just very far away, and Smith had not yet reached it.  At last, I heard something, faintly but unmistakably—a cry, a scream, in Smith’s voice: “Oh, God!  Help!  Help!” then silence.

“The hell is going on?” rasped Doe.  A rustle of clothing and scraping of boots on granite informed me that he had risen to his full height and stepped to the doorway.  He halted there to listen; not another sound disturbed the tranquility of night, save my own heavy breathing.  In less than two seconds, he had plunged recklessly out into the darkness, running like a rabid greyhound and shouting, “Jack?  Jack?” His shadow, too, quickly dissolved in fog and light: I heard no other sound from him.

I was certain by then that the Light had ceased to swell, but nevertheless, I remained frozen, curled up in my corner, where I hoped that damning Light could never find me, with no thought in my head of escape, only of staying hidden.  No noise more came to me for several minutes—perhaps five, perhaps ten, perhaps twenty—in fact, nothing stirred at all; nothing changed.

Then I discerned an irregularity in the field illuminated by the Light: a shadowy shape, rendered almost wholly amorphous by the thickening fog, yet which I interpreted as the outline of a staggering man, approaching at a moderate pace.  At the same time, the Light itself seemed to be gradually receding.  Seeing this, I impulsively relaxed my high-strung limbs—could it be Smith?  Or Doe?  The Light had not gone away, but it was also just possible that its presence was not as threatening as we had assumed, or else that threat had been neutralized, and that one of my companions was returning to explain what had happened or enlist my help.  I stood and stuck my head out into the open air, squinting, to afford a better look at the approaching figure.  Perhaps, I began to think as it drew nearer and I could distinguish it better in the hazy Light, I had been mistaken in supposing it to be human, for now it seemed almost canine, or even leonine, in form.  For a moment, I even became convinced that it must have been a dog, a very large dog, but the absurdity of the idea struck me even before the shadow came close enough for me see that it was indeed human.  That is, it was certainly human in shape, though its movement (scarcely bipedal, it leaned so far forward) seemed to belong to Order Carnivora.  Its build, moreover, was reminiscent of Doe’s, enough to make me step outside and call, “John?”

The silhouette stopped in its tracks for an instant, appeared to lift its head slightly, then continued on its course, much more rapidly than before.  As it picked up its pace, I could discern, emanating from its direction, a constant low growling, infrequently punctuated by louder snarls—both produced by a human throat.  Perplexed, I took a few more steps toward the approaching shadow, fully exposing myself to the open air of the night.  I became convinced then that the figure barreling forward directly at me, between two rows of gravestones, with the ferocity (and almost the posture) of an enraged bear, must be Doe—but this made me only more confused. His urgency, as I took it, was remarkable; the most I could conclude was that his strange stooping gait was the result of losing his balance in his haste, although even this seemed unsatisfactory.  The growling was downright inexplicable.  “John?” I called again, suddenly doubting that it was Doe after all, rather than an interferer of some sort.

Then he was upon me, faintly illuminated by the distant Light—hunched forward, knees bent, supporting himself nearly as much on his palms as on his soles, gnashing his teeth and roaring like a hungry tiger.  The mindless lunacy with which he galloped forward was graven in his snarling face, which displayed nothing but pure animal rage.  “John, what are you doing?” I cried, retreating to the façade of the tomb.  But his face manifested no sign of comprehension; I had done no more to slow him than a matador shouting at a charging bull.  There was no doubt that it (It…I can barely think of that thing as human) was dashing straight for me, nor that its intentions were senselessly brutal.  The beastliness of stride, the total unintelligence of face: without mutating in form—merely by a change of facial expression displaying the loss of reason—Doe had transformed into a gorilla-like monster.

I was yet frozen with terror, stammering useless protests when it came near enough to swing a heavy clenched paw at me.  Almost reflexively, I managed to duck and roll out of the way, leaving Doe’s fist to strike the granite wall.  Meanwhile, unable to keep my balance after propelling myself sideways, I felt my ribs collide with a wooden pole lying on the ground—my shovel.  I seized it, rose to my feet, spun to face the beast that had been John Doe, and braced myself for a renewed attack, both hands vise-gripping the shovel.

The monster had been momentarily stunned by its misplaced blow, but in another moment, it had turned on and lunged at me, with its whole body this time.  I swung the shovel at it, striking its face with all the force I could muster.  It was thrown sideways a few feet but collected itself in the space of a second, in spite of the blood which started pouring from its temple.  It appeared to crouch in preparation for another pounce.  It never did pounce again, however.  Instead, there was a tense moment in which it sat on its haunches, watching me, and I once more shakily lifted the shovel, but eventually the creature bared its yellow teeth—which had always looked uncannily like fangs—turned its scowling face from me, and ran off, snarling, into the night.

Then the Light disappeared.  No more receding: it simply and abruptly vanished, leaving me in a seeming infinity of darkness.  I would have seen no less than I did now if I had been in one of the graves surrounding me.  Somehow, however, I felt safer with it gone, or at least less anxious.  Slowly, the surge of adrenaline receding, I collapsed, panting, against the side of the tomb and slid unsteadily to the ground, clutching my shovel in case the beast should return.  It was only then that the horrific bizarreness of what had happened struck me, and I could not bear the idea of moving out into the open.  In the distance, I heard the continued growling and roaring of what had been Doe for some minutes more before they faded into a low murmuring and finally nothingness.  But even knowing that it had gone away, I could not pull myself up; the unearthly abominableness of it all had frozen my blood, petrified my muscles, locked my joints.  Then, too, there was the problem of the Light’s source: even if the Light itself were gone, could whoever or whatever had produced it not still be somewhere in the cemetery, seeking me?  Thinking of this, I could not move for the remainder of the night.

The rest is, of course, already generally known, so I will not dwell on it.  I remained there, hunched against the side of the tomb until morning—seeing and hearing no sign of Doe, Smith, or the Light—unmolested but utterly out of my senses.  It was the rising of the sun, I think, that broke my stupor: at first with a renewed surge of panic nigh overpowering my pounding heart as I thought that the Light had at last returned for me, but then with a wave of reassurance as I recognized dawn for what it was.  Gradually I found myself able to stand on my feet and became aware of the peaceful stillness and waxing brightness of the new day.  Unfortunately, by then, it was too late not to be seen by an early-rising caretaker who had just arrived—and being found in a graveyard in the early morning, a shovel in your hands, not thirty feet away from a freshly murdered corpse is not easy to explain away.  Trying to escape would have done no good, so I let myself get caught without a fight.

That is all I can really say about what happened.  I do not know what became of the men I have been calling Smith and Doe.  I staunchly refuse still to divulge their real names—or rather, the names by which I knew them, for I am not even sure that those were not also aliases.  I knew neither very well: they were always too secretive around me for that.  They could have been anyone.  Their fates are, in any case, a mystery as much to me as to anyone else.  I am inclined to think that no man will ever know, since no man was involved.  Call me insane, if you like—maybe I am, though that still fails to explain what happened to them—but I cannot convince myself that the Light was of any natural origin.  It could have been no ordinary flashlight or searchlight, and I have told what strange occurrences accompanied its appearance.  The rashness of my accomplices showed that something about it had unnerved them beyond all reason.  Perhaps, you will say—I have considered it—it was a roving vigilante my accomplices encountered.  But I have never heard of a vigilante who, in two minutes, drove his victims insane and let them go—and what of Smith, whom I never saw again at all?  None of this means that I claim to know what happened to them, only that I believe nothing natural can account for it.

For myself, I still have nightmares about that Light.  It seems strange—are nightmares, after all, not supposed to be realms of darkness?  Yet we find comfort in light, only when we have never had our very hearts enveloped by such overpowering brightness…brightness which illuminates every stain, fault, and blemish in the enveloped heart, making us yearn for a concealing darkness in which impurity can hide.  Perhaps this is what reduced Doe to the creature I have described.  I can only imagine what happened to Smith, whose violently dissipating shadow was the last trace I ever saw of him.

Rating: 8.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Bradford W. Lenmar
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Bradford W. Lenmar

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Author's Notes: N/A

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