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Excerpt for The Silverskin (Seven & Eva In French's Forest) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



THE SILVERSKIN


(Seven & Eva In French's Forest)


10th Anniversary Edition

(Expanded & Revised)


Rian Torr

silverskin.ca


“The true man wants two things:

danger and play.

For that reason he wants woman,

as the most dangerous plaything.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche


“The lady, with guile in heart,

Came early where he lay;

She was at him with all her art,

To turn his mind her way.”

- Sir Gawain

And The Green Knight,

Anonymous


“Doubt thou the stars are fire,

Doubt the sun doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar

but never doubt thy love.”

- Hamlet, Shakespeare


“Put your hand on a hot stove

for a minute and it feels

like an hour.

Sit with a pretty girl for an hour

and it seems like a minute.

That is relativity”

- Albert Einstein


De Ordine Et Fabula

(The Order Of Play)


I.

The Snake & The Silverskin

i. To French's Forest For Love

ii. Rifts Torn In The Ether

iii. Into Her Mercurial Embrace

iv. The Carnage At Her Heels

v. Fall Down On The Frozen Path

vi. Hurtling Toward Bane House

vii. Fangs From The Shadows


II.

The Undead Lust Without End

viii. She’s Really Out There

ix. When Death Blows In

x. Sheds Her Skin For Me

xi. The Spiders That Spare Us

xii. Sate His Veins At Her Font

xiii. When She’s Done With Me

xiv. Gut Instinct Just To Be Hers


III.

May Your Dogs Always Roam

xv. Race For The River Payne

xvi. Been Burned By Her Before

xvii. Walking Tall Toward The Shore

xviii. She Would Watch Them Perish

xix. Torches Guided Them Home

xx. Under Stars After Hours

xxi. Pall Over The World

IV.

Lingering Amour For The Trees

xxii. Safe Under His Fox Skin

xxiii. Love Made Them A Magnet

xxiv. Lights Danced In Darkling Eyes

xxv. Crown Of The Black Fall Boughs

xxvi. Up In Supreme Consciousness

xxvii. Liberated From The Wood

xxviii. Before Stars Of A Higher Rarity


V.

Under Silver Shallows

xxix. Intangible In His Arms

xxx. She Cast An Icy Shadow

xxxi. Tears Are Not Good Enough

xxxii. No Slivered Shadow Allowed In

xxxiii. Hell Of An Hour For This

xxxiv. Wood Energies Were Surging

xxxv. To Jump In After Her


VI.

Never Stray From The Ruddy Stroll

xxxvi. Bringing Brother Back

xxxvii. Stone From The Gallows

xxxviii. Under The Blood Blizzard

xxxix. Ravenous For A Fleshfast

xxxx. French’s Forest, Form For Me

xxxxi. Intent On A Quick Exodus

xxxxii. No Good Neuron Brings It Back



VII.

Last Chance On Earth To Be In Love

xxxxiii. Horned Huntress From The Brush

xxxxiv. To The Watershed At Witchling Isle

xxxxv. Ghosts Of The New London Ripjoys

xxxxvi. Old Blacktree Lorded Over Them

xxxxvii. Once Commanded In Dreams

xxxxviii. French's Forest Is Never Left Behind

xxxxix. Escape By Raven's Way & Highway 9


I

The Snake &

The Silverskin

i. To French's Forest For Love


“Eva ...” Seven said softly, nudging his new love nervously—wishing she would wake. She had been slipping in and out for an hour now―curled up against him.

He brushed some stray red tresses back from her slumber-some face―exposing her neck, which he now gently kissed—hoping to gently rouse her.

He did not want to disturb her, but he could not resist it. He gently bit her. She moaned under the shallows of sleep—smacking her black lips, nostrils flaring.

It always made him edgy whenever she nodded off, for he knew how Faye would start cutting in at the shadows.

Even in the most serene hours that Eva ever slept―he had watched for his ex Faye to make Her next entrance—and so his life had slowly become unlivable.

Being so constantly at attention—forever unsure when She would come again—he had already spent too many a quiet sleepless morning in solemn prayer.

Likewise, watching over Eva in deep meditation, every dark and stormy night—he would hope against all odds, that Faye would never again return into his life.

This was his last chance at love.

He had eventually theorized that the reason Faye mainly materialized while Eva was undone from wakefulness, was because it was at those times that his subconscious was more easily swayed over Her way—allowing Her to thus more accurately sense his presence, wherever he was at―even as far beyond the reaches of French's Forest as New London.

‘Come back to Me, Seven,' She would beckon to him. ‘Come back to the woods where you've always belonged. Look inside the dark recesses of your heart—and you will find I have always been waiting there, still caged by these crooked trees that you once called home.’

Plus, to make matters worse, Eva often suffered from fainting spells—due to an old childhood concussion—during which times Faye's appearances increased.

Eva even knew when a spell was coming on, for her mind would cloud over in what she called her ‘black thoughts'―and nothing blocked them.

Her eyes would roll back—leaving him scrambling for her smelling salts—looking over his shoulders in every direction for Faye to suddenly materialize.

So far Eva had always recovered from every episodes with a braver determination―but there ever remained this underlying tension between them―forever braced for anything, in anticipation of pending future occurences.


Everything had really started getting worse once they began living together.

Due to different work schedules, Eva had taken to falling asleep before Seven.

For a few months everything was uneventful—but then one dreadful midnight, to his heart-sinking horror he heard a small scratching at the window.

He snuck across the room to peek outside—but there was nothing there.

Cranking the pane open, he leaned out to take in the cool damp night air.

There was a stillness about the city that soon left him most darkly disquieted.

A train whistled in the distance like woodwinds heralding a calm before dawn.

Crawling back under covers―he lay awake listening to the random urban soundscape—and just like he did every night, he thanked his lucky stars that French's Forest was many miles away.

He slowly closed his eyes―and his mind's eye rolled over the city's towered skyline―observing the myriad denizens of the streets far down below beneath him.

No matter how dangerous the alleys of New London ever were, the woods of his youth were what truly always haunted his days, what reminded him of real fear.

Everyday thugs and thieves left him most immensely reassured in contrast to the memory of the terror that was Faye.

Growing up in French's Forest had steeled him for the big city streets in ways only he would ever now truly understand.

The haunting sounds of an eerie breeze―and the traumatic memories of ghoulish, supernatural encounters—were enough to numb him to the worst kind of scum New London could ever conjure up.

The truth was in contrast to French's Forest this town seemed so very tame.


Now just then he began to sense a growing malevolence at the gates to his mind—which worried him to no good end.

He tried to shut out the feelings by closing his eye-lids―but there came to him an awareness of a third presence in the room. After he could deny it no longer, he opened his eyes once more―and gasped to see Faye's silver body slithering upside-down across the ceiling toward him—hissing as She did—insidiously menacing in Her deliberate approach, silently stalking Her prey.

Her long black hair hung down hiding Her horns—exposing Her wickedly pointed ears. Her green eyes glowered and glowed down at him. Her silver skin sometimes seemed silken as tissue—sometimes molten as lava. She took on many forms—but always cast a formidable terror into any who looked upon Her.

He tried to scream for help, but nothing sounded—and Eva remained fast asleep, apparently deeply undisturbed.

He tried to move, but he found himself paralyzed—and Faye hovered down on to him now—with a dark, mischievous intent emblazoned upon Her face in a malevolent expression of rage.

As She descended—he could not protest—and She took his carnal body that night, for hours on end, grinning evilly throughout—with Eva curled up quietly next to him, wholly clueless to the dark trespass and ongoing transgression.


From that day forward he felt hollow in spirit, in the hellish after-thoughts that he had irreversibly spoiled his love with Eva by letting Faye get through his guard, to have him Her way against his wishes.

He had been used and toyed with like an animal to Her cunning eyes and seductress smile. His will was suspended for just one night, long enough to ruin the rest of his life, long enough to lose it all.

But he knew it would serve nothing to tell Eva now, for that would be a selfish act, just to make himself feel better, when it was Faye who was to blame not Eva. Evan did not deserve to be punished for Faye's fallen ways. He would be brave.


Now at least, he hoped that by bringing Eva back to the Forest, he could redeem himself, by proving his feelings for her—and finding some inner peace again.

He would introduce her to his family—and if nothing else—for once and for all—Faye would know who he truly cherished—and with whom he was truly finished.

Faye would grow terribly jealous, he knew in his heart, and possibly try to intervene—but he had no choice, he had to show Eva how he truly genuinely felt.


ii. Rifts Torn In The Ether


Even when Eva was only half-asleep―or lightly off adrift in a daydream—Faye would somehow find Her way into their dimension, through rifts torn in the ether. She would easily sneak Her way in.

Eventually, out of desperation to get away from the Silverskin―Seven convinced Eva to move with him all the way out to Old York—which was even further from French's Forest than New London—and possibly altogether free of that old weald’s supernatural influence.

In so doing then, he hoped to finally stem off every last trace of the Silverskin in his life—and finally be free of Her wrath.

He remembered how dreadfully bloodless Eva's face had drawn upon hearing the words 'French's Forest' for the first time―as if she had been there before.

But she had shortly recovered herself and made it understood that she would support him wherever he needed her to go—whether it be there―or all the way out to Old York—or to the other side of the world―if that was where she had to go—in order that she may be with him.

So then, after re-settling in a new city, his visions of Faye did dissipate—and life started returning to shine and roses after all―without having Her meddling in the mix—ever trying to take him back.

He and Eva began finding happiness again—and things started improving beyond words could express—in a dream.


But now today, they were once more back in New London—en route home to French's Forest—and every time they came through this town―Faye made Her omnipresence most absolutely clear.

He remembered the last time that he had seen Her here, several months ago, on a shopping trip of all occasions.

They were in Main Square—and Eva was trying on a random black wig just for fun—when Seven accidentally called her 'Faye'—and she now suddenly fainted.

After racing her to Emergency, he remembered pacing about the hospital wing, impatiently waiting on nurses—when he was suddenly overtaken by nausea.

Retiring to the restroom, he splashed cold water on his face—when thoughts of Her began creeping back in.

Glancing in the mirror then―he saw the Silverskin crawling down the wall behind him―with Her yellow-black anaconda Draca coiling about Her sinewy silver body as she stalked her prey.

Two black horns stabbed out from under locks that danced upon Her head like so many sick snakes of death.

Electricity licked over Her killer curves in electric gaits—and when Her green eyes met his—he felt a flash of energy zap through his mind—as if reading his thoughts, stealing his mind.

Then Her eyes began darting side-to-side―catching him up in a dizzying ocular lock of a mystical bent—and he was soon paralyzed by Her mesmerizing gaze.

She then pointed one deadly long oil drop nail at him—as Her forked black tongue ran hungrily over jagged incisors.

‘Lucky ... Lucky ...’ She quietly began to sing in a blackly slickened lisp.

Draca uncoiled from Her waist, stretching out toward Seven—with equally hungry eyes as Faye, tensing up to strike.

Seven spun about―crying out―throwing his arms wide―but the snake and the Silverskin were gone.

His heart broke off from its rapid pounding. Sweat beaded upon his brow.

He looked in the mirror―but it was empty. The phantom was gone for now.

Gradually, he managed to recover himself. He focused on calm and collect.

He finished washing his face—wiping away his fear with a paper towel—when turning to leave—he bumped directly into a stranger who was just then walking in.

Apologizing distractedly―he quickly retreated to the waiting room—where he was sure to not mention any of it to Eva.


“Am I going to make it?” Eva jested, as Seven sat so quietly at her bedside.

“Come on Mr. Gloomy, talk to me.”

“I'm just worried about you babe, these episodes seem to be getting worse.”

“Don't say that, you're always so pessismistic. I will be fine, don't worry.”

“I'm just trying to be realistic. Maybe there's some new experimental procedures we can inquire about trying.”

“Bite your tongue! You know better,” Eva hissed. “You know how deadly against pharmaceuticals I am.”

She had tried more than a dozen different prescriptions and procedures in the past, even including some extremely strong anti-psychotic medication and torturous eletro-shock therapy. None of it had any effect upon her Black Thoughts.

In fact she often argued that a lot of it had actually made the episodes worse, and that she was much better off when she was a young girl before the doctors had started meddling with her mind. They had turned her into a guinea pig of sorts.

But for many years now she had avoided all treatments and begun to find herself again, despite the continued black outs. She found her center again, with a clearer mind to face the challenges of her condition with more capable faculties.


So Eva recovered from her spell that day—and like every other time, the doctors found nothing wrong with her.

Nevertheless and henceforward, however, her black-outs intensified—and in turn―Seven's visions of Faye refueled.

Even back in Old York, the Silverskin somehow managed to weasel her way back into their lives once in awhile, persistently nagging at the peripheries.


iii. Into Her Mercurial Embrace


New London was sparkling with the Christmas Season that foggy evening, and as their cab navigated the streets, Seven continued to dwell upon Faye's stalking.

He recalled one morning, while showering―half-way through shaving, his eyes had caught Faye's silver figure shimmering into sight through the glass stall door—again hanging upside down from the ceiling, now glaring at him wickedly from behind the heavy steam.

His knife slipped, cutting his cheek.

Blood spattered all across the glass.

Then the door burst open in a gale force wind―blasting him back against the stall wall as easily as if he were a doll.

He crumpled down―sliding broken-limbed to the shower floor under the stinging water needles—blood running from his face down his body to the drain.

Faye dropped down and stepped into the stall, now ablaze in a crackling blue fire. Her frame pulsed with a heady evil.

She knelt by him singing:

‘Lucky ... ... Lucky … …!’

She seized him by the neck and lifted him aloft, burning him in her azure flames—while slowly choking the life from him. Her wicked maw cackled at his pain.

All he could do was struggle futilely—weak-willed and stunned from the sudden hard fright—as the flames burned his face—and the air was cut off from his lungs. His flailed his arms helplessly.

She pried the knife free from his hand―that he had been clutching in a near death-grip—and She held it up to his twitching eye—playing with it like a shiny new toy. The relish in Her eyes was raw.

‘Here—let Me ...’ She cackled—carefully carving ‘VII’ into his cheek—as he cried out, unable to stop Her assault.


He came to several hours later―still on the stall floor, soaked to the core―shivering near hypothermia, for the hot water had long since turned ice cold.

His face ached in fresh burns and cuts. His body felt beaten and bruised. He had been attacked to within a hair's breadth of his life and his head pounded.

Eva clung to his side in the ambulance en route to the hospital, clutching his hand—promising him she would not leave his side—nor sleep apart. She would be with him until the very end.

Four months forward, he had healed enough to feel fully half-human again—and the scars were finally beginning to fade―but he remained entirely certain that the psychic shock would not abate before he died. His determination waned.


Then six months after their shower encounter—just when he had finally begun to recover some calm of mind again—while doing laundry in their Angel Street apartment complex basement—Seven once more found himself suddenly not at all alone. Once more the Silverskin arose.

First, a low humming edged out of the darkness from under the stairs—and then he heard a quiet singing voice of sin: ‘Lucky …! Lucky …! Lu-u-u-u-cky …!'

When he looked closer, some slanted light caught his eye there—and stepping over, he spotted Faye hanging upside-down under the stairs—green eyes flaring like fireworks—writhing wildly in the pitch. She pitted her gaze against his.

‘Lucky ... Lucky … Lu-u-u-cky!’

He slowly began to back away.

‘Lucky ... Lucky … Lu-u-u-cky!!!’

The door at the top of the stairs slammed shut. Faye was in total control.

He dashed up and grabbed the handle, but it would not open at all.

He pounded the door, yelling for anybody up there to help him get out.

‘Lucky ... Lucky … Lu-u-u-cky!!!'

Misty silver water began to flood the basement floor—pouring in at the cracks—gradually rising up the stairs. Her powers had grown. She was making her move.

The humming grew into a piercing, heady throb―leaving him disoriented. He could barely keep his focus let alone yell.

Draca's silhouette snaked back and forth beneath the surface of the silver water. He was the evil extension of Her.

‘Lucky … Lucky … Lu-u-u-u-cky …!!!’

Despite a fog that had settled over his mind—and a heaviness that had sunk into his bones―he continued to weakly pound the door, until he finally heard something on the other side and saw the handle beginning to turn. He gasped.

“Thank God,” he cried, pushing through as it opened—directly into Her waiting arms. She was on the other side.

She folded him into Her mercurial embrace—gnashing her black fangs into his pale neck—blood spurting from the punctured veins. She feasted on his life.

He screamed—and for just a moment, he blacked out—racing down into the depths of his mind, searching for the courage to save himself once again.

A moment on—he returned to consciousness—and his unnatural adrenaline kicked into action—reigniting his instinct to survive this night at all costs. All that he had left was a will.

He tried pushing Her away, but She was still of the superior build—and Her hold grew stronger the longer he struggled, until She was ultimately crushing him with a merciless abandon—and a maniacal smile. She loved it all.

The last thing he remembered was seeing Her arms turn into two green-eyed silver snakes—that continued to squeeze him nearly enough to snap his spine, until he lost all breath completely—when She finally hurled his lifeless body down the hard metal stairs—laughing as She did.

He recovered several minutes later at the bottom of the steps, in a pool of blood and broken bones—and he laid there for another three hours before a janitor finally happened to come upon him and call up for help. He was a sight of horror.

When later asked what had happened to him—he said that he could not recall anything of the accident at all.

The doctors determined that he must have suddenly fainted and fallen down the stairs headfirst as if thrown.

“Now I know how you must feel in your spells,” he kidded Eva whenever she visited him in the hospital afterward—trying to make light of the terrible ordeal.

Eva never clued in that Seven might be covering something up. Her eyes just glossed over every time he talked—trusting every word he said intrinsically.

But he was beginning to feel that he could not go on lying to her—and that he must find a way to keep Faye at bay forever―so his own 'black-outs' did not mount up so much he never recovered.


iv. The Carnage At Her Heels


Still yet another day, on his normal route home from work, Seven spotted a bare-foot, black-haired woman, standing in the middle of Wunderland Road—dressed in just a simple long silver robe.

Horns of traffic blared—as some drivers slowed to pass—hurling curses―and hanging middle fingers out their windows at the troublesome woman.

At first he thought it was a suicide―so he ran over to help—but when he got as close as he could to the shoulder of the road—he saw Her eyes were glowing green. Their gazes met—Her robe suddenly melded into Her skin—and She reached out toward him, beckoning him.

She mouthed the words: 'Come back to me, Seven ...' and he could hear Her in his head, despite the traffic that divided them, over the horns and screeching tires.

'You belong with Me in French's Forest—far from this concrete jungle.’

“No,” he objected aloud—but part of him hung so fast now on Her every word.

Sometimes he wondered if in the Grand Order Of Things, he really did belong with Her, back in French's Forest―where he could return to his youth, wild and free—dangers be damned. Death be damned. Peace be damned.

It also seemed to him on some rare days, few and far between, that his love for Eva was just a sham—just an escape from the reality of his innermost desires for Faye. She was his one truth, in his dark self. She was all that he truly felt.

But those fears never lasted long―as he all too quickly recalled what life was really like with Faye in the picture—every time their paths crossed―as She pulled Her same old games, torturing his heart at every step. She was a poison.

Deep down he knew that, more than anywhere else, he was better off with Eva back in Old York. Eva was his sanctuary.

'Come … Seven … Come with Me ...’ Faye was his firepit; Eva his bliss.

The Silverskin simmered in lust at him, then streaked out in front of a bus.

The bus driver swerved cross-traffic―side-swiping a sedan hard―that in turn rammed into the back of a van―causing a pile-up of four dozen wheels strong, in a mountain of metal.

Fenders bent and hoods crumpled.

Steam burst valves and fires raged.

Faye walked out of the blaze unscathed, striding toward him—unflustered by the carnage at Her heels—or the Hell that She had so easily raised.

He panicked―scuttling back down from the shoulder of the road in a terror all too real―all too frighteningly familiar. His heart rang as he faced Her once more.

Yet when he looked back again, She was gone, just like the mist in the night.

He caught the next bus home—and keeping his eyes low down all the way―he banished his every last thought of Her.

Later on that day, he came to the epiphany that his new shift at work was now making him more susceptible to these crazy encounters. He had to get to sleep.

So, he ended up switching back to Eva's schedule, to see if Faye would once again fade from focus—and just like clock-work, She did. He grew excited.

She started appearing less often―and he began growing more hopeful once again for a future without Her persistent meddling in his affairs.

It was still a life spent on constant watch, however, ever nudging Eva back up, whenever she drifted off―always making sure their alarms were harmonized—so that their body clocks stayed in sync.

He would stay up to all hours, whenever Eva were unable to fall under—just so that they would eventually get to slip unconscious at the same time, set adrift together, to enter the abyss as one.

That way at least, gradually over some time, they would be more likely to fall into tune together, to nap in harmony.

No matter how hard, all of the effort was worth it to him, since staying in lock-step with Eva's bedtime habits did indeed seem to be helping him to avoid Faye.

Also, Eva made it easy on him―never asking why he insisted on sleeping when she did—for she was never the type to let little quirks bother her―or ever get in the way of her love for him.

Instead, in form with her usual unusual grace, she just shrugged off his obsession with her sleeping patterns as an endearing idiosyncrasy. He clung to her.

His neediness got so bad in fact, that he would shake her awake from even the lightest nap—yet still, she never let it stress her in the least. She felt loved.

All she ever wanted was for someone to love her back and Seven did.

“Everything is going to be okay, babe,” she would say―never even knowing what was worrying him such.

She would sit up in bed and cradle him—humming in his ear until he eventually passed out—then she would gently lay him down to bed—kissing him on the forehead. Her inner angel uplifted.

She felt that helping him drift off at night was the least she could do, since during the day he was the one who was always holding her close, during her black-outs. Her fears made her more heartfelt.


But despite their best efforts, after eight months of it going on this way, they were both starting to feel the strict regimen begin to strain their relationship.

“So how far is French's Forest?” she asked one day—feeling the need for a change of scenery. She nudged him a bit.

“Ninety minutes—why?” he replied.

“We should make the trip sometime. It would be nice to see where you come from I think … Don't you want me to go?”

“No—I told you, I cannot go back.”

“Aw―babe, we can make the effort once—can't we? Wouldn't you do it for me? I'm sure your family must really miss you by now—after all of this long time.”

“You don't get it ... They’re crazy.”

“Every family is crazy, babe ... We just get bent by the ones we love—you know. Be honest. Is it because of me?”

“No, not at all, babe. But you don't understand. You can't possibly get it.”

“Trust me―I do. I do ... Come on—I'm the one always complaining about my mother―right? You always take her side.”

“But, I'm talking about insane asylum material … Meaning the real deal.”

She giggled. “I feel exactly the same sometimes. It's perfectly natural.”

“Listen, my brother is very evil, but I love him … But he is not for the faint.”

She nodded. “My mom is nuts―but so am I. Families are meant to fight.”

“But there is something else ...”

“Oh? What is that to be exact?”

“Promise to keep an open mind?”

“Of course ...” she said, nodding shyly—swallowing audibly. “You know that I always do. Haven't I always said?”

“Do you know what albinism is?”

She nodded again—still quiet.

“Well—my blood, my kin, they are each and every one of them all albinos.

“I'm actually the only exception in our entire family tree. I'm a bit of misfit.

“For some reason I was born with normal pink skin, while they are all totally pale-skinned with these beady red eyes—each of them, to certain degrees, highly sensitive to sunlight. It's very strange.

“It's a mutation gone horribly wrong in our family gene pool and it's really bizarre. It's embarrassing and weird.”

She acted unruffled by his revelation—but he could tell some contemplation still yet lingered there in her furrows.

“I've never met … an albino before,” she began. She poked him in the chest.

He nodded. “I'm the anomaly because ... Olin is actually my half brother, you see. We come from different fathers. My real father was normal.”

He had his story all worked out.

“Wow … That must have been so hard for them growing up, never being able to enjoy sunshine—I would just die.”

“It's not all that bad for them, since they are mostly used to it. They never know what they are missing anyway. To them it's just normal, being nocturnal.”

“Well ... I will admit, that is not what I was expecting to hear at all—but it's a lot better than I was imagining. You made it sound like they were a gang of murderers—or maybe some kind of cult.”

“No, no ... Just reclusive albinos.”

They shared an awkward laugh.

“It's okay to talk about it with them, they don't bite … I mean—they aren't shy about telling their experience of it all ...”

After some silence, she asked:

“What if they covered up and down, could they still go out during the day, even just for a bite? What would happen if they did? Does light really hurt them a lot?”

“If they had to they could, but it would be uncomfortable—so they rarely bother. My brother can handle it better.”

“That's so sad. I feel so bad for them all. But I still want to meet them.”

“Let's talk about it another time. I just wanted to break the news before too long … Before it turned into a big lie.”

“Well, I want to see them soon ... Even if they were a clan of vampires, I'd still want to get to know your roots ...”

“Eva, I really, really don't think―”

“Seven, it's so important to me ...”

So his heart sank and he gave in.

If he denied Eva family visits, she might start to think that he was hiding something. She would stop trusting him.

But if he took her to French's Forest like she wanted, there was also the very good chance that she would find out that he was indeed hiding one very big thing.

So he made the plans and arranged everything with work and family, and as the day approached to embark on their little vacation, he felt the darkness set in.


v. Fall Down On The Frozen Path


The train started pulling in past more familiar factories now, as they penetrated the city outskirts―and he knew that they would soon be arriving.

“Eva ...” he said, nudging her again.

“Yes babe?” she murmured, half-dreaming. Even half-asleep she sparkled.

He felt better already, hearing her soft voice. His edginess began to wane.

“Welcome back to New London, kitten,” he said, admiring her feline features with a steady adoring gaze.

He brushed a bang back from her crisp blue eyes, zeroing in on her visage.

Her freckles were more pronounced today―and her jaw-line seemed especially fine in the train's slanted, slatted light.

From the first second they had ever met, he had swooned for her extremely sweet, sly and slinky ways―mesmerized by her whiny put-on sighs—and those innocent sudden smiles, that sent his hardest cares packing, into the cold pitch.

An eyelash dashed across one ivory cheek. She made him brimful of marvel. She seemed more than deserved.

The folding shadows of passing poles and lines complicated the planes of her otherwise plain face. Her smile widened.

She slipped the window shade up all the way―to see the wet city now sliding so slickly by—as they passed the old factories and barren fairgrounds—heading into the heart of New London at a fair clip.

It was the first thaw of a mild winter―on a late December day—and the skies were full of a trillion tiny crystal tears. Sobbing in synchronicity with the heartbeat of the universe—they pulsed through time—with their hearts in tune.

“Oh, I'm sooo excited,” she cooed dramatically. “It's just like I remember.”

“Are you sure you don't want to get a room in town tonight—before we head into French's Forest?” he asked hopeful.

He wanted to put off the family visit for as long as possible―for he knew full well that the moment they crossed that wooded threshold, they would be putting themselves at the mercy of Faye's hateful hands. The Silverskin drew so close now.

Deep down he knew, if Faye were jealous enough, She would not hesitate to set French's Forest ablaze in Her wrath.

“No, no—I want to stay at your parent's place tonight, like we planned ... I think it will be fun for us, don't you?

“I can't believe its been this long and I haven't even met your parents yet ...” she remarked in amazement—shaking her head—oblivious to the real reason she had never set foot this far.

He sighed―heavy in a brewing tension—for he had stalled her as long as he could—and staying positive was quickly waxing difficult in the dwindling hours before their arrival. All he could think of now was Her. All of his thoughts gravitated toward Faye. The Silverskin now devoured him in heart and in mind.


By the time they had their bags and were ready to go, dusk had furtively crept in upon them—spreading its long grey fingers across the city, squeezing until the daylight was all but done and dusted.

They cabbed around Victory Park to see the glittering evergreens, all dressed down in a thousand gowns of shimmering lights. It was a shiversome spectacle.

Beyond the trees, over the gloomy uptown buildings―a rose moon dawned, dropping a warm aura over the evening, lifting spirits in a Christmastime warmth.

“Ooo-oooh ... ... It feels like magic tonight—and the trees are so pretty ... Look―it's the rink where we met ... Babe―do you want to stop for a bit first?” she pleaded―batting her lashes at him.

“Maybe we should come back tomorrow,” he hedged, suddenly rathering to face the family than postpone it, instead of worrying about it while they skated back through memories that were supposed to be enjoyed. “It'll be late as it is by the time we roll in if we go now.”

“Aw ...” she said—pouting. “Fine … But only if you promise we come back … This is not just your way of getting out of skating at all is it? You want to right?”

“I promise, babe. I want to go, I swear. I treasure every second we met.”

“Remember how I almost fell, when I was turning on the ice―and you caught me so gallantly? You were my Knight.”

“We both went down ...” he said grinning. “I was a clumsy fool—a Jester.”

She cuddled up next to him―as he wrapped his arms around her—and together they reminisced. It was grand.

“You broke my fall ...” she said. “Remember how I asked you the time ...”

“I remember … I remember it all.”

“You didn't have a watch—so you just looked at your wrist and guessed—saying: ‘Seven.’ That was so silly of you.”
“I didn't want to lose the moment.”

“I remember ... Then later on, I said, ‘Silly me, I haven't even asked you your name yet.' Well that was history.”

He nodded. “Then when I told you my name, you looked at me all funny.”

“Mhm … I was so confused. ‘Is 'Seven' your answer for everything?’ I said. Of course your eyes won me over.”

“I'll never forget. I swear to God.”

“Then whenever you asked me anything, I just answered by saying: ‘Seven.’ I was being a flirty little brat.”

“I know,” he said smiling. “I know.”

“You loved the attention, just like when I fawned all over your hands―and you got embarrassed―but then you said that they were in truth your Lucky Hands, because they had in fact caught Me ...”

“It's still so true. It's all so true.”

“Aww, well ... It was hard not to fall for that one, I guess. I made you tell all my friends why you had such Lucky Hands, didn't I? You loved repeating it.”

“I told them too. I never blushed.”

She grinned. “Promise we go back, babe? Please, please, please ...? You know I always love going back with you.”

“Yes babe, we can pretend we're strangers again ... We can bump into each other on the frozen path―and fall down again, just like we did back then.”

“Ooooh ... Remember how the walkways were like shiny silver streams criss-crossing? We got spinning so dizzy.”

“You said they were like people's lives merging and touching off throughout the days, just like ours were now uniting.”

Then as their minds drifted into past times, their pinky fingers curled together in an unsaid bond of trust. It was real.

It was their silences that sealed their sweetheart deals―saving words for less honest exchanges. They were in tune.

She leaned into him―and he could feel her heart beat―as they listened to the drone of traffic―and wallowed in the tenderness of their young primal romance.

It was love in the eye of the storm of their lives—as dark clouds of thunder and lightning closed in upon them, swiftly shrinking all sanctuary into eternal night.


vi. Hurtling Toward Bane House


They rolled along under the downtown lights and signs for a time―and then out into the white and black countryside toward French's Forest and Bane House on Manor Hill—Moon Full.

Idle chat continued to linger on a spell, before eventually dissolving into contemplation and countless country stars. Caresses killed all care in the world.

There were times in life like now that suddenly stood still, as the world whizzed by, when one was able to remember again how it felt to be silent.


Seven cast back to when he was just four years old, when the family still lived out by Black Heron Lake. Youth renewed.

He was an explorer then, in the land by the water—endlessly entrenched in rolling dunes―and sylvan stomping grounds—always lost on some new hunt.

In those days, every hour was an eternity―and every last little life was a boundless wonder of joy for pursuit.

He was genuinely happy then―down by the water's edge. But the family ended up moving further inland to French's Forest―where life dimmed deep beneath the leafy canopies—and his adventures took on ever more dangerous curves.


Eventually the highway carved itself off into the eerie depths of enchanted woodland. Finally they were free of town.

The ominous moon sat bright and fat upon a tree-line crown—as it did every day in French's Forest—for it never waned in those parts. It remained forever full.

The cab hugged the inner curve of the road for many long moments―and only when it seemed as if the snaking lane would never straighten―it ultimately did.

The trees fell back, revealing foreboding Bane House—all aglitter in countless slithering Christmas lights.

It stood tall upon Manor Hill―five stories rising high above the tallest tree-tops—a sublime sight to the naked eye.

Gargoyles and spires inspired the architecture from foot to tip—and there were statues of three-headed dragons carefully set out everywhere in the yard.

The iron gates were open wide—and so they pulled right in on up the lane-line.

Gravel popped under their tires as they rolled down the trail, up the hill, toward the great gothic front entrance.

“Ooo-ooo ooo ... It's so beautiful …!!! Seven … I love it so much, my God!”

While Seven was grabbing their bags from the back, Eva skipped up the flagstone steps toward the old house.

Silhouetted by the porch lights, she twirled about on her toes, letting her red locks fan about her shoulders, shining on.

Seven tipped the driver and started up after her, transfixed by her dazzle.

They fell into a hushed embrace.

“So your folks really live here?”

He nodded now—keeping calm.

“Ok, ok ... I hope they like me.”

He shrugged shortly. “There's nothing not to love, babe. Just be yourself—or give me the signal―and we will leave in a heartbeat. No questions asked.”

“I'll be fine. Everybody likes Me―Right? Who doesn't love Eva.”

He took her hand―and they mounted the remaining steps together―neither knowing that their love would now never be the same again.

He hammered the gargoyle knocker several times and they heard heavy heels.

The door cracked open—and his step-father Godwin poked his bloodless face out from behind―pointed ears twitching earnestly, red eyes burning.

He smiled broadly—exposing a maw of vicious fangs—but the sight was oddly disarming—for he was uncommonly cordial. His energy was of a salty gent.

“Seven my boy! Where in the Hell have you been hiding yourself? We need to talk. We have so much to catch up.”

“No worries Dad—I've been good.”

Dark locks, resplendent in ringlets of silver, hung in silken tresses about Godwin's wide shoulders. Pirate dark.

His crow's peak stabbed a forehead rife with worry lines―over a mug framed by long sideburns. He cut a jagged swath.

He was dressed like a sea-mate, with golden chains glimmering at his neckline, under a fine black silk shirt.

He pinched a tumbler of a crimson brew between two fingers―regularly jingling the glass as if to remind himself he was going to be shortly running low.

“You could at least call more often.”

“I've just been forgetting this place.”

Godwin smirked in a distant envy.

“It's nothing personal you know.”

“Of course, I understand. If I were you I wouldn't even have come back at all. So what in the Hell are you doing here then anyway? Have you lost your mind?”

They all laughed breaking tension.

“So this must be Eva I presume? Well I must say it is a pleasure to meet you at last,” he said, taking her hand. “Seven has told us so much about you ...”

“Oh really? What might I ask?”

“Godwin … Godwin, Please …”

“All good things, rest assured. Do come inside, you two―and make yourselves at home … Now do not wait!”

“What a beautiful place!” Eva exclaimed, taking her first peek inside the grand abode. It made her awestruck.

“It goes back many generations.”

“I love the old portraits on the walls.” The pictures were framed in gold.

“Most of them were Banes or Gorguns. Both sides of the family.

“They go right back to the Golden Age―and on the fifth floor—we have many old suits of armour on display from throughout the Ages. It’s worth it to see.”

“That sounds amazing. I'm like wow! Seven, I'm so impressed with it all.”

“So how long are you two staying?”

“One day at a time,” Seven said.

As Godwin stepped past him to file their coats away, he casually whispered:

“Is she really another human?”

Seven pretended not to hear.

Eva overheard, but she did not understand. She guessed it was a joke.

“Please―Allow me ...” he said, leading Eva by the hand into the next room―where he motioned for her to sit on the couch by the wall. The room was big.

Seven sat beside her to guard her.

“Marietta! Seven and Eva have arrived!” Godwin bellowed in his baritone, sending echoes about the four walls—and up the stairwell to the next floor above.

He retired behind the bar—where he hung out with the bottles and shadows―conveniently out of reach of casual conversation—just like he liked it.

Footsteps shuffled overhead―and moments later―Seven's mother Marietta glided into the room, terracotta nightgown billowing behind her—cradling a saucer and cup of hot tea before her bosom.

She was slender, with black hair up in a bun—and big glossy lips, over which fangs poked out. She seemed off a touch.

The essence of a stunning younger beauty lingered there in her ivory features and finer terrains. Kind were Age's Lines.

Eva immediately noticed that Marietta's ears were pointed like Godwin's—and she found herself wondering if all albinos had fangs like did these Banes.


Meanwhile, Godwin whistled at his wife from the bar—winking at her while grinning behind the bottles, pouring one.

Godwin had never lost his primal urge for his wife—and sometimes he could hardly hold himself back. He often even felt as if he would kill for her—just for her.

Marietta looked over at him batting her lashes—and the two of them enjoyed an amourous exchange before breaking off. It was a rare but regular little event.


vii. Fangs From The Shadows


All at once, Eva sat bolt upright.

Shivers ran up and down her spine—for she suddenly felt as if she had been here before. She was in deja vu dread.

A tingling in her nose and watering in her eyes suggested to her that there was something much deeper going on here. There was something secret here.

Shuddering she remembered this couch—and this hearth blazing in this corner. She remembered these walls.

She recalled once in dreams looking through this very picture window―not out from within—but rather in from the outside. She was more than she knew.

“Eva ...? Eva ...? Are you okay?”

Her breathing became troubled as she gazed long out into the grim distance of the woods. The trunks swayed for her.

It felt more familiar to her than her fresh introduction to it should have allowed. It felt like a dark lost home.

Seven patted her knee reassuringly.

He sensed something was up, but guessed wrongly that she was merely unsettled from being out of her element—out here in the woods, so far from Old York. He knew not how clued in was she.

Outside, the wind shrieked like a hundred banshees, forcing open a small window that had not yet been properly shuttered for the winter—blowing up the drapes. The world outside wound wicked.

The covers whipped and lashed about as if alive—revealing the full moon through snapping red tatters. It was wild.

In the distance, from the haunting fathoms of the trees—a dark, feral choir of coyotes hollowly howled—wood wailing on.

The floor vibrated beneath their feet.

“Do you feel that?” Eva whispered.

The air was charged with energy.

Marietta went over to close the windows. She struggled and forced them.

“These darned things always blowing open ...” She carefully locked them up.

“It's just traffic up on the highway,” Godwin explained from the bar, trying to comfort Eva. “We don't even notice it anymore. It's just white noise now ...

“You move to the woods to get out the city―and then they go and run a highway right through it ... Go figure ...”

“Well, I bet it is still nice to live out here,” Eva speculated, amidst lingering jitters. “I mean … I bet it's so peaceful, living on your own in such nice nature.”

A sharp, tense quiet hit the room.

“We don't get out that much anyway,” Marietta said dryly. She sat down now, folding her hands in her lap. “So ... So … It's nice to finally meet Seven's new friend. Aren't you sweet.”

Eva blushed. “It's nice to meet you both too,” she said, trying to act casual―but feeling awfully awkward under the sudden scrutiny. She squirmed now.

She was never good under the spotlight—let alone in an interview with family. But she guessed it was her idea.

“Seven says you met at school—but he never told me what program you were in ... I sincerely hope you are not in Visual Arts as well … What a dreadful bit!”

Seven rolled his eyes at the old hat.

“Oh, God no … I mean, no, not me.”

Godwin frowned—looking up from where he was working on a miniature ship. He poured himself another glass.

“Please,” Marietta said, touching Eva's knee. “No religion under our roof … We are atheists here, from the root up.”

“Oh! I'm so sorry … Atheists ...”

“Marietta,” Seven said. “Eva is irreligious … You do not need to worry.”

“Excuse me, but I'm very spiritual.”

“She's spiritual, but she uses 'God' like an exclamation point, not in worship.”

Marietta's mouth fell slightly agape—which she then tried to hide by taking a sip from her tea. She was so aghast.

“I believe God is within us all—not somewhere up in heaven,” Eva offered—trying to exit the subject, to no avail.

Marietta spat her tea all over her own dress. She could not help herself.

“Please don't be rude,” Seven said.

On a handful of times in his life, he himself had taken a back pew at Church—usually in the early afternoon, when the light was still falling through the stained glass by splayed rainbow fingers. But it was obviously not something that his family had ever really encouraged.

Quite to the contrary—it was his human side, that they could not understand, that ever drove him there.

“We will watch our tongues,” Eva said. “Anyway—you were asking about school―and, well … The truth is that I actually dropped out―just this last fall ...”

“Oh! I am sooo sorry, dear ...”

“Please Marietta―I think she made the right choice,” Seven said defensively.

“It was my decision entirely,” Eva explained. “I decided I was never going to get into the field anyway―so why pay for the program? Why carry on anyway?”

Marietta frowned. “What subject?”

“Psychology … All very cerebral.”

“Oh! Well―why didn't you say so in the first place? Good on you for getting out of that quackery. What utter batshit.”

“Yes―I could never spend my life dealing with other people's problems. It would have driven me nuts. I think so.”

Everyone in the room laughed and nodded in unison, in complete agreement with Eva's assessment of all psychology.

“Besides, I figured I could still learn what I wanted to know about it at the library―and that would free me up to pursue what I really wanted, which was to write. All I've ever wanted was to write.”

Marietta stifled a giggle with her hand. “Oh dear,” she said, holding her nose―as if she would sneeze out so hard.

“Marietta!” Godwin barked. “Leave the girl alone! If she wants to be a writer, let her be a writer ... She'll be hard-bound to be something that she's not!”

“Thank you Godwin,” Seven said.

“Well, how about some tea everybody?” Marietta asked—not flinching a bit at the backlash to her nosiness. “I was just about to put on another pot.”

“I would love some,” Eva said―even while Seven was shaking his head, thinking that they were already dragging the evening out longer than they really wanted. They still had to make it through tomorrow at least—and there was plenty of time for Eva to be inspected all ways.

But it was too late to retract now.

Marietta was already heading off to the kitchen―and they were stuck there for another while at least. Seven bucked in.

He took to rubbing his temples in teeming dismay. It was going to unwind.

He could feel it in his bones. He could feel the tremors coming in waves.

“I have some new Herbal Dragon Leaf,” Marietta called out from the kitchen. “Everybody would like to try some yes?”

“Sounds good to me!” Eva called back. She was ever one to smooth out.

“So … Did you go by Victory Park at all on your way in through town?” Godwin inquired. He came out from behind bar.

“Yes! It was so beautiful!” Eva said—eager for some easier conversation to grease the gab. She sat more upright.

“Marietta and I used to make it once a year ... It was always so pretty to see. I’ll never forget those nights,” he said, flashing his fangs from the shadows.

Eva nodded. “Seven and I met there … We will never, ever forget it.”

“That is sweet, child. Nice memento. I hope you really remember.”

Seven could hardly handle the small talk any longer—so he broke the flow by retiring himself to the bar. Godwin let him pour himself a shot of something dark.


II

The Undead

Lust Without End

viii. She’s Really Out There


Marietta floated back into the room while the tea steeped—for she lived life for the idle chat and could not ever miss out.

Eva fidgeted fingers compulsively in her lap, freshly discomforted by Seven's abrupt abandonment of her on the couch.

Just then, Olin sauntered into the room. Seven's older brother stood grim.

“Well, well, well ... What have we here?” Olin shook his head in hot dismay.

“Relax, Olin,” Godwin growled lowly. “This is Seven's Eva.” His eyes pierced.

Olin's eyes seemed to brim in blood—deftly netting Eva's gaze. He glared.

Eva stood up right away to greet him. But she hesitated at his bad energy.

One part of him drew her in, the other sent her reeling. Power beheld her.

He took her hand in his―promptly licking its full back length—and then smiling suggestively. It was digusting.

She pulled away in dischord―but remained entangled by his piercing red eyes that seemed to swirl. She swooned.

When he smiled―clustered fangs beamed in a dazzling brilliance—enough to blind one in a blink. His magic was dark.

“Enough!” Seven barked. He raged.

Olin's mesmerism was stronger than Seven could remember seeing in him before. But he was not one to let up.

“ENOUGH!” Seven roared—his vampire instincts kicking in—instantly at Olin's side—claws drawn. He would kill.

Olin blinked―Eva fainted―and Seven dove down to catch her, easing her onto the couch—protectively shielding her from further subtle mind manipulations.

“Easy now bro,” he growled back at Olin. “This is not some fawn for your entertainment—do you surelyunderstand?”

“Apologies, brother,” Olin said. “Her mind is highly unstable. I did not expect her to be so easily swayed. Please ...”

“Just go soft on her tonight—okay?”

“I was just trying to play with her.”

Seven brushed Eva's cheek. “This one is mine.” He would not stand for this.

Olin backed off―grinning at himself for being such a mischievous trouble-maker—not at all embarrassed by it all.

He had not meant to take it that far―but sometimes his instincts superseded his higher mind. His reptilian brain would often growl and gather steam and it would gain the reigns on him—forcing his actions toward lowlier deeds.

Eva shortly revived. She sighed.

“What happened?” she murmured.

“You blacked out,” he replied right.

“Nooo!” she whimpered in frustration. “Been doing so well for weeks and weeks ...” She could not stand it.

“It wasn't you, it was Olin ...”

“Oh, please—it was all me … Don't listen to him, Seven. I do this all of the time. My head is killing me. Damn it!”

“I have something for that, dear,” Marietta said. She smirked in distress. Olin embarassed her and made her proud.

She produced a small pink pill from her purse―which Eva immediately swallowed. She did not seem careful.

Olin bowed ever so subtly to her now. His rippling magnetism went long.

“Sorry for my inappropriate behaviour.” He met her with eternity.


Just then the kettle whistled and Marietta was off again. “Right back with tea for everybody!” She acted so calmly.

“I think I’m coming down with something,” Eva said to Seven. “I felt strange since I sat down.” She paled.

“Just a few more minutes, then we'll crash.” But Seven knew it was more. He knew deep down it was so much more.

“Sooo ....” Olin started in a more mischievous tone. “Seen Faye since you've been back?” he evilly meddled.

“No,” Seven quietly, tensely replied.

“Who?” Eva said now interested.

“Nevermind ...” Seven interjected.

“Brother's Ex—Faye,” Olin explained, grinning. He knew he was twisting it in.

A faint recognition of the name skipped across Eva's mind, like a flat stone over water―before sinking back down in the seventh touch—and out of sight.

“Don't worry, it's not what you think,” Seven said. “She's just some phantom from a distant past you know ...”

“What is that supposed to mean? Is that how you would think of me, if we ever were to split up?” Eva said, not necessarily wanting him to answer, lest she lose him.

“He just means … She's ... Really out there,” Olin chimed in—careful with his wording. He began to back off of the ax.

“You mean she's crazy? Seven―you never told me that you had an ex back home.” Now it was too late for secrets.
“She's not crazy,” Seven blurted. “Nevermind … It's nothing. She's nothing.” He instantly regretted saying it.

Eva scowled at him. Her fury rose.

“Crazy is a euphemistic way of putting it,” Olin added. “Psychopathic better sums Her up. But that is why we love Her—right bro?” Now he hissed.

“That is why You love Her, Olin,” Seven retorted, suddenly feeling conversationally pugilistic. Get it straight. I left Her long ago.” He felt like fighting.

“Perhaps in body alone.” Olin spat.

“Do I sense some sibling rivalry here?” Eva interjected—detecting the warm ashes of an old love triangle—finding it somewhat humorous, yet hurtful.

“I'll explain it all later,” Seven said.

“Now that is not fair—” Olin began—but then thought better of it, lowering his brow, ceding the exchange—sensing he was being too meddlesome. He faded.

Olin was always tempted to bring Faye up in talk—and he had always been deeply jealous of Seven's lifelong luck with Her—never understanding what they had.

“Well we’ve had a long day,” Seven found himself saying. “Eva and I had better pass on tea after all and get some rest―or we will both be moody in the morning.” He knew when to bow out.

“Booo!” Marietta cried from the kitchen—just now returning with a gilded tray of cups and saucers. “I was just starting to like having a few human beings around for a change. Now you leave me with the snakes.” She winced in pain.

“Well if you did not interrogate the poor child,” Godwin began―but he quickly finished: “Sleep tight kids―and keep those shutters closed ... The wind has been especially wild these past few nights.”

“I'm sorry, we don't mean to be rude ...” Eva said. “I am just absolutely exhausted. I promise I'll be much more chatty tomorrow—after I’ve done rested.”

“Not at all, dear,” Godwin said, dismissing her apology with a wave. “But I do expect a formal challenge to chess after breakfast—if you ever do so dare.”

“Deal,” Eva agreed—winking near.

Godwin took another shot―flipped a page on his magazine—and melded back into shadows of the bar grinning blackly.

Seven and Eva got up to leave be.

“My bedroom's at the other end of the hall,” Olin called out after them. “In case you get bored with my little brother!”

“Go to Hell!” Seven called back now.

“Never left,” Olin then dryly replied.

At the very least where they never disagreed was when a woman came first.


ix. When Death Blows In


Once they were out of earshot, Eva squeezed Seven's hand hard—sharply inhaling. She sensed something wrong.

“Okay, now tell me about this Faye ...” She knew She was in on it.

“Please don't worry about it. She really is nobody. I'll tell you everything in the morning—okay …?” Seven pleaded.

“But who is She? I mean―is She your ex? I've heard you say Her name before ... in your sleep.” She had indeed.
“Let's drop it?” he said, starting to tense up. He knew this way led trouble.

“Okay―sh-eee-eee-ssh,” she grumbled. “I don't really care if you loved someone else once, Seven—I know how much you love me now.” She bowed off.

“More than anything else in the world babe. I love you beyond the stars. Nobody will ever match your light to me.”


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