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Wisteria 1

Final Editorial Edition

Shelby Lamb



New Adult; horror; dark fantasy; mystery

In book 1 of 5 in the Wisteria series, Aubrey finds a book that propels her and peers into horror and madness.

Trigger Warnings:

nihilism |self-harm |explicit scenes

Special Revised Edition

Copyright © 2017 by Shelby Lamb.

All rights reserved.


978-0-9881312-2-4 (paperback: First Edition)

978-0-9881312-4-8 (paperback: Final Edition)

978-0-9881312-3-1 (eBook)


Instagram @creepy.shelby

Twitter @creepyshelby

Goodreads: Shelby Lamb


Cover by:

Mayhem Cover Creations

You now enter at your own discretion…

Table of Contents

1. Bring Me to Life

2. Intuition

3. Freaky Green Eyes

4. Shit

5. Cray Cray

6. Vancouver

7. Contamination

8. Gift Box

9. Hard Partying

10. Bloody Martinez

11. Creature

12. Room 17

13. Hurry

14. Summoning

15. Down the Well

16. Ghost

17. Nightmare Funeral

18. Looming Figure

19. What’s with McKyle

20. Visitors

21. Bus Terror

22. “Grandma, there was a man in the computer!”

23. Here, Piggy Piggy

24. Bloodthirsty

25. Rage

26. Miami

27. Repent of Your Sins

28. Sinister

29. Psychedelic Trance

30. Cherry Lips

31. Fourth Eye

32. Monsters

33. Baptism

34. The Party


It was a gloomy September evening in Ontario, and under the periwinkle sky, Aubrey glided down the sidewalk in a black tent dress and ballerina slippers. School over, she wandered around downtown Brampton, her usual wheat-blond hair dyed a pastel pink. The Canadian breeze rippled it like fine silk, whipping it around her sapphire eyes. Set in a moon-shaped face, that blue gaze of hers was heavily penciled with the darkest liner she could find. As commuters brushed past, she gazed down, self-consciously, on occasion.

Why can’t I just be perfect? Scratching the negligible mole on her neck, she also wondered about the angry red pimples dotting her forehead. As a guy here or there glanced her way, she hoped her face was somehow charming, if not remarkable. She hoped her legs were…well…sinuous.

Evanescence—that was all she could hear. Amy Lee sang “Bring Me to life,” in her ears. Using a music app on her phone, she had her earphones plugged in. Aubrey listened and listened until she felt the words seeping into her.

The used bookstore nestling on the street corner, appeared inviting with its patchy, apricot façade, like a gentle old face. Without much thought, Aubrey entered it. The damp, cool gloom inside didn’t disturb her. On the contrary, she felt at home. A bored-looking woman manning the counter watched her closely, chomping on gum. “Can I help you, miss?” called the plump woman after blowing a bubble.

Aubrey hardly heard her through the earphones. Without responding, she ambled down the aisles, browsing the collection of tattered books. The sweet, earthy smell of aged paper filled her nostrils.

One book stood out to her, dark with whimsical, purple lettering. “Alright, what’s this?” Aubrey sighed pleasantly to herself. Reaching out, she snatched the book of interest off the shelf to read the title:



In the black of night, Aubrey draped her arms around a bloke’s shoulders, inhaling his cigarette-stained breath. Much like hers, his face was plagued by zits, but at least had good structure. She didn’t want to catch a STI, but neither had a condom, and she was…thirsty? At least that’s what they called it these days. She knew it was gross, but if she were ever going to stop thinking about Nathan for one second, she’d have to take extreme measures. Like hooking up with a random dude next to a dumpster behind a rundown bar.

Raw adrenaline surged through her veins like a wildfire as Nathan drifted from her mind. The stranger got her moaning in thoughtless bliss, but eventually his greasy, toffee-brown hair kept straying into her mouth. He also wouldn’t shut up. “Baby! Oh, baby! Yeah…yeah…”

When footsteps approached, they both gasped. Startled, Aubrey’s conquest yanked himself out of her just in time and zipped up as the vagabond shuffled around the corner. Yanking her dress down, Aubrey ran, forgetting her panties tossed aside on the ground.


Rain fell heavily the following day in Caledon. Over a century old, the house stood forebodingly, a mountain of wood, brick, and stone, three stories tall, with two chimneys. Soaked moss and vines climbed up to the rooftop and chimney on one side.

Inside smelled of mold and isolation, a certain gloom that Aubrey didn’t appreciate. She hung her head, shuffling past the lounge where some brain-dead catatonics sat, gazing dumbly at the television. Some were drooling all over the couch again. “Ms. Harris will be upset!” yelled a Down syndrome girl before clapping her hands over her mouth to giggle.

Aubrey yawned, marching up the staircase that led to the second-floor. The scent of sad wine clung to her skin and nightshirt like sweat as “Bring Me to Life” echoed in her brain. With her pink hair soaked and tangled from showering, she entered the humming laundry room, ignoring the rat scurrying by. She transferred her wet clothes from the large washer to one of the two dryers, cursing when a pair of underwear fell to the floor.

Once her laundry work was over, she shuffled down the hall and headed up the staircase to the third-floor. She slipped into her bedroom. Inside, naked blue walls, cream curtains, and a large mahogany bed with a bookshelf fixed into the headboard, awaited.

Aubrey checked her jar of stolen pills underneath the bed. She shook it. Some of Ms. Harris’s residents wasted their prescription drugs or passed on without ever getting the chance to finish them. Aubrey kept them safe in her room. She was saving them up for that pending moment when she would need them. They were mostly sedatives, blue and pink like pretty, little bullets. Candy.

Aubrey imagined going down like Whitney Houston: a cocktail of drugs, alcohol, and a bathtub. She would wash down the pills with a bottle of sherry. The alcohol, the chemicals, and warm water would come together magically. Then down, down, down. Slowly. Then nothing. No more pain.

Holding her head, she murmured, “Need more pills. Need more. More. More.” Aubrey chuckled despite her dark mood. Her talking to herself reminded her of the blind, old resident in the attic above her. She wondered if the woman needed her bedpan cleaned again, but was in no mood to even check. “I feel so alone,” she sighed. “How can anyone feel this way and go on?” After all, it was Friday, and as usual, her friends were MIA.

Where on earth was her best friend Adelaide Pierri, the beautiful Italian girl who had the matching necklace to her BFF ring? Or Billie Porter, the girl she considered her other best friend? Both had promised to hang out with her this Friday. It was childish, Aubrey knew, but she couldn’t help but scream, “They are such liars!”

Flushing, Aubrey glanced at the screen of her cell phone: zero messages. Defeated, she flopped down on the spongy bed, imagining the girls having the time of their lives, living it up with their more important friends.

A moment of silence had passed before she sobbed, feeling like an utter reject.

Arms wrapped around herself, she went on. “This is when I need Nathan. I miss him…I…I need him.” After a long pause, she let out a sniffle. It would take all her powers of persuasion, and probably witchcraft, to entice him back to her. Yet she knew all her tears and energy would be futile. She’d sent him, like, ten messages already tonight and…and for what? Aubrey could practically hear crickets.

She sighed and tried not to go on a true crying jag, but in the mirror, she saw how her candy-blue eyes twinkled funnily like a sucked lollipop—the sure sign of one coming on. She felt a tear bead on the edge of her lashes and blinked to free it. In a moment of lapsed judgment - something that frequently happened these days - Aubrey threw her cell phone and watched as it whisked across the room, crashing into the wall before landing on the floor. “My phone! Why did I…” She held her head, wanting to rip out hair. Life could be so unfortunate.

Digging into her school bag, she grabbed paper to begin some homework. Writing the English essay on “To Censor or To Not Censor Profanity,” took her from her tortured mind, if only for a while. Things were so unfair. She hugged herself again and began to rock back and forth as she sat on the bed, causing it to groan. She felt the tears as they began to drip down her flaming cheeks. Folding her trembling lips, she tasted salt and the silver stud—the piercing she wore just under her mouth. Just like the night, the metal was cold and tasteless.

All her life, it had been quite like this; she had been wandering through this dark, icy universe, separated from everyone else, alone…terrified…seeking something. Love.

The same old torture always came knocking at her door. Only now she was missing a new person. It was not her mom, dad, or sister this time. Nathan wasn’t messaging her back. Nathan Silva had been absent from her life for three horrible months now. Her pain got worse each day instead of better.

Rain poured down incessantly, tapping her window. She lay on her bed, turning over and over, staring at the ceiling, at the dark night through the splattered window, crying, breathing hard, feeling as though she would die. And quite honestly, the latter wouldn’t have bothered her. What scared her was living.

Books and jumbled clothes were scattered all around her on the bed and floor. She brushed them off, all but her new favorite, the one she’d been reading since yesterday—Something. She held it to her chest like a stuffed toy.

A milky full moon glowed outside the window as the sky went out like a candle in the wet boondocks. For a few minutes, Aubrey hummed “Bring Me to Life.” She stopped to say, “Someone… Something… Anything… Come save me.” Her words were soft and delicate as she listened to her broken heart beat gently.

And Aubrey didn’t have the slightest idea that something had heard her. That someone…was always listening…

She wiped her face, sighed dismally, and turned over onto her side, clutching the book to her heart. Her teary eyes fluttered close, and she dropped her voice to a faint whisper. “I will find true love, and everything will be okay. I will find true love, and everything will be okay…” she chanted.

At last, she fell into a deep, sound sleep, almost like death itself.


It must have been a dream, because Aubrey was twelve again, though she had just turned eighteen. Mommy’s voice bubbled like soda pop around strangers, especially strange men, but it turned cold and stiff around Daddy. Mommy hated him. And it seemed like he hated her just as much. They fought constantly. Why were they still together? Things had turned scary here.

Mommy was pretty, with her bone-chilling blue eyes and swan-like neck, but Mommy freaked out a lot and poked Sister with sewing needles. Aubrey knew she shouldn’t have, but slipped up and told this secret to a friend, and then everything exploded. Big trouble. During the abuse investigation, the police found drugs inside the house—lots of coke and marijuana—and locked up both Mommy and Daddy.

Sister was mad. It was all Aubrey’s fault the family was being ripped apart. Sister didn’t care about being poked now. She was so upset, she just wanted to go far away from it all. And she won. Even though the girls had grandparents living nearby, the child protection program sent Sister to a group home for troubled teens on the other side of town. As for Aubrey, she got taken in by a “sweet old lady” named Ms. Harris. Their grandparents got them only on the weekends. Eventually, Sister stopped showing up.

Now Aubrey was eighteen again and back in her room, in a place somewhere between sleep and consciousness. She could feel herself on her bed, but as she stared upward, it occurred to her that what she saw could not possibly be her ceiling.

Or could it?

Up there danced wavering, glowing pinpricks of red in the darkness. They moved, forging to depict two, elongated, curled horns that frightened Aubrey instinctively. Almost at once, the dreadful sensation that she was not alone in the room permeated her bones. But Aubrey could not move her head to look around. She was stuck, and all she could do was lie there helplessly, staring up at the ceiling, the eerie horns flashing and growing, spiraling out above her.


Lightning flashed over a street as rain beat the soil and splashed the rooftops. Thunder roared and grumbled. It was balmy and wet. Off a rural road, up a long, gravel walkway, a brick bungalow dripped with water. Surrounding it were bushes and haunting trees, their leaves and branches slick and alive, trembling in the heavy rain. On this night, all the lights in the bungalow blazed, and someone howled merrily.

While Aubrey had been settling in for bed just a twenty-minute walk away, Bella Broadhurst was setting up to party. Hard. Her room smelt like beer, rum, and tobacco. “It’s my fucking birthday!” she gushed. Standing by her lavender princess bed, she was naked as the day she was born. Cigarette in one hand, shot glass in the other, she jerked her head back and let the tequila burn her throat. She more than wanted to get a buzz. Alright, why do I feel so anxious?

Her friends stared at her. Attached to her slender body, double-Ds swayed, the large disks on them like pink satin. “More!” she roared, trying to pretend she wasn’t feeling anything but celebrative. Perhaps it was just the weather, but a storm cloud simmered in her brain.

A friend, with a pin-up girl figure, tilted the gigantic bottle of golden liquid and gave the unclothed and shameless girl what she asked for. Bella poured that serving down her throat, promptly demanding another.

Jessica watched the scene of madness, chewing on her lip. As Bella’s housemate, the brunette was a girl cut from an entirely different cloth. Dumpy, fidgety, and easily the most unattractive, she often seemed out of place in the group. She did make a viable effort, though, to partake in the fun.

Always needing her presence known, Bella’s older sister seemed ready to say something. “Wait, slow down, girl.” Lainey looked like a pissed-off blond Barbie doll with deep depressions under her eyes. A little on the heavier side, she dazzled in a glitzy mini dress, one arm folded around her, a Belmont cigarette in the opposite hand.

“No!” Bella snapped. “It’s my party, and I’ll get as drunk as I want to! Woooo! Right, Dawn? Let’s get white-girl wasted!” She gave the giggling girl on her bed a high-five, then squinted and shook her head as the last shot nearly knocked her off balance.

Extensions were clipped into her jet-black hair, making it even longer. She always had them installed. She was happy that Jessica and Lainey had already helped her with her makeup—dark, dramatic eyes and brows, face powder that matched her spray tan, and nude lipstick.

Now Bella just needed to get her clothes on, then they could start taking selfies and group pics.

“Where is my fucking dress?” she shrieked, overexcited. Her voice came out bratty and snobbish, though she, Jessica, and her sister, who all lived together in the bungalow (also known as “The Party House”), had hardly anything to be snobbish about. They lived off cheap beer, mostly cheap food, and were broke by the time they got their hairs styled, their nails done, and their downstairs waxed.

“Naked and tipsy,” snorted the pin-up figure girl, slapping Bella’s butt with a pop.

“Thanks for the love tap!” Bella chirped. She giggled and wiggled her waist. She didn’t want anyone to know how she truly felt. Though acting silly, again that bone-deep uneasy feeling crept over her. She hoped no one caught the wary look that flashed on her face.

The thing was, Bella couldn’t shake this gut intuition that something bad might occur tonight. But it was her birthday, for Christ’s sake. She burped and pressed her bare chest against Jessica, hugging her as stinky smoke from her cigarette filled the air.

Dawn Dawson, Bella’s best friend, laughed, toying with her ombre hair while she surveyed the scene. As she laughed, Bella saw the piercing on her tongue. She had one too, and both enjoyed showing them off by running their tongues back and forth between their teeth in front of the boys.

Dawn’s bleached ends dangled over her shoulders as she helped herself to a Lucky Buddha beer from the little fridge resembling a can of Coca-Cola.

It wasn’t the only source of booze in Bella’s bedroom. High up, a floating shelf with long rows of various pretty liquor bottles lined the wall. Bella’s boyfriend, Javi, had installed it for her.

Too excited to let a little anxiety ruin her good time, Bella kissed Dawn on the lips. Both eighteen, the girls went to the same high school. From grade four, they had known about each other, but began talking in grade six. They had fallen in love almost instantly—love at first snipe.

Stubbing out her cigarette in the ashtray on the dresser, Bella went ahead to slather on lotion. She’d done this naked act so often the shock of it was gone by now, but her friends still glanced at her with vague looks of envy and uneasiness.

“Jeez, those things could feed a small village in Africa,” joked Jessica.

She and Bella’s sister worked and lived together with Bella. When the three weren’t partying, or attending classes, they were serving tables at Applebee’s.

Bella shimmied into her red G-string, her long acrylic nails not making her efforts easier.

Lainey sniggered. She was older by ten years, but she and Bells were very much alike when they weren’t fighting. Lainey even had the exact acrylic nails and the exact shade of orangey spray tan.

Of course, Bella knew her sister would say that she started the trends. Only their hair color was different. Bella caught Lainey proudly pinning her platinum-blond hair behind her ears, before raking it through to the ends that grazed her buttocks.

After a moment, Lainey held up Bella’s tiny, bejeweled birthday dress, helped her slip into it, then zipped her up.

Jessica snapped a picture of the sisters together. Despite the drastic difference in hair color, they really looked like twins from the neck up. Only some people found Lainey slightly prettier—something that Bella lost sleep over.

They both had the slanted river-green eyes, the aquiline nose, the lean, oval face. Causing her no end of irritation, it was Bella’s tiny underbite that made the world of difference. She could only satisfy herself by dwelling on the fact that, body wise, she was the winner.

“So, are you seriously gonna go forward with that thing?” asked Dawn, raising her eyebrows. “Just wondering because you’re eighteen now.”

“What are you talking about?” Lainey glowered at Dawn for an instant, then shot her sister a furious glare.

“What?” Dawn asked as if Lainey’s suddenly upset mood baffled her.

“I’m no fool,” snapped Lainey. “I know you’re talking about the porn thing.”

“What porn thing?” Dawn asked innocently, winking at Bella. “I didn’t say anything about porn.”

Chuckling, Bella twirled, examining herself in the cupcake dress before the full-length mirror. She beamed brightly. “It’s my body, suck it up and move on to something else, sis. Get over it.”

Lainey raised a sharp eyebrow. “So what are you gonna tell Javi, huh? Because he’s going to find out.” She took a long drag from her Belmont. “You’re dumb, aren’t you. When Mom wasn’t around, I raised you like my own child, to have dignity and self-respect, and now here you are, about to be swallowing dick for coins.”

Bella shrugged, smirking cheekily. “Oh, dearest sister,” she mocked, “you and my dearest boyfriend will just have to respect my choices. It’s my life, wouldn’t you agree? No one is gonna tell me what to do, Javi included. He does not control me.”

Determination laced her voice now, “I’m going to be making real money for once in my life, and I’m ready to get out of this boring town.”

“Javi won’t stand for that, stupid. You’re crazy if you think he’s going to let it fly. It’s disgusting, Bella.”

“Shut up!”

But Lainey kept talking. “You’re gonna regret it. You are. And it’s just so sad. Everyone one will know. I mean everyone. Then you will wanna kill yourself.”

“I don’t care, and I’m telling you to knock it off!”

Lainey frowned. “I can’t believe we’re even talking about this. It just blows my mind! Just the thought of strange men doing… Ugh, I can’t even say it. The whole thing just makes me wanna throw up.”

Bella’s friends sat there, wide-eyed, as the verbal match grew heated.

Bella was frustrated with her sister. “You think you feel upset? Try having an annoying sister who thinks she’s your mom, then come talk to me. So you know what? Just stop. Like, please stop. You’re making me mad on my birthday! I’m going to throw your ass out into the rain! Just shut up, please! You always have to ruin everything!”

Like a child throwing a tantrum, Bella kicked her dresser, toppling a bottle of hairspray.

Lainey smiled cloyingly sweet at the girls, but her anger was evident by the wide set of her eyes. “See? This is how she gets when she hears the truth. That’s my baby sister.”

Bella gritted her teeth as a groan of thunder distracted Lainey for a moment. When Lainey took her eyes off the ceiling, Bella hissed, “Why don’t you just leave, skank?”

“Oh, you are calling me names now, and even one that is the definition of you. How hilarious. And to answer your question—because I live here, idiot.” Lainey’s eyes were now ice-cold. Taking everyone by surprise, she slapped Bella across the face, so hard Bella’s head snapped to one side. Not yet finished, Lainey grabbed her sister’s wrists and squeezed, jerking her close. “Listen to me. You don’t run your mouth like that to me ever again!” Her voice became a low growl, “I raised you like my own goddamn child when Mom went out to do whatever the hell she did, so you respect me. I’m warning you, birthday or not, I will whoop your ass if you get to running your dirty mouth like that with me again.”

Thunder grumbled as Bella scowled, tears springing to her green eyes. She ripped away from her sister’s steel grasp. “God, I hate you!”

Jessica gasped. “Oh you two, stop! Come on!” She hugged a sobbing Bella. “Come on, pretty. Shh…you’ll ruin your makeup, hon.” She and Dawn gingerly dabbed the wetness on Bella’s face with napkins and retouched her makeup.

Looking smug, Lainey juggled a Lucky Buddha and a second cigarette.

When Bella’s mood brightened, they all took pictures together, but in the photographs, clear tension remained between the sisters.

Dawn took a bunch of Bella alone, posing provocatively in her pink birthday dress. Bella couldn’t wait to post them all over social media.

But a glance at her fuzzy, Snooki-inspired, pink slippers sitting in the corner, made Bella regrettably remember someone. She shook her head. “Have you girls ever experienced looking at someone and just hating them instantly? I don’t know what it is about her…” Bella rolled her eyes, an expression of disgust contorting her face. “You know that Aubrey girl?” she asked the group as if they all didn’t know about that Aubrey girl. “Well, she recently dyed her hair pink,” continued Bella. “Ha, I think she feels it makes her look cool or something. But she just looks like a wannabe. Did you guys see the gross acne that’s always on her face?”

Dawn chortled, “She needs some Proactiv.”

Bella nodded. “Right? She needs to clear up that nasty skin before she worries about looking like a mermaid. And, oh-my-God, you should see her when she’s not at that Pentecostal boarding school. I wonder what her principal would say. Aubrey’s a downright hypocrite. Always smokes and dresses like a Satanist. And don’t let me get started on when she tries to dress all ‘sexy.’ Dawn, you an’ me, we make exposed skin look sexy, but Aubrey just looks like a whore.” Throwing her head back, Bella guffawed.

“She does,” giggled Dawn. “Yeah, I saw her the other day by the downtown Coffee Culture, and she walks—oh-my-God—she walks like this when she’s showing her legs.”

“Do the walk, Dawn!” Bella jumped on her bed, laughing as Dawn pushed out her chest, walking stiffly back and forth across the room like she had a stick shoved up her butt. She stopped mimicking Aubrey only to laugh uncontrollably while trying to catch her breath. “L-like no, girl, you are not sexy. You’re t-trying too h-hard.” She fell onto the bed howling.

A second later, a sound caused the girls to hush…

Someone crying and screaming from another room.


The screamer moaned at length. Bella panicked, wondering if this was the intuition she had. But then sighed, remembering her pal, Cait Martinez, a girl from work who was sleeping over for the party. Suffering from menstrual cramps, she had been unable to participate in the fun thus far. They had given her a rubber bottle of hot water to place against her stomach and an abundance of extra-strength ibuprofens, but obviously, nothing seemed to be helping. Everyone listened in silence to the wailing for a moment before getting back to where they left off.

“She looks like a complete whore,” Bella repeated. “We’re sexy. She’s just…ugh. I heard she even gave an old man a blowjob in a park when she was fifteen for fifteen bucks. Hahaha. Rumor has it she needed to buy more razorblades.”

Lainey rolled her eyes. “Well, we don’t know if that’s true. And it’s not like you’ll be doing much different.” Cigarette smoke blurred her annoyed expression.

Jumping from the bed to the spot in front of her sister, Bella knitted her dark eyebrows. She shoved Lainey in the chest. “Hello! Are you my sister or Aubrey’s? I ain’t making stuff up. It’s the word on the street!”

Lainey sighed, clearly trying not to let the shove boil her blood. “Just leave the poor girl alone. You already beat her up twice back in grade six. She’s still terrified of you, and just got dumped by that Silva boy. Let her rest in peace.”

Bella nodded, eyes bulging wildly. “Oh, I’ll let the twat rest in peace, all right.” A dark suggestion dripped from her words. She and Dawn high-fived, chortling like two hyenas.

Lainey shook her head, stifling a dubious smile.

Jessica, avoiding the drama, cuddled one of the fluffy, white puppies she had snatched from the indoor, laundry room pen.

At the sound of footsteps, Dawn gasped, “It sounds like Javi is here!”

Bella flushed a little. Her boyfriend entered the room with a flourish, a toast-colored, bulky young man with black, spiky hair. He dished out high-fives and one-armed hugs, then grabbed Bella’s face, kissing her so hard her heart leaped.

A friend of his trailed behind, holding a giant box of pizza splattered with rainwater. Instantly, the sweet aromas of pineapple, melted cheese, and baked dough filled the room.

Everyone had a slice or two and a Lucky Buddha, then Javi got personal. “Out, all of you—I need to have sex with my girlfriend.”

“TMI!” protested Jessica as she and the others rushed through the door, shutting it behind them.

As soon as they were alone, Bella allowed Javi to undress her. She tried not to worry as he caressed and kissed her body all over. She fell back onto the bed, her dark hair spilling over the pillows. Her stomach swelled with an inhalation as she watched him slide his shirt over his head, revealing a hair-sprinkled stomach—not completely flat but hard with muscles.

He unbuckled his belt impatiently. Bella stiffened as he exposed his most intimate part, but relaxed again once she began to stroke it, enjoying the warmth penetrating her skin. He rubbed it against her leg, her thighs, then eased it into her.

To Bella, it was almost complete and utter bliss. Almost.

Javi filled her up in one way, but couldn’t fill the bleakness, the void she felt deep inside. She often asked herself: was she ever truly happy?

Even as a small child, Bella had always felt something missing, something dying inside of her. Was it her neglectful parents and perverted uncle? Or did she always just know, deep inside, that life was not what it seemed? That parents were liars, people were twisted and fake as plastic toys, and that death was imminent, always lurking around the bend, everyone drifting toward it on a slow boat moving downstream, some falling overboard now and then, gone too early.

Then there was that rage she carried with her. She’d seen it in Lainey too, just like today. It had always nestled inside her. Even before the rape, she’d felt that rage like a ball of coal resting in her stomach. Even at six, with all her dolls and teddy bears, the darkness had surged inside her.

“Oh, my sexy baby girl… Baby…” Javi’s moans woke Bella from the glum daydream. Still filling her, he moved wildly over her body as if he knew she was somewhere else.

Bella draped her arms around his sweaty neck apologetically. Down there, he was warm and hard. She moaned, sucked on his bottom lip, and slipped away into a new daydream, a sweet one this time, of just the two of them. She released a long, husky, euphoric sigh, a sound that spread over them like a blanket made of soft silk.

Shortly, they joined the group in the kitchen and attached living room. Newcomers crowded the place while pop music filled the air. With joints rolled and lit, plumes of smoke left mouths that chattered excitedly, that swallowed beer and pizza, that kissed one another with hunger.

The landlord’s son, Jeremiah, had shown up, tall and lanky with brown hair in his face. He and Jessica made out on the couch by the fireplace.

How could doughy Jessica land a guy like that? thought Bella, enviously. The landlord’s son could be a bit air-headed, but Bella always found him attractive. At nineteen, he was closer to her age than Jessica who was five years his senior.

Bella migrated the party feeling unusually uneasy. Sulking, she stared at Jessica and her handsome boyfriend. She knew her feelings were wrong. But it was part of her territorial personality that she couldn’t help. With irritation, she stared at Javi as he left her side to go drink beer with the boys.

That’s when Bella spotted the blue-haired girl.

The strange young lady had pigtails, black lips, and piercings ornamenting the corners of her mouth. Wearing a tutu, she reminded Bella too much of Aubrey. She even had self-inflicted wounds wrapped around her wrists and arms like morbid bracelets—a vice Bella knew Aubrey also indulged in.

Bella had seen Aubrey recently with five fresh slashes. She reckoned it was related to the Silva boy leaving her. Idiots. Fucking emo idiots, thought Bella.

“Jeez,” she whispered to Dawn, “do all emo whores have to dye their hair the color of cotton candy and shred their arms to bits? It’s fucking disgusting. Who invited her anyway? I don’t recall ever seeing her before.”

“Um, I think she’s one of Jeremiah’s friends,” Dawn replied

“Oh, yeah,” Bella said. “That’s right. What’s her name again? Avril?”

As if she had heard them whispering about her, the blue-haired girl made her way over to Bella and Dawn. She moved cheerily in her tutu and striped stockings, her face bright, and held out a very pale hand to Bella first. “It’s April. Nice to meet you, Bella. Happy birthday.”

Bella couldn’t help but smile as she said, “Nice to meet you, too. Thank you.”

April was weird but endearing somehow, Bella decided. She made a statement. And unlike Aubrey, her show of flamboyant colors and oddness felt natural, not forced and pretentious to get attention.

Bella found herself even admiring the bubblegum-blue hair. She touched it, working her notorious Bella Broadhurst charm. “Nice hair. You’re so fucking adorable.” The girl did have an upturned nose and a pudgy face that reminded Bella of a baby—things that were again similar to Aubrey. This annoyed Bella, but her compliments were genuine. Sort of.

April giggled, shaking hands with Dawn now.

The menstrual cramps girl, Caitlyn Martinez, emerged from someplace, looking quite miserable, with a quilt wrapped around her. A brunette with large doe eyes, she was a Hispanic beauty whom Bella knew from work.

“Someone get me a beer,” groaned Caitlyn. One of the boys moved quickly to her aid, handing her a Molson Canadian. Their hands brushed with a spark, and they smiled at each other. Bella watched them commence to chatting and felt happy for her friend.

The boy wasn’t her type.

She smiled again at April, but now uneasily. The girl couldn’t stop making eye contact with her—long, steady eye contact that she refused to break off politely. April didn’t even bother to pretend she wasn’t staring.

Okay then… Creepy but interesting, Bella mused. Perhaps April was a raving lesbian? Bella wouldn’t be surprised. After all, she was Bella Broadhurst.

As she continued to go along with the staring contest, she noticed the vague mystery and fire burning behind the girl’s freaky green eyes. Suddenly Bella found herself gazing deeply into them, half horrified, half determined to uncover the truth buried inside.

The night had just begun.


A loud bang over their heads made Bella jump. “Oh-my-God, what was that?”

Startled, Jessica broke away from Jeremiah’s lips.

“Lightning must have brought down a tree or something,” said one of the guys.

Another dude peered out the front window into the night.

Soaking wet, Rhonda, the landlord, came through the side door. She confirmed the tree theory. With a cake box in her hands, she waddled through the crowd like a penguin toward the kitchen.

Bella observed the embarrassed expression on Jeremiah’s face. She chuckled—the round woman always wanted to be around young people, especially when they were partying and intoxicated. Rhonda placed the box on the counter and opened it to reveal a giant, green cake. Grinning along with the cheerful expressions around her, she got herself a beer.

“Bella, you like it?” she asked. “I made sure they put the pieces on that you wanted.”

Bella clapped her hands, delighted. “I love it! I love it!” An elaborate, scarlet scrawl of Happy Birthday Bitch surrounded two fondant boobs and a fondant ass. The edible butt even sported the exact butterfly tattoo Bella had on her derrière.

“I hope I got it right,” Rhonda added.

The landlord’s cake clearly amused everyone and comments went around. But this was a typical birthday token for the one and only Bella Broadhurst, the crazy girl with the potty-mouth and the biggest boobs in Caledon.

Still goggling at her cake, Bella gushed, “It’s beautiful! Oh-my-God! It’s perfect!”

She gave Rhonda a squeeze, then posed for a picture with her, both holding up their beer bottles to the camera. They took another, sitting around the cake. Then a few friends joined them. A quick review on Bella’s phone showed the Landlord grinning broadly in the pictures, though her large, squashy face sagged with age. Her bulbous nose seemed to be the center of the photos, shiny and red like Rudolph’s.

Lainey helped Jessica stick eighteen tiny candles into the cake and light them with matches. Making a silent wish for luck in her porn career, Bella blew them out, which got everyone clapping and cheering. They each snagged a massive chunk of cake and a plastic fork.

A fat gray cat ran by Ms. Rhonda’s feet. The landlord picked it up, before retreating to a room to let the youngsters be.

Jeremiah seemed relieved and the night progressed in a collage of pictures, drinking games, photo mishaps, and dancing. Bella still felt strange and raged when she saw piss and shit left in the powder room toilet. She screamed and made an embarrassed brunette flush it in front of her.

It was now two in the morning, and many of the partiers had fallen into a drunken stupor. Even Bella felt herself sliding downhill.

She didn’t even notice they were telling stories in the living room until she raised her head, wiping drool from her chin. Bella realized she was sitting on the loveseat beside Javi, his arm around her. She could tell he was stupid drunk. Roughly a dozen people sat around the coffee table with them. Her bestie, Dawn Dawson, was there, as well as “doughy Jessica”, but her sister was missing.

The blue-haired girl included herself, sitting cross-legged on the floor with others to complete the circle. Taking charge, she said, “Okay, thank you for that story,” to a girl who had just finished blabbing. Bella noticed that rain and wind swooshed loudly outside and rattled the windows. “You wanna go next?” April asked someone else.

While another story unraveled, Bella tuned out the speaking person’s voice and stared jealously at Jessica sitting on Jeremiah’s lap. He looks so dreamy tonight. Was it his skater-boy hair and his blue eyes, or was it because she was drunk and Javi suddenly annoyed her—everything about him, down to his breathing and rubbing her arm? She even felt like skinning him alive if he ever touched her again. When he did, she pursed her lips and made a fist so she wouldn’t attempt to do just that.

Feeling the liquor in her blood, she continued to eyeball her friend’s boyfriend. Her stomach flipped when the boy glanced her way, his blue gaze steadfast.

Bella smiled sloppily at him, feeling heat spread across her face. She bit her lip as urge and desire washed over her. No one seemed privy to what was transpiring in the living room between them, especially the girlfriend on his lap. It wasn’t just in her head, was it? Her and Jeremiah? Jeremiah… Even his name rolled off deliciously from the tip of the tongue. She’d always had eyes for him, and she felt like he had always noticed her too.

Then Bella turned back to April sitting on the shag carpet directly across from her. Only the stained coffee table separated them. Something told her the girl had been staring at her all along, and the knowing smile that curved April’s lips made Bella paranoid.

After a while, April cleared her throat, before making a serious expression. “Well, I guess I’ll tell a story now. But first, I just wanna say thank you to Bella for having me here. It has been a memorable party. Anyway, um, this story… It happened for real… and it really creeped me out. I’m still trying to get over it. And… Well… Ah…” April swallowed. “Roughly about three weeks ago, I started having these vivid dreams… I - I could see these different creatures, and I swear I could even… I could feel them touching me. Crazy, right?

“If anyone knows about or heard of sleep paralysis, well I thought that was what it was. If you are confused, it’s like when you are basically half-awake and half-asleep. You feel paralyzed because your body is still sleeping. You see, you’re conscious, but you’re also dreaming. You can see the room around you, but you can also see stuff that might just be figments of your imagination. So, I mean, when I saw these creatures, I was scared, but I didn’t really think it was anything serious, I just thought it was sleep paralysis.

“That was until I started discovering things in my apartment. Sticks. Yeah. Sticks.” April giggled uneasily. “I thought I was going crazy. I mean, who was putting them in the house? Because they were everywhere. Under my pillow. In the sink. By the toilet. In the fridge. Underneath the couch cushions. I called my ex and threatened to call the cops if he didn’t stop. But that didn’t stop the sticks from reappearing.

“Then, late in the night, I started hearing sounds, like a woman crying. I’d turn on the lights, and it would stop. But sure enough, when I’d try to go back to sleep, I’d hear the moans again. And get this—in the morning, I’d get up and things would be missing. I really needed to find out what was going on. Scared as hell, I decided to put up cameras and…” April’s lips trembled, and tears pooled in her eyes.

“Oh, April!” cried a brunette, getting up to hug her.

April began to splutter. “There was s-something walking around my p-place while I slept. Glowing w-white eyes! B-branchy, dark l-limbs. I contacted a woman who c-claimed she could remove evil p-presences. She w-warned me that, that w-was just the Tree Lady, and t-that there w-would be m-more entities. She d-did a full emergency h-house smudging and some other w-weird shit. It’s all s-stopped now, the n-night visions, the creepy s-sounds, the sticks…” April sobbed heavily. “B-but it was so terrible, sometimes I th-think those creatures are just w-waiting for another chance to get me. You know, the s-strangest part was that the woman said it h-happened because of this b-book that I w-was reading. She m-mentioned the word demonolib. I h-have no idea w-what that means. But…” April wiped her nose, hiccupping. “She h-had me sell the b-book to a used bookstore. God, I’ll n-never forget what h-happened.” She sniffled. “It was all so r-real.”

Bullshit,” coughed Bella. “Okay, sorry. That was a cool story, I guess.” She and Dawn shared a laugh while April went red in the face.

They ended the storytelling after that. A few picked up the drinking again, including the blue-haired girl. In fact, April seemed to be on a reckless mission. She downed five shots worth of brown liquor and loads of beer. Watching closely, Bella wondered if maybe the girl hadn’t been making up the bizarre story after all.

At 4:30 a.m., those who weren’t sleeping over hit the road, and those who were dropped on a sleeping bag, on an air mattress, or on a couch. A few hardcore partiers continued drinking until they passed out and ended up on the floor or halfway off a couch.

April was one of the latter. She had her head and back propped up against one of the red, velvetly sofas in the den, the rest of her body sprawled on the floor. Her blouse had hitched up, exposing her teardrop navel and soft pale stomach. Dawn and Bella snickered quietly as they drew LOSER on her forehead and SLUT on her tummy with tubes of red lipstick. April twitched, groaned, and collapsed onto her face, which got them shaking harder with repressed laughter.

“Okay, I’m sleepy,” Dawn admitted. “I’m off to the basement now. Cya Bells.”

Bella snorted, “Okay, ‘night-night, and I think Caitlyn is getting lucky—apparently her guy doesn’t mind menstrual blood.” Finally, Bella kissed Dawn goodnight on the cheek and watched her best friend disappear into the basement.

Feeling thirsty, Bella stepped over a body on the floor to get to the refrigerator. She poured herself some cold water and added ice. While she drank, she heard footsteps. She placed the cup down in wonder, before rifling through the cupboards in search of a bedtime snack. Finding some raisin bread, she closed the cupboard and turned to see a lanky, long-haired boy stumbling into the kitchen. With puke on his shirt, Jeremiah met her gaze as she bit into a piece of the bread.

Bella chewed hurriedly and swallowed. She stuck her tongue out in disgust, wondering why she was still eating. Tossing the bread aside, she winked at Jeremiah. “Come here,” she whispered. The boy drifted toward her. Like a child in a candy store, she eyed him lustily, feeling a tingly sensation as she anticipated blurring the line between thought and reality. She rubbed her body against his, staring up into his drunken eyes.

Delicately, she smoothed his hair away from his face and inched up on her tippy-toes to press her lips against his. And she and the landlord’s son kissed con spirito. It was supercharged and felt like a shot of something straight to the veins. Every quick, longing, secret glance, every short gesture of salutation stifled by Jessica’s presence—they had all led up to this moment.

Jeremiah’s tongue tasted sour, but Bella didn’t mind. She just focused on his long, pale arms folding around her, his hands sliding over her butt and the small of her back. Teeth clinked in a sudden, forceful, mouth-to-mouth moment that took Bella by surprise and caused them both to sway sideways into the counter.

Jeremiah pulled her dress up over her hips with one hand and dug his fingers between her thighs with the other. She chuckled as she felt him find his way around her scarlet G-string.

Locked in a kiss, Bella glanced around guiltily at the passed-out people who couldn’t possibly tell on them. She pulled the boy to a room nonetheless.

Inside was only her sister and some bearded dude, passed out on the bed, clearly naked under the sheets. Bella went to the extra bed in the corner and pulled Jeremiah on top of her, purring. They stripped, and she loved the burn of his skin against hers. She loved the sinful feeling of him inside her. Moaning quietly, she felt triumphant at last, free, young, sexy and powerful. She was Bella Broadhurst, and she would always get her way. The future looked wonderful.

Finally realizing her dirty fantasy with Jeremiah, she drew a sultry, satisfied breath, flaring her nose.

Oh, Javi? He was probably sleeping in her room, waiting for her in a deep, beer-induced sleep. She’d let him be. At the moment, she was fucking Jessica’s boyfriend.


Soft, white sunlight crept through the curtains. Bella thought she’d go blind as she peeled her sleepy green eyes open. “Shit… Shit, fuck, shit.” The house was silent. Where was Jessica? Bella slid out from under Jeremiah’s arm, sweaty where their skin had touched all night, and stretched her hands to grab her undies by his big feet. She slid on the G-string, then rummaged through Lainey’s drawers for one of those loose, long shirts, her black hair a mess.

Yanking the holey shirt over her head, she felt her heart race while her brain swirled in her skull. She grabbed her pink birthday dress off Jeremiah and hid it under the bed.

“Wake up!” she whispered, jerking him. “Go find Jessica! Wake up, Jeremiah!” Her palms were sweating. He didn’t budge so she pinched and twisted his nipple.

The boy yelped. He sighed, rubbing his sore flesh and stood up shakily. Stark naked, eyes half closed, he untangled his clothes and pulled them on slowly.

Bella patted his back. “Okay, go find her and look as if you were always there.” Jeremiah turned back to her one last time to squeeze her butt, pecking her on the neck. He grunted as she pushed him off and stumbled out the doorway.

Bella took a deep breath. Okay… Everything should be okay now. But she had no idea why she was still sweating. She wiped her clammy hands on the loose shirt and strolled to the kitchen for some water and aspirin for her head. It wasn’t a full-blown hangover, but whatever it was, she needed to tame it.

It was mostly anxiety. After gulping the water and the pill, she tiptoed around a male who was curled up on the floor and snoring loudly.

Then she recalled what she and Dawn had done to April. Bella tensed up, shocked at her own cruelty now that she wasn’t completely inebriated. In a flash, she was in the washroom grabbing a napkin. She wet it under the tap, then rushed out to the den where she tiptoed around the girl.

April still rested on her face. That was odd. Bella knitted her brows, observing the awkwardly sprawled out girl. Something seemed off.

Bella put down the wet napkin and got to her knees, trying to roll the girl onto her back. When she succeeded, she found puke all over April’s face and some still in her mouth. Some even clogged her nose. Even more disturbing, April’s stomach didn’t seem to rise and fall, and her skin had a blue tinge to it.

Nausea flared inside of Bella, and she held her throat. She grabbed the napkin from the floor. April didn’t move, didn’t make a single sound. April, with the blue pigtails and the “snake bites” and the LOSER on her forehead and the SLUT on her exposed tummy.

Tears blurring her vision, Bella began to wipe away the insulting words. Her hands shook while the scarlet letters smudged together and gradually faded. It felt like forever, and when she was finally done, some traces of it remained on April’s deathly pale skin.

To see better, Bella smoothed back some of her unruly black hair from her face, then scrubbed April’s skin harder, sobbing. “Help me!” she blurted. “Oh-my-God, help me! Help me! Help me! I think she drank too much!”

A guy friend came rushing into the den. He surveyed the scene, panting, then left to rouse others. Immediately someone was on the phone to 9-1-1, but by time the paramedics arrived, it had already been too late for April.

In the front yard, Bella stood wrapped in Javi’s arms as an ambulance van pulled away from the driveway with April’s body.

Bella shook her head. What a pity. What a shame. It was just another person gone too soon. Now she would never know all the secrets behind those freaky green eyes. Not now. Not ever.


Saturday morning, a light drizzle misted up the windows, but for the most part, the storm had passed. The L-shaped motel ran thirty-six bedrooms long with a blue roof and a cream, stucco exterior. The Silvas lived over the attached diner where guests or people passing through could eat breakfast and lunch. A crisp little building with a red, neon OFFICE sign on the door sat directly beside the diner.

Silva’s Beds attracted all kinds of people. The young, the long-suffering, free spirits looking for a cheap overnight shagging room, and the occasional runaway wife, or old drunk. A lost soul slipped in now and then.

In the evenings, it frequently got rowdy with people hanging about in small clusters, drinking from beer bottles until ten o’clock when nineteen-year-old Nathan, his dad, or his brother, would go out and shut the party down. Sometimes the police had to get involved, though not in recent days.

Nathan’s alarm app went off: “I feel like poo, but I gotta do what I gotta do. I feel like poo, but I gotta do what I gotta do,” a voice sang loudly from his phone for about the thirtieth time. He’d been sleeping through it. Very tired, he stirred in his bed, sighing and flexing his toes and fingers. Groaning, he sat up.

A broad-shouldered fellow, Nathan had brown hair, matching eyes, and skin like a milky cup of latte. He had a fringe cut into his dark hair, which waved over his ears in a male pixie cut. He rubbed his eyes.

“Good morning, little girl,” he sighed in Portuguese to the guinea pig on his desk. Locked in her pink cage, Angie stared at him with black, beady eyes.

He climbed out of bed, stretching to his full height of six-foot-two, and padded to the bathroom where he brushed his teeth and showered swiftly.

Enveloped in a burgundy robe, he made a smoothie in his kitchenette, using a banana, some yogurt, and frozen berries. A devout Catholic, like his father, he said his morning prayer before he began to drink.

He could hear his sister, Elizabeth, who was twenty-six, shuffling around in the room next-door. “Oooh, my head,” she groaned. She had been drinking. It sounded like she had her kettle going while she ran a bath.

Nathan sighed, eyeing the clock. It had been a long night, so it was no surprise that he and his sister had both slept in until ten. At the motel, they usually woke at six.

Still nursing his smoothie, he raised his dark eyebrows when he snatched his cell phone from the dresser. About two dozen messages waited for him—several from friends, the rest from that irritating Aubrey. His ex.

Ugh. Nathan frowned. He didn’t want to even look at them. Plain and simple, he had broken up with her because she was annoying and suicidal. At first, he had felt bad, but now it didn’t matter. He rolled his eyes at the thought of her eighteen, new text messages. She texted him so often, he couldn’t imagine what she still had left to say.

It felt intrusive—all these nonstop messages. Couldn’t she just accept the fact that he no longer wanted to communicate? Why couldn’t she just go away? He sighed as he began to read his received texts, starting with the ones from his actual friends.

Hey, some girl died over at Bella’s. I think it was alcohol poisoning. People drink waaaay too much.”

Hey Handsomeeee ;)))

OMG! Did you hear what went down at Bella’s last night?? FUCK. Bitch drowned in her own vomit or something. Call me ASAP!”

Hey, call me as soon as you can m8”

Hey, love. Just wanted to say good morning!

*Kisses your forehead*.”

The first four messages baffled him to different degrees, but that last one warmed his heart. Adelaide Pierri… Or just simply Addy… That girl was something special. He smiled, forgetting about everything else for a moment. All he could see was her beautiful face, her chocolaty hair, her hazel eyes and soft, curling lips. He imagined her warm, shapely body, toned with a lot of hip and ass. He imagined her loving, calm nature—could almost feel it, embracing him tenderly. They didn’t just have sex. They made love. She was magical.

He could picture her undressed by his bed and had to stop before he started touching himself. God, he felt so lucky. They had yet to break the news to Aubrey, who considered Addy her “BFF.” She was going to hate them both for sure. “But that’s okay,” sighed Nathan.

Taking a deep breath, he decided he could handle glancing at the new Aubrey messages. Ten to twenty times a day he got them. Nathan shook his head. It was out of control, sad, and pathetic, considering she was basically talking to herself. He hadn’t responded to her foolishness in months and wasn’t planning to.

“Here I go, giving into curiosity again,” he mumbled. She was annoying as anything, but he just never knew what Aubrey was going to say. The messages had all arrived over the course of yesterday.

“Wow,” said Nathan, scanning them. With a little revulsion, he began to accurately read each one. Aubrey was more soft-spoken in person, but text brought out her wild side.

Cray Cray: I could so die right now… Thinking about u all day. I don’t know why I can’t let go of you. I’m such a fool… I’m so stupid… No wonder you’re gone. I hate everything, and I want to die. Nathan. NATHAN, PLEASE! I can’t do this. :*(

Cray Cray: I love u, and I’m sorry for all my messages, but I can’t stop caring about you. Nathan, please. Just give me one more chance. I want u in my life so bad. Please don’t let me suffer like this. :*( Oh God, Nathan, pleeeease.

Cray Cray: Been crying all day. I can’t believe that you’re really gone. You have no idea how hard this is for me. I can’t breathe right now. I can’t focus on my work. Nothing is right now.

Cray Cray: If u come back, Nathan I swear I will be a better person. I’ve learned so much from u. I am growing up. I promise u that I won’t act up again. I was just so confused and scared of losing you. I wasn’t myself a lot of times.

Cray Cray: Nothing will ever be the same as long as you’re gone. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Not even being torn away from my family felt this bad. I don’t know why, Nathan. You were just the safest place I’ve ever been. You were my home. Now I’m homeless. Now I don’t know… I want to die.


Cray Cray: Nathan, pleeeeeeeasseee :*(

Cray Cray: I love u oh my God. What about that don’t u understand?! Why are you doing this to me?! You just threw me away like garbage! You don’t care about me! I bet I’m probably in your block zone right now. Like, u don’t give a fuck.

Cray Cray: Nathan, I need you. Nathan, I love you. Nathan, I want you. Nathan, I will die without you.

Cray Cray: Come on Nathan I’m not thaaat bad. You’re acting like we’ve never even spoken. This is so unfair! I was always there for u. I treated u right. My only crime was loving you too much. You’re so mean to me.

I don’t get it. I don’t get it, and I will never get it. My heart is broken into a million pieces. You hurt more than ten thousand paintballs straight to the collarbone.

Cray Cray: Just call me again like you used to. Just tell me everything is gonna be okay.

Cray Cray: I’m a striped kitty. You know what that means, don’t you? ;) Haha I bet you don’t even fucking care. Oh well… Drip, drip my dear blood. Drip drip. Nathan doesn’t care anyway.

Cray Cray: Okay so that message was messed up. I’m so sorry! I just only slit one wrist, and it was shallow. I promise. Please don’t be mad. Or scared. Or worried. I know you care. You just don’t wanna…nvm… You just don’t want to deal with this mess right? This mess… this thing that I am…

Cray Cray: I’m so alone, Nathan. I’m so alone

Cray Cray: Save me! Please save me!

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