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The small boy clasped the clear round crystal between the tips of his tiny fingers and he raised it to where it sat balanced before his deep blue eyes. Its polished surface glistened like starlight as the rays of the sun reflected upon it and penetrated to its core. The sun’s rich light sent tiny rainbows radiating out and bathing him in colours that danced like faeries wings across his face. As he stared past it’s etched surface to deeply within, he caught a glimpse of his reflection with his flowing white hair flicking in the breeze, and the twinkle that had not shone in his eyes for some time now. As if by magic words he used to know began to flow once more through his mind. It was like a dream of old where all the imaginations that he had ever known had begun to seep through his body and like a thousand paper boats, they now glided effortlessly into the pale blue distance in search of that place, that special place that only a true child could find or understand. A smile formed on his face and at the same time a tear ran from the corner of his eye, and as he wiped it gently with the back of his hand, he knew now that what he thought had gone, what he thought had left him, had never gone away at all. It had all just lay deep inside like a dream waiting for that moment where waking merges with sleep and carries you in its arms and into the place where those dreams become visions all so true.

He closed his eyes and listened intently to all the murmurings around him, hearing at first the soft beat of his heart, ‘pom – pom, pom – pom’, then the breeze as it carried the sounds that now drifted from the magic forest in the distance. There was a faint echo of laughter emanating from its deepest reaches, down a darkened winding path draped with deep green vines that formed a tight canopy where sunlight would not penetrate. It was here that the children lost so long ago would play, watched over by the future, the spirit of the old man that was yet to be. It was a truly magical place, a place of dreams where a child could hide and choose never to be found. Where lost was a choice, not something that happened to be. As the sounds grew louder, he felt himself lifted from his feet as if in the grasp of something even he could not comprehend, like he had invisible wings that had unfolded to stretch out glistening in the late afternoon sun, like those of an agile bright blue dragonfly. Below him the wheat field swayed as if in time with the tune that now inspired him to believe like he had never done so before, in the magic of the child that he was. The deep green leaves of the nearby tree rustled like tiny violins as he was carried through its canopy with them brushing against him, and as he was taken to that all familiar place where he had been so often before, he stood once more staring at where it all began, the ‘Book Of Dreams’. Behind him there was a whir of sound as the dragonflies and butterflies that were suspended from the branch above came to life in his presence, spinning from their silken threads at a heady pace, whirling and twirling almost out of control as he now watched on in awe of the glistening menagerie.

The dappled light that filtered through the leaves of the tree danced upon the gnarled finger like roots that radiated out from below as if themselves in search of something lost. The light had begun to fade, with the last of its warm orange tones now bathing the undulating hills that stretched across the land into the distance, to where the fine fingers of light could no longer reach, and the darkness had begun to take hold. His grip on the round crystal object had never faltered, like his belief in life and all it had to offer, and as he stared into the sky above where the dark velvet veil had begun to form, where the faint twinkling of tiny stars had begun to peak through the curtain of night as if peering at what lay below, his imagination came to life. Fireflies began to dance, suspended in the lead lit lanterns nearby, and the soft whispers, like lasting echo’s reminded him of all that he had known, and all that he had been. Where once stood a man, there now stood a child, lost to this world and all the intricacies that threatened to fall and shatter like crystal teardrops on the rippled ground below. He had reclaimed his life, and at the same time, he had maintained his greatest strength, his resolve to believe. Not just because it was the thing to do, but because he truly believed, and just as the stars would always sparkle in the sky, so it would be that he would always remain a beacon of hope for all that sought to find that little something that had been lost.

Today as he stood silently contemplating all that had flooded back into his tiny mind, he realised that for all that he had thought had been lost, now more than ever he knew that this world he had created was more alive than ever before, and no tears, no pain could ever take it away or tear it apart. This was a special place created in a dream and forged within the deepest realms of time and like time it would never fade, and it would never be forgotten. He thought for a while and then he understood that we all lose our way, and at times we look so hard to find ourselves again, we look so deeply inside the complicated world in which we have lived, that the simplicity of the child goes unseen. Like the crystal ball he held, life is fragile, but also transparent if we look beyond what appears opaquely upon the surface. Who you are is important to you and you alone, and how others see you, well, in a world where so many ideals exist, does that really matter and do you really care? He understood now that he must enjoy life for what it is, because tomorrow is never far away and may never come at all, and sometimes the darkness closes in so quickly that we just don’t get the chance to say goodbye before that light of life is extinguished forever. Dream big, dream loud, for a dream is but a wish to be made in world so complex yet so simple, where the boundaries of reality sometimes cross into the imagination in those times we let the mind slip beyond the known.

Remember that just as the sun shines bright in the big blue sky, or as the stars twinkle in the darkness of the night, with their voices, their laughter calling to be heard by the child in us all, so our life unfolds. It is forever a mystery of where it is going and where it may end. We are born into this world with nothing, and when we go we take nothing with us. But we do leave the memories that may linger and then fade, or even better still, last forever with those people that we have come to know, those we have touched so deeply with who we are and for what we will therefore always be remembered for.

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Where the shadows stretch so long and deep and linger well into the night, that is where I sit in silence waiting for the night owl flight. Upon the misty winter breeze an echo carries wide and far, until it echoes never more muted neath a sky of stars. Life and death like night and day so far apart yet one the same, captured now together held forever more in tight embrace. To close your eyes and drift away and find a peace so few will know, one day to see beyond the veil into that other world will go.

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As the ether of the night slowly envelopes the daylight hours, and the distant stars sparkle like something lost, so time slows and turns.

In the deepest darkness the colours like a rainbow twist and turn, as they have always done, far more distant than a tiny mind can comprehend.

I think, I wonder, yet there is no answer to be found, no age to be told. One more light in the midnight sky amongst a million others.

If I knew what may truly be would I consider at all or would I continue in wonder that something else may be?

The midnight chime in the winter chill echoes its resonating sound, to where it fades, never to be seen or heard again.

Gentle breaths in slumber state, slow ever more to finally end.

Silence.

What now lives on?

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In the deep stark silence it came and then it went,

A flicker of light like a dream come and gone.

Waiting for a wish to be cast from a mind,

Waste not a word that you may wish undone.

 

Each glistening star that still hangs in the sky,

A distant reminder a lasting regret.

Or just other wishes that wait to become,

Holding on tight not to let go just yet.

 

Faint colours I see like a rainbow afar,

Like an ocean of wonder with sparkling fish.

Closing my eyes I see many things,

I wonder in silence before I cast my wish.

 

Do the thoughts of the child pale and finally fade,

Is it so wrong to wonder just how things may be.

My wish is now cast deep into the night,

Will it come true with time I will see.

 

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The sign said ‘Garden’, but it seemed like nothing more than a long unkempt driveway that wound its way into an unseen distance. She pulled her long pink jacket tightly around her body against the chill of morning air. Then a tight row of stone steps called her down another leaf strewn path until she arrived at a lake where light played tricks and trees seemed to reach from beneath the water’s glassy surface back towards the branches they reflected.

Tiny bridges reached to a tiny island, but these were not hers to cross, so she circled the lake slowly, engrossed by the reflection of the world beneath the surface that seemed so much more real and vibrant than the one she inhabited. The stippled back of a rainbow trout broke the water’s glassy veil twice, sending it to endless ripples, ripping her briefly from her reverie back to the ground on which she stood.

Then a vibrant flash of candy pink caught her eye from the nearby bridge where a small child suspended over the rails glanced up quickly from the water, catching her attention and squealing with delight. The brief meeting of their eyes was as deep as the lake itself, as true a reflection as the connection between actual trunk and reflected leaves.

Then like the fish, the child was gone, and the adult knew that when she was ready to appear again, she would do all she could to make her feel safe enough to stay a little longer. The woman could neither see nor feel the magical breeze that rippled the water and caught the most golden leaves and gave them the sacred gift of flight. She held out the palm of her hand in hope, while the flutter of delicate yellow leaves danced like tiny golden kites before gilding the water below.

When no gossamer leaf kissed her hand to grant her wish, she folded it back into the warmth of her pocket before ambling up the path, towards a world where rainbow fish and butterfly leaves and children on bridges were little more than gentle whispers of what might one day be again.

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The deep blue sky stretched as far as his eyes could see to where the orange glow of the sun teased itself above the water, as if tipping a toe into the blue green ocean which lay so calm and cool beneath it. The gentle breeze carried the smell of the rotting seaweed that had been washed up on the sand during the last violent storm that had ravaged this fragile coastline. It was spread like a carpet along the beach into the distance with the glittering of shiny shells intermingled amongst it, although to him it looked more like a sequinned scarf than a carpet, or so he thought as his imagination began to take hold. He listened to the lapping of the small waves as they rolled into the shore and over the rocks, making a tapping sound as the pebbles rocked back and forth against one another. The squawking calls of the silver gulls carried in the air, with a sharp shrill fading as they flew into the distant reaches of the beach towards the derelict light house that stood high on the prominent cliff-top which jutted out like a finger pointing towards some distant object far out to sea.

“Hello,” a voice called from behind the salt bush covered sand dunes as if it were hoping someone would answer in return. The strands of grass were clumped like a hundred porcupines spread out across the land, and as her pony tales and pink bows bounced into view, he smiled and then gave an apprehensive wave. It had been a while since she had shown herself, having spent many an hour sitting calmly in the ivory tower where she had finally found some semblance of balance between the different lives that she had chosen to lead. “What ya doing?” She squealed as she caught sight of her friend the white haired boy. His eyes reflected the sun and at the same time they glistened like the stars in the night sky, and she wondered now that she had found him once more what it would be that the days would bring, because she always found wonder in the words that he often shared, and it had been a while since she had taken the time to listen and truly reflect on them. He thought for a brief moment then explained, “I’m just admiring the beauty of this place,” as he turned himself towards the ocean once more. She smiled and then told him, “I came here yesterday and I found a paper boat washed up on the shore.” He smiled and turned to look at her once more and without asking she continued. “I liked the words very much because they were special in their own way.”

There had been many paper boats set to sail, each one with a purpose, each one searching for the answers to the many questions the enquiring mind of a child seeks. He turned, taking a few steps, and with a wave of his tiny hand he called to her, “follow me and we will have an adventure.” He began to run and she darted after him, together their tiny legs carrying them as fast as they could along the top of the undulating sand dunes, weaving through the prickly sea grass tufts that stung their legs as they flicked against them. She giggled as she chased him, and he laughed in return, because it was so much fun and it was like they had not been on an adventure together ever. “Woooo hoooo,” he shouted as he leapt through the air, landing on his bottom and sliding down the steep slope of the dune like it was a water fall that fell onto the soft beach below. “Yeeee haaaaw she cried as she followed, rolling and tumbling with a consummate, but at the same time, awkward ease down the embankment, landing flat on her face. She broke out into a riotous laughter as she rolled onto her back, picking herself up and dusting off the fine sand from her pink overalls. There, before her stood her friend with his hands on his hips like Peter Pan of the faerie tale stories she had read. He shook his head and then smiled before pointing to the crumbling tower, with its grey wind and rain weathered stone walls.

They stared at it for a while as it was bathed in the pink glow of the sunset, which made it look less foreboding than maybe it could do and she marvelled at how it was similar to the ivory tower in which she spent many of her days. He nodded his head in the direction of the old lighthouse and they trudged on, beginning the arduous final climb over the tumbled ragged rocks that surrounded it, making sure that each measured step was carefully taken. They stood at its base and looked skyward marvelling at how it seemed to reach forever into the sky. They walked around the light house running their hands across the surface of the smooth grey stones, circling it until they came upon a slightly ajar old wooden door. The white haired boy brushed away the silken cobwebs that hung around it and he pushed his hands against the door which held fast. The small girl joined him and together they pushed as hard as they could and the rusted door opened, with its hinges letting out a high pitched creaking sound like that from some old horror movie. It was rather dark and dusty inside, with the only light being that which reflected through the broken glass windows at the top of the wrought iron stairs that wound its way around the wall to the very top. “Can we go up?” she whispered as if afraid to wake some long forgotten soul. He nodded and she lead the way with each step taken sending a small puff of dust spiralling into the air, with the tip, tap, plop of footsteps echoing in the air. It was cold and dank, and in the air a damp musty smell signalled that no one had been there for a long while which made sense with all the scattered note paper that littered the floor.

“Wow,” she exclaimed, catching her breath as she reached the top of the stairs with the warmth of the sun’s rays painting her face with light. Here the breeze blew stronger as it whistled through the panes of broken glass, tossing their hair as they stood in awe of the view. Out to sea they could just make out the Island of Lost Children, silhouetted by the sun and shrouded in an erie mist that drifted all around it. As they walked around the walkway at the top of the tower, they could see far past the flower filled valley and onto the Friendship Tree, with the barren desert that stretched on for miles past it fading in the distance. The small girl stood soaking up the life giving sunlight that she needed, so that she would grow strong, whilst the white haired boy thought of the many words that would paint this picture if he was ever to re-tell the tale. They looked at the silvery light dancing on the ripples of the ocean, and as they did a dark shadow, then a second one became visible just below its surface moving effortlessly. With a woosh and a puff of misty air a whale broke the surface followed by a smaller calf. They rolled and played together putting on a show for a long while as the two friends watched on in awe. Their majesty was inspiring and the gracefulness was like nothing they had ever seen, and in a final display, they leapt from the water, landing with a splash before they swam into the distance.

They had marvelled at the life of another creature in a show that if you did not know better, could have been put on just for them, and as the last of the sun slowly fell below the horizon and the light began to fade, the small boy beckoned his friend to leave. “Come, we must go because I still have something special to show you.” As they left the lighthouse they gave it one last look, and for a moment he thought he heard a whisper, “come back soon,” it said, but then that could just be his vivid imagination along with the wind as it whistled through the structure. They climbed the sand dune with its soft sand running like trickling water behind them as they pulled their way up to the top and walked the well worn path leading into the distance.

They ambled along the path in the fading light and talked about many things, and she kept hinting at the surprise he had promised to share with her, but he remained quiet because he knew when the time was right she would receive it. The sounds of the Magic Forest echoed to where they walked as they wound their way from the sand dunes through the field of pink daisies. They paused along the path and looked as a soft glow radiated from the canopy of trees in the twilight and she closed her eyes so that her senses could carry her back to the memories of long ago. The flickering faerie lights, the hypnotic music with its swaying rhythm, and the sounds of laughter that she had not heard for so long. All of these things and more could carry her away into a dream, the place where the reality of life lay intertwined with her imaginations. There, now, she felt the words forming in her mind and she was stirred by the presence of her magical friend, so much so that she began to see the words as they drifted, forming sentences that told of a friendship and a tree and all of the wonders she had come to know. This was more than an adventure it was the journey of a dream, it was all the wonders of the world unfolding like the wings of a butterfly as it came to brilliant life, transformed from a humble caterpillar.

They continued on their journey through the forest with firefly lanterns lighting the way, and the sounds of song and laughter to celebrate her return to this special place, and no one even questioned why it was she had been away, they were just happy that she was back. As they walked along side the cool stream, the life giving water reverberated with a soothing sound as it ran across the pebbles that lined it. She cupped her hands and drew a sip of its crystal clear liquid, giving a look of absolute pleasure as she did so, wiping the tiny droplets from her chin with her sleeve. There was so much she missed about this place, so many things she had learnt along the way, and it had become clear that until now there was much which had slipped from her memory. They walked from the forest and stood beneath the mystical canopy of the black velvet sky, filled with tiny stars, all twinkling like diamonds or distant candlelights. Looking hard they could make out the soft colours that were smudged within the deepest reaches of space, and the shapes that the stars formed when joined together. It was here on the path that he sat down and asked her to do the same, as she did he asked, “did you remember that I am magic?” She hesitated for a moment and replied, “I think so.” He smiled, reaching into his jacket pocket and he produced a tiny brightly coloured caterpillar at which she became very excited, and then he asked her to close her eyes and hold out her hands. He placed it in the upturned palms of her outstretched hands, then wrapped them around his gift, asking her to think happy thoughts and make a wish. As she did, so she felt a little tickle against her skin, and as she opened her hands, holding her palms skyward, there lay a pink butterfly with its paper crepe wings beating ever so softly.

“This is the magic of your transformation my friend, it signifies that life becomes life, and that change is sometimes inevitable, no matter what was in the past.” For a moment a sad look fell upon her face, and he knew what she was thinking, so before she could say a word, he explained. “Butterflies are usually ephemeral, but this one is special. It will grow strong as you grow strong and just like you, it will never grow old.” This put a smile on her face, and then in a moment the butterfly flapped its wings and took flight into the darkness, showing no fear of what lay ahead. She watched as it flitted away, with its wings sparkling like glitter in the starlight, disappearing into the vast sky above. She smiled and she wondered, but then life was full of wonder and somethings would only ever be revealed over time as the journey we take unfolded before us like the pages of an unread book. On the distant horizon, the moon began to rise and the light from it radiated soft and white, bathing the land eerily with shadows and silhouettes. The Friendship Tree stood tall and in the light it came to life as the gentle glow  wrapped around the trunk an bounced off the leaves that flickered in the breeze.

It had been a while since the small girl had tried to climb the Tree and find the essence of the child, allowing her to see beyond the reality of life, into the imaginative and dreamy world that had so often given her a quiet solitude. She had also missed the stories that her magical friend had so often weaved, with either words of wisdom or pure fantasy. After so long away from the Tree, the time had come to make a choice, take a chance and rekindle the many memories that lay hidden in the depths of her mind. As the boy stood, his shadow fell long across the land seemed to sway in the breeze blown tall grass. He climbed the tree and before long she pulled her way onto the branch and sat quietly, staring at the butterflies and dragonflies that he had meticulously cared for in her absence. She pointed to the Book of Dreams and asked, “Tell me a story please,” to which he welcomely obliged, opening the book to where it all began, hoping that she would remember once again. The truth is that even though she may not remember every moment in time, she would not forget that they were true friends. So now the journey would begin once more, with the old mesmerisingly melded with the new and the thoughts of two children once again shared with all those that chose to read them.

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The small boy walked alone along the winding forest path, with the flickering light playing on the leaves as he kicked his way merrily on through. His long white hair reflected in the dappled light and the buttons on his magical blue coat glistened all golden and bright like small stars. It was that magical time of the year and he had delivered all but one gift to all those that he knew, and although he could not see them, he knew that there were smiles across their faces as they removed the coloured paper that was so neatly wrapped around each and every present that he had left. A toy here a memory there, a thought or words that rhymed. There was so much he had tried to fit into the moment that he was nearly exhausted.

Tiny faeries flew along side him as he walked, and they filled his coat pockets with magic dust, before flying away once more to tend to the forest. He paused by the River of Redemption, where his reflection danced upon the ripples in the still water alongside the river bank which brought a smile to his face, and he watched as his eyes lit up wide at the imaginations he was having. He was a dreamer and his tales would hold those that cared to listen transfixed on every word and, the pictures he painted were magical, where his adventures carried even the most fearful souls to places where dreams do come true. He knew no fear, or at least none that anyone else may ever know, and in the simplest of words he gave courage and strength where before there was only confusion and despair.

As he sat quietly, he listened to the sounds of the singing birds as they chirped out beautiful tunes, with the whistle of the breeze as it gently rustled through the leaves in the trees, and the gentle of the pebbles in the fast flowing sections of water before him like the heartbeat of the forest. He watched as dragonflies and butterflies came and went from the water’s edge, sipping from the life giving crystal clear coolness that flowed on to the sea, before they moved on once more. ‘Life was surely so wonderful,’ he thought to himself as he watched the delicate fluttering butterfly, with its colourful crepe paper like wings as it was carried aimlessly by the wind, then in distinct contrast to the bold blue dragonfly with its speed and agility in full control of his destiny, keeping a close eye on the other creatures there.

As he sat, he thought about many things, and then he reached into his jacket pocket and from it he removed a tiny folded piece of paper, and he ran his fingers along its neat creases before finally pulling it into shape. He carefully placed it on the water’s surface and watched as it bobbed and weaved in the eddies that formed as the river wound its way into the distance. He did not know where this paper boat would finally end, but he did believe that it would find itself a home and that maybe one day it may even return like so many before.

The light had begun to fade as the evening drew near, and he climbed to his feet brushing the loose leaves from his trousers. He looked around at the small lanterns that hung from the weeping branches of the trees like tiny teardrops, and then he made his way to where the forest opened up onto the wide fields, becoming an ocean of soft pink flowers. As he stood admiring the undulating landscape with all its shape and mystery, he saw a small fox, reddish brown with a flash of white on its tale. It leaped and bounded here and there as if chasing something, although there was nothing to be seen, yet that did not seem to matter. It paused for a moment as it stared back at the small boy, tilting its head side to side inquisitively as though it new the child and trusted who he was, before it continued once more in its joyous dance.

As he watched he remembered a tale from a long while ago, where a girl with pink bows in her hair had found the injured fox along this same path, and how she had shown compassion enough to offer it life. The white haired boy tossed his head slightly, flicking away the few strands of hair that had fallen across his eyes, and as he held his gift tightly in his hands, he wondered if he too could offer the same to his friend. In the distance, the tall wide branches of the Friendship Tree reached into the cobalt blue sky that was beginning to come to life with the many stars that were a wonder to him. They flickered and sparkled like faerie lanterns held high in the distance for all to see. Where most people felt afraid in the dark, he felt a quiet solitude, but at the same time togetherness and comfort with the stars smiling back at him like tiny friends.

He stood staring at the Tree, where a warm inviting yellow glow radiated out through the leaves, and as he listened, he heard the familiar lalalalalalalala of his small friend, whom he had been looking for. He became excited in anticipation of the smile she would give in return for the gift he had for her. He ran to the tree, with his tiny legs barely managing to keep him upright, and when he reached the bottom of it, he ran his fingers along the coarse bark as if to greet it before calling out. “Hey there, are you here?” The singing stopped, and he waited in the silence. “I know you are in there, I heard you squawking from way up the path.” She poked her head through the leaves and with a pouty mouth exclaimed. “No fair, are you mocking me?” He smiled back and cheekily said, “nope, but I knew it would make you show your face.” She smiled then noticing his hands behind his back asked. “What you got there?” He stared all around pretending to not know what she meant, before looking in her direction once more. “There, behind your back?” she smiled, pointing to his arms tucked behind him.

He took the gift from behind his back, with its nice Santa paper neatly wrapped around it, and he held it out for her to see. He told her it was for her for Christmas, and also in celebration of the journey that she had now found herself taking. She clapped her hands in excitement as he carefully climbed the Tree and in the soft candlelight that flickered on the leaves overhead, he gave her his gift. “It isn’t much,” he explained as he watched her sit down then shake it to see if she could guess what it was. The puzzled look on her face told him that she was trying very hard, but unsuccessfully guessing what was contained within, and impatiently he whispered. “Come on, open it, cause it won’t open itself.” Her tiny fingers wrestled with the sticky tape, and then as the first piece of paper came away, so the rest followed in quick succession to reveal a brown cardboard box. She opened the box and within it she found the small statue of a boy holding a balloon.

She smiled and as she did he explained the gift. “Up until now, I have told you to believe, offering many words of strength and courage, and I have seen you grow and become strong. Now the road you walk is the destiny you created and with that I have a new word.” He smiled and as she held the small statue aloft, so that the stars sparkled around it, she read the word that was formed in the intricate wire shape held tightly in the small statue’s hands. The word was ‘Hope’. She had battled all adversity, she had fought the darkness and she had conquered her fear, so that now she had truly given herself hope. He looked at his friend, and he told her. “So many people live in hope and that is all they do, and hope on its own is just that. However when you have strength and courage, and you truly believe in what you are doing, you no longer live in hope, but instead you have given yourself hope that has true meaning and worth.” She nodded her head because she understood his words and she knew beyond all doubt that she was now in full control of her destiny. In the distance a flash of electric blue light filled the sky and the sound of thunder filled the air, startling the small girl to turn. As she turned to look at her friend once more, the small boy had disappeared, the only memory remaining being the small statue she now held. In the deep dark sky a single star sparkled brightly above all others, and a childish laughter filled the air.

Throughout our lives, we come to learn much, regret some things, and if we are truly lucky we get to meet people that understand us, people who are prepared to share the best and worst of whom we are without any further thought. Some say they are many, but I say they are unique, and those people are what I call true friends.

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