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Bonus Story

Kelly Russo

 Kelly Russo is a writer of speculative fiction living in Apple Valley, CA. She has self published a novel and has poetry published  in her college’s literary magazine. Her hobbies include photography, hiking, and learning weird animal facts.

Life with Eris is a story about the problems that arise for a graduate student when she gets a thousands-of-years- old goddess trapped in her head.-- Kelly Russo

Nothing I can add to that, except enjoy!


Life with Eris


By Kelly Russo



If you ever go on an archeology dig, be careful when picking up strange artifacts. This is a good idea in general, as many ancient artifacts are fragile and you never know when a venomous snake will be hiding in a pot. Or if you are me, you might end up with a goddess of chaos stuck in your head.

Hopefully no one will find this document tucked underneath my piles of field notes. I don’t need more people thinking I’m insane. I have certainly doubted my own sanity enough these past couple of months, but it seemed necessary to write this down. After all, this experience was integral to my research.

I was a first-year Master’s student on my first archeological trip. I had never been overseas before, and had to suppress my squeals of excitement at each historical ruin or temple. After some sightseeing, it was time for the reason I had come here in the first place. My advisor, Dr. Louis, had received word of a temple to Eris, the goddess of discord, on the edge of Greece.

"I thought none of the Greeks actually wanted to build a temple to Eris. They were all just kind of afraid of her," I said, sweating in the heat of the Greek summer.

"Most historians thought so too. But someone decided to construct one. There is actually a small, modern religion dedicated to worshipping Eris and all she represents, but this looks too old to be faked by them." Dr. Louis spoke in his usual monotone that made me a bit sleepy. But I thought I could detect a hint of excitement in his voice.

I was surprised when I found out that Dr. Louis chose me for this trip. I didn’t know him well and was a below-average student. But the temple was directly related to my research on obscure sects of ancient Greek religion, so the professor gave in to my increasingly long and desperate emails.

"How did you find out about this place?," I asked.

"I got an anonymous tip. The funny thing is, I know many researchers who have done digs in this region and none of them had ever found this place before," Dr. Louis responded.

"I guess it is well hidden."

 The temple was located in an undeveloped area and was secluded in a large thicket of olive trees. The only signifier this was a temple at all was the large statue of Eris at one end. Otherwise it just looked like a cracked floor with the toppled remains of stone columns around it. The statue seemed to be looking at me with its cold stone eyes. I got a chill down my spine, despite the summer heat.

"We do not know for sure that this is a temple. Many buildings may have had statues such as this. But it’s worth investigating," Dr. Louis said as he took pictures of every surface.

I moved in front of the statue. I had the tendency to want to touch everything I found interesting, which was a disastrous trait for an archeologist. It had gotten me fired from a museum job before when I broke a thousand-year-old pot by mistake. It irritated my colleagues to no end as well, although they didn’t seem to like me much in the first place.

I lightly tapped the statue on the nose, feeling its smooth surface.

Images flooded my head. Sights of ancient Greece surrounded me. Pictures of war, decay, and destruction. And the sound of shrill laughter.

Grasping my head, I sank to the floor. The last thing I heard before passing out was Dr. Louis calling my name.


I woke staring at the white stucco ceiling of a Greek hospital. "Hello," I heard a tiny voice say. It wasn’t Dr. Louis. Thinking it was a nurse, I looked around the room but there was no one there.

"That’s it, I finally snapped." I said out loud to no one. "Hours of studying obscure texts have finally done it."

"No, it’s only me," said a voice in my head.

"Who?" I thought.

To my surprise, the voice responded. "Eris," it said.

"Yeah, now I know I have lost it."

"It’s actually me." I heard it mutter "Stupid mortal," in a low voice.

"I will have you know, I am actually rather smart for a human." Or so I assumed, having gotten into a decent Masters’ program, although I was barely passing my classes. But Eris, if this was actually Eris, didn’t know that. At least I didn’t think so. Was Eris omnipotent?

"I don’t doubt that. I shouldn’t have called you stupid. More naive, probably. Mortals tend to be. But that’s what makes them so interesting. Who are you?"

"My name is Cleo. Why are you here? Why me?"

"I didn’t choose you specifically. You just happened to be the one to touch the statue. I had been trapped there for an awfully long time."

"Why do you even need a person? What are you planning?" I thought, shaking a bit.

"I don’t need anything. I was just bored. Same reason I started the Trojan War. Besides, I haven’t talked to anyone for a very long time."

"You started the Trojan War because you were bored?" I grabbed a notepad out of my jacket pocket and began to write her words down. I didn’t quite believe the goddess was actually in my head, but something compelled me to listen.

 "That wasn’t the only reason. I was also lonely, just like I have been these past few millennia. And angry."

"Why were you angry?"

"They didn’t invite me to the wedding. None of them liked me much. Not my sisters, not the other gods, not the mortals, and not even my own children." The voice in my head sounded like a pouty child.

"I imagine causing a war surely didn’t help much?"

"It’s my nature. It’s what I was created to do. All I can do is cause more chaos."

"What gave you the idea of throwing the golden apple?"

I could almost see her smile. "It seemed like the most fun thing to do. Goddesses are vain and jealous. Tell them that the most beautiful one gets a shiny prize and they will fight each other over it. I didn’t expect the war though. I just figured they would squabble among themselves for a while, and that would be it. As usual, it was Zeus’ fault for picking the idiotic Paris to settle the issue, but no one ever blames Zeus. Well, sometimes Hera does, but even she blamed me in this case. I didn’t expect Paris to kidnap the King of Sparta’s wife."

She was quiet for a moment. "I am always just the catalyst for these things. The truly stupid things the mortals do on their own."

I didn’t say anything. All I could think of was how I could get this goddess and its awful deeds out of my head.

"You already want me gone, don’t you?" the voice said.

"Uh, well this is kind of inconvenient right now. I have a thesis proposal to work on." I paused in thought. I could sense Eris in my head, waiting for my response. "Actually, you may be able to help with that. It is about obscure religious sects in ancient Greece."

"I may know a tiny bit about that," Eris responded sarcastically.

"Tell you what, you can stay for a month as long as you help with my research, but after I finish my thesis proposal, you have to leave. Okay?"

"Why should I leave?"

I couldn’t think of a reason from her perspective, so I tried improvising. "Well you cannot do much in my head. But if you left me, you have a chance of finding a more useful host, someone with more power." I shuddered to think of Eris actually getting a hold over someone of political power. I actually planned to get rid of Eris somewhere where no one could find her and prayed she couldn’t read my real thoughts.

Eris was silent, as if considering the possibilities. "I don’t want power. But I suppose multiple hosts would be more fun. It would get boring here after a while."

"Is that a yes?"

"I guess."

"Great, how do I get rid of you then?"

 "In order for me to leave you have to bind me to a new object."

"And how long will that take?"

Eris hesitated again. "A while."

"That answer is entirely too vague, but I guess we don’t have another choice." At that moment, the nurse burst in and I had to pretend like everything was completely normal.


I had to admit, the flight back to Santa Barbara passed faster with Eris talking the whole time. Some of her tales of Ancient Greece I wrote down as notes for my paper but I mostly just listened.

Eris watched the world outside. She had seen it years before, in previous hosts, but the world had changed since then. And while she could peer out from the inside of the statue, that view got awfully old after several millennia. She liked airplanes okay, but she loved the airport. She called it the "epitome of chaos." I can’t say I disagreed.

Things began to go wrong on the drive back to my apartment. Another professor had picked Dr. Louis and myself up at the airport. "Tell the driver to go faster," Eris said.

"I’m not going to do that."

"You’re no fun."

"I don’t want to die."

"Well, do something interesting at least. I’m getting bored again."

"It’s not my job to keep you entertained all the time."

Eris’ rare silence told me that it was.

"Are you okay?" Dr. Louis asked.

"I’m fine," I said, not sounding fine at all. I glared a bit too harshly. I could see Dr. Louis recoil a bit.

"Sorry," I said, not sounding sorry either. We passed the rest of the ride in silence. "That was kind of interesting, I guess," Eris said.

"You have to stop pestering me when there are people around," I thought to Eris later. "Dr. Louis thinks I am angry at him now because you were irritating me. This man is on my thesis committee. I have to stay on his good side."

"I never saw the use of all these personal relations."

"Well sometimes you need them to survive. And maybe that’s why the other gods didn’t like you." Eris was silent for only the second time that day.

"Uh, I’m sorry, that came out rather harsh," I said.

"It’s okay, I suppose it is true," Eris said glumly.

"Look, I know how you feel. I haven’t made many friends at this school yet. Well, any, actually, but I’m working to improve things. I guess that’s why I got upset."


"We’re going to have to make this arrangement work."

"I haven’t worked with others much before. Sometimes the other gods order me to do things, but that’s about it. Like Hera did with that one couple, Polytekhnos and Aedon."

"That was an ugly situation." I wondered if Eris could feel me wince.

"Once again, that was the mortals’ fault in the end. All I did was say that whoever finished their task first had to give the other a servant. The murder, cannibalism, and other nastiness was all them. I think they were much happier once they got turned into birds."

I sighed and changed the subject. "The less that you cooperate with me, the more I will stay shut up in my office. And you will get to see even less of the world."

"That does sound boring."

"If you help me out, I will take you on more trips. Maybe even stop by the airport again. What do you say?"




We fell into a pattern for the next three months. Eris was invaluable for my research, as she told me about Greek religious sects I don’t think anyone else knew existed. Once a week, I took trips to places such as the airport or the mall. I hated the crowds, but Eris was less ornery after these trips, so it was worth it. I also started the process of finding an object to bind Eris to.

"I am slightly offended you chose such a cheap object, but I appreciate the irony," she said. The object in question was a "Somebody in Greece Loves Me," coffee mug that I bought on a whim from the airport while waiting Dr. Louis to rent a car. This was before I realized I had no idea to whom to give it, since my parents disapproved of my studying archeology and thought I should have become a lawyer instead.

Another graduate student peered into the doorway. "Hi, I was looking for Emily or Matt." Emily and Matt were the other graduate students I shared an office with. It was rather cramped with all three of us were here, but at least they weren’t around often.

"I haven’t seen them today. Can I help you with anything?"

"Do you have a cup I can borrow? I forgot mine." She eyed the mug. "What about that one?"

"I’m not loaning that one out to people," I blurted. No rituals had been performed on it yet, but I wanted the cup handy. The other student eyed me as if I had grown another head. "I, uh, was about to go get coffee myself and I need that one."

"Okay, thanks anyways," she murmured as she rushed out.

These sort of interactions were commonplace over the past few months. The other students had slowly shifted from ignoring my presence to warily glancing at me and speeding up as they walked past me.

I stared hard at the mug. "I am going to bury this in the ground very deep where no one will find it for a long time. I hope that is okay," I thought to Eris. 

"I was alone for over a thousand years. I will manage," she responded.


Dr. Louis’s voice sounded from just outside my office door. "Cleo? I saw the draft of your paper you sent me. Could you please come to my office to discuss it?"

A wave of fear passed over me. I had never been called into his office before. What could I have done wrong? I had been even less social that usual lately, as Eris’ constant chattering continued to make me irritable towards others. But I didn’t think I could get suspended for being rude. Could I?


Dr. Louis’ office was covered with books and smelled like dust. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"I have some concerns about your paper."

"What?" Somehow, I had never considered that my paper itself was the problem.

"You cite some very interesting information here, but give no sources. Where did you get this from?"

"A reliable source."

"What sort of source? A textbook? A research paper you found online? It wasn’t anecdotal, was it? Because anecdotal sources aren’t adequate for your thesis."

I had worried about this. But I told myself I would find sources confirming what Eris had told me. There had to be something.

Then again this was Eris. She could just be messing with me.

Or there was no Eris, and all this was in my mind.

"If it turns out the sources are fabricated, I’m afraid I will have to kick you out of the program."

"What?" I screamed. Dr. Louis jumped back. I was reminded of the way he had looked at me in the taxi.

"I can’t be kicked out of this program. I have worked so hard," I said quietly. I thought of all the hours I had spent studying and my tens of thousands of dollars of student loans.

"I’m not kicking you out now, Cleo. That happens only if this information turns out to be completely fabricated. You just need to cite all of your sources and you will be fine."

"Okay, I will fix the sources then. Thank you," I then exited the office before he could chastise me for being rude.


"I can’t use any of the information you gave me," I told Eris.

"Why not? It’s all perfectly true."

"Yeah, but I need to cite sources in my paper."

"Cite me then."

"I can’t source a thousands-year-old goddess in my head. Look, you will have to leave earlier than I expected, as I was partially keeping you here to help with the research. You can still stay a few weeks, but I’m going to get the ritual going as soon as I can."

"But I can be of use to you. I can help you find actual sources. I have mental links to all the texts written about me."

"That would be amazing! How do I access them?"

"Nothing. Just talk to me and I will give exact sources for texts around the world."

"Wait, how do I know you aren’t making these up? If I can’t actually access them, how do I know the sources are legit?"

"You will have to trust me." I could practically see her shifty eyes in my head.

I narrowed my eyes. "You are a goddess of chaos and deceit. I clearly can’t trust you. Let me guess, you can’t mentally access the sources unless I don’t make progress on the ritual, right? Or you need more time than a few weeks?"

"I never hinted at anything of the sort." Her tone told me she was thinking of it though.

"I have read your stories. I know what you are like. You can’t fool me like you fooled other mortals years ago."

"And another thing," I continued. "You can’t keep influencing my actions. I have yelled at professors and other students far more times than I can count over the past few months. If they didn’t like me before, they actively dislike me now. And my room was perfectly neat before you came, and now look at it." I hadn’t cleaned my apartment since this mess started. I told myself I would get stuff done once the ritual was finished. There were few spaces on the floor that weren’t covered by piles of laundry or trash. A tower of unwashed dishes filled my sink and some of the space next to it.

"I didn’t do anything, or purposely influence your thoughts in anyway. You did this yourself."

"Yes. Because you are in my head, and it is stressing me out."

"But even though I influenced your actions, you still have the free will to perform them yourself."

I narrowed my eyes, sure I looked strange to anyone who passed me in the hallway. "I suppose you could put it that way, but that does not mean you are not responsible at all. Don’t try to blame it all on others either. I suppose that is how you live with all the awful things you have done."

I walked into my office and locked the door. After several hours, I finally managed to wring the instructions out of Eris by offering trips as bribes. "There was more to your involvement in the Trojan War than causing it. I have read The Illiad countless times," I thought solemnly, after I had finished. I felt my eyelids drooping, as a constant undercurrent of irritation rippled underneath my skin.

"Half that stuff is all made up," she said, her voice tense.

I repeated the passages from memory effortlessly. "She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men's pain heavier."

Eris was quiet. "It was a difficult time. The gods were sent to intervene. And pain and misery were what I did best," she finally said.

"Can you just stop acting like you are innocent and the mortals are the only ignorant or cruel ones?"

"I never had any say in what domain I was given control over. None of the gods did. Ever since birth I was followed by disaster. And I had a knack for causing it. That’s why the other gods gathered up their power to lock me away, so that I couldn’t exist without a vessel. But it wasn’t my fault. It was the way I was born." It felt like Eris was staring straight at me, although I could not see her. "What would you do in my situation?" I heard her say.

"I have no idea. I’m just a stupid mortal," I said, my pen pressing hard into the paper as I wrote down the remaining instructions for the ritual.


The plan was to throw the mug off a cliff overlooking the ocean. The mug would sink to the bottom where no one would likely see if again, at least not for a very long time. I considered burial, but then there was the chance someone’s dog could dig it up. Better not to take any chances. And at least this way Eris could watch the fish swim by.

Passerby gawked at me as I murmured under my breath, holding a tourist mug out in front of me. I muttered the whole ritual at least five times in different inflections. Yet I could still feel Eris’ uncharacteristically silent presence in my head.

"There is something missing that you didn’t tell me, isn’t there?" I asked.


"Are you going to tell me what it is?"

"You have to find that out for yourself."

I almost threw the mug over the cliff out of frustration right there, but instead I just gripped the handle harder. I was going to have to do some reading later.


I researched binding rituals constantly for the next few weeks. Not that there was much out there, but there was the occasional reference to similar things in mythology. The ancient Greek gods had been known to bind each other to objects before, but of course there were no directions attached to these stories. I had even begun looking up instructions for Wiccan binding rituals once I got truly desperate.

 Eris didn’t talk much for once, and I often prodded the mug to see if I had somehow managed to successfully bind her to it after all. But she was still there, just silent.

"Why are you so quiet?" I asked.

"I can sense something has changed in your brain. I think I may have gone and done my usual thing again by accident."

"What do you mean?" I yelped, "What did you do to me?"

"I don’t know. I didn’t mean to do anything, it just always happens."

"What always happens?" My fingers dug into the wooden desk.

"The mortals destroy themselves. And I don’t have to do a thing."

"What do you mean?" I relaxed my fingers but felt a growing sense of unease.

Eris didn’t say anything. It felt weird when she wasn’t speaking to me. I hated to admit it, but I almost missed her when she didn’t talk.

 I looked at the piles of junk around the apartment. An unhappy thought dawned on me.

It had been over two weeks since I had worked on my thesis or gone to classes. I succeeded at getting work done at first, but as I grew increasingly frustrated with trying to complete the ritual, it became my sole focus. I hadn’t even been checking my phone. I hesitated before looking at my missed calls and texts. There was one from my mom, concerned that she hadn’t heard from me in a while. That wasn’t unusual, she always panicked if she hadn’t heard from me in over a week. And there were ten calls from Dr. Louis.

He had never called me before, except for once to plan the trip to Greece. It felt as if my heart had stopped. Even Eris seemed to tense up as I swiped to redial.

Dr. Louis picked up on the first ring. "Hello? Cleo, where have you been? I have been trying to reach you. Dr. Williams and Dr. Jane told me you haven’t been to their classes in the last two weeks, nor have you been to my class. And I haven’t gotten any thesis updates from you," he said.

"I know, I’m sorry, I got caught up doing research."

Dr. Louis sighed. The next moments before he spoke seemed to last an eternity. I was ready to pack my bags and return home to my parents in that moment, sure my academic career was finished.

Finally, he spoke. "If you don’t make up the assignments you missed in the next week, you will have to be put on academic probation. I will work with you to make sure that doesn’t happen, but remember that you still need to attend classes, even though research is your priority."

"You aren’t kicking me out then?"

The silence on the other end almost made me regret my words. "Not unless you fail to make up your missed homework in the next week. Or miss any other classes."

"I won’t let you down," I said, knowing I would have to set research on the binding ritual aside for a while.


The list of missed assignments was longer than expected. I would have to start working on them right away. The oldest assignment I had missed was a research essay based on several readings on the Roman Empire we had to do for class. I had not looked at any of the readings yet.

I scrolled through the readings for a few minutes, then stared at a blank document in Microsoft Word for almost an hour. Then I began typing complete nonsense.

"That’s not right," Eris said.

"Excuse me?"

"It was Cornelius Scipio Africanus who led the Roman army in the battle of Zama, not whatever you just typed. I would have assumed that was basic knowledge. He would go to Zeus’ temple all the time when Zeus was calling himself Jupiter. Some spread rumors that he was Jupiter’s son, which could have been the case, given how many kids he had."

"How can I trust you? And how do you know this?"

"Look at your papers again. It should all be there. I was reading the assignments, even when you weren’t."

After scrolling through the papers, I found that she was correct. "Huh. I figured you were just making up supposed ‘hidden knowledge’ again."

"Well, the part about Zeus wasn’t in the papers. I overhead that from Aphrodite. She sure loves to gossip."

"Thank you. Maybe you can actually help me." My fingers tapped on the keys, as Eris talked in my head the whole time.

I didn’t sleep that night. And when the sun rose in the sky I still hadn’t completed the essay.

"This paper was due two weeks ago. And Dr. Jane is notoriously strict with deadlines. She is only not taking off points for this one yet because Dr. Louis pulled some strings." I felt my eyelids droop.

"How about this, I refuse to shut up until you finish this paper."

"That sounds like a good motivator," I said, grimacing. I typed faster than I ever had before as Eris babbled on about all the stupid things she "accidentally" caused mortals to do in the past.

"Stop," I said, sometime around mid-morning.

"And that’s the time I decided to annoy Hercules. As you can imagine it was pretty entertaining… Wait you are done already?"

"Yes, it appears so," I said, feeling a smile creep across my face for the first time in a while. Then I fell asleep on my computer.


This pattern continued for the next week. I would work constantly, rarely stopping to sleep or eat, and Eris would refuse to shut up until I finished, sometimes actually managing to pass me useful information.

Sometime mid-day Sunday, while running completely on espresso, ramen, and Eris yelling about how annoying Zeus was, I finished the final essay.

 I sat there, staring at the jumbled words on my screen, numb with shock. Then I began to laugh, a loud, wild laugh that likely scared my neighbors.

"You kind of sound like me," Eris said. I wasn’t even insulted. I just printed out the essay, still grinning.

By the end of the week, I was completely caught up on class work. My GPA was ruined for the semester and I would likely have to take an extra semester to finish my thesis, but the university didn’t kick me out.

"Now we can finally start on my thesis," I said to Eris in my head, after turning in the final paper. But no one responded. "Eris?" I asked, feeling oddly desperate. She was annoying, but surprisingly helpful over the last week.

I actually found myself worrying about her as I drove home. Then the response came. "Huh? I fell asleep," she said.

"You never used to fall asleep before."

"Well you made me talk constantly for a week, no wonder I am tired."

No work got done on my thesis that night. In my burnt-out state, I only had energy to zone out in front of the TV for the next few hours. Eris spoke little.

I saw the "Someone in Greece Loves Me" coffee mug sitting next to my head, half full of espresso, and I smiled at it. "If only you had done your job earlier, I wouldn’t be so behind on my work," I said to the mug out loud. The mug said nothing. It appeared talking to myself had become too much of a habit to me.

I picked up the mug and drank its remaining contents. I sat staring at it for a long moment afterwards. On a whim, I began performing the ritual Eris had told me. She stayed quiet the whole time.

"I should probably tell you that I left out a step the first time," she said.

"What? That would have made my life so much easier," I thought, almost throwing the mug across the room.

"Did you really think I would tell you? And allow myself to be trapped for another thousand years?"

"It was worth a shot."

"I think I have done enough damage now though. Besides, I am starting to get bored. I need to find a new host. That mug is going to wash up on shore eventually, after all," although her tone indicated there was more she wasn’t saying.

In my mind, I glared at her. But for some reason, I listened as she told me the steps for the ritual.

After finishing the procedure, nothing happened. "Eris, did you lie ag…" I began to ay out loud, then suddenly, my head felt slightly emptier. I don’t know how I knew, but Eris wasn’t there anymore. The mug felt slightly heavier.

"Huh," I said to no one. Suddenly, my apartment felt too large and a feeling of loneliness settled on me. I had been working towards this for a long time. Yet, I didn’t feel much of anything.

I had always expected to drive to the cliffs right away after completing the ritual. But I let the mug sit on my desk for a few days. It was raining, I told myself, and I didn’t want to deal with walking outside in the dampness. Even though I had never minded the rain before.


Finally, after three days had passed, I drove down to the ocean. It was a sunny, yet chilly day.

 I found myself standing on the cliff’s edge, coffee mug in hand, dangling it from a couple of gloved fingers. It felt like I stood there for hours, as the rare passerby looked at me strangely.

If I removed the gloves and touched the mug, Eris would come back. It would be that easy. I didn’t know why I was even considering such a thing, but there I was. My lack of anyone to confide in in this town was nagging at my mind. To my embarrassment, tears welled at the corners of my eyes. An old lady walking her dog frowned at me.

I made a mental promise to myself to try to live a normal life, after this was all over. I would talk to the other graduate students more, I would work harder on my thesis. I would prove Eris’s feelings about mortals wrong.

The mug dangled from only one finger now. I stared at it.

"Eris, you were a pain, but you were kind of useful sometimes," I said out loud without realizing it. After a pause, I continued, "And I admit I actually enjoyed talking to you. As much as an arrogant pessimist you were, you told some good stories. And you helped me when you didn’t have to. You could have stayed in my head forever, but you didn’t. I hope whatever it is like in that cup, it isn’t too uncomfortable for you. I… I have to say I’m sorry to see you go." My finger gripped the mug tighter. "But I have to live my life now and it would be difficult to do that with you in my head forever. So, I guess this is goodbye," I said.

I let the mug roll off my finger. It bounced down the edge of the cliff before sinking slowly in the ocean. It didn’t even chip, staying intact during the whole, long journey down.

I stood at the edge there for a while, with no noise in my head besides the noisy caws of seagulls flying past.

Later, as I drove home, my thoughts bounced around in my head, free to move about, as the ocean grew smaller and smaller behind me.


The End

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