Estimated reading time — 19 minutes
I’m looking at myself in the mirror, not really realizing how bad I look. My skin looks extremely pale and I got dark bags under my eyes. What on earth happened to me? I’ve been leaning forward, clenching my hands around the sink. I don’t really know how long I’ve been standing here. I don’t even know where I am exactly. My mind has been empty for days.
Well I’m in a hotel, that much I know. But I have no clue of why I went here. Why did I leave home?
I look away from the mirror, down into the sink. There’s a distinctive smell of metal in the small bathroom area. It looks like the sink hasn’t been cleaned in a while, on account of the dust that’s in it. I open the tap to wash away some of it. The water starts running slowly, it makes a nice relaxing sound. I close my eyes and listen to the flow of the water.
My hands… they were red. I open my eyes again and turn my gaze towards my hands. Strange. What is that? Blood? How did I get blood on my hands? At least that explains the smell. I put my hands under the water flow and start scrubbing.
I turn off the water tap and leave the bathroom area. My hotel room isn’t a luxury suite. As a matter of fact, it’s far from luxurious. The walls are cracked, the paint is peeling off and there’s mold in the corners of the room. I sit on the bed that hasn’t been made and bury my face in my hands. What has a man done to end up in a shithole like this, I wonder.
I can hear voices.
No, not in a crazy way of course. The walls aren’t very thick, so it’s very likely that I can hear the neighboring guests of the hotel. I try to hear what they’re saying.
‘Are you listening to me?’
‘What do you think?’
‘It’s just not working.’
‘…not even there.’
The voices sound muffled. It sounds like an argument, I assume they aren’t satisfied with this hotel. I can’t blame them. But it doesn’t matter anyway. I get up from the bed and walk to the wall to shout that they need to quiet down. I listen a little while longer, but the voices have faded. Good.
I think I’ll go to bed, get some sleep and tomorrow I’ll try to freshen up my memory.
The droning sound of a buzzing phone. It’s one of the worst sounds to wake up to. I put my phone on the night stand next to my bed when I entered the room. I slowly open up my eyes and grab the phone. I pick up and listen to the voice on the other side of the line.
‘Hello?…’ I say with a broken voice. I keep listening, but nobody is responding. I wait and listen for a minute…
I look at the screen and only realize now that it was the alarm clock on my phone that caused the buzzing. An alarm clock at 3 AM, what was I thinking? I throw the phone across the room, turn around and try to go back to sleep.
I’ve been tossing and turning for about an hour. Damn it. I can’t sleep anymore. I get up and sit on the side of my bed. I guess that’s the end of my night. I’ll go outside for a nightly walk then. I get dressed, take my key with me and go outside, locking the door behind me.
The hallway on the 4th floor is long and dark, there are only a few TL lights illuminating it. At one side is the elevator. The other side turns around a corner towards a flight of stairs. I put my hands inside my pockets and start walking towards the stairs. While I’m walking through the hallway, I take a look at other doors. Most of them have a ‘don’t disturb’ card hanging on the door handle with the guest’s name on it.
‘Don’t go there!’
I immediately stop walking just before I turn around the corner. I look behind me to see who shouted at me. It was a woman’s voice. But there’s nobody in the hallway.
‘Hello? Who’s there?’
No response. I start walking back in the direction of my room to see if there’s someone hiding in the elevator. I click the button as I arrive and the elevator doors slowly open. I take a peek inside and see that there’s nobody inside. Relieved, I get in the small area and proceed to the ground floor.
‘You’ll be here for a while.’
There’s that voice again. I look around panicky to see where it came from, but I can’t see anyone in the elevator with me. Am I going crazy? With a shock, the elevator comes to a stop at the 2nd floor. I’m pressed against the walls, scared to move. The doors slowly open and I’m able to look into the hallway. But once again, the hall is empty. The doors close again and the elevator starts moving. I assure myself that nobody is following me. I probably imagined the voice. It’s about 4 AM right now, so it would be very unlikely that there’s someone still awake, watching me. I calm myself and as soon as the elevator stops at the bottom floor, I quickly get out.
Finally I see a familiar face. I greet the receptionist as I walk by and he gives me a slight smile, suppressing a surprised look because of my appearance at this time of night.
‘Just going out for a nightly walk,’ I tell him.
‘No you’re not,’ he mumbles.
I look at him surprised, but I keep walking towards the entrance. The hotel has two doors, as most hotels do. There’s a revolving door and a regular one next to it. I’ll just take the revolving door then. As soon as I get close to the door, a sensor picks up my movement and the doors start moving. I get into the first of four openings, which quickly closes behind me. Then it stops moving.
Great… I push against the window of the door to get it moving again, but I can’t get it to budge. I call out to the receptionist, but he doesn’t notice or hear me. I knock on the window and wave to get his attention but he walks away without even looking into my direction. I’ll just hit the door a bit harder then. I kick against the window, I start hitting the glass, but it doesn’t even move in the slightest, nor does it damage.
Sigh… I’ll just wait for help to arrive then. Surely in the morning somebody will come. Daylight’s only a few hours away anyway. I get the idea of using my phone to call to the hotel desk, but then I remember I threw it away in my room. I sit down against the glass outer wall, looking at the three other parts of the revolving door. I close my eyes for a little while to make time pass faster. This’ll give me time to think about why I went here.
It feels like hours passed. I have no idea what time it is. Outside it’s still pitch black, there’s no trace of daylight to be found, but how is that possible? I’ve been here longer than 3 hours, I’m sure of it. I get up to look inside, to see if the receptionist is back already. But he isn’t. I try to push the door again. But it still isn’t moving.
I put my forehead against the glass and stand there for a little while, when all of a sudden I hear someone breathing softly behind me. I turn around and look straight into a pair of woman’s eyes in the left part of the revolving door. She has her hands pressed against the glass, her eyes are large, almost popping out of her head. Locks of her uncombed greasy blond hair stand up, her lips are chapped and she’s even more pale than I am. Her lips are shivering and it seems like she’s trying to say something. The dimmed light from the background gives her appearance a strange glow. Hesitantly, I get the courage to speak.
‘Excuse me, miss… I’m stuck in here. Could you please help me?’
Though not surprising, she just keeps staring at me, not responding. Slowly she takes her hands off the glass and points down. She doesn’t take her eyes off me. I turn my head slightly to see what she’s pointing at, but I don’t want to turn around entirely. From the corner of my eye I can see a familiar object on the ground.
My phone! Cool!
I bend over to pick it up and look at it. How did that get here? I look up to ask her, but… she’s gone. What the hell was that all about?
I look down to my phone and I can see that it’s fully charged. Quickly, I dial the number of the hotel desk and wait for someone to pick up. Meanwhile, I see the receptionist returning to the desk and pick up the phone.
‘Finally,’ I tell him while taking a glance at the parking lot in front of the hotel. ‘Listen, I know this sounds odd, but I’m stuck here at the entrance. Could you help me out please?’
I wait for his response, but I don’t hear anything. I turn around to look at the desk to signal the man. My heart skips a beat when I see there’s something written on the glass of the door where the woman stood few moments ago. I drop my phone from my hand as I read the giant word written in what appears to be blood.
Pictures? Through the gaps of the letters I attempt to see the receptionist at the desk. But he isn’t there anymore. Did I really see him then? Of course I did. Someone picked up the phone… or was it her? No, not possible.
I look at the word again and sit down on the ground to pick up my phone. Perhaps it means the pictures on my phone?
I open the image folder on my phone and take a look. The folder shows 1 image. It’s a picture of me with a woman in front of a house. In front of us is a small girl playing with her teddy bear. There’s a lot of blur in the picture and I have a hard time identifying the woman next to me. I zoom in on the woman. It’s a pretty woman, that’s for sure. Blond hair, pretty blue eyes and a broad smile. Something is coming back to me.
With all the confusion and the issues with the door, I completely forgot why I tried to go outside in the first place. Could it be that I left my home because of her? Then why is my head completely empty?
I look up from my phone and see that the word that was written on the glass is slowly fading…
I know this woman. We were together! I’m pretty sure she was my wife. And yes, we had a daughter together!
It’s been silent for a while now. The excitement from my partially returning memory has faded.
‘Hello? Jamie? Do you remember? Do you remember what happened?’
That same voice. Again! I get up and look around to see if there’s anyone around. Maybe it’s the woman I saw earlier who’s calling me. But all the parts of the revolving door are empty. I check out my phone to see if the voice maybe came from there. But no… I’m all alone here. Surely I’m not imagining things!
‘Shut up!’ I shout out to the voice.
I sit down again, facing the opposite room of the door. I close my eyes and try to convince myself of not being insane.
‘Mommy doesn’t want you anymore.’
I open my eyes and see a young girl in front of me. I sit up on my knees and look at the girl.
‘Hey, I know you,’ I say to her with a smile. The girl doesn’t smile back at me.
‘Do you remember me, daddy?’ she asks me.
‘Of course I do, you’re Celine, right?’
She smiles at me now, revealing her teeth. It’s coming back to me. My daughter, 8 years old. She always liked to wear a white dress, just like she’s doing now. She’s holding her teddy bear with one hand. In the other she’s holding a mobile phone.
‘Daddy is a bit confused though. Do you know what happened?’ I ask her.
‘Would you like to tell me?’
‘Hmm? It’s okay to tell me, sweetie.’
She stands there silently, thinking.
‘I can’t tell you, daddy…’
I look at her, thinking of what to say to make her tell me.
‘…but I can show you if you want.’
‘What do you mean, you will show me?’
She laughs. ‘You’re funny daddy. I will show you, okay?’
I nod to her. She turns around and starts to play with her phone. I stand up and move closer to the glass to see what she’s doing.
‘No peeking!’ she commands me.
My phone starts buzzing in my pocket. I take it out and pick up. I see Celine putting her phone to her ear as well.
‘Hello?’ I say.
Again, nobody responds to what I say. I don’t have my daughter on the line, I’m sure of that. I look at her while I hold the phone to my ear. She’s looking back at me as well, but she put her phone on the ground. She still holds her teddy bear in her hand. Through the speaker I can hear some murmur, but there’s not someone talking to me directly. Slowly but gradually the murmur is getting louder and I can make out a heated conversation going on. It’s me, arguing… with my wife I guess?
‘You know what? Maybe I will just leave. I’m fed up with this bullshit!’
‘It’ll suit you. You always run away from everything anyway!’
‘Oh please.. what do you want from me?..’
‘You really want to know?’
‘Do tell me, yeah.’
‘I want you to get out of this house! And out of our lives!’
‘Your lives? If I’m leaving, I’ll take our daughter with me.’
‘Oh, no you won’t…’
A third voice joined.
‘Celine, go to your room. Mommy and daddy are talking!’
The conversation suddenly ended, followed by a dead tone. The argument repeats itself in my head. I look at my daughter who was looking at me the entire time I was listening to the phone.
‘Daddy… that’s not all I wanted to show you.’
‘What do you mean?’ I ask her.
‘I want to show you more too. Mommy said I can’t show you because you don’t deserve it. But I won’t tell her if you won’t.’
‘Please show me… what happened,’ I tell her.
She doesn’t respond to me, yet she doesn’t take her eyes off me. I look straight into her eyes and see that they start tearing up. I try to say something as soon as a tear rolls out, but I can’t find any words. I’m looking at the tear, which rolls down her cheek, down her neck and onto her dress. On her dress several red spots are appearing. Red spots which are slowly growing…
‘It hurts…’ she says.
The bloodstains slowly grow. I can see my daughter struggling to stay on her legs. My eyes start tearing up. I can’t do anything about it. I try to smash the windows around me, try to bash through the corner of the revolving door, but it’s no use. I want to hold her in my arms.
‘You wanted me to show it to you…’ she says to me as she drops down on the ground.
I drop down on my knees, in tears to see what’s happening to my daughter. I close my eyes and put my head to the ground. My daughter…
I shouldn’t have made her suffer like that. The argument, it had to do something with her death. But what really happened?..
I’m not sure anymore what is real and what isn’t. I’m stuck inside this door, that’s for sure. However, this door is unusually strong and withstands everything I throw at it. But then I just saw my daughter. But was that actually happening? Was I hallucinating? No… I couldn’t be. So many things have happened in such a short time…
‘Do you remember your daughter?’
There it is again! That voice! That voice of which the source is missing…
‘My daughter died!’ I shout to the voice. I know it’s insane to be talking to a voice that might not exist. But it’s taunting me… Obviously it too has seen what has happened just now.
‘What do you remember exactly?’
‘She’s dead. And I’m stuck here. I can’t do anything about it.’
I get back on my feet and start pacing around. This door I’m trapped in. It must have something to do with my family. What am I missing… Surely the voice of the woman can explain something.
‘Hello? Are you there?’ I ask.
No response. I look outside to see if there’s a sign of at least a shimmer of daylight. There’s still only darkness to see. However in the distance a small light appears. It looks like the headlights of a car driving towards the hotel. Can it be? Slowly but gradually the lights get closer. I can see the shape of a car turning and parking in front of the building, the beams of light are still pointing towards the door. A person gets out of the car.
The silhouette appears to be moving towards the trunk of the car. I can’t see what’s happening on the back of the car, but after a little while the person starts walking towards the entrance, carrying something. I put my hands on the glass, trying to identify the individual. The silhouette gets clearer and I know that I’m looking at a woman now judging by her hair. She’s holding something in a blanket. A few meters from the door, she stops walking and I assume she’s looking right at me.
‘Jamie?’ the woman says.
Frightened, I back away from the window.
‘Who are you? Come closer so I can see who you are. Please…’
The woman does as I ask. She walks towards the glass and puts down the object she’s carrying.
‘It’s me, Jamie.’
I also approach the glass to look at her.
‘Sally, what are you doing here? Call the police, call an ambulance. Our daughter is dead!’ I say to her while pointing at Celine.
She doesn’t respond to me. Instead, she bends over and opens the blanket she was carrying. I watch her slowly unfold it. She picks up the object and holds it with both hands, showing it as if it’s a holy relic. The knife shows Sally’s reflection through the dried up blood.
‘You remember this? I do…’ she says.
‘I don’t. But I heard our argument over the phone,’ I reply.
She doesn’t respond once again. Instead she looks to the other part of the revolving door where our daughter lies.
‘Our angel. She didn’t deserve this. And neither did I,’ she speaks without looking at me.
She looks at me now. She drops the knife and takes her phone out of her pocket, dialing a number.
My phone starts ringing now. I turn around, put my ear to the phone and listen…
‘What’s going on?..’
‘Celine, go to your room. Mommy and daddy are talking!’
‘Why are you holding a knife?’
‘What? Put that away…’
‘Daddy, stop it!’
‘Shut up child, get out of the way and go to your room!’
‘Jamie, drop the knife now.’
‘Jamie… please. Don’t do this.’
‘But this is what you wanted, isn’t it? Me separated from you and Celine? Well if I can’t have her, then you can’t either!’
I can hear objects being thrown around the room, people shouting… until the dead tone appears again. I take the phone off my ear and turn towards my wife who dropped her phone on the ground. I’m not looking at the same woman anymore. She turned into the woman I saw on the other side of the door, the woman I saw first. I didn’t recognize her before, but now I do. She raises her arm and points to behind me. I turn around and look at the words that appeared in blood on the glass.
You did this…
What did I do… I turn back to look at her and I see her clothes are slowly turning bloody as well. I can only stand there and watch what’s happening. I killed my wife?
I killed my child in a fit of insanity?
I drop down on the ground with my hands covering my head. It all makes sense now. I did this. I’m a killer.
I spent what felt like an eternity in that room on the ground, disgusted by my own being. I get on my feet and look at the opening of the revolving door, which is right in front of me. I’m not trapped anymore! I can walk straight towards the elevator towards my room. I feel the urge to go to my room. I don’t even want to leave the hotel anymore. While I’m walking towards the elevator, I hear a familiar voice.
‘Let’s get you back to your room, shall we?’
The officer, clouded by a troubled mind, enters the building after a 3 hour drive. He checks in his gun and badge at the entrance.
‘Please take a seat over there,’ the receptionist says.
The officer, wearing a casual stylish blouse and jeans with white sneakers, does as he’s requested. After a 15 minute wait, he is approached by a woman wearing a long white coat.
‘Officer Martin?’ she asks.
‘Yes, that’s me. You must be Dr. Colton,’ he replies.
‘Please, call me Alice. If you’d follow me. I understand you were closely involved with this case?’ Alice says as they’re walking through the long corridor.
The officer replies: ‘Yes. Well… kind of. To be honest, I’m here on family reasons.
You see… the victims who were murdered, were my sister and my niece.’
‘I understand. Normally we don’t allow insights into our patients, but in this case I can make an exception. Just keep it on the down-low please.’
‘My lips are sealed.’
The two arrive at an office, at the end of the hallway. They enter. The officer looks around to see what’s in the room. The room looks very messy. There’s paper scattered all over the places, several cabinets are opened and there’s dust on the shelves where diplomas, photos and other objects are kept.
‘I’m sorry for the mess. I was looking for the documents you required and I made a bit of a mess I’m afraid…’
‘That’s okay, I know how bad paperwork can get,’ the officer replies with a smile.
‘Now then. The patient. So I’ll explain the way we work around here. What we do is we keep audio logs of every day we treat a patient. We start off by picking up the patient, then taking him to a room where we try talking to him. Now this patient is a very peculiar case. We know what happened, all the evidence was there. However… this man isn’t healthy on a whole different level,’ the doctor explains.
‘I’m afraid you lost me there,’ he says.
‘I think that when I let you listen to our audio logs, it’ll be much clearer for you.’
The doctor takes a USB flash drive from his desk and plugs it into the computer on his desk.
‘I took the liberty of compiling the most useful excerpts from the whole therapy session for you on this drive,’ Alice says before she plays the audio files.
Audio log day 1.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Day 1. Patient’s name is Jamie Garth. Garth was admitted to the hospital three days ago. Declared insane. He was accused and found guilty of slaying his wife and daughter. He was found in a hotel room, rambling and mumbling to himself. Tomorrow I’ll try to talk to the patient in his room to find out more about him. I had the opportunity to see the patient while he was being escorted to his chamber. He doesn’t seem to respond to anyone or anything except himself.
Audio log day 2.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: Day number 2. This is Dr. Colton, accompanied with my assistant, Dr. Landon. Today we’ll have our first contact with the patient. Continuing log at the patient’s room.
Dr. Colton: I’m in the patient’s room now. Doctor Landon will follow shortly. The patient has been standing in front of his mirror for a while now. He doesn’t see or hear us. I’ll keep observing him.
Dr. Colton: Patient has moved to his bed. He shows signs of depression. Trying another attempt at making contact.
Dr. Colton: Jamie? Are you listening to me? Can you hear me?
Dr. Landon: Making any progress?
Dr. Colton: Not really, no. I’m trying to talk to him, but it’s like he looks right through me. He doesn’t even notice me being here.
Dr. Landon: What do you think is wrong with him?
Dr. Colton: No idea… he’s just not responding to anything.
Dr. Landon: Why not?
Dr. Colton: I haven’t figured that out yet. All I know is that mentally he’s not even there.
Jamie: Quiet down!
Dr. Colton: It does seem he is aware of people somehow. But it’s not this world he’s actively living in. We’ll continue tomorrow when we’ll take him to the therapy room.
Audio log day 3.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: Going to pick up the patient. Entering the room now. On my own today.
Dr. Colton: The patient is aware of his surroundings. I want to see if he’s able to walk around the hospital. Just to see if he does recognize physical areas beyond his own mindset.
Dr. Colton: Patient is getting dressed and walks outside into the hallway. He’s walking down the hall, looking at other patient’s doors. He doesn’t show any interest to disturb them.
Dr. Colton: Don’t go there!
Dr. Colton: Patient stops and looks around. I think he heard me that time. Selective hearing maybe?
Jamie: Hello? Who’s there?!
Dr. Colton: The patient is looking straight through me again. I’m going to escort him to the therapy chamber. The patient doesn’t seem to instantly be able to find his way to the elevator.
Dr. Colton: Don’t worry, you’ll learn your way around this place soon enough. You’ll be here for a while anyway.
Dr. Colton: The patient appears to be afraid of my voice. He’s looking around panicky.
Jamie: Just going out for a nightly walk.
Dr. Colton: No you’re not, Jamie. Just come with me.
Audio log day 4.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: We’ve kept the patient in the therapy room for a while. The patient seems to be trapped in his own world. He’s asking people for help and tries to talk to people to help get him out. At this point, it appears he has no memory of what happened to him. Attempting another interaction.
Dr. Colton: Hello? Jamie? Do you remember? Do you remember what happened?
Jamie: Shut up!
Dr. Colton: Interesting.
Audio log day 5.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: Something just happened. Garth is talking to someone, his daughter probably. This means that he is trying to remember what happened. He’s visualizing the past to help him figure things out. Interesting. I wonder how accurate his visualizations are.
Jamie: What do you mean, you will show me?
Jamie: Please show me… what happened.
Dr. Colton: The patient has been silent for a while now, he seems to have become desperate. Judging from what he said, I assume he found out that something happened to his daughter.
Audio log day 6.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: A new day. We’re going to see if the patient has retrieved some of his memory.
Dr. Landon: You will do the talking then, I assume.
Dr. Colton: Hello Jamie, you spoke to your daughter yesterday, didn’t you? Do you remember your daughter? Do you remember your wife?
Jamie: My daughter died!
Dr. Landon: So he is remembering some things.
Dr. Colton: What do you remember exactly?
Jamie: She’s dead. And I’m stuck here. I can’t do anything about it.
Dr. Colton: You hear that? His memory is getting clearer. But not entirely yet. Part of his confused state the police found him in.
Jamie: Hello? Are you there?
Dr. Landon: Let’s take this step by step. Best continue tomorrow, don’t you think?
Audio log day 7.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: We’re witnessing something interesting today. Garth appears to be interacting with his wife. He’s pacing around the room, looking frightened, confused.
Jamie: Call the police, call an ambulance. Our daughter is dead!
Dr. Colton: The patient still hasn’t figured out the facts regarding his daughter. Wait. Something is happening. He lies on the ground now. All interaction seems to have faded away. He’s mumbling that he doesn’t deserve to live. Perhaps his memory did return after all. Best take him to his own room.
Dr. Colton: Come on, Jamie, on your feet. Let’s get you back to your room, shall we?
Audio log day 10.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: No signs of improvement. The patient keeps repeating his own actions over and over. He doesn’t seem to have any indication of time and place.
Audio log day 19.
Patient: Jamie Garth
Dr. Colton: I’ve now spent 18 days trying to get through to him. But it’s no use. The patient relives the same experience over and over again. He still thinks he’s trapped somewhere. He doesn’t realize he’s stuck in his own head. We call this the revolving door effect. The patient gets into an imaginary revolving door. He wants to go straight out, but his own mind doesn’t let him. As soon as he thinks the experience is over and he can reach the outside, the mental door puts him right back in.
His lack of memory, combined with an overwhelming feeling of guilt, doesn’t allow him to leave that circle of despair and move on. Each part of that revolving door shows him things that happened. From what I and dr. Landon could gather, is that he clearly remembers his daughter and wife, finding out along the way that he murdered them.
This cycle has repeated itself 3 times now. It’s unclear to us if he will ever break the cycle and manage to leave the revolving door. We’ll try to talk to him a few more times, but if there aren’t any signs of change, I’m afraid we’ll have to put the sessions to an end and search for different approaches to solve the problem.
The recording stops. A few minutes have passed and the doctor and the officer have been listening to it quietly.
‘The revolving door effect, huh…’ the officer says.
‘That’s what we like to call it, yes.’
‘So what will happen to Garth when the therapy sessions are over?’
The doctor puts her hands behind her head.
‘In cases like this we either let the patient live in his room, live out his life. Or we try to find different methods. Perhaps after a while he will snap out of his delusional state himself. But we highly doubt that will happen.’
‘I see. I still wonder what could possibly drive a man this far into madness.’
‘Don’t we all,’ the doctor replies, ‘but that’s what we’re trying to figure out with our therapy sessions. Anyway, I hope I helped you out. Perhaps you’ll be able to have some closure now.’
‘I really appreciate your help. Thank you for that,’ the officer says as he gets up to shake the doctor’s hand.
‘Don’t mention it,’ she says. ‘If you’ll excuse me now, I have a session with another patient in a little while. I’m sure you can find your way out.’
The officer nods with a smile and leaves the office. He walks back towards the entrance desk to pick up his stuff and proceeds to the exit. Before leaving, he stops and takes a look at the revolving door that’s in front of him. Slowly he exits the building, deciding that he’d rather use the regular door next to it.
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