Microcosms 135

Greetings, flashionistas. Are you ready for more Friday flash fiction fun? Then, welcome to Microcosms 135.

I’ve written in the past about my addiction to tsundoku – buying books and piling them up unread. To address this problem, my New Year’s resolution was to read 50 books during 2018. So far, I’m still on schedule, more or less, to achieve this.

To celebrate, this week’s contest is based on the last six novels I have read.

  • ‘The Iron Horse’ – Edward Marston (2007)
  • ‘The Orchard on Fire’ – Shena Mackay (1995)
  • ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ – Tracy Chevalier (1999)
  • ‘Public Battles, Private Lives’ – Laura Wilkinson (2014)
  • ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – John Green (2012)
  • ‘Whistling for the Elephants’ – Sandi Toksvig (1995)



(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a guest host, please contact us.)


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, location and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Schoolgirl, Location: Support Group, and genre: YA.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – character, location and genre. You can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry – not included in the word count.


  • Detective
  • Schoolgirl
  • Housemaid
  • Miner’s Wife
  • Teenage Cancer Sufferer
  • Dog Catcher
  • Epsom Derby
  • Tea Room
  • Netherlands Town House
  • Yorkshire
  • Support Group
  • Small-town America
  • Mystery
  • Coming of Age
  • Historical
  • Romance
  • YA
  • Humour



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Brady Koch, is unable to take up the judge’s mantle. However, last week’s Community Pick, Mileva Anastasiadou, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


REMEMBER: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title).

You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EDT) to write and submit your masterpiece.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 136
Microcosms 134

22 thoughts on “Microcosms 135

  1. http://www.engleson.ca
    300 people go missing every hour
    Detective; Small-Town America; Tragi-Comedy/Mystery

    In Search of Kate Contrails

    Grainger explained, “I’m a wreck. I’d go there, but my nerves are shot.”

    I was happy to go to Decorah. He forked over a nice advance.

    “Decorah was her hometown?” I’d asked.

    “Yeah. But she only lived there for a few years. Last couple of years of high school.”

    “Her parents are dead?”

    “Around that same time.”

    “In Decorah?”

    “I think so. She never talked much about them.”

    “Pictures? Family pictures?”

    “No. Not that I ever saw. Here’s the only photo I have of her.”

    She was a shy one. Blonde. Nice nose. But gazing sideways, a skittish type who wouldn’t look you in the eye.

    “Relatives? Everyone’s got relatives?”

    He shook his head furiously like a wet dog. “Look,” he said, “I know I should know more about Kate. You gotta understand…she was…”

    “Secretive?” I suggested.

    “Like the friggin’ CIA. When we fought at all, it was over…her life…information.”

    Two days later, I was holed up in delightful downtown Decorah, Iowa. The Hotel Winneshiek.

    Grainger had insisted. “Whatever it costs…stay right down town. It’s the only thing I know about her. If she’s not there…”

    He didn’t need to say it.

    She was his pet goose. He hadn’t expected her to be wild.

    Anyway, Decorah was hopping. Or had been at the end of July. Nordic Fest. I called Grainger and asked, “Did Kate have Norwegian roots?”

    He started blubbering.

    “Me,” he said. “On my Mom’s side. Do you think Kate is?”

    I said, “I’d only be guessing.”

    I dropped in to Decorah High. The janitor let me look at the graduation photos gallery.

    She wasn’t there.

    Back in the city, I called Grainger, told him, “A fools errand. Some people are their own mystery. They just can’t be with others.”

    I hung up.

    I can’t stand blubbering men.

  2. 299 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    Smartly Naïve

    She twists her forefinger with her right hand. Three times to the right and then three times to the left. If she doesn’t she will die. When she finishes, she looks up.

    Marcy Winter is sitting across the room trying to pull her sleeves down as far as they will go to cover the bandages from her last suicide attempt. Kara wears short sleeves and doesn’t bother to cover her arms. They are ribbed like a washboard because she has cut herself so many times. She is defiant and doesn’t want to be here. None of us want to be here, but here we are. Like the breakfast club. Only, this is therapy and one of us will be dead by the end of the year. It happens every year.

    The therapist talks soothingly as if we are babies being lulled to sleep. Many of us haven’t slept in days. Our brains don’t sleep. We are gifted. We are sheltered from the outside but it’s the inside that destroys us. We nod at the appropriate times hoping to be set free. Maybe we would have been better off dumb. No one would care about us then and we would have a better chance of survival. The phrase, after all goes, “survival of the fittest.” It says nothing about the smartest. The stress of this school for the academically gifted will kill us. The bell rings. It’s time for calculus.

    Marcy sidles up to me in a soft, unassuming way.

    “Want to do the Blue Whale Challenge with me?” she asks.

    “What’s that?”

    “It’s a game,” she says as she pulls up her sleeve past her bandages to reveal marks she has made on her arm. I can see the shape of a whale starting to show.

    “Okay,” I reply.

  3. 282 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    Fangs for the Memories

    She looked at the faces of the people surrounding her. It was hard to believe that she had anything in common with them. They looked as if life had rung them out to dry, hung them up, and then the wind blew them into a mud puddle. Conversely, she was positively radiant in her haute couture jumpsuit, her heels boasting the tell-tale red under soles.

    Anyone looking at her could be faulted in thinking she was a model or actress. The truth was a lot less glamourous. She was a 16 year old schoolgirl. Granted, from a very affluent family, but a student none the less. Her glamour girl looks are what has resulted in her presence at this gathering. It had been a curse, and she was only just realising how much so.

    With a gulp, she spoke up for the first time, “Hello all. My name is Anya, and I’m a fang-girl. Sorry, EX-fang-girl.”

    Choruses of ‘Hi, Anya’ followed from the group. She responded to them with a nod and smile. “It’s been 5 days since my last bite. I didn’t think I would get through it, but, I have and I’m determined to not let another Vamp suck on my neck ever again!”

    The rest of the Support Group clapped and congratulated her. It was a turning point, realising that just because a vampire decided he wanted her, it didn’t mean she had to give in. Sure, she missed the feel of the teeth against her neck, but her self-worth was more important. She was determined to graduate high school with highest honours and that just wasn’t possible if she had to cater to the whims of the Undead.

  4. @WriterJess94
    296 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    Out of Place

    I feel out of place here.

    Looking around at the other faces present in the circle, I know I am not like them. I don’t belong here. I have never been to a party or drank alcohol. I’ve never tried a cigarette or sprayed obnoxious graffiti on the glass of the local bus stop.

    Yet, here I am; my life is now tarnished with the same brush as all of these half-delinquent kids who were never destined for anything more anyway. But, I was. I was supposed to go to university and study economics. My dad always told me I was going to make something of myself one day. He said it didn’t matter that nobody else in my family had been to university because I was going to be the one to break the curse. Only that is never going to happen now.

    I can feel them laughing at me before the smile even reaches their lips. They know I shouldn’t be here too. Why is smart, geeky Jenny who always does her homework and never backchats the teachers here at a support group usually reserved for school dropouts?

    I drop my head and wish, more than anything, that I hadn’t been out that night. If only I had known that those 15 minutes would change my life so drastically forever.

    Perhaps the curse my dad talked about was real. My situation must have been inevitable, a genetic disposition passed down to me from my mother. Maybe there was never any chance for me to be different, to break the trend and be successful.

    Rubbing my hand over my stomach, where a tiny life is beginning to grow inside of me, I swallow the regret and desperately try to focus on calming my racing heartbeat.

  5. @steveweave71
    292 words
    Detective; Yorkshire; Mystery

    Following Leeds

    A woman shows two police officers into a small lounge of a terrace house in Hecklewhite Moor in the Yorkshire county of Yorkshire.

    “Right lass,” says the plain clothes policeman. “I’m Inspector Ogden Dimlit, Leeds CID and this is Sgt Carlos Pussy. We understand this is… was the address of Vernon Clavicle and we are investigating his suspicious death at The Menagerie Trois Club in Upper Moordale Road last night.”

    “Carlos?” the woman repeats. “Interpol?”


    “Inter Milan?”



    Dimlit interrupts. “No, look, stop it. Just tell me your name.”

    “Goldie Silver,” she replies, “but round here they calls me Meat And Gravy Davy.”

    “What on earth for? That’s a man’s nickname, lass.” Dimlit strokes his chin.

    “Yes, I borrowed it from him.”

    “From whom, Madam?” asks Pussy.

    “Are you sure you’re a copper, sonny?”

    “Come on, Madam, focus. How did you know the deceased?”

    “I was his dentist.”

    Dimlit smiles. “That’s funny, that is. When you let us in dressed as a cleaning lady and carrying a mop, I did think to meself, ‘She looks like a dentist.’”

    “OK, you’ve beaten it out of me. I did it,” she confesses.

    A twinkle in Dimlit’s eye. “Good, good. Tell me in your own words what you did.”

    “His cleaning. Every Tuesday and Friday. And I takes his ferrets for a walk and polishes his whippet.”

    “What is wrong with you?” Dimlit shouts. “This could be a bloody murder enquiry.”

    “Why don’t you let me go and unclog his toilet, Sherlock? This morning I found a kebab, a wallet and a bloodied dress blocking it up.”

    Dimlit wails in frustration. “You are hindering police enquiries.”

    She jeered, “If I don’t unblock the toilet, the police will have nothing to go on.”

    1. There are some flash bits and pieces where it quite easy to imagine the author rolling in the aisles of the pun factory, titillated at his incredible wit. This would be one of them…

  6. 300 words
    Teenager Cancer Sufferer; Tea Room; YA

    300 Ways to Die, Please a Better One


    “200- sorry, 300 ways to die take one. Alright, knife?”







    “Of course.”

    “Jonah, stick with what we planned.”

    “What? Okay. I was just trying to get a little personality in so it doesn’t sound too structured… oh right, check.”

    “Jonah, sweetie, listen. If I wanted my death to have personality I would do so. That just isn’t the case. My death, no matter what, is going to be structured.”

    “…I’m sorry, Corbyn. Really. I know it’s going to be better understood of how yours is, then other people’s deaths.”

    “Come on Jonah, I thought we were through this. If you can say the word death, you can damn say cancer.”

    “It’s just…”

    “No just. I know it may be hard, but it’s harder for me right now. Okay, seriously, I don’t have very many tapes so can we try to keep it straight?”

    “Yes, sorry.”




    “300 ways to die, take two.”

    “Could we please move anywhere else but the tea room? The beige is hurting my heart.”

    “Damn it Jonah! Really? We were not four seconds in and you had to say that?”

    “It’s really bothering me! I might burst into tears any second.”

    “You know what? Whatever. Let’s continue.”


    “Ahem, hello, my name is Corbyn and long story short, I have cancer. I know I’m going to die, they said I have only a few months, so the point of the tape is to talk all the ways possible to die.
    My bro Jonah and I spent many hours researching and we found 309, but we rounded it to 300 for various reasons.”


    “J, that was your cue.”


    “…What? Oh. Love, don’t cry…damn, I can’t do this either. It’s okay, I’m sorry. Come here love. Shhhh…”



  7. 300 words
    Detective; Epsom Derby; Mystery

    In Search of the Epsom Derby

    ‘Have you ever heard the words, “Epsom Derby” used as a euphemism?’ asked the lexicographer.

    ‘I’m sorry,’ replied the renowned expert, ‘it’s not a phrase that I’m familiar with. Off the top of my head, I can only think of the famous horse race that takes place on the Epsom Downs on the first Saturday of June each year.’

    ‘Perhaps I should explain why I’m interested. I’m a lexicographer, a word detective if you like, and I’m researching a volume on little-known euphemisms, and I recently came across the phrase, “Epsom Derby” used in relation to certain intimate bodily functions. I think I know the etymology of the phrase, I believe it has something to do with Epsom salts, but I was looking for confirmation from an expert in the field of toilet humour before going into print. It would be such a shame to have to omit it from the proposed volume as I think it has a certain lyrical quality.’

    ‘I think I can guess at a possible meaning. I’ll ask my fellow scatologists whether they have ever heard the phrase but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope if I were you.’

    ‘Thank you, that’s all that I can ask. In the meantime I’ll mark the entry for, ”Epsom Derby” as being a temporary one that is awaiting verification.’

    ‘Can you tell me the name of this proposed volume so that I can look out for it when it’s published?’

    ‘Certainly, it’s called the Oxbridge Dictionary of Lesser-known Euphemisms. I’m sure that you’ll find it of interest, especially given the number of other euphemisms it contains pertaining to bodily functions.’

    Epsom Derby (provisional entry): an allusion to the race to the facilities when the purgative effect of a strong dose of Epsom salts takes hold.

  8. @geofflepard
    294 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    In Which Seven People Sit in a Circle

    ‘Hello, everyone. Have you all grabbed a soda? Good. We have a new joiner this week. Do you want to tell us who you are and what your addiction is?’
    ‘Hello. My name is Buffy. I’m a vampire slayer.’
    ‘Another one? Geez, whatever happened to drugs?’
    ‘Please, Dorothy. Let Buffy have her turn. How long since you slayed, Buffy?’
    ‘Erm, last Thursday. After double maths.’
    ‘When I was at school it was pot and the odd tab…’
    ‘Dorothy, please. We know what holds you in its thrall. And could you stop clicking your shoes? That red glitter gets everywhere. Now, Buffy, what do you hope to get out of these sessions?’
    ‘Oh, for pity sake. Vampire slayer? That’s like saying she smudges her make-up. It’s not an addiction, it’s a bloody fantasy.’
    ‘Please. Language. I hardly think you are in a position to talk. Scarecrows? Tin man?’
    ‘They were there, I tell you.’
    ‘Let’s ask the others, shall we? James?’
    ‘Can I have another Peach?’
    ‘James, we’ve talked about this. What do we say?’
    ‘Keep the peach out of reach…’
    ‘Thank you. Who else?’
    ‘There’s that Dutch boy…?’
    ‘Where’s he gone? James, put that bloody peach down and go and see if he’s got his finger stuck in the plug hole again. Matilda! Will you please put that chair down? Miss Trunchbull has gone, dear. You’re safe. Have some honey. There. Is no one going to share with us? Who thinks we should help Buffy? Tweedle-dum?’
    ‘I’m Tweedle-Dee.’
    ‘No he’s not. I am.’
    ‘Now stop it. Both of you, what do you think about Buffy?’
    ‘Miss, what’s a vampire?’
    ‘It’s like a large black crow…’
    ‘Noooo.’’Where? Where?’
    ‘That’s it. Dorothy, go. Enough.’
    ‘Alright. Anyone fancy a joint?’

    1. What a hoot, Geoff – though it leans more towards Children’s fiction rather that Young Adults.

      I love ‘Keep the peach out of reach…’ as a mantra. ( ‘Don’t be seen with a nectarine’, ‘never grapple with an apple’… 😀 )

  9. 300 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    One Last Meeting

    Walking in, I could see I wasn’t as late as I’d feared. Frowning, I glanced back to see that Mom hadn’t driven away yet, and I wondered what her problem was. She hadn’t said anything during the drive here, but I’d felt her eyes on me when I wasn’t looking. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I turned back just in time to catch Joe’s blue gaze flashing my way. I threaded through the other teenagers still talking, and plopped down beside him, bumping his elbow with my own in greeting. He bumped back and I caught a brief glimpse of a dimple before he gained control of his face, and the bored expression reappeared.

    Ms. Lee cleared her throat, and everyone milled around like children after the music stops during musical chairs. I kept catching everyone staring at me as she went around the circle greeting us each, as she checked us off her list. I thought it was odd she lingered on me, and did I imagine her smile looked a little sad? I glanced over at Joe to see him giving me the sideways. I frowned and gave it back, bringing back the dimple.

    Joe was last and Ms. Lee glanced briefly in his direction, but didn’t greet him. I opened my mouth, but Joe bumped my elbow, so I let it go.

    As was his M.O., Joe was the last to share. I nudged his arm again as I turned my body towards him.

    “Your turn,” I said. He smiled wordlessly.

    “Liz?” Ms. Lee’s voice. I looked around at eighteen pairs of pitying eyes. “Joe died last night,” she said gently.

    “But…” I gestured. He shook his head, eyes sad.

    And his apology resounded in my head as his form grew fuzzy around the edges and faded away.

    1. Good use of the elements, Deanna. At the start of the story, I thought that you must have read ‘The Fault in our Stars”; it was reminiscent of the first time that the novel’s two main characters meet, especially with the mother taking the main character to the meeting and then not driving away. But you created a different vibe and took the story in another direction with a surprise ending. You don’t mention what sort of support group it is, but that doesn’t detract from the narrative. Great job.
      [ My only quibble is the phrase ‘…everyone milled around like children after the music stops during musical chairs.’ My dictionary’s definition of ‘mill around’ is ‘to move in an aimless or confused manner’; during musical chairs, when the music stops, everyone has a very definite aim — to dive for the nearest empty seat! 😉 ]

  10. 265 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    Crazy, Hazy, Schooldays

    “You’re the new girl, right?” the bubbly blond bounced up to Michelle as she stood awkwardly in the hallway, staring at the mass of bodies like they were wild animals, just waiting to pounce.

    “Yep, just transferred in,” Michelle replied.

    “I’m Stacy.”

    “Michelle,” she replied, ignoring the outstretched hand Stacy offered.

    “A group of us are going out after school, want to join us?”

    “I’ve kinda got this thing to go to this afternoon, sorry.”

    “Well, if you change your mind, meet me at the lockers after school,” Stacy said over her shoulder as the final bell rang, sending all the students to class.

    Michelle floated through the rest of the day, not really taking much in, just trying her best to remember the layout of yet another school and trying to keep her head down.

    As the last class for the day ended, Michelle breathed a sigh of relief, it was never easy starting a new school, but when you joined in the middle of the school year, it was usually best just to stay under the radar. Naturally, her therapist disagreed; said Michelle should ‘get out there’, but whatever.

    Michelle had learned that life didn’t work that way. It was safer for everyone if she kept to herself.

    She mulled these thoughts over as she walked the two blocks from the school to the town library where her new support group was meeting and took a deep breath before pushing open the doors.

    Hopefully this time no one found out how crazy she really was.

    Hopefully this time she wouldn’t hurt anyone.

  11. 135 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    A Weighty Problem

    She appeared like an overstuffed settee.
    Her clothes hung on reluctantly,
    the body straining to be free;
    stress factor off the scale…
    In this war against Earth’s gravity
    something was doomed to fail.

    What kind of underwear design,
    could in one’s wildest hope confine;
    with fashion and sprung steel combine,
    to solve this weighty problem?
    A construction firm like… McAlpine,
    might stop this lady wobblin’.

    Care was taken with every sum,
    To calculate balance of boob and bum,
    called in the college curriculum.
    The ‘Law of Relativity’.
    But even this befuddled some,
    and halted her mobility.

    Cultured brains in circles sat,
    for months debating this and that,
    till a little girl in a baseball hat,
    with nothing much to gain,
    said, “The problem is… that she’s too fat.”
    and skipped off down the lane.

    1. You’re my Hero, Ted!….Managing to write this from your hospital chair with all the distractions of that world going on around you!…Amazing!!

    2. Well done, Ted. Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule of peeling grapes and entertaining visitors in order to knock out this entry. It can’t have been easy for an old codger like you: I bet you’ve never even heard of YA as a genre before! 😉

      (I hear there’s a possibility that they may be considering releasing you back into the wild. Fingers crossed…)

  12. @DRRDsStoryhive
    299 words
    Detective; Epsom Derby; Mystery


    “THE HORSE DID IT!” I roared at Detective Inspector Redfern, pointing at the nervous beast in the box behind me. He rolled his eyes. The Detective Inspector, not the horse. This was my only chance to solve the murder of Beggy, the jockey, and save myself.

    “You, brain-dead ululating crumpet! You snuck into my crime scene to – what?- brighten up my sad little day?” I kept out of his and the horse’s reach. My jaw still had vivid memories of the time he caught me good with his famous left hook, and no way I came close to that thing.
    The evidence spoke for itself, and even Redfern couldn’t be that ignorant.

    “But! Facts?” The Detective Inspector scoffed and paced up and down the stable.

    “Listen, O’Brien.” He waved his notebook and biro exasperated. “The victim has an extra hole in his head from a gunshot. How did the horse do that?” He turned and opened the door. Outside the two PCs standing guard sneered at me.

    “DON’T! If you go, I’m the next stiff on your hands, before you leave the Derby!” The beast neighed, irritated. I heard a suspicious clicking and eyed the horse. “Uh-oh.” It didn’t match the clopping of the hooves. The hair on my neck stood on end. “Redfern?” The Detective Inspector narrowed his eyes. He heard it too.

    “Promise?” He came back into the stable and planted himself behind me. The eyes of the horse turned into red pinpricks fixing me. Just like laser pointers. “Bloody-” Redfern swept me to the ground, as bullets streaked past me. I felt it nick my left ear. “I wish, I didn’t know you.” Redfern’s weight pinned me to the ground.

    “See? Told you. The horse did it.”

  13. 277 words
    Schoolgirl; Support Group; YA

    Miss Faustine’s Group for Recovering MPDGs

    Aspen was sobbing again. Liana leaned over to comfort her; Kamden snorted.

    “Don’t be awful,” Zig admonished.

    “Only three minutes in. This is a new record.”

    To be fair, this could get annoying after a few months. “I just don’t understand!” Aspen wailed. “Whenever I try to become friends with a guy, they just wait for me to fix them, or make them want to live, or whatever! It’s miserable!”

    Miss Faustine nodded. “And that’s why we’re here, Aspen. To connect with each other. Does anyone else want to say anything? Ziggtholomou?”

    Zig flinched at her real name. “Um, yeah, Aspen. It’s hard when people immediately type-cast you into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl role.”

    “I hate it!” Aspen roared, her eyes starting to glow. She’d been created with a great number of unnecessary powers and tended to blow things up when even a little bit emotional. And that was still better than Liana,who couldn’t talk about anything but lying in the middle of the highway to see the stars better! Not to mention Kamden, who was mean to everyone in existence. And Zig’s name spoke for itself.

    “Calm down, Aspen,” Miss Faustine ordered, taking Aspen’s arm. Aspen went back to crying. The entire room was on the brink of collapsing into chaos. Zig eyed the door. Just once, she’d like to spend a Sunday without this support group. But no, Miss Faustine gave Zig a glare, and Zig slid back into her seat. A little bit of freedom wasn’t worth angering their handler. If Miss Faustine got mad, then all of them might be written out of their stories. Zig wasn’t ready for that.


  14. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: https://arthurunk.com
    202 words
    Dog Catcher; Small-town America; Humor

    It Lurks in the Alley

    Peter stalked down the alley with a net and flashlight in hand. Each step was taken with trepidation as if venturing into the unknown. The distraught caller mentioned teeth, fangs, and a horrible growl. A faint cool breeze made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. His adrenaline surged heightening every sense. A sharp 90-degree corner drew him deeper into the darkness.

    The backs of prefabricated houses pressed closer as the light faintly illuminated the way ahead. The events of the next two-and-a-half seconds burned forever into his brain. There was a bright light, a loud, unnatural screech, fangs, claws, and an inhuman sprint back towards the animal control van. He was sure that the creature lurked only a few steps behind.

    Matthew was proud of his new realistic tiger window cling. It looked like the real thing leaping out to attack. Of course, the closest thing he knew about real tigers was his cat, Reggie. Reggie always found his way underfoot. Matthew felt terrible about stepping on the cat’s tail and the howl of a wounded cat pierced the quiet night. He retrieved his notebook off the desk and returned to the study to finish his homework.

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  15. Thanks Geoff, (I think). I’ve probably had more time than anyone else.
    I still don’t know what YA means, and the ‘wild’ looks good enough through a window.
    Peace & love.

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