Sunday, October 01, 2006

What's Your Line?

Yesterday in comments our pal Gabriele proposed I hold an opening line contest. I think it's a great writing exercise, and you know how much I like cracking the whip and making you people work. So let's do it.

In comments to this post, give us your finest opening line. The line can be something you come up with just for the contest, from your work in progress, or from a story or novel you've published.

Da Contest Rules:

1. The line can be of any length, but it must be a single sentence.

2. The line must be your original work.

I'll be the contest judge and will pick three winning lines; one in each of the following categories:

Best Line in Contest
Most Humorous Line
Most Intriguing Line

The three winners of the contest will be lavished with much praise by me and will also be granted a book wish.* The deadline to enter your best opening line is midnight EST on Thursday, October 5, 2006, and the contest is open to everyone on the planet except Elizabeth Kostova, who already had her chance with me and blew it.

*Book wish = one book of your choice that is available for order online and is priced at $30.00 U.S. dollars or less. I will throw in any/all shipping cost.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Best Line Contest: Not many people can handle the pain of being ripped apart.

    Most Humorous Line: Lucy Carlyle had no idea her butt was that big.

    Most Intriguing Line: “I was beginning to think they'd cuffed me to a corpse.”

  3. The sun is setting quickly and the warmth I basked in just moments before leaves me cold and unfeeling; a numbness that consumes me from the inside out, but has little to do with the chill that fills the night air.

  4. Anonymous1:36 AM

    I rang the Cock Bell with a little extra vigor this morning because it was the first day of Harvest and the elves would be furious if we weren't in the fields by suncrest.

  5. Anonymous1:54 AM

    I have two that I dearly love.

    Braoin saw strings. ~~ Threads of Malice

    I stripped Sweeny naked, tied her to the tree, and started a fire as I waited for her to wake. ~~ Valley of the Soul

    The opener for Ghosts that I dearly loved got cut. Ah well. :)

  6. Anonymous2:04 AM

    God made Mary famous when he gave her a child to raise. The least you could do is make me rich.

  7. Anonymous2:07 AM

    Aaaack. That's really one sentence. I'm just all messed up on antihistimine (sp?) and can barely think, let alone type.

  8. First line for my WIP "The Reaper's Price": I wonder what the locals would think if they knew Death lived just up the hill?

  9. Best 1st line: Time was man’s only non-renewable resource…until today.

    Most intriguing: “Yes, but--”

    Most humorous: Jane blinked her incredulity, “Dick’s what, got stuck where?”

  10. From one of my stories:
    Ralph Swindon has always been a bit of a tinkerer.

    And from another:
    There was but one settlement on the sun-baked Plains of Gorp:
    the hamlet of Yendour.

    And from one of my books:
    The interstellar freighter Volante powered through space, her streamlined flanks speckled with pinpoints of light
    from distant stars.

  11. Whoops, messed up the line breaks. Oh well.

  12. Bored fairies are dangerous creatures.

    I don't have a WIP name yet. This is the one that I'm using visualization for.

  13. On the last day of her life, Bridget Collins lay in her bed and stared at the ceiling, wondering if she had enough money to get it painted.

  14. “Stop eying her like you plan on having her for a midday snack."

  15. Anonymous8:53 AM

    From my untiled, unedited WIP:

    Dangerous, delicious and a little bit insane, they were the words that came to mind on spying her ghostly housemate, of couse, who wouldn't be a little bit insane after being locked in a closet for nearly three hundred years.

  16. Anonymous8:54 AM

    Out of the hundred-some people gathered for David Knobe’s burial, the six who had cared the most about him were the only ones who knew that the body in the casket was not his.

  17. I couldn't decide. I don't know if either are just right yet, but these two are my favorites at the moment.

    “John!” Mrs. Beau’s voice erased whatever dream John was thinking about –something about a bicycle on fire, “Your friend just put another dent in the station wagon with his head!”

    He wasn’t the worst customer ever in her five years of waitressing, not until he gave her the stare, the -- I changed my mind, I want lobster -- sort of stare.

    Sorry about the grammar on the two, these are still WIP.

  18. From Beautiful Death:

    "Kill any monsters today, Marshal?"

  19. Anonymous9:23 AM

    My line, from a book with my agent:

    When my dressing-room door opened, I did the automatic without thinking; I dropped my swimsuit and turned invisible.

  20. Opening line from my unnamed, unedited, WIP:

    The new scarecrow was only slightly disturbing to Jeanne.

  21. Opening line #1:
    The roller-skating Prince of Paw Paw set the needle in the groove.

    Opening line #2:
    On a bleak January afternoon, the last of the Charleston Alans stood with her gloved hand resting on the edge of her father's casket.

  22. Nikki hid beside the garage in the bushes, waiting for the coast to be clear. *** Threads and Ties

    Harold exhaled and reached for the secure Voice Over Internet Protocol phone. *** Twilight

    "Hey! What's your name?" *** untitled for PBW e-Book challenge

  23. If I'd known the apocalypse was coming, I would have stuck around out of sheer curiosity.

  24. This is the first line of my WIP:

    The clock in her head ticked like the timer of a bomb: silently and in rhythm with her heart beat

  25. From "A Wish Come True"

    It took me awhile, but I finally located the source of the screams.

  26. Grimwald shook his head and looked at his trainee's smoking gun, "when I said bang on the door, that's not what I had in mind."

  27. Anonymous11:10 AM

    "I'm dying of lung cancer and I have six months to live; That's all I remember, all I know for sure."

  28. From "There Came A Killing Frost," currently submitted to EC for their 2007 "Cavemen" anthologies:

    Kit Frost valued his balls above most things in this world or any other.

  29. From my Unnamed Fantasy WiP:

    Dragons roared from the walls of Siphais . . .

    Or, the opening line from Memnon:

    The summons delivered to Ariston that damp winter morning was written on the finest vellum, in an elegant hand that suggested a discriminating intellect tempered with the manners only good breeding could engender.

  30. My opening line: "Comets blush in live rosy color."

    Thanks! Love your blog!

  31. I'm not leaving another entry, but I just wanted to say...

    I see several entries on the comments here that are making me think, "Why don't you have this thing finished and at least at the publishers already?!?!" ;)

    It's all part of my new campaign for novelists, Hurry Up, I Want It.

  32. At the point of the world, the only conjunction of the three great land masses, Silas sat on his horse and watched the caravan of stolen children roll past.

  33. I am afraid of my life. - Sun on the Sword

    The canyon breathed with the quiet life of landscape - vital and robust, even after the offenses its high, silent walls had witnessed through the night. - Trinity House

    I should get a clue. Both of my entires are from sci-fi themed romance WIPs, not the straight-forward historicals I normally write. Either I need to switch my focus or liven up the ones I mean to stick with!

  34. From my WIP:

    The old cemetery was a reminder of past lives along with the ghosts of secrets that lay buried within the gothic inspired crypts and under the weeping statues of angels and saints, secrets that never should be set free.

  35. Since everyone else is posting more than one so will I:

    "On the plane, my husband took three shots of Gin, a sleeping pill, and still didn’t fall asleep."


    "So far what I’ve learned about the Army is that I don’t matter."

  36. There were few things she hated more than calling "him" for help (he always seemed to get the wrong idea) but, she had exhausted her funds from having the transmission overhauled, (if he had only done the routine maintainance
    instead of hanging out down at the bar with his buddies...) and she didn't want to start thinking about all that again it wore her down, besides she wanted to sound pleasant on the phone, after all it made a big difference if she sounded pleasant on the phone when she asked him for things; pleasant, helpless and a little stupid.

  37. Lilly May had been raised with the knowledge that both men and snakes could only be trusted in death, and as fate would have it, she had just stumbled upon one very trustworthy man.

  38. My two favorites lines belong to Selah and Brenda, which I guess tells you a lot about me.

    My favorite line of my own (at least for now) comes from my first book, A Mother's Adoption Journey.

    I decided I wanted a baby during an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation.

  39. I have two current WiPs:

    #1 - I never get used to going through other people's things.

    #2 - "Still not seeing anyone?"

    And one that's been on the backburner for a while:

    #3 - Bardenden Jasserek considered himself a patient man, for a barbarian.

    Thank you, PBW for giving us a place to drop our bombshells, even if they fizzle instead of pop!

  40. Anonymous2:47 PM

    1) From my WIP, East of Jesus

    He looked dead, but Grace had fantasized her husband's death so many times, she couldn't trust her eyes.

    2) From an upcoming WIP, Out of Orderville

    Esther was nearly late for her kidnapping.

  41. Since I initiated the fun, I should play along. Here are three of mine. :)

    1) "I'm not selling you a book, filthy barbarian."

    2) Cailtharn stood amidst the carnage.

    3) Adgandes, decurio of a Cheruscian cavalry unit, knew prince Irmanamer, whom the Romans called Arminius, planned treason, but no one believed him.

  42. Anonymous3:54 PM

    I shuffled into the kitchen that morning feeling like a zombie from a bad horror movie. - Current WIP
    - AND -
    She should really remove the crotchless panties. - Old favorite WIP

  43. "I’ve never believed in the Boogeyman, but now seems like a good time to start."

  44. I couldn't even begin to pick a favorite!! Wow lots of great entries!

    Okay heres mine:

    I was in hell. ~Kink

    Ray lay stretched out on the queen sized bed, a white sheet covering him from the waist down, sleeping the sleep of the not-yet-busted, but that would end soon. ~from an unfinished wip

    and one of my personal favorites from another wip:

    "Fuck you," Susan Deluca screeched, lobbing her favorite Jimmy Choo pump at her soon-to-be-ex husband's Lexus.

  45. The first time I killed someone I was in fourth grade.

  46. If Tommy Barrett didn’t stop trying to look down her top, she was going to smack him; Gun or no gun.

  47. Anonymous8:58 PM

    From Null:

    My brother Brandon described Morgan Waters, heiress to the Waters family fortune, as "the epitome of feminine beauty and grace."

    From Sopak 1:

    In retrospect, maybe letting the avatar of the priests who were trying to kill Arshain Khorayas escape with him hadn't been the greatest idea, even if she was his best friend.

  48. Anonymous9:14 PM

    First line from the current WIP, Plague's Perfume: It began with coughing and ended with no noise at all.

    I expect it to change after revision, but that is its current state.

  49. Anonymous9:49 PM

    He is so dead... when I get up.

  50. Oooh, how fun!

    1) Facing down an irate, grenade-toting guerilla beat the hell out of knocking back umbrella drinks in this sun-drenched purgatory any day. (72 Hours)

    2) Much to Tony Casavetti's disappointment, his plane didn't crash. (On the Edge)

  51. Beasts guarded the forest, illusions spun of leaf, feather, fur and scale that dwelled in earth, air, fire and water and succored the fruits of men's hearts, flesh and soul. (VOW)

  52. I looked like a tawdry Dominican pirate wench with spiral curls and swollen boobs.

  53. Anonymous12:10 AM

    I usually just read without posting, but who could resist? I narrowed it down to several choices, then submitted them to my most severe critic - my teenage daughter. She chose this one.

    While the most powerful nation in the world guarded its borders against dark men with explosives hidden on their bodies, death arrived in the form of a little girl with big brown eyes - and a slight cough.
    --From ‘Twilight,’ a novella in progress.

  54. The ‘Bringer of Light’ will not take "No" as a satisfactory answer; not even the subjugation of a people, bowing down at their feet is sufficient - to truly fulfill it's lust for conquest, one must become them; for it is not the physical subjugation that it deems glorious rather the mental.

  55. He lay on the bathroom floor, waiting, wondering if this was how his life would end.

    He gasped like a size queen, spying a twelve incher.

    The arrest records and information he had dug up, all pointed too one Anthony Lamada, bussinessman, club owner, Mafia golden child.

  56. Anonymous7:25 AM

    The moon hung in the sky, a rounded skull grinning at the folly of man.

    ---some random story floating in my brain

  57. Anonymous7:53 AM

    "I looked up from my scrolls as the messenger entered: there was another one demanding sanctuary." - unnamed fantasy WIP

    "'Tempting, isn't it?' A little voice in the back of her head whispered." - The Ball, short short

    "I was sitting at my desk at eleven o’clock at night trying to write about the effect of the assembly line on American industry." - untitled old story

    Jess, who is excited for PBW's contest even though she knows she won't win because she really likes a lot of the other entries.

  58. Not sure what categories to put these in...

    "Gilbert stared up at the growling lorry, which cast a looming shadow all around him." - The Squirrel (short story)

    "The little Flame burned a slight orange colour, and winked and danced like a flickering flag." - Of Fires & Flames (short story)

    "As I sit and type yet another million words dictated by someone less interesting than me in an office with an atmosphere not unlike the ghastly gaseous and unbreathable venus, I watch the clock." - I Turn to Type (very short story).

    All of the above are published on my website 'The Particle Empire'

  59. From a short story I did:
    "My father was friends with the Pez man."

  60. Anonymous10:37 AM

    From my second novel:
    "I never knew my mother's name."

    And, from a novel I intend to write someday:

    "By the time night fell on the ruin of the church, I was dead."

  61. Anonymous10:40 AM

    The above comment is from me, Zolah - but for some reason blogger would not allow me to log in. It still won't. Odd.

  62. This is from my current WIP:

    "When I woke up alone in a hotel suite the day after Valentine's, I didn't know which was worse- the hangover or the heartache."

  63. “Turn around and face the wall,” he said.

    “I think she wants you to go out there.”

    Huh, I start with dialogue.

  64. Paul had traveled to New York to settle a family matter, but everything changed—and not for the better--after the naked woman ran into him. [from a Rothwell historical that's making the rounds.]

    "Okay. I am not taking the blame for this one," he told the corpse. [a Summer Devon WIP]

    Ugh--nine thirty a.m. and someone had put whiskey in the damned coffee.
    [a Summer that's making the rounds]

    Bashshar woke from a five-year nap to the voices of human females
    [yet another Summer]

    Leah stopped hunting for stories about space invasions and turned to the comics page. [hmmm. Another Summer]

  65. The engine emitted an ominous drone--the sound like a woman’s scream crossed with the buzz of honey-robbed bees--while he waited for the 11th hour reel of his life to begin.

  66. From a SpecFic WiP:

    The first time I saw my doppelganger we were both standing in line at Starbucks waiting on a triple espresso.

  67. Here are mine:

    The air was crisp and cold, and it surrounded me like two unseen hands. - Pirouette, current WIP

    One minute I was walking out of church; the next, someone had grabbed me. -The Kalu

    I dreamt of her through the ages -- ever youthful, beautiful, with eyes the color of deep sapphire, and hair the color of flame. - Darkweaver

    I took stock of my situation: I was high, drunk to the point of incoherence, and my going away party was starting to resemble a wake. -Survivor

    Couldn't narrow it down.

    Erin K.

  68. Okay, here's my entries (no, I couldn't pick just one either.):

    From deep within the bowels of earth, molten lava erupted into an orgasm of spewing embers that showered down upon heaving ground.
    FROM: HELL’S OWN, BY: T. L. Parrington

    “I wish you would quit writing that stuff,” Michael harrumphed as he walked through the room, watching Daria type furiously on the keyboard in front of her.
    FROM: COMPUTER GAMES, BY: Tammy Lee (Tami Parrington)

    Balance in life is a tricky thing.
    FROM: THE ROAD TO PARADISE, BY: Tami Parrington

    Gabriel Evans looked up—his head pounded and his eyes ached.
    FROM: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, BY: Tami Parrington

  69. Anonymous8:17 PM

    They called themselves sane.

  70. Anonymous9:07 PM

    This line is one I never intended to enter in your contest.

  71. Anonymous9:49 PM

    The first line, PBW will be relieved to know, is from a never to be published dragon story,lol:
    Leela starred at the blood-spattered wall, it was a warning statement to cease and desist, to back-off, and as warning statements went it was without equal.
    The next line is from something I just started to play around with, not yet sure where it is going:
    The day from Hell took an even nastier turn for the worse the split-second Mel's eyes snapped open, just as her wrist was cuffed to the man sitting next to her, and her eyes focused in on the business end of the revolver in front of her face.

  72. Anonymous9:55 PM

    He saw her first when he was thirteen, and if he had known then what it would cost them, he would never have looked.
    From "Nikki the Merchant"

    Long ago in a faraway land there lived a great Sultan who had ten daughters, each one more beautiful than any of the most beautiful women in that desert land, except for the tenth daughter, the youngest, who was not beautiful at all.
    From "Alimina, the Sorcerer, & the Jinna"

    “Tell me, little man, why should I not freeze you where you stand and add you to my collection?”
    From "The Northwatch" in the anthology Illuminated Manuscripts.

  73. Anonymous10:22 PM

    Yes, make this an EASY contest, why doncha?

    Bravo, people.

    Now, as so many have asked via e-mail, you can enter more than one line. Knowing second thoughts as well as I do, I'm not going to set any limits on the number of lines you enter or the amount of times you can post. Just keep it reasonable and show me your best stuff.

    I'm assuming the Elizabeth Kostova comment is a joke. If it's serious, you might want to post it again under your own name.

  74. I'm really impressed by some of these lines, some are terrific.

    Well, here are my entries, in no particular order:

    It started with a double-bladed flick knife to a heart. Mine. Untitled novella

    She is as beautiful now as on the day I killed her mother. Deception

    Boodah didn’t need to see the plumbing to know the stupid fignaro had stuffed another convar down the welpor again. First Born, a short story.

  75. I hit up My WsIP for these:

    1) I arrived in Los Angeles with a price on my head, blood on my hands, and a hole in my shoe.

    2) “Yes!”

    3) The police let Mara Keane out of interrogation at just after two in the morning.

  76. > This line is one I never intended
    > to enter in your contest.

    P.S. The person masquerading as Elizabeth Kostova is my new hero.

  77. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Of the items on my to-do list today -- slay a demon, save the planet, go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond with the wife -- only two were accomplished.

  78. Anonymous4:17 PM

    The puddle of blood tainted vomit stuck to the side of my face like a tangy paste, maybe I was dead.

  79. Best Line: Kate Smithfield didn't think this night could get any weirder until she found a large naked man in her kitchen eating all her Starbucks Java Chip ice cream.

    Humorous Line: “Hey, baby, you can ride my pole anytime.”

    Intriguing Line: On a dark lonely highway, with the only the moon to light his way, Brenden Heshke gripped his dagger in his sweaty palm and kept his ears open to all the night sounds around him.

  80. From Dangerous Lies: "The sun was a beast, a curse."

    From a very early stage WIP, working title Cat and Jon: "When she drifted up into some semblance of consciousness for the third time, Catherine Elliot knew she was in trouble."

    From unamed WIP: "The footsteps were getting louder now, closer."

    From Tequila: "Rachel Sullivan was driving too fast."

    From unamed WIP #2: "If she’d been pretty, they’d probably have called her the Ice Princess - they called her the Ice Bitch instead."

  81. It is the one secret that I have kept hidden, the story that is mine, which I give to you.

  82. Hope is the thing that allows a heart to continue beating even as it breaks.

  83. Brinley's mother had always lectured about the cow and not giving away free milk, but just now Brinley was only hoping that Luc was not lactose intolerant.

  84. Here are mine, the first is from the manuscript I recently sent out, two and three are from works in progress:

    1) She was running as quickly and as quietly as she could, struggling not to cry out her terror and pain as each breath rasped in her chest.

    2)“How dare they?”

    3)It all started my first day in London, so that is probably where I should start this essay; this will not be your usual please let me into your graduate program essay, but I’ve been told that this is not your usual graduate program and that you need to know this: I’m not sure why, but I trust the one who told me this, so here it is.
    P.S. Ireland was amazing, I can't wait til I can go back.

  85. Today everyone told me how lucky I am to have miniature angels circling my head. (from a new idea that wants to be written...)

  86. Anonymous2:43 PM

    1, from novel idea waiting to be developed: "You penny-pinching bitch!" screams Allison, and heaves the tin ashtray at my head.

    2, from novel waiting to be written, probably for NaNo: Lorinda's breasts are what get me on the principal's shit list in the first place.

  87. Hi,

    I wrote the first line of my poem, The Old Homestead on this blog but I don't see it now. Did you delete it? Don't get me wrong, I am not angry about it. I just wanted to know is it was because it was poetry?


  88. From a WIP that wants to be written:

    I never meant to fall in love with him.

    Erin K.

  89. Anonymous12:03 AM

    After I got shot five times in the chest, and the blood dripped freely out of my body as if i were a fresh squeezed florida orange, I decided that it was about time that I die, and thus slipped out of my corpse.

    I thought that drinking two gallons of kool-aid would have made me atleast a little tipsy.

  90. What the heck, I'll play. From various wips:

    1. Val crouched on the roof's edge, shifting the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other with the same lazy economy of movement that echoed the grand sweep of his wings.

    2. “How many girls in this row?” The good doctor asked as he stalked past the sealed glass doors, from behind which perfect, blank, faces stared out at him.

    3. “And please use your indoor voice at reception,” Bing continued from the non-plebian side of the ‘oak-finish’ desk.

    4. "She's dead."

  91. Anonymous1:57 AM

    1) "Why won't you stay buried?"

    2) He pressed his feverish forehead against the window, taking in the coolness of the glass.

    3) “It’s because of free will that our world became tainted."

    4) It crouches, hidden in the shadows of the bushes, unseen.

  92. Anonymous4:03 AM

    "It is innocent, but it looks good at once."

  93. Anonymous5:55 AM

    "No worries... it'll explode in a few."

    It masticates and f--king decorates cakes.

  94. From "Not Quite Dead":

    Sabine Harper stood in front of a crumbling crypt with her younger cousin, Lily, waiting for the original airhead to try to raise the dead.

  95. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Though I witnessed the end of the world, overall it wasn't a bad day.

  96. Anonymous1:31 PM

    This is an excellent contest--thanks!

    (1) I am not a murderer; I am a man without choice. -- "The Ghosts Of Our Own Making," short story.

    (2) The first time I saw Arlene die was that summer of seventy-six when dragonflies hovered fat and lazy over grasses bent heavy with rain, and bottle rocket wars sparked nights alive down by the beaver dam. -- alternate opening to "The Ghosts Of Our Own Making," short story.

    (3) Under the weak beam of a nine-volt flashlight, Anna Cove pressed blistered palms onto the fresh earth of Hank's grave. -- "The Harrowing" novel wip.

    Michael Snell

  97. Anonymous2:37 PM

    Thanks for the great contest, PBW! I have 2 first lines:

    1. The shock to my system when I walked into Mickey Finn’s Pub didn’t come from seeing my younger brother seated at the piano on the raised stage of the blues club; it came from the fact I’d attended his funeral 3 days ago and knew he was dead.

    2. Being a mortician meant my relationship with each client lasted approximately 3 days, they didn’t communicate with me during their stay in my establishment and they didn’t come back to visit once our business was concluded.

    Claudia Moore

  98. 1) From Ascension (a short story)
    Teratin's arm swelled after the treatment sometimes, and fevers would wrack his body, but he never stopped forcing the clotted demon blood into his wound.

    2) From Shadows of the Sun (novel nearing submissions)
    Kyrnie ran her claws through the green-brown fur covering her brother's head.

    3) From What You See (early stage novel)
    Dane reached out to brush against the cracked plastic covering the patient bench in front of him, missing the comfortable thrum of the magnetic field he could expect in other clinics.

    Thanks for the challenge, Sheila. It was interesting to look through my stories and focus on just the first line. I don't necessariyl fall into the pattern that the first line has to be perfect in a novel, but it should do something for sure.

    Cheers, Margaret

  99. Well I'll try again! This is from a poem called, The Old Homestead.

    The faded dreams of yesteryears can be seen across the plains and hills, with crumpled heaps of weathered boards and cracking, sagging windowsills.

  100. 1) “Yes, I did cheat with your wife, but if you’ll just put the gun down and listen, I can explain everything.”

    2) There are two types of people living in North Hampton; those who believe Andy Vick is guilty of murder, and Andy Vick.

    3) I’ve been called a cheatin’ bastard before, but never in church, and never by a priest.

  101. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Another one for you -

    “Next on our agenda...the reconstruction of The Washington Irving Bridge, over Crane River."

  102. It used to be that my favorite way to unwind after a long shift behind the bar was a good hard F**k.

    hehehe . A line from one of my short stories don;t you wanna know what her favorite way is now?? hehehe

  103. Anonymous11:59 PM

    "Look, if you just let it grow back, he might understand."

    "What... did you think it could be parried with a Mad Lib?"

    The tender caress earned me several vapid looks... so I stomped it to hell.

    "You might enjoy it with better caulking."

  104. Anonymous10:04 PM

    Check out They have a contest.


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