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Gavin didn’t look good. Through the scant light from the windows, Meaghan could see that his hair was pushed to the side and strands of it were sticking to his sweaty forehead. There was something on his face. He stumbled across the den towards Meaghan in the dark.
“Hey Gavin,”she said, feeling a little freaked. Two minutes ago, the lights in the mansion had flickered twice and then gone completely out. “I think the electricity’s out.”
“Luke’s dead,”he said.
He grabbed her hand and dragged her to her feet. His breath didn’t smell good. She recoiled.
“You have to come see,”he told her.
“What happened to you?”she asked.
“Come see,”he insisted.
“I thought something or I saw something when the storm rolled in,”she said. “I think I know what’s going on with us.”
“Luke is dead,”said Gavin.
Oh. He had said that. Meaghan had really hoped she’d misunderstood.
“He’s in the kitchen.”
“Okay,”said Meaghan. “We’ll go look.”Now that she thought about it, she had heard something that sounded like–
But she’d thought it was the thunder. Just the thunder.
Gavin wanted to hold her arm and guide her, but he smelled bad, so she wouldn’t let him. It only took a few minutes to walk back to the kitchen. Gavin pushed open the door. It was dark inside. Meaghan couldn’t see anything.
Then, outside the window, the lightning flashed and it illuminated Luke for a second.
He’d been cleaning his shotgun, she guessed. And what she’d heard before had been a gunshot.
What was left of his face was resting on the barrel.
One of his eyes was still open.
The other eye…
Meaghan backed out of the kitchen, fumbling with the door handle. Once out of the room, she put her back against the wall and squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh my God. Oh my God,”she breathed.
“What are we going to do?”asked Gavin.
Reese stood in the doorway to Wyn’s bedroom. “You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine,”she said.
He was fighting with himself not to go to her and gather her in his arms, just to make sure that she wasn’t hurt. Just to feel her close to him. He ached for her. And that was ridiculous, because now he knew why he wanted to do that. He was acting on the wishes of some stupid medieval knight from children’s stories. So he couldn’t go to her, because none of his feelings were actually real. But they felt real. They felt so real.
There was a scream.
“Was that Meaghan?”asked Wyn, coming to the door.
He moved aside so they wouldn’t touch, but it was difficult. “Who cares about Meaghan?”he said. She was so close to him now that he could hear her breath.
“I care about Meaghan,”said Wyn. “She’s my best friend. And you shouldn’t be so hard on her. She can’t help the way she’s acting either.”
Was his indifference towards Meaghan the fault of the spirits as well? “Let’s go try and find her,”he said, but he didn’t want to. It was dark. The power was out. Was there a better time for him to hide away somewhere with Wyn, for them to get lost in each other? God knew, he didn’t want anything except to feel her against him.
Wyn moved past him, into the hall.
But at that moment, Meaghan and Gavin burst over the steps onto the second level. They were out of breath and wide-eyed. In the darkness, it seemed like the only thing Reese could see clearly was the whites of their eyes.
“It’s Luke,”said Meaghan. “He was cleaning his gun or something.”
“Oh God,”said Wyn. “The shot. I thought it was thunder.”
“Let me see,”said Reese, heading for the stairs. The others followed him.
“He’s in the kitchen,”said Gavin.
Reese forced his way through the house to the kitchen and thrust open the door. It was dark inside. He couldn’t see a thing. “Where is he?”he asked.
“At the table,”said Meaghan.
There was a buzzing sound and the overhead lights popped back on. It hurt Reese’s eyes, and he blinked against the sudden flood of light, swearing. When he opened his eyes again, he was able to take in the kitchen, which was completely empty. “Where is he?”he asked again.
Gavin pushed past him. “He’s right–“He broke off. “He’s gone.”
“What?”said Meaghan, fighting her way into the kitchen. “No way,”she said. “No way.””He was right here,”said Gavin. “We both saw him.”
“There’s no one here,”said Reese.
“Just like Sophia,”said Meaghan.
“Oh God,”whispered Wyn.
They all stared into the empty kitchen, listening to the whir of the refrigerator.
“So we’re stuck in the King Arthur legend,”said Gavin. They were in Wyn’s room. Wyn and Meaghan sat on the bed, hugging their knees. He and Reese leaned against opposite walls.
“Right,”said Reese, “and you’re King Arthur.”
“And you’re Lancelot,”said Meaghan.
“And I’m Queen Guinevere,”said Wyn.
“And Madame Braith is Morgan le Fay,”said Gavin.
“She’s the evil witch, right?”asked Wyn.
“Yeah,”said Gavin. “As near as I can remember from the stuff I read my senior year of high school.”
“So who are you?”Wyn asked Meaghan.
“Obsessed with Lancelot?”asked Gavin. “She’s the Lady of Shallott.”
“Who’s that?”asked Wyn.
“She dies of a broken heart because Lancelot doesn’t love her, and they float her corpse down the river on a boat to Camelot,”said Gavin.
“Oh,”said Meaghan, “that’s like that part from Anne of Green Gables. You know, where the boat has a leak and she gets rescued by Gilbert Blythe?”
“Anne of what?”asked Reese.
“Never mind,”said Meaghan. “Do you think I’m going to die?”
“Oh my God!”said Wyn.
“No,”said Reese. “No one’s going to die.”
“Right,”said Meaghan. “Because nobody’s died so far. Sophia and Luke are both fine.”
“We don’t know that they’re dead,”said Wyn. “Madame Braith said that Sophia–“
“She’s dead,”said Reese. “I saw her in that vision I had.”
“Luke’s face was half missing,”said Meaghan, looking sick.
Wyn buried her face in her hands. “Oh my God. This is just so–“
“Stupid,”said Gavin. “We’re possessed by the spirits of King Arthur and his knights? I’ve never heard of anything so ludicrous.”
“Actually,”said Reese, “I think I’m the only knight.”He smiled grimly. “But you’re right. It is ludicrous.”
“And everything,”said Wyn, “everything that we’ve been feeling and doing and that has been making everything so screwed up is because we’re being controlled by mythological beings. It’s so…”
“It would be funny,”said Meaghan, “if it weren’t for the fact it was so horrible.”
“We have to get rid of them,”said Gavin. “The spirits. We have to find a way to stop this.”
“Well, why is it happening?”asked Wyn. “I mean, I know you think it was that exercise, but I still don’t see how Madame Braith summoned the spirits of King Arthur.”
“It is strange,”said Gavin, “especially because it’s affecting her too. That’s what started all of this tonight.”He took a deep breath. He was going to have to explain it all to them, even Wyn.
“What started it?”asked Reese.
“She came to my room,”said Gavin. “She wanted to tell me something.”
Gavin massaged the bridge of his nose. “You have to understand that I…did things while I was under the influence of the spirit, the Arthur thing. It made me want to–well, it made me do things. Like what happened with us the other night, Wyn.”
Wyn looked confused and a little worried. “With us? But we…”
Gavin just nodded.
“Gavin, you don’t mean that you…”
“I had this vision thing, where I was Arthur, and apparently, they–that’s Arthur and Morgan–met before this big battle, and they didn’t know who the other was, because Morgan le Fay is Arthur’s half-sister. But they didn’t know and they…fell in love. He really–I really–I–“He broke off. This was impossible to explain.
“You’re in love with Madame Braith?”Wyn asked and there was an edge to her voice, like she might start crying.
“Oh come off it,”said Gavin. “You think I haven’t seen the looks you and Reese have been giving each other recently?”
“Reese and I did not have sex,”said Wyn.
“We kissed though,”said Reese.
Gavin felt it like a punch in the gut, even though he’d been expecting it. Even though he knew Wyn hadn’t meant to and that she hadn’t been in control of herself. It still hurt like hell. He walked across the room and rested his forehead against the wall.
Reese came up behind him, putting a hand on his back. Gavin shrugged him off.
“I’m really sorry,”said Reese. “I feel–“
“Don’t,”said Gavin. “It’s not your fault.”
“So, did you like it?”Wyn asked from the bed. She was crying now. Not sobbing or anything, but there were tears running down her face, and she wasn’t wiping them away. “Was it good?”
“Come on, Wyn,”said Reese. “Don’t say stuff like–“
“And then you came into my room and said that we should have sex so that we could be closer, when all along you knew that you had done that with her,”said Wyn. “Was there some part of you, Gavin, that was just kind of pissed off at me because I wouldn’t put out? Was there–“
“ Wyn!“growled Reese.
She looked at him, startled at his tone. He’d clearly never spoken to her that way.
Gavin hated it. There was something between them, whether it was from the spirits or not. Reese could get Wyn to shut up. Gavin didn’t have that connection with her anymore.
“I’m sorry,”said Wyn.
“Madame Braith is pregnant,”said Gavin.
“I knew she was gaining weight,”said Meaghan.
Wyn looked stricken. “With your baby?”
Gavin made a face. “Don’t say it like that.”He sat down at Wyn’s desk.
“Wait,”said Meaghan. “She shouldn’t be gaining weight yet. This whole thing just started a week ago.”
“I know,”said Gavin, “but she looks five months pregnant. She said her body is changing really fast. She said it hurts. And I can’t–I’m sorry, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why she would unleash something like this on herself. She’s scared. I could tell.”
“Oh,”said Wyn, “so now you don’t think it’s Madame Braith. You were the one who thought it was her all along. I guess that now that you’re in love with her and all–“
“It’s not like that,”said Gavin. “Arthur and Morgan le Fay were enemies. I don’t understand, because I don’t know why she’s pregnant or why Arthur and Morgan would be in love.”
“I remember something about this,”said Meaghan. “King Arthur had a bastard son with his half-sister. And the boy was evil and… I don’t know. We should look this up.”
“We should do something about Luke,”said Reese.
“Like what?”said Gavin. “Where’s his body?”
“That’s not from the King Arthur myth is it?”asked Wyn. “People’s bodies disappearing after they’re dead?”
“I don’t think so,”said Gavin.
“Then why is it happening?”asked Wyn.
“Why is any of this happening?”asked Meaghan. “Everything’s screwed up.”
Reese looked thoughtful. “I remember something,”he said. “The vision that I had of Sophia. She said something and I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it. Something about three deaths. “˜May three deaths be taken from me.'”
“That’s from the exercise,”said Gavin. “Madame Braith said that.”
Reese nodded. “Yeah. Sophia said something else. She said, “˜Three deaths and then the charm is wound up.’ I don’t know what that means. But, we’ve had two deaths already.”
“Right,”said Meaghan, “and they’ve all been people who weren’t affected. Neither Sophia nor Luke was possessed by a spirit.”
“Yeah,”said Wyn. “It’s got to be Lissa or Amanda then.”
“And if the third winds the charm,”said Gavin, “then maybe if the third person doesn’t die, we can stop things.”
“Worth a shot,”said Reese.
“No way,”said Amanda.
It was morning, right after their first class. Madame Braith had come in a flowing white shirt. She was clearly bigger. Now, after class, Reese was trying to explain to Lissa and Amanda why they needed to be under constant surveillance. They weren’t taking it well.
“Luke told me you guys thought you were possessed with spirits or something stupid,”said Amanda. “I don’t believe it.”
“Well, Luke’s dead,”said Reese, “so whatever he thought–“
“Luke is not dead,”said Amanda.
“So where is he, then?”asked Reese. He looked at Lissa. “Do you really think Sophia is off on some mystical journey? She’s never contacted you has she?”
Lissa bit her lip. “He has a point, Amanda.”
“No, he doesn’t,”said Amanda. “And I’m not going to let you follow me around just to make sure I don’t die. Nothing is going on here. You guys are just all crazy.”
“What about that weird storm last night?”Reese asked. “What about the gunshot?”
“You really think we’re in danger?”asked Lissa.
“I do,”said Reese. “I think something very messed up is going on here, and I think we have to be careful. And I think one of you guys is next.”
“Jesus,”said Amanda. “That’s nuts. You’re nuts. Lissa, have you ever heard of spirits possessing people?”
“Well, no,”said Lissa, “but before Sophia was called on a mission by the spirit realm, I’d never heard of those either. Is that where you think Luke is, Amanda?”
“If Luke were dead, I would know,”said Amanda. “We’re close.”
“So where is he?”asked Reese.
Amanda shook her head. “I don’t know. But I know he’ll come back.”
“Is it like Luke to just leave without saying a word to anyone?”asked Reese.
“What if I’m right?”Reese demanded.
Amanda sighed. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine,”she said. “But he can’t be dead.”Her face twisted.
Reese reached out to comfort her, but she backed away. Lissa squeezed Amanda’s hand instead. “I’m sorry,”she whispered.
Meaghan shifted on her bed, drawing her laptop closer so that she could curl up around it as she read. Reese was on Amanda-and-Lissa duty, and she was doing research. Wyn and Gavin had been helping her, but they’d gotten into an argument about how pregnant Madame Braith looked and had both stormed off to their bedrooms. Meaghan didn’t mind. After all, she was getting the easiest deal here, considering she wasn’t being forced to make out with or have sex with anyone she didn’t want to have sex with.
Well. Maybe her unrequited love for Reese wasn’t exactly easy to deal with.
Maybe it wasn’t easy at all.
At least, though, she understood why it was happening now. It wasn’t her. It was Elaine. That was the name of the Lady of Shallot. Elaine of Astolat. Meaghan knew that there were more important things about the King Arthur myth to be researching, like what the heck Morgan le Fay was actually up to, but she was most curious about the spirit that was riding her body.
She read the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson first, which she remembered from watching the Anne of Green Gables movie when she was a kid. But there was very little similarity to what she’d been experiencing in her visions and the poem. She didn’t have a loom. She wasn’t weaving magic tapestries. She wasn’t watching Lancelot in a mirror. No, in her vision she’d been in the same room with Lancelot, actually touching and talking to him. She kept going.
Then she found a recounting of Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory. In this version, Lancelot came to Astolat to fight a tournament and wore Elaine’s favor in the joust. When he was wounded in the fight, she nursed him back to health. Upon his recovery, she declared her love for him, but Lancelot rejected her. Her body was put in a boat and floated down the Thames to Camelot, where Lancelot saw her, felt bad and gave her a lavish funeral.
This seemed much closer to things Meaghan had been experiencing. In her vision, she had tended a wounded knight. When she had crawled into Reese’s bed, she had thought of this wounded knight as well, thinking he was raving in a fever.
There wasn’t much else to the story. All she had left to do now was to die of a broken heart. And that was ridiculous. People didn’t die of a broken heart. Not really. So she hoped Wyn was right. That she wouldn’t die. She didn’t know how powerful the spirits were that had hold of them, but they seemed to be able to take over their bodies and completely manipulate everything, from their actions to their speech to their emotions. It was terrifying.
Most acutely, what Meaghan felt was longing for Reese–or Lancelot, she supposed. The two were really one and the same, muddled together in her head. It was kind of ironic, anyway, she supposed, that she would become possessed by the spirit of a woman who’d love someone who didn’t love her back.
Unrequited love was the story of her life.
Before coming to the academy, Meaghan had attended a public high school. She was the weird chick who had seizures. No guys were attracted to girls with seizures.
There had been one boy, though. He’d been different. His name was Sam. He was shy and short, but very smart. They’d worked together on a history project during her senior year. She’d really grown to like Sam, especially considering they’d spent a lot of time outside of school working on the project. She went to his house after school several times a week. She liked his family, even if they were very religious and very strict. Sam had five brothers and sisters, and his house was always a loud, warm hub of activity. Everyone was really nice.
After the project was over, she’d assumed that she and Sam wouldn’t hang out as much, but to her surprise, on the day before the project was due, he’d shyly asked her if she’d like to go on a date. They dated for three months, but they never did anything more than hold hands. Sam got nervous if they got too close. He’d always edge away and laugh a strange little laugh and tell her that because of his religious beliefs, he wanted to be very sure before he did anything physical with a girl.
This was okay with Meaghan. She was seventeen and had never had a boyfriend before. Sam was perfect. But she did think it was odd. She’d never heard of a religion that was strict about kissing.
When Sam asked her to the prom, she figured this would be the night. They would finally kiss. And they did. On the dance floor. Sam had been drinking some of the punch, which Meaghan was pretty sure had been spiked, and he just did it.
The minute their lips touched, she was hit by a blinding vision of Sam. He was a few years older, and he was in bed with another man. The vision was disturbingly detailed. Meaghan could see things she didn’t really want to see.
When she came to, lying on the floor, the music had been stopped and everyone at the prom was crowded around, looking at her.
When she talked to Sam about the possibility of his being gay, he got angry. It was against his religion to be gay. God didn’t approve of gayness. There was no way he could be gay. Sam wanted to keep dating, but Meaghan just couldn’t do it. She liked Sam a lot, but she didn’t want to be in a relationship with a boy who couldn’t really care about her the way she wanted to be cared for.
Now, here in the academy, Meaghan had yet to experience any kisses beyond the one she’d had with Sam. She was Elaine of Astolat, pathetic and inexperienced and young. Someday, she wanted someone to care about her. Someone.
But for now, no one did.
Meaghan closed her laptop. She lay back on her bed and stared up at the ceiling. It was difficult to explain what the feelings she had for Reese were like. They sometimes were lovely. They washed over her in anticipation and excitement. But when he rejected her, and he always rejected her, she felt it like sharp jabs of pain in her heart, like she was dying.
No one loved Meaghan. No one ever had. She didn’t know if there was any reason to believe that anyone ever would.
Wyn pushed open the door to Amanda’s room. Inside, Amanda and Lissa were perched on the bed, watching TV. Reese lounged on Amanda’s desk chair, looking bored.
Reese saw her and scrambled to his feet. “Hey,”he said.
“Oh, are you watching us now?”Amanda said. “We aren’t going to die. I don’t understand why you guys can’t get that through your heads.”
“Yeah, it’s my turn,”said Wyn.
“Great, another babysitter,”said Amanda.
“Well, it doesn’t have to be like that,”Wyn said. “I mean, we can just hang out. We haven’t spent time together in a while, anyway. It could be cool.”
Lissa leaned around Amanda. “Wyn, do you really think they’re dead?”
Wyn looked at Reese. “I haven’t seen any of the bodies, but Reese saw Sophia.”
“And Gavin and Meaghan saw Luke,”said Reese.
“I can’t see why they’d lie,”said Wyn. “So yeah…I guess I do.”
“When Luke gets back here, I am going to laugh at you guys so hard,”Amanda said.
Reese smiled tightly. “It’s been a barrel of laughs, let me tell you.”
Wyn could understand why Amanda didn’t want to admit that Luke was dead. It was crushing. And the worst thing about it was that they were all just going on with their business as if nothing had happened. But what else were they supposed to do? Everything was screwed up royally. Wyn didn’t know how else to deal.
Speaking of screwed up… “Can I talk to you for a second in the hall?”she asked Reese.
Wyn surveyed Amanda and Lissa. “Don’t do anything dangerous while we’re gone.”
Reese followed Wyn out of the room. She shut the door after them. “You told Gavin we kissed,”she said.
“You wanted me to lie about that?”Reese asked.
“I just didn’t want it to come out that way, I guess.”Things between her and Gavin were far from perfect, but now that he knew she’d kissed Reese, things were beyond horrible.
“Look, it’s been eating me up inside not telling him,”said Reese. “He confided in me about Madame Braith, and then I–“
“You knew? About Madame Braith?”
“He didn’t want you to know.”
Great. Wyn really hated the idea of Gavin having sex with Madame Braith, even if it had been under the influence of the spirits. Whenever she thought about it, it made her want to hit something or start screaming. “Whatever,”she said. “It’s just that nothing is going to happen between you and me ever again, especially since now we know what’s happening. You didn’t have to tell him.”
“I’m sorry,”said Reese. “But it was killing me. I couldn’t handle keeping it a secret anymore.”
“Did it help?”Wyn wanted to know. “Did it make it better for him to know?”It didn’t make it better for her. She could tell that when Gavin looked at her, he pictured her kissing Reese. She knew that when she looked at Gavin, she couldn’t help wondering about his sleeping with Madame Braith. How had he touched her? Had he touched her the way Gavin touched Wyn? Had he called her the little sweet names Gavin called Wyn? Wyn felt like gagging.
Reese wasn’t looking at her. “Did it make it better?”he repeated. “Not really.”He reached for her hand. “I know we said we wouldn’t hang out anymore–“
Wyn moved her hand out of the way. “We can’t be around each other.”
“I just think about you so much, Wyn. I can’t stop thinking about you.”
She thought about him a lot too. But it didn’t matter. They had to stay away from each other. “I’m sorry, Reese. We can’t–“
“Right,”he said. “We can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Me too.”She pulled open the door to Amanda’s room and threw herself inside before she touched him, because she so badly wanted to take his hand now, to brush her lips against his forehead.
Wyn closed the door in Reese’s face. He stood staring at the door for a couple of seconds. She’d been so close. Close enough to kiss or caress. And now she was gone. Of course, he knew that he shouldn’t touch her. She didn’t even want to be touched. He backed away from the door. He was done watching Lissa and Amanda. Wyn had taken over. He needed to go back to his room.
On the way down the hall, he considered going to find Gavin, just to talk or hang out. But he figured Gavin wouldn’t much be in the mood for seeing him, considering that Gavin knew Reese had it bad for Gavin’s girlfriend. Reese went to his room.
It wasn’t that late, but Reese lay down in his bed anyway. He didn’t intend to go to sleep, exactly. He just wasn’t really up for trying to do anything right now. There was some reading that Madame Braith had assigned for the next day. He was sick of Miles Workman, however, and he thought it was ridiculous that they were learning about spirits by reading a book that told them exactly what not to do. He wasn’t sure if they always studied stuff like this at the academy, but he was beginning to understand that the only real career path open to him after graduating was to be an exorcist or a ghost hunter or whatever stupid thing you wanted to call it. He had no idea how he was going to explain that one to his mom. His family already thought he was nuts since he’d been seeing his dead dad. After he told them he was joining The Ghost Busters, they were going to think he’d completely lost it.
He thought of trying to explain what was going on in his life to his family or to any of his old friends. “See, I’m possessed with the spirit of Lancelot, and I’m having these feelings for this girl who’s possessed with the spirit of Guinevere, but she’s dating this guy who I actually really like, and every time I look at her, I feel like a huge jerk.”
Yeah, he sounded like the poster child for sanity, that was for sure.
Reese rolled over. There was no reason to stay awake. He was going to sleep. He pulled the covers up over his body and closed his eyes. He thought he’d stay awake for longer, his thoughts eating into his brain for hours. But instead, he fell right asleep, almost as if he was being sucked down into deep water.
Nearly immediately, he began to dream. It was strange, because he knew he was dreaming, and he rarely had dreams like that. It wasn’t one of the Lancelot dreams. He realized that right off, because he was in the academy, downstairs in the den, in the same place he’d seen Sophia. He noticed again that the den looked different. Instead of being lined with bookshelves, it was decorated with posters for bands like the Indigo Girls and Garbage. In one corner, there was a desk with an old computer sitting on it. Various open books littered the desk and the floor around it. Sophia and Luke were sitting on one of the dilapidated, floral-patterned couches. Luke’s head wasn’t blown off anymore. Reese was very grateful for that.
Instead, they were wearing long black robes with hoods, like druids. They waved at him.
So this was going to be one of those regular dreams, then, was it? It would just be a cocktail of random things from his life. Reese relaxed. He could deal with a normal dream for once.
“So what’s it like being dead?”he asked them. “Does it suck?”
“We aren’t dead,”said Luke. “Not exactly.”
“I told you,”said Sophia. “We’ve been consumed. By the power.”
Oh right. That vision he’d had of Sophia. Reese settled down on a couch opposite the two of them. “Hey, I listened to all that crap you said. About the three deaths and everything. And we’re watching Lissa and Amanda. We’re going to stop it. So thanks for the heads up and all.”
Sophia and Luke exchanged a look.
“That’s going to stain,”said Luke.
“That blood you’re sitting in.”
Reese looked down at the couch he’d sat on. He was sitting in a large red, wet puddle of liquid. Reese leaped up as if he’d been stung. What was that? Was it really blood?
If it was, he was standing in it too. There was a trail of blood. He followed it with his eyes until it rounded the corner outside the doorway to the den.
In the distance, a woman screamed.
“No, Adam, don’t! Please!”
Reese turned back to Luke and Sophia. “What the hell?”What kind of dream was this, anyway?
Luke and Sophia smiled. “The power consumes,”they said. “The power is trapped.”
“Three deaths,”said Sophia.
“And the charm is wound up,”said Luke.
If not, wait until next Tuesday or Thursday to find out what happens.
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