D I S O R D E R E D   E A T I N G

by Miracle Jones

I refuse to answer Luc Mael’s frantic text message because I don’t want to establish any bad habits between us re: accountability. He calls me right away instead. 

“Hey, where the fuck is your simple friend?” he asks in his lilting, slightly-psychopathic French accent.

Londyn could easily be in the Tombs for spitting on a cop or getting into a fight with an ambulance driver. He’s barely an acquaintance; just an annoying greasy-bearded white socialist who—like me—enjoys being OUT when everyone else is IN. His status in my life has been lightly elevated by us being coworkers during this crisis. I can’t help but feel a shameful need to take care of him, to make sure he isn’t chewed up by these intensely doomed times. He doesn’t belong here, but he says he won’t leave—says leaving in the middle of this world-historical emergency would be bourgeois cowardice. Only rich people are escaping the city right now, so if he doesn’t run, he is therefore a legit useless prole. He’ll wait until the pandemic is over to flee from urbanity, just to be perverse about it. 

“Who knows where Londyn is, man, who knows,” I say to our boss.

“Listen, I’m not firing any Americans right now, no matter how they bungle this dog-ass job,” Luc Mael says. He curses prettily in his own cursive language. My French is only good enough to know that he says something abstract and not anatomical. “Your government is paying me not to fire any Americans and he’s one of the people I put on that evil form. But your little friend has been fucking about on orders all day and he isn’t answering any of my texts and he isn’t answering when I phone him…so where is he, mon trésor?”

Londyn’s apparent dereliction of contact is truly surprising. If anything, Londyn is too communicative: memes, screeds, petitions, earnest pledges of solidarity. He’s usually the one texting us too much, getting cranky whenever we don’t respond right away to some shrill call for mutual aid or summons to viral conspiracy.

“Where was the last place you sent him?” I ask. “Maybe he got jacked?”

I hear Luc Mael seal the lid on a clamshell full of soggy pancakes. I hear the crispy rustle as he stuffs the order into a plastic bag.

“Remember Pokémon Go and all those stories about people going out to weird locations in Manhattan and getting jumped?” I say. 

“Yeah, if I saw Londyn wandering around alone at night, I’d definitely burglarize this sad man,” says Luc Mael. 

“Maybe he got doored? Maybe some lonely cat lady locked him in her sex dungeon?”

“Nobody is that emotionally ill,” says Luc Mael. “I’ll text you his last order. Go check up on him. He’s not fired, okay? I don’t want to see any vexing social media posts about how I’m out here firing people during a plague.  He can sit around—not working but also not fired—for as long as he wants.  My little nephews are begging me for your jobs—BEGGING ME. You delivery boys are making more than my cooks, you fucking corsairs.”

It's a crisis and we’re heroes, but he’s right: I’ve never made so much fucking money in all my wayward, dizzy days. The cash has tapered off just the tiniest bit as the winter has dragged on—it’s April and we’re still getting snow—but I’m collecting unemployment from my real job, there’s copyediting gigs coming in, and now I’m running bad diner food out to people four nights a week for silly, gargantuan gratuities. Fuck Seamless. Fuck Door Dash. I work DIRECT. You don’t even have to talk to people anymore. You just leave sweating sacks full of burgers on doorsteps and text them a picture. Sometimes there’s a twenty-dollar bill taped to the door with a nice little note.

Londyn allowed Luc Mael to write him down as an actual employee for PPP purposes, so he’s stupidly ineligible for unemployment. Londyn doesn’t care: his overhead is low because he’s got like forty roommates all living together in an unsanitary polyamorous pod. But Londyn wouldn’t just quit all of a sudden without turning it into an action, into a statement, into a raised-fist TikTok moment. That’s why I’m suddenly sure that something terrible has happened to him. 

I drop off an order of shitty chicken Caesar wraps layered over congealed disco fries and then I head out to his last known location.

The address where Luc Mael sends me is a Crown Heights brownstone right next to the squat equestrian statue of Ulysses S. Grant at the corner of Bedford and Bergen. This unloved and unlovely brownstone isn’t renovated like all the others on the block. I’ve never seen so many trash bags and cardboard boxes in front of one building, even including the garbage mazes you sometimes find in ratty old Tribeca in the shadows of the empty office buildings. Here, cardboard boxes are pressed, stacked, and tied with twine in sturdy stacks on the sidewalk. These stacks are layered on top of each other, and then Hefty bags rest on these cardboard plinths—layered like sandbags in a dyke meant to keep out the sea. The trash is piled so high on the sidewalk that it looms over my head and puts the whole corridor in shadow. I hesitate before entering the narrow path, afraid of getting scraped by something tetanusy in the squeeze.

There are several Amazon packages on the ground here beside the opening of the trash wall, along with a rubber-banded stack of magazines and other junk mail. Evidently I’m not the only essential worker who isn’t pumped about going all the way up to the front door. I pick up a package and make sure I’m in the right place.

I call Luc Mael. “Hey man, is this asshole one of our regular customers?  I’ve never delivered here before.”

“Comes in waves,” he says. “Sometimes they order every day for a week and then there’s nothing for a few months. It’s always a big order. Never had any problems before. Good tipper.”

“Are there weird instructions or anything? Like leave food out on the sidewalk?”

“Not that I remember. Did you find lazy little Londyn? Is he swooning in the trembling arms of a damaged woman? Is he trading sexual favors for toilet paper?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t see his bike. But this place is disgusting.”

“Everybody’s gotta eat, mon trésor,” he says. “Let me know when his mystery is fatefully resolved. Time for me to do some drugs and go to bed! Come in early tomorrow.”

I turn my attention to the trash castle. What is my plan for storming this garbage Bastille without casualties?

First of all, I try not to breathe deeply. When I move closer to the debris fortifications, the normal Brooklyn trash-smell of rotting fish mixed with hot plastic hits me anyway, slicing through the gauzy winter chill. I can hear rats rustling in the garbage. I can deal with rats running free at stomping level, but these rats are up high. Rats in penthouses. Acrobatic rats. I’m not crazy about a rat leaping down on top of my head as it flees toward some warm food-filled fuck hole.

I bang the front wheel of my bike on the sidewalk to make some noise. A few rats scurry across the sidewalk in both directions, heading toward the brownstone. Rat traffic. Red and black dots scamper on the cardboard boxes. Hopefully just baby roaches and not bedbugs. I bang my bike up and down some more, trying to make as much preliminary ruckus as possible. One more rat runs across the sidewalk and then all is still. Rat standoff.

I’m certain that I could take any rat in the city in a fair fight these days. I’ve been building stamina points biking uphill in low gears. I also doubt that any rats could bite through my canvas pants or leather coat. And yet, I still feel strongly that I do not want to encounter any free-range rodents in an intimate way. I take a deep breath and hold it. I march forward and squeeze through the narrow gap to the brownstone’s front steps. I’m able to push through without incident by projecting pure psychic soul fire the same way as when I’m alone at night on the subway.

When I’m finally safe on the other side of the trash passage, I let my bike fall against the brownstone’s open gate. I don’t bother to chain it up. A car creeps past and I see the headlights dapple across the black bulges of the trash barrier, illuminating tiny gaps but not piercing through. The trash is like a hedge to separate the brownstone from the street. My heart beats fast. I hear rats shrieking, panicked first by my brutal incursion into their murine bliss and now by this slow-moving car that kisses their high rise.

Londyn’s bike is here at the top of the steps, straight up and down on its handlebars, propped up like a toddler doing a headstand. I spin the elevated bike wheel.

It spins. 

“Londyn?” I call out. No one answers. “Londyn, buddy, you in there?”

Silence. There are no labels on the ancient buzzer. I press all three buzzer buttons, ringing every apartment. I wait. Nobody answers. I press the buttons again. Nothing. I wait, turning around in tight circles, not wanting to go back out to the street. I buzz again. Nothing. 

I knock on the door but it isn’t latched at all and it creaks ajar just as soon as my knuckles graze the wood. The door pooches open just wide enough to spray me with an unholy funk much worse than the street sweat sublimating from the Hefty fruit. This is the smell of mildew and body odor; of dead vermin and living food decay. I’m forced backwards, forearm to my nostrils. I see lights deep inside the brownstone. Twinkling Christmas lights. Londyn has to be inside. Is he dealing with some covid emergency?  Is gentle Londyn trying to revive a dying old millionaire, his limp red beard pressed against some ancient hoarder’s collapsing, satin-corseted chest?

Honestly, I should just straight-up call the cops. I need backup. I need g-men with flamethrowers to escort me inside this asswater-soaked rowhouse. I need big-shouldered key grips carrying writs of mandamus in meth-strong paws like blobs of steel. Then again, what if the cops show up and arrest Londyn for breaking and entering? What if they shoot us both in the face and toss throwdown guns on our expendable, uninsured corpses?

“Londyn?” I shout again into the darkness.

I take a step inside, but I can’t see anything except distracting prickles from the twinkling wreaths that frame the far threshold. The hallway is tight and blind. I shine the flashlight from my phone into the darkness. The entryway to the apartment is blocked off by five refrigerators along one wall, interspersed by a stack of artificial Christmas trees. All the refrigerators are closed. Their high-pitched humming is a bowel-tickling throb. This place must be using a shitload of electricity. I step inside the brownstone, burying my nose in the collar of my shirt, and then I shout again: “Hello, I’m looking for Londyn?”

Are there multiple apartments here or does the whole place belong to just one person? I can’t tell if I’m looking at a shared space or at a lone individual’s singular mad expression of personal power. It’s very easy to go completely crazy without anyone noticing in NYC. 

I flip a light switch by the door but nothing happens. I open the closest fridge. The refrigerator is so stuffed with plastic takeout bags that a few of them fall out. I try to stuff them back inside, but now the door won’t close. I recognize bags from the Easy Owl Diner, but there’s also about twenty half-empty Taco Bell bags—just sauce packets and tin foil. I give up on trying to cram the food back in and leave the bags on the floor. But now I’m morbidly curious.

Fuck it. I open the freezer. In the freezer, there are more delivery bags: bagels, cakes, Popeye’s, fancy cheese. There’s also three frozen rats. They are splayed out on their broken spines with their tails jutting sideways. They are covered in frost and their yellow teeth are bared in permanent sneers.  Maybe they died here on the stoop. Maybe whoever lives here didn’t know what else to do with them. I shut the freezer, still smelling the lipid spice of dead vermin through the frost.

There are more Christmas decorations stuffed between the refrigerators: tinsel-covered boxes of ornaments, sixpacks of cheap plastic snowglobes peeking out of thin white boxes, Santas in cardboard sleighs, Santas in shorts and sunglasses posing in front of cardboard palm trees. The hum of the refrigerators is like the maddening harmonic basso of a Tuvan throat singer. Blood rushes to my head as my stomach tries to hide under my prostate, burrowing into the lee of my suddenly nauseated guts.

I move further down the hallway, stepping onto a floor that I now see is fully carpeted in compacted litter: junk mail, magazines, food cartons, aluminum cans, beer bottles, pages torn from what look to be NIV study Bibles. The trash is beach sand: it’s impossible to gauge depth or proceed with sturdy traction. With each step forward, I plunge deeper into damp paper. As I move, I can hear things rustling in the trash but I can’t see them. Bugs surely. Hopefully just roaches. I know from experience that these old Brooklyn brownstones are full of wispy but poisonous house centipedes.

“Londyn?” I yell again. “Come on man, you here somewhere?”

I hear a low moan from further down the hall. I check my phone but I don’t have any service here. All these towering refrigerators are acting like a Faraday cage. What a perverse waste of money! What peculiar potlatch! I hear the moan again. I tuck my pants into my boots. As I walk, I bang open each refrigerator I pass to provide more light. The walls here are painted black and I can’t see any bulbs swinging overhead.

I trudge through the trash, sweeping my flashlight back and forth. I slalom around obstacles as if I’m in line for a rollercoaster at Six Flags. There’s too much shit in this house. Buildings should be hollow and generous, not full to the brim with oppressive crap.

By the time I reach the end of the hallway, the trash is much deeper but much more firm. I can walk on top of it now. There must be years of layers here. I even see old phone book pages. When was the last time anybody used a phone book?  

There’s no door at the end of the hallway but I pass through the Christmas-lighted threshold into a new high-ceilinged room. There’s more refrigerators here, but also old-fashioned free-standing iceboxes, the kind where my great-grandma kept ice cream sandwiches and frozen tamales in her garage in Texas City. I hear more rustling. Deeper rustling from a bigger animal.

“Londyn? You okay man?”

Shelves go all the way up to the ceiling in this room. The shelves are full of power tools and other random crap you might find at a hardware or office supply store: doorknobs, hinges, giant bags of hard candy, thermoses, tubs of ball bearings, hoses, car parts. I remind myself that serial killers only kill people from vulnerable populations and I’m not vulnerable: I’m a steely New York delivery punk, alpha not omega. There’s stacks of the New York Daily News and New York Post, but no New York Times. In fact, there’s stacks of every free paper in the city, including something called the Irish Echo. I even spy loose sheafs of printed-up emails and webpages. I see a can of tuna fish wrapped in a Yahoo search. I see a WebMD page stuffed in a an empty Chobani cup. 

More low moans. Someone is thrashing in the garbage. I climb over an icebox and then maneuver around a shelf propped up by two refrigerators. The tucked-in cuff of my pants is suddenly wet. I shine my flashlight down and see that the trash here is soaked in blood. 

I follow the blood trail and then I finally see Londyn. He’s trapped underneath a fallen shelf that has been dominoed down by a fallen refrigerator. I can’t see his head, but I see his sneakers twitching. He’s joggling his leg up and down. I see fingers moving beside his sneakers. These fingers shake, covered in gore. He’s trying to push the shelf off himself, but he doesn’t have the right angle or leverage.

I scramble through the trash, shouting Londyn’s name. He moans louder. I tip the refrigerator pinning him backward, pushing it off the shelf that has collapsed onto him. The fridge is heavy, but my stringy arms are twitchy with panic-power. The fridge rocks backward and then finally rights itself into its original divot. The door of the refrigerator comes open and expels a burst-open McDonald’s bag. Maggots fall out of the bag and writhe at my feet. I dance around them to avoid slipping.

I prop my phone up on a shelf full of clear plastic bins containing nails and screws. My phone keeps falling over, but I finally manage to wedge it so that it balances with the light pointing down at Londyn. 

Now I try to move the shelf off him, heaving it off his head while also trying not to slice open my fingers on the sharp edges of the cheap pressboard. As soon as the shelf is free, I see the actual extent of London’s head wound. The shelf has split his scalp down to his left eyeball. There’s bright red blood and I swear I can see all the way into his brain. There’s something grey beneath the blood, anyway. Maybe it’s bone? His good eye bulges. Blood bubbles leak down his shirt from his mouth.

“Holy shit dude,” I say, retrieving my phone. I try to dial 911, but nothing happens. The call won’t go through. This whole brownstone is like a survivalist bunker: the thick refrigerators are keeping any signal from getting out. How does the person who lives here order so much food without a connection?

I don’t want to leave Londyn here alone. I turn around in more tight little circles, unsure of what to do. I don’t know any fucking first aid. He’s breathing, but I can’t put his brains back in his head or stop his wound from gushing. All I can do is go back the way I came and call for help.

“You’re good, Londyn,” I shout as I leave him. “Hang in there! I’m coming back, buddy! I’m gonna call a sled!”

I don’t make it very far before Londyn starts to wail. His cry is a sinusy, drowning warble; wind from the cave of his busted face. I freeze. While I can’t make out any of the words he’s trying to say, I know him well enough that I can tell he’s trying to warn me. We have psychic co-worker powers. There’s no phonemes in his blood-soaked yodel but I hear my own name anyway and I also hear “look out, fool!”

His warning saves my life.

I hear new wheezing. I hear pained rattling in infected lungs. I hear the walking plague; the cough-shuffle-snort of Covid-19. Somehow, this ragged breathing is scarier than the moans of my dying friend.

Someone is behind me.

I pivot. I spin around just in time for the claw hammer to hit me in the shoulder instead of directly in my temple.

The pain is shocking. I pinwheel straight to the ground, already trying to rationalize the attack as an accident or self-defense.

“STOP STOP STOP,” I shout. 

But the sick person in the shadows with the hammer isn’t listening and doesn’t care. I see a fluttering rustle of black. I see too many arms. Strange freewheeling snot drizzles my cheek. The hammer comes down again just as I put my hands up to cover my head, turtling up on the ground. The hammer hits my elbow this time, cracking it like an egg. The new pain causes my adrenalin to surge and I regain my senses, struggling to my knees in the layers of trash with pounding in my ears. The assassin is gone again. I can’t hear breathing anymore. They’ve disappeared in the labyrinth of refrigerators.  


I shakily get to my feet, cradling my shrieking arm. There is a lump in my right shoulder the size of a grapefruit, but my left arm won’t work at all below my elbow. It feels like a wiggly water toy. This is wrong. Alien. I’m nauseous as hell, but I need to get out of here. I stumble through the trash dunes toward the way I came in.

But I don’t make it very far. I hear the wheezing again. Then another coughing fit. 

A refrigerator comes down on me, knocking me sideways into an icebox. I’m pinned between the two appliances. I push hard against the icebox to keep my insides from being squished. I slip on the trash—there’s no possible traction here—and then I’m truly caught, bent over with the icebox pressing into my ribs. I puke my guts out as the icebox punches into my innards. I try to wriggle free, sliding sideways, pinched in a new way that tears something inside me. But I’m slightly stronger than gravity. I manage to slide out from underneath the refrigerator by using the wetness of my vomit as lube and then I fall down gasping into the trash. The refrigerator slams into the icebox—clanging, shearing—but falling away from me. 

I try to stand up but I can’t get my legs under me. Everything in my midsection is in the wrong place. Every breath is a ragged razorvape that rings my vision with flashing red. It’s too much pain. I throw up some more, barely managing to turn my head to keep from choking. Vomiting only makes the pain worse.

I lay there for long enough to think that my assailant with too many arms has gone off to call the cops or call for an ambulance. The pain in my midsection abates a little. I won’t pass out if I don’t move and if I don’t breathe too deeply. I balance my agony like a sword on the tip of my finger.

I look around a bit. It’s darker than a sewer, but there’s still those Christmas lights in the hallway. I’m buried in bloody trash: receipts, candy bar wrappers, flattened cereal boxes, empty yogurt cups. Blood running down my arm makes the trash stick to me. I worry about infection. I need to clean out these wounds. I need antibiotics and stitches. I need to know if the goo leaking out of my asshole is ichor or watery feces.

“Help me,” I manage to squeal. “Can you please help me?  I know you’re sick, but I’m not here to hurt you. My friend and I need an ambulance! You won’t get in trouble!”

For a moment, I worry that the person in the shadows is too sick to register what I’m saying. Perhaps they’ve even retreated to some trash covered bedroom to die from the coronavirus, their wet lungs filling up with multiplying bat DNA faster than my bowels can fill up with clotted blood. But eventually I start to hear wheezing again. The sound of the sick person watching me is less terrifying than the thought that I’m all alone.

The wheezing comes closer. I feel hot breath on my forehead, but I can’t arch my spine enough to see the face of whomever looms over me. The person grabs my wrists and tugs on them, extending them backwards in a way that cramps my damaged intestines. I scream. The person tugs harder, dragging me backward through the trash. The pain is too intense. My vision swims. I grey out a bit. I hear buzzing. I swoon.

I’m stunned back into wakefulness by arcing jolts of pain. They are dragging me over lumps in the refuse-covered room. Are they rescuing me? I’m filled with surging hope that maybe they will dump me outside where my phone will work. Malformed mesas of garbage plow into my kidneys. I couldn’t pass out again if I wanted to. 

My assailant is surprisingly strong. Their hands are dry and cold on my wrists.

I only submit for a moment before I realize they aren’t taking me to the street. They’re taking me deeper inside. My phone slips out of my pocket and they kick it away from me.

I try to fight back. My foot snags as they attempt to bend me into a new hallway, lifting me onto my ass and spinning me. I can’t wriggle free. They bang me into the wall as if cracking a whip and I’m stunned again: not quite unconscious, but unable to struggle or even to bounce my head on my shoulders to see what’s going on.

Now I see why I thought they had too many arms. They’ve got fake extra arms attached to their real arms with a latticework of string. They’re wearing some kind of cheap Ebay “spooky spider” costume.

That’s when I start to hear the flies. I suddenly realize that the low droning which I first attributed to the electric noise of so many appliances running in concert is actually the sound of a million carrion bluebottles echoing in a sealed room. There are so many buzzing flies that it sounds like I’m being dragged into the jet engine of an airplane.

Flies land on my arms and ankles. Flies land on my blood-flecked lips. I gather my courage and twist sideways to see where I am. Heavy flies land in my open mouth and plug up my nose. Flies push directly into my ears.

We’re in the center of the rowhouse now. In the ‘60s, there would have been a fireplace here. In the ‘80s, things would have been bleaker. There was a famously ruthless dealer in Brooklyn who used to seal up crackheads in rooms like this. He would lock them in with product and a small amount of change. People would negotiate for crack through a slot in the door. If the dealer came back and the amount of leftover crack didn’t match the cash on hand, this dealer would murder his incompetent vassal and go find another terrified customer service representative. Lots of people used to die in rooms like this. I won’t be the first one.

I scream. For my trouble, I’m dragged over a few dead rats that have been murdered in single combat by blows of the claw hammer. They squish and spurt as I flip them over.

This room hasn’t seen daylight in years. 

It’s impossible to tell how long my assailant has been building this altar in here.


In the middle of the floor is a mountain of spoiled food that scrapes the ceiling. They must have been protecting this dragon hoard since the pandemic started, watching it night and day. Feeding it. Churning the compost.

The food mountain is a black mélange: old kung pao chicken, decaying bagels, ancient pizza, furry enchiladas, rotting ramen, putrid diner pancakes. It’s like a termite mound, dusted most recently with Easy Owl Diner leftovers. The food mountain shimmers with life. This Everest of rotting edibles is carpeted by swarms of flies and other insects.

Spiderwebs stick to my face and hands as I’m dragged toward this organic pillar. I sweep my eyes around the corners of this rancid feeding pit. Now I see that every eave and corner of the room—from the trash-covered parquet floor to the dimpled ceilings—are covered in thick spiderwebs that are pregnant with vicious, goal-directed predators. A spider crawls along the webbing of my hand. It punches into my skin, but I hardly feel it. The spider simply cannot compete with the pain in my stomach and the billiard ball of torment in my shoulder.

Not yet, anyway.

This pile of food is the end of the line for me. The person in the spider costume leaves me curled around the edge of the mound with my boots uselessly kicking the spoiling trash. 

I wrench my roaring abdominals to turn my head sideways. I see my assailant fully for the first time. Two extra arms dangle from their wrists and elbows. Their face is in shadow but I see rheumy bloodshot eyes. They cough, doubling up, watching me. They take a long swig of cheap vodka from a plastic bottle. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re here to watch.

In the trash all around me, I see ripped-open cardboard boxes with addresses from all over South America. Mail-order spider eggs. Rare mail-order arachnids delivered in plastic tubs plucked from banana leaves in the Amazon jungle or carefully lifted from the branches of Southeast Asian strangler figs. Hundreds of boxes have been delivered express by courier. Hard working delivery drivers around the world have risked their lives to deliver these exquisitely rare spiders to this festering Brooklyn food nest. I now see that the food mountain is nothing but a housefly farm. The flies are feedgrains—provender meant to help raise my captor’s exotic spider brood.

Their new pandemic hobby. A total passion project.  

There’s rustling all around me in the trash as the spiders situate themselves, trying to judge whether I’m a new threat or a new opportunity. The more I flail in the garbage, the deeper I sink. 

I manage to get a hand underneath me and prop myself up. The person in the spider costume drops their bottle of vodka and leaps at me. Their strategic hammer comes down right on the big knuckle of my middle finger, breaking it. As I scream, I hear the faraway sound of cheers. I hear clapping and chanting as if from the next dream over. The sun is going down and the city bangs on pots and pans to celebrate the brave workers who refuse to quit. I know what the celebration normally sounds like, but the sound of the grateful city is so muffled while deep inside this rowhouse that I know that no one will be able to hear me no matter how loudly I scream for help. The jubilation draws a bright red line under my terror. No hope.

The person in the spider costume squats in the corner, watching me.

I see that their trembling hands are covered in insect bites. 

Every breath they take sounds like a kazoo dipped in oatmeal.

Their red eyes do not blink. It isn't going to be the spiders that kill me. The spiders are just a fetish. But I'm not getting out of here alive.

“Please,” I say. “Please!”

Flies fill my mouth as internet mail-order spiders from every continent tentatively explore my cuffs and collar, sinking their teeth in wherever they find pink flesh. My captor guzzles vodka as I beg, their eyes wide and hungry for my separate, freshly-delivered pain.

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(c) Miracle Jones 2024