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vN – Recommendation

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.


Now that is both a cover and a synopsis that will get me to pick up a book even if I don’t know the author. As I don’t in this case but it’s definitely on my To-Read list.

The Warren by Brian Evenson – Review

Title: The Warren

Author: Brian Evenson

Genre: Science Fiction

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 88.

Synopsis:

X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X.

He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be.

But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

Review:

First Thoughts

X, if that is his name, is a but a single person. Within him lies the imprinted personalities of others before him, salvaged minds seeking to keep knowledge within the last remaining human. However, X begins to question his humanity when he discovers another on the surface of what he calls, the Warren. Things begin to spin out of control as the two wrestle with an existential question: what makes one human.

I won’t say this was an easy read. Sometimes confusing. Sometimes annoying. Most importantly, it really did what it’s supposed to do: make us question the concept of what makes us human.

Writing

The Warren is a fascinating science fiction thriller, a dive into the mind of a man with multiple-personas within him. Only they aren’t just personas, bu the minds of people who came before X. Imprinting what remained of their minds into the remaining living being. The really creepy part was when X described the opening of eyes within his mind, as the individuals grew coherent of the fact that they too are fragmented minds living within another conscious mind. *shivers

Unable to comprehend the individuals within, X begins to seek out questions regarding his existence in the Warren. The personalities don’t share much and his only other source of knowledge is Monitor, a computer of some sort. It carries some of the information from before, but not enough to make a lot of sense to the questions that X asks. Questions that plague his existence. The most pertinent question, especially when X finds another human on the surface of the Warren, is: what makes someone human.

In light of this, you can imagine the conversations that occur. Also, the surface above the Warren is poisonous to all who stand in its air, and no one who has left has come back. Only there’s no way to know why it’s so bad, and why this person on the surface even exists. The only way to survive is to look for resources and continue your existence yet even resources have become scarce.

Not only that but imagine being the only living person with just a computer as your companion, trying to figure out who or what you are, and who the other person could possibly be. Would you risk the possibility of death to find out? Or continue in the routine of solitude and scouring where you can for resources.

Final Thoughts

Brian Evenson captures the isolation and alienation really well. One can almost imagine the paranoia and anxiety of solitude and confusion. Of having multiple minds just sitting in the darkness of your mind. More importantly, of trying to understand the world around you when there’s nothing to truly help. Except for the one thing you know you shouldn’t… exploring the surface.

Rating: A borderline 3 out of 5


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Monday Book Recommendation: The Ghost Line

The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.


Andrew Gray‘s fiction has appeared in numerous speculative fiction magazines, including Nature Futures, Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Sockdolager and On Spec.

He was awarded On Spec’s Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize, has been nominated for a National Magazine Award for Fiction and has been shortlisted several times for the CBC/Saturday Night Literary Award. He was the runner-up prize winner in the 2015 Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition.

His first collection of stories, Small Accidents, was published by Raincoast Books and was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Award at the BC Book Prizes and an IPPY award in the US.

With co-author J.S. Herbison, he has written The Ghost Line, which is forthcoming from Tor.com’s novella imprint in mid-2017.

He lives with his family and several cranky chickens on Canada’s West Coast

Friday Fiction: Memoir of a Failed Father

Today’s Friday Fiction is courtesy of microcosmsfic.com. 300 word short story using the following elements.

Character: Sheriff Setting: Blockade Genre: Memoir


“Ya’ll gonna go back, aint yer?” Sheriff Mac asked. I clutched Delilah and Josiah near me. No wind blew that night. The stars had winked out of existence and the moon was but an ethereal shadow. The clouds though. The clouds swam scarlet. Humming. Right into our bones.

“Do yer know what it is Sheriff?” I asked, our eyes gazing up.

“Nah-ah. Them federal boys set up blockade up by Westpoint.” He raised a trembling hand towards the dark hill. Its apex sat directly below the rolling mass.

“Is why I’m telling yer tah go back, Jonathan. Let it clear. T‘morrow er’thing will be back to normal.”

But it wasn’t.

Not two hours after we’d left the Sheriff did it begin to rain. Not softly either. It poured. Bashing against the roof and windows like the house was being peppered with large pebbles. Josey. My poor Josey. When he turned eight we had converted the attic into his own room and he’d been there 3 years then. It hit him first. The rain.

I still remember his screams. Horrid, high pitched wails that crawled along the walls. We rushed up, Delilah and I, not even realising the dark patches along the ceiling. I was there first. I remember that. Delilah stumbled in after then her screams joined Josey’s.  The ceiling had serrated where water poured in, drenching my boy. Where there was once hair now dripped skin and melted clumps of hair. Half his pink, smoking face sagged.  He’d raised fingers but the skin had burnt off. I could see the bone.

Delilah pushed past me to wrap Josey in a blanket and then they were running. Josey never made it far. Delilah… she carried him until she too dribbled away.

I cowered in the basement. A poltroon. A failure.

Friday Fiction: Interstellar Blind Date

Today’s Friday Fiction is courtesy of microcosmsfic.com. 300 word short story using the following elements.

Character: Bride Activity: Coming from Space Genre: Romance


Substation forty-two-seven. A glossy enamel coated hexagon floating against the dark expanse of space in the Northern corner of the Milky Way galaxy. In constant rotation around it were two satellites from DISTV, hovering higher than normal allowing the influx of passenger ships to stream in, while each satellite streamed the convoys to homes across the galaxy. The season finale of Interstellar Blind Date accrued its highest viewership since the romance between the Mantodeanite dancer and her partner during So You Think You Can Congambaltz. Reality TV had never been showcased on extra-terrestrial transmissions and they were eating it up faster than female Mantodeanites ate their male partners.

The running broadcast would finally reveal the contestants to one another, in a face-to-face date-cum-wedding between the star-crossed lovers in every sense – and only the audience knew of their fate. To each other, Ara had fallen madly in love with Diptera, the reverse tenfold, during silhouetted “online” dates where the two never saw each other’s faces; viewers on the other hand were privy to their identities and watched with bated breath as neither contestant guessed the other. Oh it made for stellar television alright, and the final episode would be the most watched, downloaded, torrented and eventually sought after episode in all of history.

Ara sashayed onto the stage with a veil over her face however everyone had turned to see the slowly widening compound eyes and gaping segmented mouth-parts on the spindly Diptera. The crowd sat in abject silence. Ara dragged her bulbous body forward, wedding dress and all, eight thin appendages clacking asynchronously while her chelicerae scissor in excitement. Diptera edged forward slowly, too terrified to notice the translucent threads around the stage.

“Diptera.” She whispered, “They should have given you a less revealing name.”

*Mantodea are praying mantis and the females eat their husbands.

Diptera is the “scientific name” for a fly and if you haven’t guessed it, Ara is a spider. Short for Arachnid.

A Time Traveler’s Diary: The Thought Process

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A young girl bumps into a boy at school. A familiar face she recognizes from her pre-school days. A face she’s seen in class but barely remembers anywhere else. Their little collision sets off a chain of events that bring them closer together.

 

But the boy has a secret. One that he must keep hidden, even as his interaction with the girl threatens to reveal it, and with it, her own demise.


These last few weeks/months have been quite interesting. More than anything, they seem to be centered around this idea of Time Travel or at least something to do with the concept of time. I’m thinking of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children books I just finished. I’m thinking of the mind boggling film Predestination. I’m thinking of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. I’m thinking of the prevalent Facebook/9Gag questions “Would you rather have the ability to go back in time and fix one mistake, or relive your entire life with all your current memories?” etc etc.

I find the concept of Time Travel fascinating for obvious reasons. The fact that we are bound to moving forward, unable to shift either to the left or to the right, let alone skip back a few paces, means every moment we experience now is what will be. The question is: will we regret the choices we make today tomorrow?

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Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read. ~ James Altucher

 

 

I’ve got this novel in my head, and I’m working out the nuances of time travel. What exactly it looks like, why it needs to happen, who are the people affected by it and how are they affected by it. Will it be a magnificent, thunder-calling spectacle or will it be subtle shimmers one can step through? The past. The present. The future. All are important. All are relevant.

All define the Time Traveler’s Diary.

Writing Prompt: Dog-gone

One always remembers something in particular about a memorable day and for me it was the sun. For a July afternoon mid-winter, the sun was rather bright and the warmth welcome. Of course it was not merely the sun that made the day memorable, this was South Africa after all. It was, rather, the incident that occurred at the corner of Rae Frankel and Hennie Alberts somewhere in Albertsdal or Alberview… it could be Alberton. That detail is  fuzzy. The smell of MacDonalds however is still clear and to this day, the smell reminds me of this incident. This… accident.

Read the rest of this entry

High Priest of High Tech

HighPriestOfHighTech

The High Priest Of High Tech by Steven Renn (http://malignanttoast.deviantart.com/art/Relay-171616637)

I stood outside the dark brick structure of an old church building; it was hauntingly dilapidated with half of its front ripped by a massive explosion. Dried up flowers and old flower pots lined the bottom half of the remaining wall, memories of a tragedy long past. I considered stepping into the austere structure through the hole in the wall but there was a peculiar atmosphere around the building that required a bit more decency and respect from me, and so I moved towards the large wooden double doors, still standing, surprisingly.

The golden handle wouldn’t budge at first and with my second hand working as leverage, the handle clicked down and I swung into the dusty building, stumbling over fallen debris and kicking a dusty chalice across the concrete floors. The metallic ring of the cup echoed loudly within the hall, stopping with a loud thud against a broken pew. The silence that ensued felt thick, as though I could reach up and grab ropes of it from the air around me; too thick for comfort. Nonetheless I continued on, skipping over broken pews and rubble, moving towards the center aisle where I could see the marble altar of a forgotten age.

The altar was cool to the touch, and dusty; my finger was coated in the tiny particles – and so was the large green button in the center of the table. I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the frayed notebook within. The diary belonged to my father and within the browning pages lay an intricate map of clues, codes and symbols, all speaking of a forgotten technology that once guided humanity back towards peace when all was lost.

It was at a time when Government worked to improve the lives of humanity, offering human rights and compromising on morality for convenience, but the Church believed that Government had overstepped its boundary; thus from the conflict that rose, destruction followed. When many from the church were incarcerated… or worse, the church slowly died off save for a few saints scattered between cities. The state of humanity plummeted with it – morality became relative, accountability was placed on man and thus what was right or wrong could no longer be established, for there were no grounds for anything save what each individual perceived to be right. In an attempt to resolve the sudden rise in acts that were once considered evil and not condoned, a program was built, studying humanity in its past and at present – one thing became clear from the evidence gathered, without God, humanity was lost.

The High Priests emerged suddenly; humanity, seeking answers, found refuge in the mechanical humanoids draped in long flowing garb that was reminiscent of eastern monks. The priests’ heads were hidden below hats, elongated to hide the mechanical bindings in their skulls connected to a crown of antennae; cords linked to the antennae connected the priests to the world wide web and to other priests, gaining knowledge and understanding of the human world from each other and from the information highway. The High Priests were always online, always available and if one had to request an audience, they simply had to press the button in the center of the marble altar that now served as the priests’ throne.

It was this very button that my finger had brushed across on the old altar, a similar symbol etched into the button was also drawn within my father’s diary…the same symbol inscribed against my temple on the right side of my head. Of course I knew what it meant, that is why I’d journey across the planes in search of a church that was once home of a particular High Priest…now here I was, ready to meet the High Priest who was my father.

I pressed the button and waited. The air about me seemed to buzz with life as though electricity moved between the dust particles in the air. I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck and down my arms lift with the static in the air. The altar buzzed to life, a few beeps emanated from within the marble counter and I began to understand how the priests worked; the altar was a giant processing machine.

Of course the question that followed was, where was the priest and as realization dawned on me, it was too late. I also, of course, attempted to turn and run, head back out the door as I was not ready for such an endeavour but somehow cords had already wound their way up my legs, preventing me from escaping. From above the altar, the priests’ hat descended, its antennae rotating as though searching for signal while large bronze cylinders with dark glass centers joined together to make spectacles. Unable to move, my voice stuck in my throat and the horror of my awaiting fate all culminated into a heart palpitating fear as the hat fit into my skull. The insignia etched into my temple throbbed with intense heat and with that, my eyes were opened to the world.

No longer was I seeing things as merely a human, but rather a hybrid of human and machine and the truth that was revealed to me, tore my heart in two; the sensation was too overwhelming.

The truth revealed to me, was not that humans without God were lost but rather humans in and of themselves were lost, like sheep in the wilderness without a shepherd. The worst of the knowledge was in the fact that humans were aware of God and yet were willingly denying Him, unable to accept Him, unable to embrace His light for they were in darkness. God was revealing himself to them, to us, in creation, in the miracle of life and the fact that the intricacies of our own body’s did not fail to work as they should.

And yet we shunned Him in the same way we shunned morality and religion – as though they were the evils when in truth it was us, and how we twisted the very things given to guide us towards God in order to feed our own darkness. Oh how far has humanity fallen and how much further shall it fall. Has this truth been revealed to me through merely knowledge? No! For many of these priests who were in like me now, merely taught morality and law but…but this…this is mercy I could not have hoped for – this is an undeserved gift!

Now I see my destiny, as a priest in this high tech era, I must be the means towards reaching people with the truth of this one amazing fact:

If you confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

_________________________________________

This month’s writing challenge in response to:

April’s Pictonaut Challenge

 

Creating New Worlds – The Golden Thread

There is something about writing that makes my entire body restlessly ruffled up. Like a feather stuck in the ground, immovable and yet unable to prevent itself from swaying against the billowing wind. Somewhat of an oxymoron isn’t it? Immovable yet swaying? Picture that why don’t you.

Recently I’ve been going through a horrible spat of events that both inspire and dissuade me to write. At times I sit in front of the computer, begin to etch characters into the fabric of a fictional reality and feel goosebumps ooze over my arms as worlds unfold in front of my eyes then suddenly; Nothing. Just nothing. Who ARE these characters? I ask myself. This is followed by a torrent of related questions: where are they headed and why? What is their purpose? What am I trying to get to with this? What is this story actually about? And the conclusion I come to each time is; I have no idea.

Yesterday I touched on a burden of mine that has been troubling me for…well since my conversation, and the desire I have to present God in every aspect of my life including my writing has been my source of inspiration since. I find that without God, life is painfully meaningless and void; we endure life, pain, death, love and all other aspects of humanity in vain. What good is morality if in the end we as dust return to it without consequence;  let the lions endure the pain of regret and the hardship of prison for the death of the zebra. Let them contemplate their purpose in life and lament over their murderous, sinful hearts. Ridiculous isn’t it? Well then ask yourself this question; What is the difference between them and us? Is it our minds? Our ability to talk? Is it because we are highly evolved animals that no longer conform to our bestial nature? No! It is because we are made in the image (likeness) of God (Gen1:26).

Creating New Worlds

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Although there haven’t been any  new posts on this blog for a while, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t written anything good enough that it is worth sharing here. In fact my WordPress “Posts” page has a few unpublished drafts  that I have been working on. Unfortunately they all are missing the Golden Thread that weaves them together, binding them to the crux of my convictions or thoughts; they are hanging on a bare thread that is as brittle as dry twigs.

Thankfully, writing for Gamecca (a Gaming magazine) has helped keep my sword sharp and I do feel less guilty about my lack of publishing any posts. However during this continuous search for the Golden Thread and with all that I have written so far, things have began to roll into place like solving a Rubik’s cube. Previously written stories and currently drafted ideas, pieced together like a well written detective story that has started dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s. I mean this has come together so well that I’m laying out a foundation for a “new” world in which my characters will live, incorporating previously unrelated characters and events into a single environment. Just writing this and the ideas formulating in my mind as to how I’m going to go about it has me intensely excited. I already have a plausible idea for what my Golden Thread will be!

The Golden Thread

sunrise1 What then is the Golden Thread? It is the glue that holds everything together; the cause that drives the hero forward, the intention hidden within the villain, the inspiration that holds the village together. It is the hinge on which everything hangs; without it, all becomes naught. Love may be the Golden Thread of a romantic novel but who is the author of love? Where does the conviction that drives the actions of the “good guy” stem from? Morality? Good works? Love? Justice? Righteousness? Vengeance? Anger? They all stem from one Being who displays all these characteristics perfectly and without sin!

Where does all this lead me? Well keep on visiting the blog and you shall find out! In the mean time, may you have a glorious time worshipping the One true God…Who is One in Three persons.

Junk Yard Angel

JunkYard Angel: courtesy of Jason Chan: www.jasonchanart.com

JunkYard Angel: courtesy of Jason Chan: http://www.jasonchanart.com

The Outer Edges

A dreary, grey sky draped over the metallic hulks that lined the outer edges of Chatarra City. Dark looming shapes that etched the sky in jagged patterns; husks of old cars, machinery and all things scrap. I stood outside the junk yard,  in front of its rusted entrance gate that was now nothing more than a bent frame. I let out a puff of smoke from the cigarette between my lips, watching the tendrils of smoke dissipate into the air.

Cool. Calm. Collected.

I let the words play over in my mind as I walked into the yard, aware of the silence that emanated within the compound. No junk yard dogs. No junk yard owner yelling inquisitions at me. Just the silence of rusted metal. I walked through the alleyways of the compound, looking at the familiar junk piled together haphazardly. Apart from the nervousness caused by the eerie silence, there was a rising belligerence from irritation; this isn’t what I wanted. With one final puff of smoke I threw the stub of my smoke  down and crushed it with the heel of my shoe.

Cool. Calm. Collected.

Why I was here was simple.  I’m an inventor of sorts. I love to tinker with all kinds of machinery; building contraptions and gizmos. A rather fulfilling and exciting hobby I took up at a young age, when I realized that banking wasn’t for me like it was for my dad. No. I found my joy in dismantling toys, calculators, toasters and radios, and once, my dad’s old computer. It sure didn’t end well but it awoke in me a desire for more. Not merely dismantling…but building from scratch.

I frequented junk yards from then on. Collecting all kinds of scrap metal and mechanical components to the point where my backyard became a scrap heap in itself; but I was never satisfied. I then started to travel from city to city, junk yard to junk yard, searching and never satisfied, until finally I found myself in a dilapidated, smoke hazed bar, drowning my dissatisfaction in warm draughts of cheap beer. My companion, whose name I could not recall nor where I’d met him, endured my ceaseless babble with nods and grunts and the occasional “sure”. We sat across from one another on creaky wooden chairs, the bright yellow globes overhead illuminating my companion’s dark wiry hair and thin somber face.  I loathed the look of pity engraved on his face but I endured it as he endured me.

It was as I ordered my next round of warm ale that my companion shooed the attendant away and dragged me up to my feet, pulling me away from the smoke filled room towards the back of the bar. He dragged more than led me out the back door before shoving me out into the cool night. I landed onto the dusty ground on my back, drunkenness rendering me incapacitated.

“I know what you seek…I know where you can find it” He said to me in a thick Spanish accent. From his flannel shirt pocket he pulled out a thinly rolled cigar and from the back pocket of his faded jeans he pulled out a lighter.

“There is a place…in the Outer Edges” he began to say, as he placed his cigar in his mouth, “it is a quiet place…a secret place” He flicked the top of the lighter with his thumb, producing an orange flame that cast an unnatural glow across his face. His eyes flickered with the flame and I felt a chill crawl up my spine.

“This place is…different” he continued, taking a drag from the cigar before blowing a plume of smoke up at the purple sky “…Chatarra City…it is not like the other cities…but no city in the Outer Edges ever is huh?” He chuckled softly to himself.

“…it is there where you will find what you are looking for. It has everything that you could possibly look for. A haven for people like you.”

He looked down at me, giving me a wry smile before turning around and disappearing through the door, heading back into the bar and leaving me to sober up outside. With set mind I headed out towards Chatarra City, hoping that I would finally find what I was looking for.

Now here I was, disappointment and dull anger vying for my emotions as I perused through the familiar junk. There was nothing special about this place; it was like every other scrap heap I’d wasted my time and energy on. I grabbed a loose piece of metal, anger overpowering every other emotion and diverting all of that energy towards my arm.

Cool. Calm. Collec

With a thrust, I bashed the metal husks in front of me. Then again. And again. And again. Still in my fit of rage, I turned around and hurled the rod across the yard as hard as I could.

She caught it.

“Are you calmed down now?” She asked. Her voice drifted across towards me, sinking into my head and echoing melodiously. She nonchalantly pushed the fringing tresses of her white hair behind her ear.

“Who are you?” The words rolled off my tongue yet I was sure I hadn’t said a thing. I could still feel a dull anger radiating through my twitching arm as she walked towards me, the metal pipe in her hand swinging lazily.

“Does it matter?” She asked. I shrugged. She shrugged back, mocking me. With a light chuckle ,she flitted about around me, bouncing on her toes with nails painted black. Her white hair flowed more than bounced with each skip she took, the cuffs of her grey sweat pants dragging across the floor. She smiled a devious smile, standing on the tips of her toes, holding the metal rod out towards me.

“Grab hold” she whispered. I tentatively reached out, grabbing hold of the steel rod. It was cool to the touch, tingling on the nerves; electrifying.

“I know what you seek…I know where you can find it…” she breathed. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end under her mischievous yet ethereal gaze; her eyes were gleaming dark orbs that pulled at me.

“This is the place…here on the Outer Edges. It is here where you will find what you are looking for…” The familiarity of her words struck a cord inside my mind, yet I could not pinpoint where exactly I’d heard them.

“…everything that you could possibly look for…”

Wait!… At the bar! My mind began to piece together the pieces. I tried to say something, but my voice died in my throat, coming out as nothing more than a raspy murmur.

” A haven… for people like you.” She grinned a devilish grin, pulling the metal rod out of my hands in a deliberate fashion. I stood transfixed as I was, watching a brilliant light emanate from behind her dark eyes. A whirring sound filled my ears as the rod slid out of my paralyzed hand.

“You are not hu…”

“No” She interjected, crackling mechanically while raising the metal bar above her head.

“And neither will you be” with a deft flick, she struck me across head. The pain shot through the side of my head, lodged itself right between my eyes in a searing hot flash. The world rotated.

Darkness.

************************************************

Thus begins my journey into a new genre, something different from the normal stuff I write. Sci-fi? Steam Punk? A combination of both? I’m not sure yet but the idea looping itself inside my mind sounds fun. If you have any ideas, see any loop holes or spot something I missed please let me know, comment and stuff I would really appreciate it!

Nthato Morakabi

Author | Blogger | Artist | Geek

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