Hungry Enough, Horror Story, Chapter 1

Centipede Atari 2600 2

A giant centipede descends over the garden gnome’s mushroom forest, Centipede. Copyright Atari, Inc.

I found myself with words, but unable to make the journey to the House of Words. To trek across the unnamed ocean, where the volcanic islands breathe the salt, takes days, or more specifically: nights. The House of Words, etched over the obsidian remains of an infertile mountainside, does not visit with the sun. Only the dungeon folk, writers of tales and things that crawl and ooze and bite, smear their ink over the bookshelves.

I paddled one night over a year ago, on a borrowed boat made of teak wood varnished in bright red, the bright red of an ambulance’s cross. Thoughts of a classic paranormal tale – a wailing widow void of teeth that rubs her gums to your earlobes behind the pillow, maybe the ghastly apparition of a two-legged horse wearing your grandma’s face – whooshed around my head as I dug into the quiet waters with my black paddle, splashing my old hiking backpack and disturbing insects that also whooshed around my head, hungry for words.

They said to bring your unique experience into your writing to make your art authentic, I thought as I pulled the red dragon boat onto the ashen gray beach. I plopped myself down exhausted, breathing in the humidity I so hungrily missed. I let it enter my mouth and come out my nose, panting like an angered beast. How did I row for so long alone on such a large boat?


Bugs fueled my aching body. Mosquitoes prickled the skin, savoring every juicy drop of blood consumed. The cockroaches tickled with their stiff antennae and itchy wings under my naked feet. I see them all fleeing the vessel now and decide to go for a walk thinking of ghosts, mangoes, and worms. Then, I shove my hand into the backpack, ignoring the tappity-tap of a hundred spider legs and grab the pen.

Hungry Enough, Chapter 1

“I’m so hungry I could eat my left foot,” Sun said, slamming her head, bangs first, into the kitchen counter.

“Don’t be so melodramatic, Sundiata.” Kale dropped his messenger bag on the stool beside her, grabbed the faux leather strap and used it to poke a few times through Sun’s draping black hair. The girl responded by biting it, lifting herself and speaking through gritted teeth. “Only my mother calls me Sundiata.”

“That’s because your mom is a super cool gal.” Kale tapped his friend on the nose twice with an index finger.

Sun tried to bite that too. “Cool? Incorrect. Did you know Sundiata is a man’s name?”

Kale shrugged with both face and shoulders, his freckles temporarily rearranging but still highlighting his Nordic reddish hair.

“An African man’s name,” Sun continued, eyes opening wide for emphasis. “Kale, are you listening? I’m Asian. And a woman.”

“Ah, is that why you love wearing burgundy boots and paint yourself with crimson lipstick?” Sun shot him a look. He knew the look. “At least you weren’t named after cabbage,” he said and smiled. Then she smiled. “There it is. There is my smile.”

The hushed discussion by the apartment’s oak front door rose enough decibels to beckon for attention.

“You’re leaving,” said one of the two girls, standing inside the awning. She still wore her coat, a military green jacket that covered her whole, from short auburn hair to long winter boots. “I can’t believe you. Sun needs me. We talked about this, Luz. Come in. Please.”

Luz looked to her feet, both firmly planted outside. “Cherry, it’s just,” she paused and bit her lip. “You don’t know. You don’t understand how this thing is for me, for us, for my family. I’m… I’m sorry, Cher.” Luz had an accent. Her R’s would roll for days as her words rushed out in hurried breaths. “I can’t.”

Cherry grabbed Luz’s hands. Even now, angry as she was, the way her girlfriend’s cream-colored skin and turquoise nails contrasted her own pale hands and red gloss warmed her heart. “It’s ok. I won’t force you.”

Luz’s hands, specifically her left, began to shake. She unfastened Cherry’s grip, gazed directly into her otherworldly greens and gave her a peck on the lips. “Lo siento,” she said, apologizing. Then she ran down the corridor, feet sloshing over the checkered carpet, holding her left wrist with her right hand and muttering something in her native tongue. The halogen flickered on and off twice.

“Sun, you really should report these lights to the super,” Kale said, approaching. “You ok, Cher?”

Cherry slumped against the open door and shook her head.

“Let me grab your coat. Come. It will be fun. Dinner for three. Like at school.” With Cherry’s jacket in one hand, he pulled his friend close for a hug and whispered, “Sun is starving, and you smell like cookies.”

The girl blushed then rolled her eyes. She closed the door with a slow and painful scraping noise, the kind doors make when the frames swell in the artificial heat and yelled “When are you ever not hungry, Sun!?”

Sun grinned, already plopped down over the dinner table, serving herself a plate.

“Not wasting time, eh?” Kale grabbed his bag from the kitchen, dropped the jacket and pulled out a chair. “Come sit, Cher.”

“Looks beautiful, Sun,” Cherry said, admiring the ocean blue cloth covering the table. Seven tall candles topped off a silver candlestick. Four curvy glasses sparkled with delicious libations. The plates were a luscious pearl white, rimmed with brushed nickel. Admiration swooned then fled when she regarded the forks. “Plastic?”

“We’re still not completely moved in,” Sun said through a mouth full of pasta. “The new silverware is at my parent’s house in New Hampshire. Maybe somewhere in there.” She pointed to the living room, host to two leather sofas in contrasting white and black, a pile of cushions on top; one unplugged LED TV, still half-buried in its packing frame; and an army of boxes: Tall brown ones scribbled with purple Sharpie, shorter flatter ones taped with grey and several other beat-up remains which had seen war.

Kale dimmed the lights and lit the candles. “Now, about that gift exchange at work,” he said, rummaging inside his bag.

“You found one?” Sun perked up, hurrying a meatball down the chute with vodka tonic. “Where did you find it?”

“Find what?” interjected Cherry.

“This.” Kale pulled out a broad, sharpened knife, curved at the edge and about seventeen inches long. The blades were sharp and precise, and the hilt formed with burnt wood. “It’s a machete, or in English: machet; though no one calls it that.”

Cherry’s plastic fork dropped on her plate. Her jaw tried to follow.

“Wow, looks amazing,” Sun said, reaching out. “I didn’t expect it to be this big. It’s like a short sword. May I hold it?”

Kale handed over the weapon. Sun held it to the candlelight and watched her reflection while caressing the rough steel with curious fingers. Her eyes resembled two thin snake slits. She ignored the distortion, rose from the metal chair and wielded the machete, feeling out its weight. The girl gyrated it on her right hand, triceps tensing, and almost hit the corner of the table.

Cherry’s jaw found the plate and said hello to the fork.

“Sun’s dad collected swords,” Kale said, “but this one isn’t for Sun’s dad, or for Sun, no matter how badass she looks dressed up as Wonder Woman.” Sun frowned in surprise. “Hip-mom posted your teenage years online. Watch out Gal Gadot, here comes Sun, the Hun!”

Sun hardened her grip over the cutlass. “Jesus, Kale. My adoption papers said Korea, not Mongolia!”

“Is someone going to tell me this story?” Cherry stood and planted both hands on the table. “I should be enjoying a nice holiday meal at my friend’s new condo, with her new husband, while showing off my,” she pointed with thumbs at her chest, “my new girlfriend. Instead, the husband is out of town – really, the day after the honeymoon? – my girlfriend’s borderline-psychotic paranoia sent her running, and my best friend – you, Sun – is getting drunk on vodka and gorgonzola while playing medieval times with a machet over the dinner table!”

“Machete,” Kale said, taking a sip from his glass. “I told you no one calls it machet anymore. And, it’s still used in contemporary agriculture throughout the Caribbean. Not medieval times.”

Cherry grunted, crossed her arms and sat down. A lone lock of hair dropped over her face and she blew it out of the way with a puff.

“Story time?” asked Kale.

“Story time,” said Sun. “Cher, we tell you the machete story, then you tell us about Luz’s mystery trip.”

Cherry nodded.

The lights turned off. Sun held her phone with one hand, long knife still in the other. “It’s all automated. I control everything with an app.”

“So, it’s about my boss – el jefe – like he calls himself,” Kale started and slumped into a chair.

“Our jefe,” Sun said, lunging forward with the machete and piercing an imaginary foe.

“He’s Puerto Rican–“

“Like your new girlfriend.”

“Sundiata, stop interrupting!” Kale pulled Sun by the arm to the chair beside him. “Drink more vodka. Stuff yourself with another meatball. I’ll let you tell the part about the worms.”

“There’s worms?” Cherry shifted in her seat and tried to straighten her mini skirt over the black leggings.

“Turns out, el manager hates raw eggs,” Kale said.

“Lots of people hate raw eggs.”

“Not like this, Cher. Not like him. He told us–“

“Tell it from his point of view.” Sun bared teeth, then pursed her lips.

“Great idea. Now SHUT IT.”

Sun gestured zipping her lips closed.

Kale leaned forward, red hair seemingly on fire by candle’s light, and cleared his throat.

“’Growing up, my mother, first to attend college in the family, worked full time. Abuela Lucía watched my older brother, and for a short time, welcomed me under her roof too. She owned a white concrete house, a corner house, a real huracán stopper with a big backyard rich in mango trees. My brother and I loved climbing up the rough trunks, dashing through branch after branch, freeing the delicious fruit from its natural shelves. Most people know mangoes for their refreshing taste. My brother and I knew them for the sting of a well-aimed throw. One day, while Abuela napped, we took down a few dozen and went to war. We plastered the walls orange yellow by noon after blasting each other over grass and tree root for hours. When Abuela Lucía peeked through the aluminum windows and caught wind of our mischief, she marched outside in her sleeping gown, stepping over torn mangoes with bare feet, throwing insults, chancletas and contempt. I remember the pain of the beating, and the smell. The entire yard smelled of the glorious fruit. Whenever I inhale the aroma now, I swear my backside burns.

“’Soon after, they shipped me over to Aunt Julia’s house. Aunt Julia’s house wasn’t new or modern like Abuela’s. Termites had devoured half the wooden second story. The floors creaked with your footsteps like two-pound crickets mating up a storm. The bedrooms smelled of wood rot and moist earth and the stench carried under your nose from sun-up till the starry night. I loved it there. My cousins, older and bigger boys, both brawny and sweet, taught me how to wrestle on the cool linoleum floor. My uncle let me feed the chickens. He had raised over three hundred birds, including a pain-in-the-ass bronze and gold cockfighting rooster, in chicken coups he had erected on cinder blocks and wood.

“’Breakfasts were the best: Freshly squeezed lemonade and still-warm eggs. Aunt Julia prepared them scrambled, over hard, over easy, runny, boiled, fried – any way you can imagine. I preferred them soft-boiled and soupy back then. Not now. Now I can’t stand the potent color or their earthy smell – no uh. Not since that day…’”

Sun put a hand on Kale’s shoulder. He nodded. She threw back her straight black hair and continued in a monotonous tone.

“’Not since that day, that hot and humid morning over the dark brown polished table and old mahogany chairs. Aunt Julia served me up the yellow mush and right after my spoon invades the dish, a centipede – longer than ever seen by my four-year-old eyes – dropped from the chandelier into my egg soup. The worm wreathed, a hundred tiny insect legs squirming, splashing yellow slime in my milk, on the table, on the walls – on me – my eyes, my mouth, my hair. I screamed, pushed away from the table but the chair, too heavy, pulled back. I cried out again watching it contort. My cousin darted behind me, torn Superman shirt whizzing by, and with the longest-looking knife I had ever seen, sliced the creature in two with a snap. The two halves of the whole moved even faster, spreading more filth on my breakfast, consuming my food, and with it, my sanity. My cousin lunged again, and again, until the centipede itself became soup and the nightmare went to sleep. I went rigid, mouth agape, yolk dribbling over my lips; eyes fastened, locked, pupils dilated. I watched. All I could see was…’”

Sun gave her weapon a twirl.

“The machete,” said Cherry, eyeing the tool. “You bastards.”

“It’s a better gift than a box full of worms over duck sauce,” said Sun with a grin. “That was Kale’s first idea.”

Cherry looked at her pasta, took a hand to her mouth and ran.

“She’s going to barf,” said Sun, putting down the machete and raising a hand to her partner.

“No-look high-five!”

“Nailed it.”


“Should I check on Cherry?” Sun said, wetting her lips on a fresh vodka tonic. Kale sat across from her. He in the white sofa, she in the black sofa, both bathed by incoming moonlight from the living room’s arched windows. “It’s been five minutes. I’m worried.”

“Don’t be.” Cherry walked in, candlestick in hand, and floated down next to Sun. “It’s me that’s worried about you, Sun,” she said placing nature’s flashlight on a tall, brown box. The candle’s wick danced on her pale face, revealing swollen eyes and wet hair.

“Were you crying, Cher? The story is just an office joke.” Sun placed her glass on the hardwood. “Come here,” she said and embraced her friend.

Cherry allowed it, enjoying her warmth, then pushed her away gently and grabbed her shoulders. “I didn’t want to tell you. God knows the only spirits I believe in are the ones we swallow at the pub.”

Sun tilted her head, confused.

“It’s too much of a coincidence: the story… the grandma,” Cherry nodded toward the machete in Sun’s lap. “And that thing.”

“What is it, Cherry?” Kale switched sofas, clumping them closer.

“Luz’s family is superstitious as sin. I’m talking candles – big candles like bug-spray cans – rosary beads and Christ on two sticks on the walls, in the books, underneath her white satin nightshirts. You know I didn’t want to tell you about her trip. She confided in me. Me!” The girl swiped one hand through her head, pushing auburn lace to the side. “Yet, you ask me about it every time. Every damn time. Well, tonight I’ll tell you. And not from her point of view or impersonating abuelas and talking about hurricanes and whatnot. You two can be so disrespectful.” Cherry dangled an index finger at her friends, charm bracelet jiggling. “And doctors!”

“Anesthesiologists.” Sun smiled and turned to Kale, but he frowned and shook his head.

“Last year, when Luz flew home to help with Hurricane María relief, her sister was attacked. One of those in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time tragedies. Not only attacked: Murdered.”

“Oh my God…” Sun gasped, right hand instinctively tightening over the wooden hilt. “I-I didn’t know. I’m so sorry, Che–“

“Don’t interrupt.” Cherry furrowed her brow, her gaze focused. “Luz, my beautiful, kind and caring Luz, got it into her head that it was her fault. That her sister’s murder, a murder by ‘fatal head trauma from a sharp and elongated knife’ at the hands of two sick men very angry at their government – was meant for her.”

“What? Why?” said Kale. “You can’t control calamity. You can’t predict insanity. Why would she say that?”

“Luz suffers from an illness, a tightness on her left wrist; something the doctors call nerve compression. She describes it as the feeling of someone forever holding or grabbing, and at times, clawing her. After several years of unsuccessful PT she says she’s learned to cope with it.” Cherry paused and exhaled. “This is where things get weird, and downright creepy. Her grandmother insists it’s not a disease but a blessing; says Luz is protected by a Hupia she herself bound to her granddaughter’s arm the instant she came out of her daughter’s womb.”

“A Hupia?”

“A wandering spirit in Taíno legend. The Taíno are the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, the ones conquered when the Spanish arrived. The culture still survives in villages spread across the island. They celebrate the many gods, prepare the food, practice the language – they sell t-shirts online with the stuff.”

“What does that have to do with Luz’s sister?” Kale chugged half his scotch. “This hoopla thing and the murder happened decades apart.”

Sun only stared.

“That day, at the wrong place and the wrong time, Luz couldn’t answer the door because her nerve compression flared. The moment she stood, the pain overpowered her, making it impossible for her to move. Luz said she felt like a man made of stone clamped down with pincers over her wrist. When she couldn’t move, little sister went instead, pulled open the door and,” Cherry closed her eyes, “I stopped reading the news article after ‘thirty-seven lacerations.’“

“Say no more, woman.” Kale downed the rest of his drink, leaving a wet trail on his chin.

“Luz watched her sister bleed to death on the floor ten feet away. Then, through moribund half-sobs and her own screams, she heard a car’s tires screech and the pain disappeared.”

“I’m going to need more scotch.” Kale rose and stumbled through some boxes and into the kitchen. “I’m done with machetes,” he said, voice drifting away.

Cherry stared out the window. The night sky had clouded. The moon disappeared. She wondered whether freezing rain would follow. “Sun, is tonight your first night alone in the new condo?”

“Yep,” Sun said, head hung low.

“Will you please be careful?”

Sun mumbled a yes. “Cherry?”

Cherry cupped her friend’s hand.

“What happened to the Hupia?”

“Luz said the pain was unlike anything she felt before and unlike anything she would feel again…” Cherry looked down, admiring her friend’s strong hand and black nail polish. “Until the moment she knocked on your door.”

Enjoyed these creepy crawlers? You might also like Simon’s Quest. Leave a comment or share with others. Feedback, thoughts and speculation are welcome too.

Simon’s Quest, Horror Story, Chapter 1

Night falls over Europe, Castlevania II. Copyright Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.

Night falls over Europe, Castlevania II. Copyright Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.

You find yourself alone inside the House of Words. The cold leather of an old Victorian sofa reminds your thighs they are sore. The stark grey of early morning penetrates the stained glass windows, but someone pulled the library’s thick, crimson drapes shut. Only a lone, flickering candle guides your eyes, its light the color blue.

You stand and walk the chamber, patting away the dust from your backpack and khakis. On the desk rests a rusted metal-bound journal and a quill, still wet with midnight prose.

‘To Anne Rice,’ reads the cover.

‘Thank you for inking my twenty-four-year-old mind with your lively fantasies and spirit-bending words.

This is one of five.

Wishing you also kindness – Alvin.’

“Oh, Alvin,” you say and slump over the plain, wooden chair. “What a perfect day to have a curse.”

You bite your chapped lips, ignore the thirst and open the book.

Simon’s Quest, Chapter 1

A field full of color, full of rain. The aroma of endless earth and grass overpowered everything across that New England summer’s day – not her.

I first saw her across a sea of tulips, orange and yellow, perfect companions to her crimson hair. Her face smelled of perfume and the ocean, and the smell carried down to her neck…

My father had said, ‘Simon, you must find a mate. You must carry the line.’ The matters of the heart never captivated my interest. The rush of the hunt, and the art of death; those were the thrills for me. And yet, as I lay on the cold hospital floor, trapped behind our hastily constructed barricade, my thoughts swooned to the overflowing life in her face, and the exquisite beauty of her neck.

The halogen flickered on and off. Something clawed behind the bathroom door. The din of nail on brushed metal penetrated my ears deeper than my human body remembered. I rose to my feet, turned to the stretcher and watched: Labored breath, faint but there, underneath the soaked, red velvet nightshirt.

I crossed the room, limping, but careful not to trip over the bodies festering on the once white and sterile floor. The stench of rotten blood overpowered my nostrils. I exhaled full of concern, balled my trembling hands into fists and kneeled next to her.

“Victoria…” the whisper escaped my lips in a far more melancholic tone than intended. She lifted her powerful gaze, hidden behind hazel, glistening eyes; trying, but failing, to draw a smile on her gaunt face.

“P-promise me… luz de mis ojos,” she said in her country’s native tongue. More sweat trickled down her forehead. “Promise me you’ll live… both of you.” Her voice still carried the same sweet timbre I remembered from the night of our first union. I pressed a hand to my neck, trying to contain the red liquid. The wretched parasite’s heat had begun its course.

“I promise,” I said.

I lied.

A loud bang, like a semi-truck had kissed the walls, interrupted my introspection and whisked away any remaining guilt. Dust floated down the ceiling, flirting with the faint light of night peering through our four-story window.

“A yellow moon,” I said. “Not much longer now.”

Victoria raised a frail, lanky arm to my face, pushing away my long dark hair, once soft and tempting, but now smeared with the grease of the fight. I peered at the pool of blood gushing out her womb, then at the white-coated cadaver lying next to her bed, silver instrument of surgery still clutched in his hand.

Victoria’s reddened eyes opened wide. How befitting, maybe even poetic I thought as I bent down to pry the device off the doctor’s stiff grasp, considering how Shakespearian it would be, even for my murderous hands, to gut my own wife. There are no more happy endings left to write.

“Y-you know… what you have t-to do…” she said. I lifted the disinfected tool, forcing my gaze upon her abdomen and inspected the puss-infested gash.

I failed to make the first cut.

Leave it to the future mother of my child to gift me one last selfless act before forever abandoning me, and this world. Victoria dragged her hands to her open wound and grabbed both sides of her flailing skin. Then she stretched. And pulled, and stretched some more, rupturing both flesh and blood vessels like a savage from the dark ages.

She let out one gasp: The final gasp.

My face filled with horror, and then rewrote itself in hunger as the smell of rust permeated the air.


My fingers involuntarily unclenched the scalpel. The liquid spewed out the belly of my wife like a Spanish fountain. For a moment, I lost myself inside the red sea of her entrails; yearning, dreaming… but then-

A cry, and sweet melody to my new ears! My son wailed, beckoning for his first breath of life. I jolted awake from the stupor of dehydration. My human blood fought back against the disease’s pestilence. The tears poured down my cheeks and mouth, as the fatherly love common to all God’s creatures overpowered my new instincts.

Was I still one of His?

Before I realized it, I was pushing my hands into Victoria’s womb, groping over viscera and flesh. Her arms fell to her sides, lifeless and limp, as if the Creator had designed this new boy to only ever be loved one parent at a time. I lifted him, both freeing him from the fleshy prison, and myself, ever so slowly, from the garden of humanity. Jacob was pale white, or more of a rosy gold, doused with a full head of black hair and covered in blood. Covered… in blood.

My mouth moistened.

I held him tight, with trembling lips, trying to say his name, but ashamed to utter the words. Instead I wept and howled as the heaving of grief took my shoulders and chest, shaking me to my bones. I had lost my wife, my one ever true love. Now, I would lose my firstborn.

A commanding blast resonated across the room. Two ghastly immortals stood behind me. I turned my head just enough to take in their form. These weren’t your typical infected hominids. I recognized the breed: forged with the stone dust of a gargoyle statue and gifted of life from the Beast. Their wings, when stretched, expanded over a meter wide. Flight offered no advantage inside closed quarters. I knew this. They knew this; thus, they coiled the ebony flaps around their chests, providing additional armor to their already nearly unbreakable skin.

“Soldiers of Ra,” I said, cursing under my breath. “Does the Devil never tire of the same tricks?”

They didn’t move, or say a word, barely acknowledging my presence. The insubordination didn’t offend me, but their eyes, their eyes infuriated me the most: no lids, no corneas; life swallowed in shadow and a silence boiling in rage.

How I wished for my satchel. Mother’s favorite, the Vitruvian Man, embroidered on the flap. My favorite, the weapons of my own devise, overflowing in the bag. My family’s craft, which I did have, while designed for situations like this, wouldn’t exactly even out the odds. It would have to do. Just like it did the grunts, the irrational, armor-less fools whose remains pestered the floor.

I had never faced a Soldier by myself, let alone two. The obsidian helmets and masks of iron black covered everything except the eyes and mouth. I always preferred to go in through the mouth. Not because it offers advantage, but because I wanted them to watch; to witness the glorious moment I banish them to the land of Hell’s Lords.

I looked at Jacob and tried to force a smile. I’d have to do the deed with my bloodline’s archaic tools. I removed my shirt and bundled him tight. The Kevlar threads of Aunt V.’s chain mail would provide adequate protection.

“The Greymont line ends tonight,” the creature on the right spoke to me in a voice I always thought sounds like a slab of metal against a stone grinder, grinding from inside a hollowed-out tree.

I ignored him, carefully inserting Jacob into Victoria’s leather-wrapped messenger bag. “When will you filthy beasts learn? You can’t kill Simon Greymont.”

“Simon Greymont is dead,” the gargoyle-man closest to the window said, his bird-like muzzle twisting into a grin with the words. “We come for the boy.”


My broken leg had fully healed.

“Show me the power of the Greymont line.” The accursed demon’s whispers visited my mind for the first time that night; he who had gifted the disease to the lowlife who bit me. I knew then the metamorphosis would soon complete, and I, become a part of him.

I flung Jacob’s first Earth-side crib around my shoulders, let my black hair fall over my face and bare chest, and said: “If I were dead, would I dare do this?”

My father’s whip unfastened from my battle-worn belt, tail hitting the floor with the finite snap of its wyvern scale tip.

“You wouldn’t dare, hunter,” one of them said. “Even the beasts of the underworld know the Red Fire of the Morning Star consumes everything unholy.”

The other brute scoffed. “You’ll destroy yourself before the first swing.”

I smiled, for the first time that night, tightening my grip over the leather handle. “Guess we’ll find out where exactly the Big Guy draws the line.”

I took a deep breath, thought of grass, tulips and dreams, and swung.

Then the air before me exploded into a black sun.

Enjoyed this literary snack? You might also like Star Map. Leave a comment or share with others. Feedback, thoughts and speculation are welcome too.