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This Isn't Heaven

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"It takes about six hours to realise you're in hell."

Valentine: I don't belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.
Pip: Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!

Bob dies and goes to the afterlife. At first he seems to have gone to Fluffy Cloud Heaven: it's beautiful, there's sweet harp music playing, he has everything he ever wanted, etc. But then he realizes that there's one essential thing missing or wrong, and the sudden realization dawns: this isn't Heaven! Cue the frantic screaming of a damned soul...

Often the thing missing or wrong is something superficial, like "no beer", "no coffee" or "eternally noisy neighbors." Or the thing missing might actually be the feeling of adversity itself; No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction after all, and so having your every need, wish and whim catered to instantly all the time drives you insane from boredom. Can be a form of Ironic Hell, but it's not necessary. This is specifically for actually being in hell (or thinking that that's the case), not just still being alive or something similar; see Mistaken for Afterlife.

When they are actually in heaven and things are still like this, you get Hell of a Heaven.

Not to be confused with Rerouted from Heaven, where they've actually gone to the wrong afterlife. Can happen if the Hell is a Dangerously Garish Environment. Sub-trope of Not Where They Thought.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, the title character suspects this after he notices his friend Rick is missing.note 
  • One arc in the "Celeb" strip in Private Eye had the protagonist apparently dead and in Fluffy Cloud Heaven. After a few strips, he becomes dissatisfied and complains to an angel that "This is purgatory". The angel replies "Of course it is. Where did you think you were?"
  • In Papercutz Tales from the Crypt comic series, a story involved a suicide bomber finding himself in a lavish mansion after blowing up a bus. The various servants of the mansion quickly start trying to kill him, with the ending revealing that the “servant” are actually all of his victims who are here to torture him for eternity.

    Fan Works 
  • In And the Giant Awoke, after Littlefinger dies, he sees Ned Stark. He asks Ned if they're in Heaven. Ned says no. Littlefinger decides it wouldn't make sense for him to be in Heaven anyway, but he's surprised that Ned ended up in Hell with him. Ned clarifies that they aren't in Hell either; it's more of a purgatory. That being said, it does inflict an Ironic Hell upon you until you sincerely repent of your sins. For Ned, it isn't too bad. He was a good man in life, and while he isn't totally without sins to repent of, it's not so bad for him. Littlefinger, on the other hand...
  • Queen of Blood (SirWill): Mannequin's afterlife seems to be a perfectly pleasant reconstruction of his home before the Simurgh attacked... and then his father shows up to reveal he can't leave, and his family won't be joining him because they are disappointed in him for what he did.
  • A Red Rose in the Blue Wind: After warping to Remnant, Cubot briefly thinks they've died and wonders if they're in Heaven. Orbot points out that can't be there since Dr. Eggman was with them. Eggman gives an understandable I'm Standing Right Here in response.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the end of Bad Girls from Valley High, the two Alpha Bitch Villain Protagonists die and wake up in a luxurious hotel room and are convinced they went to Heaven. Then the school dork shows up, claiming that he committed suicide to be with them and that he will be their roommate for the rest of eternity. He then briefly turns into a demon, prompting the girls to realize where they are and scream.
  • Possible example in Beetlejuice: Adam and Barbara have been dead a while and can't leave their home. Barbara is frustrated.
    Barbara: I can't clean anything properly. The vacuum's in the garage and we can't leave the house. Why don't they tell us something? Where are the other dead people? Why is it just you and me?
    Adam: [smiling] Maybe this is Heaven.
    Barbara: In Heaven there wouldn't be dust on everything.note 
  • Defending Your Life: Earth's deceased humans don't go to heaven or hell since they don't exist, but instead go to a resort-like limbo called Judgement City where their lives are reviewed by a Celestial Bureaucracy to see if they've overcome fear. Should they pass, they presumably Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. And if not, they're Reincarnated into another body on Earth to do it all over again.
    Bob Diamond: So, is this what you thought it would be?
    Daniel Miller: Thought what would be? Where am I? Is this Heaven?
    Bob Diamond: No, it isn't Heaven.
    Daniel Miller: Is it Hell?
    Bob Diamond: Nope, it isn't Hell either. Actually, there is no Hell. Although I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close.

  • A classic Islamic joke: A man dies and meets God. God says, "You may have anything you ask." The man has as much food, wine, women, etc, as he wants. Then he gets bored and asks, "May I have some work?" God answers, "No, you can't. Enjoy!" The man says, "Then I want to go to hell!" And God smiles and says, "But you are in hell."
  • There are a number of jokes based on the idea that Hell is like Heaven where you have everything you want, but some detail is missing that prevents you from enjoying it.
    • A Crossword Puzzle maniac would find a whole library of them, only to realize that no-one has a pencil.
    • The stoner who chooses between the afterlife with fire and the afterlife without fire. He chooses the latter and finds himself in a huge field of marijuana plants. note 
    • The room is full of beer kegs and beautiful ladies but, as one inmate states, "The kegs have holes in their bottom. The girls don't."
  • A variant — a hedonistic rock star dies and goes to Hell. Considering that he's been a sinner all his life, he thinks he might be of some use to Satan, and so is eager to meet him — but before he can do so, he's made to sit in a drab waiting room, with nothing on the walls, five-year-old magazines on the coffee tables and two old biddies gossiping in the corner. Bored out of his skull, he grows increasingly impatient waiting for Satan, wondering how long he'll have to spend in the waiting room — upon which it dawns on him that he's not actually in the waiting room of Hell.
  • A priest that firmly believed Sex Is Evil had a disciple. The priest died and some time later, the disciple died too. At the afterlife, the disciple saw the Priest with a gorgeous woman at his lap.
    "Master," he cried, "I see that God appreciated your sacrifices on Earth, and now you will be rewarded with paradise's pleasures!"
    "You Fool!" answered the priest. "In the first place, this isn't Heaven! And in the second, I am not being rewarded, she is being punished!"
  • Inversion where the addition of an element makes what seems to be Hell in fact Heaven: A journalist dies, and not having been a particularly good or bad person, St. Peter says he gets to choose whether to go to Heaven or Hell. He shows him Hell first, where a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy demons crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. Then he shows him Heaven, where a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy angels crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. Confused and upset, the journalist says "This is Heaven? But it's just as bad as Hell!", and St. Peter answers "No it's not. In Heaven, your stories get published!" Or, as a variant "Heaven makes the deadline".
  • In another joke, Bill Gates, the developer of Microsoft, dies, and he's given the choice of either going to Heaven or Hell. He sees that Hell resembles a beautiful tropical island paradise, while Heaven is a large expanse of fluffy clouds, and opts to go to the former instead. However, when he arrives, he finds nothing but fire, brimstone, and torture awaiting him; Satan then explains that the tropical island was "Hell's screensaver."
    • Alternatively, "That was Hell '98. This is Hell '95!"
  • A pair of jokes with a similar structure:
    • A woman dies and goes to Hell, where she's told that she must choose to stay in one of three rooms for all eternity. The first room contains the typical lake of fire; the second is akin to a medieval torture chamber; and the third contains... people standing waist-deep in feces, drinking coffee. She figures that the third is the least bad of the three, picks that room, and goes inside, grabbing a cup of coffee on her way in. Before she can take a sip, the demon running the place announces, "All right, everyone! Coffee break's over! Back on your heads!"
    • A hellbound man is led through a series of rooms with various punishments, until he discovers one where a beautiful blonde woman is giving oral sex to an unattractive man. The newly dead guy eagerly chooses that room, and the demon escorting him says "You heard him, he's taking your place!" The woman eagerly gets up and leaves.
  • A man dies and awakens on a gorgeous tropical beach. "This must be Heaven!", he thinks and takes a walk. He passes naked beauties eager to make his acquaintance, meets celebrities he adored who greet him like an old friend, sees beauty and happiness wherever he goes... until in the farthest corner of the beach he finds a deep fenced-in pit. A fiery glow, the smell of sulphur and agonized screams reach up from below. Confused, the man returns to the bar he saw earlier where a tall guy with red skin, horns, hooves and a pointed tail offers him his favorite drink.
    Man: Wait... are you... the Devil?
    Devil: That's right. Cheers!
    Man: But I thought I'm in Heaven! Everything is so perfect here!
    Devil: Yeah, I'm getting that a lot. Talk about a bad image, huh? Don't worry, everything you see here is real, you'll never want for anything in my domain.
    Man: And what about the pit over there? The one with the screams?
    Devil: Hm? Oh, that. Well, that's just for Christians. It's how they want it.
  • A joke told after the passing of Jerry Garcia had him finding himself in a recording studio, with several other deceased musicians preparing their instruments. He says "Wow, there really is a Rock 'n Roll Heaven!" Then Elvis Presley leans over and mutters: "Heaven?" At which point Karen Carpenter walks in and starts to lead the band in "Close to You".

  • The Last Trump by Isaac Asimov has the Devil convince God to bring about the end of the world, with everyone dead being resurrected. Since every group has their own idea of the afterlife, the Devil designs it at the greatest common divisor — nothing but eternal existence. One of the people claims this is heaven, but then another points out that there is nothing beyond Earth, buildings are crumbling, hills are flattening, desires are gone... Soon, there will be nothing but a featureless plain and people. Fire and Brimstone Hell is unworthy of divine imagination; an eternity of nothingness is a different matter.
  • "Howard's End" in More Horowitz Horror by Anthony Horowitz. A delinquent teenage boy is run over by a bus and finds himself in Heaven—or so he thinks. He becomes bored with the idyllic existence, and wants to move to Hell—but it is revealed he was there all along.
  • Stephen King's novel Revival: a scientist obsessed with death is trying to bring someone back from the afterlife in order to tell what's there. It turns out it's a hellish world with every single human tormented by Eldritch Abominations.
  • Quoted verbatim in the second Wayside School book. Alison ends up on the 19th floor of the school with Miss Zarves' class (neither Miss Zarves nor the 19th floor exists). To keep their minds off the situation, Miss Zarves gives her class a bunch of busy work, but it's okay because she always gives As, even if the answer is clearly wrong. Alison is discussing where they actually are with classmate Mark Miller. Mark suggests that maybe they died and went to... but then Alison cuts him off, exclaiming, "This isn't Heaven!" Mark then says that wasn't what he was going to say.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series finale of Dallas has JR planning to kill himself. The viewer is promptly treated to It's a Wonderful Plot, where a guardian angel promptly shows him that all his loved ones would be miserable and his enemies happy had he not been born. At the end, JR declares, "Well, I guess I can't kill myself now and send you back to heaven a failure, can I?". The "angel" responds, "Heaven? What makes you think I came from heaven?", before breaking into a demonic laugh.
  • In The Good Place, it's the twist ending of the first season. After an entire season's worth of protagonist Eleanor getting tangled up in various problems because she's a bad person mistakenly sent to the Good Place and hoping to learn enough goodness to stay, she is put to judgment and an ultimatum is issued: Two of the five people who have been part of the mess must submit to the Bad Place to clear up some of the disorder. Everyone starts forcefully trying to offer themselves up to go, arguing with no real conclusion, and Eleanor, frustrated, suddenly realizes that none of them have been in the Good Place after all. It was all an experiment being tested in the Bad Place to see if the residents could unwittingly torture each other with their grating personalities. At the beginning of season 2, Michael wipes their memories and restarts the Masquerade countless times, but someone always sees through it in the end — usually Eleanor, but not always; on one embarrassing occasion, it was Jason who figured it out first!
    • Subverted and played straight in season 4, during the experiment, in that, like season 1, the test subjects don't initially realize they aren't in The Good Place, but they aren't in The Bad Place either (they're in the Medium Place, where the experiment is being run) although Michael and Eleanor let them believe they're in it so that Brent realizes he's not a good person.
    • Also justified and inverted, and also in season 4: The actual Good Place was originally so monotonously "nice" that everyone involved, even the people running it, hated it, while the so-called "Good Place" and the experiences therein were good for everyone involved, even the Bad Place demons.
  • In The IT Crowd there's an episode where Douglas has a near death experience. His father is welcoming him towards a big white door, and it's all very white and glowy. Then Hitler pokes his head out, and Renholm tries to explain that "We're having a fancy dress party in Heaven."
  • One episode of Night Gallery has a man murder his nagging wife (played by Phyllis Diller) only to be visited by her ghost at her funeral. She tells him that she's in Heaven and intends to spend all eternity nagging him. Realizing that he's dead too, he replies that then he doesn't have to listen, since in Heaven you can do whatever you want. She answers that that's only in Heaven. "I'm afraid the organization you've been assigned to is much less accommodating."
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "A Nice Place to Visit", a low-level criminal named Rocky is killed by police soon after robbing a jewelry store. He is greeted by an affable guide named Pip who takes him to a lavish hotel room and offers him his heart's desires, from nice clothing, to booze, to women. Seeing all the niceties and good things, Rocky realizes this must be Heaven, but is confused as he doesn't remember doing anything of great good to merit being there. After a month, the good times have gotten boring. He always wins at roulette, always hits jackpot on the slots, one shot on a pool table and he sinks all the balls, he can rob a bank and not get caught; even the easy women now bore him, to his surprise. Rocky is really beyond bored and nearly driven insane by how good things are for him. It turns out, though, this is an Ironic Hell constructed for a man of greed and pride to now receive all he can ever hope for and more with none of the satisfaction of taking it.
    • "The Hunt" plays with this trope. A recently dead hunter is walking a long road and comes across the path to Heaven when a "gatekeeper" tells him that his dog can't go in with him. After some debating and considering things, the hunter chooses to continue down the road with his canine companion rather than enter Heaven. Soon afterwards, an angel tells him that the gatekeeper was trying to trick him into Hell, which is why the dog wasn't allowed in: "A man, well, he'll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can't fool a dog!" The hunter and his dog enter the real Heaven together.

  • King Missile's "Heaven" has the singer waking up in paradise, wondering why he feels so good when he was in such a rotten mood yesterday...and then, suddenly, the bird he was holding is a bloody mangled mess in his hand and the backdrop changes.
  • Phish's songs "Olivia's Pool" (a play on "Oblivious Fool") and "Shafty" are both about this.
  • In Sound Horizon's "Eru no Rakuen [-> side:A ->]", Elise wakes up in what she believes to be paradise — until she hears crying, and since she knows that no one would cry in paradise...

    Myths & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 
  • An article in Dragon Magazine for Dungeons & Dragons details the elaborate way in which Fraz-Urb'luu, the demon prince of deception, feeds on souls sacrificed to him. Before they are even sacrificed, the victim is invited to join a seemingly benevolent cult, then indoctrinated enough to believe that only by their own sacrifice can they avert a great evil. Once in Fraz-Urb'luu's realm, they live in a heavenly paradise, their every desire catered to them, but slowly more and more of the paradise is stripped away, revealing the truth of the abyssal realm they dwell in. Finally, Fraz-Urb'luu stands before them and explains how everything they knew was a lie. At which point, their souls belong to him as despair takes over.
  • One In Nomine supplement has a Heaven which redeemed demons eventually figure out is worse than Hell. They are required to memorize dull, "uplifting" sermons; the Malakim (avenging angels) may abuse them at will; the Archangels are insane. Eventually, they escape and go back to Hell, to warn other demons. It's actually a fake, set up by Hell as a propaganda ploy to discourage demons from redeeming.
  • In Pathfinder the archdevil Barbatos has a floating island called The Promised Land which from a distance resembles a lush heavenly realm with happy revelers, unless one manages to reach it and realizes the plants and animals are horribly twisted, the ground itself is composed of millions of squirming worms, and the revelers are tormented souls with their mouths stitched shut so they can't warn anyone. It floats serenely above his more conventionally hellish realm providing one of its subtler torments: false hope. It also rains worms on anyone it passes over, which is less subtle.

    Video Games 
  • LucasArts' sim Afterlife (1996):
    • It has a "Faux Heaven" as one of the possible Hell's punishments for slothful souls:
      "Many of the Slothful Damned believe that they deserve to be in Heaven, little realizing that their lazy ways have earned them a place in Hell. For these self-deluded fools, Hell hath created these cheesy replicas of Heaven. They're just like the real Heaven...except that they suck."
    • Another such punishment, this one for Wrathful souls, is "Illuminatiland". It starts off fairly well, but then it gets into the soul's head that something isn't right, like someone's conspiring against them, there's things in the shadows, and so on. And then, the place and its hidden demons start feeding those theories, co-opting any friends the soul confesses to and generally making sure there's always something else to be suspicious about until the soul collapses into pure insanity.
  • In Bloodborne, the Hunter's Dream is a peaceful, quiet, serene, and cozy little house surrounded by flower-lined paths winding between undisturbed graves. It's tended to by Gehrman, who teaches new Hunters the ropes, and the Plain Doll, who lives to serve and help you and who offers you nothing but solace, support, and kind words. In the grim, dark and horrifying world of Bloodborne, surely this must be a slice of heaven... except, by now, the Hunter's Dream is actually Gehrman's own Ironic Hell: As part of his agreement with the Moon Presence, he's stuck doing what he used to love the most: mentoring new Hunters, in the place he used to love the most: his Old Workshop, for the rest of eternity, and it's heavily implied that he has already gone through hundreds of iterations of the Night of the Hunt by the time the game starts... Also, since he has to eventually Mercy Kill every single Hunter that finds their way to the Dream, lest they either Go Mad from the Revelation or be forced to replace him as the Dream's host, the only permanent company Gehrman has is a doll in the spitting likeness of the love of his life, Maria... which probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that the Doll, though she looks like Maria, and sounds like Maria, is nothing like Maria, meaning she only serves as a constant reminder of Gehman's Lost Lenore, as well as the sins of his past... The fact that Gehrman's favorite place in the Hunter's Dream appears to be an alcove in the garden that lets him sit with his back turned to the entire Dream gives off the impression that he's grown to utterly loathe everything about it. You can even hear him pathetically crying, begging for someone, anyone, to release him from the dream. For the player hunter, it genuinely is what it looks like and serves as a safe area and hub level.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Oblivion, "Paradise" is a realm of Oblivion created by Mankar Camoran. His followers in the Mythic Dawn cult are taught that it is a place of eternal bliss, and that if they believe enough in/sacrifice themselves for their cause, they can go there when they die. While it looks like a Crystal Dragon Jesus type of heaven and the cultists are indeed given the eternal life they are promised, it turns out to be a Daedra infested nightmare where that immortality is put to good use to torture undying cultists. In fact, the tortures suffered there would be more expected in Mehrunes Dagon's actual plane of Oblivion, the Deadlands, which resembles the traditional view of Hell (fiery lakes, demons, torture devices, etc.). Unlike many examples on this trope, it is not played for laughs and the reasons to despair are very reasonable. Naturally, as part of the main quest, you must visit and ultimately destroy the place from the inside.
    • In Skyrim, this trope is invoked with Sovngarde, a Nordic Warrior Heaven expy of Valhalla. It normally is a proper heaven for the Proud Warrior Race Nords, but it has been invaded by Big Bad Alduin who feeds on the souls of the dead within. Naturally, you get to visit, banish Alduin, and make it into a proper heaven once again.
  • Played with (in a "This Isn't Earth" sense) in Fall from Heaven. Originally, Hell was having problems with mortals like the Bannor escaping damnation through portals back to Erebus, so the local god of deception, Esus, created a Lotus-Eater Machine version of Erebus where everything was even worse than Erebus usually is, with hopes that would-be escapees would enter, be sent over the Despair Event Horizon, and then return to the more honest hells of their own accord. What happens if someone is Genre Savvy enough to catch onto the ruse is unexplained...
  • Final Fantasy II has Soul of Rebirth, which is set in the afterlife, and ends up being an inversion. Minwu, who died late in the base game, meets with Scott, who died near the beginning, and they conclude that they're in hell because of all the lives they took in the war with The Empire, considering that the place looks like the Jade Passage(the entrance to Hell, which is the Very Definitely Final Dungeon in the base game). However, when they meet up with Cid, the latter notes that there are innocent children in this place, so it can't be hell.
  • In Overlord: Raising Hell the first abyss gate is disguised as a portal to heaven, complete with a cardboard likeness of pearly gates.
  • A variation in the Interactive Fiction game Perditions Flames. At the start, you're told that Hell is no longer a place of punishment — eternal torment was mostly abolished to compete with heaven after deregulation, and people are now randomly assigned to Hell or Heaven upon death. However, this seems to quickly prove to be a lie, as Hell as depicted in the game is a banal, torturous experience with all the meaninglessness and annoyances of mortal life exaggerated to grotesque degrees. It's a subversion — once you finally get to Heaven, it has more fluffy clouds and angels, but is just as soul-crushingly obnoxious and banal. Your goal ends up being to join a group that explores other afterlives and other versions of Heaven and Hell that are, if not more pleasant, at least less meaningless and obnoxious.
  • In The Pirate's Fate, the player will have visited Hell multiple times on separate routes, so it may come as a shock to die in the DLC and find yourself in Fluffy Cloud Heaven for a change. Even the sexy demon gatekeeper appears as a chastely-clad angel instead. She then gently manipulates one character into confessing their sins, which is when the façade drops and it reverts to Fire and Brimstone Hell. Thankfully, this Hell is just as illusionary as in the other times you visited.
  • SaGa Frontier: The Fluffy Cloud Heaven visited during the chapters of Blue and Rouge is actually Hell in disguise. As mentioned in the Essence SaGa book, a mystic from the Magic Kingdom collected the Rings of Power and wished for them to create Heaven. The rings, being naturally evil, instead created a Hell with the appearance of Heaven, inhabited by demons.

    Web Animation 
  • An Easter Egg in the program Macromedia Central features a Homestar Runner cartoon where Homestar and Strong Bad are stuck in "blue-fadey-land". Homestar thinks they died and went to heaven, and Strong Bad agrees after they find a Twinkie. Then Homestar says that it's just Strong Bad and him, forever! It suddenly dawns on Strong Bad that they're definitely not in heaven. He pounds on the edge of the frame screaming frantically as the background turns red...
    Homestar: Yeah, you're right. I think it's Massachusetts.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-7179, "E is for Eternity", is a variant of this. It's a Tropical Island Adventure afterlife where everything is available, there are fruits that mimic any recreational substance you want, and three people specifically tailored to your sexual preferences will do anything you wish. And it goes on. And on. And on. There is no way to leave the island, no one to talk to (those three people are basically non-sapient sex toys), and no end in sight. The individual whose afterlife they record starts to snap after 2,000 years, goes completely psychotic by 11,000 years, and eventually stops moving or interacting with his surroundings at all by the trillionth year. Uncountable numbers of years pass. The island is still there. He is still on it.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: The Scary Door episode seen at the beginning of "I Dated a Robot" parodies the Twilight Zone episode above. A man is hit by a car and wakes up in a casino sitting in front of a slot machine. He hits the jackpot and says that a casino where he's actually winning must mean he's in Heaven. Then he hits a second jackpot and says that a casino where he always wins is boring, so he must really be in Hell. But he's actually in a plane. And there's a goblin on the wing! But nobody will believe him because he's Adolf Hitler! And Eva Braun is actually a giant fly!
    Bender: Saw it coming.
  • In Hey Arnold!, Grandpa Phil was convinced he would die on the night of his 81st birthday, being a strong believer in a family curse where no man in his family had ever lived past that particular least that's what he believes at first. When Phil initially appears to die with his family by his side, then wakes up, he remarks about how it must be Heaven... until he sees Oskar, declaring, "Oh no, Oskar's here! This must be the other place!" Then he realizes that he's still alive and that the alleged family curse is 91, not 81, thus giving Phil at least ten more years to live.


Video Example(s):


This is the other place

Bored with his afterlife, Valentine suggest his guide Pip, or "Fats" to send him to "The other place".<br><br>Unfortunately, "Fats" reveals to him that he was in "The other place" since the start of his afterlife.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (50 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThisIsntHeaven

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