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Under a Rotting Sky

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Author's note: The following story was inspired by the Khanate song "Under Rotting Sky" and was an entry in Koromo and Empy's Song Competition where it won first place.

My name is Garbage. Forever will my name be carved into my head. I haunt a world of filth, piss and blood beneath a rotting sky. Every morning I rise from the putrid depths of the bay, my spectral carcass filled with foul seawater, and, lurching into the shadows, slowly make my way through the trash-strewn streets of the city, invisible to most, an unclean phantom to others, finding my way to that urine-stinking back alley to wait.

She made me this way. Made my soul ethereal and ghastly, cursed to live this day out over-and-over for eternity; my existence a loop of time, forever turning. It was she who carved this name across my brow with a sewing needle and black ink. She who shattered my heart and drove me to madness, suicide, despair.

She who I seek now, so that I may wrap my fingers around that lovely throat and watch her gorgeous face go blue.

It was 1984 when I met her. She was a seventeen-year-old runaway and the most beautiful punk-rock girl I had ever seen.

1984. Everyone was always talking about that book by George Orwell. People were saying President Reagan was the devil, that because his first, middle and last names each contained six letters he was marked 666, the number of the beast, and would bring the end of times. The Cold War was at a fever pitch and we all expected Nuclear Armageddon to come at any moment. They were teaching school children to duck under their desks if the Russians dropped a plutonium bomb on us—like hiding under a desk was going to help.

It was a nihilistic time. But it was fun and exhilarating nonetheless. We had that Dead Kennedys tape Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and we would play it over and over on the beat-up, old boom box in our run-down squat—someone having to steal new batteries for it every week. That battered tape: Jell-O Biafra’s snide voice, sneering as the music built up pace and crescendo, “Lock your doors; close your mind. It’s time for the two-minute warning,” and then bursting with rage, “WELCOME TO NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR! ARE YOU READY FOR THE THIRD WORLD WAR!!” Everyone would be screaming and hopping around, slamming into each other, ecstatic at the prospect of our own possible annihilation. “You, too, will meet the secret police; they’ll draft you and jail your niece.”

One night, after a Black Flag show, she appeared at our squat over on Fourth and D.

It was a dingy, old, abandoned hovel. A rotting Victorian. Some of the older punk-anarchists had squats that they organized into communes with committees and boards, always voting on this and that and having meetings, but we were young and wild. Teenagers. The Ruckus Crew we called ourselves. And our squat was just a place to get drunk and crash. A party squat. To us, anarchy wasn’t a political movement; it was getting wasted, getting rowdy, causing a commotion. Being wild. Like that Circle Jerks' song, “Running, running, wild in the streets! We’re running wild in the streets!”

There were three of us at the core of the Ruckus Crew.

There was Slug, a big old boy, easily weighing in at two fifty, with a greasy, green mohawk that never seemed to sit right on his head and always flopped back and forth. He got his name because he never seemed to move too fast. Even in the mosh pit he was slow, but big enough that everyone just bounced off him.

Wolf’s Blood, a pale, skinny kid with a bad complexion. A Misfits fanatic, he wore his hair in a devil lock—a long, black spike that hung down over his face and turned up at his chin—and wore nothing but black clothing adorned with the images of skulls.

And then there was me: Garbage. Just a normal, spikey-haired punk in tattered blue jeans, a red-flannel shirt tied around my waist and scuffed combat boots on my feet, looking for a few laughs and a good time.

It was our squat. We had found it—that boarded up old Victorian—and it was me who had spray painted the circled N on the door, announcing to our punk community that it was an open and running squat.

We were best friends. The three musketeers. I would yell, “Ruckus,” my fist clenched in the air. Slug would holler, “Rage,” holding up a beer. And Wolf’s Blood would scream, “Roar,” both arms held aloft over his head. That was our thing, and we did it hundreds of times a day.

Everyone had come over to our squat after that Black Flag show—a legendary show, with Henry Rollins getting his shorts torn off and continuing on undaunted and naked, howling into the mic: “We... are tired... of your... abuse! Try to stop us! It’s no use!”

The entire front room of that condemned Victorian was filled with punks, but somehow, from across the room, I saw her, sitting there, with a book on her lap and another beside her. Now, I was known as being the bookworm of the crew. I just loved curling up with a good bit of prose—it was a high to me, a way to escape—Kafka or Dostoevsky, something dark and foreign. So, seeing her there with those books definitely spurred on my interest.

She was in the corner, reading a Brett Easton Ellis novel—Less Than Zero—and I saw that the other book beside her was a sketch pad. She was going from the book to the drawing pad, sketching a naked girl tied to a dirty mattress.

She was insanely beautiful. Her hair was a natural jet-black that offset her pale, porcelain-like skin. Her almond-shaped eyes were caked in black eyeliner with her rose-bud lips painted the same dark hue. She was wearing a bulky leather jacket, metal spikes on the collar and shoulders, with her skinny neck, frail wrists, and torn, fishnet-stocking-clad legs poking out with fourteen-eye, steel-toed, ox-blood Dr. Martens on her feet.

“Hey, what’s your name?” I asked.

She smiled up at me with those thick, black lips, a twinkle to her dark eyes. “Raven.”

I once memorized that poem by Edgar Allen Poe for an English class back in high school, so I said, cool as can be, “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore.”

Her grin grew bigger and she replied, “Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door.”

“Nice,” I said. “You like that poem, huh? Is that why they call you Raven?”

“No. They call me that because I like to pick at dead things.”

“Huh. Well, I’m Garbage.”

She laughed. “Well that’s pretty obvious.”

“Oh, yeah, and what’s your story.”

She cocked her head flirtatiously, and never losing that grin, said, “When my mommy died my daddy started fucking me. I guess he needed someone to put his dick in. So I ran away. What’s yours?”

I was shocked at what she said. Stunned speechless. I was used to some pretty fucked-up shit—I mean, look how we lived: eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in condemned houses—but something about her glittery eyes and cocksure grin just shook me when those words left her mouth. Then Slug came stumbling over with a beer in his mitt, wrapping a beefy arm around my shoulders and giving me a squeeze.

“Dude, Vomit pierced his dick with a safety pin, he’s over there showing it to everyone. You got to see this shit, come on.” And he yanked me away from the strange girl. As he pulled me along I glanced back over my shoulder and saw that she was still smiling and staring at us. When she saw me she gave a little child-like wave with her hand—bye-bye.

I saw her around after that. She gained a reputation as being a pretty-good tattoo artist. Working with only a thread-wrapped sewing needle and some India ink, she gave everybody anarchy signs, the circled N symbol of a squat, the eight pointed symbol of chaos, the Black Flag bars. Once I strolled up to her while she was tattooing FUCK OFF! across a rowdy girl named Discharge’s knuckles, the blood and ink flowing over her fingers and staining Raven’s hands black. I asked her if I could look in her book of drawings.

“Well it’s kind of personal,” she gave me a glance and a grin, “but sure, go ahead.” The pictures were dark and bizarre. A whole exposé on the Charlie Manson Family. All the girls before and after they had shaved their heads and carved X’s into their brows. Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant and in a pool of blood with a noose around her neck. Jim Jones smiling and looking like a rock star. Weird stuff. Pol Pot, Hitler, El Duce.

I asked her, “Why do you draw all this fucked-up shit? All these bad, evil people?”

She looked at me curiously. “Really?” she asked. “A guy named Garbage is going to ask me why I’m obsessed with darkness? Because it is there; that’s why. Because there is no denying it. Because looking away is being a coward and lying to yourself. It’s a fucked-up world and to not acknowledge it would be to give it more power. I thought you understood that.”

I nodded my head, marveling over her. “I did. I understood. I just wanted to hear you say it.” And that was the truth. Because I had understood that; I just needed her to say it before I ever knew I did.

The next time I ran into her I just randomly saw her by the wharf, staring down at a little songbird—a sparrow—that she held cupped in her hands. Seagulls screeched as they circled overhead and the sun was sinking into the bay. With that amber light falling on her pale skin she looked even more beautiful than I remembered her.

“Whatcha’ got there?” I asked, striding up beside her.

“A little sparrow. It hurt its wing.”

She held out her hands so that I could inspect the tiny bird. It looked up at me with its black eyes and I felt something turn in my gut. We could nurse this creature back to health, I thought. It would be our thing. Bring it back to the squat and help it to heal. It would be fun. The guys would love it. They were always trying to make pets out of the mice, rats and chipmunks that wandered in to sample the trash. Once Wolf’s Blood even came back with a baby possum that ended up biting him and taking a big old hunk out of his hand before he threw it back into the alley.

As I went to speak she looked up at me with these heartbreakingly-sad eyes, and again I was struck silent by her, dazed and lost in the melancholy of her gaze, and she opened her hands, letting the little bird topple to the ground, where it struggled, beating its one good wing for a moment, before she lifted her foot and brought her boot down squarely upon it. It made a crunching sound and she twisted her heel, grinding it into the sidewalk. She laughed, and looked up at me with her soul-crushingly beautiful face, eyes now aglitter.

“Do you want to get drunk and go trolling?” she asked.

“Yes,” I gasped. And I knew right then that I would do anything to be with this girl. Anything.

“Got any money for booze?”

“No, do you?”

“Naw. Let’s make some.”

So we started panhandling. It was a blast. I had my standard, “Please give to the Get-A-Punk-Drunk Foundation?”

She had jokes. “Spare some change for a joke? Spare some change for a joke? Hear about the weather in Mexico? Chili today, hot tamale.”

But we weren’t really getting anywhere. After about half-an-hour we had five bucks between the two of us. Then she spied this old lady crossing the road. “Stay here,” she said, and her entire demeanor changed. She became someone else. Her eyes lost that mischievous sparkle, her lips went from a devilish grin to a pout, that jaunty tilt of her head became a sullen and downcast look of sadness. And she shuffled up to that white-haired woman and began to mumble something I couldn’t hear. The woman went into her purse and slipped her a fold of bills. I could see Raven mouthing the words “Thank you”. Then she was back to her old self, skipping back to me little-girl style, laughing uproariously.

“That old bitch just gave me a hundred bucks!”

“What did you say to her?”

“It doesn’t matter. Come on, let’s get some wine.”

We got a gallon bottle of Carlo Rossi Burgundy, and headed off trolling, cruising around under bridges and getting drunk.

Tucked up under the Samoa bridge, on a concrete slab, surrounded by graffiti and broken glass, we began to kiss. The taste of the cheap wine was as sweet as candy on her lips. She seemed eager to fuck, unbuttoning my pants, pulling off her panties and drawing me into her. But as I began to move my body over her, I noticed she was weeping—crying quietly—her eyes clenched shut.

“What? What is it? Do you want me to stop?”

“No,” she said. “It feels good. I like it. Please don’t stop. Don’t stop.”

So I rocked against her. I could feel her begin to writhe and move beneath me, meeting my strokes with her own, our rhythm gaining momentum until she moaned and shuddered and I knew she had come. Then I let myself go, and we lay there clutching each other in the darkness, the traffic overhead making the bridge tremble slightly and hum.

We drank more wine. Cuddled up. She told me about her father. The way he would come into her room at night after her mother had died and have his way with her. She cried. I told her it was all right. She was gone from him now. She would never have to go back. We fell asleep clutching each other and woke in the dim pre-dawn light, freezing and shivering. We fled back to the squat, holding hands and giggling, still drunk.

We were inseparable from that moment on. She stopped crying during sex and wanted to fuck everywhere. In alleys and gutters, the dark corner of the club while True Sounds of Liberty played Darker My Love. We were giddy and got high just staring into each other’s eyes.

The first tattoo she gave me was a black heart.

“Take off your shirt,” she said, her dark eyes twinkling as she got out her little tattoo kit. “I want to give you something.”

I slipped my shirt over my head and lay back as she straddled me and began to press black ink into my skin with her sewing needle, etching a large ebony heart in the center of my chest.

The next tattoo she gave me was GARBAGE across my forehead.

We were laying on an old mattress in an upstairs room of the squat where we had made ourselves a little room of our own, drunk as usual.

I said, “I want a new tattoo. Give me a new tattoo.”

“What do you want?” she purred, licking her lips and pressing herself against me.

“Whatever,” I muttered as she began to nibble on my ear.

“How about Garbage across your forehead?”

“Whoa, that’s hardcore.”

“I think it’d be hot. Sexy.” I had known for a long time that I would do whatever this girl asked, she held me in the palm of her hand, just as she had once held that little sparrow.

“Sure, babe. If you think it’s hot.”

I lay there laughing as she poked at my flesh with a thread-wrapped needle dipped in ink. It took a long while, and by the time it was over it hurt like hell and was bleeding profusely. I’ll never forget looking into that dingy, chipped mirror and seeing my reflection staring back, the word GARBAGE printed permanently across my brow in a sloppy and child-like scrawl, blood and ink dripping down my face.

Then there was that insane Butthole Surfers show. That was the night everything changed.

The Grateful Dead were in town so there were these dreadlocked hippies everywhere, and tons of them showed up at the show. They were just giving away tabs of acid. So Raven and I ate a bunch of the little paper squares, the image of Snoopy embossed upon them.

It was the strangest night of my life.

The club was packed and very dark. There were screens set up with unsettling and weird images flickering on them: sex change operations, car accident victims, flocks of birds and schools of fish. A large section of the audience were bowing down in worship to the stage where two drummers were banging out a primitive, tribal beat. The guitarist was fiddling around making squawking sounds and feedback. Mist poured out of a smoke machine and the entire stage was engulfed in fog, at the center of which was an obese, naked woman, painted green, writhing and squirming to the beat. Then Gibby came out, tall and shirtless, mumbling incoherently into a megaphone. As I listened and started to make out the words I realized he was riffing on that Doors song The End.

“… and I walked on down the hall and I came to a room where my mother was and I noticed she had shaved her pussy just for the occasion and I walked on down the hall and I paid a visit to my father who looked down at me with his green eyes and said, son… SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!”

Suddenly the room erupted into violence and chaos as the riff to Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf came blaring out of the speakers. The lights were flashing, bodies were hurling through the air, and the screens were filled with images of mushroom clouds exploding over and over. Then I noticed Gibby had a shotgun and was firing blanks into the crowd. It was utter insanity, the acid had fully kicked in and everything was shimmering and melting. I didn’t know if I was in heaven or hell, but it was awesome. Amazing.

Raven and I just stood there in the back of the club, holding hands, entranced by the spectacle. The rest of the show was just pure anarchy. Gibby was setting things on fire and throwing them out into the swirling mosh pit, people were dangling from the ceiling beams and hurling themselves off of speakers, that fat, naked lady gyrating in the mist the entire time, like the calm in the eye of the storm.

Afterwards we all went back to the squat to party. Raven was high as hell and acting really weird. She kept biting my neck, and sticking her hand down my pants, grabbing at my dick.

“Come on,” she kept whispering, “Don’t you want to fuck me? Come on.” I did, of course I did. But I also wanted to be with my friends. We were all amped from the show, nearly all of us had eaten acid and were still pretty high, that wiry, high-energy high after an LSD peak.

“Come on, just a quick one. Come on, baby.”

“All right,” I finally relented, letting her drag me away by the hand.

“Yo, Garbage, where you going, man?” Slug called out.

“I’ll be right back,” I shouted back, over my shoulder.

“Yeah, sure you will,” Wolf’s Blood chimed in.

When we got to our dingy little room she immediately threw me down on the mattress and stripped off her clothes. She was on me and unbuckling my pants before I had time to even pull off my tattered T-shirt. Then things got weird. Really weird. She was straddling me, moaning, and she said, “Come on, fuck me, daddy. Fuck your little girl. Fuck me good.”

“Jesus, Raven,” I muttered, “What are you saying?” and she slapped me, hard, right across the face and flipped me over so that now I was on top of her.

Still moaning she muttered, “Fuck me, fuck me so good, daddy. Hurt me, bite me, make me bleed.”

“Raven, what’s going on?” I asked, and she grabbed me by the hair and pulled my head back, dug her nails into my side.

“Do it, bitch,” she growled, “Bite me and make me bleed.”

And so, I did.

We went at it all night, till at dawn we just passed out, exhausted, sore, bruised, and bleeding.

When I awoke, sometime after noon, spun from the acid and groggy, she was gone. Her pack was gone, too, as well as her sketch book. I went downstairs where the guys were drinking beer and listening to that Dead Kennedys tape. California, Uber Alles, California Ub-er Alles!

“Hey, you guys seen, Raven?”

“Saw her leave,” Slug said, slurping the froth off a freshly opened can of Pabst. “She didn’t say a thing.”

“Huh. That’s weird.”

“Whatever. Come on bro, have a brewsky! She’ll fucking be back. Rage!”

“Roar!” Wolf’s Blood shouted, throwing me a beer.

“Ruckus!” I hollered back, cracking open the beer and swallowing down half of it.

She never did come back.

I grew depressed. Lethargic. I didn’t want to go out. I just wanted to lay in the room Raven and I had once shared and read. I went through huge volumes, tomes, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Joyce’s Ulysses, waiting and hoping she would come back. As the days turned to weeks I started to drink heavier and heavier, stealing handles of Lord Calvert and drinking it down straight from the bottle. Getting so wasted every day that I couldn’t even read any more, the words just becoming a jumbled blur.

“Ruckus!” I’d yell to my friends, falling down, ready to puke, struggling for balance.


“Roar!” they’d shout back, but it wasn’t the same. It felt lackluster. I wasn’t the same. And I knew they could tell.

“You got to forget about that chick, bro,” Slug told me one night. “She was a fucking nut case anyway.”

“I know, man. I know,” I muttered. But I knew he could never know how much I loved her. Never understand how much I missed her, how I ached and sometimes snuck away to drunkenly weep and puke, my heart a shattered mess.

Then one day I saw her.

I was out by Cutten, looking for new territory to panhandle in, desperate for a bottle, and I saw her leaving the Catholic school there. At first I thought it was an illusion, that it was someone else, that I was seeing things, for she was all done up in a Catholic school uniform with the plaid skirt, white button-up shirt, and blue blazer. But as I got closer I saw it was definitely her. That gorgeous face, those twinkling eyes. She was walking with another girl, backpacks slung casually over their shoulders.

“Raven?” I asked, stunned, as I approached her.

“Oh god, Garbage.”

“You know this guy, Karen?” her friend asked. Karen—I had never even known her real name.

“Yeah, just give me a minute, Jenny, I’ll be right there,” she said to her friend who gave me a snide up-and-down look as she sauntered away. Then Raven turned to me. “Garbage, how are you?”

“Awful! I’m fucking awful. I miss you. What happened? Where did you go?”

“I just had to get away from that life. I snapped that night. When I woke up I realized that I just couldn’t take it anymore. Begging, eating out of garbage cans, that disgusting house. I needed to get my life together. I’m going to graduate this year and then I’m going to art school in Portland. I’ve already been accepted.”

“What about me? I love you.”

“Yeah, and I love you too, Garbage. I do. And always will. Our time together will always be special to me. I just had to give that life up. I’m back living with my dad and things are going good now.”

“Things are going good now! You told me he raped you!”

“Keep it down, don’t make a scene. Maybe it wasn’t all him. Maybe I was to blame as well. We worked it all out.”

“Worked it all out? I can’t believe what you’re saying to me. You said he raped you when you were sixteen years old. How can you be to blame? This is fucked.”

“Look, Garbage, you’ve got to calm down. You just don’t understand.”

“Understand? No, I don’t fucking understand. You told me you loved me, that we would be together forever.”

“I do love you, but I never said we would be together forever. Right now, I just can’t be with someone who has GARBAGE tattooed across their forehead. I can’t.”

“But you did this to me!”

“Nevertheless, what would my father say? He’s paying for me to go to art school and he’s laying down some very strict rules.”

“Your father? Your fucking father the pervert? The rapist?”

“All right, that’s it. I’ve got to go. Look, it was a good time, but we both just have to move on. So please, just leave me alone. Come on, Jenny,” she shouted to her friend. “Let’s get going.”

And they left. Left me standing there, lost and alone. I could hear her friend say to her as they strolled away, “I can’t believe you know that guy. He smelled, and the way he was dressed? Gross. And was that GARBAGE written on his head?”

After that I began to stalk her.

I found out where she lived and spent days by the trash cans in the alley across from her house, drinking and watching. Winter was coming and the sky was growing dark with black clouds. Clouds that looked like mold, like rot. I saw her father come and go, a smug looking guy with salt-and-pepper hair, always dressed in a blue suit. He would get into his BMW every morning and be back at six every evening. It was his fault. That sick fuck. This was all his fault.

I decided I was going to kill him.

There in that piss-stinking alley, beneath that rotting sky, I found a rusty crow-bar. Not the little things used to pry off hubcaps, but a big, industrial length of heavy metal used to tear down walls and pry apart boards.

The door to their house was unlocked and I just strolled right in, half blacked-out drunk. He was asleep on the sofa in front of the TV. He didn’t even see it coming. I walked right up behind him, lifted that heavy piece of metal over my head and brought it down into the top of his head. He made a kind of surprised sound, like, “Huh?” as his skull shattered. Again I lifted it and swung, blood and bits of brain spraying over me till I was soaked in gore. And again. Until there was nothing of his head left but a bloody stump with his tongue lolling out to the side.

At first I thought the screaming was in my head. This loud, piercing cry, but when I turned I saw it was her. Raven. She was standing there at the bottom of the stairs, screaming. When she saw me turn toward her she ran up the staircase.

I followed behind, reaching up to grasp an ankle. She fell with a thud. I climbed up over her; she was still screaming hysterically. I wanted to tell her how I had saved her, how she was free now, how I loved her and wanted to be with her forever. But she just wouldn’t stop screaming, howling, trying to push me away from her. Somehow I found my hands, stained black with her father’s blood, wrapped around her neck, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, until her face went blue and her eyes went still.

I lay there atop her on the staircase for a good while, her father’s blood beginning to coagulate and stink. Then I fled. Ran and ran through those filthy streets, beneath that rotting sky, covered in the stench of death.

I had become a monster.

I had killed the thing I loved most. The one thing of beauty and truth I had found in this sick, sad world.

I ran to the Samoa Bridge. I crawled up onto that graffiti covered slab of concrete where we had first made love and wept. Wept and wept and wept. Then, after the sun had set, sinking into the bay, and blackness obscured that rotting sky, I climbed to the truss of the bridge. Up and up I went into the darkness of night. And when I had reached the top, the pinnacle, and could go no further, I threw myself off into the darkness below.

In the morning I awoke beneath the waves and water. Dead. Ethereal. I crawled out, clawed my way to the shore where I lurched into the shadows to find that alley again. To wait there again. To go and kill again. Kill her father. Then kill the thing I loved most, over and over and over for eternity. This is my fate. To wrap my blood soaked fingers around her throat and watch her face go blue before throwing myself into darkness, again and again and again.

My name is Garbage. Forever will my name be carved into my head. I haunt a world of filth, piss and blood beneath a rotting sky.

Written by HumboldtLycanthrope
Content is available under CC BY-NC

Khanate - Under Rotting Sky18:18

Khanate - Under Rotting Sky

Here is the song that inspired this pasta

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Dead Kennedys - California Über Alles

Dead Kennedys' California Uber Alles Welcome to 1984!

Black Flag - Rise Above (Studio With Lyrics)04:18

Black Flag - Rise Above (Studio With Lyrics)

The studio version of Black Flag's seminal song Rise Above

Black Flag - Rise Above02:18

Black Flag - Rise Above

A live version of Black Flag's Rise Above featuring a bald and tattooless Henry Rollins

The Circle Jerks - Wild In The Streets (with lyrics) - HD02:34

The Circle Jerks - Wild In The Streets (with lyrics) - HD

Studio version of Circle Jerks' Wild in the Streets

Circle Jerks "Wild In the Streets"03:05

Circle Jerks "Wild In the Streets"

A live version of Wild in the Streets. Notice how Keith just stands there with a beer in his hand, looking a little afraid of the anarchy

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Misfits - Wolfs blood (1981)

The Misfits playing Wolf's Blood live. A minute and twenty seconds of unbridled energy.

Butthole Surfers - Sweat Loaf05:42

Butthole Surfers - Sweat Loaf

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