Walkabout

Walkabout

A Story by J. R.
"

A short story about a brother and sister traveling through a hostile world. I wrote this a while back as an experiment to set an atmosphere, I plan on one day expanding upon this.

"
"Wake up. We have to keep moving."
Anne rose to her feet drowsily and rubbed her eyes.
They were headed east, they had been traveling for a week now, stopping only to eat and sleep, as it was dangerous to travel at night.
She took a look around her, there were long abandoned husks of buildings, with serpentine vines creeping up them, the streets were cracked and long, green weeds rose out of the cracks. A rusted shell of a car lay in the middle of the road, its owner long since dead. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder. 

Hyde scanned the horizon.They were dressed in ragged clothing patched with bits of cloth they salvaged from the ruins. He slung his knapsack over his shoulder, grabbed his rifle, and took the girl by the hand.

"Are you okay?" He said, wearily.
Anne nodded. 
"Then we'll go."
They walked through the empty streets with cautious steps, accompanied only by a low,lonely wind blowing through the city.

"Is there anyone still living here?" said Anne, looking up at Hyde.

"I don't think so." Hyde said. 
"Will there be nice people where we're going?"  

"Yes, lots of nice people."
They were heading to a settlement to the east, out in the countryside. There would be traders there as well as food and a warm place to stay. 


They passed by the rusted frame of a baby carriage. Strips of faded, rotten cloth still hung from the bent metal skeleton and billowed gently in the wind. Hyde stopped briefly to examine his rifle. It was an old semi-auto model, prone to jamming if the magazine wasn't loaded just right, with a long, thin crack in the stock.

Anne had  stooped down to pluck a dandelion growing out of a crack in the pavement.

He watched as Anne blew on the dandelion head, sending the seeds flying into the breeze, floating slowly toward the ground like December snow.

They pressed on through the barren streets, passing by a billboard that had been swallowed up by vines. He felt her hand squeezing his. 

An old crow was picking berries off a vine running up the sign of a gas station. The faded tatters of a flag hung like a corpse from the top of an empty skyscraper. The low wind blew again, stirring up dead leaves on the ground.

After a while, the buildings gave way to immense fields of tall grass with the road slicing through the middle. 

The stopped at a small apple tree, the apples weren't yet ripe but still edible. Hyde plucked one from a spindly branch and handed it to Anne.

She took a large, greedy bite out of the apple, the bright green skin shining in the sun.

"This looks like a good place to rest." he said, setting down his pack.
Hyde took out a wrinkled map and studied it while Anne finished the apple and grabbed another one from the tree.

"Are we close?" she said, looking up from her apple.

"We've still got a ways to go, but we're getting there."

She smiled and took another bite.

"Aren't you going to eat?" She said.

"I will in a while."

He folded the map back up and slid it back into the pack.

He looked and noticed that she was holding out a big, round apple out to him.

"It's the biggest one on the tree." She said.

"You take it then." 

"No, you need to eat."

Hyde smiled a little and took the fruit. The apples were juicy and sour. They found themselves eating one after the other, until just a few were left on the tree.

They took up their packs and they continued on down the winding road.

The road was cracked in several places, with the faded remnants of yellow paint running through it. A small mound of dirt with a rotting wooden cross jutting upwards lied right next to the crumbling asphalt, a memorial to a long since dead and forgotten person. 
Hyde glanced at the girl and reached out to grip her hand.

 She was all he had. Their parents were miles away, possibly dead. He remembered that night. The wind was blowing and the rain was cold and stung like hundreds of needles. Their group had been scattered by a fallen tree and the rain and the darkness made it impossible to see more than a few steps ahead.

He had heard her cry out and frantically ran around in that beastly storm, searching for where the voice was coming from. He had found her sitting in a ditch curled up and weeping, they've been together ever since.

Hyde glanced over his shoulder at the city in the distance. It was to their good fortune that it was empty. He had heard the stories of bandits hiding out in the empty buildings and ambushing anyone passing through. He was hoping that their good luck would last until they had reached their destination or at least for a few more days.


A radio tower stood on the horizon, never to broadcast again. There was a pile of deer bones laying in a roadside ditch. Flies buzzed around the small strips of dried flesh still clinging to the dead animal's  skull.

A pair of black canvas sneakers lay in the middle of the road, the strings had been taken out. A speed limit sign lay on the ground uprooted and rusting away. A cut rope was hanging from a tree, with a mound of dirt underneath, Hyde felt a shiver run down his back upon seeing it. 

They kept on walking until the sun had sunk behind the hills.



They had reached an old barn, an ivy vine crept up the side.

The inside smelt of soil and straw. A moldy pair of overalls laid folded in the corner. Hyde had found an old oil lantern and was trying to light it with a flip top lighter he took from an overturned bus.

The oil-soaked wick flickered bright golden light and a modest amount of light illuminated the barn.

They sat on the dirty floor and huddled around the lantern.

"Hyde," Anne said, shuffling closer to him.

"What?"

"What happened to all the people?"

Hyde sighed somberly and and put his arm around the girl.

"I don't know, I don't think I was born then."

He could just barely remember his father holding him as they saw hundreds of bodies laying in the streets, being ripped apart by fat, black buzzards and people smashing windows and stealing whatever they could carry and burning everything else. In the end, it did not matter what happened. It was over and all that mattered was the here and now.

"Do you think mama and the others are okay?" 

"They're alright, they're probably looking for us right now."

"Or dead..." he thought to himself.

Suddenly, they heard a gunshot followed by the soft thump of a body hitting grass 

Hyde snatched his rifle up and loaded a clip into it with some difficulty.

"Hyde! What's going on?"

"Keep quiet, we have to hide."

He blew out the oil lantern and took Anne by the shoulders, leading her over to a dark corner obscured by a rusted old tractor. 

They lay low to the ground, Anne quietly sobbed with fear as Hyde pulled her closer to him.
They listened to the commotion outside. There were men outside talking amongst themselves in a harsh, hurried tone.

They hid in the shadows, listening to the men talk and bicker and bark orders to each other for what felt like hours.

Eventually, the talking stopped and they heard footsteps growing fainter and fainter until the night was again silent.

They waited and listened for anything else for a while.

"I think they're gone." Hyde whispered to Anne

"What did they want?" Anne said, quivering a bit

"I don't know, we'll wait until morning, when it's light out."

They tried to get some sleep for the night, but it was difficult for the both of them to get any sleep with what had just happened. They remained hidden behind the tractor, lying close to each other.

Eventually, they drifted off to sleep.



The morning was announced by the songs of dozens of birds.

Hyde was up and walking around while Anne was still asleep.

He stepped outside the barn to examine the scene of last night's violent drama.

Sprawled out on the ground was the body of a man, looking to be in his forties, stripped of clothing and possessions. On his chest was a wide black gash, no doubt made by a shotgun. The grass underneath the body was stained a deep crimson.

A voice in Hyde's mind was telling him over and over "That could have been me and Anne."

Hyde's train of thought was interrupted by a sudden, distraught yelp.

Anne had woken up and seen the body.

"Hyde...why did they kill that man?"

"They were bandits, he had something they wanted."

Anne stared at the body in abject horror. She was still unaccustomed to seeing a dead body. Hyde felt a tinge of guilt for allowing her to see this, but at the same time he knew this was something she would have to get used to.

"Hyde, are we going to die?"

Hyde looked into her pale green eyes. They seemed to glow with a warm, soft light.

"No, we're going to make it through this. One way or another, we're going to get through this."

They took their packs up, and they began walking again.

They passed a billboard advertising a soft drink that no longer existed. A bird's nest lay on top of it. Anne was still shaken by the sight of the dead man, Hyde held his hand on her shoulder. 

He pulled her along a little faster as they passed by a pair of small skeletons wearing faded rags over their yellow and cracked bones.

They eventually stopped in a field.

Hyde told her to be as quiet as she could.
He spotted something in the field, a stout little animal with bristly brown hair and a pair of stubby tusks. A feral hog.

Hyde laid flat on the ground, his rifle trained on the hog's body.

He pulled the trigger and a loud thunderclap erupted from the barrel of the gun as the hog fell.

Anne helped clean the animal and gather sticks to build the fire. They roasted the animal on a makeshift spit.

They sat around the fire, gorging themselves on pork.

Hyde watched Anne as she ate. He felt a sense of dread fall over him.

"What will she do if I die?" He asked himself. He had just three rounds left, and it could be a long time before they would see another person willing to trade for some bullets.

A while later, they had picked the hog's bones clean and were on their way again.

There was an overturned semi truck on the side of the road. A wheel with the tattered remains of a tire lay on the other side. They stopped for a short while to peek inside the trailer, nothing was inside, the truck had most likely been looted long ago. Hyde looked down to notice a teal colored cell phone laying at his feet.

He picked it up. Its screen and buttons were still intact. He pressed the power button to no effect, he turned it over in his hand and pressed random numbers on it. He wondered who had owned this phone and what life they had lead. He realized he was holding a piece of history, a relic from a world he had only heard about. 

He put the phone back where it lay and they continued on down the road.

A raven's hoarse call sounded in the distance. Glass bottles,Aluminum cans, scraps of yellowed paper and other bits of junk were scattered on the ground.

A faded orange sign stood alone to the side, reading. "ROAD IS ICY IN COLD WEATHER"

A downed power line lay on the road, with thick wires spread across the asphalt, a pile of shattered brick and splintered wood that was once a house lay to one side of the road. 

"Who's that up there?" Anne said, pointing to a man coming up toward them from behind the ruined building. 

"Hey! You there! Hey!"

He was a small, weasel-like man with a slouched posture. He was wearing an army surplus jacket with one sleeve torn off just below the elbow, he wore a pair of ratty and faded work jeans tucked into a pair of work boots. One hand was tucked inside his jacket pocket.

"Where you headed?"

Hyde eyed the man with suspicion. 
"Why does it matter to you?" He said, 

"I'm just asking, seeing if I can help you out."

He looked at Anne, who was slowly inching back from the man.

"That girl yours?" The man said, smiling in a disconcerting way, he raised his hand out of his pockets, revealing an object that shone in the sun. A small snub-nosed revolver.

Hyde backed away from the man and drew his rifle.

"One more step and you're dead." Hyde said, squeezing the trigger on his rifle.

"Whoa, whoa! Relax man, I'm not going to hurt her." The man said as he crept closer.

"I mean it, you make a move on her and I will kill you."

"Come on, man. You wanna trade? I got stuff you could probably use."

"You don't have anything."

The man looked at the rifle, scrutinizing its every detail.

"You're not gonna shoot that thing, man. That thing's falling apart, you probably don't have any bullets for it."

"If you're so sure of that why don't you just try me?" Hyde's hands trembled a bit.

Before he knew what happened, the man leaped upon Anne and struggled to get the revolver against her head as she kicked and screamed.

Hyde's mind raced. Almost by instinct, he raised his rifle and fired.

All he could see was a blur as he heard the shot echo through his ears.

The bullet shredded through the thug's elbow. He clutched the oozing wound as he staggered back, cursing and yelling.

Hyde gripped the barrel of his gun and charged at the man, screaming in primal fury as he swung the butt of the rifle.

The rifle stock struck against the thug's skull like a crack of thunder. His head was split open and bleeding. He lay on the road, sprawled out like a marionette, still and lifeless. Hyde was panting and holding his gun in one hand. The impact had made another crack in the gun's stock.

Anne lay on the ground in utter shock.

Hyde took a few deep breaths and helped her to her feet.

"You...You killed him." She said, her voice quivering

"He would've killed us."

Anne took a look at the man's body.

Hyde stepped over the body and bent down, checking his pockets.

Hyde took the revolver and opened its cylinder, five bullets were loaded and ready to fire. Hyde shoved the pistol into his pocket, feeling some relief now that they had another means to defend themselves.

He also retrieved a box of ammunition for the pistol with six rounds rattling around inside, and a pocket knife with a red handle.

Anne was still shaking like a leaf from what had just happened. 

He went over to her and took her up in his arms, whispering into her ear.

"It's okay. It's okay, I'm not going to let anybody harm you. I promise."

“Why did you take that man’s things?”

Hyde looked at Anne and then back at the thug’s body. He searched for something, anything to say that didn’t make him sound like a hypocrite. 

“Anne, we need everything we can get our hands on. That man would have done the same to us.”
“Okay.” Anne said with some hesitation.

With that, he took her by the hand as they continued on east. 

"We're going to make it," He thought to himself.
"One way or another."











© 2011 J. R.



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period, not comma, after "Wake up"
period, not comma, after "headed west"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "eat and sleep"
"She took a look around her, all around her were" - period, not comma, after "look around her" - change "All around her were" to "Everywhere were"
"long abandoned" - hyphenate
no comma after "buildings"
"with long, serpentine vines" - delete "long"
period, not comma, after "creeping up them"
comma after "streets were cracked"
"and long, green weeds" - change "long" to "tall" - You've used "long" 3 times in this paragraph to describe 3 different things. Be careful about repeating a word so often, and look for alternatives.
"it's owner" - "its"
"She felt a warm hand on her shoulder" - This should probably be a new paragraph, and "She" changed to "Anne"
The physical description of the setting is good - the right kind of details for atmosphere.
"They were dressed" - Who is "they"? The sentence describing what the characters are wearing feels out of order with the rest of the paragraph.
"He said wearily"- "he" (don't capitalize the first word of a dialogue tag- it's still the same sentence)
comma, not period, after "I don't think so"
period, not comma, after "Hyde said"
period, not comma, after "pale green eyes"
period, not comma, after "on his shin"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "baby carriage"
period, not comma, after "his rifle" or change to "his rifle, an old semi-automatic model"
period, not comma, after "four rounds left"
"a dandelion growing out of a crack in the pavement" - good image
period, not comma, after "small apple tree"
"weren't yet ripe but still edible" - "still edible" seems more like what you'd say about fruit that is overripe, not under ripe - maybe "weren't yet ripe but edible nevertheless" or something like that
comma, not period, after "place to rest"
"going to eat?" She said" "she"
"holding out a big, round apple out to him" - delete one "out"
comma, not period, after "biggest one on the tree" - don't capitalize "she"
comma after "You take it"
"eating one after the other, until just a few were left on the tree" - They're going to be uncomfortable in an hour or so... Have you ever overindulged in unripe apples?
"They took up their packs and they continued" - delete second "they"
"lied right next" - "lay"
"a long since dead and forgotten person" - "long-since"
comma after "The wind was blowing"
comma after "fallen tree"
period, not comma, after "curled up and weeping"
"They had reached an old barn" - delete "had"
"overalls laid folded" - "lay"
"flip top lighter" - "flip-top"
"oil soaked wick" - "oil-soaked"
comma after "golden light"
"Hyde" Anne said" - comma after "Hyde"
period, not comma, after "I don't know"
It seems odd that Anne is asking now what happened to all the people, when she couldn't even remember them if they disappeared before Hyde, older than her, was born.
period, not comma, after "did not matter what happened"
"mama and the others" - "Mama"
"alright" - "all right" - period, not comma, after
Exact thoughts should be italicized, not put in quotes - only use those for words spoken aloud.
comma after ellipses following "Or dead"
period after "a body hitting grass"
period, not comma, after "Keep quiet"
comma, not period, after "I think they're gone"
period after "whispered to Anne"
period after "quivering a bit"
period, not comma, after "I don't know"
"tried to get some sleep... to get any sleep... they drifted off to sleep" - overuse of word "sleep" in such a short space - try "difficult for both of them" (delete "to get any sleep" for second one, and delete "to sleep" from third
comma after "telling him over and over"
period, not comma, after "They were bandits"
period, not comma, after "abject horror"
"They seemed to glow with a warm, angelic light" - This sentence feels out of place and not appropriate for the scene.
"They took their packs up, and they began walking east" - "They took p their packs and began walking east"
period, not comma, after "sight of the dead man"
"They eventually stopped in a field"- Instead of using "eventually" again, how about "After a time, they stopped in a field"?
colon, not period, after "stubby tusks"
"Hyde laid flat" - "lay"
comma after "pulled the trigger"
"He asked himself" - "he" (and italicize thoughts) - period, not comma, after "asked himself"
period, not comma, after "peek inside the trailer"
period, not comma, after "Nothing was inside"
"a teal colored cell phone" - "teal-colored" - Plastic fades quickly when exposed to the elements. If civilization fell before Hyde was born, chances are the phone would be very dully colored, greyish blue - if that - rather than teal.
period, not comma, after "He picked it up"
"it's screen" - "Its"
period, not comma, after "to no effect"
"life they had lead" - "led" (unlike "read," the past-tense of "lead" is not spelled the same)
How does Hyde recognize a cell phone?
comma after "back where it lay"
"Aluminum cans" - "aluminum"
comma, not period, after "to the side, reading"
period, not comma, after "across the asphalt'
period, not comma, after "just below the elbow"
"work jeans... work boots" - delete one "work"
"matter to you?" He said" - "he" - period, not comma, after "said"
"The man said, smiling" - "the"
period, not comma, after "disconcerting way"
colon, not period, after "object that shone in the sun"
comma, not period, after "and you're dead"
"hurt her." The said" - "hurt her," the man said"
period, not comma, after "I mean it"
"it's every detail" - "its"
period, not comma, after "falling apart"
comma after "so sure of that"
period, not comma, after "mind was racing" - "mind raced" would be better
"Hyde was panting and holding his gun in one hand" - "Hyde panted and held his gun in one hand"
"Anne was laying on the ground" - "Anne lay on the ground"
comma, not period, after "You killed him" - don't capitalize "she"
"opened it's cylinder" - "its" ("it's" is a contraction of "it is")
period, not comma, after "cylinder"
"He thought to himself" - don't capitalize "he" - italicize unless he's saying this aloud
The sparse narrative style really suits the subject matter of the story, and the little bit of detail you give of the surroundings builds a strong sense of atmosphere.


Posted 6 Years Ago


9 of 9 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

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TJ
I liked this story. Many of my own writings are based around the relationship/journey of a big sibling with their younger sibling so I read this one with a little extra passion. As stated below there are a few minor grammer/spelling errors that need fixed but this is a well told story and storytelling is what spells success or failure for a writer! I think we should have taken a deeper look at hyde and anne's relationship but I understand that gets difficult in a short story. Always remember its characters and relationships between those characters that make a piece worth reading so concentrate on that. also try not to be so choppy with your writting, move more smoothly from scene to scene, action to action. All in all good work! If you extend/edit it message me I'd like to see it! Good work JR

Posted 6 Years Ago


5 of 6 people found this review constructive.

You're getting really good at writing.
Nice, I can't think of any nice, literary way of saying this; talking.

Posted 6 Years Ago


0 of 7 people found this review constructive.

period, not comma, after "Wake up"
period, not comma, after "headed west"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "eat and sleep"
"She took a look around her, all around her were" - period, not comma, after "look around her" - change "All around her were" to "Everywhere were"
"long abandoned" - hyphenate
no comma after "buildings"
"with long, serpentine vines" - delete "long"
period, not comma, after "creeping up them"
comma after "streets were cracked"
"and long, green weeds" - change "long" to "tall" - You've used "long" 3 times in this paragraph to describe 3 different things. Be careful about repeating a word so often, and look for alternatives.
"it's owner" - "its"
"She felt a warm hand on her shoulder" - This should probably be a new paragraph, and "She" changed to "Anne"
The physical description of the setting is good - the right kind of details for atmosphere.
"They were dressed" - Who is "they"? The sentence describing what the characters are wearing feels out of order with the rest of the paragraph.
"He said wearily"- "he" (don't capitalize the first word of a dialogue tag- it's still the same sentence)
comma, not period, after "I don't think so"
period, not comma, after "Hyde said"
period, not comma, after "pale green eyes"
period, not comma, after "on his shin"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "baby carriage"
period, not comma, after "his rifle" or change to "his rifle, an old semi-automatic model"
period, not comma, after "four rounds left"
"a dandelion growing out of a crack in the pavement" - good image
period, not comma, after "small apple tree"
"weren't yet ripe but still edible" - "still edible" seems more like what you'd say about fruit that is overripe, not under ripe - maybe "weren't yet ripe but edible nevertheless" or something like that
comma, not period, after "place to rest"
"going to eat?" She said" "she"
"holding out a big, round apple out to him" - delete one "out"
comma, not period, after "biggest one on the tree" - don't capitalize "she"
comma after "You take it"
"eating one after the other, until just a few were left on the tree" - They're going to be uncomfortable in an hour or so... Have you ever overindulged in unripe apples?
"They took up their packs and they continued" - delete second "they"
"lied right next" - "lay"
"a long since dead and forgotten person" - "long-since"
comma after "The wind was blowing"
comma after "fallen tree"
period, not comma, after "curled up and weeping"
"They had reached an old barn" - delete "had"
"overalls laid folded" - "lay"
"flip top lighter" - "flip-top"
"oil soaked wick" - "oil-soaked"
comma after "golden light"
"Hyde" Anne said" - comma after "Hyde"
period, not comma, after "I don't know"
It seems odd that Anne is asking now what happened to all the people, when she couldn't even remember them if they disappeared before Hyde, older than her, was born.
period, not comma, after "did not matter what happened"
"mama and the others" - "Mama"
"alright" - "all right" - period, not comma, after
Exact thoughts should be italicized, not put in quotes - only use those for words spoken aloud.
comma after ellipses following "Or dead"
period after "a body hitting grass"
period, not comma, after "Keep quiet"
comma, not period, after "I think they're gone"
period after "whispered to Anne"
period after "quivering a bit"
period, not comma, after "I don't know"
"tried to get some sleep... to get any sleep... they drifted off to sleep" - overuse of word "sleep" in such a short space - try "difficult for both of them" (delete "to get any sleep" for second one, and delete "to sleep" from third
comma after "telling him over and over"
period, not comma, after "They were bandits"
period, not comma, after "abject horror"
"They seemed to glow with a warm, angelic light" - This sentence feels out of place and not appropriate for the scene.
"They took their packs up, and they began walking east" - "They took p their packs and began walking east"
period, not comma, after "sight of the dead man"
"They eventually stopped in a field"- Instead of using "eventually" again, how about "After a time, they stopped in a field"?
colon, not period, after "stubby tusks"
"Hyde laid flat" - "lay"
comma after "pulled the trigger"
"He asked himself" - "he" (and italicize thoughts) - period, not comma, after "asked himself"
period, not comma, after "peek inside the trailer"
period, not comma, after "Nothing was inside"
"a teal colored cell phone" - "teal-colored" - Plastic fades quickly when exposed to the elements. If civilization fell before Hyde was born, chances are the phone would be very dully colored, greyish blue - if that - rather than teal.
period, not comma, after "He picked it up"
"it's screen" - "Its"
period, not comma, after "to no effect"
"life they had lead" - "led" (unlike "read," the past-tense of "lead" is not spelled the same)
How does Hyde recognize a cell phone?
comma after "back where it lay"
"Aluminum cans" - "aluminum"
comma, not period, after "to the side, reading"
period, not comma, after "across the asphalt'
period, not comma, after "just below the elbow"
"work jeans... work boots" - delete one "work"
"matter to you?" He said" - "he" - period, not comma, after "said"
"The man said, smiling" - "the"
period, not comma, after "disconcerting way"
colon, not period, after "object that shone in the sun"
comma, not period, after "and you're dead"
"hurt her." The said" - "hurt her," the man said"
period, not comma, after "I mean it"
"it's every detail" - "its"
period, not comma, after "falling apart"
comma after "so sure of that"
period, not comma, after "mind was racing" - "mind raced" would be better
"Hyde was panting and holding his gun in one hand" - "Hyde panted and held his gun in one hand"
"Anne was laying on the ground" - "Anne lay on the ground"
comma, not period, after "You killed him" - don't capitalize "she"
"opened it's cylinder" - "its" ("it's" is a contraction of "it is")
period, not comma, after "cylinder"
"He thought to himself" - don't capitalize "he" - italicize unless he's saying this aloud
The sparse narrative style really suits the subject matter of the story, and the little bit of detail you give of the surroundings builds a strong sense of atmosphere.


Posted 6 Years Ago


9 of 9 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 5, 2010
Last Updated on February 22, 2011
Tags: post, apocalyptic, city, ruins, girl, plants

Author

J. R.
J. R.

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I am an aspiring writer who is interested in improving as a writer and getting my work out to the world. . more..

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