Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bat Census

Bat Census

– They are lost, Richard thought. – Either they are completely and dangerously lost or I’m sunstruck and hallucinating.

Richard emerged from the oven-like alcove carved in the flank of conical hill and saw the women and their car two-hundred yards down the slope. The car sat on the edge of the jeep-track mauled into the side of the slope. It was a city-car, sleek and low-slung and unsuited to desert exploration. The hubcaps of vehicle were fogged with dust and the car was dirt-brown and dirt-red to the bottoms of its windows. Both doors on the driver’s side of the car were open and the sun was positioned to draw a long shadow from the vehicle out across the desert rising toward where Richard stood near the abandoned mine. The women were sitting next to the car, crouched in the shadow that it cast, a blanket or table-cloth spread out on the stony, barren ground.

It had been 115 degrees earlier, when the sun was higher in the sky, but, now, Richard estimated the temperature to be about 100. The desert stretched in all directions, featureless, undulating pyramidal hills that the wind had scoured until they were as smooth as the knuckles of your fist with the skin stretched taut over bone. You could look and look and it was all the same until your eyes could see no more.

Richard’s jeep was parked a quarter-mile away in a sandy draw between two knolls. He dreaded the hike and felt the heat on his shoulders and in his chest. The sun fermented acids in the muscles of his hips and thighs and calves and it felt as if his sinew and tendons were floppy, half-melted. The heat made Richard feel as if he had run a long distance, sprinting most of the way, even though, in fact, he had only hiked a couple of miles, moving slowly and taking time to hydrate himself. The walk was the distance between the abandoned mine-shafts carved into the flattened conical hills, two or three drilled down around the crest of each knoll. Bats roosted in the old mines and Richard was making a census of the endangered animals for the State Department of Natural Resources. It seemed unjust to Richard that he couldn’t just amble back to his jeep on the other side of the ridge, but, now, was compelled by common decency to drag himself down the hill to the women, his footfalls on the slope jarring knee and ankle, the sun blazing against his eyes, to see what misadventure had brought them to this place.

Richard stepped into the full blast of the sun, emerging from the entry to the incline shaft, and the heat seemed to roar around him like a lion. He waved his arm and one of the women – there seemed to be three of them raised her hand and dangled it in the air like a limp flag. How much water did he have? Richard stepped backward into the shadow of the mine adit and leaning against the timber portal opened his backpack to check his canteen and water bottles. Then, gritting his teeth, he stepped back into the open and walked carefully, judging his pace and his stride against the slope’s disposition to pitch him forward, picking his way among the seared creosote bushes and the low hedges of cholla.

About halfway down the hill, Richard heard the women’s voices, submerged as if underwater, and the whisper of the car’s airconditioning. The women were huddled in the lea of the car, with the cool air coming from inside gliding over their shoulders. They were dressed identically, in loose black dresses, garments made from some synthetic substance that seemed half-melted and dull like bitumen tar. One of the women seemed to be about 60 years old and she sat with her bare, bony knees exposed in the open door at the car’s front seat. The other women were younger, perhaps in their late thirties, and they had pinched, severe faces, nervously looking up from the table-cloth spread beneath them to the older woman and, then, glancing to see Richard as he approached, measuring the distance between him and where they were crouched in the car’s shadow.

The older woman rose and approached Richard. She put out her hand to shake his as if they were meeting in an office somewhere or at a gathering of friends. Her skin was dry and papery. Richard noticed that the three women had their hair cut identically, tight helmets trimmed to expose their red, pointed ears and flattening out across the nape of their neck to make a kind of blonde fan. The color of the women’s hair was identical and Richard felt a tiny shudder of revulsion at that observation.

A wicker picnic hamper was open on the table-cloth and there were two bottles of champagne, one of them open, and a plate heaped with purplish, dewy-looking grapes, another plate shingled with slices of white and yellow cheese.

“Not a very good place for a picnic,” Richard said.

“How so?” the older woman asked.

“Too hot today,” Richard answered. “Too far from the main road.”

Richard stooped to squat on his haunches in the shade of the car.

“You must be lost,” he said.

“No, not at all,” the older woman said. “We’re okay,” one of the younger women added. The two younger women seemed to be sisters. One of them wore a chain around her neck from which a teardrop-shaped rose-colored crystal dangled. The other woman’s gold chain supported a purplish stone about the size of plum, probably amethyst.

“Are you hunting for rocks?” Richard asked. But as he spoke, he saw that the women were not wearing boots or, even, tennis shoes, but flat leather slippers.

“No, we’ve come for the mines,” the older woman said. He brushed sweat from her pale face. The women had ghost-white skin. Perhaps, they were pale because coated with the sandy dust from the road.

“Is your car okay?” Richard asked.

“Yes,” the older woman said. Richard shrugged: “I don’t think it’s prudent to run the engine and the air-conditioning. You’re using up your fuel.”

“We checked,” Rose-quartz crystal said. “We have enough fuel for the journey.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Rose-quartz said.

“I’ve been in the mines here,” Richard said. “Doing a bat census for the Conservation Administration. I’m a naturalist with the State.”

Amethyst’s eyes were wide and she extruded her upper lip with disgust. “Are there bats in the mines here?”

“Not as many as I had hoped,” Richard said. He pointed up the hill to the incline shaft from which he had come. “Pallid bats, two small colonies with about two dozen individuals each. I didn’t see any pups. Over there –“ He gestured across the swale to a several similarly shaped pyramidal hills. “...over there, I found some Mexican free-tailed bats, a few hundred, and some leaf-nosed bats roosting in the headworks. It’s a little sparse.”

“I don’t like bats,” Amethyst said.

“They are wonderful creatures,” Richard replied. “But some people are afraid of them.”

“I don’t like bats at all,” Amethyst said.

“We have a map of some of the mines,” the older woman said. “Our guide gave us the map.” She pointed at the barren stony knobs rising over the jeep-track. “Are these the Paradise Hills?”

“They are,” Richard said. “It’s a funny name, isn’t it?”

“It’s a good name,” Rose-Quartz said. The women’s eyes were red. Richard wondered if it was the glare of the sun or the biting silica dust or if they had been weeping.

“Would you like a glass of champagne?” Amethyst asked.

“Alcohol’s not a good idea out here,” Richard said. “It dehydrates you.”

The older woman had a map spread out across the front seat of the car, its edges stirring slightly in the cold breeze from the air-conditioner. Richard could see that it was a geographical survey map with a couple of the mine sites circled in red magic-marker.

“So this must be – if I’m reading the map right – ‘Pearly Gates Mine’. Am I right?” the older woman said.

“I think so,” Richard told her. “But I would have to check the map.”

She clutched at the map and pushed it toward Richard. He slid his sunglasses with the bifocal lenses down over his nose and peered at the map. It was annotated. Next to the circle around the pick-axe and hammer emblem marked “Pearly Gates,” someone had written “bottomless vertical shaft, quite wide.”

“You’re right,” Richard said. “And the information here –“ he stabbed his thumb at the emblem and the words. “–that’s right too. These old mines are incredibly dangerous. Up there, you get in past the twilight zone, to where you can’t see an inch in front of your face, and it’s pretty much level and, then, suddenly – no warning at all – the ground drops away, a vertical pit that goes down who knows how far, probably to ground water three or four-hundred feet below. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could fall into that hole and that would be the end. No one would even find your body.”

“Did you see that pit?” Rose-Quartz asked.

“Sure, I almost slid into myself,” Richard told them, wiping the sweat out of his eyes.

“Are there bats by the pit?” Amethyst said, her upper lip twisted a little, just the slightest snarl to her face.

“You go by them to get to the pit. You’ll smell the ammonia. But I don’t think you should go up there. It’s too dangerous,” Richard said. “And it’s illegal for anyone to molest the bats. There endangered species.”

“I don’t like bats,” Amethyst said.

“Their useful animals,” Richard said. “The pallid bats glean insects off the desert pavement. You know that their immune to the sting of a scorpion.”

“So there are scorpions too?” Amethyst asked.

“Lots of them,” Richard said.

The older woman pursed her lips. She lifted a flute of champagne to her mouth and drank deeply. Then, she caressed the throat of bottle, all sweaty in the chill coming from the car. “How wide is the shaft? The vertical shaft up there?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Richard said.

“If we went into that mine hand-in-hand, holding hands, would it be big enough to suck us all down at one time?” she asked. She poured champagne into her empty glass and topped off the glasses of the two women.

“I don’t know, probably,” Richard said. “That’s why you don’t want to be exploring these kinds of place without a guide.”

“We lost our guide,” the older woman said.

“What? He brought you out here and abandoned you.”

“Oh no,” Amethyst said. “Our guide would never abandon us.”

“So where is he?”

“You misunderstand,” the older woman said. Her voice trembled slightly. “We mean ‘guide’ in the sense of ‘teacher’ or ‘leader’.”

“I see,” Richard replied.

“He’s gone now,” the older woman said. “His body became weary and it dissolved around him and his spirit ascended, it went upward.”

“And he told us –“ Amethyst began.

“There’s no point in telling anyone what he told us,” the older woman said, interrupting her. “Outsiders won’t understand. They can’t understand.”

Amethyst pointed to the hill across the hollow empty land. “Is that a mine up there?” she asked. She aimed her hand at a gouge near the top of the hill.

“That’s the old ‘Elysium’ shaft,” Richard said.

“Are there bats in that mine?”

“A few. Mexican free-tailed bats.”

Amethyst said: “I don’t like to think of there being bats. Bats in the mines.”

The older woman said: “I want you to understand, kind stranger, that we are fine. That we are completely okay. We don’t need any help and we are certainly not lost in any way, shape, or form.”

“Your car isn’t exactly suited for this kind of terrain,” Richard said. “It’s not high-clearance. If you go farther down this track, you’ll get hung-up. And, even if you don’t get high-centered, the path goes over slabs of rock, lots of slabs where you have to navigate by cairns of piled-up stones. You can’t go any farther this way. You have to go back to the Highway.”

“Route 66,” the older woman said.

“Get your kicks on Route 66,” Rose-Quartz said.

“How did you get out here?” the older woman asked.

“My jeep is over the hill,” Richard said. “On another road.”

“We’re detaining you,” the older woman said. “We don’t want to detain you.”

“I’m concerned for your safety,” Richard replied. “This is unforgiving territory.”

“People vanish out here,” Amethyst said. “There’s no remnant. Not a trace left behind.”

“I suppose,” Richard said.

“A remnant can be misunderstood,” Rose-Quartz added.

“Completely misunderstood,” the older woman said. “You see we picked this mine because of the kiva. We can make a fire in the kiva and watch the stars.”

“You don’t want to be out here overnight.”

“The kiva makes this place sacred,” the older woman said. She pointed up the slope to a round indentation hacked into the hillside. The sun was low and outlined the round depression with a black elliptical shadow.

“That’s not a kiva,” Richard said. “It’s an ‘arrastre”– that is a place where they drove mules in a circle to haul a sledge that crushed rock to get at the ore.”

“It looks like a kiva,” Amethyst said. “That’s what we thought it was. Maybe, this is all a mistake. Maybe –“

“It’s okay,” the older woman interrupted her. “All will be well.”

“But the bats –“ Amethyst said.,

“All will be well,” the older woman. “Kind stranger, it’s unfair of us to detain you any longer.”

“Listen, all I can do is warn you,” Richard said. “People die out here. Let me come around the hill in my jeep and, then, you can follow me back to Needles.”

“That’s unnecessary,” the older woman said. “We know what we’re doing. We’re following very clear directions.”

Richard looked at the three women, gazing at them from face to face. They seemed without gender, red-eyed and with fox-ears and opalescent skin stretched over their faces that were solemn and exhausted like white masks.

“Your car isn’t right for the road. You could get hung-up.”

“We got here okay,” the older woman said. “That’s all that’s necessary.”

“But you’ll have to turn around to get back to the highway and you might get high-centered making that maneuver. Then, what?”

“We’re okay,” the older woman said. “We really are.

“Suit yourself,” Richard said.

He shouldered his backpack and shook hands with each woman in turn and, then, stumbling a little in the heat, went back up the hill. He passed the round arrastre filled with shattered stones and, then, the mouth of the tunnel. The sun was low enough for the first few bats to emerge and they fluttered out tentatively like falling leaves. From the hilltop, Richard looked back at the women. They were still gathered in the shadow of the car, but, now, the valley was filling up with grey twilight and the bats flew toward the women like smoke dispersing from the mouth of the shaft and they seemed to be embracing in the stony hollow.

It was later than Richard thought. Although it seemed to him that he had spoken with the women for only a few moments, apparently, he had tarried longer than was prudent and, as it happened, his jeep was not parked exactly where he remembered it. The hike to his vehicle was longer and more complex and, as darkness descended, he had to scramble up a steep slope slippery with fine, hot pebbles to reach the jeep. Night falls swiftly on the desert and the air cools rapidly. By the time, Richard jolted his way over the bad road to the highway, it was cold and blue and stars were twinkling above. A few miles outside of Needles, a jackrabbit shot up out of the sage and, when Richard swerved to avoid the animal, he lost control of the jeep and crashed into the ditch. One of the tires was lopsided and Richard had to hitchhike into town to find a place that would tow the vehicle to a service station.

The next morning, Richard had to supervise repairs to his State-issued jeep and, although he thought that he should make some kind of report about the women in the desert, it wasn’t clear to him what he would say or why he was concerned. Ill-prepared people go out on the desert every day and, most of the time, nothing bad happens to them. And, further, he had now waited almost 24 hours and, surely, it was too late to trouble anyone about his worries at this stage.

Richard resolved that he would return to the Paradise Hills and look for the car and the place where the women had been picnicking on cheese and champagne on the desert. But the next year, the State suffered a budgetary crisis and funding was unavailable for the bat census. A lot of people don’t like bats and numbering the creatures was not a high priority and so, ultimately, the census-taking program was discontinued.

Sunday, September 8, 2013



The end came the way a lake dies choked under algae. First, the water is clear and vibrant with the sky. Then, a few faint clouds of green appear in the shallows, among the reeds. Some rafts of algae detach from edging the shore-line and float toward the center of the open expanse of water. The algae-rafts spread filaments and tentatively touch one another, but still most of the lake is unclouded. Catastrophe occurs exponentially. On the day before the lake perishes, one-half of its surface shimmers in the sunshine, reflecting the blue sky. But the next morning, the entire lake is a festering swamp of algae, a green prairie where fat dragonflies hum like agitated helicopters searching the surface for some speck of clear water.

First, crops failed, but, in some part of the country remote from the capital. Then, there were volcanos and tsunamis and typhoons at sea. The fruit in the grocery stores was afflicted by a faint, whitish cast, a pale odorless mold. Someone opened a can and found that the food was spoiled and had become a kind of blackish tar. Snow fell in places where snow had never fallen before and the orchards couldn’t be saved, despite a hundred thousand smoldering fires set between the groves of doomed trees. The smoke from the fires drifted onto the freeways and caused immense chain collisions and, although rescue crews rushed to clear the wreckage, there was too much debris – at first, the smashed trucks and cars were simply bulldozed into the median of the highway and onto the shoulders of the road, but, at night, mobs of people with acetylene torches swarmed the wrecks, harvesting the metal, and chasseses too heavy to tote away were strewn all over the right-of-way and caused more crashes, more pile-ups until only one lane was open through the debris-field and, then, at last no lane at all. A bridge twisted and tried to collapse but its struts held it upright over the river and, although vehicles could no longer cross, men and women still used the bridge and, as long as they kept their hands free to clutch at the tilted railings, they didn’t fall into the polluted water below. More snow fell and the cities and villages were unprepared since it never had snowed before in this climate and no one knew how to move the snow and ice off the streets. There were riots, rolling black-outs, massacres in the public squares when the government attempted to distribute bread. People ate the animals in the zoo and dead bodies vanished mysteriously from mortuaries. The hospital burned. All of the prostitutes were diseased and they died in the alleyways and a plague of rats devoured them to the bones.

Kozlowski predicted the end of things. He wasn’t a prophet and his prediction wasn’t a year in advance of the catastrophe or even six months before. But he worked as a sanitation engineer and saw things and heard people whispering and about ten weeks before circumstances became untenable, Kozlowski knew in his bones that the end was near. He stockpiled canned goods and rice, lugged jugs of water into his apartment, and made sure that his weapons were loaded. Kozlowski contrived a quarrel with his girlfriend, with whom he had lived for more than ten years, and slapped her face, waving a pistol at her. He threw her out of his apartment and said that she should take a bus into the country to return to the village where her mother still lived. Kozlowski loved his girlfriend and this was hard for him, but he knew that it would be difficult enough for him to survive the crisis, let alone provide for another person. When she left the apartment, dragging her suitcase and crying hysterically, Kozlowski did not look out the window to watch her depart.

His family had come from Gdansk, a year or two before the Communists lost power in Poland, but Kozlowski was born in Dar es Salaam and, except for attending university in Chicago, had lived there all his life. He worked at the college, directing experiments in wastewater treatment. The World Monetary Fund paid his salary and was a reliable employer. Even after the banks failed, funds were still wired to Kozlowski from Geneva. He hired armed bodyguards and went to the wire-transfer office every two weeks to receive his pay, money that he converted into gear that would be useful in the coming period of disturbance and riot. Sometimes, his bodyguards shot at people on rooftops. Many of the narrow streets were too deadly to traverse because of car-bombs and the expedition to the fortified wire-transfer station at the center of the city sometimes took all day.

At the university, where there were also fortifications, Kozlowski talked with his colleagues about leaving the city. The conversations were hush-hush, conducted near the big wastewater stabilization ponds that Kozlowski supervised. He met with Professor Chaudhary and his teaching assistant, Goetzmann. Kozlowski asked if Chaudhary, a medical doctor, knew anyone who could fly a Sikorsky Air-Ambulance. One of those helicopters was abandoned near the campus hospital on a pad of concrete surrounded by big, droopy sunflowers. Kozlowski said that thing were going to deteriorate in Dar es Salaam, probably sooner than later, and that they should flee the city. Chaudhary and Kozlowski had discussed this before, when the first riots occurred at the rice distribution centers, and they knew that there was a university station in the Mbeyan Highlands near the great lakes. Chaudhary had a friend who worked at that research station where the naturalists were studying mountain chimpanzees. “There is a catchment reserve in the hills,” Kozlowski said, “and the water supply is good.” Goetzmann said that he thought that there was also an agricultural test facility close to the reservoir and, therefore, a reasonable source of fresh food. “This isn’t going to last,” Kozlowski said. He gestured to the sea and the plumes of smoke rising from the ships captured by pirates and set aside in the harbor. “The center can’t hold,” Chaudhary said.

One of Kozlowski’s bodyguards, Okinye, was a former air-force officer and he said that he could fly the Sikorsky helicopter. Kozlowski recruited him and the two men went to the university garage to commandeer a vehicle. Something was wrong with the gasoline supply, however, and so the engine wouldn’t start. They hiked across the campus to the hospital compound where the helicopter was sitting on its pad surveyed by sentinels of heavy, drooping sunflowers. The air was bad by the hospital. The patients had all died and been dragged outside, to lie in rows wrapped in white sheets along the sidewalk leading into the building. Okinye started the helicopter and the engine sounded strong. The rotors whirled overhead and dispersed some of the stench hanging in the air from the corpses. The fuel gage showed that the tank was full. Kozlowski asked about the copter’s range. “We can get to Mbeya,” Okinye said, “but we won’t be able to return.” A new sort of acid tainted the sewage that Kozlowski was treating in his experimental ponds. The acid corroded the concrete and made it porous and most of the water had drained down into the earth under the lagoons. Kozlowski didn’t know why there was acid in the wastewater. Smoke from burning garbage layered the air. “We aren’t going to come back,” Kozlowski told Okinye. “What about my family?” Okinye asked. “What about them,” Kozlowski said.

A couple days passed. Kozlowski supervised the placement of provisions and medical supplies on the Sikorsky. A cold wind tormented the ocean and huge, icy waves battered the beaches. It seemed as if it were going to snow. “I don’t know if we can fly with frost and ice on the rotor,” Okinye told the three men. “Then, we need to leave now,” Kozlowski said, “before it snows.” Chaudhary and Goetzmann climbed into the helicopter and strapped themselves into their seats. Kozlowski sat next to Okinye. When the helicopter took off, it tilted to the side, and the big canisters of bottled water rolled across the freight-deck and boomed against the metal walls of the aircraft. “What happened?’ Kozlowski shouted. “It takes me a moment to adjust,” Okinye said. The rotor of the helicopter beheaded the sunflowers and the big orbs of black seeds were flung high in the sky. Then, the Sikorsky rose up through the smoke drifting over the campus and Kozlowski saw the rows of corpses like white cocoons lying by the sidewalk, rust-brown stains coloring the sheets and the beds of flowers wild with weeds in the flower garden and, then, the tapestry of the city laced with innumerable red veins and arteries of flame and the seacoast twisting away under them like a snake.

They flew over the veldt and saw the small villages on the brown plain, many of them with thatched roofs set afire, black roads littered with abandoned cars, and green cultivated fields speckled with brown rot. The air was cold and there was frost on the highlands and, then, wet snow that whirled through the air and lay in clots on the ground. For several hours, the helicopter made its way westward, sometimes, jerking and bucking in pockets of warm air interspersed in the icy fog. Near Mbeya and the great lakes, the ground was entirely covered with snow, or, perhaps, it was the dense interwoven canopy of the rain forest that was laden with ice and sleet, in places collapsed inward to make wet craters in the jungle.

The engine choked a couple times and, then, stuttered and the floor rattled so that all of the men were trembling uncontrollably with the vibrations. The rotors lost power. “There is something wrong with the fuel,” Okinye said. He wrestled with the throttle and the controls and the helicopter rolled to the side. “We are all going to die,” Chaudhary said. Then, the Sikorsky dropped out of the sky and there was a great splash of sodden tree limbs and mud and a gout of fire that belched outward and was gone before it could be imagined, and, then, Kozlowski was flung forward and hit his head so that he lost consciousness.

Snow was falling in Kozlowski’s open eyes. The climate had changed significantly only 18 months before and Kozlowski had been 37 when he first touched snow. The snow was falling through the darkness and it seemed to descend from very far away and long ago. The cold made his face tingle and he tasted the snow on his lips and tongue and it was sweet. He didn’t feel any pain, although it was not certain whether he could move. At the periphery of his vision, he saw a yellow-orange flame guttering in some wreckage. Some children, it seemed, had come toward the crashed aircraft and Kozlowski saw their hunched shadows. For a moment, an unearthly hooting filled the air. Kozlowski didn’t recognize any words in the sounds that he heard, but he knew that there were many tribes in his country and, so, many different languages. One of the small, crouching figures raised a gobbet of fire in his dark hands, scooping up the flames on a sort of broom-shaped torch, and, again, the air was wild with the children crying out in triumph against the darkness. The small, crouching figures slid sideways, following the bobbing pupil of fire and vanished into the black forest.

Kozlowski didn’t know how much time passed. When he opened his eyes again, he had grown a pale beard of snow. The fire burning in the wreckage had gone out. He tried to call out and, to his surprise, heard his voice echoing against the dark woods that were slowly filling with snow. He felt drowsy and, even, warm, but something urged him to try to stand. Slowly, he lifted himself from the ground and discovered that he could hold himself upright and, even, hop a little forward. The calf of his right leg was macerated and the tendons seemed to be torn so that he couldn’t reliable raise his foot, but half staggering and crawling, he was able to move away from the crashed helicopter. Kozlowski saw no sign of the other men.

He stumbled into a portal in the wall of trees, a kind of narrow, steep path where the snow lay almost knee-deep. The cold seemed to put his wounds to sleep and he felt no pain. After creeping forward for a some time, Kozlowski saw a small bonfire burning in the distance, at the bottom of a ravine where some big boulders bulged out of the creek bed. The children that Kozlowski had glimpsed at the crashed helicopter seemed to be gathered around the small fire. He saw their hunched shoulders, dark within some kind of fur cloth.

The slope was steep and intricate with vines frozen rigid as barbed wire. Kozlowski’s leg wouldn’t support him any more and he clawed his way through the icy underbrush toward the red blossom of the fire. When he crept to within a dozen feet of the flames, Kozlowski saw Chaudhary’s face, serene and bloodless like the countenance of a Bodhisattva near the fire. A couple of figures huddled around the flames turned to look at Kozlowski. They were chimpanzees, shivering in the cold and their yellow fangs flashed when the apes grinned at Kozlowski. The chimpanzees were roasting gobbets of meat on skewers that they clutched in their black hands. The meat sizzled and fat dripped into the flames, igniting as it fell. Chaudhary’s face lay at the edge of the fire still attached to a raw tangle of bloody neckbones. Kozlowski stared at the chimpanzees cooking their supper. The chimpanzees hooted and, then, looked at him curiously with their wise and ancient eyes.