5a – The Panic Grass


They set out flanked by along scorched yellow fields of dying panic grass.  Heat buckled the road.  Red ants crawled into their upturned collars, into their ears, searching for shade, sweat or wax.  Rupert’s lips began to puff and crack.  Aloysius’ feet blistered out of his crumbling shoes and he had to wrap them in rags.  A few charred trees dissolved into smog.  They stepped gingerly so as not raise dust, inched past an abandoned church with cracked bell and fallen cross.  They made it to a wrecked Renault.  A dried corpse of  a former salesman slumped behind its sticky wheel, a briefcase full of cosmetic samples splayed onto the torn leather seat.  Aloysius pried open the door which fell from its hinges and squeezed out cheap lipstick and pancake makeup from tinfoil canisters to protect their faces from the sun.

Hours later, they spotted a sickly cloud of smoke twisting up and hanging above a primitive brick kiln.  Locals were sure to be hiding in a ditch and in a drainage pipe yards away as someone had just left behind metal scraps, crude hammers, tin cans and jewelry scavenged for barter.  They heard a rustling in the grass but it was a vulture gliding in to pick at a mound of dried rags on the road.  Aloysius took a stick and stirred the hot peat in the kiln then stepped away as a whiff of burning dung billowed up into a dense cloud of brown smoke.  A stack of decomposing newspapers crumpled to Rupert’s touch exposing a lump of dried lice.  Aloysius lifted a string of teeth and a bag filled with dried herbs under a dogskin canopy.  Rupert examined rocks sharpened into arrowheads smeared with black dye and crude sketches of cattle dying under a blazing sun, then a stack of lizard skins with drawings of famine victims stretched between two truck bumpers.

“What’s happened here?”  Aloysius whispered, inspecting a cache of hoarded metal.

Rupert reflected, unaware of his madeup face: “Tell me, if a race were to fall into its past — would it be the same as before?  The same past?”

“What?”  Aloysius squinted at him, left eye swollen.

“I mean, could we go back the way we came?  Or would we have to be different, regressing?

“I can’t see how it matters.  What or whoever … they are, they’re better adapted to survive in a deserted battle zone not being prissy about it.”

“Are they migrants, regresses or what?”

“Who knows!”  Aloysius shouted.

“You know what I think?  Are you listening?”

“I suppose I have to.”

“Fuck it!  Forget it!”  Rupert shouted, frustrated.

“Yea!   Let’s forget it!  Why are we going to Prague anyway?  This is no revolution.”

“Look!”  Rupert said, “You don’t realize what we’ve come across, do you?”

“Who gives a shit?  They’re primitive!  So what?  What kind of impression do you think you make?”

“I might look exhausted but I am human.”

“You won’t be if you die.”

They trudged on as night fell, the road now gutted by craters.  The tanks which once ground up the pavement in showdowns with snipers hiding behind barns or irrigation ditches, the desperate peasants tearing at each other over a stale loaf of bread or a turnip were now forgotten or ground up by the relentless regress of time and erosion.  The ashes which commemorated the meltdown of scorched earth civil war, then peace, then war again, then peace — then war again — even the odd clumps of plastic or metal or porcelain were mere artifacts now.  As the asphalt cooled in the hours following sunset the texture of the road changed from a gritty chocolate morass to a solid dark line punctuated by steaming pits.  It was not corpses nor starving locals they feared as much as unexploded mines or injury from stumbling into a pit at night.  It was impossible to know which holes were mere piles of garbage and which potential graves.

Fatigue pressed on them.  Midnight winds kicked in gusts whipping flecks of sand, plastic, gravel or peat at their faces, extracting saliva from the sides of their mouths — and masked the risen moon with flying junk.

Pawing feebly at a seed in his eye, Rupert stumbled into a crater.  He tried to scramble out over dung-covered mattresses, dolls and rusted fence wire but his weight triggered an explosion below which blasted him out, igniting the fringes of his dress.  It was followed by a yet larger explosion which heaved a truckload of trash to the wind.

As it rained asphalt and earth from the sky they could hear locals  flushed out of their hovels or mud huts, moving unto the road hoping to salvage a gold tooth perhaps, or a pair of shoes, a scrap of tin, a hambone!

Aloysius covered himself with garbage hearing the band approach.  Rupert pulled his smoking dress over his head.  Between their fingers, the dark faces appeared human, but as they hobbled closer, it was hard to say.  They were transporting fire, very much like a foraging nomadic tribe, with a steel brazier, its lid cracked open to let the flame breathe.

Their forearms were monstrously large, and hairy.  Thumb-opposition had given way to a claw or pawlike uniformity.  The thumb joined other fingers in a clenched row behind the overdeveloped forearm leading into the stump of a hand.  They appeared to have spent years haunting suspected garbage dumps or buried buildings, clawing through dust or topsoil, using their blackened teeth to open aluminum cans or to tear off old plastic container tops.  Their stomachs, especially the men, bulged either from hunger or starches.  The women’s breasts hung forever out of their ripped clothing for infants to feed on, or for other men, or women, as it was the only milk they knew.

The peasants poked their bodies with sticks, lifting Rupert then Aloysius and savagely roped their hands with course hemp.  They wheeled them around to examine their teeth, hoisted them above their heads and carried them away into the grass. Suddenly, with grunts and huffs, a shushing all-quiet sign circulated, and the whole group, in a clump, plunged into a long, deep ditch, hiding, shushing with stunted forefingers.

(One Man One State Shoot-Out)

They heard a rustling, a knocking guns, a rattling of ammo belts as  lights and scores of armed men holding torches or flaming bundle of sticks collected in a circle.  A face-off was developing which excluded the cowering peasants and their captives, a face-off between nearly a hundred men and women.  Yet none of the armed civilians seemed to be standing with any other.  Each stood in opposition to everyone else and many were dressed in wild uniforms with tassels, epaulettes, medals, flags. Many wore body-length photographs. Torches ghoulishly blazed hardened, often painted or masked faces with leaping shadows.  The peasants crouched, nestling, cowering as the aggregate mutual enemies lowered their rifles by their boots, apparently, to exchange insults.

The first volley of insults sounded exotic — strange growls contorting mouths backed up by a nervous caress of guns.  One by one, declarations were made.  The locals dared not peep over the ditch.  The antagonists faced each other in a ring of blazing torches like a swarm of fireflies — but covered with borrowed religious and pseudo-mythic medallions, emblems, trinkets.  The innermost all wore body-length photographs. The select amongst fanatics.  One had taken a poster of a halo’d Jesus and plastered his face over Christ’s.  Another made himself a Roman emperor surrounded by foxes opening a fully stocked refrigerator.  Another, a male body-builder with a bleeding heart super-imposed on a spray-painted swastika.  Another, a skeleton wearing a Medusa wig of snakes with human mouths and balloon- captions screaming death in five languages.  Another had a huge photo of a bear on hind legs pawing a gun, crushing an enemies’ head, and shoving money up its victim’s ass.

The cowering locals covered their ears to the vicious declarations in a mélange of languages.  Finally one sneered in French:  “Je suis Jacques le Fataliste, mon destin est d’être un état, et ton destin est de te soumettre ou de mourir.” Rupert understood it. Aloysius watched the splintered nationalities shirt he gave to Rupert, come to life as a world-sheet, as a hieroglyph for war.

Each enemy declared him or herself a state.  Nationalist fracturing had cascaded down to the single body and single inner theater of mind where state meant one ego.  The first and only English speaker took his turn:  “I’m Louie, sole inheritor of the State of Myself, only lawful claimant to any dump I check out — Absolute gogue over any slave I smoke.”

Ideology had melted into hallucination. Self-determination into mania.  Each aggressor shrunk into a scrap, a miniaturized ego bursting in a witch’s brew of psychic inflation, carved fantastically to deny his or her personal despair.

The insults accelerated, rose and crested, then sputtered out.  For a moment all one could hear was panting.  Hair-trigger tension pulsed the cooling night air.  All hundred nations had had their say.  Each with a direct mutual conflict of interest.  Diplomacy had failed.

Finally someone fired.  It did not matter whom or what, and the carnage began.  Dropping torches, willy-nilly, aiming at every side, often point-blank, or blasting randomly across the ring, with mouths snarling, salivating nonsensical slogans, they slaughtered each other either by clean hits with bullets, or, as the massacre deteriorated, by bayoneting, neck-biting, heart-carving, eye-gouging, scalping, skull-stomping, disemboweling, gun-raping, torch-buggering, burning uniforms, body-length photographs and hair, finally stooping to mutilate corpses until each was swallowed in the cruel orgy, until dying heaps groaned and all followed every other into Hell.

As the torches fell into the scorched grass illumining dead, bewildered faces still gurgling blood and gall, some still squeezing triggers from the dirt, firing randomly  — it took all of twenty minutes for every state to murder every other and to yawn a nauseating death-cry to the purple night sky.  The locals waited long, cautiously, shivering, covering their mouths in shame yet listening hard, until even breathing or twitching sputtered out, cowering so long it seemed, that they sweated, with the one-man-states outside the ditch, and shared their grave.

Propping themselves up over the crater, the scene of destruction was more nauseating than its cacophony, as lacerated or punctured bloody flesh lit by torches littered the entire field in a confusion of limbs, photographs, guts, guns, stomachs and smashed heads snarled into one hideous and profane snakepile of death.

Finally the locals shoved them around the carnage further into the panic grass, stopping now and then to claw into the earth when one stumbled over a root or metal artifact.  Aloysius and Rupert saw not genetic regresses now but their own future in these post-humans, as they stumbled along as their captives.  As time passed they could sense that the concentration of the hoard meandered as if it were impossible to sustain one mission in their minds — like the mumblers — yet their alien skulls glimmered off and on an intent not to savage but to sell, to claw, scrape, hide, and accept everything, and so survive, no matter how humiliating. Perhaps this was the essence of humanity, under the conscious fluff and vanity, and neither Rupert nor Aloysius could muster any real animosity against their masters.

The locals veered left when spotting a gigantic, rambling wooden warehouse covered by red plastic.  Closing to the entrance, music from an out-of-tune calliope ground and blared down a gutted stairwell.  Decades-old swimsuit calendars were stuck with dabs of dung to its exposed rafters.  The locals hovered around Rupert and Aloysius, pulling their dresses tight, apparently sprucing them up to be bartered.

A few old Germans were just leaving, shouting their way out when they spotted Rupert and Aloysius, who in the dark, nearly resembled women.  The locals murmured fearfully that the johns would ruin their deal by buying their favors before they bartered anything in return.  But the Germans were adamant, trying out several languages, and true to the greatest international legacy of English, knew the basic Sex-shop lingo:

“Eine Blow Job!  Ich wunscht eine blow job, jetzt!”

“I can’t believe this is happening again!”  Rupert shouted, “Is this what’s its like to be a woman?”

“Shit!  These guys are doing it too!”  Aloysius frowned.

The Germans were dangling their diseased penis stumps from their trousers.

The peasants neither wanted to confront the Germans nor did they savor losing their goods before receiving some turnips.  Remarkably, as if by command, several began vomiting near enough the German’s feet to sicken them but far enough to keep them dry.  The Germans stepped back as the spill of half-digested grass splattered near their boots, stumbling back into the whorehouse to avoid watching two dozen regresses vomiting in the red light with a strong wind at their backs.  Then, perceiving the Germans sudden retreat from the doorway the apparent owner emerged, smelling foul play.

The peasants grunted, and Rupert and Aloysius found themselves eyeballed by a heavily made-up face, like their own, but of a decrepit old madam smeared with clay-colored cake, flashing a crooked smile.  She inspected their teeth, especially Rupert’s, who had years of nearly non-existent dentistry.  She was not inspecting whether or not they were women — there was some question as to her own gender.  The madam pulled out a knife and stuck it into Rupert’s ribs and made him bite down on a leather whip, to test for dental resilience, or possibly fake plastic replicas.  His teeth clenched the deal.  She snapped her fingers.  A quarter sack of moldy turnips were flung out the door at the locals.  They reacted happily, clicking tongues, caressing the sack, until two bullies burst out and angrily drove them off.  The locals retreated back to their scavenging lives, delighted, emitting odd clicking sounds, chortles of satisfaction, as they vanished, some skipping away, others still, disturbingly, on all fours — knuckle-running.

Dragged into something approaching a badly lit circus ring, Rupert and Aloysius espied prepubescent girls, balding old hags, naked men, young boys, transvestites, cripples in wildly painted rags, even old Austrians dressed garishly to resemble chickens — anxious to satisfy anyone who brought them an edible scrap, coined copper or aluminum.  Their entrance provoked catcalls, whistles and lascivious tongue-wagging from the johns.  The accordion player greeted them with hickory-dickery-dock: the whores spat at the dirt, the johns crawled on their knees, the bullies smacked their heads, shoving them on — into the center.

Several actual women rushed up and nabbed both of them despite protests and threats.  They were escorted through plasterboard hallways with frayed curtains behind which kneeling women and boys sweat, and slaved.  They entered a room wherein a ring of women a cut above the lobby crones sat waiting for customers with something real to offer.  All the prostitutes in this room had teeth.  Few were heavily scarred or showed hard evidence of disease or advanced malnutrition.  They had made it to the higher caste of whores, and many, though their brows were wrinkled and careworn, were not demonstrable maniacs.  The whores began to inquire after their health in different languages with Rupert and Aloysius shaking their heads until they chanced upon English.

“Are you well?”  Asked a red-head, with a Slovenian accent.

“As well as we can be!”  Rupert sighed, relieved.

“Tall for a woman!”  She chuckled, remarking their shoulders and three-day old beards beneath their sun-shielding pancake make-up.

“Why you dressed like that?”  A second, a beautiful Croatian girl, asked.

“We already have  hundred girls!”  The Slovenian pointed out.

“Besides you ugly!”  The Croat girl laughed, tossing back her silken black hair.

“We know we’re ugly.”  Aloysius conceded.

“Butt ugly!”  An Austrian woman laughed.

“What does that mean?”  Rupert asked, offended.

“No worry!   Men more interested in butts! Good to have one for face!”  A Serb laughed, with a long Slav nose and obsidian eyes.

“My men like ugly women.  They feel they can mistreat us and we like it.”  An Austrian fumed.

“I be a prostitute since I twelve and I stop understand man.  Even healthy man.  Man give me nightmares.” The Slovenian sighed.

“You think men are nightmarish, just take a stroll through your countryside!”  Rupert whispered.

“Do you also live here?”  Aloysius asked.

“Where can we go?”  The Croat girl asked.

“Yes we live here.  We share what we make.”  The Slovenian drawled, wearily.

“How much do you charge?”  Rupert asked.

“I no make love for turnips!”  The Austrian shouted.

“Yea, but for potatoes you suck a hundred rotten carrots!”  The Croat girl ribbed her.

“Ha Ha!”  They all laughed, bitterly.

“You make love for barter?”

“Make love!”

“Ha!  Ha!  Listen to it!”

“What’s love?”

“O.K. Have sex!”

“What’s sex?”

“We don’t offer sex we offer holes!”

“Where do you come from?  Have you ever made love to a man?”  The Croat girl kidded them.

“No.  I haven’t.”  Aloysius replied.

“No?  No?”  The Croat asked, scandalized.

“Then what you make to love to, a horse?”  The Austrian joked.

“Women?  You make love to women?”

“Yes.  We both have.”

“Together?  You make love together?”

“No.  Never.”

“Why not?  Makes a good show.”

“It’s a long story.”

“Don’t tell us … we don’t care!”

“Let me tell you something then about men, horseface!  Men, of all the creatures on earth are … filthiest.”  The Austrian snarled.

“Filthier than pigs?”  Rupert asked.

“Have you ever heard a pig talk?”


“They might sleep in shit but they no talk it!  They might think shit but they no make you be shit to mount you!”  The Slovenian stared at him straight in the eye.

Everyone sat staring at each other miserably, for an hour.

“Don’t you ever take pleasure in men?”  Aloysius spoke up, finally.

“Pleasure?  What’s that?”  The Slovenian asked.

“We survive.  No pleasure in survival.”  The Croat brooded.

“And there’s no pleasure in death.”  Rupert ruminated.

“How do you know?”

“It leaves you cold?”  The Slovenian joked.

“I guess that’s true.”  Rupert smiled.

“We know why you hate men but what makes men so hateful?”  Aloysius asked.

“What questions!”

“You say you’re Americans?”  The Austrian snarled.

“Are all American women as ugly and big as you?”

“Very few are.”  Rupert offered.

“Look, I’ll tell you why men are the way they are.  I have my own theory.”  The Slovenian spoke up.

“Tell us.”  The Croat girl sat up.

“Men born with organ out.”  The Slovenian expanded,  “Women in.  A man plants his turnip inside hole, goes his way.  Taking something in is different.  We are inside, more human for it.”

“Too simple to be true.”  The Austrian objected.

“Yes.  That’s too easy.”  The Croat girl chimed in.

“I meet women with same disease as men.  They need tight stomach and whiskey, if it still exists, and it all a ha, ha for them.  They not inward, whatever that means.”  The Austrian objected.

“They are like men!”  The Slovenian rebutted.

“And men who are spiritual … imitation women?”  Rupert asked.

“No!”  Aloysius objected.

“Why not honey?” The Austrian came dangerously close to discovering Aloysius’ manhood, while reaching up his dress. “Ha!  See how she jumped!  Perhaps you little too nice for this job!”

“No.  It’s my guess we are imitation men!”  Rupert tried to deflect the question.

“Ha. Ha!”

“Leave them alone!  They all right!  We all imitation human, spirit or flesh.”  The Austrian demurred.

“Oooo!  We have philosopher here!”

“But look we have outies coming in right now!”

“Look baby no give men this talk.”  The Slovenian pleaded, “If they like you, make sure they put all goodies in dumbwaiter, pull rope, so they no steal it back.  And here knife.”

“Will we need it?”

“Of course!  Cut open vegetables they bring to see if bad.  We had stones painted to look like potatoes and you leave us hungry if you not careful.”

“Got it.”

“Oh there’s one with a sack of … what?”  The Slovenian peered inside two separate bags.

Johns now stood there glowering because they had a sack full of moldy turnips and were dying to spill them all for an hour of sweat and pleasure.  They were four: two tin hoarders who slinked right for the Croatian girl and the Slovenian.  They took the tin johns behind a curtain after grabbing their sack of turnips and plopping them on the dumbwaiter, devised to drop the turnips down to a common store.  The third, a young blunt-nosed Czech boy was prodded by an older man.  The boy stood behind pulled forward reluctantly as his elder’s eye landed on Rupert and Aloysius, both standing a whole head taller than the hapless boy.

His guardian folded his arms, leering.  They shrunk back but found plasterboard blocking their escape.  The boy, perhaps thirteen, felt ashamed and looked retarded.  The man ran up from behind the boy and peeled his pants down.  The boy crouched, hairless, whimpering.  The man attempted to shove Aloysius and Rupert to their knees but he was incapable of budging either.  Rupert, finding the man ready to rabbit punch him, pushed him back, while the boy cringed, pants around his ankles, and his guardian fell on his ass, rose, and angrily pulled out a knife.  The real prostitutes started to fret, and loathe to intercede with an evolving standoff between two young men dressed as women, a retarded boy, and his now humiliated mentor-pimp with his blade out, they shrank back.  Out of desperation the guardian began to lunge with his knife when yet another man burst into the room, a near duplicate of the knife-wielding first.  The twin shouted a name with petrifying irony, as if his name originated back to their mutual embryo.  The first yelped as if his better but identical alter ego had caught him confusing who and what they were.  The boy pulled up his pants and cried out “Papa!” as the twins stood, glowering at each other.

They fumed in Czech.  The second slapped his brother across the mouth who spat back at him before slinking in shame from the whorehouse.  The dim-eyed boy sighed relief, crying into his papa’s armpit, hugging him.  The second Czech, the boy’s true father, at it turned out, spoke up in Czech:

“Sorry we speak English.”  Rupert offered

“What you doing in the Land of Madness?”  The Czech scrutinized them.

“Trying to survive.”  Rupert offered.

“And escape.”  Aloysius spoke up.

“Where?  Further North?”  The Czech walked up to them, the boy still at his side.

“Prague.  Paris!”  Rupert added, hopefully.

The Czech ruminated there in the red blinking whorehouse lights with his hand gently draped over his boy’s shoulders, examining them, then said. “I can give you lift across Austrian border.”

“Why?  You don’t owe us anything.”

“No, it right thing to do.”

“We need the ride of course.  But why?”

“Rupert, shut up!”  Aloysius interceded.

“No, he’s an honest man.  Can’t we be honest with him?”

“Yes, you can.  Be honest.  I go anyway.   I want to prove in the Land of Madness … some remember.”

“Good.  The boy is your son and not … your brother’s?”

“Yes!  My brother lost both his sons, his wife, his daughter … and now, sad, he wants mine.  I understand, but he go too far.  Not good when you have twin brother — to end up hating him.”

“Yes.”  Aloysius acknowledged.

“Well, let’s go!”  Rupert smiled.

“Yes, O.K!”

“Boy, go back to your Uncle.  And never let him take you here again.  I love you, and buckle your trousers!”  The father spoke in Czech.  The dim-eyed boy nodded and staggered out, working on his buckle.

The man directed Aloysius and Rupert by a much shorter route through the panic grass than that chosen by the peasants, who dwelled in the taller weeds for protection, and they soon reached the road.  The man introduced himself as Sami while peeling branches and mulch camouflage from a side-car motorcycle.  Proud of his rugged machine, Sami made it seem as a natural conclusion that they ride together but neither Rupert nor Aloysius could imagine all three of them fitting on one bicycle seat, and into a single-occupant sidecar.  Sami had them hoist the motorcycle from the ditch onto the road pulling out a strap.  He lashed it through a ring on the nose and offered the reins to Rupert so that he could stand up on a metal ridge on the sidecar’s shell, holding on.  Sami would drive in his seat behind the handle bars and Aloysius jump into the sidecar.  Rupert took the reins and stood up unsteadily onto the shell.  After a few unsuccessful kicks the engine revved and they bumped off into the night, skirting the grass, avoiding pits, and wrecks on the ruined road, winding North.

They had to stop so that Aloysius could stand up, taking the reins from Rupert, in order to spell his hands and arms, and they traveled this way through the ghost of a once fertile Slovenia until dawn.  The rushing wind cooled their brows as the panic grass gave out to a sloping landscape, which swelled and dropped under blinking stars above the road, and the night horizon hinted a softer pink, with the rise of a less burning sun.  They chugged up hills beginnning to sport patches of anemic pine, which more and more sprouted from ever steeper hills, lifting after they crossed the old Austrian border.  Wild rivers began to reclaim a country which once fitfully struggled against migrant tides, spilling from the devastated country below, and from the East, when vigilantes crowded to shoot hapless refugees from bushes or hilltops.

Finally they reached a polluted stream in Southern Austria, well past noon.  Sami who said nothing during the long drive, reached into the nose of the sidecar and pulled out of hefty package of raw opium disappearing into a ravaged suburb just North of Graz.  They waited for two hours, watching Austrian children play jump-rope with a telephone wire.  The children eventually begged at the sidecar until Rupert and Aloysius pried them off the handle-bars and shoo’d them away.  Sami finally walked back with two small but squirming piglets under each arm. And a revolver.  He was smiling but glancing nervously over his shoulder.  He hoisted the pigs into the sidecar seat.  Then he obliged Rupert and Aloysius, each, to hold a pig and fire a bullet into its brain.  It was a gruesome moment, but they obliged, and shot each pig in the temple.  He let the blood drain into the cracked sidewalk, then had them hold up the pig’s throats for the children who came running with bowls to collect the blood for their families.  Sami glanced up expansively at the sun, and smiled:

“This is it, boys.  It a good lesson to shoot live pig.  Feel it die.  They are so smart, so like humans.  So like my brother! I give these two porkers to my brother as gift.  I let him fry them up for my wife.  It will make him feel important.”

“Well, you helped us out, Sami, that’s for sure.”

“We just continue North, through the mountains?”

“Yes, but you listen.  This road includes the only forest left in Europe.  It will be good for you to see, but it also full of snipers, thieves, madmen, and walking can be dangerous.  Do not let your attention be turned too much by trees … you probably never saw a forest before, right?  Not near New York City!  Look out.  I heard … there is a special tribe up there.  Stories! They say they move by night … ghosts …  and it is said … bad luck to hurt the Night People.”

“What?  Is this a fairy tale?”

“No fairy tale.  Rumors about ghosts.  I no believe in ghosts.  Do you?”


“Good, but I return to my brother before these pigs get hard.  Or before he corrupts my son.”  Sami kicked four times before his cycle started, then yelled:  “You see,” he shouted, “All of us are not crazy!”

“”We’ve seen crazier!”  Aloysius yelled back as Sami turned around on the road.

“Not crazier than Nebuchadnezzar!”  Sami shouted, now pointed South, the two dead pigs’ snouts poking up from the sidecar.

“Bye!”  Aloysius waved ruefully to the pigs.

They began a long walk uphill, into the mountains, not stopping until nightfall as winds flailed them again, but this time walking promised a trek into mountains, amongst trees.  They called it quits as they reached a mountain stream, with seemingly drinkable water, entering the silhouette of a deserted resort town.