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Running from military defeat and complete disintegration of a warzone, two soldiers - The Younger One and The Older One - hide in an abandoned house whose inhabitants have fled. After losing everything they contemplate how to continue. With aid from the mysterious Leclerc, a foreign "aid worker", they'll attempt to reach free territory. Following his instructions they keep moving, hiding out in rooms of empty homes, trekking through the spaces of others' lives, persistently striving to find a life of their own. Their desertion and twenty years of living in hiding leads them to ever emptier and brutal spaces, only to finally, with the last instruction of their "protector" Leclerc affixed to mercenary uniforms, find themselves dragged back into someone else's war. This time they choose death.



YEAR OF PRODUCTION: 2014

NUMBER OF MALE ROLES: 2

ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY: Ivana Ivković

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: All rights reserved, no derivatives.




1.



A summer day during the mid-1990s. A humble, countryside family home, abruptly abandoned. The living room. A three-seater sofa, two large armchairs around a side table, wall-to-wall cabinets holding a television that is on but showing only static. A few empty picture frames on the wall, the photographs removed. Four empty glasses on the table, a vase holding a bouquet of dead flowers. Cobwebs descend from the chandelier and gather in the corners. The Older One and The Younger One enter. Both wearing military camouflage, carrying backpacks, gas masks strapped on the hip, pistols holstered, assault rifles slung over the shoulder. The older man carries an M/52 rifle and a leather ammunition holder, the younger a Kalashnikov, its ammo pouch and an MSK.  The older man has a helmet on his head, the younger a bandage. The older holds up the younger. After they enter they collapse on the sofa.



THE OLDER ONE: Does your head still heart?

THE YOUNGER ONE: No.

THE OLDER ONE: So, you're fine.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes, fine.



The older man takes off the helmet and sets it down on the table. Then pulls the rifle off his shoulder and leans it against the cabinets, takes off the backpack, the belt holding the ammunition, the mask. Only when he's divested himself of it all does he help the younger man.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What are we doing dressed like this?

THE OLDER ONE: Don't you remember?



The younger man looks at him confused, blinking as if he'd just woken up.



THE YOUNGER ONE: No. What are we doing here?

THE OLDER ONE: We're running.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Running?

THE OLDER ONE: Yes, we're running and hiding as we run.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Why?

THE OLDER ONE: Oh, come on…

THE YOUNGER ONE (a confused stare): I don't know. Please, tell me.

THE OLDER ONE: Because we have to.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Why do we have to?

THE OLDER ONE: So we wouldn't be caught.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Caught?

THE OLDER ONE: Captured. Captured. Yeah, kid. If they capture us we're done for.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You think so?

THE OLDER ONE: Just like the ten thousand.



They stay silent. The younger man looking at his feet, thoroughly defeated. Stretching on the sofa he reaches for his head. And yelps.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What is this?

THE OLDER ONE: You fell and cracked your head while we were running. I bandaged you up.

THE YOUNGER ONE: The ten thousand you mentioned... Who are they?

THE OLDER ONE: You really don't remember anything?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Vaguely.

THE OLDER ONE: They are dead.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Unfortunate.

THE OLDER ONE: We'll be the unfortunate if they catch us. They are done for. They are fine now.



The younger man starts to rise only to fall back listlessly.



THE YOUNGER ONE: I can't.

THE OLDER ONE: Rest for a bit.

THE YOUNGER ONE: They're fine you say?

THE OLDER ONE: Now they're fine.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Why couldn't we also be fine?

THE OLDER ONE (puzzled): What a question... Because we're still alive. It's only when you... (He chokes.) And what they've been through, what was done to them... It's better you don't know.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm afraid I do know..

THE OLDER ONE: Shut up. They're in heaven now.

THE YOUNGER ONE: In heaven?!

THE OLDER ONE: Yes, that's the saying.



The younger man takes a long, hard look at himself, his hands, the clothes he's wearing; he examines the equipment, the weapons. He's dumbfounded. The older man watches his every move attentively.



THE OLDER ONE: You really don't remember?

THE YOUNGER ONE: No.

THE OLDER ONE: Nothing?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing at all.



The younger man gazes about the room.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Tell me who we are.

THE OLDER ONE: We were soldiers.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And now?

THE OLDER ONE: Now we are retreating.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Where?

THE OLDER ONE: To the free territory.



The younger man shrugs.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What happened to us? What happened to me?

THE OLDER ONE: You got a strong hit to the head and now you don't remember anything.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Oh, God…

THE OLDER ONE: Shut up. That's good. It's better you don't remember anything. It was a horror.



The older man sits. He lights a cigarette, draws on it and sighs deeply. Then looks at his rifle.



THE OLDER ONE: I don't need the rifle any longer. No bullets. (He removes the strap.) Or the ammo holder. (He looks at the younger man's Kalashnikov.) Neither do you. We'll leave the rifles here.



He gets up, takes their rifles and stoves them in a part of the cabinet. He looks at the younger man who still has his gear on.



THE OLDER ONE: You don't need that pouch. It's empty. Or the MSK.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What an MSK?

THE OLDER ONE: Military Survival Kit.

THE YOUNGER ONE (trying to remember): MSK… MSK… (As if waking up from a dream.) And where's our PRS?

THE OLDER ONE: Don't have one, for a while now. We threw it away as soon as it started. It was obsolete from the start of the war campaign.

THE YOUNGER ONE (mumbling): Strange words. Cam...paign, kit, set... Cam... Kit... Kit...Cam...

THE OLDER ONE: Do you even remember what any of it was?

THE YOUNGER ONE (twitches): I know! Portable Radio Set.

THE OLDER ONE: That's it. Good. You're coming back to yourself.

THE YOUNGER ONE (moans): Yeah... I really feel my headache now... What exactly happened?

THE OLDER ONE: You fell while we ran. I've been dragging you since the morning... A man helped us a lot. He actually saved us. Just a moment later and they'd would have caught us. A good man, told me where to run and promised to help us again.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Who is he?

THE OLDER ONE (shrugs his shoulders): Not from our unit. Or the town. He just appeared from somewhere. (He considers this for a moment.) He did have an unusual accent, like he wasn't from around here.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Maybe a foreign peacekeeping observer.

THE OLDER ONE: Maybe. He promised to get us out. Our saviour who appeared for nowhere. Our connection to the free territory. Strange... Very strange...

THE YOUNGER ONE (not paying attention): It hurts…

THE OLDER ONE: It'll pass. Unfortunately, we can't go to a doctor.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm tired.

THE OLDER ONE: Just rest.



Holds his head, a low and exhausted mumble



THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes... The horror of war reached us...

THE OLDER ONE (a tired puff of cigarette smoke): Yes. Not the first, or the last, not the worst, but our war. Not a particularly big one, not particularly interesting. Not that no one was interested, but besides us no one really knows where it is, they don't know whose it is and what it is, who's fighting who... They're worried, but most of them - for the sake of it and.. you know. And we are the one who hurt.

THE YOUNGER ONE (baffled): Some 4000 projectiles fell since the morning, houses are falling, burning. Livestock wonders the fields, sad, worried, abandoned. People are fleeing the villages, leaving the cities...

THE OLDER ONE: They're catching a chance to escape abroad.

THE YOUNGER ONE (looks at him): What is abroad? Where is that?

THE OLDER ONE (sighs): That's where some other war rages with other people.

THE YOUNGER ONE: The thunder of mortars, hellish roar of rocket launchers, machine guns streaking the skies. The heavens ring with explosions. Everything trembles and quakes. But we stand firm.

THE OLDER ONE: That's it. Although some say this is a low intensity war, carried out with obsolete technology, without grand battles, with moderate loss of life. Really. And luckily. A small war.



THE YOUNGER ONE starts to cry uncontrollably and inconsolably.



THE OLDER ONE: What's wrong?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: I remembered everything. (He suddenly stops crying, angrily.) Why did you say this war of ours is small?!

THE OLDER ONE: Because there are bigger ones, more horrific ones.

THE YOUNGER ONE (upset): How can you?! How can anyone call this war of ours small?!

THE OLDER ONE: Oh, come on. I'm telling you how other people see it, not me.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Our war small?! You're upsetting me! I'll never forgive you for what you're saying!

THE OLDER ONE: All right then. Calm down, you're still sensitive from that hit...

THE YOUNGER ONE: You bastard! Motherfucker! Fucking monster! Freak!

THE OLDER ONE: All right, I apologize.

THE YOUNGER ONE: There's no apology.



They stay quiet. The younger man watches the older man morosely.



THE OLDER ONE: So you want this to be a high intensity war conflict, lead by the newest technology, with grand battles and a sea of dead? Is that what you want?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: Shut up! No.

THE OLDER ONE: What do you want then? For this to go on or stop?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Shut up. I hate you.



Looks at him angrily for a while longer, then waves him off with a huff.



THE YOUNGER ONE: You fool... (Slightly more composed.) Who could win here?

THE OLDER ONE: Who knows?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Someone has to win.

THE OLDER ONE: Not necessarily.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What kind of war is it then?

THE OLDER ONE: The one that doesn't end.



They stay quiet.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Then why is it happening?

THE OLDER ONE: It is happening because the current score is in someone's favor.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what's the current score?

THE OLDER ONE: Don't torture me. (Puts out the cigarette.) You can't see the scoreboard from here, from where we stand.



Gets up. Goes to the window and cautiously leans out a bit.



THE OLDER ONE: This is what we're going to do. We'll leave the guns here, the packs and all the equipment. It'll only get in our way. We have to get away from here as soon as possible, to some safer place.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Where?

THE OLDER ONE: A safer place. I've arranged it with that man. He'll help us.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And where?

THE OLDER ONE: We have to go towards the mountain.



He helps the younger man up. They start.



2.



A room similar to the previous one, but its inventory completely destroyed. The television, sofa and decor has been removed. The window is open and bangs in the wind. The older and the younger man enter with pistols drawn, tiptoeing carefully. They are dressed in the uniforms but carry nothing else. The younger man's head is no longer bandaged and he moves with ease. They check every corner.



THE OLDER ONE: It's good.

THE YOUNGER ONE: There's no one.

THE OLDER ONE: It should be here.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Are you sure?

THE OLDER ONE: I am.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You've already been here?

THE OLDER ONE: I have.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What's this place?

THE OLDER ONE: Grizzly Mountain, I think.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And we're in the right house?

THE OLDER ONE: We are. As he described it to me. He said he'd leave food and further instructions here.



They carefully search the room. In a corner, under a filthy blanket, the younger man finds a bundle.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What's this? Come and take a look.



The older man approaches carefully. The younger one steps back to a safe distance. The older one opens the bundle.



THE OLDER ONE: That's it.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What?!

THE OLDER ONE: The food. He left food for us.



He moves the bundle to the table and opens it. Then he lines up a dozen food cans, two loafs of bread, two cartons of milk, cigarettes and some other things.



THE YOUNGER ONE: He left us all of that?!

THE OLDER ONE: Yes. Sit and eat.



They sit at the table. Opening the cans with a pocket knife and ripping apart the loaves of bread they start to eat ravenously. They speak with their mouths full.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Wo-o-onderful!

THE OLDER ONE: Honest food after so many days!

THE YOUNGER ONE: So that's your man.

THE OLDER ONE: Our man. The connection.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And, what's his name?



The older man eats quietly.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Do you hear me? Who is he?

THE OLDER ONE: Leave it, it's not important.

THE YOUNGER ONE: How is it not important?

THE OLDER ONE: It's better you don't know. Because if they catch us...

THE YOUNGER ONE: Tell me!

THE OLDER ONE: I'll tell you when the time comes.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Tell me now.

THE OLDER ONE: Don't push it! None of your business! For now. Be patient a bit. First we have to see where all of this is going.



The younger one is disheartened. They keep eating in silence. The older man stops. He looks around.



THE OLDER ONE: This place looks familiar.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You think so?

THE OLDER ONE: Yes. I'm sure of it.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Sure of what?

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know. I have to see…



He looks around the room carefully.



THE OLDER ONE: As if I'd already been here, but it all looked differently.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Of course you can't recognize it when it's all destroyed. We see this all the time, so no wonder. Places are robbed, things stolen, houses stripped bare to the very walls before they're burnt, blown up by explosives or gas  cylinders, razed to the ground.

THE OLDER ONE: Where are all these people, I wonder...

THE YOUNGER ONE: You can guess about the people. But where do all the cupboards, beds and stoves disappear to, the bricks, roof tiles and wall decor?

THE OLDER ONE: There was theft in our area for a long while, too, everywhere and everything. Until there were no houses left that weren't completely emptied out. Then rumours started about where those who pillaged took everything. Then the thieves started barging in on each other. Real hoards. Our local museums and our warehouses of household appliances, in one. Ali Baba's caves. Tycoons' living rooms. Full, like cornucopia. But finally those things never become anyone's belongings. They disperse, disappear. Stuff moves from one place to the other, relocates somewhere... nowhere. It's all the same, rich men's hoards and the poor's provisions.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Where does it all disappear to?

THE OLDER ONE: The valuable, the worthless, it's all piled up until it's beyond recognition. Then it disperses, deteriorates, and rots. Turns to dust and falls to the ground to become ground again, to become ore. Raw material for new construction, of new worlds.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That's sad.

THE OLDER ONE: It's not sad. That's just how it is.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't know. I only grasp the sad aspect of it.

THE OLDER ONE: That depends on your mood.



They keep silent.



THE OLDER ONE: I think we escaped them. (Looks around.) Well, if that isn't... God... (Low and distraught.) Impossible. No, it can't be... (He's relieved.) No, it's nothing. Looks like we escaped them. False alarm.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You didn't startle me, you know.

THE OLDER ONE: And you are, what, not afraid of them?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Not afraid of them, trust me.

THE OLDER ONE: Yeah, really.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I swear. You know what I'd do if they were, right now, right here in front of us?

THE OLDER ONE: I know. You'd play the hero.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'd do nothing. I'd surrender immediately.

THE OLDER ONE (looks at him bewildered): What are you saying?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: What you've heard.

THE OLDER ONE: You'd surrender?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes.

THE OLDER ONE: Watch what you're saying.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'd surrender and they could do as they please with me. They could slice me and fry me up. What of it.

THE OLDER ONE: I don't believe a word of what you're saying.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You don't have to. What do I have from you believing me or not.

THE OLDER ONE: What? You want to say my word means nothing to you?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes. So, if you do believe me, it gives me no satisfaction. And if you don't, it gives me no disappointment. Simply - I'm emotionally neutral.



The older man contemplates his words in silence.



THE OLDER ONE: You are not neutral. It may seem like it now, but if they were to catch us it would be completely different. Do not underestimate fear and pain.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm not underestimating. I've thought about it for a long time. I don't care if I live or die. Like nature. Birth, growth, deterioration, ruination, it all happens concurrently. Everything lives, everything dies, and nature doesn't care.



They keep silent.



THE YOUNGER ONE: The first proper food after all these months.

THE OLDER ONE: True. I do not remember when I last ate so well. Did I tell you we could trust my friend.

THE YOUNGER ONE: So, will you tell me his name?

THE OLDER ONE: In time. It's not important. Eat some more.



THE YOUNGER ONE: And where are our clothes?

THE OLDER ONE: Not here yet. We'll have to stay in these uniforms for a bit longer.



They finish the meal. The younger lights a cigarette. He draws the smoke in deep and blows it out with relish. The older man is putting away the rest of the cans and bread back into the bag. He sees something inside. And pulls out a piece of paper.



THE OLDER ONE: A message!

THE YOUNGER ONE: What does it say?

THE OLDER ONE: "Stay low here for a few days, then head west, towards the mountain. Take the high road from Grizzly at night. Take care no one sees you. When you reach Crone's Tears go to the end of the village, to the lone house on the clearing. You'll find further instructions there. After you read this note - swallow it."



He crumples up the note and swallows it without hesitation. Then takes a sip of milk.



THE OLDER ONE: Huh. So that's it. We have to stay low here for a few days. Good. We've got food, water... (He looks around.) Just have to figure out how we'll sleep here...

THE YOUNGER ONE: What did you say the village was called?

THE OLDER ONE (taken aback): It's called... (He thinks for a moment.) It's called...

THE YOUNGER ONE (stunned): You're insane!

THE OLDER ONE: It's called... Crone's something or other...(He shrugs.) Sorry.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Fool! What do we do now?!

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Oh, God! What an idiot! Now cough and throw it up.



They look at each other in wonder. The younger man is desperate, furious. The older confused for a moment, but then collects himself.



THE OLDER ONE (brusquely): To throw up this perfect meal? No, no chance. And we'll find the village easily - Crone's something or other. There can't be a hundred of Crone's somethings. Now, we should clean up in here, get things in order, since we'll be staying here a while.

THE YOUNGER ONE: True. We can't live in this pigsty.



They start putting things in order. The older man clearing the strewn about and broken things, the younger one finding a broom and sweeping.



THE YOUNGER ONE (calm, even a bit fascinated): Houses plundered, things stolen and taken from them.

Nothing can be returned to its rightful place, put in order once again, no matter how much we try.

In this new order, made up of stolen things, gathered from here and there,

a space for new life is formed, assembled and filled.

From town to town, village to village, as far as the eye can see, stolen items are strewn and someone else's appliances furnish these ill-fated houses.

Refrigerators once moved to some other rooms sputter a distinct kind of insidious chill.

The chairs do not match the tables, stacked around some other dining rooms, the corner sofas are in ugly discord with foreign cabinets, and a foreign, terrible station plays on the screens of stolen televisions.

The stoves with grime from who knows where prepare disgusting and tasteless food that is neither cooked nor baked, but burns and smolders from the onset.

In someone else's beds, under another's sheets, on their mattresses, soaked in their sweat, their semen, and their menstrual blood, on pillows soaked in their tears, only dreams of torment and nightmares can be had.

There is indescribable disarray among the objects man has brought into the world.

The landscape turns into a dumpsite as far as the eye can see.

Oh, God, it all looks so shitty and miserable, God forgive me, but I don't know how else to describe it.

It is impossible to clean up that mess,

not enough energy to go around, energy needed to

set in order this

House of New Entropy.

So we desperately sift through these amassed pots, jars, bowls, pans, oil lamps and bowls meant to hold tartar sauce, feverishly rubbing them with our dirty, sweaty, thieving hands as if from one of them a genie could be let out to say:

Command Me New Master

And to clean up all this mess for us.

But there's no genie.

Old things are impossible to place in a right place and put in a new order.



They clean and sweep.



3.



A room in the mountains. Furniture and things in disarray, as if only just carried in. In the middle of the room a large wardrobe and a disconnected kitchen sink. On one side two kitchen stoves, on top three television sets, along another wall five unplugged refrigerators.



The two men, the older and the younger, enter. The younger one immediately covers his nose with the palm of one hand.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Do you smell this?

THE OLDER ONE: What?

THE YOUNGER ONE: A stench.

THE OLDER ONE (sniffs the air): I don't smell anything. He said we'd have civilian clothes waiting for us here.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Where?

THE OLDER ONE: Somewhere around here.



They search the room. The younger man opens the wardrobe.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing. (Peeks under the bed.)  Nothing... (Looks behind the wardrobe.) Are you sure he said things will be waiting here?

THE OLDER ONE: Precisely here.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I mean, we could have dressed in anything along the way. We've passed so many empty houses.

THE OLDER ONE: They've all been plundered.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Not all. Surely there was something, somewhere.

THE OLDER ONE: Possibly. But he said - here. At the end of the village, in the lone house on the clearing. Besides, I await his further instructions.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What instructions?

THE OLDER ONE: How to go on.



The older man opens the refrigerators one by one. When he opens the last one in line he jerks and jumps back.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What's inside?

THE OLDER ONE: Nothing.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Tell me what's inside!

THE OLDER ONE: Better you don't know.



The younger one resolutely walks to the refrigerator and opens it. Instantly he scares almost to a point of falling on his back, he kicks the door closed with his foot.



THE YOUNGER ONE (trying not to retch): No… Impossible…

THE OLDER ONE: You are a baby... Why didn't you listen to me.



The younger one sits down on the toilet not to fall. He shivers. The older man searches on in silence. He opens the cupboard under the kitchen sink.



THE OLDER ONE: Here we are! Here are the things. As he said.



He pulls out two bundles. They are actually two large and sturdy red and white plaid woven plastic bags, ones you always see dragged by refugees in television footage. He opens them and looks inside.



THE OLDER ONE: That's it… (Checks the first one.) This is for you. (Checks the second one.) No, this is for you… (Exchanges them.) And this for me.



He passes him one of the bags. The younger man has calmed down a bit. They take things out of the bags. The older one pulls out a pair of colorful checkered pants, a t-shirt with wide red and green stripes and a double-breasted suit jacket in maroon. Black shoes, slightly pointy, with a somewhat raised heel. He takes off the uniform and puts on the civilian clothes.



THE OLDER ONE: Not bad, not bad…



The younger man pulls out Adidas track pants in pale blue, Puma sneakers and a yellow-brown checkered shirt. Then a short, slim-waisted leather jacket, its sleeves too short and collar too large. He looks at the clothes and shakes his head.



THE YOUNGER ONE: This is hideous.

THE OLDER ONE: Excuse me? What are you talking about?

THE YOUNGER ONE: This is simply, absolutely, totally and completely hideous.

THE OLDER ONE (looks at him darkly): Put it on and shut up.

THE YOUNGER ONE: No. Not a chance. I'd rather stay in uniform.

THE OLDER ONE: What is wrong with you? Do you want to get caught? Do you want us killed on the spot?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: But... We could have picked up something like this anywhere...

THE OLDER ONE (shoots him a look): Shut up and get dressed.



The younger man reluctantly starts to dress. He's miserable. The older one is already dressed. He walks to the mirror and checks his reflection. Raises the collar and rolls up the suit jacket sleeves.



THE OLDER ONE: How do I look?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Absolutely… hideous.



The older man sighs. He's not too thrilled. He turns down the collar and rolls down the sleeves. Then takes off the maroon jacket and throws it casually over his shoulder. Shakes his head. In the meanwhile, the younger one has put on the track pants and the sneakers. He picks up the checkered shirt and takes a look at it, then looks at the older man.



THE YOUNGER ONE: At least let me have the t-shirt and you take the shirt.

THE OLDER ONE (thinks for a moment): All right.



They exchange shirts, dress fully and stand side by side in front of the mirror observing their reflections.



THE YOUNGER ONE: We look like the most miserable people in the world.

THE OLDER ONE: Stop your whining. Now we're in civilian clothes and we don't stick out any more.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Now we stick out…

THE OLDER ONE (shoots him a look): It's fine.



They collect the discarded uniforms and stuff them in the bags. And the bags in the wardrobe.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Where to now?



The older man pushes his hands into his pockets and pulls out a note.



THE OLDER ONE: Aha, here it is. He did say the message will be in the clothes and he's kept his word. (He shows the note.) See. This is why we couldn't take just any clothes. What is important is where we go next, not what the clothes are like. Understand?

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what does your connection say?

THE OLDER ONE (unfolds the note and reads): "You must continue. You must reach the free territory. You must make it over the mountain and reach the other side, reach the river, a place called Clear Waters. There you'll find a house with a blue door and yellow shutters. You'll find it easily, it's right by the village mill. There you'll find the papers you need to complete your journey. Read and swallow."



The older man thinks for a moment, then crumples the note and brings it to his mouth. Then changes his mind. He unrolls and straightens out the paper and passes it to the younger man.



THE OLDER ONE: I swallowed the one where we found the food.

THE YOUNGER ONE (losing his composure): You swallow it. He's your penpal.

THE OLDER ONE: What's wrong with you?! He's writing to us both. The man is making an effort to save us, you wretch. Take it!



The younger man takes the note with some unease.



THE OLDER ONE: Well, what are you waiting for.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'll eat the paper but first you'll tell me what the man helping  us is called.

THE OLDER ONE: Oh, come on…

THE YOUNGER ONE: Answer me.

THE OLDER ONE: His name is Leclerc.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Leclerc?

THE OLDER ONE: Exactly.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't believe it.

THE OLDER ONE: Me neither. It's a fake name. So in case we get caught we couldn't give him up.

THE YOUNGER ONE (thinks for a moment): Sounds logical.

THE OLDER ONE: Now eat it.



The younger man tears the paper note apart piece by piece and eats slowly, his face contorted in disgust.



THE YOUNGER ONE: I really feel miserable.



The older man ignores him. He puts the suit jacket back on and seems to be satisfied with himself.



THE OLDER ONE: Now we're civilians. Again. I barely remember how that feels.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Now we're, according to some, deserters. Or spies. Depending on who catches us.

THE OLDER ONE: That's why we have to make sure no one does. But don't worry, no one will catch us. And we're neither spies nor deserters.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What are we?

THE OLDER ONE: I still don't know.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Then we're illegals.

THE OLDER ONE: Better.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what's our goal?

THE OLDER ONE: Our goal is to get to the free territory.



Silence. The younger one looks at the discarded uniform with pity. He picks up a piece.



THE YOUNGER ONE (with pity): The order has been changed, demolished.

Victory is celebrated.

Camouflage uniforms are out of commision, becoming local costume to wear with pride and honor.

Countryfolk in camouflage men's waistcoats and girl's jackets, dancing folk dances of a new age in an old manner.

Just look at them, oh, how well the new camouflage costumes fit them, sturdy and longlasting, for all occasions,

To dig the soil, to work in the stables, to drink in the inns, to slaughter the pigs, to shovel manure and go to church.



The older man reaches for him, grabs the uniform from his hands and throws it into a corner.



THE OLDER ONE: Enough! We're done with all that, that's behind us. Now we have to see how to go on.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes. And if we only knew where we were going…

THE OLDER ONE: Don't complain so much.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm not complaining, I'm just saying: if we knew - I'd hold up even better. Are you planning to finally reveal our way to me? You won't, because you don't know it yourself.

THE OLDER ONE: I do know. Hold on for a bit longer and we'll stop climbing. Soon we'll come up on a really flat part. That'll be easy. Then the forest, very thick, we'll have to be careful. It can be dangerous. Besides the difficulty of just breaking through - we'll have to crawl through the thick of it in places - in the woods it's all... in a way undefined. But we only have to stay our course. Not wonder off too much. Then a slope, very difficult to walk. Narrow paths, partly overgrown, sharp cliffs, tight by a ravine, so you have to watch your step. One false move and you're gone. Flying down, hundreds of feet. But then, behind one bend, it gets easier. Not easier to walk. But we'll reach a place with a view so breathtaking its beauty will leave you speachless. (Slightly mockingly.) Or you'll go silent with fear, but you'll be speechless anyhow. (He gesticulates dramatically and describes with his hands.) Scenes of otherworldly beauty, miles of impenetrable black forest, and far above peaks wrapped in blue and white wisps of fog. And then, suddenly, you'll hear an awful noise - deafening - sound that could still your heart. But do not fear, it'll be a great waterfall. The river drops from a height there into quick rapids. That waterfall will bring your heartbeat up into your throat, and the noise you'll hear will stay trapped in your head for a long while, it'll scare you. We'll have to descend there, maybe even on all fours, very close to the cascade. At one spot, where it's noisiest, we'll have to go through a white cloud, that is, pass under the falls, because otherwise we'd have to go miles farther. We won't be able to see anything from the intense whiteness that can blind, we'll be soaked to the bone and it'll be almost impossible to breathe. There we'll cross to the other side of the river and, carefully and slowly, down the river, and the path will gradually become easier. You'll see and feel how the river calms and you along with it. And then we'll reach the valley, and our villages will be there. (He sighs.) Unless they too are occupied. That is our way.



After listening, the younger man appears to be listless, while the older one is visibly satisfied with his account.



THE YOUNGER ONE: We'll have to go through all of that?!

THE OLDER ONE: Yes. But it'll take us several days to cross. Today, by nightfall, we only have to accomplish the climb and walk the flat highland, as much as we manage, and find a safe place, a shelter, to spend the night. Walking at night on this mountain is  - deadly.



The younger man scratches his head worryingly.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Well, fantastic. (Irritated.) Now tell me there's wild beasts there, too.

THE OLDER ONE: Of course. There's wolves, bears, wild boars, venomous snakes.

THE YOUNGER ONE (doesn't believe him, sarcastically): No lions, I hope?!

THE OLDER ONE: You know very well what I'm talking about. Go ahead and fool around and get the both of us killed.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And you've taken the whole way?

THE OLDER ONE: No. My grandfather told me about it. He walked it, during the last war.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Ah, so. (Thinks for a moment.) Just so you know, we don't have that kind of waterfalls here. Maybe your grandfather was thinking about Victoria Falls, or the Niagara. (Waits for a reaction.) Your grandfather is so full of shit, get it?

THE OLDER ONE: Stop it. The falls may not be so big, but his fear, at that time, was maybe bigger than ours. Besides, my grandfather died more than twenty years ago so he's not full of shit. Maybe you can say that he was full of shit, then, but don't be too sure of it.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I apologize. I'm sorry.

THE OLDER ONE (amazed): What are you sorry about?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm sorry your grandfather died.

THE OLDER ONE: He died twenty years ago, you fool, in his old age, calm and content, as much as a man can be. What are you, an Englishman?

THE YOUNGER ONE (gasps): Why an Englishman?!

THE OLDER ONE: Well that's how they express their condolences, whether the man died in your arms yesterday or a century ago, because they really don't give a fuck.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I was only trying to be polite.

THE OLDER ONE: Then it's fine. I only wanted to say we have all kinds of ordeals ahead of us, but nothing like what we've encountered near people. So console yourself - know the worst of it was over before we started to climb the mountain.

THE YOUNGER ONE: The mountain is the worst of the way. So far it's been easy.

THE OLDER ONE: Then get ready for the mountain.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Ah! If only someone else could pass through all of this instead of us.

THE OLDER ONE: And who would that be?

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't know. Someone more powerful and stronger. That genie from the bottle. An all-powerful servant. A giant. If only he could carry us.

THE OLDER ONE: Stop it. There's no avoiding this.



Silent, they stare into each other's eyes.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What are you going to do once we get out?

THE OLDER ONE: If we get out.

THE YOUNGER ONE: If we get out.

THE OLDER ONE: First I'll search for my wife.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Lucky you.

THE OLDER ONE: I had some luck. At least in that. A bit.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That's not a bit. That's everything. I wish I had someone to search for.

THE OLDER ONE: Well, you'll look for that girl of yours.



The younger man looks disheartened.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing came of that.

THE OLDER ONE: You said the two of you were in love, true to each other, all big hopes and making plans.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yeah, yeah... But nothing of it. All of it, the confessions, the   talk, it was all lies. She left, as soon as she got the chance. Didn't even look back.

THE OLDER ONE: Come on. Maybe you'll meet again.

THE YOUNGER ONE: No way. I knew who she left with and after that it was pointless. I knew immediately. I'm not hurt she cheated on me. She saw me as an option, at the time. And another option, at that moment, came along, one much better for her. I failed the test with her. Like with an appraiser. That disappointed me. Suddenly I knew just how much I was worth. And it was not a lot.

THE OLDER ONE: She had that note of... pragmatism.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That couldn't have happened to you. You were invaluable to your wife. That stays, that's worth something, and because of that you know, up until the last breath, that life was worth living.

THE OLDER ONE: Don't judge her. There were those who ran at the first sign of trouble, the first rustle, not even a shot. And I don't resent them. And you shouldn't either. Especially her.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't resent anyone either. At all. Except for her.



The younger man's face contorts. He's not crying but it looks worse than crying. The older one becomes somber.



THE OLDER ONE: Come on, calm down, please.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I can't calm down. How can I calm down?! It keeps me solid! Keeps me going!

THE OLDER ONE: Come, come. When we get out of here there's a good chance you'll meet again.

THE YOUNGER ONE: How? The world is big.

THE OLDER ONE: No. This mountain is big, but now the world. You'll find her if you want to. Even if she was on the other side of the world. Nothing in the universe gets lost, only misplaced and takes a moment to find.



The younger man throws away his pistol. The older one immediately retrieves it for him.



THE OLDER ONE: Don't be like that. It's a weapon, we might use it.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And for what?

THE OLDER ONE (thinks deeply): To threaten someone. Shake them down, get something. Maybe…

THE YOUNGER ONE: New bullets?

THE OLDER ONE: That too. To keep fighting. The fight must go on.

THE YOUNGER ONE (sarcastically): You're right.

THE OLDER ONE: What else.

THE YOUNGER ONE (resigned): We threw the rifles away immediately, we have no bullets for our pistols... What do you say, let's sharpen some tree branches and fight with spears?

THE OLDER ONE (takes out his pistol): We'll get some bullets. But we'll fight with clubs if need be. The fight will go on.



He tucks the gun into the back of his waistband like a gangster. The younger man does not share his enthusiasm. He looks at his feet.



THE YOUNGER ONE: These green socks could give us away.

THE OLDER ONE: What do you mean?

THE YOUNGER ONE: They don't match. They're military issue. (Pulls up the cuffs of his pants, looks at his feet, shrugs.) Or maybe they do. Doesn't matter.



Takes a few steps around the room.



THE OLDER ONE: Let's go?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Let's go.



They go.



4.



A half-empty room with several pieces of old-fashioned countryside wooden furniture. A single straw mattress on the floor. Two low wooden stools. Blue painted windows banging in the wind. They enter. The older and the younger one. Exhausted, barely dragging themselves in.



THE YOUNGER ONE: So, we crossed the mountain to the other side. And now what?

THE OLDER ONE: Quiet!



They stop and listen.



THE OLDER ONE: Don't hear it any more.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what did you hear?

THE OLDER ONE: I thought I heard some steps.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What kind of steps

THE OLDER ONE: I heard something like boards creaking.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Doesn't mean it's people. Maybe just beasts.

THE OLDER ONE: Neither beasts nor people. Luckily. (He exhales with a huff.) That was us. I heard our own steps. I'm going mad. (Looks around.) Let's find it.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What?

THE OLDER ONE: He said our papers and instructions to continue will be waiting here for us.



He starts looking. Checks the corners. The younger man only leans down, raises the edge of the straw mattress and finds a black leather bag under it.



THE YOUNGER ONE: You can stop looking. It's here.



Passes him the bag.



THE OLDER ONE: Let's see.



They sit on the two low stools. The older man opens the bag. Takes out a bottle. Uncorks it and smells.



THE OLDER ONE (thrilled): Brandy!



He tips the bottle and drinks from it. Passes it to the younger man. He drinks, too. The older one takes out a pack of cigarettes.



THE OLDER ONE: And cigarettes!

THE YOUNGER ONE: I really needed this. Thanks, Leclerc. (Raises the bottle as if to toast.) It's like you knew.

THE OLDER ONE: That's it. But take it easy. Good, let's see what else... Our papers... Money... Some more papers and... (He takes out an envelope.) An envelope.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Open it.

THE OLDER ONE (opens it): A letter from Leclerc.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Read it.

THE OLDER ONE (reads): "Dear friends. I hope you made it across the mountain unharmed. It can be a deadly trap. But if you’re reading this it's all fine. A great challenge is behind you and from now on it can only be easier. In the bag you'll find money, papers, new identities, and some ammunition, as I hope you kept the pistols..." Did I tell you?! And you wanted to get rid of the pistols.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Fine, keep reading.

THE OLDER ONE: "Also, you'll find the pieces to make up your backstories."

THE YOUNGER ONE: What's a backstory?

THE OLDER ONE: Well, probably something that will justify our appearing somewhere, give us a convincing reason.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't understand.

THE OLDER ONE: Fine, halfwit, so what will you do when some army or police catches you and asks you who you are, what you are, where you're going? What will you do?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Fine, I understand now.

THE OLDER ONE: Sometimes I start to think you're really dumb. (Reads on.)  "As it says in the passports I managed to obtain for you, you are called Balazano Millefoiri and Edelwolf von Tittenschnittzel..." (Takes out the passports, checks and passes him one.) Here this one's yours, and this one mine.

THE YOUNGER ONE (takes it): And why do I have to be Balanzano?

THE OLDER ONE: Well you can see your photo's there.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And where did Leclerc get our photos?

THE OLDER ONE: From our military ID cards.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And where did he get those?

THE OLDER ONE: Well I gave them to him that very first day when we met so he could make the papers for us. You were out cold.

THE YOUNGER ONE (puts the passport in his pocket): Fine, whatever. Read the letter.

THE OLDER ONE (continues): " So, your names are Balazano Millefoiri and Edelwolf von Tittenschnittzel and these are your papers. You are butchers and small business owners from South Tyrol who traveled to make a business deal and buy some livestock. This is a buyers contract confirming you bought five cows, nine pigs and two donkeys." (Takes it out.) Here's the contract! (Passes it to the other man.) "You've already sent the livestock to Italy in a van and now you're on your way back. Stick to this story if you care for your lives. Learn all the details by heart. Also, you've come to this country because you love it and had driven over humanitarian aid that you then donated to all of the sides of the conflict. And for that you've received a certificate of honor..." (Takes it out and gives it to the other man.) Here's the certificate of honor! - "and a plaque... (Takes it out and gives it to the other man.) You were named humanitarians of the year. Then you stayed on to buy the livestock." Get it?

THE YOUNGER ONE (looks at the contract, the certificate of honor and the plaque): I get it.

THE OLDER ONE (reads on): "From the slaughtered livestock you'll make your famous sausages - with and without pork. The donkey meat goes into both recipes..." (Raises a paper and passes it to him.) Here's the recipe! "Learn these recipes by heart. Also, being from South Tyrol, you are surely acquainted with the production of the original Tyrol salami, so I also enclose that. (Passes him another paper.) Learn that by heart, too. Memorise it well and know it even when woken up in the middle of the night. The people you'll meet will be very interested in the recipe, and even if not, insist anyway and tell it to everyone. It will give you a great backstory and give your presence an authenticity and make it convincing. Besides, since the recipe for the original Tyrol salami is kept secret, this will instill a great trust in those you'll meet, they'll feel privileged and honored since you'll be divulging trade secrets to them and inviting them into great confidence. Besides making you convincing in the role of Tyrolean butchers, it'll give you a chance to become intimate with your interlocutors, from whom you could then, depending on the situation, ask for help or favors..." (Raises his head.) Let's finally see what's in that Tyrol salami.

THE YOUNGER ONE (reads): Beef flesh, pork flesh, cow sphincters, pig foreskins, pig skin, ox feet, water, barley, salt, pepper, a bit of sugar and just a touch of cinnamon.

THE OLDER ONE (claps his hands): I knew there must have been a bit of cinnamon! I kne-ew it!

THE YOUNGER ONE (frowns): I'm not sure about this…

THE OLDER ONE: The recipe?

THE YOUNGER ONE: This whole thing with Leclerc.

THE OLDER ONE: Don't speak against Leclerc, he's our friend. The only one we have.



The older man nervously paces the room. The floor creaks. He instantly stills. The younger one also.



THE OLDER ONE (whispers): Do you hear it?

THE YOUNGER ONE: No.

THE OLDER ONE: Something creaks.

THE YOUNGER ONE: It’s the floor. You're hearing your own footsteps again.

THE OLDER ONE (grabs his head): They've driven us out of our minds.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Keep your nerve.

THE OLDER ONE: That's not easy.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I know.



Both listen for a while.



THE YOUNGER ONE: See. Nothing.



THE OLDER ONE: I hope so. I think we've escaped them. (Goes to the window and carefully leans out.) Well if it isn't...

THE YOUNGER ONE (disturbed): What?!



Goes to him. Now both lean out the window.



THE OLDER ONE: Nothing. False alarm.



They come back and sit down



THE YOUNGER ONE: And what did you think, who was it?

THE OLDER ONE: Our persecutors.

THE YOUNGER ONE: One thing I don't get. They slaughter, kill and burn everyone, and claim they are the faithful.

THE OLDER ONE: Those weren't the faithful. They prayed, but they were not believers. Those like them take God along to hide behind to start a raid or a pogrom. God, are you on our side, they ask. And since his habit is to never respond to them, nothing, never, to no one, this complete silence is understood as complete confirmation and agreement. To them God is a plug to plug up every hole in their story.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Have we escaped them?

THE OLDER ONE: I guess.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Have we or have we not?

THE OLDER ONE: You can't escape. You can only put a bit more or a bit less distance between you and them. He always catches up to us.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Who?

THE OLDER ONE: God.



The younger man looks at him with unease.



THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't really understand you. You want to say that we're running away from God here?

THE OLDER ONE: It's odd with God. The way he behaves. I'm afraid of him. One should pray and cleanse from all this.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What are you on about?

THE OLDER ONE (upset, reaches for the bottle of brandy and drinks): Children of hell. They come in, plunder and burn, and with God's name on their lips.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Do not take his name in vain, nor call upon him.



The younger man takes the bottle from the older and takes a big swig from it. The older one looks at the papers.



THE OLDER ONE: You like your drink.

THE YOUNGER ONE (offers the bottle to him): Want some?

THE OLDER ONE: No, thanks. The brandy will give me thirst, that's the last thing I need.

THE YOUNGER ONE: It suits me.

THE OLDER ONE: I know. Everyone knows that.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Let them. I'm fine. It must be a sign of a good constitution.

THE OLDER ONE: It is a sign... a sign that you're a drunkard.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Shut up old man.

THE OLDER ONE: I'll shut up, but you're still a drunkard.

THE YOUNGER ONE (admits, with irony): No, you are.

THE OLDER ONE: You are really a drunkard.

THE YOUNGER ONE (seriously): Yeah, yeah. But you are, too. I've seen you plastered, more than once.

THE OLDER ONE: And I was. But it doesn't matter about me. You're young. It's a waste.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Thanks.

THE OLDER ONE: Your life is still worth something. Not me. I'm over. Your life is worth a hundred times more.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Thanks a hundred times.

THE OLDER ONE: You still can't see the drink in your face, even if you may feel completely ruined. Keep up with the brandy.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't just drink brandy.

THE OLDER ONE: What else?

THE YOUNGER ONE: I drink anything available.

THE OLDER ONE: Well, that's it.



The younger one sips slowly while the older man keeps digging around the bag.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What's wrong with drunks, I wonder.

THE OLDER ONE (shrugs): I don't know. (Thinks.) They say drunks, in time and due to the harmfulness of the habit, lose their health and true happiness of existence.

THE YOUNGER ONE (pretends to be shocked):Yeah?!

THE OLDER ONE: They destroy families.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Horrible. But, tell me, what's my family? (Waits. Gets no answer.) Come on, add it up. My father died, I have no idea where my mother is. And I broke up with my girlfriend.

THE OLDER ONE: Supposedly, in time, they became socially harmful.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What's social benefit, and how should a man behave to live in harmony with it?

THE OLDER ONE: They, supposedly, become unproductive at work.

THE YOUNGER ONE (drifts off): Hm, sure. It's only... I don't care about health, true happiness of existence, work productivity, social benefit and broken families.

THE OLDER ONE: And what does that tell you?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Well, the conclusion presents itself: drink, whatever the cost. Even if you must force yourself. Become a drunk as soon as possible.



The older man takes the bottle from the younger. Drinks, then lights a cigarette. Lights one for the younger man, too.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Drunk or sober, doesn't matter. We'll wonder the world lost like this eternally.

THE OLDER ONE: Don't worry. We'll find the way. As long as you're with me you're not lost.

THE YOUNGER ONE: So if we are not lost then tell me where are we now?!

THE OLDER ONE: Shut up. And go. I'll tell you when we get there.



They drink. The older man is barely able to stand.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Who is God? What exactly is he? Where? What's he like?

THE OLDER ONE (yawns): No one knows. It's easy not to recognize him. Pass by him and not even notice him.



The older man stretches out on the straw mattress intending to sleep. The younger one takes another swill, settles in comfortably and starts to talk. He is quite drunk, closes his eyes and talks as if dreaming.



THE YOUNGER ONE: One night, the night of all nights, the most difficult night of my life, I fell asleep under a tree and dreamt a dream.

Beside me, one on each side of me, stood two beings, a purple one and a green one.

They toyed around with me. They knew my thoughts.

The purple one had horns, the green one a long trunk it would drag through the dust as if searching for something.

The purple being was tall, with a long, braided beard that reached the floor where it unraveled from the braids once more.

It spilled out from its head in all directions,

Left, right, forward, and back,

And braided and rebraided, and unraveled and twisted in a complex, miraculous fabric of the world, a carpet we all stand on, a carpet whose patterns represented all that exists, one that occasionally creased into waves that distorted the images into something unrecognizable, unfathomable.

In its hand this being held a huge trident.

Poseidon, I thought, but no, it was the great plowman and what he held in hand was the hayfork he used to turn the soil and the manure, tossing the old and rearranging the new stacks, mixing the fertile with the barren to create new worlds.



He drinks. And continues in a quieter voice. Delirious, removed from his surroundings, disassociated. The older man snores.



THE YOUNGER ONE: The other being had a trunk it raised high and honked. Suddenly all voices could be heard and all sounds reverberated, the low and the high, but discernible, separate, clear and intelligible,

All together forming a harrowing and beautiful harmony.

Ganesha?

No. The monster from grandma's closet, and it honked and blared.

I watched them, eyes overflowing.

Who are you?

Don't think about us.

Don't attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible.

I heard them although nothing was uttered.

And then they disappeared.

Or my dream disappeared.



The younger man suddenly screams.



THE YOUNGER ONE (desperately): Oh, God, who are you?! You are not the accomplice, the deputy, that universal soldier they all call on in every courtroom, the one they invoke in both their good deeds and their criminal enterprises.



His yelling wakes the older man.



THE OLDER ONE: Calm down. There is no answer here.

THE YOUNGER ONE: But that does not mean we do not have to keep asking the question incessantly, even if it is always the same question.

THE OLDER ONE: And what would the answer be? Can we even speculate on that?

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't know. But I suspect that the answer that comes back to us one day will be totally unforeseeable.



They fall asleep drunk.



5.



Twenty years later. A room with dirty walls, a broken bed to one side, its mattress rotten, some dirty, partially decomposed blankets. A broken chair with three legs that you can't sit on. On the floor piles of waste, crumpled paper, broken glass. The two men enter. They look around searching for a place to sit down. The younger one removes one blanket with disgust and sits on the edge of the bed. The older man sits next to him. Both look exhausted.



THE OLDER ONE: It's been twenty years. We've passed through so many towns, villages and cities, countries...

THE YOUNGER ONE: House to house, door to door…

THE OLDER ONE: We've been in so many rooms…

THE YOUNGER ONE: And no place to settle down.

THE OLDER ONE: They don't want us anywhere.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what's with Leclerc, he hasn't been in touch for years now.

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: We've been following his instructions the whole time and it's only gotten us in trouble. Perhaps this Leclerc is not a friend after all.

THE OLDER ONE: You know, I've thought about it, too. Probably isn't.

THE YOUNGER ONE: But why did he help us in the beginning?

THE OLDER ONE: Maybe he took pity on us. Remember, we were in terrible shape.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I remember, how could I not. Except we're in worse shape now.

THE OLDER ONE: Maybe he helped us because people like us are always of some use.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Like us? Fleeing, weak, helpless?!

THE OLDER ONE: Who knows. Maybe he has plans for us.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What use could he have from us.

THE OLDER ONE: Maybe he's counting on our grief, desperation and anger.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You think he wants to take advantage of us?

THE OLDER ONE: For his own gain.

THE YOUNGER ONE: The whole time we've been following his instructions and where did it get us? Nowhere.

THE OLDER ONE: That's not really true. We've been everywhere.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes. We have. It got us in all sorts of predicaments. You know, by now, I'm starting to doubt Leclerc and his good intentions.



The older man is having trouble breathing. It's clear he has lost his strength. The younger one looks at him alarmed.



THE YOUNGER ONE: And what are his intentions?

THE OLDER ONE: Who knows. But, don't worry, it'll be fine.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You're sure?

THE OLDER ONE: I am.



He glances around. Then looks straight up. And starts to smile. The younger man looks at him with trepidation.



THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm worried. I have a feeling you've already come to some conclusion.

THE OLDER ONE: Trust my wits.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Great. Now I'm truly concerned. Please, no funny ideas.

THE OLDER ONE: Fine, as you wish. Let's just keep going, no universal plan at all.



The older man looks straight ahead. Pulls a photograph from his pocket and suddenly starts to cry.



THE OLDER ONE: My darling. Darling. My joy.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You never call her by her name.

THE OLDER ONE: Not in front of others. Other women go by that name. Different ones. Nothing universal about it. And I think of things particular to her. (Whispers.) Perhaps she's not even alive anymore.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Come on, not again.

THE OLDER ONE: I can't... It's always like this when I think of her.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Calm down, please. You've got to keep living.

THE OLDER ONE: I'm not living, at all. Promise me one thing. If you outlive me, and I hope you will, make sure, somehow, that I'm buried next to her. I know I'm asking the impossible, but try.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE (quietly): How many times have we been through this? How many times have I already promised? I will. But stop talking about it already. You wanted to die and be buried next to her, when it happened. And what did happen? Nothing. You didn't die just by wishing it. Didn't happen. Because it still wasn't the time. And when the time comes, I'll do as I promised you, even if I had to outlive you to get it done.

THE OLDER ONE: Thank you.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And stop thinking like that. Maybe she's still alive. She probably is. Women live longer than men.

THE OLDER ONE (somewhat comforted): You are right.

THE YOUNGER ONE: When I look at you I'm glad my own relationship was not a serious one. It's true I was crazy and heated, but it somehow passed. And thinking about it now, it seems to me - even too easy. As if nothing had ever happened.

THE OLDER ONE: You can never know if it's over. It can reappear suddenly. Come back and grab hold of you again.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't believe it'll happen. I don't love her anymore and actually I'm no longer even interested. That's finished.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: And, what are we supposed to be like, when we get there, to the other side?

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know. Different. We're supposed to be better.

THE YOUNGER ONE (gets angry): Better?! There is no reason for me to become better! And every reason to become worse.



The younger man gets up, agitated, walks the room angrily, then sits back down. Both are in a foul mood.



THE OLDER ONE: What are you going to do later, once all this calms down?

THE YOUNGER ONE: When we get there... Somewhere... I'll tell them all.

THE OLDER ONE: What?

THE YOUNGER ONE: All.

THE OLDER ONE: Tell who?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Everyone. Yes, yes... I certainly will.

THE OLDER ONE: I don't think anybody anywhere is interested in our case, at all.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That's not true.

THE OLDER ONE: Fine. Several people. Those closest to us, who know it all anyway.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And I suppose you want to settle down somewhere.

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know. At a point... I'd like to own a piece of land, in this world or the other, wherever, surrounded by insurmountable abysses. Exactly that.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Don't worry. When we get there, if we get there, I'm sure you'll get your wish.

THE OLDER ONE: I doubt it. You're not alone anywhere in today's world. There's more and more people on the planet. And I don't need that much companionship. I don't need any companionship.

THE YOUNGER ONE: You're talking nonsense.

THE OLDER ONE: I know. I'm just disappointed.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what do you think, when we get there, the refuge, what will happen?

THE OLDER ONE: When we get there and you tell them like it is, straight to their faces?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yeah. Then. What will happen??

THE OLDER ONE: Then they'll place you somewhere. Like an object. And you'll wait there for a long time. You'll be poor and hungry, and everyone will look at you with contempt or mockery, depends, probably both at the same time, and you'll hate them. But, you'll have to be content with it, because the one you'll hate may be the one to show you most compassion. You may be pitied, or beaten. In the beginning it will be pity, but it'll hurt worse than the beating. Then you'll wish you didn't exist. Maybe you'll want to kill yourself. And even if you don't do it, your life will be so abysmal and miserable that it's now difficult to even imagine, much less to describe.

THE YOUNGER ONE (disheartened after listening quietly to the tirade): They don't like us. That's true. They say we fight because we're barbaric.

THE OLDER ONE: Us, barbaric?! The motherfuckers.



They laugh. The older one suddenly serious.



THE OLDER ONE: We're not barbaric. I mean, we are, but that's not it. We are... It's hard to explain.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Unlucky?

THE OLDER ONE: That too. But... Fleeting. Like leaves in the wind. We've not kept one promise, one vow, one oath, for as long as we've existed. Not the pioneers' oath to our socialist roots, not the oath of cleanliness, nor the pledge of allegiance to our homeland, not even our marriage vows. We are incapable of completing anything as promised or agreed upon; make it to the meeting on time, or to a lunch, or to the cinema - mission impossible.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Once we get somewhere, I promise to change all that. And what about you? When we get somewhere?

THE OLDER ONE: Look for my wife. I hope she's safe. And then, whatever she wants. And you?

THE YOUNGER ONE (eyes tearing up, swallows): I don't know.

THE OLDER ONE: Then you'll come with me.

THE YOUNGER ONE (tries to laugh): Then we'll both do what she decides.

THE OLDER ONE: You don't have to if you don't want to.



The older man kisses the photograph and puts it away into a pocket.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Why is it always like this for us?

THE OLDER ONE: Because we're weak. Because we are not ready to, or incapable of, one grand, resolute effort. We're permissive.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Do we need that Leclerc at all, and why are we letting him shepherd us?

THE OLDER ONE: We're obviously incapable of doing it on our own.

THE YOUNGER ONE: We should try. Once.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Is the war still being fought?

THE OLDER ONE: It is, surely.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I'm not too sure. It's been pretty quiet for a while now.

THE OLDER ONE: Even if it's not, we must believe so for all this to make sense.



The younger man gives him a puzzled look.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes.

THE OLDER ONE: What - yes?

THE YOUNGER ONE: And why do we believe in war? The two of us, everyone.

THE OLDER ONE: We were born this way. Raised this way. I guess. I have it in me, and then it was further ingrained and established through education and drill. We are soldiers.

THE YOUNGER ONE: No we're not, not for a while now.

THE OLDER ONE: And then what are we?

THE YOUNGER ONE: I don't know.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Well? What is it? Say something.

THE OLDER ONE: It's nothing. I'm just listening to you.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And what do you think?

THE OLDER ONE: I've started to question Leclerc's behaviour and his existence.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And where does that get us?

THE OLDER ONE: Everyone's lost track of things a long time ago. This show is running itself.



Looks up again and laughs. He seems to be hysterical and the younger man is frightened by it.



6.



The room is completely empty. An ominous looking room, butcher's hooks and piano wires hanging from its ceiling. A ray of dusky sunlight pierces the window painting the room red. Several bundles to one side. The older and younger man enter. The older one steps in first, then stops abruptly and freezes on the spot. He looks terrified.



THE OLDER ONE: Don't go farther. Pssst. Stop.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What is it?

THE OLDER ONE: I feel something.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What do you feel?

THE OLDER ONE: A coldness. You?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing.

THE OLDER ONE: Impossible.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing.

THE OLDER ONE: Absurd.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What is - absurd?

THE OLDER ONE: What you're saying is absurd. Of course you must feel this.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What?

THE OLDER ONE: A creepy coldness. Suddenly. As if something is emitting coldness.



The older man starts to tremble. Eyes rolling as if having a seizure. The younger one pales. Grabs him under the arm.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Sit.



Helps him down to the floor. The older man is having problems breathing. Eyes bulging out, mouth wide open, gasping for air.



THE OLDER ONE: Get away from me and save yourself. Run! Run!

THE YOUNGER ONE: What is it?



Extreme agitation. It infects the younger man who looks around in a panic.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What was it?!

THE OLDER ONE: Run!

THE YOUNGER ONE: What have you seen? I don't see anything.

THE OLDER ONE: You can't…

THE YOUNGER ONE: What?!

THE OLDER ONE: You can't… see it. It cannot be seen, only felt. Be thankful you didn't feel it.



The older man pulls himself together. As if the worst of it has passed and he's feeling better.



THE OLDER ONE: Oh, God..

THE YOUNGER ONE: How are you?

THE OLDER ONE (deep breaths, calming down): Better. Oh. As if born again. Or dead again. Depending on how you look at it... what we're going through.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What was that?

THE OLDER ONE: You'd have to feel it to understand it. And trust me - I don't wish that upon you.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Try to describe it to me. I'm worried.

THE OLDER ONE: I had the same feeling when we started. But this was worse. More intense. As if my own body was disintegrating. Arms, legs, head, thoughts, each heading its own way. Breaking up as we suddenly broke up then, there. Instantly. Each to their own side. But now it was me, my own body, my own head. And worse, my thoughts. As if an internal explosion tore me apart and scattered me about.

THE YOUNGER ONE: It's nerves.

THE OLDER ONE: Call it what you want. That's what it felt like.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What you're describing, sounds to me like a panic attack. And it's passed. Good. Now calm down.



Sits next to him.



THE OLDER ONE: We can't stop.

THE YOUNGER ONE: I also need a rest.

THE OLDER ONE: Not a panic attack. Much worse. Nervous tension that borders on the unbearable, complete loss of control - we've been through all that before. No, this was so... much more...

THE YOUNGER ONE: Horrible? Stronger?

THE OLDER ONE: This was final. This is it. I stood on the edge of the abyss and there was no more. I wonder, is it a sign, a pronouncement of what is to come.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Don't worry. That what is coming won't announce itself.



The older man is still shivering, although slightly more composed.



Almost complete darkness. Nothing visible but a trace of their silhouettes.



THE OLDER ONE: You know what we have to do?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Run, run and keep running.

THE OLDER ONE: You know it.



The younger man reluctantly gets up. Then sits.



THE YOUNGER ONE: But - where to?

THE OLDER ONE: Which way - what?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Run.

THE OLDER ONE: Ah, that…



He thinks for a bit.



THE YOUNGER ONE: We're not going anywhere. We are just standing in our own world, the bubble of our reality, and perhaps we see our surroundings, the outside, and perhaps none of that exists. But the bubble we can't reach. It bends, contracts and expands around us, extends, but you can't leave it. And we really don't know - what the outside is... We die never learning. We never exit, never get anywhere and don't even know what it is, what we've observed that whole time. Something could have been projected onto the membrane that separates our cramped world from the outside. It's a deception. Our very own illusion, no one else's. We're captives of our own soap bubble and inside it's only us and our projection. We know nothing, we walk ahead until that bubble of ours bursts, and when it does, then it's too late to learn.



The younger man notices two large black bundles to one side. He approaches them. But is afraid to touch them.



THE OLDER ONE: Hate is a reliable feeling, it does not disappoint, nor diminish. Unlike love that can harshly fail us.

So a day comes, when you no longer love,

You no longer love, no longer feel , are no longer interested,

even though nothing had changed.

That doesn't happen with our dear hate, primordial and reliable,

That great and insatiable thirst.

To wake up one day, one morning, without hate,

You'd have to be completely changed, built anew,

Recreated.

And that is just too much change. Too great, too difficult.

Easier to go with the flow that plunges deeper and deeper underground,

surrender to eddies.

It is easy to hate.

And it is difficult to love and to swim upstream.



The younger man still stares at the black bundles. The older one notices the grisly ceiling.



THE OLDER ONE: Shower rooms. Rooms with butcher's hooks and piano wires.



They feel deep unease.



THE OLDER ONE: What is this situation when there is bread, but there is no future?

What is this situation when there is a shelter, but no rain, clouds, wind, sun, or snow? What is this situation when there is safety, but no freedom?

A pitiful situation.

We eat mouldy bread in our dark and dank shelter, protecting the mouthfuls and breaths in our burrow with guns and teeth.

Rain, clouds, winds, sun and snows, the treasures of our past rightly taken from us.

They now belong to someone else as we were incapable of living with them.

The future we live has been determined by another.

And he tells us:

Go, here's some bread, a tent and a gun.

Poverty is your freedom.



The younger man finally musters enough courage and leans down.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Take a look.

THE OLDER ONE: What?



They open the bundles with trepidation. Inside they find uniforms.

The uniforms have insignia - two intersected bananas. The younger man takes one out, lifts it up and looks at it.



THE OLDER ONE: What is that?

THE YOUNGER ONE: Uniforms, yeah.

THE OLDER ONE: What's that sign?

THE YOUNGER ONE: A skull and two crossed bananas. United Fruits Company.

THE OLDER ONE: What?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: That's what it says, on the insignia on the sleeves.



The older one approaches him carefully. They stare at each other for a long while, speechless, then stare at the uniforms. The older man leans down and takes a better look into one bundle.



THE OLDER ONE: There's a paper.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What is it?

THE OLDER ONE: A note from Leclerc.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What does it say?

THE OLDER ONE: He's offering us a well paid job for the United Fruits Company.



The older man goes to the window and looks outside.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What is this place?

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know. I can't see anything.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What do you mean you can't see anything?

THE OLDER ONE: Everywhere, as far as the eye can see, to the horizon and on, extends only an infinite, endless garbage dump. But don't worry. It's all recyclable material, construction material for new homelands, new potential, the gold of our future. Come and see.

THE YOUNGER ONE: No. I'm frightened by all that destruction, things scattered in the landscape.

THE OLDER ONE: What is that?!

THE YOUNGER ONE: Nothing. Not interested.

THE OLDER ONE: It's not nothing. Come and take a look.



He joins him and they look out together.



THE YOUNGER ONE: It's nothing.

THE OLDER ONE: It's only some birds circling the dump.

THE YOUNGER ONE: They're not birds.

THE OLDER ONE: What then?



Together they follow the movement outside with their eyes.



THE OLDER ONE: You're right. Those are not birds. They are drones.

THE YOUNGER ONE: What else does Leclerc say in his note?

THE OLDER ONE: Says we are now left to our own devices. That we should go and liberate our own territory. Says we'll be well remunerated for it.



They look at each other.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Never in a million years.

THE OLDER ONE: Me neither. Let's get out of here.



Frantically, they leave the room.



7.



Darkness. Nothing is discernable but their silhouettes and their voices. An ominous hum. Occasional sudden and loud noise, then silence. Occasional flashes of light, as from explosions, but soundless. We hear only the men calling out to each other.



THE OLDER ONE: Run, just run.

THE YOUNGER ONE: But in what direction?

THE OLDER ONE: I can't see anything.

THE YOUNGER ONE: It's dark, completely dark, I'm afraid.

THE OLDER ONE: Hold on a bit longer, just a bit longer.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Oh, God! What an abyss!

THE OLDER ONE: I stopped just in time. Only a step farther and all would be over. I'd end up at the bottom of it, maybe even dragging you in behind me. (Sighs.) Oh. Nearly.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Don't worry. I'll go where you go. I'm not leaving your side.

THE OLDER ONE: Yes. But imagine if I'd pulled you in. The abyss has no bottom. We'd fall infinitely.

THE YOUNGER ONE: We've anyhow been plummeting this whole time.

THE OLDER ONE: Plummeting.

THE YOUNGER ONE: And you say we'd never stop, halt, crash against the cliffs?

THE OLDER ONE: That moment, even if it did occur, wouldn't be remembered. That's how it will be. We who are falling, once we crash, won't know anything about it.



Silence.



THE OLDER ONE: Deliriums, demons, old gods.

THE YOUNGER ONE: It's all the same.

THE OLDER ONE: New gods, only just born.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Shut up about them. Don't summon them. We have enough of them as is.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: But where? In what direction?



Silence. Flashes of light without sound.



THE OLDER ONE: Through the mountain alleys, the river valleys,

then more hills and heaps, to the coast of the sea,

then with all the others who are fleeing to board the raft of Medusa,

then over the sea, like packages, to Lampedusa,

Then onwards, onwards, onwards,

Always onwards,

Wherever you're forced forwards,

The way we must take is long,

climb many stairs,

To temples,

Passing by demolished minarets,

by burnt churches,

Alongside the multitude of stairs, climb ladders, backbones,

Walk through the valley of stećak tombstones, to Ultima Thule,

Then by shortcut pass the Skull Ghoul,

this way we must flight, but only at night, so guards would not see us,

By fields of burnt tanks, trucks and school busses,

then treading through fields of housing landfill, by graves that remain still, through piles of garbage we can't see as nastiness,

but as material for new construction, a promise of new happiness.



A longer silence, then the sound of a powerful explosion.



THE YOUNGER ONE: Where are we?

THE OLDER ONE: I don't know. I haven't known in a long time.

THE YOUNGER ONE: We haven't seen any people for a while now.

THE OLDER ONE: We've seen the company's freight trains.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That we've seen.

THE OLDER ONE: Those were cattle wagons, with some arms protruding.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes.

THE OLDER ONE: Were they all dead?

THE YOUNGER ONE: No. They were waiving.

THE OLDER ONE: Ha. Good then.



THE YOUNGER ONE: What else did Leclerc's note say.

THE OLDER ONE: Nothing.

THE YOUNGER ONE: That's not true. I know there was more written.



Silence.



THE OLDER ONE: It said we'd be well paid, if we survive. And to manage on our own.

THE YOUNGER ONE: Just that?

THE OLDER ONE: To endure, because…

THE YOUNGER ONE: Yes?

THE OLDER ONE: Where we lay down will mark our grave.



Silence.



THE YOUNGER ONE: So, we've been abandoned.

THE OLDER ONE: Long since.



Gunshots can be heard. Nothing is seen, only light cutting into the darkness. Flashes of fire that briefly shine upon the landscape, then slowly fall and go out.



Close gun shots. Two short, but intense screams.



THE YOUNGER ONE: So, this is it, this?

THE OLDER ONE: Finally. Into the darkness of our lives light through bulletholes will pierce.



Quiet sobbing that slowly weakens, then falls completely silent.



THE END







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