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69 Chapter Sixty Eight - A Mountain of Pork

    Dealing with the overgrown 'pig' had not been easy, nor had it been a task for the faint hearted; Patrick fled heaving and had regurgitated all his breakfast into a bucket before collapsing.  After dealing with walking corpses, some with their guts hanging out of dry tears in their grey stomachs, he had thought he'd be able to cope, but alas it had not been so.  There had been so much blood.  Plus, their had been parasites in its sizeable length of intestines.  So in the end, it had been too much for the small man and he escaped.

    They already were aware that the mutant's hair covered skin was tough, but fortunately, most of its armour had actually been due to its abilities.  Now that it was dead, a strong and sharp blade combined with good strength was all that was required to pierce and peel back the hide.  The scent of fresh, raw meat was somewhat overwhelming and that had been the point that Tyler tactfully retired.  Aslan had long since left, carrying a curious toddler carefully by the back of her clothing like a protective mother hound.  Patrick fled soon after with Nathan following him, the latter losing interest and wanting to see what remained of his radish plants.

    Autumn was the first to admit that her butchering skills were very much on amateur levels, though she somewhat knew the theory.  Nan Li Liang also had theoretical knowledge stored in his bright mind and the pair muddled through with Dexter, Harry and with Shaun sharpening their heavy knives as best he could.  The shape of the beast was somewhat warped, with its spine now curving upwards and the peak of which topped with a hard, but flexible fin-shaped bone.  The meat attached could not be said to be like the shoulder and not like the loin.  There was a thick layer of fat as well as a thinner layer of tender meat attached to the bone.  Otherwise, the mutant's inner anatomy was not too much different to a standard swine, just much, much larger.

    Slowly, layered upon stretches of tarpaulin, a mountain of pork cuts, organs and offal appeared.  In theory, most if not all of this sea of red and white could be used, however there were certain 'theories' that they just couldn't put into practice.  Take the intestines.  It was common knowledge that casings from sausages could be obtained from them.  However, looking at the mess of long and somewhat large 'smaller' intestines, they chose to dismiss this as currently possible for them.  These, along with other pig parts that they chose not to use, were fed to the carnivorous mutant plants.

    Other parts, the lungs, brains, tongue and a few scrap cuts were placed aside to turn into dog food.  Aslan had been living on a mix of dry dog food and vegetables, the tinned food all having been finished at the end of winter.  This would be a good change of diet for him.  Having pulled out four of the largest soup pots she could find, Autumn began the long process of rendering the bones and trotters into soup stock with Tyler's aid.  The trotters were too large, so after scrubbing them and removing the remaining bristly hairs, they had to be cut up with force along with the bones before being added to the boiling and slightly salted water.

    In the meantime, the men cleaned up outside.  Chang Min had already dealt with the gaping hole in the wall as well as a luckless zombie that had wandered into distant garden.  The numbers of zombies lurking outside their boundaries had slowly increased since the snow had melted, drawn by the scent of bodies, but the number was not unmanageable, probably as they themselves were low in number.  It was likely that the army base a few miles down the road would distract most zombies attention with the more concentrated smell of living flesh there, thus leaving their own small hideaway much safer for the most part.  And those zombies that did try their walls mostly did so near the gates where the scent was thicker and the vines could not reach them.  Their patrols kept the worst of the monsters at bay so far.

    In their own garden, while Nathan gently tucked those few plants which had the tenacity to survive back into the ground and mourned the loss of several partially eaten or destroyed ones, the usually unused patio was being cleared of weeds and dead leaves.  Aslan and Lucy looked on curiously as the adult men produced a large metal thing, which they cleaned before filling its barrel like base with black stones.  Ren Zexian tossed a spark of blazing fire onto the stones after a request from Harry and they slowly heated up, just like they had in the fireplace during the cold months.  A massive slab of meat, one that could easily have equalled the small girl in length, was brought into the garden from the gap in the hedge, carried carefully by Jimmy and Arthur and taken into the kitchen.

    Lucy yawned and snuggled against the black fur of her four-legged protector, dozing in the light of the sun for a short while until a delicious scent wafted out of the kitchen, reaching her before dispersing on the cool wind.  Her small belly began to rubble in earnest.

    While she'd been sleeping, the men had transported more of the meat into the house, including Aslan's portions, taking it into the basement to keep cool until they could properly deal with it.  Autumn's pots were bubbling softly, with the impurities removed and bundles of herbs added to enhance the meaty flavour, the scent leaking out from the sealed lids.  Leftover bones were piled upon a work surface, but she hesitated making more soup with them, worried that she would run out of glass containers.  She still needed to render some of the fat in order that they had lard and oil in the future.  Not far from the bones were a small pile of steak-cuts, soaking in a thrown together marinade of chilli's, spring onions and vinegar and seasoned with a little salt and pepper to reduce the unpleasant raw smell.

    Dexter stole a kiss from Autumn's plump lips before stealing away the steaks.  A hissing sound emanated from outside and the heavy scent of barbecue began to sweep inside, drowning out the more delicate scent of her soups.  She sighed, before hurrying towards the sunroom to see what fresh leaves were ready to make a quick salad.  She also should make a soup, they would need something to help them digest the pork they insisted on eating today, otherwise, wouldn't they all just regret it later?

    Actually, she worried a little too much over it.  While a couple of them, Jonah for one and Eraj, did suffer from some stomach pangs, for the most part, they all coped with being reintroduced to meat fairly well.  In reality, it had only been a handful of months since they had last eaten something containing a bit of meat, so any side effects were minimal.  They did cut Lucy's portion up into tiny pieces and generously gave Aslan the fatty chunks that they felt the little girl would not be able to eat.  The black hound also revealed his hidden cute side, the necessary skill all pups learned at their mother's side; how to beg with large, pleading eyes.  He scored himself several more mouthfuls after this and tucked into the dry dog food poured into his bowl much more cheerfully later on.

    After the impromptu barbecue, they hovered around the warm, dying coals, discussing the other cuts of meat sitting in the basement.  The legs and shoulders were sizeable, likely would need to be cut smaller to fit in their freezer.  There were also the oversized heart, kidneys and liver, the tenderloin, ribs...

    "It's not all going to fit," Tyler announced with some certainty.

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    "We don't have enough salt to preserve it all by curing alone," Autumn mused aloud, "I know it can be smoked to help preserve it, but I've never done it myself.  Oh, I can make pork jerky though... I think."  Her mind wandered, considering the leftover spices and condiments in her stocks.  With her homemade vinegar, it just be alright...

    "What if we take some to trade?" Jonah suggested, enlightening many.  They'd almost forgotten about those plans; they wanted hens from the army base in order to gain a supply of eggs, but lacked good supplies to trade with.  Wasn't the huge shoulder or leg cuts a perfect solution to their problems?

    "Then we'll have to go tomorrow," Dexter replied.  "Don't want to leave the meat too long or it'll go bad.

    "Take some of the left over bones," Autumn suggested.  "I don't know how big the population is on the base, but there's definitely enough to make a good amount of soup for a lot of people."  She didn't say what they all felt; even with the size that monster had been, it was doubtful that everyone would be able to eat a portion of meat considering how many people lived at the base when Chang Min lived amongst them.  Besides, they weren't willing to hand over too much of their hard earned spoils.

    In the end it was decided to take a shoulder and a leg as well as half of the liver, some of the remaining bones as well as a couple of jars of the clear, ochre stock that Autumn had made.  Dexter would lead the team and Chang Min would be a part of it, after all, he knew the base better than any of them.  They just had to hope that the army base was willing to give them a chance to trade.
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