A pig’s life
It was baking hot. The sailor didn’t believe such heat. Stinking hot. You could hardly breathe. He’d served the navy for over five years. Many years patrolling around the West Indies. That had been hot, he’d have thought it couldn’t get hotter than that. But it had been nothing by comparison.
Dry. Over-heated. Not an ounce of humidity in the air. He wouldn’t have though anything living could survive in this blistering heat. Not something human. The soles of his feet burned like crazy. Sand, grit, rocks .. scorching their heat into his bare feet. Get too close to a boulder .. a searing burn .. smarting .. drove you mad all day. This heat was torture.
These bastards had given the word to take a break .. sun straight overhead. He had found himself a huge rock and crept in under its overhang. Feeling like he would fry alive if he didn’t get out of this damned cruel sun. The waterboy wouldn’t let him have as much as he needed, there were others to get around to. He felt he could have drunk his body weight in water. And still kept going. This damned heat!
He hadn’t noticed the frame earlier. Standing on a wide ledge above the quarry floor, about head height above. No reason to spot it. Not till he saw the pair on handlers shoving poor Mitch along. Along a path leading to the posts. He looked done in. No wonder. He had noticed all morning how that pair of mean minded bastards had been around him, like pesky flies in the summer, pestering him every moment. By contrast the rest of the crew had been put to work and mainly left to it.
That damned wheelbarrow Sailor had trundled and emptied all morning seemed to get heavier with every hour that bastard of a sun rose higher. But most of the time he’d been left to himself. Every now and then some brown bastard had got it into his head and threatened him, cracking his whip. Only a few stinging times had it landed.
Not so poor Mitch. That pair of minders had been on his back every second. Those canes of theirs must have landed dozens of times. His bare back had to be stinging raw under this sun. From under his rock Sailor watched them jostled Mitch up the path to the ledge. He knew Mitch was a tough bugger, strong and dogged. But his proud muscular body looked exhausted. Like he could hardly put one foot in front of the other. Shuffling along rather than his strong manly gait. No wonder the way that pair of evil bastards had been on at him. No let-up. Breathing down his neck with their canes every damned second.
At the frame, from the shade of his overhang, he watched as Mitch was shoved between the two uprights. Each handler grabbed a wrist and began fastening his arms to cords hanging down from rings on posts. Shattered, Mitch was putting up no fight. Poor bugger didn’t look like he had it in him.
He might have looked done-in .. couldn’t fight back. But Sailor noticed Mitch’s stance. Head upright, shoulders back as his outstretched arms were pinned out. There was something mighty familiar about his posture. In the breadth of his proud shoulders. The way his hard packed chest still seemed to be unbowed. Done-in but not broken. Or sure as hell not going to show it.
How could he look unbowed? But watching Sailor grinned to himself as he saw his shipmate was still the man he’d crewed with. Amazingly .. after being worked into the dust all morning .. in this infernal heat .. his spirit seemed unbroken. Somehow! His muscular chest thrust forward even as he was being roped between these posts. Stuck out in this blistering heat. Again poor Mitch was getting more of their shit!
It seemed unending their sadistic cruelty. Where did men find so much meanness in their hearts? But the way Mitch looked right now .. Sailor could see they’d not broken him yet. Chest high, belly sucked in .. Sailor smiled to himself .. every inch the sturdy warrior Sailor knew him for. Good for you, Mitch! Somehow .. after all that pair of bastards had put him through .. his spirit looked unbent. Bloody unbelievable!
Watching them .. taking in Mitch’s circumstances …from the relative shade of his rock .. Sailor now got a sense of dread rumbling in his gut. Seeing poor Mitch. Stuck on that ledge. In the full glare of a pitiless sun. Arms roped out to the side. Tied to the posts. Those evil sadists were fixing him to that frame. The mean-minded heathens. They were going to bake him alive!
They didn’t like his attitude. They were going to burn it away! Unbelievable. Could such pitiless cruelty exist? Roast a fellow human being alive! The sailor watched. Horrified. They’d all heard a lot about these Arabs. About what would happen if they got taken captive. Drink-talk. Stories narrated in the taverns that got blown up in the telling. But he was seeing it for himself.
Tiredness was eating up his own body. Seemingly endless hours Sailor had toiled in that sweltering heat. Life on a naval ship, trimming sails in tropical heat – it had been no church picnic. Hard work. You ran sweat. You and your mates stank of old sweat and grime.
But at sea there’d always been a breeze. Here it was airless. What you breathed in stung inside your nose. Your mouth dry as old leather. Unconsciously Sailor again tried to pull his legs in. Most of his body was protected from the harsh rays by the rock. But his legs were out. Burning. The sun was straight overhead. Pitiless. Sailor wanted to get his legs under cover. But he couldn’t. Nothing living should be out in this merciless sun.
But Mitch was, poor bugger. No shade for him. Those evil minded heathens had staked him out. Stuck him .. already exhausted from relentless brutality and hard labour .. pinned the poor sod out in that heat. Under that pitiless sun. Roped him there so there was no escape. No getting away from those merciless rays. Frying him. The evil monsters.
All morning, they had been down his neck .. every second .. wearing him down. Now they meant to bake the poor sod alive? Fry his brains. Burn off his strength of will. Roast the very soul out of the poor bugger. Heathen bastards!