A pig’s life
All afternoon Sailor had trundled that wheelbarrow .. each load seemingly heavier than the last. Struggling with every round. Wilting under the punishing heat. An endless routine, back-breaking. The sun beating down on his bare head.
Painful to breathe. Every breath stinging inside his nose. Parched. Mouth full of dust and old leather. Crippling heat. Rays of a pitiless sun frying his brain. Head in a permanent whirl, like some prissy maid about to faint
Increasingly hard to put one foot in front of the other. Tripping over sharp rocks, bare feet bleeding and burning. But if he faltered some slave-handler appeared out of nowhere .. and he tasted the cane.
Each and every time he passed, Sailor looked up at the ledge. Poor Mitch? Was he still alive? Heat reflected off the rocks behind him. A vicius sun burning down on his head. The rays scorching savage into his bare skin. Roasting. Like some pig on a spit. Roasted alive. Mitch looked as good as dead.
“This is the infidel pig that dare attack Captain Rais.”
Sailor watched the slave-handler tug up Mitch’s hair. The guy was exhausted. He’d been burning up in the sun all afternoon. Those heathen bastards had left him. When the whistle had blown summoning all the crew to “move your lazy arse”, threatening with their sticks, “Back to work, dogs”, .. then Mitchell had still looked defiant and strong. Strung out for an afternoon in this heat .. it could do the worse to the toughest guy.
After that pair of evil handlers had abandoned Mitch, the sailor had already watched with increasing worry for him from under the shade of his overhang. Mitch had tried the bonds. His shoulders had peaked as he tugged at the uprights. But they were set like in rock. And for all his muscular straining and straining, Sailor could see Mitch knew he was stuck there. If he’d known they roast him for hours .. staked out like a hide put out to dry in the sun .. Sailor had wondered how much stronger he would have tested the ropes then?
Sailor had pushed his overloaded wheelbarrow back this way an hour or so later. The sight of Mitch strung out seemingly unconscious, legs twisted lifeless under him .. it got him biting his bottom lip .. in fear for him. Collapsed in the heat. Not surprising. But worrying.
Feeling guilty as hell .. Sailor knew he should be doing something .. like reminding the handlers that Mitch was still stuck there. But they needed no reminding. They knew full-well why they’d left him there .. done deliberately. Done to wear him down.
In this heat, under the torture of the rays of this sun .. how long could a man survive?
End of the day .. at bloody last. Thank God. Shattered from a whole day of back-breaking work in this heat. Kept at it by the crack of a whip. And the thwack of a handler’s stick. The crew were exhausted. But instead of being allowed back to the slave-prison, they’d been herded together underneath that ledge. Looking up at their crew-mate hung lifeless between a pair of stakes. Done-in themselves. But rounded up to stare up at Mitch.
Their mouths watered at the waste of water. A whole bucket of the precious stuff thrown in Mitch’s face. But Sailor’s heart sank. A bucketful of water in the face and Mitch didn’t even react. Was he dead? Had these evil monsters killed their shipmate? Their brave strong Mitch? The force of the water in his face knocked his head backwards. But he hung lifeless still. Animals. They’d gone too far!
A second bucket. No one, surely, was going to begrudge Mitch the water if it worked. They were all parched. All afternoon body fluids had poured out of them till every muscle ached. But it was nothing compared to the public torture of their crewmate.
A murmur of relief went up. Mitch yelled out. Punched back viciously to consciousness. And then he went mad. Animal-mad. Eyes still closed, legs broken under him still, collapsed. But suddenly every animal instinct in his muscular body was on a mad hunt for a lick of water. Rabid animal crazed by thirst.
The handler’s slap in the face resounded down to him. Sailor winced at the sound of the sting. Then the brute yanked Mitch’s head up. Tugged him face-up by the hair to the sky. He poured a bowl of water over Mitch’s face. Pivoting on the grip in his scalp, Mitch went crazy. Mouth open, searching for liquid. He was an animal trapped in the desert that suddenly found a hole full of water.
“For attacking the Captain .. ten strokes ……”
By now the sailor had watched Mitch making moves to recover. He couldn’t believe anyone could get himself back after these hours of torture. But astonishingly the tough marine had got his legs back under him. He swayed, he looked a mess. But he had planted his feet firm, legs spread, a strong base. He had to use the ropes on his arms to steady himself .. but amazing his eyes were snarling back at the handler still gripping him by the hair.
And the miracle of water seemed to have pumped up his strength of mind. At the news he was getting ten strokes of the cane, Mitch looked at the handler .. his lip curled. Amazing! To find that strength. Astonishing. Such powers of recovery. Bugger but this sod Mitch was as tough as nails.
Sailor’s heart lifted. He’d worried like crazy for his shipmate since noon. Guilty that he was not helping a mate out. These monsters had stuck him out in the sun and let the heat do its worst. Sapping him of strength. Drying out his strength of mind. Crushing his spirit.
But the evil heathens didn’t know what they had taken on. Sailor’s heart was fluttering. He’d have cheered Mitch on if he’d had the slightest strength himself.
And when Mitch heard the punishment was not finished .. he was getting ten strokes of the cane on his sun-scorched back .. DAMN IT! Mitch sneered! The sight of Mitch scorning that threat . ! Damn, it did the heart good!
Mitch’s curled lip …. His face sneered. As if in scorn. Ten strokes? What the hell! Bring it on! ..
Sailor wanted to cheer Mitch on. But he didn’t. He didn’t dare.
But his heart plummeted when the handler evilly hit back at Mitch’s disdain.
“Like this. Ten. Every day.”