6 Looking out
The instant they let him Sailor rushed up the path to the ledge. Another crewman raced with him. Mitch was down on all fours. After that beating. The heathen devils had cut the ropes and Mitch’s legs had given way. Falling. Landing on his knees. Then, knackered, he’d collapsed forward onto his hands.
A sickening brutal thrashing. Animals. That handler behind had laid into Mitch’s backside with his long stick. Laid in good-and-hard. With mounting anxiety Sailor had watched. The sadistic bastard had geared himself up before each strike. Set himself up .. twisting his shoulders away .. tensed up like a wound-up spring. Then the heathen bastard had let loose. With a massive grunt. Putting everything he had into the strike. Deadly force. Thwacking devastation into Mitch’s bare backside.
Pitiless. Evil. Deadly. Hitting poor Mitch with a force that knocked him forward on one foot. That sick animal made every single blow count. A hefty bugger, solid, brawny. But hard-muscled too. Hitting with the force to make eyes pop. And he’d slammed every ounce of beef on him behind each and every mind-crushing blow. Poor bugger, poor Mitch.
Sailor reached Mitch up on his ledge. On hands-and-knees, his back heaving massively as he crouched. Noisily gasping in air. The skin on his back ran in rivers of sweat. Sailor could not miss the sight of his bare backside. Crimson-red. Scarce an inch on it that did not screech in harsh grating tones .. totally covered with marks of evil red welts. The guy had to be in agony. Poor bastard. Those damned animals had done their worst.
Incredible. Now that Sailor stood behind gently raising their shipmate up, gingerly, wincing with Mitch’s every hiss of pain as they helped him .. it seemed impossible. To be hit like that .. that many times .. that brutally …. And he’d managed to keep it in. Not cried out. Not once. Looking at the sight of his whiplashed backside .. how the hell had he managed it? How the heck had he not passed out with the pain?
Sailor had thought Mitch was precious close to it a few times. He’d willed Mitch not to. He could see his tough shipmate was fighting not to give in to his pain. Sailor too willed him the strength not to give these monsters that satisfaction. Sailor had been biting his lip. Hands crunched together willing him the strength. Praying Mitch would beat these bastards at their sick game.
The look of total agony that clawed at Mitch’s face towards the end .. several times Sailor had been convinced. It had to come out. Mitch couldn’t hold it in .. not against this hellish beating.
But God-damn-it. The guy pulled it off. Amazing. Sailor could have wept for him. Tears of happiness for him. He could have shouted out. Clapped out in joy. But he hadn’t dared.
Astounding. It seemed incredible. So much pain. Hurting so much. Now that the sailor could see the damage for himself ….. utterly unbelievable. Mitch .. the tough bugger .. he had kept in in. He had held out. Man, Mitch, you’re one tough bugger.
The pair of them helped Mitch up. Warily. Hearing his pain with every move of muscle .. sharp hisses .. stabbed with daggers of agony. Several times Mitch winced out loud as his leg moved under him. A number of times he had shuddered to a halt, rigid, in pain. Unable to move further .. torture ripping apart his muscular body. Exhausted, slick with sweat. Slowly they got him upright. Gingerly they passed an arm around their shoulders. And slowly turned him. The first step nearly had him collapse onto them. They encouraged him. They spoke to him, gave him their care. One step at a time, fellow. First time a foot touched the ground .. jarring agony like a dagger into his tortured backside .. they’d quickly had to grab him .. give him their support. Or he’d have collapsed. The poor sod was done-in. Brave, tough. But the poor sod was knackered. Every move hurt.
How had he done it? Not cry out? Not surrender to their malicious torture? From the first blow the sailor had seen the shock in Mitch’s face. The force popping to his eyes .. thrown wide-open. The pain had ambushed him. His own weakness after those hours of torture in the sun .. it had surprised Mitch. Sailor had bitten down on his bottom lip. Stood only a few yards below, every crewman there heard the vicious slap of the stick on bare flesh. Every shipmate winced for him. Each of them witnessed the torture that broke through their mate’s body. Sailor had felt a shiver of fear shudder down his own legs.
The bastard in front was calling out each blow. To strike fear into the crew … tantalising them with how far it was still to that magical thirty. More ….. what was the counting doing to his brave proud mate? Jesus! Another twenty-two. Mitch had to be thinking it … Twenty-two more of those buggers to go! Already this blow had his head thrown back. The pain threw forward his hard-packed chest. The force stretched out the arms .. pumping out his tortured muscles in a stretch of agony. Mitch’s enviable muscle-power twisted in a torrent of suffering. A loud grunt escaped. Astonishing it hadn’t happened before.
The sailor was holding his breath. In terror. Not just at the body-crippling force. Somehow he thought he had caught a sign. Mitch was doing his damnedest. He was fighting back. He had nothing to fight with. He was a helpless victim. Undergoing the most brutal and fiendish attack. These devils were torturing the skin out of him. They were going for it .. with everything they had.
And Mitch had nothing. Stripped naked. Stretched out. Weakened by the sun. All morning they had worked the hell out of him, back-breaking hard work, going at him relentlessly.
But one thing Mitch still had. One thing he seemed to cling on to. His strength of mind. Sailor suddenly felt he made contact .. like he was on the same wavelength. Reading Mitch’s mind. The poor guy had nothing to his name. No weapon. Couldn’t fight back. Couldn’t break free. But like hell was he going to deny them! Like hell was he going to surrender them his pain. The guy was incredible.
Unbelievable. But vulnerable, helpless. How long could a body tortured into this weakness keep that up?
Sailor had his fists clenched tight. In fear for Mitch breaking his bloody-minded determination as much as for the obvious agonies these devils were lashing at his backside. Sailor winced. He held his breath.
Another breath-taking hit. That evil long stick pounded at the damaged muscle of Mitch’s bare backside. The poor bugger .. he had to be on fire. Sweat ran in streams off his hair. Sailor bit hard on his upper lip. He prayed. He prayed for Mitch to find the strength. He caught his breath. Mitch’s whole body lifted. His torso twisted. Agony was scrawled into every muscle in his tortured body. Shit! NO! PLEASE GOD, NO!
But Mitch hung on to it! Sailor could have wept. This man was damned tough. If only ….. PLEASE GOD! Only another four! The sailor prayed to the god he had often ignored. Imploring. Begging. Pleading. Only four more. God in Heaven. PLEASE! If there is any justice in this world .. just four more strokes .. Sweet Jesus, help him. Let him hold out! Only four more. PLEASE!
SHIT! He was doing it. Holding out. Only three more hits. God grant him the strength. Thwart these damned heathens. Give it to these brutes. God-in-heaven, PLEASE! Let’s hear it, sweet Jesus .. for one of yours! God in Heaven. Let’s hear it for Mitch. Give him the strength of will not to cry out! The strength to sock it to these heathen devils. PLEASE! Just two more hits!