Tortured, Tarzan looked up into the unconcerned features of the chief. He had dropped down to his knees, planted either side of Tarzan’s hips. An act of domination. A gesture of dominion over this gift to Mzanka’s might. Getting a whiff of the suffering that would summon their overlord. Invite him to be drawn to the torments of this body-slave. Their humble offering.
His hand on Tarzan’s chest. As if he was seeking out the heartbeat .. pulsating wildly at this torture .. stretched to breaking point. Desiring to be in touch with Tarzan’s pain. Feeling the heat of his agonies. Breathing in the smell of sweat from his victim’s fears.
Tarzan was in agony. Every bit of his torso was screaming out its pain. Teeth gritted, jaw clenched tight .. Tarzan tried to put an insolent look into his eyes. Knowing that they were running with tears. Tears from this agonising stretch. Not one bit of his body did not screech with torment. Suffering to summon their Mzanka. Ironically calling this Mzanka to the meeting Tarzan had once wished for himself.
Suffering. That evil thought. That was what this was all about. His suffering to summon that Mzanka .. whoever, whatever that was.
“Can you smell him, Mzanka?”
Tarzan looked curious up into his enemy’s face. But the chief was peering upwards. Tarzan followed his gaze. Up there, beyond the gloominess of the cave, up in the roof of this cavern. He saw nothing, he could smell nothing. Nothing but the rank smell of his pained sweat.
“Mzanka, can you smell his fear?”
Tarzan squinted. He peered through the agony of the stretch that had his whole body crying out for relief. Glanced upwards into the gloom. Stars? Did he see stars? Painted on the roof of the cavern? No. A great gaping hole in the roof of the cave. Tarzan was peering up through a hole on the roof. Seeing stars. And this chief was looking up there. Too.
“Can you feel his pain?”
Communicating with this Mzanka.
What was this thing, this Mzanka? Not a man, he had been told with scorn. Greater than any man. In his torments his imagination ran wild. A giant snake? Was the chief summoning some constrictor to come and join Tarzan on the wheel? Disconcertingly Tarzan’s thoughts turned to a colossal spider. Slithering down its web to feast on Tarzan helplessly stretched out.
“Mzanka. Come. Is this offering worthy of your greatness?”
Tarzan shuddered. Feeling the presence of something spooky. Against which he was in no position to defend himself.
Tarzan had his teeth gritted. Joints in his armpits and his hips felt like they were zinging, at breaking point. Muscles straining, tendons pulled, tremors setting in. Arched backwards over the pinnacle of this giant drum. Like hell could he hide the agonies raging through his body. Nothing could suppress the dread that given one mistake, another tug on the wheel, something would give. With the chief down on his knees lurking over his face, still Tarzan was desperate like nothing on earth not to show he was hurting.
Hurting like mad. Still he wanted to defy. But he couldn’t, like this he never could. The pains were just so intense. Instead he cast his eyes above .. looking up through the hole at the stars above. He didn’t want to believe some monstrous spider was going to descend slowly onto his face. But the pains in every over-stretched bit of his body had his mind in turmoil. He could believe in anything.
Looking up he avoided looking with agonised eyes into the chief’s gaze. He clenched his teeth tight together, he stared doggedly upwards avoiding the chief. But he felt that hand clamped clammy and needy on Tarzan’s chest, right over his heart. He had to feel the pounding. Arched over backwards, it felt to Tarzan like his heart was thumping right up against his ribs.
“Mzanka. A sign. Bless your tribe with a sign.”
The chief’s other hand was on Tarzan’s throat. Holding him, squeezing him.
“Come. See the offering we bring to you.”
Tarzan felt the chief’s hand move. Travelling over his upper chest.
“Offered to serve you.”
The hand had reached Tarzan’s armpit.
“Do you smell his fear?”
Fingers rubbed in the sweat drenched hairs.
“Do you see His fear of your mightiness?”
Tarzan was fighting. Battling to stay in control of his pains. Struggling to keep his head above a turbulent sea of white-hot foam that threatened to drown his thinking. For a moment he again struggled to understand what or who this Mzanka was. Then he yelped.
The chief dug his thumb in. Into the sweat-matted hair. Finding by previous experience the tender point. Digging his thumb in. Gouging out pain. Wringing a pained cry out. Offering up the suffering of this victim.
“Hear him, Mzanka. He calls to you. He sends you the gift of his pain.”
The overload of pain was mind-crushing. The thumb dug deep. Gouging out pain from the nerve. Tarzan’s head swung madly from side-to-side. Pain upon pain. Head swinging uncontrolled between raised arms .. framed by shoulder joints screeching from an intensity of tortured pain.
With spirit-breaking dismay Tarzan heard the chief’s order smash through his agonies.
Under him he felt the drum shiver. Men down by the side grunted into the effort. Turning the drum. Racking the offering. Tarzan called out in fear. Fearing the worst. Fearing that with any movement something would give. Rip. Tear apart.