It had been agony. It WAS agony. Stretched out at the post. Crushed by the merciless power of this heat. Sweat had run dry .. the temperature in his body had then rocketed. And yet still the rays of the sun laid their callous grip on him .. like an evil iron drawn out of the fire. Tortured by this pitiless heat.
Not for one second had there been a moment of release. Slapped back into agonised consciousness if Tarzan gave the slightest sign of drifting off. Tarzan craved rest .. like a parched man in the wilderness thirsting for water. Desperate for sleep .. hungering for unconsciousness. Hankering for the slightest reprieve from these agonies. Desperate for a break from this perpetual torture that had his body in a man-crippling grip.
Slapped back to awareness if he lapsed. And if recovery did not happen fast enough .. a cruel kick at the bag of rocks dangling off his nuts. Yanked maliciously back, agonisingly, terrifyingly. A sharp tugging on his tortured manliness. Maddeningly denying Tarzan his greatest desire .. a craving he’d have given his life for. Oblivion. To be allowed to sink into nothingness.
Every fibre in his body knew that it needed rest .. had to rebuilt itself. Tarzan had to find the strength to keep battling back. Denied at every chance. An evil-minded kick at that sack. Sickeningly made to cry out .. yelling out the pain of living .. aching with the torture of exhaustion .. worried by the threat to his manhood as swinging rocks heartlessly tugged him back to life.
In through his exhaustion voices had penetrated. Insidiously working their way into his awareness. Knowing those voices were talking about him. But any clear thinking was thwarted by crippling weakness. A brain than moved slower than the snail.
“He has abandoned us. Rejected us.”
Tarzan sensed as much as heard the voices around him.
“Never! I will not accept that.”
Another voice. Snapped out. Harsher in tone.
“But he is not listening. Mzanka has deserted us.”
This voice sounded whiney. Bereft of hope.
“Make him listen!”
The reply was stern. Growled.
He heard but it was hard to take in the meaning of those words. A menacing feebleness that started at the tops of his legs threatened to seep through every tortured muscle of Tarzan’s body. Spreading out like a sickness in a fiery glow .. circulated throughout the body by his blood .. a flaming fire that ate away at his every tortured fibre. Breaking him down .. crippling his body .. crushing his mind.
NO! That thought rushed like a firestorm to his brain. Crackling like a lightning’s strike. Crashing into his awareness like the thunderous fall of boulders down a cliff. Still his fighting spirit could recoil in terror before that thought. Breaking him? Crippling his mind? Breaking his will! Never! With a mighty rush of manly force, Tarzan’s spirit exploded. That would not be. He would not let that be!
He’d hung .. still, spent, exhausted .. limbs spread out at this stake. Head slumped down on his chest .. finding no strength to have it otherwise. Seemingly comatose, shattered, broken by their torture. But Tarzan’s fighting spirit had arisen .. outwardly spent but Tarzan’s angry spirit was listening in. He was learning .. knowing instinctively that forewarned was forearmed .. intent on hearing what these cruel Untula leaders planned for him.
Tarzan recognised through his weakness the chief’s scorn.
“Never! THAT will not be.”
The whiney voice belonged to the priest.
“Look. We have tried everything,” he argued. “A night on the wheel. Exposed to the sun. His manhood crying out for hours in pain. We have sent it out to Mzanka. Messages of his suffering.”
Tarzan remained inert. But his hearing noted the priest’s hopelessness. Resigned to failure.
“Mzanka does not want to know. He has abandoned the tribe.”
They were talking about him .. this excruciating torment. Their inhume torture .. as if these agonies were nothing to them. Just their way of drawing their precious Mzanka back to them. And it was failing. Somehow Tarzan was thwarting them. But the chief’s stern voice interrupted.
He snarled. A panther’s hissing snarl.
Tarzan was suddenly reborn. Where did the strength come from? What prompted Tarzan to react? It was like Tarzan’s spirit had been taken over by some outside force. Tarzan raised his head. He saw himself as if from the outside. It was like he was observing another man .. seeing a body that was not his own. Tarzan saw himself snort. That face contorted in derision. Like a mighty power had taken hold over Tarzan and was defiantly holding his head up high.
The chief growled.
“Fool! Here .. the King of the jungle .. never a better chance. What better can we find to offer Mzanka.”
The chief’s hand directed the doubting priest’s attention at the offering. He stopped in his tracks. Surprised. He hesitated. Seeing the exhausted sacrifice. Seeing it reborn. Alive. Expecting an offering broken by suffering. Finding a fighter, eyes alight. Glaring at him. On fire with rebellious life. Burning with defiance.
Shocked. The chief saw a fierce demon glaring back at him. It snarled contemptuous into the chief’s face.
As if seeing this from some other space, outside of himself, Tarzan registered the surprise on the chief’s face. A man who had not expected any such strength. A chief caught out by the fury that filled out Tarzan’s face.
“Offering? Never! Tarzan spits in Mzanka’s face.”
Tarzan heard somewhere a laugh. A contemptuous sneer. He heard himself laughing back into the chief’s wide-eyed surprise.
“Tarzan will never break.”