Days later .. now put to back-breaking work .. his torso bore witness to the memory of their tortures. Recalling every single blow. Breaking across his muscled back. Thwacking into his muscular front. Crippling. Body-breaking.
How many times had Korak yelled out? How many times had he willed himself to pass out? Unimaginable. His whole body .. strung out at an angle … it was on fire. Every muscle burned. His head exploding with each-and-every blow. Beyond torture.
Merciless strikes across his back. Thudding his torso downwards. Pain bursting into flames on his flesh. Backwards arched, it jarred down to the earth. Reaching its limits. Jolted to a sudden stop. Pain ripped out of his shoulder joints. Cries torn out of his throat.
Thwacked from underneath. Leather snapping at straining stomach. Thrown upwards by the force. Smarting bites nipped out of muscle. Pain springing to his eyes. The strap twisted …. eagles’ claws scraped raw across his bare belly. Fires of the gods’ wrath bursting into flames. His innards torched. His head blasted apart. All awareness gone. Except a world of sweltering pain.
Would Korak ever be rid of this guilt? He’d left his friend behind. His chance to get away had been a one off. The way things are shaping up, Korak would not have got a second chance.
Besides, he’d had no idea where Nguana was. After the rape Korak hadn’t seen him again. Was it too much of a coincidence that his disappearance had coincided with the shaman withdrawing to the shrine?
Since his escape, Korak had wondered if the shaman had sacrificed Nguana to summon the gods. Supposedly Korak’s was the greater crime. Would he have put his friend to death? His cries of despair used to summon the gods to pronounce on Korak’s fate.
Korak could only wish his friend dead. Once the chief had discovered Korak had escaped, once the tribe knew Korak had eluded the gods’ wrath …. all anger would have turned on his friend. Korak did not want to feel responsible for that. And Korak still had nightmares about falling foul of that tribe’s anger.
A piece of luck. Korak had had to grab the chance. He had no doubt such a chance would not happen again. He’d spent a sleepless night. Or snatches of rest that had passed through fitful hours in an endless night. After that merciless beating they had left him bound under the tree .. inclined at an angle still. Grinding aches had hold of every cell of his body. Bruised and battered, joints strained by his weight. Left to suffer for the night. An endless night. Tortured every endless second.
Exhausted when that muscle-headed minder had come for him. The first food in hours. A tasteless gruel to build up his strength. Brackish water to replace the fluids robbed of him by that fiery heat. Barely light, he was put to chopping down a sturdy tree.
Korak remembered Nguana too had been put to hard work .. constantly berated by the old women for whom he’d chopped firewood .. demanding his hide be whipped for laziness.
Korak too was under constant pressure. Menaced at, growled at. It was his own muscle-head of a minder that made sure guards kept on at Korak. Not a second to catch his breath. No account taken that his every muscle was riven with pain. Or that he was exhausted from a restless night.
His day’s routine .. pitiless hard work in the humidity of the day, beaten mercilessly, then tortured for the night.
The tree had been cut down. Branches were ordered stripped off. Then a length was measured and Korak’s aching muscle was ordered to cut the tree to size. He began to get curious then. Not chopping up firewood, it seemed.
Another was snarlingly ordered. Another tree chopped to the same size. By the time Korak had been made to haul single handedly both hefty trunks bank to the village and dumped them in the middle of the compound, Korak had got an inkling. He was building his own torture frame. Later his severe punishments would all kick off again.
Korak could only wish Nguana dead. Weeks after eluding his tortured death, Korak still could wake up screaming in the night, dowsed in sweat. He must have taken over twenty on his bare back .. strung-out at that angle. Packed with pitiless force. Brute force, hefty swipes. Korak had felt that handled strap. His dreams awoke him still at the sound of its menacing growl. Even now could shiver.
He had been beyond counting. He’d lost focus of the number of times his minder had broken his temper across Korak’s front. Mercilessly hit. The strap slashing under-hand .. pitiless force throwing Korak upwards. Eye-watering stings across his straining belly. Then crying out as gravity grabbed him back. Jarring downwards. Agony wrenched out of his armpits. Pain shrieking the length of his torso as he jolted to an agonising halt.
Honoured for this occasion, their champion. Giving the tribe the image of their darling warrior doing what they most craved. Hearing Korak burst out with unstoppable cries. Seeing Korak broken with the pain. His manliness put to shame as he bellowed out the pain.
And each strike sent a rush of fire up through his insides. That evil goo. Some toxic concoction. Korak had genuinely felt like there were fires inside his gut. The rush of intense heat had seared the linings from his lungs, it felt. He couldn’t breathe. The way wildfires could stuck the oxygen out of the air as it crashed through the trees.
Korak had all respect for his father. The things he had endured in evil men’s hands. But had Tarzan ever been subjected to anything so evil?