He was a solid-looking brute. Stood there like he owned the place. A muscle-head .. stood head-and-shoulders above most men. Maciste would have taken him on .. under normal circumstances. But cautiously. He’d not have been a push-over. He had bulk. He had muscle. And that look on him …. he had attitude.
Under normal circumstances …… but the way Maciste felt ….. days on this cart ….. aching all over …. Maciste hardly felt normal. He’d barely moved a muscle in days. The thought of tackling all that bulk …. Realistically, Maciste wouldn’t rate his chances ……
Ugly ….. the dickhead that had been pushing his weight around these past days …. slapping Maciste around in exchange for a bowl of water ….. flicking at his balls …. laughing in Maciste’s face when Maciste had threatened back …. Mocking the futility from a prisoner who could barely move a muscle … squeezing on his balls, to make a point …… Ugly, he wasn’t in charge. Just some lackey. The real threat was this muscle-brute. He DID own this place.
The cart had been stopped some time. The last part, down in the narrow ravines .. no wind, no air, a hellhole ….. the heat had been crippling. He had thought he had nothing left in his body to sweat out. The heat of the day had driven his body wild. Dehydrated, delirious with weakness, no sweat in him left, his body temperature had just soared. His head on fire.
Then the cart had stopped moving. Had they arrived? Had these bastards got him to the gates of hell?
“Get ya’re fucking arse offa there.”
Maciste had felt hands on his restraints. Freeing him. After days inert, agony burst like fire-crackers bursting in his body when he lowered his arms. Nothing had moved in days. Every muscle inert. The freedom to move was sheer torture.
A hand was suddenly around the scruff of his neck. Yanking him forward. Every muscle had shrieked out. Every muscle that had barely moved in days. Pushed, thrown off the cart. Maciste was tumbling. Falling into space. The earth rushed up and thudded into his body. Every joint stiffened. His every muscle frozen-stiff.
The thwack of sun-burnt earth into his body made him cry out. An explosion of pain in his every fibre. A body-crippling burst of agony shattered in his brain. Nothing could move. Every bit of him stiffened by immobility. His every fibre crippled by body-crushing pain.
They grabbed and dragged him. Next thing Maciste knew, he was being dragged over the sun-baked earth. Its heat on his body felt intense. A knee planted itself on his chest. Hands were on him again. His wrists again were restrained. He felt it happening … knew it was happening – but like it was happening to some other person. He was exhausted, drained. How they got his hands restrained again .. a mystery to him. But again he was being dragged. His back was being scraped by a harsh sunburnt surface. Sharp grit dug at his flesh.
A brief respite. The painful cutting into his skin had stopped. He was not being dragged. Maciste grabbed a moment to recover. His senses lost. Not knowing where he was, what was happening to him. Since being thrown off the cart, torment had assailed his powerful male body. But he couldn’t help himself. Hard to cope. But still the warrior spirit was bawling him out. Time now to get a grip.
He was tall, broad-shouldered, stood under what Maciste recognised as a punishment frame. Sturdy uprights and crossbar, the posts looked strong enough to double as whipping posts. They had locked eyes while the cart drivers were releasing Maciste’s ankles from the post on the cart. He stood, confident, dominating, under the threat of a torture frame. Arms folded across a high-thrown chest, emphasising the knots of muscle in his belly underneath.
He could dominate most men. Not just by that defined muscular bulk. Or the height. There was a menace about the man. Most men would look away when his gaze turned on them. Maciste kept his look locked on the man .. instinctively sensing the danger of showing any sign of weakness.
Maciste would take him on in a fight if needs-be. But now this could never be a fair fight as he was. His feet were free, the drivers were freeing his hands from the ring behind Maciste’s head. But Maciste had not offered to move. He was stiff, stiff all over, stiff right into his deepest core. It felt as though the insides of his legs had been nailed to the sides of the post. He hesitated to move .. there’d be no disguising then how he felt.
It had taken three days nearly. Not for one second had he been released from this post. Stood tied hands and feet. Hardly a bite to eat in two days. Weak. Like his stomach was glued to his backbone. Water rationed to him .. despite the heat. Wearing him down, tiring him out. What sleep he’d got in the night was fitful .. shivering in the desert cold .. waking up to severe cramps in his raised arms .. brought back to the endless night when his collapsed body dug strain out of his shoulder joints.
The drivers released his arms, gravity threw them down to his belly. Maciste hissed. Every muscle in his body sizzled .. like thrown into hot fat. When he opened his tight-clenched eyes, that gaze was still rooting him to the post. Stood under a torture frame. Cold, emotionless. Observing Maciste’s every grimace as the stiffness crunched up muscle and shuddered through joints.
“Shift your arse!”
A guard shoved Maciste off the post. His first step ricocheted pain up his leg. He grunted. Another push knocked him against the sideboard of the cart. Maciste overbalanced .. muscles too stiff to control himself. The driver made sure. A shoulder barge toppled Maciste over the side. He tensed. Nothing he could so, too slow. Hitting the sun-baked earth with a hard slam. Thrown by the pain onto his side. Winded.
A hard kick knocked Maciste over on to his front. He released a long broken groan .. muscles protesting at the sudden move. A foot pressed down on the back of his neck, pinning his face in the earth. As he spluttered to catch his breath.
At the other end he knew hands were on his ankles. He felt cord cinched tight around his legs. But there was nothing he could do. Shattered. Fighting for breath.
He was being dragged. On his front, by his legs. Hands on his ankles .. dragged on his chest over the hard-baked earth. Over to where he remembered that muscle-stud had been standing. Over to the torture frame.