That had been a day living on his nerves. Spread out over a hot stone .. cruelly lashed by the rays of a sweltering sun …. Because he had refused to work. He had done exactly as a royal prince would have done. No slave!
But where had it got him?
Absolutely exhausted. Stuck back down in the pit. Dumped back in his hole for the night. Every muscle had ached. His skin scorched, on fire. And refused food. Even the most meagre of rations had been denied him. Sent below with a sack of water to rehydrate but not a bite to eat. Weakening him.
Over a whole day, nothing to eat. With the heat .. grilled over the stone .. baked by a cruel sun .. he was absolutely shattered. And the starvation …. Maciste knew he couldn’t go on like this. Physically exhausted … to the point of collapse. Pretty soon his strength of will would be weakening too. He had to find some better way to manage this. Otherwise ……
He had to play along. He had to keep up his strength. Bread and water. Not enough to keep him going for long. Plus he’d be put to the most exacting of back-breaking hard-work. Yothin had made it clear. He was out to break Maciste. Refusing to work .. denied any food …. Maciste was just playing into his hands.
Next day when they winched him out of his hole, Maciste gave in. He slugged back the meagre ration of stale bread. Sank most of the bowl of water. And allowed himself to be put to work.
His work-task was not hard to understand. Build a ramp from the quarry floor up to the top of the ridge.
“Fifty sacks a day.”
That hadn’t sounded much when one of Nightmare’s minder was laying it out. Pointing at the mounds of sand and stone littered around. Fill fifty sacks with sands and grit. Carry it over to the rockface. Dump it. Spread it out with some crude wooden rake. And back. Back to again shovelling sand into sacks. Humping them onto Maciste’s powerful shoulders. Trudge up through the soft sand he’d already strewed out. And spread it out again.
The higher he got, the harder to trudge up through ankle deep sand. The more sacks he filled, the further he was carrying the sacks. The longer the trudge back up the ramp .. before he started dumping the sand.
A task that got harder the more he worked.
“Fifty sacks. Shovelled up. Dumped. Spread.”
The minder’s hand was twitching. The pliable cane in his grip eager to spring into action.
“That’s your quota, scumbag.”
“For every one missing …. Two strikes with this beauty on your stinking arse.”
The sacks were huge. When full …. hoisting them up onto his shoulders …. tiring as the sun’s rays wore him down .. even for a man built like Maciste a tough challenge, he had reckoned. He was worked from first light. A quick bite of bread to break his fast. Then nothing all day. Water was always there. But hunger weakened him with every stride. The heat sapped him of strength. They worked him every sweltering hour under a pitiless sun. Hunger welcomed him with hugs. His best friend. Weakness his greatest threat.