Routine? No routine. There was no predicting. When Maciste was being winched out of his hole at first light, he never knew what awaited him. Straight to work. Or hours astride the wedge.
Maybe a full day’s back-breaking labour .. worked to the bone. Or hauled away with the sun as its height and stuck back in that sweat box. Sweating every drip of strength away with the trickles that drained down his flanks.
Yothin kept him on his toes. Never knowing what the next hour would bring. An array of tortures that buggered the imagination. Worst of all, …… those needles pushed deep into muscle .. poison injected. The blood carrying it throughout his muscled flesh. Weakening. Crippling.
All pushing Maciste to the extreme. And never knowing. Constantly caught out. An ordeal for his nerves as much as his physique. Yothin working his mind as much as he tortured his body.
Days he’d been building that damned ramp. A meaningless activity. Just a means to work him into the ground. Exhaust him. Punish him. Fifty sacks a day .. sacks he could hardly heft onto his shoulders by the middle of the day. And every day he’d supposedly missed that target. And supposedly deserved to get his arse strapped.
Sore as hell, bruised and battered. Every step through the deep sand up the ramp hurting like mad. The muscles in his whiplashed arse screaming for him to stop.
But there was no reprieve. Except to suffer more. Yesterday with the sun at its highest guards had come for him and made him mount that wooden wedge again. His whiplashed arse seated astride that wedge-shaped tree trunk. For hours .. the sun cruelly biting at his skin .. draining his strength. The agony in his crotch having Maciste clench his fists together. He promised himself .. over and over he repeated it to himself. He’d hammer those self-same fists into Yothin’s face.
But in truth his ragged fingernails were digging into the palms of his hands to divert the pain. Away from that grinding torture in his balls that had him gritting his teeth together until his jaws too ached like crazy.
A shower of water brought him back. The heat had drained him of all strength, he’d passed out. But only for a moment. The guards, ever watchful .. ordered by Yothin to screw the maximum suffering out of him .. they’d had a bucket of water ready.
As punishment for “slacking off”, they’d then enclosed his head in a heavy canvas hood. No air, straightaway the sweat streamed off his hair. Only a small hole around his mouth. The air inside quickly heating up, made to breathe in his stale expended air. Light-headed, tears flowing. Panic threatening to rise in his blood as he found it hard to get enough life-sustaining air.
Today he was delivered to the ramp. And the guards ratcheted the punishing labour further up. A change in routine .. when was there not? Fill a massive sack with sand and grit. Go fill two buckets with water from the well. Pour one bucket into the sack. Fill another sack with sand while the water soaked into the first.
Made to soak the sand in the second sack, then heft the first water-logged sack onto his shoulders. Weightier than before. Struggling to stand. Taking too long to get it up on his back. Slashes with stinging canes across the backs of his trembling thighs.
Trudge up the ramp, hobbling. Feet sinking into ankle deep rock and sand. Dump the water-heavy sand and spread it around. The primitive wooden rake inadequate to the task. Taking long, the wet sand wouldn’t move. On hands and knees spreading around the sodden sand. Taking ages.
Hobble back down for the second sack, struggle it up onto his shoulders. Ugly’s leather strap waiting gleefully .. taking too long, not trying hard enough. And burning with the lashes, stumbling under the ponderous weight, Maciste had slogged his way back up.
Repeated endlessly all day. The sun getting higher, the temperature soaring. The weight in the sacks increasingly heavier .. seemingly impossible. It took extra time to fetch water from the well .. stumbling, shattered. Then it took forever to the top of the ramp. Frustratingly difficult to spread wet sand around.
And still the target remained fifty. Failed to meet his quota. When had he not? Maciste’s arse had paid for it that day.