Mind-crippling pain. Agony strangled out of every sinew. Muscles in chest, arms, neck …. crunched in a vice of body-wrenching torment. An endless night of torture. Unthinkable pain. Unbearable agonies. Staring into an never-ending tunnel that terminated in bleak despair.
“They ask for food
…… Give it ‘em!”
The captain had instructed the four guards left to guard the traitors. Armed with spears to keep the frenzied public at a distance.
“Water? No problem. As much as they crave.”
To keep them alive, Maciste had thought. To prolong their agony.
That had been ages ago. Countless hours of intense pain. Maciste looked out over darkness. Nothingness. Opposite, by the moonlight, Maciste dimly saw Tiradates. He was seemingly unconscious. Irrationally Maciste was seized by envy. The man who was the cause of all these agonies .. he was out of it. Not suffering the torture that had Maciste’s whole body screaming out in unbearable pains.
Such resentment was crazy.
Maciste himself had blacked-out.
He had finally passed out with the grinding pain. All night he had been passing in-and-out of
consciousness .. coming round in dismay to find himself
gripped in this tortured reality. All
this endless night.
But seeing Tiradates, unconscious, in the blessed state of not experiencing these agonies .. Maciste’s resentment flared. All his fault. Maciste shared Tiradates’ punishments. Yet it felt like he alone had been conscious, he alone had suffered. Tortured out of his mind. In intolerable agonies every single moment since darkness had fallen. And night had descended an agonised eternity ago.
It seemed like it was hours ago since he had resurfaced from
unconsciousness. But it was probably
only minutes. His burning brain could
recall the growing dread as it realised it was coming back to life. Coming out of the blessed depths of
oblivion. Dreading facing reality. The truth.
Tortured at this angle on a cross.
With each inch as his awareness came back, his consciousness was seized with dread. A panic. Fighting to claw his way back down. Fleeing from consciousness. Fingernails scrabbling back down, down into obliviousness. But the upward pull of pain persevered.
Breaking through .. his awareness breaking the surface .. a cry of torture flushed up the length of his body. Agonies burst into life in every fibre of his being. His spirit plummeted .. collapsed into despair. He hurt. His muscled torso screamed back. He hurt like hell. There was not a single inch of him that was not crippled .. seized in body-breaking pain. Crushed with will-breaking tortures.
The mob had departed. Nothing exciting was happening. No entertainment from two muscled rogues languishing in agonies on a cross. They had not come prepared for this. No rotten vegetables to chuck, no horseshit picked up. A few clods of earth were seized and thrown. But when a stone was lobbed, hitting Tiradates on the chest ….. the nervy captain ordered his soldiers to push them back. Way beyond stoning distance. And where was the fun in that?
With the onset of darkness
.. the victims secure from any
revenge from a mob .. the captain ordered his men back to barracks. Only four armed guards left. Food and water. In case the prisoners demanded
Maciste had decided. The gods were not going to rescue him. No chance of getting out of this alive. Menander’s army was far away. Maciste was dying here. Nothing to eat he told himself. He’d not drink. How long it took for a tough male warrior to die of starvation? He did not know. Too long, he feared. He’d not prolong that faraway point by taking on food.
Spirits low .. lower than he’d ever known .. shamefully low. Yothin had tried to break his will in Hellgate, he’d failed. But this …..? Maciste stared in agony into an endless torture. His life had been challenging. It had had its ups-and-downs. But it ended here. And .. uncharacteristic for his nature .. it could not end fast enough.
Hellgate had been murderous.
Worked into tortured exhaustion. Brutalised,
tortured. Sat astride that wedge ..
agony eating up his balls .. suspended off the ground, beaten, mercilessly
But there had been breaks. There had been respite. Overnight in his underground pit, his spirit had found the will to collect itself. His powers of recovery had gained the strength to battle another day.
But Vologases had devised a new hell. Designed this seething revenge on
Tiradates. And what Tiradates endured,
Maciste shared. No let-up. Not for one single waking moment. Worse than Hellgate. Unrelenting.
Not a moment’s respire.
Maciste must have been swung forward off this cross like this …. for what? Six, eight hours? Tortured the whole breadth of his upper body …. Arms pulled back .. grinding agony inflaming every muscle .. torture pumped into every sinew.
That metal spike crunching into his crotch .. seeming to cut him in half from his balls up …..
Whatever Maciste had tried, there had been no relief. He’d managed to haul on his wrists .. pull
himself upright. But he could only hold
himself there by putting tortured arm muscle to work. Quickly it gave up the will to fight and
collapsed him back down again.
Demoralising. Agony. Everywhere. Even his brain seemed to be bursting with the pain.
The tortures that Vologases had devised for Tiradates .. the
agonies Maciste was forced to share
…. They had Maciste more
exhausted than he could ever remember.
Life had often been tough, he’d been subjected to more physical
challenges than most men .. Hellgate had been murderous …..
but this had been relentless.
For almost a day every fibre of his body had suffered the most extreme pains. Barely about to grab a breath before the next excruciating punishment swamped him with pain. Maybe Vologases was using Tiradates as a lesson .. warning other generals who might disappoint. But whatever the cause, Tiradates …. and Maciste was condemned to sharing that fate …… the disgraced general was sentenced to dying in total agony. Prolonged, excruciating agony.
Merciless. Agony filled Maciste’s
every breath. Agony flowed fiery through
his veins. In life, battling, he’d faced
death innumerable times in life. But
he’d always fancied he’d die with his sword in his hand. He’d go down fighting. But this
And the shame. Tortured out of his will …. he’d given up the fight. Shamed that his tough manly spirit knew it could not take any more of this. He was willing himself to die. Prepared to end it all.
But any dying would be days away. An interminable eternity away. In his helplessness his eyes scoured where the horizon should be. Looking for some slight signs of first light. In the blackness, he had nothing to divert his brain. Nothing to take him even for one second away from the grinding pain that shivered in every muscle. Tortured every sinew. Scorched an agonised path of helplessness through his guts.
In the darkness Maciste heard Tiradates groan. But he could not make him out .. was
he too coming round? Tiradates ….
Maciste had brought this on himself.
Surrender to the Parthian, save the hostages, then get away free …..
that had been his plan. It had
failed. Tiradates had made sure it failed.
The one positive glimmer of light …. Menander had broken free, returned home, driven the Parthians out. Maciste had surrendered to Tiradates claiming to be Menander. That much had worked. He knew his prince, he knew Menander would have surrendered himself .. to save the women. Maciste had forestalled anything so rash. That part of Maciste’s plan had worked.
Something positive. Something worthwhile. Maciste’s actions had done some good. But all that planning had landed him here. In the depths of tortured despair. In agony. Seeing his will breaking .. breaking under the prospect of this torture enduring for many more days. And, shamefully, already he was willing it to end. Shamefully gutless.
End? No chance of that. Not in a long time. Vologases did not wish it so. Maciste scoured the distance. Not spying the slightest sign of first light. Looking out on an endless desolate tunnel. A bleak prospect that ended only one way. But between this cross and the end of that tunnel of hopelessness was an eternity of torture and despair.