by John Savage
Pursued by a sheriff, then a relentless band of bounty hunters, Luke flees with his captive, a beautiful young woman, farther and farther into old Mexico until he becomes lost in the uncharted jungles where Mayan ruins lay hidden under the green canopy. There he comes upon a hidden tribe of natives who fled the coming of Cortez and have been hiding ever since, keeping their old ways alive. But those old ways included the sacrificing of young maidens atop a stone altar at the first light of dawn on special holy days.
Susan is taken from him by a wicked white man who has been accepted into the tribe because his cruelty matched their own. At his hands and those of the sadistic natives, she undergoes suffering and anguish so her pain will please their gods. She is bound, whipped, tormented and used in sexually abnormal ways to please both the gods and the lust of men.
And as her suffering continues, she is aware that the day is drawing close when her whipmarked and battered body will be sacrificed.
** First published in paperback c1996
A priest walked up and stood next to Susan. “Ah, time to begin,” Wolfgang said. Then he stepped back and waved a generous hand as if offering the naked woman to the priest.
Her leash was taken and she was led out of the room. As she neared the door, Wolfgang called to her across the room, “Have a nice day!”
Susan Waistcote did not have a nice day.
She was led to the square where the night before she had seen a maiden suffering from cruelly tight ropes twisting her body into a painfully unnatural position. The first thing she noted was that the young woman was gone; the space between the four short posts was bare. She had to wonder if the scream that had awakened her that morning was the same woman meeting her final fate. Very likely.
Looking to the jungle around the buildings, she calculated how far she might get before a native spear plunged into her back. The man holding her rope leash did not seem to be expecting anything but a submissive, docile prisoner. She might be able to jerk back and make a dash for the greenery beyond the square. And if she failed in her grab for freedom, well, a quick death was preferable to a slow one.
Just as she was about to tense her muscles and make her play, a voice in her ear told her, “It would not be wise.”
Susan turned her head to find Wolfgang walking along side. “What would not be wise?” she asked, trying to calm her beating heart.
“Running for it. I can read your mind. And you’re wrong on both counts. You could not outrun them, and they would not kill you. They’ll simply run you down and the drag you back. And you know what they would do then? A punishment far worse than what was going to happen to you.” He was grinning. “They do not like to encourage captives to try to escape, so the punishment for an attempt is rather harsh.”
“Harsher than sacrificing me to the sun god?” she asked sarcastically.
“Not quite, but a lot more painful.”
“You’re a sick bastard.”
“Now, now, you shouldn’t insult one of the high priests. Honorary, of course, but still a member of the ruling class.”
“You can go to hell!”
He laughed. “And you’ll feel like you’re in hell! I’ve seen what these people can do to make a girl suffer. I’ve even added a few new tortures to their arsenal. But they didn’t need any help. They’ve been refining that art of torture over the centuries. Make the Spanish Inquisitioners look like choirboys.”
No tart reply came to her lips. She was too scared to think of one.
“Ah, here we are. They will start you off with a simple one. Later, when you’re used to the mild torments, they’ll increase the severity. Have to keep you fresh and in enough pain so that you will show the gods how good their people are.”
The conversation broke off there because Wolfgang stepped back to allow the guards to move Susan into the middle of the square. She was pushed down to the bricks until she was sitting with her legs stretched out before her. Then they took off her shoes, having trouble with the laces. Apparently they were not used to shoes that tied. But finally both shoes and the tattered remains of her socks were tossed aside, and a man began binding her ankles together. When he had wrapped rope around the ankles a dozen turns, he cinched it down and then ran the rest of the rope over to the post straight in front of her. He passed the end of the rope through a hole in the top stone and around it. Then he stood by with the rope in his hands, waiting for something.
Meantime, someone behind her was tying rope around the rope already on her wrists. That rope was passed through the hole in the post behind her. At an order from one of the priests, both men pulled on the ropes.
Susan felt her arms being pulled out behind her at the same time as her feet were being pulled forward. The tug was relentless and she felt her arms going farther and farther behind her. Eventually the movement stopped, but the pressure remained. She was leaning backwards, resting on her hands with her arms propping her up. Her legs were straight out in front of her. It felt as if they were trying to pull her apart. Her shoulders began to ache, the strain being the worst there. It was not a comfortable position to be tied in.
It was also not the most terrible form of torture. Susan had to wonder if something else would be done to her to increase the pain. Something much more unpleasant than being stretched between two posts. But nothing more was done. Most of the guards and priests who had accompanied her disbursed to other tasks, leaving only two guards who took positions outside the square on which she sat and already looked bored.
It was early morning and already the day was hot. The humid air of the jungle valley did not help one’s comfort, either. She bowed her head and wished that they had at least untied her arms. Even if it was only to tie her a different way, it would have been nice to get those aching elbows apart.
There was more torture, but Susan did not discover its nature until later in the morning when she began to have visitors.