Today is not a good day to die. The sky is dull grey; low clouds glower. It is freezing cold, and tiny spots of rain drift from the sky to torment my bare skin like needles of ice. I am stark naked, not a stitch of clothing from head to toe: worse, my hands are tied tightly behind my back, preventing me from seeking modesty as I am led out across the town square. White vapour rides my breath, my skin tightens with goosebumps, my nipples stand like rosy thimbles. Tears have washed clean trails down my grubby face.
I am met by a large crowd, several hundred onlookers. They part for me, their voices hushing, eyes fixing on my naked body, as I am guided towards the scaffold. I keep my eyes down, not wanting to look at the machine that awaits me up there.
Bewitchment. That is the crime of which, by my own admission, I am guilty.
Lord Durham was the 'victim;' a wealthy, prominent landowner, as infamous as he was unpopular, but one who bought the favours of judges, priests, and the town mayor with gifts and gratuities. For ten years – since the age of sixteen, I had seen him riding around town, and always averted my eyes.
I am led, by my guards, to the base of the scaffold, and, with hands still tied behind me, I begin to climb the cold, slippery wooden steps. My legs barely support me, my body shaking with fear. I can hear the crowd talking, voices casual; to them, this is just another execution. Tonight, for them, life will go on, food will be eaten, ale sipped. Tonight, I will be dead.
I had been walking home from a long day working, when I heard Lord Durham's horse approaching. As I glanced up, he dismounted. Saying nothing at all, he pulled me into a narrow lane between two houses, and at once began clawing at my bodice. It took me a moment to realise what he intended, but when he tried to put a hand inside to touch my breast, I pushed him back.
“No, Sir!” I shouted at him, and ran at once for the street. Cursing, Lord Durham chased me; but as I stumbled into the glow of street-lamps, I caught the attention of my fellow townsfolk. They registered shock at seeing my disarrayed clothing, and scandal followed as Lord Durham appeared, red-faced and out of breath. I pointed. “He tried to ravish me!” There were gasps, and Lord Durham was at once climbing to his horse, and riding quickly away.
Shaken, but unharmed, I returned to my home. I had almost forgotten the incident, when, hours later, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to receive, in shock, the Constable and two of his guards.
“Take her in,” he instructed them. Fortunately, I was dressed; for without any delay, they pulled my hands behind my back and secured them with rigid iron manacles, then led me from my house, not even locking the door.
“Please! What have I done?” I protested, but a curt reprimand from one of the guards cautioned me to be silent. I was marched, under their escort, to the Court House. There, by the light of oil-lamps, my name was written as an entry in a big leather-bound log book, and I was dragged down slimy stairs to the cold, dark dungeon. With my hands still fettered behind my back, I was thrown into a cell, the door slammed shut and locked behind me.
The scaffold is some eight feet high; I can feel hundreds of pairs of eyes on my naked body as I stand, bound, at last confronted by the machine upon which I am to suffer and die.
Nine feet long, four feet wide, a massive bed of oak. At its head, a heavy roller, on an oiled iron axle, around which thick rope is wound. At its foot, set widely apart, are two thick iron rings, solid enough to moor a fishing boat. This is not a rack merely for extraction of confessions. This is a rack for execution - and I, a confessed bewitcher, am to die upon it, this miserable day.
“You are accused of bewitching Lord Durham. What do you say to the charge?”
“Sir, I am innocent!”
I had been kept in my cell for three long weeks. Unfettered, but not allowed to wash, nor given proper bedding, just a mat of straw to lie on. I had been fed stale bread. Then, a week into my imprisonment, I traded my leather shoes for some meat and a mug of milk.
Finally, the guards had come for me; once again manacling my wrists behind me, and leading me to the Judges' Hall for the charge to be heard against me.
Three stern men looked down at me, as I, shackled, stood awkwardly before them. I looked around the large room; a few disinterested onlookers sat in the stalls, and there, seated beside the Chief Constable, was Lord Durham. My mouth dropped open to see them together, and sweat prickled down my spine and under my arms. I stammered, “Honours, there were witnesses to the incident that night!”
The Bailiff, the man who had spoken before, said now, “they have all testified that Lord Durham was not himself that night; that he appeared agitated, and afraid. That can only be due to the spell that you cast upon him!”
“No!” I protested, but I began to see how the odds were laid against me. “He tried to rape me!”
“So you deny the charge of bewitchment?”
“I deny it, sir!” I cried.
“Take her away. Put her to the Question,” the Bailiff advised. As the guards removed me, I glanced back up to see Lord Durham leering at me with an expression of triumph.
The rain quickens, the chill drops land on my bare shoulders. The scaffold is wet beneath my feet as the guards prepare the rack. Finally, it is ready, and fingers, fumbling with the cold, undo the rope at my wrists. With the release of the rope, so goes my composure, and I sink to my knees with a cry.
“Please! I do not want to die!” I wail. But the guards hook their hands around my arms and haul me to my feet. My body has no strength, I can only plead as they lift me onto the rain-washed rack and lay me on my back. I sob in terror as their deft hands spread my body out; my arms above my head, my feet wide. Heavy ropes are looped about my ankles, and fastened, securing them to the rings. More ropes bind my wrists together, then attach to the roller; so that I lie, an inverted letter “Y” on the rack. The damp wood feels coarse beneath my buttocks, against my shoulder blades; a hard pillow behind my head.
I lie, whimpering, my chest heaving, as the Bailiff climbs the scaffold.
“Christina Smythe, you have been found guilty of Bewitchment.”
I was taken below, to the Torture Chamber. My heart began to pound as I saw all the instruments of horror. Whips, irons, manacles, a table to which I would be bound and tortured. My eyes fell on the Horse, an awful wedge which I, with weights attached to my ankles, would be forced to straddle. But I was instead placed in a chair, still clothed, my wrists freed from behind my back but tied, instead, to the chair's arms with thick rope. My torso and ankles were similarly secured, so that I sat, helpless.
There was a device secured to each arm of the chair; a vice, heavy iron with cruel triangular teeth. My left hand was forced into a vice, its screw turned until my fingers were trapped between the facing jaws, and the guards stood back.
I was panting hard. My heart was racing painfully. The green velvet of my dress showed spreads of sweat already, under my arms and between my breasts. I felt on the verge of vomiting.
As the Bailiff reads, to the crowd, the evidence against me, I lie upon the rack, shivering in the rain. Clouds of frost mark each terrified breath; I am exposed to the freezing droplets as they prick my breasts, my belly, my thighs, my arms. Another man ascends to the scaffold. Beyond the horizon of my own upstretched arm, I see a hooded and cloaked figure: the executioner.
The door behind me opened, and I heard several men enter.
“Christina,” a voice said smoothly. “Why do you protest innocence, when you know you are not?”
“Sir, I have done nothing wrong!” My shaking voice betrayed my terror, and I tried to look around. Finally, the Chief Constable came into view, behind him the Bailiff.
And the torturer.
Dressed in simple black hose and a black shirt, the torturer looked like a harmless man; not at all the gladiatorial figure I had expected. Without ceremony or delay, he moved to the left arm of my chair and began to turn the screw of the vice.
“This is the thumbscrew,” he said matter-of-factly. “With a few turns, it will crush and break the bones in your hand. You will have the pleasure of watching the very marrow being squeezed out from the ends of your fingers.”
“Please!” I shrieked, looking around for some indication of what I must do to avoid such torture. “Don't hurt me!”
“We start with your left.” Deaf to my pleading, the torturer turned the screw, and I felt the toothed metal crunching down on my hand. Pain speared into my knuckles and the bones of my fingers. I desperately tried to tug my hand free.
But the torturer turned the screw again. The pain doubled, and I felt the bones in my hand bending. The pain was blinding, and I gave a shriek. Sweat was running down my face, soaking my dress. “No more!! Tell me what I must say!”
“Admit your guilt,” the Chief Constable prompted.
I give a whimper of fear, try to follow the torturer's progress as he steps to the head of the rack. He grasps the lever without hestitation: at once, it turns. The heavy iron ratchet clinks as the roller creaks over, and I feel the rope hauling at my wrists. Have they started already? Another turn: my body is dragged fractionally across the wood, until the ropes anchoring my feet begin to resist. The hairs on my arms rise as I feel my body grow taut.
The executioner stops, then, and takes a step back.
“I am innocent!” I gasped.
The torturer gave the screw another half-turn. I heard a crack! like the breaking of a chicken-bone, and agony exploded into my hand. I gave a long scream of pain, writhing in the chair. I thought I would faint. “Oh God, it hurts!”
“Do you wish for another turn?” the torturer asked.
“No! No more!” My head was spinning.
“Give us your confession!”
“I …” Hesitation alone condemned me, and the torturer turned the screw again. There were more cracking sounds, and I gave a full-throated scream of pain as a bright trickle of blood ran from beneath one nail. It felt as if someone had dashed my fingers with a hammer. “I confess! I bewitched Lord Durham!”
“You confess it?”
“Yes! Oh yes!” The pain in my hand was overwhelming. I just wanted it to stop. “I led him on, I tried to seduce him, I cast a spell with my body - please, please loosen my hand!”
“We have heard enough,” the Bailiff said calmly. “She is guilty.”
The Bailiff finally concludes. “For your crime, you have been sentenced to die by the rack. Twelve turns, at twelve minutes each. The execution may begin.” I can feel my face screwing up as I sob anew. I cannot think of a more awful fate. Twelve turns of the rack, each coming after a twelve minute interval. That means my execution will take almost two-and-a-half hours. Surely not? Surely I will die before then?
The executioner takes his place at the wheel again, and the crowd falls silent. I tip my head back; I can see, beside him, the sand-glass which will be upturned at each roll of the wheel. Through tear-blurred eyes, I plead, “sir? Please, sir, can you not make it fast for me?”
“The people have come to see a show, wench, and I shall not deny them.” With that, the executioner puts his hands to the lever. I watch in numb disbelief as he hauls; the rack creaks, the roller turns, and my shivering body is suddenly stretched by half an inch. I feel it, a tension all through my body, from my ankles to my wrists. It feels as it would if I were stretching with all my effort to reach an apple above my head, and then a little more. It does not hurt, but I am aware that every limb is now as tight as it can be.
The executioner turns the glass, and the sand begins to trickle through.
After my confession, the trial was a blur. Despite the injuries to my hand, I was shackled again and returned to my cell. After a day's wait, I was led back to the Judges' Hall, where my admission was read aloud, and the sentence of death at once passed. I had shrieked aloud to hear it, and instantly tried to recant, telling them that I had lied under torture; but no amount of protesting would sway them, and I was dragged, screaming, to the cells.
In fact, my display had evidently annoyed them, for less than an hour after my return to the cell, the jailer arrived with chains and shackles, and before my horrified eyes, a chain was passed through a ring in the ceiling. The guards dragged me to it, forcing my wrists into the dangling shackles and locking the iron fast about them. By means of a simple windlass, the chain was then wound until my arms were pulled hard above my head and my heels raised off the ground. It was desperately uncomfortable, stretched on tip-toes; but worse was to come. The jailer gave an instruction, and the guard turned the windlass again.
“No! Please, do not!” I shrieked; the manacles bit cruelly into my hands, but I could not resist as my body was raised off the ground. My toes were mere inches above the stone, but it was enough to render me helpless. The transfer of all my weight to my arms was torture, and I wailed in misery. My tormentors, satisfied that I was in sufficient discomfort, departed, locking the door behind them.
The crowd is a babble of voices, making my situation seem bizarre. I am being executed; and yet, save the cold, my nakedness, and a slight discomfort, I am not suffering. But as the last of the sand runs through the glass, the executioner returns his hands to the wheel, and firmly cranks it over. This time, I am truly stretched. My ankles remain moored, my hands are dragged a half inch; my shoulder blades shift on the wood, my ribcage lifts, and strain wrenches my entire body. Dull pain spreads from my shoulders, along my arms. I hear my spine pop as it accommodates the new tension. My fear increases tenfold; it seems I am already stretched to my limit, and yet it is only the second turn of the roller.
The glass is upended, the sand trickles through.
Hanging by my wrists was an ordeal beyond description. The manacles felt like bands of red-hot iron, burning into me, and the pain of suspension seared all down my arms. It was unbearable, and yet I had no choice but to endure it. My head drooped forward. my bare toes swung slowly above the flagstone floor.
I am not ready for this third turn of the roller; and as it turns and my body stretches, pain explodes into my shoulders. It is fierce, red-hot, spreading along my arms, down my back. I groan, and sweat at once mixes with the rain on my breasts. The pain does not ease, but remains savage; spreading hotly down my back, into my hips. My breath is quick, my eyes seek out some point of focus to ease my ordeal, but there is nothing.
Two days, they left me hanging. After the first few hours, I grew so weak that I could barely even raise my head, drained by the constant agony of being suspended. I hung mostly in a daze of disbelief. It was only the pain that reminded me I had not been dreaming. My arrest, the farcical trial, the terrible persuasion of the thumbscrew. At times, however, reality returned, with a sense of horror that made me cry out in dread. I would pedal my feet helplessly, then, cast my head back to look up in despair at the manacles from which I hung; but nothing would end the nightmare.
The moment the rack begins to shift, severe pain fills my limbs. I scream aloud. My ribcage rises higher, accompanied by the pops and groans of joints wrenching. What composure I kept has now dissolved. I am no longer aware of the cold, of my nakedness, of the crowd watching me suffer; there is only the pain, absolute and unbearable. My cries echo across the town square; the rack creaks like an old ship. Tears are spilling from my eyes; sweat runs with the raindrops over the taut skin of my ribcage and belly. If I could find breath to pray, it would be for death to take me already.
Pain drags every minute into eternity. My cries ebb into a slow wailing.
I barely registered when the door to my cell was opened, and a figure, handsomely dressed, strolled slowly in. Lord Durham circled my dangling figure, regarding me with satisfaction.
“You are to die by the rack, did you know that?” he asked casually. I would not have replied, even if capable. “Twelve turns, they say. Each turn pulls you tighter. A little more than half an inch. But a girl as young and supple as you … a girl like you might survive all twelve turns.” I felt his hand caress my buttock through my dress: I was defenceless against him, hanging weak in the chains. “… But by then, you would have been dismembered like a roasting-fowl, and death would follow soon enough. I have heard it is a punishment worse even than burning at the stake.” At that news, I could not stifle a groan of dread, and a tear dragged its course down my cheek.
“Ah, you do hear me after all.” Lord Durham moved to stand before me, gazing at my down-turned face with fascination. “So beautiful, even in your suffering.” I said nothing, so he went on. “I can make it easier on you, you know. I can have them let you down from those chains.”
At that news, I managed to lift my head a little, and meet his eyes. He smiled, and nodded. “You do a favour for me, and I shall see that you are made somewhat more comfortable.”
I finally managed to find husky voice: “Tell me what it is you want.”
I am screaming, even as the roller begins to turn. Fresh pain explodes into my shoulders; there is an awful, wet popping sound from first one shoulder, then the other. By the wrists, my arms are drawn visibly longer, my shoulder bones ripped from their sockets. A terrible, terrible pain fills my hips, too. The ratchet clicks into place, I lie screaming. I have never experienced pain like this. I wet myself, throwing my head from side-to-side. In cold indifference, the executioner turns the sand-glass, and lets the minutes trickle through.
After seven or eight minutes, my screams ebb to groans. The agony is no less, though. The muscles of my four limbs are burning, as if set alight: I can feel the very fibres tearing slowly. The muscles of my belly feel like they are being ripped apart; my back burns with similar agony. And my broken shoulders hurt in savage, excruciating waves.
As the sand begins to run out in the glass, panic grips me. I cannot take any more. This is too much to bear; and the thought that I may endure yet more stretching sets me panting in terror. I am utterly helpless; so tautly stretched, and with shoulders already dislocated, I cannot even move, let alone struggle. But I can tip my head, and I look back along the drawn landscape of my own stretched arms, searching for the executioner.
He is there, beside the wheel.
“Please,” I shriek breathlessly, anguished, frantic. “Please kill me now! I beg you, oh, I beg it!”
The sand runs out.
The guards came at Lord Durham's bidding, and lowered me from my torment. My body was weak, and I lay curled on the floor as they unlocked my raw wrists from the chains, and instead bound my hands behind my back with rope. They left, then, re-locking the cell door, leaving me with the man who had been the cause of all this misery.
“Well, I have kept my part of the bargain,” he said calmly. “Now, it is your turn.”
I mustered what little strength I possessed, awkward with bound hands, to sit upright. Lord Durham had loosened the tie of his hose, lowered them to expose his quickly-growing cock. He nodded. “You know what to do … but I warn you, one wrong move and I will see that they flay the skin from your body with salted whips before your execution.”
“I will obey you, My Lord,” I said meekly. I rose to my knees and shuffled towards him. Kneeling at his feet, I began to lick the end of his cock. It responded at once to my tongue, firming, lifting, and Lord Durham gave a groan of pleasure. With growing confidence, I began to encircle the head with long, slow licks, kissing and caressing it with my tongue. Lord Durham's hands closed in my hair, guiding me, encouraging me. Slowly, gently, I took his cock inside my mouth, using my tongue to caress the underside, sucking him deeper towards my throat. Lord Durham moaned. I began to move my mouth on him, back and forth along his cock, still sucking. I could sense his passion rising, his fingers tightening in my hair, and within minutes he began to move his hips, fucking my mouth. I let him do it – bound, I had no choice – and sucked harder still. At once, he gave a gasp, and I felt his hot semen squirting into my throat. I swallowed it, kept sucking him until he had nothing more to give.
He sighed, withdrew from my mouth. I, on my knees, kept my eyes to the floor.
“You would have been a dainty mistress,” Lord Durham finally said, and turned, calling once for the guards to give him leave of my cell.
When a body is so terribly stretched, half an inch is a severe and damaging increase. The instant the roller shifts, I scream in renewed agony. My ankles remain firmly anchored, but my wrists, by the groaning rope, are dragged towards the roller. The result is for my left hip to suddenly pop out of joint, followed by the violent dislocation of my right; both shoulders and hips wrenched further still as the roller completes its turn and the ratchet locks it in place. I shriek and howl in agony as the executioner turns the sand-glass. I want to die.
Those below must be lapping this up; the sight of my naked body stretched beyond its natural limits on the rack, shining with sweat, ribs ready to burst from my skin, steam curling into the winter air. It must be amusing to watch a woman die without a shred of dignity, screaming and shrieking until her throat is raw, broken by the rack.
I can no longer feel my hands and feet. The ropes have ended all circulation; now they are numb, my body exists only as an entity of burning, savage pain from wrists to ankles.
I am only half-way. It has been more than an hour, an ordeal of agonies beyond belief. I am being tortured to death. It is taking an eternity. I would welcome death; I dread the next turn of the roller. But all too soon, the sand runs out from the glass, and the executioner returns his hands to the wheel.
No guard came to untie my hands after Lord Durham's visit to my cell, but at least I was no longer hanging in chains. Bread and water were pushed through a grate in the door each day, and I became adept at eating without the use of my hands, and sleeping, bound, in the straw. Given the fate that awaited me, and my miserable state, I barely cared.
After three days, however, a guard entered my cell. He stood, regarding me where I sat; then, without a word, came and knelt behind me. The rope on my wrists was damp, and the knot impossible to free, so after some minutes of trying, he instead cut it with his blade. My hands were blue, my fingers numb, but it was a relief to no longer be bound, and I moved my aching arms gratefully.
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
The guard stood, and looked at me again. He said, “give me your dress.”
I did not know why he wanted it, and it was my only defence against the cold, but I obediently fumbled at the lace of my bodice, loosened my skirts. In another moment, I stood, barefoot and bare-armed in my chemise, watching as the guard gathered up the soiled garments.
“I will sell these tonight,” he explained. “Tomorrow you will have broth, and fresh straw.”
I wept at that; never had such basic things seemed such treasures.
I cannot prevent this next turn; I can only pray that it will be the one that kills me. But when the roller turns, instead I hear the most awful cracking, popping sounds from my arms, and a pain like hammered nails hits my elbows. As the ratchet falls into place, my elbows are torn apart, bone separating from bone, ligaments rending. I shriek in renewed agony. My knees, too, are filled with fire; I know they will soon dislocate.
After a week, the guard came again. I had been well fed the night I gave him my dress; and fresh straw had been placed in the corner where I slept. But the food had quickly been eaten, the straw grew damp, and I was starved of human company, so it was with much anticipation that I stood to greet him.
“Are you able to bring more?” I wondered.
He shook his head. “Not without money.”
My disappointment was brief. “Perhaps if you go to my house …”
“It is too late for that.”
“By order of the Court, your house was burned to the ground, the day of your conviction. You have nothing but what you wear.”
I was stunned, and gaped at him for a long time. And yet, I was not surprised: I had already known I would never see my sweet cottage again, so it made no difference.
I touched the hem of the thin chemise, my only garment. It was dirty and stained from my weeks of confinement, but it was real silk, and would fetch good money.
“Very well,” I said, and drew the garment over my head, holding it out to him.
He did not take it, for a while: he was too busy staring. I blushed. His admiration for my figure was obvious, his eyes travelling to my small, high breasts, trailing the firmness of my belly, the flare of my hips, the black hair between my thighs.
At last, he tore his gaze from my body, quickly snatched the chemise from my hand, and departed.
The roller shifts. Now, finally, with a noise like breaking sapling wood, they come apart. Terrible pains explode down my shins and calves as the thick ligaments of my knee joints loose their hold on bone. The ratchet falls into place, locking me as I lie. Gradually, over the next two minutes, I feel my wrists break, the tendons and muscles tearing, and yet it is merely another addition to the fires that engulf my entire body.
There is a point at which the instinct to survive is finally beaten; when the damage to a body is so great that it becomes simpler to accept one's fate. But when intense, unending pain is involved, such resignation is impossible. I want, more than anything, to succumb to the mercy of death, of oblivion, to sink into a comfortable void. But there is no release for me, as my body is wrenched slowly limb from limb. The pain of ripping muscles, of sinew and tendon being torn from their moorings, of bones being pulled from their anchoring tissue, will not let me accept defeat. I scream at the grey sky, wishing only for death.
Afterwards, I regretted having given away my chemise. I was now utterly naked; I had not a penny, nor a stitch to my name. I curled up in the damp straw, defenceless against the chill, and stared into the cell's dimness, dreaming of summer meadows and freedom.
The guard returned a few days later, true to his word; he brought hot broth, and fresh bread, and even smuggled in some wine. He lingered in my cell, his eyes constantly straying from my face. There was a time I would have been mortified at the thought of being naked in the presence of a man; now, I thought nothing at all of it, and bore his company gratefully.
Sounds assault my ears as the rack turns again. Groaning, cracking, the wet creaking of my own flesh stretching further. Unbelievably, the agony grows as damaged joints and muscles are wrenched again. I let out a long cry of pain; but my voice is losing its strength. Gone are my powerful screams of earlier; now I can only wail. My ribcage, distended by the tension, can barely shift, and my breaths are short and shallow. I have lost my mind to the pain; I know nothing but torture, can do nothing but cry out.
The sand trickles through, until all is gone, and the executioner returns his hands to the worn lever.
My guard friend returned after another week. He found me shivering, naked in the straw. I was cold, and desperately hungry, and I wept when I saw him, for I had nothing more with which to bargain.
“How do I get food?” I pleaded at once.
He glanced towards the door. “You know, they would have me flogged for this …”
He took a breath, then came to kneel beside me. “I desire you,” he told me. “I have been dreaming of you. Give me your body, and I will see that you have what you need.”
“Come back tomorrow,” I told him. “I will give you my answer then.”
He left, and when the cell door was again locked and I was alone, I deliberated on his offer. He had not needed to ask; surely he could have taken me by force, and I would not have been able to fight him off. Had I called for help, others may have joined the sport and worsened my fate.
Although at first reluctant, I was desperate for food and warmth; and, of course, there was the promise of human contact. I decided to agree to his request.
The next notch is the cruellest yet. As the roller turns, the ropes at my wrists and ankles seem to haul with all the power of the Devil. My mouth opens but no sound will come; I hear, clearly, the sound of both my ankles breaking. At the same time, with an awful creak, the muscles of my belly tear from their moorings, a sound like uprooting grass. It is like molten lead has been poured on my body, and I finally find voice, a long, agonised scream of pain.
Even as I scream, there is a violent crack! that shakes my body, as the ligaments holding my spine intact finally succumb to the stretching, and my vertebrae begin to separate. It brings the most severe pain of all, ten times worse than anything else I have experienced. The air is knocked from my lungs, I am momentarily stunned by the magnitude of pain that explodes along my spine. At last, I begin to wail again, but I scarcely sound human any more. The sky seems to sway above me as my eyes roll in agony, my own arms creaking in my ears.
There is no respite, no relief from the torture of the rack. Disjointed and agonised, I lie wailing, held motionless by the tension in my body, my eyes blurred by tears and sweat. The sounds are of my own body creaking under the dreadful strain, the slow creaking of the ropes. Each crawling minute is another lifetime of suffering, unendurable; and yet, inexorably, the trickling sand warns of worse to come.
The rain has stopped. The air feels colder.
When the guard returned, his eyes searched my face for an answer; I gave a nod. He looked relieved, the produced from his satchel a length of rope.
“Please, do not object if I have to bind you.”
“I understand,” I said.
He lashed my wrists tightly before my body, then secured them to a ring set into the wall, so that I knelt on the straw. I looked over my shoulder as he undressed behind me; his eyes on my naked buttocks, on the dark hair that guarded my pussy. He was erect already, and looked large, but I had made my choice, and to renege on my promise would only anger him.
He knelt behind me, put his hands to my flanks. The head of his cock touched me, but not where I expected. “What are you doing?” I gasped.
“Let me do this. You will be rewarded.”
I grasped the iron ring in surprise and pain as he pushed inside my arse; it felt as if I would split. Surely he could not fit inside me! But slowly, he sank his cock deeper and deeper into my arse. I groaned. My urge was to push against him, to expel the intrusion, but at the same time it felt wickedly, sinfully good.
He began moving his hips, now; fucking my arse. I twisted my hands in their bonds, but did not try to pull away from him, instead feeling the motion become easier, my arousal growing. I began to moan in pleasure.
Faster, and faster he fucked me. My skin began to shine with the sweat of sexual pleasure, my mouth opening, my breathing becoming fast. His cock felt so huge inside my arse, filling me unbearably, but making me insatiable. I heard his breathing become ragged, his fingers digging into my hips as he slammed hard into me, driving his cock deep inside my bowels; I felt my own pleasure welling up.
Suddenly, I was gasping as orgasm swept my body. I felt my sphincter contract, and the guard gave a groan, exploding deep inside me. His semen filled my deepest parts, his thrusts slowed, and for a time, we stayed like that; breathing hard, the sweat cooling on our bodies.
“Thank you,” the guard said.
“Sir,” I assured him, still gripping the iron ring, “the pleasure was all mine.”
And at last, it comes. The next notch of the rack. I give a cry that is more like a squeal, rising in pitch as my body lengthens. At once, there come the shattering crack! crack! crack! of more vertebrae separating. I slam my head back into the wood of the rack with such force that stars dance in front of my eyes. The pain is severe beyond description, my back is on fire and I cannot ease the agony. I could not have imagined I would ever feel so much pain. Every inch of my disjointed, broken body suffers.
The minutes pass. More creaks and pops come from my spine. The agony burns me in slow, terrible waves, making me sometimes groan, sometimes shriek. I am wet from head to toe with sweat; I have no endurance left, I am merely waiting for this to be over.
As the sand runs from the glass, I become aware of a tingling, spreading up from my feet. It is strange, because it is an absence of pain. Although my back, and hips, and shoulders, and elbows, and wrists, and belly are all afire with agony, my legs are growing numb.
My guard friend did not return after that day. Once he had freed my hands and the cell door was locked on his exit, I waited in vain for the promised food and blankets; but one day followed the next, and my hope slowly faded.
Less than a week later, the cell door opened, and four guards in full armour walked in. The jailer accompanied them, in his hands a length of sturdy rope.
“It is time, Witch,” he said. My hands were bound behind my back, I was hauled to my feet, and marched from the jail, my heart already pounding in fear of what awaited me.
I have no warning of the final turn. The rack pulls, but there is no greater degree pain to suffer, than I am already enduring. The agony is crushing. Even as I hear my spine breaking in another four places, my head lolls between my upstretched arms, my eyes without focus, the world spinning around me. The numbness, a cold fire, is spreading up through my body.
I am not aware of my breathing. Perhaps I have stopped entirely. The clouds above seem to be growing darker, and the creaking of the rack seems to become more muffled. I have never felt this way before, overwhelmed by pain, and yet, I feel somehow, strangely, free …