[2005 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Winner]
He sits on his cushioned throne watching us, his sweaty, heaving slaves, from a platform not ten yards north of me. He, in all his elegance, sits there, an evil smile playing about his lips. I cannot and will not give him the satisfaction of seeing me falter! I have got to keep going. I must keep up the pace. I cannot afford to slow down.
Every now-and-again he gives us a look of disdain then turns back to his ever-growing harem of former field workers. He turns his attention to one of us in particular, a nicely shaped chocolate colored girl. He glares at her lustfully for a few minutes then beckons her to come join him. Mentally, part of me beseeches her to get away, to run as far away as possible from that swine of a man, even though the larger part wishes to be in her shoes. She will never have to work out here with us any more.
‘Why couldn’t that be me? Is this what my disfigurement has damned me to, a life of eternal toil?! Will I ever be free? Will I…’ Instantly, my thoughts of self-pity are cut short. Someone has just slipped. He shouts to us, unconcerned, that we should continue our work. Had he no heart?
I am entirely drenched in sweat. My body cries out for rest and I must obey. He spots me and slowly he walks towards me, his rod at his side, ever ready to deliver a chastising blow. Instead of striking me though, he speaks to me sharply, making me a public example. Hatred wells up in me and takes the place of my shame. I want to strike out! My hand even moves a bit, but I am, like every other fielder, powerless to stop him.
Under his watch full eye, I return to my ploughshare, my hatred driving me on as a man does his horse team in a race. He makes us pick up the pace and smiles when he sees most of us stumble as we try to keep up with his demands. He becomes even more callous and orders us to pick up the pace once more. Most of us, try, as we might, cannot keep up with the mad man and fall, which only serves to incite his wrath more.
Mercifully, the buzzer rings. We turn off our treadmills and grab our stuff. The instructor leaves with his arms around his latest conquest. The rest of us just file out of Torturer’s Gym, dejectedly.
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