This is part 4 of 4 of a short work of fiction. Please let me know what you think about the imagery contained and the writing style used.
“One hundred! Halt!” shouted the sergeant.
It was standard practice to stop a flogging at each 100 lashes to allow the regimental surgeon to inspect the prisoner’s wounds and evaluate if he was fit to continue. It also allowed time for the corporals to switch sides and refresh themselves by drinking cool water—and to pour some over their heads.
The surgeon ordered that the prisoner’s gag be removed and he be given water to drink. He also ordered water be poured down Murray’s back to wash away the accumulated blood and ease his inspection of the soldier’s torn skin. He saw that the wounds, while undoubtedly painful, were merely skin deep and no damage had been done to underlying muscle. He ordered that a 15 minute respite be given, to allow the flogged man to catch his breath.
Major Blade ordered the lieutenant to exercise the Company in place, while waiting for the 15 minutes to pass. The lieutenant shouted the order for each sergeant standing in front of the platoons to begin exercising their troops.
Some of the sergeants ordered their men to remove their tunics and exercise in their tank tops, while others ordered their men to strip shirtless. Five platoons of 50 men each began to chant counts of their exercise repetitions. Their fast movements and the heat of the evening quickly had sweat pouring from their smooth, young bodies.
The site of the men exerting themselves entertained Major Blade to such an extent that he ordered Murray’s respite extended out to a full half an hour. He knew that the men would blame Murray for this session of late evening work in the sun.
2nd Platoon had ended their session with a very fast series of jumping jacks. Major Blade ordered the sergeant in charge of that platoon to select two of his men to provide a fresh pair of sweaty socks with which to gag the prisoner. The selected men ran to the whipping post and removed their boots and socks, handing them to the sergeant in charge.
Murray did not have the strength to resist and simply opened his mouth when approached by the sergeant. The fresh pair of socks placed in his mouth were soaked through and even more pungent than the last pair, as the soldier providing them was very poor at personal hygiene and had not changed them since the start of the march to Nameless field, three days prior. The gag was kept in place, as before, by tying the second pair of socks around his head.
With the gag securely in place, and the corporals rested, the second half of the punishment could begin. The men stood to attention in their orderly platoons, dripping with sweat and breathing hard from their fast session of forced exercise, as the order came to resume the punishment.
“From the left, lay on!” the sergeant shouted.
Murray groaned before the first stroke fell, an admission of unbearable anticipation. The corporal on the left, using the full strength of us hitherto unused right arm, slapped his whip down on the prisoner’s exposed back. Each lash of the second hundred was far more excruciating for Murray than the first, as he knew what to expect this time, and his will and body were weakened from the previous beating.
Murray collapsed at the one hundred forty fourth lash, and hung from his wrists for the remainder of the punishment. He didn’t have the strength to react to the blows lashing more skin off his already raw back, but he felt the keenly the agony of every stroke and his stomach turned with by-then familiar fearful expectation of the next one to land.
At the conclusion of the punishment, the surgeon ordered Murray’s back washed with cool water and caked with rough salt. He ordered that the salt be attended to by a guard and replenished if it dissolved into the wounds or flaked off.
“Now that he knows the meaning of punishment, let him think about it,” Major Blade said.
He ordered that Murray was to spend the night tied to the whipping post, and was to be cut down at sunrise. The guard would escort him the sergeant major for a full day’s labor the next morning.