"We are lost. You know we are lost, just admit it!" Joanna was not really angry, but irritated that his ego was getting in the way of their making any progress at finding a way down the mountain.
"Babe, OK. I am not really lost, but this is a new area, and I can't see any landmarks to know the best way to get us to the fire road. Stop for a second, let's just rest and get an idea of what might be best."
Josh was anything but ready to admit defeat, but it was true. They were in the middle of a heavy forest with trees on all sides, a slight slope but no guarantee that they knew which way to go. They had camped the night before, and had been hiking the entire day without any real progress.
"It's almost 4, we need to either find a place to camp or get a real idea which way to go. I see more light through the trees that way, let's see if we can get our bearings. If not, maybe there will be a clearing where we can camp," Joanna was practical and patient.
J&J, as their friends called them, were avid hikers and backpackers. They had spent the last four days in the Sierra Nevada range, hiking off the main trails. Both were in their mid-twenties, and very fit. Josh was a scruffy blond, muscular and ruggedly handsome. Joanne was slim, but with too much muscle to really be considered skinny. Her breasts were nice but not large, she had slim hips and long legs. Her freckled face was considered cute by almost everyone, and her long brown hair was tied in a pony tail, as it always was when they hiked.
They trudged over a small rise to see the trees spread out a bit and heard the gentle trickling of a creek. They reached the wide rivulet of water, and decided to follow it. It led them gently downhill until they saw a small meadow just ahead.
But as they approached the meadow, Josh halted suddenly. "What the fuck... what is that?"
Joanna looked where his attention had been drawn and at first did not see anything strange. Then, as she stared more carefully, she saw it. A cross, partially concealed in the shadows of the surrounding trees. Obviously man made, it was distinctly out of place in this wilderness.
They approached it slowly, and as they came to it Josh suddenly said "Joanna, stay back a bit. I want to check this."
"Fuck you, Josh. Stop trying to protect me," Joanna's pride drew her to lead the way to the foot of the tall, rough wood structure. It was weathered and appeared old as if it had been there for a number of years. Joanna looked at it more closely as Josh joined her.
Suddenly, Joanna sucked in a gasp of air. Josh looked at what she had seen, and said "Oh, fuck..."
There were nails in the cross, large spikes, and a dried brown substance which both of them new by experience as old, dried blood.
"Let's get out of here," Josh whispered, as if someone might hear them.
The trees were thinner here, and as they approached the creek once again, Joanna stopped suddenly. Her breathing was changed, coming in short gasps, sounding like she was choking. Josh saw what had stopped her a moment later.
Another cross, standing near the creek. The light filtered through the trees, lighting patches of the ground, the cross, and the naked human form that hung from it.
Moments later Josh had run over to the second cross. The victim was a woman, perhaps in her early 30s, fit and healthy, with short dark hair. She was spiked to the cross with nails through her wrists, and her ankles positioned and nailed on either side of the upright beam. There was very little blood, though her ankles looked crushed and blackened. Her knees were bent and spread apart, exposing her pussy. Her head hung down, eyes were open slightly. She was naked, and Josh was embarrassed to find himself experiencing a slight erection while viewing her stretched form.
"Josh, she is alive!"
She was. Her stomach was moving slightly as she breathed, though her eyes were glazed and unseeing until moments later she began wriggling, pulling and writhing. Joanna stepped back with her hand over her mouth, afraid she might be sick seeing the agony the woman was experiencing.
A strangled scream cut through the mountain air as the woman shoved down on her smashed, nailed ankles and raised herself slowly to a standing position. Muscles in her taught legs were clearly visible straining to lift her weight. Her hands had taken on the shape of claws, but she used the nails in her wrists to help raise her body higher.
Josh joined Joanna a few feet back as they observed the woman take several deep breaths, and then lower herself back down to a position hanging by her nailed arms. She had seen them, and her eyes were fevered as she tried to speak, unsuccessfully.
"Oh my god, Josh, we have to help her! Get her down from there!" Joanna was frantic, bordering on panic.
Josh was already looking through their backpacks for something that might help. The woman was too high off the ground to reach easily, but they might dig the cross out of the ground. They would also need something to pull the spikes.
A small shovel was in one of their back packs, used to dig temporary toilets or help entrench a camp or campfire. It looked useless compared to the size of the cross where its central beam was embedded in the ground, but Josh went over to the base of the cross and began digging. Joanna joined him, watching, afraid to look up at the agonized form of the woman nailed above them.
The woman on the cross kept trying to say something. Her gurgling gasps finally took form enough that Joanna listened and thought she could understand...
Josh heard a sickening thud, and turned to see Joanna laying on the ground behind him, blood pouring from a wound in her head. The last thing he saw was something coming across his field of vision, followed by an explosion of pain, and then blackness.
Joanna came around slowly, her head pounding with pain which slowly took form to a pounding sound. She tried to move, but could not. She was laying on her back, looking up at the trees and glimpses of sky above her. She wondered if she was paralyzed, because she could not move her arms or legs.
Slowly moving her pounding head she looked to where the pounding sound seemed to be coming. Her vision was getting better, blurriness giving way to clarity. When she saw what was making the pounding noise, she wished the blur would come back.
She was tied down to a wooden beam, her arms outstretched, and legs tied together at the ankles. All her clothing had been removed, and she was completely naked. Just to her left, Josh lay unconscious on a similar wooden beam, tied with arms stretched along it, and legs stretched below and tied at the ankles. He was naked as well, and a clump of shredded cloth to his side showed all that remained of his clothes.
A dark form was bent over one arm, and had produced a long spike with a mallet.
Moments later, the mallet descended and drove the spike into Josh's wrist. Josh was suddenly conscious and a scream echoed through the trees. Joanna struggled against her own ropes, trying to get free. The dark figure continued pounding the spike until Josh was secured, nailed to the crossbeam by both wrists.
Josh was putting up a fight, though it was useless. The nails in his wrists were driven in at an angle, and it was impossible to break free. His writhing body had no effect on the dark form who produced two more spikes and approached Josh's ankles.
Joanna turned her head away as Josh screamed again, a paniced, animal scream such as she had heard rabbits produce when they were being eaten by a coyote. A wave of nausea crashed over her and she vomited on her right arm.
The screams subsided after a while and were replaced by whimpering moans.
Joanna felt rough hands turn her left wrist and she looked just in time to see the spike placed at the base of her left palm, angled so that it would drive through the palm and in to her wrist. She screamed before the mallet drove it through her flesh, but when the blow came, her screams morphed into a completely new, gut wrenching, mindless expression of agony. Stroke after stroke, she could feel her wrist and arm bones shattered and torn as the spike drove through her and in to the wood below.
She was not even aware that the figure had moved to the other side and had placed the new spike for her right wrist in place until the mallet drove it home. The sound of the spike sinking in to her flesh was replaced with a crack as her wrist bones parted, breaking as they were forced apart for the spike as it passed through her and in to the wood below.
Her body thrashed involuntarily, trying to get away from the hideous pain that radiated from her wrists. Her naked stomach was convulsing, and more vomit shot from her mouth over her neck, shoulder and face.
Strong hands took her naked legs, and placed her left ankle against the wood beam of the cross. She new what was going to happen, and struggled, but was powerless to stop it. The clear sound of her ankle bone shattering was accompanied by a searing pain that made the world go black for a moment. She was brought quickly back to consciousness by the pain of another spike penetrating her right ankle, shattering bone and tearing flesh, muscle and ligaments.
Four points of pain defined her existence at that point. She was floating, a creature in the sky with stars burning around her; four flames that burned and seared her existence, and she screamed her protest to the sky. But she lay there looking up at the sky, unable to move, exhaustion already setting in. The pain slowly morphed from searing agony to horrible throbs of pain.
Slowly, she became aware of noises to her left. She slowly looked and saw that the dark figure was raising the cross from which Josh hung. Leveraging it up, it lifted skyward until with a low thunk, it sunk in to a hole that had been dug at its base. As the cross hit bottom, Josh's body jerked down and a yell of pain cut through the trees.
Josh looked strong, and perfect in his hanging position. She could see his sex exposed between his bent and spread knees. His stomach and chest heaved with the pain he was trying to cope with. She loved him, and her own pain did not distract from her agony of seeing him hanging from the cross.
Until she felt her own cross being lifted up, that is. Slowly, surely, she was being raised in to the air, her weight shifting down the cross. Her back felt the rough wood, which scraped and gathered splinters that gouged her smooth flesh. The higher she went, the more she slid down and more pressure was placed on her spiked wrists.
With a sickening thud her cross slipped down and landed at the bottom of a deep hole dug at its base. Her whole weight suddenly yanked on her mangled wrists, and she screamed, drawing deep breaths as she felt the spikes dig and hold her broken bones. The muscles of her arms stretched taught and yanked across her back and chest as she came to a rest, hanging from her outstretched arms.
Immediately, in order to relieve the ripping pain that extended from her hands down her arms and in to her upper torso, she attempted to support herself on her feet. But as soon as she began pressing down with her legs, shattered ankle bones shifted and pierced her muscles, causing her to nearly faint from new agony below.
After some time, she became more aware of her surroundings. The sun was setting, with the cold creeping in to take over the forest. Her naked flesh felt the light breeze, and she knew it would be very cold, very soon. Her spread legs exposed her pussy, raised arms exposed her breasts, but there in the forest the only person to see it was Josh, who hung a few feet away on his own cross.
Her mind, which had been lost with the initial shock of what was happening, had returned. She was very clear now, she knew exactly what had happened to them, and what the end would be. She was nailed to a cross in the middle of a deserted forest, with her only companion her dying boyfriend. She was going to die here, in agony, and the only question was how long it might take.
Breathing was difficult, and after several attempts she was able to lift herself to help breathe more easily. It meant stretching and tearing her wrists and ankles as she strained against the nails, but her body forced her to do it. She could not simply hang there and not breath. If she had any chance at not suffocating, her brain forced her to try.
Josh tried talking with her once. It was dark, and there was the sound of wolves in the distance. The talk didn't last, they didn't have anything to say; and the effort was extreme. They simply hung there, raspy breathing from the two alternating in the dark.
There was no opportunity for sleep, the pain was too great. Death would have been welcome, unconsciousness of any sort. But the pulling agony of the cross kept her awake.
The cold was horrible, she shook, and the shaking made the cramps across her back worse. Her arms kept stretching further, and she truly wondered how long it would be before her shoulders dislocated. The vomit had dried on her arms and breasts.
She urinated without thinking, there was too much other pain that was so much worse, corsing through her body. It was no longer confined to her arms, it was shooting through her chest and stomach now. Her entire body was swathed in misery, and she literally prayed for death.
The sun slowly rose. Joanna thought of how she always loved seeing the sunrises when camping on their treks. This one seemed her enemy - another day hung from the cross, waiting to die.
They thought of what had happened; what kind of psychopath had assulted them. Whoever it was, they were not the first. If no one came by soon they would not be the last, either. Josh cried out several times, yelling as loud as he could, but it was useless. They were far away from the usual trails. Their location in the forest would not be visible from the air. They would simply hang there, naked and exposed, to die slowly.
Joanna saw Josh die late that day. It wasn't sudden. His agony had not subsided. His ability to deal with it, to keep going, had slipped away. He hung from his cross, unmoving, leaning forward some with his head hanging down. Saliva had dripped from his mouth, but had stopped some time before. They were both severely dehydrated. And then, Josh simply stopped breathing. She saw the moment when it happened, and she screamed in mental agony when she realized she was alone.
And alone she stayed, hanging from her cross that night. The thirst had become almost as bad as the pain in her shoulders and back. Her wrists no longer hurt, they were numb, as if they had been amputated. Nothing moved, no muscles worked further than her elbows. Her tongue was protruding from her mouth, it was so dry and swollen. There was nothing to do about it, nothing would wet it for her and she didn't have the strength to try and pull it back in.
As the dawn rose on her third day hanging from the cross, she found she was no longer able to raise herself up and breathe.
As death approached, she saw a dark figure move across the clearing, dragging something behind it. She had no idea what or who it was, and didn't really care. Death was coming, and she stopped breathing and embraced the nothingess, head hanging forward, body listless.