On the way back to Philippi, Servius had heard of mass crucifixions of Christians in many parts of the world, as well as patricians and their families that were thought to be disloyal. The local emperor had been dethroned and those that supported him were being exiled or put to death.
So it was that the site of the main road into Philippi did not surprise him too deeply when he came over the hill and looked along the tree lined boulevard. Along the edges were a row of crosses. Only about 10 of the 30 or so crosses were occupied but that was enough to show the city had gone through a major purge.
Fortunately, Servius' family was unimportant and unlikely to be the target of any imperial retributions.
Servius walked slowly down the lane, approaching the first set of crosses that were empty. They showed signs of recent use, with nails and spatters of dried blood at the ends of the patibulum. He slowly trudged to the first victim, passing two other travelers that hurried on and averted their eyes as they went on their way out of town.
Coming to the first victim, Servius hazarded a glance; he was afraid to look but found himself unable not to.
The man hanging from the wooden cross was curiously unlike most men he saw in everyday life. The skin was darker, and bones protruded as if the man was malnourished. His head hung down and at first Servius thought he was dead, but then detected movement of the stomach as the man breathed. Closer examination showed the darker skin color was from bad sunburn, dirt that crusted on the flesh mixed with sweat, and in some places, dried blood from a severe flogging.
The condemned man's feet had a single large spike nailed through them, his legs bent and knees forced slightly outward. The protruding hip bones framed the man's genitals, clearly on display, for the man was completely naked.
There was a smell, as well. A biologic smell, a human smell, but not a good one. Old urine, turned to ammonia. A tinge of smell from feces. A closer look revealed the wooded stipes had some remnants of human waste that clung to it between where the man's legs spread apart.
The whole scene made Servius want to throw up and he turned away. He had known the man on the cross. It was Maximus Carus, a very important man in local government, a tax collector, and quite rich.
He was nothing now but a suffering body on display on the main road, for all to see and pity.
Servius trudged on, averting his eyes from the next two victims. He didn't want to see anything more. One of the infortunates called out to him in a gasping, wheezing voice, "water.... water..."
The next two crosses were empty, and then there was the fourth victim. Here he stopped and looked up, sensing something different about this victim.
He stood in disbelief for a moment, slowly taking in what he saw. There, hanging from the cross in front of him, was Fabia Faustina. He knew her well.
Faustina was a young girl of 16 or 17, quite the marriageable age and the youngest daughter of Maximus Carus. Servius had talked with her many times, hopeful that she would heed him and allow him to court her. It had been a lost cause; Faustina was rich and incredibly good looking. Her beauty was renowned throughout the city. A haughty girl, caught up in her own beauty and money, Faustina had played games with the young men in the city, pitting them against each other. It was rumored that she had slept with several of them, and had been indirectly responsible for the death of one young man when her latest lover became jealous.
Now here she was. Naked. Not a bit of clothing or jewelry on her body. Wait... that wasn't true. Looking carefully he saw that she was still wearing dangling earrings, expensive gold and jade ones. They looked ironic now, the remnants of a lost life as she hung naked on the cross.
Servius could see now her body was everything he had imagined it to be. Thin but strong, well shaped with large breasts that dangled slightly forward in her current hanging position. Dark nipples, a thin waist with stomach muscles that flexed tight with each breath she took. Her genitals were clearly visible, as the same kind of spike had been driven into her feet, forcing her legs apart at an odd angle.
What was this? How could it be that Faustina on the cross was even more beautiful, more arousing, more attractive and alluring than she had ever been when he had talked with her in the market, or when he saw her kissing that man behind his family's shop. The man had his hand up her dress, he remembered. Now, Servius looked and saw the folds of flesh that marked the entrance to Faustina's vagina, and he could imagine plainly what that man had been feeling. But it wasn't her nudity that made her more attractive. No, it was something else. Servius looked at the naked girl and pondered the question.
Several other travelers passed by as Servius stood looking at Faustina on the cross. Most went by, though a few stopped and whispered in quiet tones. One woman was crying as she passed. One man seemed to chuckle as he stopped and looked, and then walked on. Servius barely noticed these others, he was too engrossed in the image of the woman suffering before him.
She was undoubtedly suffering, too. Her face was contorted in an ever shifting mask of pain, her lips moist as she drooled slightly, the shiny saliva running over her chin and onto her breasts. Her eyes opened and closed, though her head was down and hair covered part of her face. He stepped closer to see the agony, her face the mirror in which the pain was reflected; it was the window into the horror that was the last hours of her life.
As he stepped forward he came to where she could see him without moving her head up and a flicker of recognition crossed her eyes.
"You... I know... Servius..."
Servius just continued to look at the beautiful face, twisted by pain, and said nothing.
"Servius... water... please help me..."
Servius knew that Faustina was at the beginning of her suffering. She must have been crucified much later than her father, for she was not as sunburned or dirt caked, and was sweating profusely. Her body had not dehydrated yet. Her thirst was just beginning, and as thirsty as she was now it would be worse, so much worse, in a few hours or another day.
Servius reached up without thinking. Faustina was crucified higher than he was, but not significantly so. He stretched and his fingertips were able to touch Faustina's soft left breast and they smeared the saliva that had trickled there.
His touch brought out a sob. Faustina didn't cry, but one single sob came out; the cry made her stomach contract, her ribs move under her flesh, her breasts even bounced slightly. The cry also brought a soldier over.
"Don't touch the condemned," he said in a rough voice.
Servius looked at the guard, the contrast of the crucified girl and the healthy guard standing before him shocking his senses for a moment. He had been so wrapped up in the naked horror before him.
"Do you know who this is? This is Fabia Faustina. She is the most beautiful, most desirable girl in the city."
The guard laughed, "Not any more she isn't. She is a crucified girl right now, and in a little while she will be a rotting corpse."
Servius looked back at Faustina and said quietly, "She is even more beautiful now."
The guard was silent for a moment, and then grunted, "Yes, I see what you mean. I guess you rather had a crush on her. Go ahead and touch her a little, if you want. She's been touched plenty if the stories I hear are true."
"When was she crucified?"
"This morning, I think. Her father, down the way, went up on the cross yesterday, but she followed today. I remember they caught her actually crying at her father's feet when he was freshly hung and still screaming."
Servius turned back to the naked girl, and the guard meandered on to hassle a group crying women gathered at the base of a cross a few yards away.
A low grunting noise came from the girl. Servius recognized the words. "Please. I always liked you. You were my favorite. I wanted you, dreamed of you. Please get me some water..."
Faustina's attempts at using her feminine attractiveness and romantic appeal had a distinctly hollow effect. A day before, her words would have moved Servius to do anything. He would have carried water to her in his hands from the stream outside the city if he had to. Now? they just seemed empty, mechanical, pathetic. Filled with useless pain.
Servius turned his attention to the area between her legs. The girl's genitalia were almost at eye level with him. Small folds of flesh from her labia protruded and even shook slightly as her body shook. Her thighs were smooth and strong. The tiny curves of her buttocks showed behind her labia.
Reaching one hand out, Servius slowly touched Faustina's soft flesh, sliding his hands across her genital opening. It was dry there, not wet as he had imagined it so many times. The sweat was beginning to trickle down and with a small stroke of his fingers he smoothed some of it from her stomach and legs over the soft folds of flesh that stuck out between her thighs. Then, one finger slid in. As it invaded her, Faustina took a sudden breath and cried out, not a sob, not an expression of pain, but humiliation. Pure, complete humiliation at being exposed, naked, on the main highway into town, and unable to move to stop Servius from penetrating her vagina as deeply as he could.
She did move slightly, reacting to his invasion of her body. Lifting herself up by pressing down on her nailed feet, she pushed and struggled. The muscles in her legs went tight and well defined as she strained to lift herself off his invading fingers, and her arms pulled on the nails that held them high. He let her go, allowing his fingers to slide out as she lifted up.
In the process of pushing herself up she screamed in pain. Servius could see where the flesh and bones in her feet were pressing against the spike, digging in with the pressure, causing untold pain. He looked up, and saw how she pulled on her arms, wriggling to get her body higher so she did not hang from the spikes in her wrists. Her screams were desperate, panting, short things. The screaming itself drew strength from her, and yet the agony was such she could not help but scream.
Finally she reached a standing position, her knees locked and most of her body weight was on the spike that held her feet to the cross. But Servius noticed something at that point, a detail he had not seen when observing her father. Faustina's feet were nailed to a small wood protrusion, an angled shelf of sorts. It's angle was too sharp to allow her to stand directly on it; her weight was still on the nail.
"Sir! Can you answer a question?" Servius called out to the guard, who was talking to a group of men that were observing an older crucified woman across the road.
"What is it, do you want to paw her some more?" The guard came over.
"No, I am curious." Faustina had stopped screaming and was making slight grunting/whining noises. "Her feet. They are nailed to this small block of wood. Why? Her father... some of the others..."
"Ah... yes. Well, the wood allows her to push up more easily, and to stand allowing her to relieve the pain in her arms and shoulders."
"So it is a kindness?"
The guard laughed. "You might think so, but I do not. The more the condemned suffers and hangs, the faster they die. The small relief of being able to push up only prolongs her suffering. It is like giving the condemned water as they hang; it simply prolongs their life, and thus their suffering. It is better to die on the cross as quickly as possible."
Faustina's legs were shaking violently from the strain of staying upright and her cries were becoming more urgent. The pain in her feet was obviously severe and the suffering overwhelming. Suddenly, one leg gave out, the knee bending. Faustina's young body twisted on the cross and then suddenly fell down, jerking to a stop as her arms stretched taught once again. She screamed as her weight jammed on the nails that held her wrists, her face turning toward the sky momentarily as if she was crying out to the gods for mercy.
Servius looked closely at the nails that had been pounded through the young girl's delicate arms, against which she had suddenly jerked and was now hanging. The sun caught what little of the spikes protruded with a slight shadow. They were large, though it appeared that much of what he saw was the head of the spike, broad and flat to prevent the softer flesh of the condemned girl from tearing and ripping off. There was remarkably little blood. Several trickles of red had drooled down from her wrists and along the underside of her arms, but the wound was not significant.
The spikes were not in her hands, the had been pounded into her forearms just next to the wrist, between the bones. One arm appeared misshapen, as if the upper bone had broken, but the other was intact. The spike had slipped between the bones without completely breaking them.
Next to the spikes the girl's hands were curled in a permanent, fixed claw-like pose. No movement she made ever changed the claws her fingers formed; the nerves and tendons in her arm had been smashed and damaged so that her hands had frozen, paralyzed in this position. It seemed incongruous to Servius; the girl's delicate thin arms showing hardened lines of muscles pulled tight, her long thin soft hands curled as if to claw and attack their way through an enemy.
In fact, the entire scene seemed very incongruous, eerie. Faustina's young body was still recognizable and beautiful, but the flesh was pulled over her ribs, the muscles in her shoulders and arms protruded in sharp outline from strain, and her breasts were thrust out slightly, enhanced and accentuated by her position. She was at once delicate, sexual, and a horrible, twisted parody of her former young self.
Several men and women had joined Servius around Faustina's cross. Faustina stared at them, tears streaming down her cheeks as she struggled to breathe in her hanging position. Servius could see the humiliation in her eyes; the pain of having her slow agony observed by people she knew. The inability to cover herself was compounded by the way her body was stretched on display for all to see, arms high, legs spread.
Servius moved around to the side of the cross, and observed the shapely body of the young girl in profile. Her feet were pulled back against the cross, knees stinking out and showing her shapely legs. Her buttocks and hips pressed back against the stipes of the cross, but from there her back slowly arched away in a gentle curve up and out. Fautina's shoulders were about a foot out from the stipes, the top portion of her body hanging out toward those who observed her from the front. Her breasts hung down, but because her body hung out and away from the cross slightly, they also dangled out slightly, emphasizing their curved shape. The way the condemned girl's body hung had the effect of stretching her body out, emphasizing a thin waist, ribs, and larger breasts.
Faustina's head hung forward and down, her hair straggling down though the sweat had caught it and much was plastered against her face, neck and shoulders. Rising from her shoulders her arms rose backward at an odd and painful angle until meeting the patibulum at the wrists, where spikes held her wrists securely to the wood.
The entire effect of the condemn's silhouette was obscene. It emphasized her sex; her hips, narrow stomach, large breasts and thin arms and legs. But the body was contorted in a horrible manner at the same time. The only movement was the rapid movement of her stomach as she panted.
Moving to the back of the cross Servius discovered more evidence of the torture to which the girl had been subjected. On either side of the wooden stipes her narrow body showed signs of a vicious whipping. Red lines criss-crossed where the leather strip had ripped into her flesh. Servius was glad that her back was the only part of her damaged from the whipping; she was so beautiful and the shredded flesh gave him the sense she was just ground up meat.
The back of the patibulum showed a slight evidence of one spike, on the left, that had gone straight through the wood, the point exposed on the other side. The other spike had not gone quite as far.
As Servius made his way to the front of the cross once again, Faustina made a small noise, rather like an exhausted sob, or perhaps just a moan of despair. Without warning, a stream of urine erupted from between her legs and splattered on the ground in front of her.
This act of helpless public loss of body control struck Servius as the full example of how the beautiful Faustina had been reduced to the state of an animal, and perhaps lower than that. She was no longer the beautiful woman that had rejected his advances. She was a condemned and degraded thing, suffering for the pleasure and as an example to others, limbs spread and stretched wide, on public display.
The heat of the day had caused Faustina to sweat profusely, her bare flesh glistening in the sun. Her entire body was exposed to the direct heat of the sun that burned down relentlessly. It struck Servius that part of Faustina's death was to actually be cooked alive in the direct sun. Her skin had turned red during the time he had been observing her... how long? An hour? more? The sun was all the way across the sky. It had been much of the day, time had passed quickly he had been so engrossed in watching the poor girl.
She shook her head, hair flapping about for a moment. Servius looked carefully and saw. Flies were gathering on her, attracted by the salt sweat. The crawled over her body, but seemed to seek out the cracks and openings most of all. Several flies were approaching her eyes, and crawled over her lips. One was exploring her left nostril. Faustina shook her head again, scattering the flies only temporarily. Within a few seconds they had gathered again and continued their exploration of her body.
Some flies gathered between her legs and darted around the vaginal flesh folds. Servius came close again, observing the flies on her face. Faustina's eyes were open, in spite of the insect invasion. There was little she could do to stop them. It was but another indignity and torture to feel the tiny, disgusting feet run rampant across her flesh and explore her smallest cavities.
"Servius... please have mercy. Water... just a little. Just a little. Tell my mother ... my uncle... he can rescue me..." Faustina's voice was grating, hoarse. She was no longer drooling, a sign that dehydration had set in.
Servius looked around the avenue, and then pointed to a man hanging motionless from a cross close to the city gates.
"Your uncle has his own cross there. I don't think he can help you."
Faustina simply stared at Servius, then closed her eyes, croaking, "water..."
The heat of the day had taken it's toll on Servius as well. Finally forced to take care of his own body in ways that Faustina no longer could, he turned and trudged into the city, to find his family's home, urinate in private, eat a meal and drink good wine and water, splash cooling water over his body, and then sleep in his own bed.
Late that night Servius thought about Faustina still hanging on the cross only a few hundred yards away, suffering alone in the night. His penis grew hard, and he stroked it until he spurt semen over his stomach, all the while remembering Faustina's naked, suffering body on display before him.
He would visit her again tomorrow and perhaps even give her some water to help her survive and suffer a bit longer.