I can’t release my grip as I know it will only bring pain; as the lactic acid begins to move and find its way back to anticipating nerves. I slowly uncurl my fingers and let the weight of the blade hang down, heavy, and yet so unnervingly comfortable. The pain passes and is forgotten. The weapon bounces a few time in my hand, then my grip tightens and I pick up speed again. I begin again the controlled rhythm of hacking and slicing.

The bill hook must be my favourite gardening tool. Its a hand bill hook with a menacing razor sharp blade. I was initially sceptical of its effectiveness, until I actually got to use it, and got used to it. For the past few weeks now I have tried to grab some time here and there to clear up the mountain of fir tree branches that I cut down at the start of the summer. There is something strangely therapeutic about using the billhook. The task looks monotonous, but this is far from the truth. The danger of taking off a few fingers keeps the mind alert. If I am working for long enough I will take a break once in a while to stop and sharpen the blade and keep the edge. It’s said that hay cutters used to be expert sharpeners of their scythes. Many of them also kept a death watch *edit devil’s coach horse beetle entombed in the scythes shaft to maintain a supernatural edge to the blade. I am not sure there is room in the polymer handle of my billhook for such a thing, nor room in my mythos either.

The grip on the hook and the swing of the blade has been repeated so often now; it is imprinted on me, and in me. The skin around the base of my thumb is peeled and calloused; the flesh below it is tender. These are the visible signs; the ones I can live with. Then there was the moment I brought the blade down and watched it cut through my fingers and bones, as neatly and as cleanly as the thousands of branches before them. The shock dragged me from my sleep with a sharp breath. I assured myself that it was just a dream, and used my full complement of fingers to draw the covers over my head. Twice now this mini nightmare has greeted me in my dreams. Twice now I have tried to shake it off my mind, but still let a little of it stay. A little warning to try and keep me sharp with the billhook.

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