The Slick Blade

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His muscles strain as he tenses against the movement beneath him. His grip remains firm as he shifts his weight slightly, fully immobilising the writhing mass that twitches at his feet.

He looks down with impunity, almost with a sense of pity but he knows what must be done. He has trained a long time for this and is wary of his mentor standing off to onside, quietly observing him and taking in every action, every pause, each calculated pass of the blade.

He reaches down and the blade catches in the sunlight. Freeze frame as suddenly the moment is here and he can see everything, feel everything, sense everything. The gentle breeze that caresses the long grass into soft waves of mesmerising green, the sounds of the forest behind him and his own heart thumping loud in his chest, crashing in his ears, filling his head with a steady rhythm, urging him on.

The first cut is always the most important. Not too deep, but deep enough. It must be at the correct angle, get it wrong now and there is no point going on, as all that is left beyond that are a few amateurish hacks to finish the job as quickly as possible.

No, he must be patient.

He was told it would be this way, that only he would know the moment to start. That only he would be able to judge the exact second in which to make the first cut and that he must not given in to the temptation to start too soon nor buckle under the pressure that he might make a mistake (for there will always be others). He knew too that his time was running out, he’d heard of others who had already taken this step and the talk of their sureness with the blade was starting to spread. He knew that this was his chance, his last chance.

A slow deep breath and, almost without realising, his arm reaches out and the blade hits home, he draws back and across in perfect choreography, and then he is reaching forward again. The blade is sharp and effortless in his hand, his grasp remains true, and soon the wriggling stops as the blade repeats the slashes, over and over, carefully following the patterns he was given.

His mentor watches his face carefully, and with a shallow smile allows himself to relax. He sees a mask of concentration and a steady arm, he follows the delicate dance, the slash and slice of the steel, and knows that his teaching is over.

The young man breathes out, a long deep breath that loosens his shoulders, his arm hesitates in the air as if unsure of what to do next before falling by his side. He straightens and turns as his mentor strides over to him, beaming as only a proud father can.

“Well done lad, you got the entire thing off in one piece!!” he bellows, slapping his son hard on the back.

His son releases his grip and they both turn to watch as the freshly shorn sheep bounds back to join his flock.