The Gardeners

Andy Miles 3rd February 2024 (based on a suggestion from Beverley Miles)


 “In a hole in the ground there lived a…”

Patrick Turner was very proud of his garden. He spent at least some time tending the flowers, bushes, fruit and vegetables that he grew there. The earth was turned over at every change in the crops with high-quality homemade compost mixed in. This year he had picked up a new spade at the Hadleigh Show, the annual farm show held every year in Holbecks Park. Although this was a new spade to him, it was from a stand that sold old reconditioned equipment. This spade almost spoke to him, the balance was perfect and the sharp edge would cut into the earth with ease. The most unique feature though was the carvings along the shaft.

Holes in the ground can be a sign of the gardener’s enemies; moles, rats, mice and the like. The holes Patrick liked to see were the wormholes, these meant that the soil was loosened and improved the drainage. He made sure never to harm a worm when preparing the ground for a new season.

Sunday was a normal day, the day after the Hadleigh Show and Patrick took his new spade into the garden to turn over a small plot that was now unused. It was a warm May day and he listened to Radio 4 as he worked. Maybe the sun blinded him momentarily, maybe someone said something interesting on the radio and took his attention, when he looked down he was horrified to see he had cut a worm clean in half. Through the tears that fell at the thought of hurting this creature he remembered hearing that worms will regenerate, and if cut in two will become two worms. He carefully dug two small holes in the ground with his hand and placed one-half of the worm in each. Patrick had had enough for the day and went back indoors, not noticing the blood running up the blade and shaft of the spade, settling in the strange carvings.

On Monday Patrick went to check and was overjoyed to see a healthy worm in both the hole he had dug. He picked up the spade and went back to turning over the earth. The spade was so perfectly weighted that it seemed to do all the work for him, and he drifted off into daydreams. Patrick was snapped out of this by hearing a dozen small screams in his head. He looked around, listening keenly for any more sounds of distress. There were none. As Patrick looked down at the earth he had been turning over he was shocked to find he had sliced more than a dozen worms in half. He ignored the spade, did not see the blood, and did not notice the red glowing runes on the shaft.

Initially, Patrick was horrified, but then he remembered what had happened overnight. He dug holes in the ground, many holes and moved the half-worms into them.

He slept fitfully that night, dreaming of tunnels in the ground, of being cut in half and being buried.

Tuesday, a grey morning with a threat of rain in the air. Forgoing breakfast and even his usual strength five filtered coffee he rushed out to see his worms. Patrick stopped short of the newly turned soil, at least where the nearly turned soil had been. It was now a hole in the ground, not a worm-sized hole but a void that could take a person. A slithering noise behind him made him turn round. He had seen balls of worms occasionally when digging but never this big, never standing upright, and never carrying a spade. Thinking about it, Patrick has never seen a spade with glowing writing along the shaft. Oddly, Patrick thought it was not painful when the spade split him in two through the abdomen. It was a strange feeling as the worms slid over him and covered him in the earth. His last thoughts were what it would be like to be two people.