Shiftwork shaves years off your life, is the scientific consensus. Anybody who does it would agree. After a run of nights, my inner ear detects not only a circadic irrhythmia (yep made that up) but also a beer-hall echo that suggests I moved closer to Valhöll after that last nightshift.

Having worked in a bar, I know my fate will not be the feast of heroes awaiting Ragnarök, nor the dutiful yet rewarding vigilance of the noble barkeep keeping said heroes properly hydrated while they await Odin’s final call.

Nor will I be one of the saucy wenches running steins of mead and beer to the heroes, keeping morale high before the end-of-days. Because you don’t want your heroes in their cups moodily reflecting upon the futility of joining a fight they’re destined to lose.

Sitting apart from the others, I’ll drink alone. I’ll consider myself the odd one out, but that’s only because I notice the rowdy heroes at the long-tables more than the other solitary drinkers at the bar. The reality is, we’re about even in number, and when the call comes we all raise an axe.

Work in real life is much the same, without the anaesthetizing benefit of free beer. Or axes. The call to duty is the same, and having no choice. The sense that every day is about the same but maybe a little worse. There’s no feeling that we’re trending positively; at least, not in the society we keep.

And maybe that’s it. For those at the bottom, things always get worse. The stratum above them feels it less, and those remote from the turmoil find it easy to dismiss, disavow and disown altogether. It’s just not part of their lives. Or — to be honest — mine. I leave it behind for a day or two when I step out of my boots.

But I go back. I’m not inclined to dismiss, disavow or disown the reality of low lives, or what the upper echelons did to put (and keep) them there. Oaths bind you to duty, noble or stupid, after almost twenty-five years I’m not sure.

So I have some days off now. 1.5 to be precise, then back at work. I’ll use that time wisely. Rest today, eat and drink well, see the little elf, and get some sleep. Catch up with my wife and family.

But tomorrow I’ll be up before Odin’s rooks have roused, and slip away to the mountains. I’ll move rocks and plunge my hands in icy water. I’ll rest beside a fire of bone-dry twigs. I’ll eat meat and bread and talk to no-one except myself. When I come home, my axe will be sharp, and I’ll swing until I can’t anymore.

But for today, skål.

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