A Druid's Job
[WP] As a druid many expect you to be a tree hugging hippy, nobody is prepared when you say you're more of a hitman, turns out nature is quite ruthless, where plants will ask you to kill other plants so they can grow better or animals asking to hinder their enemies or lure in prey
As I lay in the warm sand of the Mojave, sheltering in the shadow of a rock outcropping, I heard someone call my name.
"Are you...Larry?" a woman's voice asked, hesitantly.
I didn't open my eyes. I hoped she'd go away.
My name's Polaris Moon, but everyone I don't hate calls me Larry. On paper, though, I'm just nobody, the son of two other nobodies who -- as you might have guessed from my name -- were basically attending Burning Man year round.
"I...was told you could help me." she pressed.
Sighing heavily, I opened one eye to regard my visitor. The young woman standing over me looked tired, sunburnt, and desperate. Desperate enough to hike up a steep desert trail to find me.
"Who told you about me?" I demanded.
She hesitated, and then licked her lips. "Star. She said you could help me. She said you're--"
"A druid?" I asked, grimacing.
Well, she wasn't wrong. I am a druid, though not by choice. I was born into it.
See, my mom and dad -- or, as they preferred I call them, Star and Banjo -- were performing a psychedelic-clouded ritual they learned while backpacking through Europe, on the night they banged me into existence. Unlike the mountain of other New Age bullshit they were into, that one turned out to be real. Lucky me.
As a result of their meddling with powers they were too stoned to comprehend, I was born with a connection to the forces of nature, and as I grew, I found I was able to draw power from the Earth, talk to animals and primal beings -- you know the drill.
My visitor nodded. "Yeah. I, uh, I'm--"
"I didn't ask." I cut off, then rolled to my feet briskly. "What is it you want from me?"
Brusque I know, but that's just how I am. You might expect that my mystical conception and innate druidhood would have made me turn out a lot like my parents: all hemp bracelets and organic everything, and fully in love of with the idea of a simple, nature-centered life that they never actually managed to fully articulate, much less live out in their day to day lives. But I didn't turn out like that.
Because, unlike them, I actually understand Nature.
"Well," she began, hesitantly, "I-it's my family's ranch, it's--"
"Dying, okay." I finished for her, rolling my wrist impatiently. "Megadrought, years of work, family legacy being slowly buried by dust and bad credit, sure -- I hear it all the time. You want me to fix it for you, right? Make your land lush, green, and profitable?"
"Well, I mean, you...you're in tune with Mother Nature, right, so..."
I rolled my eyes.
"Whoever came up with that 'Mother Nature' bullshit must have had one hell of a shitty childhood." I muttered, as I pulled out a cigarette and fumbled it alight with my battered old Zippo. "And that's coming from me."
"What?" she said, sounding truly taken aback.
I drew in a long drag, and then exhaled it with a sigh.
"Look, maybe you had a mom who kissed you on the cheek, tucked you in, and wished you sweet dreams at night. But Nature? She's not like your mom. She's not even like my mom. You know, the blissful burnout in the trailer park who told you where to find me?"
"Then...what is she?" the woman asked, hesitantly.
I paused for a moment, considering.
"She's usually more like a mother kangaroo. See, a mama 'roo will casually toss her own baby to a dingo to slow it down while she gets away. She can always make another baby, right? Or sometimes, Nature's like one of those mother rabbits, who'll quite frequently just up and eat their babies if they feel threatened. Or if they hear a loud noise. Or get too cold. Or too hot. Or just because." I explained. "When she's at her very best, Nature is sort of like a mother panda. Pandas usually take more or less decent care of one of their babies, while quite happily letting the other one starve because they just can't be bothered to multitask."
"What's your point?" she said, crossing her arms.
"My point," I said, thrusting my hands into the pockets of my jeans. "Is that you need to know what you're dealing with. The forces you're calling on aren't nice. They're savage, mindless, and heartless. And more importantly, their help isn't free."
"I...I brought money." she said, fishing a roll of bills from her purse. "All I have."
I looked at the wad of cash. It seemed like it would let me sleep inside for a while, if nothing else. I can sleep rough better than most anyone, but I don't like it. All the fresh air and open sky is too much like being at work. So, I held out my hand.
"You'll help?" she said, hopefully.
I glared, and she quickly dropped the money into my hand. I pocketed it, then held up a warning finger. "The money's good, but there's one more part of my price."
She bit her lip, and looked me up and down. After a moment, she nodded, took a deep breath, and raised her slender hands to the buttons of her top, parting the top one with a nimble flick of her fingers.
"Not that." I said, hastily raising a hand to halt her. "Shit. I'm not that kind of asshole." I jerked a thumb over my shoulder at the desert landscape. "You just have to watch me work."
She lowered her hands again, looking confused. "Why?"
I turned away from her, towards the desert landscape, and extended my hand. "So you'll know what my help really costs."
Then I reached out, seized the web of life in my hand, and pulled. I made some strands shorter, and some strands longer. Still others, I had to cut altogether. As I did so, the cacti and hardy desert brush withered and blackened across the sandy plains, as far as the eye could see. I had to take a lot from this place to give to my client's home, and the plant life here had little to spare. So I dug deeper.
The hard truth is that Nature isn't generous with her bounties. Everything that lives in her realm is living off something else's death and decay. It's been said before, but there's no such thing as a free lunch. The best you can do is make sure someone else is paying.
Desert creatures -- lizards, rabbits, and bugs of all kinds -- burst from their dens and burrows all around us, writhing in pain and screaming in a thousand tiny voices, as I ripped the life out of all of them. Using the young woman's connection to her home, I redirected that life into her dying patch of land miles away, and into the livestock her family raised there. Some might have called it horrific, or unnatural. Well, it might have been the former, but certainly not the latter. Something dies, and something else lives because of it. That's how Nature rolls.
When I finished, I was exhausted, and my client was gone. She'd evidently fled in the middle of my working, as my clients usually do. That was fine. I was pretty sure she got the point.
I started back down the trail myself after a few minutes, taking it at an easy pace -- I didn't want to run into the woman I'd just helped. No point in making things awkward.
I was looking forward to going into town, spending my money, and getting out of my head for a while. Most of all, I was looking forward to getting out of Nature.