The tree stirred under my hand, as if it had the ability to move. But it looked as dead as it had before. I slowly began to identify it, though.
An apple tree.
Was this a test? Heck, was this a dream? I had vivid dreams sometimes, but this did not feel quite like that.
But then, if it was a dream, then I wasn’t quite normally asleep. Whatever was going on was something deeper than that.
“Well, tree,” I told it finally. “Looks like it’s you and me.”
The bark cracked a little under my touch. “Did lightning get you?”
The tree was dead and alive at the same time. I had no idea what to do about that, and the stars above were as bright and clear as if there was no atmosphere.
Maybe there wasn’t. Maybe I didn’t need it in this place. I thought of Tolkein. The dead tree and how many stars.
A laugh burst from me. “Silly.”
Fiction. This was not fiction, this was reality at some level and I had to get out and get back.
Then I had to…and then I got it.
If I went back without some demonstration that I wasn’t about to start Ragnarok I’d only have something else happen.
So, what? I was supposed to heal this place?
I was supposed to destroy it? Burning the tree would certainly be something, and it might be doing it a favor. But that would be…the part of me that was fire losing control.
But it was an apple tree, not any kind that could only seed after fire. And it was still alive. Water was what it needed.
Water for the cracked ground.
And sunlight. Nothing I could give it.
I stepped back from the tree and looked around, mostly for water. What I saw was a mirage on the horizon, but definitely a mirage. Just a shimmer. And it was in all directions.
Was I, heck, was I supposed to admit this was beyond me? Or just resist the temptation to destroy?
I looked up at the stars again. Then back down.
Water. The place you looked for water in a rainless desert was underground. Clearly I had to find something to dig with.
Featureless horizon. No. Not quite. Now I was really looking I saw it. In one direction there was a single mountain.
“I’ll be back,” I promised the tree, and started to walk.