Not long ago, this was a very busy place. The humans had found gold within the earth, and they had worked very hard to take as much of it as they could find away. Eventually, they had stopped finding any - and when that happened, they had packed up their tools and their trappings and went off to look somewhere else. All that they left were the unmistakable sign that they had been here: a wide, shallow hole in the ground, waiting for nature to reclaim it.
This was probably not the form of reclamation that they had expected.
Now, the pit was flattened and carefully shaped, a makeshift open-air den. There were signs of people - new people, seeking other things than gold - but those people had gone to find places to sleep some time ago. As dawn approached, the only creature there was a spirit seated comfortably in the midst of it all, watching the sky. Every so often, they would raise a hand and let a flower blossom along a vaguely human wrist before placing it atop their head. Purples, blacks, reds, and every so often a slate-grey bloom, each fluttering in the breeze before being absorbed back into the spirit's form.
With the excitement of the weekend having passed, the cactus posing as a person could finally take stock of things. They had been growing a lot, as a spirit. Not in personal power, perhaps, but in awareness. The cult - those peaceful little darlings - were providing a constant trickle of day-to-day human experiences. The pack, on the other hand, gifted them a form of social acuity that hadn’t been possible for a very long time. Like kudzu, the seeds of more complex thought - of self, had sprouted. Perhaps the spirit had been trying to avoid them, in an effort to refrain from really growing up.
After all, growing had consequences. Being confronted with history that they had tried to forget, that stymied and frustrated their first attempt to decide that something mattered. That had hurt, though they were starting to let themselves let it be. Then the sense of separation, if only in the physical world. The thought of losing the pack that had only just formed had been like a sharp beak through the heart, even though they had such different priorities. The spirit couldn’t remember ever feeling like that before.
And it was okay. It hurt, but it left them more than they had been. It had shown that there were those who cared, even outside the pack - and then there were new pack members, each of them delightful in a different way. There wasn’t the same reverence that most spirits got - but that could come from the cult. Instead, what they got was to be included. That was novel, and novel was such a fine fertilizer.
Oh, but dawn was coming. The cactus spirit raised a voice - high and clear and not quite human - in a joyful, wordless song; letting it echo across the connections it shared. This was not how most spirits kept packs - but these curious creatures were theirs, now, and the spirit would fight Helios himself to keep them.
It had been a complicated and difficult experience, but so was everything out here now.
That was okay. This was good.
This was not the desert.
The spirit wasn’t alone.
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