January 5th, 2021


LJ Idol Survivor: "Incomparable Harvest"

Incomparable Harvest
idol survivor | individual challenge 2 | 1700 words
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Willard Canticle was the last of the great dream-farmers, a spare, silvery sort of man with round-rimmed spectacles and faded blue button-down shirts. He favored rosewood pipes and calico cats, and he lived way out in the Northern part of the country at the very end of Pickleberry Road.

Willard had learned the art of farming dreams from his mother's father's mother-father. It was a complicated lineage, to be sure. All of the delicate details of feeding, coaxing, pruning, and harvesting had been taught to him from an early age. By the time he was seven, Willard could spot embryonic Jungian archetypes and ground-breaking inventions with the best of them, but he was duty-bound to let them ripen on their own like even the most ordinary dreams before he could free them to find their destinations.

He still gave the best dreams a little extra care and love, certain he was the first dream-farmer to do that and entirely wrong in thinking so.

Dreams were a year-round crop, in constant growth and fruition no matter the season. Willard would dig rows of little four-inch-deep holes in the dirt, and then drop a hope-seed and a star-secret into each one before covering it over and patting the earth down. Then he would wait to see what grew.

He fed the seeds a variety of fine and nutritious foods, for it was impossible to be certain what sort of dream a seed might want to be. He sprinkled the earth with fish scales and flower petals, and mulched in star moss and powdered narwhal horns and forgotten puzzle-pieces from rainy Sunday afternoons. He supplemented the soil with frog chants and foolish decisions, and brushed the emerging dream-buds with moth-wing dust and midnight yearnings and summer reveries.

He watered his crops with stray song-fragments and moonbeams, with wind whispers and backwoods folktales and the laughter of children.

Willard had acres and acres of land, and nearly all of it was covered in dreamlets in various stages of development. Willard would walk through the property each day, planting hope seeds, feeding his crops, and checking on their progress. He harvested the dreams that were ready, and culled any that had morphed into nightmares (when he dared, for nightmares were unpredictable and snappish).

Most of his crops needed only modest attention, but Willard was too fascinated by the process to let any of his plantings languish for long.

Some of the dreams were so shy that he had to creep up on them at night to try to glimpse their most recent configurations. Those were often his favorites. Others transformed almost hourly, and even after decades or centuries of tending dreams and raising them up from the ground, the entire process was as mysterious as ever.

While Willard provided opportunity and nourishment, he had no ability to influence what the dreamlets grew into. Each was unique, and they were often strange and wonderful, shifting and changing as they matured and offering little certainty as to what they might become. A dream might arise from the soil with the patterned scales of an armadillo, and yet be a bilge-pump by nightfall. A promising-looking little rosebud might evolve into a nightmare of teeth and feathers despite all of Willard's encouragement, and a box of warts might stretch and grow in an ever-changing series of sizes and shapes until it became a complex mindscape on the order of Arthurian legend.

At the moment, Willard had his eye on a purple pinwheel, and on something that looked like a balloon calliope.

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