“Tree hugger!” the boy yelled as he tore down their freshly- taped sign. It blew by in the wind so quickly that Cindy could barely see the PROTEST in big letters as it flew by.
“What the fuck?” she exclaimed, turning around with the other members of the environmental club.
“Stop!” yelled Marjorie, their VP. “What are you doing?” She ran back over to the student center to confront the boy. (Brad, Cindy vaguely remembered. From Economics. Confirmed Asshole.)
Entirely unintimidated, Brad turned around to face the group of 3 young women stomping towards him. He straightened his baseball cap confrontationally. “Oh what?! Are you triggered?” he said. “No one with any intelligence believes in global warming. And no one will miss a bunch of fucking trees. I’m glad the campus is bulldozing them- we need room for a new activity center. And you all-“ he looked at all of the girls-“need a life. And to find fucking boyfriends generous enough to fuck some sense into you”.
Cindy was DONE. She traded a meaningful look with Willow, their third group member.
Willow smiled serenely. She stepped forward, projecting a calm energy. When she spoke, her voice managed to be both soothing and commanding.
“Look at me, Brad,” she said.
Brad looked right into her violet eyes. It was as though he couldn’t help himself, Cindy thought with a shiver.
“Why do you want to hurt the trees?” Willow continued. “Trees are so important! They give us oxygen to breathe and they’re so nice to rest under after a long day…”
Cindy watched Willow take Brad’s hand as she continued to ramble. Her voice became soft- so soft that Cindy couldn’t make out what she was saying anymore. Brad’s facial expression went from angry to confused to blank to blissful. His gaze never left hers. He started swaying side to side in time with Willow’s motions.
Cindy noted absently that she was starting to feel a bit entranced herself…
Willow walked past the campus grove on her way back from class. She always liked to visit her trees on Thursday afternoons. The sun was shining and the breeze was cool and refreshing. She heard the distant sound of strained grunting wafting through the air.
It was a beautiful day.
Not entirely unexpectedly, as she approached she began to make out the shape of a man moving against a big, central tree. He was naked with his arms around the trunk, slowly caressing the nearby bark with his hands. He was moving and appeared to be rutting into a convenient treehole. His expression was somewhere between rapture and discomfort and effortful concentration.
He seemed happy?
Several other people Willow had encountered recently were gathered in the grove as well. Deans. Business professors. College Republicans. All had doubted the importance of environmentalism. All had wanted to destroy her beautiful trees.
Now, of course, they were behaving differently. A woman in a business suit was seated at an easel, lovingly sketching an old oak. Another student was serenading a pine with his guitar. Two other people were fighting over who could present their tree with beautiful flower bouquets first.
Of course, the enchantment was a bit flawed. Willow was new to dryad magic when this all started. She had never MEANT to make people love trees quite this…literally.
Anyway, she thought, spreading out a picnic blanket under an unoccupied favorite elm, the trees were getting some much-needed attention now. She knew they enjoyed that. And she would better specify the intentions of her spell eventually (when she finally figured out how to recast it). But for now, the grove was safe and cared for (if…slightly stickier sometimes). That was a win for her- and for the environment.
She bit into her apple (a lovely gift from a friend!) and laid back on the blanket to enjoy a good rest.