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Max, The Plant Whisperer
Max's mind raced. If the plants could talk, what else were they capable of?
Written by: Celeste Kallio (@CelesteKallio) using ChatGPT
Illustrations by: Andrey Kurenkov with MidJourney
Narration by: Andrey Kurenkov with ElevenLabs
Max was out walking in the woods one day when he heard a rustling in the bushes. He stopped and listened, wondering what kind of animal was lurking in the underbrush. Suddenly, a small, green shoot poked out of the bushes and waved at him.
He had always known that animals could talk, but he had never heard of plants being able to communicate before. He hesitated for a moment before tentatively waving back. To his surprise, the shoot let out a small, delighted trill and wriggled closer.
"Hello there," Max said, still not quite believing what was happening. "Can you really talk?"
The shoot nodded its tiny leaves. "Of course we can," it said in a soft, rustling voice. "We just don't do it very often."
Max's mind raced. If the plants could talk, what else were they capable of? He was about to ask when the shoot suddenly pulled back into the bushes.
"We'll talk more later," it said. "But for now, you should go home. It's getting late."
Max nodded and turned to leave, his head full of questions. He had no idea what he had stumbled upon, but he knew one thing for certain: his life would never be the same.
If the plants in the forest could talk, could those in his home garden do the same? He decided he would have to investigate further. So, when he got home, he sat in his garden and waited. Sure enough, soon a few tiny green shoots emerged from the soil, and Max was able to speak to them.
At first, the plants told him about the changes in the weather, what kind of animals were about, and the movements of the stars in the night sky. Gradually, he began to understand how everything in the natural world was connected, and how he too could be part of it.
The plants seemed excited to talk to Max. Most humans were too oblivious to make decent conversationalists.
"Max, you've got to do something about this gopher," his mom's prized carrot whispered to him one day.
Max knelt down beside the carrot plant, which was starting to look a little wilted. "What's wrong, little guy?" he asked.
The carrot plant rustled its leaves. "There's a gopher digging around my roots," it said. "Can you please make it stop?"
Max thought for a moment. He didn't want to hurt the gopher, but he also didn't want it ruining the carrot plant. "I'll see what I can do," he said.
He walked around the garden, looking for any signs of the gopher. He spotted a small hole in the ground, and he could see a tuft of fur sticking out of it.
Max sat down next to the hole and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Mr. Gopher," he said. "I know you're just trying to find food, but you're hurting this carrot plant. Is there any way you could find something else to eat?"
There was a moment of silence, and then a small voice replied. "I'm sorry, but I don't know where else to find food. Everything else in the garden is so big and tough, and I can't chew it."
Max frowned. He didn't want the gopher to go hungry, but he also didn't want it eating all of the carrot's roots. "Maybe I could help you find some other food," he said. "Would you be willing to try something else?"
The gopher thought for a moment. "Yes, I would. I don't want to hurt anyone, especially not a nice plant like this one."
Max grinned. "Great! I'll be back with some options."
He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a few bread slices and some lettuce leaves. He placed them near the gopher's hole and waited to see if it would emerge.
Sure enough, the gopher emerged from its hole and sniffed at the bread and lettuce. It looked up at Max and nodded. "Thank you," it said. "I'll try these."
Max watched as the gopher happily munched on its new food. He smiled to himself and patted the carrot plant on the stem. "See? Everything is going to be okay now," he said.
The carrot plant smiled back. "Thank you, Max. You're a true friend."
The carrot's demands were easily addressed, but other plants had issues that were not so simple.
Max was walking through the park when he heard a faint cry for help. He followed the sound to a small tree, whose leaves were trembling with fear.
"What's wrong?" Max asked.
"They're going to cut me down!" the tree said. "They're going to build a new parking lot here, and I'll be gone forever!"
Max's heart sank. He knew that the city had been planning to expand the park, but he had no idea that it would mean cutting down any of the trees. "I'll help you. Is there anything I can do?"
The tree thought for a moment. "There's a man in the city council who is in charge of making the final decision about the parking lot," it said. "If you can convince him to choose a different location, maybe I can be saved."
Max nodded. "I'll do my best.”
He went to the city council building and asked to speak to the man in charge. After a bit of waiting, he was finally able to meet with him.
"Sir, I understand that you're planning to build a new parking lot in the park," Max said. "But there's a tree there that will be cut down if you do. Could you please consider finding a different location for the parking lot?"
The man looked at Max with a skeptical expression. "I understand your concern, but we need to make room for more cars, and there's no other space available."
"But the tree is a living being with feelings and a right to exist," Max said. "Isn't there any way we can find a way to preserve it?"
The man sighed. "I'll look into alternative locations, but I can't make any promises."
Max thanked the man and left the office, feeling a mixture of hope and uncertainty. He knew that he had done everything he could, but the final decision wasn’t up to him.
He returned to the tree and told it what had happened. The tree still looked worried.
"I hope he makes the right choice," it said.
Max walked to school with his head down, trying to avoid making eye contact with any of the plants around him, because as soon as he stopped, he would be bombarded with requests for help.
But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't escape the plants' pleas. Every flower, tree, and blade of grass seemed to have some sort of problem that only Max could solve.
"My roots are too dry!"
"A bird is eating my berries!"
"A cat is scratching my bark!"
The voices were constant, and Max's head was spinning. He was only one person, and he couldn't fix everything.
He finally reached the school gates and leaned against them, breathing heavily. He couldn't go on like this. He needed a break, but he knew that the plants would never give him one.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind. And then, an idea came to him. Max went to his science teacher and explained the situation. She listened with interest and promised to do some research and see what she could do.
With the help of his teacher, Max was able to find more effective ways to take care of the plants' needs. He learned about different methods of watering and fertilizing and found some natural remedies for common plant pests.
Max sat on his porch, looking out at the garden. He had worked hard all summer, helping the plants in his community and learning as much as he could about plant care.
But he was starting to feel burnt out. There were always more plants that needed his help, and he couldn't be there for all of them. He had to admit that he couldn't save the world on his own.
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. Maybe it was time to set some boundaries. He couldn't ignore his own needs and happiness any longer.
He stood up and walked over to the garden. He knelt down beside a small flower and smiled. "Hello, little guy," he said. "How are you doing today?"
The flower looked up at him with a happy face. "I'm doing well, thanks to you," it said. "You've been such a great help to all of us."
Max chuckled. "I'm glad I could help, but I can't do it all the time," he said. "I have to take care of myself too."
The flower nodded. "I understand. But know that you're always welcome here. We'll always be grateful for your help."
Max smiled. "Thank you. I’ll try to be here for you as much as I can, but I can't promise that I'll always have the answers."
The flower nodded again. "Just do your best, and that's all we can ask for. I’ll tell the others, too.”
Max stood up and brushed off his pants. A weight lifted off his shoulders. He turned and walked back to his house, feeling more at peace than he had in a long time. The plants would always be a part of his life, but he had learned to balance his own needs with their needs.
He knew that he still had a lot to learn, but he was ready to face whatever challenges came his way. He had a supportive community of plants and people around him, and together, they could make a difference.
Author commentary: Writing this story was my first time using ChatGPT. In my day job, I work with generative AI systems every day so it is difficult to surprise me, but this first experience blew my mind.
I started out asking ChatGPT for some story ideas. After a few misses (we don’t want the stories to be too repetitive after all), ChatGPT gave me the basic concept of the story.
We workshopped the concept:
And then ChatGPT wrote a great opener:
Some of my follow-up experiences were a lot less exciting than this, but as my first experience with the new tool, I felt that much of the hype around ChatGPT was somewhat justified. And we wrote this nice little optimistic story about self-care and community together.
Lastly, here are some images that did not wind up being used: