Author's Notes: Written for zombi_fic_ation. 009. Any Fandom -- Any Character(s) -- So, apparently zombies nowadays have other overwhelming cravings on top of the brain thing.
Summary: At the end of the world, some life still remained that attracted the dead as no other.
On Ao3 or below the cut
The entire valley looked like it had been painted by a mad god. Rose bushes in a dozen different hues spread out in profusion, heavy with blossoms. They reluctantly gave way to showy azaleas, hyacinths, hollyhocks, and pansies, violets, petunias, impatiens, daffodils, and mums. Climbing morning glories and moonflowers covered old statues with bursts of blue and red and white, and arbors laden with climbing roses hurt the eyes with their color.
Shambling through the twisted paths and low flowerbeds were their greatest admirers, loose jaws sagging, rotting feet dragging, dead eyes staring hungrily at the color as if it could nourish them. The zombies circled the valley aimlessly until they’d found something that caught their blunted attention, and then stared and stared and stared and stared until the sun went down, only to fall where they stood until the sun came again.
In their nighttime stupors, that was when Janice went to work. She tentatively cracked the hatch open, cunningly concealed with drab mulch, and peered warily at the paths around her. No feet that she could see, no shuffling or moans for her to hear. Slinging a bag of tools around her shoulders, Janice pushed open the hatch the rest of the way and climbed out, blending into the charcoal shadows and lacy black lattice that the valley became in the light of the moon. If one of the other survivors could have seen her, they could have been forgiven for thinking her a slayer. Armed with a hoe, a sharp-tined garden rake, and a variety of clippers, trowels, and root-breakers, and armored with leather gardener’s gloves and smock, she could have been another of the resourceful few who’d made a virtue of the necessity by becoming an expert in whatever weapons they’d manage to scavenge.
As a matter of fact, the last three bands who’d passed through the valley had offered her a place with them; no mean thing in this day and age. Janice had only smiled and asked them to wait and watch as she went on her nightly rounds.
No slayer could have been quieter or moved more carefully than Janice when she put her mind to it. And no slayer would have gone right into a place where zombies congregated thickly as crows on a carcass. Janice lived there. She stalked silently from cover to cover, careful to watch her feet for a silent, undead body lurking where she least expected it. Zombies could go into a coma-like stupor when there was nothing to do, but falling over a person would wake anyone up, living or undead.
The first of the unknown heaps loomed up out of the gloom, and Janice became even quieter, drawing her trowel with its sharpened edge as she listened for any sounds of stirring. Hearing none, Janice edged closer and considered the zombie in the harsh shadows and light of the moon. Its shoulder was exposed, and Janice slashed down quickly, opening up a deep cut. The smell was horrendous, rot and filth, but the zombie didn’t even stir. Breathing as little as possible, Janice jammed her hand in her apron’s pocket and came up with several seeds. She dropped them into the wound and thrust the trowel in the sod at her feet. A moment later she had the wound covered with earth rapidly dampening from the rotten black blood.
One down, a dozen to go.
She put ivy in the exposed leg wound of one, morning glories in the open chest of another. Janice cut open those with no visible wounds and planted apples and cucumbers, roses and violets. She slipped seeds into the pockets of those who still had intact clothing, and dropping cuttings into the cuffs of those that were clearly about to drop. No one left her garden without something, and more were coming all the time.
Bright color had a tonic effect on dull zombie brains. So many lingered in the cities even now, staring at colorful signs and posters and trash and cars, only going roaming when things became dull. That was why people died – because zombies had figured out that live people were usual drab on the outside, but they were beautifully red once you got them open. Eating was less about food, for she’d seen zombies go weeks without it, and more about expression, of holding the beautiful red and smearing it about. They were deadly toddlers doing lethal finger-painting.
There hadn’t been one surviving person in a thousand who’d figured that out. When Janice had told bands of survivors her theories, she could see lightbulbs going off above people’s heads, sudden understanding of why those who’d been dressed the most colorfully had been chased the most, and those who had been caught wearing dull clothes had died in the most gruesome fashions. The survivors had asked her if she’d been a scientist, or with the military, maybe a survivalist or anyone else equipped to have pondered these kinds of questions.
“I’m a gardener,” Janice told them honestly, and got some of her first real giggles since Z-Day at their dumfounded expressions. She wasn’t a slayer, she was a creator.
That was why Janice had started the garden. The colors soothed the undead, entranced them, let Janice get close enough to plant in their flesh. Some would just stare at the colors of the flowers until they’d become overgrown, turning into compost. Others wandered afield, zombies covered in living flowers and fruit and vegetables, creating gardens where they fell. Whether a survivor took them out, or the plants rooted them to the ground, the result was the same. Janice smiled when she came up on the next stuporous admirer of all her hard work, flopped on the ground facing a clump of what would be bright yellow dandelions in the morning sun. Janice scattered mushroom spores over her gaping belly, and dropped a trumpet vine in her ripped-open ear before moving on.
By the time the zombie apocalypse ended, the world would truly be beautiful.