“I’m dying.” Carnivora the great toothed plant sighed. “You must take these seedlings and distribute them to secure my legacy.”

“But why, Carnivora?” said Billy. “Why are you dying?”

“I’m a vegan, Billy,” Carnivora said. “I’ve foresworn hateful meat and refused to eat any part of anything with a face. And with no soy that will satiate me…this is the end.”

Billy bowed his head sorrowfully. “I’m so sorry, Carnivora.”

“Promise me, Billy. Swear an unbreakable oath that you’ll see my seedlings planted.”

“I swear, Carnivora,” said Billy through his tears. “I swear.”

“Thank you.” The great plant sighed and began to wilt.

“Uh, Carnivora?” Billy said after a moment’s thought. “Won’t your seedlings die too if they’re all vegans?”

“Oh, no,” said Carnivora. “They’re not vegans, Billy. Those seedlings are carnivorous as hell and they’re going to eat your world from the inside out.”

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Fawn Delacroix Pivec owned a small library of books about the little chinks through which magic might seep into our otherwise mundane world. Lewis and Lewis, C. S. and Carroll respectively, were first and foremost in the collection, and her peers in school had long grown tired of endless book reports and dioramas on they and their literary successors.

So, when standing longingly in a fairy ring at the very edge of the Pivecs’ five acres, Fawn was delighted but unsurprised to spy a fairy flitting back and forth among the stinging nettles and wild raspberries tumbling over the old fence.

“Take me with you,” she whispered breathlessly, at once afraid to cry out and scare the delicate being away and unable to contain her joy upon seeing it.

The tiny fairy cocked its head and regarded her.

“Take me with you,” Fawn said again. “Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you. I’m ready to see your world. I always have been.”

“Oh, child,” said the fairy, in a voice that was birdsong and cicadas, summer rain and running water. “My poor precious child. You dwelt in our world for an aeon and verily became our most beloved friend and queen, ere you returned. But mortal memories cannot hold that where we dwell and dance, so it has already slipped away from you like sand in a spring tempest.”

From an idea by breylee.

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He’d lived a remarkable life, being born sometime in the 1850s when his tribe still practiced their traditional way of life as farmers and herders and dying well into his 90s (at least) in 1941. His real name was long-forgotten, lost with most of his people when they were moved to a reservation; people mostly called him John Green.

From the time his people were forcibly resettled around 1885 until his death, John Green lived a quiet life in his ramshackle government-provided reservation house, tending to his true passion: gardening. As a youth he’d been trained in the cultivation of the Three Sisters: squash, corn, and beans.

Finding himself with nothing but time on his hands, John Green set out to perfect them.

He carefully bred and nurtured new varieties of each in his garden, year after year, decade after decade. The cultivars that worked were sold out of a small booth in the nearest town every other Sunday. John Green was intensely private, but did show the occasional interested party around his garden; a notebook from a state official that visited him in 1927 is the best source for many of the varieties he created.

Ordinarily, that’s where it would have stopped; John Green, the interesting footnote in botanical history, the humble man responsible for over 45 varieties of corn, beans, and squash.

But that was before the contagion that began sweeping through the cornfields of Middle America, resulting in massive crop failures and the specter of a supply chain collapse for the first time in centuries. The only strains resistant to it?

John Green’s.

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In the darkest depths of the Great Depression, Ridgeway and the surrounding hamlets would occasionally be visited by an itinerant from the backcountry who followed the rails and the old 313 from place to place. At first the man was largely left to his own devices, but it soon became know that many of the vacant and barren lots in which he spent time between sojourns would blossom forth with fruit and flower after his departure.

Eventually, a man who’d lost his job when the sawmill closed approached the itinerant, who had no known name but was occasionally referred to as Garden Joe. The millworker asked for a batch of barren soil near his house to be blessed with produce so that his family might supplement their meager diet. At first “Garden Joe” refused, but the millworker prevailed upon him.

The itinerant agreed to help on three conditions: that he be left totally alone, unmolested, and unobserved on the land for 24 hours, that he be paid with a single silver nickel with a hole punched through it, and that the nickel be hung from a string in a nearby tree before it was collected. The millworker, desperate, agreed.

The lot next door soon blossomed forth with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, and the silver coin was collected three days later.

Word soon spread, and throughout Ridgeway and nearby country towns “Garden Joe” was deluged with similar offers. He made the same three requests to all comers, substituting a penny or a dime if the people involved were particularly poor or well-off. Each time, as promised, the garden would grow.

Eventually, travelers began speaking of Garden Joe’s shack in the wilderness, surrounded by floral beauty. Next to the house, people said, was an old dead tree with branches weighed down with silver coins on strings. It was inevitable in those hard times that someone would eventually seek to see for themselves.

A ne’er-do-well from Ridgeway named Samson eventually decided that he wanted more than beauty and food from Garden Joe. He followed the man back to his home and stole a single silver nickel from the tree to show to would-be confederates who could then help him steal the entire thing. He enticed a half-dozen Ridgeway down-and-outers to do so.

The next day, Ridgeway awoke to find their gardens brown and dead; even those who had canned or iceboxed their harvest found it rotten and inedible. Samson was unable to locate the house again despite the notes and trail markers he’d left; his “friends” wound up taking their share out of his hide.

And Garden Joe? He was never seen in those parts again.

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The work of a botanist had long suited Alan Greene. There had been endless jokes and jibes from schoolmates growing up about his “Greene thumb” and Alan was perfectly happy to tend to his garden, which blossomed beautifully with tender care in a way that human relationship could never be relied upon to do. He wrote extensively; even though his ostensible specialization was ragweed and sunflowers and other Asteraceae, his knowledge was far broader and found expression wherever it could, from academic monographs to gardening magazine articles. His home in Hopewell, near campus, was a popular stop on the parade of homes due to its massive and carefully maintained lawn and flowers.

When he retired, Alan bought property in the Upper Peninsula near the old SMU field station that had closed in 1974. With quite the nest egg saved up–he had never married, girlfriends always pulling up stakes claiming he loved his plants more than them–he’d invested in a property out in the middle of nowhere, roughly halfway between Paradise village and Whitefish Point. It was equipped with a geothermal heating system, its own well, and a greenhouse almost as large as all the other rooms combined.

Infrequent visitors found the lawn to be an order of magnitude more impressive than the old Hopewell property, bursting with artful arrangements of flowers and grass in front and a garden bursting with produce around back. In the winter, heated by the geothermal pipes and the occasional cylinder of propane from Paradise, the greenhouse was a beacon of life, often snowbound.

When Alan’s remains were found in his garden nearly a year after his last trip to town, investigators were astonished to discover seventeen previously unknown varieties of flora growing about him–a last will and testament of sorts.

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