THE TALON

Mythical Monsters: the Yara-ma-yha-who

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It’s no secret that absolutely everything can kill you in Australia, minus their possums, which somehow got switched with ours. So why would a land already chock-full of nightmares need a fearsome mythological beast to boot? The world may never know, but the vast menagerie of mythological creatures would certainly be far less colorful without the Yara-ma-yha-who, the tree-dwelling terror of the outback.

The Yara-ma-yha-who is described as a short, squat humanoid reminiscent of a flabby toad. It is bright red, covered in fine fur, and has a bulbous nose to sniff out its prey. Its gaping mouth has no teeth; instead, it feeds with the serrated suckers on the palms of its hands and the bottoms of its feet, slicing open the flesh of its prey to drink their blood. Whole colonies infest fig trees in the outback, waiting for unsuspecting travelers to rest in the tree’s shade. As soon as their hapless victim lets his guard down, they pour from the branches like a perverse rainfall, bleeding him dry in a matter of minutes.

But the buck doesn’t stop there; the desiccated corpse is then swallowed whole by the colony’s queen, who washes it down with a long drink of water and then settles down to nap. When she awakens, she regurgitates the victim—alive, but mysteriously shorter than before, with a slight red tint to his skin. The victim is unable to remember the attack, wandering back to civilization in confusion. Most believe they simply slept under the tree long enough to get sunburnt, but as the days pass, their skin only gets darker. When a full fifteen days have passed, they will become a Yara-ma-yha-who themselves, scouring the outback for a fig tree of their own.

It is said that Yara-ma-yha-who attacks are avoidable if the wary traveler plays dead, as they will only ambush living prey. Should you find yourself in desperate need of shelter with only a fig tree in sight, you would be best served to crawl under it and pretend to expire, remaining motionless until nightfall; once the sun disappears, the Yara-ma-yha-who will be unable to leave their tree. However, to do so is to invite the interest of the nocturnal drop bear, Australia’s second most vicious predator— and, if the legends are to be believed, a domesticated pet of the Yara-ma-yha-who. Those not wishing to have their brain stem mercilessly severed should take care to avoid walking under any other trees, though this is hardly a catch-all deterrent. To truly thwart a drop bear, put silverware in your hair to confuse them, and do your best to act like a native—this includes developing an Australian accent and professing an undying love for Vegemite.

In short, everything can kill you in Australia— even the trees. Should you dare to visit the land down under, I strongly recommend investing in some life insurance. If you insist on living on the edge, just remember that while Outback is a delicious restaurant in America, in Australia, it’s you on the menu.

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