Tammy and the Amaranth

Matt Runkle

The strangest part about the amaranth was its delivery. A beast brought it down from the mist-entangled hills, down, down, the slightly cooler air still clinging to its fur, it bounded over brook and boulder—Tammy sensed it coming in mid-swath, and paused and softly sniffed the air—until its face was the width of a breath from Tammy's. It purred as it held out the plush bouquet.

Tammy, otherwise at a loss, wondered if the beast was a gorilla. It was, after all, bluish in all the right ways, and loped in a distinctly gorilloid manner. But there was something fishlike about its snout, and the way its breath stepped up and skipped could only be described as feline.

Tammy let her nose fall into the bouquet. Her machete hit the ground with a thud, as did all her weaknesses—which had once manifested themselves in sporadic rashes, stools that were softer than is healthful, and skin-crawling, almost hallucinatory bouts of panic.

Later, of course, Tammy would say that she'd encountered a yeti, the quickest way of talking about something for which there was a lack of accessible words. Sometimes at night, in the soft, scarlet light of pre-sleep, Tammy would wonder if the beast was, in fact, a man. As a child, she had heard such rumors: a mountain man, a wild one who'd dedicated his life to the impenetrable hills, who occasionally came down to either laugh or cower at the progress they were making below.

As for the amaranth, it withered quickly, and began to cultivate a strikingly cobalt slime. Tammy—who was sinewy now, and coolly ambitious—Tammy tossed it away without a trace of angst.