An Alien Anthropologist

Erts’as-to was reading the entry again. This was the sort of thing that made him reconsider his study of the world cultures concentration. On the one hand, world cultures were so fascinating, but on the other four they were alternately disturbing, horrifying, upsetting, and incomprehensible. For instance, halfway through the article –

“The predominant life-form on this planet appears to be a relatively small organism with several appendages that lives a parasitic existence. There are numerous variations in race or species of this organism, many involving wings. They are prey to several other species, and several of the hosts use appendages to forcibly beat the organisms until dead.”

That was certainly horrifying, though in a twisted way Erts’as-to could understand it. Even worse, though, was this:

“This planet is covered with the excretions and creations of another species, of an average size relative to all other species on the planet. They, like the flying population, have a separate entry in this encyclopedia to more fully describe some of their more idiosyncratic customs and behaviors, several of which include meshing plant fibers to wrap around their bodies, applying gelatinous animal matter to their outer organs, using planetary matter to build structures from which they sometimes jump and which they often use mechanisms to deconstruct, and spending large quantities of time holding, touching, and looking at small earth-matter items that change colors and create designs. This species, like most others, appears to be sentient, but according to the researcher nur’Emtome ‘This species populating the planet has adopted a particularly twisted strain of consciousness. Their manner of thinking – and despite appearances, it is thinking – is both complex and contradictory.” More of nur’Emtome’s work can be read in the essay “The Species that Invented the iPod,” available in several popular galaxies.”

The study of such things fascinated Erts’as-to but were also bewildering. Try as Erts’as-to might, it still seemed impossible to properly imagine such a race. They were simply too strange, too different, and Erts’as-to was left with too many questions.

Why did they use so many types of matter for so many things? What was the meaning of the sounds they made, especially the ones scratched onto planet-matter and used over and over? What was the importance of the plant and animal matter attached to their bodies? Why did some of them appear to feed and house other species, from the flying ones to larger flying ones in cages to things with four foot-appendages who made a lot of noise? What the ertamel was an iPod?

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