The following article was written by Hannah Jenkins as an entry to the Alien August competition 2015.
Extract of report submitted by Professor Jennifer Munroe, sent from the Orbital Research Station at Rexa V. (Copy also sent to the Ethics Tribunal at New Canada).
Fauna #46759 “GRILSH”
Found exclusively in the southern polar regions, this is also Rexa V’s only sentient species. They have six limbs, and are most often quadrupeds, using the front and rear limbs for locomotion and the central pair for carrying tools or infants. However, when they need to they can walk solely on their hind legs and use both front pairs as arms. Their heads and tails give them an almost crocodilian appearance, despite the thick fur that protects them from the extreme cold of their habitat. This fur varies in colour between individuals from smoky grey or beige to pure white.
This species has been nicknamed “grilsh” by the research team after one of the few words they have managed to translate of their language. It is a word of greeting, used whenever two individuals meet, even if they’ve only been out of sight of each other for a few minutes. It is also the first word always spoken when they first emerge in the morning, as if they are greeting the world. As far as we can tell, it translates as “now” or “today”.
They live in subterranean burrows containing between 4-8 unrelated adults and their offspring. Each burrow has a territory of several square miles. Contact between different burrows is rare, and usually limited to the annual season of migration of their largest prey (see #37509), as co-operation is needed to bring down these massive creatures as they pass through the territory.
Grilsh are largely carnivorous, but they have been observed eating fruits and other vegetable matter on occasion. Food is kept in shallow cold stores close to the main burrow, where the natural cold temperatures keep it fresh.
Tool use is common, ranging from the simple knives and ropes used for hunting, to quite sophisticated looms. Fur moulted during the warmer seasons is kept, spun, and woven into mats to line the interior of the burrow as additional insulation. A universal funeral rite is the shaving of the corpse and the fur used to make exceptionally decorative fabrics.
The major obstacle that the research team at Rexa V face is the language barrier. Grilsh communication appears to be mainly vocal, combined with some simple body language. However, the language is unusually complex, and the relative isolation of each burrows means that each group also have its own distinct dialect. One interesting feature, however, is that the grilsh do not appear to use personal names, instead referring to each other with descriptive terms such as “that one over there” or “the youngest one”. When adolescents reach maturity, they leave the burrow during the next warm season and roam for considerable distances before finding a new burrow to join, where they will spend the entirety of their adult lives. Investigating how these young adults learn to communicate with their new burrow-mates is looking to be a promising area for future research.
The coldest temperatures recorded in the region that supports the grilsh have been around -76°C (-105°F). Despite hibernating during the worst of the cold season, staying warm is of primary concern for this species. Another word tentatively translated by the research linguists is “koyk”, which can mean both “heat” and “life”.
Written by Hannah Jenkins.