Thanks to J.I. Borerro for this fun description of an alien pest, submitted as an entry to the Alien August competition. I love this idea, and I can already think of a dozen uses for a creature like this in my own fiction!
Squid-rats are the most successful species in the known Galaxy. These highly adaptable creatures thrive in most environments.
“In the states of New Jersey and New York, it is unlawful for human and non-human persons to possess unsterilized live squid-rats, squabbits, and squickens (“Loligorattus Loligoratti”) as a pet, as livestock, or for any other reason. It is unlawful for human and non-human persons to possess feral Ship’s Squid-rats and Lap-Squabbits. Any encounters with feral Loligoratti must be referred to Animal Control for capture and euthanization.
Only breeders and butchers authorized by the Extraterrestrial Authority of New Jersey and New York (ETA) and based on the Auzulith Radiant (“Radiant”) are permitted to sell Loligoratti, live or butchered. Live animals must have a certification of sterilization to be allowed to leave the Radiant.”
– Policy statement by the Extraterrestrial Authority of New Jersey and New York
The squid-rat line began at least five million years ago, with the expansion of the extinct Gibborim civilization, which spread Metapolypoid life across the known Galaxy. Whether the first squid-rat began life as vermin aboard Gibborim ships, or as livestock imported to feed the carnivorous Gibborim, is unknown. But wherever the Gibborim and their trading partners went, the squid-rat was sure to follow. Considering how widespread the squid-rat is, its not surprising that a popular trope of urban legends involves the discovery of sapient squid-rats, whether living in the bowels of an orbital habitat or on some distant planet.
Squid-rats exhibit the classic Metapolypoid body plan, albeit heavily modified. The Metapolypoids originated as large, sessile polyp-like organisms, with a mouth ringed with tentacles on top, and a muscular base on the bottom. The shape is something like a terrestrial sea anemone. The polyp shape is turned on its side, with two tentacles greatly enlarged, rigid, and folded under the body to form a pair of legs. The rest of the tentacles ring the beaked mouth and aid in handling food. Above the tentacles is a breathing siphon or snout. The base is modified into a tail, sometimes long, sometimes stubby. The reproductive organs are under the head.
Squid-rats are hermaphrodites. A pair of squid-rats have a courtship duel, with the winner acting as male, and the loser as female. However, such duels wear out the winner, so the next duel often finds the previous male acting as a female. Eggs are laid in a nest made of vegetation or garbage, with usually six eggs to a clutch. Offspring are cared for by the mother, fed with a nutritive jelly secreted from the tail. Depending on the species, juveniles can become self-sufficient anywhere between one to six months. Their short generation time combined with their ability to eat nearly anything makes them adaptable.
The oldest use of squid-rats has been for food. Even Common Ship’s Squid-Rats are edible, if sometimes dangerous due to the risk of a squid-rat having eaten poisonous wiring insulation. The uwan of the space-dwelling nomadic Emurihu culture domesticated a variety of squid-rats, breeding and modifying for fleshiness, fattiness, docility, and hairlessness. The edible breed known on Earth is the Plump Table Squabbit, and the Dainty Table Squail. Generally, squabbits are larger edible and pet breeds, while squickens and squails are smaller edible breeds. Edible squabbits, squickens, and squails are bred for the meat (said to taste like a rich chicken with hints of nuts, mushrooms, and bacon) as well as for the tail jelly, which is a popular condiment and component of sauces and desserts. Regular electrical and physical stimulation of the tail can cause squabbits to produce tail jelly. Some varieties have been bred as sources of fur and leather, with selection toward fur or skin quality. Pet breeds are often selected for docility, playfulness, and, fur color and texture, and sometimes the sound of their calls. This is especially the case for the Nootling Lap-Squabbit, which has been bred to trumpet an amusing “noot” noise from its breathing siphon. Friendly personalities, small size, and sheer variety make Lap-Squabbits popular pets.
SEE ALSO: The Uwan – also written by J.I. Borrero
However, in these years after the arrival of the alien Passengers of the Auzulith Radiant, the success and popularity of the squid-rat has shown its dark side on our planet. The same traits that made this group of animals wildly successful in the rest of the Galaxy has made them a wildly formidable invasive species in the Northeastern United States, leading to regulations such as those quoted at the beginning of this article. Fortunately for humans, and unlike invasive organisms from Earth, squid-rats cannot carry diseases harmful to humans, or for that matter, other non-Metapolypoid species like uwan or qolohg.
Common Ship’s Squid-rat. Nootling Domestic Lap-Squabbit. Plump Table Squabbit. Squicken of the Stars. The thousands of species and domesticated breeds of squid-rat have many names, even though only a miniscule fraction are known on Earth. Whether pets, livestock, or pests, the wide range, resourcefulness, and resilience of the squid-rat makes this group the most successful animals in the known Galaxy.
Written and illustrated by J.I. Borrero.
J.I. Borrero has a blog at jiborrero.wordpress.com and a deviantART at ji-borrero.deviantart.com.