The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Planetary Survey No.1: Brain Eaters of Planet Quoon

The Cerebrophagous Gurgs are small, mild-mannered, kitten-shaped creatures who subsist exclusively on a diet of brains. The mouth of the species has become thoroughly adapted to this purpose; the top lip extends outwards from the face to act as a prehensile muscle of immense power, ending in a rock-hard, knobbly club evolved from what were originally four top teeth, while the lower lip and tongue have amalgamated into a scooping/sucking organ which can clean out, thoroughly and with remarkable speed, any cranium into which the club-lip should happen to bash. Armed with this equipment, the Gurgs quickly became the terror of every single species intelligent enough to feel fear.

The Gurgs’ planet of origin is Quoon, a pleasant world which is fifth outward from the star Quooble in the Quoodamaphoonic constellation, which lies just outside the reach of Earth’s most powerful telescope and a little to the left. At the time of the Gurgs’ emergence, the dominant species of Quoon were the Garongular Bondiphrots, a race of approximately human intelligence which became, naturally, the Gurgs’ main prey. To add to their problems, the civilisation of the Bondiphrots was approaching the most complex point of the industrial phase, with the result that the Bondiphrots as a race were far too involved in their own economical, ecological and demographic problems to think for one moment that there might be some threat to their existence other than those which they had created for themselves.

As the cities of the Bondiphrots spread ever outwards into the countryside, which had been conveniently cleared of large wildlife by the rampaging Gurgs, so the Gurgs spread inwards to the cities, where brains beyond their wildest dreams of gluttony were crammed for the taking. It rapidly became impossible for the average Bondiphrot to move a hundred yards from his own front door without getting his skull cracked by the unerringly aimed lip of a craftily concealed Gurg. The Bondiphrot authorities ascribed the sudden increase in cranial fractures to muggers, and put more police on the beat.

The attacks continued, but statisticians noted that members of the police force were almost never a target. The authorities, puzzled at the muggers’ apparent respect for the law, nevertheless hit upon the cunning plan of recruiting everyone into the police force. The attacks tailed off immediately, but then began to pick up again as the Gurgs realized that policemen were the only prey available; the sole reason for their previous immunity, it was later discovered, was the lamentable size of the average policeman’s brain. When the Gurgs found that not everyone dressed in uniform now necessarily had a brain of the minimal dimensions required to achieve the rank of Chief Constable, the tally of bashed-in heads reached truly epidemic proportions.

It was only at this point that the authorities began to take notice of one small but significant detail; namely, that the victims of the phantom head-crackers were never robbed of money, or indeed of anything valuable, but only of the rather mediocre contents of their skulls. This fact had previously been ignored on the grounds that it was inimical to the mugger theory, but was now publicly denied to signal that the authorities were giving it serious consideration.

Meanwhile the Gurgs, having assimilated the knowledge and intelligence of almost an entire race, realized that if they continued to hunt in their present unrestricted fashion, the prey would die out and they themselves would starve. An élite troop of Gurgs therefore mounted a concerted attack on the entire police force, swallowed their brains whole and crawled into the empty skulls, where they fitted just right. The victims’ intelligence promptly increased to the point where they were thrown off the force; the Gurgs inside were thus able to turn to crime without running the risk of promotion to Chief Constable. In this way they soon attracted the attention of the Bondiphrot High Command, to whom they revealed themselves as Gurgs and stated their demands. These were (a) that the Bondiphrots desist immediately from hunting the head-crackers and order the populace to put all its energies into breeding, so as to produce more food for same; (b) that an educational system be put in place which would alleviate the frankly appalling quality of present-day brains; and (c) that the remainder of the police force be turned over to the Gurgs as transportation, their brains having first been surgically removed by the Bondiphrots themselves since said brains had a nutritional value of zero and left a repulsive aftertaste.

The High Command, being as honest, patriotic, well-intentioned and intelligent as any other government, instantly agreed to all three demands on the sole condition that they be allowed to retain their own brains. The Gurgs accepted this bargain, with some relief at not having to eat what the High Command carried round in their skulls; and they all lived happily ever after.