Xanhur sighed. “I couldn’t get past the first conclusion.”
“I thought the report was clear.” Squipsep came up short. Primarily because he was hyperventilating with the stress.
“Go through it one more time.”
“Well, they push food through their breathe-holes.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that? Are you sure that’s a breathe-hole? What about the slits above it?”
“Those are scent collectors. We’re sure of that.”
“But why would the scent collectors be right above the breathe-hole? That defeats the whole purpose; you’re going to lose what, 50.. 75% of fidelity unless the scent is right in your face!”
“To be fair, that’s true. Some of them wear scents as decoration that…” Squipsep tried not to retch with the overpowering memory.
“Let’s back up to the breathe-hole question. Answer that.”
“Well, first they have these bone extensions that can crush up the food.”
“That at least makes an iota of sense. Having those inside the breathe-hole doesn’t, but at least it’s effective.”
“And also, there’s this chemical bath… that they exude. It softens some foods, makes them more liquid.”
“In their -breathe-hole-?! How do they not drown?”
“I don’t know. Honestly. These liquids are always on and they feel discomfort if they don’t make it.”
“What happens then?”
“They use muscles to push the resulting paste down a fleshy tube.”
“The same tube they breathe in?”
“There’s a flap that opens and closes so it goes down the right way.”
“What happens if it malfunctions?”
“Well… they die.”
“Wonderful. Who designed these things?” Xanhur’s sarcasm wasn’t lost on Squipsep. “I suppose next it goes to the bacteriological sac.”
“They don’t have one. I mean… they have a sac but it’s filled with, um… acid.”
“Acid? Weak acid, yes? Like the Xnth1n?”
Squipsep almost wept in depression. “No.”
“Why would they have -acid- in their sac? How?”
“They secret this thick substance from their sac to protect themselves from the acid. And… and if it fails, the acid burns holes in them.”
After that comment, Xanhur couldn’t help but exhibit horror. “Enough! Enough…” Xanhur took in a sweet breath of air. “I’m grateful to be done with this examination.”
“We’re not done.”
“How could we not be done? You’ve adequately described their nutritive system.”
“Not… entirely. I’m so sorry but there’s more.” Squipsep winced and then continued. “The food is pushed out of the sac and into this long tube, where they ferment it.”
“Ferment it? How long is this tube?!”
“So long.” shuddered Squipsep. “So very, very long. And when they are done, they… they…” Squipsep almost couldn’t form the words. “After that, they leave the remains. On the ground. Or sometimes in water.” Squipsep stopped talking.
“I’m closing this file now.” Xanhur said. “And we are never speaking of this again.”
In other words, a cover up. Squipsep nodded in silent agreement.
Sometimes, the mysteries of the universe were simply not worth revealing.