Our Unfortunate Cousins
by Conor Powers-Smith
Dr. Allison Brophy stared up at the hundreds of bizarre forms arrayed around the semicircular amphitheater. Dozens of species--dozens of worlds--must have been represented in that crowded tableau.
She avoided studying them too closely; the strange rainbow of unearthly shades made her eyes ache. Speculating about how she would even begin to describe their alien body schemes for publication in a scientific journal sent her mind reeling through endless, baffling labyrinths of inadequate adjectives.
She confined herself to broad observations. Evidently they were all social; the crowd was comprised of pockets of what Allison took for individual species, no group numbering less than four or five, some a dozen or more. Each group displayed a surprising degree of variation; Allison noted stark differences of size and structure between individuals.
The smell of the place was indescribable.