Laika (Transmission)

Here’s a story.  Laika was a stray like Sharik.  She lived in Moscow.  The program used street dogs because they thought the dogs would already know how to be cold like space is cold.  Laika was a mongrel.  She was part terrier.  Her other names were Kudryavka, Zhuchka, and Limonchik.  The American press called her Muttnik.

The other two dogs were Albina and Mushka.  One of them flew in a rocket but neither of them went to space.  Gazenko put Laika in a centrifuge and fed her high-energy gel.  The dogs were trained to live in smaller and smaller cages because in space they wouldn’t be able to move at all.

Laika was put in the satellite on October 31, 1957.  Laika left the earth on November 3, 1957.

There are three stories about what happened to Laika.

First she died when the oxygen ran out, or when she was euthanized with a serving of poisoned food.

Second she died on the fourth day when the cabin overheated.

Third she died five to seven hours into flight from overheating and stress.

On April 14, 1958, her body and her ship disintegrated as it fell through the atmosphere.

There is a statue to Laika in Star City.  Star City is a real place.  They train cosmonauts there.  It feels good to say, “Laika is in Star City now.”

Gazenko said, “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”

No one cares about space anymore.  Laika, you were supposed to be important.

Laika I believed in you.  Laika I still believe in you.  Laika we miss you.  Laika we have been writing about space for a long time because we know this world is done with us.  Laika there are no more ships behind you.  Laika we are stuck on the ground.

Laika good dog Laika.  Good dog good dog Laika good dog.

———-

Better late than never.  Included in my thesis collection were two thematic vignettes.  One of them was what you just read.  The other is called “Lake Monsters of North America”.  I think this is the better of the two.  The overarching theme of my thesis collection was what I called “the disappointing fantastic”.  I wanted to take unusual or fantastic situations and take them apart until they were at least a little sad.  One of the inspirations for this feeling was the Cold War, particularly the technological race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  The space race in particular seemed to embody a scientific optimism that ultimately didn’t take us very far at all.  Given my age, I experienced the Cold War only in retrospect: in history, media, and propaganda.  The way I perceive it might as well be the same as how I perceive fiction.  I was also interested in history as narrative, an ongoing body of work that is constantly edited and revived as new narratives replace old ones.  The goal of this vignette was to take historical facts and fictionalize/emotionalize them.

Obviously, if you haven’t already, you should read Nick Abadzis’ LaikaIt does exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve been slow about posting my thesis stories because I’m not entirely happy with how some of them turned out.  I was pleased with the project as a whole, but there are definitely some clunkers in there.   I’m tempted to just post my favorites and leave out the mediocre ones. I think posting it in its entirety, though, may be helpful in exorcising it from my brain.  I’ve taken lots of notes this summer, but I  haven’t written a single full story.  Maybe when I put my thesis behind me I’ll be able to start fresh.

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