By Grant Baciocco
“Don’t go in the field.” Timmy’s mother had told him before he and Maisy had left the house.
“I should have listened.” his brain now said to himself as he held onto the root for dear life. He had been chasing a rabbit with Maisy and had not seen the sinkhole that had recently appeared next to the giant oak that stood in the middle of the large field behind the farm where he lived with his family. Luckily, he had been able to get a good grip on a root as he’d fallen and it had stopped his fall. He hung on for dear life as he looked below him.
The drop was about twenty feet down. He realized if he did fall he’d probably hit the sides of the wall before the bottom so at least the drop wouldn’t kill him. It hadn’t killed the rabbit who was down at the bottom of the hole, now starting to hop around and sniff for a way out of the pit herself. He looked up and he could see the blue sky through the bare branches of the oak. He was about five feet from the lip of the hole. His eyes searched frantically for something he could climb up to the edge, as the root he now clung to would only raise him about a foot or two.
Below him, the rabbit started screaming. Startled, Timmy looked down and saw it was frantically trying to scramble up the slick walls of the sinkhole but kept tumbling back down. Looking closer he saw something move in the shadows below him. Seconds later, his mind snapped into focus that there was nothing in the shadows that was moving, the shadows themselves were moving. A buzzing grew louder in his ears. Squinting harder he saw at least twenty rattlesnakes squirming all over themselves to cross the expanse at the bottom to the terrified rabbit. There was a nest at the bottom of the hole. This is why his mother had warned him against playing in the field.
His grip on the root tightened even more. Sweat began to form all over his body. Again he looked up for some way to boost himself to the lip, but there was nothing but slick muddy walls. The frantic screaming below him grew louder as the snakes attacked the rabbit. Though he’d told himself not to, he looked down as the snake’s venom finally paralyzed the rabbit, silencing her cries, and they began fighting each other for the right to devour the poor creature. “At least Maisy didn’t fall in.” he found himself thinking.
“Maisy!” he said out loud, remembering his dog. “Maisy! Maisy!” he called loudly, partially to drown out the sounds of the disgusting feast happening below him. “Maisy!”
Seconds later the familiar, soft face of his golden retriever appeared over the edge. She sniffed the air and then caught his eye.
“Good girl Maisy!” Timmy breathed, his body weakening from the grip he was applying to the root above him. “Maisy, go home girl! G0 home and get mom!”
Maisy cocked her head as if trying to understand. Timmy repeated, “Go home girl. Get Mom! Bring her back! Hurry! Hurry girl! Go home!”
Maisy couldn’t understand most of the words her friend Timmy was now yelling up at her. She was a dog and, unlike dogs seen following a multitude of commands on television, she was not too bright. She leaned he head closer to Timmy to try and understand. As she did, the smell of a fresh kill filled her nostrils and, for the first time, she saw the carnage happening below Timmy.
“Maisy!” Timmy yelled again, regaining Maisy’s focus, “Go home and get mom!”
Maisy listened intently to him again.
“Go home?” she thought, letting the words circle around in her brain. She knew these words. She new where ‘home’ was. She knew what ‘go’ meant. “Go home.” She understood this. Even though Maisy was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she was obedient. So, she went home.
An hour later, Maisy sat on the back porch of the farmhouse and looked out across the field waiting for her friend Timmy to emerge and praise her for being so good.
She had gone home.
After hearing the Jonathan Coulton song Space Doggity, I’ve become obsessed with Laika. The first living creature, from Earth, to orbit Earth (as far as we know). Listening to Jonathan’s song he really captures how amazing and how incredibly tragic the whole thing was. Of course in listening to the song I’ve begun reading a lot of the information there is out there about this poor dog. Her story has inspired me to write some fiction based on her. There have been some fiction stories of ‘what really happened’ where Laika doesn’t die and goes on to several outer space adventures. I believe there’s even a video game to that effect. I wanted to try something different. I want to rewrite history by writing about what would have happened had she returned to earth safely. This is that story.
By Grant Baciocco
The landing was hard. Maybe the hardest thing about the whole trip. I learned later, listening to some of the men, that one of the descent parachutes failed to open and while two of the chutes deployed to make the landing survivable, it was still rough. The ocean is not that forgiving when you hit it at 100 miles per hour. But I landed and the first indication I received that I was back was how I instantly felt heavier. Much heavier. Much different from how I felt up there.
The next thing I noticed was the constant bobbing of the capsule. Firm indication I was in the water. The confined space and the bobbing were making me queasy and I’m not ashamed to say I got a little sick. It was sometime later that I felt a strong jerk on the capsule. Then another and, just faintly, through the thick metal walls I heard voices. Of course my tail started going a million miles an hour. People. I love people, even though they did this to me, I was glad that soon I was going to see people.
Several minutes later, the hatch opened. Yes, people! I barked excitedly and they all seemed as happy to see me as I was them. I was hoisted up out of the cabin and into the arms of the Doctor who I saw before I left. I kissed him appropriately about the face. His laughter music to my ears. All the men there were happy to see me and I got more petting in those first few minutes than I had in my life. Some men broke into song. It all seemed to be focused on me. As if I did something special. I didn’t. I just went where I was told and now I was back. This made my people happy so it made me happy.
The Doctor took me to a white room and checked me all over. He seemed content with my condition and let me rejoin the rest of the men. That night I got a steak for dinner and more petting and more songs. I should go into the capsule more often.
The next morning we arrived home. There were even more people there to cheer me and pet me. Lots of people took my photograph. They gave speeches in my honor. They shook my paw. They kept saying the word hero. I’m just a dog.
After a long day and night of this, I was soon in the car. My head out the window. I love going fast. We made a right and my heart started beating fast. We were close to home. I started barking. My tail about to wag itself off. THe car slowed. Stopped. The door opened and I leapt out.