Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer
Waves lap at the cusp edge of the astronaut’s open visor. A saline swill that now sloshes into his suit and streams down across his body, running its length before agitating the warmth that stings and clings at his thighs.
His arms are outstretched. His wrists laced into the chain that binds him to this rock, this wave coddled mass which juts out like a spire from the shore. A sandy arch bends at his back, a pretty cove on the peninsula tip of a lushly forested continent. A special place on a distant blue world into whose sacred soil his ship had, but yesterday, fallen and severed into smouldering scrap.
The voices, the wonderfully melodic chants of the humanoids who dragged him from the wreckage, they sway on the shore behind him. Blurs at the very edge of his sight. They have brought their children, too. A family day at the beach, a spectacle to savour. He pants through his nose and the air thumps as they wail and they summon, as they offer his body to… what?
A god. A daemon. A big fuck-off fish?
The astronaut’s mind races as he calculates the gravity. Similar if not exactly that of earth’s, he surmises. The bitter mist at his lips is laden with salt and the air is sweet and fresh in his lungs. Oh, if only the fingers of liberty were now to reach up through the sand. But, he is not home and there will, surely, be no sandalled hero to swoop on down and save him now. And the tide lifts as it breathes.
The astronaut bashes his head backward against the rock, the igneous nature of which had not escaped his inquiring mind, and his helmet engages and its visor curves down and seals shut with a hiss. A few last gasps of air, and the explorer wonders what is to be the last ever image he is to see, as his lip quivers and he chews the certainty of his death.
“I know who your god is. I know this daemon toward which I am, now, presented. It is the sea. The great undulating carnivorous beast. That which you respect above all else. You pay out of fear, because it feeds you and when angered it grinds up your ships. Ignorant fucking baying primitives. You take all I am for a plate of freshly caught fish?”
The water foams up and rolls over his helmet and he blinks and he stares out across a pristine and beautiful plain. A forest of verdant strips that reach for the surface and curl like pennant banners in the now gentle brackish breeze.
He sees her. And what he sees enters his mouth and forms into a thick oily scream, a terror that bites and swallows last of his oxygen. His eyes bulge and the pressure behind them balloons and fills up the inside of his head. And the beast grips the sides of his helmet and her tongue lays flat at its visor and the acid that leaks from its pores eats at the glass as she licks.
The next day, a small group of children gather and throw stones and shells and sand at the deflated suit which hangs on the rock like a scarer of crows.
A tiny girl steps forward and, with the tremor tip of her finger, she traces the strange badge at its chest.
De Lellis, John.
Beloved. Lost to the galaxies silent pull. Sinking and folding beneath its distant foreign tides. He lies where he longed to be.