I need to tell you about the Venera spacecraft.
From the 1960s to the 80s, the Soviets sent these little cans, one after the other, to the surface of Venus. They (the cans) knew they’d be flattened by the atmosphere, but they held on long enough to take pictures and send them back to Earth. They did their jobs for the people who made them. What else could they do?
I like to sit at the end of the stone pier, the one with the sign that says STAY OFF PIER. The water below me is clear, thanks to the alien mollusks who infiltrate and filter the lake. I can’t tell how deep the water is. The sand on the bottom is rippled like the roof of a mouth.
Venera 13 stayed alive for two hours. The pictures she sent back are bizarre. Rippled rocks, weird colors, like she’s underwater. At the edge of the frame, a toothed metal semicircle, the suffocating craft’s inverse smile.
Humans weren’t supposed to see that scene. Venus is obscene. Don’t you think?
I think about how Earth keeps trying to swallow us. It always succeeds in the end. Gravity is Earth’s hunger, a visceral need, like the need to hold someone so close that you crush them.
Ann Gelder’s fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Flavorwire, Lost Balloon, Monkeybicycle, Tin House Open Bar, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Bigfoot and the Baby, was published by Bona Fide Books. Twitter: @AnnBGelder