3,000 Dead Satellites by Jo Gatford

The astronaut tells me: the most beautiful thing you can see in space is the shimmering snowflake particle cloud from an emptied septic system.

Leave it to a human to glorify their own piss when they have the whole universe outside their window.

The astronaut tells me about all the things they’ve left up there, dropped on a space-walk, abandoned on the moon. Space gloves, space cameras, a space mirror, a bag of space tools worth a hundred thousand dollars. Human feces. Three golf balls. A falcon feather. A golden olive branch. The ashes of an astronomer named Eugene Shoemaker.

The astronaut pauses for impact. Go far enough back and one of his ancestors really did make shoes. Now he’s on the moon. Pretty wild, huh?  

I want to ask about the human feces, but the astronaut takes a sip of her wine and the moment passes.

It smells like gunpowder, the astronaut says.

I’m still thinking about space shit and the confusion must show on my face because she clarifies: the moon.

I don’t ask if she’s ever been there. It was a ballsy lie to put on her profile, but I don’t want her to stop telling me astronaut facts so I nod encouragingly; let out a breathy wow.

The astronaut orders us another drink without asking what I want and tells me there are three thousand dead satellites up there, just waiting to burn out in the atmosphere. If they’re high enough they’ll orbit for hundreds—sometimes thousands—of years.

Still circling, long after we’re gone, you and me, which is a morbid thing to say on a date, but maybe I’m into it.

Might be all that’s left of us one day: the sum of human existence, the equivalent of swinging a yo-yo around your head.

And then I’m laughing, or maybe crying, because I’m not ready for the lies to end, but even a thousand years of momentum has to come crashing down sometime.

Will you take me there? I ask her. The moon, to clarify.

She lifts her glass and holds it just so, until the bulb hangs between us, and when I look through it, her face hangs there too, perfectly encased within its curve. And I know she must see the same thing when she looks at me.

The astronaut smiles and the last of her wine swirls lazily, blurring the illusion. How long can you hold your breath?

JO GATFORD — Jo writes flash disguised as poetry, poetry disguised as flash, and sometimes things that are even longer than a page. She has most recently been published by The Oxford Prize, Stylist, The Forge, and won the Molotov Cocktail Flash City competition. She feels very strongly about Shakespeare and puns. She has never been to the moon.

Art by ANA P. — Ana is a self-taught artist living in Switzerland. Her recent work appears in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Existere and Faultine Journal.