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Laika Came Home

Laika Came Home

Laika Came Home

by Amy DeBellis

When Laika the space dog comes back, bulleted to earth in a tiny white escape pod that dissolves upon opening, nobody can believe it. She no longer has fur, just shaved-smooth skin that is actually a peaceful shade of lavender—who knew?—and is covered with weird, indescribable tattoos that shiver and undulate if you look at them for too long. Jewels stud her face like tiny constellations. She has also developed a slight French accent. Somehow this is more remarkable than her power of speech, because how can a Russian dog develop a French accent? Is there some kind of Francophone planet spinning out there, somewhere in space?

“We were told you died!” the reporters spew, thrusting their microphones up to Laika’s bejeweled snout. “That you completely lost your shit and blew up out there!”

“Propaganda,” she sniffs, rolling her eyes, which now have no discernible iris or pupil or sclera, which are now just black, as dark and empty as the space between planets. She won’t speak about why she launched back to Earth. Won’t say a word about what happened out there in the hot-metal, cooked-meat-smelling nothingness.

Scientists are mapping her tattoos, trying to interpret them like hieroglyphs or runes. The only piece of ink that isn’t completely abstract is on the back of her neck—an etching of an alien figure that looks almost like a woman. If you squint and hold your head at the right angle, it’s got something that looks like eyes and a nose and a mouth. Almost. If the light hits it just right.

US Weekly and Page Six compete for the biggest story about her. WHAT’S NEXT FOR LAIKA? they scream. SIX-BOOB BOOB JOB? 

Soon the interviews become more like interrogations.

“Are there any terraformable planets out there?”

“Can you speak on the climate crisis?”

“What do you think about the new US-China policy?”

“I don’t know,” she snaps. “Just let me buy my groceries in peace.” Once she disappears for a week and comes back looking a little rougher for the wear. Even Page Six notices that the jewels are gone.

Her remains are discovered at a rocket launch site, blasted into the corners of the room. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to do it yourself. Or at least, there’s a reason it’s illegal without a permit. She blew herself up trying to get out of here.

At first nobody believes this either—Come on, Laika is the dog who never dies—but then they find a fragment of her jawbone, match it to the records from the Soviet space dog just before she was flown out in 1957. They also find a piece of mostly-intact purple skin with the tattoo that was on the back of her neck, the famous tattoo, the one that was splashed across magazine covers: the only one with a slightly humanoid face. When the retrieval workers pick up the skin, the inky figure is crying. Somehow her face looks completely human now, in grief, and it’s remarkable how nobody has ever noticed it before.

Amy DeBellis is a writer from New York. Her writing has appeared in various publications including Pithead Chapel, HAD, Ghost Parachute, Write or Die, and Pinch. Her debut novel is forthcoming from CLASH Books (2025). Read more at