Monthly Archives: August 2019

Gateways: A Body In Motion by Rob McLemore

TRANSCRIPT:  This story is written by Rob McLemore. He’s been writing sketches consistently since college with The Stuntmen.  Currently, he’s a writer for Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment and has been regularly putting out scripts for them since 2015, including creating his own serial, Thultak:  Wandering Barbarian. Rob loves to play with genre tropes and conventions as a means to set up a familiar situation and then either turn it on its head or try and go an entirely different way with it. This is “A Body In Motion.”

“That really is a beautiful sight.” Cameron paused the recording. She took a moment to reflect on everything that had happened to her. She double checked the readings on her screen. As far as she could tell, they were accurate. The machine had succeeded. She took another long look at her surroundings before turning the recording back on. “I suppose I might as well finish the story. Mission log: My name is Terana Cameron. I was born in the year 2108 and, as far as I can tell, I’m the first person to ever time travel.” The makeshift lab was oddly silent. The sound of drips echoed off the cave walls, but no one spoke. Hodges and Cameron stared at the lump of unrefined andonium Krayt had pulled from his bag.

“Is this going to be enough?” Krayt asked, unable to read the reactions of the other two. Cameron remained silent, her jaw open, unable to choose from the multitude of comments forming in her brain. Hodges, however, jumped up and embraced Krayt, nearly knocking him over. She quickly realized that he was still holding the volatile element and regained her composure.

“It’s enough, Krayt,” she said, tearing up slightly. Hodges carefully took the andonium and made her way deeper into the cave. She was practically vibrating with excitement. Cameron remained far less positive. She grabbed Krayt by the shoulder and stared at him, her face a mixture of fear and anger.

“Where did you get that?” she demanded. Krayt avoided eye contact. Cameron refused to let go. She had a considerable size advantage on him and used every bit of it to keep him from avoiding the question. “Where did you get that?!” she repeated.

“What does it matter?” said Krayt, “We needed it, so I got it. It’s not like any of this is going to matter soon anyway.” He struggled to break away from her grip. Cameron threw him onto the ground.

“It matters because you put all of us in jeopardy!” She stood over him, fuming. “If they tracked you, they’ll find this lab. They’ll find all of this equipment, and you know damn well they’ll figure out what we’re building down here! And if that happens, that’s the end. You think humanity is screwed now? Imagine what they could do with this! They could rewrite the entirety of our evolution. We wouldn’t exist anymore. We’d be bred into mindless brutes for manual labor! Or worse. They could simply wipe us out and turn the whole planet into whatever the hell they wanted. Did you bother to think about any of that?!”

Hodges emerged from the back of the cave. “Are you two going to sit there arguing or are you going to help me rewrite the laws of universe?” She tossed a load of conduits to Cameron then helped Krayt up. He began to speak, but she cut him off. “Don’t apologize. You made a risky move, but you got me the power source I needed. Of course, you may have also brought about the complete annihilation of our species. If we work fast, hopefully we can avoid that.” She shoved a wrench into his hands and the three made their way toward the deepest part of the cave.

“I’m not really sure how Hodges liked to word these things,” Cameron continued into the recorder. “She was the one who understood the science of how all of this worked. I just put the machine together and kept everyone alive. At least that’s what I was supposed to do. I suppose they technically haven’t been born at this point, so I’m not sure if it matters. I don’t know. Time travel’s confusing. It still doesn’t change what happened.” She could feel tears begin to form. She tried to wipe them away, momentarily forgetting about the helmet blocking her hand. A small chuckle escaped. “I’ll tell you this, Hodges. This all looks a lot different than I expected.”

From inside the containment unit, the andonium cast a deep blue shade over the equipment. It was a welcome relief from the dull orange of the lights strung up around the cave. Cameron attached the final conduit, and the lump began to emit a low tone as it powered up the machine. “There, you’re all hooked up,” she said. “Now we just need to wait until the stabilizers lock it down into a useable form.”

Hodges picked up the recorder and began narrating. “Mission log: This is Dr. Olvenka Hodges. We have finally managed to secure a sample of andonium sufficient enough to maintain a continuous reaction to allow for temporal displacement. We now are minutes away from executing the first ever quantum jump.”

“Time travel,” Cameron interjected. “Just call it time travel.”

“It’s so much more intricate than that. We’re literally punching a hole in the fabric of time and depositing someone in this exact location 100 years in the past. The ramifications of this actually working are astonishing. It feels like a disservice to simply call it time travel. And now you’ve made me ruin this take.” Hodges reset the recorder and began her speech again.

“Mission log: This is Dr. Olvenka Hodges.”

“Why do you keep doing that?” Krayt asked. “Who is that even for?

Hodges sighed in frustration and turned off the recorder. “It’s a record of everything we’ve done here. If we succeed, everything we’ve ever known will cease to exist. There’s no telling what the consequences will be on us. I just want to make sure our story isn’t lost. The light from the andonium flickered, causing the low hum to cut in and out. Cameron gave a swift kick to the containment unit and the machine resumed normal function. 

“Please don’t kick the power supply,” Hodges snapped. “That stuff is incredibly unstable in this state. If it’s disturbed too much, it could potentially atomize everything a ten-mile radius. I’ve spent years calculating every variable to ensure that this process is successful, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t cause all of my hard work to be vaporized because of your foot.”

Cameron sat down, staring at the pulsing blue light. “Would it really be so bad if this thing went critical? Wiped us all out?”

“Yes.,” Krayt chimed in. “I vote that being vaporized would be a bad thing,”

Cameron shot a glare at him. “I’m just afraid to get my hopes up. It’s not that I don’t think this will work. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in you, Hodges, but I’ve seen too much not to wonder.” She sighed. “I’m tired of this fight. I’m tired of having to constantly move to survive. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t afraid to stay in one place. Always trying to stay one step ahead, never letting my guard down, never resting. I’m just tired of it all. I want peace. Not necessarily for the whole world, but at least for myself. I want to simply be someplace. To be still. For once in my life.”

The uneasy calm was suddenly shattered as the alarm pierced the air. All three instantly stood up. The lab had been discovered. The high-pitched shriek of drills could be heard from the far end of the cave. The barrier was thick, but it would only buy them a little time. Hodges rushed over to the main console, frantically checking every reading at once. 

“Can we get it running in time?!” Krayt shouted. Hodges didn’t answer. She tossed a pair of containment suits to Cameron and Krayt as she typed furiously. The air crackled as the machine came online. The distortion came into focus, but it wasn’t fully formed yet. The drilling grew louder. “They’re going to be here any minute. I’ll do what I can to buy us some time,” Krayt grabbed a refractor and dashed toward the entrance. Cameron tried to grab him again, but he slipped under her arm. “Don’t’ fight me on this one, Cameron,” he pleaded. “They’re here because of me. Besides, I wouldn’t even know what to do if I made it back there. This was never my mission. Now, go screw with time!” His voice trailed off as he disappeared from sight. Cameron hesitated for a second, debating if she should go after him, then relented. She got herself suited up and tossed the spare back to Hodges. She batted it away, still hard at work bringing the machine up to full power.

“Hodges, get your suit on. We don’t have much Time.”

“I’m not going, Cameron. You were right. If they discover our work, there’s no telling  how much damage they’ll cause. Once you’re through, I’m going to overload the system and take everything out with us.” A pulse shot through the cave with a deafening crack and the distortion manifested fully. Not far off, the sound of a firefight rang out. Cameron knew that Krayt could only buy them a little more time. She gave a final pleading glance to Hodges, but they both knew her mind was made up. Hodges tossed her the recorder. “Don’t let our story end here.” 

Cameron took one final look around the world she had known, then jumped into the distortion. A blinding light engulfed her. It was simultaneously too bright to look at, yet still dark, as though her brain couldn’t comprehend the actual colors she was seeing. The sound around her grew louder, melding and distorting into an echo of every noise she had ever hear, over and over again, growing more unfamiliar as it intensified. Her body felt as though it was being pulled apart. She could feel every muscle, every fiber, every cell in her being as it was ripped from one point in time to another.

And then, nothing.

A moment later, she opened her eyes. She was no longer in the cave.

Cameron checked the levels in her suit. It hadn’t been designed for the vacuum of space, but it would provide her with enough oxygen for at least a few more minutes. She stared, admiring the radiant beauty of the nebula before her. “It’s funny sometimes the things we take for granted. We all know that the Earth is constantly spinning and traveling through space, yet we never really comprehend it. Sorry to break it to you, Hodges, but I found one more variable you didn’t account for. I wouldn’t feel too bad, though. Your machine worked. I made it back 100 years. I’m in the exact same spot. The only problem is, the Earth hasn’t made it here yet.” She smiled to herself. “I doubt anyone will ever find this recording, but if they do, I want them to know our story. The mission failed. We didn’t succeed in changing the past. We didn’t stop anything. I’m sorry, Hodges. And even you, Krayt. But I want to thank both of you for keeping me going these last few years. We had a purpose. We had hope. Without that, I would have given up the fight long ago. And, in the end, I did find the peace I was looking for, somewhere out here in the universe. I can finally stop. For the first time in my life, I can stop. My only regret is that you didn’t get to see it for yourselves.”

Cameron switched off the recorder. She had about 6 minutes of air left. She closed her eyes and calmly drifted through space. “It really is beautiful.”

Kim Fukawa has been seen all around Chicago. Most recently she has worked with The House Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Babes With Blades Theatre Company. She is an artistic affiliate and occasional fight choreographer with Babes With Blades.

Gateways: Thunder From a Clear Sky by Jeremy Melloul

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Jeremy Melloul. He’s written for as long as he can remember. Since deciding to pursue writing professionally, he has been focusing on writing fantasy and science fiction across media, mainly comics for the last few years. Jeremy tells us that growing up, stories were his escape from a difficult childhood. Today he works to create stories of his own that not only allow people that same sort of escape into imaginary worlds, but also allows them to return to their lives better off for the time they spent away. This is “Thunder from a Clear Sky”.

The sudden explosion takes me by surprise. A trap? They’ll have to do better than that. I already have what I came here for. The treasured scroll is mine, the dry parchment held securely in my clawed grip. 

After the blast, the scroll chamber is in worse condition than I am. Part of the wall is now rubble and the ancient carvings upon it have been shattered, profaned in a desperate defense. 

From somewhere behind me a loud yell reverberates through the room. I turn around, but can’t make out anything through the dust. The explosion was just a set-up for this! Through the cloud a heavy spear thrusts forward, aimed low, towards my stomach – the only part of my body bereft of scales. 

My hand lunges for the spear. It pierces my armor, but I stop it before it reaches flesh. The cold metal struggles to inch forward, but despite the attacker’s effort, I keep it bay,

As the dust settles, the spear begins to shake. The human must be realizing who I am. A shame. My years of conquests were supposed to give rise to greater resistance, but instead only broke the will of those who might fight me. Now cities surrender at the sight of my army’s banners. And even the most valiant warriors fear dying upon my horns, or seeing their blades break upon my scales. An unfortunate consequence of my victories.

The dust clears, revealing the figure still desperately pushing the spear forward. It’s a child. A boy, by the look of him. Small with short blonde hair and dressed in a temple attendant’s robes, which is now covered in dust. Though I stand more than twice his size he still attacked. He even went as far as to plan a trap to increase his chances… which means he thought he stood a chance to begin with. Foolish.

Though he shakes, he does not shake with fear. Well, not just fear. There is also rage there. And I can’t help but smile. A hatchling attempting what its parents will not… 

But he is still human, unfortunately. And these soft-skinned beings are easily broken.

“Now!” the child screams, his eyes darting up. I follow his gaze up to the rafters, where two slightly younger children, also dressed in dirty attendant’s clothes, step out of the darkness and empty a large sack of rocks over my head. My arms instinctively rise to protect myself, and the rocks crash harmlessly against my scales. There’s more to his plan? Surprising, I-

A sharp pain in my gut shatters my line of thought. I look down and see the spear I had been holding has pierced my skin. Slowly, blood seeps from the wound, green and blue, running along the weapon’s edge.

A shallow injury, but how long has it been since I last bled… 

With a roar I slam my scaled arm down against the wood of the spear, snapping it in half. The child’s hold on the weapon broken, he steps back, frightened. Years of conquest and a hatchling is the first to make me bleed. I should be offended, but instead, my interest is piqued. Why does this one still struggle when the warriors of his kind surrender?

I pull out the broken spear from my body, throw it aside, and turn my attention overhead, to the other children hiding in the rafters. Are they the same? 

Still holding the scroll in one claw, I call on my Way of Fire and will a flame into existence in my other palm. Its glow covers the room in an unnatural green light and fills me with warmth – a reflection of my power, which turns all obstacles before me into fuel for my growth, like wildfire in a verdant forest.

Without a worthy foe, my fire is not what it once was, but it is more than enough to deal with a few whelps. With a thought, the flame stretches from my hand in an instant – a ray of flames surging overhead, consuming the wooden rafters the children above are hiding in. 

Disappointing. The fear is obvious on their faces as they scramble away from the flames. 

“Leave them alone! Screams the other child, running straight for me, undeterred. Perhaps it’s just him, then. The other two are just like their craven progenitors.

He throws himself at me, grabbing onto my arm and trying to pull away the fire from his kin. But his weight is negligible. Despite his weakness he pulls harder and harder, desperate to save them. Good. Anger can motivate.

Having seen enough, I withdraw the ray, but keep the flame circling in my hand and grab the little hellion by the shoulder, his clothing catching fire as my grip tightens around him. I wrench him off of me and lift him up to eye level. 

“You are a credit to your kind, hatchling. What is your name?”

The boy just glares me, silent, his blue eyes tinted green by my flame. I tighten my grip as the fire twists the skin beneath his clothes, and his face contorts in pain. “Speak. Or your kin will burn.”

Despite the pain he must feel his glare does not falter. I can see it in his eyes…  A desire to fight. How long has it been since anyone’s looked at my like that?

Then he opens his mouth and answers. Not with words, but with a wet glob of spit that splatters on my face…

Insolent! Using my full strength I throw him aside, sending him careening towards the wall. He slams against it hard, and falls to the ground, crumpled.

Another blast of fire to the rafters overhead and the wood rips loudly as the structure falls apart, crashing to the ground, the terrified whelps falling along with it. Step by step I approach, my flame continually spinning around my hand. The other child has merit, but they are useless. So I will give them purpose as fuel for my flames.

“Wait…” the other child croaks.

I stop, mostly out of curiosity, and look back over my shoulder as he pushes himself up, blood staining the corners of his mouth, his scorched clothes now in tatters. He holds a piece of burning wood fallen from the rafters in one hand, and a scroll in the other. My scroll!

I was just holding it. How did he-

He lets it unroll, the fire almost licking the edge of the aged parchment. “Let them go or it burns…” 

“Watch. Your. Tone.” I say through gritted fangs.

“Let them go!” he demands.

The other two children cower in fear, holding each other tight. Am I really going to allow myself to be humiliated by a human hatchling? Ridiculous… But I want that scroll.

I clench my fist and smother the fire in my grip.

The unruly child calls to the other whelps. “Teo. Sora. Go! Run! Get out of here!”

“But, brother…” answers one.

“Just go! I’ll catch up!”

Quickly, the two small children run out of the chamber. Their footfalls grow distant. When all is silent again I extend out my hand, expectantly.

“The scroll,” I say, a growl underscoring my words.

And then, the child just smirks.

“Watch your tone,” he mocks as he touches the burning wood to the scroll. And in a single moment the dry old parchment catches, consumed all at once.

“NO!” I charge forward, knocking the little demon aside. He slams into a pillar and falls to the ground, limp. But the scroll is already gone.

My rage surges and the fire comes, unbridled, billowing out from me, scorching the remains of the chamber walls. 

How dare he! The little bastard!

I turn my attention to his unconscious body. It would feel so good to turn him to ash…

But as he lies there, already defeated, a question takes hold of my mind. Why? He fought in spite of his fear. Made me bleed. Robbed me of what I wanted. Why was he able when no adult of his kind was? The answer comes, a whisper at the edge of my consciousness. Limits. The child has yet to learn his. To him, anything remains possible. And perhaps, he’s not wrong. Though he is weak right now, all the right pieces are there. What could he become with the proper training? The proper resources… 

My temper subsides and the fire dies down. On the Way of Fire, I can only grow with an obstacle in my path… And I have long lacked a proper foe. Perhaps it is time I raise one of my own. 

I grab the boy by the neck, careful not to squeeze too tight. He smells like burnt meat. His skin scorched to the bone from where I gripped him. But he still breaths.

Outside the temple, the Jade City has been broken. Fires consume the ships that hoped to escape and the waterways run thick with the blood and bodies of the fallen. Near the docks I catch sight of a trio of my ravagers, looking hungrily at their next meal… the two young ones from earlier. 

“Stop,” I order.

“I want them alive.” The burned one went to great lengths to save them. They must be important to him. Weak though they might be, they will make excellent motivation for my new protégé… 

Thank you, Kim. Kim Fukawa has been seen all around Chicago. Most recently she has worked with The House Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Babes With Blades Theatre Company. She is an artistic affiliate and occasional fight choreographer with Babes With Blades.

Gateways: The Explorer by Isaac Rathbone

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Isaac Rathbone. Issac is mostly a playwright and also has a few short films under his belt. He tells us he is always searching for challenging environments for great characters to grow in and is a stickler for creating the right dialogue. His work has been featured at Paragon Fest and you can find examples on This is “The Explorer”.

First Transmission To Guild Headquarters


Explorer Guild Member YA-2GA reporting a successful physical transport to the planet’s surface. I am experiencing no physical distress from the sub-atomic reassembly after the projection launch. The veil of the survival generator, still harnessed tightly to my body, is fully functional. There are no ill effects from the planet’s atmospheric conditions. I must wait to see if the image disruptor has created a proper visage to disguise me among the dominant species, known to us as the “Grounders.” My initial observation of the terrain is that it is a barren wasteland, covered in a thick dust that swirls in harsh winds. No moisture. The only vegetation noticed has been dried beyond its death into twisted, mummified brambles. My friends, it is perfect! As per standard Explorer Guild Protocols, I have been projected far from any civilized communities (if you consider the Grounders civilized). Stand by for future transmissions as I search for temporary shelter.


Second Transmission To Guild Headquarters


My esteemed colleagues, my quest continues to yield unbelievable good fortune. Unlike other regions of this neighboring planet, the geology here bears a striking resemblance to our world. Minus the reddish hue, the landscape feels oddly like home. As I marched onward towards a potential shelter, my mind could not help but be encouraged by the opportunity here for us. After a long stretch, I came across an upright marker that may have indicated some type of trade route. Though linguistics was never my strongest skill, I believe that the Grounders call this sector KAN-SAS. I have included an image for the Linguistics Department to decipher and look forward to their conclusions.


Third Transmission To Guild Headquarters


I have found the remnants of an abandoned settlement and claimed it as my shelter. It is a cubic structure, made from re-purposed vegetative matter, that is common to this world. However, due to the degenerative nature of organic compounds, this home has been torn apart by natural elements. This confirms our belief that their primitive culture has yet to learn that civilizations can only thrive by expanding below ground, rather than above.

The interior has been completely emptied of its furnishings except for the scattered piles of debris and artifacts. Hanging vertically on a wall is a reflective metal, allowing me to finally get a glimpse of what my image disruptor is producing. I bear the resemblance of an aged female member of the dominant species. There is a mass of gray hair atop my head. My beautiful green skin is now wrinkled and a sickly shade of white. My mouth is full of dulled, square shaped teeth rather than our glistening yellowed sharp fangs. A hideous disguise, but I know there is no alternative.

I found the area where sustenance was most likely prepared, for there was an energy producing capsule forged of iron ore. I took a swift inventory of my pack: communicator, immunization and medical kit, individual protein processor, and tactical energizer. Everything appears to be in good-working order. As I searched, I came across a narrow portal. What I have found fills me with such excitement as I write! Beyond the portal is a descension to a lower level, below the surface. The floor here is made up of dried dirt and the walls are adorned with storage structures holding clear containers of what looks like sustenance. There are also some rudimentary tools, made even more useless by advanced states of oxidization. Here is an optimal entry point where we can begin the tunneling process. I have included technical readouts from geological samples for analysis. 


Fourth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


I am reporting my first contact with the Grounders. While taking meteorological readings outside the shelter, I was approached by two adult males. One was older, wearing dark blue apparel, a white sub-garment over his torso and a vertical textile running down the sternum. I deducted that this must be a low-level magistrate. The other male wore what appeared to be a military uniform, complete with a tactical belt and weapon. Affixed on his left pectoral region was a piece of gold metal in a six-pointed shape. This same shape adorned the side of their vehicle. He must be a Sentry Escort. Each wore a cap with a circular light shade around the perimeter, which they oddly lifted when they saw me. Transcribed are the magistrate’s words:

“’Morning ma’am. My name is Chester Jenkins. I’m the Assistant Branch Manager of the Great Plains Mutual Bank. This here is Sheriff Montgomery of the Kansas State Police. Now, ma’am. We both understand this here Depression has weighed folks down like an anchor and this here drought is like something out of the Old Testament. But that don’t give folks any right to break the law, see? This is private property belonging to the bank. And you are trespassing, which is against the law. You need to leave or else the Sheriff will be forced to escort you off the premises.”

The Sentry then moved his hands to just above his tactical belt. He seemed committed to this subtle act of aggression, so I took no chances. The carefully aimed bolt shot out from the tip of my tactical energizer and into the chest of the Sentry, causing him to lift off the ground and land up against the front of his vehicle. The low-level magistrate began to shout.

“What kind of wickedness is this?“

Another shot from the energizer and he was on the ground. A positive aspect of this encounter is that I now have two large specimens to be transformed into sustenance. The downside is that I only have a small individual protein processor, so I will need to use the crude oxidized tools to cut them into the appropriate sized pieces. Thus, you will notice the need for a standard size protein processor on my latest equipment breakdown request.


Fifth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


I will keep this transmission brief. It is discouraging that you refuse to honor my proposal for a labor team to join me here in the KAN-SAS sector. If the Guild is serious about establishing a base of operations, there must be adequate help to create tunnels and trenches to our specifications. I hope that you will re-consider and not turn this into another petty budget squabble.


Sixth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


I may have found a solution to our labor problem! I believe that this will satisfy all of our needs in a fiscally responsible manner. At first light, I was visited by another group of Grounders. Not a herd of the full grown variety, but a grouping of five calves. Each of them looked contaminated and malnourished, yet still on the verge of full strength. The eldest, a female just about at breeding age, spoke. Transcribed are her words:

“Good morning, Ma’am. We hate to bother you, but I reckon you are a good Christian woman. Our Ma done passed to Heaven months back and Pa, he been outta steady work for a year, could only find comfort in the bottle. So me and my brothers and sisters here done run off on account of the beatings and what not. We’re headed west to Nevada to live with an Uncle that’s got himself a ranch. We are so hungry. Might we trouble you for anything you might have to eat in your domicile? Then we’ll be on our way. Each swear to it.”

 Their young are small enough to tunnel for us and given the right amount of reward could easily be trained. And if they refuse or fall ill, they can be proceeded as sustenance. I raised my hand to bid them entry and did my best to replicate their horrid speech.

“Come, come my little dearies. Inside and have yourselves some cakes and other sweets.”

You will notice that my updated equipment breakdown includes a full-size image disruptor. I would like to transform the appearance of my shelter to something that is more inviting to their young and could aide me in luring them in.  

Thank you, Kat.  Kat Evans has been an actor in Chicago since 2006. In that time she has worked with City Lit, Black Button Eyes, Promethean, Savoyaires and the Hypocrites. You may also recognize her voice from a few podcasts including Our Fair City, Starlight Radio Dreams and Toxic Bag

“Rebecca and Joan Don’t Finish the Test” by Chris Vanderark

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Chris Vanderark. Chris is a script writer working around Chicago. He writes mostly plays and sketch comedy. He sometimes works in theatre for young audiences. His work is typically queer/female focused. He enjoys playing around with genre and loves merging Sci-Fi into unexpected places. He Describes his work as “funny, experimental [and] kind of fucked.” This is “Rebecca and Joan don’t finish the test”.

Rebecca and Joan don’t finish the test 


He cries more than I thought he would. Not that that’s surprising or anything. He’s a baby. He cries. Babies cry. I get that. And it’s not even that annoying of a cry. It’s exactly what you’d expect a crying baby to sound like. Almost stereotypical – how like a baby he sounds like. And I recognize every cue he makes: I know the hungry cry, the tired cry, all of it. They sound different. The thing’s smart. Or my maternal instincts are kicking in. Either way. I don’t know. 

Joan’s doing something on the stove. Eggs? She’s been all about fried eggs in the morning lately. Probably cuz of something she read in some article or something. This makes me laugh for two reasons: I think my wife is such a dork, and I think it’s cute. I’m glad she’s on a fried egg trend. It means that she’s cooking which I appreciate, and any moment it gives me alone with the baby just gives me a chance to raise our score. Joan lowers the score; she yells a lot, slams the door. Little things. 

“Fuck!” I hear her shout from the kitchen – immediately followed by a pan hitting the floor. 

“You okay-?” “Fine! I’m fine.” She starts singing. This dumb song. From when we were kids probably. She’s been singing it all week. 

I look at the baby’s face. He looks pleasant, peaceful – he must be enjoying her singing. Probably gets us a few points. I try to hum along – his face wrinkles a bit. God, I wanna just grab it and squish it all around. Baby faces. My eyes shift to his hair – smooth, silky, almost fake. 

I wonder if it is fake. I pinch a bit of his hair and tug a little. Joan is still singing from the kitchen. God I’m so sick of hearing that song. I’m tugging. It’s not coming out; they must have it glued in here pretty tight then. I hear the stove being turned off. Joan’s footsteps. Heel heavy. She’s always walked with heavy heels. Loud. 

I tug as hard as I think I can. The hair pops out. It’s fast, sudden, almost scares me for a sec. The baby hasn’t woken up. Thank God. Joan is almost here – I stuff the hairs in the cushion of the couch right as she enters the room. 

“You look good. With the baby. Nice. Fitting.” Joan’s uncomfortable. I can tell. Her voice trails off when she’s awkward. “Thanks.” I respond. She’s setting the food down. We don’t say much for the rest of the meal. It doesn’t really bother me much. 



It cries more than I thought it would; and I keep hearing it. Everywhere I go. I hear it in the telephones at work and I hear it in the screeching brakes in traffic. Every kid on the street I hear and my brain goes straight to that fucking cry. I can’t stand it. I’m about to lose my goddamn mind – – but Rebecca likes it. And that’s what this is all about. REBECCA: 

I grip the steering wheel a little tighter. The skin on my knuckles looks so thin, I wonder if that’s caused from stress. My eyes shift from the road, to the clock, to my knuckles for the next half an hour – by the time I realize it, I’m home, I’m walking up to the door, I have a headache. “Becca?” I shout, softly while walking in. She’s not there – I think. I kick my shoes off, walk to the kitchen. Still nothing. Just the soft ticking noise the plastic blinds make when the wind blows through the window. The hard wooden chair in the kitchen isn’t comfortable, but I sink into it. Melting. Every noise, smell, hitting my body at once. And then I hear it: 

It’s crying again. My headache is instantly back – I move to the bedroom, the sound of its shrieks getting louder and louder. Becca says she can differentiate them – fuck that. They all sound the same to me. 

By the time I get to the bedroom, it’s stopped. The thing is asleep again, and so is she. Not even under the covers; the bit of sun coming through the curtains, wrapping around her body. A soft glow. I love it. 

I glance over at the gaping mouth of the crib- Tip-toeing towards it, so not to wake anyone or anything in the room. I look down at the baby. Its chest even moves up and down to look like it’s breathing. Weird. It stirs, face wrinkling up. 

I touch its eyelid. It’s soft, like a human’s. I push my finger down on the eye – it gives a little. Sliding my finger to the tear duct, I push hard. My finger sticks in. Baby isn’t reacting at all, probably doesn’t have any sensors in its tear duct. I’m sure they’re not expecting fucking weirdos like me to stick their damn fingers down its eye. 

It’s dry in there. My finger gets stopped by some plastic. Figures. Everything real about this is just on the surface- 

“What are you doing?” Becca’s woken up. As quickly as I can I take my finger out of the baby’s eye. 

JOAN You were sleeping / I didn’t want to 

REBECCA I know I was sleeping, what were you doing with the baby? 

JOAN – – – 


JOAN What? 

REBECCA Why are you acting like this? 

JOAN Like what / Bec. I honestly don’t- 

REBECCA I get that you hate the thing. It’s two months. Can we at least have a decent score at the end of it. 

JOAN We’ll have a good enough score to adopt. Settle down. 

REBECCA Will we? Your finger was just down it’s eye socket. – – – I feel like you’re sabotaging / any fucking chance we have at this 

JOAN I’m not. I’m not sabotaging, I just don’t want to do this yet / okay 

REBECCA I know you don’t. I get that. I get it, you don’t want a kid, I get it. 

JOAN – – – That’s not true. 

REBECCA I’ll bring it back tomorrow. 

JOAN I can bring it back- 

REBECCA While you’re at work, I’ll bring it back.



She laid back down. She was done with the conversation. I knew not to continue when she was like this. I’d rather not have an argument. 


The box is lumpy – honestly I’m more humiliated by my inability to get the thing back in the box than I am by returning it before the two month mark. I slide the box across the counter to the cashier. 

“Only three more weeks and we’d find out your score-” “We’re not interested.” I’m interested. I know I’d be a killer parent. The thing would’ve graded me as a brilliant fucking parent. 

“Well,” the cashier is continuing, “Parenthood’s tough. I wouldn’t even know where to start taking one of these things home with me-” 

“It’s not tough. I’m not the problem here, I’m just-” I trail off. I’m embarrassing myself. I just need to return the doll and be done with it. We finish the transaction in silence. As they’re handing me my receipt I see between the cracks of the box. The soft flesh of the doll inside – I’m still angry. I would have scored great. I would be an excellent parent. 

I grab the receipt, crinkling it into the smallest ball I can in my fist. The harsh afternoon sun strikes my forehead as I step outside the store into the parking lot. I don’t feel like opening the car door. I don’t feel like doing anything. The sun is burning my forehead, one drop of sweat tickling my eyebrow. 

“Maybe not ready yet.” I mutter. I open the car door and climb inside. Ten minutes later and I’d start the car. I resent Joan. And I miss the doll. Something must be wrong with me. 

Karolyn Blake is an actor and improviser in Chicago with a passion for dogs, laughter, and inclusive spaces. She is a founding member of the Shrews Improv and proud to be a singer in the Shanty Shipwreck Show. You can see and hear her every month in Starlight Radio Dreams, recorded live at Mrs. Murphy and Son’s Irish Bistro and available wherever fine podcasts are downloaded.

Kim Fukawa has been seen all around Chicago. Most recently she has worked with The House Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Babes With Blades Theatre Company. She is an artistic affiliate and occasional fight choreographer with Babes With Blades.

Robert Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently preparing the debut of his first book and busily booking a national tour of the SMG Podcast Marathon. Rob loves sharing ideas with others and creating opportunities for his creative associates. Along with his wife, Martha, Rob started Southgate Media Group as a creative outlet and a way to incorporate all of their interests and their past experiences. SMG is home to over 100 podcasts, blogs, and video channels. If you think Rob has a lot going on, ask him about his amazing daughter, Molly.

Gateways: “Hey Joe” by Brendon Connelly

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Brendon Connelly. Brendon is currently a student of creative writing at the University of Oxford and will start his MA at UEA in the Autumn. Last summer his audio drama The Hypnotist was a winner at the Penfro Literary festival. His background is largely in film and TV production, having spent 20 years as a film journalist and editor. More recently He has been writing prose and poetry as well as drama. Brendon tells us “I believe that no good will ever come from driving a wedge between plot and character. What’s more, no drama will ever come from *not* driving wedges between your characters.” This is “Hey Joe”

You’ll never really understand because you were just born this way but it’s great to be a human. Take it from somebody who joined the species a little later in life. In short, being human is really rather awesome. Here are my top three great things about being one of you.

Number three: you enjoy your food. My people eat just because it hurts too much not to. Appetite where I come from is all stick and no carrot. But now that I’ve got a human body I love to eat all of the time whether I need to or not. Just because I can, really. Just because chocolate, and apples, and bacon and wheat and – holy moly! – plum sauce. Plum sauce! Well done, humans. Well done.

Reason number two: you enjoy sex. When my people get too old to reproduce they just don’t bother anymore. If you catch one of my lot masturbating, then you know you’ve got a serious problem. A full-bore, crazyhead-eating-their-own-shit kind of problem. A lock-them-up-and-weld-the-hatch-shut kind of problem. You guys, though? You just can’t leave your bits alone and, let me tell you, now that I have the very same bits, I get it. I get it.

And reason number one is dreams. Every night, I can just close my eyes and go off on a wild ride or two. Dreams don’t usually make sense and they’re sometimes deeply scary but they’re just so profoundly personal. No book or song or movie will ever be able to speak to you quite the way your own dreams do. Dreams are just the best, and I think you guys just take them for granted.

So, pretty much, thanks in no small part to food, and jacking off and dreams, it’s been a good few months since I came here to your lovely little planet and became one of you. Of course, none of this is to say there weren’t a few hiccups along the way.

Joe Cushing of Apartment 38, Tabor Pointe Apartments, Portland, Oregon was chosen to be my host because he was almost always alone. Joe Cushing “kept himself to himself.” Transfer Operations had spied on him regularly and were confident that when they pulled Joe Cushing out of his meat and pushed me in, there would be nobody there to witness it. And for another thing, Transfer Operations said, Joe Cushing had recently attempted suicide. It was a sincere attempt, not just a cry for help.

So you’d like to know, I’m sure, that the process was entirely painless for this poor human. Well, it really wasn’t so bad. I can promise you that he died peacefully in his sleep and, no matter what the obituary pages say, that’s an exceptionally rare ending for one of your species. Any one of you will be very lucky to have a death like Joe Cushing’s. He just drifted away, maybe even with a nice dream or two to go out on, and he never even had a clue that I was moving in. No fear, no suffering, no mess. It was nothing like that night last winter when he deliberately jumped head-first from his balcony.

Transfer wasn’t quite so painless from my side of the deal. I’d been warned over and over that the process would be extremely dehydrating but, of course, there’s no way to just hop into a human body and take it out for a test drive so I didn’t really know what the warnings actually meant. Not until I was slumped on Joe Cushing’s couch, feeling like I was turning to dust and feeling so confused that I didn’t know my petrified ass from my desiccated elbow.

Joe’s life memories went with him but his head was still full of the most basic, important and useful things, even if they seemed a bit tangled at first. With a bit of effort, I was able to work out how to walk on two legs and where the kitchen was, and when I stopped for a moment and thought about it, I even knew that the faucet could give me either warm water or cold depending on how I operated it.

Water’s not as fun as food (not even nearly, and it tastes of dust) but it certainly does the trick, doesn’t it? I can’t find a language on this planet that really has the words to describe what I was going through as I drank that first crucial litre of water. Ironically enough, the best I can do in English is say that, as I sat there on Joe Cushing’s couch and kept imbibing, I started to feel like myself again. And when I was myself, I realised right away that things had already gone horribly wrong.

Joe Cushing’s apartment has a balcony, and across from the balcony, on the other side of the complex is another apartment with a balcony, and sitting on that balcony, looking right over at me, peering into Joe’s window was Elizabeth Greaves.

We made eye contact, just for a second, and then she looked away. She opened the door back to her apartment, stepped inside, then drew a curtain closed. I spent the rest of the night sitting on Joe Cushing’s couch, watching Elizabeth Greaves’ balcony out of the corner of my, waiting to see if she’d come back, and wondering if maybe she’d come around to my new apartment and confront me.

Now, I’ve never seen anybody arrive in a human body but I’ve heard that it’s quite a spectacle and that’s why hosts like Joe Cushing are chosen, living alone with nobody around to see the light show. So what if Elizabeth Greaves had seen me arriving, in something like a blinding flash and what we’ll have to call a tear in reality? What if she saw through the rift and there was my old body getting atomised, maybe, or even Transfer Operations at the controls, making the magic happen?

I quickly realised there was another possible explanation. Maybe she looked over and saw Joe Cushing, simple old Joe Cushing, and it was just because it was him, because of her past with him, that she looked away?

Perhaps they were old friends and things had gone wrong. Perhaps there had been some sort of dispute or argument. Maybe – and I know better now than to put this past any thirty seven-year-old American man who lives alone – Joe Cushing had a habit of sitting there on his couch, masturbating for the wild human pleasure of it and Elizabeth Greaves had seen it? I think that would have generated the appropriate degree of urgent distress that I had read in her reaction.

So either she’d seen me arriving on Earth through a dimension-distorting, deliberately constructed flaw in every continuum known to my culture or perhaps, previously, she’d wandered out onto her balcony, looked over this way and spotted her sad, lonely neighbour going to town on his modest little penis in front of the TV. It seemed logical enough that it was probably one of those two things, which made me rather anxious.

I didn’t know exactly how the bigger mission could be scuppered by a human seeing my arrival, but the whole point of me taking on a human host in the first place was to be discreet. If Elizabeth Greaves had seen something, what should I do?

I sat on Joe Cushing’s couch and pondered. After a while, my mind wandered to the food in the kitchen so I went through and raided the fridge, loading a bowl with everything that looked half-way good, and then came back to the couch to ponder some more.

This was when the second little hiccup happened, because out there now, over on Elizabeth Greaves’ balcony was not Elizabeth Greaves but two other humans. Tiny ones, a pair of just lovely twin babies, sitting in their cute little stroller. I know now that these babies are Samuel Jamie Greaves and Douglas Robert Greaves, but at the time, I had no idea of names, much less the babies’ identities. I just knew that they looked like the most adorable little creatures I had ever seen. Something in my human body felt a powerful attraction to these little ones. I think you’d call it primal.

Almost right away, Elizabeth Greaves walked out onto her balcony and sat in a seat next to the stroller. She rocked the twins back and forth while she spoke on her cellphone and not once did she look up, or over at Joe Cushing’s apartment, and there was nothing urgent about her manner. Indeed, she seemed to have quite a calm mood, if she wasn’t exactly happy.

Thanks to Joe Cushing’s choice of carby treats, I was finding myself rather tired. I gave in to the human impulse, and lay down on the couch and went to sleep. It was then that I had my first dream.

I dreamt of the twins. I dreamt of taking them back home, and how popular they would be. I dreamt of keeping them for myself, and raising them to be the very best they could be. I would raise them well, imparting the best of human knowledge as well as the wisdom of my people. These babies would grow larger and stronger and become mighty, important humans.

Though the dream got extremely mixed up at the end, I think the twins became adults with powerful expensive motorcycles and important government positions. Somewhere along the line they signed a treaty to allow all of my people to come to Earth and take over whatever bodies they needed, no questions asked. That’s the way their Daddy had raised them, they explained – to know that giving is far more important than taking.

Before the Transfer, my old shell was long past child bearing age, and thanks to the zygote-frying side-effects of my arrival, there was no chance of me siring healthy offspring using Joe Cushing’s body. There was much appeal, however, in just taking the twins. It was certainly going to be cleaner than pregnancy and birth, not to mention cheaper. It instantly seemed like a good idea to just grab them in the night and blow out of town in a hurry.

And why hang around? Let’s suppose that Elizabeth Greaves had seen me arrive and that, in the morning, she was going to call… I don’t know. I’ve been over three months and I’ve still got no idea who humans are supposed to call when they see an alien take over the body of their neighbour. I’m guessing it’s probably the cops. I didn’t really want to have to deal with the cops.

So I went to the kitchen and loaded a bag with food and bottles of water and soda from the fridge, then took this down to the parking lot and put it all in Joe Cushing’s little red truck. I moved the truck as close as I could to the parking lot exit, to help me make my impending quick, cop-free getaway.

There was no way I could find Elizabeth Greaves’ apartment from the inside of the complex, much less get inside. I knew the only way to get there would be to go balcony to balcony all the way around from Joe Cushing’s. It was time consuming and I bruised my new body a few times, but I made it, and there’s nothing to say that anybody saw me, or that I woke anybody up along the way. I’m still quite proud of what I pulled off that night. It actually makes me feel quite cool. Do you think that you could do it?

Almost every balcony door was slightly open, thanks to the hot summer night, and Elizabeth Greaves’ was one of them. I was able to slide the door open and step inside, into a living room that was, radically different tastes in ornamentation aside, exactly the same as Joe Cushing’s. The whole apartment complex was built to the same plan, which certainly helped me in my creeping around in the dark.

I found the bedroom easily, and there they were: the twins, each in their own basket, the two of them positioned alongside the bed. Elizabeth Greaves’ had kicked off her duvet and was lying in a sprawl, snoring gently. I decided to do it quickly – just grab the twins and run.

But, you see, the full limit of my experience with human babies was seeing these two from my balcony earlier that evening, and Joe Cushing seemed to be painfully useless with kids, with nothing at all in his mind that could give me even the slightest clue as to how everything was just seconds away from going terribly wrong.

So I grabbed the first basket. Stupidly, of course. I know that now. It was basket with Douglas Robert Greaves inside, and at the very moment I grabbed it, with no prompting at all, Douglas Robert Greaves went from peaceful and dormant to pink and shrieking and angry. It was violent. That’s the only word for it.

And so I dropped the basket and fled the room, rushing to the balcony and dashing out. I didn’t look back to see what Elizabeth Greaves’ was doing. My heart was pounding and, somehow related to this, I was starting to feel a little dizzy. I sat on the chair on the balcony and tried to settle down.

Then the door opened and there was Elizabeth Greaves. I was scared but she looked terrified. Not even the big knife she was holding in her hand was doing anything to give her calm or confidence.

That’s when she started screaming at me to get out. So I told her that I was already out, that the balcony was outside, and should be counted as such so could we please calm down.

She told me that I had already had my last chance and that I had blown it. I told her sorry but I couldn’t remember what this last chance was and I improvised that I’d been sick lately and forgetting a lot of things.

She told me that no judge in the whole country would convict her if she stuck the knife into me now. I told her that I could snap her wrist and take the knife and slit her throat with it, but I didn’t want to. I told her that I could, and if I had to, I would, but that it would be a last resort. I stressed it again: I didn’t want to, but could.

She told me that she was going to get a court order that meant I couldn’t come within a hundred metres of her or the kids so I’d better put the apartment on the market and go to a motel. I told her that I’d do exactly that.

But while we were talking, I was turning around on the balcony, putting myself between Elizabeth Greaves’ and the window door to the apartment. I backed slowly away and stepped inside and then – with all the speed that Joe Cushing’s body could manage, slammed it shut and locked it. Then I scrambled to the bedroom and grabbed the twins, one under each arm. They kicked and wriggled and howled, but I held on tight and ran as fast as I could.

It was a bit of a puzzle to find my way out of the apartment block, and thanks to Elizabeth Greaves’ screaming, lots of the other residents woke up and came to their doors to see what was happening. They just watched, of course, as I hurried with the kids to the truck, tossed them in the backseat, and then jumped into the front and drove away.

So things got off to a bad start but don’t they always? The situation has settled down quite a bit in the last few weeks, and Samuel Jamie Greaves is now crying a lot less. We even found somewhere nice to bury his brother’s body, near lots of trees and flowers. Best of all, I still see Douglas Robert Greaves in my dreams. He knows I made some mistakes, but he tells me that he understands. I don’t like at all how he insists on calling me Joe, but I’m so happy that he has forgiven me.

Robert Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently preparing the debut of his first book and busily booking a national tour of the SMG Podcast Marathon. Rob loves sharing ideas with others and creating opportunities for his creative associates. Along with his wife, Martha, Rob started Southgate Media Group as a creative outlet and a way to incorporate all of their interests and their past experiences. SMG is home to over 100 podcasts, blogs, and video channels. If you think Rob has a lot going on, ask him about his amazing daughter, Molly.