Gateways: “Alamar Hatcroff – Resident of Post Fall Chicago” by Joe Johnson read by Molly Southgate

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Joe Johnson who plays Baaaahb in Improvised Dungeons and Dragons and Joe i n real life. Joe has been reading, watching, and writing sci fiction since the start of grade school. He admits he has given considerable more energy to reading and watching than to writing, and is honored to have his writing read aloud and brought to life… This is “Alamar Hatcroff – Resident of Post Fall Chicago”

Thin whiskers tickled a snoring nose as a creature of fat and fur and shaped like a flattened pear on four legs tried to wake the sleeping form in order to be fed. A grunt and a
dismissive wave is all it got in return, to which it replied with an indignant squeak and a beedied eye stare. The stare lasted long enough for the hunger to creep back into a
surprisingly large stomach for such a small creature. And, whereas other domesticated creatures snort or yip to get attention, this twenty pound creature simply reached out with
a small three-clawed foot and deftly utilized two claws as snore stoppers. It is unknown whether the nose plugging was intentional as most of Eyani’s thoughts were on food.
Alamar’s eyes shot open as his nose was plugged and with a slowness born from experience, slowly leaned back his head in order to slide the two claws out with a minimal
amount of mucus spilling onto his moustache. Once out, Alamar gulped a few breaths to steady his lungs. He had just been enjoying a lovely dream about rath sausage and coming face to
face with dream dinner had startled him quite a bit. Eyani, for her part, slowly backed up to have only one foot standing on his neck. Alamar suddenly remembered he needed to clip her nails.
“If hungry, say ‘food’, Eyani!” Alamar snapped from frustration at being rudely Awakened.
Eyani squeaked in response and swished her thin tail to slap the bed.
“Ah,” he understood. “I dress quickly.”
The tail, nearly as long as she was, slapped the bed again.
“Oh, you didn’t mean food,” a sinking feeling hit Alamar’s stomach about the same time as the smell did. Rath droppings always managed to smell the same regardless of what
Alamar fed them. Eyani was no different. Alamar spotted the odorous pile near the rath door. Puzzled, Alamar looked again between the door and Eyani.
“Maybe we eat less this today?” the long naked tail of the rath slid across the bed as the rodent’s whiskered face turned to her bowl at the word ‘eat’. She jumped with her little
legs as Alamar pushed his blanket off him and swung his naked legs out leaving a small trail of ichor behind it.
“Ah! Leech-roach!” Alamar shot into the air with a scream stifled by a collision with the low ceiling. The leech-roach was dislodged mid jump and landed with a slight crunch as
it’s shell broke. Small black eyes spotted it immediately and Eyani leapt into action as blur of dirty white fur. She scooped it up with a crunch for it could right itself and chewed twice
before swallowing as Alamar watched on feeling a mixture of disgust and awe as his hands rushed over him in search of more leech-roaches. Eyani then leapt a couple times before
getting a good grip and managing to climb onto the bed. She began to lick up the trail of blood and roach guts on the bed to another leech-roach.
“Enough!” he shouted after Eyani had finished. “No more upside trader for Alamar Hatcroff, Eyani. We need to live in Under Tunnel to grow more aljee and to have less roaches.”
Alamar gently rubbed his fingers over the parts of his body covered with aljee.
Unfortunately there was little of the precious parasite repellent and mostly on his chest and arms. Another seeking feeling hit Alamar’s stomach as he thought of Crypt-limb and grew
terrified. He shivered as he dressed himself in his pants and threw on a rath-fur jacket with plastic buttons. His boots were by the door so he quickly cleaned up Eyani’s mess before
stripping his bed.
He carried the bundle of blankets passed his empty pantry, out of his home and down the tunnel towards the stairs leading to the upside and sunlight and promptly through blankets
into the street and set them ablaze.
Eyani relieved herself again nearby while Alamar’s eyes looked around for any changes during the night. Aside from a few small flocks of birds on the hanging cords and
maybe a few more missing bricks from the nearby buildings, the only change was Eyani’s fresh pile and the burning blanket. Alamar’s stomach grumbled to announce it was hungry
and Eyani nipped at his pant as if to show the roaches were not enough to be called a Breakfast.
“Hush,” Alamar softly kicked off the large rodent and went across the street of broken concrete to a vine covered building with the furry rath trailing at his heels.
The morning sun creeped over the Hollowed Mountains, casting long shadows in the gray spring morning. Alamar rapped his knuckles on the door to a three-floor building
covered completely in vines. After a moment, Hren opened the door to greet him. Hren, being the newest addition to his Upside Trader business, towered over him and had to back
down the hallway in order to let him in.
“Armor already?” Alamar asked as he had to push Eyani back out the door before closing it.
“Armor always, Al,” Hren Beddy replied. “Armor always in hostile territory.”
Alamar shrugged, having long given up on explaining the Hatcroffs and Tangs that lived in the area were all farmers and traders and breeders. The Under Tunnel didn’t breed
warriors. But Hren was far from home, so she encased herself like a beetle in a steel shell colored blue and gray with pockmarks and scrapes from before he knew her.
“Your aljee is thinning,” Hren remarked as they broke a piece of bread off a loaf and handed it over to Alamar.
Alamar chose not to respond as he followed his nose to the kitchen for a bowl of soup. Troi and Gwinn Tang already at the table before him, slurping noisily. Alamar chose a
nearby seat and nodded in greeting before eating quickly. Hren offered the best protection for food, so Alamar had convinced nearby forgers to store and cook at their place.
“We’re headed to the Spires today,” Troi spoke between bites, careful to open his mouth over his bowl of soup. “Hren needs things like metal and wire and -”

Troi stopped with a frown.
“Motherboards,” Gwinn chimed in.
“Right, those,” Troi nodded and continued eating. “From before the Fall when these houses had people and not fungus.”
Alamar froze in fear at the thought of the Spires. He had met Hren where the Swaying Spires met the Spoiled River. Alamar made eye contact with Hren through their
“You can stay, Alamar,” Hren’s voice echoed out of her armor. “The hatchery needs tending. As do the rath pins. I have been signaled by Moory Hatcroff that she will be here by
tonight, we will be back by then. Perhaps tonight your food experiments will go over Better?”
Two pairs of eyes and a dark helmet screen looked pleadingly at Alamar as he did his best to look unoffended at that little barb. Sure, Hren had saved his life from the rabid
Coobs in their tattered blue bear uniforms, but he took pride in his cooking and that hurt. He poked at his soup with the bread piece, shoving the boiled vegetables around looking for
more frog meat before giving up and just slurped down the broth.
After agreeing to look for blankets in return for tending to the animals, the Tangs nd Hren Beddy left Alamar behind and made their way further into the derelict city Hren had
called Chicago. Alamar found Eyani chasing little birds as they darted to catch mosquitoes in the morning sun. Together they checked the Hatchery beneath the decaying
theatre. Fungi and bright colored moss grew on the walls nearest the gaping hole in the theatre leading to the Hatchery and Alamar picked and scraped some for dinner that night,
though less than usual as this fungi grew slower in the summer. He scrambled down the hole into the flooded cave that housed their frogs.
“Eyani, no!” Alamar cried in a hushed voice to no avail.
The Hatchery silence broken Eyani splashed in behind him disturbing the frogs and destroying a patch of eggs in her selfish hunger. Angry croaks bombarded him in the
enclosed area as Alamar scooped up a wiggling Eyani to keep her from eating their livestock. Hren had said that the frogs found in cities near the Fall Site were larger than
those in other lands, though still not much meat besides the legs. Alamar had never been outside of Chicago. He’d only know frogs the size of his stomach.
After wrestling Eyani out of the Hatchery, Alamar stomped over to the rath pins on the other side of his tunnel home. The male raths, naked without the fur of the females,
huddled together in a corner for warmth. They were all still too young and small to be used to for dinner. The haze offered by the sunlight shining through the disturbed fungi spores painted the
small naken raths in blue-golden light. Alamar went to the bat traps and found only a pair too small for a dinner that had been caught during the night. He threw them to the pile of raths only
to have Eyani charge in and knock the smaller males out of the way.
“Eyani!” Alamar growled. “That is not your food. That is our food’s food!”
He chased Eyani away from the small and still hungry male raths, wondering if the Tangs’ rath, Rotchi, was big enough for breeding yet.
“Moory is coming,” Alamar reminded himself as he carried a struggling Eyani away from the pieces of bat to let the other raths eat. “Will need a big dinner. Moory comes from
the South Side Under Tunnel. They have better growing pits there.”
Alamar set Eyani down at the top of his stairs as he pondered on what to prepare. He thought to check on the squash and tomatoes after securing Eyani in his room first. He
thought about how many of the skinny rath he would have to prepare. He had already given up on the idea of frog eggs, Eyani had disturbed too many and they would need the
grown frogs come autumn..
Alamar stopped wondering about dinner when he watched a clever and possibly evil Eyani nimbly climb through her door and a particularly bad smell wafted from the other
side. He slowly opened the door to see her cleaning herself while a pile of fresh droppings sat right inside his door. Eyani looked up at a stunned and angered Alamar and slapped her tail
to show she was hungry.
Several hours later a party including Alamar, Moory Hatcroff and her bodyguard, the Tangs, and Hren Beddy all enjoyed spit roasted rath alongside summer squash seasoned with
spring moss and salt. As luck would have it, Rochi was not yet big enough for breeding, but Moory had brought a young female rath to trade. Alamar promptly named her Could-Be-
Dinner and went to bed with a full stomach and a smile.

Molly Southgate is 12 years old. According to her IMDB page, she has performed in 5 films, 1 industrial documentary, 9 Chicago plays, 4 Chicago stage readings, an Iron & Wine music video, multiple commercials, and she has hosted or guested on over 500 podcast episodes. Molly is also a food blogger on Instagram and has Somehow found the time to act in Super Richard World III right here at Otherworld Theatre.