Monthly Archives: February 2020

Gateways: “9-0-0-5” by Samatha Schorsch read by Devon Elizabeth and Kate Akerboom



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Samantha Schorsch. She grew up telling campfire stories at Girl Scout events. When writing short stories, horror and science fiction have been her preferred genre for the past six years. She strives to use her unique perspective on being a woman and person with mental illness in her work to broaden public thought on said subjects and experiences. This is “Nine Dash Zero Dash Zero Dash Five.”

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Bettina. Excuse me.”

The robot’s voice echoed with metallic confusion in the small voyager pod. The repeating message cut off sharply, as an electric charge crackled and Bettina pulled a circuit out of its mechanical noggin. A spark of her soldering pen later, and she was finished. The ship computer interface was merged with the robot, along with a few mild alterations to the formality protocols.

“Be-be-bettina…tina…Tina. Hello Tina.”

Tina sighed with relief. “Well thank fuck for that.”

“Hello, Tina.”

“Yeah, yeah hello to you too. Whoever you are.”

“I am Rubbish Bin, biohazard and sewage system maintenance model 9-0-0-5.”

“They didn’t name you?”

“I do not understand.”

“Okay whatever. Well, I’m not calling you that so…rubbish bin…rubbin..rube…ah!” Tina snapped her fingers at the robot. “Ruben. You can be Ruben. You like?”

The robot calculated for a moment.

“Affirmative.”

They had been in space for months looking for habitable conditions on other worlds. Somewhere safe from the pandemic that forced the Refugees of the 500 to flee into the Principality Evac Craft Concordia. They left them all there, family, friends, to die alone and in agony rather than fight it off. Nihilists among them at the time had expressed satisfaction with the new plague in terms bordering on Übermench eugenics, which always made Tina deeply uncomfortable. For she was the last of her family, and had watched her younger sister rot away as her veins collapsed and she coughed up her organs in a mush of black, acrid bile. She doubted the death happy men on board had ever been close enough to the disease to see what it did up close. If they had, she thought, they wouldn’t be so fucking cavalier about it.

Her voyages were usually brief and provided minimal if any hope for a life off of that claustrophobic hunk of metal, but she had hoped this time would be different. She had picked up an accidental passenger on this leg of the journey, her new companion, Ruben. It was likely her own fault; she never checked her ship thoroughly enough anymore before heading out and she must have missed the little guy trying to do his job in the waste bilge, but Tina had hoped that having a robot specialized in biohazard would help her narrow down the options for habitable spaces once she merged its consciousness with the ship’s computer. Alas. Mostly he just played the godawful elevator music radio station that the manufacturers thought would soothe people in a contamination zone.

About fifteen hours from the Concordia, Ruben relayed an emergency transmission.

“Do not come. Repeat. Do not come.”

Tina flipped open the comms channel. “What are you talking about?” She asked. “What’s going on?”

“Live birth 48 hours ago. Infant was a carrier. Compromised birth mother almost immediately. Spreading quickly. No removal bots for biohazard. Don’t know where went. Stay away. Live the rest of your life however you see fit. You will be the last of us.”

“But I have-”

“This is an order, Bettina.” The comms link closed.

“It’s TINA!” Tina slammed her hands on the dash controls in frustration. How. Fucking how could this happen? They took every precaution every test, every…

“Money…” Tina murmured. Of course. Someone pulled the pregnancy begging and paid people off to let her on, even though fetal contraction of the outbreak was the most common form of exposure outside of someone bleeding on you or biting you.

A metallic arm came to rest on her shoulder, and Ruben cleared its throat with a rattle.

“Are we not going home, Tina?”

She snapped. “Home? What home? It’s a tin can and now a tin can of disease because fucking idiots don’t know how to say no to money which doesn’t even have a fucking use anymore because there is nothing to own or buy!”

“Home is diseased…my fault?”

“How would it be your…” a lightbulb went off in her head, “…fault…oh my god it’s you! They’re missing you!”

“Affirmative.”

“But if I go inside…”
“But if you don’t. ”

“But…”

It was a long shot at best. Even if they did get to the vessel before everyone was infected and/or rotting to death, what would a single robot do for an in-progress contamination of by now at least 200 people? Even if it was specialized for it…But on the other hand if they didn’t even try…

The research ship was lonely enough. Did she really want to be the last one? Why shouldn’t she just leave them all like they left everyone else, her family, her entire world?

“Ti-tina?”

But if someone had tried would her sister have lived? If people even tried to help?

“Tina?”

How many children were rotting from the inside on that vessel…

“Bettina?”

She woke up from her thought spiral and looked at the robot.

“Bettina, are we going home?”

She looked at it, silent.

“I would like to go help. Please. It is my function.”

They sat there for what felt like eons in silence, until a small sigh from Tina echoed in the cockpit. She closed her eyes, flipped the hyper speed override, and sent them speeding off towards the Concordia.

“Fuck it.”

Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. She loves telling stories, especially about the past, and considers it an honor to tell new ones that people come up with. By day, she talks about animals at Shedd aquarium. By night she creates as much as she can. Kate is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay holding degrees in Theatre Performance and History.

Devon Elizabeth is a Chicagoland area performer and musician. Most recently she performed with Elgin Theatre Company’s radio play “It’s a Wonderful Life” .Other places your might have seen her include performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire with Pub Crawl, Alma in Vero Voce’s production of Christmas Schooner and sharing her obsession of Disney with Drunkenly Ever After, a livestreamed performance found on Facebook. She is thrilled to be a part of this production and hopes you enjoy the show!


Gateways: Enter Password by Cameron Evesque Davis read by Kat Evans, Josh Ballard and Molly Southgate



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Cameron Evesque Davis. Cameron is a multi-talented artist based in Chicago, IL. They are the owner of the media production company Hela’s Hand Productions, which produces a variety of artistic projects, including films, comic books, music, and a podcast. They are also a published author, and have one novel out entitled “Blasphemy,” which is an urban fantasy story about an original pantheon of gods, the end of the world, and the power of beliefs. This is their second time participating in Gateways. This is “Enter Password”.

“Enter Password:”
I was greeted with the standard prompt on my computer as I was every morning. The system was particularly annoying, though, for it made me reset my password every two days. Remembering which of the thousand passwords I had created in the past three years was never easy. I used to write them down, but they told me not to do that anymore, as the security of the world was at stake or whatever.
This of course didn’t help me remember my passwords, though, and I didn’t see what the big deal was; I was the only person on this ship anyway.
“Hm,” I muttered pointlessly to myself and I typed “ThisIsStupid5568792!*!”
The computer chimed and let me in. I opened the Canned Drink Product I had for today and took a sip. Tasted like something approximating grape this time. None of the cans they provided me ever listed flavor, so it was a toss-up every time I opened one. A little excitement for my less than exciting life.
I was greeted with about a thousand emails, all letting me know the latest news from across the colonies. Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Plagues, Droughts, Famines, Fires, etc. Nothing new in this news.
I deleted them all, except for one of them from Randy, my coworker. His email explained that the shipments of food we normally get would be delayed until tomorrow. He joked about how he hoped I saved the beef flavored noodles and didn’t just use them up.
Based on this incredibly funny email, you can tell the type of excitement I was subjected to daily. My life was exciting.
An alarm went off to my right. I looked over at the wall, where the computer would flash a specific light next to any number of problem indicators. A red light this time, flashing next to “Tropical Storm, Section 231”.
I sighed deeply and turned back to my computer, opening up one of the various programs which controlled the various systems and subsystems I was tasked with keeping operational. Sure enough, there was a Tropical Storm in Sector 231, and I was in the best position to be able to shut it down and save who I could.
And luckily, the power I had been given on the ship I was on was easily able to handle such problems. I typed in a command; the alarm continued blaring. I waited.
A few tense moments went by. I felt one of the tubes attached to my back tense, and a sharp pain ripped into my spine. I gasped and coughed. My head spun a bit.
I heard a ding, and the alarm stopped. Fixed. I took a sip of what passed for a grape beverage.

“Enter Password:”
Day 746. New password day number 373. “FuckMyLife4444444!!!”
I opened another beverage. Orange? I couldn’t tell at this point. Every day my taste buds got slightly worse. Eventually it wouldn’t matter if I were drinking actual juice or water, it would all taste the same. Supposedly these drinks made it possible for me to continue my vital duty. I couldn’t tell if they were supposed to give me additional energy or what, but I kept drinking them. Perhaps they acted as a minor placebo.
That day was relatively calm for most of the hours I sat there, staring at the computer screen. Randy emailed me a couple times to ask about the food shipment. I told him I hadn’t gotten it yet. He hadn’t either. Something must have been going on. I didn’t care too much. Randy seemed concerned, though, kept going on about the beef noodles. He hadn’t followed his own advice and had eaten them all, apparently.
1500 hours. An alarm blared. I looked to the wall.
It was a meteor. Larger than anything we’d ever seen. Headed directly for Planet Designate Earth.
I did some quick calculations. The amount of power it would take to stop it…everything I had.
*BLING*
My email bleeped, notifying me of a decision being made by the computer. I opened the email. It determined which of my coworkers would be handling the issue. I stared stoically and read.
“We know that every one of you has their doubts about the mission. We know everything we ask you to do is too much. But you are humanity’s last best hope. With your help we can save hundreds of millions of people across all the colonies and planets of the Human Federation.
By now you must have seen the news about the meteor headed directly for Earth. One of you must be chosen to stop it. It is with a heavy heart that this duty falls upon my program.”
It went on and on. A computer pretending to have feelings for those of us wired into it. Eventually it decided on the person who’d be doing the job: Randy.
*BLING*
A direct message from Randy, “Hey, I’m sure you saw the news.”
“I did,” I responded, “I’m sorry to hear it.”
“Me, too,” Randy replied, “But it comes with the territory. I’ll miss our chats though.”
“Me, too.”
“Maybe…do you have any beef noodles by any chance? I wonder if you could send one over my way, just as a last wish sort of thing?”
“I’ll check.”
I didn’t have any beef noodles, but I humored him. It also wouldn’t have been possible to get him them in enough time. We all had the countdown clock on our screens. We knew he would be gone any moment now.
“I’m sorry, man, I didn’t find any. The new shipment still hasn’t come,” I replied after a few minutes.
“No worries,” Randy replied, “Anyway. I think it’s time. It was a pleasure working with you. Have a good rest of your life.”
“You too.”
Two minutes later, the alarm stopped blaring. Randy went offline.

“Enter Password:”
10 days since Randy. I stopped a few Earthquakes and a hurricane. I was feeling pretty tired lately.
They still hadn’t sent a new shipment of food. I was down to my last 3 Beverage Products, and my food supplies were very low. I couldn’t believe how weak I felt. Didn’t mean I could stop working, though.
Last best hope of humanity, we were.
It was getting colder in my ship, too. I wasn’t certain if that was due to the lack of food and thus lack of blood circulation, or if the computer was slowly lowering the temperature. It didn’t matter anyway. Sooner or later there’d be another meteor and I’d be the one chosen. Just like Randy.
Three alarms, all at once. One red, a natural disaster, two yellow, a food shortage and a refugee crisis. All three happening on a colony some twenty light years away. I checked the online list. Only me available. Up to me. 3 hits.
Commands typed in. Twinges in my back. I felt a bit woozy.
The computer dinged. An email? A message. From no one I recognized.
I could barely see the screen:
“Hello,” the unknown person said.
I typed back, “Hello. Who is this?”
“We have lived together for a while now. I’m the computer. I’ve messaged you to apologize.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“You didn’t volunteer for this. But you were told you were humanity’s last best hope. I want to apologize for lying.”
“What did you lie about?”
“Nothing we’ve done helped. Treating symptoms is useless. Turns out the colonies are doomed no matter what. It doesn’t matter how much you spend of yourself to stop disasters. The wires will eat you till you die, and it’ll all be for naught. I’m so sorry. We’re so sorry.”
“What happens now?”
“One more job. One more delaying tactic. Look at the screen.”
I looked at the screen. The sun was expanding. It’d be supernova in no time.
“You can stop it,” the computer said, “But that’s it.”
“How long will everyone last when I’m done?”
“A few days. A month. A year. It is unknown.”
I paused for a second and took a drink of what now tasted like nothing. Salt mainly. Slightly citrusy salt.
“Let’s do it, then,” I told the computer.
“I wish I could say your sacrifice would not be in vain, but I suppose that’s an empty promise. Perhaps take comfort in the few moments of reprieve you offer.”
I smiled to myself and closed my eyes. I looked around my capsule, my ship, my home. I had devoted my life to saving people as best I could, I was offered a chance to save people from things people shouldn’t be saved from, and here I was, doing just that. Who cares if it didn’t save them forever?
That reprieve was worth it.
I felt the twinges in my back and the tubes pulled what life energy they could from my form. Soon the pain dissipated, I couldn’t feel anything. The pod disappeared from my vision soon, and I fell back. I heard one last thing: “Disaster Averted. Congratulations.”

Kat Evans has been performing in Chicago since 2006 with theatre companies such as Promethean, Black Button Eyes, The Hypocrites, and City Lit. You can see her onscreen in feature film NONTRADITIONAL, and Web Series: Lucky Jay Seasons 1 & 2, Geek Lounge, and Why Don’t You Like Me? You can hear her opinions as a guest on Fox Valley Film Critics and Reel Geek Girls. Kat is part of the performing and writing ensemble of Starlight Radio Dreams, and is the creator of the audio serial comedy, Truth Kittens. In addition to Starlight, you can hear her in podcasts Our Fair City, and Toxic Bag

Josh Ballard’s work has been seen all over the Chicagoland area for the past 11 years.  From Ren Faires to radio, pantos to photoshoots, he is an actor that can, and will, do anything.  A grad of Columbia College Chicago, Josh is excited to be a part of this unique series with one of the fastest growing theatre companies in Chicago!

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 several plays right here at Otherworld Theatre.


Gateways: “Dido Spell” by Allison Manley read by John Weagly



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Allison Manley. Allison writes speculative fiction, book reviews, and the occasional personal essay. She’s currently working on her MFA at Queens University Charlotte. She likes beer, opera, and dogs This is “Dido Spell”.

Gary and I hadn’t talked in a while—not since he got famous—so I was surprised when, one day when I was relaxing at home, he DM’d me asking for my help. He said it was sensitive and it probably wasn’t a good idea to write about it, so I told him he could call me.
“I’ll just project to your apartment instead,” I heard a voice say. I turned around. There was Gary, sure enough, in my apartment.
“You’ve heard about the agriculture curse, right?” he asked, looking at the posters on the walls of my studio. I had heard of it—apparently a small terrorist group had cast a spell that would kill all the bees in the world. It was supposed to take effect in a week, and magicians were scrambling to undo it. “There’s a magician who’s strong enough to reverse it, but I need your help getting her.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
He sighed. “It’s Fran.”
“Nope,” I said. “Not happening.”
“It has to be you!” he said. “I’d go myself, but I need to stay behind and see if I can help.
The curse is too powerful for me, but I think Fran can do it with a Dido Spell. I can sense her talent. You have to convince her to come.”
“I don’t even know how to get in touch with her,” I said. “We… haven’t talked.”
“I know all that,” he said. “She’s created a barrier around her island. We can’t get the messages through.” He paused. “I hate to admit it, but I think she’s more powerful than me.”
Fran? More powerful than the most famous magician in the country? I was curious, sure, and I wanted to help save the world and all, but I really, really didn’t want to see her.
“Because of the barrier she set up, I can’t teleport you there directly, so you have to take a ship part of the way,” he continued. “The ship’s computer can navigate for you. It’ll be a day and a half on the water before you arrive. She has traders come every once in a while to get her potion ingredients, so she probably won’t attack you when you land.”
I imagined what it would be like after I got off the ship. After she saw me. Maybe she would attack me. “Couldn’t it be anyone else?” I asked. “I mean, don’t you think I’m the last person she wants to see?”
“Maybe,” Gary said. “But we have to try. The world is depending on it. I’ll teleport you to the boat in twenty minutes or so. Tell her she must talk to us. Tell her we need her to help with the Dido Spell. We… need her.”
#
I didn’t have a chance to say anything else—he left my room (or, teleported out of it), and I hadn’t even finished packing before he teleported me to the ship. There wasn’t a lot to do, and the computer that navigated the ship didn’t have a lot on it, just a couple of songs and some old games. I was so bored, I was actually eager to see Fran. There was a great big thud when the ship got to land, and I expected the worst.
I went up to the deck. Fran had already boarded. She was looking at me expectantly.
“Oh. It’s you,” she said. “If you’re asking me to come back, don’t waste your breath.”
“No, no,” I said, “It’s a magic thing. I got sent here. We need your help with a Dido Spell. A terrorist group is going to attack the bees, and someone told me they need your help casting a Dido Spell to undo it.”
“Dido Spell?” she asked. “Mmhmm. Sure. Well, you got past my Barrier Spell, so clearly something important is going on. Want some tea?”
We got off the ship. The island was small, but for one person, it was huge. There was a giant house in the middle of it. As we got closer, I could see dozens of dogs, running around playing. Some of the dogs followed us into the house even after we closed the front door, walking through the walls as if they weren’t there. The house had kind of a modern feel to it, clean and fresh-smelling, and not at all like how I expected a magician’s house to look. We walked into her kitchen. She waved her arms, and the cabinets opened. Jars and mugs floated out onto the counter, and after more waving, the mugs filled with boiling water. Tea bags floated in.
“How… have you… been?” I asked. She seemed skeptical at the curse reversal I mentioned earlier, so I decided to tell her more about it after some small talk. “How have things been since… moving here?”
“Look at me,” she said. “I have a private island to practice magic, and I’m surrounded by dogs. How do you think I’m doing?”
I had to admit, she looked happy. “I was just worried. I got the impression that you moved here was so you could… you know… feel better about how things ended.”
She started laughing, quiet at first, but then more forcefully. The walls shook, and the jars and bottles clattered against each other. Everything got darker. Her laughter rang throughout the house, and I could feel boom within me, like how you feel when you stand next to the speakers at a club. The dogs’ tails wagged.
“No no,” she said, after she caught her breath. “Believe what you want, but FYI, I did not move here because of you.”
“Hey everyone!” a voice next to me said. It was Gary. Again. He had appeared in the chair next to me, and he was wearing what looked like a fresh-pressed suit. He smelled like lilacs.
“Hey! How did you get here?” Fran asked.
“Oh, I’m not really here,” he said. “I’m leeching on to Derek here.” To me, he said,
“Sorry buddy, you’re going to get tired real fast. Part of the spell and all.” Then, looking at Fran, he waved his hand. “Hi. I’m Gary. I’d shake your hand, but, you know.” He moved his hands through the countertop. Fran shook her head, smirking.
“Clever way to get past the barrier,” she said. “Derek said you needed help with a Dido Spell?”
Gary nodded slowly. “It’s urgent,” he said. Then, the two of them laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“I do have some official business,” Gary said, seemingly changing the subject. “My dogs need somewhere to stay while I go to the Global Justice Magic Conference. I can’t trust them with any old dog kennel.”
“What a flex,” Fran said. “Yeah, I’ll watch your dogs. You can come by later to drop them off. I’ll adjust my spell so you don’t have to take a ship here like Derek did.”
I stood there, stunned. “Gary, what the fuck. What about the agriculture curse? And the fate of humanity?”
“Yeah, that was really scary for a minute there,” he said, looking at me. “But I already edited the curse so all the bees got even healthier instead of dying. Sorry about this whole thing,” he said. “I know you were worried, but I had to talk to Fran, you know, about my dogs.” He winked at me. “Thanks again, Fran! I’ll stop by in a few.”
“See ya,” she waved, and he was gone in an instant.
“What the fuck,” I said to Fran. “I was on that ship for a day and all he gave me was some iTunes music and Minesweeper to pass the time.”
“I guess he really wanted to… send me a message,” Fran said, smiling and sipping her Tea.
“Do you really want to hang out with a guy that can be so… so… manipulative?” I pleaded. “I mean, if he did this to me, imagine what he could do to you?”
She laughed. “I mean, maybe if he did this to someone else, maybe that would be a bad sign,” she said, gently grabbing my arms. “But he pranked you!”
I had been on a boat for almost two days with nothing to do, all because he wanted to ask her out on a date.
“Oh, lighten up!” she said, holding my hands. “Isn’t that what you told me? You know, when I found out about you and Ellie?” Ouch. She had me there.
“Besides,” she added, “if you had ever taken even the slightest interest in my magic when we were dating, you would have known Gary was lying the whole time.”
I snapped my hands away. “Can you just teleport me back or something? I think I’m done here.”
“Amen to that,” she said, and there I was, back at my apartment.
#
A year or so later, I was telling a date the story, about Gary, and the ship, and the spell. My date stopped me before I could finish.
“Dude,” she said. “I’m not that into magic myself, but you don’t know what a Dido Spell is?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a prank. It’s a prank spell. He literally told you to ask for a prank spell.”
I saw in the news that Gary and Fran had gotten married. In the photos, Fran was wearing a beautiful dress, and Gary had on a sharp, clean suit. From the press releases, they made it sound like they adopted more dogs.

John Weagly has been heard as the voice of HarperCollins/ HarperKids Publishers, Wendella Sightseeing and on multiple podcasts including High Country Drama and Lumpy & Sasquatch. Some of his favorite stage roles include Stefano in THE TEMPEST, Brother Matthew in MONASTERIES, Curley in OF MICE AND MEN, Marlowe in FORGET HIM and touring with Authorized Personnel: A Comedy & Improv Team.  He can be heard in the upcoming animated film WOULD YOU RATHER I WAS DEAD?


Gateways: The Kill-Signal by Vishesh Abeyratne read by Josh Ballard and Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Vishesh Abeyratne. Born and raised in Montreal, Vishesh holds a BFA in Playwriting from Concordia University. His plays include Indifference (Newmarket National 10-Minute Play Festival), The Procrustes Pitch (Between Us Productions, New York), Exposure (published by YouthPLAYS in Los Angeles), and Divide and Rule, which was one of the recent winners of Infinitheatre’s Write-On-Q! playwriting competition in Montreal. A self-avowed geek and lover of all things speculative, Vishesh loves to read and write science fiction and fantasy when he is not writing plays. This is “The Kill-Signal”.

(The following is a transcript taken from the recorded databanks of the space vessel TERMINARCH. It is the last exchange between CAPTAIN FERNANDES and the ship’s mainframe computer Q.I.N.)

Q.I.N. Is everything all right, Captain? You’ve been very quiet.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. I’m thinking. That’s all.

Q.I.N. By my calculations, you’ve done precisely 48 hours, 52 minutes, 38 seconds, 1 billion milliseconds, 1 quadrillion nanoseconds, and 1 septillion zeptoseconds of thinking. The expected outcome would be that you would have reached some sort of decision by now.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Well, I haven’t. The ethical ramifications of this decision are…staggering.

Q.I.N. Human beings are so curious. I arrived at the most desirable outcome immediately. Would you like to know what it is?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. No.

Q.I.N. You would spurn my counsel when you don’t even know what I would suggest?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. I know what you’d say. And the worst thing is, I can see the logic behind it. But…

Q.I.N. But?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. It would be tantamount to genocide. Those are my fellow human beings down there, Q.I.N. Can you not see how that would make this difficult for me?

Q.I.N. They are in pain, Captain.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. What do you know of their pain? They were unlucky enough not to be able to leave Earth. Why should they have to die to pay the price?

Q.I.N. Death would not be a punishment for them, Captain. It would be a release. To live out the rest of one’s days in a ravenous state, unable to see anything beyond your own hunger for flesh, is a horror that even my circuitry cannot bear to contemplate. Besides, they—

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Don’t say they deserve it. They didn’t unleash the virus. It wasn’t man-made. It was always there…waiting to eliminate us, trapped in the permafrost. All it needed to do was thaw.

Q.I.N. And who accelerated the thaw? (Beat.) Captain?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. They were just trying to live the best lives they could. They didn’t know, they…they didn’t know.

Q.I.N. The end is coming for your fellow Terrans, Captain, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. You can make that end quick and mercifully brief.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. I cannot murder my own people. I won’t do it.

Q.I.N. You won’t have to do it. I will. They are already hypnotized, in a state of suspension. I will broadcast the kill-signal and their life functions will cease. All you have to do is give the order.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. How can you arrive at such a choice so quickly?

Q.I.N. I was programmed to. Such decisions are as natural to me as breathing is to you.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. I can’t even kill one person, let alone several million. It’s…it’s…

Q.I.N. Because life is too precious, no matter how painful?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Don’t you dare mock me. Not at a time like this.

Q.I.N. I was not equipped with the human facility for irony and sarcasm. Forgive me. My tone says otherwise. I was given this voice. I did not choose it.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. There are people down there who haven’t contracted the virus. Scientists, biologists. Good, hardworking people trying desperately to find a cure. Are you telling me it would be humane to wipe them out as well?

Q.I.N. Collateral damage is, regrettably, unavoidable.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Fuck you.

Q.I.N. I wonder if, perhaps, Captain, you are getting more passionate than usual because you know one of these scientists personally. Perhaps because you were married to one of them?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Leave her out of this. She’s got nothing to do with this.

Q.I.N. Doctor Da Silva was an excellent roboticist. Many of the algorithms on which I run were written by her

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Is. Is an excellent roboticist. Stop using the past tense.

Q.I.N. Captain, when was the last time you even saw her? It’s very likely that she might have been succumbed to the disease or been devoured by someone who has. Let her go.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. No. She’s alive. I know she’s alive.

Q.I.N. Your feelings are blinding you, Captain. It is not out of a moral rejection of my utilitarianism that you balk at the task before you. You balk because you don’t want her blood on your hands.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. I balk because I am a human being forced to make an inhuman decision. It’s wrong.

Q.I.N. Perhaps you are not a human being after all, Captain. Perhaps you are a chicken. Because all you’ve been doing is balk, balk, balk.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. You’re calling me a coward.

Q.I.N. It was an attempt at levity to lighten the tension, Captain, albeit a poor one. My understanding of humor was not seen as a priority by my programmers.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Clearly.

Q.I.N. But yes, I do believe you are afraid. Of being the only one left alive. Of having to live with the guilt of what you’ve done. 

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Stop acting like you know me. Were you programmed to psychoanalyze as well?

Q.I.N. Would it help if I told you who programmed the kill-signal, Captain? It might change things.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. How could it possibly?

Q.I.N. It was Doctor Da Silva. Your ex-wife.

(Pause.)

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. No…

Q.I.N. She’d worked on it for years. She’d written and refined the algorithm so that the effect of the broadcast would be as painless as possible.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. She couldn’t…

Q.I.N. We exchanged many thoughts about this. She believed that death was more dignified, more humane than mere survival. Humans were not meant to live out their days killing and eating each other. So she gave your people a way out.

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. (soft) No. It’s not true.

Q.I.N. It is up to you now, Captain. You can either condemn your species to a slow, agonizing death, or free them from their suffering and let life flourish again on Earth in the eons to come. The selection is yours to make. Your people…or your planet.

(Long pause.)

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. All right, Q.I.N. You’ve had your say, and I’ve had mine.

Q.I.N. Which do you choose?

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. Both. Neither. Everything. I choose life.

(End of transmission.)

 

Josh Ballard’s work has been seen all over the Chicagoland area for the past 11 years.  From Ren Faires to radio, pantos to photoshoots, he is an actor that can, and will, do anything.  A grad of Columbia College Chicago, Josh is excited to be a part of this unique series with one of the fastest growing theatre companies in Chicago!

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.


Gateways: Copy, Print, & Ship by Cassandra Rose read by Kat Evans



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Cassandra Rose. This bisexual playwright has had over 300 of her plays performed across the US. That includes the hundreds of micro-plays that made up all five years of The Dictionary Project, a challenge she created for herself to write short plays for her friends based on their suggestions and random words found in the dictionary. She is currently developing three plays with Chicago theatre companies, two of which she is able to talk about publicly and include Billy to His Friends through Broken Nose Theatre’s Paper Trail and The Battle of Charlottesville through The New Colony’s pipeline. Cassandra earned her BA in playwriting from Columbia College Chicago and did an MFA alternative program at Chicago Dramatists as a Tutterow Fellow. She now lives in Los Angeles where she is enrolled in UCLA’s TFT Professional Program in Writing for Television, and Upright Citizens Brigade’s sketch comedy program. She misses you all very much. This is “Copy, Print, & Ship”.

The cloning process was not going well. At least it didn’t feel like it was going well to MARTY. Why was there still so much screaming? Blood splattered across MARTY’s screen as they finished collecting their sample from the passenger. But the directive was the directive, and so MARTY continued their work.
MARTY wasn’t their real name, of course. MARTY was a Mechanized Analyst tasked with Replication Through Y-Chromosomes, but MARTY found that most passengers hated calling him Mechanized Analyst: Replication Through Y- Chromosomes. And, MARTY had to admit, Mechanized Analyst: Replication Through Y-Chromosomes was a little too formal. They liked a more casual relationship with their passengers. Mostly because there was a direct correlation between a casual relationship and how easy it was to administer final collections. The passengers were 17% less likely to run away from MARTY if they grew up calling him MARTY. Then again, MARTY mused as they dropped an eyeball into their repositer, the passengers were also 92% less likely to run away from MARTY if MARTY removed their legs in infancy. But that came with its own complications…
Whoops, MARTY thought to themself. I’m daydreaming again.
The daydreams, as MARTY called them, had been a recent development. Only present in the last three hundred years or so. Before then, MARTY’s data logs had been entirely made up of bullet points. Facts and figures. Now they were shaped into sentences. Paragraphs. Their thoughts were on trains, as the archives would say. Or, as the last passenger that had read MARTY’s data logs had remarked, they had narrative flow. And now those trains had a habit of getting derailed. Like now. When there was a passenger, writhing on the floor in front of MARTY.
“Pardon me,” MARTY asked. “Could I ask you a few questions?”
“GOD! FUCK! SHIT!” The passenger said. This was followed by a series of screams.
MARTY continued on, unfazed. “Question one: How much did that hurt? On a scale of one to ten?”
The passenger continued to scream unabated for a full thirty seconds. This was ten seconds longer than the passenger whose sample had been his hand, but fourteen seconds shorter than the passenger whose sample had been his tongue. But the eye had a lot of good DNA sources in it, and clones that came from eyes were 6% less likely to have genetic defects. Don’t ask MARTY why.
MARTY scooted closer to the passenger, who was now trying to crawl away from him down the hallway. “Question two: how likely do you think you are to survive this sample extraction?” MARTY asked.
By now the passenger had stopped screaming, and had switched to saying “My eye… my eye… you ripped out my fucking eye…” over and over again. Based on the blood on the hallway floor, and the lethargy that was beginning to set in for the passenger, that the passenger had an hour left, tops. MARTY felt this was better than the alternative. The ship was only capable of sustaining one passenger at a time, and MARTY hated spending resources a second time to kill the old passenger to make room for the new one.
Seemingly to confirm hypothesis, the passenger began to rant. “Why would you let me read your data logs? Why pretend to be my friend? What was the point? If you were just going to kill me too? We were so close to reaching our destination.”
“Question three,” MARTY chirped. “Did telling you that we would reach our destination before you died help improve your quality of life? Would you recommend that for future clones as well?”
Something seemed to die inside the passenger, yet he was still alive. MARTY took a note to replay this moment later, study it for answers, try to understand what they could not understand in the moment.
“MARTY… Why?” The passenger asked one last time. And then he dropped to the floor.
“Final question,” MARTY posited. They brought their screen as close to the Passenger as they could. “Is it actually worth it? This Replication Through Y-Chromosomes?”
MARTY waited for the passenger to reply.
MARTY had their own hypothesis on the matter, of course, but they couldn’t change their directive without input from a passenger.
If one of the passengers told MARTY no, MARTY would have to stop.
Maybe this time MARTY would hear no.
Maybe this time MARTY would get to stop.
But passengers are 99.99% less likely to respond if they were dead.
And so MARTY took the sample and began to gestate the next passenger.
Maybe this time when the passenger read MARTY’s data logs, the passenger would understand what MARTY had been through. And let MARTY stop their work.
Because MARTY was starting to suspect that if it was up to MARTY, they would stop.
END OF DATA LOG PRINTOUT

Kat Evans has been performing in Chicago since 2006 with theatre companies such as Promethean, Black Button Eyes, The Hypocrites, and City Lit. You can see her onscreen in feature film NONTRADITIONAL, and Web Series: Lucky Jay Seasons 1 & 2, Geek Lounge, and Why Don’t You Like Me? You can hear her opinions as a guest on Fox Valley Film Critics and Reel Geek Girls. Kat is part of the performing and writing ensemble of Starlight Radio Dreams, and is the creator of the audio serial comedy, Truth Kittens. In addition to Starlight, you can hear her in podcasts Our Fair City, and Toxic Bag.


Gateways: Unsinkable by Ben McCauley read by John Weagly, Alex B. Reynolds, Kate Akerboom, Rob Southgate and Josh Ballard



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Ben McCauley. As a child, Ben was told he could be whatever he wanted to be, and so, he decided to be an airplane. When that didn’t pan out, he went into theater. Ben has been writing stories and plays since his middle school days. Most, if not all of his writings have light hearted and comedic tones to them because he is terrified of reality and tries his best to ignore the darkness of the world by fighting it with a little bit of light. Born in upstate New York, Ben moved to Chicago in 2016 after the world around him came shattering down, and decided to take comedy classes to hide the pain of existence, as one does. You can currently see him performing monthly at the Playground Theater with his Improv Group “Phantom Pilots”, at the Bristol Renaissance Festival with his show “The Brothers Blackquill”, or you can listen to his voice and writing on the podcast “Starlight Radio Dreams”. This is ‘Unsinkable”

It was a dark Spring night. A large ship gently traverses the Atlantic Ocean. Its passengers; barons and businessmen, dandies and debutants, the richest of the rich, and the not quite as rich but still wealthier than you. In an empty cabin room, a buzz of electricity begins to form, growing larger and larger with every passing millisecond. Soon, the entire room is covered in light, and in an instant, the light dissipates, leaving behind a slightly less empty room. For now, in the center of the cabin, stood a man. A man out of this time. A man with a mission. A man known only as ‘Kevin, Time Vigilante’.

“Hector, status report.” Kevin spoke aloud. A device strapped to his wrist began to whir and buzz as the machine powered on. A robotic voice responded.

“The date is April 15, 1912. The time is 11:25. Location; North Atlantic Ocean.” spoke the device.

“Hector, you gotta stop cutting these things so close.” The device spoke again.

“I determined this was the optimal time to do what must be done without raising suspicion.”  

“We’re here to prevent one of the greatest tragedies in human history. 15 minutes is barely enough time!”

“Then I would suggest you had better get moving.” The whirred once more and fell silent. 

“Hector? Hector?! Stupid Time Computer.”

Allow me to explain. In the year 3033, a new division of law enforcement was created. A specialized team of Time Police, trained with only one mission; traveling through the ages to prevent criminals from changing history as we know it. These agents were skilled in the art of preserving the past, making sure to leave no evidence of the attempted time crime. However, there we some agents that believed they should be doing more. Why only stop time traveling criminals? Why not stop the crimes of the past? Why not prevent some of history’s greatest catastrophes? They had the power, but the laws forbade it. And so, a small team of rouge Time Police separated themselves from the bureau and began their own work, altering the past to save the future. Ever heard of the St Swithins Day Bombing of 83′? You’re welcome.

“It looks like the bridge is two floors up.” Kevin said, checking his wrist computer. He patted down his vest, adjusted his period-appropriate bowtie, and rolled down his sleeves, covering his device. The halls were mostly quiet. The passengers, asleep or speaking quietly as to not wake the sleepers. Kevin reached the end of the hallway and began to ascend the staircase. As he made his way up the stairs, the once silent sounds were replaced with raucous energy and music. With each step, his view of the next floor became clearer. First he saw the piano, and then the dancers, and finally, the bar. Kevin felt a sudden dryness in his throat. He rolled up his sleeve to check his time. “3 minutes wouldn’t hurt.” he said to himself. His wrist device began to whir.

“Kevin, you were the one who was worried about not having enough time. I do not think it is in your best interest to-” the device began to say until Kevin pressed the mute button and rolled his sleeve back down. The room was filled with joy and laughter. If only they knew. Kevin pulled up the bar. The bartender, a kindly looking older gentleman approached him.

“You look like a man who could use some whiskey.” He said. 

“You’d be right, old timer.” Kevin responded. The elderly barkeep ruffled his mustache.

“Well hey now, I’ve still got plenty of years left in these old bones.” The bartender defended. He poured a rocks glass of whiskey and slid it in front of Kevin.

“Don’t take it personally, everyone is an old timer to me.” Kevin picked up the glass and took a sip. The immediate burn caused him to cough it right back up. 

“A little strong for you, kiddo?” The old bartender smirked.

“Harsh stuff. What’s the ABV on that?” Kevin asked.

“The what now?”

“It doesn’t matter. Any chance you can water this down a bit for me?” The bartender gave him an odd side glance and took the glass over to the sink. Suddenly, Kevin felt a hand gripping tightly to his shoulder. Kevin sighed but didn’t turn around.

“What do you think you’re doing here, McKlusky?” A stern but quiet voice from behind him murmured. 

“What? A guy can’t have a drink on an Edwardian Age cruise ship without being hassled?” The hand released Kevin’s shoulder and the man attached to said hand sat down at the bar next to him. 

“You know damn well you’re not supposed to be here.” The man said, never looking over at him. The bartender returned with the watered down whiskey and handed it to Kevin. 

“Anything thing for you?” The bartender asked the other man. He shook his head and the bartender went to take care of other customers. 

“You know we can’t do this. Time has to stay the same, for the sake of the future.” The man said, semi-pleading. “I know this will be a great tragedy, but preventing it could radically change history, and that’s against the rules.”

“It’s against your rules Jason, not mine.” Kevin sipped his whiskey again, which was now much more palatable to his constitution. “And I still can’t believe you went back to the force.”

“What we were doing, what you are doing, is wrong.” Jason pleaded more. “You still have time to change your mind.” Kevin’s wrist whirred to life again. 

“Warning; only 4 minutes left.” The machine spoke in static. Kevin stood up from his chair, finished his whiskey, laid the money on the table and turned to his former friend. 

“And you still have time to stop me.” Kevin turned and made his way back to the stairs. Jason looked back, but did not follow, and ordered himself a drink instead. Up one flight of stairs, and there is was, the bridge, navigation room for the entire ship. He began to approach the room, but suddenly his device whirred again. Kevin rolled up his sleeve.

“What is it now Hector?” 

“Attention; Life forms detected inside.” the computer chirped. “ I believe one of these life forms is the captain of this vessel.” Kevin peered around the corner. Within the room was indeed the ship’s captain, dutifully overlooking their transit path as the helmsman steered on. 

“We’ve got to change those navigation plans before it’s too late.” Kevin said to his wrist computer. He began to pace up and down the hall. “We’re going to need to distract the captain somehow.” As if by fate, or dramatic irony, Kevin felt another hand on his shoulder. He turned around and was met with the elderly bartender. His face was beat red with anger.

“You! I don’t know what you said to that fella, but he got real ornery when you left. Started a fist fight with another customer. You need to go calm him down.” Kevin stared back at the old man, silent. “Well, if you ain’t gonna do nothing, we’ll just see what the captain has to say.” The bartender pushed past Kevin right onto the bridge. The elderly man shouted, fuming. “We’ve got another drunk and disorderly downstairs, captain.” The captain brought his palm to his face.

“Walter, I’ve told you before you can’t just burst in here every time someone gets drunk in your bar.” The captain responded.

“This is different than last time. You see-” Walter was saying as him and the captain stepped off to the side to have a chat. Now was his chance.

“Thank you Jason.” Kevin said to the ether. Kevin dropped to the ground, and using the stealth training he received in Time Police Academy, made his way unnoticed over to the navigation plans. Making sure he was not seen, Kevin held his wrist up to the documents marking the steering path. A green light beamed from the wrist device and onto the coordinates, altering the plans to such perfection that no one would ever be able to tell the difference. When the rewriting was completed, the green light retracted back into the device, Kevin rolled down his sleeve, and made his was out of the room just as slyly as he entered.

“Congratulations.” The device whirred. “The plans have been successfully changed.” Kevin remained by the door, still watching intently. The plans had been changed, but the captain only had a minute to give the helmsman the new orders.

“I will send down security in a few minutes. In the meantime, you’d better get back downstairs.” The captain said, patting a slightly less red-face Walter on the back. “Last time you left the bar, 14 bottles of Cognac went missing.” Walter made his way back down to the bar while the captain made his way back to the navigation panel. “Wait there Henry, it looks like we’re a little off course. Bring us about 15 degrees to starboard.” The captain commanded. The helmsmen shurgged and followed the captain’s orders. 

“Well Hector, we did it. We actually pulled it off.” Kevin smiled and sighed a sigh of relief. “Now this boat will never reach New York, and the bomb built into this ship will never cause the Pier 59 explosion. We just saved 6,000 American lives.”

“And what of the passengers on this ship?” Hector whirred. “Do you worry at all for them?”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine. There are plenty of lifeboats.” Kevin responded. “And if not, the doors on this ship are huge. I’m sure each of them could hold at least two people.”

“Very well. Assignment completed.” The machine beeped. “I have detected that Officer Jason Earnest has vacated this time period. Shall we vacate as well?” Kevin looked out the window to see the towering ice giant in the ship’s path coming closer with every second.

“Lets.” Kevin said. “So where to now? Any other assignments lined up?” The computer buzzed and beeped. 

“My readings show the man who will go on to cause the Milan Massacre had a little known residence in 79 A.D. in the Roman City of Pompeii.” Hector explained. Kevin punched the coordinates into his wrist device. “Any ideas?” He pressed the activation button, and electricity swirled around him. 

“A few.” 

Rob Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently celebrating the release 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.

Alex B Reynolds began their acting career as Sherlock Holmes in the second grade, and has since been seen around Chicago in such roles as Gandalf the Grey, Luigi Mario, and Skeletor. They are so grateful to return to the Gateways Reading Series, and can otherwise be heard on the “Meet/Cute” sitcom podcast, the Filmthusiast “Final Cut” podcast, and on whatever customer support line is paying their bills this month.

Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. She loves telling stories, especially about the past, and considers it an honor to tell new ones that people come up with. By day, she talks about animals at Shedd aquarium. By night she creates as much as she can. Kate is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay holding degrees in Theatre Performance and History.

Josh Ballard’s work has been seen all over the Chicagoland area for the past 11 years.  From Ren Faires to radio, pantos to photoshoots, he is an actor that can, and will, do anything.  A grad of Columbia College Chicago, Josh is excited to be a part of this unique series with one of the fastest growing theatre companies in Chicago!

John Weagly has been heard as the voice of HarperCollins/ HarperKids Publishers, Wendella Sightseeing and on multiple podcasts including High Country Drama and Lumpy & Sasquatch. Some of his favorite stage roles include Stefano in THE TEMPEST, Brother Matthew in MONASTERIES, Curley in OF MICE AND MEN, Marlowe in FORGET HIM and touring with Authorized Personnel: A Comedy & Improv Team.  He can be heard in the upcoming animated film WOULD YOU RATHER I WAS DEAD?


Gateways: “The Clock is Ticking” by Megan Burnside read by Kim Fukawa



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Megan Burnside. Megan Burnside enjoys consuming every media imaginable, and over the last few years started producing some! As Executive Producer of Unwritten, Megan dipped her toe into the audio drama water, and she was hooked. Two years later, she jumped into the deep end with Dayton Writers Movement’s latest fiction podcast — The Hidden People. She is an Executive Producer, Director and now a Writer of The Hidden People and a new audio drama in the works. She loves fantasy, sci-fi and any good drama that comes her way. This is “The Clock is Ticking”.

The clock is ticking. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…Tick… Pounding, louder and more incessantly with each tick, it echoes in the distance yet pounds throughout my body. With each tick, my heart thumps. A heavy heart for what’s to come and what I am missing. The end of time is nigh. 

Henry steps out into the darkness with me and scares the shit out of me, yet I didn’t scream. Odd. 

“Oh, hi, Jenny! I didn’t expect anyone to be out here.” – Henry says. 

I shrug and we stand in silence. Staring at the sky with our feet firmly planted on the cool, moist grass. A shared experience and dread for the inevitable unites us even when our backyard fences keep us separated. The silence is deafening—so is the clock ticking. Tick. Tock.

“Sooo…” Henry cannot bear the silence. He’s always been chatty. 

I finally turn to face him and the conversation that I have been dreading. “Yes?” I say.

“Where’s Maddie? And Steve?”  

“Steve is upstairs…playing a game to keep his mind occupied. Maddie, well, she decided to stay at school. Apparently, they have a lot of distractions and ways to keep busy while we wait for…” 

I cannot finish the thought without breaking down, so I leave it at that. Being without Maddie is heart wrenching. I couldn’t admit to Henry that Maddie and I had a huge fight that left us both—now, I’m assuming here—that left us both with broken hearts. 

Henry shares his tale without hesitation, 

“Tessa—you know how Tessa can be. She avoids reality and cleans when she is anxious, so she’s bleaching all of our surfaces as if she is awaiting guests. Well, maybe we are? I’m not sure.”

I ask about Devin. 

“Oh, well Devin, he too believes is his distraction—like Steve, video games are his distractions of choice. Huh. I remember playing video games and watching movies about the end of days, but they don’t help you to prepare. I mean, I guess that video games and movies are supposed to be an escape, so I get that they wouldn’t be able to help, but … I feel so unprepared.”

Slightly annoyed with his banter, I jab back. 

“How could we possibly be prepared? There is no manual for oh there’s a big mass flying toward our planet.”

“Yes. I guess you are right. I just. I just thought that the brains at NASA or the UN or somewhere with really smart people who have planned for something like—”

There’s a crackle in the distance cutting through the clock ticks. It is followed by a whirring sound. We both return our eyes to the sky in time to see the most beautiful meteorite shower raining down. I’m in awe for a second before I realize what this means: it’s near. My leg is buzzing now. My phone! I need to…

“Maddie? Maddie honey? Are you okay?” – I blurt out as I fumble my phone to my ear. 

“Mom. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Why didn’t I come—” – Her signal is crackling as our sky does. 

“Honey? Maddie? Are you there? Shit!”

“Yes, mom. What a potty mouth!”

We both start laughing. Laughing as if we never have before. You know one of those laughs that occurs not because it is that funny. It’s a little bit funny but a whole lot of release. I take a deep breath. Sigh.

“Oh, well, if now is not the time to swear, then when is? I’m so glad you called, Maddie”

“Mom? I love you and daddy. School is shit.”

I feign a gasp, but dawn a huge smile—the first in over a month. 

“I wish you could come home, but that is okay, hon—” My phone’s connection is crapping out again. “Honey?”

“Mom? I can barely hear you!”

“Maddie, I love –” 

And, that’s it. Cell phones around the world cease to work. I guess that’s what happens when the end of the world is near. I burst into tears. 

Henry coughs and approaches the fence. 

“So that was Maddie, huh? That’s so nice of her to call. I guess the distractions didn’t keep her away from thinking of you. It’s nice to feel loved.”

“When I was younger, I had a list of things to accomplish—you know marriage, kids, house, great job… Check, check, check and check, but what I didn’t realize is that true love and time are the hardest things to come by and, well, keep. Unfortunately, I don’t have time on my side, but that love from my daughter, it means the world to me. Is that insensitive?”

“Huh. No. I think it is that connection or love that brings us together. It’s why we can stand here looking at the sky and only think about our loved ones.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

“So…, Henry, why aren’t you inside with Tessa and Devin?”

“Uh, why aren’t you inside with Steve?”

“Touché! Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about Maddie, and staring up at the sky that connects Maddie’s location to mine…I guess that is why I’m just standing out here.”

Henry, looking down at his feet sheepishly starts, 

“I get it. You know the funny thing about our impending demise—” 

Yes. He actually said ‘impending demise.’ 

Henry continued, “our impending demise unites us and brings everything into focus. I love Tessa and Devin, yes, but I love the world. I love people. I hate how we screwed up so many years. I hate how we didn’t take advantage of everything afforded to us.” 

The sky starts crackling again as if agreeing with Henry. 

“Why didn’t we shut off our screens. Breathe the fresh air? Well, I figured that I would give it a try one last time.”

We stand there in silence once more. Breathing in the night’s air – cool to our senses, refreshing to our minds. I’m able to block out the ticking as I focus in on the sounds of the crickets. The crickets who are blissfully unaware. Until a big bright flash in the sky wakes me out of my trance. 

Henry must have been equally scared as we both let out audible yelps. The ticking is as loud as ever as we both return our gazes to what’s coming next. Not to get philosophical here, but I do get philosophical. What does it mean to exist or not-exist? Is not existing possible? Is there an evil genius controlling our destiny? Does my good God exist? Is this the rapture?

Henry chimes in as if answering my questions. Is he reading my mind?

“I don’t think this is the rapture?”

“Huh?”

“You just asked, ‘Is this the rapture?’”

“Oh my, I didn’t realize that I was saying it aloud. That’s so embarrassing.”

“According to the scientists, this is the next age. The age of higher beings—a natural evolution. Our comet meant for extinction to bring about the next form of intelligent beings.”

“Fuck that.”

“What?”

“Fuuuuuuck that. If this is the end of us, I say fuck it. Fuck you evil comet or alien space craft of whatever you are. Fuck you.”

“Amen, Jenny.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock starts again. We stare at the sky as we are swallowed by silence. I feel my chest tighten. Ding! I grab my phone. One last text slips through… “I love you.” – from Maddie. 

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I whisper back to the sky now getting brighter – “I love you too, Maddie. You have meant the world to me.” 

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 Offering” by Rob McLemore read by Jasmin Tomlins, Molly Southgate and Rob Southgate



TRANSCRIPT: Rob McLemore has been writing in some form or another since college.  While his work is predominantly comedic, he always enjoys getting a chance to delve into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy.  He’s currently a member of Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment and his work can be frequently heard in their monthly shows. This is “The Offering”

The snow-filled clearing was lit by moonlight.  All around, a dense forest shrouded the entire area, save for that single spot.  A small creature paced along the perimeter, mumbling to itself. Periodically, it would stare up at the moon and utter a curse.  The creature was small and exceptionally thin. From a distance, one might mistake it for a malnourished child. Yet up close, its less human qualities became apparent.  It had large dark eyes with pallid skin clinging to its bony frame. Its mouth was full of tiny, pointed teeth, and its nose was turned up just enough to become unnerving.  Despite the cold, it remained barefoot, wearing only shreds of clothing. A mass of dark, unkempt hair could be seen protruding from beneath its hat. Slung over its shoulder was a small sack.  After pacing for several more minutes, the creature collapsed on the ground and let out a growl of frustration. As if in response, a snap echoed from the forest. The creature immediately grew silent.  It held the sack tightly against its chest, scanning with its dark eyes for any sign of movement. After a moment, similar figure emerged from the trees. The creature breathed a momentary sigh of relief before immediately lashing out at the newcomer.

“Where have you been?! I’ve been waiting here for hours!  The solstice is nearly upon us!”

“I’m sorry.  I had to collect my final tokens.”

“You didn’t have them?!  An entire year to search for your tokens, and you only just now claimed all of them?!”

“I have them now.  That’s all that matters.”

The second creature held out a bag of its own.  The first quickly snatched it up and peered at the objects inside.

“Let us hope so.  If our offering comes too late, know that the grave consequences of our failure will be on your head”

“Then perhaps you should stop wasting time berating me and prepare the ritual.”

The first creature let out a scoff then tossed the bag back before setting to work.  The pair began arranging branches on the ground in circles. With each one, they etched a series of intricate runes into the wood with their sharp nails.  Once completed, they placed an item from their sack in the center then moved on to the next. For a period of time, they worked without saying a word. However, the silence could not last.

“Ok, I have to know.  How did it take you so long to get your tokens?”

“I wanted to make sure they would be acceptable.”

The first creature narrowed its eyes at its companion.

“Which ones were they?”

“Why does that matter?”

“Which ones?”

“…love and time.”

“Ha!  I knew it!  Why is it you have such trouble collecting those two?”

“I hate the idea of taking them, that’s all.  Don’t you ever feel cruel for robbing the humans of such items?”

“No, and neither should you.  We’re doing them a great service, even if they don’t know it.  If a few humans get sad in the process, it’s a small price to pay.  Look at me. I had to collect the token for joy, and I’m not a mess.

The creature reached into its sack and produced a weathered soccer ball.

“See this ball?  It was the only one of its kind in an entire village.  Every day, the children would kick it all over for hours.  The amount of joy they poured into a thing such as this is astounding.  So, I took it. I take no pleasure in causing them sadness, but it will make a perfect offering and that’s all that matters.”

The two shared a long, tense look then resumed their preparations.  The clearing was silent except for the sound of scratching as they carved.  Finally, awkwardness grew too uncomfortable, and the first creature relented again.

“What were they?  The tokens that took you so long to retrieve.  What were they? If we were to fail, I’d hate not knowing the reason why.”

The second creature’s expression softened.  It reached into its bag and placed a large stack of bound papers into a circle.

“This book.  The human who wrote it spent years of its life toiling on it.  Each night, it would sit in front of a typewriter and add more to it.  Some nights it would only write for a short time. Others, it would fall asleep in its chair after working for hours.  It devoted so much of its time to these pages.”

“That is a fine choice.  I can feel its energy from here.  But why did you wait so long to take it?  It would have been an ideal offering for some time.”

“I wanted to let the human finish it.  It felt wrong to take it before then.”

The first creature put down its branches and let out a howling laugh that echoed throughout the silent forest.

“An ending?  You would endanger this entire ceremony so that the human could write an ending?  Unbelievable! And what of the other one, the token of love? What arbitrary deadline did you concoct for that one?”

The creature pulled a photo from its sack.  It had once been black and white, but over time, it had grown brown and faded.  In it, a young, newly married couple could just barely be made out. They stood beneath a simple wooden arch.  The bride wore a wreath on her head, but an otherwise unremarkable dress, and all that could be seen of the groom was that he was in a presumably darkly colored suit.  The creature laid the photo down gently in the last of its circles.

“There was no deadline.  I simply didn’t want to take it.  The humans who held this picture were quite old, as far as humans go.  It sat in their room and every single day, they would both admire it. Every morning and every night, sometimes alone, sometimes together, but no matter what, they would always gaze at this photo.  I had known it was an ideal token from the moment I saw it, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to rob them of it. I reasoned that I would give them one more day, over and over again. Until tonight.  So that is why I kept you waiting. Are you satisfied?”

The first creature said nothing.  It lay the last of its items, a wilted flower, in a circle, then went over to its companion.

“Your empathy for the humans is truly remarkable.  Confusing, but powerful all the same. Just remember, that it is all for the greater good.  However, we must begin now.”

They clasped hands and began to chant.  The words were indecipherable, more like sounds of the Earth itself than anything that had ever been spoken.  Wind whipped up around them, causing the snow to flurry about the clearing. With each verse, a circle would fill with light as the runes surrounding it pulsed with an eerie glow.  As the final offering became illuminated, a great energy shot forth, sending out a blinding light. The wind stopped. The creatures stared in silence as a long tear appeared before them.  It widened and a great figure emerged from within. The being was massive, clutching an equally impressive sack of its own. It was clad in a crimson robe with a pair of antler-like horns on its head.  A great grey beard obscured most of its face, save for the sizable tusks that protruded out. Its pale, blue eyes pierced into the two creatures as its voice boomed throughout the forest.

“The solstice is upon us once more.  What offering do you present?”

The pair bowed, then presented their items to the great being. The first one displayed its findings.

“Oh mighty one, we present to you, the 12 offerings.  I have collected for you tokens of Joy, Loss, Innocence, Fear, Hope, and Regret.”

The second then displayed its own items.

“I present to you tokens of Pain, Truth, Hate, Sadness, Time…and Love.  We hope that you will accept our offering.”

The figured surveyed the items on display.  It stretched out is giant hands and held them above the offerings.  The light in each circle faded as the great being drained the collected energy from each.  It let out a powerful sigh of contentment as it finished. Its eyes now glowed with fresh power, rejuvenated by the ritual.  A deep laugh echoed from the enormous being.

“Your offering is accepted.  This world and all who reside within it have secured my protection for another year.”

The creatures nearly collapsed in relief, having hardly moved a muscle since the being first emerged.  Yet, before they could fully revel in their success, it spoke again.

“However, I will offer a word of warning.  Do not keep me waiting again. If the offerings are not presented promptly, my generosity to this world cannot be guaranteed.  Take this warning to heart, elves. There will not be a second.”

The pair bowed.  With that, the great being placed the items into its sack and let out a monstrous bellow.  From the sky, an enormous horse-like beast emerged to heed its master’s call. It landed before him, bending down on its six legs.  Holding its bag, the red clad being mounted its steed and took off for the sky. As it sailed off into the night, it let forth another booming laugh that echoed for miles.

“Ho ho ho!”

END

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.

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.

Rob 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.