Monthly Archives: May 2020

Gateways: “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne read by Ansel Burch- Part 2

This is part two of a special three part reading of the classic short story Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is one of the first ever speculative fiction stories to be published in English and has shades of some characters you may recognize from the pop culture of today. This story is a fascinating look into the fiction of the mid-nineteenth century as well a wonderful mirror to use for looking at the stories we still tell today.

You can find the full text of the story here.

This story is read by our series curator, Ansel Burch. Ansel also produces and hosts for the comedy variety show podcast Starlight Radio Dreams which performs and records live every month here in Chicago. Check it out at

Gateways: “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne read by Ansel Burch- Part 1

This is part one of a special three part reading of the classic short story Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is one of the first ever speculative fiction stories to be published in English and has shades of some characters you may recognize from the pop culture of today. This story is a fascinating look into the fiction of the mid ninteenth century as well a wonderful mirror to use for looking at the stories we still tell today.

You can find the full text of the story here.

This story is read by our series curator, Ansel Burch. Ansel also produces and hosts for the comedy variety show podcast Starlight Radio Dreams which performs and records live every month here in Chicago. Check it out at

Gateways: “Entanglement” By Ruari McDonnell read by Ansel Burch

TRANSCRIPT: Welcome to Gateways, a short story reading series from Otherworld Theatre. Our quest is to give science fiction short stories a place to shine through voice. For this special episode, we are reading a piece from Ruari McDonnell who has contributed to the series before. She is one of her favorite stories to have written and I am thrilled to be reading it for you today.

This story is written by Ruari McDonnell.  Ruari is a recent graduate from DePaul University with a BA in English that is finally being put to use. She narrates shows for the Adler Planetarium and throws axes for Ragnorok Axe Throwing in Chicago among various other strange jobs that support her cat’s instagram modeling career. She loves writing science fiction that is based on real astrophysics and will often consult the astronomers that she works with for her pieces. This is “Entangled”.


Falling into a black hole is always a violent death, but the pain levels vary. The smaller the event horizon, the greater the tidal forces. This means you can feel every bit of yourself being divided into multiples of two until every atom, every quark in your body has been separated. Of course, this is only until you are recombined at the bottom of the warped space time along with all the other unfortunate people, nebulas, and stars that were eaten before you. A larger event horizon will have lower tidal forces, granting you a death by “spaghettification”. Yes, this is a technical term. It was coined by the great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking all the way back in 1988 as a joke, but was adopted after the first witnessing of a person getting sucked into the super massive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way Galaxy in 2384. There are also such things as entangled black holes. In the least technical terms, these are two black holes connected by a worm hole. The events that happen at either end of these black holes are linked despite the large distance between them based on Einstein’s theory of quantum entanglement. We don’t know a lot about the insides black holes, entangled or not, because it is impossible to survive a trip into one, as far as the scientific community knows. Even if one were to survive, it would be impossible to report back. 

So here I am, a disembodied consciousness at the mercy of my new home in an entangled set of black holes, essentially talking to myself with no hopes of escaping. I think it’s amazing I’ve managed to survive in some form. If I wasn’t so bitter about leaving my life on the outside, I think I would enjoy being the first to survive a journey into a black hole. This of course, would be brilliant if the rest of the scientific community had a way of knowing this. I would be immortalized among the likes of Carl Sagan, Brian Cox, and Edwin Hubble. 

I am Dr. Alma Roddena, an astrobiologist with the Virgo Unified Astronomy Commission. My focus, before I fell into a black hole, was on finding intelligent life outside of humanity, which was increasingly difficult as we moved out from our own cluster. There aren’t enough exoplanets that can support life beyond simple bacteria within a travel span of 500,00 light years. My studies focused on combing through the biological factors of every known exoplanet in that radius to determine the likelihood of intelligent life developing if helped through terraforming. It was absolutely thrilling work in concept, but involves extensive math and spectroscopy, which was less thrilling to a civilian. It was also incredibly frustrating to comb through thousands of spectrographs, each with signatures of hydrogen, methane, and water, only to find them completely frozen over or boiled into gas, depending on the proximity to a nearby star. But when I found a trace of bacteria or a virus, it was like a nondenominational winter holiday.

My most recent work brought me to a small research facility on PSO J318.5-22. It is a rouge planet belonging to the Beta Pictoris moving group about 80 light years away from Earth. It glows a faint red from the molten iron covering the surface of the planet. It also glows red from the hundreds of thousands of nightclubs on the planet. With no star near by, it is eternally night, hence why it became a party planet as soon as we had the technology to make it so. The research facility is the oldest structure on this planet, with heat shields that are in constant need of repair, and doors that need a good shove before they open, if they open at all. It is a living hell hole, literally. My team was stationed there because Todd went behind my back and submitted a transfer. He said he was “trying to help us all get a better look at the Beta Pictoris group, seeing as they’re completely written off every list of possible life sustaining exoplanets.” We all know he did it to party all night and get laid. 

Todd is a recent graduate of the Ceres University Astrobiology department. He was a member of two different frats that resented being called that. It’s all really just an argument of semantics. Frat and fraternity are the same thing. Todd was placed on my team by the VUAC because I needed a more qualified spectographer than the one I recently fired. Little did I know that Todd would spend more time gelling his incredibly blonde hair than actually working. By the time I discovered this, it was too late to return him for a full refund. He’s more trouble than he’s worth, so I redefined his prime directive from finding life to sitting out of the way and looking pretty. It wasn’t difficult for him, seeing how classically handsome he is. 

Mark was my other teammate. He’s a really nice guy, but too nerdy for me to talk to outside of research. If it’s not based in fact, it’s useless. Sometimes I wonder if his goal in life was to fulfill the space nerd stereotype. He reminded me of one of the guys from that ancient sitcom The Big Bang Theory. He forced me to watch one of the first episodes and I was greatly disappointed by the lack of actual scientific theory and the horrible misrepresentation of women. Though it was accurate in one respect: the appearance of the classic space nerd. I told him that he looked like the annoying one if I squinted hard enough. He said if I were to compare him to any fictional character based on looks, I should have said a young Nathan Filament from Firefly or whatever. Todd and I had a good laugh with that one.

So, after a particularly hot and long day on PSO J318.5-22, after repairing the heat shields for the umpteenth time and shoving heavy metal doors closed, Todd thought he would bring us out to a local karaoke bar, the Ursa Minor Key, as an apology for marooning us in an ancient research facility. There are several reasons why this was a doomed idea from the start. First of all, Ursa Minor Key makes no sense as a name. Beta Pictoris is clearly by Scorpius-Centarus OB and not anywhere near any of the stars in Ursa Minor. I understand it was word play on minor key, which was common for classical karaoke music, but I resent the cosmic inaccuracy. Secondly, Todd abandoned us as soon as he assessed which girl in that bar was single and drunk enough to fall for one of his pick up lines. And lastly, I didn’t like bars, parties, or nightclubs. My idea of a good time was reading essays on quantum mechanics or Sudoku. I didn’t get invited out, but my guesses are you already came to that conclusion when I was complaining about the faults in the bar’s name. I stuck out immediately as someone completely out of water in this environment, which is funny because there was no water on this planet due to the high temperatures outside. Todd described my outfit as “a librarian who has never been clubbing, but wanted to reinvent herself after her recent divorce and losing custody of her kids.” I was just flattered he thought I looked married at some point. 

The place was like a minimalist architect’s idea of the 2280’s. Everything was white and streamlined. There was a laminated shine off the stools, the tables, the bar itself. The bottles of alcohol on the shelf were also the glue like white, which was concerning, considering they were unlabeled. I’m sure you can see the problem here. The underside of everything was illuminated by strips of different colored neon tubes that actually provided light to the place. There was a microphone stand on the stage under a white disco ball that appeared to have Pepto Bismol dripping off the top. No one else at that bar seemed to be confused by the sights within this bar. They were wearing dark colors with geometric textures to contrast the whiteness around them. All of them were fashionable groovy people, who would all disapprove of my use of the word groovy. 

Mark could tell how uncomfortable I was and decided my drinks were on him. This was contingent of me actually listening to him drone on about how Picard is the best captain on Star Wars Galactica or whatever. So, five shots in, I was gone. I don’t know what those shots were, but I was stumbling in my sturdy heels. That was when this beautiful angel walked up to the bar, clearly intoxicated as well, and ordered a drink. She had dark hair cropped to her chin and eyes like a solar prominence. The red light of the bar lit her skin in a very flattering shade of pink. And though I understand there is no intelligent life besides humans anywhere near PSO J318.5-22, she looked like she was from a different planet, in the best sense. Those five shots began speaking to me and I did my best to introduce myself.  

“Hi, I’m Dr. Alma Rhododendron. I wanna-uh, I want to, you should-lemme see about-Hey…you should a spectrograph of that body,” I slurred. I’m very embarrassed I even said that, or that I’m repeating it now. She looked over to me, with the brightest smile in the galaxy, and laughed at me. 

“And I thought I was drunk. Give me a moment.” She downed her drink in one go, ordered two shots, and took those too. “Oh god. That’s a lot. I hope it kicks in soon.” She took a moment to compose herself, swaying gently to someone screeching into the microphone at karaoke. “I’m Jackie and that pick up line? Was really really bad.” She started laughing and I couldn’t help but laugh with her. “You don’t hit on people that often, do you?” 

“I’m more used to numbers than people. But you’re probably the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen and the alcohol told me I should at least try.” She gripped onto one of my arms for stability. Her hands are tiny, but she has long fingers. They would be excellent for piano or surgery. I wondered which one she was more inclined towards. 

“That was a better line! You should have started with that! But hey, it was a good first try for someone not used to people.” The song ended and she cheered for the person stumbling off the stage. “So, Dr. Alma, what brings you out then? There aren’t any numbers here.” I scanned the bar and found Todd walking up to the microphone. I pointed at him.

“This jerk decided to station us here and take us out tonight,” I slurred. 

“Doesn’t seem like a jerk.”

“He let me leave the research center dressed like this.” Jackie looked me over.

“What an asshole.” Todd began singing completely off key and out of sync with the music. He kept winking and gesturing to a woman at the bar over the cacophony of what sounded like a space craft being crushed by an intense gravitational field. Jackie and I both tried to block out the monstrosity Todd was creating. 

“So, where are you from?” I asked her.

“Trappist-1e. I’m actually a tour guide in that system.” 

“That place is a tourist trappist.” That one made her laugh, but on purpose this time. I wanted to make her laugh until the universe expanded to the point of the Big Freeze. 

“It really is, but the college kids planet hopping for spring break tip really well. It’s a living.” She didn’t seem entirely enthused by the idea.

“What do you want to be doing instead?” I asked. 

“I would be a travel blogger.” She nodded, as if this was the first time she was thinking about it. I nodded with her, just do mimic her. I read somewhere the more you physically mimic someone, the more likely it is that they’ll like you. I really wanted her to like me and needed every trick I could think of.

“You know, blogs are really on the rise in popularity.” Jackie burst into laughter.

“You don’t know what a blog is, do you?”

“No idea. Do you?”

“Nope. It was just the first word that popped into my mind. The second was vampire.” 

“You’d be a vampire?” 

“Why not? If this is all hypothetical.” We lost track of time discussing the theoretical nature of vampires in accordance to gothic literature. She made a very compelling argument based on Carmilla as to how vampirism could be a career choice. Maybe it was actually a really bad argument because I was too distracted by how captivating she was to actually analyze her evidence. 

Todd finally finished his song and music played as a transition in between singers. It sounded like a computer malfunctioning assembling random tones. I’ve never been a fan of contemporary music. From somewhere in the crowd, someone shouted that it was Jackie’s turn. 

“Oh fuck. That’s me!” She stumbled over to the stage and picked up the microphone. The intro music for Drops of Jupiter began playing. I didn’t expect her to choose classical music, especially a super obscure one. “This one goes out to Dr. Alma because I think she’ll know this song seeing as she’s a shut in and I’m going to go back to her research center if she sings this one with me or something.” My heart was racing faster than when I got the research position with VAUC. Todd came over to me and excitedly said something, but I wasn’t listening. I was too focused on this beautiful woman, singing one of my favorite songs with a voice like nails on porcelain, who just said she come back with me if I sang with her. I ordered another shot, took it, and marched over to the stage with a stern determination. I took another microphone offered to me and promptly blacked out. It may have been from all the alcohol I had. It may have been from fear. I don’t remember anything that happened and I wish I did more so than anything else. 

I woke up to the feeling of my body being torn apart, which initially I thought was a hangover. There was loud crunching and a whoosh as the oxygen left the spacecab I assumed I was in. I heard screaming from someone else and hopped for the first time that it wasn’t Jackie. I opened my eyes for the seconds I had left and saw a silent void with a glowing red dot far off in the distance. Then, nothing hurt anymore. I no longer had my physical form. I could think. I could see. I could feel very vaguely. I could feel a pressure pushing me down and a pulling me sideways, which I still don’t understand. At first, I was panicked. I didn’t know what had happened to me and all I could see was incomprehensible. There was light from various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum around me in splotches. I could hear screaming, my screams, from what I assumed was the past, just now catching up to me. It all twisted and untwisted around me as more sounds and lights entered the black hole. They came in from both sides, which is the only way I figured out I was in an entangled black hole. I would liken it to if Jackson Pollock had control over your senses and created art with it in the worst way imaginable. Or if you took LSD and went through a haunted house based on sensory torture. There was nothing in my extensive research that could have prepared me for this. I got my doctorate in astrobiology and nothing in that process could help me decipher all the sensory information I was experiencing. I was overwhelmed in my first introduction to life in a black hole.  

I wasn’t alone when I first got here. There was a space cabbie named Albert that had been the source of the other screams. Apparently, his gravitational sensors weren’t working when he encountered a small entangled black hole outside of PSO J318.5-22. He claimed it was roaming, but I know for a fact that roaming entangled black holes don’t exist. After I told him this, he was quiet and wouldn’t speak for the longest time. I think he died. 

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been here. Time warps in ways that makes it feel like eons one moment and in the next, seconds. I am constantly bombarded with new particles from things that happen across my black holes. Once I got past the emotional shock of what had happened to me and the death of the space cabbie Albert, it has been a wealth of scientific discovery. For example, one day a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works fell into both ends of the black holes, which supports the theory of quantum entanglement, but also defies all laws of probability. So, that’s been proved by observation. Anyway, this book came in one piece, which was impossible unless the book somehow bypassed the event horizon and just fell in. I got a look at it for a moment before the book began to dissolve within the black hole. The words themselves lifted and warped around until all the letters overlapped into an incomprehensible pile. Then they completely dissolved into individual particles. It was absolutely fascinating. 

That’s a lie. It was only exciting because it was the first anomaly to happen while I was there, bored by my own repeating thoughts and the predictable flashing lights of dying stars. The only reason why I remember it so vividly is because Jackie had a love of gothic literature and she probably liked Poe. I think about her a lot. It’s like my own version of limbo. I replay the memory of making an ass of myself to the most beautiful woman in the world. I go up and take the microphone every time and then it blacks out. I sometimes play the what if game. What if Jackie and I went back to the research lab? What if she didn’t sing I song I knew? What if we had more time to fall in love? 

I used to be plagued with questions of life beyond humanity. Is there intelligent life outside of the 500,000 light year radius we’ve explored? What if the other forms of intelligent life are in other universes? What if black holes are the way to enter the multiverse? What if we could make contact by sending someone through? I would even ask myself what it would be like in a black hole, if I somehow survived. I know that answer now. None of these questions really plague me. All the ones surrounding Jackie do. 

The only science fiction thing I actually liked was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the 2005 film. Mark loaned me his copy for a particularly long flight from Ceres to Betelgeuse. He thought it was funny that one of the characters was from the area we were going to. I had forgotten my usual selection of travel essays, so I took him up on the offer. In that movie, Arthur falls in love with Trillian and the question he asks at the end, the only question that matters to him as his brain is about to be harvested is, “Is she the one?” That’s the scene that plays after the moment I black out at the bar. And that question has never been more relevant to me. Is she the one? Funny enough, that sound bite floated into the black holes one day. Someone flying dangerously close must have had it on speaker to the entire galaxy. Pricks.

I do hear things that are less fun, though all of them seem funny when warped through space time. The pitch is severely warped most of the time along with the speed. I once heard a couple arguing over politics. It sounded heated, but with chipmunk voices that suddenly went backwards, I couldn’t help but laugh. It ended in what sounded like a slap. That made me stop laughing. There was also a distress call that I couldn’t understand. Time had crunched it all together until it was incomprehensible. The screaming of hundreds of people was the only part I could understand. There was a lot of red that came into the black hole. I tell myself that it was the particles of the explosion, even though fiery explosions can’t happen in space due to a lack of oxygen, because I don’t want to believe it’s blood. 

You’re probably wondering why I’m going on and on, particles of matter actually hearing this. One thought I had early on in my eternity here was the phrase, “I think therefore I am” by the philosopher Renee Descartes (I think. I was required to take one philosophy course long ago and I didn’t retain that information. I could be very wrong.). I’m thankful I thought of that earlier on, while comforting myself through flashing lights and the nausea of high speed space warping. If I just keep thinking, keep talking, I will continue to exist. If I stop talking or thinking, like Albert did, I’ll die, most likely, I don’t know. I don’t like thinking about it, but it’s there in the back of my mind. So, I just keep remembering and talking and reliving and retraumatizing and refocusing and collecting data. I’m very good at collecting data. 

Like right now, in this moment, the wormhole is actually fairly dark. There is some light left over radio signatures that are keeping the place from being an eternally dark void of despair. I’m kind of cold actually, even though I don’t have a physical form. It still baffles me. There hasn’t been a wave of plasma in however long it’s been. Time is weird here. I mentioned that didn’t I? The events that happen at either end of these black holes are linked despite the large distance between them based on Einstein’s theory of quantum entanglement. I said that already. Sorry. I’m running out of things to say, things to think. I don’t have a lot of new ideas after what seems like an eternity. 

My favorite color is bright green because that’s the emission line for oxygen. There’s also red and orange, but green usually shows up the brightest. You can tell if a nebula has oxygen in it from what shade of green it is. Normally it’s double ionized, but that doesn’t matter much. Mark preferred the emission lines for mercury because they are more blues and purples. Todd liked sodium because they were just orange and easy to find. I never asked Jackie what her favorite emission lines were, not that she would know what I was talking about. But I obsess over these lines of colors for a living. Now that is taken away, all that’s left to obsess over is Jackie. She’s the most interesting woman in the world and I’ve only met her once and if I just keep focusing on her and the memory of her, maybe I’ll survive. My consciousness will stay right here, just waiting for the day where probability is on my side and she comes across one of these black holes and I won’t be driven to madness by isolation anymore because she’ll be here. Jackie and I will be in this entangled black hole together in the flashing lights of a quantum night club. 

I just need to keep thinking. I’ll start from the beginning again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve repeated this. Falling into a black hole is always a violent death, but the pain levels vary. And if you’re unfortunate enough to survive, that pain will continue exponentially.


I am Ansel Burch the curator for the Gateways Series. I am also the producer and host for the comedy variety show podcast, Starlight Radio Dreams which is available wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. 

Thank you for joining us here at Gateways. We’re going to keep the stories coming so keep an eye on Otherworld Theatre on social media for all our upcoming digital events and developments.

Gateways: GLOR by Cameon Evesque Davis read by Ansel Burch

Welcome to Gateways, a short story reading series from Otherworld Theatre. This story was submitted by Cameron Evesque Davis, one of the writers who participates in our usual, prompt based submission process. For this special release I will be reading one of their favourite stories to have written. 

Cameron Evesque Davis 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 the third story of thiers to be featured by Gateways.

Please enjoy this story, then get out there and write something. 

The train lurched to a stop. I lost my footing, falling into the rather attractive girl standing next to me. She gave me a look that could only mean “How dare you, you ugly lump of flesh,” and turned away. I probably looked confused at that interaction, but then I turned away as well. No use crying over a random girl on the subway.
I had bigger, more important things to cry about.
And then I woke up. You know, that was probably the least exciting dream I’d ever had. But of course, that’s what I did: boring things. I was boring, my life was boring. Everything except my name.
My name was Axyl, normally spelled “Axel”, and my parents were morons for naming me that. As soon as I could leave the presence of the dumbasses, I did, and worked really hard to change my name. But then I decided that it was a pretty cool name as long as I got a profession that it matched with: either someone who worked with cars or someone who bashed people’s heads in with a guitar. That’s what I felt at least, if a guy named Axyl bashed your head in with a guitar you’d think “Hell YEAH what a cool way to die!”
I was neither of those things, though. I was a guy with a stupidly macho gothy name who worked in an office. It was not exciting. I put data into a computer that was given to me by hands that were attached to people of whom I didn’t even recognize the faces, and drank fifty gallons of coffee a day. My heart got quite the workout from going from beating a thousand beats a minute to crashing to one an hour.
That was the most exciting part of my life, though.
So why the fuck and I writing this?
Because it was on August 2nd when something awesome and horrible and crazy and good happened. All those adjectives completely describe the next things that happened. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how.
As I was leaving my apartment, which was a run-down shithole of a place that I will not go into (although I did have a balcony), the road wasn’t there. This being Chicago, I simply assumed that some weird roadwork, bought by yet another company bidding the lowest price who’d never talked to the other fifty companies doing road work at the time, was going on. Roads disappear in Chicago a lot. But as I looked closer, I realized I was an idiot. The road hadn’t just been ripped up, it was completely gone.
When one sees a road completely gone from the ground, one doesn’t think “That’s perfectly normal”. Unless they’re me. Unless they’re an idiot. Even after studying the road for some time (I enjoyed wasting time on my way to work, for if I showed up late no one ever noticed), I definitely went “Huh, that’s weird,” but then took no more notice of it.
Even my coworkers didn’t seem to care much. They said to each other, in the cliche talk around the water in the break room, “Yep, I found it odd. People still drove on it though,” and then went back to pretending to work. So I guess they were idiots, too. This wasn’t a surprise to me.
So I went back to work. And read the news instead of doing work. There were reports of roads disappearing everywhere. Apparently, according to some conspiracy theorists on my Facebook page, “Aliens who didn’t want us to travel” took them. They were also idiots. Lots of idiots in my life. I suppose idiots attract other idiots.
On my way home after work was when another odd thing happened. Not only had the roads disappeared, but so had the street lamps. And the sidewalks. And the fences. Things that normally lined the non-existant roads weren’t there either. Now I started to think that maybe I would condescend to start believing that things were really weird.
My roommates weren’t home. Thank god. I hated my roommates. They were loud, they were messy, they hated me. Probably cause I was an idiot. Had I mentioned that? Although I’d wager they were bigger ones. I once saw my roommate Dave swing an axe in a crowded room while drunk and nearly chop off his girlfriend’s head and actually destroy a light fixture and the wall. Dave could jump off a cliff for all I cared. But he wasn’t home, so I immediately ran into my bedroom and closed the door.
Ech, my room was a mess. I began to clean up, and then my computer turned on without me touching it. I normally left it off when I went to work. This time it apparently had something very important to say.
“Help us,” it said. On a completely black screen except for those green letters. Was I suddenly in the first part of The Matrix?
Only the keyboard appeared to work, as there was no mouse cursor and I couldn’t just force shut down my computer. Which was weird. So I typed, “What?”
“Raise the force, save the world,” a mysterious figure, who I assumed was wearing a fedora and a mask like the hamburgler, typed.
“Raise the force?” I asked the Hamburglar, “What force? Please explain. Does this have something to do with the roads and shit?” I figured that was a good question. I also figured I already knew the answer.
“I cannot tell you everything,” the Hamburglar typed, revealing itself as less of a weird amalgamation sort of beasty and more of a singular being, “But I will attempt to explain. I have finally got teh hang of this computre thing.
“But I cannot say everythign. Raise the force of fihgtiers. Sorry, fighters*, to defend teh earth.”
“Look,” I typed back, “I dunno why you think that I’m the guy to go to, or why you think that I could somehow raise a force of “fihgtiers”, but I’m not your man.”
“Even if u think that, I kno it isn’t tru,” The Google Chrome Incognito Window Guy replied, getting the hang of text speech even, “I was told by my Masters.”
“Can you get them for me? Can I talk to them? I’d like to speak to the manager.”
“Raise the force,” was all the 1960s Private Eye responded with. He was not a very helpful dude. And he never explained what the roads were disappearing for. Why was I still talking to him?
“Apologies, dude, but I have to go now, because you’re clearly insane and also you’ve taken over my computer so it’s not like I can waste time by being on Tumblr, so I’m going to grab a large beer and down it in one gulp. Ta ta,” I said, hoping to end the conversation. Maybe he’d give me back my computer if I refused.
“zxlkjfienlkhjvlkj fklg.d8,” The Hamburglar’s cat apparently typed. I got up, rolling my eyes, and walked to the kitchen, grabbing a pint bottle of beer from the door. As I opened the bottle, I looked outside.
You know when you see something, and your brain takes a moment to register it as something that actually exists? Like a hot person on the train, for instance. You look at them, you go back to reading your book, your brain goes “DUDE”, and you look back at the hot person. That sort of odd double take because your brain doesn’t register. That’s the feeling I had when I saw what I saw out the window that day.
“GLORY” was painted on the side of the thing, in humongous letters painted like a grafitti tag on the grey metal. Whatever it was was huge, too, it probably would have spanned the width of the state, but that was only a guess, and I couldn’t see the sides of it anyway. Honestly, I couldn’t see the last part of “GLORY” either, but I couldn’t think of many words that would make sense that started with “GLOR”. Perhaps “GLORIOUS” or “GLORIANA” or “GLORBOL THE DESTROYER”, but I settled on “GLORY”.
Over to my right was the ship’s, as I assumed it was, wing. Or I thought it was a wing. Didn’t look very aerodynamic to me, not even like a jet with those tiny wings they have. It was just a solid cylindrical block of grey metal which jutted out from the side. I could only see this part because I went out to my balcony, dumbstruck and curious as all get out.
Over to my left was what I assumed to be the nose of the ship, and perhaps a cockpit type area near the top. It was hard to see, though. I was honestly making up half of what the ship looked like. All I really saw was a huge wall of grey with “GLOR” on it, the cylindrical “wing” thing, and the nose. It was impossibly big.
Damn, and it was loud. I couldn’t do anything but cover my ears, which meant I had to place my beer on the table which was annoying. I wanted to drink that beer. But NOO some huge bullshit spaceship had to appear. Did they get rid of the roads and the streetlamps because they figured their ship would destroy them anyway? That was the only conclusion I could come up with, and my friend the Hamburglar wouldn’t tell me.
After that, I went inside, not wanting to deal with a large spaceship on my street making a lot of noise.
Not that I got far in, nor did I drink much of my beer, because right in front of me, standing in my kitchen, was my computer. It was looking in the fridge. This made no sense. I felt like I was in the middle of a Gogol story.
Doing my best to not startle my computer as it searched for something in my fridge, because for some reason my mind decided to treat it as though it were a terrified wild animal, I asked, calmly, “Hello?”
At the sound of my voice, it stood up, closed the fridge, and turned around to face me. From a mouth that didn’t exist, I heard a voice which said, “Raise the force.” I rolled my eyes.
“Look, bro, now that you’ve completely taken control of my computer and are walking around my apartment somehow, could you at least tell me where to start. This is only if I decide to help you. I am beginning to want to, though, as there is a large ship floating outside.”
“Look. Bro,” it croaked with a timbre not unlike a frog, a frog whose voice had been passed through the sound capabilities of a GameBoy, “Raise it. The Force. Friends. Family. The resistance, you must make it.”
“Great, very informative. I’ll get right on that.”
“Listen to the ship, it will speak soon. Soon you will have…the motivation.”
“Oh, I see, of course. Just need that little push, then? I’ll wait for that. In the meantime, could I have my computer back, or is that your’s forever?”
“You say ‘Raise the force’ again and I’ll destroy you, I don’t care if you cost some thousand dollars.”
“Okay, I’m going to go outside now. If the ship’s gonna talk I suppose I should be able to hear it, eh? Is that acceptable? I’m bringing my beer, though.”
“Go. Rai-…Do what I asked, please.” The computer said please like if I didn’t do it its mother would be killed. I started to think that maybe I should do what he asked, “Raise the force” or whatever. However I was supposed to do that. Plus, hey, it would be more exciting than normal life I led.
Leaving my computer behind, I walked down the stairs of my building, exiting the door at the bottom and walking out onto what used to be my street. It was now a patch of dirt that extended to only about ten feet from my door before running smack into a giant grey spaceship, but you know.
Of course, being outside meant the noise of the ship pounded annoyingly into my ears again. This time I held onto my beer and did my best to cover my ears with my hands like that, which was awkward. Luckily, the ship started talking just as my computer friend upstairs told me it would, and the sound died down.
Ripping violently into my eardrums, the mechanical horrifying voice of the ship boomed out over the city, “People of Earth, your attention please.” Suddenly we were in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“Before I give the command to destroy every one of you, I want to give you a chance to surrender peacefully. As you can see, we are much more powerful, much more bigger, than you tiny tiny human beings.” Much more bigger. I swear that’s what it said. I was not impresed.
“Only if one of you steps forward, surrenders, and agrees to live under our rule will you be spared. If not, we’ll be forced to destroy the crap out of all the living beings of the planet, and none of you will be spared.”
Look, maybe on the weird alien planet they came from, they figured this is how humans liked to be addressed. It was half true, but one expects a giant spaceship undoubtedly filled with evil alien beasties who wanted to kill everyone to speak more like a character from Lord of the Rings and less like a character from…something less eloquent. Actually he sounded sort of like the king from the show Galavant, but with more dripping evil computery voice stuff going on.
So, listening to this voice, this inane voice from outer space, I drank my beer. It was good. That day had been dumb. I wanted that day to be over. I saw only one way to do this, regardless if it would upset my computer-y friend upstairs.
“Unless you surrender,” the ship continued, “You will die. The countdown is set at five minutes.”
Rather than going back into my apartment, forcing my computer down onto my desk and messaging some friends to come fight some valiant battle against the ship and everything in it, I walked up to the grey thing and knocked. It hurt my hand. Space metal. Figures.
Really, I didn’t expect what happened next to happen, but a door appeared at the exact spot that I knocked. It wrenched itself open, and I stepped back as the door made itself into a ramp for me to walk into the ship proper. No grey alien with giant eyes greeted me, but I felt it was my cue, so I walked up the ramp, beer in hand, and went inside. The door closed behind me. I walked through the darkness of the ship, taking sips of the comforting alcoholic beverage as I went, and noticing that the loudness wasn’t quite as loud inside the grey thing.
Eventually, I reached a sort of waiting room. It looked nearly identical to the one that I stayed in whenever I went to the doctor, complete with ugly purple chairs with that sticky sort of plastic-y material which your legs stick to if you happen to be wearing shorts. Figuring that this was indeed a waiting room, I sat down. My beer was halfway gone.
Now, there are only a few things one can do in a waiting room, not including “waiting”. 1) Read the magazines, all of which are out of date and purile. 2) Stare into space. Or at the wall, rather. Whatever happens to be in front of you. 3) Play with the childrens toys. Those ones where you take the wooden bead things and move them on the metal contraptions. This only works if there are no children around, nor parents who’ll look at you like you’re insane even though they secretly wish they had the balls to do what you were doing. Or 4) (and this only works if there are others in the room) People watch.
Due to the fact that I was alone, and the aliens hadn’t managed to put some Reader’s Digests from the 1980s onto the little tables, I opted for option 2. I took another sip of my beer.
Eventually (lots of eventually going on), the door to the waiting room opened. Out came a girl, she looked about 10, who eyed me with a a look of glee and insanity all mixed into one. Behind her came a nurse. He was wearing pink scrubs and had a beard that went down to the middle of his torso, which I thought must be a bitch to cover up for hospital procedures. I didn’t bother asking myself what was up with the hospital aesthetic of this space ship.
Nurses generally didn’t walk like this man did, I didn’t think. He was sort of sliding across the floor, like he hadn’t figured out that all you had to do was lift your feet off the ground and place them back down to move forward. Either that or he just enjoyed sliding like a kid on a hardwood floor in socks. He also stared at me. I stared back and did my best to confrontationally drink from my bottle.
“Do you have an appointment?” He asked me as he stood up and stopped sliding across the floor. He stood like he was on stilts for the first time and wasn’t entirely sure what to do but was glad to be not moving for once. He was even leaning slightly up against the counter.
“Eh?” I asked, giving him a look of utter bewilderment, “No? Kind of? Is this where I talk to the ship?”
“Right.” With that, he left, sliding away out the door. The little girl sat down next to me.
“I’m in here because I’m dead!” The girl said, smiling widly. She seemed genuinly happy about this fact. She didn’t look dead to me. But earlier that day I saw my computer rummaging through my fridge so I was ready for anything.
“Fun!” I answered, just as excitedly with no hint of sarcasm. The girl grinned and wobbled back and forth in her seat.
“YES! I knowwww,” she continued, “I’ve never been so happy.”
“Oh man,” I said, attempting to keep up my excitement. But it was getting creepy.
“Unless my mom comes back, she ruins the fun,” the girl said and pouted, crossing her arms.
“Really? How dare she.”
“Uh huh! She’s meannn.” Yes, she spoke by adding letters to her words, Sue me for my artistic license.
Nurse man came back in, sliding away. He stopped right in front of me and looked down, leaning forward and putting his hand on one of the chair’s armrests to stay upright. “Come with me,” he said.
“Yep, sure,” I answered and stood up, moving him by placing my free hand on his shoulder and pushing slightly. If I didn’t do that I would have run into him, because he showed no signs of getting out of my way so that I could stand.
Out of the waiting room we went, Slidy Nurse Guy leading the way, and the little girl still behind, bouncing in her chair in excitement from being dead. We soon made it to another door, which the man opened by slamming his face into a switch on the wall. The switch made a “DING!” noise, and the door slid open like in Star Trek. I stepped inside.
Unless I was going insane, which I very well could have been, I thought I saw a man with his body on backwards. Or was it his head that was on backwards? Regardless, he was looking at me and smiling. His hands were driving what appeared to be a wheel from an old sailing ship, but as I said they were facing the other way from where his head was looking. I stepped forward some more. His eyes followed me like it was a painting drawn so the eyes looked directly at the camera.
“Lovely to see you,” it finally said. His smile was plastered on his face. He turned the wheel, but I didn’t feel anything occur when he did. I suspected it was just for show.
“Lovely to see you, too?” I ask-said. Askaid. Sasked? Whatever. The point was that I wasn’t sure it was lovely to see him. I was beginning to get creeped out. And my beer was almost gone.
“Didn’t you want to see me?” He wondered, “You were the one who knocked. 2:35.” The last number he said was undoubtedly part of the countdown of five minutes. Especially since it was said with a completely different timbre from how he normally talked. It was like something was speaking through him.
Immediately after he said that, the ship lurched forward and upward. Into the sky, I assumed. It was a ship after all. I nodded to the man, saying, “Yep, I sure did.”
Eyeing me constantly, the weird man turned his wheel the other way. Nothing happened again.
“For what reason did you knock?”
“A simple one: I’m here to surrender so we all don’t die.”
“To…to surrender?” He seemed taken aback, his smile disappeared from his face.
“Hell, if it saves all our lives, I’m willing to do a lot. For some reason. Feeling heroic today.” I finished my beer.
“Even though we would rule over you?”
“Really don’t care if that’s the case, dude. You don’t seem like bad things, although an explanation of what you are might be nice. Or why with the roads. Or what the hell my computer was doing walking around.”
“Oh. The roads. Yes. We didn’t want to hurt them with our ship, so we moved everything out of the way for when our ship came down. We moved the buildings, too. Nothing was destroyed, and now that we took off we put it all back.”
“For evil alien overlords, you’re pretty nice, it seems. Either that or you just didn’t want to have to rebuild things.”
“Probably the latter, they did not tell me why. I just obeyed.”
“Eh? You’re not the leader, then? Just the pilot I guess.” The ship lurched in the direction he turned the wheel. Evidently the controls just took ages to take effect. Must have been a bitch to control. Suddenly I slightly admired Mr. Head Turned Around Guy. He nodded.
“And my computer?” I asked. He shrugged.
“Can’t say I’ve heard about anything like that.”
“Eh, okay, that’s fine. I’ll figure it out. So yes, right, this is me surrendering!” I threw my bottle on the ground. The glass shattered and sent bits flying around the room. I immedietly regretted doing that. I probably looked like a tool. Only tools smash beer bottles. Next thing I knew I’d be standing outside someone’s window at three in the morning doing the same thing and shouting at my bros.
“Mhm,” The man nodded and reached out a hand. Which looked really odd because he was reaching backwards and it’s difficult to reach behind one’s body, but he managed it. Suddenly, everything went dark.
On the train again. The hot girl was still shunning me for accidentally running into her. I had still turned around. I looked around at all the other people. Everyone else was ugly. I looked at my phone. August 3rd.
Rarely had I had an experience like the next one I had. I woke up with a start, sitting up like I was in a movie, cold sweat all over my body. I had been put in bed. Even changed into my bed clothing! I say rarely because I indeed had had a similar experience once when I got drunk. I was also at my parent’s house, and they had put me to bed and everything. Good times.
Even though I should clearly have been used to this sort of royal treatment, it wasn’t my mom who put me to bed that time. It was our new weird overlords. How nice of them. That didn’t mean I was okay with it, really. I imagined cold clammy backwards hands attempting to figure out how to put my clothes on and shower me. I also wasn’t sure if I imagined that.
Looking around my room, I also saw that it had been cleaned. My computer was also back sitting where it should have been. I sighed in relief, and slowly got out of bed and ready for a shower. And then my computer turned on like it did before:
Knots in my stomach. I didn’t know why. Was I nervous? Did I hate to disappoint my computer? It was sort of like a parent to me at that point, so I guess that made sense.
Every fiber of my being wanted to sarcastically reply, but I decided to be civil:
“Fuck off.”
As it may have become clear, I’m not good at being civil.
“Traitor. Traitor. You had the chance to save us all. You threw that away. Traitor.”
“Hey, you can’t be a traitor if you aren’t loyal to anyone.”
“Even you are loyal to something. I figured coming through the object you seem most loyal to would make you follow my instructions.”
“Really? Most loyal to? My computer? I guess that’s true. Doesn’t mean I’d throw my life away for it.”
“Oh, you think you saved us? You have doomed us. And you were the chosen one, just look at your name.”
“Fuck my name, Axyl’s dumb as shit.”
“Well, you know not what it means. Axyl, from Axel: Father of Peace.”
“Ah, of course. Names mean soooo much to people nowadays. People name people things cause they sound cool. I think wherever you’re from has different customs.”
“Really?…This cannot be. I did my research.”
“And did you do that research when it was like the 1500s here?”
“No. Maybe. Time works differently across space.”
“So this is how it ends, then? The world is taken over, we are doomed across the entire universe. Because of you.”
“Oh really? It doesn’t seem so bad. Seems pretty normal.”
“Indeed >.<. Have you looked outside? You should probably do so before jumping to conclusions.”
“That’s true, I guess I haven’t. One sec, brb.” I got up from my computer and walked into my living room, to the biggest window in the house, and looked outside. What I saw there was insane.
Everyone was gone, or at least I felt like they were gone. I could see them there, but they felt…weird. I don’t know how to describe it. They were phantoms, I saw them like I saw my memories, foggy and not exactly fully formed. They all looked at me, random people on the street, the guy who sold me tacos, the guy who always smoked outside my apartment. And they all pointed at me. And smiled, the same smile the little girl had had.
“Now do you see?” A voice from behind me said. I turned around to see my computer again. I shrugged, it was the only response I could give. I didn’t know what I was looking at.
“Don’t you see? You destroyed the world. Glorbol the destroyer and their minions.They of course erased your memory. You’re their favorite. They would never hurt you. You can carry on going to your boring job, living your boring life, but no one else can. Not anymore. It’ll happen to my world too, in the end. One weak person will give up. I hope it takes less time than it took you…” With that my computer crumpled to the ground. I stared for a while, then I grabbed a beer. It was like ten in the morning, but I didn’t seem to care. Maybe I was dead, too. But hey, at least my brain guessed “Glorbol the Destroyer” was behind all this shit. I was almost impressed. Then I figured they did that on purpose to mess with me.
So once I had finished wallowing in self pity and drinking four beers, I went to work, boarded the train, and as it lurched to a stop, I ran into an attractive woman. She wasn’t really there, but she hated me. She turned around. I did so too. I looked at my phone. August 3rd.


Thank you for listening, I am Ansel Burch the curator for the Gateways Series. I am also the producer and host for the comedy variety show podcast, Starlight Radio Dreams which is available wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. Please visit starlight radio dreams dot com for the podcast as well as information about our next live event. I am so proud to be producing this content and I hope to be making your life easier in some small way. 


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