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Gateways: “Two’s Company” by Cat McKay



Content Note: This story features frank sexual themes. If you are sensitive to such material, this may be a good episode to skip or listen to with support.

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Cat McKay. Cat  specializes in gays and sci-fi, both as an actor and as a writer. (If it’s not broke …) Favorite roles include Diana Barry in Anne and Diana Were Totally Doing It (FemSlash Fest at Otherworld), Bella in Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes, and Alien in Engage! A Choose Your Own Sci-Fight Adventure! Her play Plaid As Hell is the winner of Babes With Blades’ 2019 Joining Sword and Pen competition and the Margaret Martin Award, and will be produced as part of their 2020-2021 season. This is “Two’s Company”.

The glowing red button said “Push Me.” How could I resist? 

Yes, I know from years of research as an archival librarian of Old Earth, watching ancient and predictable 2D movies as part of my thesis, that pressing the big red button is likely to get lots of lots of people killed. But. I’m a Gryfindor. Endangering other people’s lives because I’m curious is kind of my thing. 

I pushed the button. Nothing happened. Bummer. I went back to fiddling with the microfilm reader. It needed a cleaning, but I was almost done for the day. 

Someone strode into my cleanroom, slamming the door behind them. 

“FUCK me!” 

“Well, that’s certainly an option.” 

I whipped around to face an exact replica of myself. So that’s what that button does. 

“Look, I have two rules when it comes to sex. No homewrecking, and I only fuck myself in the masturbatory sense.” 

“How willing are you to bend that second one?” 

“What is this, a Chuck Tingle story?!” 

“Could be.” 

“How did you get here?” 

“Fuck if I know. I opened my eyes a few seconds ago right outside that door and I spotted a familiar face.” 

“Great. Can I send you back?” 

“That’s rude. You could at least ask me if I want to grab a coffee or something.” 

“Hard pass. I talk to myself enough as it is.” 

“Well, I don’t know how to ‘go back where I came from.’ Why didn’t you think of that before you summoned me, genius?” 

“I just wanted to push the button!” 

“God, we are so predictable.” 

“Hey, are you me from right now, or from the future?” 

“I don’t think I’m you ‘from’ anywhere; I’ve got no memories other than walking through that door about fifteen seconds ago.” 

“But you can walk, you can talk …” 

“Beats me too, bitch, but here I am. Now, we might as well have some fun.” 

“Jesus, you are horny. Are you are on your period?” 

“Are you?” 

“No!” 

“Then I’m not either. Wait,” she/me looks up for a second. “No wait. Yes I am. Sorry I lied.” 

“Strange code of ethics you have. You’re ok with us fucking, but lying, now that really crosses a line?” 

“Honestly, who are we harming? What is the difference between that and touching yourself? We’re two consenting adults who just happen to be the same person.” 

“We could create a singularity, for one, and two, THIS IS A CLEANROOM.” 

“Christ. You are so uptight for me.” 

“Get out of my cleanroom!” 

“Fine. Take a walk with me.” 

“Uh-uh. You need to go back to wherever you came from.” 

“Channeling that mid-teens fascist circus peanut, are we?” 

“How are you making cultural references right now?” 

“I dunno. What you know, I know. I think. I can’t explain how else I’m doing any of this right now. But just think about the implications … ” 

“Twice as much lab work done in the same amount of time …” 

“… in bed.” 

“Alright, that’s it.” I slam the button again. Nothing. Spectacular. 

A rapid knocking on the door, and then she bursts into the cleanroom without waiting for a response. I hate myself. 

“What’s up, bitches!” 

“This is a cleanroom!” 

“How was I supposed to know that?” 

“It’s on the door.” 

“Weird; must’ve missed that. Anywho, what’s happening, us? Mes? What is our plural now? Are we doing the collective ‘they’?” 

“You are BOTH going back!” 

“Well, we’re going to have to re-engineer that button, then. Seems to be a one-way street right now.” That’s the first extra me. Second me out of three. Whatever. 

“Can you do that?” I ask. 

“Sure.” 

“Why did you not mention that five minutes ago?!” 

“It was fun to watch you struggle.” First replica turns her attention to the newcomer. “Hey, cutie. Do you want to get a coffee?” 

“Just coffee?” 

“Well, I was thinking coffee, and then we could see where it goes from there.” 

“Oh, there’s a lot of places it could go.” 

First me raises her eyebrows at me, like ‘Was that so hard?’ and the two of them stride out of my cleanroom to wreak as-yet unknown quantities of havoc on my professional and personal life. 

 

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


Gateways: “Buttons” by Jim McDoniel



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Jim McDoniel. He writes radio plays and novels with horror and humor, often at the same time. His radio plays have been produced by the Midnight Audio Theatre, Whiskey Radio Hour, WildClaw Theatre, and HartLife NFP. Currently he writes for the podcast Unwell: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery. This is “Buttons”

Therapist: When did it start?

Darrin: Two weeks ago. I was…I was at a bar. Not drinking. You told me I should get out more so…this was me getting out more. I went to a bar. One with trivia. You know, so I could focus on the trivia rather than talking to people. I know I should have tried talking to people but…I mean, I was out. That’s good, right?

It was fun. The trivia. I enjoyed it.

Anyway, I went up to turn in my sheet for one of the questions. It was about sports which everyone else seemed to know but I didn’t. I gave my answer to the host and it was there. I mean, I know. I know it wasn’t there. And I knew then that it wasn’t there. Not really…I’m saying I saw it. There in the middle of her forehead. A glowing red button.

Therapist: What did you do?

Darrin: I left. I went home. Straight home. And I took my medication.

Therapist: Had you been off it?

Darrin: No. I’ve been taking it. I mean…not every day. But almost every day. Most days.

Therapist: You need to take your medication every day for it to be effective.

Darrin: I know. I just…forget sometimes. But I take it. I always take it when I remember. And I’ve been taking it ever since. But…it’s not helping.

The next day, I went to get lunch from the hot dog shop across the street from my apartment. I saw it again. On people’s foreheads. On everyone’s forehead. A jogger. A guy in a car. The cashier. The cooks. They all had buttons. All the same glowing red button.

Therapist: The night before, when you saw it the first time, you only saw it on the trivia host?

Darrin: Yes but…I just kind of…ran. I wasn’t looking. It…it could have been there, on everyone. Or maybe not. I don’t know. But now, yeah. It’s everywhere.

Therapist: Do you see it now? On me.

Darrin: …yes. 

Therapist: And when you look at yourself in the mirror?

Darrin: It’s there. Here. Right…here. I can’t make it out without a mirror but I see the glow. Especially when it’s dark. It’s not like a flashlight or anything but it’s noticeable. And when I close my eyes, behind my eyelids is dull red not black.

Therapist: You haven’t touched it?

Darrin: No! I mean, no. I haven’t. I don’t want to. It doesn’t matter right. Because I know it’s not there. Not really.

Therapist: Well if it’s not there, there’s no danger in touching it, is there?

Darrin: I guess…

…but here’s no danger in not touching it either, right?

Therapist: What do you think would happen if you touched it?

Darrin: …

Something bad.

Therapist: Like what?

Darrin: …

Like I would die.

Therapist: You feel like if you push the button you would die.

Darrin: Yes. 

Therapist: Do you feel like you want to die?

Darrin: No. No. That’s why I don’t want to touch the button.

Therapist: Why do you think you feel like touching the button would result in you dying?

Darrin: …

Therapist: Darrin?

Darrin: …

I touched a dog.

Therapist: A dog had a button.

Darrin: Yes. 

Therapist: And the dog died?

Darrin: …

Therapist: Can you tell me what happened?

Darrin: …

I…

Therapist: Take your time.

Darrin: …

I…I knew touching the button would be bad. I just…I KNEW. But…I also knew…know…I know it’s not real. And I wanted to prove…to myself…that it isn’t…wasn’t real. So I went out. And I found a dog. 

I didn’t want to do it nearby in case…well just in case. So I walked around, for like an hour, and I found a friendly dog who was alone. Just loose in the yard behind a fence. It was a yellow lab. A big happy yellow lab with a big happy smile and its tongue hanging out and a glowing red button on its forehead. 

I’d…bought some treats. And I gave him the treats and while he was eating them I pushed the button. And…

…and…

Therapist: It died.

Darrin: Yes.

Therapist: Just like that.

Darrin: No. Not just like that. It…

It…exploded.

Therapist: Exploded?

Darrin: Not like…no…that’s the wrong word…it…

…it burst.

It burst…and its insides spilled out of its stomach and the skin flipped back and folded over on itself…like…like turning a sock inside out until…

…it was just blood and organs and meat…twitching…on the ground. I could…see the heart beating. And the lungs going up and down. It…gurgled like it was trying to howl or whimper or something but it couldn’t. It couldn’t…not all turned out like that.

Therapist: And what did you do when you saw this?

Darrin: I ran. I ran until I tripped and fell and nearly hit my head on the sidewalk. Nearly hit my button on the sidewalk. Then I walked. All the way home.

Therapist: And the dog?

Darrin: I don’t know. I figured there would be a report about it on the news or in the papers. Some psycho would-be serial killer going around skinning dogs or something. But there wasn’t. Maybe…maybe they thought he got hit by a car and then dragged himself back to their yard.

Therapist: You believe you killed the dog by pushing the button on its forehead?

Darrin: …

No. No, that’s impossible. But…but what if I hurt the dog? What if when I thought I was pushing the button I was cutting it open with a knife.

Therapist: Did you have a knife with you?

Darrin: No but…I could have…and not known it…maybe.

Therapist: How long have you been dealing with schizoaffective disorder?

Darrin: Since I was like 14. Or 13. But 14 when I started seeing doctors.

Therapist: And have your visual hallucinations ever caused you to be violent? Toward the hallucinations or other people?

Darrin: No but…

Therapist: No…and even as you have these experiences with these buttons you are seeing, you are specifically going out of your way not to push them because you’re afraid of hurting people.

Darrin: But the dog…

Therapist: You mentioned that you didn’t see anything in the papers or the news. 

Darrin: Yeah.

Therapist: And what other possibility didn’t you mention that might explain that?

Darrin: …

The dog could have been a hallucination.

Therapist: It’s possible. Look, Darrin. Obviously this is a setback. But it’s not terrible. Probably we just need to adjust your medication. Maybe try a new one. I think you should check into a hospital for a little while. Long enough for your new prescription to take effect, wait for these symptoms to die back down…

Darrin: But what if they don’t? What if it doesn’t work? I don’t want to be seeing this. I don’t want this.

Therapist: I understand. It’s frustrating. But mental health…it’s just like regular health. You can be fine for a long time and wham…you get a sinus infection. Or break your leg. Maybe you get a cold and it seems like you’ve got a runny nose for the whole winter. This is no different. I don’t mean to diminish what you’re going through. I know it’s tough. But I want you to think of what you’re seeing as something like a runny nose. It’s bad. And it’s annoying. But it’s not some insurmountable monster. It’s a symptom of a disease. And with the right medication, it’ll pass.

Darrin: Like…a kidney stone.

Therapist: Sure…a kidney stone.

You’re still not convinced. Here. Look at me. You said I’ve got a button on my forehead?

Darrin: Yeah.

Therapist: Where is it? Here.

Darrin: Yeah.

Therapist: What do you think would happen if I pressed it?

Darrin: I don’t…DON’T!

Therapist: …

See. Nothing. I didn’t explode. I didn’t turn inside out.

Darrin: No…

Therapist: But?

Darrin: You can’t see the buttons. 

Therapist: Okay. Then you push it.  Push the button on my forehead. I give you permission.

Darrin: I…I don’t want to.

Therapist: That’s okay. You don’t have to if it makes you uncomfortable. But I think if you did, it would help you see what is real and what is just this mental kidney stone.

Darrin: …

O…okay.

Therapist: Go ahead. When you’re ready.

Darrin: Okay.

Here I go.

Therapist: (Gurgling, gushing noises)

Darrin: No. NO! I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean to…It wasn’t supposed to happen. Oh God! No! I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Therapist: (Continues to slosh and flap and spasm until it finally, mercifully, comes to an end.) 

John Weagley 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?

Alex B Reynolds began acting as Sherlock Holmes in the second grade. Since then, they have played Shere Khan, Gandalf, Iggy Pop, numerous zombies, Jason Voorhees, Luigi, and Skeletor. Character acting is kind of their wheelhouse. Their voice can be heard on the Filmthusiast Final Cut podcast and the Meet/Cute sitcom podcast.


Gateways: “Both are Infinite” by Irene L. Pynn



TRANSCRIPT: This next story is from Irene L. Pynn whose publications include plays, short stories, short plays, interactive plays, alternate reality games, and a novel. Her plays include I, Cockroach, The Church of Saint Bearer, and How to Field Dress an Android. You may even have heard her writing right here at Otherworld Theatre. This is “Both are Infinite”

The human body can’t survive long enough to comprehend the truths of a collapsing star, but as I stretch ever closer to one, I remember a mad theory that it can erase my past. What would that mean? 

My legacy, such as it is, would vanish. I suppose there’s no one to leave a legacy for, anyway. 

I served on the last official Earth expedition. It failed. The day our team set off, you kissed me goodbye and told me to keep my expectations low. “Everything ends,” you told me.  

Death doesn’t end, I said. If we let the Earth die, that’s permanent. 

You rolled your eyes. Semantics.  

I know you can’t hear me, by the way. No one’s comms survived the blast. But you know how I am. I want to remember the moments when we still had hope. Memory is one of the greatest things about sentience. It’s our innate ability to bend time. Something may be long past, but I can almost see it right now. I can even imagine it differently – better, if I want. Memory is magic. 

Yeah, there I go, again. Humor me today. 

We already knew it was dire, even then. The air grew noxious, the trees withered, and teams of humans raced out across the globe in all directions for hope. One by one, they returned with none. But I’ve never been good at reconciling myself to that type of news.  

So I joined the final expedition, the foolish one. The Hail Mary. 

“Onward I go,” I said as you shook your head. 

Armed with a copy of Herodotus, who once described the youthful skin of those who bathed in mythical waters, we set off for a fairy tale. Water – any at all – was precious by then. Perhaps, if we could locate the source of that ancient spring, recognize its power somehow, maybe the harsh sunlight would turn to ripples of rainbows on its miraculous surface… If we could direct such a healing force back into Mother Earth… If we believed in magic… 

I’ve just noticed there’s something wrong with my oxygen supply, but I can’t tell what. 

Closer to a black hole, spacetime behaves differently than we’re used to. At home, we’re born, we grow up, we fall in love, we invent ways to destroy our planet, and we die. In space, the rules play tricks on us. What we think we know about permanence gets sucked into oblivion. 

But at home, you were right. Everything ended, as everything does. Years ago, cities with false fountains of youth featured tours: Come take a sip from Ponce de Leon’s spring of eternal life! Then enjoy this ghost tour of local graveyards. 

We, too, were unsuccessful, though I never agreed to give up. My team dragged me home even as I insisted we hadn’t looked hard enough. Somewhere, hidden under the dusty remains of everything we’d destroyed, swelled a liquid more valuable than gold, with the power to turn back time and restore life. A bounty as boundless as the sea. 

But, of course, that wasn’t true. We had searched thoroughly. The fountain of youth doesn’t exist because magic isn’t real. 

So the last humans of Earth boarded our ships, and we left. 

Goodbye to the park where I had my first kiss. Goodbye to the birds that nested in our roof. Goodbye to my grandfather’s headstone. 

“This is what love feels like,” you told me. “It exists only because everything ends.” 

That can’t be true, I said, but you stroked my back in that soothing way a parent comforts a grieving child. 

Now I’m getting a notification that my primary life support system has switched to the secondary. I don’t know why. The explosion must have done something to – it hardly matters. I’ll be dead in minutes, either way. 

For the past few moments as I have been babbling to you about the past, I’ve caught something strange out of the corner of my eye. It’s distant and can’t really be there. Some kind of hallucination. 

The Earth ended. Then, after years of space wandering, even our ships couldn’t last. Faulty wiring, user error. Who knows what? Everyone on board had just enough time to help each other into our suits before the explosion. And then we shot out in all directions with no tethers, no plans, and no futures. 

Everything ends, you whispered seconds before we parted forever. 

Death doesn’t. 

It seems fitting that the blast shot me toward a black hole, the source of nearly every excuse for magic in science fiction. Anything is possible here. You can find foolish hope in the math for a collapsed star if you look hard enough. 

There it is again. That hallucination in the distance. I wish you were here so you could tell me whether you see it, too. I just wish you were here. 

I wonder what you are seeing right now. I hope it’s as beautiful and colorful as my strange vision. You’re probably calm and resolute, as always. I miss you. 

Love is hope. Love is memory. Love stops time and holds on to the best moments forever. It lets go of the worst. 

The theory that this sucking space event can stop time and erase my past suggests that the closer I come to death, the farther I get from our sad reality. Perhaps, when I arrive, I’ll find that we didn’t destroy our planet. We didn’t escape on aging ships. I didn’t hurtle, alone, toward the darkest point of the universe. 

It seems there’s something wrong with my secondary oxygen supply. I’ve looked for a way to repair the pack, but I’m spinning, and my body stretches uncomfortably into nothing, and what’s the point, anyway?  

In the distance, closer to the event horizon than I can survive, I swear I see something. Golden, rippling. 

Yes, I know. Light can’t escape a black hole. Nothing can. 

And yet, it can’t be imaginary. Something is there

All the time, even on land, we’re hurtling toward an end. I hear your voice in my memory reminding me that we cling to things we love because we know we can’t keep them forever. 

But, forgive me, my dear. I’m going to disagree with you again. Stubborn to the end.  

Love is infinite. And so is hope. 

Onward I go. 

Sandra Howard is an actor, combatant and generally incredible human being. She’s done several shows with Cave Painting Theater and you can find her at the  Bristol Renaissance Faire this summer. She’s also one of the most wonderful people I know. And I’m on the record with that now.


Release Schedule



By popular demand we have opted to post the release schedule for the stories

June 24th
-Black by Cameron Evesque Davis read by Ben McCauley
-Eternity by Jake Baker read by Rachel Granda-Gluski

July 1
-The Void Machine by Samantha Schorsch read by Sandra Howard
-Both are Infinite by Irene L. Pynn read by Sandra Howard

July 8
-The Starry Floor by Michael Strange read by Karolyn Blake
-The Inevitable by Sharai Bohannon read by Rachel Granda-Gluski, Sandra Howard and Ansel Burch

Recordings from our second reading begin on July 15.