Tag Archives: aliens

Gateways: “A for Effort” by Ben McCauley read by Coco Kasperowicz

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 “A” for Effort


So first things first, I’d like to thank you for coming today. It’s super great to have you all here, and I truly, deeply appreciate your cooperation. So, thanks again. Moving on to why I’ve called this meeting. For those of you who don’t already know me, I am Anthirox, Devourer of Reality, nice you meet you all. Long story short, I’m here to bring about the end of days, and existence as you know it is over. I know that sounds bad, and I’m not going to lie and say it’s not, but I just wanted you folks to know that of all the realities I’ve consumed in my eons of life, yours was one I’m going to remember for a very long time. 

I’ve got to hand it to all of you, you put up one hell of a fight. There were a few moments there where I really thought you’d be able to stop me, which for an ancient, forty-million foot tall, floating space creature like myself, is astounding. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Metaphorically speaking of course, as they don’t make chairs in my size. 

Seriously though, applaud yourselves for a valiant effort. I thought it was going to be another “one-and-done” thing, but jeez, you folks really gave it your all. I can tell this was not your first time going to war.  

The final showdown yesterday, ugh, so good! When you folks brought out the tanks and rocket launchers, I was like, “Aw man! That is so cool!”. I did lose a few hundred hellspawns in that fight, but it was totally worth it. It’s been so long since I saw a battlefield so coated with blood and sinew. Hit me right in the nostalgia. 

But for sure, the best part was when your scientists built that interdimensional assault cannon! I was so flipping surprised by that one, which is a feat in itself! I’m very rarely surprised, but you actually made me bleed! I didn’t even realize I could bleed before yesterday. It’s crazy how I’ve been around essentially forever and I’m still learning new things about myself. So thank you for that too.

I’ll be honest, when I first arrived here with my army of winged, nightmare demons, I was kind of in a slump. I was really starting to doubt myself, and nothing was bringing me joy anymore. Not to just lay all my problems on you, but I was in rough shape mentally, you know? Unfortunately, there aren’t many therapists out there specializing in treating ageless, cosmic beings composed of dark energy from the nethervoid.  Hashtag relatable content, am I right? What I’m trying to say is coming here, and tearing your fabric of reality apart these past few days has really reminded me why I do this.

So, thank you once more for shaking me out of my funk. It’s just so darn refreshing to run into a reality that’s got a little moxie and verve. You all really tried, and it shows. I see you, I hear you, and I respect you. 

All good things must come to an end though, and I’m afraid that you still lost So, just so we’re on the same page, I’ll let you know what’s on the docket for the remainder of your existence. Over the next 2, maybe 2 and a half days, my hellspawns are going to continue traveling across your planet, tearing each of you limb from limb.

To be honest, I don’t know where they’ll go first so if you’re lucky, maybe they won’t hit your part of the planet right away and you’ll get an extra day of living. I kinda let them do their own thing. I tried to get it more organized a couple hundred years ago, but then they unioned up so my hands are tied.

Anywho, after your limbs are taken as trophies for my war room, the world around you is gonna twist and bend into all sorts of fun shapes. It’ll be super freaky, but if you just ride it out and don’t try to force anything, you’ll come out the other end. Sure, your bodies will also become twisted monstrosities of nature, but damn, it is one hell of a trip.

Once you are all abominations of your former selves, barely alive, screaming in pain and misery, I’ll swoop in and slowly extract the essence of your reality. But what does that mean you may ask? Essentially, I will absorb the energy of your entire dimension to feed myself until it ceases to be. 

So even though you’ll be in blinding, torturous pain, take solace that it will only last a day or two before you’re wiped away from the verse as if you never existed. Using the life force of this dimension, I will travel to another dimension and do the same thing all over again, etcetera and so on. It’s a busy life, but I make do.

Again folks, this isn’t anything personal. As far as realities go, this is definitely in the top five I’ve encountered. I really think I could fight you for a couple of millenia and still be into it, but I’m just getting peckish, and on top of that I’m a bit of a commit-a-phobe when it comes to this kind of stuff. I always think that this time I’ll be able to do it, just find an enemy dimension, settle down, take it slow, but it never works out because it feels like it’s something I should do, not something I want to do.

Honestly, this is the first time in a while where I truly felt like I could make it work, but I’ve been hurt so many times in the past. It’s been hard coming to grips with my own insecurities, but I am working on myself and in the end, that’s what matters. Here I go again, unloading on you. I know you’re all too busy screaming in horror and actively being mutilated by my demons to care, but I feel like I can be myself around you. I just, I dunno, feel like we have something here, and I’ll be sad to see it go. 

No Anthirox, you told yourself you wouldn’t get emotional here. Reel it in. Bleh, sorry about that folks. Anyways, if you have any remaining loved ones, or chosen deities, now’s probably a good time to start planning your goodbyes. Not that it will matter since you’ll all be nothing but dark energy coursing through my nebulous body, so in a way, you’ll all still be together. Goodbyes are hard, aren’t they? 

Gosh, you know I really thought this was going to be easier, but I don’t think I’m ready yet. You’ve all just been so accommodating to my needs of destruction and bloodshed. Oh, to hell with it, you know what? I’m not going to consume you all just yet. This has all been very therapeutic for me, and I’ve been so bad at self-care recently that I think I need this. Besides, I’ve been overeating recently and I really don’t want to develop anymore bad habits.

I think this will be healthy for all of us. I get to fight you some more, get out a lot of the pent up aggression I’ve been bottling up for the last thousand years, and you get a few extra days to exist! Heck, who knows? Maybe in that time you’ll build a new device to destroy me and then we can really get into it. Oh man, just thinking about it has me excited. Is that bad? 

 Thank you for being so flexible with all this. I mean, it’s not like you have a choice in the matter, but I still appreciate it. So, I’m going to hang here in space, watching, waiting and plotting your demise, and I really hope you do the same or else I’m just going to feel silly. All I ask is that you actually try. I’ve got a lot of trust issues, and allowing myself to be vulnerable and give you another chance to fight back is a big step for me. Please don’t make me regret it.

Once more, you’ve all been super great. I see a lot of potential in you, and I cannot wait to mercilessly destroy and consume everything you hold dear! Now I’ll leave you to your planning, and I’m excited to see what you cook up. Ooo! Speaking of cooking up, this is a perfect chance for me to try one of the new recipes I learned for reality consumption! I never have the time for that kind of stuff! Gosh, this is going to be so cleansing. 

Alright, well thanks again for being so patient with me. I’m going through some stuff, and it means a lot. I guess the real demons were the ones in my mind all along. Also the ones who are literally dismembering hundreds of you as I speak, they are pretty real too. This was nice. So until next time, keep up the good work, and I hope to kill you and ingest your existence very soon! 

Coco Kasperowicz is a multidisciplinary nerd performer; the brains behind #chaotichighfemme , her social media and YouTube persona, she is also known as THE BODY POSITIVE NERD PRINCESS of Chicago; Lottie a la West. she graduated with a degree in musical theatre from Columbia College Chicago, and has performed in professional theatres across the Chicagoland area

Gateways: “Foreplay” by Brendon Connelly read by Jasmin Tomlins

Content Note, please be aware that this story is of a frank, sexual nature and may not be suitable for all audiences.

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Brendon Connelly. Brendon is a scriptwriter from Norwich in the UK. He was a film journalist and blogger for over 20 years, met Kermit the Frog three times – and only fainted one of those times, and graduated from the University of Oxford with a first in Creative Writing. ] This is “Foreplay”.

“Come here, come on, let me help,” I said, and took the penis into my mouth. It was soft and limp and sad. I sucked on it as kindly as I could, willing it desperately to stiffen. I tightened my lips around the penis’ head and tried to move my mouth backwards and forwards along its curling, timid shaft, resisting the embarrassed little cock’s urge to just shrink sadly and fall out of my mouth.

But no matter what I did, the limp cock seemed to remain pathetically disinterested in me. Unfit for intended purpose.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “this happens all the time. Absolutely all of the time.” But it didn’t. Not back then. I think it would have been better to say “This could happen to anyone” because it definitely could – though then, of course, there was no reason to believe that, soon enough, it would.

I worked a little longer, licking as well as sucking, taking the cock in my hand, locking my eyes onto his. I kissed him, whispered that I wanted him. I got close and pushed my body against his. None of this made the slightest bit of difference.

“We’ll just try again later,” I said. He agreed. He said 

“That would be better, yeah. I guess it’s just been a hard day for me.”

He told me that it just wasn’t a good time. There were things on his mind. Nothing in particular. Nothing to do with me, just something up there in the back of his brain, nibbling away and… well, he said he didn’t know how to put it.

“Something up there stopping things from working,” I said, “A minor malfunction, you just need a little while to turn your power off and on again.”

I got dressed and drove back over to my place. I stopped off on the way to fill up the tank, and get some cigarettes. And more or less on impulse, I also got a pack of Escher’s Rainbow Dots, the lemon and strawberry flavour, the ones they’ve been advertising all the time lately.

Then when I got home, I took a shower, and I washed my hair, and I took down the shower head and turned it up between my legs and just held my breath and prayed for all of the frustration and suspended horniness just pour out of me, and I worked it until I finally came.

I lay on the bed afterwards and smoked a cigarette, a new kind, a Johnson and Brummel, just trying them out to see if I’d like them and it was, actually, pretty good. I lay there and thought about my orgasm in the shower. It wasn’t really a great one. It seemed a little distant, not as bright or clear as they usually do.

I blamed him for it. I blamed the limp cock that had shrivelled up against my tongue and pulled sadly away from me. It wasn’t fair, but I didn’t know what else to blame.

I saw him again the next night. We met at Molotov’s and didn’t talk at all about what had happened the day before, and tried not to worry about it happening again. It was only when we got back to his place that he said anything about it at all. He said 

I think I might just need a little extra love and attention. Just be patient with me and try, you know, a little more foreplay. Because I really want to get over this. I want to be able to… you know.”

“Me too,” I said, “I want to see you hard. I want you really fucking hard, I want to feel your cock, big and hard, and I want you to fuck me hard with it.”

That seemed to startle him and somehow throw him off. I had said it half thinking it would help. Jumper cables to the heart to give him a short, sharp shock. I cooled off instead, smiled softly, and even sighed. I said to him, “We’ll take the time. All the time you need.”

I was laying on the bed and I had my legs apart and my fingers moving up and down, two fingers lightly, watching him as he finished undressing carefully, almost cautiously. Then he turned around and his penis, as shy as it had been that afternoon, was just timidly waiting.

He climbed up onto the bed and put one knee either side of my hips. He took my left breast in his left hand, and his cock in the other and slowly, patiently, started stroking his hand back and forth. He looked down at my nipple and pinched. I moved my fingers faster.

But just a moment later, a shadow flickered through his smile, then he closed his eyes and started to pull more insistently on his penis. I tried thinking about the times that cock had moved inside me, that I had pushed myself down against him, pushing my clitoris into his thrusting body. But the memories seemed somehow faded right then. They were sallow and waxy.

I wondered what he was thinking about behind his closed eyes. His frustrated wanking went on a few more hard beats, and then, as I stopped rubbing myself, he stopped too. He snapped his eyes open and said, almost breathlessly, urgently,

“I think, can we maybe, let’s try… I don’t know. Something on the TV?”

We had talked about porn before and how I wasn’t really into it, that I knew he watched it when he was alone, and I was cool with that, but when we were together, it all seemed to be too much like bringing another woman into the room. But right now, I went along with it. I wanted to give him what he wanted – but also, right then, the idea appealed to me too. “Maybe we can find something that will turn us both on,” I said.

He opened a porn website on his laptop but then paused. 

“I don’t know what to search for,” he said, “I can’t quite imagine what it is I want to see. I can’t picture it.”

“I don’t really know,” I said, “Maybe just scroll down the front page of videos and when we see what we’re looking for, we’ll know it.”

We scrolled past My Ass, Your Pleasure and Big Tit Step Sister and Fuck and Facial in the Fast Foot Restaurant Toilets. I didn’t like any of it, and he didn’t either. He seemed quite disgusted by it all.

Then a thumbnail picture appeared on the screen. A tall woman, looking straight into the camera, Thin and sleek. She was naked except for thigh-high boots. “That one,” I said.“The one in the crocodile skin boots?” he asked, but then clicked before waiting for my answer.

My clitoris bristled to my touch, alive again in a moment of anticipation. The woman in the video was sitting on a couch, wearing a green and silver dress and her expensive, shiny boots. She was talking to somebody off camera, explaining that she loved facials and anal and fucking two guys at once, that this was going to be her first time fucking on camera.

I kept rubbing and felt my pussy get wet, just wet enough. “How’s it going,” I asked him, and looked his way.

His cock was stiffening but he said “Not yet” and kept rubbing his hand back and forth.

“I want you in me,” I said.

“Not yet. It’s not… it’s not quite right. It’s… it’s better but it’s not enough. This isn’t enough, yet.”

The video played on and I watched the woman tell her unseen inquisitor a faltering, hesitant story, all about the time she lost her virginity to one of her dad’s workmates. I looked at her brightgreen eyes and fierce, sharp boots and rubbed myself until I came. It was at least a little better than what had happened in the shower.

When he heard my breath getting more rapid, then stopping, then returning to normal, he turned round to see that I had cum. It was obvious that this just frustrated him.

“Keep going,” I said, “Don’t stop.” But he let go of his penis, and it was as flaccid as ever.

He slammed the laptop shut, and turned his back to me. I asked him what the problem was. I asked what was on his mind, if he was going off of me.I asked if it was something I had done. I needed to know if it was me that was the problem.

“No, no,” he sobbed, then sat on the edge of the bed.  With tears in his eyes, he tried to explain. “I don’t know what it is. It’s been coming on for weeks.  At first, I thought it was maybe just the news. All of this shit that’s going on. All of the Get Ready for Brexit ads. All of the… the grooming the government’s doing. Trying to win the election.”

But I knew it wasn’t any of that. I was numbing too, and I was hardly thinking about any of those things.

I hadn’t realised at first how physical the problem was. I had started to feel it was more and more difficult to connect to him physically, but it was only then, when I was feeling totally connected to him, as close and intimately tied to him as I had ever been, but still with absolutely no desire at all to fuck him, no need to fix his impotence, or even the will to find it important any longer, that I understood the problem was in the sex, not in our relationship.

“We’re tired,” I said, “We’re exhausted. It’s our bodies, it’s not us.”

“Yeah,” he said, “Except, when you’re fucking, you kind of are your body, you know?”

“That’s why we’re going to rest our bodies. Take time off work, go away. Somewhere restful. Somewhere warm. We’ll just hang out. We’ll reboot.”

“Okay, I could use the rest. And I want that. A week together that’s just you and me.”

We didn’t try to fuck again. We didn’t want to. We just hung out and watched movies. We played videogames, and talked, and we went on walks, and we cooked together. He showed me how to repair punctured tires and I taught him the rules of chess. We had five great weeks, and then we went to the airport. We flew to the Canary Islands, and we found the best place on the beach and made ourselves feel at home. Time to reboot, to forget the frustration and the anger and the bitterness of a sputtering llibido.

And now laying on the beach, in the warmth of the sun, I can feel the absolute beginning of change. I experience it first in my chest, a flush of something strange and alien. Now there’s a flutter in my stomach. Butterflies? I’d say it’s more like the darting, insistent tongue of something thrilling.

I sigh, and it feels good. This is when the vast shapes whistle by overhead, strange and white and brilliant, liquid and massive. They wipe the sky and touch down on the edge of the beach, maybe a quarter mile away.

The foreplay is building to a crescendo.

We walk together, hand in hand, down the beach towards the massive starcraft. A small crowd of us humans, a dozen or so, are gathering together, walking ever closer to the impossible objects.

Then the doors open and they come out to see us.

They walk into the sun and onto the beach. They’re brilliant green. Not much taller than us but lithe and sharp as a whip. My heart skips a beat just to see them, and I feel my man squeezing my hand. I can’t speak for him, but looking at the visitors now, those electric-beautiful gods, all of them calling me towards them in this thrilling, heart-stopping moment, ready to deliver everything they have been patiently, attentively, silently preparing us for, I can only promise you this:

I for one have quite the welcome planned for our new lizard overlords.

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: “Vital Research” by Kate Akerboom read by Kat Evans

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Kate Akerboom. Kate tells us she is simply a writing enthusiast. She started telling stories as a child, and started writing things as a teenager. She enjoys writing realistic fiction with fantasy or sci-fi thrown in. Writing is a hobby, but a well-developed one for her. This is “Vital Research”

My head was pounding. The combination of the argument at the table next to me and the Environmental 101 exams I was grading were enough to make anyone rage quit. I mean, this is a library. Quiet is valued, isn’t it? I slammed my papers closed and huffed, marching out of the library. 

Being a science professor has its perks, some days. Everybody calling you “doctor,” endless research opportunities, and the ability to cancel class whenever you want. As a recent PhD grad, this was enough of an ego boost to get me through the mind-numbing freshman courses I needed to teach before I hit tenure. My only solace was my Environmental 335 class. It was a research-based course on climate. In the not-so-distant past, this was usually a depressing course about how humans were killing the planet and the animals. Now, 100 years after the climate crisis, species are thriving. Plastic, while still in use, was produced at a manageable rate, and very few people used it outside of necessity. Covering the climate crisis was always an emotional struggle, but seeing how we made it out was always inspiring. 

I made my way to the classroom for 335, nodding and smiling at students I recognized. This university was established on environmentalism nearly 200 years ago, as the first university in the state to have a widespread recycling program. Now-a-days, it’s the top environmental research institutions. Relics of the 1970s were still scattered around the building, with the concrete exterior and almost bunker-like design. They were so worried about nuclear fallout at that time. I wonder if they knew the biggest threat to their way of life was actually themselves? 

As always, my students were already filing in as I stepped into the classroom. A small class of twelve, the students were eager to discuss the world around them. I set my belongings at the head of the room, set up to be a group of four tables arranged in a square. A variety of “Hi, Dr. Pearson” echoed around the small room. I smiled in response, and when I had everyone I began. 

“How many of you are familiar with the climate crisis of the early 21st century?” 

Every single hand went up. This was standard history class material nowadays. Even 50 years ago, that would not have been the case.

“Who can tell me about it?” 

Allie began speaking as she pushed her dark curls behind her ear. “It was a point in time where, if humanity didn’t act, thousands of species would go extinct, as would humans.” 

“People didn’t care about what they were doing to their environment.” Piper was indignant, their face flushed in frustration. “If students hadn’t have stepped up, we wouldn’t be here.”

I nodded, encouraging further discussion. “Does anyone know when the events started?” The students looked at each other and shook their heads. Martin, head turned in confusion, said “the 1980s?” 

I shook my head, and started pacing the way I did when lectures were about to begin. “No. In fact, legislation was beginning to be passed around that time. Now, I’m not a historian, but scientists agree the negative effects of human impact on the environment was around the turn of the 19th century.” I watched as students looked at me in surprise. “Coal and oil were the ones that started us off. Then came plastic, which was in everything: clothing, technology, even food was wrapped in it. It wasn’t until students like yourselves stepped up and spoke out that things began changing.” 

Roberto’s hand shot up. He was the only one that did that. “But how is that possible? How could they spend over a hundred years poisoning our planet.” 

“Planets don’t change. People change planets.” I let that sit for a moment. “Now, what can we surmise from that statement?” 

My students were silent, thinking. I let them sit like that for a while, until, in a quiet voice in the corner of the table spoke. “Well, it’s kind of a glass half full thing, isn’t it?” 

“How so, Liv?” 

“It can be negative. Humans have the power to destroy, for sure. But don’t we also have the ability to build, and rebuild?” 

“Exactly!” My excitement was causing me to gesture wildly at Liv, making them flush and smile. 

“I mean, we built the modes for interplanetary transport,” Penelope said, beginning to gesture while she spoke as well. “We’ve learned a lot from other terrestrial civilizations. People can change planets for the better. We just need to use our powers for good.” 

“‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” quoted Roberto with a chuckle. I stood still for the first time all lecture. My students looked at me expectantly. I took a deep breath, and couldn’t help the smile that was creeping on my face. 

“Speaking of interplanetary travel, has anyone been to Tullian?” Everyone shook their head. Only people with wealth traveled outside of Earth, especially to our sister planet in a neighboring galaxy. “Well, who can tell me about it based on their previous research?” 

“It’s like Earth, but bigger,” Eli started, speaking for the first time. “The climate is essentially the same, but the human-like inhabitants are smaller, and more in tune with nature.” 

“They’re basically Hobbits,” Allie interjected, grinning at her old-timey reference.

“Basically, they are as advanced as we are, without plastic.” Eli looked at me. “Are we going to be studying the alternative materials they use?” 

I hadn’t disclosed the research topic yet to the students because I wanted to get to know them first. Besides, what we were going to be doing needed a lot of funding and I hadn’t been able to secure it until now. “Something like that. We are going to travel to Tullian and embark on a research mission. You all are going to assist me on applying the use of their alternative materials here on earth.”

All twelve students sat there in stunned silence. Allie was the first to break the silence. 

“We’re going to assist you on vital research?” Her eyes were the size of saucers, and a smile was threatening to break the corners of her lips. 

“Sure are. Now, I’ll discuss logistics later, but I’m going to leave you with this assignment: learn as much as you can about Tullian. I expect a 6 page paper in two weeks on your findings. Check your syllabus for details. See you next week!” 

The students excitedly grabbed their things and chatted about their new assignment and the coming semester. As I gathered my things, I thought about my hero, Greta Thunberg. Gone for almost 50 years at this point, her wisdom still lived on in the hearts of these students, who only knew hope and the passion to save and serve. After all, planets don’t change. People change planets. 

Kat Evans has been an actor in Chicago since 2006. Theatres Worked with :City Lit, Black Button Eyes, Promethean, Savoyaires, Hypocrites. Also voices a few podcasts: Our Fair City, Starlight Radio Dreams, Toxic Bag

Gateways: “Big Cheese” by John Harden. Read by Kate Akerboom

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by John Harden. John Harden is a screenwriter and director whose work has screened & garnered awards at top-tier festivals around the world. John’s work is informed by his love of speculative fiction and his background in visual arts, graphic design, journalism and marketing. He is a San Francisco Bay Area native and lives in Santa Rosa, CA. This is “Big Cheese”

Content Note: This story features sexual harassment. If that content makes you feel unsafe, you may want to skip this story.


It’s not standard procedure, but for First Contact Captain Steinberger took the tender down to the planet surface alone. He’s always been a glory hog. But if he’d had a translator on his away team — if he’d had an away team — none of this would have happened. I’m just saying.

Before the Captain flew down for his ill-fated little dinner party, we’d only talked to the Yttivari via radio transmission. My psychic abilities only work face-to-face, so we’d been relying on computer translation. Up until the incident, I’ll even admit the computer had been doing a pretty good job of it. Pretty good.


When Captain S. does think to bring me on a mission, he calls me “psi-girl.” That’s because he thinks it’s funny, and because it’s also condescending, and also because he can’t be troubled to remember my name. No big deal, but it sets a tone, and many of the crew adopt it. To be fair, I’m not the most popular gal onboard any ship, mostly because people assume I’m always reading their thoughts – fair enough, I probably am. The captain on the other hand doesn’t mind if I read his thoughts, because he thinks it’s a damn privilege. But I don’t fall into the Captain’s bang-able column, so for him I barely exist. That’s not a supposition on my part. I read minds. 


Anyhow. Two hours into the away mission, we lost voice contact with the Captain. The Yttivari weren’t talking to us either. We were about to scramble a rescue mission when a proximity alert informed us that the Captain’s tender was out there, on approach for docking.

We were getting telemetry from the tender but no voice contact, despite repeated hails. We guessed (hoped) it was some kind of general radio interference, affecting multiple systems. Still, it was unnerving watching that ship silently get closer and closer. 

It was a standard approach, textbook-perfect. Whoever was piloting punched in all the right clearance codes, too, so we let it dock. But First Officer Khromar went down to the airlocks with an armed security detail, just in case we were wrong. I’m sure they fully expected to see the Captain walk out, pissed off and ready to ream anyone and everyone in sight for the comm fuckup.

That’s not what happened, and that’s when they called me. 


As soon as I showed up on deck it walked right up to me. “It” was about five feet tall, and looked less like a man than an abstracted sculpture of a man, assembled from blocks of moldy cheese. 

All the blasters in the room were pointed at it, but it wasn’t doing anything threatening. It wasn’t doing anything, really. Just standing there, facing me. Like it knew I was the one person it might have a shot at communicating with. I would have said it was staring at me, but it had no discernible eyes.

That was when my head started to hurt. At first I thought it was some kind of PSI attack, or attempt to block me from reading it. Then it dawned on me that he just had a headache, too. Not it, he. He was a he, for sure, and he was very upset. When his voice came into my mind it was loud and clear. And familiar.

“You gotta help me, Denise.” It was the Captain.


“It was a big ceremony. They had head-dresses, and played drums, and made a big presentation of handing me a cup. So I drank. They said, ‘you’re one of us now.’”

When I relayed that last part, everyone in the room kind of groaned. Captain S. got a little defensive: “Damn it, who wouldn’t assume that was a metaphor?!”

“A psychic,” I wanted to say. I kept my mouth shut. Everyone was thinking it anyway. The security guards standing behind him were actually smirking.


First stop for us was the infirmary. Doctor Lee ran all the scans. The whole time saying “huh” and exhaling loudly through her nose.

“Definitely some weird proteins,” she finally ventured.

“Meaning?” I said, on behalf of myself and Captain S.

“Meaning his body has fundamentally changed.”

“Captain says, ‘no kidding.’”

“Not just on the outside. I can’t detect any internal organs to speak of. There is some kind of fibrous network running through it, that might might be a nervous system. Maybe. You’re the first and only example of Yttivarian biology we’ve ever seen. And you’re hardly a typical specimen.”

After the Doc had basically thrown up her hands, I walked Captain S. to his cabin. He didn’t ask me to but he didn’t object, either. He was pretty quiet on the way down. It was probably starting to sink in that there might be no way to reverse this.

We got to his door and he couldn’t get in because biometrics. No voice, no fingerprints, no retinas. I mentally kicked myself for not anticipating the problem while I commed the First Officer for an override.

We finally got in and he sagged down onto the bed. Even with no face I could tell he was feeling pretty anxious and defeated. He kept wringing his fat cube-y little cheese-hands together. Captain S. isn’t my favorite, but seeing him so helpless even my cold heart went out to him a little.


He tried pressing some buttons on his desk. They all buzzed an error sound at him.

“I can’t even make a log entry about this.”

“I’ll talk to Singh, he can probably reprogram the ship’s computer to recognize you as captain.”

“What about the crew? Will they still recognize me as their captain?”

“Of course, sir. Nothing’s really changed. These things happen.”

That was stupid. Nothing like this had ever happened.

He got up and faced the mirror.

“I was handsome.”

“We all lose our looks eventually.”

He looked at me. “This is kind of a special case, don’t you think?! Anyway, what would she know about it?”

That last nasty bit wasn’t meant for me to hear, which is why he couched it as “she” and not “you.” But I heard it. He didn’t know I did.

“I’m thinking,” I said, in my most helpful and sincere voice. “You know who’s onboard you might still have a shot with? Patel. He’s not just a xenobiologist, he’s also a xenophile. He was shacked up with a Thorvaxian for a while.

“I’m straight.”

“So’s Patel; the Thorvaxian was a female. But my point is, he’s got an open mind. Maybe you should too. And Thorvaxians have exoskeletons, so Patel might be craving something with a little more give, if you know what I mean.” I poked him in the arm to make my point. My finger sank in a lot further than I expected and I actually got a little queasy for a second.

“You gotta help me, Denise.” There it was again, my real name.

“You gotta go down there and talk to them.”

“I guess I’m the only one who can,” I said. I let that linger in the air a bit. Then:

“Okay Captain. I’ll talk to them. You know, it’s probably just a misunderstanding. Maybe it’s like, a prank they pull on newcomers. Or maybe they think they were doing you a favor.”

“Do you think there’s an antidote?

“Hard to say. I guess I can ask.”

“I would be so grateful.”

“Special Commendation grateful?”

“Uh? Oh, yes, that’s totally appropriate.”

“Awarded at an assembly in front of the whole crew?”


“Also you have to stop calling me psi-girl.”

“That’s fair.”

“Okay then. I’ll ask Officer Khromar to prep the tender.”

I stood up. He stood up with me.

“Well played, Denise,” he said. “You know, I really respect you.” I felt like he actually meant it. Then he started massaging my shoulder with his lumpy hand. I pushed it away. 

“Not happening, cheese-boy.”


Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. When she’s not talking about animals at Shedd Aquarium or playing with her beagle, Willie, you can find her performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire or hear her talking about crime history on her podcast Scofflaws: a History of Law and Disorder. Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kate is a proud graduate of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, possessing degrees in Theatre Performance and History with an emphasis in museum studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public History through Southern New Hampshire University.

Gateways: Thunder From a Clear Sky by Jeremy Melloul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait…” the other child croaks.

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

I was just holding it. How did he-

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

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

“Let them go!” he demands.

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

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

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

“But, brother…” answers one.

“Just go! I’ll catch up!”

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

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

And then, the child just smirks.

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

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

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

How dare he! The little bastard!

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop,” I order.

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

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

Gateways: The Explorer by Isaac Rathbone

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

First Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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


Second Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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


Third Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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

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

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


Fourth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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

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

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

“What kind of wickedness is this?“

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


Fifth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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


Sixth Transmission To Guild Headquarters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca and Joan don’t finish the test 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOAN You were sleeping / I didn’t want to 

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

JOAN – – – 


JOAN What? 

REBECCA Why are you acting like this? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOAN – – – That’s not true. 

REBECCA I’ll bring it back tomorrow. 

JOAN I can bring it back- 

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gateways: “Hey Joe” by Brendon Connelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gateways: A Story By Michael Jachowicz

Transcript: This story is written by Michael Jachowicz. He has written sketches and comedy scripts for podcasts as well as some comic strips. You can hear some of his scripts with Starlight Radio Dreams, a Chicago based comedy podcast. He tells us, “I write whatever interests me. I enjoy improving a story or a character then writing it down and seeing where it takes me.” This is Michael’s submission.

General Xarzez stood as a statue looking out his window into the inky black of space. Outside of his command ship, he watched his ships fly in their tight formations, well regimented, all souls hardened by the cruel and shattering reality of war. Xarzez let out a deep sigh as he contemplated all the decisions he made to reach this point. All the impossible choices between life and death, and how easily some of those choices came, he found that it was that easiness that haunted him the most. How the business of murder and war had become almost second nature. He brought a shaking hand to his mouth to stifle a weak audible cry, the guilt becoming to much.
Steeling himself, Xarzez turned away from the window and headed to the war room.He walked into the hall to his daughter Princess Demlara and his advisor Zelknin.
“General!” Zelknin greeted. Too enthusiastically, Xarzez felt, given the dire task that lie ahead of them both. “The war council awaits you, though I feel I must again make you aware of my trepidations of our new… addition.”
“Yes, father and I are quite aware, Zelknin,” Demlora interjected. “We’ve all been hard pressed to get you to speak of anything else!”
“Well, Princess-” Zelknin spat before managing to regain his composure. “Some of us had to fight through countless battles before we were granted a seat on the War Council.”
“Yes and some of us are actually skilled warriors and not opportunistic worms.” Demlara retorted not missing a beat.
Xarzez couldn’t help but be proud of the strong woman his daughter had grown up to be. He could see bits of her mother in her. Not just in her skin’s particular shade of deep cerulean , but also in the way she held herself with such poise and playfulness.
“Enough, both of you.” Xarzez spoke with authority ringing in his deep voice. They proceeded through the long metal hallway in silence until they reached the large onyx doors of the war room. Zelknin hurried to open them for his master. Xarzez couldn’t help but be visibly sickened by his advisor’s vigor, his lust for the kind of riches and promotions that onlywar could afford him, but he managed to compose himself before Zelknin saw.
The war room was made of ebony lit by ruby flame. There was no ceiling in sight. The room seemed to expand into space itself. There were two staircases on either side of the door which led to a section of seats that overlooked the room; this was were the lower ranked members of the war council sat to have an equal view of the war table.
The table was a giant octagon that would display holograms made of hard light to simulate the topography of whatever planet was being invaded. It included the positions of ships in orbit and, if the need arose, other planets in the solar system. It was one of Xarzez’s greatest tools in his campaign against the Elguisief Confederacy; a dreadful farse of a confederacy, made of pirates and marauders who refused to join one of the three Intergalactic States.
Xarzez had finally found a way to reach one of the capitol planets and now only needed to mount an invasion to seize the means of manufacturing the E.C.’s interstellar drive engines. Without them, their forces would be unable to send support between solar systems and victory would be all but assured for Xarzez. All of this however was nothing more than a pipe dream unless Xarzez could plan a successful attack. Luckily he had employed what he believed to be the greatest mind in military tactics in any galaxy: Tyler.
Tyler was standing on the war table with some of the ship models in his hands, he was flying them around making engine noises with his mouth. Tyler was dressed in denim pants and a shit decorated with a mighty creature devouring a hot disc covered in what appeared to be blood and guts, displayed on his chest with the words “Dinosaurs and pizza are AWESOME” underneath. Truly Tyler was a being of pure awe. He was already so mighty despite being a child of his species. His skin was a shade of sand like tan, not unlike the sands of the harsh Kule Desert on Xarzez’s home planet. Tyler had strands of keratin growing from his head in black curls and his eyes were an alien shade of green and brown.
Tyler had not noticed that anyone had entered the war room and continued playing with the models as Xarzez, Zelknin and Demlara approached the war table.
“Council member Tyler.” Xarzez spoke softly, Tyler was loudly smacking the model LOF-13 Starship into a model Oberon Class Command ship.
“Council member Tyler!” Xarzez said sharper this time.
Tyler looked up from the models with a big grin on his face, “Hi!”
“Hello, Tyler,” Xarzez said his tone returning to its usual calm, but firm. “Have you come up with any strategies for our attack against the Elguisief Confederacy?”
“Oh yeah!” Tyler exclaimed excitedly. He grabbed the model of the Oberon Class Command ship and ran to the far end of the war table.
Zelknin rolled his eyes letting out an audible sigh as he tapped his foot impatiently, his arms crossed dismissively.
Tyler then threw the model across the war table before shouting
“WE’LL BLOW THEM UP REAL FAST LIKE BOOM!” He then proceeded to make explosion noises and pantomime what in fact an explosion would look like.
At this, Zelknin could hold his tongue no longer. “General Xarzez surely now you see how foolish it was to use this creature to-”
“Zelknin have you no faith in my father’s choice in expert?” Demlara spoke out, as she approached the war table. She input coordinates to the point in space that the command ship that Tyler threw passed over the E.C.’s interstellar drive base. “His plan is nothing short of genius. Our enemy has advanced sensory and anti-air defensive capabilities, however it is known to us that their ray shields can only deflect plasma based weaponry.” The image on the war table shifted and changed to highlight the places Demlara was talking about in real time all the while Tyler was rolling around with the starship models making strange sounds. “Council member Tyler, unlike some other council members,” she continued while cutting Zelknin a smug glance, “remembered that the Oberon Class of command ships are equipped with ballistic strike capabilities. A ballistic strike from orbit would slip past their ray shields completely neutralizing their anti-air defenses.”
Zelknin’s mouth hung open, dumfounded. He fumed in silence racking his brain for a strategy that could top that of Tyler’s before stammering out, “W-w-what of the sensors! Oberon Class vessels are too large to avoid detection, we’ll be blown from orbit before we can launch the orbital strike!”
“Not if we move with the predicted meteor shower that will occur directly over the enemy’s factory. The meteor’s dense iron make up and varying sizes will be perfect cover,” Demlara pointed out coyly, “which Council Member Tyler had so succinctly demonstrated by throwing the model at high speeds over the factory. Honestly Zelknin, were you even paying attention?”
Zelknin was enraged, but still trying to maintain some poise as he stomped over to the War table and smashed in the coordinates to pull up a map of the Elguiseif Confederacy’s near orbital defenses. They had set automated senterys which had rectangular propulsion systems attached to bowl shape plasma disc cannons.
“Well while hiding in a meteor shower maaaay work for dispatching of the defenses planetside we still need to contend with the defenses in space. I propose that we-”
“What if, uhm,” Tyler butted in tugging on the sleeve of Zelknin’s Advisor robes
“Not now Tyler! I propo-”
“But, uhm, do you know that uhm this-”
“Council member Tyler please-”
“But but it, did you know it looks like toilets?”
Murmurs spread like a wildfire throughout the rest of the war council. Tyler didn’t seemed phased however, instead the child burst into laughter and started repeating Zelknin’s outburst in a distinctly goofy tone. Xarzez was about to speak up to discipline his advisor, but Demlara beat him to it.
“Zelknin! You are supposed to be one of the most distinguished members of the War Council!”
“I- I apologize I don’t know what came over me-”
“You don’t know what came over you? Are you insinuating you don’t have control over your faculties? If that is the case you should be stripped of rank and title!”
“No! Princess, puh-puh-please!”
While Demlara was taking Zelknin to task in front of all of his peers, Xarzez watched as Tyler was scattering the infantry models over the table making laser gun noises. The intellect of this astounding creature was beyond Xarzez’s comprehension. Not moments after he planned the perfect opening attack he was already plotting out flawless troop movement to take the factory and avoid the mine fields that they had only just learned about that morning.
Xarzez turned to address the War Council, he held a single fist aloft. The whole of the war room fell silent except for the “pewpewpewpew-BANG BANG!” noises Tyler was making while playing with the models.
“Distinguished members of the war council, I know there have been doubts about my new addition to our esteemed ranks,” Xarzez looked to Tyler who was now putting the models in his mouth, “But I believe after the victory Tyler the Destroyer earned us on the Moons of Gedd and this unshakeable plan for taking the interstellar drive engine factory… I believe I can say with the utmost confidence that this human child is indomitable, I think we’ll keep him.”

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

Gateways: “Tuesday” by Mariah Noel

TRANSCRIPT This story is written by Mariah Noel. She has created a variety of written work from poetry, short stories and plays to grant forms. Talking animals and black comedy are her two most recurring staples. She tells us her protagonists are most often anti-heroines that come in two flavors: happy-go-lucky dumbasses, or quiet warriors just trying have some soup. This is “Tuesday”

Captain’s Log.
Tuesday, I think? We lost all power onboard, and nobody back at headquarters would allow me to bring paper alternatives onboard because “papercuts in a zero gravity environment would be devastating.” So, if you have gained access to this somehow, Sharon, thanks for nothing.
Author’s note: I am not Captain Laplander. Captain Shelly Laplander was eaten by a comet shark (a newly discovered species (newly discovered here meaning that we were floating in an asteroid field when a shark with a firey tail whizzed straight for Captain Laplander and devoured her in a single stroke and continued forth without stopping)). The following entry has been recorded by Star Zenith, janitor on the crew of the now-former ship Starburst.
Currently in the custody of the Yardlings of the Quarter cluster of the Dvorzak Galaxy. Am recording this log on an antiquated device and family heirloom once known as the ‘palm pilot’. Brought it along for the trip for my own personal amusement and now has proven handy. Yardlings appear to be of humanoid form. They have many of the same body parts of humans, but arranged much differently. My current guard has both arms in the place of a head, noses for fingers on its hands, and the mouth is in an unspeakable location. Am quite missing the eye washing station of the lab, for there is no privacy in this place and the guard relieved himself in plain view yesterday. I now keep my gaze to the floor or the wall.
Trial was held two days ago to determine the fates of myself and the remaining members of the Starburst. The Yardlings, though sharing physical traits and likely ancestors with homo sapiens sapiens sapiens, regard us with adoration in much the way that Earthlings respond in cooing tones to baby animals such as kittens or puppies. Rather than lawyers, the Yardlings arranged the room by having each member present arise and state their opinion, no matter how long it took. I fell asleep for my full eight hours, and when I awoke, they were still discussing. One hovered over me in a protective manner and declared, “These human children are adorable! Let us keep them!”, referring to herself and her wife, who was simply a pair of legs with big blue eyes on the torso in place of a belly button. I am 78 years old, but did not find it prudent to speak out and correct her when the following Yardling, with the exact same physiology of homo sapiens sapiens sapiens, save that he had giant ears for arms and arms in place of his ears, pulled out a recipe book and brightly listed every recipe in which human meat could be substituted.
The Yardling who declared us adorable has been approved to adopt us. She will be arriving tomorrow, as she declared she needed the day to ‘child proof’ her home. It has not been made clear if she considers human children to be treated as offspring or as pets. I am tired now and will continue tomorrow.

Captain’s Log
Monday. Apparently, yesterday was Sunday, not Tuesday, as previously thought.
The Yardling who has taken us in as her adopted children is called Fanwick, and her wife is called Legs. Every attempt to speak to her and request a ship so that we may return to our mission (cleaning the asteroid field of garbage), has resulted in a scolding and time out. Though these beings possess knowledge of our most common human languages and bear similarity in regards to individual body parts, they do not have much knowledge of humanity itself. We have hypothesized that they either have very poor eyesight, or are unable to gauge human ages, as Fanwick pinched my cheeks with her toefingers and handed me a lollypop, although I had been two months from retirement prior to this predicament. The youngest of us is Sasha Lee, a 38 year old who is seen as an infant. She has been most humiliated by being forcibly placed in a pram by Legs, forced to eat with her hands in a highchair (the ‘airplane’ method of being fed has yet to be used, as Sasha has eaten everything no matter how disgusting lest Fanwick be aware that such methods are used on human infants of Earth).
There are seven of us in all. Six of us have been provided with bunkbeds. Fanwick has us sleeping in the same room, save Sasha. Sasha has been taken to a separate bedroom, where she is forced to sleep in a crib under the watch of a baby monitor. Our room has been painted blue and yellow with spaceships and princesses, though the princesses have the same Picasso-anatomy of the Yardlings. An hour after Fanwick and Legs put us to bed with a bedtime story, we knew they were asleep, as Fanwick snores rather loudly. Iyo, our vacuum specialist, told us the following:
“There is a vehicle of some kind in the back of the house. Legs used it to fly somewhere earlier in the day, meaning it probably has an energy source of some kind. Given that the Yardlings are four times our size, and the vehicle itself appears to be made to seat four Yardlings, we should all fit inside.”
“What about keys?” Tahno, the recycler, pointed out.
“No keys,” Iyo confirmed, “But it is kept chained until one of them decides to use it.”
“There’s some kind of giant scissors in the kitchen we can use as bolt cutters,” Saami chimed in. It was agreed we would split into two groups of three. Three to carry the bolt cutters to the back yard, and the other three to rescue Sasha from the baby crib. It is now time to act. This may be my final entry, should we fail.

Captain’s Log
Tuesday (for real this time)

Saami, Iyo, and Tahno had little trouble retrieving the bolt cutters from the kitchen. Myself, Isbel, and Timmy, were less lucky in retrieval of our unfortunate infantilized crew member. The door to Sasha’s room was quite large and heavy, and the door knob quite high. Timmy took the bottom, whilst Isbel stood on his shoulders, and I on hers. It took several minutes to completely turn the knob, itself as large as my head. Sasha easily escaped from the crib and the lot of us ran to the backyard.
The bolt cutters, easily four feet in length, required all of us to pool our collective strength. On the final cut, the doors burst open and Fanwick and Legs stampeded toward us. Tahno and Saami grabbed what remained of the chain, pulling it across the way. The two Yardlings helpfully proved our theory of poor eyesight as they failed to slow down and tripped. Tahno and Saami were smart enough to let go immediately, as the chain ripped through the air. Fanwick and Legs flew for quite a ways away. The vehicle easily fit all of us. Sasha took the drivers spot, while Timmy and Isbel operated the brakes and gas each, so large was the interior of the vehicle.
We are now on the opposite end of the planet and have sent a signal to Earth. The vehicle we abandoned around two hours ago, after it ran out of fuel. It shall be noted for future Earthlings that while the Yardlings appear to be relatively harmless and odd-looking beings, their emotions in regards to homo sapiens sapiens possess a strength we have not seen before in non-terrestrial humanoids.
In a stroke of odd luck, we came across a strange carcass. There was a line across the stomach, and investigation showed that something had cut its way out. There, a few dunes away, we found our beloved Captain Shelley Laplander alive and mostly well. Our beloved captain was desperately in need of a bath.
This is the final entry of Star Zenith, janitor to the former ship Starburst. I will shortly turn over this device to the captain herself, that she may continue her captain’s log and fill in her own history of the week. It is not yet determined if any ship from Earth will come to retrieve. It will be nice to sit down for dinner as a team, free once more. I only wish I had some salt for the shark meat.

Gaby Fernandez is the Special Events Manager at Otherworld Theatre. She has been an ensemble member since 2018, and loves creating, performing, and discovering new works with such a diverse and unique company. She has been professionally acting since she arrived in Chicago over 4 years ago, and fell in love with the Chicago storefront theatre scene.