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Gateways: “Letter to a Young Vampire” by Maggie Vaughn read by Nathan Shelton


Magdalen Vaughn is an Actor, Writer and Science fiction devotee. She has been practicing all types of science fiction writing during the pandemic and she will be creating science fiction performance pieces during her MFA starting this fall. She loves working with the talented folks at Otherworld theatre, long be their reign! Find more at magdalenvaughnacts.com This is “Letter to a Young Vampire”.

I wake up, or, realize I am awake. Splitting headache. Sarah’s hand in mine, cold. No, actually– Sarah. She is pressed against me sobbing into my shirt, as I guide her fingers into my mouth. Sarah. She is swaddled in an orange blanket at the Miami Dade County hospital. Sarah. Where is she now? I cannot think. I press my palms firmly into the hollows of my eyes and open my mouth to scream. My head- it swims and pounds and- WHAT is that smell coming from the bathroom and coming from my… mouth? There is a pit in my stomach. There are exactly 856,832 pits of depth greater than 20 feet in continental Africa. The pit of an apricot is rolling inside the mouth of a Greek boy as his papou brings in the harvest of late July, 1648. 

I cannot stop the notions, the feelings and the vague afterthoughts. Deep darkness inside of me. I try to concentrate, identify where this hollow maze ends, or begins. I try to clear my head of the revolving tableaux. And it works, and I am standing alone in a bright field. Heat sears my feet but I cannot bend my neck to see, or I will not look to see what evil lurks beneath me. I scream from the intensity of the heat but I hear no sound. I feel my body being pulled downwards, into the ground, toward the heat, bleeding free-will from my backbone and 

I am home again, crumpled on my bed. Head still swimming, when one of the many memories dancing behind my eyes strikes me poignantly: Uncle Mark, who experienced psychoses from the age of 20; who could not hold down a job; who is dead on the floor with a gun in his hand and I know that I am Uncle Mark and I can feel the blood pooling around my face as my eyes close and- 

“Hello Vagner” 

A crystal clear voice shoots into me, cutting through a merry go round of half-lived lives. German, male, loud. It is not Uncle Mark, and my name is not Vagner. 

“Listen carefully. Rise and leave your room. Pay no mind to the mess around you.” 

I steel my muscles into the postures of sitting and standing. I stumble to my bedroom door, eyes half closed. I pinpoint the smell of blood and rot. I fall through the doorway, onto the ground where I heave to wretch. Nothing comes out of my stomach, the black hole that I do not know. 

“Get up. Move to your custom leather couch you purchased 10 years ago with Sarah in Oklahoma City. I’ve placed a letter there that you must read.” 

Eyes open, I look around, madly, for the voice I hear so clearly. No one. No one thing out of place in my town-home of 15 years except- bloody handprints on the wood panels below me. Then they are gone, and the dreary dimness of morning is replaced by a bellowing thunderstorm I can see through my living room window. Calm. A few moments of calm so I can stand up and believe everything is normal. I smell coffee and hear Sarah’s signature soprano flying along with Joanna Newsome. 

No… no no no. I avoided this insanity. I have never once hallucinated, or wished for death. I thought I was free to live my life happily and– 

“Vagner. The Letter”

There is dim light in the window again. A letter sits on my cracked brown loveseat. Weathered paper sealed with real wax. The symbol for infinity scrawled onto the front of the envelope in patchy ink. I open it and begin to read: 

One Vagner Volt, 

Note that I’ve misspelled your human name, Wagner. This is not in jest, nor do I expect you to accept it, but it is in keeping with tradition and it will follow you for the rest of eternity. One of the few traditions that we, the collective referred to as Vampire, keep is the use of names. To hold a name is to own yourself. To be Vampire is ruthless autonomy. Think of your name like your last beleaguered breath as you died into infinity, suspended forever around your head like a never-ending dream. Those of us not born on earth infrequently have heads as you know them, so that particular image is unique to you and a handful of other terran Vampires. I have used a variety of metaphors in letters to non-humans reborn after myself, as I have been the executor of introductions for three centuries, now. The last executor was a neutron star and could not use language. I know what you are thinking: who is this witty German? Have we met? 

No, and we never will. Your existence is one hugely disparaging romantic comedy. 

Of course by now, you know all of this, but it never hurts to put musings into words –unless it does hurt, of course, whether by force of irony or intended harm. What I mean is, to have a thought exist outside of yourself is to cast it into the future. Not that the humans would do much with information regarding our existence, as limited as they are in their effect on space and time; as limited as they are in their knowledge of space and time–but in particular their knowledge of dark energy– I digress… 

Humans are perfectly happy to believe that Vampire are vulgar fiction. Yet, they could eventually become aware of our existence, which would be disastrously cruel. Imagine, if humans were to know that the earth feasts on their flesh as ravenously as the common mosquito. As a collective, Vampire are benefited by this fact: that most ideas do not make their way into the working memory of society and are snuffed out as soon as they occur, even if fastidiously recorded via stone etchings or ink. But, some ideas do permeate human culture over time. If you were to probe your mind you would find a catalogue of these truths, but I do particularly miss writing these few down: 

  1. The only hope for making change is to affect small things, locally and immediately
    2. Extraterrestrial consciousness exists and is very aware of life on earth 
  2. The world IS a Vampire 

Still, I must ask you to protect this letter with your life or, more appropriately moving forward, your existence. You will never receive another. If we the collective should ever feel you might expose our existence to human beings, we will remove your name. Human beings would not cope particularly well with our immortality. Better that they should spend their lives eagerly avoiding death. You will find, I hope, that there is a certain serenity in being one with death as we Vampire are able. Death, birth and the mortal coil smoulder uniquely within us. Well, within those of us who once were mortal. 

Think of this letter as welcoming you to your new now. It will keep you grounded when you are alone in the darkness of space. Know that this letter comes with outright threats, yes, but also platitudes. The most important being that you, Vagner, are not insane. You have not lost your mind and you are not experiencing your late Uncle or Grandfather’s particular brand of psychosis. You are now Vampire. You are at one with time; you exist outside of it and within it; and you must consume consciousness in order to remain autonomous. However, you must also fight the urge to consume excessively. You must practice restraint, even

if your dark nature urges you to consume more. This, dear Vagner, is in the best interest of time itself. I speak, of course, about the true nature of Vampire. 

Our dark power fuels the expansion of the universe and catalyzes its recollection. I am sure you came across the concept in your human life, but the term ‘dark matter’ does not even begin to delineate the nature of the power you now hold; the power that lies at the center of planet earth; the power to change the amount of energy in our universe. 

We do not know how or why dark matter fuses with conscious matter, but we Vampire are the result of said rare equation. You see, every bit of matter around you is conscious, from your barber to the carbon atoms in your rubber soled shoe, though not every consciousness makes use of language. The nature of dark matter as we know it is to consume and retain that consciousness, thus accumulating a wellspring of memory from past, present and future. In that omniscience we Vampire swim. We are connected to it, and we are irrevocably drawn to its source: collections of dark matter all throughout our universe. 

And still, consciousness always fights to retain its perspective. 

Without fusion, dark matter is quite limited in range of motion. After the big bang, dark matter was distributed throughout the fabric of space, and has since existed in a fixed state. Dark matter cannot travel through space time without fusion; without fusion, it can only consume conscious matter by collapsing space time itself. This, as you can imagine, takes quite a bit of time to accomplish. 

When dark matter does fuse with consciousness, perhaps as a survival mechanism of itself or of its conscious host, we observe that it both mobilizes and protects itself. Fused dark matter may, for a time, be in close proximity with other discreet or collected dark matter and not immediately coalesce. In short, our free will and mobility allow Vampire to avoid the powerful attraction that these fountains of time have on one another, and the disastrous consequences that will always follow for conscious matter surrounding them. Dark matter will fuel the fiery end of our present timeline; it will consume potential energy and with it, potential futures. When Vampire consume matter, like humans or the moon for example, we do the same. We must at least strive to delay the end of our timeline, to preserve the consciousness of all matter in the universe and to further its expansion. In short, we must, to our best ability, be dynamic pawns on the chessboard of time. The goal for our kind is to find our own private patch of space; to move only when in danger of subsumption. 

This is much to comprehend, but in time, when you search your mind, every answer you could possibly need will be available to you. The voices of Vampire, and all of the collected memories of dark matter, scattered across the darkness of space, are available to you. But you should never know the company of those like yourself, for it is far too dangerous for us all, and the only conscious matter you will encounter from here forward, you will likely consume. Thus, Vagner, you must leave earth. You cannot and will not perish in true void. You will know when you are near another of our kind. You will feel it in your bones, the heat of a thousand suns, pulling you to join it, hoping to be reunited with itself in perpetuity. The earth has consumed much in its dark existence and it will consume you if you linger. 

There will be moments of agony and bliss throughout your remaining eternity if you so choose, but there will be existence. 

To conclude, my dear savant, leave earth as soon as possible. There is nothing left for you here. You consumed Sarah last night when you fused. Yet, you are not insane. 

Forever Yours, 

Vainer Vilke

Nathan Shelton is a professional actor, writer, director, and special effects makeup artist living in Chicago.  He has worked on numerous theatrical, tv, and film productions including Above Ground, The Rake, Scum of the Earth’s latest music video: Dance MotherF*&#er, and the Oscar nominated indie film, Winter’s Bone.  His production company, ARCANE, is currently working on a multitude of devious dark projects, including a horror radio theatre anthology series called The Frightmare Theatre Podcast.

Gateways: “Move” by Rachel A. Schrock read by Kate Akerboom and John Keefe

TRANSCRIPT: Rachel A. Schrock Bio: Rachel is a Chicago-based writer, actress, comedian, and musician. You can check her out on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, all @Razmatini. This is “Move”

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

“Monica let me get Chinese food for the both of us,” I announced as I entered the room– more like a closet, really– that would be my office for the next several hours. “She said you’d like beef and broccoli…?” 

“I mean, if it’s free, then yeah,” Jackson replied. 

I set the bag in front of him and made myself at home. “Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen! Your contributions provide EPA interns with the MSG and factory-farmed meat they need to fuel their tireless crusade against single-use plastics.” 

“Hey, at least the chopsticks are biodegradable.” Jackson punctuated his point with a wave of a plastic straw. 

“Christ, dude! One: we’re at the most environmentally-conscious office in America– where did you get that? And two: we’re gonna sit here all night on sea turtle duty, and you’re still gonna be part of the problem?” 

Jackson shrugged and sipped on the can of Monster in which he’d deposited the straw. “What’s the fun of sea turtle duty if there are no sea turtles at risk?” 

I shook my head. Honestly, though, I got where he was coming from. After this program was put in place, I drank out of single-use cups for a week, just to spite the VSSCO girl lobby. Plus, it’s not like we could really do anything to protect the environment around here, seeing as the corporations doing the biggest harm have the policymakers by the balls. 

As if he could read my mind, Jacskon added, “It’s not much, but it’s something.” 

“Yeah…” I glanced at the monitor, which recorded the vitals of every sea turtle to ever visit American waters. “You know, when I got into government, my family joked to watch out for lizard people. I never thought I’d be watching out for lizards.” 


The sharpness in Jackson’s tone surprised me. I stared into my container of food. “Well, either way– I never bought into the lizard people thing, but if they were controlling the government, I don’t think they’d bother with the EPA.” 

I gave him a wry smile as I started in on my lo mein. To my relief, he smiled back, and I couldn’t help but notice the shiver it sent through my core. 

I’d noticed Jackson at orientation. He was tall and lanky– to the point of being almost gangly, even though he should have grown out of it, at his age– but held himself well. His eyes, dark as night, seemed to hold on you for longer than they should. He cracked jokes. He asked you a question, and really listened to your answer. But the thing I liked most was that smile. 

The problem was, I’d never been one to make a move, and even if I were, this seemed like risky territory, being coworkers and all. Besides, I’m not that much of a looker to begin with. 

“What made you want to do this?” Jackson asked, pulling me from my thoughts. “The EPA thing?” 

“I wanted to make a difference, I wanted a cleaner world, all that stuff everyone else says.” I shrugged. “I’m a cliché, I know.” 

“If a cliché helps people, it can’t be all that bad, can it?” 

“I guess not,” I replied. “What about you?” 

“My family expected me to go into government, but… this isn’t exactly what they had in mind.” 


“Yeah, they’re more on the legislative side of things. I’m… not.” For a split-second, I thought I could see something flash in his eyes. I brushed it off as a trick of the light. 

“Ah, a black sheep. Another cliché.” 

He laughed, and wow, did it feel good to be the cause of that laugh. 

Just then, the alarm flashed on our screen. 

“Sea Turtle Number 14827 is breathing heavily, heart rate up–” Jackson read. 

“I’ll pull up the feed.” I located the turtle, right off the Florida coast, and– 

“Jesus, you’d think they’d be able to weed these out,” Jackson said, amusement coloring his irritation. 

On our screen, Sea Turtle Number 14827 was boning what looked like a discarded Croc. I clicked away from the feed. 

“Good for him,” I muttered. “At least someone’s getting off…” 

“I’m sorry, I’m gonna need some more details on that, please.” 

I went beet red, slapping my hands over my face. “It’s nothing! I don’t know why I said that!” 

“It sure sounds like nothing.” Those dark, unblinking eyes, full of mirth, studied me. 

“Ha ha.” I crossed my arms. “I don’t get much privacy, that’s all. My roommate and I keep the same hours, and the walls are hella thin.” 

“And I’m supposed to believe you don’t have anyone to… take care of that for you?” 

It was my turn to study him. What could he possibly want from this line of questioning? “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t.” 

“That’s crazy. I mean– I would– um, not to, you know, say anything untoward, but–” 

It was the first time I’d ever seen his confidence slip. And somehow, it was because of me. “Are you saying you’d, um, want to–?” 

“I mean, yeah…” He stood up from his office chair, looking away, as if he was trying to create as much distance as he could between the two of us in this tiny room. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to assume. Forget I said anything. I’m not– you know, I won’t be the friendzone guy, if you don’t want–” 

Perhaps seeing Jackson’s confidence waver was what bolstered me, or maybe I was just a coward who needed to know the outcome before I took the risk. Either way, I made a move. 

His lips were colder than I’d expected, and still tasted like beef and broccoli. But once he realized that we both wanted this, he was all in– one hand in my hair, the other on the small of my back, taking the lead and giving it away just as easily. It was perfect. 

When I broke away, I looked into Jackson’s eyes. He blinked. Then he blinked again. 

With a different set of eyelids. 

“What the fuck?!” I yelped, lurching away. 

“Shit. Fuck. Sorry, I– shit.” Jackson rubbed his face. “It’s okay. Just… Remember when you mentioned the lizard people? We’re real. But I never wanted to be part of that conspiracy. I just wanted to be normal. But I’m not normal. So… I understand if you want to stop, if you’re too freaked out, but it’s– I’m not, like, scaley, or anything. It’s just that and the tongue. I–” 

The tongue?” 

“Oh. Uh.” Jackson unfurled his tongue from his mouth. It was thin and forked like, well, a lizard’s. 

And maybe it was because I hadn’t gotten off in entirely too long, or maybe, deep down, I was still attracted to him– or maybe I was just a sick fuck. But the first thing I thought was: Imagine getting eaten out by that tongue. 

“It’s okay, we can just, uh, go back to the turtles, if you want…” 

I shook my head, took a deep breath, and held his hand. “I think I’ll manage. But I have to ask… Downstairs?” 

Jackson grinned, still a little shy, but his classic confidence starting to surface once again. “Trust me, Beth. Down there, I’m no lizard, all man.” 

It was the worst line I’d ever heard. 

I kissed him again. 

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

John Keefe a Chicago resident originally from John HughesLand (northern suburbs). He has a BA in English from Columbia College Chicago, 15 years of improv experience, and about twelve novel starts on his hardrive. He performs at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in the summers and spends the rest of his creative life writing and performing for Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment, The-Editing-Room.com, and various other content sites, platforms, and literary magazines. By day, he’s the world’s most exciting tax clerk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Q.I.N. But?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. You’re calling me a coward.

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


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

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

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

CAPTAIN FERNANDES. How could it possibly?

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



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


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

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

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

(Long pause.)

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

Q.I.N. Which do you choose?

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

(End of transmission.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gateways: “Calisto Base” by Brian Pastor read by Kate Akerboom

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Brian Pastor. Brian is a playwright, whose plays have been performed on three continents, including at Otherworld’s Paragon Festival. They aim to tell modern, thought-provoking works that explore familiar relationships in sometimes foreign environments. They also like robots. This is “Callisto Base”


Callisto Base, Earth Year 2112 (I think?), the journal of Dr. Blake Longbottom


Entry 1: I arrived here just over a week ago. Everyone had to be thoroughly rehydrated after emerging from stasis, so it really took awhile to feel like myself again.

The food is better than I thought, but digestion is a bit of an issue. The gravity here seems…I’m not really sure how to put it…forced? There’s plenty of water thanks to the

subsurface lakes. We can even bathe twice a week! Everything else seems pretty much as anticipated. Except that it’s so damned hot!

For a celestial body that’s over 480 million miles from our sun, you wouldn’t think overheating would be a problem. But between the atmosphere-proof domes and the

radiation shielding (not to mention all the artificial lighting), it’s a toasty 32 degrees Celsius in the shade most days.

Anyway, I should probably try to sleep. Circadian rhythms are artificially mimicked here, but it still takes a while for your body to adjust. Call it interplanetary jet lag, I guess.


Entry 2: I can’t sleep. This lousy heat is shockingly oppressive. I wish we could open a window in this place and get some air flowing. I used the latrine six times tonight and

I’ve had at least two gallons of water. But again, my body’s not quite working like I’m used to. I’ll have to remind myself to see about getting a fan. And some Gatorade.


Entry 3: Today, I met the project lead, Dr. Chamberlain. When I complained of the heat, he offered me a suit that would help regulate my body temperature; but like most people

here, I just don’t want to be cooped up in a modified space suit 24 hours a day. All the drilling isn’t helping. Besides the obvious noise concerns, these machines

generate a ton of heat. Apparently, they can dig way down into the moon’s core. Not sure why they’d want to do that, but by the size of them, I believe it’s certainly possible.

Entry 12: I got to observe some of the mineral-rich rocks they’ve dug up here. They don’t look like much…just brown rocks…but they’re light and porous. There are

thousands of little holes that trap all kinds of sediment: minerals, water molecules, bits of organic material…

Speaking of organic material, they haven’t found evidence of any large animals on Callisto, not even in the lakes. Just some simple plant-like structures and a couple

dozen microorganisms. Not a single living creature larger than a dime and no fossilized bones of any kind.


Entry 13: I finally got a communication from Earth. Just when I had resigned myself to thinking interplanetary mail was actually a hoax! An old colleague was enquiring about

my excursion and wondering if I’d frozen my butt off yet. Don’t I wish!


Entry 14: The joke about freezing actually started to depress me. The heat continues to be a problem and I overheard Dr. Chamberlain talking about how they’re having trouble

cooling off the drilling equipment. It requires a great deal of water and everyone’s worried that the “endless” supply of water might not, you know, be endless after all.


Entry 15: So, apparently, they have to cool the water before they flood the machinery or else it won’t work. They’ve built these huge compressors to cool giant tanks of water

each day so they can then, in turn, cool down the equipment at night. Of course, the compressors are just contributing to the heat problem here, so it seems we’re caught in

something of a vicious cycle. 


Entry 46: I’m seriously ready to go blow up a docking bay just to get a taste of the cold night air. Like, how bad could it be? I don’t care if it’s pitch black and full of fatal levels of

carbon dioxide; if it’s cold, I want it. Just for a minute. A second. Hell, a nanosecond. A blast of cold, refreshing air to save my sanity!


Entry 47: OK, things are beginning to make more sense. I heard a rumor from the wife of one of the drillers that the reason they’ve drilled so deep is because they found some

kind of rare metal down there. Ever since, they’ve been running these things 20 hours a day. The ground is starting to crack all around the drill sites, but the bosses don’t seem

to be too concerned. I guess if you can see dollar signs, you can’t see anything else.


Entry 48: According to Dr. Chamberlain, they discovered an incredibly valuable metal in the core. It’s lightweight and can absorb large amounts of kinetic energy. Sound

familiar? That’s right, the bosses here on Callisto believe they’ve found vibranium, or at least its close relative. And you just know some idiot is going to try to make Captain

America’s shield out of some of it! It could be a very valuable scientific discovery…but based on the tenacity of their drilling, the bosses have other things in mind.


Entry 49: With the drills running almost non-stop, the heat has become truly unbearable. There’s no way they can keep this up…well, not safely at least. The cracks

in the ground around the drill sites are more like ravines at this point. We’re registering a lot more seismic activity as well.


Entry 50: People at the barracks have noticed the problems with the drilling as well. The cook over at the mess hall I frequent told me a story about a neighbor’s dog who

was lost when the ground gave way beneath the growing fissures in the ground, and my new friend Marcus says he’s been suffering from painful tinnitus that he attributes to the

incessant drilling. I’ve expressed my concerns to the inspectors, but to no avail. 


Entry 51: I’ve made a decision. I’m going to request leave to go back to Earth. I can’t concentrate on my research and, despite assurances to the contrary, I’m convinced this

place is becoming more and more unsafe. If the heat doesn’t get us, the quakes probably will. And the noise near the drill sites (our research tent is less than two

kilometers from the largest one) is enough to drive anyone mad.


Entry 52: I’ve sent a communication to my department head at the University. I’ve barely scratched the surface of my research, but I can’t stick around here much longer.

This place is a powder keg. I plan on collecting some more samples this week and then getting on the next transport out of here.


Entry 53: Dr. Chamberlain seems disappointed that I’ll be leaving so soon, but said he understood. I think he saw the relief on my face when I told him I’d booked passage

back to Earth. He helped me run some final tests on the soil samples and gave me a hand bagging and tagging the rocks and mineral compounds. He’s truly one of the

nicest people I’ve ever met. I just don’t understand how he stands it here. This is the third year of his residency at Callisto Base and he doesn’t seem ready to leave anytime

soon. I think he’s a bit blinded by the promise of ongoing scientific discovery and doesn’t seem to recognize a situation that is almost certainly spiraling out of control. I

wish him the best, naturally, but I’m anxious as hell to get out of this place.


Entry 54: Oh, fuck…

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

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