Tag Archives: Erotica

Gateways: “The Heart Wants” by Cassandra Rose ready by Rachel Granda-Gluski and Alex B. Reynolds



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

“Before we go any farther,” he whispered breathlessly. “I need to tell you something.” 

Honestly, things had gone pretty far already. The starting line had been at The Fountainhead, where they had shared coy glances and a glass of mead before Eleanor had worked up the courage to lean more than halfway across the table to capture Zane’s face in her hands. His lips still tasted faintly of the stout he’d started the night with, to Eleanor’s delight. And when she felt his hand grasp the back of her head, she knew her gamble had paid off. 

From there it took less than ten minutes for Zane and Eleanor to get the check, bundle up, walk the half a block through the snow to Eleanor’s apartment, unbundle, and for Eleanor to push Zane up against her favorite wall in her bedroom. Six months was a long time for Eleanor, especially when four of those months had been spent fantasizing about Zane. Things had continued to progress nicely as Eleanor removed her chonky midwestern sweater and set about unbuttoning Zane’s flannel. 

But now Zane’s hand was on Eleanor’s, stopping her from unbuttoning button number four. Eleanor tried to gauge the level of seriousness of Zane’s something-he-needed-to-tell-her by the look currently occupying his face. Over the years, many lovers had paused to tell Eleanor their deepest, darkest secrets. Chicago was the heart of the Midwest, after all, and the Midwest’s top export was regret. This was definitely more serious than, “I just realized that your best friend was my Bumble date last week.” Not quite as bad as, “My fiancée died two years ago and I haven’t loved anyone since.” Perhaps Zane’s confession was somewhere along the lines of, “I was trying to convince a friend to break up with her abusive boyfriend, and in the process we ended up sleeping together, and then her abusive boyfriend found out, and that’s why I’m keeping an aluminum baseball bat under my bed”? Eleanor waited patiently for Zane’s next sentence. 

Zane took a deep, steadying breath. “I’m a lizard person,” he breathed out. 

“Oh,” Eleanor replied. “Legit.” 

Zane tilted his head slightly to the side, skeptically. “You’re just… fully cool with that?” 

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Eleanor asked. She wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling Zane even closer to her. “I mean… I like you… And I think you like me too…” 

“I do,” Zane said, his voice getting huskier with every movement from Eleanor. “Very much.” 

“So why should you being a lizard person get in the way of that?” Eleanor returned to Zane’s fourth button, and looked up at him. He nodded in affirmation, and the button was set 

free. Eleanor continued on to the fifth button while simultaneously kissing at the exposed skin on Zane’s chest. Zane also liked that very much. 

“I guess I’m just used to people freaking out when I tell them,” Zane gasped out between kisses. Eleanor straightened back up, having finished with the buttons, and cradled Zane’s head in her hands once again. 

“Well those people sound awful.” Zane smirked, and Eleanor shrugged before continuing on. “I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m bi, but I’m just never bothered about that kind of stuff.” 

“You’re bi? Like, bisexual?” Zane asked. And/or shouted. This sentence was definitely said more forcefully than his previous sentences. Eleanor mock frowned at him. 

“Noooo, bi like bicycle. I am actually a bicycle.” Then Eleanor mimed hitting a bike bell. “Brrrring brrrring!” Zane didn’t laugh at Eleanor’s joke, and she started to worry. “You really didn’t know I was bi? It’s like, on Facebook and everything.” 

Zane sank down onto Eleanor’s nearby bed to continue processing. God damn it, Eleanor thought to herself, not this conversation again. But it had been six month, and Zane was a very hot lizard person (and half undressed), so Eleanor dutifully sat down next to Zane and waited for him to catch up with her. 

“But I’m straight,” Zane finally replied. 

“Totally cool with me.” Eleanor placed a hand on top of Zane’s. 

“But won’t you feel like you’re lying to yourself every time you’re with me?” 

“Well,” Eleanor mused, lightly drawing circles on Zane’s hand, “do you feel like you’re lying when you’re with someone who isn’t a lizard person?” 

Zane looked at the floor at this. “Sometimes,” he quietly admitted. 

Eleanor took her hand away. “Oh,” she said. And then they were both just silently sitting on Eleanor’s bed. Neither touching. Just both staring straight ahead. 

After a moment Zane took another deep breath, his pupils turning into slits for a moment before returning to their human-like spheres. “I mean I know that my mom wants me to have a traditional wedding, with another lizard person. But…” 

“But the heart wants what it wants,” Eleanor finished for him. Eleanor turned so that she was fully facing Zane again. “Zane, do you want to be here? With me?” 

Zane took Eleanor’s hand. He nodded yes. 

“Then be here with me.” 

And with that, Zane leaned forward and kissed Eleanor deeper than he ever had before. They continued to kiss as Eleanor leaned back on the bed, and soon Zane was on top of her. He pulled back again, but only slightly, and only so that he could look at Eleanor. Eleanor looked straight back at Zane, watching his eyes darken. She wrapped a hand around the back of his head once again and pulled Zane down with another kiss. Her hand slid down his neck until she found a zipper near his spine, between his shoulder blades. 

“May I?” she asked? 

“Please,” Zane gasped. 

And with that, Eleanor slowly unzipped Zane’s human suit. 

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

Rachel Granda-Gluski is a Chicago based voice actor and movement professional. She currently enjoys working with radio play company Starlight Radio Dreams. She also performs every summer with the Bristol Renaissance faire. When she’s not performing she enjoys being a huge nerd and hanging out with her cats.


Gateways: “The Morning After Eggsperience” by John Weagly read by Jacob Sturgeon



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

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

I woke up next to three eggs.  

Three light blue eggs the size of Granny Smith apples.  They were sitting on my satin sheets in a puddle of viscous glop, left there by a man I barely knew.

Great!

Never again would I take home a guy I met in a bar.

We’d met the night before at The Iguana Lounge.  It was 80’s night and music from the decade of excess played on the jukebox while neon buzzed in darkened corners.  To the records of the Eurythmics, he bought me gin and tonics and I laughed and touched his arm. To the songs of Culture Club, I bought him glasses of scotch and he laughed and stroked the back of my neck.

I took him back to my apartment.  I loved the feel of his rough skin under my hands (I see now that I was actually caressing his scales).  I loved the way he seemed to shimmer and change color in the moonlight (I see now that he was actually part chameleon).  I loved the things – the oh so many things – he could do with his tongue (No regrets about that – his flickering-dickering tongue actually almost made the eggs worth it).

It was hour after hour of squamate ecstasy.

And then, after we were both gloriously spent and I fell asleep, he plops out three eggs, puts on his clothes and heads for the hills.  I don’t even know his name.

Let me be clear on this – I didn’t think his kind really existed!  I mean, I’ve stood in line at the grocery store and seen the ridiculous tabloid headlines:

“Lizard-People Live Among Us!” 

“Lizard-Men Control Our Government!” 

“Lizard-Lady Runs Amok And Ruins Toddler’s Birthday Party!”

Lizard-People?  People that are lizards?  That nonsense was always good for a laugh.

Well, I wasn’t laughing now.

I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to figure out my next move.  The room still smelled

like last night’s pleasure.  Was I supposed to sit on these eggs like a mother hen for who knows how long and then raise his three little Godzillas until they were ready to go off to their high-paying jobs with the Illuminati?  That wasn’t part of my plan. I was young, I had a good job, I was building a career. I didn’t have time for infant mutant ninja geckos.

Would he be coming back?  Doubtful. Highly doubtful.  He wouldn’t be the first guy, lizard or not, to disappear forever after leaving a lady in trouble.

I looked back at the eggs.  I poked one. It was leathery, a little soft, kind-of vulnerable.  Helpless, in its own way. Maybe if it didn’t take them too long to hatch, and if I could take a break from work, and if they were cute with big eyes and tiny clawed toes and a pointy little egg tooth…

No!  I couldn’t deal with this.  Why should I be the one responsible for cleaning up his mess?

I got out of bed and cleaned myself up.  I gathered the eggs in a plastic Target bag and took them into the kitchen.  

Then, a short time later, I ate the best omelet I’ve ever tasted.

Jacob Sturgeon is a musical theatre graduate who quickly abandoned musical theatre. He is an avid participant/administrator of role playing games both tabletop and live action, and delights in all things that may be considered “nerdy.”


Gateways: “A Most Proper Communication Between a Lady Author and Her Editor, Alt-1871” by Leigh Hellman read by John Weagly



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 Leigh Hellman. Leigh is a queer writer, originally from the western suburbs of Chicago, and a graduate of the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After gaining the ever-lucrative BA in English, they spent five years living and teaching in South Korea before returning to their native Midwest.

Leigh’s short fiction and creative nonfiction work has been featured in Hippocampus Magazine, VIDA Review, and Fulbright Korea Infusion Magazine. Their critical and journalistic work has been featured in the American Book Review, the Gwangju News magazine, and the Windy City Times.

Their debut book, Orbit, is a new adult speculative fiction novel available through Snowy Wings Publishing. They also have a historical fantasy piece included in the Snowy Wings Publishing anthology Magic at Midnight, and their short fiction piece “the circle of least confusion” was previously featured in the Gateways series.

Leigh is a strong advocate for full-day breakfast menus, all varieties of dark chocolate, building a wardrobe based primarily on bad puns, and bathing in the tears of their enemies. This is “A Most Proper Communication Between a Lady Author and Her Editor, Alt-1871”

Dear Mr. Egerton—

I thank you for taking the time to compose your thoughts on my manuscript so thoroughly, and for sending your response within the week. As you know, my brother and I rely upon the commissions from my scribblings to maintain our income in the city, and your consideration of the perils in delaying these publications is appreciated. To the most pressing matter raised by your letter—the question of genre—I cannot help

but feel that your modesty is strangely misplaced. You have published several volumes of similar content within this past year alone, and have impressed upon me on numerous occasions the significance of market value over critical quality in our field of popular stories. If it is a concern over my reputation, this collection can be published anonymously or under a pseudonym that differs substantially from my current choice. Having read the work of my peers, I do not find this piece to be by any measure lewder or more morally degrading, and Percy does not believe it to be more susceptible to legal action by way of our generous obscenity laws. (My brother is, as you know, a senior apprentice at the firm of Knuckleby & Doss and well-versed in these sorts of cases.)

As to your secondary point, I must argue a case here for economic pragmatism. The market for readership, as you so often tell me, is quite narrowly confined in its current permutation and I feel that you ought to be amenable to the prospect of a wider audience for

sales. It is true that these beings do not share all of the humanistic attributes of our own species, but their integration into our society is an undeniable reality and there exists a mutual curiosity between us and them which lends itself naturally to the exploration of our interactions in these creative realms. Was it not you who told Percy of the stage rendition of Doctor Faustus featuring a cast comprised entirely of these beings? I heard that the production was a prodigious success, with mixed crowds composed of equal parts them and us, and that the theaters are now clamoring for new projects to satisfy the public demand. Surely you must see the benefit of such mass appeal and will support me by undertaking the task of publishing this manuscript—the first of its kind!—for broad consumption.

Regarding your other concerns, these—I think you must allow—are matters of preference more than strict fact. It is a simple narrative, I admit, but one which has classically delighted readers in its many iterations. The choice of a young, innocent human heroine is—to me—an obvious one (and indeed, I do not think that you had any notes on that particular point). The persistent popularity of the gothic story makes it the natural selection for my framework here, a crepe mourning veil which I have draped liberally over this tale. (This type of metaphor is a celebrated convention of the genre, though I know that you do not approve of fussy and overwrought prose as a general rule.)

The heroine, who is of course tragically orphaned from a young age and raised in draconian conditions under the oppressive shadow of her widowed uncle, will appeal to female readers especially with her humble persistence and determination to make her own way in the world. In terms of the villain—you expressed alarm at him also being human, but I should think that it would be far more troubling to make the villain instead a being. What must our readers—human and being alike—glean from this work if the vilest role is relegated to a creature for whom suspicion and apprehension already mar their daily existence? This is no puritanical parable, nor should we wish it to be, lest we risk igniting a worse sort of public outrage than merely one of moral scandal.

There are many men in my book, and only a few are ill examples of the lot. But there is only one being, and I will not compromise the core of their character in such a manner.

Now as for the intimate scenes—I understand your trepidation that there are too many and that they are too explicit in their descriptions, but I again must implore you to consider the genre that this book would be an entry in and perhaps to compare the levels of quantity and content to the other works currently available in your catalogue. In fact, when I was on the high street this very week I caught sight of The Lusty Mummer displayed prominently in the bookshop front! Surely my tale must seem wholly virginal when read alongside Mr. Cleland’s contemporaries.

I will concede that some small edits may be advisable, particularly in the vocabulary of anatomy, but I will defend the other critiques as authorial entitlements. Your notes on two passages in particular I must address, as I feel they are demonstrative of the literary tone for which I am valiantly fighting to retain.

“Frances found herself trembling—whether from her thin cotton shift or the sudden chill in the air, she did not know. The door, which she had locked by her own hand, creaked on its hinges as though it had breath of its own. Were she under the thick-quilted covers and drifting

through the fog of sleep as she ought to have been, this could have been overlooked as a waking dream or dismissed entirely as a surprisingly strong draft. But she lay awake still—atop her mussed sheets and with her candle burning down to the wick—with her fingers stroking softly at her nethermouth. A strange sensation was building within her, one of half-bliss and half-terror, that seemed to her to beckon with it some impending danger. It was as though she were walking towards the cliff’s edge as it whispered out for her from its dark abyss, as though the locked door were willing its mechanisms to unlatch and swallow her out into whatever pulsed behind it.” (Your notes here mark concern for both audience confusion between what is real and what is imagined, and the portrayal of—as you phrase it—“feminine self-pollution”.)

To the point of confusion: I admit that I cannot muster much sympathy for a hypothetical reader who cannot parse such blunt symbolism. Should such a reader exist—who lacks the critical faculties to decipher popular prose but still insists on purchasing the volume—I believe that the financial interests (which must be for you, as my publisher, of primary importance) are rendered moot.

Regarding your second note: I do wonder at the implications of this concern, as I counted no less than 13 instances of “masculine self-pollution” in A Seaman’s Jaunty Journey (which you have labeled in genre as an adventurer’s tale). That my heroine should develop into a woman of her own self-determination is the narrative’s course, and it is only logical that her determination would include her body and pleasure. I hope that I do not shock you, Mr. Egerton, when I tell you that women are no less fascinated by our bodies and their capacities than men are by yours. To deny this characteristic would be to undermine the endeavor of this work.

The second passage—which you noted for its “crass indecency”—is as follows: 

“The being stood a full foot taller than her at its height, but now in this state seemed to curve within itself and form an unnatural angle so that its head could bend to meet hers. Its skin—which had appeared sheer as silk just a moment before—shivered and peeled back to reveal rows of iridescent scales. Its eyes—once small and dark—now blinked wide and gold as the summer sun. Its hands were cold and smooth, trailing from her waist down to the hem of her skirt before pressing beneath. She could feel something else—slick and tight as tendrils—curling up her legs and gently parting her thighs, as the being’s delight swelled bulbous and spiny before her.”

Herein you may see how I struggled to describe with both accuracy and aesthetic appeal the anatomy of the being, and if you can relate some more pleasing terms I will gladly consider them. But if you take issue with the encounter itself—as I believe you must—I can only remind you of the multitude of encounters that have been recounted in the novels of my peers, many in far more extreme and dubious scenarios. Is the mutual, consenting pleasure of our heroine and her being-lover so much more alarming than the aggressive, fearful submissions of the caricatured women to your other heroes? Is this not an opportunity for you to promote both progress and profit?

I trust that my appeals have been received in good faith and with an open conscience, and that you will once more consider thoughtfully the merits to publishing Cold Blood Runs Warm for this new quarter.

Percy sends his love—

Your faithful literary servant,

A.J.

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


Gateways: “LeBron James III’s Unfair Advantage” by Alex B. Reynolds read by Josh Ballard and Rob Southgate



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

Alex B Reynolds has been writing and producing comedic theatre in Chicago for the past 10 years. They have been a contributing writer for The Flaming Dames burlesque troupe, the Meet/Cute sitcom podcast, and the Paragon short play festival. Full-length plays include Old Hobbits Die Hard, Kings & Thrones & Shit, and The Incredible Hank for New Millennium Theatre Company. Their other work, including props and puppets, can be found on most channels under the moniker “BakerStreetRat,” but you’re more likely to find photos of their dog. This is “LeBron James III’s Unfair Advantage”

Haynk and Cahrl worked together at the Interstellar Evolutionary Facilitation Center on Titan. They weren’t in charge of any major decisions, they didn’t have a seat at the table to decide how evolutionary processes were executed, and they certainly weren’t on the design team. To put it bluntly, they weren’t there for their brains. Cahrl was there for his muscle. He was on security detail for terrestrial missions, and otherwise occupied his time working in maintenance at the Center itself. This is where he and Haynk spent the most time together. Haynk was also in maintenance between projects, but unlike Cahrl, Haynk was hired for his genes. The Evolutionary Facilitation Board had very specific standards for the Genetic Integration Program on M-Class Planets, and Haynk checked all the right boxes. 

The Genetic Integration Program, lightheartedly referred to as the “Missing Link” Program, was designed to inject advanced genetic data into a terrestrial planet’s population once semi-intelligent mammals appeared. In a nutshell, Haynk was sent to underdeveloped planets to fuck something. Today’s mission would be his third. 

Each time Haynk was dispatched on a “Stud Run,” Cahrl accompanied him as his bodyguard. They had the same job at the Center, they were sent out on the same missions, and they were both immortals. But Haynk was an average Promethean while Cahrl was an eight-foot tall Reptilian. This main difference was the reason for their respective roles on Missing Link missions, but in the transport pod drifting slowly toward the rocky planet below, they were equals. They were friends. 

“I’m telling you, rep,” Haynk was gesturing passionately, “I’m telling you – LeBron James III would have toppled Forlax Waxor in the ‘58 season.” 

“No way.” Cahrl waved one claw dismissively while the other gently guided the transport pod along its trajectory. 

“He was seven fucking feet tall! He never lost a game after he got traded to the Novas!” Haynk continued. “He was the best diamondball player on Earth.” “You’re not wrong, but Earth diamondball was a joke, man.” “Hey, Earth diamondball was the best diamondball; Earth diamondball was life, my friend.” 

“Maybe for you.” “For everybody! And LeBron James III would have crushed the Comets and Forlax Waxor’s scaly ass in ‘58, ‘59, ‘60 – any season.” 

“Now, hold on…” “Bet on it! I’d bet my Spring Equinox bonus that James III’s last known player stats are better than Waxor’s this year.” 

“Fine. I’ll take that bet.” “It’s done. Happy to take your money.” The pod began its descent at the designated landing site. The weather was clear, the terrain was flat, and according to the data that Haynk was given before their departure, they were about three miles away from the colony of mammals he was meant to infiltrate. This distance was necessary so that their descent would go unnoticed. During their first mission, Cahrl took them too close to the population and for 

generations afterward, images of the transport pod appeared on stone walls, primitive parchment, and even in certain performance art. The bosses were not pleased. But the newly regulated distance was fine – neither of them minded the walk. The more time they spent away from the EFC and its infinite mechanical problems, the better. 

“So,” Cahrl asked as they walked along, “what are we looking for this time?” “Same old, same old, my friend. Some grubby, bipedal bear things. I don’t know, I just skimmed the briefing.” 

“You didn’t read the whole briefing?” “I mean, do I need to? I know where they are.” “Yeah, but this is a pretty big responsibility. It’s a big deal. You’re fathering a whole species, that’s gotta mean more than just skimming the briefing, right?” 

“Hey, I’ve done this twice now and I still can’t afford the kinds of clothes and meals the higher-ups at the Center can, so how important can my ‘work’ really be?” 

“I think you’re wrong about that.” “Yeah, well, agree to disagree. Woah, hold on.” Haynk stopped walking, and Cahrl stopped with him. Just ahead of them was a figure, digging in the dirt. Cahrl unclipped his holster and put a claw on his laser pistol. Haynk pulled up his briefing and flipped through the pages. The figure glanced up at them. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. Very gradually, the figure stood. This was a bipedal creature. This was a female. She stood five feet tall with patches of curly brown hair. The proportions of her limbs and the curves of her body were almost Promethan, but her posture and cranium were unique. More importantly, she carried a stick in one hand with a sharpened rock affixed to the end of it. 

“Is that…” Cahrl began. “A tool. She’s got an advanced tool,” Haynk confirmed, skimming wildly through his briefing. Nothing said that these creatures were more advanced than the basic mammalian stage. They weren’t supposed to be using tools. Haynk was expecting a clumsy, hairy beast of a creature. 

“What’s our move, here, Haynk?” Cahrl asked, claw still on his weapon. “I mean, I think that’s our mark.” “You’re sure? You only skimmed the briefing.” “I’m sure! Get off my back about that! Look, it says they trade stones with each other. Shiny stones, you know, like Earth penguins. Remember them?” 

“Okay, so…where’s your shiny stone?” “I don’t know, I guess I gotta go find one! The shoreline is about a half mile that way. Can you keep an eye on her? Make sure she doesn’t run off. If she does, follow her and give me a call on the communicator so I can find you.” 

“Hurry,” Cahrl said, and reclipped his holster. “You won’t even know I’m gone.” Haynk patted Cahrl on the back and ran off toward the water. The mammalian female followed him with her head as he departed, but her body remained still. Once the sound of Haynk’s footsteps faded, her attention was back on Cahrl. Still, neither of them moved. Neither of them spoke. She was making hard eye contact with him, and after a few moments, Cahrl felt very awkward. He raised one of his claws and gave a sheepish wave. She didn’t react at first, but slowly advanced toward him. She took deliberate, 

measured steps with her eyes locked onto his. 

“Oh, oh. Okay, that’s far enough,” Cahrl stammered. He unclipped his holster again and pulled the laser pistol out. The mammalian female didn’t react, but continued to advance. Cahrl raised his weapon and aimed it at the ground in front of her. Still, she advanced. He fired. A small divot of dirt exploded in front of her. She paused, glanced at the divot, but resumed her advance on Cahrl until she stopped mere feet from him. Cahrl had his pistol pointed at her chest. She maintained her intense eye contact, but made no move to attack. Carl’s tongue shot out of his mouth and licked his own eyeball – a nervous habit from when he was a hatchling. This drew a smirk from the mammalian female who ran a hand (or paw) down Cahrl’s chest. She purred. 

Haynk’s feet were sloshing as he made his way back to the clearing. In retrieving a lustrous purple pebble from the shoreline, a small tidal wave soaked him from the waist down. He was ready to get this whole thing over with and get back to the transport pod, but as he crested the next hill, 

“What the fuck!” The frills on Cahrl’s neck and shoulders flared and shuddered. The mammalian female gasped deeply, her legs wrapped tightly around Cahrl’s waist as they climaxed together. Haynk stomped toward them, and – suddenly aware of his presence – the mammalian female lithely slid off Cahrl, grabbed her weapon, and ran off the way she came. Cahrl scooped some dirt from the ground and tossed it onto his back to cool down. He stood. 

“What the fuck!” Haynk said again, punching Cahrl in the arm. “Relax!” “Oh, ‘relax’ he says! You just forced your reptile seed into the apparently intelligent mammal population, and I’m supposed to relax?” 

“I didn’t force anything,” Cahrl said, holding up his claws, “she approached me, and I consented. It was all good.” 

“It’s not all good!” “It was actually pretty damn good.” “Cahrl! Don’t you think these mammals are gonna know something’s up when a brood of lizard babies start crawling around?” 

Cahrl paused. “Earth didn’t know.” “What?” “Earth didn’t know.” “You did this on Earth, too?!” “And Earth One.” “That’s not what I — Earth One and Two? How?!” “Same thing! A female approached me, and…” “No! I mean, how is that possible? How did nobody notice? How did I not notice?” Cahrl pulled on the rest of his gear and walked back toward the transport pod, Haynk following close behind. 

“The mammalian genes are more dominant in secondary physical characteristics, Haynk. You can barely tell the difference unless you’re looking for it.” 

“So, Earth had a bunch of half-Reptilians walking around and nobody knew?” 

“That’s what I’m saying.” “Who?” “Lots of people.” “Names!” “I don’t know, Haynk, lots of people! Ramses II, Dōgen Zenji, Vladimir Lenin, Kellyanne Conway – lots. Even cross-breeding with Promethean descendents, the Reptilian gene stays active in the population for generations. Now, come on, you found a really nice pebble. Why don’t you go back, find a different mammal…” 

“No, I don’t want to now.” “Haynk….” “No! This planet can be full of fucking lizard people, I don’t care. Let’s just get back to the Center.” 

Cahrl opened the door of the transport pod and stepped inside. Haynk, still pouting, stepped one foot into the pod, but stopped in sudden realization. 

“Who else was an Earth Reptilian?” “Come on, Haynk…” “No. Hey. Cahrl? Who else?” Cahrl sighed. “LeBron James III.” “Son of a — ” The door of the pod closed.

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

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!


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: “Informed Decisions” by Gwen Kelly-Masterton read by Rachel Granda Gluski



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Gwen Kelly-Masterton. Gwen Kelly-Masterton is a director, playwright, and all-around Theater Person from Chicago. She would like to thank Gateways for once again providing her with that essential element all writers crave– a deadline.This is “Informed Decisions”

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

If you’re reading this, it means that for some reason you’ve pulled up the linoleum in the downstairs bathroom, and found the box I’m about to hide under the floor.

Why? What are you doing in my bathroom? Who are you? Is someone finally tearing this shithole down? Or did I tell you where to look? Karina, is that you? You’re the only person I can imagine I’d tell. If I did, that means you eventually spoke to me again, right? So I guess that’s nice. 

Or are you one of my relatives? Jesus, please tell me you’re not one of my relatives. If you are, you probably want to put this box straight back under the floor and never think about it again. Trust me. If you open that box, you’re gonna be confused, and then you’ll keep reading– and things are gonna get pretty embarrassing. 

For you, anyway. Not for me. I’m hard to embarrass, and also at this point I assume I’m dead. I have to be dead, right? If I’m not dead, what the hell is someone doing in my bathroom, digging up the weird, rambling letter I’ve hidden in the floor?

So if you’re related to me in any way, please, stop reading. If you’re a total stranger, read at your own risk, I guess. And if you’re Karina– you know what? I’m just gonna imagine you’re Karina. What’s up, Karina? I miss you. Sorry if I’m dead, or whatever.

So, Karina, I’m sure you’re wondering what this thing is that I hid in the floor, and whether it’s a vibrator. The answer to that one is no– my vibrators are scattered in various locations around the house, because I’m an adult and I like to be prepared. I would never bury vibrator. No, what you’re probably holding in your hand at this point (now that you know it hasn’t been inside me) is called an XploraChron Mini and it’s much, much weirder than any sex toy– well, that might not be true, there’s weird shit out there. But it is much, much more valuable. “Oh Natasha, but aren’t you broke?” Yes bitch, I am broke, okay? I stole it. What are you going to do, kill me?

XploraChron dissolved under mysterious circumstances, apparently, and if you Google “weird futuristic dildo thing in rich tech asshole’s fancy loft wtf?”, it turns out that the fucking FBI comes to your house. So don’t try it. I had to figure out what this was for myself, so I’m writing you this letter to hopefully save you the whole weird-ass journey, because I know your first impulse is going to be to turn the thing on and see what happens, just like mine was. And no, I couldn’t prevent this by simply taking the batteries out– believe me, I tried. I don’t understand what this thing runs on, at all, and I’m not bad with gadgets. I don’t believe in lizard people per se, but if you told me XploraChron was a front for the alien mafia, I’d laugh at you but secretly I’d believe it. 

So put the not-a-dildo down for just a minute, and I’m going to tell you what will happen if you turn it on, and then you can make an informed decision, okay? Not like me. Give a presumably dead woman her last wish. Just put the thing down, and read.

So. If you press the appealingly ergonomic button on the side of the Xplorochron Mini, you’re going to think I was lying about it being a vibrator because it does, technically, vibrate. Please do NOT put it inside you at this point, trust me. It’s going to start buzzing, and the buzzing will get stronger and stronger until the whole room is shaking, and then everything is going to go all sort of pixelated and you’ll hear a really intense but somehow beautiful ringing sound that’ll remind you of the first time you tried shrooms in college. And you’ll get an incredibly vivid flash of that memory– yourself, sitting on the bench outside the art building, looking up at the singing stars and feeling just incandescently sorry for yourself because the boy you went to that party to hook up with was already upstairs fucking someone else by the time you got there and took a swing of the magic tea your best friend handed you. 

And then… you’ll be there, on that windy night in April, outside the art building, looking down at yourself. And your younger self will look up at you and say something like, “The light from the stars is hundreds of years old, but who will ever see the supernova inside my heart?” 

And you’ll be having a cardial supernova of your own, because it’s you and god, look at you! You’re radiant. Who knew? And you’ll also feel awkward and guilty because not only do you not remember the name of the boy who just stood you up at the party, but you don’t even remember the name of the girl who fed you the funky fungus tea, and she was your best friend for two years until she dropped out and you fell out of touch. What was it? Emily? Sarah? Fuck. 

Anyway, you’ll sit down next to yourself and put your arm around you, and you’ll cry snottily into your bathrobe for a few minutes, because by the way did I mention you’re wearing a bathrobe? You didn’t expect to be travelling in fucking time this evening, so you’re both underdressed and your legs are bare in the cold April wind. After you’ve cried yourself out, you’ll wipe your eyes and your hand will linger on your cheek as you look up at yourself. 

“You’re sad, too,” you’ll say. “I can feel the sadness in your body.”

“That’s because you’re a little bit high on psilocybin,” you’ll tell yourself gently. 

You’ll laugh a little. “Guess so,” you’ll say. “Are you real?”

You won’t be sure how to respond, so you’ll go with “What is real?” Not your best line, and you’ll turn your face away to think of a better one– but you’ll reach out, from where you’re slumped now practically in your own lap, and you’ll slide your hand up along your neck and turn your face back toward yourself. 

“I feel like we’re connected,” you’ll say. Is that really what your voice sounds like?

“That’s because I’m you, but from the future,” you’ll tell yourself. 

You’ll laugh. “Wow, really?”

“Yes, actually.”

“Have you come to stop me from making a terrible mistake?” 

You’ll think about that for a minute. “No,” you’ll say. “You can make all the mistakes you want. I’ve fucked up too much to have any business telling you what to do.” 

“Any mistake I want? Are you sure?”

“Sure,” you’ll say. “I’m you, not your mom.” 

You’ll grin. “That’s good,” you’ll say. Then you’ll pull your head down and you’ll kiss you. You will taste of tea, and tears, and a little of that fish casserole thing the Campus Dining Center used to make on Fridays. You will kiss yourself like you kissed the first person you ever smooched on the school fire escape, and like all the great kisses of your life since then. It will occur to you to maybe feel weird about this, but your whole body tingles and a gust of wind brings the smell of hyacinths, and you decide not to worry about it and kiss your beautiful, salty mouth until you’re both gasping. And then one of you will ask the other if you want to go somewhere warmer, and you’ll both say yes.

And you’ll go back to your dorm room, which you’ll have to yourself because your roommate– Hannah, at least you remember someone— never used to come home on Friday nights. You’ll say “wait here” and you’ll take the big blue Nalgene that you eventually lost on an art history field trip and carefully fill it at the water fountain in the hallway, and you’ll each drink half. And then you’ll unzip your purple crop mini skirt and untie your bathrobe, and you’ll tangle your fingers in the long hair you thought you’d never cut as you fall onto Hannah’s absurd shag rug that eventually got thrown out by Hannah’s over-involved stepmother. And on that mustard-colored quasi-sheepskin, you thoroughly rock your world, if you do say so yourself– because not only do you know what you like, you know a lot more about what you like than you have so far had a chance to find out. And you’ve also forgotten a few things you like, as it turns out, to which you’re more than happy to reintroduce yourself.

And after you’ve fallen asleep, you’ll tuck yourself into your old dorm bed and you’ll sit down at your old desk, and you’ll write yourself a note that you’ll erase several times but which will eventually read something like: “Your heart’s supernova will be seen, and loved, so much more than you can imagine. You contain multitudes. Never give up, never surrender.” You’ll leave it on your desk next to the blue Nalgene, and you’ll take one last long look at your sleeping self curled around the Sexy Risa Hawkeye pillow you got in a gift swap, and then, just as Meghan–  Meghan! That’s her name!– arrives to make sure you got home safe… you’ll reach into your bathrobe pocket and push that button again, and focus on your bedroom at the moment you left it for whatever all this just was.

And Karina? I know so far this has all sounded pretty magical, not to mention hot. But trust me: when you get back, you will find that you feel very, very weird about everything, after all. It’s not that you think you did anything wrong, because although you always assumed you were a hallucination, you definitely enjoyed yourself and you’ve never regretted it. No… it’s that all those years ago, you had an incredible, transformative experience of self-love, and you wrote yourself the most inspiring note you could think of, and yet… here you still are. You’re not a better, fixed-up version of yourself; you still didn’t get your piece into MOMA, you still didn’t prevent the apocalypse, your oldest friend still won’t return your calls; you’re still just Nat– I mean, just Karina. All that crazy sex and time travel but nothing has changed and oh god– why did you tell yourself to make all the mistakes you want? Have you met yourself? Couldn’t you at least have warned you about Robert?

So, you’ll carefully clean the XploraChron Mini with warm water and soap, because it looks enough like a sex toy that you do that automatically. And then you’ll dry it off, and put it in a box, and hide it somewhere where you’d really have to work to find it again, because this time travel shit is not something to have available whenever you’re drunk and decide maybe you’ll go kill Hitler. Trust me. There’s a lot I’m leaving out of this letter.

In balance, Karina, I do not recommend this product. Two and a half stars. Don’t turn it on. Or, you know, do– I’m dead (probably), not your mom. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. And even if you don’t listen to anything else I’ve said, please, please trust me on this:

Do NOT Google “time traveling dildo”. The FBI are nothing to what will happen then.

Rachel Granda-Gluski is a Chicago based voice actor and movement professional. She currently enjoys working with radio play companies Starlight Radio Dreams and Locked into Vacancy Entertainment. She also performs every summer with the Bristol Renaissance faire. When she’s not performing she enjoys being a huge nerd and hanging out with her cats.


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.” 

“Amphibians.” 

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.” 

“Oh?” 

“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.