Tag Archives: Fantasy

Gateways: “Of The Legumen” by Jim McDoniel read by Ryan Bond



Jim McDoniel is a writer of monsters and mirth, not always in that order. He also writes radio plays. He holds a Masters degree in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University. He is a writer for the podcasts Our Fair City and Unwell. He was a finalist in Deathscribe 10 for his piece, “Monstruos.” and a five time Midnight Audio Theatre Scriptwriting Competition winner. Jim is the author of an amazing novel, An Unattractive Vampire available from Sword and Laser publishing. This is “Cephalophore”

Excerpt of “De Historia Et Omnia” by Celsus Frugi 121 CE

 

Of the Legumen

 

Within the far northern regions of Germania, among the cold peat bogs and the forests, it is said one will find a people known as the Legumen or Siliqua to give their tribal name. These small villages of people mostly subsist on the berries and game provided by the nearby bog as well as domesticated sheep, on whom they depend for both food and clothing. However the most extraordinary fact about the Legumen comes from the fields which they farm, for they do not grow barley or wheat or any ordinary crop. Instead the soil is tilled, sown, and cared for to bring forth the next generation of Siliqua who rise from earth in the form of peapods.

 

The peapods emerge from a single reed stalk—of strange, sinewy texture and tanned-hide coloration—which usually grows four feet high and eight inches thick. At the top the stem splits into separate arms, upraised, as if in praise and at the ends of each appear the pods of new Legumen. These fleshy sacs contain three heads—an upper, a middle, and a lower, each fully conscious and containing the awareness, personality, and knowledge of a grown person. In the fullness of time, these three heads will form the body of a single Siliqua tribesman, however, it is not uncommon for the heads to fall prey to infighting and consume one another. Heads, though grown from the same seed and sprouting from the same plant, do not innately share compatible personalities, and disagreements in such close quarters quickly escalate. Additionally, each head is fully aware of their position within their collective future body and so may attack another in order to improve its station. Less than half of all pods bear the fruit of a full individual. Most heads end up replanted.

 

Each head grows into one part of the Legumen body. The upper head, closest to the stem will become the head of the fully grown person. This bestows it with the ability to remain visible and to engage in the world as would any of us. However this position is also precarious. The upper head never stops growing and in time becomes too heavy to support. It is then in danger of falling from its own shoulders. Many Legumen adorn themselves in heavy metal collars and necklaces to prevent this from happening. 

The middle head forms the body and torso. This is most obvious just after harvest when all parts of the head are clearly visible: the eyes and eyelids create the chest, the nose takes up the abdomen, and the mouth appears as a belly button. Over time, the middle head disguises itself within rolls of fat to prevent the nature of the Leguman from being discovered. To this end, the middle head is almost constantly eating and why the Siliqua are known to herd far more sheep than their neighbors—the wool is used for clothing to disguise the middle head, while the meat is used to feed it.

The lowest head of the pod becomes the genitals and occupies both the worst and possibly the best position. Lower heads are rarely seen and even more rarely see the light of day. Due to their location, they are prone to vertigo and motion sickness—diarrhea is another sign of a potential Leguman. However, should the lower head persevere until such time as two Legumen can mate with each other, it has an opportunity afforded to no other head. During intercourse, one lower head can chew its fellow free at which time they may both retreat into the first’s body. There, the two gestate and grow, feeding off the spacious middle head, until they burst forth—each an individual with only one head. These people are prized among the Siliqua, for they can travel and trade with neighboring tribes without fear of discovery. Such births are quite rare. As it kills the middle head and reduces the upper to being replanted, they are seldom eager to accommodate their lower fellow and most Legumen you find live a celibate lifestyle. 

 

There are many stories within the tribes of Germania of farmers finding Legumen plants growing in their fields or children coming across the arguing peapods in the woods. This is, in actuality, quite rare, as the Legumen are protective of their potential young. When it does occur, it is most often the result of an upper head falling off in the midst of travel. There is one instance of a head being carried off by an eagle and growing up among the reeds of Egypt. The tale of the pods grown from this head, their adventures, and their return to the tribe form the basis of the main epic of the Siliqua people, the name of which roughly translates to “The Headessy.”

Ryan Bond is a life long geek who is very active in Chicago’s genre-based performance and experience community. He currently serves on the Board of Otherworld Theater where he helps to bring high quality stories to life on-stage and on-line.  In the past has served in leadership positions for Wildclaw Theatre, EDGE of Orion Theatre, Hartlife & Our Fair City. Ryan has helped to create Guardians of History (a family friendly voice-activated immersive educational game for Alexa/Google enabled speakers & screens), leads as a Cub Scout Master and Eagle Scout, been an SxSW panelist, appears on podcasts as a gaming/geek expert, an infrequent theater performer, a 3x NaNoWriMo winner, a marketing director for a Firefly-based board game and even opened a geek-themed bar!


Gateways: “The Greenwood Knight” by Jeff Harris read by Rob Southgate



Jeff Harris is the properties artisan at the Goodman Theatre, and a longtime collaborator with Otherworld Theatre building props, costumes, and masks. But once, in the long-long-ago, he was a writer and director, and is all too happy for the opportunity to put on is old suit of armor. As well as writing a short story for the Gateways Writing Series, he directed a short play for Otherworld Theatre’s Paragon Festival last fall.

There were three of them, Sir Dullahan and his two brothers. Each set out from home in search of glory. Each were clad in blue armor, each atop white horses, and each in their own direction. They ventured forth at the behest of their father who bid them not to return until their names had become rich with honor and fame. 

Upon his travels, Sir Dullahan accomplished many feats, slayed many beasts, and served many people. Yet somehow, with every new realm he came upon, there were none who knew of him. And so, Sir Dullahan pressed further into the world in pursuit of reputation. 

One day, the blue knight came upon a tree within which many other knights were hanging from its branches, swinging by the neck. Some looked to have been killed mere hours ago; others were nothing but bone wrapped in mail. He questioned the nearby villagers, and the townsfolk told him the dead knights were those who had challenged their master, the Greenwood Knight of Glyn Gildrew Castle, for his treasure. What that treasure was, they could only speculate, for they had heard many different stories from many different people. But, if any of the stories were true, then Glyn Gildrew Castle was worth finding and the challenge worth pursuing. The castle rested in the deepest reaches of the northern forests, and most who sought it disappeared. Yet, there were those that succeeded in finding the keep, merely to end up in the tree. 

Sir Dullahan believed this quest was a bold one, worthy of repute, and asked the villagers how to find the woodland keep. He was told to enter the forest with the sun always at his back. He would then find a post that stood alone in a glade ahead of the castle. There would hang a great gilded horn. He need only to blow the horn, and the Greenwood Knight would ride out to meet his challenge. 

The knight passed into the forest, and for days he braved the monsters that lurked within the woods, until at last he crested a hill and saw below him in a dale was the castle. Riding further, Sir Dullahan found the post with the horn, and without hesitation he gave it a mighty blow which echoed through the forest. He did not wait long before the Greenwood Knight appeared. 

He was a fearsome fellow atop a great shire horse. His tunic bore a white stag, and his armor was painted green. In one hand was a lance, the other a kite shield, and at his side was the finest of arming swords. As the Greenwood Knight came close, he raised his visor to reveal a long white beard and mustache. He saluted Sir Dullahan and spoke in a deep voice, “Who is it that would challenge me?” 

“It is I, Sir Dullahan of Alymere, son of Sir Bertilak!” Sir Dullahan replied. 

“Son of Sir Bertilak? Then you are a Lord?” inquired the Greenwood Knight. Sir Dullahan bowed in response, and the Greenwood Knight continued. “Where is your squire? Your servants? Have you no train to accompany you?” 

“I have not, sir,” Sir Dullahan answered. “I have only what you see here. My horse, my armor, and my sword.” 

The Greenwood Knight accepted the challenge, and the two knights rode deeper into the woods. He brought Sir Dullahan to the base of a hill upon which sat the keep. There, a tent was set, along with a rack of weapons and a large, ornate gold chest. The Greenwood Knight referred to the chest. “Here is your prize,” he said, “should you defeat me.” 

Sir Dullahan explained the many stories he had heard, and inquired what was in the chest, wanting to know for what he was fighting. The Greenwood Knight would only answer cryptically. “Everything,” the deep voice grumbled. “Everything that I have, everything that I am.” 

Sir Dullahan then asked what would happen to him should he fall, to which the Greenwood Knight confirmed that he would be hung from the tree in shame until his estate could pay the ransom for his body. 

The Greenwood Knight offered Sir Dullahan the lance or the sword. Sir Dullahan preferred the lance, but had lost his in battle just weeks before. The white bearded knight presented a lance of his own from the rack, and Sir Dullahan graciously accepted. The terms agreed upon, each man took his place and faced one another. 

At once they rode towards each other with fury. Sir Dullahan was an expert with the lance, and lowered the point precisely, striking the Greenwood Knight in the head. But the lance shattered, being made of weak timber. The Greenwood Knight met the blow with his own, hurling Sir Dullahan to the ground. The Greenwood Knight turned his great horse, intent on trampling the blue knight to death. Unbeknownst to the villain, Sir Dullahan had not lost consciousness, and just as the Greenwood Knight was upon him, he rose, swinging his sword and striking. The Greenwood Knight fell from his steed, but managed to draw his own sword before Sir Dullahan could reach him. A great melee ensued. For three days the two men battled, and the clash of steal rang throughout the trees relentlessly. Not once did they rest, and Sir Dullahan suspected the elder knight’s stamina was aided with sorcery. Angered by the mendacious nature of his adversary, the blue knight found the strength to press on until he delivered a mortal blow and slew the Greenwood Knight, the master of Glyn Gildrew. 

Sir Dullahan, exhausted, returned to the chest and opened it, only to find it empty. The Greenwood Knight had deceived him one final time. Infuriated, he rode to the castle, and demanded entry with sword drawn. But the soldiers there opened the gates, and, with uncommon obedience, they took him to see the Lady of the Greenwood Knight. 

In a great hall bedecked with antlers, a beautiful woman greeted him. She, too, was dressed in green, and had long braided black hair. She was much younger that Sir Dullahan expected the wife of the Greenwood Knight to be, and he also thought she would be angry, or tearful. But, at the sight of him she smiled, and calmly asked if her husband was dead. 

“I have done the deed, my Lady, and nobly so. I am here to demand my prize.” 

The Lady raised her hands. “This,” she softly spoke, “this is your prize. The castle of Glyn Gildrew and everything it has to offer are now yours. Its vast wilderness and its farmland; the crops the peasants yield, and game within these lands are yours to distribute as you deem fit.” She continued speaking. “Its knights are yours, as are the soldiers and servants. Its gold and jewels are yours, its food and drink, its fires and beds. Even its Lady.” She knelt before him and kissed his hand and addressed him as Lord. The people in the hall followed suit. 

He bid her to rise, and asked if he broke the curse of the gilded horn, or if he were to assume the role of his predecessor. She affirmed that the obligation to answer the horn was the price for unlimited comforts. Each time he was victorious in combat, his wealth would grow. She offered him a chalice. If he drank from it, he would be honor bound to be Glyn Gildrew’s champion and master, under pain of death, for the chalice was enchanted to end the life of those who broke their oaths. Everyone who dwelt within the castle drank from the cup, all of whom pledged to serve the keep in their own way, thus never wanting. Even she, whose oath was to be the Lady of the Greenwood Knight, and attend his every desire. Sir Dullahan queried about how many husbands there were in her life. 

“Seven,” she admitted. “You will be my eighth, and, God willing, my last.” She went on to tell him that he need not drink from it. Sir Dullahan was free to refuse the glory, riches, and renown the woodland castle promised, just as any knight was free to sound the horn in challenge. 

Sir Dullahan took the chalice. “If I drink from this,” he said, “I shall fight with righteousness. I will not deceive my opponents as your husband did. I will treat my foes with deference, and hang them not from a damned tree. The people will have my blessings, and my justice, and I will bring honor to my father’s name.” She bowed, telling him that as master the realm was his to rule as he wished, and she would be joyful that he would do so with such pride and grace. 

And so, Sir Dullahan drank from the chalice, and all in the hall rejoiced. He was bathed and given the Greenwood Knight’s armor and tunic. That evening, there was feast the likes of which he had never seen. The tables were laden with game and fruits from the world over. Four and twenty barrels of mead were emptied as the finest musicians played through the night. Sir Dullahan rejoiced at his good fortune, and counted his blessings. Indeed, that night he went to his chamber, and knew is wife well. 

At dawn Sir Dullahan arose to a magnificent breakfast and was surprised to learn that his wife had arranged a hunting party for him, that he might explore the woodlands and learn to tame them with his men. But, no sooner had she related this to him, than the horn did sound. Instantly, he was surrounded with squires who fitted his armor with tremendous haste. Sir Dullahan took to his horse, but before he could exit the gates, his wife begged him to carry a potion. 

“It will give you unordinary spirit to defeat any who stand before you,” the Lady pleaded. But, Sir Dullahan reminded her of his pledge to fight with honor. She insisted he bring it with him, if only to put her mind at ease. Reluctantly, he took the vial, but again vowed he would not use it. With that, Sir Dullahan, as the Greenwood Knight, rode the path to meet his challenger. 

Upon reaching the glade he found not one, but two knights. Sir Dullahan’s heart broke, for he recognized them. Both were clad in blue armor and both sat atop white horses. Sorrowful thoughts flooded his mind, which turned into shameful ones as he gripped the vial. But then he thought of all he had won; his wife, his wealth, his lands, their influence and their glory. Like the white bearded knight he had slain before, the shameful thoughts were fleeting, and so too was brotherly love. Thus, as Sir Dullahan approached, he raised his visor but a little, and tasted the potion the Lady of the Greenwood Knight had given him.

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


Gateways: “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne read by Ansel Burch Pt 3



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

You can find the full text of the story here.

As we come to the close of the story, let’s discuss how the story relates to the ones we still tell today of people gifted with power and the challenges they face. This story is, of course a tragedy. One in which the viewpoint character makes a terrible mistake and in who he trusts and who he blames. 

Do you think Baglioni was manipulating him as part of his rivalry with Rappacini?
Why would Rappacini do this to his daughter?
What do you think Giovanni did after the story ended?

More importantly, this story has a serious problem at its center. Beatrice is given almost no dialogue until the end and her main character trait is “purity”. How would you re-tell this story to account for Beatrice’s choices, viewpoint and options? If you wrote this story from her point of view without changing the ending, how would it be different.

A conversation thread will be going on our facebook page at facebook.com/GatewaysOtherworld/. You can also leave your thoughts on this story in the comments on the shows homepage at https://otherworld.blubrry.net/.

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


Gateways: “The Dancer’s God” by John Keefe read by John Keefe and Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by John Keefe. John has written comedy for several years for sites such as The-Editing-Room.com, Cracked, and Chicago Literati. He also writes radio serials for Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment. He describes himself as “Excruciatingly imaginative”. This is “An Iteration”. This is The Dancer’s God

The congregation’s eyes were upon the Dancer, and Korin’s eyes were upon theirs.
They traced the arcs of her firesticks with their faces like sunflowers charting the sun, their eyes full of dark circles from the fireglow. The Dancer eddied like a flame herself, and her firesticks drew glowing paths in the air around her that became red symmetries that hung there. At each corner of the plinth was a staff hung with beads, and the top of each staff was a red crystal, which pulsed in time with the Dancer’s movements light great fireflies. She cast her firesticks skyward and every eye followed them, and Korin could see that the stormclouds that had threatened rain since that morning were breaking. Stars peeked between them. The moon was high and red.
The firesticks were then in the Dancer’s hands, swirling in quick orbits. Somehow, she had dexterity enough to speak:
“There are many gods on this earth,” she said, and those assembled pushed forward against the plinth to better hear her. “There are gods in the sky, and in the clouds, and in the moon, and many gods for the sun too. There are gods on mountains and in each sea, and in each river that feeds the sea. There are gods in empty air, and some gods in the spaces between air. And some gods that are dead and some that will never die.”
She traded her spinning firesticks with one sharp motion, and the crystals glowed more fiercely, like rapid heartbeats. The Dancer spun once in the center of four shadows and the shadows spun with her.
“My god is greater than all of them together,” she said, her voice firm and rising, “and that is because my god is real.”
The crowd jolted backwards as the Dancer speared both firesticks into the plinth at her feet, and the flames belched out like minute, short-lived suns. Korin nearly fell backwards off the plinth from the heat of it. The crystals pulsed rapidly, then softly, and then their light was steady, and it dried up every shadow on the plinth and the faces of the crowd. The sky was cloudless now, and the stars were red too, and even the moon had sheen to it, like a drop of blood smeared on silver.
When every eye found the Dancer again, she was unmoving. Her firesticks were dead. The crystals were fading. Before darkness swallowed her, she said: “Speak to this new god, friends. Speak as best you know how. In a week’s time I will be leaving, and when I return, there will be a house for this god on my rock here. One week, and then I leave, and you build.”
She cut the air with her firesticks. The crystals died. The crowd was silent as the shadowy form of the Dancer hopped nimbly off the plinth and strode back up the hillside to the stone hut she’d been given on the outskirts of the village. A moment later, Korin stood, brushed his pants seated, and collected each of the crystal staves from the corners of the plinth. With many eyes upon him, he hopped from the plinth to follow the Dancer.
***
The Dancer had many needs that night, and Korin attended to each in dumb silence. He fetched her well water, and stoked her fire, and even brushed her hair, mute like a stableboy, while she massaged her wrists and hands by the hearth. When every task was completed he sat cross-legged on the dirt floor while she whispered wordlessly before the hearthfire. And when she was done with that, both of them sat in silence for a long time, and Korin summoned every ounce of willpower to swallow the questions in his throat. His silence was too loud. The Dancer spoke first.
“Tell me about your people,” she said. “Are they simple? Are they industrious? Do they burn witches here, or just scare them off?”
“We have no witches,” said Korin. “None that I know of.”
“I’m sure,” said the Dancer flatly. She raised an arm above her head and Korin heard the shoulder pop.
“We fish,” said Korin. “We fish and sometimes we pick mushrooms in the caves by the seaside. That’s all. We can’t farm here, the ground’s too rocky.”
“I saw goats when I was coming in.”
“Grey ones? Not our goats. Only Tammen keeps goats in the village, and his are all white.”
“Charming,” said the Dancer, and then she yawned. Korin felt deeply uncomfortable seeing this woman at such ease. There was too much familiarity between them, too much smallness in this woman who spun fire faster than the eye could see and spoke to a god that swatted clouds from the sky like cotton puffs. Korin had come every morning for two weeks to tend to her, and for the first time she was not some formal and fierce-eyed alien, too slender and tan to have been born within a hundred miles of the village, whole histories written in the scars on her forearms, the burn mark on her neck, the odd, tight tunic she wore that left her arms bare. Instead she was just a woman, shortish, relaxed in her chair by the fire like a lapcat.
“They’re glowrocks, aren’t they?” said Korin, and the question hung in the air.
“Hmm?” she muttered, her head rolling towards him over one shoulder.
“The crystals. They’re glowrocks, aren’t they? Nighteye, sometimes it’s called I think. A sailor showed me some once. Had a bronze chest full of glowrocks. Taught me all about them. He had a monkey too.”
Korin was babbling. He trailed off and stared at the floor and the only sound was the fire.
“How do you know about glowrocks?” said the Dancer.
“Like I said, a sailor. He let me go on the ship until the captain yelled at him.”
“You don’t have glowrocks around here.”
“Like I said, a sail-”
“Except maybe in those mushroom caves. I should have known that.” Korin blinked and looked up at the Dancer. Her head was a shadow framed by firelight. It was pointed his way.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I won’t speak anymore.”
“It’s good you people aren’t too curious,” she said, giving no sign she’d heard him. “If you push deep enough into those caves you’d probably have your own glowrocks and then I’d be
Fucked.”
Korin Winced. His heart was pounding. Every fiber of his being wished he’d sat in awkward silence again, as he had every evening since being granted to the Dancer.
“Come closer to the fire,” she said.
Korin did not want to come closer to the fire.
“I won’t hurt you,” she said. “You’re choking on questions. Breathe, and then ask some.”
Korin did as he was bid.
“Glowrocks have a brother,” he said. “The sailor told me. When you split a glowrock, it dies. Sometimes only half of it dies. It wakes up again when you bring the pieces back together. Sometimes just when you point the pieces at each other. That’s what the sailor did. He showed me the one half and he pointed the broken face at the other half and the one half glowed. He said sailors sometimes use them to talk over the water. They have this language that’s just the lights going. He said he was going to sell the lot but not to us, somewhere further east, one of
the richer cities.” Korin took a breath. He was lightheaded. He couldn’t stop talking.
“He said he’d seen…”
He swallowed his words.
“Go on,” said the Dancer.
“He said he’d seen a dance the priestesses do on an island by Konovo. They weave little glow-pebbles onto their wands and when they wave them at each other they make the lights
go.”
“I’ve never been to Konovo,” said the Dancer. Korin fell silent again. The Dancer raised her firesticks up to the light. Little gems were inlaid around the wicks at each end.
“What else did you see tonight?” she said, and her voice was pleasant, almost amused. Every instinct told Korin to stand up and leave. He stayed and spoke instead.
“I saw the clouds part. We’ve been threatening rain all day. I don’t know how you part Clouds.”
The Dancer barked a simple laugh, and it was the strangest moment of Korin’s life.
“I don’t part clouds,” said the Dancer. “But I have a reasoned notion of what they’ll do.
The timing was perfect tonight. Most nights they won’t clear until much later. Sometimes not at all.”
“How do you know that?” said Korin, too loudly and too quickly.
The Dancer gestured at a bauble on the window sill, some tarnished silver candle with a glass tube hanging from it. “Mercury suspended in resin and water. Precise amounts and close observation will tell you what each cloud is thinking a day in advance. That’s the thing about tricks. The simplest ones are the best.”
Trick, thought Korin. The word was loud in his head.
“What about my words tonight,” asked the Dancer. “Did they hear any of it?”
“They were lost to you,” he said. “I could tell.”
“That’s good. It will be your job tomorrow to make sure they don’t go slaughtering those goats out of misplaced zeal. Else there’ll be no more village here come winter, and that means
no temple next year.” The Dancer rose from her chair and spread her arms out. She was muscled and tall, and so light on her feet that her footwraps were barely even dirty. She twirled on one foot, silent but for her words.
“My god IS real, Korin. He’ll be real to these people soon enough, if he isn’t already. You’ll need to speak for him when I’m gone. Can you do that?”
“Why?” asked Korin. He rose to his feet. The Dancer stopped spinning. They looked at each other in the firelight. She laughed again. It was less strange this time.
“My god has many names, Korin. Sometimes he’s called Shelter, and sometimes he’s called Wheat and Barley. Sometimes he’s called Bridges, Roads, Sick Houses. Today, he is called Temple. Because that’s what’s needed here, where there’s only mushrooms and stones and fish. You need a god called Temple, because that temple will have heavy stone walls, and a big hearth with a chimney for the winter, and a cache of glowrocks in the cellar that you mustn’t trade because your god thinks they’re precious. Maybe soon you’ll talk to sailors with them. At first, they’ll speak to god.”
Korin nodded.
“Can you do that, Korin? Can you speak for him while I’m not here?”
Korin said, “What should I call him?”
The Dancer yawned. “Something simple. The simplest tricks are the best.”

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: “Dido Spell” by Allison Manley read by John Weagly



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Allison Manley. Allison writes speculative fiction, book reviews, and the occasional personal essay. She’s currently working on her MFA at Queens University Charlotte. She likes beer, opera, and dogs This is “Dido Spell”.

Gary and I hadn’t talked in a while—not since he got famous—so I was surprised when, one day when I was relaxing at home, he DM’d me asking for my help. He said it was sensitive and it probably wasn’t a good idea to write about it, so I told him he could call me.
“I’ll just project to your apartment instead,” I heard a voice say. I turned around. There was Gary, sure enough, in my apartment.
“You’ve heard about the agriculture curse, right?” he asked, looking at the posters on the walls of my studio. I had heard of it—apparently a small terrorist group had cast a spell that would kill all the bees in the world. It was supposed to take effect in a week, and magicians were scrambling to undo it. “There’s a magician who’s strong enough to reverse it, but I need your help getting her.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
He sighed. “It’s Fran.”
“Nope,” I said. “Not happening.”
“It has to be you!” he said. “I’d go myself, but I need to stay behind and see if I can help.
The curse is too powerful for me, but I think Fran can do it with a Dido Spell. I can sense her talent. You have to convince her to come.”
“I don’t even know how to get in touch with her,” I said. “We… haven’t talked.”
“I know all that,” he said. “She’s created a barrier around her island. We can’t get the messages through.” He paused. “I hate to admit it, but I think she’s more powerful than me.”
Fran? More powerful than the most famous magician in the country? I was curious, sure, and I wanted to help save the world and all, but I really, really didn’t want to see her.
“Because of the barrier she set up, I can’t teleport you there directly, so you have to take a ship part of the way,” he continued. “The ship’s computer can navigate for you. It’ll be a day and a half on the water before you arrive. She has traders come every once in a while to get her potion ingredients, so she probably won’t attack you when you land.”
I imagined what it would be like after I got off the ship. After she saw me. Maybe she would attack me. “Couldn’t it be anyone else?” I asked. “I mean, don’t you think I’m the last person she wants to see?”
“Maybe,” Gary said. “But we have to try. The world is depending on it. I’ll teleport you to the boat in twenty minutes or so. Tell her she must talk to us. Tell her we need her to help with the Dido Spell. We… need her.”
#
I didn’t have a chance to say anything else—he left my room (or, teleported out of it), and I hadn’t even finished packing before he teleported me to the ship. There wasn’t a lot to do, and the computer that navigated the ship didn’t have a lot on it, just a couple of songs and some old games. I was so bored, I was actually eager to see Fran. There was a great big thud when the ship got to land, and I expected the worst.
I went up to the deck. Fran had already boarded. She was looking at me expectantly.
“Oh. It’s you,” she said. “If you’re asking me to come back, don’t waste your breath.”
“No, no,” I said, “It’s a magic thing. I got sent here. We need your help with a Dido Spell. A terrorist group is going to attack the bees, and someone told me they need your help casting a Dido Spell to undo it.”
“Dido Spell?” she asked. “Mmhmm. Sure. Well, you got past my Barrier Spell, so clearly something important is going on. Want some tea?”
We got off the ship. The island was small, but for one person, it was huge. There was a giant house in the middle of it. As we got closer, I could see dozens of dogs, running around playing. Some of the dogs followed us into the house even after we closed the front door, walking through the walls as if they weren’t there. The house had kind of a modern feel to it, clean and fresh-smelling, and not at all like how I expected a magician’s house to look. We walked into her kitchen. She waved her arms, and the cabinets opened. Jars and mugs floated out onto the counter, and after more waving, the mugs filled with boiling water. Tea bags floated in.
“How… have you… been?” I asked. She seemed skeptical at the curse reversal I mentioned earlier, so I decided to tell her more about it after some small talk. “How have things been since… moving here?”
“Look at me,” she said. “I have a private island to practice magic, and I’m surrounded by dogs. How do you think I’m doing?”
I had to admit, she looked happy. “I was just worried. I got the impression that you moved here was so you could… you know… feel better about how things ended.”
She started laughing, quiet at first, but then more forcefully. The walls shook, and the jars and bottles clattered against each other. Everything got darker. Her laughter rang throughout the house, and I could feel boom within me, like how you feel when you stand next to the speakers at a club. The dogs’ tails wagged.
“No no,” she said, after she caught her breath. “Believe what you want, but FYI, I did not move here because of you.”
“Hey everyone!” a voice next to me said. It was Gary. Again. He had appeared in the chair next to me, and he was wearing what looked like a fresh-pressed suit. He smelled like lilacs.
“Hey! How did you get here?” Fran asked.
“Oh, I’m not really here,” he said. “I’m leeching on to Derek here.” To me, he said,
“Sorry buddy, you’re going to get tired real fast. Part of the spell and all.” Then, looking at Fran, he waved his hand. “Hi. I’m Gary. I’d shake your hand, but, you know.” He moved his hands through the countertop. Fran shook her head, smirking.
“Clever way to get past the barrier,” she said. “Derek said you needed help with a Dido Spell?”
Gary nodded slowly. “It’s urgent,” he said. Then, the two of them laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“I do have some official business,” Gary said, seemingly changing the subject. “My dogs need somewhere to stay while I go to the Global Justice Magic Conference. I can’t trust them with any old dog kennel.”
“What a flex,” Fran said. “Yeah, I’ll watch your dogs. You can come by later to drop them off. I’ll adjust my spell so you don’t have to take a ship here like Derek did.”
I stood there, stunned. “Gary, what the fuck. What about the agriculture curse? And the fate of humanity?”
“Yeah, that was really scary for a minute there,” he said, looking at me. “But I already edited the curse so all the bees got even healthier instead of dying. Sorry about this whole thing,” he said. “I know you were worried, but I had to talk to Fran, you know, about my dogs.” He winked at me. “Thanks again, Fran! I’ll stop by in a few.”
“See ya,” she waved, and he was gone in an instant.
“What the fuck,” I said to Fran. “I was on that ship for a day and all he gave me was some iTunes music and Minesweeper to pass the time.”
“I guess he really wanted to… send me a message,” Fran said, smiling and sipping her Tea.
“Do you really want to hang out with a guy that can be so… so… manipulative?” I pleaded. “I mean, if he did this to me, imagine what he could do to you?”
She laughed. “I mean, maybe if he did this to someone else, maybe that would be a bad sign,” she said, gently grabbing my arms. “But he pranked you!”
I had been on a boat for almost two days with nothing to do, all because he wanted to ask her out on a date.
“Oh, lighten up!” she said, holding my hands. “Isn’t that what you told me? You know, when I found out about you and Ellie?” Ouch. She had me there.
“Besides,” she added, “if you had ever taken even the slightest interest in my magic when we were dating, you would have known Gary was lying the whole time.”
I snapped my hands away. “Can you just teleport me back or something? I think I’m done here.”
“Amen to that,” she said, and there I was, back at my apartment.
#
A year or so later, I was telling a date the story, about Gary, and the ship, and the spell. My date stopped me before I could finish.
“Dude,” she said. “I’m not that into magic myself, but you don’t know what a Dido Spell is?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a prank. It’s a prank spell. He literally told you to ask for a prank spell.”
I saw in the news that Gary and Fran had gotten married. In the photos, Fran was wearing a beautiful dress, and Gary had on a sharp, clean suit. From the press releases, they made it sound like they adopted more dogs.

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: “The Offering” by Rob McLemore read by Jasmin Tomlins, Molly Southgate and Rob Southgate



TRANSCRIPT: Rob McLemore has been writing in some form or another since college.  While his work is predominantly comedic, he always enjoys getting a chance to delve into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy.  He’s currently a member of Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment and his work can be frequently heard in their monthly shows. This is “The Offering”

The snow-filled clearing was lit by moonlight.  All around, a dense forest shrouded the entire area, save for that single spot.  A small creature paced along the perimeter, mumbling to itself. Periodically, it would stare up at the moon and utter a curse.  The creature was small and exceptionally thin. From a distance, one might mistake it for a malnourished child. Yet up close, its less human qualities became apparent.  It had large dark eyes with pallid skin clinging to its bony frame. Its mouth was full of tiny, pointed teeth, and its nose was turned up just enough to become unnerving.  Despite the cold, it remained barefoot, wearing only shreds of clothing. A mass of dark, unkempt hair could be seen protruding from beneath its hat. Slung over its shoulder was a small sack.  After pacing for several more minutes, the creature collapsed on the ground and let out a growl of frustration. As if in response, a snap echoed from the forest. The creature immediately grew silent.  It held the sack tightly against its chest, scanning with its dark eyes for any sign of movement. After a moment, similar figure emerged from the trees. The creature breathed a momentary sigh of relief before immediately lashing out at the newcomer.

“Where have you been?! I’ve been waiting here for hours!  The solstice is nearly upon us!”

“I’m sorry.  I had to collect my final tokens.”

“You didn’t have them?!  An entire year to search for your tokens, and you only just now claimed all of them?!”

“I have them now.  That’s all that matters.”

The second creature held out a bag of its own.  The first quickly snatched it up and peered at the objects inside.

“Let us hope so.  If our offering comes too late, know that the grave consequences of our failure will be on your head”

“Then perhaps you should stop wasting time berating me and prepare the ritual.”

The first creature let out a scoff then tossed the bag back before setting to work.  The pair began arranging branches on the ground in circles. With each one, they etched a series of intricate runes into the wood with their sharp nails.  Once completed, they placed an item from their sack in the center then moved on to the next. For a period of time, they worked without saying a word. However, the silence could not last.

“Ok, I have to know.  How did it take you so long to get your tokens?”

“I wanted to make sure they would be acceptable.”

The first creature narrowed its eyes at its companion.

“Which ones were they?”

“Why does that matter?”

“Which ones?”

“…love and time.”

“Ha!  I knew it!  Why is it you have such trouble collecting those two?”

“I hate the idea of taking them, that’s all.  Don’t you ever feel cruel for robbing the humans of such items?”

“No, and neither should you.  We’re doing them a great service, even if they don’t know it.  If a few humans get sad in the process, it’s a small price to pay.  Look at me. I had to collect the token for joy, and I’m not a mess.

The creature reached into its sack and produced a weathered soccer ball.

“See this ball?  It was the only one of its kind in an entire village.  Every day, the children would kick it all over for hours.  The amount of joy they poured into a thing such as this is astounding.  So, I took it. I take no pleasure in causing them sadness, but it will make a perfect offering and that’s all that matters.”

The two shared a long, tense look then resumed their preparations.  The clearing was silent except for the sound of scratching as they carved.  Finally, awkwardness grew too uncomfortable, and the first creature relented again.

“What were they?  The tokens that took you so long to retrieve.  What were they? If we were to fail, I’d hate not knowing the reason why.”

The second creature’s expression softened.  It reached into its bag and placed a large stack of bound papers into a circle.

“This book.  The human who wrote it spent years of its life toiling on it.  Each night, it would sit in front of a typewriter and add more to it.  Some nights it would only write for a short time. Others, it would fall asleep in its chair after working for hours.  It devoted so much of its time to these pages.”

“That is a fine choice.  I can feel its energy from here.  But why did you wait so long to take it?  It would have been an ideal offering for some time.”

“I wanted to let the human finish it.  It felt wrong to take it before then.”

The first creature put down its branches and let out a howling laugh that echoed throughout the silent forest.

“An ending?  You would endanger this entire ceremony so that the human could write an ending?  Unbelievable! And what of the other one, the token of love? What arbitrary deadline did you concoct for that one?”

The creature pulled a photo from its sack.  It had once been black and white, but over time, it had grown brown and faded.  In it, a young, newly married couple could just barely be made out. They stood beneath a simple wooden arch.  The bride wore a wreath on her head, but an otherwise unremarkable dress, and all that could be seen of the groom was that he was in a presumably darkly colored suit.  The creature laid the photo down gently in the last of its circles.

“There was no deadline.  I simply didn’t want to take it.  The humans who held this picture were quite old, as far as humans go.  It sat in their room and every single day, they would both admire it. Every morning and every night, sometimes alone, sometimes together, but no matter what, they would always gaze at this photo.  I had known it was an ideal token from the moment I saw it, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to rob them of it. I reasoned that I would give them one more day, over and over again. Until tonight.  So that is why I kept you waiting. Are you satisfied?”

The first creature said nothing.  It lay the last of its items, a wilted flower, in a circle, then went over to its companion.

“Your empathy for the humans is truly remarkable.  Confusing, but powerful all the same. Just remember, that it is all for the greater good.  However, we must begin now.”

They clasped hands and began to chant.  The words were indecipherable, more like sounds of the Earth itself than anything that had ever been spoken.  Wind whipped up around them, causing the snow to flurry about the clearing. With each verse, a circle would fill with light as the runes surrounding it pulsed with an eerie glow.  As the final offering became illuminated, a great energy shot forth, sending out a blinding light. The wind stopped. The creatures stared in silence as a long tear appeared before them.  It widened and a great figure emerged from within. The being was massive, clutching an equally impressive sack of its own. It was clad in a crimson robe with a pair of antler-like horns on its head.  A great grey beard obscured most of its face, save for the sizable tusks that protruded out. Its pale, blue eyes pierced into the two creatures as its voice boomed throughout the forest.

“The solstice is upon us once more.  What offering do you present?”

The pair bowed, then presented their items to the great being. The first one displayed its findings.

“Oh mighty one, we present to you, the 12 offerings.  I have collected for you tokens of Joy, Loss, Innocence, Fear, Hope, and Regret.”

The second then displayed its own items.

“I present to you tokens of Pain, Truth, Hate, Sadness, Time…and Love.  We hope that you will accept our offering.”

The figured surveyed the items on display.  It stretched out is giant hands and held them above the offerings.  The light in each circle faded as the great being drained the collected energy from each.  It let out a powerful sigh of contentment as it finished. Its eyes now glowed with fresh power, rejuvenated by the ritual.  A deep laugh echoed from the enormous being.

“Your offering is accepted.  This world and all who reside within it have secured my protection for another year.”

The creatures nearly collapsed in relief, having hardly moved a muscle since the being first emerged.  Yet, before they could fully revel in their success, it spoke again.

“However, I will offer a word of warning.  Do not keep me waiting again. If the offerings are not presented promptly, my generosity to this world cannot be guaranteed.  Take this warning to heart, elves. There will not be a second.”

The pair bowed.  With that, the great being placed the items into its sack and let out a monstrous bellow.  From the sky, an enormous horse-like beast emerged to heed its master’s call. It landed before him, bending down on its six legs.  Holding its bag, the red clad being mounted its steed and took off for the sky. As it sailed off into the night, it let forth another booming laugh that echoed for miles.

“Ho ho ho!”

END

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.

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.

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.


Gateways: “The Recipe” by Mike Danovich read by Kim Fukawa and Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT:  Mike Danovich could not be happier to be submitting to Gateways again. His other works have been seen at Chicago Theatre Marathon, Ghostlight Ensemble Theatre, and Gorilla Tango Theater. As an actor, he has performed around Chicago with Otherworld Theatre Company, Brown Paper Box Co, Apollo Theater, First Folio Theater, Theatre at the Center, and Kokandy Productions. He is a proud graduate of Columbia College Chicago. This is “The Recipe”.

“Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble…” Bah. Say this phrase
once in front of someone, even in jest, and they label you a witch for life. But it’s much more
than that. Being a witch is a lifestyle. It’s not always making potions, placing hexes, eating small
children…only sometimes, not always.
I’m sure many people would ask: who even cares about the label of ‘witch’ these days?
It’s only a word; a name for something that most people can’t even comprehend. If only they
knew the power in a name. It’s been years since our kind has been able to show our faces.
Decades since we last visited a small town or village. I wouldn’t be able to tell you the last time I
saw a face other than Sharlee.
“It is time, sister,” she cries. I groan, sitting up, and call back to her from inside our hut.
“What’s the point if we make this today or tomorrow? It hasn’t helped over the past sixty years.”
Optimistically, she pokes her head in. “Ah, but today is a different day.” Her normally wrinkled
face looks younger than it has in a long time; it’s amazing what a new attitude can do to your
body. Sunlight eeks into the shack behind her, slightly blinding me. “You need to get up and do
your share.” She stares me down until I begin to slowly get up. She knows me too well. I tend to
stay in bed until she watches me get up; a poor habit stemming from my youth. “Fine, I’ll get
up,” I retort, “but I won’t be happy about it.” She smiles. “Cass, when have you ever been
happy?” She exits the hut once again and I hear her practically skip back over to the fire, ‘skip’
being a relative term for our age. She’s not wrong; I can’t recall the last time I would consider
myself to be ‘happy’.
Moaning and groaning, I roll myself out of bed, giving as quick a stretch as I can without
breaking anything. At my age, it’s a miracle that I can accomplish anything without snapping
like spaghetti. No sense in changing into my dress robes for this; haven’t needed those since the
late 1800’s. The world has become more dramatic over the last century: hotter hots, colder colds.
The fabrics of old won’t help anymore. These days you either let your skin flaps hang out from
the heat or bundle up so tightly nothing can escape. Today is on the crispier side: long sleeves
and something to cover your legs from the chill. Luckily there’s no snow on the ground at the
moment, but the leaves changed color a few weeks ago. Slowly, I step into my warm,
comfortable jeans and wrap myself in my nice-ish shawl. Another day; another attempt.
I step out into the late autumn air and watch Sharlee hovering over the campfire.
Occasionally giggling to herself, I make my way over to stand opposite her. Holding a small frog
in each hand, her gaze is enthralled by the flame. Clearing my throat ever so obnoxiously, I
attempt to catch her attention. Her stare moves from the flame to my eyes, glaring deep into my
soul. Highly unnerving. “Coffee?” she asks, breaking the tension. I’m stunned. I never know
how her brain works; how she can stand there with two frogs in hand thinking about coffee, but
I’m not going to turn it down. “Yes, of course, I’ll take some coffee, but first,” taking the
slippery lumps from her grasp, “I’ll take these.” Muttering something about how she can never
have any fun, she drudges over to the small pile of tin cans next to the hut. Picking up one of the
cans, she lifts the plastic lid up to sniff the contents. It doesn’t smell too pleasant, whatever it
might be. “Hold on, I can fix that,” she says, placing the lid back on top. Shake, shake, shake.
The contents of the can rattle around. A slight pause. Shake, shake…shake. She raises the lid
once more and takes a whiff. “There we are. Notes of cinnamon, tobacco, whiskey, and coconut;
my favorite.” I’ve told her time and time again that if it’s warm and wakes me up, I don’t care
how it tastes.

Coffee brewing over the open flame, Sharlee takes a seat. “Today, we’re attempting
something new.” Oh? It’s been so long since we’ve found new magicks. “Late last night, during
the solstice, I stumbled upon a book I’ve never seen before. No title, but the cover is nice.” She
pulls the book out of the satchel draped across her bony shoulder. It’s a smallish book covered in
what looks like some red leather/yellow leather combination. “I almost tossed it aside after
finding it, but near the back of the book, I came across something rather interesting. It’s easier if
you read it for yourself.” Cautiously, I take the book from her feeble hand. It’s lighter in my
hand than I thought. I flip through the book, page after blank page. For a moment, I assume
Sharlee is pulling my leg, when I flip right past it. I go back to the section she talked about and
read:

Recipe for Happiness

On the morning of the Solstice, you must find:
The hue of Helios, born on a fruit’s rind,
What lands on the feet of a bird once lain,
Do not forget to grab the grain,
Upon the back of hogs, you see
A prize most tasteful, be swift or they’ll flee,
Together all these materials bring,
Smash, sear, knead, present, and sing,
To the Gods above your mortal plight,
This recipe you create tonight.
The last few items will be the worst,
Be glad you gathered the others first.
One element you hunt and seek:
You will know the feeling with no need to speak.
You feel it deep within your heart,
It’s even worse when you’re apart.
The last of these is quite sublime;
I’ve wasted enough, so forgive the rhyme.
Upon a face, you’ll wind three hands
Or in a glass you find the sands.
Go, get along, run, search, make haste;
Do not let this recipe go to waste.

New magick, indeed. No frogs’ legs, no eyeballs, nothing we have in storage in spades.
Items we must travel to find. “This could take all day,” I cry. “No need to fret, Cass; I have
already gathered most of the items.” I’m floored. “Then why would you wake me up? I could
have enjoyed the day in the shack.” She smiles. “But then we would not have enjoyed the day
together.” I hate how right she is. The smugness of her smile is what’s truly infuriating. I enjoy
spending my days with her and I know she enjoys being with me, but to elbow me in the gut with
that smirk? “Alright then, sassy pants, pour me some of that coffee and bring me up to speed.”
The warmth from the coffee hurts as I drink it down, but it’s nice to not feel completely
chilled to the bone. She takes a long sip as well. “While you were asleep, I gathered most of the
items. Honestly, they were pretty easy to find.” There it is; that smugness once again. “Well,

huntress supreme, where are they?” “I have hidden them for later this evening. You read the
recipe; we must wait for this evening before preparing it.” Fine. She’s right; she’s always right.
“All right, what else do we need?” She hesitates (that’s never a good sign). “Well, that is why I
need your assistance. We still need the last two items. I have no idea what they are or how to get
them.” Oh no. She’s the brains, I’m the brawn, and when the brains are stumped, we don’t really
get much done. “The only reference we have is what was given in the recipe, so for now, I say
we start with something solid from the text.” I look back down at the book, reading over the lines
when something catches my eye. “Sharlee, how many instances of three hands have you heard in
your life?” Pondering for a moment, nothing comes to mind. I give that same smirk she always
gives to me; this time, I’m the brains. “How does it feel? To not know the answer when I do?”
She can’t hold back her contempt. “Yeah yeah yeah, what is it then? Out with it.” “Why spoil the
fun? We can walk there from here.” I rise, taking her by the hand and drag her along with me
further into the wood.
We walk for almost an hour when we reach the edge of the wood. “Enough, Cass.
Enough. I am tired from my hike this morning. Tell me where we’re going.” All right, my fun
has come to an end. I turn and point to the village sitting beneath us. In the center of the village,
a tall spire keeps a large clock suspended in the air. “Why would we come to the clock tower?
What does that have to do with—” She answers her own question in silence. All clocks have
three hands: hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as faces. Whatever we’re looking for lies there.
I gently take her hand in mine and we head toward the tower.
After some awful stares and glares from folks as we pass by, we reach the foot of the
clock tower. A small child stands in front of us, agog at the magnificence of the tower. Sharlee
steps up to approach the child. “Excuse me, youngling, might a little old lady ask you a riddle?” I
make a quick confused look in her direction. She whispers back “Children are excellent at
riddles. They have no barriers restricting their thoughts. Any answer makes sense in their eyes.”
The small child turns around; a young girl no more than six by the look of it. She is not scared by
our sight. Ah, the innocence of a child. Sharlee leans in. “Upon a face, you’ll wind three hands
or in a glass you’ll find the sands. What am I?” The tiny creature frowns her eyebrows for a
moment, thinking much too hard for someone her age, then decides her answer. “Time.” Sharlee
and I are astounded; it took this young child no effort at all to think of an answer. “Three hands
and a face; a clock. Glass with sand; an hourglass. Both keep track of time.” Clever girl. I
approach the young one as well. “I also have a riddle for you, dearie. You will know the feeling
with no need to speak. You feel it deep within your heart, It’s even worse when you’re apart.”
Giggling, the creature no taller than my hip answers. “That one was much easier. It’s love. The
heart gave that one away.”
The two of us breath a sigh of relief. The puzzle is solved. The recipe was correct; those
two are a little harder to find, but Sharlee and I have collected each of those tenfold. I couldn’t
imagine living a single day without her. “Well Sharlee, I believe we have our answers.” She
nods. “I believe so, Cass. Now I believe that we have a meal to start preparing for this evening.
Let’s take our prize and we’ll be off.” I take her hand once again in mine and pat the child on the
head. “Thank you, young one.” It smiles. “Glad to help. Do you need anything else?” A smirk
appears on my face. Sharlee’s does the same. “Oh my, yes. We have something in mine.” In a
flash, I take the young child’s hand and the three of us disappear into the æther, ready to enjoy
our newfound recipe alongside our surprise dessert. What can I say? It’s a lifestyle.

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

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: “It’s About Time” by John R. Greenwood read by Gaby Fernandez



TRANSCRIPT: John R. Greenwood is a newcomer to published fiction, though he’s been writing and telling stories since he had lips to speak and fingers to scribble. He earned a bachelors in literature and a masters in writing oh so long ago, and appreciates a chance to put them to good use. This will be his world-premiere and he is thankful to the fine editors, actors, and staff of Gateways and Otherworld Theatre for this opportunity. This is “It’s About Time.”

I’ve been watching the young man in sweat pants through his studio apartment window for 45 minutes now and am having trouble staying awake. My watch buzzes telling me the sun will be up in just two hours. I don’t have time for this. How long does it take to eat a pack of Chicken McNuggets? I’m cramped into the darkest corner of the stairs leading to his garden apartment hoping he doesn’t glance my way. I don’t know his name; only his description, his address, and that he has the thing that can save Daniel. Mr. Cerberus promised.

A November gust from the Lake digs down my neck and I pull my coat closer. He picks up another nugget while staring at the tv—it hovers in the air a second—now he’s putting it back in the pile. Jesus! I stifle a yawn. How long has it been since I slept a full night? Probably not since Daniel was taken to St. Jude. First the fever, then the shakes, then his tiny body started wasting away. He grew smaller and smaller as the machines attached to him grew bigger and bigger. They say it’s “unconventional and accelerated failure to thrive,” whatever that means. All I know is my boy’s life is leaking away and the doctors can’t help. I peek at my watch and grind my teeth. I have everything else, I just need him to fall asleep. I just need more time!

After another episode of “24”, the man nods and falls asleep. I wait 12 excruciating minutes to be sure he’s completely out. Crossing carefully to his door, I insert the key Mr. Cerberus gave me. It clicks. I don’t stop to think as I step inside and close the door behind me. The studio is sparse and mostly unfurnished. The young man in the sweats has an old couch, probably from the curb; a mattress in the corner with a loose sheet, his tv and a cable box. He doesn’t have much. I don’t think about it. He’s snoring.

I unfold Mr. Cerberus’ note and take out “the ingredients,” as he called them, from my backpack. He’d been explicit in his instructions. It’s a bizarre collection: burned cigarettes; nubby pencils; used tampons; an empty pen; spent batteries. All junk I found lying around my house and in the building’s garbage. In his slightly high pitched whine, Mr. Cerberus had said, “Find those ingredients which you have worn with the passage of your life. Those flotsam you have consumed in their fullness.” I didn’t know what he meant, and I didn’t care. Daniel is the only important thing.

I set all the stuff in a circle around the man. Should I put them on the couch? The note doesn’t say, so I decide against it. I drop the last nubby pencil and step back. He’s still snoring, thank God. Taking the note in hand, I start whispering the crisply printed words. Mr. Cerberus’s script is in all caps, like a draftsman. The words are gibberish and mean nothing to me but I speak them as slowly and phonetically as I can. Several short words and a final long phrase. My tongue buzzes oddly and I can suddenly taste cinnamon. With the last word, I place a peach pit on the man’s stomach.

Nothing happens. He just keeps breathing the deep sleep of slumber. A minute passes.

Nothing. I chew my fingernail and watch. Another minute. He startles in his sleep and lets out a soft moan. The peach pit shakes and flips over. There’s something on the underside. Is that peach flesh? More peach appears around the pit. It quickly reforms on his stomach like a highspeed rot in reverse. All around the circle, the junk is reforming. The pencils lengthen and grow like corn. Cigarettes smolder with embers, but burn up instead of out. The tampons whiten and plump. I almost gasp, but cover my mouth with both hands.

He’s growing a beard. I watch it ooze from his cheeks. It’s brown for a few inches and then grows out white and down onto his chest. The skin on his skull tightens and draws back. Blue veins wriggle beneath the flesh at his temples and age spots sprout on his forehead like a ripening banana. His hands wizen and contract, the tendons standing out. His eyes open in shock and they’re milky cataracts. His jaw gapes in a soundless “O” showing teeth turning brown. Then, the peach rolls off his stomach and hits the floor. Everything stops. The man, now ancient, twitches and closes his eyes. His skin is thin and bleached. His hands are arthritic gnarls. 

My body can’t move. I have to move. I have no time. I step forward once, twice; and grab the peach. The old man coughs, and start snoring again. His shriveled body is draped in the too- baggy clothing of man twice his weight and half his age. I rush from the studio, leaving the door open behind me.

The night is waning. It will soon be morning. I’m driving through red lights to get back to the alley behind the Indian Palace restaurant where I first met Mr. Cerberus. The peach is in my coat pocket. I can feel its warmth through my shirt. It doesn’t matter. I have what I need.

I pull into the alley and Mr. Cerberus is waiting for me, leaned against a dumpster. His body is revealed by inches in my headlamps as I idle forward. He’s wearing an umber and grey pinstripe suit with a wide brimmed grey fedorah tipped down. Even in my headlights, his face is shadowed. He holds up a hand, palm out—it’s covered in a lady’s opera glove the colour of burnt pumpkin. I stop the car and kill the engine. The alley returns to darkness.

Not waiting for my eyes to adjust, I throw open the door and rush to him. He smells faintly of lemon-grass. My words slur and stammer as I tell him what happened and ask what the hell is going on and if Daniel will be alright and if we still have time and who was that guy and what have I done and can he still save Daniel? 

Mr. Cerberus holds up his hand, now palm up. My mouth snaps shut. I place the peach in his open fist. He wraps his long fingers around the flesh coloured fruit.

“Ah yes, this is perfect. You have drawn the right time, my dear.” His voice pitches higher and buzzes slightly, like a locust summer. Listening now, I can’t tell why ever I thought it was a man’s voice, or a woman’s. Mr. Cerberus squeezes the peach once, twice and then pops it into a jacket pocket. It turns toward me and a lighter patch appears part way down the darkness under its hat. Is it smiling? “And now, for the last piece. Your last piece. The hardest piece.” Mr. Cerberus’ voice crackles.

The weight of all the sleep I have been missing crashes down on me. First the diagnosis, then all the tests, then the “I’m sorry” from the doctors. Now, these last few hours and that horrible face of the old man in sweat pants. I sit down hard on the ground and hold my head in my hands. A knot tightens in my throat. I’m not stupid, I know what’s coming. I swallow the bile and ask what I have to do. I have a gun, pills, a rope. I know how this goes. I ask where I have to sign.

“Oh merciful Yama, no! What sort of specter do you see in me, my dear,” Mr. Cerberus croons. “Blood and bile are a realm all their own, and I find parchments insecure and signatures unreliable.” It pitches its head back and belts out a cough. Perhaps, it’s a laugh. Within the sound I hear the bells of St. Peter chime softly. But, those are all the way across town.

“Nothing of that sort, my dear. However, Sun soon comes, and we have but a sliver of night left to finish your deed. You brought half of what you need, but have you the fortitude to find the other? Will you give all for Daniel?”

I have no idea what Mr. Cerberus is talking about. I think back to my boy shivering alone in the hospital wrapped in those blue, scratchy blankets. His ribs strain with every breath and his little stomach spasms. In my aching head, I see tubes sinking into his chest, arms, and down his throat. His eyes squeeze shut as his tiny fists beat the air. He’s not making a sound.

I nod and acquiesce. Of course, whatever it is. There’s nothing I won’t do. The tightness in my throat is gone and my cheeks no longer feel hot. I stand and look Mr. Cerberus in its darkened face.

It places a hand on my shoulder. The burden is surprisingly light. “Very well, my dear. Then, walk away. Step into your car, drive onto the street, and away from the City. Never look behind, never think back, never return. That is the last ingredient. All that you would have given him in his life, give it to him now. All of it. Give Daniel all your love, and he will meet Sun and Moon and all their kin to come.”

The hand tightens on my shoulder, “Yet know, my dear. Should you return, should you glance behind to see and find, it is undone. All will fall. Do you understand? Do you offer this last?”

The question hangs between us a moment. I hear a second chime from St. Peter’s church. Time and blood course in my heart, and I understand. A third chime and I see Daniel in my head thrashing against the tubes in his throat. I find myself turning for the car clawing the keys from my purse. The Camry sputters to life and roars down the alley, jumping the curb and racking the suspension with a thunderous crack. I swerve around early morning traffic, earning horns and screams, but I don’t care. I need to get out before sunrise. I hear a fourth chime. Swerving around a Ford stopped at the on-ramp to the highway, I floor it into westbound traffic. Sunlight is just reaching the eastern edge of the Lake and I hear a fifth chime. My eyes are locked forward as the car picks up speed. Behind me, lampposts start winking out and the tallest skyscraper is just reaching into the morning. Ahead, I can see the city limit sign beckoning. The sixth chime strikes; there’s only one more.

I have just enough time for the last piece. I can see Daniel in my head. I see him through all the years all the birthdays and skinned knees and crying fits. The odometer hits 85. I see him through college and a divorce. In the hospital he’s taking an easier breath and relaxes his arms. I see him having his own child and I bounce that girl in my arms. His breathing slows and steadies and the blood stops pulsing at his temple. I see him at my bedside in the hospital where I am the one plugged into machines. His hands unclench and the little fingers flex and ease. I see him one last time as my eyes close and my breath stops and my hand grows cold on top of his. His breathing is easy and he falls into a comfortable sleep.

As I hear the seventh chime, I reach up and tear the rearview mirror from the windshield. The plastic shrieks. Morning streams through my back window and I drive hard into the west.


Gateways: “On the Orbital Front” by Ruari McDonnell read by Alex B. Reynolds



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

My Dearest, Darling Europa,

I am writing to inform you of a tragedy that has befallen me and has firmly placed me on death’s door. My orbits are numbered and I am afraid this letter will reach you in my penultimate year. I do not know quite how to express my dread and horror regarding what has ailed me, and I know this horrific news will terrify you to your core, but it is my sworn duty as your greatest admirer to inform you of what is to come in hopes that it will save you. My greatest fear is that our orbits shall not align in time for me to warn you or that the distance may be too great, but I pray to the universe that she reunites us one final time so I may say goodbye. 

My, I remember the first day I saw you through the asteroid belt, with your beautiful icy exterior. I envied the great Jovian brute for being so fortunate as to have such a beautiful moon. He keeps so many around him that I could not understand how your radiance was wasted on him as he continued to collect this system’s beauties. If I’m entirely honest with you, I didn’t believe you could love such a rusty planet like myself. In fact, during the early millennia, I thought you could not stand the sight of me. I would later learn that your cold demeanor was surface level, as deep down, you warmed up to my advances and I managed to melt your heart. However, I do believe that melting may be the reason why you are especially in harms way. I cannot help but blame myself for throwing you into the belly of the beast due to my unwillingness to admit defeat. But alas, here I am, writing to you of my most embarrassing loss. 

You see, my delectable lunar popsicle, I have realized that this illness that I harbor has brought me to my final days. I thought nothing of it at first. How could I, with how innocent and benign it was? It started with a metal object joining my two moons in an orbit around me. I could feel the tingles of pictures and scans, but that became common amongst all the neighborhood, so I paid no mind. Even you experienced these tiny metal admirers. But then, more started coming my way. It was incredible how many of these scanning asteroids would join every time I passed Earth. She was incredibly apologetic for what was happening, but I realize now that my casual attitude was deeply mistaken, as I did not understand the gravity of the situation. I figured these satellites would be the only thing I needed to worry my little ice caps over. By then, the gas giants were also experiencing these strange little contraptions. Even poor little Pluto had a close call with one that shot past (though he was probably thrilled to finally receive attention that all the other planets were getting, bless his heart). You were lucky that your giant managed to protect you from the majority of these strange invaders, but with all the moons or asteroids flying about, I am certain the fool didn’t even notice a few more interested spectators. I do wish there was some way for you to leave that nasty failed star, especially with how he neglects you. In our long plans to swing you into my orbit, I know we determined there was no way for us to manage such a feat. It breaks my heart that a collision strong enough to kill you would be the only way for you to leave his gravitational influence. I would give up every geological wonder I possess in order to have you as my moon. Though, I would have to keep Olympus Mons. I know how much you love a large volcano. 

This is not the most alarming part of my woeful tale. Something happened to me that has not happened to any other planet, no even Earth. These metal strangers began to land on me and stroll all over my dust. I felt tiny little pinches, not like a crashing asteroid, but like an alien probe, pardon my language. When I told you all those years ago, I felt horrible about how much I frightened your poor, delicate ice. I did my best to reassure you that things would be alright. And I did believe that things would resolve themselves as the probing bastards died on my surface. But, alas, I was wrong. More came every time I passed Earth in orbit. There were more of these tiny creatures that became bolder with their invasive procedures, but I fought them with the best dust devils I could muster, however all of my attempts to rid myself of this horrible disease were for naught. I had a feeling the end was near when a living organism stepped on my surface. They did not stay long. This new mutation was not any worse than the metal ones, but they were coming just as frequently after the first contact.

I asked Earth, the next time we crossed paths, “What is coming now that the fleshy monsters have stepped upon my dust? Have you heard whispers of my fate?” She coughed for quite some time before responding that she had good reason to believe that they were planning on residing permanently on me. These parasites knew their host was dying, so I was their next target. I cried for a full orbit. I had not only heard my fate, but I saw it in Earth. Her clouds were darker than usual and she was running a fever. It did not seem to improve after several orbits, but rather, worsen exponentially. Luna was covered in the tiny metals as well, but according to her, the monsters had not returned. It was clear to me that my fate would soon be sealed. 

Europa, do you remember the last time we saw each other? You commented on how different I appeared, and I told you that I was trying a new style? That was a lie to comfort you regarding the dramatic changes the carbon-based beasts were making. They planted seeds in me that created itchy green rashes and drilled deep under my surface to suck me dry. It pained me as they dug through my Surface, but there was nothing I could do to stop them. But as the green continued to grow, the oxygen began to fill my atmosphere, and the disease multiplied quicker. The green rash subsided as they constructed alien monuments until I was almost identical to Earth, now perished under the abuse of the extraterrestrials. She resembled her sister Venus, though her poor ravaged spirit could not handle the acid rains. It was a sad sight to see her distant blue glow turn to red. While I thought I had as much time as her to fight off the disease, alas, the mutations in this illness has expedited my demise. I am so warm, Europa.

This is why I write to you, my ocean beauty. I have heard whispers in my craters that they know that I am dying and have looked to you next. They have seen your water and they have decided that you could save them. I implore you, as much as it pains me to say this, to go to Jupiter for protection. If his gravity is great enough, he can pull the illness into him and destroy them once and for all. They cannot infect a gas giant like him and they know this. That is why they are now looking to terrestrials like us. While I am doomed to die a slow and burning death, there is still hope that you will be able to avoid this plague. My core shudders at the idea of you joining me in this horrific fate. If I should perish because of this illness, I want my death not to be in vain. Please, Europa, save yourself. And do not remember me as I died, but rather how I lived and loved you back when I was your rusty little terra.

 

Until we meet again in the Big Freeze,

Mars

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.


Gateways: “Sasquatch of the Stratosphere” by John Weagley. Read by John Keefe.



This story is written by John Weagly. John is a writer with a bunch of plays produced on four continents and a bunch of short stories published. Once upon a time, Locus Magazine compared his short fiction to the works of Ray Bradbury and Nina Kiriki Hoffman and called him “a new writer worth reading and following.” he also wrote for GATEWAYS in September and October of 2018. This is “Sasquatch of the Stratosphere”

I was falling…up.
Picture this – gravity becomes dyslexic. It’s flip-flopped, topsy-turvy, backward. Instead of pulling you down to earth, it rejects you, hurtling you up to the sky.
That’s what happened to me.
I’m no angel, but I think of myself as pretty easy-going – a twenty-first century woman sporting a stress-free kick, the slightest of slight in terms of drama. Then, Boing! One minute I’m standing on the sidewalk, watching the fallen leaves whisper by, the next I’m hurtling through the air – up and up and up. The ground finds me repellent. There’s nobody else getting this treatment, no other flyers, floaters or all-day-flippers. Just me.
I scream! A squeal that tumbles behind me as I elevate. Then I start to wonder – How high can I go? Am I going to fly out into space, past the stars and planets and blackest of black holes? The prospect mellows me. It could be a trip, a howl in your brain until the nothingness of the cosmos pulls a Chubby Checker and twists you inside out until – Poof! – stardust. That’s my kind of Saturday night.
Just when I think I’m going to find out what it’s like to go supernova, the wind warbling in my ears, I punch up through a cloud and stop. Thump! I’m sticking, I’m standing, I’m straight-up on a thunderhead like it’s made of Norwegian wood. It’s soft and light and with a dreamy sort of ambiance you only find in the Sonoran Desert at half past midnight. And it’s so, so solid.
I catch my breath, align my acumens and look around. That’s when I see him, also standing on this celestial fluffy puff. An angel.
The thing’s about nine feet tall and covered in thick, brown fur. He’s got two russet-auburn wings sprouting from his back. This otherworldly creature has an otherworldly glow and carries the faint scent of cinnamon.
When he sees me, those wings jerk open in divine hostility. “Off my cloud!” he bellows like he’s announcing the rapture.
I leave the scene for a second, singing the Stones song in my head. Then I snap back to my urgent predicament. “Sorry, friend. I…”
“Off my cloud!”
“I would if I could, but the Earth doesn’t want me today. I’m a flesh-covered rocket-ship hurtling toward the stars.”
He looks confused. “One per cloud,” he says. “Off my cloud.”
Methinks angels may be a tad dim-witted.
“I’m not sure why I stopped,” I explain. “I was making pretty good time, but this cloud is acting like fly-paper and I’m the buzz-buzz.”
“My cloud!”
“Your cloud is acting like fly-paper and I’m the buzz-buzz.”
The beast blunders over to me in an aggressive galumph and pokes me in the shoulder with a hairy, hooked finger.
“Go.” Poke. “Now.” Poke.
I poke him back, in the lower chest since I can’t reach his shoulder. “Where am I supposed to go, huh? Shooting up seems to have shot its load, so you want me to drop back down? Plummet back to terra firma with a one-two-three splat?”
My new angel-buddy looks confused by this. Honestly, he looks like confusion is his go-to state-of-mind. Then he grabs my arm with a furry paw and pulls me over to the edge of the cloud. He points past the fluff and says “Go!”
I take a peek. It’s a looooonnnnggggg way down. While I’m looking, a 747 jet plane jets between us and the deep-drop ground. I pull myself back. “No.”
The angel points again. “Go!”
“No!”
“Go!”
“No!”
“Go!”
Before this rhetoric turns into a chain that can’t be broken, I fracture the link. “You go!”
He looks at me like I’m speaking Swahili with a slice of soul.
I repeat and point. “You go.”
Then he smiles. An angel smile is as beautiful as, well, the smile of an angel. It makes me feel a warmth flush through my body and neuro-transmitters tell my brain everything is pie-in-the-sky.
The angel nods his shaggy head at my revolutionary recommendation and says, “Good. I go. Yes, good!” Then, before anybody can utter a fare-thee-well, he jumps from the cumulus shore.
And down-down-down he goes.
I can just barely hear the liquidy deconstruction of angel meeting street. Hair and heart and other seraphim parts splatter among the mortals. Splish-Splash-Yuck!
So, now I’ve got my own cloud – one per and all that. It’s a pretty prime gig. I’m no angel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live like one. There’s a lot about the whole experience that I don’t understand. Why me? Is anybody else from down there dancing up here? How are clouds both solid and a dream? But my number one question is – When the angel was falling like a hirsute, hard rain, why didn’t that ethereal idiot open his big, brown wings?

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.