Tag Archives: murder

Gateways: “Community Service” by Zack Peercy read by Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: Zack Peercy is a legally blind playwright based in Chicago. He has a residency at Three Brothers Theatre, where his play That’s Fucked Up premiered in May 2019. His play Kubrickian was recently presented as part of Intrinsic Theatre Company May Play Podcast reading series. He has placed in a few contests you haven’t heard of and was rejected from all the contests you have heard of. He can be found on instagram and twitter @zackpeercy. His plays can be found on NPX.

We knew we wouldn’t like the taste of Henry Joyner just from the smell. 

No one was sure why he volunteered, but now as his sour roasting stench wafted down 

Main Street, we assumed there must have been an underlying sickness. Most of us thought it was a cowardly sacrifice, but all agreed it was a nice respite from the tough flesh of the elderly. The crackle of the fire echoed through our small town, chattering about Henry Joyner in a way we never could. 

We went on with our work day, our noses becoming used to the odor. 

Robert Townsend delivered milk along the stretch of white picket fences. 

Marjorie Green opened the Depot and packed the day’s rations, including an apple pie 

packet for tonight’s special occasion. 

Kasey Skinner mowed the lawns uniformly in neat rows and columns. 

Janice McCormick collected the previous day’s trash and dumped it off the edge of our 

sky-scraping suburb to the surrounding wasteland below. 

We all worked together, every day, to maintain our community. Everyone lent a hand 

without a word because we knew we were all equal. Jealousy, greed, war, and fear were 

emotions of the past. We had moved above them to a place of cooperative bliss. We celebrated our successes, grieved our losses, and when it came time to welcome a new community member, we sacrificed ourselves to keep our population balanced. As the Zimmermans prepared for their child’s arrival, we watched Henry Joyner start to brown in the late-morning sun; the smell becoming tolerable, more familiar. 

Some fundamental community members still thought of it as The Rite of Fire, but most 

of us knew it for what it was: a barbeque. Late last night, after the children were asleep, the town council opened their hands for volunteers and Henry Joyner silently rose from his seat. He was a sizable supply of flesh, but younger than average; sterile, no living relatives left. He was a surprise candidate, but we’ve made tougher choices. Several cycles ago, Phyllis Dewitt’s Daughter volunteered at the age of twelve. Doctor Montgomery had diagnosed her with Particle Lung a few months prior, a rare case even those days, and she wanted to offer herself up to the flames. She didn’t want her body to be thrown to the wasteland. We respected her choice. 

Before the morning sun, Henry Joyner was prepared by Doctor Montgomery. Some of us went to Main Street to clean the fire pit and chop fresh wood. Most of us went home to our families. Janice McCormick made a special pre-dawn trip to the doctor’s office to collect the waste: nails, teeth, blood, hair, and organs not fit for consumption. She threw them off the edge for the unseen scavengers below. Pure silence was briefly interrupted by a far echoed thud, a snarl, and a yip. 

By the time most of us were starting our day of cleaning, domestic repairs, and crafting, 

the body was already on the spit, a fresh fire licking the smooth flesh. 

After another lunchtime of powdered rations, we all strolled down Main Street to get a 

glimpse at the golden brown carcass, savoring the odor, trying to hold it in our nostrils as we went back to our chores and tasks. We thought Henry Joyner was holding up well on the rotisserie. We remembered last cycle when Barbara Townsend’s frail body didn’t last the morning before her meat split from the rod and fell onto the fire. We didn’t notice for half an hour, but a slight char never hurt anyone. We ate well that day and even had enough left for a lasting jerky. 

Our children quietly ran around in the mid-afternoon sun working up an appetite. The 

young ones played on the back lot’s trampoline, fashioned from an old Army parachute we no longer had a use for. We taught them Crack the Egg, where you had to ball yourself up as the other children tried to bounce and crack you, and Sizzle the Bacon, where you laid out as the other children stomped and sizzled you up. The teenagers were more meditative, preferring to bake in the sun and read. The Zimmermans looked over all of them from their porch swing. We knew they were thankful to be part of our community. 

In the late-afternoon, we rang the bell. Everyone snapped into action; we had been 

anticipating this all day. The long wooden table was assembled down Main Street. Kasey 

Skinner went house to house collecting chairs from dining rooms and setting them along the table. Henry Joyner’s auroma was hypnotizing, tantalizing. Our mouths watered, our bodies ached. We took our seats and waited for Marjoirie Green and Doctor Montgomery to carve. 

Our silent anticipation was broken by Phyllis Dewitt. She was now the oldest community member and only made appearances for the ceremony. Since her daughter’s cycle, she has sung for us before every carving. Only a few of us remember what it meant to sing. At 

night the children try to mimic the sounds with their mouths, but barely muster a squeak. The song ended and plates began their passage down the line. 

Main Street was soon filled with the sound of gnashing teeth and saliva slurping; 

mouths full of Henry Joyner. No one made eye contact. He was juicer than Barbara Townsend, but not as tender as Phyllis Dewitt’s Daughter. A portion of the thigh was ground and wrapped for the Zimmermans to mix with their newborn’s rations. 

We ate to our fill and the leftovers were collected to be dried and cured. The table was 

disassembled and stored until the next cycle. Everyone brought their chairs home. We washed our juice-soaked hands and mouths. We laid in our beds. 

As the night crept on and we were alone with our thoughts, we weren’t a community; 

just individuals in bed. Those moments were when our repressed selfishness seeped to the forefront of our minds. We’d never want these doubts to show on our faces, but here in the dark, bellies full and minds free to wander, we questioned. 

When the time came, would we be able to stand up and volunteer? 

Would we be able to eat our own child, if we had to? 

What would they think we smelled like as we roasted over the fire? 

The only answer was our silence.

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, reading all of Shakespeare online with the 14th Night Players, and—of course—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: “Backwards to go Forwards” by Zoe Mikel-Stites read by Scott Longpre



There is not currently a transcript available for this classic episode.

Please join us on January 14 for our next live reading at Otherworld Theatre.


Gateways: “Cephalophore” By Jim McDoniel, read by Alex B. Reynolds



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Jim McDoniel. 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”

 

Content Note: This story features a frank depiction of death and a person being ostracized. If that content makes you feel unsafe, you may want to skip this story.

Pain.

I’m not supposed to feel it. This death is meant to be quick, instantaneous. A modern,

humane way to die. I was assured I would not feel a thing.

And yet I do. I feel it all. The falling blade breaking the skin. Then the bone. Then the meat. The blood leaking out from the muscle like a sponge wrung dry. I am ripping away from myself. Falling, somersaulting forward but not as I should, not all of me. I look up hoping to see myself but all I see is steel coming to rest with a thud. It blocks my view, separates me from hope with its sheen of modernity stained crimson. And then blood pours into my eyes and I am swallowed by the darkness of the basket.

Pain. I feel it. Continue to feel it. There at the base of my skull, there where the spine was severed, the throat cut, the esophagus torn away. The nerves scream all at once. They are fire. What blood was pumped into my head before the end rallies to the call and spills away. On the other side of the device, there is an answering cry, the twin to this agony. Two halves that never should have been. I feel this to. I feel it all.

A cheer goes up. My death is celebrated. It is the day’s entertainment. Parents bring their children. Friends greet each other from across the square. Someone is trying to sell his neighbor a horse. A vendor is handing out nuts. The shells plunk off the stage. One bounces off my back.

Seconds pass. Millennia. I am still here in the basket. I am still there on the stage. I have always been here. This is all there is. All there ever was. The fire in my neck turns to pins and needles. Every frayed edge of sinew calls out for attention, for relief, for the sweet blood that is pooling on wood and wicker.

Fingers loop themselves in my hair. A new pain. The darkness of the basket gives way to light. I see them through a haze. They stand on the other side of a veil, the applauding crowd. I squint, try to focus. Someone gasps, another screams. Then laughter. The laughter of those who have seen many executions. The gallows crows know all the tricks, all the little foibles of the dead. The hanged man’s erection, the drowned woman’s gas, the sweet whiff of shit as bowels release.

I blink. The veil remains. I cannot see. But I feel. The hair tugs at my scalp in the

committee man’s grip. His other hand rips a lock free for himself, a memento to treasure or to sell. The breeze blows against my ragged wounds and it is like knives tickling the flesh. A wet, warm pool spreads around my neck and chest. Hands are in my pockets, at my feet, pulling free my shoes, looking for anything the guards didn’t take. I am split. Here and there. Pain in both places. It hurts. It hurts so much. Why doesn’t it stop? WHY DOESN’T IT STOP?

I scream. I cannot scream. The audience jumps in delighted fright. They clap for me. There is no relief. I thrash and kick. A real scream. Somewhere behind me, where I am. I flail. I punch. I bite. Again, applause. I am putting on quite the show. My fingernails tear into skin, wet and warm. Someone else is in pain now. It does not help but it is the only thing I can do. The only way I can tell them I am still here. Tell them what I feel.

Bodies pull against me. Footsteps clatter off the wooden stage. There are more screams. The man holding me turns and for a moment I see myself, see the other half, the stump begging to be made whole. I am clear, unveiled, beautiful, and hurting. But then I fall. The world blurs before it slams to a halt. My skull cracks. A splinter lodges itself in the skin next to my left eye. More wounds to add to my collection.

Hands everywhere. Hands pull at me. They try to hold me back, pin me down. I tear at them. Their screams join the chorus and then go quiet. But I go on. Why do I go on? A call to aim, a crack of gunfire. I am pierced one after another. The little lead balls,

flying through me. Ribs crack. My stomach bursts open. Acid and bile spill into my gut. It

BURNS. And then they come, the sharp blades of the bayonets thrust into me, less chaotic than the mess of the round shot, the metal slices with merely a whiff and whisper of suffering. All save one. He thrusts his stock against me, against where I should be. My collarbone splinters, the shards separate the skin. There is no blood left to spill.

They scream. I scream. The world screams. Screams are all there is. It is deafening.

The world has become a sliver of veil between my blood-matted hair and the wooden stage. I see a tall blur holding a smaller blur to its chest, hurrying to safety. The small one stares back at me. Its eyes become clear. His eyes. Brown. I try to tell the eyes, tell them I’m still here. Tell them I’m in pain. Tell them to help, find help, get help. Help. It hurts! God, please. The eyes shut and are gone. The blurs disappear into the world beyond me.

I am near. I feel myself. The footsteps shake my world. Hands—wet and warm but gentle, familiar—are at my cheek. I am lifted, am lifting myself. I see the wreck of myself even as I feel the lightness of what is left of me. We try to put the pieces back together, to make the halves whole. But the pain persists and we remain we.

They are gone. All of them. Even the most devout of the gallows crows who stayed to watch the show fled when they saw there was no anonymous throng to hide in. We are all that is left in this fading world. We walk. Off the blood-soaked stage. Into the barren streets. All doors closed to us. We walk.

There is nowhere to go. No vengeance to seek, no sermon to give, no message to herald. There is only us and the pain. And we both go on and on and on.

 

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


Gateways: “Emotional Labor” by Rachel A. Schrock, read by Karolyn Blake



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

Content Note: This story features violence, some of which is of a sexual nature; blood and death. If that content makes you feel unsafe, you may want to skip this story.

When I was thirteen years old, I got my first period. As I frantically scrubbed at the blood on my skirt, my head started to ache, and later I found out it wasn’t for the reason I suspected.

From that day on, I was cursed. From that day on, I felt others’ feelings as if they were my own. 

You feel things very strongly when you are thirteen, but only because, at that age, you have never felt anything else. When your parents tell you that you can’t go to the mall with your friends, it feels like the worst thing in the world. Compared to everything you’ve experienced of the world thus far, it is.

This is a gift. Because as you grow, as you are exposed to more and more heartache, every small moment of sadness is a layer of armor against what is to come.

When I was thirteen years old, my older brother was in a car accident. He died instantly. I was sad in the way a thirteen-year-old could be sad. It was the worst thing in my world— a world that did not contain the thrill and fear of pregnancy, the miracle of new life, the sleepless nights, the joys of your baby’s milestones, the bond between parent and child.

My mother’s world did contain those things.

When I was thirteen years old, I felt emotions a thirteen-year-old was never meant to feel.

I am an incredibly average-looking woman. You are an incredibly average-looking man with the confidence of a much more handsome one. Over our appetizers, I tell you about my brother. You stoically recount your best friend’s tragic passing. (Your grief tells me you were never that close to him.) I lean forward, take your hand, say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” You think you have me wrapped around your finger.

Over dinner, I do not tell you about my mother. You talk about yours. “She never understood me,” you lament. Your anger is petulant, immature. I bat my eyelashes and apologize on her behalf for not believing you could have made the next “Fight Club.”

After dessert, I ask you if you want to walk back to my place. I feel your relief that the evening wasn’t wasted, and your eagerness to get me alone.

I hold your hand because I think you will like it. You don’t care. I hold it anyway.

I always hold their hands.

Cities teem with emotion— giddy excitement from tourists; grating frustration from commuters; desperation from beggars; bursts of joy or sorrow tucked into the private anonymity of a crowd.

I feel it all. I absorb very little.

The sum total of all these emotions is a blunt sort of melancholy. It’s a strong desire to cry, and the complete inability to do so. It’s nothing in the way that hunger is nothing; it is the lack of something. It’s not pleasant, but it never changes.

I like that.

I lead you up the stairs to my apartment. I close the door behind us, and you immediately press me up against it. I let you kiss me for a moment. You’re sure you are a good kisser; you’re okay. 

Your self-satisfaction distracts you enough for me to take out my knife. I get you in the side—enough to hurt, but not to kill— and spin you around, pushing you to the floor behind me. The shock silences you, but I feel your confusion, your fear.

It’s delicious.

“Don’t scream. No one will hear you.”

You scream. No one hears you. I smile as your panic creeps up our veins. We start to cry.

“What do you want? I’ll give it to you. Whatever you want.” You try to stand. I stab your thigh. We cry harder.

I sink to my knees, pinning you at the waist. I kiss you. As I hold your head steady, the knife cuts a thin, red line against your cheek. Our hands shake.

“I won’t tell anyone, I swear, just let me go. Please, please.”

Feelings are never wrong, are they? They are an automatic response to your surroundings; how could they be wrong?

Right?

What you need to understand is that feeling is based on belief.

You’re only afraid of bees because you believe they will do you harm. You’re only angry at the waitress who forgot to offer you extra napkins because you believe you are entitled to that courtesy. You only love a certain person because you believe you can (or should) love them.

When you tell someone that their feelings are right, you are telling them that they believe the right things.

I don’t know what I believe anymore.

When I was thirteen years old, I carried a sadness that nearly incapacitated my mother. She stayed in bed for a whole week— she couldn’t even wash her hair for the funeral. And I felt everything else, too— the disgust and irritation at my mother that somehow sat side-by-side with my father’s grief, and the pity from our neighbors, and my classmates’ awkwardness about talking to a dead kid’s sister. It all piled up in my head.

Since then, there’s never been enough room up there for me.

It’s amazing, how many times a person can be stabbed before they die. I can toy with you for hours, if I want to. But I can’t help it— I’m addicted to your fear.

You cry. I cry. I laugh.

Finally, you realize that you won’t make it out of this alive. You’re of no use to me now.

I slit your throat and watch you die.

I feel nothing.

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


Gateways: “Jupiter Rules for Divorce ” by Jessie McCarty. Read by Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Jessie McCarty. Jessie is a writer and aspiring power point performer for stage and screen. They were crowned bagel queen of the midwest by montreal playwright Joe Bagel. Jessie is a company member of runways lab theater and BFA of creative writing at SAIC. This is “Jupiter Rules for Divorce”

Step one: marry your husband. Step two: divorce him. Then, as I often forget, is Three: one you might recall as a mis-step. Three years after it happens, be front of the shower. Be naked, be holding a towel. The radio plays Alainis Morrissett and you think: oh shit. I miss being a wife. But you must be wrong. You can’t miss that. How could anyone? Miss a governmental pact to love someone? How is that romantic? You think about how it wasn’t romantic, but you feel hot. You feel heavy.

Flashback to when Jupiter was a sexy planet. The Earth’s seventies disco. You loved disco. And now it’s dead. Do you miss me? Your Jupiter man baby says. You throw your head back, drunk. Laughing. No, the fuck. I don’t miss you. Get off my interstellar lawn. And then he did, and then you missed him.
That’s my problem, you think after the shower. I don’t mourn what I wanted. I just mourn what I want. That’s what regret looks like: gravity but reversed.

There are new steps, to post planetary divorce.

Step one: find a new husband. Step two, keep the regret to a minimum.
At the Love DMV you ask the Jupiter deck clerk: That’s it? That’s all I have to do?
The Jupiter Desk clerk hands you your final form, shrugging. Keep your head down, lady, she says. Regret’s like gravity. But reverse.

What the fuck does that even mean? Asks your new post planetary husband. It’s funny, you think. he actually remembers earth during the disco. This grosses you out, since that means he’s old, and, he’s lived through two different discos. I guess it means I can’t have any more regrets, you say, regretting that. But he doesn’t hear you. God, what a boring husband.

You hate living on Jupiter. It’s also boring. It’s not sexy anymore.
Hey, baby, do you have any bellbottoms that you brought over on the move? You ask, digging through suitcases, in your shiny floating house.
The move where, he asks.
The move to Jupiter, you know, after funk?
Oh. Uh, no. Not really. Bellbottoms aren’t sexy, you know. Don’t let them tell you that.
Who tell me that?
Anyone who thinks bellbottoms are sexy. They are lying to you. And they don’t respect you.
Oh, regret: like gravity. But reverse.

You go to your Jupiter job in your Jupiter car, thinking about Jupiter’s Rules for Divorce. Find a new husband. Keep the regret to a minimum. Find a new husband. Keep the regret to a minimum. Find a new husband. Keep the regret to a minimum. Find a new husband. Keep the regret to a minimum. Does regret flow upward? Can this entire tri-state Jupiter area see it? God, this planet is so boring. How am I supposed to keep the upward flow of a feeling to a minimum? What is the minimum?

You stop, pull the brakes. Jupiter baby is across the way, your ex-husband. Oh man, regret like gravity.

He calls out your name.

Name? he asks you, saying your name. Ping ping goes the upward flow of regret; the opposite of gravity.

Oh, hey. You say. Smoothing your dress out. You don’t even remember parking.
How are you? How have you been?
Oh I’m good, I’m fine, you mumble out.
Oh that’s good. That’s fine!
Yes. I don’t feel regret.
What?
What?
What did you say, sorry I missed it? He asks.

I said: I…do not… feel… a regret.
He’s shifting. Oh. Okay. Well, I should be off.

You want to say, wait come back. Wait come home. Wait come re marry me so I can leave my double lived disco husband who doesn’t want to put on bellbottoms and hates Alainis Morrissette. But you say

Okay. Yes, goodbye.

Everyone on this planet is under the impression that you like them. Everyone here views the nighttime in hues of black. Regret is like gravity reversed. Regret, like gravity, but reversed. You make the executive call to break the rules for divorce by

Making a widow of yourself and knowing
Surely you will regret it.

You soon discover it’s not simple planning space murder.
1st Off: Everyone here is under the impression that you like them.
2nd off: You have never done it.

You think: I would prefer a space death procedure on the cleaner side. Messes leave me queasy. You ask the laundromat what process is best for getting a bloody space steak stain out. They say:

Oh, you’re making steak?
You say, Yes, I am. In honor of disco. Lots of blood.
They say, Well, here are the rules of the space knife:

Sharp and quick. You want meat to slice like a butter bar.

You aren’t sure if that’s true. But as you slide it right into your second Jupiter husband, he says nothing. Because he’s dying.

Never pity your package. You want this meat to be one to remember. Stains will fade. Bleach it if you have to! Enjoy your steak!

So you do. Everyone here, though, even the Love DMV clerk, expects you to pity the death of your space husband. And you do, a bit. His limbs, limping under the space lawn.

You decide to phone the Jupiter Divorce Council:

This is Jupiter Divorce Council, what is your marriage record?
What? Hello? Oh, uhm, I guess, two?
I am scanning for voice recognition, says the Jupiter council of divorce. Two marriages. One divorce. Two files for upward regret. A love credit score of 615, below average.

Yes, I know. I would like to file for widowship.

Widowship file calculating. Of earth space spouse number 2873A2-12?
Yes, that’s him. Dead and gone.

The Jupiter Divorce Council doesn’t answer you quickly.

Scanning for widow ship claim: complete. Your love credit has risen to 630, in good condition. Any more concerns today?

None, thank you.

You hang up. Take a shower. Alainis Morrissette in the background. A ping pang in your chest. What’s the damage? You dry off, dreading, thinking:

God, this planet is so boring. How am I supposed to keep the upward flow of a feeling to a minimum? What’s the minimum? What’s the minimum? What’s the minimum? WHAT’S THE MINIMUM?

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 32 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.