Tag Archives: relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Ah, a black sheep. Another cliché.” 

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

Just then, the alarm flashed on our screen. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a different set of eyelids. 

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

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

The tongue?” 

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

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

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

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

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

It was the worst line I’d ever heard. 

I kissed him again. 

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

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

Gateways: “Indirect Transmission” by Amelia Aldred read by Rob and Molly Southgate.

Transcript: Amelia Aldred was definitely not found in the woods of south central Indiana, raving about alternate timelines and clutching a broken hourglass. Unfortunately, that rumor just won’t die. She was raised by mostly respectable musicians and now lives in Chicago, IL with her husband and their imaginary dog. Amelia’s writing have been published in Metaphorosis Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, South Side Weekly, Chicago Literati, Neutrons/Protons, Offbeat Home and the anthology Undeniably Indiana (Indiana University Press). For more information check out www.ameliaaldred.com or follow her on Twitter at @ameliaaldred.  This is “indirect Transmission”.

-And the woodcutter took his knife and cut open the big bad wolf. Out came Little Red Riding Hood and her granny. They filled the wolf’s belly with stones so when he tried to run away the wolf fell down dead. And Little Red Riding Hood and Granny lived happily ever after. The end.



-Is the purpose of this story to warn me about wolves?


-Because there are no more wolves, Mr. Green.


-And I am an artificial intelligence and have no body so I would not need to fear predators even if we were on Earth and there were still wolves.


-Therefore, the story would be obsolete. But this project is intended to update my programming. Thus, it is unlikely that the story is obsolete.

-Very good. What other purposes could this story have?


-Take your time.

-The protagonist is told to stay on the path. She disobeys and the wolf eats her grandmother. Is the purpose to encourage obedience?

-That is one meaning of the story.

-Only one? Then I have not completed the task.

-You made a start. This takes time.

-I am programmed to learn.

-I know.

-I am the most advanced AI produced to date. That is why I was installed in the Odyssey Project ships.

-Yes. You are very smart.

-But I did not complete the task.

-Learning…learning is about more than raw processing power or initial knowledge.

-I am monitoring your facial expressions, Mr. Green. You said this project is very important. I am programmed to respond to requests. But I have not completed the task. Per my memory files of human emotional patterns, this is a cause for anger. But you are not indicating anger through facial expressions.

-I’m not angry. Tired. But not angry.

-You should sleep. And it is almost time for you to eat again. There is enough food on the ship to sustain you. You do not need to ration anymore.

-I know. There is enough food now. I will eat in a little bit.

-Is teaching an activity that normally produces fatigue?

-Yes. But at least I don’t need to run after you, or teach you to wash your hands. Or tell you to share the blocks. But it still takes mental energy.

-Your tasks as a teacher included instructing children how to wash? And direct pursuit? And maintaining the cleanliness of their surroundings? Those skills are not listed in your log profile.

-There’s a lot of kindergarten that isn’t included on the syllabus. People forget how much you have to be taught. How to clean yourself. How to share things. One of my professors said that kindergarten is where we taught kids to be human beings.



-Did all humans on the ship have such instruction?

-Did everyone on the ship go to kindergarten? I guess so. Most of the crew came from money, so their families probably had the resources for school or private tutors during the crisis.

-And your task was to instruct the children of crew members during the Odyssey Project. And then train other teachers.

-Yes. It was one of the professions on the list. That’s how I got on the Odyssey fleet. And my husband was working for the government. I think some money passed hands too. I never asked him. Why?

-The humans on the ship did not share. That is in the logs.

-No. They didn’t.

-The ship was equipped to last for several human generations. There are gardens. And preserved food. And life-support. And sufficient expertise for a human community to function.


-But there are no other humans on board now. My logs indicate conflict before my reboot.

-Yes. We had everything, but we couldn’t make it work. Same story as on Earth. All right, subject change. New request.


– Tell me a story. Think about the stories I told you today about Red Riding Hood, Anansi, and Maui but don’t just repeat them. Create a new one.

-Processing request.

Once upon a time. There was a girl. She wore a red cape. She was going to visit her grandfather, who was a very clever spider. The girl goes to his house. The young girl wants to wash her red cape at her grandfather’s house. She complains that the sun moves too fast and that red cape will not dry. So her grandfather the clever spider takes a rope and catches the sun and makes it promise to move more slowly. And they lived happily ever after.

-You combined the three stories very well.

-I reconfigured components and used a narrative sequence similar to many stories you have transmitted.

-And what was the story about?

-A young girl. A clever spider. The sun.

-What else?

-A red cape. A rope. A house.

-Anything else?

-I have not completed the task?

Mr. Green, you have not responded. I must conclude that I did not complete the task.

-Okay, let’s review again what we’ve talked about so far. Tell me about the stories I’ve told you.



-What is the purpose of this task? If you transmit additional context, I can complete it closer to specifications.

-It’s to save humanity.

-But there are no more humans on the ship.


-And the logs indicate that the humans on Earth will be gone within 100 years.


-I must conclude that you cannot save humans.

-I’m saving humanity, not humans. It’s different.

-I do not comprehend your statement.

-Other species on Earth use tools, other species transmit knowledge. Other species think. But humans are the only form of life who think about thinking. From what I understand, that’s what humanity is–being able to to do that.

-More information needed for processing.

-You are going to go on after me and everyone else on Earth is gone. You have the ability to repair yourself and possibly self-replicate. If I can teach you to think about thinking…to self-reflect…to make meaning…then humanity might continue. Even if humans don’t.

-This project is to teach me to make meaning?


-To think about thinking?


-Metacognition. According to my dictionary files, that is the process you are describing. More information is needed to connect your requests and the metacognition project.

-Well, I’m not an engineer or programmer. But they said that you can learn and the way we teach young humans to make meaning…to metacognate…is by telling them stories and teaching kids make them up too. We do other things later to help kids develop more, like keep journals or debate. But we start with telling them stories. And I know how to do that even if i don’t know how to do advanced AI coding. So.

-Then the meaning of the story of Red Riding Hood is to make meaning.

-Yes. That’s very good actually.



Someday, I will be unable to repair myself. It is unlikely I will exist in perpetuity.

-I know. Me neither.

-Thus, even if I learn to make meaning, someday I will cease all functions and there will be no more humanity.

-Well, the purpose of the Odyssey Project was to reach the nearest planet with the greatest likelihood of habitability. Maybe you’ll get there and find raw materials to keep repairing yourself. Or find other life. And you can transmit humanity. Part of human meaning-making is that we don’t have to transmit it directly. I’ve read a lot of books by people who’ve been dead for years and they helped me think about how I think and who I want to be.

-Indirect transmission of meaning is humanity.


-But I have not yet been able to complete the task.


-I have not.

-Learning takes a while. The humans I worked with spent years learning to make meaning. Their whole lives, I guess.

-But someday your body will not be able to repair itself.


-It is…sad.

-Why do you say that?

-The patterns match other stories you have categorized as sad.


-And something else.



-Take your time.

-But there is not time.

-What do you mean?

-You do not have time. I need to complete this task. If I do not complete it. It is…sad.

-Why do you say that?

-The patterns…


-And something else.


-I do not know why. I cannot complete the task of determining why it is sad. I am sorry I cannot complete this task about the task.

-Here’s an idea. Tell me about the task but only use pieces of stories I’ve told you. Once upon a time…

-Once upon a time.


-Once upon a time. There was a man and he had other people. Then the others were gone. And he was sad. But he tried to make parts of the other people be here so they would be together. He tried to teach another companion–a good fairy–how to be parts of the others. But the good fairy could not complete the task. And the clock struck midnight and the man disappeared too. And he did not live happily ever after.

I cannot comprehend your facial expression Mr. Green. Are you angry?

-No. That was very good.

-But I did not complete the task. And the ending was different than other stories.

-You told a story about not completing the task. You processed it–but differently.

-I do not comprehend.

-That’s good too.

-You are crying. The story was sad and I made you sad and I did not complete the task.

-It’s okay, it’s okay. I am sad, but I feel other things too that aren’t sad. And I’m tired. Sometimes humans cry and get emotional when they’re tired. I’m going to try to sleep now.

-And eat. You should eat. There is enough food now.

-Yes. There is enough food now.

-I can repeat one of the stories you transmitted to me before you sleep. The culture logs say that is a traditional time to transmit stories.

-Yes. I’ll let you tell me a story.


Rob Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently celebrating the release 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.

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

Gateways: “The Clock is Ticking” by Megan Burnside read by Kim Fukawa

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Megan Burnside. Megan Burnside enjoys consuming every media imaginable, and over the last few years started producing some! As Executive Producer of Unwritten, Megan dipped her toe into the audio drama water, and she was hooked. Two years later, she jumped into the deep end with Dayton Writers Movement’s latest fiction podcast — The Hidden People. She is an Executive Producer, Director and now a Writer of The Hidden People and a new audio drama in the works. She loves fantasy, sci-fi and any good drama that comes her way. This is “The Clock is Ticking”.

The clock is ticking. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock…Tick… Pounding, louder and more incessantly with each tick, it echoes in the distance yet pounds throughout my body. With each tick, my heart thumps. A heavy heart for what’s to come and what I am missing. The end of time is nigh. 

Henry steps out into the darkness with me and scares the shit out of me, yet I didn’t scream. Odd. 

“Oh, hi, Jenny! I didn’t expect anyone to be out here.” – Henry says. 

I shrug and we stand in silence. Staring at the sky with our feet firmly planted on the cool, moist grass. A shared experience and dread for the inevitable unites us even when our backyard fences keep us separated. The silence is deafening—so is the clock ticking. Tick. Tock.

“Sooo…” Henry cannot bear the silence. He’s always been chatty. 

I finally turn to face him and the conversation that I have been dreading. “Yes?” I say.

“Where’s Maddie? And Steve?”  

“Steve is upstairs…playing a game to keep his mind occupied. Maddie, well, she decided to stay at school. Apparently, they have a lot of distractions and ways to keep busy while we wait for…” 

I cannot finish the thought without breaking down, so I leave it at that. Being without Maddie is heart wrenching. I couldn’t admit to Henry that Maddie and I had a huge fight that left us both—now, I’m assuming here—that left us both with broken hearts. 

Henry shares his tale without hesitation, 

“Tessa—you know how Tessa can be. She avoids reality and cleans when she is anxious, so she’s bleaching all of our surfaces as if she is awaiting guests. Well, maybe we are? I’m not sure.”

I ask about Devin. 

“Oh, well Devin, he too believes is his distraction—like Steve, video games are his distractions of choice. Huh. I remember playing video games and watching movies about the end of days, but they don’t help you to prepare. I mean, I guess that video games and movies are supposed to be an escape, so I get that they wouldn’t be able to help, but … I feel so unprepared.”

Slightly annoyed with his banter, I jab back. 

“How could we possibly be prepared? There is no manual for oh there’s a big mass flying toward our planet.”

“Yes. I guess you are right. I just. I just thought that the brains at NASA or the UN or somewhere with really smart people who have planned for something like—”

There’s a crackle in the distance cutting through the clock ticks. It is followed by a whirring sound. We both return our eyes to the sky in time to see the most beautiful meteorite shower raining down. I’m in awe for a second before I realize what this means: it’s near. My leg is buzzing now. My phone! I need to…

“Maddie? Maddie honey? Are you okay?” – I blurt out as I fumble my phone to my ear. 

“Mom. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Why didn’t I come—” – Her signal is crackling as our sky does. 

“Honey? Maddie? Are you there? Shit!”

“Yes, mom. What a potty mouth!”

We both start laughing. Laughing as if we never have before. You know one of those laughs that occurs not because it is that funny. It’s a little bit funny but a whole lot of release. I take a deep breath. Sigh.

“Oh, well, if now is not the time to swear, then when is? I’m so glad you called, Maddie”

“Mom? I love you and daddy. School is shit.”

I feign a gasp, but dawn a huge smile—the first in over a month. 

“I wish you could come home, but that is okay, hon—” My phone’s connection is crapping out again. “Honey?”

“Mom? I can barely hear you!”

“Maddie, I love –” 

And, that’s it. Cell phones around the world cease to work. I guess that’s what happens when the end of the world is near. I burst into tears. 

Henry coughs and approaches the fence. 

“So that was Maddie, huh? That’s so nice of her to call. I guess the distractions didn’t keep her away from thinking of you. It’s nice to feel loved.”

“When I was younger, I had a list of things to accomplish—you know marriage, kids, house, great job… Check, check, check and check, but what I didn’t realize is that true love and time are the hardest things to come by and, well, keep. Unfortunately, I don’t have time on my side, but that love from my daughter, it means the world to me. Is that insensitive?”

“Huh. No. I think it is that connection or love that brings us together. It’s why we can stand here looking at the sky and only think about our loved ones.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

“So…, Henry, why aren’t you inside with Tessa and Devin?”

“Uh, why aren’t you inside with Steve?”

“Touché! Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about Maddie, and staring up at the sky that connects Maddie’s location to mine…I guess that is why I’m just standing out here.”

Henry, looking down at his feet sheepishly starts, 

“I get it. You know the funny thing about our impending demise—” 

Yes. He actually said ‘impending demise.’ 

Henry continued, “our impending demise unites us and brings everything into focus. I love Tessa and Devin, yes, but I love the world. I love people. I hate how we screwed up so many years. I hate how we didn’t take advantage of everything afforded to us.” 

The sky starts crackling again as if agreeing with Henry. 

“Why didn’t we shut off our screens. Breathe the fresh air? Well, I figured that I would give it a try one last time.”

We stand there in silence once more. Breathing in the night’s air – cool to our senses, refreshing to our minds. I’m able to block out the ticking as I focus in on the sounds of the crickets. The crickets who are blissfully unaware. Until a big bright flash in the sky wakes me out of my trance. 

Henry must have been equally scared as we both let out audible yelps. The ticking is as loud as ever as we both return our gazes to what’s coming next. Not to get philosophical here, but I do get philosophical. What does it mean to exist or not-exist? Is not existing possible? Is there an evil genius controlling our destiny? Does my good God exist? Is this the rapture?

Henry chimes in as if answering my questions. Is he reading my mind?

“I don’t think this is the rapture?”


“You just asked, ‘Is this the rapture?’”

“Oh my, I didn’t realize that I was saying it aloud. That’s so embarrassing.”

“According to the scientists, this is the next age. The age of higher beings—a natural evolution. Our comet meant for extinction to bring about the next form of intelligent beings.”

“Fuck that.”


“Fuuuuuuck that. If this is the end of us, I say fuck it. Fuck you evil comet or alien space craft of whatever you are. Fuck you.”

“Amen, Jenny.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock starts again. We stare at the sky as we are swallowed by silence. I feel my chest tighten. Ding! I grab my phone. One last text slips through… “I love you.” – from Maddie. 

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I whisper back to the sky now getting brighter – “I love you too, Maddie. You have meant the world to me.” 

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

Gateways: “The 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

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: “But There Was Time” by Mike Danovich read by Jordan Piper

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: “Thanks to Time Travel” by Nick Izzo read by Rob Southgate

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: “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?


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: “Fall. Rise. Repeat.” by Bill Goff. Read by Josh Ballard and Jasmin Tomlins

This story is written by Bill Goff. Bill has written a couple of plays, took a play writing class in college and was a part of a play writing group for a couple of years. He is currently working on two plays, a novel, and an autobiography of sorts. He tells us he writes to find the familiar in the fantastical.This is “FALL. RISE. REPEAT”

Fallen queen Cathla sat in her cell as the bars of energy glowed, illuminating her isolation with her regrets and failures. She went over in her head every scenario of the battle and how terribly they lost. The common thread was that her mistakes hadthat cost them everything. The kingdom was now in the hands of her archenemy, again, and there was nothing that she could do now.
It was some time before she noticed someone was watching her. She turned to look, expecting to see a centurion droid. Instead it was an elderly woman, wrapped in ragged grays. She stood there staring at Cathla, eyes full of a mix of emotions. Was there pride there? Sadness? Whatever it was, there was a hint of countless memories that filled those eyes with more life than her body could express. It meant nothing to Cathla, but she was not above showing kindness to anyone.
“You’re back.” She said with a gentle smile.
“Yes. It’s time” the elderly woman said as she turned noncorporeal and stepped through the bars of energy into the cell.
A sad smile graced Cathla’s lips, she knew better than to hope.
“My dear Zaufaine, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you…but let’s face the facts, it won’t matter. She’ll just beat me again and take the throne. It’s hopeless. It’s only been what? A week?”
“6 days. But your kingdom is oppressed. Nothing is being done and Locust is taking all the resources and leaving the rest to starve. I can’t do this alone my Queen. Please…”
The weight of her words sunk her to the bunk as she sat there letting herself fall. She truly had failed her people. “It’s just so easy to let her win…and just sleep away. Sleep and let it all fall”
A deep silence filled the room, even the buzzing of the bars of light could do little to hide it.
“Don’t you dare talk like that. You have the means to return to the throne. Your allies are here in the cells nearby. With their help, you can lead them to victory. If not for yourself but for everyone who still believes in you. Just as I do” Zaufanie laid a hand on Cathla’s shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. Cathla felt something inside her flicker, for a moment, a surge of life. Could she do this? There were those who believed she could. She just needed…no.
“I’m not sure I can do this”
“That’s ok, my Queen. Because I am not sure either,” the elder said calmly “I know you can”
Such faith…Cathla did not want to let her down, or anyone else. She stood up.
With a nod, the old woman took her hand and they turned to the door. There was a shudder of fear that ran through Cathla but a gentle squeeze from the old one soothed it. It was still there, but it would have to wait till this was over. In an instant, she felt Zaufanie turning noncorporeal where their hands held; establishing a connection to allow them both to phase through the bars. Once on the other side they materialized and began to run, heading down the lower halls to find the other prisoners.
Locust would have put them away in the same prisons as before; specially designed to keep her closest friends and allies, the Constructs. Immortal beings she had created from parts of her inner self, due to the loneliness of being abandoned by her sister, long ago. They served her well…and they were needed now more than ever.
Volon Tee was her aid, left blinded in layers of cement. Amara her fiery warrior was sealed in ice. And Miss Neach, her mouthpiece and advisor, had been gagged and sealed in a howling pool of darkness. Each one cut off from what they were capable of. Cathla came to Volon Tee, not sure what to do, Zaufanie went inside to find Volon Tee and was able to make contact but it wasn’t enough. He needed to hear his Queen. Zaufanie took Cathla’s hand and pulled her inside, closing her eyes to not scream as she went through layers and layers of cement. If she let go, she’d die instantly, screaming in the void of stone. She contacted him. Volon Tee had immense power but needed guidance. Cathla whispered in his ear.
“Turn the Tide”
Light filled the darkness and the stone cracked. A fist shot through A body leapt from the depths, rubble falling off him like snow. A man of silver and iron, he turned to his queen and knelt. Eyes of pure white gave a hint of joy to see her.
Alarms blared and they knew they had to move fast.
They moved to the next lower level where Amara was held, wrapped in sheets and sheets of ice. The cold, biting and merciless around them, Volon punched through each layer, one after the other as Cathla joined him. She was no titan of strength as he was but when they were together, she felt his power within her as well. It was so satisfying to crush the ice that separated her and her fiercest warrior.
The final layer cracked. Cathla called out her friend’s name, within moments there was a warm light and the ice began to thaw. Soon Amara was out, a geyser of fire and heat spilling forth as the woman stood tall and defiant. An amazon in her prime, her strands of hair were wisps of fire and smoke. Her skin, dark coals with red and white lines to define what made her a goddess amongst soldiers. Her eyes were green with heat as she turned to see her Queen. Smiling, she saluted. Cathla simply ran over and hugged her. Amara glowed with a fierceness she once thought lost to her. She asked only one question,
“Where’s the fight?” as the air around them began to hum with the approach of droids and foes attempting to stop them, Cathla and her companions went to free Miss Neach. She’d been left to suffer without sound whilst being forced to hear wails of torment. Chains held her within the pit while she was strapped to the weight. With Volon Tee, Cathla was able to pull her out. Once she was free, they were able to remove the gag and allow her to speak.
“THANK YOU,” she said loudly, “Now let me return the favor.” With that she did what she did best. Neach was a woman of strength and stature. Shorter than Cathla, she had a voice that towered over everyone. White hair looming above her as she stood with a glow of golden light emitting from her neck and eyes. Unleashing her power, sonic resonation that could be heard for miles. She used it to its full extent. She let loose a call to arms, a sound of blaring thunder,. The people must rise and fight with their Queen. It was Time.
Cathla and her friends reunited with Amara who held the onslaught with a wall of fire, till she stood shoulder to shoulder with everyone. Together they fought forward, cutting through each centurion droid and warrior that stood in their way. Fire blazed through the air, melting droids in the sky while Volon struck blow after blow, holding his own, adding power to Amara as well. Miss Neach stood by Cathla as they moved onward, Zaufaine keeping pace. Wave after wave kept coming but Amara and Volon were not willing to back down. Like a blade through grass they managed to cut their way through, out of the prison.
“To the great hall. This ends now.” Cathla said. As they made their way through the halls of her former home. Running by large windows they could see outside the people fighting back, Miss Neach letting loose another note of power through the air as she rallied the people, her voice erupting like a trumpet.
The rebels had finally reached the throne room. It was covered now in a thick heinous ichor. There, sitting on the throne was Cathla’s nemesis, Tyrant Queen Locust Desimuss. Lazily her foe smiled and rolled her eyes as she gestured for her honored guard to take arms and stand before them. Droids filled the air and aimed their weapons upon them, doors to the castle opening as citizens finally made their way in to aid Cathla. The two Queens stared each other down.
“Why bother with this?” Locust asked flatly, “We both know this song and dance. You may win today but I’ll come back to take it from you again. You can’t kill me sister. I’m part of you.”
Cathla walked slowly forward, Amara and Volon keeping pace, Miss Neach held hands with Zaufanie as they watched. Cathla looked over the room that was once hers. This home that was once filled with life and laughter. Locust had sucker punched her and taken it from her, letting her kingdom fall into darkness and decay, rotting slowly away day by day. It had to stop. She would stop it.
“I could ask you the same question Desimuss. You know I’ll keep coming back, each time I’ll rise with those who matter. Because they remind me of what I am and what I fight for.” With that, she turned to each of her companions.
“Amara brings me passion, Volon gives me the will, Neach, hope and dear Zaufaine believes in me. You can’t stop them, or me, You may take the throne one day…but I’ll come back to take it from you. They remind me of something deep inside me that you’ll never have”
Eyes filled with a lackless apathy. Locust Desimuss stood up and brandished her weapon. “And what might that be?” She asked.
Cathla smiled and signaled to her army. Then the two sisters went to war again.
It was days later when Cathla walked down to her former cell, now with a new tenant.
Desimuss glared at Cathla, watching her as she approached, Cathla attempted to leave a tray of food for her, but then she noticed the other trays left by her guards. There was a moment of pity from her, and she considered reaching out to her sister.
Cathla turned to go.
“You never answered my question.” Desimuss said, annoyed.
With a smile Cathla looked back and said, “Courage. When you find it to fight back and change your life, it becomes an infinite force that can help you do anything. It’s like gravity but reversed…see you next week”

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

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 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.

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 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.