Tag Archives: Time Travel

Gateways: “What the Moon Said” by Leah Lopez read by Lauren Davies

TRANSCRIPT: Today’s writer, Leah Lopez is a Chicago writer and the playwright-in-residence at EDGE of Orion Theatre.

“So, it’s magic?” I replied.
“No. And yes,” my uncle returned, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses back up to his nose.
I turned the heavy gold medallion in my hand. It looked like a doubloon.
“You’re not very helpful,” I sighed, avoiding looking at the envelope he had placed in front of me an hour ago. Instead, my hand gripped my coffee mug, no longer hot, and downed it in one gulp with a grimace.
“Science and magic are the same in theory, Jules,” he explained. “A round earth, herbs used by women thought to be witches to cure the sick, potato batteries, sending messages over wires, picking up wifi signals. People say they don’t ‘believe’ in climate change or dinosaurs or the moon landing or vaccinations. What’s the difference in story between the fantasy you write and the science fiction you’re lumped with all the time?” he asked.
“Long hair and elves,” I said, slightly sarcastically.
An hour ago on the day before my 30th birthday, my uncle Fritz showed up at my house with a weathered manila envelope and coffeecake from the day old section of the grocery store. I come from a family of scientists: physicists, geologists, biologists, astronomers. Fritz is an astrophysicist who studies dark matter and was two years older than his sister, my mother. He has two ex-wives, four children (microbiologist, two paleontologists, and a dentist), and dogs he names Charlie. He doesn’t have more than one dog, but just one dog at a time, always named Charlie. A parade of never-ending Charlies. I used this once in a short story and he hung it up in his office. Tore the pages right out of the anthology and stapled the pages in order. He had to buy two to make it work.
I eyed my phone.
“A wiki page on string theory will not make it any easier to understand,” he said with his mouthful of coffeecake.
I sighed again. At least I had some keywords now.
“What is the choice I have to make? You present sentimental history in the form of family letters written to me from when mom and dad died and then a veritable golden ticket to another dimension to maybe see them alive. Were I to write a science fiction story, it definitely wouldn’t make interdimensional travel look so emotional,” I said more to myself than to him.
“It’s more transdimensional than inter,” he said. “And you once said that good science fiction knows how the science works in the story, which is why you chose fantasy, so your version of this story would have a magical gnome bringing you an enchanted acorn,” he said, then laughed at his own joke.
“Stick to astrophysics,” I shot back, taking the letters out of the envelope.
“You don’t have to decide right now,” he said. “It might not work, but we won’t know until you give it a turn. Three turns to be exact. We had plans for other devices that worked differently, but those were lost in the crash with your parents.”
“Great, now I’m in a comic book,” I said, completely sarcastically. “Why does our family have such weird hobbies?”
He gathered his coffee and other papers he brought to explain how it all worked and threw his backpack on over his shoulders. He kissed the top of my head and said, “Jules, you’ll figure it out.” And with that bit of casual advice, he walked outside.
“You suck and I hate you,” I shouted after him from the doorframe. He waved to me over his head, still walking across my overgrown lawn. “And why wait til I’m 30? And why did you make it a stupid doubloon? Next time don’t bring stale cake!”
I walked back in and slumped in my chair.
In all honesty, the letters were more difficult to process than the prospect of seeing my parents alive. They maybe potentially who knows for sure exist in another dimension I could maybe potentially who knows for sure travel to with god damn pirate money. But the letters. The letters were in front of me, real and full of grief. They were tiny ribbons of memory linking me to a time I lived through, but barely remember. Thumbing through them, I could see that they had collected them from around the time my parents died when I was just 5 years old. They were all addressed to me; they were filled with stories of the three of us, of when I was the daughter in a little family and not the orphaned cousin, niece, granddaughter of an only-ever extended family.

Dear Julie, For Little Juliana, To Julie-Bell, Dear Jules.

“One time I babysat you and we ended up at the Art Institute and a burly security guard yelled at me for letting you run around, but you loved the paintings and then we had ice cream. You liked mint chocolate chip.” Uncle Simon, zoologist

“You were the most beautiful baby. Your apgar score was 10 and your dad said your cord fell off at exactly two weeks, right on schedule. I never heard you cry.” Grandpa Gene, doctor

“You loved yellow roses, just like your mother. She had them in their wedding and you had yellow roses painted in your room.” Grandma Stella, botanist

“I’m sorry about your parents. You are very good at writing on the sidewalk with chalk and you like to pretend fairies lived behind your house.” Cousin Ada, mathematician

These were little notes jotted quickly on cards. It must have been during a wake. They were sad and raw and tinged on the sides with grief. Many of them still in present tense, the burden of past tense too heavy. I sucked my breath in as I scanned my memory of all the backyards of all my family. Every single one had yellow rose bushes, tiny threads of remembrance woven into our daily lives.
I ignored all of this for several days. Eventually I avoided the kitchen all together since seeing the letters and the gold medallion strewn across the table made me think about the way my life could go once I made a decision. I had what I wanted, I argued with myself, all I ever wanted. I had a house, books with my name on them, good friends who were there for me, family who loved me. And there sat this tiny coin that could upend everything I knew in my life, everything I held dear, for the chance at something I couldn’t even begin to understand. For the chance to wake up tomorrow and hug my parents, let them see who I grew into.
“You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow either,” my cousin Ada told me another handful of days later as she poured over the cards. “Seriously, Jules, did your parents dying teach you nothing? Every oncoming second has a million strings attached to it depending on which one you pull. I could leave now and be hit by a bus, stay and choke on a cookie, make it home fine and be bored. They’re all weighted the same.”
“Since when did you become a philosopher,” I shot back. “Let me have the arts, ok? You stick to the sciences.”
“I’m just saying that there isn’t a better choice here and so you should go with the obvious one,” she explained as if it were simple. But people who don’t have to make the decision could always boil the emotional parts down to simple and easy and obvious.
“And which one is that,” I asked, avoiding eye contact, because maybe I was overthinking it. Probably not. But maybe.
“Go see them,” she said gently, her hand over mine.
“And if I don’t come back,” I asked her, all the worries rushing into my voice as my throat closed and my chest tightened. All the unspoken fears she could read on my face about meeting two people who reached mythological status in my life, in all our lives, and find that I didn’t measure up. That smashing the past into the future was too much of a decision for any one person.
“Then it was nice knowing you, cuz,” she said, and then she punched me on the arm. “Can I have your house if you don’t come back?”
“Go home and be bored,” I said to her.
“See?” she said, grabbing cookies on her way out, “choose a string and pull it, Juliana. Easy.”
Except it wasn’t easy, I said out loud later that night on the back porch in conversation with the moon. I held the gold coin up, let the light reflect all the decisions. I had everything I wanted in this life save two people who maybe existed in another. Now, with nothing left to gain here, I suddenly found myself with everything to lose if I go there.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and chose a string.

Today’s reader, Lauren Davies is a Podcast host and historical researcher, focusing on the criminal justice experiences of the Suffragette movement. She lives in South Wales.

Gateways: “What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Or How I Got Grounded Until Christmas by Eloise McGruff” by Steven Townsend read by Molly 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: “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: “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: “Adventure is Still Out There” by Olivia Sack, read by Kein Onickel

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: “An Iteration” by John Keefe

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

Connor died briefly when his oxygen recycler failed. For thirty-five seconds, Connor’s
overworked heart stopped beating for the first time in forty-eight years. For seventeen of those
seconds, Connor’s brain received almost no oxygen on even the smallest molecular level. For six seconds, the innermost core systems of Connor’s brain ceased to operate, and contained within those six seconds was eternity.
Then the medical apparatus to which Connor was strapped injected him with a strong
adrenaline solution and exposed him to 250 joules of electrical charge. Seized by blinding and incredible awakeness, he grabbed blindly for the emergency release lever and found it. The lever pulled easily, and the doors to the medical coffin popped open with a pneumatic bang that blew out one of Connor’s eardrums. He slumped forward in his straps, focused on nothing but breathing, rocking his head gently against the pain and the whining of his deafened ear.
He detached his harness and thumped to the ground, and the pain in his skull felt like it
belonged to someone else. His vision starred, then darkened. Connor rocked his head against the steel and fell unconscious, and when he awoke, there was a stream of sunlight arcing before him, refracted by the shattered porthole windows. It was cold. He shivered some life back into himself, and then began pulling himself across the floor by as flinging his hands forwards and yanking them in, like grapnels. Dust and bits of charred metal rattled against him and clung to his ruined clothes.
Minutes later, Connor swayed shakily on two bare feet, with the display screen upon the medical pod telling him it was worse than it looked.
Connor bandaged himself as best he could. He wasted a roll of medical tape shrink-wrapping his torso, and an entire jar of burn cream coating his shoulder. Gingerly, he pulled a burn sleeve over his right arm, and he clutched the limb at the wrist and rocked side to side as he waited for the analgesic spray to alleviate the pain. He coughed again. A tooth fell out. He stepped over it as he climbed out of the medical bay and into the ruined hallway, unlit and cave-like save for the gentle sparking of severed wires, popping off like fireflies in the acrid gloom.
At the end of the hallway was a door, and Connor grasped the emergency release handle and covered his good ear with his good hand. The door popped off its tracks with the sound of a gunshot and drummed upon the steel floor when it landed. There were still emergency lights inside the server room, red utility bulbs oscillating slowly, sketching shadows of ruined server towers upon the walls.
It was this sight that introduced Connor, once again, to despair. For in the center of the charred and pulverized server towers sat four steel crates, and each of them was welded shut by such unreckonable gouts of heat that they resembled melted dice. Their keypads both electric and mechanical were charred into hieroglyphics, unusable. The steel of the lids had joined the bodies, entombing their contents until at least the invention of the diamond-tipped industrial drill. The heat- ablative coating had likely protected the contents – many hundreds of solar-powered touch screens, so intuitive that even monkeys and dogs and rats had been able to use them. And thousands of drives and disks, each color-coded, scented, and wrapped in uniquely textured plastic, and each with a small speaker that projected a noise in conjunction with the touch screens, such that even the basest sapient creature might understand that good things would happen if the two items were joined together.
Useless, now. These crates would fossilize beneath the topsoil for a billion years.
Hours, then. That’s all the time Connor had to deliver the completeness of human knowledge to whatever sapient creature was nearby. His mind began to race, outpacing his despair but only just. Forget Harry, he thought. Forget Tina, forget Williams, forget Garcia, forget Mei. They’re dead. Just like everyone else. Just like you were, half an hour ago. Remember?
He tried to remember. He spooled back the film of his memory, back to the months of space travel, budgeting fuel by each precious atom, timing bursts carefully, first to achieve lightspeed and then to surpass it. Back to the weeks of panic as the mission drew to a close, of worsening morale, of endless cycles of bitter fights and tear-soaked hugs. Of dwindling food stocks, of reconstituted protein gel harvested from the septic tank and flavored with packets of dust. Back to the hours upon hours of tedious, silent spacewalks, replacing solar panels perforated by meteors the size of sand grains, or antennae baked by radiation, replaced and then re-replaced and then finally returned to their original outlets when there were no replacements worth using.
Back to the final days. The days where there was no more RNR, no more sleep. Days where the survival of the entire craft relied on seven people performing complex tasks at peak efficiency for hours at a time, where any mistake by any companion would blink them all out of existence so quickly that none among them would have a word for the others.
Connor did not know who made the final mistake. He knew the portside airlock decompressed with the force of ten howitzers, killing two astronauts in an instant and dragging a third out into space a moment later. Twelve hours ago, Mei died in an emergency spacewalk when an exterior exhaust valve became loose and passed through her helmet at many thousands of miles per hour. Connor saw her heartbeat monitor go black with his own eyes in the medical bay. Her last words were “Re-attaching starboard panel G6” and then she was unreachable to anyone.
This is it, thought Connor. This is what it came down to.
Inside an hour, Connor was leaning upon some ancient mutation of a pine tree, as big in girth as the ship smashed to smoldering pieces in the crater before it. He panted heavily, taking in deep gulps of the freshest air he had ever enjoyed. It was an impossibly heady bouquet of scents, so ripe and fierce they could almost be tasted. Each gust of wind told a story, of rotting trees and the patterns of birds and even the murmurs of insects expressed as subtle notes barely apparent to his nose.
And now, from upwind, the scent of human sweat.
It was evening, and the slanted red sunlight fell upon human forms, creeping between the trees and scrub, silent as panthers, with clubs, spears, and lances raised on their shoulders in attitudes of readiness.
You’re the ones, thought Connor. The ones who came to look. That’s all I needed. Someone to come see…

He slumped against the tree and raised one arm to show them the blood. Slowly, the early men gathered around him, and a moment later, the women too. They eyed him warily, snorting the air with their odd noses. Connor slid to the ground and sat with his back to the tree and his audience rose their implements in one motion and then lowered them slowly. No kind of threat.
“Hello,” said Connor, and his witnesses grumbled at each other and cast side-eyes and bared their teeth.
“I had more to show you,” he said. “So much more. We’ve had an odd time of it. Us. You all and me.”
He rocked his head against the bark and felt the sun upon his cheek.
“We went up there,” he said, and he pointed with one finger, and after a few long moments, some of his peers cast their gaze from the finger itself to what it indicated – the crescent moon, hanging early in the darkening blue of the sky.
“We went further too. We went fast. So fast. Like this.”
His hands, the good one and ruined one alike, made strange patterns in the air before him, odd
circles and weird displays of dexterity. And at cue, he shot both hands forward and made a noise with his mouth and the men before him raised their tools at the suddenness of it, and even when they relaxed no eye was not upon him.
“We went so fast we went through time. That’s how life escapes. That’s how you beat entropy. It’s the only thing worth beating. It’s about getting closer each time.”
His hands rose again, and then fell in a welcoming gesture, open-palmed. And between the outstretched arms was a pyramid of dry wood in a circle of stones, the structure resinous and scented of pine.
“This is all I have to show you. Call it a head start.”
Hours later, and the strange man had died. The women each came forward to touch his
forehead,and then the men did too, so that they might know him. And each of them seized a handle of wood which had at its far end an angry ball of flame that the man had birthed from stones. They waved them nervously in the air and drew pictures with trails of flame that could never be seen again.
And in the days that came, they performed as the strange man had, clapping rocks at odd piles of wood, and trying to find in their own hands the artful motions he had shown them.

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: The Circle of Least Confusion by Leigh Hellman

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Leigh Hellman. Leigh is a queer/asexual and genderqueer writer originally from the western suburbs of Chicago. They are a graduate of the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After gaining the ever-lucrative BA in English, they spent five years living and teaching in South Korea before returning to my native Midwest.

Leigh’s short fiction and creative nonfiction work has been featured in Hippocampus Magazine, VIDA Review, and Fulbright Korea Infusion Magazine. Their critical and journalistic work has been featured in the American Book Review, the Gwangju News magazine, and the Windy City Times. Their first novel, Orbit, is a new adult sci-fi story now available through Snowy Wings Publishing. They also have a historical fantasy piece included in the SWP anthology, Magic at Midnight. This is “The Circle of Least Confusion”.

“You sure?” Hyungbae’s hands—fingers thick and lined with nicks and slices that’d long since scarred over—twitched at the strap buckles. “That it has to be like This?”

He wasn’t looking Frances in the eye, wasn’t asking them because he already knew the answer. The room was stuffy and damp, naked concrete slabs prickled with sweat like slices of microwaved meat gone cold on a counter. No windows, no barriers, nothing extraneous left to get in their way. Just Hyungbae and his team, dripping through their thin shirts against the hot whir of the machine.

The one door in the whole place creaked open, then lurched shut. Hyungbae glanced up at it. Frances watched a drop trail down from his hairline; it curved around his eyebrows and under his glasses and ran smooth down a bare, blotchy cheek until it hooked under his jaw and disappeared.

Frances reached up and secured the double-latches at their shoulders themself.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Then it was a snap-surge of heat and light—a million flashbulbs exploding in a broom closet—that caught Frances by the throat and ripped them out of time.

It’d been raining that day, Frances remembered. Muggy like lukewarm cream-of- something soup and it’d left the world soggy in its wake. They’d brought an umbrella—stamped with some corporate brand they’d collected from a forgotten promotional event—but the rain sheared off it. No wind, no breeze. Just wet and muck, like waddling through the bottom of a marshy lake.

They hadn’t meant to be there. They’d missed their first bus and stuffed their way onto the next one, already behind on where they were supposed to be. They couldn’t hear the driver, couldn’t make out the pitchy automated voice that kept a polite tally of their stops. Thought it was Schiller but actually it was Schubert and by the time they’d elbowed their way off it was too late.

The rain seemed heavier this time around, like it’d been compressed in the time stretch. Everything smelled fresh and sour all at once; Frances ducked under the faded awning of a closed cafe to get out of the storm.

No umbrella this time. Frances shook themself off like an under-groomed dog. Damn.

Not that it’d matter if they were soaked. That’d probably make it easier, in the End.

A bus was coming—would be there soon—and they had to beat it.

The park wasn’t even really a park, more like an overgrown corner where the prairie had wheedled its way back up through cracks in the cement sidewalks. Frances wondered if it was crowded, usually—especially on shiny summer days when the schools were off and the trees blotted out the harshest slats of sunlight. Maybe it was filled with noise then: gleeful shrieks and barks and music and laughs, bodies running and chasing and falling and getting up again. They’d come back once—the two of them—on another rainy day when the October air found its bite, and maybe Frances had asked then, too.

Maybe it always rains here, Frances had joked while curling their fingers Together.

Maybe it just rains for us, she’d poked back with a loose, fluttering smile.

Frances shook themself again, full-body from neck to ankles and out through their knuckles. It didn’t matter, didn’t change anything. Time—the past, the future, the in-between and back again—wasn’t some cancerous corpse laid out for excisions and extractions; it was a graphite slate coated in chalk smudges, illegible but still there. The dusts of memory wafting up into the sinuses to make sure you don’t forget, even after you don’t remember.

It’s gotta be like this, Frances wiped the rain from their eyes. There’s no other Way.

They circled the block, ignored the stares and tried not to come off as reportably suspicious. Ticked off the details—date, time, location—and choked down the panic that someone had hit the wrong key somewhere along the way. Maybe this wasn’t the right day—hell, maybe this wasn’t the right year. Maybe the software was buggy or the algorithms had typos or maybe it was just a fluke, just a one-in-a-trillion bad shot,


Oh, never mind. There she was.


Sandrine? Frances had sounded it out the first time, like chewing through a pine Cone.

It’s French, she’d said, tucking a few curly sprigs into her silk head wrap. We speak French in Haiti too, you know.

Frances hadn’t known, but didn’t let that stop them.

It was a different head wrap today—thicker like cotton and patterned in neon paisley swirls—and Frances couldn’t remember it. Probably hadn’t really been paying attention to it then, because why would they? You don’t know what’s gonna matter until it all matters.

They remembered the greasy puddles, the potted flowers wilting in the humidity, the lone bike rider cutting between bumpers on the slick asphalt like they had nothing left to lose. They remembered the cling of wet fabric against Sandrine’s arms, the splotches of mascara around her eyes, the slap of their own plastic sandals as they darted out to catch her before she fell.

But most of all, Frances remembered the way Sandrine looked after. Staring at their hand around her wrist like it was some clever vine abracadabra-ed to life. Blinking up with bright, sharp eyes that hit Frances like a sock full of silver dollars. It was over already—Frances knew that in the rewind—then and there.

Folks that say things like to say: it only takes an instant. Maybe that’s true; but it’s all the rest of the instants that prove it. Sandrine and Frances had had a lot of them—a lifetime of instants, short as it was—but it still wasn’t enough. It still ended, crashed and burned or sputtered out or got hacked off by the world’s meat cleaver. Ended and there was no going back.

Only there was.

She was close now. A few more strides and they’d crash into each other, thirty seconds and thirty feet too soon. Frances could hear the bus brakes squeal as it veered towards the curb.

They angled their shoulders like they were going to slip past her, then jutted out at the last second. It surprised Sandrine—threw her off balance and spun her around so her back was to the street.

“What the hell?” she shouted over the rain and it landed like a slap across Frances’ face.

Frances swallowed back an apology; it went down bitter. They wanted to spin around and spew out all the apologies they’d never said for all the mistakes they’d never admit to, take back all the lies they’d thought wouldn’t matter, fill up all the silences they’d let spool out because they thought it’d be for the best. But time wasn’t like that.

No other way.

So Frances turned—to hurl an insult or scoff or do something else that would seal this bad second-first impression—but missed the railing around the little garden instead. Their legs tangled in the chains and the rest of their body followed; they landed sprawled out in a bed of bent coneflowers.

“Oh no!” It was a soft lament for the plants, who hadn’t done anything to deserve this, out of Frances’ mouth before they could stop it. That was one mistake. The other was looking up, hearing the sound and following it to Sandrine’s lips as they spread out into a giggling smile.

Behind her, the bus lurched and another Frances tumbled out of the exit doors. They fumbled a bit, like there was something they were supposed to be waiting for, but Sandrine wasn’t there to be caught. After a couple of bewildered turns the other Frances started trudging away to the next stop, sandals flapping heavy as they went.

“Are you okay?” Sandrine offered a firm hand. 

Eyes—sharp and bright—blinked down at Frances.

Damn, they ground their molars and hissed through their front teeth. Damn, damn, damn.

Frances double-tapped the screen on their wrist navigator and it all jerked silent and still. Or rather, still enough at this time speed. Like a shutter run backwards from its quickest exposure; so fast that it was slow again.

“Objective unsuccessful.” Frances’ mouth felt like it was full of syrup, but they chewed out each syllable crisp and clear. “Reset and wind back, two minutes before the last stretch.”

The stillness sucked away and everything reeled impossibly forward and Frances was gone—already days and years and ages on—but somehow they could still feel

Sandrine’s gaze crackling in their bones.

Frances landed feet-first on the other side of the lab door, dry as a stale loaf of bread. It took a minute for the force to drain from their skin, but once it did they punched in the security code and waited for the buzz-in.

The room was stuffy and damp—too many bodies in a windowless space—and Hyungbae glanced up as the door creaked open.

“You sure?” Sweat collected in his beard, clung to it like rain on the edges of leaves. “That it has to be like this?”

Frances sighed, sat down and strapped themself in. “Yeah, I’m sure.”


Rob Southgate is the co-founder of Southgate Media Group, home to over 100 podcasts, blogs, and video channels.  He is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently preparing the debut of his first book that is self-published, 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 SMG as a creative outlet and a way to incorporate all of their interests and their past experiences. If you think Rob has a lot going on, ask him about his amazing daughter, Molly. Rob is an entrepreneur with two Bachelors degrees in business and an MBA in Marketing. 

Gateways: Just Once More by

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Mike Danovitch. Mike’s 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 “Just Once More”.

I lean over her sleeping body. Perfect; how does she always look so perfect? I’m sure if she ever watched me while I slept, I would have had hair sticking out of my mouth, tank top
dangling off one shoulder, with seventeen pillows between my legs. But her, she’s always been perfect. She stirs. “Good morning, love,” I say. Mumbling something incoherent, I’ve never understood it, she kisses my cheek and heads down the hallway – her usual routine. The smell of caffeine wafts back into the bedroom. I want to lay down and sleep forever, but I can’t. Not Today.
She yells from the kitchen. “Karen, would you like some breakfast?” Dragging myself off the bed, I stumble down the hall. A large mug is waiting for me; I don’t even hear the sizzling of
the bacon in the pan, I’m too busy sucking down coffee. Pop! She quickly recoils her hand away from the stovetop. Rolling my eyes, “I tell you to wear gloves but—” She smiles. “I never
listen…I know.” Her smile wins me over every single time. The bacon has burned, but it smells amazing. She was never a great cook, but between the two of us, she was Bobby Flay. She steals
a piece directly from the pan and places it gently between her teeth. I take a bite when she offers me some, but I’m not hungry. The coffee will do for now.
Victoria grabs my mug and begins to clean up after breakfast. I try to tell her that it can wait until tomorrow, but she never listens. Once she has made up her mind, there’s no convincing her otherwise. Might as well let her do it; it’ll be faster that way. I swear, she never sat still. Still, I could watch her for hours. She’s got the television on. She always has the television on. “For background noise,” she always says, but I know it’s because she never liked to be alone with her thoughts. To her, silence was the worst. There’s a commercial playing that I can barely hear. “Small enough to fit in your pocket. Take it on the go and see the world.” I don’t think I’ve ever caught that before. Ugh, she’s using the disgusting sponge that’s been in the sink for weeks. I should have changed it.
“Karen, are you listening?” Of course not, I never am. I’m always thinking about her standing there, washing those damn dishes. “Of course, I was.” I lie. “Well? Any ideas?” Even when I’m being rude, she never leans into it. She’s so pure; I never deserved her. “No, that all sounds good, Vickie. I’m good for doing whatever you like.” Stupid, stupid me. I never call her Vickie; she doesn’t like that. I see it in her face: the pain. The struggle. Trying not to correct me, but she knows better. Her mother caused this, always calling her Vickie never Victoria. It slipped out, but the damage has already been done. I’ll remember to not do that again. “Karen, I love you, but I can tell when you’re not listening.” I gently take her soapy hands into mine and gaze into those beautiful, brown eyes. “I’m sorry. I spaced out for a moment, but I promise that I’m entirely focused on you. Whatever you would like to do today; I am yours.” She smiles and she’s won me over again. “Good; you’re driving.” She’s already rushed to the bedroom to change before I can respond.
Top down, radio drowning out the sounds of the Corvette’s engine, we drive toward the coast. I meant to take the car in to get it looked at, but never took the time. It always ran well enough, so it wasn’t a problem, even if the engine shook like a baby’s rattle on amphetamines. I glance over at Victoria, singing along to the radio. Some classic from the 80’s I don’t know the lyrics to. I was never able to hold a pitch, but hers is the voice of an angel. I can barely hear her voice over the engine, but I know she’s singing every word. She begs me to join in, but I never do. I’d rather watch. Hanging her head outside the car like a dog, belting as loud as she can, I think about the times we talked about getting a pet. She begged and pleaded, but I was adamant. Even picked out the most adorable puppy she found on some rescue’s website: this giant, fuzzball German Shepherd mix named Mary Puppins. Stupid cute dog. It’s one of the few times I was ever able to say no to her. Maybe if I had only given in and allowed her to adopt one.
We’ve reached our destination: the beach. Our favorite parking spot is open; I know this route so well by now. Shift the gear into Park, put the top back up, leave the windows cracked a bit (don’t want it to get too warm in there), grab the bag from the trunk, actions so routine that I don’t even think about them; I still watch her as she practically skips down the walkway leading toward the sea. She’s in her element. Pisces. Loves the water. If mermaids were real, she would have left me a long time ago and spent her life searching for Atlantis. By the time I get down to the shore, she’s already in the water, neck deep. I’m not one for taking a dip, but today isn’t about me. I drop our stuff down, take of my shirt, and wade into the water. Cold. So cold. It’s nearly one hundred degrees out; how is it always this cold? I only get up to my thighs before I start to head back to the comfort of warm, dry land. Give me a soft towel, some sunscreen, and a good book and I’ll lay on the beach all day; she can have the water if I can have the earth. Finally done swimming, she starts to head back in my direction and I swear it’s just like ascene from that one James Bond film. She’s Ursula Andress looking like a sea goddess with water flowing off her body. I’m Sean Connery: broad-shouldered, wearing my baby blue swimsuit, mouth agape at a loss for words. I weakly hand her a towel so that she can dry off. In a few moments, a man selling lemonade will walk by and I can quench my thirst. I order two and we sit on the sand, staring out into the ocean. A plane whizzes by overhead dragging an advertisement behind it: “ChronoMax: Only the best!” I always found those ads kind of tacky, attempting to catch people at the beach, but now…
It’s getting later in the day and we need to keep moving. I pack our stuff in the car and coerce her to leave the beach. She’s adamant about wanting to stay, but I promise that we can come back tomorrow. I don’t mean to lie to her. Technically, I’m not, but she doesn’t have to know that. I drive away. Immediately she can tell that we’re not going home. We’re taking a detour to her favorite restaurant. When someone mentions their favorite restaurant, what do you imagine? Five-star cuisine? The finest cuisine known to man that costs as much as the mortgage on your house?
That was never Victoria’s style. We turn the corner and I see her shift in her seat. She’s ecstatic.
The neon sign illuminates the entire street: Minnie’s Diner. Before I can park the car in the tiny parking lot out front, she’s scrambling to get out. Imagine the gaudiest 50’s era diner, complete
with servers that do not want to be there and greasy food that will clog your body up for days – that’s Minnie’s Diner. I’m convinced the Health Department gave up years ago on making sure this place was edible, but Victoria doesn’t care. For her, it’s paradise. We grab a booth by one of the front windows and she doesn’t even have to grab a menu; she always orders the same thing: two eggs over-easy, sausage, three pancakes (heavy on the syrup), milk, and orange juice. I’ve never understood wanting breakfast for dinner, always seemed weird to me. I also never knew how she could fit so much food into her body. I can barely finish the cheeseburger I ordered; then again, I’m still not hungry. I check my watch and see that it’s nearly 9:15. It’s almost time. I turn my gaze toward the lights on the street. This is the hardest part. I’m not ready.
We’re in the parking lot heading back to the car when it hits. Victoria clutches her chest, falling to the ground. Time slows to a crawl. I can’t move. Someone inside the Diner rushes out to check on her. They yell something at me, but I don’t hear it. I’m focusing on the sirens echoing in the background. I’ve watched this scene play out countless times. The ambulance arriving. Taking her away. Speeding to the hospital. Holding her hand the entire time. Watching as they cannot save her. Hearing that monitor and its deafening tone. It’s her heart, they tell me. It simply puttered out. Something else her mother gave her. I hate that woman with every fiber in my being, but right now, it doesn’t matter. She never makes it past 9:30. The ambulance takes her away to the hospital again, but this time I’m not with her. I stand in the parking lot alone. I can’t stomach watching her die over and over, knowing I can’t change a thing.
I collect myself and take out the small, silver tablet from my pocket. Etched on the back in weird, block lettering is a name: ChronoMax. I laughed the first time I saw one. I couldn’t imagine wanting to revisit the past twenty-four hours, but now I could never imagine being without her. There was a rumor once that the technology would get better, but I guess I’ll never find out. I revisit this day over and over, spending the best and worst day of our lives together. It’s better than the alternative. I power on the tablet, take a deep breath, and hit the button.
I’m back in our bedroom, sitting over her sleeping body. Perfect; how does she always look perfect? She stirs. I whisper, “Good morning, love.” Mumbling something incoherent, she kisses my cheek and heads down the hall. I watch her leave and my heart is full. Someone a long time ago once said: “Time heals all wounds.” But I just don’t have the time. I’d much rather spend an eternity here.

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: Dear Alex by Alex B Reynolds

TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Alex B Reynolds. After majoring in television writing and producing at Columbia College, they have worked primarily with New Millennium Theatre Company on parodies and pop-culture mashups, in addition to a Halloween-themed burlesque show for the Flaming Dames LLC. Most recently, Alex had a reading of a fantasy one-act called NPCs at Otherworld Theatre’s Paragon festival. Alex tells us they have a strong penchant for satire and comedy. They’re the only things Alex takes seriously. This story is called, “Dear Alex”

Every year on my birthday, I write my future self a birthday card. I started doing it as a teenager: “Dear 15-year-old Alex: I hope high school is going great. Are you still into Final Fantasy? I hope David and Brandon leave you alone this year, and I hope that you’re still close with Megan and Phil. Happy Birthday! From, 14-year-old Alex.” It was cute. Every card was like a photograph of who I was when I wrote it: “Dear 17-year-old Alex: I’m so jealous that you’re only two months away from seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Just in case no one else says it today, you are super cool, and I hope you have a happy birthday. Cheers; 16-year-old Alex.” It was a form of self-care. It forced me to be nice to myself, if only for the length of a card. “Happy birthday, 20-year-old Alex! Wow, 20. Two decades. Your teens were an awesome adventure, and you should be proud of all you’ve been through. I wish you the very best this year. 19-year-old Alex.”

At first, I tucked the card away in my closet and dug it out on my next birthday. Then I started mailing them. They would always come back a week later, so I still had to tuck them away for almost a year. But I liked the ritual of sealing, addressing and stamping the envelope and taking it to the mailbox. I made more of an effort for myself that way, and that made it more special. Before long, I started putting money in the cards like I was my own grandmother. “Hey, 24-year-old Alex. Happy Birthday. I hope you’re well, and I hope Lost had a great ending. Anyway, I can only assume you found a better job by now, but even so, here’s $20. I hope it helps. Love, 23-year-old Alex.” That was the one. The card I wrote when I was 23. That was the first one that got a reply.

A week after my 23rd birthday, I got a card in the mail. It wasn’t my card to my future self; the envelope was different. I thought it was just a late arrival from a relative, but then I read it: “Dear 23-year-old Alex: Don’t get your hopes up about Lost. The Constant will always be the best episode.Thank you for the $20. I do have a better job than you (barely) but I also have a prescription for Zoloft, so, there’s that. Anyway, happy belated birthday; Love, 24-year-old Alex.” It had to be a joke. The mail carrier read my card and decided to mess with me. But why? We barely knew each other. More importantly, the card was in my handwriting. Was this really from future Alex? Was I going to crack time travel this year? Was I living the movie The Lake House as both
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves?

For months, I was obsessed with the card. My family didn’t understand. My friends thought I was playing a prank. I became isolated. I was too distracted at work and was fired. Thankfully, a friend hooked me up at a company with health benefits – a better job, like the card said. But it meant that I could finally afford a therapist. After a quick recap of childhood trauma, I told them all about the birthday card from the future. I asked what I should do with it – should I try to mail it back to the past? Would that create a paradox, or would sending a new one create the paradox? I was diagnosed with anxiety. I got a prescription for Zoloft. And to top it all off, the last season of Lost wasn’t all that great. Everything in the card had come true. But how did it happen? I certainly
didn’t crack time travel at 23 – I was a poor art school graduate. I just assumed that someone else in 2010 was going to open a portal or a doorway to the past where people can throw birthday cards to themselves, but no. No portal. No doorway. No explanation for any of it. So, I took my Zoloft. I went to work. I started dating someone. And when my 24th birthday came around, I did what I always do: I wrote a birthday card to my future self.

“Happy Birthday, 25-year-old Alex! Congratulations on a quarter-century. I hope you figured out the mystery of the time traveling card by now and got the chance to clear your head. Are you still dating Kris? I hope that’s going well. And listen. Just in case you do write back, can you share some winning lottery numbers with me or something? I still sleep on a futon. Also, here’s $20. Love, 24-year-old Alex.” I put the card in the envelope. I addressed it, stamped it, and put it in the mailbox, exactly like the year before. Every day, I ran to see if a reply came. I waded through stacks of bills, credit card offers, insurance offers, ALDI coupons, and student loan overdue payment notices. Finally, exactly one week after my birthday, an envelope arrived with my Handwriting: “Dear 24-year-old Alex: Don’t get your hopes up about Kris. Thank you as always for the $20. I really need the money right now. And don’t knock the futon, it’s still in great shape. Anyway, I hope you had a happy birthday. Make good choices. Best Wishes, 25-year-old Alex. P.S. The winning numbers are 6 10 28 33 67 14.”

I checked the other side of the card. I checked the back of the card. I checked inside the envelope again. Nowhere did it say when those numbers would be pulled, or for which Lottery game they were. Was I just being a smartass with me? Or was I actually trying to stop myself from “really needing” $20 in a year? I decided to give myself the benefit of the doubt and checked the paper: Mega Millions drawing tonight, PowerBall tomorrow, State Lotto the next day. Maybe this was my birthday present to me. I ran to the corner store and bought tickets for all three games using the numbers from the future. By the end of the week, I had lost three times. Future me was taunting myself. Well, I wasn’t going to let a birthday card from the future ruin my life a second time. This time, I was going to make sure that nothing in the card came true. I moved in with Kris, cementing our commitment and cutting my rent in half. We shared a bed, so I gave the futon to my little sister to take to college. I sabotaged everything that card said – except for the lottery. Every week, I still played the numbers. Every week, I lost. I started playing in different states, too. Before long, I spent half the week in the car. I played the numbers in Minnesota, I played the numbers in Idaho, I played the numbers in New York, and I just kept losing. Kris wanted us to spend more time together, but I couldn’t really explain why that wasn’t an option. Between work and playing the lottery all over the country, I had little time for anything else. We broke up. I was kicked out. My rent doubled in a studio apartment with no furniture. Worst of all, the cost of gas and lottery tickets took its toll. By my 25th birthday, I was $10,000 in debt. But my little sister bought a bed, so she gave my futon back. Everything from the birthday card came true. Again.

“Dear 26-year-old alternate dimension time-witch Alex: Winning numbers our ass! My heart is in pieces, I’m worse than broke, and I’m more alone than ever because of you. Us. Whatever. I don’t see how things can get much worse. Help me out. Help yourself out. Tell me who wins the Superbowl. Warn me about an impending tragedy. Don’t just shoot the shit with me about Dexter. We can get it right this time. I really, really hope you’re having a good birthday. Warmest regards, 25-year-old Alex.”

Envelope. Address. Stamp. Mailbox. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I waited. I didn’t want to do a thing until I knew what my future self had to tell me. This time, we would get it right. This time, we would change everything. But a week went by, and nothing came. Two weeks went by, and still nothing. A month after my birthday, it was pretty obvious I wasn’t getting a reply. Maybe the whole thing was a joke after all. Or, maybe, 26-year-old Alex didn’t write a reply because there was no 26-year-old Alex. Everything started getting worse after that first card, so maybe this was the year it all came to a head. This was the year I was finally electrocuted or hit by a bus or poisoned in a gas leak. Why else wouldn’t I write back? Only one thing was certain: something terrible was going to happen to me. For six months, I only left my apartment to go to work. I wore a
bike helmet everywhere. I didn’t talk to anyone. They shut off my power. It didn’t matter. I was ever vigilant against the thousand ways I could die every day. Then, on my half birthday, the flood of bills and overdue notices was interrupted by an envelope – with my handwriting. My heart nearly exploded as I tore it open like a starving opossum and read the card inside:

“Dear 25-year-old Alex: Don’t get your hopes up about Dexter. Anyway, happy belated birthday. I would have written sooner, but I’ve been pretty busy. As for the Superbowl, I’m sorry, but I don’t really follow sports. Love, 26-year-old Alex.” And that was it. It was the most casual, boring, least helpful birthday card from the future yet. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in all my life. It snapped me back to reality. I had spent three years so obsessed with what was going to happen that I completely ignored what was actually happening. I lost my job, my friends, my relationship, way too much money, and – very nearly – my own sanity. I spent the next three years working harder than ever just to recover from all the damage I caused myself. It took that long to buy another birthday card. So, if you take anything away from all of this, let it be to just live your life. The more you try to control the future, the less you’re going to enjoy it when it gets here. Anyway, I hope you get this card. I hope it makes a difference. And here’s $20. I hope it helps. Happy 10th birthday, Alex. Love, 30-year-old Alex.

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.