Through The Universe Gate

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Humans are the only intelligent beings. The first and last. They have everything they need on Earth, and no one bothers them.

There are people against being alone. They argue it’s detrimental to human existence because there’s nothing left to explore.

Their souls ache for life on other planets. One such man, Matteo, dreams of worlds beyond his lonely existence.


The weak sun shines through the aging window, casting bars of light over Matteo’s concentrating face.

So engrossed in his work, he’s forgotten the sun has risen. It’s midday.

His eyes are heavy but reluctant to close.


Matteo looks up from his tablet. Sophie leans against the doorway, charcoal-brown arms folded in her usual caring disapproval.

She’s his eldest and knows how worn down he is.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” he says and smiles at her, showcasing the dark circles underneath his drooping eyes.

Sophie approaches him with a bowl of porridge balanced on one hand.

“Eat,” she commands, slamming it on the table, taking his tablet away before he can protest.

Matteo’s retina display flashes with the time, and he fights down a gasp. What’s he been doing? “Yes,” he says with a sigh.

The first bite of the porridge brings feeling to his body, and his tongue burns. Matteo swipes the dirty dish from the desk, headed to the kitchen.

You’d think the head concept artist at StarFinder Studios could afford home help.

He’s on a first-name basis with the CEO, but can’t make enough for his next meal. The world knows his name, but do they know he supports seven kids?

Matteo wonders why they don’t move out, or his mother doesn’t flee and take them with her. She stays, using her pension to support them.

Should he be appreciative or ashamed?

For the first time in a week, he goes outside.

Sophie intercepts him, and he gives her a quick kiss on the forehead.

“Papa?” Sophie says, sounding uncertain. “Where are you going?”

He looks back at his daughter with regretful eyes, much older than they should be.

“I’m going for a walk. If you need anything, ask Noni.”

He smiles before walking out the door.


Matteo’s never left the ground, but loves how Earth looks from space.

It’s watching a painting come alive as he gazes at the video feeds broadcasting live from the Verge Space Station. He’s seen nothing so beautiful.

This is the universe he wants to paint, but how can he do anything that doesn’t make money? For someone making his living from creativity, he’s allowed little.

How long before he’s on his last legs, his children gone from his life? It’ll take something earth-shattering to wake him up.


The sun’s shining, and the birds are singing. Matteo wakes to a new morning.

He’d spent three days in front of his workstation before he collapsed into bed last night; Sophie must have woken him up with her breakfast this morning.

He smells it from where she set it on his desk.

Matteo glances out the window, expecting to see the neighbor’s cacti collection on their balcony, but stops short. Where… were they?

It’s as if his apartment has been transplanted to another world. He rushes to the entrance and throws it open.

There’s an odd tree near the front door, with fruit hanging from its branches.

A paradise with lush trees and unending open fields, but it feels like a trap.

Matteo glances up, dread filling him.

Purple skies with amber clouds stretch for eternity.

Petals raining from the sky, large pink flowers covering the ground. One settles on his nose, a soft tickling sensation.

He doesn’t know what to do.

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