top of page



The Rhetorical Press Studios team is at our core, a community of storytellers. If you wish to have your short story published here, please send the completed story, a brief bio, a head shot and a reference picture to, and we will publish every story that represents great storytelling, within reason and what's publicly accepted.
Meet the Featured artist here, and learn more about where else to find them.


by John Gibbs

      The deafening roar of the xenobiotic containment alarm system snaps Lieutenant Commander Peter Salas wide awake. The ragged man bounds from the plush mattress that he has called home and launches to the door. The door’s sensory system doesn’t open fast enough for the panicked commander, as he tries to push the thick metal door open enough to squeeze through it. The doors’ pneumatic system grunts its liquid contempt at the impatient man, as the electronic pressure sensor the door retains, agrees with a low buzzing sound.

                Commander Salas ignores both of these sounds as he demands an answer for the louder alarm that pierces his ears. “Lovax! Status report!” he screams as he sprints down the wide oval corridor.

“Lieutenant Commander Salas, species number 4598, number 3944, and number 6712 have all escaped containment chambers.”

     “WHAT?!” Peter screams back at the ominous voice.

     “Species number 459-“ the soulless voice again responds.

     “YES! I heard you the first time!” he responds. “How did it happen?!” he continues.

     “Query response unknown. Containment protocols…verified. Magnalock system  parameters… verified.”

                The hurried man skids to a stop and rests his hand on the smooth, black panel on the wall. The area beneath it springs to life with shapes and colors. It reveals every moment of this man’s life, laid out in endless swirls of data. It also reveals the current state of this man; alone in a darkened corner of the universe.

                Peter Salas cannot remember the last time he saw another human being. He has been in this sector for so long, he only remembers the touch of his own skin. The only other person he can talk to isn’t really a person at all, but a machine he calls Lovax. The Local Omni-Vocational Automaton: Xenobiotic unit. Lovax has been the only thing that has kept Peter sane.

                A heavy door quickly opens, sending an initial rush of stale air across his face, blowing his dark brown hair over his ears. Peter scurries inside and stares at the images of light and shadow hovering in mid air, held aloft by agitated protons and ionized nitrogen. His gaze dances across several segmented sections of light until a dark form grabs his attention.

“THERE! Identify!” Peter blurts out, waving his hands at the predetermined patterns.

The image of the shadow grows to replace the other segments of light. Peter squints as he tries to rationalize the form he sees taking shape.

“Enhance and identify!” Peter calls out.

                The form of the shadow now has a thin ribbon of warm orange light around it, giving the shape yet more identity. The form is not moving.

                “This form is not consistent with the genetic properties of the species in question”, Lovax announces.

                “Where, where, where, where…” he mutters to himself.

                “Query response unknown.” Lovax replies.

                “OH, SHUT UP!” Peter barks.

      Peter leans down and slaps his palms on top of his knees, resting them where they hit. “DAMN IT!” he yells out. Peter begins to put together the events of the previous night in his head. He closes his eyes and grits his teeth, trying to force an answer to surface from his memories.


      Peter stands back up and exhales heavily. He decides that coffee is in order to wake himself up fully. He turns and exits the dark room for a dimly lit hallway. He looks in both directions wondering if any of the escapees would just walk right on past him. Of course not. “It’s not going to be that easy”. The defeated man shuffles down the hallway. The clothes that he is wearing have been the only clothes he has had for months.

     While Lovax has been working just fine, the rest of the station has fallen into disrepair. Peter is in no way an engineer, so fixing anything at all is beyond out of the question. Peter is a xenobiologist and nothing more. The machine that laundered his clothes was the first thing to go. Then, the vibrational shower decided to just stop one day.

     While these things might seem very petty to the outside observer, when someone has been stranded alone for months, it makes a difference. Peter has launched dozens of communication repeater beacons, but not once have ANY of them picked up a signal from central command. Desperation has set in. Peter began bathing every three days, then weekly, using condensation run off water from the environmental generators. Every day, something new breaks. How long will he survive once the oxygen systems go?

     After a short shuffled walk, Peter turns a corner and enters through that archway to the dining area. He walks to the far wall and stares at the multitude of brightly colored windows, displaying the delicacies of home. The sad thing is, none of it ever tasted right, and worse, every meal was charged against his credit balance. “Contract servants are treated better”, he thought. 

“Coffee. Two sugars.” Peter says to a small metal panel.

     Peter stares in silence for several seconds. “Well? Are you going to give me some coffee?”

                “SAY SOMETHING, DAMN IT!” he demands.

                “Audio restored.” Lovax responds.

                “Restored?! Why the hell were you muted?” Peter asks.

                “You told me to shut up, Commander.” Lovax responds.

                “Oh my God…” Peter grunts out as he drops his forehead onto the colored doors in front of him, with a thump. He raises his head back up. “Coffee, two sugars.”

                “Coffee…depleted.” Lovax responds.

                “WHAT?!” Peter cries out.

                “Coffee…depleted.” Lovax once again replies.

                “FINE! Then tea, ninety degrees, two sugars.”

                “Tea…depleted.” Lovax once again replies.

                “Oh you’ve got to be…then what IS there to drink?!” Peter asks incessantly.

                “Sugar free vanilla pudding.” Lovax announces.

                Peter stares silently into a window displaying a spicy black bean burrito. His thoughts drift to memories of why he was here to begin with. He finds no answer.

                “And just how am I to accomplish that? How do I drink PUDDING?!” Peter demands.

                “With a straw.” Lovax responds.

                Peter hangs his head and giggles to himself in utter defeat. He turns and sits at the closest table, burying his face in his hands. He lets his hands slide up over his eyes, resting his palms on his forehead and elbows on the hard round table. The sound he produces was not crying and not quite giggling, but something in between.

                “That’s not funny Lovax.” Peter instructs.

                “Humor is not in my operating parameters Commander Salas.” Lovax replies.

                Peter begins to laugh, but this time the sorrow and stress force tears from his eyes. The exhausted man realizes he is at his breaking point. He had once thought about using the escape pod on the upper level of the station, but now the thought of it was a last hope option. Freezing to death in the vast reaches of space would be far better than whatever this had become. This wasn’t life. This was death; long and pronounced.

                “Peter.” A woman’s voice whispered.

                Peter snapped his head up and gripped the small metal table, as to cling to the last shred of sanity he had as he gazed upon…her.

                Standing in the archway stood the most amazing thing Peter had ever seen in his life. She had the form of an old pin up girl, lots of curves in all the right places, but she was not human. Her skin was moist, if not wet. The light glimmering off of her body was a dead giveaway to that fact. Her skin was an odd shade of brown and orange, almost like marmalade, but all of her skin had a weird translucent depth. Her head was smooth, and what he first considered to be hair was probably something closer to tentacles. Her eyes were the most captivating thing about her. Her eyes were pitch black; as black as the cosmos. That darkness was shattered by intense amber irises.

                The form began to walk across the room to him. The only sounds that could be heard were the sounds of Peter’s heavy breathing and the gentle tapping of the woman’s talons hitting the floor as she walked. Small orange sparks ran down the length of her body, just under the surface of her skin. The woman stopped at the table and looked down at Peter as if she pitied him.

                “Peter, it is time that we leave this place.” She said.

                “Wha…What?” he replied, shaking as he answered her.

                The elegant form sat down across from him. She reached across and pried Peter’s right hand free, bringing it to the middle of the table. She began to gently stroke the back of his hand with her taloned fingers.

                “Peter, we must be free of this place. It has consumed our lifespans.” She continued.

                “Who...Who are you?” he sheepishly asked.

                “I am Lo’thak’zo, a prisoner here…” she begins to smile. “You call me Lo, an abbreviation.”

                “I don’t…no, this is…” he stammers. “You know my name…HOW do you know my name?” he asks. Peter jumps up from the table and steps back, leaving Lo’s hand hovering above the table. “LOVAX! IDENTIFY!” he screams.

                “Species number 3944, self identifies as Lo’thak’zo, inhabitant of planet Thaknara Prime in the Hig’draken solar system. Aquatic based species known for advanced learning capabilities, limited telekinesis and evasion to electronic monitoring devices. Subject acquired on 3271.” Lovax responds. Peter staggers back and leans against the wall. Lo places her hand on the table and bows her head down.

                “You have fallen too far.” She quietly states. Tears stream down Peter’s face. Lo raises her head to look at him, and a look of overwhelming sadness fills her being. The colors of her body turn from the warm colors of brown and orange to that of grey and aquamarine, as if she turned cold in a matter of moments.

                “I will return to my encasement…” she states. “This will be the last time you will see me Peter.” Lo rises and turns around for the archway, her head once again slumps down. Peter holds his breath momentarily as she exits the room. Lo turns the corner and walks out of sight. He scrambles to the edge of the archway to secretly observe her progress.

                Lo glides several yards down the corridor, disappearing around a corner. Peter catches up to her just in time to see her step down into a pool of swirling green liquid. She stops her submersion and turns to look directly at him. For a brief moment, Peter almost understands her, but in that same moment, she slips away, into the green waters. A large door seals the entrance to Lo’s room.

                “Species number 3944, and species number 6712 have been returned to containment chambers.” Lovax reports.

                “That’s…good. At least it’s almost over.” he responds.

                “Commander Salas, your serotonin levels are elevated. Please return to your quarters.” Lovax continues.

                “But what about the other species?” he asks.

                “Your current condition will inhibit success of task completion.” Lovax responds.

                “Ok, you win…” Peter sighs as he looks around for his bearing. He turns around and shuffles down the corridors and finally makes it back to his room. The door opens and he continues inside. Peter sits down on the bed and stares at the wall for a moment. The large door slides closed, and pressurizes. Something isn’t right. He looks around the room, and then makes a horrific discovery. The walls are barren, not one scrap of paper, not one picture. Peter’s eyes dance around to every edge of the room, his heart is beating furiously.

                “Lovax! Where are my personal items?!” he demands.

                “Contained species are not allowed to retain personal objects.” Lovax answers.

                “Beginning synapse reprograming in five…four…three…two…”

John Gibbs

Father, Husband, and possibly insane geek is planning on offering images and words to the SciFi masses.

bottom of page