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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Friday
Jun262015

Unraveled

What is this thing that seems to sew our differences together? Can we capture it and make it serve us yet? I watch in awe as it follows the white ridges of the northern peaks, impervious to the chill, and meets with the bright cry of morning. As we will meet one day in some form or other, in the throat of the dawn.

Wherefore Tatiana of the Desert in her robes of thorn? She who rode the terrible column of death in its roiling fungal glory and wrung its corded neck so we could live again. In my memory, the last broadcasts called her the Jesus of the Mojave, although that might have been a fever dream fuelled by apocalypse-mind. Messiahs live only in tales, I fear, while actual plagues still roam the actual land.

We come to a field in Iowa where mists lap at the weighty heads of sunflowers like the breath of the dead, where carefully signposted detours off the interstate take us to dreadful happenings behind barn doors and in root cellars, ravagements and heinous slaughter under big and lovely skies.

Much has been lost, too painful to be recalled even in sleep. Glimpses nonetheless. Blue glaciers. Windmills turning slowly in a small sea of tulips. Ambient metal. The curled yawn of a kitten. Zydeco wheezings on the bayou. Guinness on tap near the Liffey. Ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls. Triassic dragonflies stitching the summer air. Mint juleps. Hardbitten investigators and shrewd, sultry women. Steaming tamales. A volleyed ball into a waiting net. Library cool. Cathedral hush. Blood-red lampshades. Flags and logos. A white boat coming up the river. A chalk-marked cue ball on green felt. Tiny neon fishes through thick glass. Antipasto. Dreams of star quests. The stem of a wineglass. Outdoor applause. Elegance. Sage bundle smudges. Yule logs. Exuberance. The howl of a storm through ruins. All my relations.

In the safety of the shade, an old man speaks of secret fires, reaches for a melody, but nobody's daddy is alive, wound steel and nylon are but memories, and the song dies on the scorched and windless air.

In the heat mirage, immense yellow machines with great burdened heads work the surface of the blacktop, rusted and vast in the early light, seeming to float like tawdry echoes of the giant lizards that once roamed this world of sorrows. 

Tar pits await us all, she said, the world is mostly a grave. And she was right.

Ours was fashioned from fear and greed, aided by inertia, and assembled by weak men feigning strength. First they came for the honeybees; then they came for the birds; then the butterflies. Small things, inconsequential to men who counted in real estate deals and fairway handshakes, men whose mouths said development when their makeshift hearts meant plunder.

In the sounds of patent leather on hardwood, amid conference call maneuvers and the market stall barks of commerce, they missed the sudden silences of the trees, the places rubbed shiny and threadbare like an old discarded toy. They desired the whole cloth but ignored when the stitching came apart. And not even Tatiana with her needles of thorn could sew it back right. 

Friday
Jun192015

The Hart of the Wood

© tibor jantyikHowever good a day it is to be alive right now, just know there will come another day when it's equally good to die. You don't need a Crazy Horse to tell you that. 

There will come a storm. A war. And in war all our darknesses will converge, will meet. Too late, we might want to quarantine ourselves, remove our lusts and terrors from all equations, but that moment will have passed, and into the noxious bloodtide we must wade as ravenous, reluctant warriors, taking a reckoning of our friends and our enemies both, and giving deference equally, however much one is conveyed by the sacrament and the other by the sacrifice. For they are one and the same.

And this is what the crow saw.

Abandoned islands in a smokestack sky. Industrial archipelagoes. The molten stench of the world's innards. What gave us pause. What made us flinch. How many of us were built for this remorse? 

Who, who will comfort you now?

Hidden from most, a blister erupted in the forest, while men drew crude vaginas in the dirt and women built phalluses from mud. The crow flew closer, alighting on a cedar bough. Only the crow loved both venerated and venereal, gleaning correctly their kinship. Which is love, really. The crow has solved a great perplexity.

And now the coyote speaks.

But its language seems like gibberish, and its strange music makes men want to kill, so no one hears the coyote song. It goes:

"Weep now, but laugh hence,

Dream of yesterday while

Gutting the hart of the wood.

Kill your clenched prey, but

Return its offal to the thirsty earth,

And sing its worth to the skies."

If men heard the song, they might put down their dull blades for a while and make more and better vaginas in the dirt, or sharper blades. If women heard the song, they would perhaps add more verses and take solace in their propensity for avoiding foolishness in the unforgiving glare of the eternal public square. If children heard the song, the stitching of the world might even meet.

But instead, the crow mocks the coyote, and the coyote bows his defeated head while hot visceral gouts are splashed across the chalk downs of England, wakening the fox and the badger, only to begin the whole hemoclysm anew.

The fox barks till he's hoarse, then returns to the vixen in the den. Wash cycle becomes spin cycle, ad infinitum. They stand stock still and search each other's liquid eyes for some truth or even a hint of their next move. She tells him he should have been gone a long time ago, and he follows the arc of a comet in the black dome of the night, then stifles his abject caterwauling.

The crow laughs, although it feels more like whimpering. For a moment, it doubts even the sunrise, but at last spies a pale shimmer on the eastern rim of a sorrowing earth. Its cry is coarse in the quiet dawn, rough as the beard of a rapist on soft skin, and like a coward, stupidly, the crow looks only inward.

Ashamed, gauzy, reprehensible, engulfed, abhorrent, pensive, impure, tarnished, rapt, dishonorable.

Nothing but words. Words. Sounds as created by lips, throat, and tongue. Then scratched onto parchment with an ink-black quill. Repeated as tales or incantations. For what? Turns out the best we can say is this: 

Today is a good day to go fuck yourself. 

Friday
Jun052015

A Man's Truth

Today's when y'all get to kill me. Some of y'all will see this as a good day, and most days I'd go along with that.

Yup, forget they candy-ass public defenders and bleeding-heart ink slingers—even Jesus couldn't save me, though I cain't hardly blame him if he never put his full weight behind the cause.

Why am I in this here predicament? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, what I done was a massacre, like what happened to they Injuns somewheres in the Dakotas back when this peacelovin' country was young. I don't know about wounded knee but I do know you can bury my heart right where you damn well aim to kill it, far as I care; goddamn shriveled thing never did me a lick of good while it still pumped, ain't that the truth?

And here's another truth: I was doomed from the git-go, pretty much. Least since I was a whelp no higher'n a tractor tire from a 1940s John Deere, anyways. If I hadna been hiding in the hayloft that day my daddy came out to the barn to slaughter sweet ol' Gus, maybe none of this woulda happened. But I was and he did, and in spite of the gloom inside I saw the glint reflected from his knife and the way Gus looked at Pa as if he knew what was comin', the fear in that soft, dark eye as bleak and knowing as any soldier's when the enemy's upon him and his weapon is empty, and how Gus thrashed and squealed louder'n I'd ever heard him squeal when that blade sawed at his pink and throbbing throat, and how it still took a while for him to quiet and be still as his steaming blood splashed in a ole tin bathtub my daddy had cleaned out and stoppered up for the occasion. Here's a thing: while all this was happening, I swear I saw a shadow bigger'n a man and blacker than a moonless prairie night step into the light at one end of the barn and stay right there 'til it was all done. Coulda been a cloud passing over the pale yellow sun, I guess, but I'm pretty sure it weren't. Meanwhile, Pa never knowed I was there, wide-eyed and shaking, reliving that scene in my head like I would for months after—not jus' the sight of it, but the sounds and the smells and how it felt inside. What I'm tryin' to say is, maybe none of this woulda happened if I hadna liked it.

So what did happen? What did I do to bring me to this place? Don't really matter now. It's done, ain't it? And you can read it in the dailies or go on that internet doohickey and find out the details to your heart's content. Not all of them were innocent their ownselves, case you were wondering; I knows that must be hard to hear for you kinfolk, but it's the truth. I never did it for the fame nor … what's that word they used in the trial to make me sound worse than I already am? The notoriety? Hell no, I did it for the pure enjoyment of hearing so many folks die slowly and in pain, to hear again the long and lonesome whistle through Gus's ruined throat, to watch hope dim in so many eyes, and to smell their lifeblood as it drained. That there's the long and the short of it.

Sounds crazy, but I ain't scared; not for me, anyways. They'll strap me with my arms spread like one o' they murderers they strung up next to Jesus Christ hisself—his brothers in arms, ha ha—then they'll fill my gnarly old veins with some chemical moonshine and barring some terrible calamity (oh, they happen, you better believe it) I'll go straight to the land of sleep like a warm little lamb, where guilt or innocence won't matter, 'cause whatever stories we tell ourselves to make the night seem less dark, there ain't no such place as any place once we up and leave this stingy, hardpan life.

But there's always killin'. And that's what does scare me some. You think this thing'll be gone when I'm gone? No sir and no ma'am, sure as the devil made little sour apples it won't. It steals in silent as a barn owl and more deadly. All it takes is one a y'all. To like it, I mean. To watch them push that poison into my veins and feel what I felt that cold April mornin' when my daddy done slit that hog's throat and I only wanted more, only yearned to hear that godawful shriek forever. Thing won't never end. Mayhap without even knowing it at first, one a y'all will greet the shadow, welcome it into the poisoned well of your filthy abysmal heart, and all of this will happen again. And again. World without end, as the good book says.

Now bring me that last fucking meal, won't ya? Telling the god's honest truth can make a man awful hungry, after all.

Friday
May292015

War Child

Across the desert, we chased a twisting inferno to a dry village, a beige settlement without breath. From its crumbled perimeter, it seemed empty of life, everything the colour of sand, except for a lone figure up ahead a ways.

When we got close we could see she was a young girl in a torn and bloody dress, faded apricot, her thin arms embracing a pockmarked boulder the shape of a broken yellow tooth (all colour here the ghost of colour, except red).

At first she shied and wouldn't speak; then after three days, she did nothing but.

She said: "War come storming from the hills, and we wunt ready, and my ma is gone now. I dont mean dead, but she am or she amnit, an now we hear her cry in them same hills of a night, dusk while dawn."

And later: "Fetching water, I sees two soldiers on the dust trail, and they was full a angry talk, but later I saw a third walking aside them, had on a dirty hood, couldnt tell if a man nor a woman, and the fighting men growed quieter like they was thinkin'."

And then: "Big sounds far off like bad weather, but up close the worst men took us from our loves." 

Right then, a rooster burst from some hidden place, loud tawny feathers blurring against grainy fawn. A great cry erupted from the throat of the sky, dry brutal thunder without rain. Lightning scratched the horizon like indecipherable runes.

But we needed answers, so I kept asking.

I admit, at some point I grabbed her by the wrists and was rough with her, aggravated by her strange recalcitrance. She was all noise, no signal; all heat, no light. Children can be infuriating, the way they filter everything, turning routine horror into some passive, ineffectual fantasy while cold reality churns on regardless, relentless. People, including the children themselves, can be torn limbless while we wait for the young to tell their ersatz truths.

We asked her where everyone else was, demanded she tell us when the soldiers had left and where they were headed. She looked at us, her brows arched with skepticism, and her scrawny frame trembled like aftershocks in the brown and naked hills.

Narrow-eyed, she continued: "Theyre still here. All a them. Silly men. Dont you hear the screams?"

Friday
May222015

Debridement

The air is leaden with the humid reek of late human occupation, the grim post-industrial night splayed like a grizzled corpse on a mortuary slab, fluids seeping and pooling on stainless steel, insufferable as rolling iron and cattle cars. Factories crouch and belch on far endless horizons, dreaming of grainy couplings under gouting coagulates of oilspume.

The sky is never black but a dark firebrick red, like old blood, stinking of iron and rot.

This is the third night her daughter has been missing. The woman clings to shadows in her search, avoiding arc lights and flame spigots, anyplace that might distinguish her from a shadow, from a desperate thing of more than two dimensions. 

Three nights prior, after checking the trashed, excoriated rooms, they'd holed up in a ruined motel, listening for predatory gangs where once guests had lain awake listening—when the winds were right—to the muted roar and rush of the rigs on the distant interstate, a sound like the hoarse and reluctant breath of a giant come to regret his own birth.

Somewhere in the night, the girl had wandered, and the woman has little hope of finding her, though she will never quit trying. In a way, she almost hopes she's dead, for death is tender when set against the grim spectacle of an encounter with the feral gangs.

She thinks back to her life before, and it seems bereft of any meaning, like they were spitting moonshine into a campfire while lunatic clowns capered hidden in the unlit trees.

How she misses her sweet child. Feels her absence like the great plains once missed the warm bison fug in the morning of the world.

A shape passes before her, silhouetted against the refinery night. Animal. She stills, and slows her breathing almost to nothing. It passes before her again. Coyote shape, tail held level, ears keen. It stops and raises its snout to test the air, then swings its delicate head to look at the woman, as if needing to learn what type of profane being is culpable in this great outrage, what obscene biped straddles its appalling root.

What passes between their eyes moves beyond language and enters a realm for which myth itself is too tangible. For the woman, it is something like a debridement. For the wild dog, it's the tailend of a fretful tumble amid the burned-out obstacles of voiceless grief, the eerie quiet that always follows an act of violence, before the blood's relentless urge to keep moving, to return home and replenish its squalling young.

The woman watches as the animal passes from sight, and presently she too moves on while the night moves not one iota and nothing else of any significance changes anywhere.