• 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
    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.

Networked Blogs



Places I Hang Out

There Is Lonely

Something had made her stay.

The call of her humdrum job cutting lengths of fabric and of two likeable if slovenly roommates in an untidy apportioned suburb had not been loud enough. A relationship not so much on the rocks as fully shipwrecked had not been loud enough. Her one-time companions imploring her to head back east with them had not been loud enough.

This was loud. This place. Painted a safe watercolour veneer over hallucinatory light. Where the beat of life drummed deep within the marrow of the land. This land. This place. With its incessant rush and rumble of tides across mist-draped miles of satin blond sand and the restless receding hiss; its storm-stunted forests whose edges leaned ragged and coerced on promontories; these wispy echoes of a world pre-settled; those scents of tangish salt and sweetish cedar; eddies and flukes, spawn and breach, fat tangerine starfish, driftwood bleach, clustered shellfish; brackish secrets of orca and sockeye, coho and squid, slipping slick through the chuck as skinless muscles; great tawny bays flanked by dark masses of dripping beams trailing mosses like the beards of truant gods; vast spruce posts and struts and torrential canopied ceilings, immense sweatlodge dwellings for bear and raven and eagle and wolf, framed and fashioned by no man and heedless of same. 

A poet of sorts, she was humbled to silence by the indigenous poetry of locale.

But now she was isolate. Something had sequestered them here. A fear hush had wrapped them just as the mists became sometime cauls for the trees. 

Her beachfire pulsed in the tideborne gusts, and sparks were whipped and buffeted and streamed to join the effervescent stars in the forthright arc of the overbearing sky.

She stood. She was lonely. She was hungry, in truth, and something about that brought her shame. That she was so utterly unwomanned. Diminished. Five feet ten of corvid-black enviable beauty reduced to a hanging jaw and knees that would barely lock.

We are blunted spears riding the pactless gales of a livid world, tumbling enfeebled from stentorian skies into breeding swamps of buzzing unchecked swarms absent treaty or terms. If an ending is in store, and soon, what of hundreds of years of white-skinned settlement and tens of thousands of far kinder years before that? Of carvers and surfers, of fishers and loggers and holy dancers under the greying brows of both lucid and baffling skies. Did the land dream us? Are we part of a long slumber from which greater sleepers are already set to awake?

She'd noticed two men and a woman earlier, and they seemed to her kindly, but she could no longer see them, and staring so nakedly at everyone on the beach made her urgency more shameful, more needy. Around the closest fire sat three men and she thought they'd been stealing not so benevolent glances at her. Or glances of a different nature. But they were people.

As she stood, a meteor bisected the big spill of the Milky Way above, flashing like mercury from east to west at the speed of an eyeblink. She imagined it hissing into the dark Pacific, some solitary birdless place where our world's face showed nothing but ocean to outsiders, as lonely in its brisk and sudden finale as it was throughout most of its existence, unable to relate its first-person tales that spanned an eon or more, and dying companionless in cold saltwater on this strange convulsing planet orbiting an unremarkable star on some dismal limb of the galaxy.

Enough. She would walk. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream or plead, but she wouldn't. The surf kept rushing, crashing, as if everyone exhaled but no one remembered to breathe in.

She would walk and talk to the men at the next fire, and if that made her a fool then a fool she would be.


Neutrino Bay

Something had changed in the world; the hallucinatory sunsets screamed a fresh psychosis. 

There might have been a soul or two on that beach with an inkling as to what that change was exactly, but right then, at that precise moment, I didn't care. I was sprawled beside one of the many beach fires that sparked like neutrinos in a dark collider against a starfield backdrop that would make a dead man gasp. Best of all, I was sprawled beside Athena, the most charming and alluring woman I'd ever known. 

The bleached beige sand was racetrack flat and disappeared into a darkening charcoal distance, while occasional black rock promontories tumbled haphazardly into the sea. Everywhere across the gently curving bay, beachwood sparks danced and lunged in the light breeze like firefly wars. A moderate surf broke and rumbled over the sand, hissing as it ebbed, leaving grey skeins of its cool breath along the tideline.

A warm fall day had cooled quickly, some kind of belated portent, we guessed.

"They saw orcas in the harbour this week." Athena was still and her shadowed face seemed sculpted.

"Th-that's not all that unusual."

"No. But grey whales last week. Some of the guys on the boats saw walrus on the rocks. Walrus! In the sound! Yet the sockeye? So far, they're ghosts this year."

I sighed. Tried to find her eyes with mine, to see her. But she was looking down, watching the fire and its primal quantum dance.

Someone a few fires down strummed an acoustic six string, sang a gentle song I couldn't quite make out as the breeze carried it to us then whipped it away like a tease, like someone stuttering.

"Blaze, something's incredibly wrong."

Suddenly I didn't want this conversation.

The power had gone out a while back. We all knew how to live without extravagance on this sly and gentle coast—prided ourselves on it, in fact—but our carefree grid-free days had stretched well beyond the worst-case forty-eight hours we normally contended with out here in our happy isolation. Power out. Internet gone. Phones dead. Radio silent. Most of us feigned serenity, and many had generators and the disaster supplies you'd expect in earthquake and tsunami country, yet we were becoming ever more unnerved. Most of the tourists had already left—no one was coming this way, including deliveries—but a carload of our people had followed the visitors out, heading for Port Argyll, to see if they could get word of the world. 

That was nine days ago and none had returned. 

Two days after the big darkness had come, two men had taken a boat southeast down the forty kilometre spit of land on which we made our home, to the only other small settlement here, Coal Inlet. They came back with hollow eyes and told us that, aside from the odd baying dog—one of whom they'd brought along out of pity—and the slick black crows and the dream-white herring gulls lined up on the stunted coastal trees and the shit-bespattered rooftops like the precursors to some strange board game, the entire village was empty of life.

From the dark, a burgeoning silhouette against the heavenly splash of our galaxy materialized into a man, and he squatted between us. His name was William Tom, or Billy T to his friends, a Nuu-chah-nulth man who'd helped us construct our home and taken no payment but daily food and water back when we decided to drop our shallow roots into a land on which living trees—great Western red cedar, stately Sitka spruce, and solemn Douglas fir—had been mere saplings when the stubborn Nazarene was hung on a tree of his own.

"Some say it's the saltchuck," he said quietly. "She rebels. Me, I don't think so. At least, the great ocean is only a part of it, and not the full tale."

Athena nodded at him and said, "It's time we talked openly about this."

Billy T looked all up and down the great sweep of beach. "Perhaps we can't build small fires any longer, but need to draw on a greater warmth."

"Why has Klootchman not returned?" I asked, although I knew they had no answer to this. 

I saw the glint in Billy's eye and knew he smiled inside himself. When he'd first heard of Klootch, he'd looked at me as if I were teasing or pranking him. Then he'd smiled and said to me, "Klootchman means woman in the old trade language." After that, he often called Klootch "Two-Spirit," though he meant it respectfully enough. Truth be told, Klootch probably had far more than two spirits warring within his six-foot-six-inch frame. The man was a dark-skinned Viking with violently dissociative tendencies. Part grizzly bear, part killer bee, part wolverine. Cold blue eyes, sweet blond dreads, and dark mocha skin. Goddammit, I missed the fucker.

[To be continued, perhaps ...]


One Night in Nebraska

After the rains, the fog bloomed like a sudden resolve.

She drove through the night, hunched forward now, and more careful. Soon, a sign loomed ahead and moved to her right, then was gone.




With her notch-below-average height and build, and notwithstanding her jet hair gathered and piled under a black ball cap, her outsize leather biker jacket, and her purloined outlaw swagger, she knew she looked more like a young adolescent boy than a man, but any effort was preferable to none. Driving alone through the Midwestern night had its unique risks.

She toyed with the radio. Crazed preachers. Dire conspiracies. Sports and weather. The usual. If she had left it for thirty more seconds on one particular channel, she would have heard a news story about a prison break just outside of Lincoln, but she hadn't so she didn't.

From out of the fog, something darker appeared then dissolved back into the gray. Her flicker of an impression was of a man, in which case he was far from shelter on this chill Nebraska night. She hesitated and came to a rolling stop. Over her shoulder, her brakelights bathed the fog bank in a bloodmist, and from that backdrop a man emerged. Again, she almost second-guessed herself, and the silhouetted figure seemed equally skittish, moving slowly, leaning forward in an effort to see who'd pulled up on this dirty, dripping night.

She felt the cold reassurance of the .38 Special nestled between her thighs and opened the passenger window an inch or two.

"Where you headed, fella?"

There was a harsh laugh, followed by, "It's me, ya dizzy cunt."

A pause.

"Good to see they didn't kick all the charm outta you." She still couldn't see his face, but she knew he was grinning. "So you did it. Well, hell, get in then, why don't you?"

He did and they pulled away.

"Someone gonna miss this vehicle?" He said it like it was two distinct words—vee-hickle—and she realized how damn much she'd missed the bastard.

"Nope. Not gon' miss nothing ever again either."

He whistled through his teeth, an oddly forlorn sound. She glanced at him but he was staring ahead into the bank of gray punctuated only by the occasional set of headlights, and they were quiet for a while.

"Guess we're headed for Kansas, miss Dorothy," he said at last.

"How'd you figure, mister Tin Man?"

"License plate, 'course."

"Yeah, got lucky. Dumb old dead bitch in Iowa almost caught me jacking this beauty, then I found Kansas plates very next place I stopped. We're an hour away from the state line, so I figured we'll be less conspicuous once we cross. Damn pea-souper actually helps."

"Figured right, no doubt. No interstates, and 77 gets us near Wichita, if I recall." Then he added, almost whispered, "You're a good girl."

"Yeah, but I owe you, hoss. Owe you big." She wouldn't look at him. Couldn't.

"Sure you do. But you're here now, so that probably makes us about even."

"Right." She ached to pull into the desperate gravel lot of every cheap motel they passed, but that "about" hadn't escaped her.

"Hell, woman, you're a stone-cold, dead-eyed killer and y'ain't done a minute of hard time. Man's gotta respect that." He chuckled.

"Yeah, sure."

"Girl, you're one honeycomb I ain't gon' rile up, no matter how big and hard my stick, if ya know what I'm sayin'."

She smiled her crooked smile, but inside she thought about that, about what some learned folks might call "power dynamics," and about how a small-framed woman is always imperiled around a larger man, even if he is wary (hell, especially if he is wary), and how most of 'em are indeed larger, and also wary, and some might feel they're owed, and some don't mind either way, and about how damn lonely it could be out here on these endless gloomy highways passing between rude clonelike towns with identical water towers and dusty feedstores and squat, boxy dwellings, and how it always took some trade-off, some transaction, spoken or otherwise, to make it to another day, another week, to feel something halfway good for a few bartered moments, while the radio played soft jazz and the lights of rigs loomed like the luminous eyes of ancient monsters glancing terrifyingly close, as if sparing them some awful fate—for now, at least—under the filthy charcoal night of an accursed old America whose time, like theirs, was already passing, had perhaps even passed, all of it gathered in the dying saurian eyes of Triassic brutes from before history itself even started.

She drove on and willed herself to please stop thinking.


Cowgirls Redux

Turns out this is a continuation of an earlier piece (read this first for sense) I wrote fifteen months ago about three women running from the law across a Cormac McCarthy landscape. Very yin and yang. A story demanding to be told? Perhaps. Anyway, here's the sequel, and there might still be more, who knows?


The night brought storms unforeseen.

The fugitive women lay more awake than not as the branches whipped like the tails of some wild vermin infestation and rocks cracked and detonated on the cliff face. The rains when they arrived were a deluge, and the tired women chose to saddle up and move on.

They moved north and climbed steadily, hoping to find a track around the bluff to their left. Whichever way they leaned, the stinging rain seemed aimed at them, the three women and their horses, and it was like walking in a dream dreamed by a heartless fabulist. 

"We'll be caught," Ashlyn said into the raw throat of the raging night, and though her companions didn't hear her words, they read her tone and nodded along with the horses, six heads slung low against the gale and dripping with the dark plain's sorrow.

A new companion joined them by the name of hunger and after a while spent ignoring him they eventually stopped to dig in their packs. They ate quickly under the sharp dark arrowheads of rain, then hauled their weighty, saturated bodies onto their stoic mounts and continued plodding north.

"We need a good thing to happen." Clara spoke into the tempest and only her horse seemed to hear her and nodded forlornly in long-suffering agreement.

Ashlyn kept her head down and the relentless gusts snatched at Emilia's breaths.

The sun would be climbing over the eastern rim of the plains soon, but its grand arrival would likely be muted in such a squall. Yet as dejection seemed to move in and make room in their hearts, the world's caprice reasserted itself and the storm was gone in an instant, leaving a stillness more profound than the Anasazi graves over which they trekked.

Something brightened to the east and they thought it the sun.

Emilia spoke. "What the living fu—?"

The women and the horses stopped to comprehend a new thing. The air crackled as if electric gods were toying with their creation. Something huge, like a brain or a jellyfish hung over the prairie. Like a vast gelatinous parasol, orange in the growing dawn, it moved like bloody kelp in the sky, and its red fronds hung below, predatory veils clustered with bluish toxins, great bird traps glowering with menace in the gathering morn. In all the eastern dome of the world, white sheetlightning flashed silent with distance and the little wolves of the plain melted and slunk every which way.

The horses stutter-stepped, skittish as lambs in wolf country, and the women, afraid as they were, soothed them with hushes and touch.

Ashlyn dismounted and spoke first. "It's lightning." 

"Ain't no kind of lightning I ever saw," said Clara.

"Me either, but I remember my momma telling it. She called it a sprite."

Clara looked at her. "Still don't mean a whole lot to me."

"She said it meant a clean slate, a new beginning."

"Old wives' tales?" Emilia laughed nervously.

"Old widows' tales, more like." All three women smiled at that and let the silence wrap itself around them.

The elder god hung in the eastern sky, vast as the dreams of giants, and began to pale as the first sunflash broke the horizon at last.

After a while, Clara said quietly, "Maybe it's that good thing needed to happen."

"Let's keep riding," said Ashlyn.



Lantern Souls of the Lake

You push the paper lanterns out into the lake, and the moon is shamed by their glow.

We do this in memory of someone, I forget who.

"How many men have you loved? Women too."

You are beautiful, born haunted, dropped into a dream of need, warmed by a lakeside sun, seeded on a trail that was gouged from the earth by a demon raping an angel. Rutted and gutted, encumbered and incubated. Or was it the other way round?

First time I saw you, your mouth rimmed with powdered sugar, I had to laugh. Laughing was hardly my default then, is less so now. You wet-fingered the sweet dust and sucked on it, like someone on a cocaine binge, and your Romany eyes danced like cryptic bordello tales stashed beneath the darkest of thoroughfares for later telling. Erotic. Driven. Most likely lost.

No one saw anything. They never did. Everything passed in the margins, whispered only by migrants in drab fields and passed via honking bird flights over waterless barrens into the icetails of comets plunging into the sun or whipped into the outer clouds of a shattered and dying system.

That was when we both stood naked and peeling before a torrid star, cancerous and boundless, tempting the planet to brush our blighted haunches while the ground splintered into cryptic droughtland and the clouds went AWOL for good.

Absence and loss and enticement. Tails and tales.

Remember that plate of eggs, sunnyside up, those sizzling strips of bacon, the dark, steaming coffee, and hot buttered toast? Our server was Naomi. She was pretty, like arroyos and dreamcatchers are pretty. The scorpions held back, laden and shadowed, dark arthritic limbs poised with toxins. The desert turned the blindest of eyes. A kitchen radio played a rebel song about secret fires, and a couple in an adjacent booth argued about Taylor Swift and Kanye, while a busload of Asian tourists stopped on the highway to witness Navajo coyotes yowl an alien dirge, ghost dance a potlatch, curb-stomp all dubious history. 

My god, we were happy and didn't have one single motherfucking clue. 

There were furrows we plowed and beaches we combed—true pacific stories of desolation and faith—all along that bright coastline and inland, through the tall wide conifers, climbing deadfalls, dragging palsied legs across molten prairies liquid with deer, waiting in birdless, threat-drenched silence for tsunamis or tremors, half-hoping our antic virgin ambitions would be derailed by the routine cataclysms of our unruly, blessed planet.

"Hundreds," you say.

And I blink, lost.

"Lovers. You asked how many lovers."

"Right, I think I did." I want to ask more, yet I want to ask less.

"The lanterns look like souls. Waiting to be assigned a place."

"They don't even know they can just go choose a place."

"Yeah. Yes."

Vehicles rush by, not far for the crow, yet way below this grassy crest. In each one a drama plays out, even if it's the slow red cellophane draw on a trucker's cigarette or a wayward nun's nylon-clad foot pecking an R&B beat while the dot-dash lines come and go—morse, remorse, despair, and hope—and tragicomedies begin with the smallest trickle of tiny stones atop a slope.

You watch me carefully, and I try to shrug you off, shrug everything off.

My god. Goddess. Pierce my chest with sharpest bone and lean me back under the merciless heat until I tear.

Billboards about Jesus and corn and abortions pass rapid to our right, like maledictions. Cursed and unnerving and joyless as Judas's empty sunless pockets.

Almost there now. You won't stop watching me. "Give me your damn hand."

Okay. I submit. I submit. Goddamn me to hell and worse, I fucking submit. And as soon as I do, the dripping, segmented limbs of a vast and terrible horror clamber ungainly over the black horizon, and our hopeless, maladroit screams ring out like the most graceless of bitter music. Fallen. Condemned.