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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
May152015

Sylvia

We always said if we were still haunting this earth a decade on, we'd meet at our spot like a Linklater couple, at the place where we learned—like movie fan neophytes—that love can encompass place and lighting and mood every bit as much as touch and taste. We weren't to know then that changes wrought by our kind's cold-eyed rapacity would render that decade the longest, slowest death rattle ever, our world's understated expiration.

Yet I am here amid the wreckage, and I wonder whether you are too. Or did you get waylaid, along with the billions of others, somewhere between the comfort of sleep and the dawning unease of emerging wakefulness? Will you appear out of the brown air, through the oily miasma of a new atmosphere, as I sit waiting for you, patient as an ancient cedar counting the centuries before the arrival of the first antlike bipeds with saws? I have nothing else to wait for, other than the obvious oblivion awaiting us all, awaiting everything. This awfulness that's happened has stripped the flesh from the bones of truth, revealing a white unlovely thing: we are here to simply bide time before we die.

Will you make it? I am here now, in the warm ambient remnants of dark wood and soft lighting, this womb-cave once rumoured to be where silent movie stars came to die. Can you hear the low susurrus of conversation and the clink of glasses while "Enjoy the Silence" bleeds prettily from hidden speakers and we get gently drunk on extravagant caesars? We must use our imaginations like weapons turned inward. Nostalgia is the spirit's suicide. Can we—ought we to?—still imagine the waiters and bartenders and diners huddled at tables, and see beyond the broken leaded glass to a street where once we watched people park cars in the tightest spaces—now rusted cockroach frames on crumbling pavement—where we smiled at the joy of dogs, and where hope glittered on the wave tops in the bay instead of unpalatable toxic things?

We once believed the fabric of our lives were woven from threads so fine that no one could unpick them, yet unraveled is how we've become in the merciless onslaught of reality. The lonely face looks out to sea. We were once on the sands, the surf growling like a feral pack. Now I'm alone in a shell of a building, gazing at petroleum waters.

You're not coming, I know; there will be no sequel. No redemptive beauty will emerge from the beige air. Your blacks, tying you to a past run aground and the barren oilspill of blighted hope, truly crackle and drag. The world is turning the mirrors backward, opening the nozzles on the cold stove, and covering the gaps in the doors with towels.

Friday
May082015

Covenant

So I wrote this profane feminine prayer in the throes of a no-good, godawful-bad day, let's just say that. Not much going on inside but seething exasperation. If this had been written longhand, it would have been a case of the pen tip never leaving the page, except where it tore it up. In hindsight, I felt like I'd been possessed by the wrath of an Old Testament god, except if that god had been a goddess. Entirely coincidentally, I was listening to some PJ Harvey afterward, and I can imagine this piece accompanied by one of a handful of songs from 1995's To Bring You My Love, even down to those opening lines that echo those of "The Dancer." Elemental and righteous. I might even add a bonus video at the end, because it's my blog and I can do what the hell I want. Yeah, still simmering. Black and empty heart indeed.

***

She came naked out of the eastern desert, eyes blazing with madness and the mirrored flames of sunset, her scorpion arms raised wide as if to grab that holy molten orb and arrest its plunge below the rim of a world too enfeebled to abide the dimming of its fires, as if her livid atrocities had built one upon the next until she'd run howling through sand and sage to escape their loathsome burden, her skin streaked with dark blood but neither tears nor sweat, since the sun had burned those human elixirs from her person, etching on her knowingness the finite nature of all things, despite her quest to preserve every last drop of quantum froth, to make the earth retch itself up in ungodly seizures of fault line and mantle and plate, the scalding orange vomit of its innards gouting down coastal ridges and hissing into a quailing, grimacing sea, as she implored the heavens to be merciful and let her have it all, goddamnit, for she had strained ligament, bone, and sinew to keep it all intact, to keep the infernal ledger balanced, to honour birth while enacting each grim sacrifice as fair payment, to snatch death from the jaws of birth, to goad the saddest clown to smile, to gorge on sin's offspring, to pay homage to the tail-devouring snake of life, to open her parched cunt to the lust of stones (those discarded bones of the world), to shed her scorched and jerk-leather skin beside a dry gulch … and for this—for all this—she was condemned?

Friday
May012015

Ketch Knot

That morning he saw elk tracks in the snow. If it wasn't for his bones grinding like old bridge girders he'd consider strapping on the cross-country skis and following their trail. Must be around ten or twelve of them.

But he wasn't up to it. Plus his head was stiff with last night's Crown Royal, a habit that had crept up on him like a silent mugger. Especially since Ginny had passed. His beloved, her pretty eyes shining to the end. 

"Not passed. Died," he said aloud, annoyed. "Always called a spade a shovel, so why stop now, 'specially when there ain't no one to hear it?"

On the porch, Wolf cocked an ear in protest.

"Ha, begging your pardon, you old mutt."

He went back inside, poured a coffee, and limped toward the picture window. He liked his big old house and the farm itself—the legacy of a decent pension and a distant yet generous family who wanted to give something back—but it was too big now. He watched the highway down below the curving dirt driveway, quiet at this hour: a mercy.

He figured he'd go out to the barn. After he retired, the place had been a working farm for a good two decades, a dream of his since childhood. He still kept a few sheep around, a handful of chickens, and Engine, the old chestnut mare he would never ride again. He'd take Wolf with him, but even Wolf was showing his age, around the muzzle and in the stiffening gait of his hindquarters.

He felt alone, but he wasn't alone: the things he'd seen in thirty years as a firefighter never really left him. Probably never would. Sleep was some fabled oasis amid the dunes of trauma.

It was no one's fault, truly. This was mountain country, the BC interior—past Hope and beyond all Merritt as he used to joke, back when he had an audience—and the farm sat on the south side of the one straight stretch of highway for miles, and frustrated vacationers took risks; the province had been meaning to fix it, make it two lanes, but good intentions were forever getting themselves tangled in red tape. While for him the irony was complete: half a lifetime of seeing dreadful things replay on the screen inside his head and now, most every summer and midwinter, he'd hear that sound, the plosive, fracturing shriek that was always followed by the worst silence imaginable, and as a human being—as a man—he'd have to go see if he could help. No two ways about it. Only a coward would phone it in and go cringe someplace away from the window. Oh, he'd been tempted, but he was compelled by habit and by nature, although this last one, only a few days ago, was one of the worst: three young girls shivering quietly beside a ticking minivan, mesmerized by their father's ruined head, the broken body itself in a ditch. Mom inside, not moving, a piteous wound in her own head that precluded any likelihood of her ever doing so again. He'd done what he could, checked the folk in the other vehicle (an elderly couple in a pickup, miraculously unhurt, but wide-eyed and refusing to leave their truck), called 911, given the girls blankets, led them to the warmth of his house, away from the nightmare they'd relive for however many cruel decades remained for them, but it was awful. Wretched. Appalling.

One thing firemen and farmers know is knots. Over a beam in the barn dangled the rope he'd tied yesterday, before he'd gotten cold feet. The Ketch knot, although most folks knew it by another name. Thirteen coils. He'd meant to take the rifle to Wolf, but he simply couldn't do it. He hated himself for that. He knew the animals would be taken care of: his family were arriving tomorrow for the holidays. He hated himself for that too.

But he'd lived a good life overall, had done his part, and it was time. He didn't cotton to all that afterlife horseshit, but as he climbed onto the stool and reached for the rope, he'd be lying if he didn't admit his thoughts turned to Ginny, and remained there, the gleaming vision of her dancing eyes his very last.

Friday
Apr242015

Heist

He woke and looked up into a husky's eye cerulean sky and saw only the long fingertip of a conifer, upraised as if to call some temporary halt. Fir? Spruce? He wished he'd learned the names of trees and sought out secret things. But what was stopping him? He lay on his back, warmth on his face. The flat scaly leaves of the tree—cedar? Yes, he thought so—were moving strangely, waving and undulating as if underwater. Was this the ocean? Not unless he'd grown gills; he felt and could see his chest rising and falling, and the warmth had to be the sun.

There was a strange ticking echo, like tiny pebbles trickling down a mountainside, then the music of water as if from a small fountain, and a faint spray. This was a peaceful place. A Tibetan sanctuary. A Japanese garden.

So why did he feel so odd? Like winter's ice was breaking into the hot vault of summer.

A red bird sang in the topmost branches of the tree. Why did he not know the names of birds? What was wrong with him? He'd never heard a bird with such a deep song, as if it were being played at the wrong speed.

There was something wrong with his eyes. He thought of his photo editing tool and the words edge blur came to him; the bird was flying now and he could see each crimson feather—cardinal?—but the tree to one side was bleary, clouding.

He thought of random things: carjackings, jade figurines, terraced riverbanks, lotus flowers, a woman's hands, beach kelp, heart murmurs, spreadsheets, Viking funerals, hammerheads, fretless bass riffs, smoky suburban nights, two fingers of Laphroaig in a tulip-shaped glass.

Another sound now. Familiar. Rhythmic. Shoes on pavement; people running. Running toward him. Again, he felt that chill and closed his eyes as if, like a child, he could never be seen if he could no longer see. But he could hear, and the owners of those urgent feet were nearby now, pulling up after running hard, and he smelled trauma, a hot ferric tang.

A woman screamed then.

And, in the sluggish voice of a fairytale troll, a man said, "Oh my fucking god, don't move him."

Someone moaned appallingly, and he realized it was him.

Friday
Apr102015

Helen and Abel

I moved through a torment of blackflies, following the pendulum swing of her hips. She was the rebuttal to everything dull, to all meaninglessness. Even amid the world's incoherence.

"Wait up."

"Keep up."

How I loved her, and yes, in the biblical sense too. We were the last pairing, the omega couple to poor overgrown Eden's alpha duo. She used to laugh and say I wore the Mark of Abel. I'd laugh right back and say, "If that's so, honey, I'm last in a long line." She was a goddamned walking revelation. The fulcrum of her pelvic sway my only true church. Each switch of those exquisite hips a second-by-second countdown to doomsday.

I yearned to be her trickster. A jester for a queen.

The rot of the world became everything. I used matches to cauterize the inside of my nose so I could stop smelling the putrefaction that dripped from the very trees; no more sap, only pus and watery, infected plasma. Everything emitting heat and decay, the glutinous earth waking to a fever dream after an illusory life. Crows with gluey wings plummeted from the pulsating sky; cloud waves throbbed and roiled, dripping black mucous that stank of blighted tarsand and ancient fishguts. And death, of course. Like everything else. A hamstrung carnival, a dark mirage, distorted by heat, hoarse, shimmering, moaning to the horizon, reeking of the looming extinction.

And the machines, skeletal, their last keening forever quieted.

Lost opportunities. 

I'd wanted to learn the faces of all the insects. Discover islands that sang. Hunt down the world's most melancholy killer. Share a beach fire with a demon. Vandalize a monument.

What malfeasance brought us here? Spare me a month and fill my belly, friend, and the full story is yours. Courtesy of the world's last wordsmith.

Wading through a river of offal, I caught up to my uncrowned monarch.

"What was the worst thing you ever saw?"

She glanced back, that single arched eyebrow snare-drumming my heart. Saw I was serious as genocide.

"A baby born shrieking in terror." Her serious answer. 

"Yeah, okay, works for me."

Somehow we'd found our way into a Scandinavian black metal album, is all I could think. At night, even the wolves and coyotes, blind and emaciated like abandoned lepers, growled and shrieked in guttural orgies of self-mockery and grim maledictions.

"Where now?" I asked.

"All the way to the end," she answered, like she always answered.

Helen. Helen Earth, I called her. Not my best joke, and the truth is she never laughed once. Never with me, although usually at me. At my Mark of Abel blooming like grey cumulus from my ruined head.