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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
Aug182017

Mediocre, This Uncivil War

The restless dead still wander the sites of old battles. Ironic to this misfit how much they still belong.

The thing squats on the arm of my chair. A sound like veins being knotted, unknotted, gurgles from its abraded throat, a spoiled creek.

"How gentle are you?"

Faraway dead moan their irony. It's a hammock, this world. Where, which places, is it anchored?

"Gentle as I have to be," I answer, and it is a good answer.

Something falls into an abyss and screams, dopplering to silence.

"Enjoy the silence."

How can something in such surly folds of grey make so firm a claim to whiteness when clearly they mean purity? Is anodyne a prize now? 

"Funny. I refuse both silence and joy."

"Then you're a fool. As all your kind have proved."

So be it. It's not wrong. How normal is it to stand in your bathroom, your mouth unhasped, no sound emergent, while your fingers crawl amid the grainy air and the muffled drop of a cat stooping from a chaise longue onto a hardwood floor punctuates some mutant night that dreams of being a sentence? The cat a comma. Your silent scream an ellipsis. Your burlesque fingers quote marks emulating talk.

Is mimicry all we have left? Will this sultry air not move again? Or ever match this hankering? 

The stench of the dying dead fills everything. Help me. Help.

***

And you don't even own a cat.

***

Yearning for a cloudburst.

Apples, blueberries, fresh basil, a pickled human finger, spring water, kidney beans, parmesan, labia minora.

Fungal uncle. Aching aunt. A dozen cousins, and portabella bella, under her umbrella. Ella, ella.

Cumulonimbus. Digital familial. Expertly packed, the things we need today. Riding the subway, a muted rollick under the fungible layers of love and tragedy. A rhythm section somewhat lower than the cacophony.

Wetness. Extra virgin truffles, and the staring, gutted eyes of a slaughtered baby. 

Compare grocery lists?

No. Please, let's not.

***

Cry wolf and loose the battalions of ravens.

Coyote always had two syllables to me. 

This is the West. The terminus. The place the world crawls to when its legs give out. When its heart wears thin. When all thoughts spiral out from certitude, recoil from discipline.

You hold a torch, guttering in the prairie wind, but your endgame, your raw sortie is clear. Nothing is happening in the gathering impasse in the sky; a skirmish of silence and spreading shameface. A pinto gelding sighs and looks askance, partway asleep on its sturdy legs, its long piebald face more sorrowful than genocide.

A hiccup. Something rustles. You cut the flap, ignite the walls, and eviscerate a child.

As you run, the keening starts and flows like some soon-to-be-discovered cloud form, and it follows you, a subdued post-rape scream as you stop to slake from a brittle canteen, the leather cracked and crackling, the lukewarmth of its bowels more jittery horror than quenchment, and it follows you and doesn't ever blink or quit, not even once. Not even in judgment.

***

"Time to wake up, baby boy."

A slow tide sucks itself back over pebbles. A harbour rocks its boats.

"I won't wake up. I won't ever wake up. All this is a lie. You lied to me. Goddamn it, you were supposed to be kind. Whatever happened to kind?"

"I won't ever answer that, my brother."

"You ain't my fucking brother."

***

Wild blueberries and whistler marmots bisect a sheer plane of scree. Fruits of the woman, of the delta. Contours the shade of American ordinance. Blue is the overtopping god above grey, above white. Great banks of snow in mid-August. Tourists braying like burros. This caldera, this cascadia, this hallelujah, shouted from a ruined throat into ink, chorused into unspooling light years of astonishing indifference.

Friday
Aug112017

When Gulls Scream

When my girl left me and went back east, I drove many hundreds of miles of my own. South.

Long before Canyonville even had a chance, I pulled into a darkening asphalt parking lot horseshoed by conifers, hearing the cannonade of surf against rocks, and I signed in to a room with an ocean view. The owner, a handsome woman with short black hair in a bob and wide sargasso hips, hinted I might find solace in her oceanic murmurs and clefts, and I did consider it, her warm specific impetus of comfort. But I never acted on it. Actual solace being too distant and all. 

That first night, after hearkening to the eternal clamor of the tide, I beheld the sunset, the dripping red sun like some internal sac dropped into an autopsy pan. My rosy camera finger stutter-sifting forensic traces.

Plastic glasses brimming with cheap red wine. Slipshod guitar work. I slept on the narrow balcony, folded into motel bedding, torches marking the cliff top trail below. Eighties Prince strutting on my laptop. Grainy silhouetted couples passed and gouged more pieces from my dark-starred heart. Whispered and clasped hands. I could see the sugar arc of their fingers, imagine the shadowy settlement of their terms, the endearing angles of their lips and eyebrows, their poise, their tone, their doleful, gentle music.

As the surf replayed its nevermore loop, hell's agonal gasps, I watched the gaping moon, frozen out there in the solar wind. Cadaver blue and alone.

The first time solitude outshines us, it makes some quiet vow to ratchet up its bone-grip.

That ring tone. Asking, "You there?"

FaceTime. Fuck. I could have ignored her, but my prison was my grieving skin, my gentle heart, was never not.

"Here. Yeah. Hey, babe."

Shadowy faces moving and grimacing in doltish middle grounds. Aging white folks. Farmer's omelets and rye toast and bottomless coffees in white mugs, Perkins and Denny's, peanut butter and strawberry jelly arrayed in racks, thumbsized. Iowa fields and South Dakota billboards. Sioux City, Sioux Falls. Illinois sunset. Faraway lightning. Liver spots. Trucker hats. Angry as fuck. The drastic ghosts behind all this.

"You did the left coast road trip without me."

"I did."

Pause to hear the sussurance of the night surf. The quiet inhale, the concussive rage, the hissing backdraw through mineral-brown teeth. The whole defiant coast is a wide and diffident mouth.

Lighthouses faking something. Partial corpses. Zombified. Useful in some surrogate time now gone. 

"How could you?"

"Was always gonna do it. And woulda done it either way."

"I'm mad at you."

"Yeah. You broke this. Broke me. There was no us when I started."

Seabirds claim their quotas of night right before the crows wake.

We traded more words. Reminisced. About fireworks seen from a balcony. Even tried to wring something winsome from this jilted Fender, until…

A great blinding shear off the coast, somewhere near the horizon, sliced across the night, stupefying light so pure it's easy to forget the wretched bastard cacophony to follow.

And you saw it onscreen, knew it was your immediate future, light-speed nigh, the moment I tried to say I still cared, the moment love posed triumphant, when a gull screamed, at the frozen blazing moment of my erasure. 

Friday
Aug042017

Solitude and the Devil's Armpit

What reared in palsied segments from a blasted hollow was the ruinous progeny of some heinous prior act, a man hauling across the incognizant desert long bereft of any road his own daughter and then violating all touchstones of trust, all human and earthly edicts, before uncoupling her from her life in the cooling night until the land itself sheared and assumed the burden of arbiter and caught him and vise-gripped his leg till he mewled and died sluggardly under the searing day that followed, the sun itself meting justice and broiling first his eyes to grayish raisins in their sockets then his sobbing brain in its canted bone pan. From the drying juices of his corpse some unholy alchemy spawned this flapping, fractured thing born thirsty and agonized. With the falling of night and the cooling of the red stones it staggered and moaned a crooked wan-lit path toward the lights of a town scattered like tiny stars in a great throated void.

Not really a town. A convenience store with twin gas pumps, crude sentinels, a dusty bestrewing of trailers, a barroom squat and yellow-brown as a bark scorpion, a single red light pendent as a polyp over a crossroads.

She'd stopped because she dripped without moisture, because she needed relief from the eternal dry breath of the road and its cartoon hornet string of broken lines. The smeary windowpanes of her eyes reflected nothing. Her twenty-four hours of freedom from a man hellbent on her ruin yet joyless. The bar had no signboard or emblem aside from a Sorry We're Open sign in its only window, and the inside was small and dark and hot and rank; she named it in her mind the Devil's Armpit and thought about smiling. 

But she didn't smile. The barkeep cocked an eyebrow and with her head she signaled a cluster of bottles, whiskies.

"Give me chain lightnin'," she said, her voice strange like that of an exotic bird in a cave.

He grunted and poured a dark amber shot glass and she drank it back, her throat taut, her eyes tight, and when "The Master's Call" by Marty Robbins rose and soared from buzzing speakers, though no god had ever dwelled in any part of her, a tear gathered in the corner of her eye. 

Two men had wandered in, like moths find their way on a porch around nightfall. One of the men wore his darkness like a prioress wears her faith—as a part of him, his oil-black hair gleaming like the nape of a corvid, his one eye a campfire coal soliciting dark tales, his other blank and nacreous. The second man was no account.

They took up a place on the other end of the bar, four or five scuff leather stools between them. 

"So, lady, tell me your first sight this sunrise." He didn't look her way because he didn't have to.

"With all respect, sir, I ain't exactly enamored of conversation right now." She also looked only in front, at the grimy bottles, at black-painted drawers now fulvous with the chalky exhalations of the land. Nothing here could be kept. All of it ran between splayed fingers amid silence.

"We-ell. Ordinarily I'd grant your respectful wish to be left alone, Miss. I truly would. But truth is, present circumstances militate agin' such a relinquishment."

She looked his way at last, for scant moments, heartbeats.

"Why might that be… Mister?"

Somehow he had grown more ursine during this short interchange. His snoutish face encased in rank dark fur. His one good eye a black pearl defying the abalone vacancy of his other. A stench coming from him.

"Why that might be… Missy… is this. You're runnin' from something. That much you cain't argue with, and neither can I. What you're runnin' from ain't too important, but what is important, to me, is where you is now. Your present... solitude. That I need to state for the goddamned record. And contemplate."

She thought about standing up and walking out, only as soon as the thought crawled its way across her skittering mind, she recognized it for the pale aborted thing it was. Whatever this man was, she needed to face him like she'd finally faced Dwayne and his fists a day or two ago. In some ways, this cornshucker and her ex were brothers: Cain and Cain. She never minded cursing, but she stockpiled her own profanities until the right moments.

She thought about his hands, his fingers, where they'd been, what things they'd ferreted and infringed upon.

"I tried respect, sir. Now I'm gonna tell you a truth: it ain't none of your goddamned business and I'd much prefer to be left to dwell on my loneliness entirely my ownself, the way it oughta be. Mostly so I can figure if bein' lonely might yet mean freedom."

He stayed silent for a good ten minutes while she sipped on her shine and the barman dissembled as if to polish stuff already partway buffed and the no account sidekick grinned at some deviant joke no soul would get to speak aloud on this earth. 

Then the man moved fast. Was behind her and wrenching her arm high behind her back.

"You are comin' outside with me," he said, with shocking gentleness.

She looked and knew instantly the bartender would be no help. 

No account was grinning and displaying three sullied teeth with a kind of truculent pride.

A grim marionette, she stumbled forward if only to prevent herself from falling and was quickly under a star field so bright it yet stole her breath despite her predicament. 

"What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Takin' you to my vehicle, Miss. Then to a different place."

They approached the dark shape of a pickup and, like some simian thing, no account swung his misshapen body into the bed while the bad man with one good eye pulled out the key from his pocket.

And that was when it staggered from out of the scrubland, lurched uncouth from an untrod trail in the broken hills, and began to dismantle a thing it knew about: something unapologetic, something mean as a scorpion in a resting boot, something belligerent, something that had sired its own torment. It took its time, tore and chewed slowly with claggy and crenulate teeth, jaw hasping and unhasping, barely registering the man's garish hoots as screams, beyond the rupture of the man's cords in his gorge, beyond the hellish slow minutiae of his drawn-out annihilation.

Instead of running, as no account had already done, she was rooted, some part of her desirous of this grotesque theater, hungry to see such unspeakable retribution visited on the wicked. Yearning to witness a delinquent accounting.

"Goodnight motherfucker," she whispered.

When it was done, and the meat on the floor had stopped twitching, the obscenity looked her way a second or two, before it lumbered its graceless way back the way it had come, into the scorched hills, where nothing awaited it and nothing wanted it and nothing whatsoever wished it into a dirty world, not now and not ever, the good lord help us, amen.

Friday
Jul212017

Chesterman

When you ran alongside me, barefoot, following the beach pier below, I thought you meant to tell me something profound, announce something real. When you caught up to my shadow and climbed the iron steps and looked in my eyes and said, "Your mother died," I thought you were either funny or cruel. It took a long time for me to realize you were going for both.

I can't help it. I associate your metronome hips toiling in a sandblasted skirt with the death of my mother.

At my tea party, Kate Winslet is Emily Blunt's aunt. Kelp lies forlorn on the shore.

"Honey, don't make me do anything. Let me do it 'cause I want to."

Escape your uterine penumbra. Ask me how?

"I'll ask this. Impossible to answer, no doubt. How is it you seem to know me when all you know is my menstrual smell? And what is it that tastes like people? Makes us numb?"

"Because you climb men like we're trees."

"Seriously, no words. You should be banned from speaking."

"True. But then I'd write."

Here we all are, rulers of a thousand silent kingdoms. Wearers of so many tawdry cotton shifts.

"You are not the marrying guy. You are the affair guy."

"Welcome home, girlfriend."

"Ugh."

The wind gets up. Stirs the treetops. Will you dream of a monster hunched among the dark limbs, breathing quiet, awaiting its time? All I know is, every coward craves a gun. 

Friday
Jul142017

Hostile

We're a long way past those plastic wood panels. That studded belt. The brackish shallows.

She was born Ida Grace Showbuckle, a Midwestern girl in a middle America world.

By the time she arrived in Hollywood, she was Shyna Lite, but that only shepherded her briefly pornward until she settled on Gloria Spensky, which combined a classic first name with an authentic East European family moniker while largely avoiding complications. America fell quietly in love, even before they'd truly parsed the name for prestige or infamy.

She was fortunate. Spectacular and tawdry. Resplendent with dubious pedigree.

Before tomorrow, the deviant mollusc will have devoured eleven faces. Be ready. This carnage won't be silent or demure. Segmented limb parts the texture and disavowed color of forsaken tarpits will skitter from bleak corners, antennas tuned to utter wreckage, trojaned in by the aroma of coffee beans and the poise of a nylon seam, a lukewarm foot cupped by a cool stiletto heel.

You have no idea what I'm saying, do you?

Don't worry. I don't either. I no longer know how to ask for help.

Was something birthed in the vomit of some homunculus, before any of us were here?

Gloria made progress, found a modicum of genuine affection among the glitterati. If she is filled with secrets, then so are we all.

Laura was my neighbor. She was older than me, not by all that much. Sometimes she babysat us. Her hair was the color of a raven's throat. My fingers ached to stroke it. Then came our private Armageddon, and our priorities changed. Although I never stopped loving the girl next door, whatever her guise. She was my ingress. 

Psychotic girls might be our last shot. Please rearrange words accordingly.

And please give me an invitite. Smurn me with lashes. Starl. Aglutor. Abrogate all this. If langrage is a skareton, the very bones of our syntax are fragmenting in clouds of sweet white dost, like wedding caek. Our vocalumnary crombles. Restet my gladdamned jawmoan. That bird has flone. Hear me haol till dawn. 

Chronology isn't my strong suit. Nor is lucidity. Especially when my brainpan hosts its silent apocalypse.

Gloria met an enigmatic young woman named Evelyn who'd come down from Canada alone, for altogether obscure purposes. Gloria and Laura, who met at a club in Inglewood in July 2011, would help her sometimes, both sensing her dangling-over-a-cliff vulnerability. Evelyn had landed on skid row—in a hostel once opulent but wearing its own sad fall from grace in its crumbling facade—either because she felt it was her natural home or believing it her launchpad to Hollywood. She was pretty and sweet, listened to J-metal and read dystopian fiction, but she was already a wraith. A waif like a leaf gyred by November winds through a caterwauling valley someplace north of the forty-ninth. Her appointment with death kept getting postponed, and they took this as a sign she would be okay. They bought her meals now and then, took her to shows. But one day they didn't see her, no one did, and the internet seized on a shiny new mystery and Evelyn became a made-to-order character for websites dedicated to creepiness, not even rounded enough to be tragic.

Gloria kept going, but Laura went home, could never shake the sorrow of Evelyn's disappearance. They still talked now and then, but things had lost their luster. I loved all three, a walking, pulsing Bechdel test, but Evelyn will always hold a special place for me, allowing me my moment to school them and to fail them, her soft porcelain throat collapsing under my thumbs, her epicanthic stare beseeching me until her light slipped away, already heading back up Interstate 5, searching at long last for home.

Now you've read this nonsense, answer me this: what the fuck is wrong with you?