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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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Saturday
May192018

Attend to All the Tales

© Jame T. McArdleBright. So many thoughts and moments gusted like wrappings on the shoulder of a highway in the wake of a thousand passing trucks. 

(Those boxes of books, like steps. Like buildings.)

This was the time when he fell partway down an embankment and came to rest within a meter of a passing freight whose sparks on the tight steel curve burned new tattoos into his arms, and he crawled back to a semblance of a man and climbed his way up into a bright morning in some western city and started to walk. 

(Cascading guts, some kind of release.)

Girlfriend sported metal in her septum, navel, and clitoris; she raged about as much as she laughed, which made her more than tolerable. She left her nipples unmolested thanks to unexpected motherhood. Answer this. Is rank, dire poverty ever fine? It's awkward and wrong and it hurts. We lived a good half-lifetime raising kids inside a house that seemed like kids themselves had drawn it. Some rooms were sketched in plaster and lath. We could break them open and let our yearnings out, considered that sustainable.

(Staircase built from words. Librarian meets architect.)

She was a target of my new approach, my sense that facts rode shotgun to the rest of things. Slunk fast and slick beyond the fury boiled in femininity. Distilled. Clean water from myriad shed tears.

Which makes rage.

We clashed impossibly within the town she called her temporary home, me having drove (I having driven) a weeklong trail, blessed and uninformed, oblivious to the sirens, the insect scratch and clamber of pursuit, the unspooling horizon behind.

(Language itself will abandon us.)

Our unique wine released by spigots, dark oak barrels creaking in dusty dim cellars while bloodred gouts spooled into buckets made from human skin.

It's emerald. Agate. Hematite. Some geode. Maybe let's meet at noon, after the shaded herds are teased, before we climb the brightest trail again, orient ourselves to up again. The woman I know, the woman I knew, would never kowtow to any of this. She lifted herself in segments above the fray, arched her aggregated vertebrae, a silent arc assemblage like a dim makeshift rainbow made of female.

(Friendship. Why so hard to get right?)

In secret, against a desert wind that pushed her words back down her throat, she said this: "Pass me a margarita, Papi. I lust for and loathe Mexicana. My bleached American guts see nothing but banalities. Cholos, cholas. Stupid boys and girls. Stupid drama. Estúpida. That scar? That's where they cut the baby out of me. Tráfico? Sí. Please yourself and crave the Caribbean sprinter, that liquid effortless longshanks, my forgotten hope, mi esperanza."

(Climb and reach the top. And gasp.) 

Accept my sculpted facial hair and gray skull toques. This impotent clench. Where is death? She leered at me the best part of a decade ago, but nowhere since have I glimpsed her foolproof perversity. No doubt she waits. Tawny grasses shimmer, silos dance, a shifting flutter of fata morganas. Broad daylight. Hawk tails, catamounts, latrans, ragged busted fence lines. Shadow things lope and glimmer. Ranks of afternoon sunflowers wagging dreamlike faces hour upon hour. Time to branch out. Maggie runs the place up on the hill; please, let's join her. Tiny black flies. A donkey brays. Sunrays spread between the slats.

(Look. Listen. Attend to all the tales.) 

May you never misplace the romance of the world. The glorious weight of its glamour. The sheer ferocity of its ardor. May its plucked strings accompany your heart's arpeggio forever. 

Friday
May112018

Astride a Pale Horse

I see it coming, mostly peripheral, but not always. Sometimes it looms upfront and winks and laughs. Heartily, even. Yet more and more I clock it as it struts along an urban street or lurks at the lip of a wood. It's a tendril, a blur, a shimmer. Often a goodbye. But I know it's real; I'm no longer dreaming it. Last week I saw it fall from a branch and shower golden green as pollen, slide off a wing as bright clear drops onto dry gravel and be absorbed. Heard it late in the gathered dark as the scream of a bobcat. Fucking? Fighting? Is there a difference? 

It doesn't always win, although it usually does. It's coming, though, however slowly. 

See the gluey trail, the fallen tree, the intaken breath at the passing of a hawk. The blinking slicked-back head of the harbour seal. Spawning sockeye stymied by falls. Raven calls, airless, sacerdotal. "Rainbows and rail ties." A wild pony drumming the land frantic. Stories of injustice, desperate killers exonerated by science, by reason. The mining disaster. That last travesty. The next. 

In the glare of a burnt orange sundown, we might even run out of steam, of breath.

A slag heap slipped and dropped on a school. Friendship ruined by envy. Abandoned lovers gathering at the wharf, circled by urban coyotes (two syllables), the blare of the darkened barge gliding oleaginous in the thick contrarian ink of the river. Congealed fluids of everyone ever murdered. Molars claggy with rancid meat. Butterfly migrations. Stars astonished by their own birth. Mosquito nets. Craft slingshotted past so many lens flares for alien readings. The trafficked. The raped. The genocided. The blazoned sins tattooed by monsters on the conveyor-belt corpses of women. The lost. The compromised. Those who jumped so they wouldn't burn. Challengers. I swear. Dreamers obliterated by the shortcuts of others. I swear. There is nothing more terrible than imagination. I swear. Nothing. None of this. No matter. Swear. Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Friday
May042018

Horse Latitudes

For nearly three hours, Cait sits in the chair in the silent room.

Once, she was the tiniest girl and no one even noticed her. And this is now not then, and she's still small, still quiet, and she is still mostly overlooked. 

Traffic on the highway hums its deadpan melody. A yellow warbler sings counterpoint.

I no longer love the wineglass, just its stem, Cait thinks, while the brassy chime of an antique clock peals someplace behind her. Like sound will overcome her reticence. Like love won't ever apply to her.

Cait in a dirty white dress with a faded flower print. Cait with hair lank as ditch weed.

Aunt Trinity left a good four hours ago, let Cait know of ways to break right through, killed two mosquitos in her room and said, "That's two less bloodsucking bitches y'all need to mind." 

Cait wonders if she sat like this before, so still, so quiet, so decorous and factual. Wonders if anyone ever sat so true.

For now, it's hard to think of someone other than Mr. Kosiński, his kindly face all gathered in the doorway, his Polish husk so sweet across the room, like storied hazelnut. He thought today was his day, when he would teach Cait how to be French, but he got it wrong, and who knows now what so many crisscrossed schedules bode?

These are her doldrums. Something meteorological. Won't anyone come help?

No. Of course not. How we—stripped, abandoned, supplementary—extricate ourselves from smudged insipid traps determines all the rest of this.

Cait sits in the astonished eye of a teacup storm on a silent chair, past noon. Her lashes curl and drip. Her lips purse and pale. She tries to frown, a pint-sized girl under a crushed daisy crown. 

Will any of this coalesce? What is this ache? Squall or squib? Does she wait for something in the sky to break?

A knock on her door. She never wants to answer. Blam. Blam. A second and a third. Cait sighs, then sighs again.

"Okay," she whispers, like she's lamenting a version of her own name. "Coming, I guess."

Beyond the screen a haloed queen, some gypsy harlequin badass goddess. A Bolan lyric layered onto robust bones. 

"Time to be alive again, pretty lady," the apparition says in a voice soft with dark confectionary. "Come."

The antique clock chimes every quarter hour and does so now, and will chime unheard one million, four hundred and one thousand, six hundred times more while quiet, overlooked Cait rides rails and road righting the myriad wrongs done to her, accompanied by a grinning ghost.

Saturday
Apr282018

Personal Attorney

The Man

When the ocean vomited him onto the beach, himself vomiting brine, there came a great wind rushing through the palms on the cusp of the jungle, making them twist in an agony of ecstasy.

The same cruel funnel of cloud that had left him shipless now drove the trees to flex and dance against their will. Vast phantoms reared up from the beach and sandblasted his eyes, and he cried out and staggered. Blinking, he turned seaward and saw only more approaching storms, great thirsting probosces of some terrible parched sky-thing intent on drinking the sea entire.

The sounds of the trees in the winds and the turbulent surf and the lashing skeins of rain were like the end of something halfway lamented. Flapping limbs of palm were torn away to sail like spurned beseechments toward some inarticulate doom.

Materials from what had once been his sailboat—pieces of fiberglass hull, part of an antique wooden porthole, and bizarrely, the keyboard half of a laptop—were flung upon the shore in random fusillades.

His clothes were mostly gone, a series of ragged strips on his bloody skin, but he didn't discard these sorry remnants, retaining enough wits to consider them at least minimal insurance against the eventual heat of a reemergent sun.

The tempest felt endless. His choice: endure the raw salt excoriation of the sands, or head away from the beach and risk blunt force violence from a freshly liberated branch amid the foliage. He chose the latter, found a hollow by a rock, covered his head with his arms, and waited out the bombardment.

Squatting there, he thought about his predicament. Assuming the storm would pass without further injury to his person, he knew this was a remote island far from any regular shipping lanes. Its fecundity augured well, in that fresh water must surely be accessible. He considered possible food sources… coconuts… fish… until a moment came when he realized the march of cyclones had passed and a strange still silence had closed in.

He stood. Like a deer alert to hunters, he balanced on shaky legs and took in the subtle currents and eddies of the suddenly quiet air. His neck crawled with the visceral sensation only prey animals know. He was being watched. Of that he was almost certain.

Then he heard it. The song of a woman, coming from the adjacent beach. Having slowed in the new silence, his quickening heart rate returned, only this time with hope not terror, and, imagining paradise, he began to walk in the direction of the songstress.

The Women

They were two, both women, and they were beachcombing in the wake of this latest storm, one of the pair singing a melancholy song that recalled her childhood far away, in a land whose name now sounded strange, before this catastrophe had left them stranded. They separated so as to cover a larger area more quickly and sang to each other across the distance. Every now and again, one would hear a sound from the breathing greenery beyond the beach and stop and straighten her back and listen, before bending again and singing once more, in clear fragile tones. 

In makeshift hessian slings across their naked shoulders and chests, they carried firewood, bowl-like shells, other detritus from the ocean they gauged might be useful. 

Their tangled locks were blond, their skin darkly lush as young golden rain trees. 

It was late afternoon, but evening fell like a drawn shade here, and they would soon have to return to their shelter to build and nurture a fire for the coming night. 

"Going back," said one.

"Me too," her sister answered.

And still they sang. 

The Man

Upon hearing the second, answering song, he picked up his pace. Two women. But how? Another recent shipwreck? A freakish conjunction of serial misfortune? He could almost make out the words now, what sounded like "sail away" in wistful English—English!—a wishful sorrow thing. 

An easily navigable natural bulwark of loose rock now stood between him and the women. They would have food and water, also shelter, and they would welcome him in other ways and he somehow knew they were statuesque and eternally lovely in form. Anticipation filled his guts and his groin.

How had such dire circumstances turned so completely? Even his decision to escape another fate by sailing in the first place, cutting his ties with everything and everyone he knew in order to evade the tightening investigation into legally dubious payoffs and misappropriation of campaign funds, seemed to have been a desperate error once his vessel had been reduced to its component parts, and yet now…

The Man and the Women

Beaming, he clambered over the rock promontory onto the new beach, ready to embrace this next chapter in a bizarre adventure. And he stopped. And gaped.

There was no one else. Only another identical beach, littered with the detritus of his and probably other wrecks, the myriad disgorgements of the abysmal deep. He sensed the fairytale collapsing around him. The mythology with all its potential risks and rewards. Sirens. Mermaids. Naiades. Ondines. He desired that vision with such intensity that he could almost believe a glimpse of corded blond, a gleam of nut-brown calf, a lyric fragment borne on layers of balmy air. He wanted to cry and wondered what was even stopping him, here with no witness to his unmanning.

But wait. There was something at the head of the beach where the sands turned to bush. He approached with care. The weathered remains of what once had been a shelter. And what looked like human bones, scattered and bleached and gnawed by animals. (Which animals? His knowledge was by no means exhaustive, but he knew of no dangerous predators inhabiting these remote archipelagos.) Farther into the darkening jungle was a mound marked with a rough Christian cross. Moving closer, he saw a name and a single date scratched into the wood: Eudora circa 1967. Two dead people, one buried. It appeared one's death had preceded the other's, after which no one had been able to bury the second. Moved to pity and forgetting his own predicament, neglecting even to dwell on how he'd somehow heard their songs, the man resolved to perform those long-neglected rites for the unnamed person who must have died in grief and alone. As he began to gather the bones, his foot struck something mostly buried in the sand, which he dug from the shifting ground. A giant turtle shell. He flipped it over and saw more words etched into its concavity. 

Voice almost gone. Laryngitis? Can no longer sing. Delirious with lack of sleep. They will find me soon, the things in the trees, and I will find my sister again beyond the veil. Stranger, if you find this, you must sing. It keeps them at bay, soothes them even. They have the power of mimicry, which will chill you. But keep singing, "Stay away! Stay away!" I hope you are not one but two, since you must take shifts. When you stop, they will come for you. My last fervent hope beyond a painless death is that no one's unkind fate will lead them to read these words, my last. Keep singing. Eudora, I will see you soon. Ida circa 1968. 

Night was upon him now, with its attendant chill. He stood and let the bones fall, knowing he must find a way to stay warm, perhaps build a fire and even a rudimentary shelter from the remains of the ruined one. Survive this first night then explore and gather. 

Poor lonely Ida. Gone half a century ago. How she must have missed her sister. How the endless days of tropical heat punctuated only by violent squall must have weighed on her and slowly uncoupled her mind. Women were frail creatures at the best of times; he of all people knew the truth of that after decades of paying them for their silence. Nonetheless, as he worked, he found himself singing under the glimmering stars amid the strange hush of the island. And in that vast, quiet, ageless bowl, the starlit ocean placid at his back, he heard from the trees ahead the first echo of his own song.

Saturday
Apr212018

Malocchio, a Regifting

When I saw it, my first thought was: I don't know what this is.

My second wasn't a thought but a nuclear gut punch, and the strangest sound escaped my throat, a feral and finite sound, and I vomited until I had nothing left but the lining of my innards with which to stain the snow. 

Staining the snow alongside me was the mutilated head of my wife, the box that had until now contained it upended.

Yes, I've seen the movie Se7en. Liked it, in fact, grim as it is. 

But nothing can prepare someone for this. No horror show, no graphic video game immersion. This was negation. So it goes. As the saying goes.

***

Everyone called her Dresden, which was most certainly not her name. I first saw her dancing on a rooftop, shimmering while the cool air hovered neutral and all the singers lined up in the stairwell. She moved reptilian, askance and quasi mute, dragging a phantom carcass behind her, a gator, a claimant, a caiman, something swamplike and humid.

Buried in silt.

For decades she'd known pain.

It might take a woman to return to this lost and brutal man his jettisoned humanity.

***

Let's see.

Walk into love; don't lose it. The world's mouth is open, its glacier eyes clear and focused. Something like air can be liquid when it's mingled with gold and poured over the massed green ranks of trees that march their lockstep quickstep down to the lake shore. Green chard drizzled with honey. Or butter. A deep blue above, an inscrutable one below. Ingredients waiting for an absent maestro to blend.

Step onto the train, let it move you in lines and swirls against the charcoal backdrop of evening. Lozenges of light—peach, tangerine, coral, and honey—spreading and blinking beyond the glass, distant, removed, passing and appearing, lampooning inchoate nebulae, emergent star fields, microlensed gases, cosmic arraignments. 

My palms are like eyes. My eyes are my hands. Hamsa. Nazar. I am my own amulet. Open, clean, yielding, without doubt.

***

The deluge is comprised of millions of drops. They bounce across my roof, along the railings, upon the anxious surface of the lake, over each and every leaf, countless tiny assaults.

The cabin itself creaks, its wooden bones groaning.

Something inside the fridge is mewling, the weakest of snarls, an enraged kitten-thing. I wake most hours, upon the hour, and listen to the protests of this house, the outrage of its joists and fixtures. The scandal of its frame.

Each kiss innocuous until it's not. I know I must plot my way back from all this. 

I know she isn't coming back.

***

He looks at her, can't speak. She won't even look back.

Eventually he says, "There's a way out of this."

She stands and starts to walk away, part ghost.

"I haven't found it."

She almost looks back but not quite.

"But you might."

Do we all float? Can you hear the hiss? Can you hear the emphasis?

"Okay, don't look at me." 

What the fuck was all this?

***

"Some day you will break like I break."

She stops me speaking, shivers though the air is warm. A child. She is but a child, yet here she tries to reassure me.

I blink and cannot think of anything to say.

Until I do in fact say, "You did no other any wrong. You are my wondrous girl. You are the world's girl. You sang from terraced rooftops, glowed amid the morning light, splashed in crystal pools, breathed the spangled gleam of new-blent worlds. I wish I had the words to tell you what you mean to all. You galvanized the lost. Reclaimed the love we mostly imagined gone. You must not… Please… Forget none of this."  

Etna smokes as always, vineyards trace green hillsides like battalions, veins and tangles and topography; all Europe keeps on bitching like the mad, fractured queen she's always been. Each and every woman has a different secret way to dazzle, to be resplendent. 

But oh. This. This. Who and what on earth was Dresden?

Answer that and all we've done is rediscover love. Which is everything.