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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
Aug262016

Faraway Thunder

There were no signs. You got there via a rutted overgrown track between the corn brake and the slough. Once you did, you'd be hard put to know which was the more broken down: the shack or the old man who lived in it.

She knew he never spoke of the very war she figured was what ruined him. She made these visits not to hear about napalm or agent orange or Bell Hueys but simply to keep him company. She felt badly for him, all on his lonesome an' all, no family she knew of, friends likely dead, unbidden memories shuffling out of the corn. 

Sometimes he'd be sitting on his canted porch in a reeking bathrobe that might once have been white cotton flannel but now appeared as if assembled from filthy slaughterhouse mops, and stank that way. Mayhap she'd hunt down that old washboard and coax him out of his robe and try to launder it best she could. He never hid his nakedness, and after a while it stopped bothering her too. Other times she'd dig up a greenish potato in the weed patch that dreamed of being a vegetable garden and add it to the chitlins she'd brung, along with a couple eggs from the coop if the broody old hens had deigned to lay that day.

Neither of them said much, all told. She might sit beside him on the stoop—though he'd never offer up his rickety chair—and watch as the sun spread like a broken yolk and dripped below the rim of the world and the lightning bugs briefly outshone the few pale stars. Occasionally he'd go fill a mason jar with moonshine and share it with her, and smoke while they listened to the antic coyote chorus, after which she'd sway a little on her hike back in near blackness, half-afraid she'd fall in the slough, a small dutiful woman in a large world of night.

He did tell of his brother once. Another time of his mama. Both long dead, as she'd thought. Rare times he talked, she mostly listened; the smallest creek needs no impediment. He never once mentioned his pa.

The most he ever talked was after a big storm had passed, one that still sounded in the gloomy hills to the east, like the ghosts of old battles.

"Had to kill me one a' them hens," he said into the clear mercury air.

"How come?"

"Got a wound on her neck, so the others woulda slowly pecked her dead anyways."

"Which one?" she asked, but immediately felt foolish. "Though I s'pose you seen one dumb chicken you seen 'em all."

And that was the only time he spoke of the war.

"They used to say that about Charlie. They was wrong then, and you're jes' as wrong now."

Friday
Aug192016

Wyoming

Those arroyos outside town, so precious. Their red dirt. The way they breathe so slow, ignoring roads, evoking shadows like the last wispy creeds of dying cults.

"You got a better story?" she asks me.

She ain't never satisfied. I could tell her about Jesus, Beyoncé, and Saddam motherfucking Hussein pooling their resources to solve the murder of a sexually ambiguous alien-dwarf hybrid by a vengeful sixteenth-century teenage Moorish prince in some English stately home, and she'd still ask, "You got a better story?"

Sometimes feels like my life's a constant struggle to tell a better story. It surely can't be, but it might be, after all's said.

So a man was found dead 'neath the cliffs, but there were signs he'd tried to climb them before whatever killed him came along, and he'd gotten two-thirds the way up according to the gouges in the red clay many people attributed to the toes of his boots, which also had remnants of the same red clay stuck to them. Maybe not open and shut, but hardly fucking unfathomable neither.

Braless, she unpeels her shirt and flexes her dorsals, a cetacean back like something lithe and fluid and strenuous you'd only see once in a lifetime of diving in a world of deep. The pendulous hint of her breasts sidelines me, makes me salivate through my answer.

"Yeah, I got a better story." I taste salt, like blood, like tears.

"Tell me."

"You sure you're ready?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"A'right. This. Fuck you is a better story. How's that, goddamnit? Stop breaking my balls, will ya? Something's wrong here, and even if I only felt a surface ripple when there's maybe some kinda vortex, wait it out, let it fucking breathe, for chrissakes."

She won't challenge that. It's beneath her. I can't ordinarily find the words, but I pitch this just right. Like when you get absinthe just perfect, the thick green, the flame, the melted sugar, the voodoo, everything in its right place. Her name is every state we ever lived in, however brief. Right now, her name is Wyoming. Part of me wants her to stop changing her name and stay Wyoming. It suits her. It sounds like a query asked of a journey, which is everything we ever did.

She's a tall female with wide shoulders. Rangy, I suppose. Like her mount. She looks like someone can only be happy astride that wide-eyed stallion galloping on a spit of glimmering sand; her golden silt hair streaming like a raging creek; its nostrils gaping like cave mouths; her haunches splayed and fulcrumed western style; its shimmering, filmy, velvet skin a platonic dream of musculature; her sweet hive eyelids tight as honeytraps; its citrus-leaf ears backstraining; her lone wild heart one violent stormshadow. 

Wyoming knows more than twice what she lets on, and maybe half of what she don't.

But we're here now. Devils Tower looming like a sly insult from a quiet ground. Striated and dreamlike. Look but keep going. Big Timber. The Crazy Mountains stark and barroom blue against a lemon-apricot sky, cheap real estate, torn pleather booths, the interstate, power cables, smokestacks, the bright rails straight like arrows pointing someplace, some other place.

So, the dead man, right? I truly want to honor his memory, find his killer, but my girl Montana insists we keep moving west.

Friday
Jul292016

And They Need No Candle

Like everything was prechoreographed, the barroom exploded.

Notice the anomalies. The flickering eyes and tapping feet. The man in the Donnie Darko hoodie on a steaming afternoon. A bitter taste lurking right behind the sweet. The quiet dry sand after the tide draws too far out. The flights of silent birds darkening an August sky. The nod toward the man near the exit. A cough that goes too long. The movement of animals.

***

Who am I? That's a simple question with an answer that might take a year to relate. No doubt there's a short version but I ain't ever found it. Okay, here, how 'bout this? I am an auteur. A black hole. A universe swirls inside me, and can't ever escape.

Last time I seen you I just got done telling your dumb ass about how it might behoove you to dial down the attitude in the workplace. Instead of listenin', it was easier for you to rant and call me a bitch and then ghost me like Caspar. He a scared little white boy too, and prolly sweeter. If your only weapon's social media, you already lost, bro-heem. Guess you never saw me sharpening my teeth on your wheel rims. Nah. Your days are numbered like scripture; one day you gonna get to Revelation (22:1–5). But save your prayers and your hymns; I ain't itching for ya. Planning me some primetime mayhem.

Like that barroom. A few strategic words whispered in a few disparate ears, conjugate humanity's secret verbs, program the drone to hack someone's iPhone, mix up sounds like iOS and IRS, watch while the tall skinny taxman brains the Venetian duchess. Ciao bella, indeed. Watch the dominoes fall. Dodge the blood and glass. Mind the step and keep off the grass.

Wannabe soldier? You a full metal jackass.

Other day I sunk five Bellinis while my homegirl tripped balls 'bout nothin. I tuned her out and soared to peach heaven on sparkling clouds of white wine. That shit has pedigree. Named from an Eye-talian painter. When I came back to earth she was gone. Took me a week to find her sorry, self-pitying behind and another week to decide to help her outta her misery. Old school hands around the throat, feeling that hyoid give way, the collapse of her trachea, and the tiny spreading capillaries in the whites of her full-moon eyes. The tattoo of her heels. For the sake of her dignity, I even tried to pretend I didn't enjoy it. 

"I'm sure in her you'll find the sanctuary."

The anomalies come faster now. We runnin' outta time, yo, I can feel it over my event horizon. Nebular menstrual cramps, dark attractors. Let me say now I loved you, boo, and still do. It ain't personal. It's nature. The animals know. They always know. This is how the world ends. Not with the mange but distemper.

Friday
Jul222016

Little Apples of Death

Never forget. I forget. I always forget. What indeed is memory?

The ceiling fan flickers in the rearview screen of my keys. They sit bunched on my desk alongside an overfilled wallet straining like an enlarged organ, an unfashionable cell phone, and an open notepad filled with jottings and appointments and TV quotes and titles of movies I want to catch, like silvery fish, all written in green.

Only recently I quit talking on my phone to Gabriella, my most recent ex. In a red leather diner, art deco no less, I think I became amorous and whispered, "Let your petals unfurl for me," and now in shame I'm trying to forget this. She hung up, of course. But strip away the poetry and pretension and I think I meant it.

That quiet rural road at night, the scant light a weak spill from the sky gilding powerlines.

Gas stations bathed in jaundiced pools.

I met Gabriella in a small Guatemalan village where we came to know the little apple of death in a mangrove swamp. That is not a metaphor. We came to know each other beneath the wicked limbs of a manchineel tree, unmindful of everything but each other's crevices and tastes and folds and fragrances, until our innocent choice of love nest revealed its terrible weeping teeth. A sudden squall washed its glutinous sap onto our exposed bodies, which erupted in yellowish domelike clusters of scalding pus. I won't even try to describe the torment. Enough that we lived. Scarred but alive.

The next time we kissed, I felt your newness. You, not Gabriella. I hardly want to say your name for fear of breaking some spell. But Nastassja, I guess, let's say that. It wasn't even an amorous kiss. More sibling friendly and full of love. I recall you smelled of the fresh rain in summer, sprinkled over the sweet dust of berries. That is always your smell, my love, will never not be. The things we scratched in the dirt have become signs, sigils, symbols, license plates, catechisms, wreaths, and leis, the heart-pause moment your fridge hiccups and your lights twitch and trouble flickers your brow.

After which we met Tyrell, a tiny whipped dog who finally bit back but bit all the wrong people. He lived in a motel in Sedona, but his dreams and his history leaked from the sun-bleached door and proclaimed themselves tendrils of dreamstuff, larger and more real than their origins. Tyrell wasn't a dog, though; he was a man. But he was hurt and squalid and swollen and famished. His footprint was tiny, yet his presence was vast. We witnessed a microburst, listened to a bell chime, made a clear date with him, and left.

After which we committed atrocities, of which I will not speak.

We headed north, Seattle bound, shunned, and I became Sylvain and you became Nathalie. We became the universe's secret scheme by which to gaze upon itself. In the shadow of a needle, we sucked each other's essence through our germy, blistered genitals.

Kept going. My god, my love, this late summer evening, an apricot and charcoal sky, the dense stand of trees across from my window thick with gelatinous greens, mutinous quiet, and still as an inbreath, a 3-D painting, that moment we know we're finally betrayed.

Right before we cotton to it. Before backwash. Before we are fully tarnished.

And now we all meet at the cabin by the lake, one by one or in small groups, you and your sister, the crippled geek, the quiet killer, the queen bitch, the whipped dog, the selfless children, the drastic the guilty and the laughable, as ordained, as determined by the warfaced nun and the sneering gypsy we couldn't shake loose in the French Quarter that unnaturally humid spring, by the cosmonaut with all the juicy conspiracies, by the Japanese artist daubing graphic manko portraits in defiance of her culture. My gentle Yukio. My profane Monique. My abandoned mermaid. My coconspirators.

The lake water is still, and the greens drip and mix like virgin oils on a canvas. A loon succumbs to laughter. The Milky Way begins its gentle rise across the darkness, a smeary cosmic vulva. A single coyote yips and then stops. All the trees, like bronchi in a vast lung, exhale as one. Sweet sacred oxygen.

We are here. We are seismic. This could be our moment. We might take flight. Grab our keys and wallets and light out. Then a fight erupts in the cabin—"Fuck you, what is this?" "I'll hurt you!" "Stay away from me!"—and suddenly the world weighs heavy and the moment lies wounded and defiled, stunned immobile by the sudden draining of all hope.

See my alien scars. Features of exotic worlds shaped by impossible forces. Come closer. Trace them with trembling fingertips. Smell my carnation scent. Hurt me as I ask to be hurt. And bring me home. Bring me home.

And if I die, please, if only once in a while, please fucking dream of me.

Friday
Jul082016

Only Points of Light

She was window shopping. Except she wasn't.

She seemed almost to glide down the wide street with its mid twentieth century storefronts and angled parking on both sides. You could almost imagine Gene Vincent blaring from one of those convertibles, though Chuck Berry might have been a bridge too far.

It was a small southern town preserved in amber.

Her gaze was downcast but occasionally flickered upward, from demure to shrewd in an instant. She was using the windows as mirrors, vigilant as a Serengeti ungulate. Somewhere in the great unfurled blanket of America her foes made headway, through fields of corn, along dusty back roads, cold and relentless in the mountain passes, their gait steady and their footfalls unbroken, their antennae quivering like seismic needles.

Eyes on the glass where her own reflection lay superimposed on a naked pink mannequin, she collided with someone. A kid.

"Whoa, sorry, ma'am," he said. A polite kid. Twelve or so.

"It's okay, son," she mumbled and went to pass him.

"You ain't from here, are you?"

"No, I ain't. But I must be going on my way, young man. Please let me by."

"I know about you. I hear the same sounds you do."

Her dark skin rippled with ice. Her scalp crawled with invisible ants. It felt to her as if she'd woken from a nightmare, only to find the neighbour was a Klansman while all the time she'd been wary of the parade of furtive strangers who passed her home. No, worse. She had no idea which one of those things was true.

***

They found the body of the young boy out in the desert. Shallow was too kind a word for the rudimentary grave. Facile would be more the truth. He had been strangled to death and before the authorities could perform their cleanup the turkey buzzards had dined on parts of him.

Only the coyotes had watched his killer dispose of him, and their stories that night danced with horror and glee, carried on a slight breeze to the ears of nearby farmers but never rendered into any human tongue.

***

There came the sound of distant marching from across the plain. Surefooted, purposeful. The sun had slid below the far off hills and the overhead blackness met the opalescence of an oyster sky through varying shades of blue. The evening was so still and quiet that the marching seemed amplified, as if a great army was striding at impossible speeds, a renegade army intent on something appalling, for when does an army ever intend otherwise?

***

"The arc of history makes this a momentous time. The predators just became prey and they will be more angry now, not less. They will place the blame on their prey. In the parlance of our times, they will double down. Be vigilant, my sisters and my brothers. Do not allow them to pervert the tale, as it's a tale of hard truth and deep pain like no other. Now go, and hear my words echo in your hearts as you walk the sorrowful roads of this vast land."

The people gathered in the park left in small groups. Something about the old man felt right. Some said he was a prophet. Some had yet wilder theories. Some scratched their heads and abandoned conjecture in favour of beer and music and the loving warm arms of their companions.

Only the stars and the fireflies knew for sure, and neither was telling.