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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
Sep192014

Lint

Go away. There is lint in my head. I have no idea how it got there. What is lint? Clustered micro fabric and human skin? Uh. Could fashion a golem from it. A movie was playing earlier, The Big Sleep, Bogart and Bacall. I can't get the lint out. Sneeze it out? Cough? It's too far in. Nothing will work, not any more. I am sad Lauren Bacall died. I know Bogart also died, and he smoked like he never wanted to taste the air of this world, but that was a long time ago now, and besides, she was feisty. And elegant. It's hard to be elegant with lint in your head. I need a sugar alternative; I eat too much white death. Not in cakes and that kind of shit, but in tea and coffee. Although strictly speaking that means I drink it not eat it. Someone told me there is ground bone in white sugar. Is that true? She might have been a vegan. The person who told me that, I mean. She had an agenda maybe. Double Indemnity is another good one. Is noir a cure for lint, or a cause of it? I no longer know for sure and am paralyzed by my ignorance. Barbara Stanwyck was never paralyzed by anything. Except by death, of course. I am lying on a hot deserted highway and I can't move. I am broken. Tender shoots are crawling from the road's many cracks. I can see them growing; they're repulsive. She did kiss me once, she did. There is old blood smeared on the road's crumbling surface. Terrible wrenching things have occurred. I love the sound of coyotes, like teenagers trying on primal round a campfire. Enraged and intoxicated by life. Or should that have been with life? The syntax is slipping, words loosen. Yapping and shrieking at a moon cowering. Junior wolves. Is it night already? Am I this far from help? How can lint be so heavy? A lonely tear escapes my eye and begins its own brief story. Unremarked. Soon gone. A doctor in a dark overcoat is climbing the stairs. He is hunched and trembling under the burden of his appalling news.

Friday
Aug152014

Dockland

He felt almost conspicuous under the pearly cone of light at the shabby corner of Wheelhouse and Commercial. This time of night there were plenty of lights down at the wharf, glimmering amid the docks like tiny nebulae, but there was also plenty of shadow.

The sharp surprise of a coyote, yapping somewhere impossibly close, stunned him with portent.

But invisibility had always been his superpower, this grey man in a grim place. He would be fine, he always was.

Then she was there. Of course. She had seen him. A slight woman stooping a little and wrapped in a nondescript coat that barely covered her knees. She looked so fragile, almost childlike in fact, that he felt inexplicably sad. The deep kind of sad. The kind that doesn't go away no matter how much tequila you drown it with or how much cocaine you try rubbing into its receding gums.

She passed him what she'd come here to pass him. His guts moved inside him, squidlike. He handed her a roll of bills and she pocketed them without even counting.

And like cold breath in an awful dream about dying in fog, she was gone.

Leaving him holding it. The heavy thing. Heavy, cooling, yet still warm with its own ghost, and still dripping.

Friday
Jul112014

Stygian

A pale sun slides into a sky vacated by a cataract moon. Two tarnished pennies. An exchange. 

The surf sounds so close it might be undermining the very supports of this beach house. But I'm not fretting; this is the tail end of the storm. Whatever wild, dire omens rode its turbulent breakers have already come and long gone. 

Now, the susurrant rush and hiss-drag of the waves over sand and pebbles sounds more like the fading coda of some vast, tenebrous requiem shimmering into morning.

Tentative, reluctant, like lonely people closing their front doors. One more glance. The hope that won't die. 

A sudden swell, like the late, bright moments of a life, suddenly poignant against the grey of everything that came before. If not to innocence, a return to childhood at least.  

No storm will ever frighten me again. There's a dark, turgid river now, running beneath everything. 

Nona lies broken amid more broken things. Liquor bottles, betrayal, cracked photo frames, knickknacks. A laptop, its screen spiderwebbed. Our last ever fight. A doozy, as they say. A blood reckoning, I think. I pick my way through the shattered glass, through our shattered, annihilated lives, and find my phone, tacky with jellied (and gelid) blood. 

Hit 911. 

Time to pay the ferryman.

_____________________

Once again, a big shoutout to Dan Mader and all the regulars who post their amazing flash fiction on his blog every Friday. Big love and smooches to all a y'all.

Friday
Jul042014

Sacral

I Confess, Alfred Hitchcock, © 1953

He seemed to be the only penitent in the church. The airy hush was a sound larger than the place itself.

The priest waited in the confessional until a shuffling noise told him the man had at last joined him on the other side of the grid. The voice in the near pitch-dark was shaky.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…" So quavery it sounded more like a question, as if its owner couldn't settle on a tone. The man's breathing was shallow, rapid—the sound of near-panic. 

"Relax, we're all sinners here. How long since you last confessed, son?" the young priest soothed, suddenly aware of the awkwardness of such an endearment directed at someone probably no younger than he. Yet such was the nature of these things; how mysterious and nuanced the intricate bonds between shepherd and flock. 

"Not long. A while."

The priest chose to ignore the contradiction, sensing a reluctance that seemed to press on the confessional like an old mattress abandoned in a rainstorm.

"Take it slowly. They're not exactly lining up out there." He smiled grimly at this. He'd meant to put the man at ease but there was an edge to his tone even he could hear. Slim pickings among the faithful these days.

A conversation he'd had earlier with Sister Camilla arose unbidden. She'd looked at him askance and raised one full eyebrow.

"Your father was a tyrant, no?"

"Now why would you ask that, Sister?"

"Because, Father, you are so completely terrified of eternal damnation you spend much of your time atoning for sins you've yet to commit."

He hadn't argued. Couldn't have, really.

Though too cloaked in darkness to make out, he knew the thick rosary he clutched to his chest would give him sufficient strength to bear the torment of a fellow sinner, if only for a few scant moments. Those plump beads the ripest of grapes on his arid vine of faith.

"Father…" A sour scent like spoiled meat marinated in vinegar wafted through the grill.

"Yes?"

"You can't tell no one else? This is between you and me, right?"

"And the Almighty, yes."

"Good. Father. I didn't mean to do it." That small voice. Almost the voice of a child caught stealing apples from an orchard.

The young priest inhaled deeply, ignoring the abattoir fetor, calling on the Holy Spirit to fill him with patience and love.

"Take your time, my son." 

Through the grid he could barely even discern a silhouette, let alone any distinguishing features of the distressed man. Strange. Normally his eyes would have adjusted by now.

"I thought she was willing, Father. Otherwise I'd never have gone that far. When she fought back, I just…"

Quiet sobbing filled the confessional. The priest closed his eyes, felt a pain so deep it surely had to be in his soul. The agony of compassion. No doubt a mere thousandth of what Jesus Himself had felt for His own lost sheep.

"Something in me snapped, Father. I don't want to carry this with me…"

"Son, are you confessing a mortal sin to me right now?"

"If rape, dismemberment, and murder are mortal sins, Father, yes, I'm confessing all three."

"My God…" The priest squinted at the lattice in an attempt to resolve a hint of an outline or the particulars of a face. "You must tell someone else, you can't—"

"No! No! I will lose everything. This is all I know, Father, I…"

Without thought or warning, the priest was on his feet. He exited his side of the confessional, stepping over something that nearly blocked the narrow aisle between the recessed confessional and the rows of pews. He tore open the door to the other compartment, preparing to confront the man, urge him to tell the authorities. 

The booth was empty. It smelled only faintly of old incense and even older dust.

His skin prickled and his mouth went dry. In the restless glimmer cast by the nearby rack of votive candles, he could now see his own hands, the rosary swinging from them. The shiny black beads dripping something red the viscosity of syrup. He looked again at the object on the cold grey marble floor, at what he'd first thought was a discarded pile of clothing. Black, white, red. Like something from a childhood joke. Sister Camilla. Or what was left of her.

His high, liquid scream, rising like a startled dove toward the remote dusty beams above the nave, signalled the end of that day's sacrament of penance. Even though there was no one there to take its measure, to corroborate or to hear it.

Saturday
Jun142014

The Smell of Neglect

He pulled into the dusty two-pump gas station and diner combo, as lonely a place as you'll ever see, the desert heat like the torrid breath of a febrile god.

He only wanted a break from the endless miles of asphalt, a coffee, and a few moments of stillness.

The flyblown thing had been following him for some time now; he thought he'd shaken it most recently back in Carthage, Missouri, when he'd ditched the rental and hopped a freight like a vagabond from a distant time, a grainier time, and worked his way west. And maybe he had… although he doubted it. Even his current ride was long-ago stolen, plates switched, serial numbers filed off. Untraceable. And let's face it, he suspected the thing used other methods than a paper trail. But he'd tried other tricks, too, and they hadn't worked. Had even crossed the northern border, until the mutilated bodies had shown up inside that dark and peeling Saskatchewan grain elevator, and he'd seen the gaping horror on the faces of the eyeless corpses under Nunavut ice.

The guilt was becoming unbearable. Wherever the thing dragged its stinking carcass, people died, and died horribly. Mutilated, dismembered, eviscerated.

Not only that, but it was only those times it caught him up that it set about its butchery with gusto. What the hell was it? And why him? Far as he could tell he was some sort of catalyst for the thing, a reluctant enabler. Yet that made little sense. He was nobody; simply a man trying to outrun his own story. He had only caught glimpses of it, himself; saw some vaguely humanlike buffalo thing, bipedal by occasional choice, shaggy and matted, and showing little distinction between head and torso. A knobby block of imbalanced meat and bone on muscular legs. And it reeked like some hidden back alley in New Orleans choked with rancid offal during the dog days of August. Stifling, loathsome, wretched. And cruel.

The man dreamed it most nights now, in fact. Him on his back, the bison thing drooling tendrils of blood and pus, loops of gore, howling its rage-sorrow while a rain of maggots big as soft albino olives spattered his face. However else it might be described, it was something built for murder, wrought for mayhem, shaped for bedlam. Its aim wasn't merely killing, but the utmost administration of pain. Not enough that its victims died but that they experienced gouged eyes, severed tendons, slowly shattered bones.

He parked and headed for the diner. Stopped for a moment and raised his head, tested the air, sniffed dust, heat, gasoline, neglect. 

Found a booth inside that squeaked on his back as he took a seat.

"Coffee. Strong and black."

"Coming up."

The man gave her a nearly imperceptible nod, yet she seemed to catch it anyway.

"Some hard miles, fella?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, we serve the best coffee in more than a hunnerd miles of here, so you jus' sit and enjoy."

He noticed her exquisite, singular Spanish beauty and damn near leered but checked himself. No use getting attached at this late stage. Not to no one, not even the world's beauties.

The window was painted with dirt, smeared bugs, and decades of scratches, and looked out on the empty highway in either direction. A range of dark burgundy mountains a long ways off broke up the otherwise steady horizon. Tawny layers of dust covered most things, unless those things were passing through. And even then. An ancient Airstream was filling up at the rusty old pumps, reflecting painful sunflashes. A dog with milky eyes, scarred and limping, crossed from the other side of the highway toward them. The entire world seemed ruined, birdless, and dying. Lonely as goddamnit, all of it.

The man rested his head on his arms on the plastic tablecloth. Red and white check, ketchup and mayonnaise, blood and cum. So weary. He needed to sleep. But how could he sleep? How could he ever sleep again? And yet, how could he not sleep? He wondered if this was it, whether he was at last caught, right here in this hot and dusty nowhere. If so, it could have been far worse, he knew it.

When she brought the steaming coffee at last, he looked up at the sultry waitress, who seemed to flinch at whatever she thought she saw in his gritty, grainy eyes. Tried to back off, even. But she heard him, alright, and heard him good.

"Thank you, missy. Sorry to say, but there's something' comin' outta the east you all ain't gonna like."