Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out
Friday
Jan162015

Conviction

What did they say about the girl who died? That she was pretty? Delicate of face yet hardy of soul? That she sometimes lisped when excitement took her. That she was bright as a star cluster? That now and again she laughed riotously like a mule? No, they said she was a "beloved treasure." How could they mourn the death of something in which they themselves saw no life? Death itself has no meaning for a "treasure." You might as well speak of a broken clock. They are imbeciles.

She was alive and imbued with that fierce need only the best of us have, a need to experience it all. More so than me, her palest of shadows. Before I took all that away, robbed her of life and, worse, the world of her, she lit that world wherever she stepped, no matter how drear its corners, how dismal its recesses.

Before we heard about the storm heading our way, suspicions were starting to cloud my horizons. Something not quite right. Or worse, wrong right through. I could detail those things if I wanted to exonerate myself, but I sure don't want to do that at this juncture, maybe not ever.

Our place sat on a flood plain in a small north-south valley surrounded on three sides by thickly conifered mountains. At the south end, a vast east-west alluvial valley lay perpendicular to it. When at last the storm arrived, I was out by the woodshed, splitting birch stovelengths with an axe. A great gale was building, and since it was moving eastward, riding the pineapple express from some squally, cyclonic Pacific locus, our valley was safeguarded, sequestered.

Yet that gale had a voice. It made me drop tools and climb up to the deck so I could look to the main valley, and see if what was making that hellacious sound was something towering, wretched, and living. All I could see was a deep traumatic and carnal red roiling below the dark brow of the world, black and dire banners of cloud torn along in the wake of an apocalypse. And it howled. Like there were two levels to it—a prolonged shriek of something in mortal terror above that unabating roar of rage. The hair on my forearms stood spiky as the silhouetted firs on the ridge to my left. It felt ceaseless yet also final, the last sound we might ever hear in this or any other world, harrowing its way through eternity.

I went inside. She was doing something quiet in an alcove off of the kitchen, some kind of needlework, and I stood over her.

"You hear that infernal sound?"

She squinted at me, a puzzled look on that precious face, said nothing.

"You telling me you don't hear that?" I was exasperated. How could she ignore that doomsday shriek?

"Hear what, hon?"

I started to answer, but an awful realization hit me: she couldn't hear it because this was already the sound inside her pretty head; she heard this on constant, terrible, heavy rotation. I turned on my heel and went outside again, that great clamour crawling around my neck and shoulders like a shawl made of serpents, and, with ample time to think, retrieved my axe, returned to the house, and buried that pitted blade in her skull. She died with disbelief on her face. 

Here's the thing, though. Maybe I expected her head to discharge some vile green fluids, or spark and fizz like some midway sideshow, but all I saw was something runny like warm egg white, plenty of red, and a slow greyish-pink ooze. No other secrets. No wiring. No implants.

The 911 dispatcher could barely hear me over the raging fusillade.

Here's another thing, and it's damn near a kneeslapper: I now have vast and lonely stretches of time in which to contemplate my own impulsive certainty on a day I believed the world—with all its recessed corners, its mountainous tempests and everything I feared, seethed at, and treasured—was about to end.

Friday
Jan092015

Spiders Not Silence

He was out of bed in the huge silent house. He found himself in one of the many living rooms, though not the one with the coal fire, the one beside the impossible kitchen built for dwarves. No, this one was chillier, yet smelled of burnt dust, of old cigarettes, and even older socks. Turned low at this hour, the single electric fire with its three bars could not hold back the spectre of the damp.

He lay full length on a couch, not leather but cold plastic, and felt one of its many thin cracks on his cheek, and listened to the brittle sounds of the house settling, sounds which never ended.

In a room where the dim backs of furniture were hunched like the aftermath of a barn slaughter, where ponderous curtains hung on all windows like the butchered skins of pachyderms.

Darkness this dark was a rarity for him, and he liked it in its way.

He crossed a hallway into another room filled with sombre, sly antiques that faked sleep, and felt for the crackly wrappings of boiled sweets, the leftover prizes from the evening's bingo game.

Back in the hallway, a threadbare carpet led to an old wall-mounted Bakelite phone, complete with earpiece, as if in a Hitchcock film, while a right turn led to the cellar. Standing at the cellar door, he stopped breathing, and listened for the movements of the tigers he knew were down there: tremendous, restless, and sharply rank. When he needed to draw breath, he knew he was pushing his luck, and that it was time to return to bed before he was caught wandering this silent anomaly of a house, with its ceilings so high he could barely wait for first light, when the anticipated gift of a Spider-Man suit would help him scale those thin-papered walls to the dim crown-moulded heights above. With their own spidery worlds. From which cobweb voices whispered.

"What mad things will befall you? What horrors and thrills await you in the forest of the long night, where grim trolls and ruined maidens dwell, where all doomed lovers and itinerant lionhearts meet their ends?"

As he climbed the wide staircase, his human heart beating too fast, a diesel train went by outside and its darks and lights tracked across every dim shape, scaring him witless with stripes of light and sound, as if a tiger had indeed escaped and was here, here now. A beat. Two. A further climb led to a cheerless attic, but no, here was his room. 

In this house, with its whispered cellar of dread, its unloved attic of utter gloom, a quiet battle was being fought between cold and damp and tiny islands of warmth. And though the first two seemed to be allies and were winning, the latter had smuggled in love, cradled and petted it, and one day it might come up the rails on the final stretch and surprise everyone.

In his room at last, amid the snores and sniffles of the others, even the bulging pillowcases were imbued with eldritch import, and before he drifted into mostly harmless dreams of plastic ferryboats and ancient gold-inlaid hardcovers, fresh-peeled tangerines and the dry-earth taste of hazelnuts, he—a mote of coal dust in the great chimneyed northern realms of England, where the air itself was grainier—paused to wonder for a perplexing heartbeat or two why he felt so much like sinking to his knees on the numb, hard floor and crying.

Friday
Jan022015

Cormorants

A rottweiler behind chainlink stands and swings its boneknuckle head while the couple quarrel by the dismal predawn roadside.

"We're heading back east," she says.

He kicks at the dirt. "Why do you say back east? You ain't never bin there."

"It's just a way of sayin it. Besides, I suffer from lostalgia."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. You won't get it."

"The fuck? Fuck you. Well hell, I'm mostly through talking anyways."

The dog watches from its shadows and emits a low growl every time Dwight glances its way.

"Suit yerself, but whether you're with me or not, I'm going and you ain't gonna stop me."

"Not unless I throw you over this here fence."

She rolls her eyes and he narrows his.

He sighs. "We really havin this conversation?" he asks, almost gently.

"Appears we are. Ain't no bad thing."

"But we talkin about bad shit. Like dyin. Worse. The future, no?"

"Sure. Yes and no. Love, dyin, kindness, pain. Yesterday and tomorrow. That axe gonna swing itself, use you and me as its own fulcrum."

He's silent for a good minute, then says, "Seems to me you caint rightly figure the light 'less you done reckoned with the dark."

"On the right day I might say otherwise. On this day, who knows? But whatever. Pass me a cancer stick, will ya?" Something sunnier passes over her coyote-fragile face. "Oh hey, know why I love you?"

"Sure don't."

"'Cause when you light my cigarette, you cup the match like you're protecting a good clean heart, even when you know full well it's dirty as hell. Anyways, let's go, hon. You with me?"

"I guess." He looks at her. Alice. The Bonnie to his Clyde. Feels his dirty heart clench.

While she thinks of the cormorants by the bay, that night they let slip the body into such cold waters. How those great oily birds perched on the guano-painted wood pilings like the dark acolytes of apostates, holding aloft dripping black wings in lewd maledictions before hearts yet darker, before offerings more profane.

The guard dog seems to lose interest and drops to the sandy ground like some wounded Serengeti thing.

They both look eastward. Thick red light thinned with watery orange is bleeding into the sky there, below which the smoky blue mountains seem flat as construction paper, and there is no rightful way for them to know if the vermilion eastern morning holds bloodthreat or promise.

Friday
Dec262014

Blind

He woke under a sky that was a puzzlement. No immense swan soared across that black night, no northern sigil of a messianic creed, nor even the great why of Cassiopeia. Orion's flapping sheet had sailed on or, worse, was yet to sail.

He wished for clouds. Ghost-white shoals to make of the night a cataract to blind itself to the strangeness of this antic new void.

On the iron desert pan writhed a manshape of sorts, wreathed in a bloodcaul, seeming to search for purchase in a world without currency. Blind. Uterine. Forsaken. Articulated limbs and joints or things less wonted yet, angular as imperatives, stretched the wet sac in sundry places, and whatever sought its birth here mewled appallingly. 

Nothing had to become, no positing need quicken, even at this late juncture.

He scanned the makeshift ground for a weapon. Finding none he followed the bloodtrails of the blind pups into the hills so as to dispatch them between bootheel and the igneous floor, their sad soft heads compliant under his implacable decree.

Returning he kneeled and bared his teeth to midwife the abomination, a mad satire of a doula a-squat on this cracked unyielding earth.

It fought its way into a lifespan curtailed, its face mostly mouth, its lunar eyes sightless. It was devoid of the skin necessary for the bufferment of the world's pain and it shrieked like an ice age wind howling through a low brake, and even the mountain wolves were dumbfounded into silence.

It climbed unsteady to a semblance of upright, still screaming.

The man stood on the sneering lip of the world, clasped the thing's dripping hand, and together they plummeted toward the dry, rough, upraised palms of an indifferent giant.

*

"… of this popular Southwestern tourist attraction. It seems the man had some kind of psychotic break, causing him to blind and mutilate his wife of thirteen years—the latter in ways we can't describe on television—before completing a murder-suicide the full five hundred feet to the canyon floor. Police continue to search for the tragic couple's two young children. I'm Ramsey Farris and this is WTAF News, Arizona."

Friday
Dec192014

Delivered

There are a thousand ways to walk a road. I picked this one. Judge me when I reach the end of mine. 

There's a universe in every abandoned lot, every weed patch, all derelict things. Go deeper. Go deeper.

We dreamed of a universe that dreamed us first.

She laughs at me when I cry. And rightly so. This is wretched comedy not noble tragedy, slapstick not cataclysm. I should know better. Like hers, my road is crooked, has wound through thorns, thickets, prairies, caverns, and starfields. We have seen some things; some we rendered unto Caesar, some we stomped into pulp while we danced.

Yes, the tornado loves you. Yes, we drank moonshine out of cracked mason jars, somewhere outside of Baton Rouge, in a flat black El Camino. Yes, we smelled the trees rotting. Heard the pitiful whimpers of ruined children. Picked through the ooze of the world, its loathsome glue. Watched them scrape fetuses into ziplock bags. Cried forsaken uterine prayers at the world's drab rim. Fucked until we forgot ourselves. 

Your iris a limned nebula encircling a black hole. Mars isn't the red planet. Earth is. Drenched in blood from the primordial brawl onward, its deceptively placid unblinking eye in the tenebrous void the subterfuge of a demiurge.

How far from yesterday? Too far? Go now. Go. Write that reptilian western, that larval horrortale. Hear the cries of the interstate off-ramps, each one distinct as the lamentations of Jeremiah. Feel the scalding dark arterial blood spraying from my tear ducts.

We're not mad. How can we be? We've done all this together, again and again, felt bug-crawl sands squirm between our splayed fingers and twitching legs. If I am mad then she is too. We've traveled a billion parsecs trapped inside the pungent lurching atrium of a monster's heart, a living sarsen so ancient Stonehenge weeps in shame and the big bang itself is chastened and goes forever silent.

I hold her tender face and search those nebular eyes, feel myself pulled toward her event horizon, and I care not. The vacuum can take me, the nullity enjoy its empty triumph.

"What was it all for? Was it a dream?"

"No, all that's passed was a nightmare. This, this is a dream."

"And tomorrow?"

"A wish. A vision. A maybe. A probably not."

Her climb is up, and so is mine. Her moon's limb is coughed into rock salt. What can you obliterate for relief from this? Whose throat can you tear from its hot bubbling strings? Wherefore rage? Why do we continue laughing like a jester whose court is no more, whose joke runs far beyond its own flat and desolate punchline?