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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
Apr102015

Helen and Abel

I moved through a torment of blackflies, following the pendulum swing of her hips. She was the rebuttal to everything dull, to all meaninglessness. Even amid the world's incoherence.

"Wait up."

"Keep up."

How I loved her, and yes, in the biblical sense too. We were the last pairing, the omega couple to poor overgrown Eden's alpha duo. She used to laugh and say I wore the Mark of Abel. I'd laugh right back and say, "If that's so, honey, I'm last in a long line." She was a goddamned walking revelation. The fulcrum of her pelvic sway my only true church. Each switch of those exquisite hips a second-by-second countdown to doomsday.

I yearned to be her trickster. A jester for a queen.

The rot of the world became everything. I used matches to cauterize the inside of my nose so I could stop smelling the putrefaction that dripped from the very trees; no more sap, only pus and watery, infected plasma. Everything emitting heat and decay, the glutinous earth waking to a fever dream after an illusory life. Crows with gluey wings plummeted from the pulsating sky; cloud waves throbbed and roiled, dripping black mucous that stank of blighted tarsand and ancient fishguts. And death, of course. Like everything else. A hamstrung carnival, a dark mirage, distorted by heat, hoarse, shimmering, moaning to the horizon, reeking of the looming extinction.

And the machines, skeletal, their last keening forever quieted.

Lost opportunities. 

I'd wanted to learn the faces of all the insects. Discover islands that sang. Hunt down the world's most melancholy killer. Share a beach fire with a demon. Vandalize a monument.

What malfeasance brought us here? Spare me a month and fill my belly, friend, and the full story is yours. Courtesy of the world's last wordsmith.

Wading through a river of offal, I caught up to my uncrowned monarch.

"What was the worst thing you ever saw?"

She glanced back, that single arched eyebrow snare-drumming my heart. Saw I was serious as genocide.

"A baby born shrieking in terror." Her serious answer. 

"Yeah, okay, works for me."

Somehow we'd found our way into a Scandinavian black metal album, is all I could think. At night, even the wolves and coyotes, blind and emaciated like abandoned lepers, growled and shrieked in guttural orgies of self-mockery and grim maledictions.

"Where now?" I asked.

"All the way to the end," she answered, like she always answered.

Helen. Helen Earth, I called her. Not my best joke, and the truth is she never laughed once. Never with me, although usually at me. At my Mark of Abel blooming like grey cumulus from my ruined head.

Friday
Mar202015

Apocalypse Tales

In her mind, the potholes in Newark just kept growing, their edges crumbling catastrophically, the mad relentless traffic never allowing a single moment for city crews to go about their patch work. She swore she would never drive in Newark again, and funnily enough, it came true.

***

I am a girl from the valley with a penchant for espionage. I sit for hours in a wan little Chinese restaurant, waiting for the ruination of the world, and I eavesdrop the customers. There is little food left now, but some rest here from habit and consume litres of jasmine tea while faking normalcy. A younger woman sits with an older man. I don't know their relationship, might take a stab at therapist and patient, but I can tell there's a mutual respect and platonic love even, passing between them like a subliminal eyeblink memory of something better. 

The waitress brings fortune cookies, a signal they must leave soon. 

She breaks hers open and sighs. He breaks his and reads, and winces. 

He says, "This would be a good fortune if I had anything other than nightmares these days." 

She says, "What does it say?" 

He reads: "Your dream-maker is making your dreams real." 

"Ouch." 

"What does yours say?"

"Nothing."

"Huh?"

"I don't mean it's blank. I mean there's no fortune in there at all."

"You've been shortcha—"

And that's the moment the doors blow inward and the bedlam arrives at last, to annihilate us all.

***

Many times and in many places an old man sits on a porch to watch the sunset and listen to the crickets, and this time is no different, except this night there are no crickets. It's a quiet scene, the gold warmth in the window a contrast to the cold blue-green of the porch light. Daubs of bloodred dimming in the darkening west, and out on the dirt road an ancient GMC pickup idles, its presence betrayed by twin pencil beams and the grainy lines of its own hunched and reptilian profile. It came here from some other place, from swamp murk and levees, from out of an industrial night blue-black as tumultuous domestic secrets. And its lone occupant is biding his time. The old man smokes and waits too; he's not going anywhere. They await full dark for the end game.

***

We all stood around on the boardwalk, feeling the gravity waves of the ferris wheel at our backs, no longer sure of our place either here or in the world itself, and then he came striding from godknowswhere, some feeder street, an open car door, some grim nest, polished brogues on sanddrift wood, his jacket lifting behind him like dark wings, his gaze though never lifting, his pale Siberian eyes locked on our timid huddle like a sidewinder tracking heat.

***

Green things no longer grow. All is stark now. In the muted forest shroud, perched amid blackened needles and withered leaves, the crows make their rasping judgments in echoless puppet calls. All is lost.

***

She approached the hunched thing by the roadside. It was a dog. And whatever fires had stoked its core were now cooled to naught, all its heat diffused in the chill night, along with all its loyalty and love.

"Bless you," she whispered, and then she cried for a long time.

***

The gods are not gods; they are ghosts we've given too much responsibility. They long only to return to former haunts, where things are simpler and they can be left alone once more, to haunt themselves for eternity.

***

In the beginning there was New Jersey and the Manhattan skyline. Yes. Good. I've told the last story now, and there's nothing more to be said. This was the dry road I was walking down, and that was the wide shining sky.

Friday
Mar132015

Delta Stories

I am a reasonable man, and I will tell you about where I come from.

We all lived in River City and its environs, and we felt the river move through our bodies, especially when it got awful sluggish and crept like mud along our lower intestines. Some days we almost loved the river. But most times we hated it. As mining townsfolk learn to love and loathe those dark seams, wondering which particular day will step forward and take their loved ones from them. Or when the decades-long underground fire that warrants permanent evacuation will be sparked.

There was always a bruised haze in the air around River City. Like we all lived within the heroic yet submissive persona of a domestic violence survivor.

***

After Mom killed Dad and got locked up, Cody looked after me from the very first.

My big sister, my custodian. Murder growing in her eyes.

***

I was one of them that watched.

Not entirely sure I wanna go over this again, truth be told.

Don't you love the peace tonight? So quiet you can almost hear the world creaking on its tired ol' axis like some dusty classroom globe that ain't seen oil in its time not now and not ever.

Why you keep asking me this over and over? Sure I was there, but I never lifted a finger to hurt that girl, weren't hardly complicit in this thing… this atrocity.

***

My mommy and my daddy were playing with us. It was summertime and evening. The sky was blue and lovely, and we had Katy Perry singing. Spock was playing on his own, chasing a cat toy, even though he's not a cat. LOL. It all seemed like normal stuff, until we heard a sound we never heard before, and—

***

Hear the train. That low moan was the sound that accompanied your dawning in this world. Ain't no trains no more, course, but I remember the sorrowing of that sound in the cold night seemed some worrisome augury best put aside to be mulled over in a less antic time.

***

Right, okay. Before you cross the border, take that right turn. Yeah, the one by that old church with the peeling paint and across from the elementary school; turn and you'll see the storage facility on your right. Pull up to the office, knock, and enter. I'll be there, a grey haired lady with a weary smile. We'll provide a key and padlock and assign you a locker.

Girl, place your things inside, lock her up, and come talk to us at the front desk.

After which you will need a place to rest. Please allow us to suggest the Pacific Vista Motel, west off of I-5 and overlooking the ocean. Try to ignore the ants.

Girl crying voice. "John the Revelator." Ganesh. Seaside Heights. Sunsets.

***

Touch her and I'll slowly dismember you. I'll eat your face.

Friday
Mar062015

Wishbone

We met in the southwest, close to the border. She was silhouetted before a crime-scene sunset, blood and plasma seeping into a workshirt-blue sky darkening to ink. She smelled of road dust, weariness, and shallow-buried things.

"So what's your name?"

"Blanche. Blanche Warren."

"Don't sound too Mexican."

"No."

"You live around here, Blanche Warren?"

"For now." She poked the dry dirt with her toe. "What's yours?"

"Huh?"

"Your name."

"Cole Franklin."

"Don't sound Mexican neither."

"It ain't."

She lifted her head and met my eyes at the same moment, our heads cocked just so, like we was looking in a mirror, although to this day I can't rightly say which one was the person and which one was the reflection.

Banished coyotes both, shunned by our own packs, we each crossed the high desert separately, assailed by solitude and the swirling grit of sandstorms and dust devils—those restless Navajo ghosts—only to stumble on each other by chance, my unraveled need snagging on her last want, her torn pack on my dying boxcar dreams.

Drifting, meandering days turned fugitive nights, stark and pale afternoons now vagabond twilights. And because we had to eat, we robbed and then robbed some more. And sometimes we killed, I ain't proud to add. I could argue it was self-defense, but we all know better. They were the happiest weeks of my life.

But all good things, right? It's the way of things. We had ourselves a falling out, and shit went bad faster'n I could keep track of. Then I was alone again.

A special woman is her own climate, a world entire. If you allow that system near your own and have ever felt the mingle and skirmish of those latitudes and tropics, those calms and storms, sudden squalls and sultry airless nights, you can't imagine them ever being gone. Or how you'll feel when they go. Bereft as a moonless earth. Itself haunted by a dying star. Something as lost as that tends toward cataclysm.

Had me a small campfire in a dry gulch somewhere north of Clovis, New Mexico, took some peyote I stole from an illegal just outside of El Paso, and she came in the night. Blanche did, I mean. Placed two fragile yellowish objects in my palm. Looked like a wishbone after it's been pulled. Funny, I didn't feel like giving no thanks nor celebrating nothing.

"Make a wish," she said.

"You can't be here." I backed away and held out my hand. "What is this?"

"Called a hyoid bone. Kind of a throat bone. It's broken."

"This ain't … You mean—?"

"Yeah, it's mine. The one you broke. It's yours now, baby."

Friday
Feb272015

Frontier

Clearing Over Sideroad 106 - © David SharpeWhat drove us east from our coastal home in the late fall near got us ensnared in the mountains that winter. But we stumbled on the last clear pass with days to spare, vindicated though much depleted. Descending the lee side of that great range, scanning an impossible horizon, we accepted our reprieve with some grace.

"What now?" you said.

"We find some place and hunker down till spring, if there is a spring. We might be in the rain shadow, so the snows could well spare us, but don't bet on no easy ride."

In time we came to a place of flat light and echoless sound—a place so dead it seemed haunted not by ghosts but by its lack of ghosts. Cold, absent, god-abandoned. Remote as a deviant comet and more pitiless.

Clapboard walls, roof of tar, thin aluminum windowframes, yardless and forlorn on a treeless plain, its eggshell walls its own piteous windbreak—stoic before the baying lupine gales of endless prairie nights, and patient for morning.

Which did arrive.

A dilute lemon sun struggled through a vaporous sky, the wolfpack howl dispersed by the voluted mists, the only sound now the iron clang of crows at a forge without shadows.

You smiled for the first time in weeks. I took your hand and held it, marveling at the avian bones.

"We have a little food. Dry stuff. And water," you said.

I tried to smile too, but my face was a mask. 

"And I have you," I managed.

We rested up a fair while, weeks even, and what our bodies regained we paid for with disquieted minds; what replenished our thirsty blood only drained our ruined spirits, helped untether those thoughts best left stowed and tied.

My heart is made of ore; it loves as well as it might but is shot through with something igneous, something ferrous. Only the blast furnace of your own heart will distil the purity of it, forge of our union a thing less friable, less ephemeral. O our savage steelbound hearts.

While the timid sun tried each morning to revive the world, we sensed the tireless chill of the future as it unearthed our trail at last and began slowly to track it. What manner of thing is this? What is its essence? It's the story's ending, doubling back, heedless of narrative arcs, avid and greedy in its zealous moment, wanting to finish, wanting it done, desiring to end this thing now.