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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
Oct242014

Elephants and Starfish

And we're in the bay, strolling on the boardwalk that juts into the bay, the haphazard jumble of townhouses and shabby greenspace and rusted wharf buildings that overhang the bay barely giving us a glance. A disinterested late summer afternoon.

The water below us is clear, hubcap-sized starfish the colour of aubergines and mandarins splayed on dark rocks. 

"There was never a moment when I believed it," you say. "But never mind, tell me something kind."

I've forgotten what we were talking about, although I love the rhythmic husk of your voice and its easy rhymes. To our left a statue of a dancer, or perhaps a yogi in one of the warrior asanas, seems to move. From the corner of my eye I see you blink, distracted. A herring gull literally screams. Loneliness steals in like a silent comet through Neptune's frigid orbit. The quiet of the air is like the sudden removal of the air and we stare at each other, contemplating panic.

Did you know elephants cry salt tears? That life is so tenacious that there are electric bacteria that eat electrons? That tigers cannot purr? That sleeping on your stomach is more likely to make you dream of sex? That there are more stars in the known universe than all the grains of sand on every beach on earth? That there is a town named Okay, OK?

"I can't breathe," I say.

Your eyes are huge. Galactic centres. Amoebas. Your terror of tsunamis, I think, randomly, is almost phobic. Suddenly, more than anything else, I want to love you.  

Then there's the roar. Local airport, I think, has to be. It's a plane taking off; sometimes they catch the air currents in such a way that it sounds like the coming apocalypse, and with this head-on angle appear like rockets seeking to escape the grip of this teeming globe.

But all the other baywalkers and tourists, weedlovers and West Coast saunterers, they've all stopped in their tracks while the roar only roars more, howls more, filling up the whole dome of the world that used to have air, and we follow everyone's gaze northward. No airplane with rocket dreams. No, we see the roiling infected stems and boiled brain heads of three mushroom clouds where presumably Vancouver once stood, that new-ruined jewel, that universe of memories, that charnel city calling me blindly home while moaning its futile requiem.

Still not able to speak—for what is left to speak about?—we embrace, look out upon the water, read each other's thoughts, and together climb the railing. O starfish. I hope you're okay with unexpected company and more salt tears.

Sunday
Oct192014

Bordertown

Bonus post. Another especially short flash piece. Harder. Louder. Silent as a haiku. See what you think.

_____________________________

The gentle wind, like a bow over catgut, shimmers the leaves. The forest is an orchestra tuning itself.

You step into the clearing and I take aim.

The wind dies, of a sudden. First there is no sound. Then there is terrible sound.

It's not a clean shot. On your knees, eyes dismal with pain, you beg me. "Please. Please." I should finish you off. But I am weak, and I run. Keep on running.

The wind picks up and has yet to abate. It's become a howl, and there is no peace or respite, even here in this chilly, inebriated bordertown, where so many gather to forget pasts that outright refuse to be cut adrift and only seem to blow harder, gust louder.

Friday
Oct172014

Storage

It's Friday again, which means one thing: stories. This shortish piece wanted to be longer, so I've extended it here in full. Although it's grounded in a solid place and a real time, I'm not entirely sure what it's about on an emotional level. Possibilities, maybe. The infinity of alternative stories—good, bad, ugly, tragic, comic, lost, found—nestled in any one moment. Oh, and the hauntedness of place, of course, always that. Anyway, enjoy.

___________________________

We walked here.

It was one of those late summer, early fall evenings characterized by a lack of anything at all: flat light, birdless, airless; what scant and spindly greenery could be seen was buried in the dust of a long dry season. Dimensionless.

She fumbled with her keys, looking for the one that fit the padlock on the storage locker. She had a compulsion to juggle her things in the endless shell game of her life then, a thwarted nesting drive. Milk crates that doubled as shelves. Recipes. A plastic hamster cage. Tarot decks. Coffee table sex manuals. Faded things.

The parking lot was mostly deserted, its corners crumbling where smug, ungainly weeds pushed through asphalt with little apparent effort. A line of ants, not quite uniform, made its staccato way amid these uneven thickets, and my mind soared in a dizzying crane shot to I-5 and its lonely north-south freight bounded here so close by these tired stripmalls and young conifered hills.

She was a short woman with a woman's figure; lovely in her way. That night she wore faded blue jeans and a tight electric-blue T-shirt that paid homage to her ample breasts. I looked at her ass from behind, semi-lecherously, but my soft jazz heart was syncopated, distracted. My accolades were more cerebral than visceral. 

She found her key, gave me the arched-eyebrow you stay there look, entered the ranks of storage units, with their sharp reek of neglect and even loss, and said something in passing to Carla, the alarmingly stooped attendant who sat reading piss-yellow paperbacks in the side office, an ancient catatonic dog draped across her hot slippered feet. 

Outside, the muted rush of the cars on Samish Way, heading for town or the nearby interstate. 

I knew she would take a while, armed as she was with the knowledge of my impatience at having to wait in any place this fucking sad. Such details stored as arrows in a quiver, for small wounds only. I stood and paced in many places of sorrow waiting for this woman. In some ways I still do.

No real surprise there: wounded was the name of the place we met.

Out of nowhere I had the distinct impression of layers of time, of events unfolding in other, divergent chronologies. In some she was a princess attending ceremonies before millions who adored her. In others we had lived here half a devoted century cocooned by the purest unbreakable love. In one I was not present at all, and while she (her shirt crimson this time, dusted with pre-teen sparkles) groped for the right key, a shadow appeared behind her, a leather-gloved hand stifling her scream as she was dragged into the litter-strewn weeds to be curtly, hideously dismantled.

I shivered. Then felt a new chill behind the dissipating warmth of a nondescript day, the tiny glimmer-hint of autumn's cold blade, and shivered again. A dog began barking ferociously in this land of four-dollar gasoline, fast faux-ethnic food, and cheap, sticky motels. Lights were blinking on in gas islands, motel forecourts. The silent air held a crematory tinge. I don't know why, but I felt like sobbing, outright sobbing. Have we really done this to the world?

She emerged blinking and said something else I didn't catch.

"Let's check out the haunted motel," I said.

She made a face but for once didn't dig in her heels. We crossed the lot and walked the half-block to a motel whose name I've forgotten because perhaps it never had one in the first place. You would walk in the lot at the back, where no cars were parked, as if in some post-apocalyptic movie set, but you'd look up and there on two oddly looming sides were people clustered in threes and fours on the walkways of both levels. And they would stare at you. There was never anyone in the office and the place never seemed to have a vacancy, although the sign was rarely turned on, so how would you know? 

We stole into the parking lot as the light began to drain from the sky and compress the world, and looked up. Here, among inbred faces, there was most definitely a vacancy. A neglect. And a malevolence that felt like obsolete parking lots invaded by alien green spikes, black cakes of tar crumbling, breaking apart, becoming subsumed, unlamented.

She clutched my arm and pulled me out of there and we picked up our pace, laughing quietly, nervously. Thrilled. Dismayed. There was something so wrong with that place we could barely even articulate it, something deep in its foundations and its frame—restless, uneasy—dreaming and skittering between its darkstained walls.

With the growing chill on the still air, she compensated by warming up, and smiled at me, saying, "Let's grab a couple bottles of wine, some Mexican from Diego's, and go back to the room and love each other while we still can."

I smiled back, happy in the conspiratorial moment, mindful of her body's warmth, protective of and avid for her, yet knowing the timelines were about to shift once more, and feeling helplessly sick with the knowledge, the stunned inevitability of it all.

Friday
Oct102014

Thanksgiving

This one upset me. I even posted it with a *Trigger Warning* on Dan's blog. Not sure why this, one of many dark little tales I seem to be churning out lately, got to me that much, but some of it is a simple case of gender. I'm not sure it's even my place to tell the girl's side of this. Although, given the close to twenty years I spent working with kids who'd had to deal with similar, related horrors, it might be that the (out)rage went and broke through anyway. The imagery is disturbing to me, though, and the tawdry concept of "pulling a train" had to partially inform this bleak tale, no matter how much I resisted. In a way it's the opposite of my usual stuff—here ugliness prevails amid beauty. Because there was no other choice.

Anyway, it's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, so happy all-that-turkey-stuff to my fellow True Northers, but yeah, thanks-but-no-thanks is sometimes a fair response, eminently relatable, and tragically apt. Sure, it can be a long time running indeed.

___________________________

Her death came long after she heard its approach.

She had hiked a good seven or eight kilometres to get to this spot she only vaguely recalled from an early childhood she damn-near mythologized now; a childhood that had promised to be idyllic—a thickly forested valley clothed in pure Canadian air—before taking the sudden harrowing backwoods detour that had led her here now.

The day was ending in streaks and daubs of purple and pink. Girl colours. She grimaced, which was the closest she would get to a smile now. The forest knew. It was like one vast tree straining to hear some laden bulletin of great import. It creaked and darkened in the waiting.

She knew what weekend it was, so she gave thanks. Thank you for the wastrel father who ran away. Thank you for the mother who lacked the resources to cope and opened her home and daughter to predators. Thank you for the cold string of foster homes. Thank you for the intrusive fingers of selfish men and the spiked words of emotionally ruinous women. Thank you for each and every tiny betrayal, each slut, each bitch, each cunt.

She wasn't going to cry. This was her power returning to her at last. This wasn't cowardice or selfishness—although she knew the trite world would paint it thus—no, this was pure will. Pure power. At last. Power she couldn't possibly have grasped when she'd been a scrawny tangle-haired girl in a dirty faded dress scratching in the backyard when the agents of the state came for her.

Not far now.

She heard her death, louder now, but still a ways away. The mating call of a monster, the last of its kind, bewildered and enraged by the lack of any answering cry, its grief the only sound for miles.

If this were a story of fiction, some totemic animal (wolf, owl, coyote) would sound in the quiet of the night, sparking a change of heart, gifting her wide eyes with a world new-wrought. We might yet hope for that.

She knew she'd reached the tracks when she tripped on them, her death now imminent. It howled around some cedar-flanked, spruce-guarded corner, mindless and blind as a giant worm. A Canadian National freight heading west, through towns she'd never visit filled with people she'd never befriend, toward an ocean she'd never see or hear or smell again.

Her own eyes open, she saw its three-eyed glare as it rounded the last corner, heard its long feral shriek, and on a whim she disrobed and stood splayed, legs apart, ready for the final violation by a world that had long since abandoned her.

Friday
Oct032014

Natural Born

So once again, I contributed to (and contaminated) Mader's Friday festival of felicitous flash fiction, which is well worth your time either as reader or writer (or both, of course), but the piece I wrote seemed to want to grow into something a little beyond their parameters (as lax and liberal as they are). Mindful that I didn't distract or syphon readers away from there, I asked politely if I could extend it on my own blog, to which I received the equivalent of "shut the fuck up, and if you don't, we'll cut you." So here is a fuller version. Yet it still isn't finished, and if I had the time I'd consider this the beginning of a beautiful friendship, a novella or even novel featuring this dubiously lovable and murderous duo.

***

He was a three hundred and fifty pound trucker from Telluride and she was an amputee from a mining town in British Columbia with a penchant for black metal, NASCAR, and munchkin cats. Both were tattooed in deep homage to monarch butterflies and graphic car wreck fetishism respectively. They would ride the interstates in their big rig (technically his, but mi casa es tu casa) listening to homemade audiobooks they'd record at all-night truck stops—Faulkner, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Welty—his suppressed-rage basso profundo and her scratchy bourbon-and-Camel-lite burr unexpectedly complementary and at times wild-electric sunset accessories. 

Sometimes they would bicker over music (he loved sixties girl groups the best), so if you were both privileged and star-crossed enough to have been riding along, you might have heard the Ronettes followed by Darkthrone, the authentically murderous might of Mayhem preceding the estrogen-drenched exuberance of Martha and the Vandellas, punctuated by a firecracker string of choice insults hurled with the briefest of smiles. Joy and savagery. Love and nihilism.

In many ways, they were the perfect couple. Connoisseurs of chaos, arbiters of havoc. 

She lost her right leg to a dirt bike accident in her teens. Not her entire leg; she still had six or seven inches of femur wormily rounded to a scar-tissue knoll, not entirely dissimilar to a reduced corn dog. Sometimes, while he drove and she allowed herself to be splayed naked beside him, she would let him massage its truncated end and try to imagine it was a gargantuan penis throbbing with some indecipherable need.  

And sometimes, with their victims, it would become a weapon. 

His girth, allied with and likely the result of the largely sedentary lifestyle and trans-fat-and-white-sugar diet of a long-distance truck driver, was a slow death sentence, and he knew it. All the more reason to satisfy appetites in the here and now. Never defer certain specific pleasures. It became a principal tenet of their peculiar faith. 

They were a cult of two, dealing almost exclusively in warped love, dark loyalty, arch skepticism, and wanton homicide. 

"Baby, how long till we eat?" she asked, her pinkie lost inside her ear in a forlorn attempt to kill a maddening itch, black-painted nail scoring the drum. 

Their regimen was strict, she knew, yet still she asked. 

"A little more than two hours, my love."

"Aw. Fu-uck." She could bestow precisely as many syllables on the word fuck as she desired. 

"Easy on the cussing, my sweetest Jezebel." 

This elicited a crooked smile and a raised eyebrow. Conflicted, seductive, tentative. 

"Sorry. You know how I get when my gut thinks my throat's cut." 

"You could always gnaw on James." 

Oddly, she'd forgotten about James, the last hitchhiker whose doomed trajectory had intersected with their own grisly arc. He'd been a fighter and had nearly gotten away. Which happened far too often. 

She explained it thusly: "We're natural born lovers, honey. The killing part don't come natural, just something we tacked on later."