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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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Saturday
Aug042018

Ghost Birds

What have we here? A field in England. Absent colour or anything defining.

Wait. Sound of a bird, a two-syllable scream. Could mostly be anything. Hear it? The monochrome ghost of a lapwing.

Unveiled, the razor stubble underfoot, foreground to a copse. Ploughed lines littered with fallen crows. Black-pepper dead things and mud, well seasoned. Botched black ops. Othered.

Oh, this is it. Here. The land of nowhere. It's grey, and in that grey another grey partitioned.

Separate this. Memorize it. Long gone, the caws of crows are a haunted echo of here.

No one survived. Not you. Not me.

Caravans in a lacklustre grid, arranged on causeways, flavourless as barroom eels in watery aspic.

This is a sort of ending.


***


"You remember that summer?"

"I do."

"How do you know which summer I meant?"

"I guessed."

"Huh. You were so splendid. And those luscious hills!"


***


Programmed, the night train plies its loop, though nothing living enters or leaves. Entropy will win out, but for now emptiness goddesses its route. Sparks shower lost highways, accidental angels on agnostic tableaux.

Tell me I am lost. Read me a story, Mama. Warn me against the aroma of risen bread. Against tricksters and temptresses. Fresh ground Arabian beans and newly cut grass.

Next? Will I triumph? I barely even exist.


***


"How is any of this right?"

"It isn't."

"Then…?"

"There ain't no then."

"But…"

"Enough. We won't ever answer this."


***


Each season speaks its maddening tale. This glass, this pane, is but a sliver cleaving air.

No glass can separate our lust. Air is blent blank comfort bathing everything.

Armies approach. Still the empty sunless skies hover like dismal apparitions over barren fields. The sound of clanking armour barely registers. All is ashen subdued terror.

Your champion's enticed into a tent, his low guts cut and unwound as he's sent into the dreary afternoon. Sent away screaming, watching his own steaming innards unspool between his feet.


***


Our quiet road angles its way beyond the town, arcing when it needs to, straight beside the black waters of the river, an extended jawbone savouring asphalt taste, seeking salt. Keep on driving. Maybe it will all resolve itself. Make sense. No one else pretends to even share this space. Silent wrecks litter the ditches. This once vibrant seat is ever more bloodless.

Cormorants bow and dip in the reeking shallows, flex their pitiless cauls, persevere and stretch and swallow, such drab unlovely priests.

Where did you go? Did you abandon us on purpose? Is this what it is now? Will any of us be spared?

Probably no. And you? Probably don't follow.

Friday
Jul272018

Black Ambient

In the gloom, a girl shaped from sparking ozone and her wild electric canine dance beneath a moon of cold bone and a dormant volcano. Ice floes crackle around them, splitting and snapping, glitchy as break beats spun by a frozen demon DJ. All is blue or ozone-white.

Voices weave in and not in. This tapestry of sound is torn, charged.

Have you ever seen ice-smoke? You have now. The chill, fuming tail of the dog and the smouldering cold tendrils of her dress.

She is my girl, though I don't know it yet. She whips the hem of her dress like a matador. Ecstatic. Like a mad, evasive, holy truant.

We fall from this frigid locale to a motel on earth, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Cascadia. Good Christ, how do you adjust to that? Carpets that clutch and walls like dried pulp. A girl in the next room is sobbing like the world decided to upend itself, unravel its guts in space. She can barely draw a breath after each protracted sob. Her throat sounds raw and long headed for ruination. I knock on the wall and a male voice tells me to fuck off. I knock again and someone knocks back harder, informs me I'm a motherfucker. I no longer know my own mind. I am enraged and sorrowed and can no longer distinguish between the two, and I exit the room and rap on the adjacent door. The same male voice screams at me to fuck myself with something serrated and oxidized. I'm not even armed. Other than with my annihilating rage. I knock again, and harder. It hurts my knuckles, but pain is now my companion at every level and juncture. Someone flings open the door and I'm instantly struck, in the gut, in the groin, and in the face. The nebula of pain is a collision of starfields, and I drop, happy and gasping, knowing I now have cause to obliterate. Wolves dream their darkest chorus in the forest of my brain. A full moon hangs pendulous as drool from an idiot's lip. Anticipatory. Gleeful.

Stand back, make room. Some wolflike stammer tattoos this guileless jaw.

Come to me. Be me. Your pain as I consume you is why I came. Such sour elusive bonhomie. Melancholy and euphoria; few drugs meld so catastrophically.

Beyond the cityscapes, through airwaves, I hear electric ghosts stuttering their dumbstruck phrases hourly: "I-I fell in love with you," "Huh-who do you love?" "Wuh-when will we be saved?" "Huh-help them. Help us help them."

He blinks, like paper.

Then I go in like a shark and devour him.

Friday
Jul202018

Windward

"O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you." — T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

This boat is a sculpted incisor cutting the surface of the lake. A fierce sun debrides the foaming scars, and a stillness traps the heat beneath a sultry, birdless dome of exquisite blue.

A near-naked woman helms the boat, lion-haired and hewn by toil and sunlight into a gleaming statue of bronze. Her tawny-golden hair is a rippling banner proclaiming both her passage and her ferocity.

Midpoint of the lake, she cuts the engine and drifts, drags something bulky across the clean wood-finished deck. All her amazonian brawn is needed to wrestle and tip the object into the water. Fetid bubbles belch to the surface, and it drops quick to the forest of swaying weeds below.

Slick in the inferno afternoon, and like Kali, she stands and extends her arms. She begs the pitiless sky for relief, to have this sorry deed erased by a deluge. But the raging sun won't even blink.

No one at the shore or in the sundry craft enjoying the summer lake seems to notice her.

She imagines a horror film, a tiny hand reaching from the deep after the tale is supposedly told. Or a comedy: a sodden, piss-coloured toupee afloat for days until snagged by a thwarted fisherman's hook. A long red tie twisting like a wounded eel. A swampy red hat, its slogan unpicked, reduced to a handful of letters: M..e .me…. Great ……

Two cruel decades for this moment. Years of being gaslit, of callous disregard and wanton humiliation. Choose your slurs and slanders slyly enough, with sufficient precision, and you don't need fists, not even tiny ones.

With escape no option, frail murder remained by default, mewling and fretting, that poor abandoned runt of the human litter. She had bided her time, built her fortitude and power, and one fine day, when it was at last possible and the hawks had looked away, she had extinguished the remaining glint of light in watery eyes that had long-ago spurned brightness. As that vestige waned, the last words he heard in this world he'd done so much to sully were, "You will be hated as long as there are people to hate. Not only me. The world is well rid of you."

A new breeze licks at her sweat-salted skin, and she shivers. A squall is forming to the east, a dim knot of cloud like the ghost of a frown on a smiling face. Vacationers near the lakeshore scramble as the first fat drops hit. Her prayers have been answered at every step, and she thanks the sun and the heavens and the blessed clouds and starts up the boat and smiles at last and looks to glorious windward at the approaching storm.

She wonders, when it comes, what the thunder will say.

Saturday
Jul142018

East and South

He read the note by the side of the road, right after he got punted by the irate trucker.

Handwritten, it said this:


Boo,

I love you an all. I cain't always be mad atcha. But you get right with your ownself or with God or maybe both. Then y'all can think about comin home and bein with me.

Your trusty girl,

Francelle Elesha Metcalf


Even before the trucker picked him up, he'd found it folded in the small pocket inside his flight jacket where he often kept a baggie of something, but he'd never read it till now.

"Fuck that trucker," he said, and then he almost laughed at the sound of the words. The brazen poetry of them.

"Fuck Francelle Elesha Metcalf." Words that felt a notch or three less funny, less poetic. She'd signed her whole name and taken time with the script, and something about that made him feel quite shameful.

By a stand of spindly trees, he tuned out his thoughts by listening to the interstate traffic, each approach of a laden semi-trailer some great breaking wave, an ex-surfer's fitful pipe dream. Yeah, he'd surfed awhile, at Ocean Beach, back before things had gotten murky as sequoia light at dusk. Ruby and gold, sapphire and emerald. Before it all went gray, like so many flavors of beach taffy chewed too long.

He'd made it a long way from the ocean by now, somewhere east of Sacramento and heading for Lake Tahoe, but this was a big place.

The Golden State, they called it, if that was where he was still. Not so golden now, though, right? Lots of reasons for pain but many more ways to buffer that pain. He figured skirting closer to his roots, partly east and vaguely south after Reno, might could cure him. Tease out his Southern truculence, slap him upside his dumbass head, wake him back to the world.

Kickstart the process, at least.

This stretch of interstate wasn't as busy as some, and he thought he could get away with hiking the shoulder. Fall was waiting all around, free of trust and dark with thieves. Before he set out again, he listened to the leaves in the aspens or whatever the fuck kind of branches shimmered and flashed against workshirt skies here. Heard birds he couldn't name. Squawks and whoops, hollow and distinct.

Tried not to think about much.

When that proved hard, he pulled out a pocketknife and dug into the quick of his thumbnail. The pain was bright as a sun flash and warm too.

Then he headed sorta east and kinda south.



***

The cop meant business or worse, he could tell. Moment the trooper clocked him, there was no doubt he'd be pulling alongside in his two-tone Dodge Charger to make his already shitty life a tiny bit worse.

"What you doin' on the interstate, boy?" Pudgy and bald, another cliché.

"Nothin' much."

"That ain't no answer. I'll ask you agin."

"Sir, I'm walking so's I can find a place to git offa this highway, swear to god."

"You got a long walk, and none of it legal."

"And I do apologize for that, officer."

The cop squinted at him. Raised his sunglasses to his absent hairline.

"Boy, you Mexican or something?"

"I ain't Mexican."

"But somethin', am I right?"

"I'm an American."

"You got ID?"

"Not on me."

"Then we got ourselves a problem, don't we, cholo?"

"Not if you decide to be decent. Sir."

"The fuck you just say?"

"I think you heard me."

"Get on the fuckin ground!"

"You made your decision, I take it."

"On the motherfucking ground!"

He dropped and lay prone and tried to ignore the jackhammer in his chest. Officer GhostFace McBigot cuffed him tight as he could, but he blocked out the pain.

"I'd wager something, officer."

"Shut the fuck up."

"No, I won't. I'm done shutting up. I'd wager my life on this. That you would never have acted this way before that pitiful senile prick lucked into power."

"Then you'd lose your life, Pablo. Or Alvaro. Or Fucko. Whatever. I ain't changed a damn thing. Don't matter to me who parks their fat ass in that crumbling hovel in DC, pendejo, a place that means the exact sum of nada to me. I've hated you people all my life. I'd be doing this if the Dalai Mother Lama of Cal-fucking-cutta was running our sorry nation. I hate you fucks, and I've always hated you fucks. You'll never get that, it seems. And now you won't get it again, cabrón, because…"

"Sir? No. Please…"

Out of nowhere, he couldn't recall seeing a plane in that dry implacable sky for days. Had everything crumbled this much?

Another sharp gunshot startled a cluster of nameless birds, and no one else bothered to flinch.

Friday
Jul062018

Fury

She is bound on a cold stone floor in a spare cottage by a crag, the wind a tuneless piccolo through cryptic slits.

A flurry of dark birds arc jagged across a slate sky past twilight.

The ink upon her arms and chest echo both flocks and sundown: three tiny boiling hearts on her inner right forearm and a stutter of crows below her clavicle, above her breast.

Outside, some black and odious structure silhouetted on the cliff edge: pitiless, stark, and mannish.

Pricks. If they are going to deem her a witch, then she will damn well rise witchlike.

A beetle meanders by her feet pursuing crumbs, flakes, specks.

These are fragmentary things, these moments, what she sees, hears, smells, feels. Nothing good will happen if she resists, but things far worse are pledged by her compliance.

The beetle is by the wall now, still seeking and vacuuming tiny morsels. She envies its autonomy, its thralldom to its own rudimentary will.

Her will is more wilt than heft. She stares between her legs at the stone and shudders. Imagines something ludicrous. Some unruly erection. Resistance. She must resist. Weakness now is unconscionable.

She is a woman not some failed man.

As if in answer, heart all slashed and ragged, Blossom appears in the murky air, her friend long slain by similar hands, twirling a familiar dance.

Speaks.

"Oh, Blanche, this is it. The inevitable. The moment you decide how to leave this aching world. I urge you to choose well. Its about you now, not them. They are filled with impotence, choked redundant by hate and unwarranted envy. Believing they're the heart, they are the true outcasts of our tribe. The overarch, the arc is in our favour. Even when they kill us, they don't win."

"Yeah, yeah. You always knew how to speak, my poet. I appreciate the pep talk, hon, but I ain't ready to die."

Sudden silence. No sound. The wind itself has swooned. Even the surf has ceased its assault on the rocks. No Blossom, no beetle, no beating heart. For a moment, no battery. A hush. This is the cold edge at the end of things, the blood loss, the muffled aftershocks.

However grim the lookout, love—love—is the thing.

The throng is coming, my brave and blissful amour, with their whetted instruments and their senseless rage, frail and pitiful as the keening of birds.