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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
Nov102018

Dry Run

It had to begin somewhere, so let’s say it began with the elastic blare of a horn on a rain-smeared night. 

I peered through filthy sheer curtains and saw only the bleary motel sign. The word motel aspired to perfection, stacked vertically in neon blues and reds. The balance of 

M

O

T

atop the teetering

E

L

As if everything was priming itself to fall, rightward, like the overreaching goodness of the world.

Aurora slept through the klaxon din. I envied her that, at least. Since we’d murdered her husband and indulged our inner Thelma and Louise, sleep had been an elusive ghost for me for weeks. Karma, no doubt, for my grubby hands-on part in the drama.

The horn came from a single car parked in the motel forecourt. I could see no one inside it, although the lighting was bad—two weak posts at either end of the lot, and the neon from the sign. Occupied or not, the car’s message was clear: time to leave again. When one’s freedom is imperiled, auguries come in bunches, and all signs and omens are there to be read.

I knew Aurora would want to shoot up before we headed out, so I shook her awake, tore her from her sleep funk a little too gleefully. She took a while to swim through the layers, but as soon as her eyes opened and focused somewhere beyond me, I could see the feral need in them again. And I knew she could see the disappointment in mine. 

Things hadn’t quite worked out the way we’d hoped. But we still had each other. And the raw, wounded, anonymous night.

She winced and I smiled. She didn’t smile. But heading for the anemic yellow bathroom, she drew on enough decorum to close the door behind her. 

***

Hours driving south, keeping to state routes. We were someplace that felt like the South. Arid expanses and weird industry. Huge dry lightning skies. Last night’s rain felt like someone else’s dream.

Though I could still hear the damned horn.

Out of nowhere, Aurora spoke. 

“A moment will come when I’ll sit on the toilet and shit out most of my organs.”

“Girl, I thought you were asleep.” 

“You wish.”

“Or you do.”

She grabbed at my hand resting on the gearstick, held it like it was a sickly pet, and I could sense her staring at me. I could feel a great distant tremor broadcast through her fragile bones as they clutched my own. Urgent. Electric. I refused to turn my head, watched the next mile and then the next.

At last she released my hand and sighed.

“We know how this movie ends, chica.”

I didn’t say a word.

All day, this endless brooding sky had stayed the shade of bedraggled fleece, putrid like the underside of a dying sheep dragged through watery mud. Less a storm threat than a vast sulk. 

Dying too, the day sank into its dark gray shroud, tolerating a thin band of corpse-light to gleam briefly on the horizon. Stark against that sickly greenish strip was the refinery, bristling like a city conceived by an alien amygdala. 

“This ain’t no movie,” I said.

___

Photo credit: © Monica Baguchinsky Lunn

Friday
Nov022018

Something Bad

“These dangers arrive quickly, just like death” — Marina Abramovic

Loss is a thing that once strayed and now lurches haltingly westward. It shuns its own footprints, ignores the dry dirty blizzard of its shedding skin, stifles with a great grey trembling paw its own desolate cries.

Don’t ever ignore what we were: combatants, companions. Custodians of conundrums. Siblings of stealth. Cryptic co-sponsors in a game without rules. Comrades. Compañeros.

The blue velvet night, the aquarium night, draws itself back for the raw abraded morning. Infected. Throbbing. Pulsing with ill-health. Gauze in a motel window still as a shroud, something lurking and medical.

The dawning truth of last night’s Chinese food scattered like a crime scene: sickly cardboard, spilled noodles, the scarlet provocation of congealed sweet-sour sauce, that fortune cookie message I thought I tossed in the trash. “Something bad is headed your way.” You ever see a fortune like that before? Yeah, me either.

The day struggles to wake, and off to the west gaunt towers of fine steel bone blink red for the airplanes like hangovers. Things no longer welcomed but necessary.

Me. You. Boy. Girl. Mojave jawline, Death Valley confluence.

Trucks pass on the interstate, insensate and tidal.

Why’d you leave? Who was the last to breathe? Why can’t I erase the name Melanie even from my dreams?

Fragments of words catch on the sodium lights, flame out, fall, all your breathless, dismal confessionals. Every confab obliterated, refashioned. I can fake amnesia better than anyone. Fake it until it’s real, so I never have to see the arc of a hunting knife flinging a bloodmist, can never hear the ragged shriek of someone who manages to track, to apprehend, without ever intending to, the lurker now wearing their own dreadful face.

Those ominous, luminous words: “Don’t leave me.” About as terrible as any three words could be. 

Deathly. Dancin’ with the ones that brung us. Let me walk you out soon. Come close and say it. What are the ardent things within us that cleave so hard to all this?

Later that evening, I hear a girl singing, comin’ around the corner. I mean barely singing. Tracing the edge of some abandoned tune while the sun skulks lower in a cardiac sky. All those reds returning to blue, the lowered pulse of the industrial night, the ceaseless, remorseless turn of the earth.

Right when I think I’ll see her, the world blinks like a giant eye, and I don’t see her.

I don’t ever see her.

 

Saturday
Oct202018

La tristesse durera toujours

 

“La tristesse durera toujours” — Vincent Van Gogh

 

Blown across a frozen lake, two dead birds reach a shore piled like cake

and drop,

light as hollowed tin, tumbled as ice-clad laundry,

blank as cataracts, bereft as dawn-shed snakeskins.

 

Something within the world creaks,

and crows 

grumble along the margins

like long-abandoned women.

What is this tale? Is it happy? Grim?

Sad as a splintered cane propped in some bleary corner?

 

The sadness will last forever.

 

Will these harmonies suffice? Will

beauty walk alongside the righteous?

Art and love be adequate in this, our

harmless asides, these aimless, ageless

Instagram sins?

 

La tristesse durera toujours.

 

An engine cries a trail of smoke, shed

like the greyest tears, 

left by the most

colourless 

of impudent

faces.

 

Could you tell a tale of anything? Of

windbreaks and breakwaters, of

cheese plates and lovers’ 

furtive reunions, 

all these faked aches? Hold my aspen hand,

trembling amid this tiny crisis, and

steel yourself for the

cataclysms

to come. 

 

A bird dreams its shadow

on whitewashed walls.

Wakeful things decline to notice. 

 

Oil spills leak and

the world cries

ever more echoes.

 

The sadness will last forever.

 

They worked on trains and chimney stacks,

climbed up walls, rode steaming tracks,

handed out tickets, soon foresaw

the luck of the Irish, the attack 

of the eye-rash, the unblinking ruins

of war.

 

Spurn this like you spurn

most everything.

 

We’re in the centre of a room

bathed in gold, streamed like precious

sentiment, delivered by facsimiles

of the sun. What, oh what, I beg,

is our name?

 

La tristesse durera toujours.

 

***

 

Image: "Landscape with a Carriage and a Train" — Vincent Van Gogh

 

Friday
Oct052018

Breaking News

They were going to make this public, live on cable news and all the networks. Facebook and YouTube. 

All pretense had been abandoned, and men in dark religious garb thronged the periphery.

A small black-haired woman with olive skin, barely covered by a white cotton slip and thin as a wishbone, was led in shackles to the stage.

Since there was no one else left to tell this story, she took them up on their token offer of final words. Two minutes were all she had left in the world. She leaned like a nightclub singer into the mic, her manacled hands behind the swanlike curve of her back, a doomed ballerina. 

“If I hadn’t stood with my placard at the last protest, you wouldn’t have been able to tell I was any different from you. And in many ways I’m not.” Her voice shook like the tiny aftershocks of some long-abated cataclysm, but she continued. “I eat and breathe and love my family and my friends. Loved, that is…” Again, she hesitated, a look of abject sorrow passing across her delicate face, so forlorn it silenced the auditorium more than her words.

“Fuck your feelings!” yelled someone in the crowd, after the brief hush.

She breathed in deeply and straightened her posture, a frail young woman wishing she was a warrior, and she continued through the shouted insults: snowflake, cunt, wetback, dyke, libtard

“But they are gone now, as you no doubt know. Everyone I loved. And I know you don’t love me, and even revel in my pain. And that, my tormentors, is where the true difference lies. You were playing to win, as if there were scorecards and touchdowns, baskets, runs, and goals. You grew to hate us when we defended successfully or attacked with passion and skill. Even when we played fair. Especially when we played fair. That seemed to enrage you all the more; perhaps you mistook our joy for piety. But here’s something: we weren’t playing a game. We were doing it to improve the world, to make it better for our friends, for our children, for our neighbors, and for those who had been given fewer chances than others. And also for you, had you but noticed. They’ve played you. This heartless sociopathic coward who was born on third base and even then had to constantly cheat”—among the officials, the elderly white senators and representatives gathered by the stage, there was a brief flurry of activity at this, but she refused to be distracted—“has somehow turned your heads, and you’re now all that’s left. It will be a joyless, determinate world you’re left with, the last of its love leaching away to mingle and be tainted with the toxins now allowed—encouraged, even—by the last futile industries. We wanted to stop all that, make things better. Share the astonishing beauty with our children and theirs, forward into a dream of a future we might have fashioned from our sisterhood, our brotherhood, our commonality, our better angels. You saw it as a game, and you won. But what did you win? Really, what did you win?”

“Enough!” came a voice. A youngish man, prematurely bald, eyes baleful and hooded as something best left in a reeking cave, stepped forward and smirked at her without humor. “Your time is up, in every sense. Your kind is gone from the world now. It is done.” 

At some subtle signal, the clergymen advanced, faces hidden, gleaming swords and deadly knives raised.

The trembling woman closed her eyes, thought of wheeling star fields over summer-night beaches, of a single moment with her little sister—something about a dispute, an offer of cream cake, and a sudden forgiving smile.

“Glory be to power. Power is great!” rang from vast speakers on all sides, and the bloody execution began. 

Friday
Sep282018

Adamant

"Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart." — John Donne

You following that slat-ribbed coydog down the interstate right now?

Ain’t no towns for miles, just fences and cattle, while the sly grey dog lopes west, lost as the sun.

Semi-trailers and campers, pickup trucks and seekers, late in the summer, pass the dog however hard he runs, his loose pink tongue a ribbon soliciting some secret charity. Pay him some mind if you happen to pass by.

Don’t matter his type or breed—wild, border, working, bright as fireflies, resolute as night. Salute him, greet him, unearth the kindness from the dark ore of your heart, show him something virtuous as you pull away, as you catch a glimpse of his desolate grin in your rearview. He has forever to catch up, a whole lifetime to contemplate his banishment. 

Ain’t ashamed to tell the world I love that mutt. He’s earnest as an abandoned dream in the wake of a long gone carnival. Sad as an old candy wrapper blowing across a field. More fearful than feral.

Lung shadows and rain squalls appear like arrow falls, the whole land opens its gullet, and distant ranges echo with yipped laments for countless absent place names.

After some time, you can’t help yourself. You pull onto the fractured shoulder, oh sweet Montana sky, crack the window and breathe the grass-stem purity, and you wait, and you wait, until the tireless adamant blur in your bug-spattered mirror resolves itself into something alive—this wild insistent dog, heedless of pain, hopeful for your love, loping your way, bringing its torn ears and matted fur, carrying its lonely wet ardor, its road stink, here with you now, believing in some kind of reckoning.