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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
Mar232018

Mutiny

"Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask." — Oscar Wilde

She smiled at him in the evening. She wanted to cry, but she laughed. Gators slipped off the banks, dropped like sudden drab stones into the depths.

Don't drag me. I smell the bright smell of brass in the runnels of your fingertips. Make me your instrument.

"Those who have much are often greedy; those who have little always share."

Each time you want to say "I'm sorry," say "I love you" instead. It's only a tiny thing, really. Summon the guts to say as much.

I'm taking a guess. He might have been somewhere. Aces wild. A cascade. His dissident prayer was splashed from above, skittering over rock, shining with the refracted sun, shot with the sorrowing incandescence of sundown as it begins its lament for the day.

"Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole."

A secular psalm. A spasm of glory. We are all mutineers; never apologists. 

Somewhere outside Salzburg, a dove flies in the dimming valley, beneath the alpenglow, above the russet rooftops. A train attempts to follow, mostly fails. Barn doors creak. Hooves on straw like the ghosts of ancient tantrums. Darkness comes in fast, hurt and hushed, and no one is awake. 

O love. You cannot even speak. The shush of a song, the breath of a woman, follicle-fragile voice carried to your quivering ear on the gossamer wing of a damselfly, right behind you, from over your hunched shoulders while you cry into the silence, wishing to puncture a vacuum, yearning for the eternal indignant, the coal-black haven unspoken.

"You will never rue those times you watched the wide sargasso mouth from some imaginary bridge as it opened to swallow the world, one blighted fly-blown dream at a time."

"Why say any of this?" 

"I must speak these things for you, so you are not left anguished."

"But where I walk there are thorns."

"Then learn to avoid their points."

Reptiles in water. Gulf weed. Moccasins. Choked and blinked. Vertiginous. 

He smiled at her at daybreak, wanted her to cry, but she laughed. 

Friday
Mar162018

Each Snowflake and All the Snow

This Might Even Be a Poem

Grief falls like the gentlest of snow on the hedgerow. Shalista drives alongside.

Bye, Felicia, Calissa, Moesha, all her sisters in the rearview as she steers the rented Fiat (hired, they say) along an Irish backroad, wipers stiff and punctual as metronomes. Trombones in the tightest horn section.

Grief is each snowflake and all the snow. Tune the radio and listen to a man with a butterscotch voice recount atrocities. That there is our precise, our lurid century. 

Endless carmine-purple heads of fuchsia bowed beneath the steady weight of white. And that is not a metaphor. The shame of colour underneath a steel-grey sky, wishing for something else, wanting the comfort of some other, to find some way to hide.

You are camphor, an aroma, a bitter blessing offered by a wraith.

Find a place to sleep. Some quiet B&B. An old barracks. Banagher, Ballincollig, Bantry Bay. Where no bad things happen, no boys playing football in a sunshower field in June are murdered for wearing the colours of the enemy. No one is raped or robbed of breath by power. Of agency bereft. You, my dark and blessèd swan, are an American woman. You too have ancestry. Some things you may never discover. But most you surely will. Welcome, Shalista. Welcome, love. Tread tenderly. Listen. 

Look at your amazing things.

***

She's heard all the names a million times. The ones aimed at her heart. The casual ones half-barked in passing that once in a while still stop her in her tracks. Words for her race. Her gender. Pitiful slingshots of the boilerplate bigot. At times she wonders if this world's some godawful dream, created on some steamy bayou, sweated by some reeking white man while he rakes his humid ballsack with yellowing fingernails. 

Then there was that moment she found a cousin on the internet and almost thought she might escape.

Ireland. Where black ain't black and white ain't white, and everything is forty shades of emerald.

To Eire is human. The map of our journey is traced in random fibres, some of them divine. 

***

She pulls into the car park of a pub, Róisín Dubh. The gravel under her tires is frost giants crunching ice. All is cold as a witch's hole in January, her breath as she steps from the rental the traceried ghost of the world's tree. However dark our skin our bones and breath are white. This Celtic place, these Nordic tales. All our tormented, discordant ancestry. 

What a woman does is know her kin.

***

They take you in. Things quickly fall apart, grow terrible.

"Shalista, love, just eat your food."

"Ain't ever ate no horse, but I already know I hate it."

"It's not horse, my girl, it's liver."

"The hell? Meet mother Africa, bitch-ass fool."

The melting snow uncovers something worse.

Your eyes peeled and your ears on twitch.

Radar, antennas, the very edge of the apocalypse. 

You or they won't easily or ever forget this.

 

Friday
Mar092018

What Dull Beast

"A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun." — W. B. Yeats

Does anyone know what this is? Can anyone pinpoint it? Dissect it?

Probably not. In fact, I'm almost sure not.

It's quite literally unspeakable.

The only thing with depth is the blackness. It's a hole in the Earth. Gray is just edges, cloud forms, the drab flat odor of clay, geese already passed, the sucking sound of wetlands.

I won't fall in. The hole, I mean. That's what I say. But here's the truth: I don't care if I do or if I don't. If I fall, fine. If I don't, also fine.

"If I Fell" is my favorite Beatles song. Do yourself a favor and go listen to it again. It once ached so lovely. 

A chorus of rodents convene to sing a version, their great harmonic squeaks echoing across Piazza San Marco like bats. They know our sapient pride is sinking, our architectural love increasingly rejected by a spurned and hostile Earth. They feel for us, in a way, these tiny hitchhikers on our finite journey. But empathy or not, they told us over and over that they don't wanna swim. And for a good while, they envy the bats.

I quit. God or Satan help me; Loki, Kali, Zeus, I never even fought. 

Our open veins are mere topography. This is hubris.

But back to this thing. It has a surface, featureless and bland. It has depth, impenetrable. It makes us drop our gaze to the ground, give up. It leaches song and story from our world. The fact I can't quite capture it in words accentuates its triumph, only augments its cruel trophy haul. It revels in our inability to gather its essence and make of it a portrait or a tale.

It drains most every thing. It is emptiness.

Like some doughy, noisome thing, eyeless and scentless, it squats, its shapeless perimeter leaking over the edges of my world, its gentle throatless moans a quiet abomination. The aftermath of a tsunami. Long years since the genocide. Afterward. When no one cares. When it can do its rank worst harm.

Sunday
Mar042018

Bleed

This is what all happened in one night, give or take.

"Elise, you are bleeding."

One Friday. A dream of a train ride. Suburbia deep into downtown.

"I don't care anymore."

Neon sobs and menstrual facades. Smeary and hidden. 

"But you should."

Come with me. Come. This will be a story of concupiscent abstinence, a modest fleshy tale wrapped around unchaste bones. Sinless and degenerate, a miscreant jest, forbidden.

"I will tear your stupid pink-vermilion flesh with my yellowing teeth."  

Are we now just laughingstocks? Vague punchlines in so many cosmic jokes? Stooges in some frothing, galactic burlesque?

"Uh, okay..."

A life reduced: sex or not. Yearning or dread.

"You are so depressingly weak."

"Whatever."

***

This is the moment we all thought was coming, a fugue formed on a spectral hill; we grow our gardens here, bleed our victims, and love each nod and gesture highlighting so many mirror-image blastocysts. We surpass ourselves. 

I was your friend, and I marveled at the sunlit canopy above while clamorous street cars hissed and passed, leadenly clanking, iron-faced.

"You were my friend," you said. "I loved you." 

Although none of this was ever layered in flesh upon so many phantom bones. It only came to pass in labyrinthine dreams.

"I no longer know what you're trying to say."

"Me either. But trust me—it still needs to be said."

"I can't keep doing this. It's an endless stream of dreams, each one second-guessed by the next. We're bamboozled by timelines. All of our nows browbeaten by our thens. Just let me be, and wait while I sip this exquisite coffee and divide this pie with a fork. Where were we?"

"Here. In a Pacific Northwest reverie."

"Cascadia?"

"Oh, yes."

"Two heaped teaspoons?"

"Very good. Clever."

"God forbid you'd ever laugh."

***

Some sectioned limb unfolds itself so close to the horizon, we default into sweet-girl doom-pixie love—Eliza Doolittle, Amélie, Zooey, Rooney, more—ignoring such reality, a reach-around from callused arachnid palms, an imposition, all our aspirations paramount, flames of love sustained, a path portrayed and then proclaimed, so easy to unlearn each living segment of our drastic narrative. 

"My name is Eve, and I'm an addict."

"You really don't want to talk about that slimeball Adam."

The serpent slithers far beneath the palm fronds and the cedar boughs, only glancing back when blent and gusted love is finally defined: our hearts are filled with pain, and situational awareness aims to spend our buoyant, airy capital.

"Call me. Call me now. Okay?"

Elise is seeking not vengeance but balance. She seethes a culinary phalanx. Plays herself in video games complicit and askance.

This timorous howl is poetry right now. Wait until the sockeye find their wild elusive thread, triggering our western coastal shimmer, blare, and thunder. Gift to us this roiling tidal squirm, breathe from us this raw, rare planetary air, drop rain squalls over and upon us. Welcome, grey wolf. Welcome, spirit bear.

O Earth. O endless love.

***

Elise has left. Her bloodstain remains. A vaguely carmine map of shadow blame. 

This place is likened to some flippant home, a shell-like choir of intravenous drones, a cenotaph, dark and fatalistic brickwork; some distilled, some lost, some wretched absent aching monument.

A path. Follow it. Follow it and sing your verification song, your signature, your cultivating aplomb.

Before us is the tale itself. Then follow it…

We are none. Our shaken ranks resist decoding. Unscramble this, our fury. Our purest fury. Our one kilometre stare. Our relatable and incandescent rage.

Something emerges from the trees, hunches ungainly across the trail, slides queasily into the oily lake.

Friday
Feb232018

Sunfire and Moonshine

When the moment comes for her to walk into the fire, she grasps it with an air of indebted love. 

***

Look. None of this is literal; Selene pieces it together from splinters of shell, busted scraps of a thousand swollen hearts and hot redemptive ash. 

Her genesis is flame and the cold, cold moon. A female story born from uterine fire. 

Her earliest memory is of haze and smoke, a gauzelike diorama punctuated by harrowing screams and the hoarse hitching breaths of survivors. People on their bellies crawling like larvae toward exits, a crackling inferno detonating everything above them. Do you shriek when doing so scours your throat raw? Do you, poor slug, curl into an imaginary shell, a failed snail?

Around such memories and queries, stories coalesce. Accumulate. Agglomerate.

Selene has never seen a field. Abandoned lots staccato and bristling with scraggy dandelions and sullied drifts of morning glory and gummy, chastened condoms and discarded needles? Yes. An actual field? No. 

Her shining mother gone, consumed; broken father crumpled to naught, all clamour silenced; heart-rent; siblings scattered like dry leaves in an October gale, she first experiences loneliness. Foster care is not entirely unkind to her, though; she emerges a bedraggled butterfly, split-winged and shuddering, from smeary toxic years of caterpillar hell. 

Selene.

They laugh at my watchspring hair, snicker in my constant shadow. One day I'll put my foot down and tell them. You all need to back off, I swear to God.

***

It's daylight but tarnished, like some golden thing showcased by morning, lit by a tentative new sun, and found wanting. 

"Way too fucking real to recognize itself."

She speaks a name. "Helios. Helios. Helios. Helios."

"Girlfriend, you talkin' to yourself agin?"

Won't answer. Can't answer. Let the new moon dream of a perfect sky, and return to me this tale entire. Envision my kinsfolk in unison. No longer am I so desirous of its telling.

***

Selene is alive, and every time she feels the hot-coal blare of her ferocity, she loves herself a notch or two more, the reciprocating world a notch or two less. 

***

A time arrives when Selene becomes embroiled in an ugly clash with someone named Salome somewhere in the world. All she is, a collection of pixels and surly, pitiless text, but that's enough. Salome and Selene. Ironies laid in fault lines through the geology of lives.

***

Which gods moved what sign? Whose deities transgressed? 

Whole neighbourhoods feel their way into mercy, the men and the women, the bewildered children milling in squares, lost pets meandering, ruffled treetops, a glaring moon behind breakneck rags of cloud, snatches of vapour, the abraded cough of grey and white, all so harsh and well, Kali fucking Loki in avid silence, each grinning maniacally as their zealous crotches lock and they converge on Vienna to dance.

Two ways. Will you walk into the Danube, my love? Or is this bacchanal insatiable?

Nothing but an interlude in a story whose momentum is manifest.

***

Salome is a troll hunched beneath a digital bridge. All she knows is the hurt of Selene's dismissal, a disregard however mild requiring recompense. Dogged, she will gather her patient ordnance. Which she one day sends like the heart's own poison darts.

"My girl Selene, I hate to tell you this"—she loves to tell her this—"but you killed your mother. You rested some plastic toy on the element of a stove, and it melted and dripped, catching a towel alight, spreading quickly. Three people in the floors above were burned alive, two more succumbed to smoke, along with your own mother. It was you, Selene. You killed them. It's time you knew what you did."

Selene's mind says no, but her mortal heart knows. Fragments of memory suddenly make sense. She could search the records, but she already knows what she will find. She is like a theatre without actors or audience. A shamefaced ghost within a bad dream. The silence at the centre of a hurricane. She haunts the streets like someone condemned. 

Then one day she hears it. The screaming of someone in peril. She sees windows aflame like the eyes of madmen and the astonished O-gape of a door and she hears the screams. Of whom she neither knows nor cares. A tiny child as she was, perhaps? A young mother, even. This is her moment, her brief opening to fashion from an ending a beginning, to make of her life a ceaseless loop. Arms spread, she walks into the furnace, smiling.