Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out
Friday
May262017

Sister Matins

For a hushed moment, in your stillness and quiet we thought you dead. 

Your body is encased in a form-fitting spray of powdery charcoal dust. No gloss, just fine textural grain. Your hair, which does in fact gleam like the renegade moon, is gathered in a dark ponytail, most alien to you. You are a vessel, a human kayak someone might paddle across the mist-shrouded lake. But you would never stand for that. This is about dignity. And what is right. 

Sister. Let me breathe for you.

Still. You are on your feet now in defiance, your perfect legs spread in a warrior pose, your musculature fine as topography, the line of your jaw tracing the upraised shoreline like a medieval sextant. 

With my fingertips I want to sketch that jaw; with my whole hands I want to ward off hurt for you. And I see that you know this. But each passing moment only adds to your Egyptian charm, your Cleopatran scorch, your torrid Mediterranean allure, your intrinsic gypsy tang. A parade of goddesses arrives and begins to carouse. Nephthys and Isis and Bastet. Qetesh and Sekhmet. Banished to the shadows, I watch with my jackal eyes. I dream of violet orchids and ruby-throated hummingbirds. 

I literally just said this to my good friend, a father of young children: "Hugs from a four-year-old are worth their weight in hummingbird wings."

He laughed in that way you laugh when something is unassailable.

It might well be that you rebut your feline side. Whatever. I sense it anyway; see, hear, feel, smell, taste. The steps you offer me I recondition, make of them a route for you to renegotiate and clamber back aboard hope.

The aurora blooms in the late summer sky. Greens and violets, curtains in the vast cosmic window. They dance and shimmer all night without need of accompaniment. An electric profundity of silence. 

You are a single flower the colour of amethyst in a once-fertile valley that has grown cold and strange. Your petals are a purple fist, protective. The very first rays of daybreak fail to tempt you. But then a sudden sunshower mists your corolla, stirring them to unfurl and accept both heat and liquid, and you open to the world and the first bird sings.

Your cry is piercing in the gentle night, carrying over conifers and crumbling ridges, the lament of someone grasping at a hundred frozen edges. Pain is pain. Fear is fear. And you know both. We meet on that very plain, wrought of anguish and the bleak ignoble tendencies of our kind. We are clothed; we are unclothed. It matters not. We embrace. Another time you walk right by me, oblivious. At others we are bathed in the spectral light of nebulae.

Sometimes my thirst makes you smile. And you tease me. Sometimes you welcome it. Each time we honour the crossing of our paths, we're forced to reconcile our altered selves. And each time that happens, the more we can say we're mostly good. And if I know your femininity of a moment, it's true you might save me from some future hangman. We are dangling from a fulcrum, you and I. Like clocks and guns and fever dreams. Crows and coyotes. Ravens and eagles. Breakthroughs. Onslaughts. Executions. Hot rocks in a lodge and scintillating skies, everything animate and woman-bejeweled.

Friday
May192017

Amethyst Magnet

A wounded moon, she tries to escape her orbit and arcs her way starward in some fruitless bid for independence. Hunkered down in a Tacoma apartment, listening to Sleater-Kinney, for six weeks she shares a rough cube with roaches and rodents and silverfish. And mildew. Until a day when she ventures out and finds a nearby farmer's market and spends so many hours overstaying her welcome. Smiling at strange men with stranger facial hair. Lusting for expensive ink. Pretending to flip quarters into the hats of buskers but tossing only bottle caps.

Can we climb the hills outside town? Eclipse their occasional gravity? They're not far, and the sounds of our celebrations echo from their striated flanks. The faraway choir cries, "Tom Hardy," and we all think of the actor. But some of us suspect they meant John and think of Leadbelly. Either way, doesn't matter. Pick me up like flakes of iron, like metal shavings, don't let us grow beyond our suicide lines, our creosote dreams.

"I want you to succeed," she said.

"Seems you forgot I was Canadian."

"I did. Indeed. Nothing is for free."

(Really? Not even torn pantyhose? Not eroticism? Not rebellion, scorn, fugitive desire?)

At what point did the blurry wraith steal into the mall and wrap its cold persuasion around the wrists and throats of enough teenagers to undermine the morale of this place? Repurpose our world? I pledge to stand in recalcitrance. 

Stir that iron pan of rice and ground turkey, mix in spices, garlic, add your desolate tears, and consider the woman you once loved who gives you not a thought. Maybe barely a thought. You damn well wish. Eat and make your slow way coastward. Scratch off the layers of dirt in that abandoned place, that atrium, that cloistered dome drenched in the grey hesitant stupors of longtime voyagers. You will bow to me. Deflect the lightning. Swallow the juice of stupidity dripping from the vain tenements of some tossed-off American balcony. Goddamn it.

A faulty dream? A glorious sin? Scornful, doubtful gestures?

For a moment it looks like Iowa. Sioux City. For now I might dismiss it as Wisconsin. Far from the Madison crowd. It's all shimmering and lost. Loved, even.

 

Your heart is amethyst, your mind

is adamant. Your mine bores

deep inside this hillside. Why 

not drill yet farther? Why not

get in line, aspire to coruscant?

 

Flaxen-haired, klaxon-horned, this instant is stark. An urban stream, a concrete riverbed veined with graffiti, the dusty weeds swaying on the banks while fugitives converge, flame trees lining the streets and cursing like motherfucks, breathing like livestock given a reprieve. Promised something wondrous. 

She. She is a mother and she wears bluejean cutoffs, and the dirt-white pockets rest on her pale thighs like the ears of a phantom hound dog. Her wifebeater hangs off her t-frame, loose, not clean, underscoring dark erect nipples. She is indeed unclean. Her dirt is of the celebratory kind. Her stink joyous. She pushes cleflike locks of her lank dark hair behind her ears. The score of her loneliness her salient feature. 

Held in her eyes, bright cumulus skies, and a flurry of spores seeds the air above us. Even makes us smile. All must be maintained. Palm trees. Lawns. Dazzling miles. Hummingbirds darning the thick fabric evenings. Boxes of cheap malbec stacked near the checkouts. The sweet sculpted heart of your dark humid pubis. How do I keep this semblance alive? Do you hear the moans of the women? Do you consider them something good? The odds are largely against this.

A pack of dogs explodes through powder snow, scattering in childdrawn lines while their prey, a year-old fawn, hesitates before plummeting over the next ridge. This is the way of things. A woman texts her friend and watches the till while a carload of young men empties into the silence and advances. Bless the gifted blood in all of them. Curse their surety. How will we interpret the trucker's lament, the anchor dropped by a witness, the stutter of professional hesitance? The dogs confront their error and backtrack, plumes of backlit snow like golden dust against the sunset ridge. Cold. The tiny deer stops for half a second, enough to seal her fate. There is no cruelty in the kill; it's swift and wild and consummate. The way of things. 

My love, are you listening? You're the second-best girl I ever had. 

Don't leave me. Don't drop me. Good God, good girl, please stick around, vainglorious one. 

Everything is burning, The Wickaninnish Inn reeks of smoked sockeye. Eagles are dropping from a boiling sky. Bears stagger out of the trees, wisps of smoke uncurling from their fur. Clams pop on the rocks like apocalyptic snacks. This kid, that corner, our hopes, their moments gather on Chesterman Beach. Rock pools mirror a waning sky.

I stumble over my ownself. Nod quiet thanks to the waitstaff. This is the one place in this clustered nightmare that bleeds red, watery hot like Tabasco. Instinctively I lean its way. And overtip like fuck. The server—a sheer beauty made from alabaster, marble, hot clay, and the primate tang of vitality—punches her number into my phone and brushes my neck with her rustic lips. I shudder. She is beautiful and rural and I want to go home with her. But I'm on a mission here; if I get the chance I will go back, but if not, while the sap drips from the bark and gophers run riot along the shoulders, beyond the last Applebee's, we all dip our limbs and hopes in this heavy green soup and keep right on going until (someday, at some point) we don't.

Friday
May122017

Cabin. Lake. Action.

Afterward, her first instinct was to make her way to the cabin upstate. When she saw his text—"On my way soon"—her heart hop-skipped in her chest for a second. Like a new comet, hope crossed the night sky of her awareness. 

She cranked the generator and wondered how much he had changed. Almost a decade had lurched awkwardly by since they'd spent a blurry month of kayaking and dancing and one-upping each other with their culinary skills. And lovemaking. Don't forget that. She couldn't forget that. It had been a perfect time. No hint of impending darkness; pure lakeside rapture in gauzy dreamlight.

Again. She wondered how much he had changed.

How cruel the passage of time. How needlessly complex. A relentless, heedless, slick-knot blastocyst. 

On the uncovered deck, unfolding chairs, sitting, standing by the railing, she paced, fidgeted. She could never get comfortable anymore. She tried to breathe, yoga breathe—prana, her instructor had called it; deep and long—and take in the skim of mist that hung like netting over the lake and the dark encirclement of conifers. But her mind stutter-stepped and her hot, coiled body wouldn't settle. 

She had the strangest sense of unraveling. Like yarn unspooling. Was it time or was it memory? The loons were long gone from this place, replaced by more distant complaints. The songs of the cicadas seemed muted. More sorrowful, more dissonant.

In the small kitchen, sensing his proximity, she uncorked an expensive Bordeaux, with some difficulty. Ready to celebrate this reunion. Mark this occasion. Poured herself a large glass. Began to fix tortillas with salsa and guacamole. Crushed some ice for margaritas, made do with lime juice instead of limes. Sweet-rimmed two plastic glasses. Overkill, she knew. 

But still she wondered. If he had changed, had she also changed? Well, yes. Much had changed, although this lake and its vigilant garrison of cedar and spruce seemed somehow eternal. The choral dawns and evening serenades. The songbirds and the fireflies. 

The earthy tang of woodsmoke in her nostrils. The face of the water ashen, like someone given grave news in a hospital. 

She tried to tune the radio, found nothing. Smacked its wooden frame. Paced. Waited.

The moment she found a channel—something preachy, gawping, and demented; scratchy as brain spiders—she looked up and with her remaining eye watched him approach from the overgrown driveway. He was worse off than her, an arm long gone and the skin on the other flapping in slick pink parade flags as he lurched her way. A good third of his head was a ruined moon, yet he grinned peculiarly, one pinning eye fixed on her while she struggled to stand and greet him.

The timing of their embrace, already heated in its way, coincided neatly with the next howling firestorm.

Friday
May052017

Riding the Blue Shard

It's the blue train, the coal train.

How did we come to be lying on these tracks now it's arcing its slow curve this way around the hillside?

Two blue engines fore and one mid, dusty lozenges of sapphire bracketing dull beads of jet.

Eve is up on the hillside with a camera. She will avenge us if this goes awry. If this train of thought leads to catastrophe, so be it, and there will be a reckoning of sorts. Supine between the tracks I wait, the weight of the device heavy on my chest, the ballast between the ties jabbing my spine, my ribs. I feel the train before I hear its distant voice, its thin wail of loneliness. At the right moment, I will detonate this thing and the train and I will cease to exist, and one more blow will have been struck for freedom. Eve will film it for posterity; students will yearn for martyrdom.

The clanging, screaming serpent is closer now, and the steel tracks on either side are harmonizing with each other, a calamitous electric yowl like the pitched dyad birth throes of star twins. My skull is coming apart. The clouds are blurred, the treetops smudges of dark. Smears and blurs against the blue of faded jeans: the very last things I will look upon. Things we can't unknow. I close my eyes. The great engine is upon me, and amid the clinker sparks and infernal din I count the seconds. And I hit the button.

It's 1980 or '81. A Soviet engine arriving on time via Warsaw and Köln rolls into the Gare du Nord like something mythical and reptilian, a vast bristling hammer-and-sickle agglomeration. A clanking imperious steel assemblage ablare with its own fanfare. Stopping us in our tracks.

Trains. We got on board the love train some eight years earlier. In England, in Russia, in China, in Egypt, in Israel. When did we disembark? Or did we? Was there a derailment? 

We're all on a haunted planet careening through some galactic backwater, convinced of our own consequence. Each galaxy a bright station for hurtling aggregations of stars and worlds. 

Canis and corvid. Coyote and crow. The engineers. Conductors. 

"Every hour wounds. The last one kills."

Cliff edge trees like victims of strokes: listing, staggered, part-ruined. They lean like broken soldiers in a bewildered vanguard, unmindful of each other, wind-assaulted, salt-scoured. The droning lobes of my skull are full as tics. 

"Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Which thou dost glare with!" — Macbeth, William Shakespeare

I have woken as if from some other life. This here is the dream. I was happy in that life; my simple needs were met, and my smile was broad as Grand Central Terminal. My moons had their own moons. But this rude place is unworthy even of a dream. It is like a stick figure, a chalk drawing on a stoop, a bundle of twigs when placed before a great temple, tied with a grubby strip of cloth. Like a single brushstroke in a grand painting, an afterthought. The cracked mortar between the stones of an architectural wonder. Is this lost night of silent dreaming nearly over? Please. Let me return to my life. The abandonment of dreams has never seemed so promising. 

How are you?

Struggling. In pain.

Really?

I do a good job of pretending otherwise. 

Probably we all do.

The device didn't work. It didn't go off. We can't go back.

Ah. What if this world is our home now? What if it rejects us? What if the world's skin crawls and spasms like that of some weary and ancient being, shuddering to rid itself of the parasites in its afflicted rind? What then?

What then.

Friday
Apr282017

Refugee Songs

There's something deep in the dripping forest that's darker than anything else in this world. You'd best pray you never find it. 

A beach shaped like a razor clam. A vulvar shell like a lover's wild promenade. Beads of moisture and salt.

"Don't look for it. Promise me."

"One day I'll find you. I swear."

They tellin us we gotta meet up wi' a lady named Fleur De Lis. That funny. But it what they tell us. That Cajun French or summin. Know what that mean in English? Flower of the lily. 

Fingertips oxidized brass smell. Grooved smokin' abraded calluses. An undersea cable drama. 

Because you're always there. Spitting lore and ill-judged bromides: "You might win some, but you just lost one." A hill you might not want to die on.

"You might not find me."

Her bland face was sexual the way a cheap motel is sexual. Dirty. Cut-rate. Worn. But you stay the night anyway. And suddenly it's no longer about sex but about adherence.

"I'm sorry, Mikey."

About loyalty. 

"I saw you up there earlier. A girl with a voice like yours should never apologize."

Cover all the deserts in geometric panels. Spin a million offshore blades. Panels, blades, desperate boats, great cedars. Components of the flag of the refugee nation. 

Have you ever felt bad about something, wished you could take it back? Downtown, a hawk roosts on a ledge thirty stories up. Calm and pitiless. In its mind already sorting bones. 

I am sobbing. I never sob. I haven't seen a honeybee in five years. Must I compose a requiem for all that's lost? 

"Yes. Yes, you must."

"But why me?"

Haole. Cracker. It ain't about whiteness, it a human thing. You have an advantage, you take that advantage. Majority will run with it. Don't matter, though I won't. No one will notice, or if they notice they won't care. Ditch that nigga. Cowardice is the febrile line running through the arc of the human story—thin, hot red, and moist with shame.

We're blinded on the Gaza Strip. We see red. We see sand. We see night. We're just guessing. Not guessing: imagining. The daubed wheel of trillions of stars turns glacially overhead. Christmas music, choral, sweet, as warm as the brandy that ignites the fruit pudding. 

Sing along.

"How can I sing when my teeth have been obliterated, my lips torn ragged?"

"Try."

Grasp my outstretched hand, take it, feel its hot sweat. My England is like an underground brook, bubbling beneath a brittle mantle. Aching with want, ghosted by yesteryear. Its heroes and heroines, its Arthurs and Robins and Boudiccas and Guineveres. Its Sids and its Nancys. Rule Britannia my flaming asshole. I love you. I fucking adore you. A disoriented child slips from a chalk cliff, and the ripples engulf the world. 

The truth? Rags become riches almost never. 

Bowie's gone. Prince too. That sly old Canuck also. Starmen waiting in the sky? The crack in everything? How about earthmen and women prepare to put in a shift? Help turn this clusterfuck around? The Provos said it: First we take Mountbatten. We ourselves. The dead will always dance, the sisters dispense mercy. I can wait a long, long time before I hear another love song, comes the echo through that crack in everything.  

"Stop now. Don't walk away."

"I'll do what I have to."

Rags of green fluttering in the storm's death rattle. Pulsating clouds. Black remnants, dark marvels. Come here. Yes, you. I think you're beautiful. No, don't turn your head. Walk don't walk. Sing for the bones, compose hymns for the migrants. "Be joyful—though you have considered all the facts."

A girl meets a boy in middle school. They clutch each other, astonished. Share eerily similar playlists. Someone else plays a song by Journey. They think it's corny, both secretly loving it, the part about the small town girl living in a lonely world, but they also go down to the fleet river during the snowmelt and listen to Springsteen. Laughing and crying both. Waiting to hear the inky coyote wails from the other bank. Or hoping to see the visceral curl of a sturgeon outliving us all as it wrings all liquid from the world, lustier than the river that birthed it, writhing, squeezing, scheming.

It's a midnight promise, a moment of traffic and ambition, a howling voice on the flat side of pitch, everyone arriving in their Chargers and Mustangs, primed for a conflagration, drenched spectral, emergent, let down by the truth of the world, that its best moments are almost never announced, its secret dreams rarely if ever proclaimed. 

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 47 Next 5 Entries »