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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
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.

Friday
Jun292018

Might Never Happen

Hallowed be her name.

When she first came here—the skin beneath her hazel eyes smeared as if an artist had been learning charcoal, the eyes themselves almost pitiless—we called her Trashy, soon shortened to Trash. We meant nothing bad by that. "Trash panda" was a nickname for raccoons, and that was all we meant. But Trash—Raylene—heard only bad. Today we'd call it slut-shaming, only we weren't slut-shaming anyone. Yet she felt slut-shamed. 

I still remember her room, the three dreamcatchers: the obvious one over her bed; another in the exact centre of her small window; and the other hanging from the doorframe, like mistletoe meant to stop dreamers dreaming bad things instead of lovers kissing good ones. 

She never knew it, and even I only figured it out far too late, but I was her sister. 

Trash was skinny and chill as a frappuccino straw. She liked to eat but she often couldn't. Her moods precluded co-option of solid fuel. In fact, that's even how she would have said it back then: "My moods preclude co-option of solid fuel." Her speech was unique. Like she began her thought in English, heard it in Venusian, then translated it hastily back into English.

I secretly adored her eyes. Not the shadows that made me think of future ghosts scribed in hindsight, but the marketplace of colour shimmering in those irises, even when her will held them steady as edicts. Her face was its own proclamation, the golden emerald eyes an enactment within. 

You might have actually loved her too.

I'm making it sound like she died. Far as I know, she never died. She simply left. Left us. Joined someone else, far as anyone knew. On cold nights, I try to warm myself with the thought of Trash, surviving, articulating her offbeat vision to some spellbound soul.

But yes. Trash never laughed, though she found some kind of humour in everything. She told me how often this bothered people around her. Related this story. She was small, maybe seven or eight, and her mom won some local contest and they went on a trip to London, a hardscrabble momma from the American South and her no-account daughter, first time either of them left America. Some point, she was sitting on a barstool in some dark pub that smelled like unfiltered tobacco smoke and cheese and onion crisps (she remembers her first taste of English chips even while she's forgotten the endless flight itself or Heathrow or the narrow streets or the tiny houses) and her mom was chatting with three men who seemed smitten by her voice, by her look, by her difference. And Trash, quiet, alone, stared ahead at the array of bottles, all that bright-hued glass, and thought about why adults seemed so sure they were in control when most times the opposite was true. And she nearly smiled, but she didn't want to give reality the pleasure of agreeing with it, so she decided to remain stoic. A girl of stone, perhaps more limestone than granite. Emotion was real to her, but expressing emotion felt like a luxury. Seemed one of the men noticed her reserve and came over to her, and she never forgot this, but he touched her upper arm where it was also her shoulder, not sexual or creepy in any way, and he looked in her eyes—his were the palest blue and you wouldn't gainsay someone who called them grey—and said, quietly yet not secretively, "Cheer up, darlin', it might never happen." Then he went and rejoined the other men serenading her mother, and Trash tried not to think about it but failed. It might never happen. What might never happen? It was too open-ended and infinite. Too soaked in plausible. It made her mind feel like all life shrank to a point, a point at which it must decide on cheering up or cheering down. Like it was a sinkhole hoping to warn the neighbors. Like a graffitied road in an abandoned mining town.

How do I know all this? It's like we switched places, traded pasts. It's like Trash stayed and I left. Maybe I'm mistelling it or misrecalling it. 

One thing she knew that no one knew is this: everything aspires. A moth seeking light and dancing ungainly around it, tracing some newfound poetry in the expectant night. A two-lane road between cedars. Drunken songs after hours. A comet. Fresh-hatched turtles clambering over sand. The winning goal in a World Cup final. Migrants. Warmed cognac. The sun melting on the blazing rim of this world. Midnight mass. Laughter.

Though I don't know this, I know this: Trash is there still. On that blazing rim. Sipping Rémy Martin. Faking laughter at the exertion of turtles. Loving angrily yet secretly. Living within the penumbra of borders. Trying not to notice the chainlink. Trying not to cry.

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