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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
Sep142018

Juniper Moon

"The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder." — Virginia Woolf

Please allow me to introduce herself.

She is now. She leaks from her own seams. Hilarity. Goodness. 

She is a feral wisp of a child finding herself wakening someplace with pale-peach skies and light-olive foliage and a postcoital volcano smoking beyond a shallow lake, a lone ox lapping at the water’s edge. 

Her voice is redolent of mesquite and burned hope. Her sweat is bottled as holy fragrance. Her throat plays all our favourite songs. 

So pretty. I could never forget your tiny perfect face. My hands form a cup for your lower jaw. To protect you. To save me.

One of us left the house in the early morning, while dawn tried and failed to grasp the day, and the humbled sun rose shamefaced over the land, as our astounding friend grew into her stride and strode away among the green shoots, amid the moaning of doves, utterly alone, completely amazed.

***

They agreed to meet in a pullout off the Coastal Highway, an irony she tried to amuse herself with while she waited on his unpunctual ass. Pullout. Yeah. If he'd pulled out like he said he would, they wouldn't be in this situation. Come to think of it, had his unpunctual ass been as late that evening as it usually was, and still was, she'd have quit on the whole date and, again, the same: none of this would now be happening. She supposed she could play that game all the way back to before she slid from between her mommy's skinny legs: if her dad wasn't an asshole and had never met her mom; if the bust-up between her parents had never happened; if she hadn't been so desperate to meet a boy to help her make her escape from her disintegrating home… but now she was retracing territory she'd already picked over, and these days she tried to stop doing that.

***

Mercury screens, lost highways, atomic tests.

Dr. Seuss draws all of this.

And all of this, let’s face it, is loneliness. 

______

Artwork © Finn Campbell Notman

Saturday
Aug182018

This Pain Needs a Name

I stare at the sky, eyes raw with grit, at this shroud of burnt orange and corpse-grey where blue once smiled its summer brilliance. The alien sun a faded blood-coin suspended within the rattling final breath.

Extinction. Exhalation. Wanting rain, fearing squalls.

Leaves and boughs caked in layers of sandy clay, encased like a warm dry antithetical ice storm.

Nobody has been this way in weeks. I sent my children far, not from ego but the opposite. So they might find some good beyond this. So they might have a chance.

Emma-Lynn and Aaron, if names become monuments.

But I fear we didn't do it right. Sanguine golden limbs among the shadows. Tales a-walking, ploys a-dancing.

And this pain needs a name.


***


"This is so sudden! You sure it's a good idea?"

"I do. We need this."

"But camping? Hiking? We never did this before."

"Sure we did. Not together, but we did it."

"Yeah, I was basically a kid when I did."

"So was I."

"So why'd you think this is a good idea now?"

"Trust me."


***


Present tense, I read the classics here. Over and again. Mary Shelley's lost and tender monster; a watery lamented spectre looming over Manderley; passion daubed across rugged brumous moorland; Brontë, du Maurier, Austen, Woolf; odes to girls, dirty precious haunted love songs etched into bones of landscape and carnival machinery. The Overlook. Hill House. Montauk. Joyland.

Our blessed migrant wake.

Why are you faking your presence? The headaches bunch like midway rides, subsequent cars of dissatisfied riders, gathering and griping, demanding redress. My blinded echoing skull is occupied by cutthroats. We usher in ghostly revolution.


***


No one could have scheduled this or made of it a scheme. We were young. A cleft in the land was damp and vulvar, and we followed it down—breathless, scowling, and leaning female. Moistened breath. We took our hints from the dreadful land that shouldered us.

"These bugs," you said. Oh, Emma-Lynn.

Battalions of mosquitos and lone earmarked deerfly.

"What of them?"

"I need to leave. They terrify me."

Aaron? Is that you? My god.

All composure gone, you ruined our trip, quietly shrieked your dissent, made of me a wounded fool.

Although pluralities concurred.  

The land was the land, and still is. Our trifling dramas dissolve in the face of everything, each item, all entireties, the kit and caboodle, the whole shebang, this thing we can never fully understand, all gone, so gone, so bereft, so utterly arrested.

We're lost. Blinded. Quieted. Hurt.

And still we need a name.

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.

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