• 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
    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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Entries in 9/11 (6)


Nineteen Sixty Nine

It was nineteen-sixty-nine. When the man in the marketplace began raving, it wasn't a market day, so there weren't many witnesses. Me, of course. And one of the shopkeepers at Simpkin and James came out to hear the racket, the bitter mammalian gist of cheese and coffee coiling in his wake, earthy and comforting. Scattered bystanders stood white-faced while the man screamed about impossible things.


A red maple leaf flapping in a high wind. Twilight and the night itself shuddering. The drift bank of snow up to our roof. A naked woman materializes from the sodium overheads on an Arctic outflow prairie backroad, and Shelby takes her in, wrapping her in blankets and massaging her limbs with vigour. Cracking the seal on a twenty-sixer of Crown Royal, I daren't even approach her. She is like a witch to me, a wraith. Ought to be dead. No one can last more than a clawed handful of seconds in a Saskatchewan blizzard, 'specially not naked. Yet Shelby helps her. Women. FFS.

Then I remember the screech I stowed after Bo McGuigan stopped by here last summer and left his Newfie gifts I forgot about till now. 


"It's gonna matter! It's gonna matter!" the man kept shrieking. He looked like an accountant, a civil servant. No special marker, nothing to distinguish him. His soft tan coat was long, and he wore dark pressed trousers and patent leather shoes, no hat.

Someone approached him to reason with him. We could hear "Mrs. Robinson" from a radio. The marketplace—a square, with its town hall on one corner and a bakery diagonal, the Midland bank on the other and a chemist facing—held its breath.


The ends of her fingers are black, but she clasps the mickey of screech and upends it. I'm mesmerized by the workings of her throat. I fucking love this country. All of it. Roots. Hope. Oka. Moose Jaw. Crosby's overtime winner. Timbits. Merritt. Meech Lake. The Hip's last tour. Kamloops. Solitudes. Bobcaygeon. We kiss all refugees. We kiss our own syrupy asses while first Harper and now Trump fuck us over. It's what we do, driving out in a frozen February to take a disc of hard rubber full in the face.

"We should call the hospital." Shelby's eyes are wide-grey and frankly lovely.

"Girlfriend, we could call the hospital and report an ongoing massacre at Wounded fuckin' Knee and they wouldn't react right now. This is some badass weather, and lots of folks are trapped and hurt and maybe dying. We need to deal with this our ownselves."

"She's frostbit, though."

"Yeah, she is that."


He laughed. Told them it still mattered and laughed. Winked, even, as he was led away, to a quiet acreage on the edge of town where questions could be put.

"You Brits. Living in the heart of fuckin' midlothian and dancin' down Petticoat Lane. Who the actual fuck do you think you are?"

"The bigger question right now is who you are, sir."

"If I told you, you'd think me insane."

"We already do. So tell."

"Okay. Fair. I'm from your future. The year 2017, to be precise."

The interrogator looked away, and I could see violence squirm briefly across his face like the ghost of a sidewinder. His better nature won out.

"So you a Yank?"


"A Yank with manners, then."

"Funny. And not inaccurate."

"So what matters? What is going to matter?"

"All of it. I came back to the right time but the wrong place. You people aren't even bit parts. This is a clusterfuck. I'm meant to warn the powers, the movers and shakers…"

"You mean Westminster? Their movement is an illusion, and all they shake are their tiny, shrivelled cocks."

"Look. There are things that if you neglect to do now will destroy much of the good in the world ahead."

"How the hell would a Canadian know any of this, even if he was from he future? Canada's not exactly front and centre in world affairs … although you do spell centre right."

"It's complicated."

"So what does the world look like in 2017, Mr. Time Traveler?"

"Beautiful and fucked."

"Not that I believe you, but details?"

"Sure you're ready for this? Um, okay. We can talk to each other via small portable screens, anywhere in the world. We have cars that drive and park themselves. We've so far avoided nuclear annihilation but not climate change, which is threatening everything. And I mean everything. We can wear headsets, glasses, that enhance reality, paint new worlds atop our usual one. Play games that are plausible versions of the actual world. Anyone anywhere on earth can in theory speak to anyone else, via screens in our homes or in our hands. Using the same technology, we have access to all human knowledge and all human depravity. Just gotta ask. Step in a car, even one you have to drive yourself, and a satellite will help you reach your destination, with verbal instructions in a gentle feminine voice. Or alternately, press the screen of one of your devices once, twice, and you can hail a car to arrive in minutes, take you elsewhere, take you anywhere. All while you listen to a music library that doesn't exist in physical space, is floating someplace else they call the cloud, each and every song and artist instantly accessible. Vinyl to tape to compact disc to mp3, details no one could invent. Let's see, what else?"

He loved his audience, a matador toying with the sleepiest of bulls. 

"Okay. America had eight years with a popular black president, a kind and thoughtful family man who served with grace and erudition and without scandals. In most liberal democracies, people who love someone of the same sex can get married. Married married. Nobody cares about marijuana anymore, and it's often prescribed for health reasons. But cigarette smoking is way down, and most of us know the tobacco companies lied for decades. Lip service is paid to gender equality, yet women are still paid less than men for the same work. Television captured some godawful things, even after Vietnam: the explosion of a space vehicle we called Challenger, a terrorist attack on America that brought down the World Trade Center, twin towers whose construction finished only a year from now in your time, yet loomed over lower Manhattan for thirty years. People have run the hundred metres in under ten seconds. This decade you currently live in will be a cipher for many on the right and the left: boho extravagance, permissive hellscape, or a foundation for human progress. Civil rights, Dr. King, and My Lai. Hunter S. Thompson, Edward R. Murrow, Joe McCarthy. You know most of that. But what you don't know is the Cold War will end in 1991, yet we won't necessarily be safer. On a global level, white people will become steadily less central, and this will anger them in ways we weren't prepared for." 

He swallowed, asked for water, wondered how anyone, however well briefed, could possibly encapsulate a half-century of change this rapid and momentous. Decided they couldn't. 

"Back to science. We've mapped the surface of Pluto, which is no longer considered a planet, and we've discovered thousands of actual planets beyond our solar system. Yes, thousands. We have a telescope in space that's now almost obsolete yet has sent us cosmic images that would make you cry. Deep, deep space and pillars of gas. Great swathes of nebulae. Star factories spanning light years. Robot cars explore the Martian dirt, clicking and sampling. We've mapped the human genome. Used DNA to solve crimes. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of books can be loaded onto a single tablet, which fits in one hand and looks like a slate and is immediately readable. And while fossil fuels still dominate, alternative energy is beginning to take hold: giant white windmills spin off of coastlines and in gusty prairie grasslands, while solar panels drop in price as we speak, are arrayed in deserts and on rooftops—using the heat of the sun to power our world. We still drive gas guzzlers (a term that came along after your era), but they're more like gas sippers now, and we also drive electric cars. Hybrids. It's a transition in motion, which makes it sound like we're okay, like we're handing it all. Which we're not, or I wouldn't be here."

"So what went wrong?"

"A fuckstain of epic proportions. It ain't so easy to sum up."


I miss Bo McGuigan already. Probably should have asked him what the machine was that he left, along with the screech. It looked like a toy to me. Yeah, I'm actually that stupid. Had a dial with place names and years, kinda like those plastic discs that match images of animals with their sounds. I loved those things. Early versions even had a pull cord. 


"Assuming we believe all that—and if not, it's a rich, impressive, and most appalling fantasy, I must say—what is it you want us to do?"

"I don't know anymore. After I ran it by a friend in Ottawa, someone with access to security types, codes even, I was supposed to take this to a national leader and pass them secret coordinates for some unnamed other who might be poised to take someone out who will ruin everything. Tradecraft. Not sure it feels that clear anymore. It's possible I was a little shitfaced and cynical when I activated the machine."


Shelby's naked new popsicle friend is speaking in oddities. Claiming she's not from our time but from the future. I want to show her Bo's machine, but I have an inkling she might trash it. Matter and antimatter kinda thing. She sure ain't happy about something: the future, the past, the blizzard, Saskatchewan, all of which is completely fucking understandable. Dammit, do things just keep getting worse? What did we let in when we opened that orange door on a reality show you've already forgotten?

Hell. Let the screech flow like virulent nectar.


A boy is trapped in an old outhouse. He knows he can't escape without some payment being paid. The birds are silent above. No cars move on the long driveway or beyond. He wishes he could be at the market with his mother, on a Thursday or a Saturday, buying fresh translucent fillets of cod, watching the unskinned carcasses of rabbits and chickens sway in a light breeze, smelling life and death and listening to men bark and generators hiccup and growl.

Instead of here, where the earth reeks of dark wet green and sounds are entirely absent.

Yeah, take my skin, touch its length, drain my dreamscape, ruin my hobbled walk on this drawn-out stage. Make sure you're cruel, as you were sent here to be. Vicious control-freak Punch to everyone else's blinking Judy. You gaslit me for a lifetime.


Best punch me hard. Moondogs flash above our impromptu rink. The clouds clear and our sweatstain galaxy smears itself on the great dome one blurred star at a time… and you cry, and I cry, and she cries. We are such losers. Tourists in our own backyards, wishing for dimensions we never dared conjure. But you fire a slap shot from the hashmarks, I barely tip it through the five-hole, and we all celebrate like we earned it, like Gretzky smiled. It's a good goal, truth be told. My mind is filled with the golden touch of sunset on the eaves of a sagging barn, the dripping orange yolk of a setting day over a red-green vista. All of us meeting our futures, crushed against the boards, sucking up our last damn hit, pretending till the end of time that we ain't hurt. 


Hugging Barefoot Shapes

There's a place where even sadness dies. Sadness, that vampiric immortal. Think. What kind of a world would make sorrow so inextinguishable while joy is a fleeting bluebird on a cartoon shoulder? 

We watched the plane as it approached, flying far too low, its angle all wrong, toward the lights of the city. It seemed to be listing, like something shouldering deep waters. Natalie was crying. This hushed, cool April night, we were all recalling a blue-sky September morning long ago. Tyrone was moaning, "No, no, no, no …" into the scattered firefly darkness, while we waited for the detonation.

Who closes their fucking gas station? Running almost empty, I pulled off the interstate on some lonely exit (gas but no food and definitely no lodging) somewhere north of Canyonville, and the only building I could see was dark and deserted. There my engine coughed twice and died. I considered theft, but how do you unlock a gas pump? That one's beyond me. Likely as not I'd blow my baffled soul to kingdom come. By the faintest glow in the sky I knew there had to be some kind of burg to the east, so I grabbed the jerrycan and headed that way on foot, figuring there had to be another gas station, if only for the locals.

Which was when I was set upon. They came from all directions, from pastures and alpine meadows, from slugtrail creeks and glowering forests, broken barns and stagnant ponds, silhouettes suggestive of things with elongated skulls so massive and weighty they hung lower than their broad, pustular chests, impossible gator jaws slack with dripping rows of rotted shark teeth, reeking of things long buried and festering, long-derelict mucus throats rattling wetly. Hungry and misbegotten as outcasts in a pestilence.

I awake to my iTunes playing in a loop, and in between Nikki Minaj and Stars of the Lid, the same groundhog chorus begins each morning while I feel my lifeblood drip from three bullet wounds and cool, and find sluggish channels over this thrift store chair that's become a part of me, getting sticky with it, fusing me to a nightmare place I never thought I'd be, ever dreamed I'd be glued helpless. Hurts like a thousand fire ants too. Burns like a hundred motherfuckers. Oh. Let this pass.

Unmoored, discarded, enfeebled. Forsaken as the house whose dry gerontic bones creak around me, forgotten in the hills, without hope of rescue. Only one visitor expected now, as yet too distant to hear his slow, crafty shuffle.

Oh, and look, we see a free girl. An American girl. Perhaps her name is Natalie too. No, Naomi. Wait, no: Norma. Eagle dreams and square shoulders, cutoff blue jean jacket and a black mini skirt. Concocting secret thrills while unshoeing a gelding's hoof. Tracing the outer edges of R&B urges, caressing moist kelp frills and ketamine truths.

Hugging barefoot shapes.

Hurry now, I'm most assuredly ready.

But that place, the one where desolation goes to die? Where all aches are soothed? It exists. It does. Some of us have seen it. Only, no one is allowed to reveal its location, for fear the rest will down tools, quit living. Quit striving. A bluebird on your shoulder is fine for a short while. Pleasant and cute, no doubt. But a lifetime of its incessant twittering is a whole new holy type of hell. Smiling cheerleaders will drive you to atrocities. Skies without clouds eventually become banal. There's a hell of a fine reason we're not cartoons.


Pod People

I am now officially a pod person. I've been interviewed before, which is an interesting experience the first few times, but when you notice yourself repeating many of the same answers in slightly different ways, it can be a case of diminishing returns. Which illustrates the importance of fresh questions on the part of the interviewer, but also behooves the interviewee to remember to dig deep and not resort to phoning it in... which is an apt figure of speech for the most recent experience I had of this strange concept in which one person asks questions of another person and they share the result of the conversation in the assumption others will find it interesting. But anyway, what I'm getting at is, on this occasion I did actually phone it in. Almost literally. Well, okay, Skyped it in. And the interviewer, Carolyn Steele, who runs the website Trucking In English, shaped this audio into something very listenable—a podcast, in fact, and the only known recording of my voice on the internet.

Ostensibly a conversation about Dissolute Kinship, it moves surprisingly seamlessly (given my propensity for inexplicable tangents and, um, awkward, ah, speech fillers) between the topics of New York City itself, both then and now, and the wider implications and fallout of the attacks of September 11, 2001. I even talk a little about growing up Catholic in a Protestant country. So, uh, religion and politics. Great. I eagerly await the hate mail.

But somewhere in there, she somehow manages to get me to make a connection between the unifying nature of the world's initial reaction to the horrors that day and the subsequent democratization that's largely been wrought by the internet, offsetting the more rigid and authoritarian reaction in the political sphere. It's an interesting counterpoint to the almost dystopian pessimism into which it's far too easy to lapse. And it takes no small amount of skill to elicit thoughts I probably wouldn't have come up with on my own. I guess that kind of synergy is the point, really, is why interviews can be so illuminating. Greater than the sum, kind of thing.

Anyway, have a listen here and if nothing else, see how mockable my outlandish Anglo-Canadian accent is.

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.


Three In One Week

Reviews of Dissolute Kinship, that is. Varying from the indepth to the brief, all three of them kind and thoughtful and fair. Honestly, I wish I could express the right degree of gratitude toward people who not only bother to read my work, but who then go the extra mile and review it. I hear too many authors complaining about how too few readers review after reading. Well, how often does any one of us take that extra step? I do on occasion, but certainly not for every book. Reviews are gold, but they're not an automatic right.

Anyway to the first: Jim Devitt succinctly delivers the following, in a generous 5-Star review entitled A Grand Perspective:

David Antrobus captures the essence of community and perspective in this vivid account of 9-11. The pages come alive, not with destruction and tragedy, but with hope and meaning. The author opens his mind and feelings, leading us through the process from an outsider's point of view. In the end, he helps us understand by painting a masterpiece with words. He shares with us everything, from the guilt felt while viewing ground zero to the greater understanding how human lives are interconnected. Great job, Antrobus.

I have to say I'm extremely gratified how many readers of this little book get what I was attempting to do, that it was never solely about the actual attacks, but about how we moved on and how we created new connections after being brought together in such initially appalling circumstances.

Okay, on to the next. A.B. Shepherd, in a similarly brief but insightful assessment, has this to say:

This book focuses on the devastation he finds when he gets to New York City following the events of September 11, 2001 and the affecting and poignant way he has of describing what he sees. For some people, like me, who still find the devastation of that day very difficult to deal with, this sometimes evoked more emotion than I expected.

If you want to read a well written first-hand perspective of the visual aftermath of 9/11 this is an excellent book. A literary triumph. It's short length is not a detriment. My only criticism is the off-hand introduction of some very relevant emails that David sent to friends at the time. I feel they could have been incorporated a little more seamlessly.

Fair point about the emails, by the way. As much as they illustrate the more raw, unedited version of my reactions to events and scenes, I never did manage to blend them in a wholly satisfying way.

And finally, Carolyn Steele brings all her experience with trauma to bear in a very attentive and lengthy analysis of my book. I won't reproduce the entire thing here, but if you're interested, check out the link to Carolyn's blog. I will, however, quote some of my favourite parts of her astonishingly empathic response, many of which choked me up, quite frankly:

[T]he traveller in question is a poet, a philosopher and somewhat acquainted with trauma and you have a book that transcends genres such as ‘memoir’ or ‘travelogue’ and even ‘poetry’. It is simply unique.

As the narrative takes us deep into Manhattan, the city of New York becomes a character in its own right. Someone you become part of, convulsed with unfathomable grief.

One damaged soul who comprehends the need for repetition, the importance  of outing the trauma, more than most of us…gave the city the only gift he had. When he mentions a sense of shame for having been a tourist in those terrible days, we realise that his processing is not yet done. One day the author will understand that he was the right person in the right place, giving of himself for people who had no more idea than he did why he was there.

I cannot tell you that you will enjoy this book, but I can tell you that you won’t regret reading it. And that you will reread it more than once.

This book is a piece of poetry and a testament to what it means to be human.

See? I defy anyone to not be moved by her words. The bonus is that Carolyn also interviewed me for a podcast to be broadcast soon (watch this space for developments) and if you can get past my annoying Anglo-Canuck accent, you will almost certainly be afforded more insight into the experiences surrounding that maddening little book (and its upcoming sequel).

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.


What is this Kinship of Which You Speak? Pt. 2

Part Two of a longer post. Part One is here.


Over time, we became street fixtures ourselves, and this is where trouble can start.

First, it is easy to begin to over-identify with the street lifestyle and see the "normal" world as the enemy, as a cold, insouciant planet of hypocrisy-peddlers from manicured suburbs or hostile downtown business owners clearing their precious doorways, customers with wallets relentlessly prioritized over these troublesome urchins.

And second, it's even easier to bond with the youth themselves. For all their outward bravado and feral smarts, street kids are still kids, and once they trust you, their loyalty is fierce, as it must be in return if we were to be effective. For they have first survived and often been further hurt by a system that regularly ignores their specific needs, or that judges them unfairly, or that contains workers who once genuinely believed in "helping others" now turned cynical by a job that shackles them to a desk and forces them to fill out endless forms largely designed to protect their supervisors from lawsuits.

So when—as happened in my final year in the job—you lose two boys and one girl, all to some dire yet sly breed of violence, you tend to take it badly. And when the system is so broken that I am double-teamed by my own supervisor and a child protection worker and instructed to ignore a local 13-year-old girl—who is right now claiming physical and sexual abuse in another city—for the sole reason that she is now in an adjoining province and therefore no longer "our problem"; while that same week I'm thwarted by numerous drug rehab centres—after an 18-year-old girl finally relents and asks for help for her crack habit—on the grounds that she is too old for the youth facilities and yet won't qualify for the adult detox centres, it can all come to a head very quickly and very starkly. So when that third child, a 14-year-old girl this time, was found hanging in her basement by her 10 year-old brother, I simply walked away. Ostensibly a medical/stress leave, but I knew I wouldn't be going back.

Now, I'm not saying this was entirely the work. There was some stuff of my own I'd been carrying for far too long and which needed lancing before it ended up seriously ruining me—and that's not hyperbole—stuff that would take at least another decade to work through, but basically, I had begun a career which was not sustainable over the long term, and unlike other acknowledged high-stress occupations, there would be no twenty-year pension for me. No gold watch. No one to recall your deeds, heroic or otherwise. Nobody quite spells out to you at the beginning of all this heartache how truly corrosive to your happiness this work can be. No one mentions the eleven-year-old daughter of newly arrived Central American immigrants performing fellatio on a sick old man in the back of a local limousine. Or warns you about the fatal overdose in an alley on "Welfare Wednesday" that won't even make the local newspaper. Or prepares you for the rage of a twelve year old boy with a Christian cross seared into his torso from throat to navel by, presumably, some glowing and righteous cigarettes.

So, now we're at the point where I realised that world was gone from me, perhaps forever. A couple of confirmations by mental health types that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and clinical depression (wonderful how they always like to hit you with two diagnoses, as if you're not reeling enough) later, and I entered 2001 on antidepressants. Which explains why I felt nothing and to this day remember almost as little of the first half of that year. I think I hiked in the mountains a lot.

It was some time during the summer that the idea of the road trip occurred to me. It became an idea I couldn't shake, and the combination of an understanding family and conveniently located friends along the potential route from near Vancouver, BC to New York City, made it not only possible but feasible. Late August, and a thought appeared unbidden: "I want to leave on a Tuesday". No idea why now. Could be it was the day my Employment Insurance cheque arrived. But however I arrived at it, "Road Trip" was entered on the calendar next to Tuesday, September 11, and I waited.

Monday, September 10, 2001: My bags were packed: camping gear, cassette tapes (yes, my '91 Civic only had a tape deck), clothes to last a few weeks. The drive itself would take at least a week each way unless I drove like something being pursued—not out of the question given the odd fluttery feelings drifting through me like eels through kelp, that might well have been me trying to wean myself from the Celexa—but I would also want to explore as much of New York City as I could, having never visited before. So I was estimating at least three weeks, perhaps as much as a month.

Which brings us to where the story begins. The story in my book. Perhaps many other stories. Those harrowing moments everyone can recall with pinpoint accuracy. For us, it went like this: I woke very early to a beautiful clear dawn. My partner told me something strange was happening, and a certain tone in her voice made me sit up and pay attention. I heard something on the radio that turned out to be inaccurate: "Up to nine planes are currently unaccounted for." We turned on the TV and watched the second plane hit the South Tower. Shortly after, we saw jumpers. I don't think the news people even knew what they were showing at first. We watched the buildings fall. We walked our son to his elementary school. I said "I can't go on my road trip." My partner said "first, find out how your friend in New York is doing". Nobody could phone New York. But I found him online. He said "everyone is leaving, it feels like a war zone. If you can, please still visit." I talked to my partner and watched the TV all day, the appalling endless loop. My son came home from school. I talked to my family and they were okay with me going. In the immediate future, at least, the United States border was closed, so Winnipeg became my new destination. I left late afternoon and barely even recall the eight hour drive that found me in Canmore, Alberta by midnight.

I know this was a familiar media refrain, but it felt like everything had utterly and irrevocably changed and would never go back to what it had been. And that the potential for that to be a good thing hung in the deceptively still Rocky Mountain air that night the world inhaled and awaited its next breath.

So, the kinship of which I speak? It's us. Ours. To make of it what we will.

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.