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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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Entries in Abuse (2)

Friday
Mar102017

Back Story in Green

“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

***

You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally. 

I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own. 

Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind. 

The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos. 

Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left. 

Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock. 

Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need. 

***

When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life. 

*

Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian

Friday
May272016

One Act Play

What had possessed her to do this she couldn't have said. Alone. Out of shape. And in deep winter. By the time she'd made it up to the cabin—quads, calves, and lower back muscles trembling with fury at her impromptu masochism, heels sanded raw by her ancient hiking shoes, her every breath a vast torment—much of the light had gone from the sky and the cedars were ink-black against a layered gray backdrop of mountain ranges and thick cloud.

There'd been snow at the trailhead, so no surprise to see more of it here, almost two hours' near-vertical hike later, burdening the branches and drifted like cold-bleached dunes against the walls of the cabin. She shivered and dug in her pack for a spare fleece. At least she would likely be alone, no partying hikers to interrupt her monastic night.

No sooner had she formed that thought than a sound reached her, startling in the silence: the crisp snap of twigs, something moving in the trees.

Bear? Cougar, even? It was a hot and a cold thought, both, and her skin a crawling electric skein, she backed toward the cabin.

***

"Just one night's all I'm asking." She kept her face still.

"Okay. Fuck. So we get used to one night, then you sneak out for another 'just one night,' some point after. So what then? It's a slippery fuckin' slope, ain't it? Plus, how do I know you're gonna go where you say you're gonna go, even now? Huh?"

"Because it's true."

"True like what? Like Area 51? Like Sandy Hook? Like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"

"Nah, true like truth. Like love."

"Oh, what a pleasant little poet you turned out to be. What a lovely, perfect, dreamy little cunt. Please, tell me more!"

"Hon, you're scaring me."

"I'm scaring you? Bitch, you don't even know what fear is. Get ready, though."

She could never anticipate the exact moments; she was doomed to parsing tendencies, which neither flashed on the immediate nor lit on the specific. His right hand, with its cracked and knobby joints and its futile zirconian angles, hovered like a distant thunderhead until it was suddenly upon her, catching her square in its cyclone drama, plying its special breed of junkyard mean. The inked knuckles, left to right, fist-forward: T-R-U-E G-U-T-S. Though P-U-R-E R-A-G-E would probably have been more truthful.

Either way, she might not have known precisely what it meant, or its specific ETA, but she damn well knew exactly how it felt.

***

She backed up the four wooden steps into the doorway, ready to slam and bolt it against whatever moved out there. The last light draining from the world. All breathing suspended everywhere. The mountain itself seeming vast and hollow, as if its fragile crust might fracture and pitch everything into some unthinkable chasm beneath. As if the earth itself was nothing, a dewdrop, a snowdrop, quivering, an unanswered echo in the interstellar dark. As if catastrophe didn't matter, on a scale she could never quite absorb or countenance.

Gracile as a new doe, a girl emerged from the blackness between the trees.

An anime shock of corvid hair, fuchsia Hello Kitty T-shirt, powder blue shorts, and colorless flip-flops.

An impossible girl.

"What the—?" She went to her and draped her fleece over the youngster's angular shoulders and ushered her into the rude one-room wooden structure that had served so many wanderers before them. "Girl, let's get you inside, you'll catch your death."

***

He didn't look right. His face was off, askew, as if the bones had been shattered in some terrible conflict and he had covered the devastation with synthetic skin.

"You think freedom will make you a better wife?"

She didn't want to answer, since a trap lay in either response.

"Well?"

"No idea." She hated herself for vacillating, but his knuckles had grown in her mind, and were now made of adamantium, and he was named Logan, and she was fucked if he decided on violence.

"You're trying my patience."

"I'm sorry."

"You really fucking will be."

***

After she stopped trembling, she said her name was Christy and that she remembered being chased in a dream by a police car with no driver and had found herself wandering here, near the top of the peak. Her clothing made it clear she couldn't possibly have hiked the steep trail, yet here she was, and the likelihood of her stumbling on the cabin a moment before nightfall was equally absurd. Yet here she was.

"Christy, I have some food and there are sleeping bags and camping foamies, so let's settle here for the night and hope tomorrow isn't bad weather."

"You got any booze?"

"Um, no, maybe. Why?"

"Why'd you think?"

"You're way too young."

"Oh, please, grandma."

"Okay, whatever, but please get warm first, okay?"

"Deal." 

"How old are you, anyway?"

"Sixteen."

She cracked a twenty-six of Silent Sam, took a long pull, and passed it to the girl, who'd huddled inside a sleeping bag that reeked of mold.

"Wasn't excepting company, so I left my tumblers at home."

She found a hatchet and some cedar that she could split into kindling and some newspaper that wasn't too damp, and she began a fire in the tiny woodstove, smiling when she spied a small stack of stove length birch logs. She felt the girl's eyes on her as she worked.

"You don't mind me asking, why ain't you at home, anyway?" Christy said. "It's a cold night and vodka martinis and Game of Thrones and a cozy fireplace gotta be better than this lonesome place, no?"

"Maybe I needed lonesome."

"Yeah, but why?"

"Hey." She squinted at the girl, trying to get the measure of her. "Does it matter?"

"I'm guessing your guy ain't the gentlest."

"What would you know about that?" As soon as she asked, she noticed the girl's shadowy bruises in the yellow lantern light. Near her neck, on her upper arms.

"Since you asked, I lost my momma when I was real young, and my daddy brung me up, and he was fine at first, even though he was sad. Then he met my step-momma and she was mean and he did nothing to stop her, and when I tried to tell him, he started drinking more and ended up matching her for meanness." She coughed out a laugh, but her gaze was downward and distant. "A story so familiar I got it fully memorized."

"They hurt you?"

"Every way you can prolly imagine." She made eye contact and reached for the bottle.

"Well, I'm sorry for you. And for me. We make a fine pair of sorry strays, don't we?"

"We don't have to."

"Don't have to what?"

"Act like strays. Victims. We can stand up."

"Yeah, if this was a story we'd ride back into town on a white charger and confront our tormentors. Except it isn't a story."

"What if we acted like it was?"

She decided she liked this Christy chick, and they ate crackers and cheese and talked long after the vodka was gone, long into the silence of the night and eventually, like the snow outside, she let herself drift against the wall of the cabin and slept the tentative sleep of the cautiously hopeful.

Dreamed of a riderless bone-white charger and righteous hooves crushing tattooed fists.

When the eastern light began to limn the milky layer of mist in the valley below, she awoke with a start to the keen absence of her new friend in the cabin; newly certain of her solitude, she stepped from the spider gloom into the sharp, icy hush of the fledgling day to feel its cold bright power and to see if Christy had done likewise. She took in everything at once, and her breath caught on the edge of a sudden question, one that led to another, each more chilling. Since there had been no fresh snow in the night, why was there only a single set of footprints leading to the cabin door? And why was she afraid to check the pattern of the soles?