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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 America (8)

Saturday
May112019

Lonely Comin' Down

Do you know pain? Do you know where to find it? Follow the hoofbeats on dry grasses. Follow the sun's arc.

On the day he became a man, he found her drenched in blood and viscera, the cavernous wound across her midriff a silent, dripping howl at the world's indifference, and she told him they'd cut her baby out and macheted it in two. He asked why they'd spared her, and she couldn't tell him. After he sutured her together again, her body at least, she cried for days, and a small part of that was the hard blunt urge of her engorged breasts, the desperate milk of which she convinced him to suck. Not as a sexual act, she insisted, but a pragmatic one. He meant to agree, and on one level he surely did, but soon the daily ritual of her motherhood expressed into his acclimatizing mouth was quite literally a sweet arousal. She was almost twice his age. 

Thus was their baffling and atypical bond established.

But one day they had to leave the shack and join the convulsing world so maddened in its throes. 

The throng of bison boiled across the plains like darkening suds. 

Blinking, stumbling, sometimes gasping, the man and the woman followed their simmering decadeslong passage into an evensong. Then reached the silver shimmer of the coastal sweep, frail as eggshell.

We think we're lonely. Want to know what lonely is? We think it's when someone won't hear us, when our words fall dry on quieted plains. Yeah, it's that. We think it's when we're misunderstood, misconstrued. Sure. It's also that. We think it's when we've suffered shame in public, been abandoned, no ally in sight. Yeah, it's that too. We think it's when we're strung from a tree and spit on, without a friend in close. Uh-huh. That too. We think it's the whistleblower's fear, the revolutionary's grail, the dissident's rage, all quelled by tyrant malice and worse, the silent savagery of indifference. Which it surely is. We think it the panic of doom in the great brimming eye of the wounded straggler as the zealous pride closes in. The shear of the desert hawk oblique to the hot wind. The last distraught arrival at the site, ribcage like bellows, as the final liftoff launches forlorn above. The lone white bear lurching on the only unmelted floe. The last bee spiralling clumsily down like our double-helix undone. All of which it is. But when I say lonely, I mean the impossible and pitiless interim between the brief age of life and the eventual relentless stretch of each atom and its subatomic parts into an unimaginably vast abyssal chasm spanning the entirety of what is and what will ever be, space itself expanding to a point that light can no longer be shared between points, so all the particles ever created drift alone and unencountered, no hope of warmth, or hope of even a glimmer of a friend, no hope of anything, no hope even of hope. Not the end, but the end of end, the loveless eternal void, the almost-nothing cruel enough to not quite ever be fully nothing. 

The pair, hollowed out and Oedipal, stand like stormstruck trees at the cliff edge and watch the vexed and undead ocean heave with blind grey malevolence, with lunacy, as one by one the stars are doused, all light and tide withdraws, the last things seen on this or any other world two scorched and doting human hands entwined, love's final say. 

Friday
Jun082018

Crime Watch

It's always windy now; there's never any peace. They tell me the local wolves are returning. I say good. That's good. Find the dens. Go ahead with your goddamned crimes.

Since words are such distant cousins and not the only language we know, I doubt that words themselves will suffice for the telling of this tale, but let's try.

Where did I come from? I cannot even know. I woke on a trail favoured by green. Why do we highlight the fox, the bat, the buffalo? I feel her palm settle over my wrist, and we bow beneath the wax-green arbor. We are stitched into the tapestry absent our consent.

In case you missed it, I repeat: our assent means nothing to the world.

An old woman watching the haze coughed up by the eventide. I used to sit here and watch whales. I haven't seen a whale in twenty years. The ocean itself is a heaving grey behemoth with cloudy eyes, redolent of slate. Imagine wet dust.

My name is Millie Trench. This was my home for three score years. You think your avarice enables you to up and lay a hand on it? Let's talk about that greed. We've grown accustomed to it, and you've grown used to exercising it in the service of politics that sound more like faith.

You overreached. We all did.

We pranked our friends but never copped to it. We ran through evening streets convincing ourselves we'd seen a visitation. A spindly future in a window. A light in the deepening dark above the rooftops. And we ran, alive in our fabricated terror, lungs swelling our ribcage nobility, skinny thighs pistoning the liquid cylinders of our adolescent hips. We were mercury, platinum, and we ran until our terror became real. 

Entire lifetimes have gone by since then.

We never imagined the coming brittleness, the years of compromised ligaments, of tendons stretched beyond their elastic bounds, of creaking bones or the quiet unearthly skies.

***

I know you'll come and cry with me if I ask. I don't like to impose. My heart purrs inside a hummingbird, fluttering as my host drinks crimson nectar from a feeder. My genitals are something else. You really need to witness them, but I won't insist. (I might no longer be human.) We slip inside and rest against the ink-black geometry of panels. Pen and ink on rough-scratch sketchpad partial to yellowing. Let me draw you. Your lines inspire me. Your fervent mortal heft. Pull off the interstate, Bridie, let's take stock of this and make some visual music if we have an hour or so to try.

A raven lives in the tower and laughs. She is the plainclothes inquisitor dripping warm song on all of us. When we forge such camouflaged tunes and try to hide our hungry robes, it's like listening to the thirst of birds.

Open the door. It's a rundown bar not far from the coast where few now bother to attend. Maybe it's a gentle church of liquor and gambling losses, where a thinning congregation no longer dreams of anything like redemption. Their prayers are holes and loss. They hope only to escape cruelty.

I found my way this night to Millie Trench, and she gives me that nod old people know is better than some document or paper. (Old folk are the only whites conversant with that nod.)

We sit silent before the silent sea. Now and again, a man up the beach laughs amicably, a sugar grain cascade. 

Where are all the gulls?

All she needs, my dusty compatriot, is her one last friend to reaffirm some normal standard of American life. Even fake it if I have to. Barbecues, beaches, campfires, places we watch out for bears. Lights streaking in solstice skies. A dream of an eternal park in eternal dusk starlit by fireflies, and the laughter of children singing like a secret creek.

A horse fly, solid and glinting blackish and distracted by its mission creep, bothers the shore lurkers, hoping to drive them into panicked mea culpas, circling their dim crimeheads like a winged and sable pecan as they rear and flap, preening and twitching without hope of exoneration. There's Jodi in Walmart with her gas cans, the hurtling bespattered basement steps, the gunshots into the crowded van, sex zombies, plaster casts, child pageants, lies, race, sex, even hope. 

My mind uncouples, forgets itself. Bring them through the prize draw routes, lottery types and winning hands, clear passages now suited to the epic ruins of the day. I would like to find the corpse of a champion and unearth a feeble decoder, witness the death throes of loyalty. Spinning it all circular. 

Are we enthralled? From which side of the bay do we look? I live to suck out every thread, each loose end, and give it if not its name at least some character, a man who polishes combat boots using only green and now this lightest brown. It's a start, pale though it is. 

I wanted to have the last word with all of them and gesture as they approached, as he and his friends whooped and hollered, yelling and high-fiving my people, promising to haul each other up and out. I never knew his name. Was he the man who laughed? Could he have been the wolf? Things will be elided here, redacted and stashed away, quite possibly forever.

Friday
Mar032017

Some Dire Indian

Stillness. A lime-green-and-cream fifties model Buick by a lake. Backdropped by a silent bank of conifers, half-lit by a quarter moon. A woman in a headscarf stepping gracefully into a boat. A shadow man taking her hand.

You think you know what's happening here? Well, you don't. 

Back then, we summoned from nothing the possible. We dreamed up heists in our methamphetamine haze and enacted them. Constantly amazed they worked. Purloined heat from frigid matrons. Took what was undoubtedly ours. Dropped slack dumbass bodies into lakes. 

Once, we stopped in the desert, a trunkful of bills, stopped and took off hurtling like gazelles. She was a vision. Her flower print dress clinging to her damp curves, riding high, her thigh sweat like raindrops lashing from a clothesline as she pistoned across the scrub, heedless of snake or cactus or ankle-trap burrow. My crazy mother. High-strung, they said, betraying both their bloodlust and their envy. 

"This isn't the place," I said, once I found my breath.

"Sure it's the place."

"You will get us caught."

"Stop worrying, my sweet, sweet boy. Life is so short. None of this matters. Dance with me here."

So I did. Under a splayed galactic sky, serenaded by the wild desert dogs, amid pinpoints of virescent treachery, I danced with my half-mad mother and felt her core try to scorch the fulsome night.

***

Another customer, another delayed minute before I can cash out and go home. 

We got ourselves a menagerie tonight. Three college boys celebrating somethin' I never figured out, a couple on the verge of breakup or proposal, ain't sure which, two women in them headscarves worn by A-rabs, a goddamned family of six here way past their kids' bedtime. Some dire Indian veteran alone at the bar. Two off-duty cops, a man and a woman (can always smell five-o). A black drifter, the one just came in. The one that spoke right after the bell above the door finished jingling.

"Better ignore me or shoot me, but I got a bad tale to relate." 

***

Here we are. No longer able to tell sadness from meanness. No longer caring to. It might even have mattered once. Remember that visit when you drove from your family's home and one of their tiny marmalade kittens had crawled unbeknownst into your wheel well? Bones no thicker than a quail's. How quickly and immediately it died, a smear on a swatch of the slow-turning world. Ten weeks' worth of wide-eyed warmth cooled in an instant. Yet even thwarted, life won't relent.

***

These eyes have watched a half century of things: melodrama, atrocities, gelato, acceptance, secrets, luminosity, triumph, toxins. No wonder they look weary, weighty as grey velvet curtains draped behind a crime scene.

Why not come to something new with curiosity instead of suspicion? You think jaded is a good look? Sure, have it your way. But only if dead is too. 

***

"Here's my tale. My momma was a good woman. Sure, all a y'all would say the same 'bout your mommas. But mine was 'specially good. Why? Simple. Because she held off a full invasion while being tormented, just to let her kids escape. Ten of us made it, including me ... obviously. Five of them died. Which is why I'm here."

I weren't impressed. Be the first to call myself impatient. "That's it? The whole tale? I cain't even do the doggone math."

"Hell, it ain't ended yet, girl. Open that door. Go take a look outside. You think there's the silent desert out there?"

"Well, sure ain't the Big Apple, if that's what you mean."

Can't explain this, but I wanted to smile right then, like I quit, like I was cryin' uncle, though it gets harder for your face to change as you age. Something about how the muscles lose their pliancy. And I ain't even old. But we all watched as the Indian, who maybe ain't ever smiled, not once, made his slow way to the door, opened it, shrugged, and disappeared into the night. And I mean disappeared. It wasn't just night out there; there was no "out there" out there. Pitch-black; an absence. Don't hardly have the words. Read it in a National Geographic once, about space: the heat death of everything. 

The drifter looked me dead in the eye and then everyone else in the diner: the frat boys, the sand niggers, the lovebirds, the breeders, the law. "Y'all ain't gonna like how this story goes, I'm afraid…"

***

"Quick, tell me a cliché."

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

"You need to listen to the right songs."

Words spit from the void. We leave our eventual faces as fossils half-gathered by beachcombers distracted by showers of glittering meteors. I loved you from the start, just came to say hello, but now I'm the brokenhearted. Dreaming of escape, pretending you're not a rat and this is no damn sewer. 

And for a second or two, it works.

You walk beneath the land bridge at the shore—a small and timid biped framed by an arch of granite and greenery, half-dreamed into reality by heartache and salt. 

Friday
Jan272017

Earthbound

That was the day I woke up tired. 

A sepia dream 'bout trains fading like a station abandoned.

"You okay, homeboy?"

"Nah."

"What's up?"

"Usual."

Didn't know it was possible to be so bone-worn drained. Didn't want to keep talking about it, though, so I grabbed a lukewarm coffee Estelle made earlier, poured some of that hazelnut creme shit all poor people seem to like better'n milk, and drank it in one, for the caffeine, the sugar, and nothin' else. Tasted like scorched ass with an undertone of litter tray. 

Got up to go.

"Where you goin'?"

"No place."

"Always a place."

Heard the trains still in my head, mourning each other, chasing each other's tails across the plains, through the Appalachians to the Rockies. Needy fucking earthbound dragons.

"Always a place."

"You be here later?"

"Yeah."

"Ever stop dreaming, black?"

"Prolly not. Listen. I tell you somethin'?"

"I know you will anyway."

"You funny girl. A'ight. When I sleep, I got this place. A city. Some old parts, some new. A old station. College kids. Antiques. Overpasses. Some kinda boat place—whatchoo call it?—a marina, that's it. Glitterin' in sunlight. Impressive fan of steps at the corner of a mall. East of downtown, a dark wooded place filled with wasps and nettles. Suburbs, vacation homes, a regular hood, weedy abandoned lots, you know?"

"For real?"

"Well, no, exact opposite of fucking real, matter of fact."

"A'ight. Sorry. Sounds kinda dope."

"Kinda is. Sometimes I can fly, like I'm watching from some drone, an' I fly north over downtown with its seawall glass, and northwest past the glittering waves and the boats, and over this island that feels like it's made outta moors or some kinda lowlands. All heather and weak fall colors, like a smile on a face that forgot itself."

"You always bin special wit' words, boo."

"Ain't like that."

"Sure it is."

Ain't fuckin' special. Ain't ever rode the short bus. I wanted to hurt her for just a part of a second, but it was enough to alert me to the badness inside-a me. Somethin' crawled from my left nostril and I swiped at it before she could see, and I saw it was black as crude. Thought at first it was old blood, but it was worse. Things're always worse. We gonna choke ourselves, ain't we? Ever ran a hunnerd-ton engine into a moose? Me neither, but I talked to a train man from Saskatchewan once, up in Canada someplace. Fuckers stand there like nothin' can take 'em out. Moose, I mean, not Canadians. Idea they can be killed by somethin' bigger than they is outside their wheelhouse, their motherfucking domain. But everthin' comes in mist form, even moose.

Know what? Before we found all that black shit in the earth—hard, soft, wet, grainy, cloudy, don't matter—we built all this on fuckin' whales. Ain't even lyin'. You think them whales thought they could be reduced to fuel, to lantern oil, to women's fucking corsets? Nah, dawg. They's the biggest things ever lived on this sweet dark earth, far's we know. Lucky for them enough of us still like 'em. Even more lucky for us this loco space-pinball had motherfuckin' whales, though, feel me?

Whatever. There's a kinda yearnin' the world won't get behind. As well as a kinda grief.

Friday
Jul082016

Only Points of Light

She was window shopping. Except she wasn't.

She seemed almost to glide down the wide street with its mid twentieth century storefronts and angled parking on both sides. You could almost imagine Gene Vincent blaring from one of those convertibles, though Chuck Berry might have been a bridge too far.

It was a small southern town preserved in amber.

Her gaze was downcast but occasionally flickered upward, from demure to shrewd in an instant. She was using the windows as mirrors, vigilant as a Serengeti ungulate. Somewhere in the great unfurled blanket of America her foes made headway, through fields of corn, along dusty back roads, cold and relentless in the mountain passes, their gait steady and their footfalls unbroken, their antennae quivering like seismic needles.

Eyes on the glass where her own reflection lay superimposed on a naked pink mannequin, she collided with someone. A kid.

"Whoa, sorry, ma'am," he said. A polite kid. Twelve or so.

"It's okay, son," she mumbled and went to pass him.

"You ain't from here, are you?"

"No, I ain't. But I must be going on my way, young man. Please let me by."

"I know about you. I hear the same sounds you do."

Her dark skin rippled with ice. Her scalp crawled with invisible ants. It felt to her as if she'd woken from a nightmare, only to find the neighbour was a Klansman while all the time she'd been wary of the parade of furtive strangers who passed her home. No, worse. She had no idea which one of those things was true.

***

They found the body of the young boy out in the desert. Shallow was too kind a word for the rudimentary grave. Facile would be more the truth. He had been strangled to death and before the authorities could perform their cleanup the turkey buzzards had dined on parts of him.

Only the coyotes had watched his killer dispose of him, and their stories that night danced with horror and glee, carried on a slight breeze to the ears of nearby farmers but never rendered into any human tongue.

***

There came the sound of distant marching from across the plain. Surefooted, purposeful. The sun had slid below the far off hills and the overhead blackness met the opalescence of an oyster sky through varying shades of blue. The evening was so still and quiet that the marching seemed amplified, as if a great army was striding at impossible speeds, a renegade army intent on something appalling, for when does an army ever intend otherwise?

***

"The arc of history makes this a momentous time. The predators just became prey and they will be more angry now, not less. They will place the blame on their prey. In the parlance of our times, they will double down. Be vigilant, my sisters and my brothers. Do not allow them to pervert the tale, as it's a tale of hard truth and deep pain like no other. Now go, and hear my words echo in your hearts as you walk the sorrowful roads of this vast land."

The people gathered in the park left in small groups. Something about the old man felt right. Some said he was a prophet. Some had yet wilder theories. Some scratched their heads and abandoned conjecture in favour of beer and music and the loving warm arms of their companions.

Only the stars and the fireflies knew for sure, and neither was telling.