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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 apocalypse (18)

Saturday
Feb092019

Are You Queen Of Heaven?

This is a new thing we tried to learn.

We dreamed a whole summer away.

My cousins walked alongside the ledge.

When we were young we laughed and believed.

Now so many are gone we balk and flinch.

Sparrows amass in the charcoal margins.

The rest of us don't hardly ever blink. 

A cab came by, and I damn well flagged it.

No matter. No sense. I think I also floored it.

***

Grieve next time, but this time roll with it.

What's the word they use? Dissociation?

Don't you dare feel sorry for me. Okay? What happened to me happens to thousands of kids, maybe more. No. I want you to focus on the good parts of a bad tale.

I'm a grown man now, of course. This is a life I didn't choose but found. And it's really not so bad. 

Right? Do you remember? Since you were there too?

***

Easy words, not such easy thoughts. I don't even know if they noticed me as they pulled the car from the rocks, dripping like a murder weapon, and I stood on the road above, squinting into the decaying honey of a late August day.  

Chewing on human evil.

***

"You know they never found him?"

"Course."

"They found his car. Some of his DNA in the wreck. But no body."

"What else they find?"

"Someone else had been in the car too."

"Who? Whose?"

"No one anyone knows."

***

Yet.

***

Hail this tarnished Mary. If this is it, if this is the moment I die, I accept it. 

Pain is unconscionable, but love is paramount. My entire left side is ruinous, yet my ears and heart are eerily specific, hearing on a loop the empyrean throat of Isabel Bayrakdarian as she dreams Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 anew, while rains fall like dreary curtains on a sodden carpet. 

***

At the hour of my death, a dog came out of the dark woods. Now talk to me. Own me. Anagrams are loco. Keep on listening. Anagrams lure, okay. 

Stupid, goofball, elusive, this damnable struggle wants so badly to be told. 

***

Striding into the bar filled with the spirit of Dorothy Parker, I fell in actual love. She was a hiccup draped in ticklish grey at the very end of a smeared warmth.

***

The black dog insinuated himself into our family and moved with us to the cabin built of wood that hunkered in the shadows of giant firs. When we had visitors he vetted them, growling like unfathomable sonar at two men who tried to cross our threshold. Mostly he wagged his stiff tail like an emotional rudder that ached to proclaim happiness. Yet he was never fooled. And we chased those particular men away with the assuredness, the quiet promise of violence, the unspoken quenching of some awful complex thirst.

In the endless gnomic bar of Dorothy Parker.

***

These colors. So subdued yet so attendant. I'm unleashed into the street, and alert I bounce then thrust my feet atop the running board and launch into the seat. Then I drive. I am a woman, driving. In the nineteen forties. Away from a massacre.

***

Darting on and off I-5 an hour south of the Canadian border, Koma Kulshan's dusky peak implacable beyond. Dream our common place in this commonplace place. Here I knew a woman with a mouth like yours. Exceptional. Magnetic. Even her brows were freighted with meaning. I drove on and off the interstate like a firefly, headlights lighting each lost tendril I stumbled upon, blunt visions of Econolodge and myriad locations more faceless yet. A kaleidoscope of bleary shelters, arranged hierarchical, like pantheons of gods, sacred and senseless, screamed from the overlooked backdrop.

***

It's a silent avalanche patient atop some empty peak.

This thing started toward me the moment I was born. Something sleek and inaugurated by my own insensate launch. It's coming fast, like teeth. Cold, exposed, like beholden jaws. 

Starved. Indebted. Imminent. Adamant.

***

You. No other. Please tell me the same. Please.

O enchantress, O my dreadful queen of desolation, did you ever hold on as tightly again as you held on to me? What yet squirms in the folds of your recall? Who will have the wherewithal to abridge this appalling tale? Will anyone? Where is the dog from the woods when we need him? Where is Ms. Parker? Love, life, music as sung by a child? The wind wrapping scarves of mist around skeletal branches? The cavernous indictment of silence where birds and insects once chirped? Where has it all gone? Where have you all gone? And where indeed am I? 

Friday
Jan182019

Aches to Emerge

Here, where the forest unfurls like a rug almost to the rose-gold beach, is where it all started. Where the eagle cries amid cobalt thermals like something abandoned. Forgone yet freed.

"You're a warrior. But are you my warrior?"

"Who's asking?"

The sky crackles like a death-throe radio. Old limbs dislocate at the first hesitant storm. Something in the trees aches to emerge. Don't let it. Please don't fucking let it.

Caffeine is masculine; tannin feminine. The latter leaves less residue, less darkness on the tongue, is cleaner. 

I am a man, so I wake and make coffee, and Annalise smiles at me, still partway gripped by her dreamworld. 

"I'm glad you came back," she says.

Rather than answer I take great pelican gulps of my coffee though it's too hot and I know my tongue will pain me for days.

Birdland is our purgatory. 

Neglect the equivalent of abuse. Indifference as keen a weapon as hate.

Please don't tell me about your dream, I think.

Against the window a ruby-throated hummingbird flits its quantum dance. There. Not there. Vertical. Tiny needle aloft. There again. Not there. Someplace else in an instant. The only clue to its trickery the vague blur at its shimmering sides. If this is the Matrix, hummingbirds are its emissaries.

Once looked at, a bird; unseen, some other thing.

"We should hang more nectar."

I can't recall later which of us said that. Since kindness was its source, I like to think it was me, but I'm likely wrong in my usual random way. I don’t know about yours, but in my universe God indeed plays dice.

Someone knocks at our door, and I'm startled out of something beyond the mere moment; it's as if I'm flipped from one dark tale into another, if not darker then less knowable. 

A tight voice from outside, a sexless shadow beyond the sheer curtain and frosted glass. "I know you're home."

Unbreathing, we out-wait the interloper, and after a while I go out back and drowned in the bloody dripping yolk of a sunset kick a deflated soccer ball against the darkening house, over and over, again and again, volleys and half-volleys, inside of the foot unswerving passes, outside skewed bananas, until I'm filled with hubris and start to juggle it unselfconsciously, a possessed marionette, soon surpassing my own record of fifty and finally overdoing it around seventy-five and dropping it in the talcum-fine dirt at eighty-one. Incensed I didn't make a hundred. While the cowl of night drapes all, scowling, indifferent.

"Come inside. I made dinner," she calls. "The eagle has left."

This wasn't supposed to happen. Not like this. The hummingbirds are absent, and I go inside to eat. 

Her tender care is like a razor, and I am her strop.

"The neighbours have gone, I think," Annalise says over dinner. She has made a perfect pho with nut-rich fungus and something dark as green can be.

"I only want to eat," I say ungratefully, and think for a moment I might be a bad man.

"Then eat," she says. 

Silence should follow, but it doesn't. Slurping and sighing follow.

Then, as if on cue, breaking news on CNN violates our intimacy to inform us of possible terror attacks in a scattering of cities. Confusion and mayhem, panicked crowds, global howls.

We look across a clean marble surface into each other's eyes. I think I reach for her hands first, but it honestly doesn't matter.

Fingers knitted, we talk. About what we'd ask for if granted three wishes (I insist we should ask for infinite wishes; she thinks that's finagling). About the long chalk ghostlike faces near Dover, England. About the skeletal grip of someone dying. About the faultless imploring eyes of children fighting cancer. About this amazing thing: do we love our pets in ways we don't love each other? Is that question even framed right? How honest can we be? Do we privilege our antic species at every juncture? Even when we're genociding? Is MAGAlomaniac a word? If not, should it be? Can dreams come literally true? Even if they feature Nazi dryads giving blissful head to supine unicorns? Even if they narrate our appalling triumphs? Even if they highlight our equally shabby fiascos?

What gears have slipped so badly in the machinery of the world that all this is the upshot?

I say to her, "We should head inland."

"I'll go pack some stuff," she says. Her brimful ass, swaying as she climbs the staircase, is the best thing I've ever seen.

While I wait, a shadow returns and looms at the door. It hefts something heavy in its hand. It weighs at least fifty hummingbirds, probably more, and part of me knows we almost made it.

(The thing in the trees parts the curtains. It's like unspeakable sex.)

And almost is another word for heartbreak.

Friday
Jun152018

Consolable

"A screaming comes across the sky." — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

He stopped because he thought that's what you did. She kept going for the very same reason.

The street had become a sluggish blur to both of them; each had eyes for the other only. Each felt only heart pain as the clasp of their hands loosened and was parted.

All sounds were muted: the clang of a streetcar a cracked bell; muffled sidewalk murmurs; the soft rustle of pigeon wings.

His mouth formed an O gape as he tried to call her back, tell her no; hers was a downcast wound as she silently implored him to keep up.

No matter.

Everything uncoupled and inconsolable. Sometimes this is how it ends.


***

She walked here on this earth, and she lived among the stars beyond her ancestors. If you had seen her liquid emerald eyes, folded with molten gold, you would have stood in one place forever, unable to move with the sorrowing weight of her grief and the burden of her arcane glamour. She will never return to this place, and her absence will prove calamitous.

Lovetar, Kali, Menhit, Lamia, Scylla and Charybdis, in your passing all colour fades, all song has fallen mute on brittle ears. We beseech you. Pain is a dance and truth is also a place. Come back to us. Even as the bay doors open, even as the poison seeds fall, even at the moment of our eradication.


***

Here we are in the violet night, spilling from our front doors, tumbling down our steps, hurtling into a riotous haze of utter disbelief.


***

She called herself Glass because most everyone looked through her and she was easily shattered. She had a single tattoo on her midriff, of an open window.

Between her skinny legs Montgomery breathed easy, safe and partway warm on concrete paving in his cocoon of threadbare denim. Government Street in April.

"Is your dog friendly?" A woman, thirtysomething.

"Monty. Sure," said Glass.

The woman reached to pet him, and Glass didn't breathe. Monty glanced at her and decided it was okay and extended his disheveled neck for a scratch, and then Glass breathed.

"I see you every day, and every day I think I should speak to you." The woman obliged Monty, who smiled, his pink tongue draped on his teeth, somewhere between solid and liquid. Glass said nothing, though she recalled the woman from the beauty salon a block or two away.

A man across the street yelled something over the early traffic. He sounded hoarse and weary.

"Look. It's not right you should have to lie on this sidewalk while folks no better than you drive by in luxury."

"Someone's gotta do it. May as well be me."

The woman sighed and stared at her. Glass wished she'd stop. She felt like she was transparent again and the woman was staring holes in the sidewalk. There was a silence that stretched too long.

"What do you want from me, lady? How about you give me a couple loonies and go on with your day?"

"I'll give you more than a couple loonies if you come help me clean up the salon."

Glass squinted up at her. The sun had moved higher, and the woman was a dark grey construction paper cutout. Glass thought she heard a herring gull cry, "Beware!" Monty made his teakettle sound of unease.

"Don't know nothing about beauty," she finally said, and a word came into her thoughts: exfoliate. Sounded like something to do with horse abortions. Yet it sounded pretty too. That's what was so weird about the world, pretty hiding inside all that ugly.

Across the street, the man yelled again, and Monty barked, once. This time, Glass heard the words.

"They did it. It's fucking happening!" There had been fear and astonishment in those words. And in Monty's short bark, there was a world of companionship and love and a lifetime of cold huddled nights and all the withstood scorn of passing strangers and the words oh please no oh please.

The pretty woman looked up, and she was a puzzled lens that concentrated the white and terrible sun as it fell toward each and everyone equally, the kind and the cruel.

None stood a chance. Not grifters, not bankers, not pimps, not actors, not teachers, not lovers, not empathetic beauticians, not streetworn kids and their tousled, loveable dogs. Not even, especially not, the dreamers of dreams.


***

She walked out of the infirmary, dragged her damaged limbs over moorland, mists swirling like her jettisoned conscience, the sun a rusted coin, the vast quiet dome of the sky above the earth hushed as the fading notes of a requiem.

***

After the screaming, the awful woe, and then the blessed silence.

Friday
Mar162018

Each Snowflake and All the Snow

This Might Even Be a Poem

Grief falls like the gentlest of snow on the hedgerow. Shalista drives alongside.

Bye, Felicia, Calissa, Moesha, all her sisters in the rearview as she steers the rented Fiat (hired, they say) along an Irish backroad, wipers stiff and punctual as metronomes. Trombones in the tightest horn section.

Grief is each snowflake and all the snow. Tune the radio and listen to a man with a butterscotch voice recount atrocities. That there is our precise, our lurid century. 

Endless carmine-purple heads of fuchsia bowed beneath the steady weight of white. And that is not a metaphor. The shame of colour underneath a steel-grey sky, wishing for something else, wanting the comfort of some other, to find some way to hide.

You are camphor, an aroma, a bitter blessing offered by a wraith.

Find a place to sleep. Some quiet B&B. An old barracks. Banagher, Ballincollig, Bantry Bay. Where no bad things happen, no boys playing football in a sunshower field in June are murdered for wearing the colours of the enemy. No one is raped or robbed of breath by power. Of agency bereft. You, my dark and blessèd swan, are an American woman. You too have ancestry. Some things you may never discover. But most you surely will. Welcome, Shalista. Welcome, love. Tread tenderly. Listen. 

Look at your amazing things.

***

She's heard all the names a million times. The ones aimed at her heart. The casual ones half-barked in passing that once in a while still stop her in her tracks. Words for her race. Her gender. Pitiful slingshots of the boilerplate bigot. At times she wonders if this world's some godawful dream, created on some steamy bayou, sweated by some reeking white man while he rakes his humid ballsack with yellowing fingernails. 

Then there was that moment she found a cousin on the internet and almost thought she might escape.

Ireland. Where black ain't black and white ain't white, and everything is forty shades of emerald.

To Eire is human. The map of our journey is traced in random fibres, some of them divine. 

***

She pulls into the car park of a pub, Róisín Dubh. The gravel under her tires is frost giants crunching ice. All is cold as a witch's hole in January, her breath as she steps from the rental the traceried ghost of the world's tree. However dark our skin our bones and breath are white. This Celtic place, these Nordic tales. All our tormented, discordant ancestry. 

What a woman does is know her kin.

***

They take you in. Things quickly fall apart, grow terrible.

"Shalista, love, just eat your food."

"Ain't ever ate no horse, but I already know I hate it."

"It's not horse, my girl, it's liver."

"The hell? Meet mother Africa, bitch-ass fool."

The melting snow uncovers something worse.

Your eyes peeled and your ears on twitch.

Radar, antennas, the very edge of the apocalypse. 

You or they won't easily or ever forget this.

 

Friday
Jan122018

Openings

I knew I was going to kill him the moment he walked into my kitchen.

 ***

"Is it weird for you?"

"Is what weird?"

"That your abductor loves you more than anyone else in your life?"

"It isn't so strong. She has Gothenburg Syndrome."

"Ha."

The echo: I stand and face the waterfront and behold the absence of gulls and ponder the silent lapping of tethered boats, until a siren blares like the sudden shout of Satan, and not a single one of us has any inkling what comes next, as we dim with a fallen sun, pay endless respects to the spasming of a planet contemplating its own eradication.

***

It's a castle. The whole place is a castle. Music blares from speakers strung along its ramparts. "Lullaby," by Low. Turn it up. Place the speakers strategically. Untangle the fallout harmonies, adopt a male stance to blare, take a neutral line, assume a female posture to hear. The way of a world, probably our world, but not of all worlds.

I fell apart in Sacramento. Victim of those shibboleths. If my mercy overwhelms my wrath, this brass, your American face is bleeding, your underbite ascribed, your downturned mouth some emblem of your endless loss. Make the call quickly, and choose northward.

He walked into my kitchen. We were reduced. Me, my sister, my two brothers, and a cousin. They were sleeping. Here was I. There was he, and my eyes slid left to avoid seeing something appalling.

***

Want to meet love halfway? Simple. Add "my huckleberry friend" to everything you say. You will be inconsolable.

***

Across from us, wan dishrags of cloud drag across the tops of the dense conifers; ahead of us the road.

Oh god, that road. Oh god, that road. An unspooling charcoal ribbon curling between our splayed legs and the endless banks of trees.

***

An arrow into an abyss. It's hectic, corrosive, you pull into a federal monument.

Ten islands, four pumps each. Forty gasoline teats awaiting our unquenchable thirst. Outside just desert, a monotone of beige and fawn, of sands and scrub. This is where the action's at: microwaved hoagies and bitter scalding coffee.

Remember Scandella? The investigator? You thought of him as a good man, some kinda sleuth. And maybe that's right. But did it occur to you he mighta bin a she? Private dick, my irreverent ass.

Hunkered down, we hunch our impudent shoulders, lower our frozen gaze. The winds howl and whistle, keep on howling and whistling, and a fleet of corvids raids the back side of the ridge, dive-bombs this place, mocks this shelter, and we laugh, somehow vindicated.

***

Squeeze your eyes tight and let the tears fall; we can all see the humanity wrung from your dried apple face.

***

We fell through the long slow cracks. Made our way to minimum security. 

Carnock told us an ice storm was coming, so that night we took our chance during the first outage. 

A lurking, sporadic gale, teasing the world with sly offers of sanctuary. There's this moment when we both think we're free. Under scudding clouds of burnt umber traversing an orange night, a full quarter of the sky to the east flares sudden electric blue. Once. Twice. Transformers blown. Again. Four times. Her and me, we grab each other's hands as if the violence of the night might sunder us. Gaze at the antic incendiary sky. Then jack a Dodge pickup already warmed and readied by its hapless owner.

The roads are the shameful aftermath of genocidal lumber wars: miles of scattered limbs and even entire torsos of cedar and hemlock, fir and spruce, death-gripped by the cold embrace of their mutual hissing antagonist: the freezing rain. It paints you over many hours in layers of ice until its cumulate weight takes you down. All around, limbs groan and fracture, detonating, falling muffled and unmourned. Power line viscera curled every which way. We pick our careful course between these hazards, see orange lights in all directions flashing road closure warnings. Orange until they're suddenly red and blue and there's no escaping any of this. No way out. Now that's some rich and lavish fucking irony, right there.

***

Don't pay me any mind. No, wait. Blame my sorry ass for everything. You will anyway.