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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 Carl Sagan (2)

Friday
Apr072017

"Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground"

Even if he'd been a small man he'd have been a big man. But he was a big man. I see him in his chair at the peeling formica table, on the right facing the tiny kitchen itself, slumped, in what some now call a wifebeater but then we simply called a vest—baggy trousers, cuffs rolled, braces over the tea-stained vest. White hair nicotine yellow, swept back. A soft pack of nonfilter Woodbines and a mug of sweet strong milky tea. Ten or fifteen bottles of prescription drugs ranked like soldiers in a defective war in which daily battalions are lined up at dawn to learn their fate.

England. Northwest. The nineteen sixties. The syncopation of passing trains.

I sit now on the long sandy reach listening to "Little Wing," blinking along, tapping my toes and fingers, stretching my neck to watch the disc of our galaxy wheel slowly across the night sky, that genial Stratocaster tone opening its throat and hungry for us all.

Oregon? BC? Baby, won't you change your mind?

This is the part where we are asked to feel shame. Where our therapists make their living.

"Baby, what's in your spice rack? Paprika's a given, but surprise me. Cloves. Ground nutmeg, sure. Dried sage and oregano. Chilli powder. Garlic. Cumin. Coriander. I need something radical, girl. Exotic."

"I got something radical. Stay with me."

A skinny girl in a tiny pleated skirt and motorcycle boots, nipples face-forward and plastered humid inside a plain white cotton tank top, eyes encased in kohl, earbuds pulsing Diplo and Flux Pavilion, waxy, harsh.

I'm two generations beyond, yet more thirsty for Cleopatra. 

And is this the part where I'm to beg you to love me?

Nah. Don't work that way. Been driving a good while, coming down from the mountains, heavy on the brakes as the road descends and sidewinders down to a quiet valley while the sun begins to drop behind the dry hills. The town is unremarkable. Its populace too. I pull over and walk the empty streets, meet almost no one. A one-eyed scarface dog, an old lady with recycled bottles inside transparent bags in a shopping cart. Meet me. Meet me. You won't ever meet me.

Quiet howls emerge from the draws that backdrop the town, each a distinct tone, a coyote symphony. Except it ain't coyotes; it's the outraged god-abandoned wind piping its raw heartbreak through ruined fissures in shafts that are no longer mined nor ever again will be. 

Back to the large man in the crumpled grey pants absorbing and agitating the fog of morning, charcoal and faded pink. His mind always working, his appetites arrayed, some clockwork set by ancients and left to unspool well into life and beyond. UFOs, wartime, an Italian-American tenor, a gaudy South Pacific theater, Antarctic sacrifice, an icebound German plane one bleak February that never got airborne, the awful melancholy of something unsinkable sinking. Melancholy hearted, he saw the eventual decline. Nodded quietly at fate. Checked out around the same time as Elvis, of whom he'd once said, "He'll never last." Nineteen seventy-seven. The jubilant year of Sam and Stevie, of Stormtroopers and fevered Saturdays, under a marquee moon. Stayin alive amid the rumoured death of a ladies' man in the decade's autumn.

I am fourteen or fifteen, a voyager, thumbing my tangled path away from pain. Close encounters on the littered edges of motorways while listening to "I Feel Love" on light cranial rotation and waving at "Johnny B. Goode" as it slingshots out of the solar system. Never minding the bollocks. Watching every last detective. And shedding a tear for Ronnie and Marc. Low. Animals. The Idiot. A Bat Outta motherfucking Hell. 

She emerges inchoate from the gloaming, haloed by dark motes like the ur-lights of some grim carnival. Hands me something warm and still dripping. Smiles like a tracheal gash.

"Eraserhead. Is that radical enough for you?"

Nightfall is upon us, with no place to sleep. 

Saturday
Apr282012

The Seed That Breaks

The Seed

It begins as something negligible. A seed. A flash of matter. A tiny dynamine. Iceblink Luck. But beware, and be aware; they are coming, and they’re utterly devoid of mercy. In fact, they’re already here.

Who could ever have guessed that a relatively obscure (yet tellingly influential) Scottish indie rock band from the ’80s and ’90s would accidentally encode future dispatches from an invading species? In spite of all that potential, we are such dull apes, sometimes; so lacking in nous; so classically focused on the solidly immediate while hopelessly oblivious to the emergently conceivable.

Elena McClelland was the first to articulate it without ambiguity. Hailing from the same town as the Cocteau Twins – Grangemouth, situated about 20 miles west of Edinburgh on the evocatively-named Firth of Forth – Elena was a very early fan of the band’s ethereal, layered ambience. She followed them throughout the early 1980s as they chiseled a distinctive and unique channel in the solid edifice of UK rock. Something about the crackling wrought-ice tension in Liz Fraser’s evocative vocals resonated with Elena’s own frozen childhood wounds… although she would never have dreamt of expressing it that way.

But never mind. Here we are. And damn, it hurts.

That Breaks You Open

I suppose it’s an honour that I will die in the company of the one person bright enough, careful enough, open enough, to recognise their awful threat. Elena came to me with an ember of hope flickering in her eyes, and all I managed to do was extinguish it. Somehow, she knew of the impending invasion. Back then, when we believed ourselves invincible – as all peoples have done, always, contrary to the corrosive evidence of history – I had access to what I thought of as power, to the machinations of the European Union and to the rapidly crumbling United Nations. We could have remade the world, in opposition to the increasingly imperialist American hegemony. Whole theatres of culture lay before us, spread-eagled in our fantasies like sexual conquests, but in our hubris we mistook potential for actuality, and forgot to look up. The stars were gathering – encroaching dark matter, a ruthless insectile diaspora.

They break you open. They do it first through your thoughts… actually, your feelings. They find the part of you that wishes to remain forever hidden and they amplify it, so you hear your horrified secrets broadcast outward, via ever-expanding eternal cosmic frequencies. They kill you with shame. After that, it’s relatively easy to exterminate mere bodies.

We didn’t listen. To the music. To the message. We ignored the myriad ways in which our collective unconscious (to use Jung’s fairly inadequate term) tried to warn us. The Cocteau Twins were just one entity that pulled the cryptic and strangely beautiful dispatches from the void, gorgeously intact yet lacking a handy interpreter. Shakespeare did it when he conceived of Iago (“Cassio, my lord? I cannot think that he would steal away so guilty-like”, and “With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.”). Bob Marley did it, on three separate occasions. Schindler did it for one heroic moment; likewise, and in similar circumstances, a relatively unsung German Nazi in Nanking named John Rabe prevailed. Jane Goodall touched on it, even though she never integrated it. For a time, Carl Sagan and Billie Holliday, too. Romeo Dallaire. There are others you will probably not have heard of. Some did it for sublime yet fleeting moments – the Irish footballer George Best in 1968, a female flautist for three bars in 1985, Yoko Ono circa 1970, a throat singer from Soweto in the late ’70s, a painter from Tibet, a part-time drummer in Chad, a carver from Haida Gwai.

Here she is, now: Elena, her presence an admonishment. The skies flash with the seizures of our dying breed. These alien invaders, water-seekers, cosmic krill, really; they accept their victory in the same way they kill our hope: dispassionately, sans sorrow or triumph. And Elena, awaiting our own death, sings to us endless plainsongs replete with fleeting words of shame and despair, tracing a history we never bothered to stitch together, keening our broken-seed eulogies: “wax and wane, blue bell knoll, millimillenary, Rilkean heart, suckling the mender, ella megalast burls forever…”

Our very lullabies now garbled epitaphs.

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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.