• 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 Carnival (3)



"Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart." — John Donne

You following that slat-ribbed coydog down the interstate right now?

Ain’t no towns for miles, just fences and cattle, while the sly grey dog lopes west, lost as the sun.

Semi-trailers and campers, pickup trucks and seekers, late in the summer, pass the dog however hard he runs, his loose pink tongue a ribbon soliciting some secret charity. Pay him some mind if you happen to pass by.

Don’t matter his type or breed—wild, border, working, bright as fireflies, resolute as night. Salute him, greet him, unearth the kindness from the dark ore of your heart, show him something virtuous as you pull away, as you catch a glimpse of his desolate grin in your rearview. He has forever to catch up, a whole lifetime to contemplate his banishment. 

Ain’t ashamed to tell the world I love that mutt. He’s earnest as an abandoned dream in the wake of a long gone carnival. Sad as an old candy wrapper blowing across a field. More fearful than feral.

Lung shadows and rain squalls appear like arrow falls, the whole land opens its gullet, and distant ranges echo with yipped laments for countless absent place names.

After some time, you can’t help yourself. You pull onto the fractured shoulder, oh sweet Montana sky, crack the window and breathe the grass-stem purity, and you wait, and you wait, until the tireless adamant blur in your bug-spattered mirror resolves itself into something alive—this wild insistent dog, heedless of pain, hopeful for your love, loping your way, bringing its torn ears and matted fur, carrying its lonely wet ardor, its road stink, here with you now, believing in some kind of reckoning. 


The Offering

They arrived from someplace else when we had all but given up on seeing them at all this season. The sun—that relentless scourge of the day—was mostly down, its last nacreous light diffuse and struggling to impress above the western hills, when the still air carried to our ears the hollow leather and iron sound of wagons, arcane things of magic swinging from their frames in the surrounding quiet, the soft murmurs of the carnies hoping not to disturb us townsfolk this first evening, at least. Thoughtful guests.

Summer itself had been a poor guest, boorish and truculent, overstaying its welcome, and all our fields were burned, our wells mostly dry.

It was impossible to tell whether the land had become larger or we had been reduced these last years. Things had changed in the world. It seemed a long time since we'd heard the distant fretful assemblage of a night freight or the horizon-spanning roar of a jet, let alone traffic on the highway. Yet the traveling carnival—also reduced—met its loose itinerary most of the time, it seemed.

Glances passed between us like dry lightning in the foothills.

While they set up in a hollow on the west side of town amid the encroaching darkness, the cool silver sound of cicadas commenced, and three dogs barked in succession from three different places, like they were describing our location, our dimensions, like they were considering treachery. 

It was a recalcitrant darkness that fell that night.

We gathered in the gloom, nobody speaking, listening to the carnies set up. Listening to the cicadas. Listening to the hush. Listening to a sudden muffled sound like someone coughing into the crook of their arm. Listening to the prolonged inhale of the world. Listening. And waiting. 

Some of us no doubt thinking about providence.

Not sure they were expecting any kind of welcome that night, and surely not the one they got, but by then we were hungrier than a pack of slat-ribbed coy-dogs, and we descended on them silently under a starless sky, each of us carrying something heavy and bladed, and we played our ineluctable part as soundlessly and tenderly as possible given such wretched, sorrowful circumstances.


The Criteria: Horror Stripped of Humour

So, thinking more about the criteria of these films. In order to reduce the near endless possibilities, I immediately excluded any horror movies that leaned too heavily on humour. Not because I believe humour is inappropriate in horror films—in fact, I've often said there's a direct kinship between the two emotions, laughter and terror, both of them allied in the release of tension, both so reliant on mood and timing, and both at heart so utterly serious—but because humour by its nature will leach away some of the more disturbing elements I'm attempting to privilege here.

Think of it like this: the horror/humour/jump scare alliance is akin to the funhouse at the carnival, and there's nothing wrong with that if that's your goal at the time, in the moment. Everyone loves the carny. But the movies I'm trying to find a common thread for here belong in the killing field, the charnel house, the autopsy room, the psych ward, the torture chamber, the impromptu pit dug by a human freak—real places breeding with infection and immersed in dread. I want disquiet, distress, despair, wretchedness, the bleak certainty of approaching desolation. Horror, in other words. Unadorned, pure, essential horror. Yet somehow artful or honest, at least. Even beautiful on occasion. Certainly something that stays with you, that you worry at, and turn over in your mind like some arcane puzzle. 

Sadly, the no-humour criteria immediately eliminates some of my favourites in the genre, including "the original Evil Dead films; the incredible, insane Reanimator; zombie parodies as tenuously related as Return of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead; and the stone-cold classic, An American Werewolf in London," as I put it in my inaugural Facebook post on this (albeit without the more grammatically pleasing semicolons). And many more besides. 

Anyway, let's get started. I'll post around four capsules at a time, beginning at number 40, and try to include clips and images as I go. Feel free to comment if you stumble on any of this in your travels through the brackish backwaters of the interwebs, but it's okay if you don't, as I'm doing this primarily for myself, to freeze in time a very personal, even idiosyncratic sensibility I don't expect a single other human to share, quite honestly.