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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 Cormac McCarthy (9)

Friday
Nov022018

Something Bad

“These dangers arrive quickly, just like death” — Marina Abramovic

Loss is a thing that once strayed and now lurches haltingly westward. It shuns its own footprints, ignores the dry dirty blizzard of its shedding skin, stifles with a great grey trembling paw its own desolate cries.

Don’t ever ignore what we were: combatants, companions. Custodians of conundrums. Siblings of stealth. Cryptic co-sponsors in a game without rules. Comrades. Compañeros.

The blue velvet night, the aquarium night, draws itself back for the raw abraded morning. Infected. Throbbing. Pulsing with ill-health. Gauze in a motel window still as a shroud, something lurking and medical.

The dawning truth of last night’s Chinese food scattered like a crime scene: sickly cardboard, spilled noodles, the scarlet provocation of congealed sweet-sour sauce, that fortune cookie message I thought I tossed in the trash. “Something bad is headed your way.” You ever see a fortune like that before? Yeah, me either.

The day struggles to wake, and off to the west gaunt towers of fine steel bone blink red for the airplanes like hangovers. Things no longer welcomed but necessary.

Me. You. Boy. Girl. Mojave jawline, Death Valley confluence.

Trucks pass on the interstate, insensate and tidal.

Why’d you leave? Who was the last to breathe? Why can’t I erase the name Melanie even from my dreams?

Fragments of words catch on the sodium lights, flame out, fall, all your breathless, dismal confessionals. Every confab obliterated, refashioned. I can fake amnesia better than anyone. Fake it until it’s real, so I never have to see the arc of a hunting knife flinging a bloodmist, can never hear the ragged shriek of someone who manages to track, to apprehend, without ever intending to, the lurker now wearing their own dreadful face.

Those ominous, luminous words: “Don’t leave me.” About as terrible as any three words could be. 

Deathly. Dancin’ with the ones that brung us. Let me walk you out soon. Come close and say it. What are the ardent things within us that cleave so hard to all this?

Later that evening, I hear a girl singing, comin’ around the corner. I mean barely singing. Tracing the edge of some abandoned tune while the sun skulks lower in a cardiac sky. All those reds returning to blue, the lowered pulse of the industrial night, the ceaseless, remorseless turn of the earth.

Right when I think I’ll see her, the world blinks like a giant eye, and I don’t see her.

I don’t ever see her.

 

Friday
Aug042017

Solitude and the Devil's Armpit

What reared in palsied segments from a blasted hollow was the ruinous progeny of some heinous prior act, a man hauling across the incognizant desert long bereft of any road his own daughter and then violating all touchstones of trust, all human and earthly edicts, before uncoupling her from her life in the cooling night until the land itself sheared and assumed the burden of arbiter and caught him and vise-gripped his leg till he mewled and died sluggardly under the searing day that followed, the sun itself meting justice and broiling first his eyes to grayish raisins in their sockets then his sobbing brain in its canted bone pan. From the drying juices of his corpse some unholy alchemy spawned this flapping, fractured thing born thirsty and agonized. With the falling of night and the cooling of the red stones it staggered and moaned a crooked wan-lit path toward the lights of a town scattered like tiny stars in a great throated void.

Not really a town. A convenience store with twin gas pumps, crude sentinels, a dusty bestrewing of trailers, a barroom squat and yellow-brown as a bark scorpion, a single red light pendent as a polyp over a crossroads.

She'd stopped because she dripped without moisture, because she needed relief from the eternal dry breath of the road and its cartoon hornet string of broken lines. The smeary windowpanes of her eyes reflected nothing. Her twenty-four hours of freedom from a man hellbent on her ruin yet joyless. The bar had no signboard or emblem aside from a Sorry We're Open sign in its only window, and the inside was small and dark and hot and rank; she named it in her mind the Devil's Armpit and thought about smiling. 

But she didn't smile. The barkeep cocked an eyebrow and with her head she signaled a cluster of bottles, whiskies.

"Give me chain lightnin'," she said, her voice strange like that of an exotic bird in a cave.

He grunted and poured a dark amber shot glass and she drank it back, her throat taut, her eyes tight, and when "The Master's Call" by Marty Robbins rose and soared from buzzing speakers, though no god had ever dwelled in any part of her, a tear gathered in the corner of her eye. 

Two men had wandered in, like moths find their way on a porch around nightfall. One of the men wore his darkness like a prioress wears her faith—as a part of him, his oil-black hair gleaming like the nape of a corvid, his one eye a campfire coal soliciting dark tales, his other blank and nacreous. The second man was no account.

They took up a place on the other end of the bar, four or five scuff leather stools between them. 

"So, lady, tell me your first sight this sunrise." He didn't look her way because he didn't have to.

"With all respect, sir, I ain't exactly enamored of conversation right now." She also looked only in front, at the grimy bottles, at black-painted drawers now fulvous with the chalky exhalations of the land. Nothing here could be kept. All of it ran between splayed fingers amid silence.

"We-ell. Ordinarily I'd grant your respectful wish to be left alone, Miss. I truly would. But truth is, present circumstances militate agin' such a relinquishment."

She looked his way at last, for scant moments, heartbeats.

"Why might that be… Mister?"

Somehow he had grown more ursine during this short interchange. His snoutish face encased in rank dark fur. His one good eye a black pearl defying the abalone vacancy of his other. A stench coming from him.

"Why that might be… Missy… is this. You're runnin' from something. That much you cain't argue with, and neither can I. What you're runnin' from ain't too important, but what is important, to me, is where you is now. Your present... solitude. That I need to state for the goddamned record. And contemplate."

She thought about standing up and walking out, only as soon as the thought crawled its way across her skittering mind, she recognized it for the pale aborted thing it was. Whatever this man was, she needed to face him like she'd finally faced Dwayne and his fists a day or two ago. In some ways, this cornshucker and her ex were brothers: Cain and Cain. She never minded cursing, but she stockpiled her own profanities until the right moments.

She thought about his hands, his fingers, where they'd been, what things they'd ferreted and infringed upon.

"I tried respect, sir. Now I'm gonna tell you a truth: it ain't none of your goddamned business and I'd much prefer to be left to dwell on my loneliness entirely my ownself, the way it oughta be. Mostly so I can figure if bein' lonely might yet mean freedom."

He stayed silent for a good ten minutes while she sipped on her shine and the barman dissembled as if to polish stuff already partway buffed and the no account sidekick grinned at some deviant joke no soul would get to speak aloud on this earth. 

Then the man moved fast. Was behind her and wrenching her arm high behind her back.

"You are comin' outside with me," he said, with shocking gentleness.

She looked and knew instantly the bartender would be no help. 

No account was grinning and displaying three sullied teeth with a kind of truculent pride.

A grim marionette, she stumbled forward if only to prevent herself from falling and was quickly under a star field so bright it yet stole her breath despite her predicament. 

"What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Takin' you to my vehicle, Miss. Then to a different place."

They approached the dark shape of a pickup and, like some simian thing, no account swung his misshapen body into the bed while the bad man with one good eye pulled out the key from his pocket.

And that was when it staggered from out of the scrubland, lurched uncouth from an untrod trail in the broken hills, and began to dismantle a thing it knew about: something unapologetic, something mean as a scorpion in a resting boot, something belligerent, something that had sired its own torment. It took its time, tore and chewed slowly with claggy and crenulate teeth, jaw hasping and unhasping, barely registering the man's garish hoots as screams, beyond the rupture of the man's cords in his gorge, beyond the hellish slow minutiae of his drawn-out annihilation.

Instead of running, as no account had already done, she was rooted, some part of her desirous of this grotesque theater, hungry to see such unspeakable retribution visited on the wicked. Yearning to witness a delinquent accounting.

"Goodnight motherfucker," she whispered.

When it was done, and the meat on the floor had stopped twitching, the obscenity looked her way a second or two, before it lumbered its graceless way back the way it had come, into the scorched hills, where nothing awaited it and nothing wanted it and nothing whatsoever wished it into a dirty world, not now and not ever, the good lord help us, amen.

Friday
Sep042015

Cowgirls Redux

Turns out this is a continuation of an earlier piece (read this first for sense) I wrote fifteen months ago about three women running from the law across a Cormac McCarthy landscape. Very yin and yang. A story demanding to be told? Perhaps. Anyway, here's the sequel, and there might still be more, who knows?

______________________________

The night brought storms unforeseen.

The fugitive women lay more awake than not as the branches whipped like the tails of some wild vermin infestation and rocks cracked and detonated on the cliff face. The rains when they arrived were a deluge, and the tired women chose to saddle up and move on.

They moved north and climbed steadily, hoping to find a track around the bluff to their left. Whichever way they leaned, the stinging rain seemed aimed at them, the three women and their horses, and it was like walking in a dream dreamed by a heartless fabulist. 

"We'll be caught," Ashlyn said into the raw throat of the raging night, and though her companions didn't hear her words, they read her tone and nodded along with the horses, six heads slung low against the gale and dripping with the dark plain's sorrow.

A new companion joined them by the name of hunger and after a while spent ignoring him they eventually stopped to dig in their packs. They ate quickly under the sharp dark arrowheads of rain, then hauled their weighty, saturated bodies onto their stoic mounts and continued plodding north.

"We need a good thing to happen." Clara spoke into the tempest and only her horse seemed to hear her and nodded forlornly in long-suffering agreement.

Ashlyn kept her head down and the relentless gusts snatched at Emilia's breaths.

The sun would be climbing over the eastern rim of the plains soon, but its grand arrival would likely be muted in such a squall. Yet as dejection seemed to move in and make room in their hearts, the world's caprice reasserted itself and the storm was gone in an instant, leaving a stillness more profound than the Anasazi graves over which they trekked.

Something brightened to the east and they thought it the sun.

Emilia spoke. "What the living fu—?"

The women and the horses stopped to comprehend a new thing. The air crackled as if electric gods were toying with their creation. Something huge, like a brain or a jellyfish hung over the prairie. Like a vast gelatinous parasol, orange in the growing dawn, it moved like bloody kelp in the sky, and its red fronds hung below, predatory veils clustered with bluish toxins, great bird traps glowering with menace in the gathering morn. In all the eastern dome of the world, white sheetlightning flashed silent with distance and the little wolves of the plain melted and slunk every which way.

The horses stutter-stepped, skittish as lambs in wolf country, and the women, afraid as they were, soothed them with hushes and touch.

Ashlyn dismounted and spoke first. "It's lightning." 

"Ain't no kind of lightning I ever saw," said Clara.

"Me either, but I remember my momma telling it. She called it a sprite."

Clara looked at her. "Still don't mean a whole lot to me."

"She said it meant a clean slate, a new beginning."

"Old wives' tales?" Emilia laughed nervously.

"Old widows' tales, more like." All three women smiled at that and let the silence wrap itself around them.

The elder god hung in the eastern sky, vast as the dreams of giants, and began to pale as the first sunflash broke the horizon at last.

After a while, Clara said quietly, "Maybe it's that good thing needed to happen."

"Let's keep riding," said Ashlyn.

 

Saturday
Aug152015

Third Place at Mash Stories Contest

 

Excellent news. I entered the seventh Mash Stories quarterly flash fiction contest with a post-apocalyptic story called "Wichita," received valuable feedback from them, and was shortlisted along with fifty-four other great stories from hundreds of entries. Today I heard my story had won Third Place, which made me very happy. Thanks to everyone who helped spotlight my dark little tale by voting, rating, and commenting. I truly value the online writing community and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the excellent Mash Stories and their supportive staff.

To explain in a little more detail: the competition itself has few rules. They ask that you keep your story to no more than five hundred words and that you incorporate three random keywords in your entry. On this particular occasion, the words were congress, art, and jealousy.

Anyway, here is my story.

 

Wichita

Nothing more lives in the fields of dead corn. Unless ash itself is alive.

A doomsday synod of shivering crows gathers on the wires, funereal linemen eulogizing lines long abandoned by the thrum of life. All pointless, everything ashen with the eradication of hope.

“Well, heck, I never expected to see you here, honey.”

On the cracked and silent blacktop, a compact woman in a smeared and outsized Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie and streaked black leggings adopts a greeting stance, outstretched arms, a twist of smile, a fierce and knowing eye.

She feigns the art of sanity with great finesse, since there is no one here to greet or be greeted by. Unless she wishes some grim new congress with soot, stubble, and starving corvids.

Unless. Unless is the great dead word of the world. There is no unless anymore, only terminus. All words are more sound than meaning, now, cessation the long hushed echo of ceased.

“We should head for the coast, child. See what’s up. Might be more of us.”

In response, a small gust skitters something light and dry over the ruined asphalt, the curtain-call ghosts of nature cooperating with this theater.

“Mmm-hmmm. Sure, child. We got ourselves a deal.”

Another cold blast from the north; she pulls her mangy fur-lined hood over her head and leans into the weather. Up ahead is a three-way intersection; turn right in the direction of the distant ocean, and she won’t have to battle the wind head-on.

“Feels like the right call. … What’s that you say, hon? Yeah, me neither. We got a trek ahead of us, for sure.”

She begins to sing, her voice a drop of shimmering blue in a monochrome vignette. Un petit piaf noir. Singing about Wichita. Singing about the sea.

But haunted theater aside, a living companion would notice the trail of dark blood behind the woman, and feel pity. Knowing she won’t reach sand and salt before insatiable death with its bitter jealousy seizes her as it’s seized all others these last chill months. And ceases her.

Friday
May302014

Prayer for the Cowgirls

Right, we have Dan Mader's flash fiction Friday thing once again. To be honest, I'm trying to keep up while catching some intense Stanley Cup playoff hockey. No Canadian teams left, but it's hard for me to let go, nonetheless. It's okay, it's all good, worry not.

But yeah, I've been reading plenty of stuff this week about misogyny and rape culture and male privilege and domestic violence. I have some personal familiarity with some of that shit, truth be told, as much as I wish it weren't so (not as perpetrator, before you ask, and for that you must take my word). It's ugly, basically.

Anyway, try to imagine Thelma and Louise with a Cormac McCarthy screenplay, and this latest piece might come clear after a night under some burning starfield, the air having cooled fast, as deserts do.

The thing is, what's important is that writers keep writing, keep improving and entering, displaying their work in places that are both supportive of all-comers yet exacting in terms of standards. We can raise ourselves by our bootstraps, brothers and sisters, no lie.

But yeah. Okay, here it is: my flawed cowgirls get the goddamned blues. Life is messy, yo.

Prayer for the Cowgirls

They tied their mounts in a meager stand of red birch, evening's onset drawing out shadows beneath the vast western cliff face. 

To their right, the eastern plains were already dark as an indrawn breath. 

Blanket folded between her dusky head and a small rock, Ashlyn lay back and tried to guess where in the sky each new star would choose to glimmer. 

Glimmer-born, she thought. A fine name for high fantasy. 

But here was only low reality—the edifice that loomed to their left, the quiet trees still as quills, and the memories of their belligerent, cheating, freshly killed husbands still bleeding out on worn linoleum. 

What indignities this land has witnessed and then always covered like someone dutiful raking their trail with cedar boughs. Build a fire and not all ghosts scatter. 

"Well. We did it." Clara's face indistinct amid the greying of the world. 

Another star awoke, and Ashlyn smiled. "Sure did, sis. Turned them tables good." 

The horses chuffed and nickered amid the birch stand. Small birds in the scrub chittered and flit, settling. 

"So, head out before sunrise?" asked Emilia. "Keep going?" 

"I say yeah. Too tired to move, but giving y'all high-fives in my mind here. Night, girls." 

"Night." 

"Night." 

High on the cliff above them a cougar screamed like a child lost in a charnel house, while everyplace else shrank into silence and the stars blazed from their impossible distances, as they always will do and always have done. Amen.