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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 Cormorants (3)

Sunday
May262019

Blame

Wait. Rewind. Take the chablis instead of the pinot. Scream from the Shed End not the Kop. Deep fry the fiddleheads don’t steam them. Purchase don’t pirate. Rehabilitate don’t shame. Kill don’t maim.

We narcissists enamoured of minor difference. Our oil-smeared glories. 

You damn well wear me out.

We gather here on a darkling plain, you and me and your girlfriend and my roommate and my twenty-seven rabid first cousins, plus half of Europe under gawking Polaris. Friends and those we think we should have met. Loved even. That batshit horny aunt we wish we’d never fucked, though glad we did if only for wank fodder, though we were only twelve. Muslims and Jews. Bent cops, craven officials, a legion of weak and stupid fucks. The pointless inarticulate rage of white grievance. Aimless spleen. Doltishness in celebration of itself. Vicious dimwits. Old cunts we wish would die; yeah, fuck your feelings indeed. Those conspiratorial priests, milling like cormorants on pilings, spreading their robes lasciviously, fake as puppets coerced onto sweaty laps, shot through with voices and breath, the same breath moving the tide over stones, hissing and hitching and asthmatic under austere skies, heralding war but mostly unheeded, mostly unheard. 

I’ll give you Dover beach, you absolute fucking weapon. 

This is nineteen sixty-one. A flower already scorched. A film unspooled. The wolf that knows which root to dig. My life entire. Go vent this. 

We wait while the elephant gets to her feet. The matriarch. She once considered stomping us to death. Now she watches as we wait. And we wait, and she backs away, swaying like vines and hammocks, ropy and weighty and arthritic. Her breath is the surface ripple of the Nile, by the banks, igniting a flock of cranes. Igniting or anointing, what’s the difference? Flames or oil? All falls down to one or both. When aphids die the ladybugs follow. When the salmon won’t spawn the whales can’t eat. When corals bleach anemones die. We leave with fingers miming silence on our tight lips, and I can’t get the theme tune from The Walking Dead out of my head. What is all this? Are we in some awful tale? Are we the thwarted salmon? Or are we the dying orca? Are we frail and ill-starred jewels or hopelessly mundane?

We escape. We think we escape. We hope. 

But we know something else, some true thing.

She damn well should’ve stomped us. 

Saturday
Aug042018

Ghost Birds

What have we here? A field in England. Absent colour or anything defining.

Wait. Sound of a bird, a two-syllable scream. Could mostly be anything. Hear it? The monochrome ghost of a lapwing.

Unveiled, the razor stubble underfoot, foreground to a copse. Ploughed lines littered with fallen crows. Black-pepper dead things and mud, well seasoned. Botched black ops. Othered.

Oh, this is it. Here. The land of nowhere. It's grey, and in that grey another grey partitioned.

Separate this. Memorize it. Long gone, the caws of crows are a haunted echo of here.

No one survived. Not you. Not me.

Caravans in a lacklustre grid, arranged on causeways, flavourless as barroom eels in watery aspic.

This is a sort of ending.


***


"You remember that summer?"

"I do."

"How do you know which summer I meant?"

"I guessed."

"Huh. You were so splendid. And those luscious hills!"


***


Programmed, the night train plies its loop, though nothing living enters or leaves. Entropy will win out, but for now emptiness goddesses its route. Sparks shower lost highways, accidental angels on agnostic tableaux.

Tell me I am lost. Read me a story, Mama. Warn me against the aroma of risen bread. Against tricksters and temptresses. Fresh ground Arabian beans and newly cut grass.

Next? Will I triumph? I barely even exist.


***


"How is any of this right?"

"It isn't."

"Then…?"

"There ain't no then."

"But…"

"Enough. We won't ever answer this."


***


Each season speaks its maddening tale. This glass, this pane, is but a sliver cleaving air.

No glass can separate our lust. Air is blent blank comfort bathing everything.

Armies approach. Still the empty sunless skies hover like dismal apparitions over barren fields. The sound of clanking armour barely registers. All is ashen subdued terror.

Your champion's enticed into a tent, his low guts cut and unwound as he's sent into the dreary afternoon. Sent away screaming, watching his own steaming innards unspool between his feet.


***


Our quiet road angles its way beyond the town, arcing when it needs to, straight beside the black waters of the river, an extended jawbone savouring asphalt taste, seeking salt. Keep on driving. Maybe it will all resolve itself. Make sense. No one else pretends to even share this space. Silent wrecks litter the ditches. This once vibrant seat is ever more bloodless.

Cormorants bow and dip in the reeking shallows, flex their pitiless cauls, persevere and stretch and swallow, such drab unlovely priests.

Where did you go? Did you abandon us on purpose? Is this what it is now? Will any of us be spared?

Probably no. And you? Probably don't follow.

Friday
Jan022015

Cormorants

A rottweiler behind chainlink stands and swings its boneknuckle head while the couple quarrel by the dismal predawn roadside.

"We're heading back east," she says.

He kicks at the dirt. "Why do you say back east? You ain't never bin there."

"It's just a way of sayin it. Besides, I suffer from lostalgia."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. You won't get it."

"The fuck? Fuck you. Well hell, I'm mostly through talking anyways."

The dog watches from its shadows and emits a low growl every time Dwight glances its way.

"Suit yerself, but whether you're with me or not, I'm going and you ain't gonna stop me."

"Not unless I throw you over this here fence."

She rolls her eyes and he narrows his.

He sighs. "We really havin this conversation?" he asks, almost gently.

"Appears we are. Ain't no bad thing."

"But we talkin about bad shit. Like dyin. Worse. The future, no?"

"Sure. Yes and no. Love, dyin, kindness, pain. Yesterday and tomorrow. That axe gonna swing itself, use you and me as its own fulcrum."

He's silent for a good minute, then says, "Seems to me you caint rightly figure the light 'less you done reckoned with the dark."

"On the right day I might say otherwise. On this day, who knows? But whatever. Pass me a cancer stick, will ya?" Something sunnier passes over her coyote-fragile face. "Oh hey, know why I love you?"

"Sure don't."

"'Cause when you light my cigarette, you cup the match like you're protecting a good clean heart, even when you know full well it's dirty as hell. Anyways, let's go, hon. You with me?"

"I guess." He looks at her. Alice. The Bonnie to his Clyde. Feels his dirty heart clench.

While she thinks of the cormorants by the bay, that night they let slip the body into such cold waters. How those great oily birds perched on the guano-painted wood pilings like the dark acolytes of apostates, holding aloft dripping black wings in lewd maledictions before hearts yet darker, before offerings more profane.

The guard dog seems to lose interest and drops to the sandy ground like some wounded Serengeti thing.

They both look eastward. Thick red light thinned with watery orange is bleeding into the sky there, below which the smoky blue mountains seem flat as construction paper, and there is no rightful way for them to know if the vermilion eastern morning holds bloodthreat or promise.