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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 Coyote (7)

Wednesday
Jan162019

Then

That’s it, I’m leaving. The road is spread before me, wide up close and narrowing ahead, ruined by its history, and I move into its sex trap scope, an ingenue. When last it rained here’s measurable in years, and the dry old asphalt’s cracking and clumped and dusted with skeins of sand. Drifting. Downcast as a virgin, I step forward again, glance into the cracks, halfway breathe along the narrowing arid lines of perspective. 

No other lives or moves here. The brutal sun itself is cataracted. No winds breathe.

However crumbled, like ancient cheese, I love the yellow lines that remain. Tell myself that treading them will break the long-gone backs of so many of my kin. I miss them. Kinfolk, signs. I miss those childhood rhymes. I miss the rampant trees of then. I miss such succulence. I miss so many things.

This town consists of scattered homes, squat as toads though drier and more dead, a dimmed red light askew and hanging like a shrunk albino grape and optic nerve, bone-dry jackstraw corpses strewn beyond. Nothing for me here. Nothing for anyone here, including God and her wide-eyed antic crew. 

I focus on chewing my own hangnails, tearing with my loosened teeth my raw, torn cuticles. The consumed flesh of my fingers recedes like long-ebbed tides from a dying bay. My nails are black, my scalp alive with vitriolic things that compel urgency. 

Maddened, I lope. 

Feet raw and wrapped in bloody cloth. I won’t even look at my feet unswathed; like something lame and lurching, that way lies limp surrender.

Movement on my left, amid the dying scrub, the blue-grey sage, the burned and skeletal mesquite.

Coyote. 

She’s following my halting steps and glancing right. I glance right back.

Speak risible words into the rising heat: “I’m proud to share with you this leg of our fruitless odyssey, my slat-ribbed sister.”

She looks away but stays with me, snout sleek as a pocket blade, bleak and colorless eyes a-shimmering.

Ten years ago we might have contravened some fabricated line in a mound of imported sand, some feeble wall of rusted slats. She didn’t care then, and she can’t care now. Her offspring gone through violence, she shadows me in this inferno desert, loping between parched stumps, if only because we’re the only two things alive we both can sense. 

Attachment. Linkage. Fusion.

Left like an unraveled arm, once knitted, now forlorn. 

The feminine a last unlikely want. Yet still a want, a wish. A loveliness, the opposite of scorn; an artless, candid, bleached and blasted ache.

Friday
Mar302018

Lana and the Bear

Image © Michael O'Toole"I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine. I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes. I lived on honeycomb." — Oscar Wilde

He comes out of the mouth in the rock, underneath dripping, towering cedars, and stands swaying in the chill March air. More brown than black, his damp fur is matted as fever. Alone on a gravel curve, he hears the rage of dogs behind him, ahead of him, in all the directions, and knows he has to pick some astonishment of a path, some unlikelihood, even as his head still throbs from a season of sleep. 

Steaming in the late afternoon, he shows the wet earth to the pale ghost of a day moon, scuffs the moist dirt into sculptures.

The world is not the same. Will never be again. 

Bare and rude, a strip of blond ground, boxy green buildings, a place without complexion, long abandoned. The planes and shadows and golden light of a full day move across this vista, and nothing, absolutely nothing, changes.

A child emerges from nothing. She sits by a mildewed wall and with wordless sounds she confers with the waning day and she waits. Coyotes answer but she sits stoic and unresponsive; her parley is not with them, those subtle dilettantes.

Loneliness threads this land. Eyes appraise it: the black terror of a doe's wet stare, the eagle's stern glare. In time, resignation afflicts even the artful coyotes. There will never be another train.

She sits and waits and she calls out like a lost bird. Her name is Lana, but she has forgotten this. She almost remembers flutes and honeycomb, dreams of primrose paths arrayed with bees.

The great silence is the largest voice now.

Feral dogs and the liquid throats of ravens gulping high up in the conifers are no match.

A sound in the undergrowth, at the edge of the forest, and Lana clambers to her feet. And then he is there, lumbering perplexed from the leaking shadows, and he hasn't yet seen the little girl, Lana, whose name means "wool" in Spanish, and who dances a sudden dance at the first happy thing she has ever known, the first good answer to her silent query of a quiet land veiled in rain.

"You came back," she says.

The bear startles, his fur like acres of dark wheat in a prairie gale, undulating, fluctuate. Then he crosses the span between them in seconds and stands like a steaming boulder before her. She touches his cold nose and grabs his fur and climbs on his back and laughs, ignoring his savage reek, which is like memory. She digs in her pack for the dead things she's saved and dangles them over his snout and he feeds and is glad.

"Of course I came back," he says between bites, his voice abrasive from neglect. "It's winter I don't love. Not you."

Friday
Aug182017

Mediocre, This Uncivil War

The restless dead still wander the sites of old battles. Ironic to this misfit how much they still belong.

The thing squats on the arm of my chair. A sound like veins being knotted, unknotted, gurgles from its abraded throat, a spoiled creek.

"How gentle are you?"

Faraway dead moan their irony. It's a hammock, this world. Where, which places, is it anchored?

"Gentle as I have to be," I answer, and it is a good answer.

Something falls into an abyss and screams, dopplering to silence.

"Enjoy the silence."

How can something in such surly folds of grey make so firm a claim to whiteness when clearly they mean purity? Is anodyne a prize now? 

"Funny. I refuse both silence and joy."

"Then you're a fool. As all your kind have proved."

So be it. It's not wrong. How normal is it to stand in your bathroom, your mouth unhasped, no sound emergent, while your fingers crawl amid the grainy air and the muffled drop of a cat stooping from a chaise longue onto a hardwood floor punctuates some mutant night that dreams of being a sentence? The cat a comma. Your silent scream an ellipsis. Your burlesque fingers quote marks emulating talk.

Is mimicry all we have left? Will this sultry air not move again? Or ever match this hankering? 

The stench of the dying dead fills everything. Help me. Help.

***

And you don't even own a cat.

***

Yearning for a cloudburst.

Apples, blueberries, fresh basil, a pickled human finger, spring water, kidney beans, parmesan, labia minora.

Fungal uncle. Aching aunt. A dozen cousins, and portabella bella, under her umbrella. Ella, ella.

Cumulonimbus. Digital familial. Expertly packed, the things we need today. Riding the subway, a muted rollick under the fungible layers of love and tragedy. A rhythm section somewhat lower than the cacophony.

Wetness. Extra virgin truffles, and the staring, gutted eyes of a slaughtered baby. 

Compare grocery lists?

No. Please, let's not.

***

Cry wolf and loose the battalions of ravens.

Coyote always had two syllables to me. 

This is the West. The terminus. The place the world crawls to when its legs give out. When its heart wears thin. When all thoughts spiral out from certitude, recoil from discipline.

You hold a torch, guttering in the prairie wind, but your endgame, your raw sortie is clear. Nothing is happening in the gathering impasse in the sky; a skirmish of silence and spreading shameface. A pinto gelding sighs and looks askance, partway asleep on its sturdy legs, its long piebald face more sorrowful than genocide.

A hiccup. Something rustles. You cut the flap, ignite the walls, and eviscerate a child.

As you run, the keening starts and flows like some soon-to-be-discovered cloud form, and it follows you, a subdued post-rape scream as you stop to slake from a brittle canteen, the leather cracked and crackling, the lukewarmth of its bowels more jittery horror than quenchment, and it follows you and doesn't ever blink or quit, not even once. Not even in judgment.

***

"Time to wake up, baby boy."

A slow tide sucks itself back over pebbles. A harbour rocks its boats.

"I won't wake up. I won't ever wake up. All this is a lie. You lied to me. Goddamn it, you were supposed to be kind. Whatever happened to kind?"

"I won't ever answer that, my brother."

"You ain't my fucking brother."

***

Wild blueberries and whistler marmots bisect a sheer plane of scree. Fruits of the woman, of the delta. Contours the shade of American ordinance. Blue is the overtopping god above grey, above white. Great banks of snow in mid-August. Tourists braying like burros. This caldera, this cascadia, this hallelujah, shouted from a ruined throat into ink, chorused into unspooling light years of astonishing indifference.

Friday
May262017

Sister Matins

For a hushed moment, in your stillness and quiet we thought you dead. 

Your body is encased in a form-fitting spray of powdery charcoal dust. No gloss, just fine textural grain. Your hair, which does in fact gleam like the renegade moon, is gathered in a dark ponytail, most alien to you. You are a vessel, a human kayak someone might paddle across the mist-shrouded lake. But you would never stand for that. This is about dignity. And what is right. 

Sister. Let me breathe for you.

Still. You are on your feet now in defiance, your perfect legs spread in a warrior pose, your musculature fine as topography, the line of your jaw tracing the upraised shoreline like a medieval sextant. 

With my fingertips I want to sketch that jaw; with my whole hands I want to ward off hurt for you. And I see that you know this. But each passing moment only adds to your Egyptian charm, your Cleopatran scorch, your torrid Mediterranean allure, your intrinsic gypsy tang. A parade of goddesses arrives and begins to carouse. Nephthys and Isis and Bastet. Qetesh and Sekhmet. Banished to the shadows, I watch with my jackal eyes. I dream of violet orchids and ruby-throated hummingbirds. 

I literally just said this to my good friend, a father of young children: "Hugs from a four-year-old are worth their weight in hummingbird wings."

He laughed in that way you laugh when something is unassailable.

It might well be that you rebut your feline side. Whatever. I sense it anyway; see, hear, feel, smell, taste. The steps you offer me I recondition, make of them a route for you to renegotiate and clamber back aboard hope.

The aurora blooms in the late summer sky. Greens and violets, curtains in the vast cosmic window. They dance and shimmer all night without need of accompaniment. An electric profundity of silence. 

You are a single flower the colour of amethyst in a once-fertile valley that has grown cold and strange. Your petals are a purple fist, protective. The very first rays of daybreak fail to tempt you. But then a sudden sunshower mists your corolla, stirring them to unfurl and accept both heat and liquid, and you open to the world and the first bird sings.

Your cry is piercing in the gentle night, carrying over conifers and crumbling ridges, the lament of someone grasping at a hundred frozen edges. Pain is pain. Fear is fear. And you know both. We meet on that very plain, wrought of anguish and the bleak ignoble tendencies of our kind. We are clothed; we are unclothed. It matters not. We embrace. Another time you walk right by me, oblivious. At others we are bathed in the spectral light of nebulae.

Sometimes my thirst makes you smile. And you tease me. Sometimes you welcome it. Each time we honour the crossing of our paths, we're forced to reconcile our altered selves. And each time that happens, the more we can say we're mostly good. And if I know your femininity of a moment, it's true you might save me from some future hangman. We are dangling from a fulcrum, you and I. Like clocks and guns and fever dreams. Crows and coyotes. Ravens and eagles. Breakthroughs. Onslaughts. Executions. Hot rocks in a lodge and scintillating skies, everything animate and woman-bejeweled.

Friday
Jun242016

Balance Beam

He enjoyed whispering rumours of doom on long flights. Insinuating himself into the sphere of a fellow passenger's trust, wearing his skin of bland congeniality so well he began to believe it himself, then telling them what he'd overheard from a flight attendant, about how the captain had swallowed a fish bone and, while clutching at his throat, had knocked an instrument setting askew that no one noticed until the first officer finally did so, before immediately realizing that their unwitting detour across half the Pacific meant they no longer had enough fuel for a landing at any airport, and that they'd have to ditch in the ocean, which almost always augured catastrophic loss of life. He would select a young mother to whisper this to, a weary twentysomething whose toddler had finally, mercifully, succumbed to sleep. Or a nervous old lady. Or a half-drunk and angry middle-aged white man, who'd invariably make it about him and his entitled self-pity, provoking a full-blown tantrum that would be infectious throughout the cabin, providing endless entertainment far funnier than the inflight movie.

Although he could never laugh, not on the outside.

When they always landed and people looked at him accusingly, with oddly hurt and—strangest of all—disappointed expressions, he'd shrug and say, "Must have misheard. Could have sworn that's what they said."

Sometimes he would embellish it further, reveling in the unfolding story and its implications: The copilot noticed but pretended not to, and when it was discovered, he declared "Allahu Akbar!" at which the senior flight attendant fainted. A cadre of mice that had been onboard as property of a multinational pharmaceutical company, in the process of being transferred between a research laboratory in San Diego and an experimental facility in Kobe, had escaped their defective crate and chewed through enough wiring that all the hydraulics were lost and the slightest turbulence would soon send them plummeting like a doomed lance into a calm and glassy ocean that might as well be adamantium.

He once told an unaccompanied young passenger, all of thirteen years old, dark of feature and tiny of frame, that he was an undercover air marshal and had discovered a plot by ecoterrorists to make of their fossil-fuel-guzzling flight an example, by remotely shutting down each engine in turn until the United Nations agreed to outlaw all the oil trade on earth, and she had begun to cry silently until her grief and terror had built like late afternoon thunderheads and no one could console her or get any sense from her, and she'd had to be sedated and then hospitalized once they'd landed.

Because they always landed. 

***

She never landed. A decade of perfect run-ups, mounts, and layout full twists on the balance beam, only for the landing to fail. 

Yet she kept loving. Loving it all. Believing in the idea of perfection and the dedication of her coach and her fellow gymnasts. And the cruel man she didn't know, yet dreamed of every night. The man who whispered appalling things to defenceless souls so he could fondle their terror. The man who fed on dread and drank dismay. 

This charming man. She knew one day she'd get it right.

***

A dream. He was lying on a cloud, smoking a Cuban cigar. A coyote and a crow were having a heated conversation about the chemical makeup of Pluto's great heart plain. He laughed and they both turned to him and said, "You'll wish you hadn't done that."

"Whatever," he answered, and drew in a lungful of smoke that was bitter and hot and made him cough.

"You need to stick the landing," a female voice whispered in his ear, but he saw no one. The coyote and the crow were gone. Just a single balance beam, shimmering, impossibly narrow and infinitely patient.

He mounted, teetered and lurched a couple of times, attempted a routine, did okay. But he couldn't dismount. He was too afraid of the landing. He closed his eyes, told himself nothing could go wrong in a dream, that it didn't matter. Just jump and hope. But he stayed frozen, his heart drumming like a hummingbird orgy in his chest, his lungs shrivelled in the rarefied air. Then the cloud disappeared and he was falling at last.

***

When he opened his eyes, he thought at first the cloud was back, the dream was back, but it took a moment to realize the cabin was gauzy with smoke. He inhaled an acrid electric reek. Then he registered the screaming. Saw the flight attendants wet-faced and inconsolable, clutching rosaries, totems, talismans. Felt his entire lower guts shift with the slow stirrings of true terror.

A man nearby, in a voice tremulous with sorrow, said, "My daughter's wedding is next month. I can't miss it…"

He scrambled to the window, saw the fire flapping like oily orange rags from the engine, the impossible cant of the horizon.

And for the first time in the few minutes left of his life he embraced terror and found within his core something small but bright, something that hummed an unheard frequency, while his wretched human moans mingled with those of his fellow passengers and were entirely indistinguishable.