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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 Coyotes (7)

Sunday
May192019

Overdue

Harlan sat on his porch of worn uneven planks that, like our world and Harlan himself, had seen better days. We faced west, the direction that once meant hope. The last glint of sun had slid below the rim of the land and only a narrow yellowish strip gleamed through the dead and silhouetted trees, the darkened plain and the starless sky crushing it like a seam of gold in the ground.

We sat in silence awhile. Until we both seemed to realize something at once.

He was the first to say it. "Well, I'll be damned."

"Yeah."

Cicadas. The Collapse had brought such ornate miseries it seemed almost impudent to include among them the silencing of the insect world, but even on a subliminal level we'd felt their loss keenly. Ghosts come in many forms. Yet here they were. Tentative and hushed, but back in some facsimile of numbers.

"Thought surprise was a thing of the past," said Harlan, and I smiled. 

The scattering of bug sounds stabbed at the silence under gathering clouds we could sense more than see.

A breeze was testing the air, thinking about becoming a gust or two.

"Mr. Cutler… Harlan, I mean?" Dammit. How many times over the years had the old man corrected me?

"Son?"

"I want you to know you've kept me sane all these years since the Collapse."

"I know that, son."

"I know you know it. I just wanted to say it."

"Alright. Good to know. Let's drink to that—"

"Sir, I'll get it—"

"The hell you will. And the name's Harlan. How many times…?"

I lost his words on the gathering breeze as he made his slow hunched way into the cabin to fetch a jar or two of the crude cider he fermented from some unknown organic thing. Roots. Fungus. Squash, maybe. It always tasted about the same as it sounded.

I knew what he was gonna say before he said it.

"Bourbon, young fella?"

I laughed. We sat and drank, pretending it was Wild Turkey 101. Imagination ain't exactly perfect, but it can get you halfway there sometimes.

"They quieted down again," I said. 

"Huh. Mayhap the orchestra's done tuning and the symphony's comin'."

We wouldn't get to find out. Those gusts had turned to squalls and soon great hollerings, and the sky dropped its pent-up grief on everything. I scrambled to join him on the porch, and we waited it out, drinking slow and steady, hearing the mayhem of trees crack and splinter and jettison their bones in the dark.

Felt like wicked black wolves now governed the night.

When it was done, a sadness came over me and I no longer felt like pretending Harlan's concoction was even drinkable and I told him I didn't feel too good and took myself home, a ruder shack about a mile south of his place.

Next afternoon, a mite rueful, I hiked my sleepless and hungover ass back over to the old man's cabin. 

Harlan was gone. Debris covered his porch, but so much of it; dirt and bits of tree and even what looked like old coyote shit. From the storm, I figured. Some of it, at least. But after calling his name awhile and knocking on his door like a fool, I went inside. A layer of dust covered everything, the only places clear of dirt my bootprints behind me. What in the hell? I grabbed a jar of his moonjuice, a sandy film on the outside, a dark layer of silt inside, and sat in his creaky old chair on the porch sipping my friend's godawful liquor, hair of the mangiest of dogs. 

Things in my head didn't feel right. The silence in everything was too loud.

I listened for the bugs again, but nothing. Thought maybe it hadn't been a chorus but a coda after all. 

Friday
May112018

Astride a Pale Horse

I see it coming, mostly peripheral, but not always. Sometimes it looms upfront and winks and laughs. Heartily, even. Yet more and more I clock it as it struts along an urban street or lurks at the lip of a wood. It's a tendril, a blur, a shimmer. Often a goodbye. But I know it's real; I'm no longer dreaming it. Last week I saw it fall from a branch and shower golden green as pollen, slide off a wing as bright clear drops onto dry gravel and be absorbed. Heard it late in the gathered dark as the scream of a bobcat. Fucking? Fighting? Is there a difference? 

It doesn't always win, although it usually does. It's coming, though, however slowly. 

See the gluey trail, the fallen tree, the intaken breath at the passing of a hawk. The blinking slicked-back head of the harbour seal. Spawning sockeye stymied by falls. Raven calls, airless, sacerdotal. "Rainbows and rail ties." A wild pony drumming the land frantic. Stories of injustice, desperate killers exonerated by science, by reason. The mining disaster. That last travesty. The next. 

In the glare of a burnt orange sundown, we might even run out of steam, of breath.

A slag heap slipped and dropped on a school. Friendship ruined by envy. Abandoned lovers gathering at the wharf, circled by urban coyotes (two syllables), the blare of the darkened barge gliding oleaginous in the thick contrarian ink of the river. Congealed fluids of everyone ever murdered. Molars claggy with rancid meat. Butterfly migrations. Stars astonished by their own birth. Mosquito nets. Craft slingshotted past so many lens flares for alien readings. The trafficked. The raped. The genocided. The blazoned sins tattooed by monsters on the conveyor-belt corpses of women. The lost. The compromised. Those who jumped so they wouldn't burn. Challengers. I swear. Dreamers obliterated by the shortcuts of others. I swear. There is nothing more terrible than imagination. I swear. Nothing. None of this. No matter. Swear. Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Friday
Oct142016

Seven Breezes Blowin'

Cold, like the world done spun off into space. Cold, like the devil's black heart. Easterly gale so fierce the snow don't ever settle, 'cept in precipitous talus drifts on the east side of the squat, shivering huts we tried to call a homestead.

Can't even hear the cries of my children, the storm's so loud. Five small bleats under a bareback shriek atop a deeper howl 'cross the gray plains, bending poplar and cottonwood like matchsticks to breaking, killing most everything caught outdoors in its path, which is wide and righteous, a godlike halitosic roar in the face of our damnation.

Braced for hunger and cold. For the wages of sin and the invoices of death. Flour ruined by vermin, our old mare brought low by a malady in her veins. Ingredients of this matchless storm were prophesied.

And we all know the answer to it.

Martha my love. Her eyes, like jettisoned moons, won't find my own.

Most Sundays she still looks for a cross where I only see wood too cold to even rot. Literally petrified. And bless her cloudless soul, she still believes in friends. 

Distance between the house and the barn seems more of a hike each day. I'm a man. If I can't do the basics of a man's calling, whose wheels am I spinning and in what chill mud, what slush, do I churn? Place feels so dirgelike even the crows are gone, scattered on a high keening wind like shards of black ice.

The children so thin they could snap in such blasts. Their own eyes dim as lost meteors.

Memories of the road in summer—its battalion of mailboxes, its heart warmth and quiet fields dreaming their long afternoons, its lone vehicles following signs, some lost, some stubborn not to hurry—might as well be ancestral.

Place has two seasons: hot and cold; variations of beige and variations of gray.

But seven shotgun shells—eight or nine for insurance—are inarguable, untenable.

The coyote tonight is alone, a single ululating cry, a reminder of solitude, a clear song of frost.

Truth is, I'd consider it a happy endin' if seven new people didn't never get born.

_____________

Anyone who listens to the music of Bob Dylan will recognize the debt I owe in this short tale to his 1964 song, "Ballad of Hollis Brown." The image is an edited version of a photo I took in South Dakota in 2011.

Friday
Jul082016

Only Points of Light

She was window shopping. Except she wasn't.

She seemed almost to glide down the wide street with its mid twentieth century storefronts and angled parking on both sides. You could almost imagine Gene Vincent blaring from one of those convertibles, though Chuck Berry might have been a bridge too far.

It was a small southern town preserved in amber.

Her gaze was downcast but occasionally flickered upward, from demure to shrewd in an instant. She was using the windows as mirrors, vigilant as a Serengeti ungulate. Somewhere in the great unfurled blanket of America her foes made headway, through fields of corn, along dusty back roads, cold and relentless in the mountain passes, their gait steady and their footfalls unbroken, their antennae quivering like seismic needles.

Eyes on the glass where her own reflection lay superimposed on a naked pink mannequin, she collided with someone. A kid.

"Whoa, sorry, ma'am," he said. A polite kid. Twelve or so.

"It's okay, son," she mumbled and went to pass him.

"You ain't from here, are you?"

"No, I ain't. But I must be going on my way, young man. Please let me by."

"I know about you. I hear the same sounds you do."

Her dark skin rippled with ice. Her scalp crawled with invisible ants. It felt to her as if she'd woken from a nightmare, only to find the neighbour was a Klansman while all the time she'd been wary of the parade of furtive strangers who passed her home. No, worse. She had no idea which one of those things was true.

***

They found the body of the young boy out in the desert. Shallow was too kind a word for the rudimentary grave. Facile would be more the truth. He had been strangled to death and before the authorities could perform their cleanup the turkey buzzards had dined on parts of him.

Only the coyotes had watched his killer dispose of him, and their stories that night danced with horror and glee, carried on a slight breeze to the ears of nearby farmers but never rendered into any human tongue.

***

There came the sound of distant marching from across the plain. Surefooted, purposeful. The sun had slid below the far off hills and the overhead blackness met the opalescence of an oyster sky through varying shades of blue. The evening was so still and quiet that the marching seemed amplified, as if a great army was striding at impossible speeds, a renegade army intent on something appalling, for when does an army ever intend otherwise?

***

"The arc of history makes this a momentous time. The predators just became prey and they will be more angry now, not less. They will place the blame on their prey. In the parlance of our times, they will double down. Be vigilant, my sisters and my brothers. Do not allow them to pervert the tale, as it's a tale of hard truth and deep pain like no other. Now go, and hear my words echo in your hearts as you walk the sorrowful roads of this vast land."

The people gathered in the park left in small groups. Something about the old man felt right. Some said he was a prophet. Some had yet wilder theories. Some scratched their heads and abandoned conjecture in favour of beer and music and the loving warm arms of their companions.

Only the stars and the fireflies knew for sure, and neither was telling.

Friday
Apr152016

Of Moths and Monsters

Once she got it in her head, she couldn't shake it. Monsters. Sex was an ambush and drugs were lame; hunting for monsters seemed a better prospect than either. 

Of a night, she'd purloin a semiautomatic pistol from the gun safe in the basement—having a cop for a dad had that perk at least—and go hang out behind the Walmart parking lot, down in the scrubland near the river. Or over by the skateboard park, beside the wharf. Anyplace with deep enough shadows. She lived in a town that floated on dirty rainbow water, its reflection swaying like a deranged mother rocking the corpse of an infant.

When the monsters came—and they always came, as they had done so even in the asylum of her home, the sanctuary of her bedroom—she would make it all right again.

Tonight, an older boy kept eyeing her even as she tried to blend into spindly bushes so laden with late-summer soot they were more brown than green. The dark waters of the wide river sent brief warm breezes ashore that tasted in her mouth and nose like lukewarm decay. The boy was a skater and the spill of hair over his face still couldn't hide his gimlet stare.

"What you doin' down here, home girl?"

She ignored him. Spit on the dirty ground. Wondered if—hoped, even—he might turn out to be a monster.

"This no place for a shawty."

"I ain't a kid."

An urban coyote yipped a sudden sharp thought from the other side of the oily waters. Between them, a dark barge slipped soundlessly by, a silent apparition. River spirits passing between scant gutterings of life.

"Wanna see something'?" the boy said.

Her hand went to her waistband and the boy watched and nodded like he knew. He came closer and she tried to send out a warning but she froze. He was standing below a streetlamp from whose dome emanated an orange mist more sodium haze than any true kind of light. He held his skateboard in front of him like an oblation.

"'Sokay," he said. "Lookit. Move into the light."

She did as he said. Stared at the wooden board. Its surface was filled with shifting graffiti, textured and swirling, in which she saw a land made of slate and purple rhododendrons, watched auroras dance over breaching pods of orca, left her body to cavort with forest dryads in a spore-filled sunlit clearing, flew impossible distances across a black howl to taste the ice mountains of Pluto.

She felt too naked so she came back to herself, though she mostly didn't want to.

"What the fuck…?"

"Told you it was okay."

It had to be a trick, but she couldn't fathom it.

"How?" she asked.

"You see what you see, is all. What you need to see. And it's a'ight, shawty. You oughta get on home now. Lock up that nine, yo."

She felt the need to thank him, but he was gone as if he'd never been there at all, and only moths moved in the weak canted light.

Nothing to do but go home. Funny, but she sensed she could handle this. Somehow the monsters had all up and left and, while relief filled many of her hollows, something about that still disappointed her.