• 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 Dan Mader (17)


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.



There are a thousand ways to walk a road. I picked this one. Judge me when I reach the end of mine. 

There's a universe in every abandoned lot, every weed patch, all derelict things. Go deeper. Go deeper.

We dreamed of a universe that dreamed us first.

She laughs at me when I cry. And rightly so. This is wretched comedy not noble tragedy, slapstick not cataclysm. I should know better. Like hers, my road is crooked, has wound through thorns, thickets, prairies, caverns, and starfields. We have seen some things; some we rendered unto Caesar, some we stomped into pulp while we danced.

Yes, the tornado loves you. Yes, we drank moonshine out of cracked mason jars, somewhere outside of Baton Rouge, in a flat black El Camino. Yes, we smelled the trees rotting. Heard the pitiful whimpers of ruined children. Picked through the ooze of the world, its loathsome glue. Watched them scrape fetuses into ziplock bags. Cried forsaken uterine prayers at the world's drab rim. Fucked until we forgot ourselves. 

Your iris a limned nebula encircling a black hole. Mars isn't the red planet. Earth is. Drenched in blood from the primordial brawl onward, its deceptively placid unblinking eye in the tenebrous void the subterfuge of a demiurge.

How far from yesterday? Too far? Go now. Go. Write that reptilian western, that larval horrortale. Hear the cries of the interstate off-ramps, each one distinct as the lamentations of Jeremiah. Feel the scalding dark arterial blood spraying from my tear ducts.

We're not mad. How can we be? We've done all this together, again and again, felt bug-crawl sands squirm between our splayed fingers and twitching legs. If I am mad then she is too. We've traveled a billion parsecs trapped inside the pungent lurching atrium of a monster's heart, a living sarsen so ancient Stonehenge weeps in shame and the big bang itself is chastened and goes forever silent.

I hold her tender face and search those nebular eyes, feel myself pulled toward her event horizon, and I care not. The vacuum can take me, the nullity enjoy its empty triumph.

"What was it all for? Was it a dream?"

"No, all that's passed was a nightmare. This, this is a dream."

"And tomorrow?"

"A wish. A vision. A maybe. A probably not."

Her climb is up, and so is mine. Her moon's limb is coughed into rock salt. What can you obliterate for relief from this? Whose throat can you tear from its hot bubbling strings? Wherefore rage? Why do we continue laughing like a jester whose court is no more, whose joke runs far beyond its own flat and desolate punchline?


Natural Born

So once again, I contributed to (and contaminated) Mader's Friday festival of felicitous flash fiction, which is well worth your time either as reader or writer (or both, of course), but the piece I wrote seemed to want to grow into something a little beyond their parameters (as lax and liberal as they are). Mindful that I didn't distract or syphon readers away from there, I asked politely if I could extend it on my own blog, to which I received the equivalent of "shut the fuck up, and if you don't, we'll cut you." So here is a fuller version. Yet it still isn't finished, and if I had the time I'd consider this the beginning of a beautiful friendship, a novella or even novel featuring this dubiously lovable and murderous duo.


He was a three hundred and fifty pound trucker from Telluride and she was an amputee from a mining town in British Columbia with a penchant for black metal, NASCAR, and munchkin cats. Both were tattooed in deep homage to monarch butterflies and graphic car wreck fetishism respectively. They would ride the interstates in their big rig (technically his, but mi casa es tu casa) listening to homemade audiobooks they'd record at all-night truck stops—Faulkner, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Welty—his suppressed-rage basso profundo and her scratchy bourbon-and-Camel-lite burr unexpectedly complementary and at times wild-electric sunset accessories. 

Sometimes they would bicker over music (he loved sixties girl groups the best), so if you were both privileged and star-crossed enough to have been riding along, you might have heard the Ronettes followed by Darkthrone, the authentically murderous might of Mayhem preceding the estrogen-drenched exuberance of Martha and the Vandellas, punctuated by a firecracker string of choice insults hurled with the briefest of smiles. Joy and savagery. Love and nihilism.

In many ways, they were the perfect couple. Connoisseurs of chaos, arbiters of havoc. 

She lost her right leg to a dirt bike accident in her teens. Not her entire leg; she still had six or seven inches of femur wormily rounded to a scar-tissue knoll, not entirely dissimilar to a reduced corn dog. Sometimes, while he drove and she allowed herself to be splayed naked beside him, she would let him massage its truncated end and try to imagine it was a gargantuan penis throbbing with some indecipherable need.  

And sometimes, with their victims, it would become a weapon. 

His girth, allied with and likely the result of the largely sedentary lifestyle and trans-fat-and-white-sugar diet of a long-distance truck driver, was a slow death sentence, and he knew it. All the more reason to satisfy appetites in the here and now. Never defer certain specific pleasures. It became a principal tenet of their peculiar faith. 

They were a cult of two, dealing almost exclusively in warped love, dark loyalty, arch skepticism, and wanton homicide. 

"Baby, how long till we eat?" she asked, her pinkie lost inside her ear in a forlorn attempt to kill a maddening itch, black-painted nail scoring the drum. 

Their regimen was strict, she knew, yet still she asked. 

"A little more than two hours, my love."

"Aw. Fu-uck." She could bestow precisely as many syllables on the word fuck as she desired. 

"Easy on the cussing, my sweetest Jezebel." 

This elicited a crooked smile and a raised eyebrow. Conflicted, seductive, tentative. 

"Sorry. You know how I get when my gut thinks my throat's cut." 

"You could always gnaw on James." 

Oddly, she'd forgotten about James, the last hitchhiker whose doomed trajectory had intersected with their own grisly arc. He'd been a fighter and had nearly gotten away. Which happened far too often. 

She explained it thusly: "We're natural born lovers, honey. The killing part don't come natural, just something we tacked on later."




Go away. There is lint in my head. I have no idea how it got there. What is lint? Clustered micro fabric and human skin? Uh. Could fashion a golem from it. A movie was playing earlier, The Big Sleep, Bogart and Bacall. I can't get the lint out. Sneeze it out? Cough? It's too far in. Nothing will work, not any more. I am sad Lauren Bacall died. I know Bogart also died, and he smoked like he never wanted to taste the air of this world, but that was a long time ago now, and besides, she was feisty. And elegant. It's hard to be elegant with lint in your head. I need a sugar alternative; I eat too much white death. Not in cakes and that kind of shit, but in tea and coffee. Although strictly speaking that means I drink it not eat it. Someone told me there is ground bone in white sugar. Is that true? She might have been a vegan. The person who told me that, I mean. She had an agenda maybe. Double Indemnity is another good one. Is noir a cure for lint, or a cause of it? I no longer know for sure and am paralyzed by my ignorance. Barbara Stanwyck was never paralyzed by anything. Except by death, of course. I am lying on a hot deserted highway and I can't move. I am broken. Tender shoots are crawling from the road's many cracks. I can see them growing; they're repulsive. She did kiss me once, she did. There is old blood smeared on the road's crumbling surface. Terrible wrenching things have occurred. I love the sound of coyotes, like teenagers trying on primal round a campfire. Enraged and intoxicated by life. Or should that have been with life? The syntax is slipping, words loosen. Yapping and shrieking at a moon cowering. Junior wolves. Is it night already? Am I this far from help? How can lint be so heavy? A lonely tear escapes my eye and begins its own brief story. Unremarked. Soon gone. A doctor in a dark overcoat is climbing the stairs. He is hunched and trembling under the burden of his appalling news.


Tempting Ogres

There are times when I drive across the whole of America and the sky stays that same deep blue, morning through night, Monday through Sunday, behind mountain peaks from fabled lands. Distant clouds bloom off-white and cerebral, unattainable dreams on abandoned horizons. The kind of dreams dreamed by forsaken gods. 

Roxy says, "Tell me you love me." 

"I love you." 

"Now tell me like you ain't just been caught in a lie." 


All those map lines, crisscrossing. The pitiless blue interstates. Broken line borders. The edges. Brimming with need and indifference. Love and embarrassment. The high wretched calls of ocean things. 

Detoured from I-90 aways back, we're lured and lulled into this living postcard of America. 

We head south on the Oregon coast, find some kind of level in a springtime bubble of ocean surge and yellow scotch broom, tadpoles under grey rocks, seals on brown ones. Plunge into spray, follow a monochrome urge, Roxy standing atop the headland, desirous to display but knowing that can only backfire in a world built the opposite of joy. 

Arms folded under those lavish breasts, she won't look at me. 

"Hey Roxy, play some music." 

I can almost hear her eyes roll, a gritty squeak. I can almost hear my heart break too, but I won't describe that. 

When we pull into the motel parking lot in Yachats, a place held like something fragile by parental stands of terrified fir and pine, all we want is to fall down on a soft bed and surrender to the sleep that's been calling our names the last three months. High time we stopped ignoring it. Even Jesus slept. Far as I know, anyway. 

People die in this place. A teen boy once slipped on these rocks and couldn't climb back, struggling like an upended turtle as the surf beat him steadily to death while his friends watched, arms outstretched, impotent. There's a plaque recalling him.

We walk the rocks anyway, explosions of white spray booming and fizzing around us, surging tides shot through narrow passages beneath our feet. Nature's IEDs. So loud we can't hear the gulls cry out their PTSD, their hypervigilance. 

"I was born in a month that rhymes with remember." 

"I can't hear you. Not a single word. Let's go inland, see if we can find trains." 

I hear that. Trains are usually good. We walk as evening begins to gather itself. 

A field, dimming. Sure enough, the eastbound freight draws night behind it like a rough blanket over the land, a sky that catches and muffles its hoarse lament, holds it heavy and tenebrous within its midnight promises and vows of rain, all except for a western strip where earlier the sun dropped while we walked away—impossibly distant, a rarefied airless realm of crimson and gold, like blood and treasure. 

We are blood and treasure. Trash and pleasure.

No, we're worse than that, and better than that. 

The entire world trembles. For a moment, death's-head moths hold the fate of empires between their wings. The train gathers speed for a deep land trek while children are diced unlamented in alleyways and chickens burst like nebulae from rafters in a forgotten barn, dust motes and moths, stars and straw and strands of gold like the lustrous tresses of a fabled princess, cavalier, leaning from the window of her tower, her slender neck arched, waiting. Tempting the axes of ogres. 

Roxy fixes me with one of her eyeslit glares. "It's all your fault," she says, as jackbooted tyrants, charcoal-suited fascists with cruel smiles and flickering lashes, frogmarch us inland, indifferent to our renewed seaward yearnings, while amid the descending darkness great fat raindrops play free jazz over the thirsty fields, syncopated and toxic, and we pretend not to cry with terror as funnel clouds gather and we're mocked and jabbed by soldiers demob-giddy and lustful with the very last war's end, knowing they'll show us no mercy once the touchpaper's lit. 

"You're right. It is. My fault, I mean." 

"Yeah, well, checkout time's come early, my darlin'." 

And she reaches for my hand and won't ever let go. Sleep be goddamned.