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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 David Antrobus (106)

Friday
Apr292016

The Last Beauty

They huddled in the dripping room while the things could be heard above them, shambling, directionless. Except Gemma knew they weren't directionless; their boosted olfactory senses locked onto human scent like Sidewinder missiles tracking heat. It was only their graceless and deceptive gait that suggested a lack of purpose. For they had purpose: an unrelenting hunger for human flesh and human viscera. Almost as if, should they consume enough, their own lost humanity might be returned to them.

In the youthful world now passed, this place had been an industrial park threaded with sweeping arteries of asphalt as the highways curved through the blaring living city. All now void of freight and everything ossified.

But what of beauty? The constant dripping from broken pipes had become the maddening new music of an altered world. Yellow-umber stains on cracked concrete its strange new art. Carrion birds the brave new letters on the dismal grey pages of the sky.

Gemma had noticed one in particular: a woman. Yes, what of beauty? Beauty still clung to this one in places, as with a blighted tree still flowering its final spring while its bark peeled and most of its leaves browned and curled like the imploring hands of babies in the ashen wake of a terrible fire. One of her eyes still flared green like a dying sun. Her chestnut hair, where it still clung, hinted at the lustre of its prime. Even her gait, that appalling lurch of her kind, was offset by the jut of her resting hip, a plaintive sexual echo. In her nihilist soul Gemma found herself wanting her, craving some cheerless consummation.

There was no song, no prayer, no lament, could do justice to the magnitude of their loss. The slow parade toward annihilation had always been inevitable, all things growing cold and alone as space itself stretches and drops over an irreversible horizon. Heat death. But not like this. Not like this.

Song or not, believer or not, in her fitful dreams Gemma found herself praying to the unliving woman she called the Last Beauty.

On this her final night, unaware their camp had been breached, that those pitiless jaws with their unholy sepia teeth were almost upon her, this was her final entreaty, which became her elegy, her requiem for the great abandonment, played for an audience who'd left long ago:

"Come, O woman of the endless shade. Here. Where we follow traces of gold in the gloaming; where we contort our falls to preempt our crushing newborn lambs, whose ripe eyes are glittering seeds for distant new worlds; where we slip silently into the bay, oars laid gently down, rifles now readied; where the shriek of loss in the night ward arrests our hearts while the lusty cry of an infant restarts them; where a timely unbidden song breaks the impulse to self-murder; where the compulsion of sex follows the double helix down into the damp heat of the earth, spiraling—a dark caduceus, kundalini's echo; where the dust-mote cathedral hush and floating becalmed at night under the shimmering cosmic blurt are counterparts; where a fawn emerges unsteady on a quiet floor of dew before even the birds begin their welcome, nose and tail both twitching as if for balance; where Kalashnikovs stutter a Parisian night; where the morning cool holds its delicate breath; where magic still dwells; where all things seem true; meet me here, with all of this, and help me to understand you."

Friday
Apr222016

Green

I came here to investigate your disappearance. Now I can't leave.

There'd been some kind of terrible storm along the eastern seaboard and it had raged its way across the North Atlantic and was about to inflict the dirge-black swan song of its wrath on the Emerald Isle.

Why I chose that moment to head for this one place, I'll never understand. Maybe Greta was right and I do have that death wish she always smelled on me, that vintage eau de cadaver.

My memories are like a desert canyon, undermined by years of slow erosion, revealed only to crumble. Only things I remember between Heathrow and here are a painted gypsy wagon and a halfway likeable mule. A dream of fuchsia hedges and narrow lanes. A couple baggies of weed, a blend, though more sativa than indica. The beginning of the rains felt like nothing. This is Ireland, County Kerry. When does it not rain?

You must have had a reason to run away. That or you'd been stolen. And truth be told, my motives were murky as the Irish Sea in the oily, churning, briny history of that leaden ferry. Goddamn, I always hated loose ends.

Remember Denny, how he smiled all the time and largely for that I could never trust him? Turns out I was wrong and Denny was solid gold. Too late now he's hightailed it back to Kidney Stone, Arkansas, or whichever buttfuck town he started from. Told us he was getting tired. Only he pronounced it more like tarred. I truly miss that smiling sonofabitch. I picture him tarred even now, spitting soft white feathers and grinning like he won the Alabama state lottery. Or was it Arizona?

No matter. We're no nearer the answer, me reminiscing like this.

I arrived, unsullied love stoking my heart's malfunctioning engine. A middle-aged dude with blameless intentions, yet a gawky kid whose pistons still stuttered, in some way I can't quite fathom or describe. I wanted to find you and help you. I know I did.

So, daytime, this place was paradise, almost suspiciously perfect, I swear to God. Hell, no need to even swear: God shoulda known it, since he allegedly fucking made it. A cold clean prattling cobalt stream winding its patient way amid mossy shoulders of land, steep gray crags soaring beyond this emerald valley floor, with its dry stone bridges, its gentle boulders, easy greens and grades, sheep so billowy white you suspect shenanigans. The Gap of Dunloe, it's called. If anyone ever reads this scrawl, look it up. Follow the reedy moans of the phantom pipes. Pretty sure it's near Killarney. 

Which is pretty much the place the storm made landfall. The precise moment I knew in my stammering core I'd find you, the yowling wall of wind and rain hit. One point, a woman in a home built of the very stone that tent-pegged the terrain and warmed by the peat gouged right from the dark loam floor, flung open her door and ushered me in and poured a pint of honey-sweetened Jamesons, bitter dark roast, and thick double cream down my throat. She laughed when I tried to pay her. Slapped me hard when I insisted. Kicked me out for good when I flashed American dollars. Hell, don't judge: I thought the Irish loved green.

So I reentered the shrieking premature night and was instantly drenched and made deaf by the sorrowing howl of untold centuries of horror: the raven on Cúchulainn's shoulder, the passing of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Easter Rising, Bloody Sunday. I turned to you and said, "I know you're close, my love. This has been more worth it than I could ever have hoped." And you looked like you might answer until you blinked away the torrent that waterfalled your brows and then you blinked away your whole self, to leave me the one blinking, because I was alone.

Which is when I glimpsed the chapel behind the cauls of rain, hunched and low-key in the backdrop of the downpour, a lap dog half-pondering a growl.

Inside were people, not a one over thirty, making muddy coffee on camping stoves. They'd moved some of the pews to make a rough circle, and most sat either on them or within their confines. I saw no priest. I began to write these words, until you noticed me and screamed to rival the storm outside.

"He's the one I told you about!" you shrieked. "The one who did those things."

"But I came such a long way to find you, girl." 

"Don't you come near me!"

And that's when I notice the circle has tightened and I'm looking into the close, placid faces of a dozen or more backpacking folk—bearded and north-faced; flanneled, unmoored, and barely bonded—all gripping sharpened hunting steel now they've placed their enamelware mugs on the scuffed hardwood floor, curiosity eclipsing malice in their blind and somber eyes, yet not a shade less terrifying.

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.

Friday
Mar252016

Nightshade

Her momma had died in childbirth. Her daddy loved her and tried to do the best he could for her, which wasn't much in the way of material things but was plenty good enough in her heart. Her name was Bella and she told folks it was short for Belladonna because she liked how it sounded. 

She learned to sew from a patient old townswoman named Millicent, and made her own dresses out of sackcloth. Down by the creek that usually ran dry in the summer months, Bella caught crawdaddies and hummed to herself for days.

Poor as the dry plains of dirt outside her little town, Bella was a happy child, and like the desert itself, didn't even know she was lonely. Sometimes there were only five or six other students in the single-room schoolhouse she attended when she was able, when her daddy didn't need her for chores. Sometimes she played jump rope with two of them, twin girls named Mary and May, but not too often. There was usually something else she had to do at home.

As the years passed, Bella's face beneath the constant layer of sweat-caked dust grew fair, with a fine jawline and eyes that, pale and without guile, held the innocent promise of love. Her body remained a wisp. Had she met a man of principle and gentle bearing their days would have likely approached fairytale bliss.

But she didn't have much time for any of that, until the boy, the son of another farmhand, told her one day he'd learned about a new trick and would like to do cumulonimbus on her and she'd thought he meant that game where you guess the shapes of clouds. He grabbed her arm and took her in the barn and when he squatted in front of her and lifted the hem of her dress she kicked out at him and shoved him so hard he stumbled backward and a large nail for holding a hackamore had pushed into the soft downy part just beneath the back of his skull and the light, even in the dusk of the barn, had visibly dimmed from his eyes.

No one but her daddy listened to her story and they took her to a foster home someplace with raintrees and mountains where her windows had bars and carpenter ants marched stoically to war over her trembling body each night. She tried praying to God almighty but she soon had the sense he either wasn't listening in the first place or had turned his almighty back on her for good.

They were mean to her. Put spiders in her shoes and spit in her food. She tried to hold on to that kernel of liquid gold she'd always felt in her center, but each passing day made it dim like the eyes of the boy she'd killed, only slower.

Then one day she was grown and they let her out.

Her daddy was older'n he should have been—bent and sad-looking as a lightning-struck mesquite—when Bella approached from the west, her scrawny frame in a threadbare dress, barefoot and silhouetted before a furnace sky.

She saw him shed the last teardrop the sandblasted land had left him with. She wouldn't leave him now, not until he left her through whatever dark portal awaited him, on whichever path. There would be no man for her until then and, thinking this, knowing that night had tried to draw its shade over her all her life, even in this fierce bright place, she felt that ember at her heart begin to rekindle, and found herself content with that.

Friday
Mar112016

Breakthrough

It sure was jittery, last night.

Nighttime can be a blur sometimes. We hit all the nodes, as well as the notes. Even our discordance felt ordained. Neon. Met with the right groups and at all the right times, but we overindulged. Okay, I overindulged. The pulsation of an intoxicated evening stretched into a long night, like a quasar, something cosmic, like the history of the slowest supernova, a sedate twin galactic waltz: more absorption and sluggish radiance than cataclysm.

Once upon a time, there was an abundance of time.

Now I wake with a dull head and it's a grey morning and I hear no birdsong or much of anything else.

Coffee. Two scorched hilltop scoops of ground arabica beans and a stainless kettle and a french press stolen from a former girlfriend. Organic cane sugar. One percent milk. No food. Just caffeine and a sweet verve.

Without warning or explanation, my mind goes straight to breasts, full and curved, perfect hard nipples at attention. 

Salivate, drink the last of the coffee, dream of women, step into the street.

Where is everything? I hear nothing. See no traffic, no passers. 

A thin yellow disc attempts to nudge its way through claggy cloud, a weak tongue fighting gummy saliva in the mouth of the dying.

Betrayal, I think. My world has betrayed me. Our world has betrayed us. This wasn't supposed to happen. We expect to awake to commuter sounds and morning radio, earworm ditties and ambiguously cheery local stories about homeless people who selflessly aid those who might once have condemned them, upend the narrative; weather updates on downed branches from last night's windstorms, power outages and traffic tales, how a set of lights are down at Marine and Boundary, how there's a stall on the Lion's Gate, and how a visiting dignitary from India is closing down large sections of Surrey, which we're advised to avoid.

Panic. Intoxication. Are there still bluebells? Wherefore schools of dolphin, sleek musculatures undulating through waves? Icebergs calving? LED-lit whores in Amsterdam, dark triangles glistening behind windows? Grief and drama? The Falls and the Shankill? Quickies in department store change rooms? The best jokes ever told by the funniest women? A different woman making soup? A shallow urban stream? Midnight mass with your drunk non-Catholic friends? Premature birth? Courage in the face of bigotry? Ativan or Xanax? The exhaustion following an assault? Your precious story of violation? Where is your limit? What momentous dreams did you abandon?

I stand on the street. Where buses would hiss and whine. Where cabs would whisk and disgorge. Where pedestrians would play a jaywalk dance with the inside lane, with the righteous right-turners, where bicycles would joust with trucks, middle fingers ready like tiny lances, the morning choreography guided and shaped by something invisible, something never seen, barely even acknowledged. Until it books out. Until it absconds.

Silent. Empty.

I take out my phone and call Sophie, the last person I remember from the night before.

Amazingly, she answers.

"Kurt?"

"Yeah."

"Where you at?"

"Home."

"I'm glad you called."

"Why?"

"Not sure. A friendly voice?"

"What makes you think I'm friendly?"

"Fuck off."

"Ha."

"Kurt?"

"What?"

"You hear anything?"

I consider confounding, befuddling, but go with honesty: "Nah. Nada."

"Fucking creepy, huh?"

"Yeah. Yes, it is."

"Can you come here, brother?"

"Sure. I'll hike it. Stay put. Give me an hour."

"Okay."

I think she's hung up, but she adds:

"Kurt? Hurry, okay?"

"Yeah."

When I get to her place she's gone. But I shouldn't be surprised: everyone's gone. I don't know what to do or where to go next. So I go sit in the street.

I imagine a distant sound, like music by Brian Eno: electronic, ambient; swelling and droning. Perhaps I even hear it, but I doubt that. Real or not, it seems to come from the far limits of the sky, where indigo meets ink-black, right at the edge of the world's rind. Right where the frigid and terrifying universe begins.

I lower my gaze to the smudge-grey asphalt and wish for ants, spiders, worms, weeds, anything. But none appear.

I haven't heard a single siren in hours.

Sophie's phone goes to voice mail.

The sun never even breaks through.