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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 (81)

Friday
Jan162015

Conviction

What did they say about the girl who died? That she was pretty? Delicate of face yet hardy of soul? That she sometimes lisped when excitement took her. That she was bright as a star cluster? That now and again she laughed riotously like a mule? No, they said she was a "beloved treasure." How could they mourn the death of something in which they themselves saw no life? Death itself has no meaning for a "treasure." You might as well speak of a broken clock. They are imbeciles.

She was alive and imbued with that fierce need only the best of us have, a need to experience it all. More so than me, her palest of shadows. Before I took all that away, robbed her of life and, worse, the world of her, she lit that world wherever she stepped, no matter how drear its corners, how dismal its recesses.

Before we heard about the storm heading our way, suspicions were starting to cloud my horizons. Something not quite right. Or worse, wrong right through. I could detail those things if I wanted to exonerate myself, but I sure don't want to do that at this juncture, maybe not ever.

Our place sat on a flood plain in a small north-south valley surrounded on three sides by thickly conifered mountains. At the south end, a vast east-west alluvial valley lay perpendicular to it. When at last the storm arrived, I was out by the woodshed, splitting birch stovelengths with an axe. A great gale was building, and since it was moving eastward, riding the pineapple express from some squally, cyclonic Pacific locus, our valley was safeguarded, sequestered.

Yet that gale had a voice. It made me drop tools and climb up to the deck so I could look to the main valley, and see if what was making that hellacious sound was something towering, wretched, and living. All I could see was a deep traumatic and carnal red roiling below the dark brow of the world, black and dire banners of cloud torn along in the wake of an apocalypse. And it howled. Like there were two levels to it—a prolonged shriek of something in mortal terror above that unabating roar of rage. The hair on my forearms stood spiky as the silhouetted firs on the ridge to my left. It felt ceaseless yet also final, the last sound we might ever hear in this or any other world, harrowing its way through eternity.

I went inside. She was doing something quiet in an alcove off of the kitchen, some kind of needlework, and I stood over her.

"You hear that infernal sound?"

She squinted at me, a puzzled look on that precious face, said nothing.

"You telling me you don't hear that?" I was exasperated. How could she ignore that doomsday shriek?

"Hear what, hon?"

I started to answer, but an awful realization hit me: she couldn't hear it because this was already the sound inside her pretty head; she heard this on constant, terrible, heavy rotation. I turned on my heel and went outside again, that great clamour crawling around my neck and shoulders like a shawl made of serpents, and, with ample time to think, retrieved my axe, returned to the house, and buried that pitted blade in her skull. She died with disbelief on her face. 

Here's the thing, though. Maybe I expected her head to discharge some vile green fluids, or spark and fizz like some midway sideshow, but all I saw was something runny like warm egg white, plenty of red, and a slow greyish-pink ooze. No other secrets. No wiring. No implants.

The 911 dispatcher could barely hear me over the raging fusillade.

Here's another thing, and it's damn near a kneeslapper: I now have vast and lonely stretches of time in which to contemplate my own impulsive certainty on a day I believed the world—with all its recessed corners, its mountainous tempests and everything I feared, seethed at, and treasured—was about to end.

Friday
Dec262014

Blind

He woke under a sky that was a puzzlement. No immense swan soared across that black night, no northern sigil of a messianic creed, nor even the great why of Cassiopeia. Orion's flapping sheet had sailed on or, worse, was yet to sail.

He wished for clouds. Ghost-white shoals to make of the night a cataract to blind itself to the strangeness of this antic new void.

On the iron desert pan writhed a manshape of sorts, wreathed in a bloodcaul, seeming to search for purchase in a world without currency. Blind. Uterine. Forsaken. Articulated limbs and joints or things less wonted yet, angular as imperatives, stretched the wet sac in sundry places, and whatever sought its birth here mewled appallingly. 

Nothing had to become, no positing need quicken, even at this late juncture.

He scanned the makeshift ground for a weapon. Finding none he followed the bloodtrails of the blind pups into the hills so as to dispatch them between bootheel and the igneous floor, their sad soft heads compliant under his implacable decree.

Returning he kneeled and bared his teeth to midwife the abomination, a mad satire of a doula a-squat on this cracked unyielding earth.

It fought its way into a lifespan curtailed, its face mostly mouth, its lunar eyes sightless. It was devoid of the skin necessary for the bufferment of the world's pain and it shrieked like an ice age wind howling through a low brake, and even the mountain wolves were dumbfounded into silence.

It climbed unsteady to a semblance of upright, still screaming.

The man stood on the sneering lip of the world, clasped the thing's dripping hand, and together they plummeted toward the dry, rough, upraised palms of an indifferent giant.

*

"… of this popular Southwestern tourist attraction. It seems the man had some kind of psychotic break, causing him to blind and mutilate his wife of thirteen years—the latter in ways we can't describe on television—before completing a murder-suicide the full five hundred feet to the canyon floor. Police continue to search for the tragic couple's two young children. I'm Ramsey Farris and this is WTAF News, Arizona."

Friday
Dec192014

Delivered

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?

Friday
Dec122014

Sorrowing

Dusk comes with a slow dimming, as if the world's sorrowing.

The people move delicately, their motions precise and penumbral, campfire noises distinct. The world seems formed from grainy points that swirl like quenched lightning bugs. The cough of a burro. A deterrent growl. Cast iron pots. The reek of smoke. Human warmth.

The girl, forgotten a moment, rests on a low wall on the edge of the settlement, waiting for the light to leave the violent rim of the sky. Through the trees, the squat sun spasms and the girl gazes at faraway realms, the serried distant hills like hunched triassic beasts.

Always from new aspects she has craved and surmised great wondrous lands, and now another lies above the horizon, canted over this very world, our sunset cumulus their doomed archipelagos in a bloodsea.

She wonders if they'll come for her. Her people. If they even remember. Her people of phosphorescence in this darkling land. Mayhap their recall is receded into fable, or fashioned into yearning auguries. Unrequited in this life.

A rough hand clasps her arm, drags her campward, and hope rolls back into the sultry vaults of her heart like eyes into a blinded head.

One of these nights, the coyote people will carry the day in this place of wolves, she no longer thinks.

Friday
Dec052014

The Draw

We got caught in a dry draw, night falling fast in the small valley at our backs. A ragtag bunch of fugitive daughters and sons and their long shadows, befouled refugees alongside the mockery of refugees.

Where a creek once flowed, some vegetation followed, scabrous and mean, this dry gulch a seam scrawled by a child holding two antitheses of green pencil. To our left, looking skyward, a narrow fan of grey scree, a trod-upon bridal veil.

"We oughta head for higher ground." Lucas had already begun scrambling the talus slope, heavy pack be damned. The dry spray of stones behind his boots was the sound of agitated bones, a charnel house desecration.

I saw if we went further we could still climb, more gradual, mind, and then loop back around, come out in the same damn place, so that's the way I went. Three of our group went the same way, two others clambering after Luke. As we made our own slower course, rejoining our party in time, we heard the others excitable in the hushed gloom.

"We found ourselves a cave!"

Was indeed a darker smudge on a short cliff face, reminiscent of a cavemouth. We seen it before we reached it. Then we reached it.

Before, we'd come up through what was once fruitful pasture, irrigated by man in defiance of an arid climate, now returned to truculent desert itself: cacti, sagebrush, greasewood.

Never could we figure out what happened, fully.

Whatever it was had done for the honeybees and for most of the butterflies, whether through the air or by way of the water, some subliminal thing or a hot toxin, a mite before the unspooling of men's minds. Most went utterly mad. Madder even than usual on this misbegotten earth. Could be some had wandered in pointless circles and fell forward, bashing their loved ones with cast iron pots or digging tools, over and over, while those had bashed right on back till all were crimson pulp on the thirsty ground and no one soul now stood anticipatory. Except us few, our own exemption a puzzlement even to us.

"That ain't no cave. It's a long abandoned mine. Silver or nickel I'm surmising." Luke was already peering into its impossible blind depths.

"What if something got here afore us?" Colette was beside him, also squinting.

I looked around the entrance in light that had near emptied from the world and saw no scat or leavings, human or otherwise.

"Think we're good," I said.

I ran my hands over the rock inside the black maw of the mine and felt the striations and boltholes where posts and beams once gave spurious comfort to the subterraneans inside. Made my nerves dance like heat lightning and my mouth parched as the desert we'd done walked, but with crazies down there roaming all ways to hell and back we hadn't been able to light fires too often, and maybe we could have ourselves a pot of coffee a ways inside the tunnel. Searing hot as the days got, nights could freeze your bone marrow; even a small fire might lift our spirits.

We all seemed to reach a similar opinion without needing words, because everyone up and moved as one inside the darkness, and a couple of us still had batteries back then, so our way was preceded by two dim swordplay beams.

Which was how we first discovered the mutants.