Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out

Entries in David Antrobus (108)

Friday
May202016

Midnight in America

An old man: "Sometimes I think the only important things that happen happen between a woman's legs."

A young woman: "That sounds like something you would think."

"Today I saw a ladybug with no spots. Just a flawless shiny bloodred dome moving on a leaf. It looked more like a machine."

"It is a machine. We're all machines. Soft, wet machines."

"But a female machine. Or we wouldn't call it lady."

"I've never used this word to describe anyone before, as it's the type of word you only hear in movies or read in books, but you're incorrigible."

"Listen, chica. When I was a tiny boy, I believed. I prayed to the big god they told us about in church and in school. I asked that god to help me when I felt sad or lost. I fought in a war and took refuge with a whore, and while I knelt and was tender and attentive, I asked that I become a better lover. I was present when my daughter was born and I asked that same god to make me a good father. I'm an old man now and the final darkness is not too far away, yet I gotta say out loud that I've spent most of my life waiting for anything resembling a response."

"That's a lonely thing."

"You got that right."

"So that's why you're here?"

"Kinda. Why do you want to know? I pay you and I get what I want and then we're done."

"Because it's more than that. I know you. You may be an old bastard, and a cranky one at that, but you're not some anonymous client. I watched you cry that time."

"Fuck that. I was a pussy back then."

"No you weren't."

"Anyway, I thought you said we're all machines. None of this matters, if that's the case."

"Nothing sadder than a sad robot."

"…"

"See? Okay, I gotta ask. Are you depressed?"

"That's a simple question with a complicated answer."

"So answer. I got time."

"Ha. You're a tenacious little cunt, aren't you? But okay. I'll give you the simple version, since you're like a pit bull chewing on a femur and I like that the same way I admire Jack Nicholson's character in that movie with the big Indian. Or perhaps the big Indian himself. Hell yeah, I'm depressed. But I'm no more depressed now than I was last week, last year, last decade. You learn to deal. And some days I deal better than others."

"Tell me more."

"What are you, my therapist?"

"Nah, I'm curious."

"Right. Okay, you wake up in the flat grey morning of a gloomy Sunday. Sometimes that feels like the end of things, other times it feels like it's the low point you might climb out of. Or rise, like that firebird. It's always there, a giant fucking shadow. If you let it, it will drop from above, a tear-soaked canopy, and impede your every step. You won't be able to escape your bed, let alone some mythic fire. But you can't. You can't let it win. You gotta keep finding ways to let the light in. Fill the days with good. Could be a handful of blue M&M's one day, a Warner Bros cartoon the next. Things that are light, and free of that awful weight."

"I never heard you say so many words."

"Well, you asked."

"I did do that."

"I like something else about you. Can you guess what?"

"What?"

"I called you a name earlier and you didn't flinch. In fact, you smiled just a tad." 

"Words are words. Each one has more than one meaning."

"You'd have liked my daughter."

"Past tense?"

"See? You say you know me, but you didn't know that, did you?"

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, me too. It's alright, I ain't mad at you."

"Why would you be mad at me? For not knowing? Because she's dead?"

"Nah, none of that. No reason at all to be mad at you. I'm a cranky old man, remember? I'm mad at most everyone much of the time."

"It's understandable."

"Ha! Hey, that time you seen me crying? That's why. My daughter. That's the real reason I was bawling like a baby, no matter what bullshit reason I gave at the time."

"Better late than never, I guess."

"Huh?"

"Honesty. Being honest. I'm glad you trust me enough to be honest."

"You're a fucking riot, girl."

"A pun?"

"Not intentional, but it works."

"So you still want to do this thing?"

"Uh-huh. Never been more sure of anything."

"It'll change you."

"I don't doubt that. I'd chew on it more if it was noon or even midafternoon, but I'm far closer to midnight, so it don't matter." 

"Okay. I wish I didn't know you, though. Makes this harder."

"Just let's go in the room and bring in the redneck."

"Alright. Did you pick your implement?"

"Gonna go with a claw hammer."

"How's your swing, gramps? It might take a while…"

"No problem. I want him to suffer. I need to experience this. Being bad, I mean. Evil, even. The last eight years, the Trump presidency, pretty much killed my love for people, especially the miserable fucks that helped him get there. This yahoo properly vetted?"

"Oh yeah. Skinhead past. Swastika tats. Stormfront bona fides. Has a long record of assaults against blacks and gays."

"Good. Let's go spill this hate machine's blood."

"You break my heart, old fella, but you paid your money and this is still America."

"Damn right, girl."

Friday
May062016

The World Now

A road is an inevitability.

We traveled through the night and came back to the coast and a morning sky like God's mint breath. It was always going to be the ocean, that leviathan swell, gusted whitecaps, brightness glancing off the sound so dazzling you fear for your retinas.

This is the world now.

The cabins are still here. They were already being reclaimed by the insatiable life of the world even before all the bad stuff happened; rough cedar stairways and tortuous narrow boardwalks in creeper chokeholds, drifted corners of sand and lozenges of coloured glass, dry grey siding more bone than wood. Wood's spirit shadow. And inside, the permeating musk of old furniture, a leaky kitchen tap, ocean scene paintings as sun- and salt-bleached as the driftwood they depict.

We find one empty. You kick off your shoes, step to the small balcony, watch a resolute phalanx of ants on the railing. You turn and gift me a half-smile and I return its other half.

"Let's open that wine," I say.

"First, a shower, even if the water's cold."

"It will be. But we got plenty of time now, to fix things. There are others here. People like us."

I'm thinking generators. Solar power. Friendships. Things we almost gave up on as we trekked west and saw what we saw.

I listen to the water cascade and imagine you naked, the water skeining over your skin, your head back. Always your head back. Your solemn eyes half-closed. My love for you is a lighthouse to keep you safe, cooling rain on a sultry August night, the high blip of a beacon in the silent roar of space. 

I open the wine and get a start on you. I know you'll be mad when you see that, but I don't care—there'll be more wine. You'll wrinkle your nose, make a dismissive gesture with one hand, then find your way back to happy in the blink of a lamb's tail.

Roads are righteous things. Even cracked and overgrown. Without them, we might never have found our way back here. We are the hot red cells in the arteries of the world. We were once the virus, or at least its carrier, but no more. We will atone.

Suddenly you are here in the room with me and you scowl. I try not to smile and I pass you the bottle, which you take and upend. Still naked and dripping, you look delicate as a suckling fawn.

"Did I tell you about my last dream?" you ask, after slaking your thirst.

"No."

"It was bad. Worst one yet. Even been dreaming awake."

I know better than to dismiss these dreams. Throughout, I've believed in you and we're still here. That's enough for me.

"They'll get better from here on in," I say. No more plague doctors. No more patient vultures. No more carnage. No more children coughing out their viscera in a mass grave. No. Welcome to the debridement. The healing surf will thread tendrils of hope through those dark landscapes, my divine Cassandra.

Things might have faded, but we'll bring colour back, just watch us.

This is the world now. But it doesn't have to be.

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.