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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 Depression (3)

Friday
Mar102017

Back Story in Green

“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

***

You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally. 

I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own. 

Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind. 

The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos. 

Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left. 

Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock. 

Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need. 

***

When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life. 

*

Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian

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."

Saturday
Aug242013

The Lonely Room

Every Friday, JD "Dan" Mader opens his blog, Unemployed Imagination, to impromptu flash fiction writing, a generous gift to his fellow writers. Whether you participate or lurk outside admiring the entries, it's always a fun playground. This week, I started a piece and it kind of took over and, embarrassingly, it went way beyond the two minutes of allotted time. But it said something slightly different about something frightening and sad, in a way I hadn't captured before, so I thought I'd better reproduce it here, edited slightly, on this poor neglected blog of mine. So, here's "The Lonely Room":

It's like being trapped inside a dirty white room with only one door: the glare of the fluorescents scratches your corneas; the random, rhythmless drip of a tap somewhere keeps you from sleeping or even relaxing. The lights make dying electric sounds. There are things in the dim corners; terrible things. You wonder if the room will run out of oxygen. Your heart rate picks up, tethering itself to this new anxiety. But then it in turn goes away; you forget to be scared and wonder instead whether you're already dead. Then, there are the scenes on the stained walls, projected by a pitiless torturer known as nostalgia: happy scenes that feel like they could sever your aorta; once-shining things now like shards. They cut and you bleed. You are in this room every day. For weeks. Months. Bleeding, in appalling pain or feeling nothing at all. You must be dead, you think. Then, one day, of no particular calendrical significance, you stand and look through the single dirty pane of glass and see a small boy walking by and another child on a bicycle is riding like a neutrino in a collider toward the first child and you think some terrible cosmic catastrophe will occur, but the boy spies the bike and sidesteps it, and…. that is all. The threat is past, has passed. You once knew how to do that and now you know again; you know to ready yourself for the assaults, that they will be coming—of that you can be sure—but you can roll away, use their momentum, sidestep them, remove their sting, deflect the worst. At which point, astonished, you realize the door had never even been locked.