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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 flash fiction (80)

Friday
Aug112017

When Gulls Scream

When my girl left me and went back east, I drove many hundreds of miles of my own. South.

Long before Canyonville even had a chance, I pulled into a darkening asphalt parking lot horseshoed by conifers, hearing the cannonade of surf against rocks, and I signed in to a room with an ocean view. The owner, a handsome woman with short black hair in a bob and wide sargasso hips, hinted I might find solace in her oceanic murmurs and clefts, and I did consider it, her warm specific impetus of comfort. But I never acted on it. Actual solace being too distant and all. 

That first night, after hearkening to the eternal clamor of the tide, I beheld the sunset, the dripping red sun like some internal sac dropped into an autopsy pan. My rosy camera finger stutter-sifting forensic traces.

Plastic glasses brimming with cheap red wine. Slipshod guitar work. I slept on the narrow balcony, folded into motel bedding, torches marking the cliff top trail below. Eighties Prince strutting on my laptop. Grainy silhouetted couples passed and gouged more pieces from my dark-starred heart. Whispered and clasped hands. I could see the sugar arc of their fingers, imagine the shadowy settlement of their terms, the endearing angles of their lips and eyebrows, their poise, their tone, their doleful, gentle music.

As the surf replayed its nevermore loop, hell's agonal gasps, I watched the gaping moon, frozen out there in the solar wind. Cadaver blue and alone.

The first time solitude outshines us, it makes some quiet vow to ratchet up its bone-grip.

That ring tone. Asking, "You there?"

FaceTime. Fuck. I could have ignored her, but my prison was my grieving skin, my gentle heart, was never not.

"Here. Yeah. Hey, babe."

Shadowy faces moving and grimacing in doltish middle grounds. Aging white folks. Farmer's omelets and rye toast and bottomless coffees in white mugs, Perkins and Denny's, peanut butter and strawberry jelly arrayed in racks, thumbsized. Iowa fields and South Dakota billboards. Sioux City, Sioux Falls. Illinois sunset. Faraway lightning. Liver spots. Trucker hats. Angry as fuck. The drastic ghosts behind all this.

"You did the left coast road trip without me."

"I did."

Pause to hear the sussurance of the night surf. The quiet inhale, the concussive rage, the hissing backdraw through mineral-brown teeth. The whole defiant coast is a wide and diffident mouth.

Lighthouses faking something. Partial corpses. Zombified. Useful in some surrogate time now gone. 

"How could you?"

"Was always gonna do it. And woulda done it either way."

"I'm mad at you."

"Yeah. You broke this. Broke me. There was no us when I started."

Seabirds claim their quotas of night right before the crows wake.

We traded more words. Reminisced. About fireworks seen from a balcony. Even tried to wring something winsome from this jilted Fender, until…

A great blinding shear off the coast, somewhere near the horizon, sliced across the night, stupefying light so pure it's easy to forget the wretched bastard cacophony to follow.

And you saw it onscreen, knew it was your immediate future, light-speed nigh, the moment I tried to say I still cared, the moment love posed triumphant, when a gull screamed, at the frozen blazing moment of my erasure. 

Friday
Jun232017

Wheels Within Girls

Marvin called me a femme fatale and I asked him how I could remind him of a dairy product. He murmured something about film noir, but I knew I was in the ascendancy, so I didn't let go. 

"So a crème fraiche?"

"No, that's not it."

"Frappuccino?"

"Na-ah…" He drew it out, but his voice quavered.

"You fuck. You think you can draw an edge around me, put me in a box?"

"No, forget it. You didn't hear me right."

"I hear you right. I'll fucking hear you right."

"Calm down. It doesn't even make sense. You're a bottle blonde, after all."

"Wait a goddamned jailhouse minute. So you're saying my hair colour is a key factor here?"

"Well, sorta. I mean, you don't get evil perky blondes, right?"

"Until me. Right?"

Up until the moment I got bored, toying with Marvin was fun. But yeah, that moment. Amazing how fast the color can drain from everything. Leaves you sitting immobile, gaping, like the power got compromised or something, like the sun snapped out a plasma lariat and browned out the world. 

That proved to be the last time I saw Marvin and the last time Marvin saw anyone at all. Not gonna give you too long to think about that.

Until recently I still bleached my hair, but I'm thinking of going back to black, so my roots aren't just showing, they're exposing themselves shamelessly. Thinking maybe I can grow into my stereotype. I'll have to be on my guard; I hear they treat brunettes different. Poor Marvin was probably on to something, Lana Turner notwithstanding. And Stanwyck, of course.

But here's another thing: they think they got me. The law, I mean. Got me to flip on a couple higher-ups when all the time I'm the higher-up. Look. As our president so amply demonstrates, bragging is for the childishly insecure, so trust me when I tell you this ain't no brag: I am smart as they come. Sharp as a shinken katana forged in Kyoto. A straight razor pushed against your trembling taint. At such moments of my choosing, you will not not notice me. Completely self-educated, a thirsty daughter of Phoenicia and the Amazon, I'm prouder of my smarts than the accident of birth that fashioned my looks. The latter tends to obscure the former, though, so I'm able to hide in plain sight—around men, especially. Playing the dumb broad or the ingenue is fun as hell. Ha, maybe I should use the handle Columba. 

The wheel. Invented in 3500 BCE, early Bronze Age. To my right is a Chinese bowl, porcelain, fish motifs, inky blue on bluish white. It's late in June, and the heat is a hot rag squeezing my skin. I am a wet sponge trying to become a dry sponge. A ceiling fan is reflected in the bowl, and its glazed surface holds the ghost of a tiny spoked wheel, turning fast. Aghast at its own heat. The circle of life is also a wheel. The wheel was a diabolical instrument of medieval agony. And my current troubles turned on a roulette wheel. 

I happen to be the kind of woman who uses a phrase like "Wait a jailhouse minute." Paints stellar imagery with words. Allusive. Elusive. A virtuoso amoroso, I control the lexicon. How can you not admire me, love me? I am delightful. Confronted with your bewildered mien, I will reflect you. Disguised as Echo, I am yet Narcissus. Both reflections, it has to be said. (See what I did there?)

But yeah. The casino added two to two and came up with something other than four. They were right I was cheating them, right for all the wrong reasons. Their heavies left no impact, so they turned to the weightier, blunter instruments of the state. I was so far ahead of them they thought they were lapping me. No doubt some of them would like that image, of them lapping me, I mean. Fantasists. Utter fucksticks. They have no idea the depth of my antipathy.

Strange. All these thoughts, these deadly playful words, and you don't yet know my name, and I'm so okay with that.

Friday
May122017

Cabin. Lake. Action.

Afterward, her first instinct was to make her way to the cabin upstate. When she saw his text—"On my way soon"—her heart hop-skipped in her chest for a second. Like a new comet, hope crossed the night sky of her awareness. 

She cranked the generator and wondered how much he had changed. Almost a decade had lurched awkwardly by since they'd spent a blurry month of kayaking and dancing and one-upping each other with their culinary skills. And lovemaking. Don't forget that. She couldn't forget that. It had been a perfect time. No hint of impending darkness; pure lakeside rapture in gauzy dreamlight.

Again. She wondered how much he had changed.

How cruel the passage of time. How needlessly complex. A relentless, heedless, slick-knot blastocyst. 

On the uncovered deck, unfolding chairs, sitting, standing by the railing, she paced, fidgeted. She could never get comfortable anymore. She tried to breathe, yoga breathe—prana, her instructor had called it; deep and long—and take in the skim of mist that hung like netting over the lake and the dark encirclement of conifers. But her mind stutter-stepped and her hot, coiled body wouldn't settle. 

She had the strangest sense of unraveling. Like yarn unspooling. Was it time or was it memory? The loons were long gone from this place, replaced by more distant complaints. The songs of the cicadas seemed muted. More sorrowful, more dissonant.

In the small kitchen, sensing his proximity, she uncorked an expensive Bordeaux, with some difficulty. Ready to celebrate this reunion. Mark this occasion. Poured herself a large glass. Began to fix tortillas with salsa and guacamole. Crushed some ice for margaritas, made do with lime juice instead of limes. Sweet-rimmed two plastic glasses. Overkill, she knew. 

But still she wondered. If he had changed, had she also changed? Well, yes. Much had changed, although this lake and its vigilant garrison of cedar and spruce seemed somehow eternal. The choral dawns and evening serenades. The songbirds and the fireflies. 

The earthy tang of woodsmoke in her nostrils. The face of the water ashen, like someone given grave news in a hospital. 

She tried to tune the radio, found nothing. Smacked its wooden frame. Paced. Waited.

The moment she found a channel—something preachy, gawping, and demented; scratchy as brain spiders—she looked up and with her remaining eye watched him approach from the overgrown driveway. He was worse off than her, an arm long gone and the skin on the other flapping in slick pink parade flags as he lurched her way. A good third of his head was a ruined moon, yet he grinned peculiarly, one pinning eye fixed on her while she struggled to stand and greet him.

The timing of their embrace, already heated in its way, coincided neatly with the next howling firestorm.

Friday
Mar312017

Monarch

The wind gets up and sweeps our fires into streams of sparks, and we huddle closer inside our reams of rough hessian. Who knew the gales would blow so long? This is our place in the town square, our moment in the dreamscape, our truth within the chapel. Press those pedals, let the tiny organ wheeze its banal statute. Unfurl its rules. Queen, open your warm vaults to me, force me to partake of your exotica. The blizzard is here already; no one will speak again. 

"Wait."

No, I will not wait. 

"I am telling you to wait. I will not beg." 

Are you placed, poised to describe a million, maybe tens of millions, of black-and-amber leaves opening and closing and flapping northward, tropical to temperate, fine panes of leaded glass, flakes of tiger, endless pages from a children's book made for countless children yet to be born?

"No, you will not beg."

Once, a woman walked among you. She was lovely in mind and body and heart. Did you administer kindness? Treat her with respect? Urge her to lie crosswise? Trace the carious ridge above her passage with your fingertips, searching for fragmented things? Shattered enamel, a busted pelvis, and a skewed, deteriorated jawline. 

"We don't need to beg."

A whiteout. Shrieking phantoms skirling across empty highways. No lawmen. Not even sirens. Nothing. No one. 

"Just wait."

"No. Fuck. I will not."

"Spring is almost here."

"No. It's not."

"Weesht, child. Be still."

She sat in a quiet centre and let the groan of a weighted mountain lurch and creak and begin to detonate. She was a superhero, but one who lived on earth and not in shaded panels or amid spilled ink. She accepted her millstone, scoped her foes, cradled her spigots, arraigned her adversary. Made with a vineyard near Summerland a faraway date. Woke to hope. 

"Not begging. Imploring."

We're gathered on some secret meridian, far from the gridlock bedlam, quiet in a Costco parking lot where color has drained from a bright sky and sound from a late spring evening. Breathe. We remember our journeys here: passing through semicircular bridges—iron hemispheres of hemlock-green like half-buried parts of some giant machinery abandoned by unknowns—jerking the wheel right and then left, skirting traffic circles, wrenching gears, racing some dumbfuck in his Dodge Ram with truck nuts and a Trump/Pence sticker, blurring cornfields and anti-choice billboards, RV parks and storage yards, Chevron pumps and John Deere outlets. Praying a state trooper won't be waiting round the next bend, flanks still, all of him ready to move like a rested fly on stricken carrion.

"I am clean."

Welcome, Gaia.

"They don't care."

Welcome, Jocasta.

"They must."

Welcome, Cassandra.

"No. No."

Welcome, Pandora.

"Then we must—"

Welcome, Boudicca.

"Don't speak it out loud."

Welcome, Kali. 

A soft-boiled sun drops into a blue Pacific to the west, and before the light drains from the world a billion wings ripple the quiet air, batlike against a lung-shadow sky, looming voluminous, a bounteous smog with which to paint the evening, had we the tools or the vision.  

Friday
Dec022016

Reprisals

I began as someone else and now I'm here at this place.

Christ, you'd think with time I might learn a few things. Most of those we've loved are gone. I walk beneath the great curving highways, marveling at this nowhere world, this umbral city, where forgotten people languish on palettes and gaunt and puckish coyotes prowl. What are we to each other? Why does caring entail such paucity? Do my memories of strolling with you, hands clasped palmward, through streets of antique brickwork and abundant baskets of green, mean anything now?

I want to return to all the sacred places. You know the ones. You know I know you know them.

"When you loved me, did you love me for me or for you?"

My first thought is "Both," but I end up choosing silence.

Although I have a question too. Did you stop and get out, that time you hit something out in the hills? In a chinook, in the Santa Ana winds, wherever? Did you stand helpless as you watched it, this possum, this raccoon, this nameless broken thing, watched it spin slowly clockwise on the asphalt, pinwheeled and bewildered by its own inexplicable ruin? Did you dare kill it?

For that is love. Killing is sometimes love.

Also love is the long road coming to a point someplace far. Pale lavender smudges of sagebrush on either side, mesas and buttes, distant mountain ranges, a sky that feels like the time you fell as a child into a bright cerulean pool and lost all sense of up or down. Panicked, resplendent, surrendered.

Trace the flow of clouds over an afternoon. How did we not know all our changes would come via such quiet events? That our careful attention would matter this much? They say Van Gogh saw the secret patterns of clouds and starfields only when he was suffering, that psychosis is one of just a few ways to see it all. What an atrocious, outrageous price.

One I can't afford yet might still pay.

Wet sand between your toes, the exhaled tide. Starfish clutching rocks. The hectoring cries of seabirds. Sweat beading on your glistening, unsolved haunches.

Grieve with me now, girl. Won't any one of us escape.

There's a moment that feels eternal. It begins with something in the ground trying to squirm free. First, my shelves topple in great cascades of media, and my TV screen breaks. Fine, I clung to those things too long. But it continues. Windows shatter, plaster and drywall rain in squalls, and I leave my building and stand in the street and watch great flocks of birds gather, herons and pelicans and ravens, and the trees are swaying, palms and conifers, and all the neighborhood dogs are chorusing their terror and dismay. Power lines snap and whip like vipers. Glass crashes like tuneless bells. I hear sirens. I hear the sound of many things fracturing, coming loose, pissing on us. Reprisals. Redress. I'm forced to confront my neighbors, their half-undressed wide-eyed monstrous neediness. I choose kindness. I ask each person if they're okay, take their trembling hands in mine. I don't listen to their replies; there is nothing I can do for them in this world. I love them and I hate them. This feeling alone becomes the eternal one. I hate whatever made us love.

I hate whatever makes us love.