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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 (82)

Saturday
Sep092017

A World Abandoned

Everything inside my head is small and enclosed and everything outside is huge and muffled. There are sounds within the woods at night, terrible sourceless sounds, screeches from unseen throats, and we awake to a sun like a penny glued to a fawn-gray board. A coin fixed to a sand-dusted slate. Brassy light falls amid the shadows all day.

Things are going wrong, have gone wrong. I wonder if I mean within or without, and discover I can't answer either way.

Gerhardt left three days ago and hasn't returned. 

I clutch our old retriever Lola at night, my arms encircling the pitiful trellis of her ribs, and she whines quietly at the shrieks from the woods. Come daylight she doesn't investigate.

And come daylight I pull up the ghosts of carrots and beets, translucent things like alien pods spawned in our friable dirt. Dirt that looks and feels but will never taste like the crumble topping my Aunt Caterina used to bake over Tuscan apples and sweet red grapes.

Must stop remembering. Too dry. Too drained of faith. Even yesterday is beyond the pale now.

Gerhardt took the crossbow; I have the old Winchester pump-action and the last two shells. 

I can't help myself. I think back to a time when the worst thing I thought could happen was losing my children. Laughter now would be legitimate, yet I don't laugh. Irony is as stupid as nostalgia.

Right before he left, Gerhardt laughed.

"What is funny?" I asked him.

"Nothing, my dear."

"Fine."

"Not fine. Not funny. And yet…"

"What?" I could never resist his artful pauses.

"A dream is an unfinished life, so maybe they were all dreams."

"The children?"

"All of them. Taken before their time. Maybe the life they're meant to live hasn't yet begun."

"But how is that funny?"

"Oh, outside of the cosmic scale, it isn't."

"And also, what then are we?"

"Midwives, perhaps? Or morticians."

His fragile smile left the cartography of his face like a misremembered shallows and he winked and kissed the air by my cheeks and he shouldered the crossbow over his day pack and stepped on the loose boards as if to release a pent and groaning sendoff—secretly ordained by impish music-loving satirists—and he never turned his unkempt head the whole time his wiry frame hitched itself down the long gravel lane.

Irked as I was by his cryptic foolishness then, how I miss him now. Stabbed by loneliness, I call Lola, who happens like a specter out of the strange quiet air. I bury my sorrowing face in her patchy fur, but when I pull away, her fur is dry. Perhaps I am the wraith, not her.

Perhaps my grief leaves no stain on this world.

Gerhardt and I once spoke of Christ and redemption. He was once a Lutheran and I a Catholic. We might as well have conjured Anubis or Krishna. Kali or the Morrigan. Cthulhu. Isis. A thousand echoing rooms and hallways spiral beyond the vacant futile atrium of unanswered human prayer. 

The night is too generic for copyright, and as it passes once more, stamped by the usual screams of the arrested trees, by the endless moonless hours, my insomniac eyes become the only things in this world that are large. They keep growing—while morning enters like an intruder pissing weakly in a corner—expanding like fungus or a thing far worse, daring the fawn-gray sky to blink in toxic fellowship, tempting the universe to tremble in abject defeat.

What is this now? Men? With guns and lust and deadened eyes?

O woe.

When Gerhardt returns, our last shells will be spent, I will be a strand of spider silk shimmering with rosy dewdrops and stretched between splintered fenceposts, and holy Lola's howls will fill the whole valley.

Friday
Aug252017

Majestic

© Robert WattsWe were staggered by rain. A torrent of it, for damn near half a day, before the sun broke through once more and redaubed our world in accustomed gold. Some called it cleansing, but if you haven't showered in a month or so, one won't get you clean.

Before they abated, the littoral squalls had a faint salt taste, it's true. 

I do recall my period came in heavy that month, lasted best part of a week.

***

Hunter S. Thompson bowed out right on time, Shaun assures us. One of those moments America forgot to hide its death rictus. Baghdad shenanigans and worse. He—HST, that is—clicked off the safety and cocked his piece while he spoke on the phone of love and language. Then he triggered the mechanism that drove that fingerlike cylinder of shiny metal into his raging, glorious brain, and left instructions to fire his ashes from a cannon to the sound of "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. That mad, splendid sacrificial ram.

Somewhere in the universe he's pursuing Richard Nixon like a bloodhound, like the finest hunter. Once he catches him, he'll circle back.

All those beach houses, lined up, balancing seasonal abandonment with clusters of carousers, while a faraway train trails its melancholy bray eastward, northward, calling for backup. 

Cross my heart and hope to fly. Shaun demands we all meet on Rodeo Drive and shop. To our credit and our shame we comply. The evening sun cracks its shell-like rim and drips like fulvous glue among us. 

***

I don't know what to do with myself. This is something new. Last thing I remember 'fore I killed the motherfucker was dancing at the strip club, my dress rehearsal legs astride some pole already smeared with someone else's body fluids, my ropy arms holding me trembling in a pose above the sightlines of a bevy of blithe and lustful men. A magnificent queen of tawdry caught in the lustfire.

Backstage the man named Crawdog stepped in my path, and I lost some part of myself. I never even knew I'd kept ahold of that blade until I drove it between his obdurate ribs and into his stupid heart. It felt dirty. Cuntish. Before he died, for ten whole seconds, he sobbed his ruined heart out. 

He sure knew. Play his drastic songs now, he sure did know.

***

"We need to agree to a meeting place."

"You know it."

"How about that old motel out on Sunset? Wait, no. Pacific Coast Highway? The Magic Motel? The Magisterial?"

"Ain't no such place."

"Uh, you sure? I can see it in my dreams, you know?"

"That's just dreams, though."

***

Who dies first? Is the desert next? What do we fear and who do we loathe, before and after a rain squall? We don't know. Not even Shaun. No. We won't ever know, have no idea where to gather, amid the oily puddles, stumbling ghoulish in this filthy sunset glow.

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.