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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 (78)

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.

Friday
Oct282016

The Moon, the Stars, and the Male Gaze

"At the back of my mind I was always hoping I might just get by." — King Creosote

*

Up close, the sidewalk looks like a moonscape. Smooth, cratered, starburst, ruined, and lovely. Ganymede, Callisto, Hyperion, Enceladus, the very names so dripping in glamour you could die from speaking them aloud. Hollywood Boulevard: not moons but stars; not wounds but scars.

Girl, your own dreams were modest. You breathed in first, then checked your breath, measured the ebb and flow of the seasons, stayed grounded, tough, and mostly sweet as the cornstalks of your Nebraska roots. No risk of supernova flameout. A steady rise, or steady-ish. Extras, bit parts, supporting. Commercials, television, TV movies, even movies. Back and forth. You compromised at times but mostly kept your gaze below the horizon, and bright as that seems in this inferno of light, the heavens are more bright and more perilous.

It's an old story.

Dialed back dreams or not, the streets can take anyone they wish and utterly consume them.

So what if you cut a few corners, blinked at times before the callous scrutiny of sporadic slimeballs, made darker shades of trade you once would have balked at? This is a place where inhibitions come to die. Whatever new tremor, Lord Xanax a fallback safeguard, in this great scheme your sins were nothing. You smoothed your skirt and carried on.

If only I'd known. I didn't see the tragic detail in the grain as I watched from afar. Not all stalkers are dangerous—in my case, too shy, too gauche. I loved you for five whole years, yet you never knew I existed. Now it's too late and I was your only friend.

He was a cold, bad shadow you didn't recognize. His hunger could never fill itself. He created a debt and when you couldn't pay it, as he knew you couldn't, he took his due with clear-eyed interest, made sure you looked in his eyes as you bled out on the ground, your thick pool of red spreading black in the neon night, blossoming at last into the tragic figure of your secret dreams, you pretty girl from a bathroom stall near Omaha, my lost and fallen moon star, my diffident, selfless love. 

And you can't hear this, not any more. Your eyes are glazed like silver screens on which ghost players enact their fraudulent dramas; they stare at moonscapes. Your beestung lips are split from your fall. Your emaciated fingers and ragged nails claw the point of a Hollywood star: Patsy Cline, 6160 Hollywood Boulevard. Nocturnal sirens howl all around, those raving wolves; the hot Santa Ana winds blow like demon breath, Pacific bound; a girl laughs, oblivious, like the chiming of ice in a cocktail glass.

Dark melodic songs haunt the rooftops.

I fall to pieces. I fall to pieces.

I touch your cooling skin for the first time and walk away before anyone sees. That touch will prove indelible. Your barely noticed life was indelible to someone, and now I can't tell you.

Friday
Aug262016

Faraway Thunder

There were no signs. You got there via a rutted overgrown track between the corn brake and the slough. Once you did, you'd be hard put to know which was the more broken down: the shack or the old man who lived in it.

She knew he never spoke of the very war she figured was what ruined him. She made these visits not to hear about napalm or agent orange or Bell Hueys but simply to keep him company. She felt badly for him, all on his lonesome an' all, no family she knew of, friends likely dead, unbidden memories shuffling out of the corn. 

Sometimes he'd be sitting on his canted porch in a reeking bathrobe that might once have been white cotton flannel but now appeared as if assembled from filthy slaughterhouse mops, and stank that way. Mayhap she'd hunt down that old washboard and coax him out of his robe and try to launder it best she could. He never hid his nakedness, and after a while it stopped bothering her too. Other times she'd dig up a greenish potato in the weed patch that dreamed of being a vegetable garden and add it to the chitlins she'd brung, along with a couple eggs from the coop if the broody old hens had deigned to lay that day.

Neither of them said much, all told. She might sit beside him on the stoop—though he'd never offer up his rickety chair—and watch as the sun spread like a broken yolk and dripped below the rim of the world and the lightning bugs briefly outshone the few pale stars. Occasionally he'd go fill a mason jar with moonshine and share it with her, and smoke while they listened to the antic coyote chorus, after which she'd sway a little on her hike back in near blackness, half-afraid she'd fall in the slough, a small dutiful woman in a large world of night.

He did tell of his brother once. Another time of his mama. Both long dead, as she'd thought. Rare times he talked, she mostly listened; the smallest creek needs no impediment. He never once mentioned his pa.

The most he ever talked was after a big storm had passed, one that still sounded in the gloomy hills to the east, like the ghosts of old battles.

"Had to kill me one a' them hens," he said into the clear mercury air.

"How come?"

"Got a wound on her neck, so the others woulda slowly pecked her dead anyways."

"Which one?" she asked, but immediately felt foolish. "Though I s'pose you seen one dumb chicken you seen 'em all."

And that was the only time he spoke of the war.

"They used to say that about Charlie. They was wrong then, and you're jes' as wrong now."