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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 (83)

Friday
Apr082016

Shudder of the Possible

Where did they go? Who took the words that were here, at the top of this page? Why would someone do that? They weren't offensive. Weren't bothering a soul. They hadn't even been arranged into sentences yet. Look, I can't afford to pay a reward, but if I get them back I promise to make something glorious out of them. Okay?

***

A small thing half-scampers, half-falls down a steep and rocky slope. It recognizes pursuit but knows nothing of its pursuer, other than the deep hankering that drives it. The lapis sky is relentless in its furnace heat and its implacable blue, like god's vast phlegmatic eye gazing on the terror of one of his most low-born, unconcerned as the hunter gains ground. The small thing squeaks and knows its tiny precious hold on a rudimentary life is at an end; its pulsing seed of a heart nearly breaks with its imminent loss. But then a fissure opens up in the rock, and the creature diverts to meet it and is saved with seconds to spare. The keen arced claws of a demon rake the air where the small thing was, and the great eye blinks, begetting to the land sudden darkness and even the mighty hunter cowers. So much for indifference; this god is hungry as fuck and someone will now pay.

***

I met you at a place where the pumps were rusting. You were stocky and beautiful, like something birthed in a fjord. A blue chambray dress, your bare legs tanned, your wide face earnest and glowing with the sweat of your exertion. You sang like a motherfucker. A tan you'd worked so hard on, yet couldn't disguise the spray of freckles. A gray-blond bob. Your toes gripping, your brows arching, your knuckles creating cantilever spreads over all our raised faces.

Dirty summer girl. Now summer itself is a memory, but I'll never stop loving you.

***

"Play for me."

"I can't."

"You won't."

"No, my hand, remember? I busted something in it."

"You'll bust something in us if you don't play for me."

***

This is Canada. This emptiness. This hawk eye shudder of the possible. I always said it was more than two solitudes. Four, maybe five. At least. And yet there's a here here. How can that be?

***

We let the rowboat drift in the placid lake. The kids race to prepare the fishing poles, which they drop into the calm waters amid great shouts. When we turn our faces to the sky, the warmth of the early sun is like being kissed by the universe. All around us stand great firs and cedars, spruce and hemlock. A wetland sits to the north, its boardwalk steaming in the hot morning.

It's the kids who see them first, pointing and yelling like the small apes we are. By the shore. Great beasts, necks ponderous as cables swaying in front of cordillera torsos, heads the measure and weight of a bus undulating as they move through the vast forest. A dragonfly half a metre long and the colour of sapphire stitches the air and comes to stillness beside our boat. We are silenced by the great aberrations, marvelling but frightened beyond all fear. A sound deep in the forest, enraged and ravenous, removes all warmth from the air. The children are inconsolable. Something terrible is coming.

***

Her therapist leans back and watches the ceiling. She resists following his gaze, sensing some kind of trap. She's grown weary of his games, how he seems to anticipate her every mood. It's sleight of hand, misdirection; he's a stage conjuror. He's a hawk roosting. He knows he's cute; that's the problem. All men who know they're handsome are utter devils; it's impossible for them not to be. The world is their killing field. She wonders not for the first time why she's continued to see him.

He smiles at her.

Fuck you, she thinks, but she keeps her face neutral as Florentine marble. Don't let him see. The Beast. The rage-thing capering in its cage and craving release. He'll twist your hostility into something it's not, dilute or poison it.

"It's okay to be quiet sometimes. There are no expectations here. No agendas." His voice is like the morning's first coffee.

If only you knew, you fuck. I want silence forever, not for the pathetic length of a stupid session you pretend not to grow anxious about as the strategically placed clocks tick toward the hour mark. Fuck you and your hundred and fifty bucks an hour for being an empty bullshit artist.

A vast batlike shape takes to the sky outside the window but she pretends not to notice. If she acknowledges it, all is lost. A rodent in the wall sings a lullaby to its pink babies, promises them the world. Tendrils of ivy sprout from around the window frame, drooling ichor and blood. If these things are real, the world has lost its moorings; if they're not, she has.

She wants to cry, but she's already lost track of why. 

Then she remembers the Glock in her purse, feels its weight on her lap like the cradled dripping heart of an ogre, remembers why she brought it today, remembers her holy, holy quest.

And for the first time she smiles back at him.

***

The words never were returned.

Friday
Apr012016

Double Helix

© The Tree of LifeEveryone acts like nothing just happened but everything just happened.

I remember walking with you on the beach at sunrise, hands coupled, the clear cold air jagged in our throats, the ocean feigning benevolence. Sandpipers strutting the wet sand, stabbing their own reflections.

"Do you think it's weird how no one hardly ever talks about someone till they die unexpectedly?"

"Like?"

"I don't know. Bowie. Robin Williams."

"People talked about them a lot."

"Yeah, but not like they did when they died."

"It's because they were shocked. No one saw it coming."

"I guess. Seems strange to me still."

"Whatever."

Up ahead lay at least twenty bodies. Human bodies. We tried not to glance at them as we passed, but we saw enough to see they'd been mutilated. I wanted to make a joke about the mystery of whales beaching themselves, but I didn't. I'm glad I didn't. I hadn't known then how long we had left, and I'm glad I didn't befoul the already turbid waters of our last few hours together. Avoidance humour has its time and its place, but its time was not then and its place not there.

Who am I speaking these words to? To your memory, of course. To the strands that spiraled the precise patterns of your makeup, to the double helix that was you.

To the coiled tracks of shorebirds and the fading tracers of space junk.

I probably should have been more attentive to your theories. It's true I talked about you plenty before you were taken, but the voice in my head will no longer shut up about you, yammering about each detail like the Echo to my Narcissus, demanding I remember the time you inadvertently tucked the train of your wedding dress in your panties at the reception after returning from the bathroom (how no one even told you until the obligatory video had been captured), urging me to replay the panicked moment you thought we'd been unearthed by Bigfoot while camping in the Rockies (turned out to be a gopher), lamenting the shocked silence of the world in the sterile wake of your passing.

Have you ever imagined a field so huge it might as well be boundless? I think of you in such a place, your thin dress adhered to your curves, tall grasses eddying like liquid around you, your arms extended as if in a heaven designed by Terrence Malick. When such things could occur, before the slaughter, we would set up the TV on the porch and watch The Tree of Life and get hammered on those cocktails you called Fighting Irish, the ones only you knew how to make, while the wide cerulean day cooled into a tremulous cobalt evening, both of us poleaxed with melancholy over Brad Pitt's inkling toward his deficiencies, then stirred and charmed to grateful tears by Jessica Chastain's supple grace.

But now people act as if nothing happened, yet I know damn well plenty happened and that none of it is good and most of it is like finding your way through a dreadful dripping tunnel where dull bells toll and quick dark things skim your lowered head only to run into a sign that reads in strident black letters: This Is The Very End.

Friday
Mar252016

Nightshade

Her momma had died in childbirth. Her daddy loved her and tried to do the best he could for her, which wasn't much in the way of material things but was plenty good enough in her heart. Her name was Bella and she told folks it was short for Belladonna because she liked how it sounded. 

She learned to sew from a patient old townswoman named Millicent, and made her own dresses out of sackcloth. Down by the creek that usually ran dry in the summer months, Bella caught crawdaddies and hummed to herself for days.

Poor as the dry plains of dirt outside her little town, Bella was a happy child, and like the desert itself, didn't even know she was lonely. Sometimes there were only five or six other students in the single-room schoolhouse she attended when she was able, when her daddy didn't need her for chores. Sometimes she played jump rope with two of them, twin girls named Mary and May, but not too often. There was usually something else she had to do at home.

As the years passed, Bella's face beneath the constant layer of sweat-caked dust grew fair, with a fine jawline and eyes that, pale and without guile, held the innocent promise of love. Her body remained a wisp. Had she met a man of principle and gentle bearing their days would have likely approached fairytale bliss.

But she didn't have much time for any of that, until the boy, the son of another farmhand, told her one day he'd learned about a new trick and would like to do cumulonimbus on her and she'd thought he meant that game where you guess the shapes of clouds. He grabbed her arm and took her in the barn and when he squatted in front of her and lifted the hem of her dress she kicked out at him and shoved him so hard he stumbled backward and a large nail for holding a hackamore had pushed into the soft downy part just beneath the back of his skull and the light, even in the dusk of the barn, had visibly dimmed from his eyes.

No one but her daddy listened to her story and they took her to a foster home someplace with raintrees and mountains where her windows had bars and carpenter ants marched stoically to war over her trembling body each night. She tried praying to God almighty but she soon had the sense he either wasn't listening in the first place or had turned his almighty back on her for good.

They were mean to her. Put spiders in her shoes and spit in her food. She tried to hold on to that kernel of liquid gold she'd always felt in her center, but each passing day made it dim like the eyes of the boy she'd killed, only slower.

Then one day she was grown and they let her out.

Her daddy was older'n he should have been—bent and sad-looking as a lightning-struck mesquite—when Bella approached from the west, her scrawny frame in a threadbare dress, barefoot and silhouetted before a furnace sky.

She saw him shed the last teardrop the sandblasted land had left him with. She wouldn't leave him now, not until he left her through whatever dark portal awaited him, on whichever path. There would be no man for her until then and, thinking this, knowing that night had tried to draw its shade over her all her life, even in this fierce bright place, she felt that ember at her heart begin to rekindle, and found herself content with that.

Friday
Mar112016

Breakthrough

It sure was jittery, last night.

Nighttime can be a blur sometimes. We hit all the nodes, as well as the notes. Even our discordance felt ordained. Neon. Met with the right groups and at all the right times, but we overindulged. Okay, I overindulged. The pulsation of an intoxicated evening stretched into a long night, like a quasar, something cosmic, like the history of the slowest supernova, a sedate twin galactic waltz: more absorption and sluggish radiance than cataclysm.

Once upon a time, there was an abundance of time.

Now I wake with a dull head and it's a grey morning and I hear no birdsong or much of anything else.

Coffee. Two scorched hilltop scoops of ground arabica beans and a stainless kettle and a french press stolen from a former girlfriend. Organic cane sugar. One percent milk. No food. Just caffeine and a sweet verve.

Without warning or explanation, my mind goes straight to breasts, full and curved, perfect hard nipples at attention. 

Salivate, drink the last of the coffee, dream of women, step into the street.

Where is everything? I hear nothing. See no traffic, no passers. 

A thin yellow disc attempts to nudge its way through claggy cloud, a weak tongue fighting gummy saliva in the mouth of the dying.

Betrayal, I think. My world has betrayed me. Our world has betrayed us. This wasn't supposed to happen. We expect to awake to commuter sounds and morning radio, earworm ditties and ambiguously cheery local stories about homeless people who selflessly aid those who might once have condemned them, upend the narrative; weather updates on downed branches from last night's windstorms, power outages and traffic tales, how a set of lights are down at Marine and Boundary, how there's a stall on the Lion's Gate, and how a visiting dignitary from India is closing down large sections of Surrey, which we're advised to avoid.

Panic. Intoxication. Are there still bluebells? Wherefore schools of dolphin, sleek musculatures undulating through waves? Icebergs calving? LED-lit whores in Amsterdam, dark triangles glistening behind windows? Grief and drama? The Falls and the Shankill? Quickies in department store change rooms? The best jokes ever told by the funniest women? A different woman making soup? A shallow urban stream? Midnight mass with your drunk non-Catholic friends? Premature birth? Courage in the face of bigotry? Ativan or Xanax? The exhaustion following an assault? Your precious story of violation? Where is your limit? What momentous dreams did you abandon?

I stand on the street. Where buses would hiss and whine. Where cabs would whisk and disgorge. Where pedestrians would play a jaywalk dance with the inside lane, with the righteous right-turners, where bicycles would joust with trucks, middle fingers ready like tiny lances, the morning choreography guided and shaped by something invisible, something never seen, barely even acknowledged. Until it books out. Until it absconds.

Silent. Empty.

I take out my phone and call Sophie, the last person I remember from the night before.

Amazingly, she answers.

"Kurt?"

"Yeah."

"Where you at?"

"Home."

"I'm glad you called."

"Why?"

"Not sure. A friendly voice?"

"What makes you think I'm friendly?"

"Fuck off."

"Ha."

"Kurt?"

"What?"

"You hear anything?"

I consider confounding, befuddling, but go with honesty: "Nah. Nada."

"Fucking creepy, huh?"

"Yeah. Yes, it is."

"Can you come here, brother?"

"Sure. I'll hike it. Stay put. Give me an hour."

"Okay."

I think she's hung up, but she adds:

"Kurt? Hurry, okay?"

"Yeah."

When I get to her place she's gone. But I shouldn't be surprised: everyone's gone. I don't know what to do or where to go next. So I go sit in the street.

I imagine a distant sound, like music by Brian Eno: electronic, ambient; swelling and droning. Perhaps I even hear it, but I doubt that. Real or not, it seems to come from the far limits of the sky, where indigo meets ink-black, right at the edge of the world's rind. Right where the frigid and terrifying universe begins.

I lower my gaze to the smudge-grey asphalt and wish for ants, spiders, worms, weeds, anything. But none appear.

I haven't heard a single siren in hours.

Sophie's phone goes to voice mail.

The sun never even breaks through.

Friday
Feb262016

After the Riots

© Janet TernoffHard to believe there had been riots here only last summer. The street seemed so ordinary. The pavement still carried the sheen of an earlier rain squall, but was now trickster-bright under the great dome of our planet's sky. A city street, with towering glass buildings, random nodes of pedestrians, and a blossoming row of Japanese maples every fifteen metres or so.

She hailed a cab but no cab stopped. She'd lost her phone in the park, after those one-armed boys had chased her, so Uber was not an option.

A crow on a streetlight glared at her and screeched "cuntlicker!" just once.

She flinched and bowed her head. Tried to recall the transit map in her brain. Bus or skytrain?

Maybe she could walk. She only had to go a couple blocks. Or wait, was it two klicks? She could never remember. Was there even a difference?

The pulsating sun was turning yellow-orange and crimson, swirling like a candymaker in an emerald sky. A man emerged from the knots of passersby, stretched his neck and whole face toward her, looming like a thing from perdition's carnival, and spat in her mouth. She tasted spoiled mackerel and she gagged, vomiting out a small dead rodent on the fur-lined sidewalk along with the pitiful remains of her lunch, a soft taco.

"Help me," she said, although not loudly, and kept walking.

"Cumbucket," said the crow.

A woman laughed in an alley closeby. 

A rusted old Chevy sedan slowed and kept pace with her. She couldn't make out the driver, seeing only a silhouette that suggested a misshapen head far larger than a man's. Ponderous, untamed, hirsute, bovine.

She heard distant music to the west: French horns, glockenspiels, bassoons. As if some ghost parade had been carried on the storm, had become unnerved and had left for the coast, was fading as it passed over the edge of the wide Pacific, gathering in its heartbroken wake only the good things of the world.

Crying seemed appropriate, but she resisted.

"Suck me," offered the crow.

The car tracked her every move; she even stopped to test it. After a minute or so of this dance, something made her suddenly brave, and she opened the passenger side door. An immense shriek so loud it cracked windows and stripped blossom from the maples blared from inside the vehicle, and a voice that sounded like something malignant being boiled alive said, "Get away. Close the door. We will chew off your limbs. We will obliterate everything you've ever loved."

She recoiled and collided with a younger woman, who hissed at her and made a sign with her fingers. "Are you here?" the young woman asked. "Is anyone here? Am I here?" Her faded bluejean eyes rolled into her skull and instead of whites, the orbs were without light and colour, darker than the underwings of the sleek and ribald crow.

"Goatfucker," suggested the crow.

The air was filled with cherry blossom and its fragrance was cloying.

She tried to answer the woman, but her throat was coated in something sweet and gluey. Her mind filled with a roomful of mewling fetuses, their stick limbs waving and clutching like tiny tentacled ocean things, pellucid amphibian eyes mostly sightless, dark stilted beings looming and striding among them and plucking morsels as they trod.

What is all this? What happened to me? she thought, a moment before something impossibly vast and inconceivably dark dimmed out the world and everything truly went to hell.

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