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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
Feb192016

Bedtime in the 1960s

The boy in the flannel pyjamas finds himself alone and afraid in a room, a cold, dark room.

Not quite full dark, as there is one small lamp on a night table to his left. But drear as old London in fog, the lamp diffuse as nineteenth century gaslamps, impotent before the resounding slab of night.

It should be cheery, its porcelain stand cast in the form of a swirling flamenco dancer, her death-white dress daubed with crimson rose motifs. But its burnt orange ambit is feeble and ominous.

Why is he so alone? Did his family abandon him? Whose room is this?

He senses a bed in front of him, alongside an urgency to reach it, image-conjuring the harsh carpeted floor into a dire terrain bristling with clawed and ravening things covetous of boy toes. He ratchets his courage, glances at the incomprehensibly terrible lamp for the last time, and runs. Something swishes around his legs in the dark. Something wet and sharp and salivating with need.

Without a second to spare, he makes it, almost flipping over the opposite side, just able to hang on. His breathing is animal-like, a bray of trauma.

On top is a scratchy blanket, with a polyester sheet beneath. Some internal imperative insists his only hope of safety lies in plunging his bare feet and flannel-clad legs under these covers forthwith, which he does.

The cool sheet feels good, as his feet descend into the depths of the bed...

...only to sink further into something warm and soft and wholly slime-ridden, releasing from the boy a querulous cry of anguish as he feels a sluglike mass begin to dissolve his flesh like an acid, beginning at his toes and oozing—wretchedly, interminably, unhurriedly—upward.

But what the boy feels before the agony is worse—an infinite hopelessness, awful beyond measure, the colour a ceaseless grey moan marching to the most wretched and endless of horizons.

Friday
Feb122016

The Dwelling

He awoke to a morning in which sky and sea had fought to deadlock and were each devoid of shade as the other; even the inundated land had few attributes. He awoke to his burden and felt his heart like an old lead bell swaying ponderous in the groaning frame of his body.

Coffee and a stale slice of bread. The radio on low, a recording of a preacherman exhorting or extorting, he could never be sure: a last broadcast, a distant itch few could scratch, and certainly not him. Far as he could tell, if God made man in his image and in no other he was a damned fool with one dim and murky colour on his palette standing imbecilic before an eternity of canvases. 

Today his home was a structure not a dwelling. 

He'd known this day was coming; its inconsolable pallor and the tenor of his heart were commensurate.

Make this day short, conjure brief ceremonies from the air, let my next sleep be the dreamless kind.

He stood and picked up the heavy sack and a shovel. Each old wound, every place cartilage had worn to a threadbare shine, all disfigurements of mishap and war, places where bone had been split and set and healed over months, years, decades, moaned at him in unison as he carried his load out the door and made his way across the barren fields and toward the wooded place.

The wan, anemic air was birdless and silent.

Each day that passed was a way station, a site for some small drama or banality. Strange that his mind would seek out such locales, but as he hiked he recalled his wife, a time when they'd sat on the porch watching the lightning bugs sew the edges of twilight to the encroaching night and hearing the coyotes and crickets while the crimson in the west had dimmed and triumphant night had bled its ichor over everything and she'd drifted into sleep, and before he crouched to carry her to their bed he stopped to gaze at her face lit warm in the reflected porchlight, her closed eyes flickering with new stories about limitless new days, her lips still full and in a half-smile, her mammal scent, and he passed his hand over her jet hair that had only recently welcomed a few grey strands, feeling its cool, its silk, its utter mystery, feeling the strangest confluence of adoration and sorrow in the hollow atrium of his chest.

But though he now felt that same odd blend of love and woe, she was five years gone into some different or indifferent night, and he had no idea if he'd ever find her long-cold trail to wherever she waited amid the eternal nights ahead.

The world is scrupulous, but the human heart is profligate. We are all prodigal sons and daughters yearning for a home we spurned while stars swallow planets and all jots and iota return to the searing core to be reborn.

He reached the thicket and kept going until he discovered the small clearing he knew was there.

Her wooden marker still stood, tilted slightly and branded crude and guileless as a grieving heart.

Eva, beloved wife

And beside it he began to dig. It took an age, although he gave up a benediction of sorts for the chill in the air, thankful the world had eased even the tiniest part of his burden. When he was done, he opened the sack and retrieved its contents, letting them slip from the burlap onto the decay at his feet—first the blanket, then the loosed pitiful object once lustrous with life and now dull as the leafless trees and the sunless sky above.

Damn everything in this world and damn all worlds. We let something in and it was without soul or love and it lit the touchpaper of our ruin.

He wrapped the body of the dog in the same blanket the old retriever had slept on for fifteen years. Matted with fur, it still reeked of his ebullience. Rigor mortis had passed during the night and even inside the blanket the animal's skull rolled like a small cannonball under his spread hand, once-robust neck muscles forever slackened. He carried the corpse of his dear old friend, placed it in the hole, and covered it with earth.

When he was done, he found in his coat pockets the wooden marker he'd carved and engraved the night before, and drove it into the dirt.

Rusty, beloved dog

"Goodbye, old fella. Might sound funny to some, but you was a good friend to me, some ways better'n I was to you. Ain't even sure if there's a people heaven, let alone a dog one, but when it's my time, if it's at all possible I'll come find ya, old friend, soon as I find my Eva, and you got my word on that. Be good to sit out on the porch agin, listen to the night, even if it's some other porch on some other night, doncha think? Gonna miss you real bad. You was a good dog."

He sat awhile, resting from his labours. Looked up at the bonework of the trees against the sky's fugue. Wondered whether God had recognized his error and moved on. Then he, the last exhalation of earth, picked up the empty sack and the shovel and made his way across the riven field where all perspective shrinks to nothing and which the sun has abandoned and where no bird now sings.

Friday
Jan152016

Headwaters

A story in a single sentence:

Shaky after two days' release from the psych ward, she wants to "put it all behind her," as the genial yet guarded advice had gone, so she takes the Skytrain to go ask about rental costs at a nearby Enterprise office whose bleak geometry squats in a grim patch of stilted highways, loose rubble, and territorial chain link somewhere near where Vancouver borders Burnaby, but she gets cold feet at Renfrew Station, turns around and scurries back to the library near her home on East Pender, where she searches Google Maps and decides Swift Current is the loveliest place name she's ever heard, especially in contrast to that of its province, which is all brittle stalks and wheat sheaf angles (Sask-atch-ew-an), and wants to visit for that reason alone—Swift Current, that is; a name that evokes homecoming sockeye vigorous and sleek as distance runners' quadriceps—although the furthest she's ever driven was Vancouver to Hope, ironically when she'd been at her least hopeful, and even then she'd had a tire blow somewhere near Yarrow, nearly killing her, and the towtruck and repair costs had been so high she'd had to turn back, out by many dollars and by even more self-worth, given all her struggles with what some might call mental health issues yet she chooses to term emotional difficulties, since the former still contains a tiny jab of stigma, and dammit, it's hardly her fault, given her early life with Uncle Giorgio and then those grey-stuccoed group homes and weary, spiteful foster parents, let alone the haunted jaundiced nightscape of the Downtown Eastside and her disaster-recipe life with Gunther, he of the one-part lavish confectionary largesse and two-parts savage fists, but she is free now, aside from the medication she needs to remember, while something about Swift Current calls and calls like babbling headwaters to a downstream eddy, urging her to spawn, to take this step that might mark a new chapter in a thus-far chiefly sorrowful tale, one charged with the possibility of something other than grim nights shivering with cold or dread and warmer nights sleepless with mosquitoes or regret, so she finds somewhere online that calculates the cost of gasoline, which comes to a little over a couple hundred bucks for the three thousand kilometre round trip, and she feels a heartsurge of joy until she sees the carbon footprint she'll be leaving—one thousand three hundred and fifty pounds, to be exact—which sounds so appalling she immediately scratches out this new life at its source—indeed, guilt and eroded morale have long perfected her inner Scratch 'n Lose—erasing the evocative names of Shuswap and Salmon Arm, Golden and Banff, Dead Man's Flats and Medicine Hat from a future that might have held something other than the pitiless tidal ebb of try then turn back, try then turn back, the balance of which has always seemed impossibly, monstrously weighted.

Friday
Jan082016

Skinwalker

I want to tell this story with all my truth but I don't know which order it happened in and which parts I dreamed and which parts I stole from another dreamer. They tell me to place one foot in front of the other then switch them up and keep doing that until my story's told, but it isn't like that, this didn't happen in the same way you might walk down a straight road, not even close. It's more like a bird flying between trees in a dense forest, only sometimes you jump between birds, between birds of the same type, but then from cardinal to woodpecker to crow, and then briefly into a squirrel or a raccoon… then the forest disintegrates and you're stood trembling in a desert as yourself again, only you wish you were a camel because the throat-scouring thirst is the worst thing you've ever felt and the gamma burst sun is burning a pencil-light hole through your skull and you consider opening up your veins just so you can drink from them. And that's not even scratching the surface of why this story is so hard to tell. Perhaps it's impossible. Perhaps it's gone beyond story.

That morning I woke without skin. The thing that had flayed me in my sleep was slouching from the room, the entirety of my skin, mostly intact and dripping copiously, bundled in its scrawny arms like a sodden sweater, a look of shock on its face that it had even been seen. I knew I wasn't supposed to wake until later, but who could sleep through that?

Only that wasn't me. That was someone I had brushed by in the corridor days before, mindful of how narrow it was in that cheap hotel, how sticky the carpets in which the original pattern was barely discernible beneath the endless weary decades of grime. Tackiness emulating gravity. My bare arm touched his besuited one as we passed and he made a sound, a quiet apology, and I told him it was fine, it was my fault. I was unsteady in those heels. I might still have been drunk. As I got in the elevator the other elevator dinged open and breathed out a rancid shadow, a flap of bad, which clung briefly to the walls before I lost sight of it when my own door clattered shut. 

The lid is lifted and I watch a black balloon float up and over red rooftops patchy with snow, while a woman or a child sings in an alley like the world's last sad bird. Horses drum cobblestones. Echoes become muffled. A shout. Murder comes to visit awhile. It's Christmas.

An ornate frame, a blood-orange tree, a lifeguard running, drive slow homie, red red wine, a dark rest stop on an empty highway, fish tamales, a lone dancer smearing bloodscript on a polished stage, homemade knuckle tattoos, the secret yearning of a nun, human viscera in ribbons, the silent vigil of a grief-stricken dog, the lady in red, the anger of the sun, Bud Lite, sudden rain, an antique letter opener, fuck tha police, a field in England, cranberry vodka, our better angels, batteries not included, sheet-metal memories, fog on the runway, a forearm opened lengthways elbow to wrist, black lives matter, dewdrops on razor wire, que sera sera, a fatal misunderstanding, all your base are belong to us, the red road, you can't handle the truth, red and black, the evening redness in the west, that's me in the corner, don't breathe, paint it black, Juicy Fruit, ninety-nine red balloons, back to black, red dawn, fade to black…

Let me drive and I'll show you my true self. And lo, I'm behind the wheel of a late sixties Corvette Stingray and Interstate-5 is unrolling behind me like a dark contrail. A SoCal sunrise on my right. I'm heading north, Canada-bound. Unless I'm picked off before nightfall. I am a coyote returning to the pack, the sounds of hysteria echoing from the snowy bluff. An eagle sailing thermals. Orca music.

We're in a roadhouse, the percussion of pool balls and the hoots of the players adding new aural layers to AC/DC's "Back in Black."

"You're a sight for sore eyes," he says, joining me at the bar. He flicks his temple briefly in what looks like a tiny salute.

I look down. "You flatter me."

"No. Well, yeah." He smiles in a way he probably believes is rakish and charming.

"What you see is not necessarily what you get." I make eye contact and hold it. I always warn; it's only polite.

His grin widens. "I'll take my chances."

"Your chances are fast disappearing, honey."

There are things in the woods that scream. Skeletal things perhaps once human, but no longer. Malnourished and pitiless things. Do not leave the campsite, avoid the witching hour, and for the love of all that's holy, whatever that might be, do not ever whistle after nightfall.

My hair is black as a starless night and my eyes the colour of need. The kind of things you never even knew you needed.

Now get me a goddamned lawyer, Deputy.

Friday
Dec182015

The Mood

Writing. We all struggle sometimes to find new ways of expressing ourselves. I've taken a slightly involuntary hiatus, of late, in that sense. But as short as this piece is, it seems to be a somewhat different angle into story (with story being so crucial and all). I threw words together in a far shorter time than I'm used to and tried to resist traditional or strict punctuation in an effort to follow the rhythms of the speaker. There's a hell of a backstory, no doubt. Not even sure we'll ever be privy to it, but it doesn't hurt to speculate. My sense is, he was haunted by the look his mother gave him and never felt up to the task she set him, a task that seemed simple at first yet grew more complicated the more life unfolded... as things tend to do. Everything else that happened to him stemmed from that. But anyone reading this is free to dream or wish or reluctantly relate their own sweet or curséd version.

_____________

I'm a old man now and dont ever ask me to recall that frail clapboard home dwarfed by the vast yellow prairie that was never warm even when sunny, I oughta be able to remember summers but I dont, only the moan and shriek of many winters, no true windbreaks other than some scraggy poplars, distant mountains a bluish smudge on the horizon, barely even looked like mountains they were so far, pa hurtin momma month in month out and one day momma killin pa with a hatchet when he was passed out drunk, blood the thickness of motor oil dripping still warm from the finger she held to her lips, her huge eyes on me and her tremblin voice sayin, look after your brother now, you hear? be a good boy, while a crackly old gramophone played in the dim corner of a bare room, big band, maybe even glenn miller in the mood, I can almost recall the label in the middle of the disc, blue with a dog listenin to a phonograph, although that might be my subconscious funnin me, we all know what happened to glenn miller after all, although we dont really do we?

Ask me about that, or about what became of little bobby, and I wont tell you, now git away from the bars I been known to react poorly to bein stared at.

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