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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 Ghosts (4)

Sunday
May192019

Overdue

Harlan sat on his porch of worn uneven planks that, like our world and Harlan himself, had seen better days. We faced west, the direction that once meant hope. The last glint of sun had slid below the rim of the land and only a narrow yellowish strip gleamed through the dead and silhouetted trees, the darkened plain and the starless sky crushing it like a seam of gold in the ground.

We sat in silence awhile. Until we both seemed to realize something at once.

He was the first to say it. "Well, I'll be damned."

"Yeah."

Cicadas. The Collapse had brought such ornate miseries it seemed almost impudent to include among them the silencing of the insect world, but even on a subliminal level we'd felt their loss keenly. Ghosts come in many forms. Yet here they were. Tentative and hushed, but back in some facsimile of numbers.

"Thought surprise was a thing of the past," said Harlan, and I smiled. 

The scattering of bug sounds stabbed at the silence under gathering clouds we could sense more than see.

A breeze was testing the air, thinking about becoming a gust or two.

"Mr. Cutler… Harlan, I mean?" Dammit. How many times over the years had the old man corrected me?

"Son?"

"I want you to know you've kept me sane all these years since the Collapse."

"I know that, son."

"I know you know it. I just wanted to say it."

"Alright. Good to know. Let's drink to that—"

"Sir, I'll get it—"

"The hell you will. And the name's Harlan. How many times…?"

I lost his words on the gathering breeze as he made his slow hunched way into the cabin to fetch a jar or two of the crude cider he fermented from some unknown organic thing. Roots. Fungus. Squash, maybe. It always tasted about the same as it sounded.

I knew what he was gonna say before he said it.

"Bourbon, young fella?"

I laughed. We sat and drank, pretending it was Wild Turkey 101. Imagination ain't exactly perfect, but it can get you halfway there sometimes.

"They quieted down again," I said. 

"Huh. Mayhap the orchestra's done tuning and the symphony's comin'."

We wouldn't get to find out. Those gusts had turned to squalls and soon great hollerings, and the sky dropped its pent-up grief on everything. I scrambled to join him on the porch, and we waited it out, drinking slow and steady, hearing the mayhem of trees crack and splinter and jettison their bones in the dark.

Felt like wicked black wolves now governed the night.

When it was done, a sadness came over me and I no longer felt like pretending Harlan's concoction was even drinkable and I told him I didn't feel too good and took myself home, a ruder shack about a mile south of his place.

Next afternoon, a mite rueful, I hiked my sleepless and hungover ass back over to the old man's cabin. 

Harlan was gone. Debris covered his porch, but so much of it; dirt and bits of tree and even what looked like old coyote shit. From the storm, I figured. Some of it, at least. But after calling his name awhile and knocking on his door like a fool, I went inside. A layer of dust covered everything, the only places clear of dirt my bootprints behind me. What in the hell? I grabbed a jar of his moonjuice, a sandy film on the outside, a dark layer of silt inside, and sat in his creaky old chair on the porch sipping my friend's godawful liquor, hair of the mangiest of dogs. 

Things in my head didn't feel right. The silence in everything was too loud.

I listened for the bugs again, but nothing. Thought maybe it hadn't been a chorus but a coda after all. 

Friday
Jul072017

Boundary Bay

© Monica LunnThey came to our virgin thresholds and asked for our longest songs.

Some grim radar. An impertinent sonar.

Cephalopods.

Those songs we sang for them, relayed them for days, weeks, even months, the dwindling howl of a coda falling silent on upturned cedar. Dank, weary branches like bony old limbs. Notes like heavy snowflakes, the banshee shriek of the wind up in the narrow draw, silencing the very owls to grey.

Agonal gasps. A moist clutch of arms. First we gave them our extravagant minimum.

What were they? Aliens? Well, yes, but that says so very little. With which face should we meet the encroaching distance, which forgotten facet?

Rapid City. Deadwood. Devils Tower. The Black Hills quivering, purple, epochal, sacred with need. Unearthly as plasma spit from a star.

Dream westward. Spearfish. Sheridan. Missoula. Coeur d'Alene. Spokane. Fremont. Deception Pass. Ninety ways to Boundary Bay. 

You came home tonight, via the food bank, buzzed our door and I let you in. A train strums the night air in power chords. A hog revs on State Street like Satan's ruined trachea. The neon signs burn without mercy. You brought Campbell's soup and noodles and mushrooms and celery. Couple fresh spices. From this, we will conjure a feast in defiance, and while one of us plays culinary virtuoso, the other will walk a block to the Grocery Outlet and buy two bottles of wine, a malbec and a syrah, for relative pennies, and we will eat and drink like covetous gods, then turn our salivary hankering to each other's indigent need. Our thirsty skin. 

Okanagan. Plastic corona Penticton forecourt. Intersection highway desert fall fruit stands. Summerland. Peachland. Don't sneer; they're real. Burned on your shifty retinas. Harshness muted by conifers. Heat like a wall when you exit your car. Late-evening thunder in the hills like rumoured war. The shout of stars. The damp smell of dust in the dawn. The utter absence of any breeze. A patch of grass between your motel and the strip of sand by the lake. A toddler playing ball. Your child. You throw him the ball and his arms jut, fingers spread, and he laughs into the sky. You throw her the ball and her arms jut, fingers spread, and she laughs into the sky.

Even the living have ghosts. Sequential traces. Semblances.

Fairhaven. There are ghosts in the rust on the corrugated sidings of what I silently call the cannery, after Steinbeck. Rust-coloured ghosts of dust-covered trails and railroad tracks. Quick, when does the Amtrak come through? Let's watch it from the bridge, see it stir up the afternoon wraiths, send more dust and creosote to coat the dark berries where lovers saunter and graze. Let's take the boardwalk over sculptures and starfish. Swallow blackberries of sorrow over grapes of wrath. Someone draped a shawl over the evening, dimmed the reflected lights, the piers of industry reaching forlorn into the bay. Inviolate night haunted by the blush of its own unlovely face.

You have pledged all your nonsense and I will honour it. Speak to it.

"I was left behind," I begin.

"Yes, indeed. It wasn't anyone's intention, but you were hurt, it's true."

"Not just hurt, but hurt."

"Butthurt. I can't deny it." You smile.

"Funny. When you walked into my store, I thought it was a beginning. You were dressed in muted greens and reds, and they seemed so right."

You look waylaid. Your words are a whisper. "I'm sorry. I never intended anything else."

"Anything else?"

"Anything other than what it was."

"Which is?"

"Now? A pure clusterfuck." You show me your sweating palms, a saint with stigmata.

"What the hell did you want then?"

"All the love. All the good things."

"Did you capture anything at all?"

"Photographs. Hundreds of them."

"Tell me your favourite?"

"The beach ball in the grass with the blurry palm tree background and the heartbroken sky."

"You know about that? I should let you go now."

"Why? What? Seriously?"

"You know. You fucking know."

"…"

A concussion ricochets across the distant ridge, clay pigeons, the shattered rock itself a percussion section. We can make of chaos sheer rhythm if we're so inclined. Strata. Stratum. Sessions. Casual permissions. And you will listen. And dance. Even in a last apocalypse. Even within the fission hiss and searing echo of all our abandoned superannuated missions. Even then.

Saturday
Nov192016

Mediterranean Avenue

© Mike Osborne

Here in America, I'm shivering under the red light on Mediterranean Avenue. I'm waiting for my friend, and she's late. A constant rain fell this evening, which has only recently eased, and the road is slick, reflecting neon.

The deepening blue of a darkening sky and the off-kilter red lights smear on the asphalt in gentle tones of muted fuchsia and chambray, daubed with sporadic yellow and white. Yellow hydrant and the X-ray backdrops of winter trees. I might believe it a painting if it weren't for the water dripping from my umbrella down the back of my neck.

It's a place that absorbs all sound. A place where quiet storms rage.

"FML" by Kanye West is playing somewhere in the world or inside my head.

Somewhere looking to flood. Somewhere looking to scare you, with its ghosts of vehicles, its human absence.

I'm animal. I self-haunt. I sing to you, I'm hoarse, I don't understand my loss, I see a miniature horse on a fence line, happy, beside a solar panel.

Something big came through but we never even saw it.

Friday
Jan092015

Spiders Not Silence

He was out of bed in the huge silent house. He found himself in one of the many living rooms, though not the one with the coal fire, the one beside the impossible kitchen built for dwarves. No, this one was chillier, yet smelled of burnt dust, of old cigarettes, and even older socks. Turned low at this hour, the single electric fire with its three bars could not hold back the spectre of the damp.

He lay full length on a couch, not leather but cold plastic, and felt one of its many thin cracks on his cheek, and listened to the brittle sounds of the house settling, sounds which never ended.

In a room where the dim backs of furniture were hunched like the aftermath of a barn slaughter, where ponderous curtains hung on all windows like the butchered skins of pachyderms.

Darkness this dark was a rarity for him, and he liked it in its way.

He crossed a hallway into another room filled with sombre, sly antiques that faked sleep, and felt for the crackly wrappings of boiled sweets, the leftover prizes from the evening's bingo game.

Back in the hallway, a threadbare carpet led to an old wall-mounted Bakelite phone, complete with earpiece, as if in a Hitchcock film, while a right turn led to the cellar. Standing at the cellar door, he stopped breathing, and listened for the movements of the tigers he knew were down there: tremendous, restless, and sharply rank. When he needed to draw breath, he knew he was pushing his luck, and that it was time to return to bed before he was caught wandering this silent anomaly of a house, with its ceilings so high he could barely wait for first light, when the anticipated gift of a Spider-Man suit would help him scale those thin-papered walls to the dim crown-moulded heights above. With their own spidery worlds. From which cobweb voices whispered.

"What mad things will befall you? What horrors and thrills await you in the forest of the long night, where grim trolls and ruined maidens dwell, where all doomed lovers and itinerant lionhearts meet their ends?"

As he climbed the wide staircase, his human heart beating too fast, a diesel train went by outside and its darks and lights tracked across every dim shape, scaring him witless with stripes of light and sound, as if a tiger had indeed escaped and was here, here now. A beat. Two. A further climb led to a cheerless attic, but no, here was his room. 

In this house, with its whispered cellar of dread, its unloved attic of utter gloom, a quiet battle was being fought between cold and damp and tiny islands of warmth. And though the first two seemed to be allies and were winning, the latter had smuggled in love, cradled and petted it, and one day it might come up the rails on the final stretch and surprise everyone.

In his room at last, amid the snores and sniffles of the others, even the bulging pillowcases were imbued with eldritch import, and before he drifted into mostly harmless dreams of plastic ferryboats and ancient gold-inlaid hardcovers, fresh-peeled tangerines and the dry-earth taste of hazelnuts, he—a mote of coal dust in the great chimneyed northern realms of England, where the air itself was grainier—paused to wonder for a perplexing heartbeat or two why he felt so much like sinking to his knees on the numb, hard floor and crying.