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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 Haunted (6)

Friday
Sep222017

Emptied

Is this at all ghostable? Let's see.

We came here after fighting through a swarm of mouths.

I met you in the parking lot of a Walmart. Saw you struggling and offered to help and of course you were suspicious and declined.

"I just have to do two things and get home," you said.

"Let me help you," I said.

Here is where our edges fray.

Here, in this time and in this place, you are a mother, and you are good at mothering. Your Ozark eyes are always tired, your lashes worn, your oily hair tied in whorls. You think you are ordinary, but I know you're special. I also know I won't ever convince you of that, so I don't try. You rarely blink. Our lives are bracketed by the opening and closing of a blink. Who ever tells us these things?

"A'right." You almost growl this, but dispassionately. "But then you leave us alone, yes?"

"Of course." I'm not even sure you see me, sticklike, streaming beams of amber and amethyst light against the evening, a distant star lensing light still farther out in space.

I helped you and then you told me an awful tale. This is what you told…

"So back then, when I was just a wain—my gramps and his gramps was Scots-Irish—I used to cry each morning, knowing I had to endure school and hear the taunts and feel the sudden shoves and the pinching fingers of the other children. Every day was another torment. They called me godawful names and hurt me bad and I kept going back 'cause I had to. One day I left school and walked the long miles home, all my bruises both inside and out a reminder I was alive and alone, and I saw my house, where I lived, and it always looked so mean, far meaner than the kids who tortured me, and I opened the unoiled gate, heard its tiny rodent shriek, limped up the short path to the door. They never even gave me keys, so I had to knock, so I knocked. And knocked. And no one came. I went around back and knocked there too. And nobody came. I sat for an hour or more on the front step, wondering why everything was so silent. Then the pale mountain light began to fade and I got scared, so I found a rock and broke a pane in the door and scrambled my way into the house. It was empty. Cleared out. Like no one had lived there for years. I sat on the cracked linoleum floor and cried into my skinny arms for days till someone from the school or a neighbor or some duty-bound local alerted the relevant authority and they took me to a foster home and that was that."

Hate is not the opposite of love; abandonment is. Indifference is.

I wake molded to your body from behind with your upper arm clamping my forearm tightly. You are still dreaming, so I lie immobile and allow my arm to be held in your hot, moist armpit. All that day I bring my forearm to my face to inhale your sleep musk.

Each house has its weather. This place, whose weedy, mossy lawn is more rural than suburban, more pasture than posture, also has its weather. This morning's kitchen and dining area is mostly mist lit with a pale apricot glow from a low sun. This is our place.

You, your arachnid fingers, their tips searching my unshaven face, barely touching. You, the warm light to my dust. You, my oxygen.

For you I fashioned and baked home-kilned pizza, piled with artichokes and sundried tomato and feta and spinach, also baked garlic and molten mozzarella, just to watch your jaw cantilever, a tireless gracile thing hinged and vulpine and completely unselfconscious. Sometimes, aghast, I dreamed of you eating the world.

"How'd this happen?" you ask. We're listening to Ray Charles and watching some Olympics with the sound off.

"How did what happen?"

"Us," you say, and your surprised face is comical, and I smile.

"Just be glad," I say, but I catch the redrawn woe on your face the moment you avert it. The first cloud in endless blue. The silent drawback of a tide before the cataclysm.  

What is love, you ask? We all ask. Last week I saw you at the farmers' market, and you handed me a huge yellow tomato. Organic, you said. Smell it, you said. And I smelled it and it was alive in my hand, reeking and brimming with the spoor of life. You told me to wait a couple days, and I did, and the tomato slowly blushed to a deep orange, a tight amber, a shimmering bittersweet heart. I sliced it and ate it, and it was the best tomato I'd ever seen or smelled or tasted in my life. I cried for two whole days. Is this love?

See that candle? Pour its wax into your cupped palm, let it settle, let it cool. Now peel it from the well of your hand. You have made a coin in our only currency. Now pay me.

An hourglass is two versions of sand. You watch through the window as the blown rain hits it in pulsating gusts of flung grain, the pane a flattened hourglass, transparent sand—salt-tears inside; sky tears without—measuring the pace of our gradual uncoupling.

The moon averts her gaze, prays for clouds.

Things come apart. Leaves don't grow back in spring. Rooms are emptied. I've forgotten the sound of your voice. Even the ghosts become silent.

Friday
Mar182016

Slut Dreams

Slut Dreams


(for John Donne)

 

Punk cellist. Braced for banishment.

Your hectic face, your miscreant strut,

The fluctuate air hums your ruined frequency.

Your superheated breath in my superannuated back,

I turn slow and understand malnourishment

At last. I watch you break, and see you crack.

Whose skin did you inhabit today? This century?

You sucked so much from me and now you 

Don't even have enough left to borrow.

Still, I'm going to take it all, the full sum of your worth.

Can you love someone yet wish them only 

Sorrow?

 

Nights in Cassadaga, cool mornings in Seoul.

Give me your arms, donate your shaky armoury.

Before you I never even knew I wasn't whole,

Corrugated wharflike and rusted as a cannery.

My wary bordertown heart is like the lightning tree.

Black and crooked. Split and elementary.

Dubious as blind things writhing in a hole.

 

The sleek wolves smell you, the blind bears find

Your scent amid cordilleran folds 

And the tail fan of a talus

And immediately follow.

 

Eagles and buzzards wheel in the impossible sky.

 

I'm a man. I'm alive. Under the bright cold

Silver blue dome. Adamant

Draws us earthward, but

What next? To whom

Do we run? Is this where

Love goes to die or where

It might in fact begin again?

 

The cyclic world is giving birth

To its own addermouth end.

 

We will find each other in the blue-sky valley

After the carious rocks have crumbled, after

The parched trees have cracked open, everything

Once living laid bare to the world's scrutiny. And you

Will bear me from the charnel field, my brother,

My blessèd sister, deliver me to my home. You

Are of my iron heart always. You my

Mutinous pestilent love are 

Carved from my own ambivalent flesh. Did you

Dream of me or I you?

 

It matters not. Dream, dream, my love,

And never stop until sleep is done.

Friday
May292015

War Child

Across the desert, we chased a twisting inferno to a dry village, a beige settlement without breath. From its crumbled perimeter, it seemed empty of life, everything the colour of sand, except for a lone figure up ahead a ways.

When we got close we could see she was a young girl in a torn and bloody dress, faded apricot, her thin arms embracing a pockmarked boulder the shape of a broken yellow tooth (all colour here the ghost of colour, except red).

At first she shied and wouldn't speak; then after three days, she did nothing but.

She said: "War come storming from the hills, and we wunt ready, and my ma is gone now. I dont mean dead, but she am or she amnit, an now we hear her cry in them same hills of a night, dusk while dawn."

And later: "Fetching water, I sees two soldiers on the dust trail, and they was full a angry talk, but later I saw a third walking aside them, had on a dirty hood, couldnt tell if a man nor a woman, and the fighting men growed quieter like they was thinkin'."

And then: "Big sounds far off like bad weather, but up close the worst men took us from our loves." 

Right then, a rooster burst from some hidden place, loud tawny feathers blurring against grainy fawn. A great cry erupted from the throat of the sky, dry brutal thunder without rain. Lightning scratched the horizon like indecipherable runes.

But we needed answers, so I kept asking.

I admit, at some point I grabbed her by the wrists and was rough with her, aggravated by her strange recalcitrance. She was all noise, no signal; all heat, no light. Children can be infuriating, the way they filter everything, turning routine horror into some passive, ineffectual fantasy while cold reality churns on regardless, relentless. People, including the children themselves, can be torn limbless while we wait for the young to tell their ersatz truths.

We asked her where everyone else was, demanded she tell us when the soldiers had left and where they were headed. She looked at us, her brows arched with skepticism, and her scrawny frame trembled like aftershocks in the brown and naked hills.

Narrow-eyed, she continued: "Theyre still here. All a them. Silly men. Dont you hear the screams?"

Friday
Mar202015

Apocalypse Tales

In her mind, the potholes in Newark just kept growing, their edges crumbling catastrophically, the mad relentless traffic never allowing a single moment for city crews to go about their patch work. She swore she would never drive in Newark again, and funnily enough, it came true.

***

I am a girl from the valley with a penchant for espionage. I sit for hours in a wan little Chinese restaurant, waiting for the ruination of the world, and I eavesdrop the customers. There is little food left now, but some rest here from habit and consume litres of jasmine tea while faking normalcy. A younger woman sits with an older man. I don't know their relationship, might take a stab at therapist and patient, but I can tell there's a mutual respect and platonic love even, passing between them like a subliminal eyeblink memory of something better. 

The waitress brings fortune cookies, a signal they must leave soon. 

She breaks hers open and sighs. He breaks his and reads, and winces. 

He says, "This would be a good fortune if I had anything other than nightmares these days." 

She says, "What does it say?" 

He reads: "Your dream-maker is making your dreams real." 

"Ouch." 

"What does yours say?"

"Nothing."

"Huh?"

"I don't mean it's blank. I mean there's no fortune in there at all."

"You've been shortcha—"

And that's the moment the doors blow inward and the bedlam arrives at last, to annihilate us all.

***

Many times and in many places an old man sits on a porch to watch the sunset and listen to the crickets, and this time is no different, except this night there are no crickets. It's a quiet scene, the gold warmth in the window a contrast to the cold blue-green of the porch light. Daubs of bloodred dimming in the darkening west, and out on the dirt road an ancient GMC pickup idles, its presence betrayed by twin pencil beams and the grainy lines of its own hunched and reptilian profile. It came here from some other place, from swamp murk and levees, from out of an industrial night blue-black as tumultuous domestic secrets. And its lone occupant is biding his time. The old man smokes and waits too; he's not going anywhere. They await full dark for the end game.

***

We all stood around on the boardwalk, feeling the gravity waves of the ferris wheel at our backs, no longer sure of our place either here or in the world itself, and then he came striding from godknowswhere, some feeder street, an open car door, some grim nest, polished brogues on sanddrift wood, his jacket lifting behind him like dark wings, his gaze though never lifting, his pale Siberian eyes locked on our timid huddle like a sidewinder tracking heat.

***

Green things no longer grow. All is stark now. In the muted forest shroud, perched amid blackened needles and withered leaves, the crows make their rasping judgments in echoless puppet calls. All is lost.

***

She approached the hunched thing by the roadside. It was a dog. And whatever fires had stoked its core were now cooled to naught, all its heat diffused in the chill night, along with all its loyalty and love.

"Bless you," she whispered, and then she cried for a long time.

***

The gods are not gods; they are ghosts we've given too much responsibility. They long only to return to former haunts, where things are simpler and they can be left alone once more, to haunt themselves for eternity.

***

In the beginning there was New Jersey and the Manhattan skyline. Yes. Good. I've told the last story now, and there's nothing more to be said. This was the dry road I was walking down, and that was the wide shining sky.

Friday
Nov072014

Unbounded

She couldn't have been there back then, but my memory insists she was. Hard to believe it was once a happy place, before its paint was scraped and peeled and its planes and angles eroded by storms and salt, like driftwood, like a stunted tree on a dune extending its raw chin boneheadedly seaward. But there were moments. Those shell games, dare games, chill games unique to seashores and lonely children. I still could swear I knew her then.

First, things change. Then people change. Might have gotten that backwards. It doesn't matter.

As a teenager I took to hitchhiking my way around the state. Saw many a strange thing. One late fall I remember being dropped off by a dull, obliging farmer and standing in a fine rain by Third Ditch Road, out by the corn stubble and the unending flat grey world, and thinking, Damn country's so big they ran out of names

Something is here, watching me. Something also without name, insouciant and alien as the land itself. Always knew it was there. Couldn't ever fully hide. Couldn't ever stay silent enough or blend enough. Me or it, I mean. I think of it as a hulking insect, an immense bug-thing, lurking amid the pooled ink shadows at the edge of a wood, observing me with unfathomable eyes that never blink.

We had agency once. Things happened, some good, some not so good. Played ball in the street, smoked weed out behind the fire hall, shot raccoons from the trees at twilight. Show me yours and I'll show you mine. Suck me. Fuck you. Absorbed it all; now watch me spit it back out.

The last thing she says to me is this:

"How dare you live life like it matters?"

She has a nice way of talking and an even nicer way of looking. I like how her black hair falls on her shoulders, how her eyes are never the same colour, how a slightly raised eyebrow changes her smile utterly.

The last thing I ever say to her is this:

"They'll be looking for me. But they won't find me."

My legs move like scissors, cutting away the incalculable miles, moving in one eternal straight line toward that place I recall, the one that seems bleached by its own sad history, diluted by sun and tide, rundown by those ceaseless tales of sorrow, and I come to it at last—both of us barely even suffering now—to this quiet, chill place without dreams or tenancy.