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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 Loneliness (6)

Saturday
May112019

Lonely Comin' Down

Do you know pain? Do you know where to find it? Follow the hoofbeats on dry grasses. Follow the sun's arc.

On the day he became a man, he found her drenched in blood and viscera, the cavernous wound across her midriff a silent, dripping howl at the world's indifference, and she told him they'd cut her baby out and macheted it in two. He asked why they'd spared her, and she couldn't tell him. After he sutured her together again, her body at least, she cried for days, and a small part of that was the hard blunt urge of her engorged breasts, the desperate milk of which she convinced him to suck. Not as a sexual act, she insisted, but a pragmatic one. He meant to agree, and on one level he surely did, but soon the daily ritual of her motherhood expressed into his acclimatizing mouth was quite literally a sweet arousal. She was almost twice his age. 

Thus was their baffling and atypical bond established.

But one day they had to leave the shack and join the convulsing world so maddened in its throes. 

The throng of bison boiled across the plains like darkening suds. 

Blinking, stumbling, sometimes gasping, the man and the woman followed their simmering decadeslong passage into an evensong. Then reached the silver shimmer of the coastal sweep, frail as eggshell.

We think we're lonely. Want to know what lonely is? We think it's when someone won't hear us, when our words fall dry on quieted plains. Yeah, it's that. We think it's when we're misunderstood, misconstrued. Sure. It's also that. We think it's when we've suffered shame in public, been abandoned, no ally in sight. Yeah, it's that too. We think it's when we're strung from a tree and spit on, without a friend in close. Uh-huh. That too. We think it's the whistleblower's fear, the revolutionary's grail, the dissident's rage, all quelled by tyrant malice and worse, the silent savagery of indifference. Which it surely is. We think it the panic of doom in the great brimming eye of the wounded straggler as the zealous pride closes in. The shear of the desert hawk oblique to the hot wind. The last distraught arrival at the site, ribcage like bellows, as the final liftoff launches forlorn above. The lone white bear lurching on the only unmelted floe. The last bee spiralling clumsily down like our double-helix undone. All of which it is. But when I say lonely, I mean the impossible and pitiless interim between the brief age of life and the eventual relentless stretch of each atom and its subatomic parts into an unimaginably vast abyssal chasm spanning the entirety of what is and what will ever be, space itself expanding to a point that light can no longer be shared between points, so all the particles ever created drift alone and unencountered, no hope of warmth, or hope of even a glimmer of a friend, no hope of anything, no hope even of hope. Not the end, but the end of end, the loveless eternal void, the almost-nothing cruel enough to not quite ever be fully nothing. 

The pair, hollowed out and Oedipal, stand like stormstruck trees at the cliff edge and watch the vexed and undead ocean heave with blind grey malevolence, with lunacy, as one by one the stars are doused, all light and tide withdraws, the last things seen on this or any other world two scorched and doting human hands entwined, love's final say. 

Friday
Mar082019

Cosmic

God, or someone like him, decides to tell a joke. 

Here's how it goes. 

It's wintertime on the great plains. We're huddled at a giant gas station—ten islands each with five pumps, like little solar systems—and we're alone there in that cold dome of artificial light amid an encroaching, encompassing darkness, like all of space itself has encircled us.

Us being Doris, Blake, and me.

And the winds. The winds on all sides sing no human melody, just a fluctuating galactic plainsong, like abandoned sheets berserked by a gale. Blurs of snow like the flung arms of colliding starfields.

Doris says, "You think she made it?"

Given I watched Sylvie die with my own anguished two eyes, I'm gonna pass on that. 

I stomp my feet, Doris hugs herself, and Blake ignores us.

Our exhalations hang in the air like tiny frozen organ pipes.  

In the gloom beyond the lights, a pale gathering of rigs lie still, accumulating snow like the corpses of buffalo. I wonder where the drivers are, but again I keep my thoughts inside, for warmth.

And speaking of inside, not a soul moves within the chill fluorescence of the great hangar around which the gas bars orbit. An inconvenience store, I think. Not funny. The place looks like a forsaken terrarium. 

Blake hasn't spoken in hours, but he does now. "So this is hell," he says, quietly.

"More like hell's briefing room," says Doris, which makes me look at her and nearly smile. She nearly smiles back. And I try not to think about Sylvie. 

How do things go so wrong so quickly? Twenty-four hours seems barely enough time for such a one-eighty. Everything had gone to plan; against the odds, we'd pulled it off; we were superstars; life was about to begin in earnest. But now…

It's all a risk, every step of it. You can tell a joke, even a bunch of jokes, but no one's obliged to laugh.

Out there in the dark, beyond the dizzying supercluster whorls, we watch shapes move like slow behemoths; real or imagined, who knows? All we know is we'll never reach them, on this day or the next, but if they reach us they will end us. 

Blake says, "After we soar, how come there's this rule we gotta come down?"

"That's God’s punchline," I say.

Friday
Sep142018

Juniper Moon

"The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder." — Virginia Woolf

Please allow me to introduce herself.

She is now. She leaks from her own seams. Hilarity. Goodness. 

She is a feral wisp of a child finding herself wakening someplace with pale-peach skies and light-olive foliage and a postcoital volcano smoking beyond a shallow lake, a lone ox lapping at the water’s edge. 

Her voice is redolent of mesquite and burned hope. Her sweat is bottled as holy fragrance. Her throat plays all our favourite songs. 

So pretty. I could never forget your tiny perfect face. My hands form a cup for your lower jaw. To protect you. To save me.

One of us left the house in the early morning, while dawn tried and failed to grasp the day, and the humbled sun rose shamefaced over the land, as our astounding friend grew into her stride and strode away among the green shoots, amid the moaning of doves, utterly alone, completely amazed.

***

They agreed to meet in a pullout off the Coastal Highway, an irony she tried to amuse herself with while she waited on his unpunctual ass. Pullout. Yeah. If he'd pulled out like he said he would, they wouldn't be in this situation. Come to think of it, had his unpunctual ass been as late that evening as it usually was, and still was, she'd have quit on the whole date and, again, the same: none of this would now be happening. She supposed she could play that game all the way back to before she slid from between her mommy's skinny legs: if her dad wasn't an asshole and had never met her mom; if the bust-up between her parents had never happened; if she hadn't been so desperate to meet a boy to help her make her escape from her disintegrating home… but now she was retracing territory she'd already picked over, and these days she tried to stop doing that.

***

Mercury screens, lost highways, atomic tests.

Dr. Seuss draws all of this.

And all of this, let’s face it, is loneliness. 

______

Artwork © Finn Campbell Notman

Friday
Nov102017

Grandmother Weighs the Water

The storm came and we weathered it. But we knew there would be more storms. 

And there were. It's how we lived.

Some of our children made a show where they used shadows to tell a story. Silhouette horses rearing against salmon skies. Hands reaching to clasp other hands. Hummingbirds and leaping fish. I sat and watched their shows and cried each time without shame.

But they—the others, not the children—sought our shame, pursued it with their ghost hounds: bible verses, uniforms, corrective lenses unsolicited, soap inside our mouths or worse, fingers in our pants, worse, the eradication of our language, the cultivation of our unwanted chastening. They enclosed us in brick, touched our secret places, and claimed we'd asked them to. Insisted on our gratitude and compliance then made of that compliance a defense, a vindication. They were sly, shrouding their dark urges with blame, concealing their culpability inside deviant retellings.  

That dark is still deep and lonely, but there are shafts of light now.

The baritone tattoo of a hundred hooves on pliant grassland, hollow and dogged and fierce, the sudden calliope of pollen burst afar and spiraling, bone ridge fingers through chainlink seeking a home, palpating the unquiet hearts of a thousand surplus tales.

Suicide is water. It cools your hurt and finds the channels, drains the great wild weighty hope of a fearsome distant peak to some quiet nearby delta. It is female. Yet it isn't. Because female is strong, not weak. We've forgotten how to think about this. Forgotten that woman is robust, that love itself is sturdy. That fierce is good and ironclad severity not so much. The human spine will twist and flex and carry monstrous burdens. Yet an iron rod encumbered incrementally will ultimately break. Suicide is neither female nor male, neither weak nor strong. We think in polarities. Suicide is the water on the lip of the falls, a precipice in our thoughts, propelled by doubt and certitude. Doubt we can go on, and certainty we're saved. On such fulcrums, where the present balances the past and the future, bury our hearts and cry hoarse and wounded and brave enough to waken hope across all this great Turtle Island. 

Cry for me. Grieve. Then honor me, revere me. And all my relations.

Friday
May192017

Amethyst Magnet

A wounded moon, she tries to escape her orbit and arcs her way starward in some fruitless bid for independence. Hunkered down in a Tacoma apartment, listening to Sleater-Kinney, for six weeks she shares a rough cube with roaches and rodents and silverfish. And mildew. Until a day when she ventures out and finds a nearby farmer's market and spends so many hours overstaying her welcome. Smiling at strange men with stranger facial hair. Lusting for expensive ink. Pretending to flip quarters into the hats of buskers but tossing only bottle caps.

Can we climb the hills outside town? Eclipse their occasional gravity? They're not far, and the sounds of our celebrations echo from their striated flanks. The faraway choir cries, "Tom Hardy," and we all think of the actor. But some of us suspect they meant John and think of Leadbelly. Either way, doesn't matter. Pick me up like flakes of iron, like metal shavings, don't let us grow beyond our suicide lines, our creosote dreams.

"I want you to succeed," she said.

"Seems you forgot I was Canadian."

"I did. Indeed. Nothing is for free."

(Really? Not even torn pantyhose? Not eroticism? Not rebellion, scorn, fugitive desire?)

At what point did the blurry wraith steal into the mall and wrap its cold persuasion around the wrists and throats of enough teenagers to undermine the morale of this place? Repurpose our world? I pledge to stand in recalcitrance. 

Stir that iron pan of rice and ground turkey, mix in spices, garlic, add your desolate tears, and consider the woman you once loved who gives you not a thought. Maybe barely a thought. You damn well wish. Eat and make your slow way coastward. Scratch off the layers of dirt in that abandoned place, that atrium, that cloistered dome drenched in the grey hesitant stupors of longtime voyagers. You will bow to me. Deflect the lightning. Swallow the juice of stupidity dripping from the vain tenements of some tossed-off American balcony. Goddamn it.

A faulty dream? A glorious sin? Scornful, doubtful gestures?

For a moment it looks like Iowa. Sioux City. For now I might dismiss it as Wisconsin. Far from the Madison crowd. It's all shimmering and lost. Loved, even.

 

Your heart is amethyst, your mind

is adamant. Your mine bores

deep inside this hillside. Why 

not drill yet farther? Why not

get in line, aspire to coruscant?

 

Flaxen-haired, klaxon-horned, this instant is stark. An urban stream, a concrete riverbed veined with graffiti, the dusty weeds swaying on the banks while fugitives converge, flame trees lining the streets and cursing like motherfucks, breathing like livestock given a reprieve. Promised something wondrous. 

She. She is a mother and she wears bluejean cutoffs, and the dirt-white pockets rest on her pale thighs like the ears of a phantom hound dog. Her wifebeater hangs off her t-frame, loose, not clean, underscoring dark erect nipples. She is indeed unclean. Her dirt is of the celebratory kind. Her stink joyous. She pushes cleflike locks of her lank dark hair behind her ears. The score of her loneliness her salient feature. 

Held in her eyes, bright cumulus skies, and a flurry of spores seeds the air above us. Even makes us smile. All must be maintained. Palm trees. Lawns. Dazzling miles. Hummingbirds darning the thick fabric evenings. Boxes of cheap malbec stacked near the checkouts. The sweet sculpted heart of your dark humid pubis. How do I keep this semblance alive? Do you hear the moans of the women? Do you consider them something good? The odds are largely against this.

A pack of dogs explodes through powder snow, scattering in childdrawn lines while their prey, a year-old fawn, hesitates before plummeting over the next ridge. This is the way of things. A woman texts her friend and watches the till while a carload of young men empties into the silence and advances. Bless the gifted blood in all of them. Curse their surety. How will we interpret the trucker's lament, the anchor dropped by a witness, the stutter of professional hesitance? The dogs confront their error and backtrack, plumes of backlit snow like golden dust against the sunset ridge. Cold. The tiny deer stops for half a second, enough to seal her fate. There is no cruelty in the kill; it's swift and wild and consummate. The way of things. 

My love, are you listening? You're the second-best girl I ever had. 

Don't leave me. Don't drop me. Good God, good girl, please stick around, vainglorious one. 

Everything is burning, The Wickaninnish Inn reeks of smoked sockeye. Eagles are dropping from a boiling sky. Bears stagger out of the trees, wisps of smoke uncurling from their fur. Clams pop on the rocks like apocalyptic snacks. This kid, that corner, our hopes, their moments gather on Chesterman Beach. Rock pools mirror a waning sky.

I stumble over my ownself. Nod quiet thanks to the waitstaff. This is the one place in this clustered nightmare that bleeds red, watery hot like Tabasco. Instinctively I lean its way. And overtip like fuck. The server—a sheer beauty made from alabaster, marble, hot clay, and the primate tang of vitality—punches her number into my phone and brushes my neck with her rustic lips. I shudder. She is beautiful and rural and I want to go home with her. But I'm on a mission here; if I get the chance I will go back, but if not, while the sap drips from the bark and gophers run riot along the shoulders, beyond the last Applebee's, we all dip our limbs and hopes in this heavy green soup and keep right on going until (someday, at some point) we don't.