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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 Madness (2)

Friday
Jun082018

Crime Watch

It's always windy now; there's never any peace. They tell me the local wolves are returning. I say good. That's good. Find the dens. Go ahead with your goddamned crimes.

Since words are such distant cousins and not the only language we know, I doubt that words themselves will suffice for the telling of this tale, but let's try.

Where did I come from? I cannot even know. I woke on a trail favoured by green. Why do we highlight the fox, the bat, the buffalo? I feel her palm settle over my wrist, and we bow beneath the wax-green arbor. We are stitched into the tapestry absent our consent.

In case you missed it, I repeat: our assent means nothing to the world.

An old woman watching the haze coughed up by the eventide. I used to sit here and watch whales. I haven't seen a whale in twenty years. The ocean itself is a heaving grey behemoth with cloudy eyes, redolent of slate. Imagine wet dust.

My name is Millie Trench. This was my home for three score years. You think your avarice enables you to up and lay a hand on it? Let's talk about that greed. We've grown accustomed to it, and you've grown used to exercising it in the service of politics that sound more like faith.

You overreached. We all did.

We pranked our friends but never copped to it. We ran through evening streets convincing ourselves we'd seen a visitation. A spindly future in a window. A light in the deepening dark above the rooftops. And we ran, alive in our fabricated terror, lungs swelling our ribcage nobility, skinny thighs pistoning the liquid cylinders of our adolescent hips. We were mercury, platinum, and we ran until our terror became real. 

Entire lifetimes have gone by since then.

We never imagined the coming brittleness, the years of compromised ligaments, of tendons stretched beyond their elastic bounds, of creaking bones or the quiet unearthly skies.

***

I know you'll come and cry with me if I ask. I don't like to impose. My heart purrs inside a hummingbird, fluttering as my host drinks crimson nectar from a feeder. My genitals are something else. You really need to witness them, but I won't insist. (I might no longer be human.) We slip inside and rest against the ink-black geometry of panels. Pen and ink on rough-scratch sketchpad partial to yellowing. Let me draw you. Your lines inspire me. Your fervent mortal heft. Pull off the interstate, Bridie, let's take stock of this and make some visual music if we have an hour or so to try.

A raven lives in the tower and laughs. She is the plainclothes inquisitor dripping warm song on all of us. When we forge such camouflaged tunes and try to hide our hungry robes, it's like listening to the thirst of birds.

Open the door. It's a rundown bar not far from the coast where few now bother to attend. Maybe it's a gentle church of liquor and gambling losses, where a thinning congregation no longer dreams of anything like redemption. Their prayers are holes and loss. They hope only to escape cruelty.

I found my way this night to Millie Trench, and she gives me that nod old people know is better than some document or paper. (Old folk are the only whites conversant with that nod.)

We sit silent before the silent sea. Now and again, a man up the beach laughs amicably, a sugar grain cascade. 

Where are all the gulls?

All she needs, my dusty compatriot, is her one last friend to reaffirm some normal standard of American life. Even fake it if I have to. Barbecues, beaches, campfires, places we watch out for bears. Lights streaking in solstice skies. A dream of an eternal park in eternal dusk starlit by fireflies, and the laughter of children singing like a secret creek.

A horse fly, solid and glinting blackish and distracted by its mission creep, bothers the shore lurkers, hoping to drive them into panicked mea culpas, circling their dim crimeheads like a winged and sable pecan as they rear and flap, preening and twitching without hope of exoneration. There's Jodi in Walmart with her gas cans, the hurtling bespattered basement steps, the gunshots into the crowded van, sex zombies, plaster casts, child pageants, lies, race, sex, even hope. 

My mind uncouples, forgets itself. Bring them through the prize draw routes, lottery types and winning hands, clear passages now suited to the epic ruins of the day. I would like to find the corpse of a champion and unearth a feeble decoder, witness the death throes of loyalty. Spinning it all circular. 

Are we enthralled? From which side of the bay do we look? I live to suck out every thread, each loose end, and give it if not its name at least some character, a man who polishes combat boots using only green and now this lightest brown. It's a start, pale though it is. 

I wanted to have the last word with all of them and gesture as they approached, as he and his friends whooped and hollered, yelling and high-fiving my people, promising to haul each other up and out. I never knew his name. Was he the man who laughed? Could he have been the wolf? Things will be elided here, redacted and stashed away, quite possibly forever.

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.