Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out

Entries in Misogyny (5)

Friday
Jul062018

Fury

She is bound on a cold stone floor in a spare cottage by a crag, the wind a tuneless piccolo through cryptic slits.

A flurry of dark birds arc jagged across a slate sky past twilight.

The ink upon her arms and chest echo both flocks and sundown: three tiny boiling hearts on her inner right forearm and a stutter of crows below her clavicle, above her breast.

Outside, some black and odious structure silhouetted on the cliff edge: pitiless, stark, and mannish.

Pricks. If they are going to deem her a witch, then she will damn well rise witchlike.

A beetle meanders by her feet pursuing crumbs, flakes, specks.

These are fragmentary things, these moments, what she sees, hears, smells, feels. Nothing good will happen if she resists, but things far worse are pledged by her compliance.

The beetle is by the wall now, still seeking and vacuuming tiny morsels. She envies its autonomy, its thralldom to its own rudimentary will.

Her will is more wilt than heft. She stares between her legs at the stone and shudders. Imagines something ludicrous. Some unruly erection. Resistance. She must resist. Weakness now is unconscionable.

She is a woman not some failed man.

As if in answer, heart all slashed and ragged, Blossom appears in the murky air, her friend long slain by similar hands, twirling a familiar dance.

Speaks.

"Oh, Blanche, this is it. The inevitable. The moment you decide how to leave this aching world. I urge you to choose well. Its about you now, not them. They are filled with impotence, choked redundant by hate and unwarranted envy. Believing they're the heart, they are the true outcasts of our tribe. The overarch, the arc is in our favour. Even when they kill us, they don't win."

"Yeah, yeah. You always knew how to speak, my poet. I appreciate the pep talk, hon, but I ain't ready to die."

Sudden silence. No sound. The wind itself has swooned. Even the surf has ceased its assault on the rocks. No Blossom, no beetle, no beating heart. For a moment, no battery. A hush. This is the cold edge at the end of things, the blood loss, the muffled aftershocks.

However grim the lookout, love—love—is the thing.

The throng is coming, my brave and blissful amour, with their whetted instruments and their senseless rage, frail and pitiful as the keening of birds.

Friday
May112018

Astride a Pale Horse

I see it coming, mostly peripheral, but not always. Sometimes it looms upfront and winks and laughs. Heartily, even. Yet more and more I clock it as it struts along an urban street or lurks at the lip of a wood. It's a tendril, a blur, a shimmer. Often a goodbye. But I know it's real; I'm no longer dreaming it. Last week I saw it fall from a branch and shower golden green as pollen, slide off a wing as bright clear drops onto dry gravel and be absorbed. Heard it late in the gathered dark as the scream of a bobcat. Fucking? Fighting? Is there a difference? 

It doesn't always win, although it usually does. It's coming, though, however slowly. 

See the gluey trail, the fallen tree, the intaken breath at the passing of a hawk. The blinking slicked-back head of the harbour seal. Spawning sockeye stymied by falls. Raven calls, airless, sacerdotal. "Rainbows and rail ties." A wild pony drumming the land frantic. Stories of injustice, desperate killers exonerated by science, by reason. The mining disaster. That last travesty. The next. 

In the glare of a burnt orange sundown, we might even run out of steam, of breath.

A slag heap slipped and dropped on a school. Friendship ruined by envy. Abandoned lovers gathering at the wharf, circled by urban coyotes (two syllables), the blare of the darkened barge gliding oleaginous in the thick contrarian ink of the river. Congealed fluids of everyone ever murdered. Molars claggy with rancid meat. Butterfly migrations. Stars astonished by their own birth. Mosquito nets. Craft slingshotted past so many lens flares for alien readings. The trafficked. The raped. The genocided. The blazoned sins tattooed by monsters on the conveyor-belt corpses of women. The lost. The compromised. Those who jumped so they wouldn't burn. Challengers. I swear. Dreamers obliterated by the shortcuts of others. I swear. There is nothing more terrible than imagination. I swear. Nothing. None of this. No matter. Swear. Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Saturday
Apr282018

Personal Attorney

The Man

When the ocean vomited him onto the beach, himself vomiting brine, there came a great wind rushing through the palms on the cusp of the jungle, making them twist in an agony of ecstasy.

The same cruel funnel of cloud that had left him shipless now drove the trees to flex and dance against their will. Vast phantoms reared up from the beach and sandblasted his eyes, and he cried out and staggered. Blinking, he turned seaward and saw only more approaching storms, great thirsting probosces of some terrible parched sky-thing intent on drinking the sea entire.

The sounds of the trees in the winds and the turbulent surf and the lashing skeins of rain were like the end of something halfway lamented. Flapping limbs of palm were torn away to sail like spurned beseechments toward some inarticulate doom.

Materials from what had once been his sailboat—pieces of fiberglass hull, part of an antique wooden porthole, and bizarrely, the keyboard half of a laptop—were flung upon the shore in random fusillades.

His clothes were mostly gone, a series of ragged strips on his bloody skin, but he didn't discard these sorry remnants, retaining enough wits to consider them at least minimal insurance against the eventual heat of a reemergent sun.

The tempest felt endless. His choice: endure the raw salt excoriation of the sands, or head away from the beach and risk blunt force violence from a freshly liberated branch amid the foliage. He chose the latter, found a hollow by a rock, covered his head with his arms, and waited out the bombardment.

Squatting there, he thought about his predicament. Assuming the storm would pass without further injury to his person, he knew this was a remote island far from any regular shipping lanes. Its fecundity augured well, in that fresh water must surely be accessible. He considered possible food sources… coconuts… fish… until a moment came when he realized the march of cyclones had passed and a strange still silence had closed in.

He stood. Like a deer alert to hunters, he balanced on shaky legs and took in the subtle currents and eddies of the suddenly quiet air. His neck crawled with the visceral sensation only prey animals know. He was being watched. Of that he was almost certain.

Then he heard it. The song of a woman, coming from the adjacent beach. Having slowed in the new silence, his quickening heart rate returned, only this time with hope not terror, and, imagining paradise, he began to walk in the direction of the songstress.

The Women

They were two, both women, and they were beachcombing in the wake of this latest storm, one of the pair singing a melancholy song that recalled her childhood far away, in a land whose name now sounded strange, before this catastrophe had left them stranded. They separated so as to cover a larger area more quickly and sang to each other across the distance. Every now and again, one would hear a sound from the breathing greenery beyond the beach and stop and straighten her back and listen, before bending again and singing once more, in clear fragile tones. 

In makeshift hessian slings across their naked shoulders and chests, they carried firewood, bowl-like shells, other detritus from the ocean they gauged might be useful. 

Their tangled locks were blond, their skin darkly lush as young golden rain trees. 

It was late afternoon, but evening fell like a drawn shade here, and they would soon have to return to their shelter to build and nurture a fire for the coming night. 

"Going back," said one.

"Me too," her sister answered.

And still they sang. 

The Man

Upon hearing the second, answering song, he picked up his pace. Two women. But how? Another recent shipwreck? A freakish conjunction of serial misfortune? He could almost make out the words now, what sounded like "sail away" in wistful English—English!—a wishful sorrow thing. 

An easily navigable natural bulwark of loose rock now stood between him and the women. They would have food and water, also shelter, and they would welcome him in other ways and he somehow knew they were statuesque and eternally lovely in form. Anticipation filled his guts and his groin.

How had such dire circumstances turned so completely? Even his decision to escape another fate by sailing in the first place, cutting his ties with everything and everyone he knew in order to evade the tightening investigation into legally dubious payoffs and misappropriation of campaign funds, seemed to have been a desperate error once his vessel had been reduced to its component parts, and yet now…

The Man and the Women

Beaming, he clambered over the rock promontory onto the new beach, ready to embrace this next chapter in a bizarre adventure. And he stopped. And gaped.

There was no one else. Only another identical beach, littered with the detritus of his and probably other wrecks, the myriad disgorgements of the abysmal deep. He sensed the fairytale collapsing around him. The mythology with all its potential risks and rewards. Sirens. Mermaids. Naiades. Ondines. He desired that vision with such intensity that he could almost believe a glimpse of corded blond, a gleam of nut-brown calf, a lyric fragment borne on layers of balmy air. He wanted to cry and wondered what was even stopping him, here with no witness to his unmanning.

But wait. There was something at the head of the beach where the sands turned to bush. He approached with care. The weathered remains of what once had been a shelter. And what looked like human bones, scattered and bleached and gnawed by animals. (Which animals? His knowledge was by no means exhaustive, but he knew of no dangerous predators inhabiting these remote archipelagos.) Farther into the darkening jungle was a mound marked with a rough Christian cross. Moving closer, he saw a name and a single date scratched into the wood: Eudora circa 1967. Two dead people, one buried. It appeared one's death had preceded the other's, after which no one had been able to bury the second. Moved to pity and forgetting his own predicament, neglecting even to dwell on how he'd somehow heard their songs, the man resolved to perform those long-neglected rites for the unnamed person who must have died in grief and alone. As he began to gather the bones, his foot struck something mostly buried in the sand, which he dug from the shifting ground. A giant turtle shell. He flipped it over and saw more words etched into its concavity. 

Voice almost gone. Laryngitis? Can no longer sing. Delirious with lack of sleep. They will find me soon, the things in the trees, and I will find my sister again beyond the veil. Stranger, if you find this, you must sing. It keeps them at bay, soothes them even. They have the power of mimicry, which will chill you. But keep singing, "Stay away! Stay away!" I hope you are not one but two, since you must take shifts. When you stop, they will come for you. My last fervent hope beyond a painless death is that no one's unkind fate will lead them to read these words, my last. Keep singing. Eudora, I will see you soon. Ida circa 1968. 

Night was upon him now, with its attendant chill. He stood and let the bones fall, knowing he must find a way to stay warm, perhaps build a fire and even a rudimentary shelter from the remains of the ruined one. Survive this first night then explore and gather. 

Poor lonely Ida. Gone half a century ago. How she must have missed her sister. How the endless days of tropical heat punctuated only by violent squall must have weighed on her and slowly uncoupled her mind. Women were frail creatures at the best of times; he of all people knew the truth of that after decades of paying them for their silence. Nonetheless, as he worked, he found himself singing under the glimmering stars amid the strange hush of the island. And in that vast, quiet, ageless bowl, the starlit ocean placid at his back, he heard from the trees ahead the first echo of his own song.

Friday
Mar162018

Each Snowflake and All the Snow

This Might Even Be a Poem

Grief falls like the gentlest of snow on the hedgerow. Shalista drives alongside.

Bye, Felicia, Calissa, Moesha, all her sisters in the rearview as she steers the rented Fiat (hired, they say) along an Irish backroad, wipers stiff and punctual as metronomes. Trombones in the tightest horn section.

Grief is each snowflake and all the snow. Tune the radio and listen to a man with a butterscotch voice recount atrocities. That there is our precise, our lurid century. 

Endless carmine-purple heads of fuchsia bowed beneath the steady weight of white. And that is not a metaphor. The shame of colour underneath a steel-grey sky, wishing for something else, wanting the comfort of some other, to find some way to hide.

You are camphor, an aroma, a bitter blessing offered by a wraith.

Find a place to sleep. Some quiet B&B. An old barracks. Banagher, Ballincollig, Bantry Bay. Where no bad things happen, no boys playing football in a sunshower field in June are murdered for wearing the colours of the enemy. No one is raped or robbed of breath by power. Of agency bereft. You, my dark and blessèd swan, are an American woman. You too have ancestry. Some things you may never discover. But most you surely will. Welcome, Shalista. Welcome, love. Tread tenderly. Listen. 

Look at your amazing things.

***

She's heard all the names a million times. The ones aimed at her heart. The casual ones half-barked in passing that once in a while still stop her in her tracks. Words for her race. Her gender. Pitiful slingshots of the boilerplate bigot. At times she wonders if this world's some godawful dream, created on some steamy bayou, sweated by some reeking white man while he rakes his humid ballsack with yellowing fingernails. 

Then there was that moment she found a cousin on the internet and almost thought she might escape.

Ireland. Where black ain't black and white ain't white, and everything is forty shades of emerald.

To Eire is human. The map of our journey is traced in random fibres, some of them divine. 

***

She pulls into the car park of a pub, Róisín Dubh. The gravel under her tires is frost giants crunching ice. All is cold as a witch's hole in January, her breath as she steps from the rental the traceried ghost of the world's tree. However dark our skin our bones and breath are white. This Celtic place, these Nordic tales. All our tormented, discordant ancestry. 

What a woman does is know her kin.

***

They take you in. Things quickly fall apart, grow terrible.

"Shalista, love, just eat your food."

"Ain't ever ate no horse, but I already know I hate it."

"It's not horse, my girl, it's liver."

"The hell? Meet mother Africa, bitch-ass fool."

The melting snow uncovers something worse.

Your eyes peeled and your ears on twitch.

Radar, antennas, the very edge of the apocalypse. 

You or they won't easily or ever forget this.

 

Friday
Dec152017

Glorious Things

Have I got a half-baked story for you. Turn your pretty head. 

I sit at a corner table where I can see the main doorway and the windows, keep myself mindful amid warm, oblivious goldfish trapped in a frozen hell. 

Karla is the recently Sharpie'd name on the left breast of her waitress smock. She asks me if I would like to order, and I tell her I was supposed to meet someone a good thirty minutes ago, and will wait, see if they're the belated kind or the bailing kind. 

"Would you like to order a drink while you wait?" she asks.

"Sure. Coffee. Dark roast. Cream."

She brings a porcelain mug and a delicate matching jug on a tray. White with a subcutaneous shadow. It feels French. Or Elvish. Or English from some other time and place. My hands are large and clumsy.

Her eyebrow is an arch, an irony, a bow flexed by a squire. I try to stop myself, but I fail: I laugh out loud.

"What is it, sir?" 

She is so fine. My heart pumps extra blood.

"You. Just you. You're priceless."

"All respect, mister, I ain't, and nobody is. We all got a price."

"All right. Look. Yes. I didn't want to say this, but I'm dying. Does that change anything?"

"No, sir. Not anything I said, if that's what you mean."

"Yeah. Yeah."

"Uh, if you don't mind me asking, you're a fairly young fella. What you dyin' of?"

"Well, Karla, you just asked the exact right question."

"Okay, and I'm glad…" Her pretty face is flushed. "But I'm too darned inquisitive, and I gotta get back to the kitchen."

"Yeah, sure. Go. Nothing says I should answer you, or you me. Even when you talk in poetry."

Three emotions run across her face, her eyes, her brows, and she retreats, sensibly. 

I pull out the nine millimeter, caress its cool barrel. A woman in a booth with two small kids clocks it and looks away, alarm on her handsome maternal face. She has that dry Christian denial in her glowing bones, which are also porcelain. Somehow, within a minute, she's signaled the waiter, corralled her children, paid her check, and left the diner before I can even register it. All I see is the caboose of her receding Cherokee, one child looking back, a girl, tiny face stricken, like she's always known, like she wishes she never did. 

So instead I stand and shoot the fat old white guy in a neighboring booth. Nothing personal, but I'm playing the percentages at this point. I damn well want him to be a bigot and a malignant human blemish. He doesn't immediately die, which upsets me. His wife tries to stanch the carmine gouts of arterial blood that ejaculate from his throat, and as he gurgles and drowns, I admit I laugh. Not out of cruelty but out of absurdity. Stupidly, I think his neck is orgasming. 

"There are glorious things in this world, but I can no longer find them." 

I think it is me who says that, but I also think it's someone else. I feel forked like a tongue and skewered like a heart.

"Tell me he hates niggers and faggots and cunts," I say gentle into her face, but she only looks blank and crosses herself.

A siren blooms from the landscape, like a blister aching to be burst. So I oblige. Step out into the gravel lot where the snow is falling like soft artillery and pop both uniformed men who alight so breezily and guilelessly from their cruiser. One is gone from the get go, and the other clutches his throat and grabs my ankle as I aim to walk on by. He can't speak, but his face can. It says: "I don't know you, and you have now become the second-most important person in my life, since you've done killed me. Please tell my gentle wife I died clean. That I didn't cry or beg. That I died well, uncomplaining, upholding my duty." 

I nod yes. I wish I could talk, but I feel all stoppered up. And I think we hear each other regardless. 

None of this is personal. Yet it's about as personal as it gets. Not all the bad guys hate niggers and faggots and cunts. (But all the guys who hate niggers and faggots and cunts are bad.) You see? 

This is the land of the locust, the rat, the serpent; the wounded and the livid. Violators of women; fondlers of children. The doltish and the dotard. Malevolence squats beneath the bleachers. Feigns piety while reconnoitering malls, noisome with loathing. 

This bleach is not to whiten but to clean.

Watch the steam unfurl from a grate. It strives to form a shape, like the birth of a ghost. Most times it's stillborn. But that one time, you know? That one time is a glory to behold. It's the silver tongue behind speech, delivering all that is lyrical, midwifing the honeycomb of words.

We're not bad but flawed. That distinction might not comfort those we fail, might even be a feint or dodge most times. Look. Some say we are fools to love what death can claim. But death can claim all things. Why would we withhold the last great fragile thing that renders us unimpeachable? 

In my mind's eye, I see the place again, and this time I sit still and wait, and Karla comes out from the kitchen as the man enters the diner at last, that icicle sound as the door opens and his brogues are the first part of him to cross the threshold. His rage enters next and is endless, even while quiet. Karla smiles at him and with a gesture of her head and eyes offers him a choice of seat. He smiles back, but it's a cold thing in a warm place, and it stops people dead. In the abrupt silence, I start to get up, but it's too late. He unsheathes a sword—a katana—and swings it toward the fat old white man, who sees it coming and grabs Karla by the waist and the katana slices into her instead. I howl like something raised in a hidden forest among a shock of echoes and the eternal creaking of a giant raven. I know I am too late. This is all wrong. I blink, and the picture changes to white noise and static, and all I can feel is relief. A lie. Resignation and relief. 

Glorious things. Her sapphire eyes. Wide salt lakes. Forever gone but not quite lost.