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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 Motherhood (3)

Friday
Jul122019

Off Limits

You’re with me now. We’re walking into some place brutal. Hard. Ice-cold. One of the places known simply as Off Limits.

“Are we meant to be here, Mama?” you ask.

“No. No one is meant to be here. Ever. But it’s okay.”

You flinch when a sound reaches us in the hollow air of the tunnel. A sound of something monstrous. Something not meant to be. A roar and a shriek and a lament. I flinch too, but I’m your momma and I can’t show my fear.

“Mama, what was that?”

“It was something we have to get past.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Neither do I, dear heart. But we have to. Be brave.”

I already miss the pugilistic night of the surface world, gusts like dancing feet, tense quick jabs of rain and sleet; despite the lightning combos to our body, the sudden startling scimitar of the hook, this place is so much worse.

I want so badly to say this, but I only think it: You are a warm jewel, a pulsing light. Your copious life makes mine a blip. You are a white hare glistening in an arctic winter. You stand still, quivering, brimful of the moment yet unmindful of the rest. You are a bird, mellifluous as a single sunrise in spring. You are full-throated, raw, momentous, awake to all your possibilities. You are an artist on stage and I the audience, each a battery charging the other. How do I tell you what you mean to me? How do I not scare you away? How do I pretend it’s okay?

“Mama, is that a man?”

I start and squint yet cannot see what she sees, though I sense some immensity moving peripherally, like a shadow disengaging from its host, like a dark uncoupled ghost.

“I don’t know, my sweet.”

Our crime was knowing, is all. About the way things work. Protocols set in motion by our breach. We are so small. Which might yet be our hope. Hope. The most vicious of four-letter words. 

I feel her hand squeeze mine harder, and a flurry of mechanical sounds echo ahead and behind, steampunk corvids and clanking maestros preparing for some dark discordant machine song.

The voice when it comes is close yet far, flat yet loud. Intimate and appalling, snaking through the marrow of my bones. 

“Your first mistake was to leave. Your second and worse mistake was to take her with you. Your third, and by far your worst, was to tell of what you know.” A voice that sounds like something flayed, a whisper-shriek like steel quills raked over mortal wounds, an unviable thing aborted by another universe yet thrust into this.

My fear near throttles me, but I manage to say, “Let us past.” My voice with subatomic spin passing through nothing, a neutrino sigh in the spume beneath everything. 

He is pestilence. The deadly sludge in a reactor. Something oily and massive clogging a sewer. I can smell his awful smile. He doesn’t even need to speak. The impasse between us spans eons.

My girl’s hand squeezes tighter, and I can feel the tremors of her terror. This gives me the strength I need.

“You have the power to destroy us; that is obvious. Still, you will allow us passage. You will show ‘mercy’”—hoping he doesn’t hear the quotes around that word—“because if you don’t, the circuits woven into my veins will transmit topside what unfolds here, and everyone will know you as the monster of our nightmares you claim not to be. So prove it. Let us go.”

If silence can be personified, his is a great bubble of malevolence, an inbreath of all that is loathsome, a quietly calculating horror, the moment prior to carnage, far from sane yet bright as the suppurating heart of an infection. Time uncouples from space. We are unmoored, adrift in a warp of unnameable matter. 

After the alpha of then and the omega of when, he speaks.

“Pass.” 

Good call, but you will never make things right, I think, as we head for the unknown, hands still clasped, my tiny fawn’s galloping heart echoing in the pulse of our wrists.

Friday
Dec282018

Reckoning

"All that happened after was predicated on before."

I came upon the group gathered in the blue twilight, silhouetted atop a ridge, the half moon rising behind them. The coming night crept in silently, and the gathering was silent too. A gentle scene, though I knew if they saw me they would kill me. Without words they stayed awhile, lingering in the quiet grain of the air, and I held my place below, hidden by a great stone and a small grove of aspen, whose song was muted by the absence of any wind. This was dry land, and no rains came that night either. 

Why did I linger? That's simple; I needed something from them. But no, truer still—they had something of mine, and I wouldn't be leaving till I could balance that ledger at last.

When they left the bluff, filing down a narrow rocky trail on its flank, I stayed in place until they'd returned to their camp. Then I climbed the trail myself in the vast silence of that star-blessed night. It took less than a minute to find my daughter's footprint in the soft dirt, the extra toe on her right foot a private sigil.

***

"On the nature of daylight."

This world. It's sumptuous. It's freighted. Wherever you can, cook things in the surplus juices of the last ingredient.

***

Once I knew she was there, I closed in the next dusk. Waited a drawn-out moment.

Soon, she wandered near the perimeter and I hissed our reptile code, and she stopped in her tracks and hissed back after a beat and came to me.

"I found you," I said.

"You did," she whispered.

The horizon crackled with something bright and infected.

"Ready to leave?" I asked.

When she didn't reply, my heart skipped two full beats, and something buzzed in my brain pan. I repeated my question, and she still didn't say anything, her foot with the extra toe dug into the sandy dirt. 

I looked at her face and willed her great brown eyes to stay open and gaze at mine, and I give her credit, because she made sure they did. Respect is a strange animal; I felt it steal into the clearing of my heart and force hope into the crowding bush, while love crouched unmolested. I sort of almost got it. I knew that loss and grief were boiling thunderheads amassing in belligerent ranks beyond the next ridge and the next, someplace way ahead, awaiting me nonetheless. 

I didn't even know what sound to make. I brushed her small and bony hand with my own tentative reach, like the soft and flickering wings of a moth, and something happened inside my chest, and I saw tears fall in small beads from those nut brown eyes, and I left, and I never looked back, though I wanted to look back and squeeze her with the entirety of my raw and shrinking heart.

***

Why do we come here? Better yet, why do we stay? For the light and shadow at play on a woman's hands. For the nighttime murmur of a dreaming child. For the boughs laden, the twilight fading. For the huddle of warmth at the eye of the storm. For the room at the end of the couch with all the feverish cousins. For the eloquence of silence in the wake of ferocity. For tender care. For sweet triumphant justice. 

For the enraptured.

We are all poets. Troubadours of love. Now write me yours. Write us ours. And always, always try to go in the unbroken strength of peace. 

Friday
Mar032017

Some Dire Indian

Stillness. A lime-green-and-cream fifties model Buick by a lake. Backdropped by a silent bank of conifers, half-lit by a quarter moon. A woman in a headscarf stepping gracefully into a boat. A shadow man taking her hand.

You think you know what's happening here? Well, you don't. 

Back then, we summoned from nothing the possible. We dreamed up heists in our methamphetamine haze and enacted them. Constantly amazed they worked. Purloined heat from frigid matrons. Took what was undoubtedly ours. Dropped slack dumbass bodies into lakes. 

Once, we stopped in the desert, a trunkful of bills, stopped and took off hurtling like gazelles. She was a vision. Her flower print dress clinging to her damp curves, riding high, her thigh sweat like raindrops lashing from a clothesline as she pistoned across the scrub, heedless of snake or cactus or ankle-trap burrow. My crazy mother. High-strung, they said, betraying both their bloodlust and their envy. 

"This isn't the place," I said, once I found my breath.

"Sure it's the place."

"You will get us caught."

"Stop worrying, my sweet, sweet boy. Life is so short. None of this matters. Dance with me here."

So I did. Under a splayed galactic sky, serenaded by the wild desert dogs, amid pinpoints of virescent treachery, I danced with my half-mad mother and felt her core try to scorch the fulsome night.

***

Another customer, another delayed minute before I can cash out and go home. 

We got ourselves a menagerie tonight. Three college boys celebrating somethin' I never figured out, a couple on the verge of breakup or proposal, ain't sure which, two women in them headscarves worn by A-rabs, a goddamned family of six here way past their kids' bedtime. Some dire Indian veteran alone at the bar. Two off-duty cops, a man and a woman (can always smell five-o). A black drifter, the one just came in. The one that spoke right after the bell above the door finished jingling.

"Better ignore me or shoot me, but I got a bad tale to relate." 

***

Here we are. No longer able to tell sadness from meanness. No longer caring to. It might even have mattered once. Remember that visit when you drove from your family's home and one of their tiny marmalade kittens had crawled unbeknownst into your wheel well? Bones no thicker than a quail's. How quickly and immediately it died, a smear on a swatch of the slow-turning world. Ten weeks' worth of wide-eyed warmth cooled in an instant. Yet even thwarted, life won't relent.

***

These eyes have watched a half century of things: melodrama, atrocities, gelato, acceptance, secrets, luminosity, triumph, toxins. No wonder they look weary, weighty as grey velvet curtains draped behind a crime scene.

Why not come to something new with curiosity instead of suspicion? You think jaded is a good look? Sure, have it your way. But only if dead is too. 

***

"Here's my tale. My momma was a good woman. Sure, all a y'all would say the same 'bout your mommas. But mine was 'specially good. Why? Simple. Because she held off a full invasion while being tormented, just to let her kids escape. Ten of us made it, including me ... obviously. Five of them died. Which is why I'm here."

I weren't impressed. Be the first to call myself impatient. "That's it? The whole tale? I cain't even do the doggone math."

"Hell, it ain't ended yet, girl. Open that door. Go take a look outside. You think there's the silent desert out there?"

"Well, sure ain't the Big Apple, if that's what you mean."

Can't explain this, but I wanted to smile right then, like I quit, like I was cryin' uncle, though it gets harder for your face to change as you age. Something about how the muscles lose their pliancy. And I ain't even old. But we all watched as the Indian, who maybe ain't ever smiled, not once, made his slow way to the door, opened it, shrugged, and disappeared into the night. And I mean disappeared. It wasn't just night out there; there was no "out there" out there. Pitch-black; an absence. Don't hardly have the words. Read it in a National Geographic once, about space: the heat death of everything. 

The drifter looked me dead in the eye and then everyone else in the diner: the frat boys, the sand niggers, the lovebirds, the breeders, the law. "Y'all ain't gonna like how this story goes, I'm afraid…"

***

"Quick, tell me a cliché."

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

"You need to listen to the right songs."

Words spit from the void. We leave our eventual faces as fossils half-gathered by beachcombers distracted by showers of glittering meteors. I loved you from the start, just came to say hello, but now I'm the brokenhearted. Dreaming of escape, pretending you're not a rat and this is no damn sewer. 

And for a second or two, it works.

You walk beneath the land bridge at the shore—a small and timid biped framed by an arch of granite and greenery, half-dreamed into reality by heartache and salt.