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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 murder (15)

Friday
Apr142017

Levees of Sand

Somehow desolate, he woke to the sound of the distant surf. Low tide. The harsh sporadic gossip of seabirds. 

Open windows had left the room cool in the early morning. Light streamed in ghost layers of airy sediment through the gauzy drapes, which undulated in the salt breeze.

Shivering slightly and scanning the room, Eric had to work at recalling where he was. Recumbent, he smoothed the thin sheet that covered him. Took in the light cyan walls with their tolerable paintings of driftwood and dunes. The beach house. Of course. In which case, he had no memory of how he'd gotten here.

A herring gull outside the window shrieked a volley of spiteful laughter, startling him into a gasp. As if his unsettled dreams had pursued him into the vigilant day; dreams that murmured, The ocean is like the movement of blood through a living heart; we tune it out until the moments of consequence

He struggled to remember a French adage he'd once read about hangovers, something like "My eyes aren't opposite their holes." Accurate or not, it felt right. Every time he moved his head, it took his brain a few bilious seconds to catch up. Like he was seasick on shifting sand.

Removing the sheet, Eric stood on shaky legs, trying to contain the swimming pain in his skull. The usual drifting tang of the sea stirred his guts, his mutinous senses queasily alert to the underlying decay of a billion rotting fish corpses. He barely made it to the small en suite, heaving a warm sluice of watery scotch into the pink maw of the clamshell sink. 

Only then, when he looked up at the mirror, did he see the bloodstreaks like warpaint on his face.

***

With age comes not so much wisdom as perspective. We realize it's all built on something. Colonnades, piazzas, rialtos, domos. The Ponte Vecchio. Dikes and levees. Fifties-model Chevys and Buicks scurrying like vivid beetles along the Spanish colonial streets of Havana. Built. Pasted over. Like posters on walls. Layers. Sediment. Dreamed of again and again in infinite ways. On sand or on bedrock or on water. Bourbon Street. The Bridge of Sighs. The ephemeral is no less momentous than the permanent, because really, there is no permanence. The ephemeral is the now, where we stand. Live there. Live here. 

***

Somewhere, perhaps the last song ever heard on earth, Louis Armstrong sings "St. James Infirmary." So cold, so sweet, and so fair.

***

One part of Darla, half of her upper torso, lay on the wicker loveseat. Another bisected the open doorway to the sandy deck, a small crab moving unevenly in the ruins of her skull. Layers of sand had caked the coagulate rivers of blood. In all, she was in three pieces. At first he thought four until he realized the dripping horror on the glass top coffee table, amid the paraphernalia of an ill-judged, foolhardy night, was the remains of his unborn child who would remain forever unborn.

Shot glasses, crack pipes, and ornamental swords. Beach detritus, abalone, kelp. All driftwood looks like the bones of the world. 

A fraudulent life of counterfeit strength had brought him here, to a place where all his daddy's purported billions meant less than nothing. The ferryman had demanded payment over four long decades and Eric had ignored his entreaties, even laughed in his stoic face. But not now. He wasn't laughing now. Now that payment was long overdue, and the shifting sands of power had begun to slip through, like someone gut shot and trying to hold in their viscera.  

***

What is this? Who are you? What kind of people can walk on by? Do you see the bodies floating in the filthy water? The people with their signs on the roofs? You remember the poor, the tired, the huddled, right? Did you once make a covenant with these people? Are you not obligated? Is this not your mandate? Or is our humanity lesser when placed beside your own? Go, then. Pass on by. You'd best pray your gods ain't the judging kind.

*** 

He used her phone—the one with the precipitating text—to make a call, and then left the house. Headed for the beach and the incoming caress of a gentle tide. Everything gone. Love. Family. A future. Everything. He felt he should cry, but his body sustained its arrant rebellion and even tears wouldn't come.

The yielding sands were soft beneath his feet. He stepped barefoot into the clear waters of this once-bright world, and the merciful waves closed in. 

Friday
Mar102017

Back Story in Green

“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

***

You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally. 

I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own. 

Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind. 

The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos. 

Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left. 

Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock. 

Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need. 

***

When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life. 

*

Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian

Friday
Oct282016

The Moon, the Stars, and the Male Gaze

"At the back of my mind I was always hoping I might just get by." — King Creosote

*

Up close, the sidewalk looks like a moonscape. Smooth, cratered, starburst, ruined, and lovely. Ganymede, Callisto, Hyperion, Enceladus, the very names so dripping in glamour you could die from speaking them aloud. Hollywood Boulevard: not moons but stars; not wounds but scars.

Girl, your own dreams were modest. You breathed in first, then checked your breath, measured the ebb and flow of the seasons, stayed grounded, tough, and mostly sweet as the cornstalks of your Nebraska roots. No risk of supernova flameout. A steady rise, or steady-ish. Extras, bit parts, supporting. Commercials, television, TV movies, even movies. Back and forth. You compromised at times but mostly kept your gaze below the horizon, and bright as that seems in this inferno of light, the heavens are more bright and more perilous.

It's an old story.

Dialed back dreams or not, the streets can take anyone they wish and utterly consume them.

So what if you cut a few corners, blinked at times before the callous scrutiny of sporadic slimeballs, made darker shades of trade you once would have balked at? This is a place where inhibitions come to die. Whatever new tremor, Lord Xanax a fallback safeguard, in this great scheme your sins were nothing. You smoothed your skirt and carried on.

If only I'd known. I didn't see the tragic detail in the grain as I watched from afar. Not all stalkers are dangerous—in my case, too shy, too gauche. I loved you for five whole years, yet you never knew I existed. Now it's too late and I was your only friend.

He was a cold, bad shadow you didn't recognize. His hunger could never fill itself. He created a debt and when you couldn't pay it, as he knew you couldn't, he took his due with clear-eyed interest, made sure you looked in his eyes as you bled out on the ground, your thick pool of red spreading black in the neon night, blossoming at last into the tragic figure of your secret dreams, you pretty girl from a bathroom stall near Omaha, my lost and fallen moon star, my diffident, selfless love. 

And you can't hear this, not any more. Your eyes are glazed like silver screens on which ghost players enact their fraudulent dramas; they stare at moonscapes. Your beestung lips are split from your fall. Your emaciated fingers and ragged nails claw the point of a Hollywood star: Patsy Cline, 6160 Hollywood Boulevard. Nocturnal sirens howl all around, those raving wolves; the hot Santa Ana winds blow like demon breath, Pacific bound; a girl laughs, oblivious, like the chiming of ice in a cocktail glass.

Dark melodic songs haunt the rooftops.

I fall to pieces. I fall to pieces.

I touch your cooling skin for the first time and walk away before anyone sees. That touch will prove indelible. Your barely noticed life was indelible to someone, and now I can't tell you.

Friday
Oct212016

What Fresh Threat

I haven't been to Pasadena, never seen its wide palm-lined streets, or smelled its faint ocean tang braided with exhaust fumes and jasmine, or heard its low night cry of someone preyed upon…

…so how can I write about it?

Fittingly, her body was found in the weeds. A warm early spring evening. Some abandoned lot the penultimate resting place for a woman abandoned. She amounted to nothing to no one, yet the howls of grief echoing from the hills the night they found her corpse proved—at least—the urban coyotes cared.

Rubber-stamped by ruinous Anubis. 

I've never lost anyone. This is but a tale, spun from a terrible daydream, wrapped in crepuscular fool's gold. Yet what difference does it make? If I feel the loss, the awful drop of the lower gut, the ponderous bell of my own heart a-swing in the cage of my chest, the testicular cinch, who is to say I haven't felt loss?

Who dares tell me I cannot write of it? Will anyone challenge the wisdom of the purple desert sage, of the jackal-headed gods? 

Sacred rage and word games; we're all deplorable.

She was neither old nor young, had worn a white summer dress with a peach hibiscus print, had nicotine stains on her left index and middle fingers, wore her chestnut hair in a ponytail, bore week-old bruises on her legs. Her left ear was disfigured, as if it had been partially melted. Her crow's feet were tan and deep. Lukewarm semen seeped from her torn vagina. They found her wadded panties in the bed of a dry creek.

From El Monte. Telluride. Sedona. Sioux Falls. Parched places are places, and the branch work of all our pasts won't readily be untangled. How you dream of a place can sometimes be better than the place.

Night is coming. Stars are tentative in a sky half-dark. Something is trying to break through; a judgment pursues itself. A long ways east a tawdry, deficient scion implodes like a festering gourd, and America struggles to catch its breath. Look west at the snake of red lights, heading for the city, a crawling neon belly in a thirsty valley. City of tenuous angels. Specters on Mulholland. Centers not held. The embers of the long gone sun are dying. Who kicked this last campfire? What fresh threat, what tan carcinogen, imperils us anew?

Rough beast? She was nothing to me. 

So why, why, why do I weep?

Friday
Jul292016

And They Need No Candle

Like everything was prechoreographed, the barroom exploded.

Notice the anomalies. The flickering eyes and tapping feet. The man in the Donnie Darko hoodie on a steaming afternoon. A bitter taste lurking right behind the sweet. The quiet dry sand after the tide draws too far out. The flights of silent birds darkening an August sky. The nod toward the man near the exit. A cough that goes too long. The movement of animals.

***

Who am I? That's a simple question with an answer that might take a year to relate. No doubt there's a short version but I ain't ever found it. Okay, here, how 'bout this? I am an auteur. A black hole. A universe swirls inside me, and can't ever escape.

Last time I seen you I just got done telling your dumb ass about how it might behoove you to dial down the attitude in the workplace. Instead of listenin', it was easier for you to rant and call me a bitch and then ghost me like Caspar. He a scared little white boy too, and prolly sweeter. If your only weapon's social media, you already lost, bro-heem. Guess you never saw me sharpening my teeth on your wheel rims. Nah. Your days are numbered like scripture; one day you gonna get to Revelation (22:1–5). But save your prayers and your hymns; I ain't itching for ya. Planning me some primetime mayhem.

Like that barroom. A few strategic words whispered in a few disparate ears, conjugate humanity's secret verbs, program the drone to hack someone's iPhone, mix up sounds like iOS and IRS, watch while the tall skinny taxman brains the Venetian duchess. Ciao bella, indeed. Watch the dominoes fall. Dodge the blood and glass. Mind the step and keep off the grass.

Wannabe soldier? You a full metal jackass.

Other day I sunk five Bellinis while my homegirl tripped balls 'bout nothin. I tuned her out and soared to peach heaven on sparkling clouds of white wine. That shit has pedigree. Named from an Eye-talian painter. When I came back to earth she was gone. Took me a week to find her sorry, self-pitying behind and another week to decide to help her outta her misery. Old school hands around the throat, feeling that hyoid give way, the collapse of her trachea, and the tiny spreading capillaries in the whites of her full-moon eyes. The tattoo of her heels. For the sake of her dignity, I even tried to pretend I didn't enjoy it. 

"I'm sure in her you'll find the sanctuary."

The anomalies come faster now. We runnin' outta time, yo, I can feel it over my event horizon. Nebular menstrual cramps, dark attractors. Let me say now I loved you, boo, and still do. It ain't personal. It's nature. The animals know. They always know. This is how the world ends. Not with the mange but distemper.