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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 New Orleans (4)

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
Jul222016

Little Apples of Death

Never forget. I forget. I always forget. What indeed is memory?

The ceiling fan flickers in the rearview screen of my keys. They sit bunched on my desk alongside an overfilled wallet straining like an enlarged organ, an unfashionable cell phone, and an open notepad filled with jottings and appointments and TV quotes and titles of movies I want to catch, like silvery fish, all written in green.

Only recently I quit talking on my phone to Gabriella, my most recent ex. In a red leather diner, art deco no less, I think I became amorous and whispered, "Let your petals unfurl for me," and now in shame I'm trying to forget this. She hung up, of course. But strip away the poetry and pretension and I think I meant it.

That quiet rural road at night, the scant light a weak spill from the sky gilding powerlines.

Gas stations bathed in jaundiced pools.

I met Gabriella in a small Guatemalan village where we came to know the little apple of death in a mangrove swamp. That is not a metaphor. We came to know each other beneath the wicked limbs of a manchineel tree, unmindful of everything but each other's crevices and tastes and folds and fragrances, until our innocent choice of love nest revealed its terrible weeping teeth. A sudden squall washed its glutinous sap onto our exposed bodies, which erupted in yellowish domelike clusters of scalding pus. I won't even try to describe the torment. Enough that we lived. Scarred but alive.

The next time we kissed, I felt your newness. You, not Gabriella. I hardly want to say your name for fear of breaking some spell. But Nastassja, I guess, let's say that. It wasn't even an amorous kiss. More sibling friendly and full of love. I recall you smelled of the fresh rain in summer, sprinkled over the sweet dust of berries. That is always your smell, my love, will never not be. The things we scratched in the dirt have become signs, sigils, symbols, license plates, catechisms, wreaths, and leis, the heart-pause moment your fridge hiccups and your lights twitch and trouble flickers your brow.

After which we met Tyrell, a tiny whipped dog who finally bit back but bit all the wrong people. He lived in a motel in Sedona, but his dreams and his history leaked from the sun-bleached door and proclaimed themselves tendrils of dreamstuff, larger and more real than their origins. Tyrell wasn't a dog, though; he was a man. But he was hurt and squalid and swollen and famished. His footprint was tiny, yet his presence was vast. We witnessed a microburst, listened to a bell chime, made a clear date with him, and left.

After which we committed atrocities, of which I will not speak.

We headed north, Seattle bound, shunned, and I became Sylvain and you became Nathalie. We became the universe's secret scheme by which to gaze upon itself. In the shadow of a needle, we sucked each other's essence through our germy, blistered genitals.

Kept going. My god, my love, this late summer evening, an apricot and charcoal sky, the dense stand of trees across from my window thick with gelatinous greens, mutinous quiet, and still as an inbreath, a 3-D painting, that moment we know we're finally betrayed.

Right before we cotton to it. Before backwash. Before we are fully tarnished.

And now we all meet at the cabin by the lake, one by one or in small groups, you and your sister, the crippled geek, the quiet killer, the queen bitch, the whipped dog, the selfless children, the drastic the guilty and the laughable, as ordained, as determined by the warfaced nun and the sneering gypsy we couldn't shake loose in the French Quarter that unnaturally humid spring, by the cosmonaut with all the juicy conspiracies, by the Japanese artist daubing graphic manko portraits in defiance of her culture. My gentle Yukio. My profane Monique. My abandoned mermaid. My coconspirators.

The lake water is still, and the greens drip and mix like virgin oils on a canvas. A loon succumbs to laughter. The Milky Way begins its gentle rise across the darkness, a smeary cosmic vulva. A single coyote yips and then stops. All the trees, like bronchi in a vast lung, exhale as one. Sweet sacred oxygen.

We are here. We are seismic. This could be our moment. We might take flight. Grab our keys and wallets and light out. Then a fight erupts in the cabin—"Fuck you, what is this?" "I'll hurt you!" "Stay away from me!"—and suddenly the world weighs heavy and the moment lies wounded and defiled, stunned immobile by the sudden draining of all hope.

See my alien scars. Features of exotic worlds shaped by impossible forces. Come closer. Trace them with trembling fingertips. Smell my carnation scent. Hurt me as I ask to be hurt. And bring me home. Bring me home.

And if I die, please, if only once in a while, please fucking dream of me.

Friday
May132016

Goodnight, Crazy Horse

No matter the setting, this is a world in which people cry all the time. You can walk along a fifties street, between barber poles and angle-parked lime-green Buicks, and everyone you meet is bawling. A man passes you and you notice an eye inside his eye, a full blinking eye nestled in his iris, and it too is crying.

You pass a clothing store and watch as women brush each others' hair, unmindful of the handfuls that come unmoored. A hotbed of scalpings. The idea it might be a front for a murder room occurs to you late on. Someone screams in back, a torn sheet of bright, eventful metal.

You keep on walking, as if the bomb had never dropped. Like Hiroshima in its shadow realm still emits light.

The street reflects shards of partial smiles.

Interlude: there was a Daft Punk instrumental early in the gray-dawn millennium playing somewhere, from the album Discovery, I think—I didn't see a jukebox, but maybe I was missing something, as I often lose track the later the day gets, and this was early evening and a sun was setting, not a sun but the sun, which only meant that our planet was positioning itself so that the horizon, from this perspective, was painstakingly rolling upward relative to the massive gas giant over ninety million miles away that we could nonetheless see and feel warmth from, which always stuns me when I remember to dwell on it, which isn't that often given the distractions of life down here, all around us, all the drugs and fucking and melody and screens and words and fights and sadness and rage and oddness. Wait. Where was I at? Oh, the Daft Punk music. It was great, it worked so well with the streaky sky and the sudden onslaught of birds, the tiny iron flocks, the gunning of gleeful engines, the lovely open conduit above the mundane, the relentless chatter and the awful quiet. Beauty doesn't always steal in on especially acceptable feet.

Also, remember this: take the weapons of your enemy and make them your tools.

We're going to walk along the pier, and as we go we'll feel the splinters beneath the soles of our feet while herring gulls cull sounds from the air, sucking in the caws and squeals as the fishermen move slowly alongside the shore, all the while backgrounding the sheer insanity of a body transfixed and transformed and dangling like the ripest of fruits above the great headland over a happy valley, in turn above the massive swoosh of the Victorian bay.

O Snowdonia. My cherished Cascadia.

The great tragedy of life is this: by the time you've lived long enough to figure something pertinent, nobody's interested because you're suddenly irrelevant.

The sun is edging toward down, but still a ways from doing so, and the dogs in the 'hood are surly and loud for minutes on end, and a neighbor fires up his Harley for a second or two, seeming to enjoy the clamor for clamor's sake, and then is gone down the exurban trail, coughing and roaring, while the dogs complain. Soon, one of the gods approaches and asks if we are okay with sundry horrors and scares and we say, "Sure, fine, let's do it"; and the very ends of the trees are swole-green, just the ends, like candlefire lime dripped in gold, and we lie back thinking of low gravity viables, dreaming of something rare; a warm squiggle within a lost icicle.

And I crawl home, gang-raped by grief.

It's the time of the women, the rise of the kohl eyes, the whole ascendancy of the sweet holes, the swing and arrest of the breast, the estrofest of the crest of a third or even a fourth wave, a celebration of something "knock-kneed and all-bright," of desire, bridal murmurs in a secular church, of something inside and shifting, the uterine lurch and lifting of our hopes...

It's now quite possible I don't know what I am.

I begin to run through the alley, or is this a canyon, or maybe a bayou, and at first it hurts, with my lame thighs dragging so slowly behind where my mind has aimed, but as the muscles twitch in their slow taffy environs, nevertheless, I roll into the Iowa detour, beam at the measureless fields of nodding yellow heads, read dubious quotes by Crazy Horse, bow to the buffalo, buy-in to America's dreamlife, gyrate to Kind of Blue, plot intricate vengeance for the Clutters in Kansas, stop off for a gas station hoagie, blurt my own god's honest truth, meet and half-love the devil at the wharf, burn all my Santeria-meets-zydeco Bourbon Street trinkets. The Big Easy. You fuckers are lazy. You did a heck of a job, Brownie. Mission fucking accomplished. Memories of east Texas. Truck stop waitress. Fuck right off, all a y'all. And truly goodnight, alligators.

Saturday
Jun142014

The Smell of Neglect

He pulled into the dusty two-pump gas station and diner combo, as lonely a place as you'll ever see, the desert heat like the torrid breath of a febrile god.

He only wanted a break from the endless miles of asphalt, a coffee, and a few moments of stillness.

The flyblown thing had been following him for some time now; he thought he'd shaken it most recently back in Carthage, Missouri, when he'd ditched the rental and hopped a freight like a vagabond from a distant time, a grainier time, and worked his way west. And maybe he had… although he doubted it. Even his current ride was long-ago stolen, plates switched, serial numbers filed off. Untraceable. And let's face it, he suspected the thing used other methods than a paper trail. But he'd tried other tricks, too, and they hadn't worked. Had even crossed the northern border, until the mutilated bodies had shown up inside that dark and peeling Saskatchewan grain elevator, and he'd seen the gaping horror on the faces of the eyeless corpses under Nunavut ice.

The guilt was becoming unbearable. Wherever the thing dragged its stinking carcass, people died, and died horribly. Mutilated, dismembered, eviscerated.

Not only that, but it was only those times it caught him up that it set about its butchery with gusto. What the hell was it? And why him? Far as he could tell he was some sort of catalyst for the thing, a reluctant enabler. Yet that made little sense. He was nobody; simply a man trying to outrun his own story. He had only caught glimpses of it, himself; saw some vaguely humanlike buffalo thing, bipedal by occasional choice, shaggy and matted, and showing little distinction between head and torso. A knobby block of imbalanced meat and bone on muscular legs. And it reeked like some hidden back alley in New Orleans choked with rancid offal during the dog days of August. Stifling, loathsome, wretched. And cruel.

The man dreamed it most nights now, in fact. Him on his back, the bison thing drooling tendrils of blood and pus, loops of gore, howling its rage-sorrow while a rain of maggots big as soft albino olives spattered his face. However else it might be described, it was something built for murder, wrought for mayhem, shaped for bedlam. Its aim wasn't merely killing, but the utmost administration of pain. Not enough that its victims died but that they experienced gouged eyes, severed tendons, slowly shattered bones.

He parked and headed for the diner. Stopped for a moment and raised his head, tested the air, sniffed dust, heat, gasoline, neglect. 

Found a booth inside that squeaked on his back as he took a seat.

"Coffee. Strong and black."

"Coming up."

The man gave her a nearly imperceptible nod, yet she seemed to catch it anyway.

"Some hard miles, fella?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, we serve the best coffee in more than a hunnerd miles of here, so you jus' sit and enjoy."

He noticed her exquisite, singular Spanish beauty and damn near leered but checked himself. No use getting attached at this late stage. Not to no one, not even the world's beauties.

The window was painted with dirt, smeared bugs, and decades of scratches, and looked out on the empty highway in either direction. A range of dark burgundy mountains a long ways off broke up the otherwise steady horizon. Tawny layers of dust covered most things, unless those things were passing through. And even then. An ancient Airstream was filling up at the rusty old pumps, reflecting painful sunflashes. A dog with milky eyes, scarred and limping, crossed from the other side of the highway toward them. The entire world seemed ruined, birdless, and dying. Lonely as goddamnit, all of it.

The man rested his head on his arms on the plastic tablecloth. Red and white check, ketchup and mayonnaise, blood and cum. So weary. He needed to sleep. But how could he sleep? How could he ever sleep again? And yet, how could he not sleep? He wondered if this was it, whether he was at last caught, right here in this hot and dusty nowhere. If so, it could have been far worse, he knew it.

When she brought the steaming coffee at last, he looked up at the sultry waitress, who seemed to flinch at whatever she thought she saw in his gritty, grainy eyes. Tried to back off, even. But she heard him, alright, and heard him good.

"Thank you, missy. Sorry to say, but there's something' comin' outta the east you all ain't gonna like."