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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 short fiction (49)

Friday
Jul072017

Boundary Bay

© Monica LunnThey came to our virgin thresholds and asked for our longest songs.

Some grim radar. An impertinent sonar.

Cephalopods.

Those songs we sang for them, relayed them for days, weeks, even months, the dwindling howl of a coda falling silent on upturned cedar. Dank, weary branches like bony old limbs. Notes like heavy snowflakes, the banshee shriek of the wind up in the narrow draw, silencing the very owls to grey.

Agonal gasps. A moist clutch of arms. First we gave them our extravagant minimum.

What were they? Aliens? Well, yes, but that says so very little. With which face should we meet the encroaching distance, which forgotten facet?

Rapid City. Deadwood. Devils Tower. The Black Hills quivering, purple, epochal, sacred with need. Unearthly as plasma spit from a star.

Dream westward. Spearfish. Sheridan. Missoula. Coeur d'Alene. Spokane. Fremont. Deception Pass. Ninety ways to Boundary Bay. 

You came home tonight, via the food bank, buzzed our door and I let you in. A train strums the night air in power chords. A hog revs on State Street like Satan's ruined trachea. The neon signs burn without mercy. You brought Campbell's soup and noodles and mushrooms and celery. Couple fresh spices. From this, we will conjure a feast in defiance, and while one of us plays culinary virtuoso, the other will walk a block to the Grocery Outlet and buy two bottles of wine, a malbec and a syrah, for relative pennies, and we will eat and drink like covetous gods, then turn our salivary hankering to each other's indigent need. Our thirsty skin. 

Okanagan. Plastic corona Penticton forecourt. Intersection highway desert fall fruit stands. Summerland. Peachland. Don't sneer; they're real. Burned on your shifty retinas. Harshness muted by conifers. Heat like a wall when you exit your car. Late-evening thunder in the hills like rumoured war. The shout of stars. The damp smell of dust in the dawn. The utter absence of any breeze. A patch of grass between your motel and the strip of sand by the lake. A toddler playing ball. Your child. You throw him the ball and his arms jut, fingers spread, and he laughs into the sky. You throw her the ball and her arms jut, fingers spread, and she laughs into the sky.

Even the living have ghosts. Sequential traces. Semblances.

Fairhaven. There are ghosts in the rust on the corrugated sidings of what I silently call the cannery, after Steinbeck. Rust-coloured ghosts of dust-covered trails and railroad tracks. Quick, when does the Amtrak come through? Let's watch it from the bridge, see it stir up the afternoon wraiths, send more dust and creosote to coat the dark berries where lovers saunter and graze. Let's take the boardwalk over sculptures and starfish. Swallow blackberries of sorrow over grapes of wrath. Someone draped a shawl over the evening, dimmed the reflected lights, the piers of industry reaching forlorn into the bay. Inviolate night haunted by the blush of its own unlovely face.

You have pledged all your nonsense and I will honour it. Speak to it.

"I was left behind," I begin.

"Yes, indeed. It wasn't anyone's intention, but you were hurt, it's true."

"Not just hurt, but hurt."

"Butthurt. I can't deny it." You smile.

"Funny. When you walked into my store, I thought it was a beginning. You were dressed in muted greens and reds, and they seemed so right."

You look waylaid. Your words are a whisper. "I'm sorry. I never intended anything else."

"Anything else?"

"Anything other than what it was."

"Which is?"

"Now? A pure clusterfuck." You show me your sweating palms, a saint with stigmata.

"What the hell did you want then?"

"All the love. All the good things."

"Did you capture anything at all?"

"Photographs. Hundreds of them."

"Tell me your favourite?"

"The beach ball in the grass with the blurry palm tree background and the heartbroken sky."

"You know about that? I should let you go now."

"Why? What? Seriously?"

"You know. You fucking know."

"…"

A concussion ricochets across the distant ridge, clay pigeons, the shattered rock itself a percussion section. We can make of chaos sheer rhythm if we're so inclined. Strata. Stratum. Sessions. Casual permissions. And you will listen. And dance. Even in a last apocalypse. Even within the fission hiss and searing echo of all our abandoned superannuated missions. Even then.

Friday
Mar312017

Monarch

The wind gets up and sweeps our fires into streams of sparks, and we huddle closer inside our reams of rough hessian. Who knew the gales would blow so long? This is our place in the town square, our moment in the dreamscape, our truth within the chapel. Press those pedals, let the tiny organ wheeze its banal statute. Unfurl its rules. Queen, open your warm vaults to me, force me to partake of your exotica. The blizzard is here already; no one will speak again. 

"Wait."

No, I will not wait. 

"I am telling you to wait. I will not beg." 

Are you placed, poised to describe a million, maybe tens of millions, of black-and-amber leaves opening and closing and flapping northward, tropical to temperate, fine panes of leaded glass, flakes of tiger, endless pages from a children's book made for countless children yet to be born?

"No, you will not beg."

Once, a woman walked among you. She was lovely in mind and body and heart. Did you administer kindness? Treat her with respect? Urge her to lie crosswise? Trace the carious ridge above her passage with your fingertips, searching for fragmented things? Shattered enamel, a busted pelvis, and a skewed, deteriorated jawline. 

"We don't need to beg."

A whiteout. Shrieking phantoms skirling across empty highways. No lawmen. Not even sirens. Nothing. No one. 

"Just wait."

"No. Fuck. I will not."

"Spring is almost here."

"No. It's not."

"Weesht, child. Be still."

She sat in a quiet centre and let the groan of a weighted mountain lurch and creak and begin to detonate. She was a superhero, but one who lived on earth and not in shaded panels or amid spilled ink. She accepted her millstone, scoped her foes, cradled her spigots, arraigned her adversary. Made with a vineyard near Summerland a faraway date. Woke to hope. 

"Not begging. Imploring."

We're gathered on some secret meridian, far from the gridlock bedlam, quiet in a Costco parking lot where color has drained from a bright sky and sound from a late spring evening. Breathe. We remember our journeys here: passing through semicircular bridges—iron hemispheres of hemlock-green like half-buried parts of some giant machinery abandoned by unknowns—jerking the wheel right and then left, skirting traffic circles, wrenching gears, racing some dumbfuck in his Dodge Ram with truck nuts and a Trump/Pence sticker, blurring cornfields and anti-choice billboards, RV parks and storage yards, Chevron pumps and John Deere outlets. Praying a state trooper won't be waiting round the next bend, flanks still, all of him ready to move like a rested fly on stricken carrion.

"I am clean."

Welcome, Gaia.

"They don't care."

Welcome, Jocasta.

"They must."

Welcome, Cassandra.

"No. No."

Welcome, Pandora.

"Then we must—"

Welcome, Boudicca.

"Don't speak it out loud."

Welcome, Kali. 

A soft-boiled sun drops into a blue Pacific to the west, and before the light drains from the world a billion wings ripple the quiet air, batlike against a lung-shadow sky, looming voluminous, a bounteous smog with which to paint the evening, had we the tools or the vision.  

Friday
Aug192016

Wyoming

Those arroyos outside town, so precious. Their red dirt. The way they breathe so slow, ignoring roads, evoking shadows like the last wispy creeds of dying cults.

"You got a better story?" she asks me.

She ain't never satisfied. I could tell her about Jesus, Beyoncé, and Saddam motherfucking Hussein pooling their resources to solve the murder of a sexually ambiguous alien-dwarf hybrid by a vengeful sixteenth-century teenage Moorish prince in some English stately home, and she'd still ask, "You got a better story?"

Sometimes feels like my life's a constant struggle to tell a better story. It surely can't be, but it might be, after all's said.

So a man was found dead 'neath the cliffs, but there were signs he'd tried to climb them before whatever killed him came along, and he'd gotten two-thirds the way up according to the gouges in the red clay many people attributed to the toes of his boots, which also had remnants of the same red clay stuck to them. Maybe not open and shut, but hardly fucking unfathomable neither.

Braless, she unpeels her shirt and flexes her dorsals, a cetacean back like something lithe and fluid and strenuous you'd only see once in a lifetime of diving in a world of deep. The pendulous hint of her breasts sidelines me, makes me salivate through my answer.

"Yeah, I got a better story." I taste salt, like blood, like tears.

"Tell me."

"You sure you're ready?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"A'right. This. Fuck you is a better story. How's that, goddamnit? Stop breaking my balls, will ya? Something's wrong here, and even if I only felt a surface ripple when there's maybe some kinda vortex, wait it out, let it fucking breathe, for chrissakes."

She won't challenge that. It's beneath her. I can't ordinarily find the words, but I pitch this just right. Like when you get absinthe just perfect, the thick green, the flame, the melted sugar, the voodoo, everything in its right place. Her name is every state we ever lived in, however brief. Right now, her name is Wyoming. Part of me wants her to stop changing her name and stay Wyoming. It suits her. It sounds like a query asked of a journey, which is everything we ever did.

She's a tall female with wide shoulders. Rangy, I suppose. Like her mount. She looks like someone can only be happy astride that wide-eyed stallion galloping on a spit of glimmering sand; her golden silt hair streaming like a raging creek; its nostrils gaping like cave mouths; her haunches splayed and fulcrumed western style; its shimmering, filmy, velvet skin a platonic dream of musculature; her sweet hive eyelids tight as honeytraps; its citrus-leaf ears backstraining; her lone wild heart one violent stormshadow. 

Wyoming knows more than twice what she lets on, and maybe half of what she don't.

But we're here now. Devils Tower looming like a sly insult from a quiet ground. Striated and dreamlike. Look but keep going. Big Timber. The Crazy Mountains stark and barroom blue against a lemon-apricot sky, cheap real estate, torn pleather booths, the interstate, power cables, smokestacks, the bright rails straight like arrows pointing someplace, some other place.

So, the dead man, right? I truly want to honor his memory, find his killer, but my girl Montana insists we keep moving west.

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
Jun032016

London Calling

Hindsight is the sweetest bitch. And this one's mine.

Breakfast time. You might force feed me Corn Flakes, could love me in different circumstances, execute me in others. Economy Lodge continental breakfasts. I was one lost wing-draped bird who lived on the shoulder of a ruined man who loved coffee yet forgot how to tell his own story.

Oh, and Kellogg was a complete stain of a man. Let's remember that.

The frogs are etching their improv dream chorus into the grainy columns of the night, and I recall I fell in love with a girl whose eyes were so spread she might have been part goat, part erotic. Even part poet. Like Britney. But I also drove a quiet road in the forest, beside a swamp, and slowed when a deer walked in front of my Jeep. I came to a stop and the deer seemed to graze the blacktop. I tapped my horn lightly and it raised its head and it had no face, was smooth and beige and featureless. So I hit the gas, booked it out of Pennsylvania into Ohio and beyond. Westward.

Followed the fading blood trail of the dying sun for days.

I never reconciled that thing, not ever. Still cry over it in weak moments.

Twenty or thirty years ago I found Karen. She was a northern English girl, Bury or Rochdale, rounded eyes, ass, and accent, button nose, juicy as a citrus, a warm diamond trapped in a land of hosiery. She was a sales rep for a dry cleaning company and she'd appear on my doorstep randomly and we'd eat bad food and drink beaujolais and fuck like lemurs and she'd eventually ask me if I wanted to go up to London. 

If you don't already know, Englan' is a bitch, yo. It was always up to the capital, never down. But yeah, I'd say sure, alright, and gather up the leftovers and jump in her clean bland rental sedan (saloon in UK speak) and we'd go get Vidal haircuts (Sassoon, if we're paying attention) and watch bands and eat things I'd never even dreamed of or contemplated, like chalk and cheese, scalded apples and melted brie, like hot spice and poisonous fish and eels and things you knew you needed to chew so much harder, and one night we found Gemma, who at sixteen I'd decided was my first and only and best love, silky blonde pixie girl, despite our first actual sexual encounter turning out so unspectacular (it was always spectacular to me). And now, all these years later, circa 1985, the three of us went to watch some bands play Dingwall's, dirty blues and rawthroat punk, spitting and scattering sound like ink all over the orange sodium London night. My gratitude for these two women, for their lovely drunk and smart and sexy company, had no limits. To this day, has no limits. So much so I'll draw a curtain over this memory.

Oh, digression. Almost forgot.

Earlier still. Teen years. I hitchhiked from North London north, cried with frustration at the hundreds of cars passing me without a glance, but kept walking, backpack full and heavy as shame. Hiked a good seven miles from St. Pancras north through Finchley and Hampstead to Brent Cross. I tried to ride a bus without money, and moments before the driver ejected me I locked febrile eyes with a Spanish woman twice my age whose heart and loins even I could see were quaking (aching) with love and sex. But I knew I was too young to do her any justice, so I got off at the next stop and kept on walking.

And tonight it's a quiet, cloudless, almost airless evening in early June. Decades and countless lessons later. I can see Mars and Jupiter from my kitchen window, yet the sky is still a shade of chambray blue. And Muhammad fucking Ali just died.