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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
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.

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.