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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 Sylvia Plath (3)

Friday
Mar082019

Cosmic

God, or someone like him, decides to tell a joke. 

Here's how it goes. 

It's wintertime on the great plains. We're huddled at a giant gas station—ten islands each with five pumps, like little solar systems—and we're alone there in that cold dome of artificial light amid an encroaching, encompassing darkness, like all of space itself has encircled us.

Us being Doris, Blake, and me.

And the winds. The winds on all sides sing no human melody, just a fluctuating galactic plainsong, like abandoned sheets berserked by a gale. Blurs of snow like the flung arms of colliding starfields.

Doris says, "You think she made it?"

Given I watched Sylvie die with my own anguished two eyes, I'm gonna pass on that. 

I stomp my feet, Doris hugs herself, and Blake ignores us.

Our exhalations hang in the air like tiny frozen organ pipes.  

In the gloom beyond the lights, a pale gathering of rigs lie still, accumulating snow like the corpses of buffalo. I wonder where the drivers are, but again I keep my thoughts inside, for warmth.

And speaking of inside, not a soul moves within the chill fluorescence of the great hangar around which the gas bars orbit. An inconvenience store, I think. Not funny. The place looks like a forsaken terrarium. 

Blake hasn't spoken in hours, but he does now. "So this is hell," he says, quietly.

"More like hell's briefing room," says Doris, which makes me look at her and nearly smile. She nearly smiles back. And I try not to think about Sylvie. 

How do things go so wrong so quickly? Twenty-four hours seems barely enough time for such a one-eighty. Everything had gone to plan; against the odds, we'd pulled it off; we were superstars; life was about to begin in earnest. But now…

It's all a risk, every step of it. You can tell a joke, even a bunch of jokes, but no one's obliged to laugh.

Out there in the dark, beyond the dizzying supercluster whorls, we watch shapes move like slow behemoths; real or imagined, who knows? All we know is we'll never reach them, on this day or the next, but if they reach us they will end us. 

Blake says, "After we soar, how come there's this rule we gotta come down?"

"That's God’s punchline," I say.

Friday
May152015

Sylvia

We always said if we were still haunting this earth a decade on, we'd meet at our spot like a Linklater couple, at the place where we learned—like movie fan neophytes—that love can encompass place and lighting and mood every bit as much as touch and taste. We weren't to know then that changes wrought by our kind's cold-eyed rapacity would render that decade the longest, slowest death rattle ever, our world's understated expiration.

Yet I am here amid the wreckage, and I wonder whether you are too. Or did you get waylaid, along with the billions of others, somewhere between the comfort of sleep and the dawning unease of emerging wakefulness? Will you appear out of the brown air, through the oily miasma of a new atmosphere, as I sit waiting for you, patient as an ancient cedar counting the centuries before the arrival of the first antlike bipeds with saws? I have nothing else to wait for, other than the obvious oblivion awaiting us all, awaiting everything. This awfulness that's happened has stripped the flesh from the bones of truth, revealing a white unlovely thing: we are here to simply bide time before we die.

Will you make it? I am here now, in the warm ambient remnants of dark wood and soft lighting, this womb-cave once rumoured to be where silent movie stars came to die. Can you hear the low susurrus of conversation and the clink of glasses while "Enjoy the Silence" bleeds prettily from hidden speakers and we get gently drunk on extravagant caesars? We must use our imaginations like weapons turned inward. Nostalgia is the spirit's suicide. Can we—ought we to?—still imagine the waiters and bartenders and diners huddled at tables, and see beyond the broken leaded glass to a street where once we watched people park cars in the tightest spaces—now rusted cockroach frames on crumbling pavement—where we smiled at the joy of dogs, and where hope glittered on the wave tops in the bay instead of unpalatable toxic things?

We once believed the fabric of our lives were woven from threads so fine that no one could unpick them, yet unraveled is how we've become in the merciless onslaught of reality. The lonely face looks out to sea. We were once on the sands, the surf growling like a feral pack. Now I'm alone in a shell of a building, gazing at petroleum waters.

You're not coming, I know; there will be no sequel. No redemptive beauty will emerge from the beige air. Your blacks, tying you to a past run aground and the barren oilspill of blighted hope, truly crackle and drag. The world is turning the mirrors backward, opening the nozzles on the cold stove, and covering the gaps in the doors with towels.

Saturday
Apr282012

I Have No Idea

So you got this deadline for your latest blog post/writing assignment and all you can hear in your head is a sound resembling the distant whine of an overclocked laptop crossed with Mariah Carey conducting elaborate experiments involving helium and canary embryos. Essentially, a combination of blind panic and a sheer lack of anything resembling an idea. You briefly consider opening your carotid artery while gargling with paint thinner before saying to yourself “way too dramatic”, so you dial it down and rock back and forth making mewling noises instead.

But the ticking clock is relentless, and something has to give. This is your last chance to become a mother… oh, wait, different story altogether. Sorry. Got my notes mixed up… So, anyway, what do you do? Well, you consult my newly patented Top Ten List of Idea Generators and Writing Exercises, is what! In the spirit of heroic cartoon supermice everywhere, here they come to save the day…

1. You are an international jewel thief. You have just fenced enough ice to re-sink the Titanic. You are flush. You receive a phone call in which a heavily disguised voice says “I am stranded in the Philippines. I am not Stephen Hise, never even heard of him in fact, but just so you know, the awesome website Indies Unlimited could sure use some serious funding right about now.” What do you do?

2. Push an elderly lady into traffic and describe the aftermath. An alternate version would be to record the sound of an audio-assisted crosswalk, find a home for the visually impaired next to a busy street and wait for the residents to emerge, at which point you press Play on your recording device. Remember to describe the ensuing events in loving detail. It’s the hilarious aftermath we’re looking for in particular.

3. Ponder this simple question and then write down your thoughts: why is the word “phonetically” not spelled phonetically? And, for a bonus: why does “succinct” have two syllables? Do you think words can commit fraud? Did Emily Brontë completely make up the word “wuthering”? And, anyway, how badass is it that she has umlauts in her name?

4. Eat something you hate, such as boiled wombat elbows or rancid yak butter. Make sure the very thought of it already induces a degree of nausea. Follow it up with a plate of traditional English cuisine. Yes, that is redundant, I know. Drink a bottle of cod liver oil. Follow that up with a few shot glasses of hot sauce. Nurture some genuine anger in the pit of your stomach. (If you find you are unable to do this, turn on FOX News.) Locate a trampoline. Bounce on it repeatedly. If you possess sufficient athleticism, perform a few backflips. If not, keep bouncing. Dismount. Find a giant canvas and stand over it. Or squat, your call. Let nature take its course, in whatever way it chooses. Then, in 500 words, describe the resulting art work.

5. Write a Petrarchan Sonnet that includes the following elements: a banjo, a dispirited clown, two befuddled paranormal investigators, a lighthouse keeper with bipolar disorder and a lukewarm vat of seahorse droppings. Please remember: use iambic pentameter and an octave of

a b b a a b b a

and a more flexible sestet of

c d c d c d

or

c d d c d c

6. Free-write longhand for ten minutes. No cue, no topic. Just write. Do not take your pen off the paper. Go!

7. Write a series of short literary mashups. Why should musicians have all the fun, after all? For example, mimic the writing style of Ernest Hemingway while employing the subject matter of H.P. Lovecraft. You may call the final product The Old Man And Cthulhu, for instance. Or combine the style of Cormac McCarthy, perhaps, with a Dr. Seuss theme: “The sun did not shine. The Cat in the Hat raised his face to the god-abandoned day. Thing One was uncoupled from its shoring, everything grey in the world’s last dawn. Oh Fish in the Pot, he whispered. Oh Fish.” You get the idea.

8. If you write horror, try a chick lit story. If your preferred genre is paranormal romance, write a western. The world needs more Gucci zombies and levitating cowboys, after all.

9. Write a long piece outlining your thoughts on why JFK’s assassination might have been connected to an obscure standard bearer in the Duke of Wellington’s army at Waterloo. Be sure to include the rare yet incisive commentary by one Dwight Z. Finkelheimer, who famously postulated that the bell jar in Sylvia Plath’s famous novel was actually a metaphor for hair metal band Motley Crüe’s insistence on delivering tanning beds to orphanages, all of which culminates eerily in architect Frank Gehry’s blueprint for cloning Lee Harvey Oswald, providing him with a blowgun filled with toxic paperclips and setting him loose amid a throng of Jesuit priests riding gloriously oblivious and slightly dim alpacas, the prized wool of which will one day clothe the very standard bearer mentioned previously. Woah. I don’t know about you, but I got goosebumps.

10. Notice that writing is not an art or a science; it’s an exercise in sheer futility. It is a slow, quiet, lonely torment; less a long, dark night of the soul and more a longer, grey afternoon of the spleen. It is reminiscent of the feeling you might get if a beaming child-faced serial killer peeled off your skin a layer at a time while reciting the complete works of obscure Scottish poet William McGonagall and sprinkling apple cider vinegar on your exposed, suppurating flesh. Reminiscent, albeit not exact. It is possibly the world’s most stupid human activity, and considering those activities include Australian dwarf tossing and British shin-kicking contests as well as Japanese game shows featuring a Snooki lookalike and a man disguised as Rasputin performing disquieting rituals inside giant hamster balls, that’s got to be pretty stupid. It all just makes you want to cry for your momma, not only now, but every single moment that remains of your miserable life. Now, once you have absorbed this, go away and write a counter argument, providing rich examples of why I am wrong, while being careful to note the fact that none of this will matter to you in less than a hundred years, since you will be dead. Which may be ugly, but it’s the truth. As ugly a truth as the one about Mother Teresa and the one-legged insurance salesman in that Calcutta alleyway. But don’t write about that. Write instead of how the mind goes, of its inevitable ruin. Oh look, a flower. Florentine death squads. The Mitt Romney remix. Castigation. Fuel. Aphids.

*     *     *     *     *

This post was originally written for Indies Unlimited but was deemed unsuitable. A version of it appeared on the website BlergPop instead. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.