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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 terrorism (5)

Friday
Mar152019

Vespine

I can't write about this, so I'll write about another thing. 

There's a beautiful sapphire-jade wasp whose body is forged from elfin metal. It's truly lovely, and it was forged on this bright, astonishing planet. This earth. When it meets a cockroach, an ordinary cockroach, it stings it, paralyzing its front legs, and injects its larvae into the roach's body. The roach is unfortunately alive. I say unfortunately because far worse is to come, as you've doubtless anticipated. 

Next the wasp eats most of the roach's antennae. Maybe for pure spite, who knows?

It then leads the crippled victim to its nest, dragging it by the remaining parts of its antennae, like some ruined leash. 

As you've probably guessed, the wasp—a dark glittering star in the vespine world—lays a white egg on the living body of the doomed beetle, and after a few days the egg hatches and larvae start to feed on their unwilling host. 

Let me reiterate at this point: none of this is consensual. Just in case you were wondering. And yes, this is fucking bleak. 

So anyway, the larvae chew their way into the living roach and begin to devour its internal organs. During this time, they ensure the roach stays alive while they form at first a pupa and then a cocoon within. 

Eventually, the grown wasp emerges from the body of its host, the wretched abandoned cockroach, wholly unchampioned and alone, still alive and leaky and utterly ruined like something from a movie rejected by George Romero as way too callous, too goddamn brutal.

So this is the story I can tell, while the one I actually want to tell is drowned by sorrow and horror and the atrocity of truth. Time to reach for the antivenin. Time to admit we might not win this.

Regardless, how can anyone ignore the heaving grandeur of that tiny pendulous abdomen, pinch-waisted and brimful of the shrewdest toxins and the bright gleaming ego-dream of need? Dark as it is, this awful thing is framed by the purest, most appalling love.

I tell this, of course, while the real story I want to tell is so much more complex, a thousandfold more grim.

Friday
May052017

Riding the Blue Shard

It's the blue train, the coal train.

How did we come to be lying on these tracks now it's arcing its slow curve this way around the hillside?

Two blue engines fore and one mid, dusty lozenges of sapphire bracketing dull beads of jet.

Eve is up on the hillside with a camera. She will avenge us if this goes awry. If this train of thought leads to catastrophe, so be it, and there will be a reckoning of sorts. Supine between the tracks I wait, the weight of the device heavy on my chest, the ballast between the ties jabbing my spine, my ribs. I feel the train before I hear its distant voice, its thin wail of loneliness. At the right moment, I will detonate this thing and the train and I will cease to exist, and one more blow will have been struck for freedom. Eve will film it for posterity; students will yearn for martyrdom.

The clanging, screaming serpent is closer now, and the steel tracks on either side are harmonizing with each other, a calamitous electric yowl like the pitched dyad birth throes of star twins. My skull is coming apart. The clouds are blurred, the treetops smudges of dark. Smears and blurs against the blue of faded jeans: the very last things I will look upon. Things we can't unknow. I close my eyes. The great engine is upon me, and amid the clinker sparks and infernal din I count the seconds. And I hit the button.

It's 1980 or '81. A Soviet engine arriving on time via Warsaw and Köln rolls into the Gare du Nord like something mythical and reptilian, a vast bristling hammer-and-sickle agglomeration. A clanking imperious steel assemblage ablare with its own fanfare. Stopping us in our tracks.

Trains. We got on board the love train some eight years earlier. In England, in Russia, in China, in Egypt, in Israel. When did we disembark? Or did we? Was there a derailment? 

We're all on a haunted planet careening through some galactic backwater, convinced of our own consequence. Each galaxy a bright station for hurtling aggregations of stars and worlds. 

Canis and corvid. Coyote and crow. The engineers. Conductors. 

"Every hour wounds. The last one kills."

Cliff edge trees like victims of strokes: listing, staggered, part-ruined. They lean like broken soldiers in a bewildered vanguard, unmindful of each other, wind-assaulted, salt-scoured. The droning lobes of my skull are full as tics. 

"Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Which thou dost glare with!" — Macbeth, William Shakespeare

I have woken as if from some other life. This here is the dream. I was happy in that life; my simple needs were met, and my smile was broad as Grand Central Terminal. My moons had their own moons. But this rude place is unworthy even of a dream. It is like a stick figure, a chalk drawing on a stoop, a bundle of twigs when placed before a great temple, tied with a grubby strip of cloth. Like a single brushstroke in a grand painting, an afterthought. The cracked mortar between the stones of an architectural wonder. Is this lost night of silent dreaming nearly over? Please. Let me return to my life. The abandonment of dreams has never seemed so promising. 

How are you?

Struggling. In pain.

Really?

I do a good job of pretending otherwise. 

Probably we all do.

The device didn't work. It didn't go off. We can't go back.

Ah. What if this world is our home now? What if it rejects us? What if the world's skin crawls and spasms like that of some weary and ancient being, shuddering to rid itself of the parasites in its afflicted rind? What then?

What then.

Friday
Jun242016

Balance Beam

He enjoyed whispering rumours of doom on long flights. Insinuating himself into the sphere of a fellow passenger's trust, wearing his skin of bland congeniality so well he began to believe it himself, then telling them what he'd overheard from a flight attendant, about how the captain had swallowed a fish bone and, while clutching at his throat, had knocked an instrument setting askew that no one noticed until the first officer finally did so, before immediately realizing that their unwitting detour across half the Pacific meant they no longer had enough fuel for a landing at any airport, and that they'd have to ditch in the ocean, which almost always augured catastrophic loss of life. He would select a young mother to whisper this to, a weary twentysomething whose toddler had finally, mercifully, succumbed to sleep. Or a nervous old lady. Or a half-drunk and angry middle-aged white man, who'd invariably make it about him and his entitled self-pity, provoking a full-blown tantrum that would be infectious throughout the cabin, providing endless entertainment far funnier than the inflight movie.

Although he could never laugh, not on the outside.

When they always landed and people looked at him accusingly, with oddly hurt and—strangest of all—disappointed expressions, he'd shrug and say, "Must have misheard. Could have sworn that's what they said."

Sometimes he would embellish it further, reveling in the unfolding story and its implications: The copilot noticed but pretended not to, and when it was discovered, he declared "Allahu Akbar!" at which the senior flight attendant fainted. A cadre of mice that had been onboard as property of a multinational pharmaceutical company, in the process of being transferred between a research laboratory in San Diego and an experimental facility in Kobe, had escaped their defective crate and chewed through enough wiring that all the hydraulics were lost and the slightest turbulence would soon send them plummeting like a doomed lance into a calm and glassy ocean that might as well be adamantium.

He once told an unaccompanied young passenger, all of thirteen years old, dark of feature and tiny of frame, that he was an undercover air marshal and had discovered a plot by ecoterrorists to make of their fossil-fuel-guzzling flight an example, by remotely shutting down each engine in turn until the United Nations agreed to outlaw all the oil trade on earth, and she had begun to cry silently until her grief and terror had built like late afternoon thunderheads and no one could console her or get any sense from her, and she'd had to be sedated and then hospitalized once they'd landed.

Because they always landed. 

***

She never landed. A decade of perfect run-ups, mounts, and layout full twists on the balance beam, only for the landing to fail. 

Yet she kept loving. Loving it all. Believing in the idea of perfection and the dedication of her coach and her fellow gymnasts. And the cruel man she didn't know, yet dreamed of every night. The man who whispered appalling things to defenceless souls so he could fondle their terror. The man who fed on dread and drank dismay. 

This charming man. She knew one day she'd get it right.

***

A dream. He was lying on a cloud, smoking a Cuban cigar. A coyote and a crow were having a heated conversation about the chemical makeup of Pluto's great heart plain. He laughed and they both turned to him and said, "You'll wish you hadn't done that."

"Whatever," he answered, and drew in a lungful of smoke that was bitter and hot and made him cough.

"You need to stick the landing," a female voice whispered in his ear, but he saw no one. The coyote and the crow were gone. Just a single balance beam, shimmering, impossibly narrow and infinitely patient.

He mounted, teetered and lurched a couple of times, attempted a routine, did okay. But he couldn't dismount. He was too afraid of the landing. He closed his eyes, told himself nothing could go wrong in a dream, that it didn't matter. Just jump and hope. But he stayed frozen, his heart drumming like a hummingbird orgy in his chest, his lungs shrivelled in the rarefied air. Then the cloud disappeared and he was falling at last.

***

When he opened his eyes, he thought at first the cloud was back, the dream was back, but it took a moment to realize the cabin was gauzy with smoke. He inhaled an acrid electric reek. Then he registered the screaming. Saw the flight attendants wet-faced and inconsolable, clutching rosaries, totems, talismans. Felt his entire lower guts shift with the slow stirrings of true terror.

A man nearby, in a voice tremulous with sorrow, said, "My daughter's wedding is next month. I can't miss it…"

He scrambled to the window, saw the fire flapping like oily orange rags from the engine, the impossible cant of the horizon.

And for the first time in the few minutes left of his life he embraced terror and found within his core something small but bright, something that hummed an unheard frequency, while his wretched human moans mingled with those of his fellow passengers and were entirely indistinguishable.

Monday
May142012

Pod People

I am now officially a pod person. I've been interviewed before, which is an interesting experience the first few times, but when you notice yourself repeating many of the same answers in slightly different ways, it can be a case of diminishing returns. Which illustrates the importance of fresh questions on the part of the interviewer, but also behooves the interviewee to remember to dig deep and not resort to phoning it in... which is an apt figure of speech for the most recent experience I had of this strange concept in which one person asks questions of another person and they share the result of the conversation in the assumption others will find it interesting. But anyway, what I'm getting at is, on this occasion I did actually phone it in. Almost literally. Well, okay, Skyped it in. And the interviewer, Carolyn Steele, who runs the website Trucking In English, shaped this audio into something very listenable—a podcast, in fact, and the only known recording of my voice on the internet.

Ostensibly a conversation about Dissolute Kinship, it moves surprisingly seamlessly (given my propensity for inexplicable tangents and, um, awkward, ah, speech fillers) between the topics of New York City itself, both then and now, and the wider implications and fallout of the attacks of September 11, 2001. I even talk a little about growing up Catholic in a Protestant country. So, uh, religion and politics. Great. I eagerly await the hate mail.

But somewhere in there, she somehow manages to get me to make a connection between the unifying nature of the world's initial reaction to the horrors that day and the subsequent democratization that's largely been wrought by the internet, offsetting the more rigid and authoritarian reaction in the political sphere. It's an interesting counterpoint to the almost dystopian pessimism into which it's far too easy to lapse. And it takes no small amount of skill to elicit thoughts I probably wouldn't have come up with on my own. I guess that kind of synergy is the point, really, is why interviews can be so illuminating. Greater than the sum, kind of thing.

Anyway, have a listen here and if nothing else, see how mockable my outlandish Anglo-Canadian accent is.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Friday
Dec092011

Where It All Begins

So back in 2001, I was having a rough time of things and decided that the only way I was going to shake my head back on straight was if I drove the 10,000 kilometres from my home near Vancouver, British Columbia to New York City and back. For the life of me, I don't remember why this seemed so imperative, other than it was a solo road trip over a hell of a long distance and I had a friend in Brooklyn as well as friends along the route.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I picked a date pretty much out of a hat, a random date that will now be remembered for a long time... and not because one small person began a trip that day. It was, of course, Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Well, I witnessed many things both during the journey and at its destination, eerie post-apocalyptic scenes, jarring contradictions and touching moments. It was both cathartic and humbling, putting into perspective my tiny trauma against such shattering global events. All of it went into a short book I wrote soon afterward and eventually published as an ebook. The cover is a photo I took on the trip itself, and I chose it because to use a shot of Ground Zero itself would have seemed crass or at least insensitive so soon after nearly 3,000 people had perished in such an appalling way.

My book wasn't political. It largely avoided judgment. I wanted it to be about the sometimes strong too often tenuous connections between people and not a diatribe against America or the Middle East.

Well, ten long years went by and I couldn't avoid the impression that what had been an opportunity to forge something positive from that terrible wreckage had been passed by in favour of ideological ambition, fearmongering and a servile media.

But if I were to be fair, I would have to retrace my steps of ten years earlier and be in New York City on September 11, 2011 when the anniversary was in full swing, if only to feel the changes up close and personal for the first time since those surreal days a decade before.

So, once again I set out on a late summer/early fall day and drove that vast distance and had a new, different adventure, possibly even a darker adventure, certainly a more extreme one in its implications. Which is all going to be laid out in the sequel, as yet untitled, currently being written.

So this is the blog that begins to chart that journey; not the journey itself, but the writing journey that emerged from the physical one. It is and will continue to be a story of movement, of restlessness, and of migration. Restless spirits, the movement of words, the migratory impulse in the physical realm and in the artistic/creative.

If anyone joins me for all or—more likely—part of the ride, all the better. Solo road trips are great, albeit incredible tests of one's capacity for loneliness, but shared journeys are more colourful and redolent of possibilities, potential... and yes, even hope.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.