• 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
    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 West Coast (7)


Amethyst Magnet

A wounded moon, she tries to escape her orbit and arcs her way starward in some fruitless bid for independence. Hunkered down in a Tacoma apartment, listening to Sleater-Kinney, for six weeks she shares a rough cube with roaches and rodents and silverfish. And mildew. Until a day when she ventures out and finds a nearby farmer's market and spends so many hours overstaying her welcome. Smiling at strange men with stranger facial hair. Lusting for expensive ink. Pretending to flip quarters into the hats of buskers but tossing only bottle caps.

Can we climb the hills outside town? Eclipse their occasional gravity? They're not far, and the sounds of our celebrations echo from their striated flanks. The faraway choir cries, "Tom Hardy," and we all think of the actor. But some of us suspect they meant John and think of Leadbelly. Either way, doesn't matter. Pick me up like flakes of iron, like metal shavings, don't let us grow beyond our suicide lines, our creosote dreams.

"I want you to succeed," she said.

"Seems you forgot I was Canadian."

"I did. Indeed. Nothing is for free."

(Really? Not even torn pantyhose? Not eroticism? Not rebellion, scorn, fugitive desire?)

At what point did the blurry wraith steal into the mall and wrap its cold persuasion around the wrists and throats of enough teenagers to undermine the morale of this place? Repurpose our world? I pledge to stand in recalcitrance. 

Stir that iron pan of rice and ground turkey, mix in spices, garlic, add your desolate tears, and consider the woman you once loved who gives you not a thought. Maybe barely a thought. You damn well wish. Eat and make your slow way coastward. Scratch off the layers of dirt in that abandoned place, that atrium, that cloistered dome drenched in the grey hesitant stupors of longtime voyagers. You will bow to me. Deflect the lightning. Swallow the juice of stupidity dripping from the vain tenements of some tossed-off American balcony. Goddamn it.

A faulty dream? A glorious sin? Scornful, doubtful gestures?

For a moment it looks like Iowa. Sioux City. For now I might dismiss it as Wisconsin. Far from the Madison crowd. It's all shimmering and lost. Loved, even.


Your heart is amethyst, your mind

is adamant. Your mine bores

deep inside this hillside. Why 

not drill yet farther? Why not

get in line, aspire to coruscant?


Flaxen-haired, klaxon-horned, this instant is stark. An urban stream, a concrete riverbed veined with graffiti, the dusty weeds swaying on the banks while fugitives converge, flame trees lining the streets and cursing like motherfucks, breathing like livestock given a reprieve. Promised something wondrous. 

She. She is a mother and she wears bluejean cutoffs, and the dirt-white pockets rest on her pale thighs like the ears of a phantom hound dog. Her wifebeater hangs off her t-frame, loose, not clean, underscoring dark erect nipples. She is indeed unclean. Her dirt is of the celebratory kind. Her stink joyous. She pushes cleflike locks of her lank dark hair behind her ears. The score of her loneliness her salient feature. 

Held in her eyes, bright cumulus skies, and a flurry of spores seeds the air above us. Even makes us smile. All must be maintained. Palm trees. Lawns. Dazzling miles. Hummingbirds darning the thick fabric evenings. Boxes of cheap malbec stacked near the checkouts. The sweet sculpted heart of your dark humid pubis. How do I keep this semblance alive? Do you hear the moans of the women? Do you consider them something good? The odds are largely against this.

A pack of dogs explodes through powder snow, scattering in childdrawn lines while their prey, a year-old fawn, hesitates before plummeting over the next ridge. This is the way of things. A woman texts her friend and watches the till while a carload of young men empties into the silence and advances. Bless the gifted blood in all of them. Curse their surety. How will we interpret the trucker's lament, the anchor dropped by a witness, the stutter of professional hesitance? The dogs confront their error and backtrack, plumes of backlit snow like golden dust against the sunset ridge. Cold. The tiny deer stops for half a second, enough to seal her fate. There is no cruelty in the kill; it's swift and wild and consummate. The way of things. 

My love, are you listening? You're the second-best girl I ever had. 

Don't leave me. Don't drop me. Good God, good girl, please stick around, vainglorious one. 

Everything is burning, The Wickaninnish Inn reeks of smoked sockeye. Eagles are dropping from a boiling sky. Bears stagger out of the trees, wisps of smoke uncurling from their fur. Clams pop on the rocks like apocalyptic snacks. This kid, that corner, our hopes, their moments gather on Chesterman Beach. Rock pools mirror a waning sky.

I stumble over my ownself. Nod quiet thanks to the waitstaff. This is the one place in this clustered nightmare that bleeds red, watery hot like Tabasco. Instinctively I lean its way. And overtip like fuck. The server—a sheer beauty made from alabaster, marble, hot clay, and the primate tang of vitality—punches her number into my phone and brushes my neck with her rustic lips. I shudder. She is beautiful and rural and I want to go home with her. But I'm on a mission here; if I get the chance I will go back, but if not, while the sap drips from the bark and gophers run riot along the shoulders, beyond the last Applebee's, we all dip our limbs and hopes in this heavy green soup and keep right on going until (someday, at some point) we don't.


The World Now

A road is an inevitability.

We traveled through the night and came back to the coast and a morning sky like God's mint breath. It was always going to be the ocean, that leviathan swell, gusted whitecaps, brightness glancing off the sound so dazzling you fear for your retinas.

This is the world now.

The cabins are still here. They were already being reclaimed by the insatiable life of the world even before all the bad stuff happened; rough cedar stairways and tortuous narrow boardwalks in creeper chokeholds, drifted corners of sand and lozenges of coloured glass, dry grey siding more bone than wood. Wood's spirit shadow. And inside, the permeating musk of old furniture, a leaky kitchen tap, ocean scene paintings as sun- and salt-bleached as the driftwood they depict.

We find one empty. You kick off your shoes, step to the small balcony, watch a resolute phalanx of ants on the railing. You turn and gift me a half-smile and I return its other half.

"Let's open that wine," I say.

"First, a shower, even if the water's cold."

"It will be. But we got plenty of time now, to fix things. There are others here. People like us."

I'm thinking generators. Solar power. Friendships. Things we almost gave up on as we trekked west and saw what we saw.

I listen to the water cascade and imagine you naked, the water skeining over your skin, your head back. Always your head back. Your solemn eyes half-closed. My love for you is a lighthouse to keep you safe, cooling rain on a sultry August night, the high blip of a beacon in the silent roar of space. 

I open the wine and get a start on you. I know you'll be mad when you see that, but I don't care—there'll be more wine. You'll wrinkle your nose, make a dismissive gesture with one hand, then find your way back to happy in the blink of a lamb's tail.

Roads are righteous things. Even cracked and overgrown. Without them, we might never have found our way back here. We are the hot red cells in the arteries of the world. We were once the virus, or at least its carrier, but no more. We will atone.

Suddenly you are here in the room with me and you scowl. I try not to smile and I pass you the bottle, which you take and upend. Still naked and dripping, you look delicate as a suckling fawn.

"Did I tell you about my last dream?" you ask, after slaking your thirst.


"It was bad. Worst one yet. Even been dreaming awake."

I know better than to dismiss these dreams. Throughout, I've believed in you and we're still here. That's enough for me.

"They'll get better from here on in," I say. No more plague doctors. No more patient vultures. No more carnage. No more children coughing out their viscera in a mass grave. No. Welcome to the debridement. The healing surf will thread tendrils of hope through those dark landscapes, my divine Cassandra.

Things might have faded, but we'll bring colour back, just watch us.

This is the world now. But it doesn't have to be.


After the Riots

© Janet TernoffHard to believe there had been riots here only last summer. The street seemed so ordinary. The pavement still carried the sheen of an earlier rain squall, but was now trickster-bright under the great dome of our planet's sky. A city street, with towering glass buildings, random nodes of pedestrians, and a blossoming row of Japanese maples every fifteen metres or so.

She hailed a cab but no cab stopped. She'd lost her phone in the park, after those one-armed boys had chased her, so Uber was not an option.

A crow on a streetlight glared at her and screeched "cuntlicker!" just once.

She flinched and bowed her head. Tried to recall the transit map in her brain. Bus or skytrain?

Maybe she could walk. She only had to go a couple blocks. Or wait, was it two klicks? She could never remember. Was there even a difference?

The pulsating sun was turning yellow-orange and crimson, swirling like a candymaker in an emerald sky. A man emerged from the knots of passersby, stretched his neck and whole face toward her, looming like a thing from perdition's carnival, and spat in her mouth. She tasted spoiled mackerel and she gagged, vomiting out a small dead rodent on the fur-lined sidewalk along with the pitiful remains of her lunch, a soft taco.

"Help me," she said, although not loudly, and kept walking.

"Cumbucket," said the crow.

A woman laughed in an alley closeby. 

A rusted old Chevy sedan slowed and kept pace with her. She couldn't make out the driver, seeing only a silhouette that suggested a misshapen head far larger than a man's. Ponderous, untamed, hirsute, bovine.

She heard distant music to the west: French horns, glockenspiels, bassoons. As if some ghost parade had been carried on the storm, had become unnerved and had left for the coast, was fading as it passed over the edge of the wide Pacific, gathering in its heartbroken wake only the good things of the world.

Crying seemed appropriate, but she resisted.

"Suck me," offered the crow.

The car tracked her every move; she even stopped to test it. After a minute or so of this dance, something made her suddenly brave, and she opened the passenger side door. An immense shriek so loud it cracked windows and stripped blossom from the maples blared from inside the vehicle, and a voice that sounded like something malignant being boiled alive said, "Get away. Close the door. We will chew off your limbs. We will obliterate everything you've ever loved."

She recoiled and collided with a younger woman, who hissed at her and made a sign with her fingers. "Are you here?" the young woman asked. "Is anyone here? Am I here?" Her faded bluejean eyes rolled into her skull and instead of whites, the orbs were without light and colour, darker than the underwings of the sleek and ribald crow.

"Goatfucker," suggested the crow.

The air was filled with cherry blossom and its fragrance was cloying.

She tried to answer the woman, but her throat was coated in something sweet and gluey. Her mind filled with a roomful of mewling fetuses, their stick limbs waving and clutching like tiny tentacled ocean things, pellucid amphibian eyes mostly sightless, dark stilted beings looming and striding among them and plucking morsels as they trod.

What is all this? What happened to me? she thought, a moment before something impossibly vast and inconceivably dark dimmed out the world and everything truly went to hell.


There Is Lonely

Something had made her stay.

The call of her humdrum job cutting lengths of fabric and of two likeable if slovenly roommates in an untidy apportioned suburb had not been loud enough. A relationship not so much on the rocks as fully shipwrecked had not been loud enough. Her one-time companions imploring her to head back east with them had not been loud enough.

This was loud. This place. Painted a safe watercolour veneer over hallucinatory light. Where the beat of life drummed deep within the marrow of the land. This land. This place. With its incessant rush and rumble of tides across mist-draped miles of satin blond sand and the restless receding hiss; its storm-stunted forests whose edges leaned ragged and coerced on promontories; these wispy echoes of a world pre-settled; those scents of tangish salt and sweetish cedar; eddies and flukes, spawn and breach, fat tangerine starfish, driftwood bleach, clustered shellfish; brackish secrets of orca and sockeye, coho and squid, slipping slick through the chuck as skinless muscles; great tawny bays flanked by dark masses of dripping beams trailing mosses like the beards of truant gods; vast spruce posts and struts and torrential canopied ceilings, immense sweatlodge dwellings for bear and raven and eagle and wolf, framed and fashioned by no man and heedless of same. 

A poet of sorts, she was humbled to silence by the indigenous poetry of locale.

But now she was isolate. Something had sequestered them here. A fear hush had wrapped them just as the mists became sometime cauls for the trees. 

Her beachfire pulsed in the tideborne gusts, and sparks were whipped and buffeted and streamed to join the effervescent stars in the forthright arc of the overbearing sky.

She stood. She was lonely. She was hungry, in truth, and something about that brought her shame. That she was so utterly unwomanned. Diminished. Five feet ten of corvid-black enviable beauty reduced to a hanging jaw and knees that would barely lock.

We are blunted spears riding the pactless gales of a livid world, tumbling enfeebled from stentorian skies into breeding swamps of buzzing unchecked swarms absent treaty or terms. If an ending is in store, and soon, what of hundreds of years of white-skinned settlement and tens of thousands of far kinder years before that? Of carvers and surfers, of fishers and loggers and holy dancers under the greying brows of both lucid and baffling skies. Did the land dream us? Are we part of a long slumber from which greater sleepers are already set to awake?

She'd noticed two men and a woman earlier, and they seemed to her kindly, but she could no longer see them, and staring so nakedly at everyone on the beach made her urgency more shameful, more needy. Around the closest fire sat three men and she thought they'd been stealing not so benevolent glances at her. Or glances of a different nature. But they were people.

As she stood, a meteor bisected the big spill of the Milky Way above, flashing like mercury from east to west at the speed of an eyeblink. She imagined it hissing into the dark Pacific, some solitary birdless place where our world's face showed nothing but ocean to outsiders, as lonely in its brisk and sudden finale as it was throughout most of its existence, unable to relate its first-person tales that spanned an eon or more, and dying companionless in cold saltwater on this strange convulsing planet orbiting an unremarkable star on some dismal limb of the galaxy.

Enough. She would walk. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream or plead, but she wouldn't. The surf kept rushing, crashing, as if everyone exhaled but no one remembered to breathe in.

She would walk and talk to the men at the next fire, and if that made her a fool then a fool she would be.


Neutrino Bay

Something had changed in the world; the hallucinatory sunsets screamed a fresh psychosis. 

There might have been a soul or two on that beach with an inkling as to what that change was exactly, but right then, at that precise moment, I didn't care. I was sprawled beside one of the many beach fires that sparked like neutrinos in a dark collider against a starfield backdrop that would make a dead man gasp. Best of all, I was sprawled beside Athena, the most charming and alluring woman I'd ever known. 

The bleached beige sand was racetrack flat and disappeared into a darkening charcoal distance, while occasional black rock promontories tumbled haphazardly into the sea. Everywhere across the gently curving bay, beachwood sparks danced and lunged in the light breeze like firefly wars. A moderate surf broke and rumbled over the sand, hissing as it ebbed, leaving grey skeins of its cool breath along the tideline.

A warm fall day had cooled quickly, some kind of belated portent, we guessed.

"They saw orcas in the harbour this week." Athena was still and her shadowed face seemed sculpted.

"Th-that's not all that unusual."

"No. But grey whales last week. Some of the guys on the boats saw walrus on the rocks. Walrus! In the sound! Yet the sockeye? So far, they're ghosts this year."

I sighed. Tried to find her eyes with mine, to see her. But she was looking down, watching the fire and its primal quantum dance.

Someone a few fires down strummed an acoustic six string, sang a gentle song I couldn't quite make out as the breeze carried it to us then whipped it away like a tease, like someone stuttering.

"Blaze, something's incredibly wrong."

Suddenly I didn't want this conversation.

The power had gone out a while back. We all knew how to live without extravagance on this sly and gentle coast—prided ourselves on it, in fact—but our carefree grid-free days had stretched well beyond the worst-case forty-eight hours we normally contended with out here in our happy isolation. Power out. Internet gone. Phones dead. Radio silent. Most of us feigned serenity, and many had generators and the disaster supplies you'd expect in earthquake and tsunami country, yet we were becoming ever more unnerved. Most of the tourists had already left—no one was coming this way, including deliveries—but a carload of our people had followed the visitors out, heading for Port Argyll, to see if they could get word of the world. 

That was nine days ago and none had returned. 

Two days after the big darkness had come, two men had taken a boat southeast down the forty kilometre spit of land on which we made our home, to the only other small settlement here, Coal Inlet. They came back with hollow eyes and told us that, aside from the odd baying dog—one of whom they'd brought along out of pity—and the slick black crows and the dream-white herring gulls lined up on the stunted coastal trees and the shit-bespattered rooftops like the precursors to some strange board game, the entire village was empty of life.

From the dark, a burgeoning silhouette against the heavenly splash of our galaxy materialized into a man, and he squatted between us. His name was William Tom, or Billy T to his friends, a Nuu-chah-nulth man who'd helped us construct our home and taken no payment but daily food and water back when we decided to drop our shallow roots into a land on which living trees—great Western red cedar, stately Sitka spruce, and solemn Douglas fir—had been mere saplings when the stubborn Nazarene was hung on a tree of his own.

"Some say it's the saltchuck," he said quietly. "She rebels. Me, I don't think so. At least, the great ocean is only a part of it, and not the full tale."

Athena nodded at him and said, "It's time we talked openly about this."

Billy T looked all up and down the great sweep of beach. "Perhaps we can't build small fires any longer, but need to draw on a greater warmth."

"Why has Klootchman not returned?" I asked, although I knew they had no answer to this. 

I saw the glint in Billy's eye and knew he smiled inside himself. When he'd first heard of Klootch, he'd looked at me as if I were teasing or pranking him. Then he'd smiled and said to me, "Klootchman means woman in the old trade language." After that, he often called Klootch "Two-Spirit," though he meant it respectfully enough. Truth be told, Klootch probably had far more than two spirits warring within his six-foot-six-inch frame. The man was a dark-skinned Viking with violently dissociative tendencies. Part grizzly bear, part killer bee, part wolverine. Cold blue eyes, sweet blond dreads, and dark mocha skin. Goddammit, I missed the fucker.

[To be continued, perhaps ...]