• 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 Winter (3)



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.


Seven Breezes Blowin'

Cold, like the world done spun off into space. Cold, like the devil's black heart. Easterly gale so fierce the snow don't ever settle, 'cept in precipitous talus drifts on the east side of the squat, shivering huts we tried to call a homestead.

Can't even hear the cries of my children, the storm's so loud. Five small bleats under a bareback shriek atop a deeper howl 'cross the gray plains, bending poplar and cottonwood like matchsticks to breaking, killing most everything caught outdoors in its path, which is wide and righteous, a godlike halitosic roar in the face of our damnation.

Braced for hunger and cold. For the wages of sin and the invoices of death. Flour ruined by vermin, our old mare brought low by a malady in her veins. Ingredients of this matchless storm were prophesied.

And we all know the answer to it.

Martha my love. Her eyes, like jettisoned moons, won't find my own.

Most Sundays she still looks for a cross where I only see wood too cold to even rot. Literally petrified. And bless her cloudless soul, she still believes in friends. 

Distance between the house and the barn seems more of a hike each day. I'm a man. If I can't do the basics of a man's calling, whose wheels am I spinning and in what chill mud, what slush, do I churn? Place feels so dirgelike even the crows are gone, scattered on a high keening wind like shards of black ice.

The children so thin they could snap in such blasts. Their own eyes dim as lost meteors.

Memories of the road in summer—its battalion of mailboxes, its heart warmth and quiet fields dreaming their long afternoons, its lone vehicles following signs, some lost, some stubborn not to hurry—might as well be ancestral.

Place has two seasons: hot and cold; variations of beige and variations of gray.

But seven shotgun shells—eight or nine for insurance—are inarguable, untenable.

The coyote tonight is alone, a single ululating cry, a reminder of solitude, a clear song of frost.

Truth is, I'd consider it a happy endin' if seven new people didn't never get born.


Anyone who listens to the music of Bob Dylan will recognize the debt I owe in this short tale to his 1964 song, "Ballad of Hollis Brown." The image is an edited version of a photo I took in South Dakota in 2011.


For Shame, a Becoming

So there's this thing, I don't want to call it a game, but maybe that's what it is, a drinking game, let's call it, where we shame ourselves by admitting the truly awful things we've done, or the tackiest, or perhaps the meanest, the dumbest, or the most plain humiliating. So, here's mine.

Think I was truly having a breakdown, or a midlife catastrophe, right at the turn of the millennium, that cusp of memory and forgetfulness, a fulcrum upon which, in Kathleen Edwards' words, "you spend half your life trying to turn the other half around." And sure, I've already told the later chapters of this tawdry little tale, in which I embarked on my ten-thousand kilometre transcontinental vision quest, even published a short book about it, but never this. Not until now.

Before that idea even occured, it was a particularly bleak winter. Not gonna get too emo here, but you know, aside from all the overt angst and the hot, roiling subcurrents of shudderingly wrong memories still only suspected at this point, my overriding feeling was fear. Fear of myself, of the future, of others, for others, of GETTING THIS WHOLE THING DESPERATELY, IRREVOCABLY WRONG. Whatever. Just fear. You feel me?

So in January of 2001, I went and spent some time alone in a cabin. In the region of British Columbia laughably (in this context, anyway) called The Sunshine Coast. 'Cause there ain't no sunshine there back then, not for me, not that winter. And I mean that entirely subjectively. Wait, no. Objectively. Whatever, I always get those mixed up. It felt especially cold as I stayed in a cute but paperthin cabin where cedar branches sagged under their frigid burdens beside the icy turbulent waters of Skookumchuck Narrows, where the tide waters are forced through the narrows forming the Sechelt Rapids. It's wild in every sense, but especially in January.

And yeah, I might still have thought I was going back to working with the street kids who had broken my heart (not their fault), and I was playing with writing again, having had an article published on the website of one of my remote, austere heroes, but what was I thinking... and what would I do? The thing is, I know exactly what I was thinking, at least: that not only could I heal some odd, male part of me through the solitary simplicity of living a handful of days in a remote cabin held in winter's grip, but I could begin to live the life, adopt the trappings, wear the elbow-patched jacket of a... Real Writer™.

Yes, I know. But it gets worse.

I'll just blurt it out, pass it off as if I'm gagging: Dostoyevsky. Uh-huh. A copy of Crime and Punishment, an acoustic guitar, a pre-iPod era boombox with a limited selection of CDs, one of which was OK Computer, I kid you not, and a large notepad (with rollerpoint pens) since I didn't even have a laptop back then, for shame. You need to say this next bit in Nigel Tufnel's humble voice: So what will you be paying for, sir? Oh yes, the wannabe writer's budget package. Cold, isolated cabin? Check. Raging waters nearby? Check. Heavy Russian reading material? Check. Dystopian UK music about alienation? Check. Acoustic guitar? Check. Forty-pounder of rum? Check. Hiking boots? Check. Hatchet? Check.

You get the picture. Some Kerouac bullshit, right?

But here's the funny part, the unexpected twist. It kind of worked. I wrote. I wrote scads. It's still there, in that notebook. Mostly crap, of course, many spidery lines of abandoned poetry and philosophical musings that would embarrass a fourteen-year-old. But still, however much I cringe at the posturing of it all, I found I'd grown into a slightly different skin after all was said and done.

There was a moment. A song played, but low volume, an insectile murmur. I was whittling cedar with gloved hands into kindling for a tiny wood stove that burned up quality birch and alder stovelengths way too fast. I had a beer beside me, and more than one inside. The air was clean, like the cool hush of an ancient Triassic rainforest, so clean it made me want to cry for all the worlds we won't ever get back or even see. And maybe I did cry for a moment. Yet wrapped up inside of all that was thankfulness. That I was alive. That although my fingers ached with the cold and I couldn't even play my damn guitar, I had all the things that make us happy, and that the final pieces in the jigsaw are the friends and family we choose, and that I'd see them soon, however content I felt in that moment, in that splendid isolation.

Yeah. Maybe that's all that needs to be said here, and I'll surely get gone now.