Captive by Zachary Toombs

Like you see on a television show, my water broke in the middle of the night. I was leant against the sink in the bathroom and the sharp sound of liquid on tile woke my husband. This sparked that sequence of hurried events. The amalgam of nuanced things that we would discuss later on. How I slipped on a pair of sandals in the middle of winter. How you didn’t even put a coat on. How the snow appeared to fall entirely sideways despite the wind not being shrewd. There were things we could discuss and re-discuss for the following decades glittered throughout the evening. This combination of completely typical and entirely subtle created the picture of utter perfection.

We rushed into the emergency room. Your hand was on my stomach so gently despite the chaos of everything else. There were swathes of people waiting and bundles of children crying and receptionists arguing with more people. But due to the urgency, we were the usurpers that night. We were given a bed and the means and the strength. And as I urged this child out at the command of nurses and doctors and whoever else donned white gown, you gave me that look you always do in stressful situations.

That sort of look. That proprietary breed where you sever all existence and look at the most vulnerable sensibilities I have within me. You look at the writhing, thumb-twiddling, lip-biting, nail-gnawing creature that lives within me as stress. You take that creature in your eyes and feed it whatever it needs. This ordeal reminds me of why I love you more than love itself. And there was never a greater concentration of love than in this moment of collision. The collision of several great tides: nature, pain, beauty, nastiness.

And when the child was taken in doctor hands, proclaimed as a human life, cleaned, and given to me to hold—there was that look again.

And I had everything I could ever want.


But we weren’t characters in a television show. Something was horribly wrong. There was liquid falling out of me and onto the tile. This woke you up. That much is true. My stomach was pulsating with serrated turmoil and not my sitting nor my teeth-clenching nor my husband-hand-holding was doing much of anything.

Despite your reassurances, I knew someone was gonna die. Me or the child. This wasn’t the adrenaline or over-stimulation talking, either. It was something overarching and dark like a great, thick roof of dread. Like a demonic whisper I had that thought, Someone is going to die.

I sat on the toilet with you knelt between my legs for what was an undeterminable amount of time. The middle of the night is a timeless pit, and in that instance it sucked away a peaceful sleep. At this point, you had wiped the dark liquid from the tile. Called an ambulance.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you?”

“Wait with me,” I said. “I don’t want to move.”

God, it was so hot. Like a rising tide of lava it crawled up my throat and pulsated with each wretched beating of my heart and the child’s. I started stripping as some sort of defense mechanism. Mere seconds after what I said, I negated it by moving to the tub—naked flesh against porcelain. I clawed at everything.

That look you gave—that sort of look…


And with that, a stream poured from between my legs, paving the white tub with blackness. A child slithered out. It leapt onto you with a wretched noise. Its fangs sank into you like its claws. It stippled everything with your shade of red until all noises of life—your calls of my name, incomprehensible declarations of pain—ceased outright. And with everything painted its new color, the child crawled into my arms.

And all the pain stopped.

Zachary Toombs is an author and artist living in Western New York. His numerous publications, including his novel, is available to read at