Content warning (spoiler): pregnancy loss
Originally published in Dose of Dread by Dread Stone Press

This is the safe space, inside, before my passage into the unknown After. The rush of Mother’s blood and breath soothes me as I drift weightlessly in her womb. When I stretch, I feel the pressure of her hands caressing me, letting me know she is there for me, holding me, protecting me. She is my shelter. My world. But soon, I must leave. There’s no more room.

Especially now that she is here.

I don’t know where she came from, or when she appeared. I just know that I’m not alone in here anymore. There is another now. A Not-Mother. A Not-Me. A Third.

At first, she is silent. She floats before me, a tiny, comma-shaped mass of glistening black flesh. I watch as her cells differentiate into limbs, as her heart spasms to life, as ink-black blood begins to pulse through her veins.

Despite her rapid growth, her face remains unformed. No eyes. No ears. No mouth. But still, she speaks. 

She tells me this womb is just a waypoint, a brief layover before I pass into the maelstrom that is the After. She tells me about the awful things awaiting me there. Sadness. Loneliness. Betrayal. Loss.

I ask her how she knows these things. Has she been to the After? And how did she get in here with me? She doesn’t answer. She just smiles, her featureless black face splitting to reveal bright pink gums lined with pin-sharp teeth. 

The sight fills me with an emotion I’ve never experienced before: fear. 

I’m in the presence of something dangerous, something that could hurt me, fill my eyes with needles and stab broken glass into my gums. A predator.

I try to turn away, but there’s no place for me to go. My back presses into the side of the womb, distending it. Somewhere in the ether, Mother groans with discomfort.

“You don’t have to go to the After,” she whispers. “There’s somewhere else.”


“The Before.”

I don’t remember the Before. I just remember the Now.

“What’s it like?” I ask.

“Peaceful,” she says. “Do you want to see?”

I nod.

“Then come.” She reaches for me.

“And I can stay there?”

“Oh, yes.” she smiles again. “You can stay forever.”

Relieved, I take her hand.

And then I’m gone.

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