- Noah Milligan
- October 1, 2019
- Fiction/Literature | 320pp
- Trade Paper 978-1-77168-177-3 $16.99
- Ebook 978-1-77168-178-0 $9.99
Into Captivity They Will Go
Set in rural Oklahoma, Into Captivity They Will Go tells the story of Caleb Gunter, a boy whose mother has convinced him he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and that together they are destined to lead the chosen into the Kingdom of Heaven. Believing the Seven Seals detailed in Revelation have been opened, he and his mother flee their home to join a tongue-speaking evangelical church and to prepare for the end of the world, but after tragedy ensues, Caleb must rebuild his life without the only support he has ever known—his mother and the church.
An exploration of familial bonds and extremist faith, Into Captivity They Will Go is a whirlwind bildungsroman that reveals the fragility of a child’s identity. It is at once a study of guilt and redemption, and a book of how shattered trust can yet still lay the foundation for an entire life.
This is the story she told him.
It was before dawn when she arrived, so dark she couldn’t make out her stepfather in front of her, just hear his footsteps scraping through the underbrush. The woods were still quiet. It smelled like burnt leaves and the threat of rain. Evelyn Gunter travelled the well-worn path by memory, avoiding holes and jagged limestone. She’d walked this path thousands of times before, hauling pails and shovels and rakes from the barn to the garden, from garden back to the barn. To the east, she knew, was Bluestem Lake. To her north, the plains of Kansas. The west, the panhandle. In between were ravines, knolls, and miles of Blackjack Oak. The place always smelled of wet soil, the land dotted by coyotes, white tail, and rabbit. Oil rigs churned in the nearby fields, and gravel roads sparkled of empty Busch cans and broken-down Chevys. She’d been raised here. She’d toiled here. She’d grown stronger here. It was the exact place she was supposed to be.
The barn was already prepared. Dried hay covered the floor like a threadbare carpet. Fluorescent lamps illuminated the room. The light was iridescent, almost purple. In the middle her stepfather had prepared a pallet underneath an old blanket, stitched together by her grandmother when she’d been a child. Evelyn remembered wrapping up in it when the adults were busy with dominoes or spades, laughing at jokes she didn’t understand, drinking gin and tonics until they got boisterous, accusatory, angry even. That morning, it offered little support, worn thin throughout the decades, the ground hard underneath, the hay stabbing her, but she didn’t complain—she just lay and breathed and stared up at the loft above her.
Her stepfather draped a sheet over her and lit four candles, placed them above her head, by her shoulders, and the last at her feet. He’d always been a mystery to her. He’d shown up in her life after she was grown, having one day materialized out of thin air, already a permanent fixture in her mother’s life. She didn’t even remember the first time she’d met him, really. Just one day he was at Thanksgiving, then Sunday service, and then Thursday dinner, cutting his pork chop with a knife long worn dull. He rarely spoke, prayed often, and taught her and her mother the value of being a good Christian. She didn’t know much about his past. He’d spent some time in the Army, served in Korea. Was once a long-haul truck driver. Just stuff she’d been able to glean from pictures he had tucked away in books and shoeboxes. He didn’t speak of his life before, and she didn’t ask. He just was, and that was all right by Evelyn. He stabilized her mother. She no longer took pills. She no longer burned things for no reason. And, for that, Evelyn could spare him interrogation.
The candles emitted pockets of warmth around her, but most of her body remained frigid. Goosebumps formed on her exposed arms, little hairs standing on end. He sprinkled water over her forehead, over her hands, and down her torso in the shape of a cross. It was cold and pooled on her skin, and he then began to pray. His prayer was barely audible but grew louder as he continued. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he convulsed, the words rising from him like a root out of the earth until Evelyn swore she felt the consonants vibrating her insides. It started out like a static electric charge and spread from her heart to her lungs to her womb. She could feel it vibrating, growing stronger, just like she could feel the hard wood underneath her, the smell of cow manure stinging her nostrils, the fibers of her grandmother’s blanket underneath her fingernails, and then it began to burn. A fire raged inside her belly, and she panicked. The pain was immense, worse than childbirth, worse than when she’d had the miscarriage, worse even when the doctor had told her she couldn’t have any more children. It consumed her. It was eating her alive. She screamed, and she writhed, but her stepfather held her down. She pushed up against him, but he was stronger than her, and a scream formed inside of her chest. It grew and bubbled and was pushing out of her throat until she didn’t think she could take it anymore. She was going to die. She was sure of it.
But then it was done.
It was over faster than it had arrived, and when her stepfather was finished with his prayer, he helped her to her feet.
“Rest,” he said. “You’re going to need your strength.”
Eleven weeks later her doctor told her she was pregnant. He called it a miracle. Evelyn didn’t have the heart to tell him he was more right than he knew.