When You Die

“He dwells within the empty space of your atoms, observing your memories until he knows all that you know, lives all that you’ve experienced.” A work of fiction that brazenly introduces you to the perverse, unrelenting essence of Death himself…

Header art by Zdzisław Beksiński

by: Sofia Mosqueda

Death stares back at you. It swallows you. You fuse with him to the point your body isn’t yours anymore. He dwells within the empty space of your atoms, observing your memories until he knows all that you know, lives all that you’ve experienced.


It’s a command. It reverberates in the sound of your voice, but you don’t listen. You don’t trust your own voice. You don’t trust yourself. 

But death forces you to sink anyway. 

Bright light. At first, it’s the angry eye of the sun until it drops into a faint, flickering street light, a night sky swaying above. You are alone underneath that single spot, the rest of the world drenched in black. 

Wasn’t it Mom who dropped you off late at night because you wanted to play at the park so badly? You whined and screamed and kicked and cried so she tugged you by the wrist, strapped you into the car seat, and let you wander in the dim light while she watched from a distance. She watched with a deep frown, the downward pull of her lips a sight you’ve always flinched at. 

But here you are, searching for her. 

Stepping forward, a wind shifts against the still night, the scenery wavering like fingers skimming water. Tilt your head back, eyes up at the sky. It’s starless yet there’s the blinking light of an airplane. It drifts against the clouds until it drops lower and lower, wings snapping like toothpicks, and then it’s diving headfirst into the ocean, orange plumes swarming its body until—

You’re standing in your childhood bedroom. The door is locked but the knob twitches, a golden star trembling as if it’s about to implode. It turns left then right. Right then left. It keeps rattling and rattling but you’ve put all your faith into that lock. You’re praying to it as if it’s a God. Will you still worship it if it snaps? 

Step back, cower away. Mom has always been so kind but sometimes her mind loses its foundation and she’s screaming. Anger gets the best of her; it’s an emotion spawned from fear. You learned that ages ago, but you’re still wrapping your head around the fact that it’s always been you she’s feared. 

The room bends inwards. Walls breathe in and out, shrinking with each breath like you’re being squished between a pair of lungs. The door knob’s metal whining transforms into piercing cries. It could be anyone’s screams, but you know that it’s Mom; that it must’ve been hers when you came into the world. It’s the echoes of those screams that resonate with you now, the pain that still lingers when she looks at you. From conception to birth to life to death, pain is all that you’ve ever been.

Float in darkness and watch yourself unravel. Glass breaking. Wrist stinging underneath her tight grip. Mom’s frequent calls to grandmother all ending with fleeting whispers and strangled sobs. Mom checking that all the windows are locked. The nightmares. The outbursts. The way she trembles in public, the avoidance of people — the avoidance of men. Mom glares at you. You’re just like him you’re just like him you’re just like him. Stay out later than usual, alcohol on your lips, the temptation to drown everything out until you’re hollow, distant, safe. Ignore her pestering calls on those Friday nights. Sway with men you don’t know. Lose pieces of yourself in the dark. You’re worse than him you’re worse than him you’re worse than him. The pinch of a needle shatters reality. Drink smoke from another man’s lips and float into empty space with him until destroying yourself becomes a comfort. See how long it lasts. Grades slip down the drain. The teacher calls but the phone never gets answered. They’re saying “at-risk” now but there’s no part of you that cares. Instead, there’s a creature eating at your body, tearing you apart from the inside, but there’s no name to the thing — not even a clue to where it came from. Instead of having the parasite leech off of you by taking your nutrients, taking your money, taking your time, taking your dreams, taking your future — take its life. It’s something Mom couldn’t do to you. There’s a clinic in the city. It doesn’t take long. No one knows about it. Sit in the corner of the bedroom and cry, but stand stone-faced and alone at Mom’s funeral. The casket’s empty but she’s there. Her frown’s etched into the gravestone, words blazing from her lips like a steady stream of fire. I never wanted you I never wanted you I never…

Again and again, Death demands to know all that you know, live all that you’ve experienced. 


It’s in the sound of your voice. 


Sofia Mosqueda is of Mexican and Filipino ethnicity and currently lives in San Francisco, California. She is  an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she’s pursuing Writing and Literature within the College of Creative Studies. Her poetry has been accepted to UCSB’s literary magazine The Catalyst and Sonoma State’s Zaum. When she isn’t writing (or daydreaming about writing), she loves to play competitive softball, obsessively buy iced chais from Starbucks, and watch way too many animes at a time. 

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