Tiffany Ching-Han Chang (Per/Pers) is currently a Stage and Screen Writing MA student. Per has an undergraduate degree in Biology and tries to incorporate insects into per writing. Per can talk hours about mythology, storytelling, and history; so no wonder per changed per major! Death and rebirth is also very common theme in per works. One of Tiffany’s favorite organisms (Surprise! It isn’t an insect), is the velvet worm (Onychophora) and per wants everyone to know they exist. Per is trying out pronouns and does not apologize for being a person.

I could hear my mom screaming in the hall. The nurse was still at the door obstructing
my view of her.
“But that’s my baby,” my mom wheezed, and she attempted to struggle past her. “You
aren’t going to keep me from my baby.”
“She doesn’t want to see you right now,” the nurse said in an almost condescending tone.
“Just give her some space.”
I heard the gentle but annoying beeping of the heart monitor and the teeth-grinding
ticking of the clock. My bedside table was littered with gifts from friends and family. The
drawings and letters I hadn’t finished. My eyes landed on a little LEGO minifigure that came
with loads of toys given to me by family that I won’t even bother to play with. I was supposed to
let her in, that’s what a good daughter would do. Then as if I inserted my AirPods, the beeping of
the heart monitor becomes muffled, and the clock stopped.
Tall and dark, Death took a seat by my bed.
I smiled sheepishly. “You always come at the worst time, don’t you?”
He responded with comforting sarcasm. “No one ever says that.”
I always admired the way I saw him before, and I laughed. “It doesn’t matter. It’s been
several years of me dying—my whole life actually, you know.” I felt playful again and I waved
my hands dramatically. “I can see it now. My picture surrounded by ‘Taken from Us Too Soon.’
While terrible pop music plays or whatever the funeral director plays when they don’t know
anything about the deceased…”
His face wrinkled with concern. “Hey, you know I can tell her, your mom, what you want
if you’d like.”
“She wouldn’t even listen to me, why would she listen to you? My parents were too busy
crying. A piece of paper said they can do whatever they want with me regardless of what I said.
That’s because I don’t have another piece of paper with big letters that say ‘DON’T.’ This
society is stupid. And I am so sick of hearing them sobbing.”
“I can come back after we go, and then let her know what you want.”
“She won’t listen…” I shook my head. “Who would listen to a stranger at this time?”

A smile spread across his face, but it failed to get a foothold on mine. “Well, then are you
ready to go? Have anything you want to stick around for?”
I looked down at the tangle of wires by my side and the IV in my thin arm. “You know I
never finished anything… or I have, but it didn’t gain traction…blow-up… anything…” I looked
right into his eyes again. “Are you sure you want to talk to her?”
“I like challenges.” The clock returned to ticking, and my body flatlined. My Patron of
Death guided me to where I needed to go. He let me gently down. I looked at myself in a small
puddle of still water and I was no longer wearing that disgusting hospital gown. I took the edges
of my new linen petticoat and twirled. I dug further into the sand with my feet, it was as if I was
on the beach in the summer, warm. Greenery surrounded me as I was in between a garden and
steps to a colorfully painted bright white limestone temple.
“See you later,” he said and headed back.
Death donned a disguise and he saw my mom begging and crying beside my cold body.
My dad stood by with his glasses off, face buried in tissue. Death bent down to talk to her. To
her, it’s just another middle-aged nurse with a round face and the deepest, darkest of eyes. “It’s
going to be okay.” He talked in a low captivating whisper. “I was just here, and your child told
me what they wanted. With the unique biology of her heart, she was interested in preserving it
forever by burying it or giving it to science.”
“She told you, but she wouldn’t tell… her own mom?!” She cried even louder.
Death snarled. “You would not listen when she told you what she wanted, but because it
meant what you wanted was left out, you denied it.”

In the other world, I climbed some stairs and emerged in a hallway that seemed to stretch
forever in one direction, and in the other direction was a lively and crowded throne room. It was
bathed in torchlight, shadows, and song. But I didn’t feel like socializing. My mind was on the
fact that I would possibly never see my friends and family again. So, I sat on one of the cool and
fuzzy rugs I thought of the first time I met Death.
It was a Monday I thought about how much life sucked, how my parents were at work all
day and I was at school. Then when they came home were too tired to address me other than
asking about my day, which felt the same each time. I wondered why I had to spend all my time
in the same place if I knew I only had so much life left. But that was what having no extra money after spending it on my medical care meant. On that day, as I walked home and crossed the
bridge, I decided to stop in the middle. I slid my backpack off my shoulder and placed it beside
me against the railing. I had a vague recollection of feeling the vibration of cars while they
zoomed past me. Suddenly I heard a confident voice, something that came from my
subconscious.
“You aren’t going to do that.”
“Do what?” I asked back.
“Jump,” it answered. I turned and flinched. He was right beside me towering a few feet
taller than me with a dark hood obscuring his head. Brown human-like hands with neatly
manicured, but abnormally long nails were placed on the railing where I had mine. This
surprised me and I blinked.
“I wasn’t thinking about it.”
“Yes you were, but then you were also wincing a little bit probably thinking about how
hard drowning is and how upset—”
I held up my hand. “Stop.” I quickly put my hand away after realizing how disrespectful
it was and gazed back out towards the edge again. “It’s just really annoying to have parents who
are waiting for you to die, you know? Why not just do it? I don’t know why I’m telling a
stranger this.”
He bent down and tried to meet my eyes again and began slowly. “I’m far from a
stranger. Well at the end of your short life last time, you begged to be a human. You may not
remember.”
I turned to face his head flickering between a human with a cherub-like face and a furry
black wolf head with a sleek snout. As if my mind tried to figure out what I wanted to see. “I do
remember. When I was a baby, I had a dream, I was a baby animal torn away from its mother.”
“As you grew you read about me and fell in love with me, platonically… philia.”
He settled on the look of the black wolf head, yet with the rest of the human body, just
like those many tomb paintings and steles depicting Anubis. I bent down to grab my backpack.
“That’s pretty antiquated,” I said. “It’s called ‘friendship’ now.” I tapped the area above
my heart on my chest. “It’s going to give out soon, I can feel it…”

He followed me home in silence and I could feel him watching me and I assumed it was
to see if I try another attempt on my life. But when I finally opened the front door and turned
back, he was already gone.

Death came back to where I was standing, still in the hall, deciding which way to go.
“They cremated you,” he said in a monotone voice. “Put on that terrible pop music and
said way too much about how much others pitied you.”
“Damn it,” I crossed my arms and stuck my nose up high. “Foiled by the system.”
“But I got this from the lab.” From his dark cloak, he pulled out my heart. It was in this
plastic bag, and it looked like any other slab of meat you could get from the deli. Death sliced
the wrapping open with one flick of his sharp nails.
“No freaking way,” I said.
Death lightly kissed the top of my head. He took me to a beautiful scale, that I swear was
not there in the middle of the hall before. The base consisted of hand-carved wood with chains
holding up two golden dishes. Then he placed my heart on one of the dishes. Oh heart, do not
betray me. This thought felt like a light breeze that gave me chills. Then from the glittering air,
he pulled out a large ostrich feather and placed it on the other dish. Before the scale became still,
he directed my attention away and he warmed my heart with his voice, “Welcome. Now let’s go
see some folks who want to meet you.”


Image: Untitled 4 by Marco Acerbi

Marco (he/him) is an 18 year old psychology undergraduate at UCD. As an artist, he uses ink and colours to translate feelings that our words cannot reach. In his works, Marco loves combining philosophical and literary reflections with metaphors about identity.

CategoriesFiction Issue VII