Then What

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Then What
Artist Neil Cicierega
Released 2013
Written by Neil Cicierega
Sung by Neil Cicierega
Duration 6:03
Genre Spoken word
Language English
Links: Tumblr YouTube

Then What is a spoken word short story written by Neil Cicierega. It was released on his Tumblr page on May 29th 2013. It is described as:

Then What

A short story by Neil Cicierega

Please do not reveal the secret.


One of my earliest memories is asking my parents, "Mom? dad? How long is life?"

They're kind of distracted and dad says, "Oh 70, 80, 90 years. Maybe even a hundred."

And I say, "Oh. Then what?"

Mom and dad look at each other, they're kinda worried, they say, "You're too little to know that. It would just make you sad."

So I think, "Okay. I'll just wait until I'm bigger, then I'll ask again." So every time I get myself measured, if I'm bigger, I ask my parents again, "What happens after life?" 

They always say the same thing or they just change the subject.

Finally, one day, I'm 18 years old, packing to go to college. I ask my parents, "Now will you tell me what happens after life?"

They just furrow their brows, and they tell me, "Your life is just getting started. So many exciting things are gonna happen for you. We don't want to rain on your parade."

And I'm like, "Th-that's bullshit! I'm not a child. I can handle knowledge! If I'm gonna start my life, I just wanna know what it's all leading up to! What's wrong with that?" 

And they just say, "Oh, look at him saying all these important things like a big boy!"

I get pissed off and I start yelling at them, "W-what happens after life? What the fuck happens?"

And they just keep saying, "Oh, he's so cute when he starts stompin' around, huffin' and puffin'!"

So I just say, "Fuck it." and I leave for college and never talk my parents again.

Once I'm at college, after my first class, I go up to the professor. He's this older gentlemen, so I figured this guy's gotta know. I ask him what happens after life.

He just gets this deeply sad look on his face and he says, "Young man, that's not part of the curriculum. You don't need to worry about that."

"Holy shit!" I say to this professor, "I thought you were an educator. What the fuck?"

I go across the street to the library. Time to settle this once and for all. I ask the librarian, "Do you have any books on life?"

"Sure. We have a whole section." she says. 

"Great." I say, "Do any of them explain what happens after life?"

She turns pale, and she says, "No such book exists." And she bans me from the library. 

So, I quit college. If it can't answer this simple question, then what good is it?

I travel the world. I sleep outside. I eat food out of dumpsters. And I ask every person I meet, "What happens after life?" Some of them just ignore me, some of them pretend they don't know, and some people really don't know just like me. But nobody else seems to care the way I do. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe it's not important. But, I just don't like the way the truth is being held out of my reach. It makes me feel like an idiot. But I'm not an idiot, I just wanna be prepared for what comes after life; I don't want it to sneak up on me the way everything else does.

After many years of this frustration, I get very old, almost 100. One day I get sick and I pass out.

I wake up in a hospital, surrounded by doctors. I ask them what's going on. They all look at each other with this worried expression.

Finally, one of them speaks, "Mister, uh, we don't now how to put this.... You're in bad shape. You only have hours left to live.

And I'm like, "Great. This is perfect. My life is ending so soon, one of you must be able to tell me what happens after that." 

The doctors all look at their feet and fiddle with their clipboards, but I keep my patience, and I say, "No. Really. I can take it. It's gonna happen anyway. Just tell me."

Finally one doctor sighs deeply, looks me right in the eye, and he says, "Well... I hate to tell you this but... you die." the doctor repeats himself, "You die. Death is what happens. Life ends and then there's death, which means you've died."


I start screaming. I am more terrified then I've ever been in my entire life. "Fuck!" I scream in the doctor's face. I tear off my EKG stickers, jump out of bed with an unimaginable spryness for someone of my age and I scream "Fuck!" again, as I knock over the doctors and sprint out of the hospital, into the wilderness.

Still screaming, I run, as far as my old bones will take me, until I'm miles from civilization. I collapse, blind with fear, and I know that death is going to happen any minute now. I scream, "Fuck." one more time.

Something strange happens. The forest birds go quiet. My heartbeat settles. My muscles go calm. "Is this it?"

I think of my parents again and I realize they too must be dead now. Many of the people I've known throughout my life are probably dead. This explains a lot. It explains why people just disappeared. They couldn't help it. Now it's my turn.

There in that forest, I die. It's not ideal. But it happens. My heart stops beating. My lungs stop breathing. I stop telling this story.


Five minutes later, I wake up. "Oh. It was just a dream. I'm still a baby. What a fucked up dream for a baby to have. Oh well. Goo goo." I say, laying myself back down, "Goo. Goo."