Death Selfie by Molly Mary O'Brien


The cop:

I was in charge of taking the base jumper's personal effects into custody. The jumper's brother flew all the way from Maine to California to pick up her stuff. The stuff consisted of her cell phone, a hooded sweatshirt, and a set of car keys. Also, a lemon poppyseed-flavored Clif Bar.


The forensic expert:

When a body hits the ground at that speed, it's sort of like a human water balloon.


The base jumper's brother:

She left her phone unlocked. It took three weeks after the funeral for me to get it together enough to look at it. I saw her unread texts. And I went to her photos and I saw the last one she took, when she was still probably ten thousand feet in the air and her parachute hadn't deployed. It was the last thing she did on Earth. And she wasn't even technically on Earth when she did it, which is...I don't know...I can't talk about this.


The jumper's brother's Facebook friend:

I saw Donny posted it and I shared it because it scared the shit out of me. Something in her eyes was saying 'Dying sucks but it's okay.' Plus it got 56 likes which is on the high side for me.


The Post headline writer:

I mean, what a powerful story. Girl takes picture of herself when she fully knows she's gonna die. The paper was guaranteed to sell like hot cakes with that on the cover, because people are obsessed with this shit, even if they pretend to be outraged. Didn't even take me too long to come up with the headline: "Photo Finish." Pretty good, right?


The member of the popular boy band:

Someone showed me the pic and even though it was kind of creepy, I knew I needed to tweet it to my five million followers. I want all my fans to know that life is short, and it's okay to take risks. Like for example, I'm going bungee jumping in Hawaii next week on my weekend off from the tour. All the boys are. Our manager really doesn't want us to do it. But I figure, that's what the jumper would have wanted. My bandmate Mason is getting a tattoo version of the picture on his back, actually. Not 'til after we leave Hawaii though. Mason wants to swim with the dolphins in Hawaii and you can't get a new tattoo wet.


The gallerist:

I bought the rights to the photo and threw a big opening party. I even invited the brother, but he refused to show—what a party pooper! Anyway, it was all a massive success. You could tell that from the wine bill alone. That jumper was kind of sexy-looking, even with that gleam of terror in her eyes, and of course, she died, so it was all of this sex and death squeezed into one photo. A gallery's dream.


The art critic:

The jumper's self-portrait reflects the millennial culture of autoscrutiny, of überintrospection, of deeply documented identity: I am, because I take a picture of myself. Only this jumper, the photographer, the artist, really, took the picture knowing that in a short while, she would exist to be: I am, because soon I am not. The artist documents her own demise, turning the lens on Death itself. We, the ambulance chasers, can't help but be implicated by her beyond-the-grave gaze.


The jumper:

What did you think I was going to through the air and just wait for the ground to come? Jesus, you people are nuts. I did it because I didn't know what else to do. But I heard the photo sold to a Swiss guy for five million bucks, huh? No kidding. Guess he's got good taste. If I had five million dollars, I'd buy a better parachute.




Molly Mary O’Brien is a writer in Brooklyn. She has written for a bunch of places on the Internet, such as PANK and Paper Darts, and she blogs at