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I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream by Chelsea Stickle


Chelsea Stickle’s microfiction “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” employs fabulism as a vehicle for discussing the generational trauma many women experience due to the unrealistic expectations society places upon them. There is a certain collectiveness found within this piece as generations of women “teach each other and their daughters to judge just how close they are to exploding.” Stickle comments in her accompanying author’s note, “Age is irrelevant to pain, but we like to pretend it guards us. It’s a lie that protects us. We are all one second away from something destroying us, and we can’t always know what will do it.”

The opening sentence of this piece commands the reader’s attention with its urgency and sets the narrative into motion. Likewise, the language throughout amplifies as the women search for a place where they can unleash their pent-up frustrations without the world falling apart around them. This vital necessity for release and escape not only draws empathy from the reader, but also hits hard with its emotional impact.

“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” is just one of several “Screaming Meemies” stories Stickle has written, many published in other literary journals. We’re so pleased to have the opportunity to share this piece with you and hope you’ll consider checking out the others as well.  —CRAFT


 

There is a town at the edge of things where women hold in their screams. They die young: high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, cancer. The girls watch their mothers and grandmothers and aunts play Ring Around the Rosie, ashes, ashes, they all fall into graves where no one will ever see them again. These girls grow into women who decide things will be different for them and adjust accordingly. They know what’s expected of them. Perfect bodies, perfect souls. Their long hair sweeping so no one notices the bared-teethed fury flash across their faces. Starving their bodies and ambition until they’re small enough they threaten no one, except themselves. They teach each other and their daughters to judge just how close they are to exploding. When the shaking begins, when their bodies are empty vessels but for repressed screams, they make an excuse and bolt to the outskirts of town. In an abandoned field they reclaim the bodies they’ve disassociated from. They raise their backs, clench their fists, and unleash what festers inside them. Holy expressions of hell. Wordless desolations. Cursed names. All the things they can’t say at home. High-pitched, low-pitched, louder than anyone might expect their compact bodies to project. The ones who can’t stay, whose skin itches with what can’t be scratched away, hack off their hair and throw it down where blood poppies later emerge. They drive and drive and drive searching for a place where they don’t have to scream in a field. A place where they can be angry and imperfect and the world doesn’t fall apart because of it. In the meantime, they drive from town to town devouring gas station powdered mini donuts six to a package. Slurping energy drinks like a lifeline before tossing them onto the passenger seat pile. Their mouths covered in white dust, their eyes on the road, always reaching for a place that doesn’t exist.

 


CHELSEA STICKLE lives in Annapolis, MD, with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” is part of her Screaming Meemies series. Her flash fiction appears in Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. Her story “Postcard Town” was selected for Best Microfiction 2021Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.

 

Author’s Note

Between the pandemic and the political climate, I was at the end of my rope in January 2021. But, as usual, I kept going until my body stopped me. One minute I was fine and the next I couldn’t move. My back froze. Then I noticed my hips were dislocated. I have hypermobile joints, and I can usually pop my hips back in no problem, but things had never been this bad. It was the kind of pain you can’t imagine unless you’ve experienced it. I couldn’t straighten or bend my back. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t walk across the room. After two steps I succumbed to screaming and crying. The journey was only possible once I received a cane. With a cane it was excruciating and took much longer than I’d ever imagined it would take me at thirty years old. Age is irrelevant to pain, but we like to pretend it guards us. It’s a lie that protects us. We are all one second away from something destroying us, and we can’t always know what will do it.

A week later I still couldn’t sit upright, but I’d already signed up for a Bending Genres workshop with Dominique Christina. I could type while lying down, but my brain was foggy from the pain and only had a few good hours in it. I was determined to write something. The task was to use magical realism to talk about trauma.

Physical pain can dredge up emotional pain—eleven months of pandemic upheaval and frustration on top of the usual bullshit and trauma the more marginalized among us have been taught and trained to tolerate because the alternatives are punishing and/or seemingly futile. The world is a broken place. My bones were tired. All I had left was my voice. What I wanted to do was scream.

“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” was the first story that came from this place. Followed by several others, some of which have found homes in other lit mags. They feature women at the ends of their rope, screaming as relief, and the trauma we carry in our bodies. These are the Screaming Meemies stories. I hope they help.

 


CHELSEA STICKLE lives in Annapolis, MD, with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” is part of her Screaming Meemies series. Her flash fiction appears in Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. Her story “Postcard Town” was selected for Best Microfiction 2021Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.