The last time I screamed

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The other day, there was a show on television about the magical powers of “scream therapy.” Basically, a bunch of people get in a circle and scream until they feel better.

How that works is a mystery to me.

Then again, I would never be able to participate in such a strange thing – because I can’t scream.

At all.

When I was a kid, I could scream like the best of them. I could crank out a screech that had my siblings covering their ears.

But then, I lost my shrieking mojo in a split second.

I was 13 and my mother treated us to a rare trip off the farm. She and a friend loaded up their kids and drove to Kansas City. It was like the heavens opened and we walked through the magic gates of Worlds of Fun.

It was a big deal to us — the most excitement we normally got in a day was chasing a calf across the yard. And certainly the most carnival experience we got was — well — the two-ride experience by the grain elevator during Elgin’s Vetch Days.

So being at Worlds of Fun was incredible.

Because the little ones were going to quickly turn cranky, our group hung around the tame attractions first. I was “forced” to ride the merry-go-round with younger siblings — I belly-ached about it, but secretly enjoyed sitting on the colorful ponies, listening to the beautiful music, as one of the diaper-wearers and I slowly went up and down and in circles.

Then we made our way to the monster in the sky — the Orient Express. Since then, the Orient Express has been over-shadowed by newer, taller, faster structures. But in that year, it was one of the top dogs.

I boldly got in line and took a deep breath.

The coaster came to rest and the operator told us to get inside the seats. I was comfortable in my cozy surroundings. Then, the hard, black coverings came down over our shoulders, in order to hold us in place as it threw us through the stratosphere. I hung onto the restraints and said a little prayer.

Then slowly, we started to chug out of the gate. I remember thinking, “this isn’t so bad,” as we delicately ascended upward. The people below started to get smaller and smaller and smaller . . .

It seemed as if the vehicle was struggling to make the big hill. As I looked up, toward what I assumed was our destination, I panicked. High above us, at the top of the giant hill, one could no longer see any more track. That meant one thing — the only other direction to go was down.

Terror crept upon me as I awaited our fate. Ten feet, nine, eight, seven, six . . . We were sitting on top of the world, teetering on the edge of a track where we couldn’t even see the bottom. We lingered, lingered . . .

And then in the blink of an eye, gravity pulled us over and my eyes opened wide with horror as we plummeted downward. The rush of air and the vibrating of the structure sent me straight into orbit.

And then I screamed.

I screamed with all my might. I screamed with fury. I couldn’t even believe how hard I was screaming!

And then the unthinkable happened. I literally, physically felt a “snapping feeling” in my throat. It sort of hurt, I suppose. But it felt more weird than painful.

The oddest thing was that even though my mouth was open and I was pushing air through my throat, nothing was coming from it. Not one sound. Just a raspy, hoarse rush of air.

Because that sudden, death-defying drop wasn’t enough to scar us for life, the coaster designers had decided it was time for us to go upside down, multiple times. As we careened through, my head bobbled side to side in the harness-like restraints.

I prayed for this disaster to end. Not only did I have this strange sensation in my throat, I also suddenly had pain in the upper side of my neck.

Finally, we flew over the last loop and casually coasted into the docking area, as if nothing happened. Dazed and confused, I quickly got out of my seat.

When we met our mother outside the staging area, I couldn’t talk. I tried, but nothing would come out.

“What happened to your voice?” she asked.

“And why do you have blood running down the side of your neck?” one of my siblings asked.

My mom quickly assessed the source. Apparently, as we bounced around in our seats, the side of my head must have banged against something — shoving my earring back into my neck. My mom pulled my ear free from my neck and wiped away the blood.

“Mom, I was screaming and then I swear I felt something snap in my throat!” I coughed and wheezed through my proclamation.

She just laughed and said I’d be fine.

Well, she was wrong. It’s been many decades and I still can’t scream.

I’ve obviously been able to talk all these years, but when it comes to screaming . . . absolutely nothing.

Many years ago, I asked Dr. Demuth about it. Dr. Dave couldn’t make fun of anyone — he said he couldn’t imagine what it was.

“Well, Mel, that’s interesting,” Dr. Dave said, shaking his head. “I can honestly say I’ve never seen that happen before and I’ve seen a lot of things. I guess this is what they call a medical mystery.”

I haven’t been on a roller coaster since. I haven’t worn that size of metal earrings since.

And I haven’t screamed either.

It’s indeed a mystery, the kind that makes you want to scream.


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