The Psychic Watches Her House Burn

by Chelsea Stickle


The psychic shivers off the extra adrenaline ravaging her nervous system as the flames lick her home like it’s a jumbo marshmallow. Her tiny one-bedroom house shakes as if it’s being eaten alive. The fringey black shawl with red roses—the one that makes her look like what she is—rests on her shoulders. A placeholder for the flame retardant blanket she will be offered by the fire department. She coughs some of the smoke out of her lungs and collects her hair into a bun on top of her head. Her neighbors all watch from behind curtains and blinds ready to twitch closed if anyone noticed them. They say, this is a woman who has suffered a tragedy, a woman who has seen things, but do nothing to help. After all, she should’ve seen it coming. The psychic folds onto the driveway, the car keys in her pocket bouncing against her thigh in her billowy joggers, and watches the destruction like a kid up close to the television for Saturday morning cartoons. Because the person who did this is still watching and she has to seem as shattered as her windows when the heat hits 150 degrees.

Before that she dropped a bag full of clothes off at her sister’s.

Before that she opened and filled a safety deposit box at the bank.

Before that the boy began leaving dead squirrels and housecats on her front step.

Before that the psychic checked her insurance policy.

Before that she changed the batteries in her smoke detector.

Before that, the psychic told an unpleasant truth to a client for the first time in decades.


Chelsea Stickle is the author of the chapbook Breaking Points (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). Her fiction appears in CRAFT, Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Best Microfiction 2021 and others. She lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Psychic Watches Her House Burn”?

In the last year, I’ve become interested in questions of personal responsibility, in what we owe to each other. If you knew something bad was going to happen, but no one would listen to you, would you still make a fuss? What if that made people hate you? What is the right thing and what would you give up to do it? “The Psychic Watches Her House Burn” is part of my Screaming Meemies series and one of many stories featuring the psychic.


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