“Another wasted day. Just give up. You never do anything right.”
I slump. The edge of my bed is digging into the back of my thighs, and my neck aches where it meets my slouching shoulders. I deflate with a sigh. Defeat lowers himself down onto my rounded back and settles in, making his bulk comfortable. He’s heavy.
I pull my feet up into bed, retreating into a sort of fetal curl that brings no womblike comfort. Defeat spoons me, his arm heavy across me and his doughy body pressed against mine. His hot, smelly breath steams across my neck and up my nostrils. He reeks.
“You’re not good enough. You’re never going to succeed.”
A stronger smell wrinkles my nose, chasing sleep away. Is that Failure? He lays his head on my pillow, facing mine. His head is hard and sharp; it pokes my brow until I frown. I breathe his breath now—pungent, bitter, suffocating. He’s too close.
“Everyone is laughing at you. You’re such a disappointment.”
The blanket shifts. Shame and her sister Embarrassment wriggle from my toes up to my head. Shame peels off my pajamas and runs her frigid fingers up my spine. My scalp prickles. My face flushes. My hands are sweaty. They’ve laid me bare; they’re everywhere all at once, leaving me exposed.
“It’s too hard. You can’t do it. You’re going to get hurt.”
Fear pinches me with his mean talons. He won’t lie still; he’s kicking and elbowing all of us, carving out room for himself. I snuggle back a little closer to Defeat. His weight seems almost comforting now, soft compared with all his sharp and prickly friends. Sleep won’t come. The bed is crowded.
“You knew it was a bad idea, deep down. You always make the wrong decision.”
Doubt buzzes around my face and my ears with an annoying high-pitched drone. I try to swat her pesky whine away, but Failure has my arm pinned beneath his pointy head.
“You didn’t try hard enough. You should have done better.”
Guilt takes a running leap and thuds down across all of us. He plasters himself to my naked side, sticky and slimy all at once. I can’t shake him off and know no shower can wash this dirt away. His filth is seeping in through my pores and his cold toes send icy shivers down my legs.
“Is there room for me?”
A small voice. Who is this? Someone new. I groan. I can’t take one more.
She clambers over the edge of the mattress, her short legs kick-kick-kicking to get on the bed. Fear glares as she tucks herself between me and him, carving out a space where I thought there was none. Courage grins up at me and bites Defeat, right on his pudgy arm. The burden retreats, and I can breathe.
“I will try again tomorrow.”