The Fear Of Failure

December 1, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

My father shook his disappointed head at me. My mother would not look in my direction at all. I fell to my knees before them, tears bursting from my eyes. I wanted to beg for their forgiveness but my voice abandoned me. The light tapping of father’s foot echoed in the room like a booming drum. Mother’s disappointment was sharper though, her steady avoidance cut through me like a rusted blade. They turned their backs to me and walked away.

The brightness of the room faded to black in an instant. Mother and father were long gone and I was all alone on the cold floor. Rough hands grabbed at me from the darkness. I tried to pull away but there was no escape. My clothing was torn from me a shred at a time until I was left naked and shivering cold. A woman’s laugh made me feel ashamed.

“Failure.” A chorus of female voices chanted over and over again.

I stayed huddle to the floor, each repetition of the word felt like a bee sting to my pride. Tears fell freely from my eyes drenching my body in their salty warmth. The darkness became dizzying, spinning out of control, faster and faster. I wanted to scream but my voice remained absent.

Suddenly, it all stopped. The dark became light and the light became white. The white was Dr. Phallic’s lab coat as he stood over me shaking his index finger at me like a naughty girl. I tried to back away but I was trapped against a wall. He mocked my attempt at escape.

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Dr. Phallic admonished.

From behind his left shoulder, Penelope appeared. She was smiling and waving at me. Her gold locks bounced around her shoulders as if she were skipping, yet she was standing still. She blew me a kiss.

“It’s not just physics.” She said.

From nowhere my father appeared kneeling next to me. His rough hands grabbed my shoulders and he forced me to look at him. His hair grayed as I watched and wrinkles enveloped his skin. His lips pursed in a stern look.

“You’ll never matter. You are nothing. You will always be nothing.” He shouted.

He shoved me back into the darkness and I was all alone again. I could barely breathe but I tried to stand anyway. I kept falling down again and then I fell without a bottom. Faces and voices whisked by all of them scolding and disappointed. People I knew and many I did not, I had failed them all. Equations rushed by followed by the laws of the universe they were at once simple and non-sense. My mind felt like it would explode and then I felt air back in my lungs and my voice returned. I screamed.

Cold hands grabbed my shoulders and shook me. Penelope’s curly hair brushed against my cheeks. My eyes snapped opened to see her concerned face staring down at me.

“Wake up!” She said.

I blinked as the room came into focus. Penelope looked at me with blatant worry in her eyes. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again for a moment. I took comfort in the solidity of the bed beneath me and the constant of my friend’s touch.

“Are you all right?” Penelope asked.

“Yes, it was only a bad dream.” I said.

“Like before?” She asked.

I shook my head in the negative.

“No, it was only science and math.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I promise.”

She smiled and nodded but beneath the surface of acceptance I could see she did not believe me. I wonder if I was talking in my sleep.

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