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Voices pound in my head, filling my mind with their cries.
Idiot! Numbskull! You do nothing right.
They surround me, beating at me unmercifully with poisoned barbs.
Failure! they scream, then they strike me with the barb I hate most. Disappointment. You disappoint them. They aren't proud of you any more.
I try to scream, but no words will come out. I run for my life, but I cannot escape. The voices follow me, swarming around my head like bats.
Look at you! they shout. Your grades are terrible. Your teachers must hate you. You've disappointed your parents. You failed them. You failed everyone. You are nothing. You will never be anything more than a failure.
"What about the others?" I protest. "Albert Einstein and Louisa May Alcott and the other people who started out as failures?"
Those are only a few, they reply. Lots of other people has failed, and no one has ever heard of them. Because they failed. Like you.
I cry for mercy, I beg for them to stop, but the torment continues. I reach out to my friends, but the voices cut me off.
They don't care. They have their own problems. Real problems. People get sick, people die, much worse things than are happening to you. Don't bother them with your petty school problems.
Again I run, but still they follow. They never stop screaming their words at me.
Worthless idiotic failure. You can't do anything. You just waste people's money. They didn't pay for those classes for you to fail. You should just die or run away, that way you'll be no further nuisance. They're better off without you.
I try to fight, but I am too tired. I slump against the wall, tears streaming down my face. Every part of me aches to fight them off and make them stop, but at the same time whispers that they are right. I am nothing.
They wear me down, throwing old insults and words and things that weren't supposed to be insults but hurt all the same. At last, I can fight no more. I sink to the ground, uttering two words before I give in. "Help… me…"
The voices are all over me in an instant. Weakling, coward, idiot! Wimp. You can't do anything. You run from your fears. You're a coward and a wimp.
This time, I do not protest. It feels good to give in, to let the voices wash over me. I close my eyes. What did it matter? What did anything matter? Nothing. Just like me.
"Are you alright?"
I open my eyes at the unexpected voice, seeing my friend peering anxiously down. I try to nod, to say everything's alright, to lie for the millionth time, but she sees right through it.
"They're wrong. Don't believe them."
The voices hiss and boo at me. She doesn't know who you really are. You belong to us, failure. All failures do.
"They're wrong," she echoes. "They tell nothing but lies. Don't believe them."
I close my eyes again and shake my head, leaning limply against the wall.
She reaches down and takes my hand, pulling me to my feet. "Look around you. Do you see all those people?"
I look and see other friends and family smiling encouragingly at me.
"Those are the people you've helped, that you've been there for through troubles."
I stare at the crowd. It is far bigger than I thought.
"See? That's what you do and who you are. You are not your failures. You're beautiful, even though you can't see it."
I shake my head again. "How do you know? You don't know what happens when I'm alone."
Then I see it. I see the scars from where the arrows and blades of words have struck her. I see the voices that still hover around her head, waiting to torment her again. "I know," she says. "They say the same to me. Don't believe it. It's not true, none of it is. They're the worst liars in the world."
Tears begin to form in my eyes again. I try to speak, but no words come.
She reaches out and envelopes me in a hug, and we stand there for what seems like forever, drawing strength from each other. Finally, the words form.
"Thank you," I whisper. Those words aren't directed only at her, but at the One I know sent her to me.
She gives me a final squeeze. "Anytime."