“I was going to tell you a story from long ago. It was a tale with werewolves and magic, elves and goblins, and things that whisper in the breeze,” I said.

“That sounds nice,” said the dragon. My imaginary friend was curled up in the corner of my perfect and beautiful bedroom, with her paws drawn under her chin, watching in the dim light.

I wanted to get out of bed, ask her if I could climb on her back, go for a ride, have her take me far from here. She had wings. Massive ones, that, when spread out, would dwarf my house. I could have held on to one of the many black and shiny horns that that ran from the top of her head and down her mighty back.

But all I said was, “It is a nice story.”

“I believe you,” she said. “And as soon as you want to tell it, I’m here to listen.”

I tried to nod, but couldn’t. Not that there was any point. Wasn’t much point to anything, these days. I was too tired for any of it. Even sleep. Two years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who told me that a person could be too tired to sleep. But now I understood: a person really could be so exhausted from existing, that all there was to do at night was wait for morning.

Morning is for washing, breakfast, shiny teeth, and tidy hair.
Morning is for packing homework, tennis kit, and piano books.
Morning is for shoulders back, posture straight, and smiling.

Because everything was good. Great. Wonderful. “I’ve given you everything I never had,” as my mother always said.

“Be grateful,” as my father always said.

“You are ungrateful,” Tar Beast hissed from my bed. “So ungrateful.”

I stiffened, as my imagination shifted and my evil mental-nemesis, Tar Beast, took over. The sheets turned to sticky muck, sucking me deeper into the bedframe. I wildly casted about for my dragon, but she was fading into the floor, to dwell where my good stories now lived.

I used to be a great storyteller. The best.

“Hope is a little liar,” my mother always said.

“Hope has an overactive imagination,” my father always said.

“Worthless,” Tar Beast hissed from my bed. “Wasting your time, always wasting your time, when you could be using it for something practical.”

Tar Beast sent up a long thick tentacle, dripping with muck, and wrapped it around my ribs, pulling me closer to its lair. My breath came out in short sharp gasps – faster than if I were doing tennis drills. Flames licked my lungs, as another tentacle closed over my mouth, the suction cups fastening to my flesh.

Help, I wanted to shout. But I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t groan. Air – snuff, snuff, snuff – made it through my nose, but it wasn’t enough. My heart picked up the pace–

“Relax,” Tar Beast purred. “Let go, just let it all go. You didn’t want to grow up to be a doctor, anyway.”

True, but the words remained inside me. Trapped by that thick, slimy, tentacle, sucking my face, robbing me of my voice. So ‘True’ was left to sink into my soul, sending out its inky poison, reminding me of all the ways I had failed.

“They didn’t spend all that money for you to throw it all away,” Tar Beast sang, dragging me further into the muck. “They deserve a daughter who appreciates the things they provide, a child who gives one hundred-and-ten-percent.”

True, I thought. I hadn’t even tried to speak this time. No point. Because I knew there was no way I’d live through the night. It hurt too much.


Tell us: Hope communicates with imaginary friends. What do you think is Hope’s problem? Have you ever felt this way, or had imaginary friends?