Linda's mind could absorb successes without incident, but failures seemed to bounce between her brain and the lining of her skull. They returned to torment her at random, then vanished for unpredictable periods of time. It was never just one failure that came to mind, either, but several, as if they coordinated their attacks on her already flimsy self-esteem.
But this was worse than usual. She felt a flood of them coming on, a tidal wave of failures. Linda gripped the kitchen counter as if it was a real flood and she did not want to be swept away. Linda had been depressed for years, the kind of depression that stews quietly with occasional spikes, and there was a serious possibility that this spike would push her over the edge. She wished the carving knife was not so close to her hand. She felt her emotions retreating and quivering in the corners of her mind like frightened children, leaving only her bare self to face the assault.
The army was on the horizon, barely detectable as a faint, tingling self-doubt. Early volleys flew through Linda's consciousness, but they were poorly aimed, mundane doubts about the breakfast she had prepared that morning. "The kids hate your eggs." "The toast was soggy. Soggy!" She deflected them: "Eggs are healthy, and I didn't prepare the toast. Is this the worst you can do?" The latter took the form of a burst of confidence directed at her adversary, because Linda's subconscious only understood emotions.
She regretted the taunt, because the feeling started to intensify. Linda retreated to high ground - the rational mind, where her belief structures and self-concept were stored like precious gems. The enemy surrounded her as a strong sense of pessimism, but they would have to congeal into something explicit before they could reach her up here. She cracked open her long term memory and fumbled for a weapon. She hefted a rusty old syllogism. Now there was nothing to do but wait.
She sensed that something big was trying to get in. Linda repressed vigorously to buy time, barricading the unwelcome intruder with memories: a high school dance, a trip to the mall. If it did get in, it would have to find a way around those. She would at least get a glance at its logical structure, and maybe find a weak point before they closed.
Linda realized she had miscalculated. High school was the highest level of schooling Linda had received, and now she worked in a shoe store at the mall. She watched in horror as the associations of the two memories rotted them from within, revealing two of her biggest sources of insecurity. They advanced menacingly. Behind them, the ten pounds she gained over Christmas and her poor memory for faces had finally broken through. Smaller regrets swept in through the breach - less dangerous individually, but crushing in mass. Linda's self crouched and prepared to strike as the first came in range.
Linda's husband chose this moment to enter the kitchen. He had come home from work early. He was tired, and he just wanted to drink a beer and watch baseball. If he had been more attentive, he would have noticed that Linda had stopped preparing dinner half way through, which had never happened before. He would also have noticed that even though her eyes were glazed and motionless, her face was contorted as with an immense effort, and her hand kept sliding for the carving knife before jolting violently back to her side. Upon observing this, he would not have said "hey, pun'kin" in an absent drawl and stalked back to the living room with his cold Bud Lite.
Linda cornered the last surviving insecurity, froze it with the full force of her mind, and tore out its two vital inferences. It emitted the psychosomatic equivalent of a high-pitched squeal before collapsing into incoherent semantic goop. She checked carefully to be sure that nothing sinister was lurking on any accessible level of consciousness before deciding that it was over. They would come again, as always, but she would be ready. She stored her trusty syllogism back in memory and, forgetting the ordeal, finished making dinner.