An Excerpt from THE LIMBO TREE





My body struck the floor and the sheets mounded on top of me. I let out a blood-curdling scream and unearthed myself from my linens.

“Mom, please!”

When I’d pawed my way out, I was startled to find that Mom wasn’t there. No one was there.

My door was still closed.

I stood up and scurried to the door. I jiggled the handle; it was locked. I unlocked it and looked out. The unoccupied hallway was dark and silent. My heart raced and my legs trembled.

I’m sleeping. I fell asleep on my bed. I have to be.

But not fully convinced, I inched down the hall to investigate further. When I turned to inspect the bathroom, my face collided with a pile of towels, nearly eating them. It was Mom.

I wearily backed away from her, not sure which Mom I was confronting.

“I heard you scream.”

“Um.” My voice quavered. “A spider, on my bed.”

“Well, did you get ’im?”

“Um, yeah, I flushed it down the toilet.” My blood surged as she needled me with her eyes.

Mom leaned in close. “You smell like a pond. Take a shower.” She handed over the warm stack of towels. “Here.”

As I eased inside the bathroom, my heart hammered so hard I heard it beating from outside my chest. I slowly closed the door, watching it, waiting for something else to happen, but it didn’t.

I put away the towels in the closet, turned on the shower, and collapsed on top of the toilet seat. Had my reality and dream world finally collided? Or was I just crazy?

Pulling my knees in, I began to rock back and forth while babbling, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

I twirled my hair, giving it a yank, feeling a burning twinge of delight. The pain was real. And so was the clump of hair that emerged from my palm. I rolled the long strands between my fingertips, reminding me of corn silk, and watched them flutter to the floor. My arms curled tight around my legs, I began rocking again. I couldn’t be sure that anything was real at this point. I wasn’t to be trusted. I stood up and looked in the mirror.

An unkempt version of myself blinked blankly back at me; her sullen eyes were encircled by sleepless nights, and her hair was wild as a beast’s, oily and matted. A chunk went missing by her ear.

There I stood, watching the tears spill over her cheeks. I looked deeper into the mirror, watching her mimic my movements. She bit her bottom lip, in serious denial, and pressed her palms against the glass, meeting mine.

“A crazy person doesn’t ask whether they are crazy. They just are,” we said to one another.

The steam condensed on the mirror, leaving only my handprints. And soon the haze filled them in, too. I took off my clothes and stepped into the shower. The hot streams pelted my face as I dared to close my eyes again, rinsing away the insanity. Water slapped the porcelain floor of the tub in short spurts as I rinsed my hair. A slow creak of the bathroom door echoed in between splats and a cold rush of air flooded over the top of the shower curtain. I opened my eyes. Steam had filled the shower, from the ceiling down.

“Hello?” I queried nervously from behind the curtain.

“Pajamas. I’ll leave them on the toilet seat.” Mom’s erratic tone ricocheted around the tiny room.

“Thanks,” I replied, watching her silhouette disappear from behind the curtain.

“To your room when you’re done, Samantha.” Her demand echoed from the hallway.

The door clicked shut.

I cranked the shower knob toward the H. The steam surrounded me and rose to the ceiling. I stood amidst the hot streams, hearing a clang from the vent in the ceiling, and shortly afterward my name echoed through the steel opening. My gaze darted to the ceiling. Wide-eyed with panic, I shut off the water and waited. My name whispered ominously through the same hole in the wall again, entering through the small cracks of my mind between insanity and reality.




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taniapicABOUT THE AUTHOR—Chicago-born author Tania Nicole Suarez, best known as T.N. Suarez, began her writing career while working as an art director for an advertising agency. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design and is an internationally published photographer.

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