Norton is the co-author of “The Lost Son,” which he wrote with his mother, Tamra Torero. You can also buy this book at the same retailers.
Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down”¦
Darla didn’t know where the little girl’s voice was coming from. She stood in the very middle of a thick field of wild flowers, rustling gently in the breeze. The various colors swished around her like a living painting. In fact, she was not so sure that it wasn’t. Beyond the field, everything seemed to fade to white. Not like distant fog or mist, but rather the empty white of an untouched canvas.
Yet somewhere, a little girl’s voice continued to sing. The effect was ghostly, echoing like it was coming from the center of an amphitheater.
Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posies, ashes ashes, we all fall down”¦
Darla wandered forward, as if the act of moving might help to locate the source of the shrill singing. As she did so, she felt something crunch under her bare feet. She glanced down, and the sight made her heart leap. Black flowers, dry and dead, disintegrated to ash beneath her feet. From there, blackness spread from her footprints and into the soil like a creeping shadow. Flowers and grass crumpled and died as it spread, turning to ash.
Ashes, ashes”¦ the little girl’s voice sang, but suddenly became slower, deeper, and instead of a song, it became a chant”¦a growl: Ashesss, ashessss, ashesssss, ASHESSSSSS!
A hand burst forth from the blackened field, caked in dirt. It swiped at Darla, who screamed and bolted in the opposite direction. But not before noticing its black fingernail polish. Another hand erupted from the ground. And another. And another. One after the other, each only inches away from Darla; each with the same black nail polish. It was as if the hands themselves could see, or at least sense her presence. As they failed to snatch her by the legs, they then proceeded to rip and claw at the ground.
ASHESSSSSS! ASHESSSSSS! ASHESSSSSS!
Dirt and ash exploded from the dying field as the head and arms of a corpse broke free, shaking its Cleopatra-styled hair. Before Darla could react, it grabbed her by the ankles. A sneer plastered across its decaying face as it snarled, “We all fall down!”
Sliding back into the ground, it wrenched Darla down with it, immersing her in instant blackness.
Darla screamed as she fell, but suddenly falling became jumping up in bed. Her skin was beaded in cold sweat, and her heart pounded like a hammer, threatening to burst.