Very brief and to the point here. I was sick today so I’m a little spacey. Here ya go.
“There now, isn’t it nice to be settled in a warm bed with clean sheets?” her mother was asking as she tucked the sheets around her daughter.
Emily smiled sleepily and nodded, then opened her mouth and yawned hugely, blinking to bring her mother’s outline back into focus. “Mama…”
“Shh, sweetheart, rest yourself now.” Smiling softly as she switched on the nightlight, Maeve Halloran moved to the side of her daughter’s bed and sat next to her, stroking her fingers gently through the thick, glossy hair. “There’ll be time for anything you’d like to say in the morning.”
She wanted to protest that, but the soft lighting and the comfortable bed was making it all too easy to nod off. So instead she nodded drowsily, then smiled to herself as she wrapped an arm around her teddy bear and burrowed into the pillow, sleepy and content. “Good night, Mama.”
At the door, Maeve smiled at her daughter. “Good night, Emmy,” she said warmly as she slipped out the door, knowing her daughter would be asleep in seconds.
The seven-year-old couldn’t have said why she woke a few hours later, in a darkened room, with a pounding heart and thin sheen of sweat on her skin. She only knew something was wrong. She sat up, looked around, squinting until her eyes adjusted.
And as her brain cleared of the mists of sleep, she heard it: the sharp crackle of flames. She drew in a breath, and tasted smoke; but when she would have slipped from her bed and gone to wake her parents, she saw the shadow in the darkest corner of her bedroom move.
Something in the child’s brain warned her, and she froze.
The shadow cackled softly, and began to chant, in a soft, silky voice that sounded painfully like her mother’s.
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home…
The child scrambled back in her bed, sweat dribbling in a cold line down her back. She wanted her mama, oh, and her da too—but she couldn’t seem to open her mouth and make a single sound as the shadow drifted closer and closer to the bed.
… Your home is on fire and your children will burn.
Hands, clammy hands, were on her shoulders as that voice crooned the old nursery rhyme. And now the girl screamed, fear compelling her to cry out in hopes of someone coming.
And screaming, woke, with the hands still on her shoulders.