The dark is pressing at the windows. I draw the curtains and dim the lights to deter trick-or-treaters. I’ve just put the kids to bed and I have the rest of the evening to myself.
I collapse on to the sofa, switch the TV on and unwrap some sweets. I’m so tired that I don’t feel like doing anything else. The children’s shows are still on.
Strange. It’s nine in the evening. I stare at the TV. The programme just beginning is one which is normally on in the morning.
‘Over the hills and far away…’ A singsong voice.
I’m about to change the channel when I notice the sun. There’s a chuckling baby’s face superimposed on it. Filling the screen, the sun becomes brighter and brighter. White hot. It bursts out of the TV, into the room, whiter and more luminous every second.
I drop the remote. I can’t see anything but the white light.
I open my eyes. I’m face down on something soft. Turf. Bright green turf. I roll over on to my back and find myself staring up into an impossibly blue sky. A babbling, chuckling sound reaches my ears and I see the sun. Yellow and merry, the baby’s face amused at my confusion.
‘What.’ I say, ‘what the…’
I sit up and look around. Turf-covered mounds stretching to the horizon. Plastic flowers are stiffly upright. Brown rabbits are skittering about in the distance.
‘Am I inside the TV?’ Suspicious, I squint at the sky for evidence of studio lighting, or cameras or something. There is nothing up there but the sun. I scramble to my feet and rub my eyes.
‘Hello?’ I shout. ‘Anyone there?’
The baby giggles.
My slippered feet tread the turf lightly. I walk over the hills, looking for signs of life. I uproot a fake flower and put it in my pocket. There’s some kind of structure in the distance. I head towards it. As I get nearer, I realise it’s a loudspeaker that looks like a showerhead. Maybe I’ll be able to communicate with the TV crew this way. I touch it, searching for a button.
‘Hello?’ I say into it. ‘Can you help me, please?’
Nothing happens. I stand there, frustrated. The sun has followed me, gazing at me with wide eyes. A couple of rabbits run past.
Then there’s a buzzing noise from the loudspeaker.
‘Time for terrortubbies!’ a metallic voice says. ‘Time for terrortubbies!’
‘What?’ I say. ‘Terrortubbies? Did I hear that right?’
A rumbling from under my feet. A hole appears in the turf. The sound of chattering. Two paws rest on the edge of the hole. Then a head pops up. I stare into the eyes of a creature who barely resembles the characters I’ve seen on the children’s TV show. The bulbous red eyes regard me, unblinking. The mouth opens to reveal sharp, jagged teeth in a wide grin.
‘Ooh!’ the creature coos. ‘Friend!’
‘Friend? Friend!’ the others below say to each other.
They all waddle out on to the hill. There are four of them, with black spiky fur and round, scarred bellies. Antennae swivel on top of their large heads.
‘Friend!’ they squeal, moving closer to me. I back away. The sun lets out a peal of laughter.
One of the creatures is carrying a handbag. He opens it and takes out a bloodstained axe.
‘Chase!’ he says, saliva dripping off his fangs.
‘Chase! Chase!’ the others repeat, starting to surround me.
I slip through a gap between them and run. I reckon that their roundness will slow them down. My slippers are loose on my feet, at risk of tripping me up. I kick them off as I run.
Where am I running to? Ahead are more hills, more plastic flowers, more rabbits.
I leap over the hills, hoping to get far away.
‘Help!’ I yell. A glance behind me and I know they’re going to catch up soon. Although their bodies are ungainly, they waddle quickly, as if they’re in a film sped up. My heart thuds painfully but I think of the axe and the fangs and push onwards. My breath is burning in my throat.
‘Chase! Chase! Chase!’ the chattering is getting louder, which means they’re gaining on me.
I’m nearly exhausted, slowing down as my legs tire. At last the muscles give way and I stumble, falling to my knees. I wipe the sweat out of my eyes and turn to look at the hairy figures trotting happily towards me.
‘Friend!’ coos the one with the axe, swinging it around his head.
‘Friend!’ the others echo, laughing. Their red eyes narrow and their teeth gleam in the sunlight.
I stare upwards at the sun. It stares back solemnly. I put my hands together in prayer and focus on the yellow light, on the baby’s face, blocking out the terrible fate about to befall me. I imagine the brightness filling my vision, filling my veins, lighting up my mind. And then it happens. The chattering is growing fainter as the light gets brighter and whiter. The baby chuckles softly and my surroundings vanish. For a moment I see nothing. All is blackness. Then the colours fade back in.
My eyes snap open.
I’m back on the sofa, in my house. The TV is still on, showing a sitcom now.
I catch my breath and blink. Carefully, I stand up, brushing sweet wrappers off my lap.
‘What the hell was in that Halloween candy?’ I shiver and throw the rest of it in the bin.
As I go upstairs to check on the kids, I realise two things.
My feet are bare.
There’s a plastic flower in my dressing gown pocket.