The Land of Cotton Candy Cuddles Inc.

Writing Prompt: You’ve found a magical land of candy, adorable friendly stuffed animals, and perfectly g-rated adventures, with just one rule, you have to leave before the sun goes down. You’ve gotten to a rebellious age, and have just finished packing a bag to go camping.

Harper was just like any other thirteen year old. He had an over active imagination, a hungering curiosity, and an absolute aversion to any and all rules that were written. Despite all this he’d managed to uphold the one rule of the magical land of Cotton Candy Cuddles Incorporated. You don’t stay out after dark. Which in all was a pretty easy rule to abide by on account that daytime lasted thirty seven hours in the land of Cotton Candy Cuddles Incorporated, and nighttime lasted only a measly forty six minutes (although it should be noted that forty six minutes – or two thousand seven hundred and sixty seconds – can be an awfully long time under the right circumstances).

Whenever Harper visited the land of Cotton Candy Cuddles Incorporated (for which it was universally agreed a shorter name was required, though one had yet to be settled upon) he was greeted by an insanely tall man that wore insanely tight striped trousers. The striped trousers are significant because you couldn’t actually see anything else beyond them. The man’s legs (if it was indeed a man at the top of them) stretched up and through the sugary, puff-pastry-pink clouds of the sky. They were red and white stripes, of course, with tiny, liquorice coloured boots at the ends. This man would speak the same exact phrase in the same exact tone of voice every time Harper appeared;

Welcome friend, the time is – whatever the time might have been – you have – however long you might have had – until night fall. Please do remember admittance is forbidden after dark. Enjoy your stay!

As if the journey alone wasn’t disorientating enough (in order to visit the land of Cotton Candy Cuddles Harper had to sneak into the basement with a wet fish and three spoons; he then had to lock himself in the freezer, sitting on the fish, resting one spoon on each eye and the third in his mouth, counting backward from seventeen and finally… poof) the repetition of the man’s speech gave a certain sort of dreadful de-ja-vu to the whole event that made everything seem quite unreal indeed.

But of course it was all real. The stuffed animals that roamed the sugared hills and candy mountains. The rainbow bridges that gave safe passage over butter cream filled lakes (swarming with jellied fish), each one home to its own delightful green creature that sat eternally atop a pot of chocolate gold (real gold had little to no value here). The cinnamon trees and the vast theme parks with gravity defying roller coasters. The constant music played on harpsichords by angels dressed in dungarees. The chattering owls that offered fountains of knowledge (and chocolate, of course). Yes, despite what you might think it was all very real.

All was well, until Harper’s hungering curiosity and aversion to rules decided to gang up on his poor imagination and force a young, rebellious teenager (barely) to pack up his bags. We’re going camping! They said joyfully, much to the dislike of his imagination and that odd little voice that called itself reason. Let’s see if we can’t find out what happens in those forbidden two thousand seven hundred and sixty seconds.

Harper made his camp in a rather jolly looking cave that grinned earnestly from the inside out. Two bright coloured birds sat over the crest of the cave’s mouth, acting as it eyes. They asked how Harper was doing and he asked if they’d do him a favour and bugger off. Safe to say this was the first time the birds had experienced such rudeness, and they didn’t like it one bit. They did as they were asked and took flight for the Jelly Baby Farms (a place where all kinds of baby jelly creatures were grown organically to be either eaten, if defective, or released into the gum drop forests if not).

Laying out his bed roll, setting aside his backpack and lighting a fire (with a pack of matches he’d stolen from his father’s jacket), Harper waited silently and patiently for night to come.

And when night did finally come…

It was announced by the tall, candy cane coloured legs. That monotone voice crying out; Night is upon us, let the games begin. Oh, and it seems we have a special guest staying with us. A mean little rule-breaker. Can we put our hands together for… Harper! At the say so of the striped legs a chorus of hands clapped away against the odd dark of the land of Cotton Candy Cuddles. It wasn’t quite pitch black, more purple in colour, and all the shadows seemed to have eyes.

“What the…” Harper was blinded by a sudden bursting of light that fled from the skies, much like the tractor beam of an alien’s space craft. Only this beam wasn’t meant for abducting, it was meant for guiding. It had marked Harper’s location for all the land to see.

Apart from the lack of light and the eyes in the shadows not much else had seemed to change. Right. Harper thought. Better now than never. He shouldered his backpack and left the cave, carefully tiptoeing round the beam that marked his location.

He decided to watch from atop a mountain of chocolate covered raisins (nobody much cared for raisins and so the mound was mostly derelict), to see what purpose the beam might have had. It soon became clear.

“He’s gone.” one voice grumbled.

“The squirt ran away.” another garbled.

“Well we better find him.” a third suggested.

“Really? Why hadn’t I thought of that…” a fourth rolled their eyes (vocally speaking).

It wasn’t so much what the voices said as to what they belonged to that sent shivers down Harper’s spine. The once cuddly creatures of the land of Cotton Candy… oh, you get the picture… were now gruesome, loathsome beasts with too much hair and not enough skin. The stuffed animals were leaking their stuffing, some without eyes and with limbs half hanging off. Gummy bears were sticky and wet with God only knows what, their insides pooling in an acid like jelly. The pink coloured clouds were a dark grey and groaned with stomachs full of thunder. Then there were the legs, striped markers in the distance, they strode aimlessly across the lands, only now hands joined them at the sides. Great, hairy, many-fingered fists that graced the lowlands in an ape-like manor.

Come out, come out, wherever you are. The monotone voice yelled.

A hand crept over Harper’s shoulder and he jumped from his skin (had he been even a second slower in returning to his skin then the spirit of a hard knuckled pig would have taken his place in an act of possession).

“Quiet.” the hand’s owner ushered, “If they hear you, then we’re toast.”

“But I like toast.” Harper whimpered, whilst not entirely sure what was going on.

“Do you like burnt toast?” the hand asked.

Harper shook his head.

“Good. Then we’ll be burnt toast.”

Harper gulped. When he turned to see the owner of the hand he was met only with a blanket that floated ever-so-slightly above ground. A hand swung low at either side, two eyes leered from under the blanket, and hair of a yellow colour sprouted like onions from the blanket’s bare scalp.

“You’re not supposed to be here.” the blanket said, sounding more than a little annoyed.

“I know… but I had to see…”

“And did it make you happy?” the blanket didn’t wait for an answer, “No, I didn’t think so. Well you haven’t seen anything yet. The next two thousand four hundred and eight seconds are going to be the longest of your life.” as the blanket continued speaking the sounds of a chainsaw rattled over the quiet of the night, “You’re part of what’s known as the Cotton Candy Killing Club, we don’t talk about it, but it’s basically a forty six minute long battle royale. Say, kid, did you bring any spoons?”

Harper nodded.

“Good, you’re going to need them.” the blanket crouched over the chocolate covered raisin hill and sure enough spotted a small horde of angry looking lolly pops racing up towards them on the back of grey coloured unicorns (not the soft kind either, the scratchy sort of unicorns that bite your ankles when you forget to wear socks).

The blanket pulled a flame thrower from under its… itself?… and screamed, “Burn time baby.” then went running down hill, fire spilling out over lollipops and unicorns alike.

I can’t believe this is really happening. Harper took a deep breath and, with spoons in hand, charged after the blanket, letting lose the weakest sounding prepubescent scream you’d ever heard.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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