Based on the Jethro Tull song of the same name. Warnings: Implied child death in past.
"Good night, baby," the mother said to her child, stepping out of the room and turning off the light. "Sleep tight."
Bobbi Ann hugged Leelee Lamb tighter. Leelee Lamb wasn't scared. Leelee was big and soft and ready to fight. In the darkness, Bobbi Ann reached for all of them. There was Burgundy, a bear almost as big as Bobbi herself, but not quite, because Bobbi was a big girl now and she could almost walk. Burgundy had a funny rumbly voice. Mylis was a cat pillow with pretty green eyes that felt funny when Bobbi stroked them. Then there was Special Blanket, which was pink, and Silky Blanket, which was white and felt like Mommy's shirt when Mommy got all dressed up and went away. Greenie wasn't green, he was a little stuffed dog, but he talked just like the leprechaun in the TV commercials about the cereal. Sheena was a pink rabbit in a short skirt. All of them were there, lined up in their proper places to go into battle.
"Ready?" Bobbi Ann asked them all. It was hard to talk and make the right sounds, but her animals and friends could hear her even when she just thought it. "Ready, guys?"
"Yes, we're ready," they all said.
"Okay, let's go."
Bobbi Ann used to be scared to go There, because it was dark and scary and the Child-Stealers lived there. She would try to stay in the light with Mommy and Daddy, and when they put her in the dark crib she would cry and cry, because that was the gateway to There. But now she had warriors to fight with her, so she was safe. Bobbi closed her eyes and went through the Gate.
On the Other Side, everything was different. She could walk just like a big girl on the Other Side, and she never went peepee in the diaper, and she could say anything she wanted to. The others were there at her feet. They looked sort of like animals in cartoon shows, except that those kind of animals never killed anybody, and Bobbi's friends were warriors. "Everybody be careful," Bobbi Ann said. She was holding Mylis in her hands. Special Blanket was tied around her neck, like Superman's cape, and Silky Blanket was tied around her chest. "I smell Child-Stealers."
"Yes," Leelee said. "I see one coming."
All of them got into a fighting stance as the Child-Stealer approached. It was horrible, of course, and Bobbi got scared, like she always did. It had so many heads she couldn’t count them, with eyes on top of tentacles coming out of everywhere, and it smelled real bad. Bobbi stepped back into the ring of her animal friends, as Special Blanket and Silky Blanket wrapped themselves around her, like armor protecting her.
"Charge!" Bobbi yelled.
Greenie leapt at that, snarling and barking at the Child-Stealer. It swung an eye at him, and he bit it. Burgundy pounded the Child-Stealer with his fists. Bobbi picked him up and threw him at one of the heads, where he could do more damage. She threw Mylis next, spitting and clawing like the real kitty did when Bobbi pulled its tail. Leelee charged, shaking the bell around her neck as she baahed a war cry. And Sheena hopped at the thing, battering it with her little paws. Bobbi herself threw herself into the fray with a scream, biting and clawing and pounding, picking up friends and beating the Child-Stealer over its heads with them, until finally it vanished in a puff of mist.
"Well, we did it," Burgundy rumbled. "It's dead."
"How marvelous! I'm so glad," Greenie said.
"Let's go have a picnic!" Bobbi Ann suggested.
"Good idea," Sheena said. "I want some carrots."
The group of friends strolled into the park, and they all sat down to have a picnic.
But as they were eating, they heard something terrible -- the horrible throbbing Sound the worst of the Child-Stealers made, so low it bit into their bones. Leelee Lamb turned to Bobbi. "That's the One! You have to run, Bobbi-- we'll hold it off!"
"Okay!" Bobbi Ann ran and ran, away from the Sound and from the noise of her friends fighting it. Soon she had to slow down, because she was tired. The Sound was so far away she couldn't hear it anymore.
She walked until she came upon a graveyard, where the little angel children were playing. The little angel children all had halos and wings. They had all lost their battles with the Child-Stealers, and gone up to Heaven as angels. "Play with us!" the little angel children called.
"I can't," Bobbi said. "I'm not dead."
"Oh," they said disappointedly. Then they said, "But it's great fun in Heaven. We play all the time. Don't you want to come?"
"No," Bobbi said. "You'll never grow up. I want to be a big grownup, and I can't do that if I'm dead."
"Who needs to grow up?" they asked.
"Grownups are big and they can do everything. I want to be one."
"You're no fun," they whined.
Bobbi walked up out of there and into a green field, trying to find her way back to her friends.
Then she heard a roaring, and turned. A Child-Stealer with a mouth like a vacuum cleaner was running toward her, and her friends and protectors weren't here. Bobbi ran and ran as fast as she could. But it felt like her arms and legs were tangling together, that something had wrapped around them so she couldn't run.
She tripped and fell hard to the ground. The Child-Stealer landed on her back, and she began to scream. It pressed her down, strangling the air out of her lungs.
Then Mommy's hands came out of nowhere and ripped the Child-Stealer to shreds. They lifted Bobbi Ann up, pulled away the blankets wound around her head, and carried her out of There.
Bobbi began to cry as soon as she could breathe. Mommy held her and patted her. "There, there, honey, it's all right. It's all right. You’re safe now. You’re all right."
Gradually Bobbi closed her eyes and slid back to There. She was protected from the Child-Stealers by the warm circle of her mother's arms. She laughed and taunted them, until from a distance she felt the arms relaxing away from her, and she was set back down alone on the cold ground of There. "Noo!!" she wailed, but couldn't make herself wake up and call for Mommy again.
The Child-Stealers advanced on her. Suddenly, she heard her friends behind her. "Bobbi! We were worried!" Leelee Lamb said.
"Look at all these Child-Stealers," Greenie said nervously.
Bobbi looked at her friends, her protectors, and a hot joy bubbled up from somewhere within. "No problem," she said. "Let's take them!"
She and her friends leapt forth in a savage, snarling attack. Gone was the fear from before. All there was now was anger and savage joy. Bobbi Ann and her legion of stuffed animals fought violently, laughing and crying, with the blood of the Child-Stealers running down their paws and hands. And the air rang with screams and Bobbi's war whoops, as the nightly battle was joined in earnest.
The mother put the baby back in her crib, and looked down at her. Her husband stood next to her. "Thank God she's all right."
"Yes. Thank God I got to her in time." The child moved slightly in her sleep. "Look at her," the mother said tenderly. "So peaceful. Without a care in the world. Don't you wish we adults could sleep like that?"
"Yeah." He smiled at his daughter, and turned to his wife. "Better leave her now, or she'll wake up." As they left, he turned out the light.