Oh boy. Yet again, a children's television programme has driven me to the brink of insanity. I return bearing this. The worst thing of all is that I'm sober, though I have the sudden desire not to be.
If you haven't watched Waybuloo before, you should probably experience the saccharine horror on iPlayer before reading this travesty.
Crack-crack-crack, came the noise from the sky.
“Look! Whizz-cracker!” said Lau-Lau, and the other Piplings joined her to watch.
“That not whizz-cracker,” said De-Li.
“Not whizz-cracker. 90-millimetre anti-aircraft gun.”
“Oh. Pretty 90-millimetre anti-aircraft gun.”
Just then, the Piplings heard the familiar chimes of the mystical device that somehow controlled their lives, and like every other day, they were compelled to obey its call.
“Yogo?” asked Yojojo.
“Debate finer points of anti-aircraft warfare after Yogo,” said De-Li.
And off they went.
Lined up in front of the nameless device, each Pipling took their allotted turn in the ritual, announcing a shape into which they would have to contort themselves.
“Tree!” said Nok-Tok. And they tried to look like trees.
“Shell!” said De-Li. And they tried to look like shells.
“Monkey!” said Yojojo, which all the others thought was probably cheating. But the machine was watching, so they did it anyway.
“Fish!” said Lau-Lau. They tried to look like fish.
Then, at long last, the device began to chime its song again. It had been appeased for now, and the Piplings tiptoed quietly out of the clearing in case it heard them and summoned them back to dance once more for its entertainment.
Back near their houses, the Piplings were looking out again at what lay beyond their tiny verdant world.
“Why rest of Nara so brown?” asked Nok-Tok.
“Cheebie last week say End Times coming,” said Yojojo. “Cheebie parents say something about ‘Jee-sus’.”
“Lau-Lau wonder why Cheebies leave, go back to brown place,” said Lau-Lau.
“Cheebies say something about ‘Soma’ wearing off,” said Yojojo. “Cheebies go back to get more.”
“Oh,” said Nok-Tok. “Make sense.”
Another noise entered the Piplings’ world from across the horizon – this time, a more human noise.
“Cheebies?” asked Yojojo.
“Cheebies!” exclaimed Lau-Lau. But they turned and looked, and didn’t see quite what they were expecting to see.
“Why Cheebies so old?” asked Nok-Tok.
“Why Cheebies carry assault rifles?” asked De-Li.
“Play Peeka?” asked Lau-Lau, who was always a little slow on the up-take.
“Yes, Lau-Lau,” said De-Li. “Play Peeka right now. Play Peeka really, really well.”
So the Piplings hid themselves in logs and pots and up trees, not sure what to make of the new kind of Cheebies they had seen.
It soon became clear that, not being five-year-olds asked to look for CGI creatures they couldn’t see, the new Cheebies had somewhat of an unfair advantage when playing Peeka. The Piplings were soon rounded up and made to sit back-to-back in the Yogo clearing.
“What new Cheebies names?” said Lau-Lau, still not fully grasping the situation at hand.
One of the Cheebies stepped forward.
“Sergeant Arrowsmith, US Marine Corp,” he said. “Are you the inhabitants of this place?”
“Lau-Lau not know word in-habbit-uns.”
The sergeant sighed. “Do you live here?”
“Yes!” said Lau-Lau happily. “Piplings live here!”
“And do I understand correctly that you are in possession of a machine known as the ‘Anything Machine’, which is capable of generating any object known to the user?”
“Yes! Anything machine!”
De-Li kicked Lau-Lau’s ankle sharply, and got a gun pointed at her for her trouble.
“Play nice,” said the Marine on the other end of the gun. He sneered down the barrel.
“You will take us to this machine,” said the sergeant.
The Piplings were marched at gunpoint to another clearing, where the Anything Machine sat.
“Good,” said Arrowsmith. “You will now use this machine to produce for me an LGM-30 Minuteman ballistic missile with a single warhead, targeted at Moscow.”
“No!” gasped De-Li, and wished she hadn’t.
“Nok-Tok not know what that is,” Nok-Tok said. “Machine not work when not know what making.”
“The pink one knows, sir,” said the Marine who’d pointed the gun earlier.
“Pink creature,” said the sergeant, pointing his own rifle at Lau-Lau. “Make the fucking missile, or I shoot the stupid one. No tricks.”
De-Li took one look into Lau-Lau’s wide staring eyes, and turned her attention to the machine. A few seconds of thinking, a few seconds of trembling ground and burning air, and off the missile flew into the sky.
They waited, and waited. Minutes passed.
Then, over the horizon, a brilliant flash lit up Nara’s sky.
“Good,” said the sergeant, hefting the Anything Machine onto his shoulder. “Tie the creatures up and make them walk. We’re heading back to base.”
Years later, the once-green patch of Nara was as scorched and blackened as the rest of the land. A gust of wind separated the last of the four glittering crystals from the Yogo device, and it splintered into a thousand tiny pieces on the ground. Never again would it call the Piplings to perform for it – the Piplings were free at last. But the Piplings had not been seen since that day they and the Anything Machine were taken. If they still somehow lived, they were the last things to live on Nara.