10

I read this story in English in the 2000s (although it was probably much older), in a collection or anthology of several short stories by different authors; I think the collections may have been called something along the lines of "Tales of Mystery and Horror". It also included Roald Dahl's "The Hitch-Hiker".

A girl is walking along the street when a man in a car tries to entice her to get in with him, offering her sweets and begging her. She's been warned by her parents not to get into cars with strangers, even if they offer sweets, so she easily spurns his offers. But this man is different: he seems helpless, he doesn't even know how to drive a car, and he's begging for her help. He tells her that he's an alien from another planet, stranded on Earth without knowledge of its norms and technologies. Finally she sympathises and gets into the car with him to help him.

I'm vague on the middle part of the story, but it turns out that he is an alien, but one sent to Earth to entrap humans and take them back to his planet for investigation. She ends up among other captured humans on an alien planet. They're given food and kept healthy, but not allowed to leave.

At the end of the story, the girl manages to escape from the human enclosure, in an alien vehicle which is sort of like a bubble. The catch is that she doesn't know how to drive the vehicle, so she ends up helpless in the streets outside. She tries to ask for help from some alien children, even offering them some of the food which she kept in her pocket after the prisoners' last meal. But they laugh at her expecting them to be so gullible, "offering us sweets!" - they too have been taught by their parents not to get into vehicles with strangers. She remains there, helplessly, until her captors come to collect her and bring her back to the human enclosure.

The mirroring at the start and end of this story were memorable, even if most of the other details are forgotten.

2
  • 1
    @user14111 That's got to be it. Several of the other stories in that anthology also sound familiar, and the name Tina from Goodreads and this blog rings a bell too. Please post an answer :-) ETA: it's on the Internet Archive as well.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 3 at 9:30
  • @user14111 By the way, since you found the collection as well as the story, I have a feeling that this story might have been in the same collection.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 11 at 21:17
8

"Sweets from a Stranger", a short story by Nicholas Fisk, reprinted in the 1993 anthology Tales of Horror and Mystery which can be borrowed from the Internet Archive.

You said you read it in an anthology of stories by different authors, with a title something like Tales of Mystery and Horror, and that it included Roald Dahl's story "The Hitch-Hiker". The ISFDB's list of compilations containing that Dahl story includes three multi-author anthologies, one of which has a title similar to your recollection. Scanning the contents of Tales of Horror and Mystery, the title "Sweets from a Stranger" seemed the most likely candidate. I had no information about the story, but you found some online reviews, and the text of the story at the Internet Archive, from which you were able to confirm the identification.

From Goodreads:

Little children know not to accept sweets from a stranger, but do they know why? Wicked, inquisitive Tina couldn't resist finding out what would happen - and found herself held hostage on an alien planet light years away.

From Vector-BSFA:

So how about those discussion questions? I'm going to take the suggested starting points first, then come back to the main question.

Write a short summary of the story

Girl meets alien; alien tricks girl; girl fails to trick aliens.

Note down what you think the sci-fi elements in the story are

In order: an alien; space travel (imagined technology); another planet; aliens. A nice bag of tropes. Is it a story that could not have happened without its speculative content? I think so; the intended real-world reference is explicit, but without the sf I don't see how you'd get the reversal of Tina's position to be so effective.

Draw character profiles of Tina and Talis

Tina: relatively unusually for Fisk, a girl-protagonist. That's her all solarized on the cover, I think. Less unusually, she's sharp — knows what story she's in, at the start; isn't fazed by the change in scenery; comes up with a proactive plan — but overconfident. "Tina, knowing she was behaving foolishly, went closer to the car."

Talis: deceptive in appearance and in manner, but not about his true purpose. Everything we seem to learn about him in the first half of the story — his haplessness, his friendliness (his loneliness) — must be a lie for the second half to stick.

[. . .]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.