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> syntax error: [string "return 42"]:1: malformed number near '42ÿ'

Ah, ÿ is 0xFF. So, somehow -1 is getting mapped into 0xFF.
It seems to be a faulty isdigit, which is mapping -1 to 0xFF *and*
thinking 0xFF is a digit! Try using your own isdigit...

If you want to trace this, the place to start is read_numeral in llex.c.