With the sun high in the sky, Albert looked about him. The surroundings were now so familiar it didn’t even occur to him that he could be anywhere other than Jud. He was running with stilted urgency, the harder he tried to make headway though, the more difficult it seemed to become. He became aware of laughter and voices, and the sound of sizzling food. Then he saw familiar faces, he was home, home, and the voices he’d heard were those of his friends and family, they were having a picnic in the woods. It felt so good to be back, like he’d never been away. His brother Garth and father Norman were standing by the barbeque, monopolising proceedings as usual. “Come on mate, we’ve been waiting ages,” said Garth slurping back on his favourite purple pop, dad was sniggering, in fact, they were both laughing at Albert. Just like they always did. All Albert wanted to do was get his burgers on, but there was no space. Albert had the unwrapped food in his hands, and was trying to push the sausages over to make space, but they were snagging on the grill, raw, pink meat, clinging on, with unwitting irony, for dear life. Juice was splashing on the food from somewhere, maybe it was rain and then Albert knocked a nearby bottle of pop over with his elbow and just caught it with his burgery hand before it rolled off the table onto the floor. But someone else had dropped glass on the floor anyway, among the trash and dirt of meat product wrappings, everywhere Albert stepped he felt the sharp searing pain of needle like….
“Owww, oww, what the fu.?” shouted Albert as the faded picnic party barbeque of his dreams came into the sharp, harsh, reality of something pinching and biting into the soles of his feet.
“hmm, wakes up eventually, does it?” enquired the all too familiar voice of last night’s troublesome goblin.
“Oww, stop it, stop it,” pleaded Albert, unable to move beyond much but a wriggle, his arms and legs tied tightly down by bindings that were starting to cut into his flesh. Albert was lying down and it was daytime. While Albert felt only fuzzily aware of his surroundings, he was uncomfortably aware that he was still very much in the swamp.
Albert, lifting his head from the floor, looked down to his feet, he felt as though he was suffering from literal pins and needles. His tormentor’s gleeful face appeared just above Albert’s toes. Holding what appeared to be a paintbrush covered in red gloop, the green menace said: “On its stomach, an army marches.”
Albert looked more closely at his toes, they were covered in the same red gloop that adorned the paintbrush, but the gloop itself was moving, squirming almost. In between his toes, and making the occasional foray up to his ankles, Albert now registered that the small red spots that he could see running in apparently frantic circles, were, in fact, soldier ants. Albeit soldier ants of a kind Albert had hitherto not seen, these buggers were taking actual chunks out of his feet.
“Who, ow!, are you?” asked Albert, with panic rising in his voice, “what do you, ooh, ow! want from me?”
“Ask not who I am nor what I want,” responded Albert’s captor, “ask only who you are and what you can do for me?”
“I’m Captain, ow! Flash Albert Jud Space Cadet, oi! Extraordinaire.”
“hmm, so. You are the Judy?”
“I’m Captain Flash Albert, Jud Space, ouch! Cadet Extraordinaire. I left, oi! Jud in the Year 281071. My, feck! mission was to discover new and exciting planets with excellent parking, ouch,” said Albert.
“The Year 281071 is a fabrication,” responded the goblin, “but you speak Jud, that much is true. I have not heard Judy since, since..I cannot recall.”
“But you speak it. Ow! is this not Jud?”
“Questions, questions. Always questions. What know you of Dale Harden?”
“Dale who?” asked Albert.
The goblin dipped his paintbrush in something out of Albert’s sight, then proceeded to spread some scorchingly hot, viscous red gloop from Albert’s ankle to the knee of his right leg.
“Arghhhhhh!” screamed Albert
“Hot strawberry jam Judy, if you think the pain you feel now is intense wait until the jam cools and my army of ants decides that it’s dinner time again,” said the creature. “Do you know what it feels like to be eaten to death my a million hungry mouths?”
Albert had no idea, although to be fair to the creature, his question was rhetorical. Still, this didn’t stop Albert answering.
“No, no, noo, I don’t know what it’s like, oooh! ow! to be eaten by a million hungry mouths,” said Albert.
“Not very nice,” said the goblin dipping the paintbrush into his pot of molten preserve, “not very nice at all.”
“ArGHhhhh!!” screamed Albert once more as more of the jam was spread on his left leg.
“If you think this hurts, just you wait until the ants start eating your bollocks,” said the goblin smiling absentmindedly to himself. “You’ll wish you were born without bollocks,” he added, before correcting himself, “well, you’ll wish were you never born at all.”
Albert was already close to passing out from the pain.
“Now,” said the torturer, “tell me, what know you of Dale Harden and the Rebel Alliance?”
“Nothing, nothing, I swear,” said Albert, as the jam cooled on his left leg, he could make out the sensation of numerous, razor sharp incisions being made in his right leg. “Stop it, stop it, come on, please. I don’t know Dale Harden, I’ve never heard of her I swear.”
The goblin stopped momentarily and cocked his head to one side, “he swears, he’s never heard of her, eh,” he said before nodding slightly in confirmation of some unspoken mental instruction, before rapidly and without warning kicking Albert in the groin.
“ARGHHHH!” screamed Albert.
“Leave you for now, I will, leave you to think over your words strange Judy or should I call you Lord Vimto!?” said the creature before shuffling off into the undergrowth.
The ants were still biting into Albert’s legs causing him no small amount of discomfort, the stomach churning caused by the vomit inducing kick to the gonads had subsided, but as Albert lay in the swamp he hardly felt a thing, his thoughts were elsewhere, “Vimto,” he said, “where have I heard that name before?”