As darkness fell about him fast, Albert grew increasingly disconsolate. Where once he saw a swampy and relatively benign wood, he now imagined demons and ghouls creeping up on him from every angle.
With his ship now out of the equation he knew that he should probably make a move, it could offer him no security now. Indeed, its earlier, presumably extremely noisy, crash landing would undoubtedly have caused quite a commotion. A commotion that would not have gone unnoticed. Whatever curious and potentially threatening residents inhabited the swamp would no doubt be scouting the area.
It suddenly occurred to Albert that maybe he was being watched. Maybe he’d been watched all along. He had an urge to shout in rage at his imagined spies, but knew that emboldening vocalisations such as these would only succeed in alerting the creatures using the cover of night as camouflage for the hunt, that he was, indeed, crapping himself big style.
Clouds in the night’s sky parted as though they were curtains pulled aside by the peering gibbous moon above. Albert and his surroundings were cast temporarily in the spotlight, a lone and unwitting player on an unfamiliar stage. Only now was Albert aware of the swamp’s nocturnal soundtrack. The comforting bird song of earlier had been replaced with the discordant chatter of night.
Sleep didn’t really look like it would be much of an option, so Albert started to make himself comfortable. Appreciating the light of the moon, Albert reached into his backpack and pulled out his phone, nope, still no messages, then he pulled out his a torch to get a better idea of his surroundings.
“hmm,” said a shrill voice from the gloom, “carries a light sabre he does, but that makes him the one not.”
Terrified, Albert switched on the torch, pointing it hither and thither, illuminating nothing but the scrubby undergrowth of the swamp.
“Wh? Who? Wha? Whe??” said Albert.
Then, caught in the curved edge of his torch’s beam, Albert spotted the tip of a horn, a spiny, terrifying, ghoulish horn, olive green and covered in whiskers. This was it, the swamp monster was abroad, coming to eat him alive. “Arghhhhhhh!” screamed Albert.
“Hang on, horns don’t have whiskers,” Albert thought to himself. It was the top of an ear, an ear which was, in turn, attached to a head. Before Albert could take proper look at the facial features of his new uninvited companion, it ducked down beneath a bush, “ow, ow, point not the sabre at my face,” said the shrill voice, “have my eyes out, you will.”
Rising to his feet Albert realised that he stood a good deal taller than the bizarre creature. “Who are you?” asked Albert.
“Ask not who am I,” grumbled the creature, “ask only who you are.”
“eh?” said Albert.
“Enlightenment comes not from knowing of others. The one will know only himself.”
“What one?” asked Albert.
“He is not the one,” squealed the voice.
Reaching down into the undergrowth at roughly the point at which he’d last seen the strange creature, Albert fingered the dirt blindly.
“ARGHHHH!” screamed Albert suddenly as he felt something extremely sharp, snap vice-like onto his fingers. He withdrew his hand from the bush. Dangling from the knuckles of his fingers was a strange, whiskery, olive coloured, raggedy goblin with massive pointed ears.
“Gerroff, gerroff, ye bogga,” pleaded Albert.
“nngngnngn, bmmamama,” mumbled the goblin through gritted teeth.
Bending down to his knees Albert rested his assailant on the floor so that his fingers no longer carried the full weight of the creature. “Owwww, gerroff,” he squealed, but to no avail. Indeed, the squealing and begging seemed only to add further urgency and renewed rigour to the dwarfish monster’s clamp.
Grasping his right wrist with his left hand, Albert suddenly swooped up, spinning clockwise on the ball of his right foot. With the goblin still attached to his fingers, the monster’s skull was now on a crash course trajectory with a nearby tree trunk. The goblin, however, anticipating the manoeuvre released its grip and flew off, deep into the swamp narrowly avoiding the intended target.
Albert, though, with the full force of his conviction and unstoppable momentum, smashed his bloodied right hand against the tree’s unforgiving trunk. With a sickening crack, his wrist smacked into the tree. “FUUUUCK!” screamed Albert, cradling the mutilated limb and hopping about from foot to foot, bent double with pain.
Albert grabbed his torch and bounded off through the undergrowth in roughly the direction that he’d launched the goblin. “Come back ’ere yer little sod,” he said, as he went clattering through the swamp, “come back ‘ere, I’ll bloody have yer for that.”