Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The clearing lies deserted in the last light of the moon. Amidst the silver glow, two indistinct figures flicker into view, sat on the weathered altar stone at the centre.
Of the two, the smaller is clearer, appearing as a pale woman with translucent butterfly wings. The larger is greener in hue, taking the form of an angular stag with two sets of antlers.
The pale one breaks the silence with a long sigh.
“I’d hoped for better, this being one of the oldest sites on the island.”
The green one emits something between a chuckle and a rolling cough.
“I was running late. Were they a prayer circle or a coven?”
“No such luck. A close encounter group.”
The green one belches.
“Oops. Your pardon. Close encounter? I’ve not come across them.”
“You still suffering gut troubles?”
The green one nods.
“My usual coven are wonderful, but they insist on full fat everything. Something about ‘stint nothing’ and ‘without tampering’.”
The pale one gives a tinkling laugh.
“Come visit my druids next time their grove gathers. I’ve no idea what ‘lacto-free’ is, but the lesser horn-ed who drops by every now and then specifically mentioned it doesn’t upset the guts like regular cow sweat.”
The green one nods.
“Will do. Okay, back to ‘close encounters’.”
“Oh, it’s a new thing. They think we’re alien beings.”
“We are.”
“No, not like that. As in ‘beings from another world’.”
“Been considered worse.”
“That’s not it. The problem is that the determining majority of them are convinced aliens are energy beings from another dimension that rarely manifest in this world, and never do so completely.”
The green one rests jaw on fist. The antlers start to glow.
“So us visitors to the circle are prevented from appearing. Ghost forms being all we can manage.”
The pale one nods.
“That, the age-old flying lights, and playing with their devices.”
“All of which are useless for getting a good offering to snack on.”
“Snack, nothing. Some of the little ones hereabouts are starving.”
The antlers glow brighter.
“That settles it. We’ll leave this site to these close encounter types. I’ll take the little ones with me, and bring them to your grove when next they gather.”
The pale figure silently applauds.
“I like it. Why do I get the feeling you’ve done this before?”
“They used to call themselves ‘star followers’. I thought the habit passed after we settled the matter.”
“Settled what? With who?”
“Visitors from other suns were getting to be a problem. A short while after the humans got done with their last world war there was the start of a colony on the continent across the ocean. The locals had to call in a dragon – they call them ‘thunderbirds’ over there, did you know? It burned a couple of vessels down and swatted three more. The rest emptied their nearby colony and lit out for friendlier stars.”
“I never knew that. You think these close encounter types are on to something?”
“Not a chance. I’d be more concerned if they were trying to summon elder gods.”
The pale one squeaks delightedly.
“Well, they are alien in the right sense.”
The green one barks a laugh.
“Plus they’re the sort of aliens human governments really should be afraid of.”
“Appropriate, given the scaremongering they’ve been doing in that area.”
“Not amusing.”
The pale one sobers.
“True. I wasn’t ill-wishing. Hey, let’s go and greet the dawn.”
“I’d like that. We’ve not done it together for an age or two.”
Silence returns. Moonlight fades from a deserted clearing.