George felt enthralled and invigorated by the fresh sea air. In the darkness, he could hear his dog snuffling in some grass on the nearby dune.
Gulping in gusts of sea breeze, George stepped down the dune's seaward face towards the waves.
Behind him, on the land side, he left his cares and his worries. Here, despite all the pressures that life could throw at him, George felt some kind of peace.
He crouched, and dug his hand into the sand. His fingertips touched cooler, damper grains which he lifted to the surface, letting them reflect the dim cloudlight as they trickled through his knuckles and back to the ground.
Standing again, he called to his dog and walked further along the beach. It was a delightful evening. Thick clouds bustled across the sky, in turns blotting out and revealing a nearly full moon. The wind, although cool, felt deliciously refreshing and strangely warming. George took great, big, heaving breaths of it and reveled in this almost unknown (to him) feeling of timelessness and relaxation.
George's blissed-out mood perhaps explained why he didn't see the light in the sky. Swooping down towards him from a point just below, and to one side, of the moon, and partially obscured by the clouds, a point of white light moved swiftly towards the beach. It wasn't flying, or floating, so much as - incoming. It arrived very swiftly, growing to a murky blob the size of TV set.
George was looking directly in front of him, out to sea, gazing at the waves and the surf as they crashed gently against the shoreline. He didn't notice the blob at all. It hovered at about house-roof height for a minute or so, then performed a complicated dive down and around George, so that he still wasn't aware of it until he heard his dog bark, then howl.
"Barney!" he cried, turning. "Here boy."
Now he saw the blob, and almost reached for the cellphone in his jacket pocket. But his hand stopped before it got half-way.
His dog had disappeared back over the dunes, back towards the house. George watched, bemused and interested, but not scared, as the murky blob slowly lowered itself to head-height and sat, glowing, a few metres in front of him.
"Um," said George, involuntarily.
An ear-shattering blast of sound came from the ball of light. George's hands jumped, reflexively, to the sides of his head, then lowered. For several moments, nothing more happened.
Then again, more sound, but quieter and this time, unmistakable: "English!"
George reached up and out, towards the light, with one hand. His mouth went, "Uh," and he tried to take a step forward, but found he couldn't. His foot felt like it had merged with the sand.
Again, words: "Which is your lie?"
George didn't understand. He shook his head and tried to explain, but the voice began again before he could make a sound.
"How do interventions proceed when is your time does your people person lie is there purpose have you understand wish talk with parent."
A rapid stream of words, singly understandable, collectively nonsense. George felt worse than useless. Again, he thought of reaching for his cellphone. He could feel its stubby corners touching the roll of middle-aged fat around his middle. With effort, he made his lips move: "I don't understand."
George half expected an exasperated sigh from the blob, but there wasn't one. Instead, it remained silent for a few moments, then said: "We wish to meet your parent."
George smiled. Lots of people said that to him.
"Not daddy parent. Not parent. Wait." Another short silence. Then: "Leader. We wish to meet your leader. Take us to your leader."
Silence. As if through a fuzz of hot barbecue smoke, George understood what was happening. Despite himself, he smiled.
The murky blob of light waited, unmoving. George looked down at his feet, and saw that they really had melted into the sand. For some reason, this just made the whole thing seem funnier. He felt a chuckle rise inside him.
He let loose a great burst of laughter as he turned his head up to the blob, which only made him think how ridiculous it all was, and how on earth he was going explain this to the security guys waiting back at the car.
His laugh became a bellow, and a guffaw, and before he could stop himself George was bent double, clutching his stomach and laughing harder than he could remember laughing for a very long time. He eyes creased up and small tears squeezed out from behind them, trickling down his cheeks and dripping down to the dimly-light sand below.
Only as the chuckles subsided was George able to straighten up - and in doing so, discovered his feet had returned to normal. He staggered back slightly, and fell backwards, landing on his backside with a bump. New gales of giggles overcame him as he tried to wipe his eyes dry with one hand, while balancing his torso with the other resting against the sand.
With a wipe of his hand across his face, he saw that the blob had already moved away, outgoing as swiftly and silently as it had arrived.
Still gasping, he raised a hand up towards it and shouted:
"Wait! No. It's - "
The blob vanished behind a cloud for a second, then re-appeared, even smaller and further away.
"Wait. I - "
But by then the light flicked out, and George was left alone on the beach, one hand buried in the sand behind him, one raised pitifully in front of him, tear-tracks lining his cheeks.
One final hiccup of mirth escaped from his lips, then he lowered his arm and looked around him. The beach was as quiet and as peaceful as it had ever been. There was no sign of his dog, but his cellphone was beeping urgently in his jacket pocket.