The boat slowed and eased towards the shore. The torch that the captain was holding illuminated the truck on the shore and the waiting men, each of them holding a rifle. The soldiers were surrounded by enormous moths, with white wings, their wings flashing reflected light. A magical cloud, attracted to the light, bumping up against the soldiers’ uniforms and weapons, dusting them with scales. Some of the soldiers, and only very occasionally, waved their hands or weapons in front of their faces, trying to chase the moths away.
The creatures in the boat saw the moths and recalled the dryads of home, their leaves catching the light as they danced. Transformed into and out of themselves. In their memories, it was spring, and the trees were a wash of pale blossoms. They remembered walking through drifts of those petals. Recalled the scent and the sense of movement. Of being encased in magic.
But their home was no longer beautiful. There were bombs, and no trees. Craters, and no burrows. The forests had burned, and the bodies of their beloved hung from the ruined trees. Who could dance in such a place? Who could sing?
They had left in the dark. They had taken only what they could carry. Some of them had drowned on the journey, or cut their wrists, or turned towards the wall and died. Those who survived were hopeful. They had made it this far; they were travellers, strangers. A host always opened their doors, gave travellers the best seat, the best wine. Made up a bed of clean sheets and a soft pillow. A host always opened their heart to the possibility of friendship.
They mistook the party on the shore, therefore, for friends.
They saw the moths, and not the guns.