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A Gift From the Little Green Man

by Nik Perring

‘I was given the meaning of life by a little green man when I was boy at college. The year was 1952, and my one regret in all those years is not showing it to anyone, so now I’d like to give it to you, son.

‘The night was clear and I could see more stars than ever before as I looked up at the night from my back garden. The air was cool, and I was glad I’d been asked to take out the rubbish by my mum. It gave me the opportunity to see them, shining, twinkling, pulsating, sparkling, up there, more miles away than I could comprehend. And for those few minutes, they were mine. They were there only for me.

‘As I stood there, my feet cold in my slippers, I had a thought. If you could wish upon a star and your wish could come true, what would happen if you wished on all of them at the same time, or had a separate wish for every separate shimmering ball of gas hanging from the night. And then I thought about what my wish would be, and decided it would be to understand. To know.

‘I took that thought with me when I went to my bed. My covers pulled up to my chin, I lay on my back, peeking through the small gap, between the curtains and the window, at the wondrous night.

‘And then a different sort of twinkle. A red twinkle which turned into a red sheet. And then a mechanical hiss, growing louder with each new second. I sat up and regarded the window and the curtains, the latter of which had started to rustle and the former begun to shake.

‘And then the curtains parted, the window swung open, and a little green man appeared.

‘And then I heard him. In my head. His lips, thin like lime wedges, did not move. His eyes, like marbles did not blink. He was asking if he could come in.

Yes, I thought. Yes, come in.

‘He glided onto my carpet and stood by the foot of my bed, his marble-eyes upon me. And he was still.

‘When I wondered what he wanted and who he was he spoke. Again his lips were still but his voice was clear.

‘He had come from a far away place; from a planet revolving around a star so distant it would never been seen from earth. His name was Knowledge.

‘When I wondered why he was here, why he’d travelled across the universe, through space unimaginable, he told me that he had brought a gift; he had brought me the meaning of life, the secret, and with it I would know; I would understand life.

‘The Little Green Man put pictures in my head. But they were not any old pictures, these were memories. Happy memories, vivid memories, sweet memories. My memories. Memories that made me smile a smile that stretched from one ear to the other.

‘He gave me my gift and left.

‘And once I’d shut the window and smiled some more I put the gift, the meaning of life, in a box.

‘I took it out every now and again, but not all that often and every time I did, and looked at it, it contained more. I looked at it when I was down or unhappy and it would cheer me up, raise my spirits and remind me. Sometimes I’d look at it just for the hell of it. Because I could. Because it was my gift from the little green man.

‘One of the few benefits of being old is having hindsight. I can see now that I was wrong. I made a mistake. I kept the box and the meaning of life inside it for myself. I never spoke a word about it to anyone. Not my father, my mother, my friends. I could have gone to the church with it, to the government, the radio, the TV to the world. But I didn’t. I kept it to myself and for myself. And now I want you to have it, son.’

The old man forced himself out of his wicker chair and shuffled over to the cabinet upon which he kept the crystal decanter, tray and glasses, and his favourite framed photographs. He pulled out one of the drawers and took out a small wooden box.

Then, as his son looked on with wide eyes and mouth to match, he opened it and pulled out what was inside. ‘There you go, son,’ he said.

‘Dad. It’s a mirror.’

The old man smiled. ‘I know. Look at it and tell me what you see.’

Copyright © 2007 by Nik Perring

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