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Miranda, Joe, and the Little Green Man

Miranda waddled into our cabin, something green and many-limbed squirming in her arms.
"Dammit, Randy!" I grabbed my sidearm. "What have I told you about bringing critters into the house?"
She dropped the thing on the floor and closed the door behind her.
"But, Pa! This one talks!"
I looked at the thing. It didn't really look like any of the mutants we've seen running around since The Big One fell back after JFK got elected for a second term and got Brezhnev all heated up.
Its limbs--eight, I thought I counted--wriggled around in the air and on the floor of the cabin. Whatever the hell it was, it sure wasn't something native to the good ol' US of A.
"Talks, eh? Ask it what you put over a house."
Miranda scrunched up her face. Well, of course she wouldn't get it. That joke was old back when I was her age.
"I believe, good sir, the answer is a roof."
I nearly shot the damn thing out of pure surprise.
"You do talk?"
"Think I oughta have said DiMaggio?"
I sat down.
"See, Pa! I think it's a little green man!" Randy had been born a year after the war but she'd read through my old comics and pulp magazines that we had here in the cabin--they'd been the only things I had to teach her to read with. Her momma would've had a fit if she knew, but hell, I'd live through a thousand of Grace's fits if it meant I had her back with me. We hadn't exactly planned Randy--didn't even know we could have kids given all the years of trying and failing. Grace had been so damned excited even with the world all gone to hell. But she got real sick right after Miranda had been born. She died three days later but I swear she looked happier holding baby Miranda than I'd seen her in many a year.
"I am little by your standards," the critter said, pulling me back to the present. "Though rather large by those of my species. And I'm demonstrably green. But I am most certainly not a man."
"Well what are you?" I asked.
The creature made a sizzling noise with its mouth. "It would be hard for you to understand. Imagine if you had not just male and female but a third sex as well; I would then be a mixture of the female and third sexes."
"I mean what type of critter are you. Where are you from?"
It uttered several syllables which meant nothing to me. It sounded sort of like "Schnitzel-Bockrel-Krung" though that's probably not really very close...
"It's a planet orbiting a star approximately four light years from here. I was sent when the radioactivity from what your planet has called its 'Great War' was detected. I'm here to help."
So, yeah, a little green man... or whatever. And he'd certainly made good time getting to Earth seeing as how Miranda had just turned eleven.
"How do you think you can help us? We did a pretty good job of making a mess of things or didn't you notice?"
"That's precisely the point. Do you think your planet is the first one to discover fusion and fission weapons? Hundreds of worlds have done so. Some make it through the period of discovery without destroying themselves. Others do not."
The alien tumbled along the floor, closer to me.
"The thing is, pretty much every species that discovers these weapons knows they are too fearful to use on a massive scale. But all it takes is one mistake. That's what happened here, isn't it?"
I shrugged. "I suppose. They'd been yapping for years and never actually got to firing."
"Well," the alien said. "I have the capacity to.... The physics are beyond me, honestly, so I'm sure they're beyond you. No offense."
"None taken."
"Right. I have a device that can.... Let's call it rewind time. To back before the incident that sparked the war, so it can be prevented."
I laughed. "Who's going to prevent it? Me? Joe Wyland, autoworker from Cleveland.... Uh, Mr. President, you might not want to start a shooting war with the Russkies? Come on."
The thing made that weird sizzling noise again. When it spoke, I caught an edge of annoyance in its voice. "You don't have to do anything, Joe Wyland, auto worker from Cleveland, but accept my species' offer. We'll wind time back to well before the incident, a good three or four of your days. But when things start up again, they're not deterministic. They won't happen the same way twice. And ninety-three percent of the time, the conflict does not recur."
"And all I have to do is say yes?"
"Why me?"
"Our policy is to give the offer to a random adult from the affected planet. My ship landed near you. Admittedly, I was going to head toward the nearest large city but your daughter's apprehension of me rendered that plan moot."
I looked at the alien.
"So I say yes, and the world goes back to February of 1965 and I just hope that the war doesn't happen again?"
"You won't be aware, Joe Wyland. You'll just be doing whatever you had been doing on that day. The past twelve years simply won't have happened. Yet."
I'd be back in the little house we had in Parma, going to work at the Ford plant. Coming home to Grace and Rex, the dog we had back then.
Miranda had lost interest in our conversation. She was reading an old issue of Superman for the hundredth or so time.
"Things won't happen the same way, you said?"
"Things won't happen precisely the same way, no. As time goes on the variances from this timeline would become more pronounced but, as I said, you wouldn't be aware of the changes at all. You'd just go on living your life, just like it was back then. More or less."
Me. Grace. Rex. But no Miranda.
I nodded. "Well, I guess there's only one thing I can do then."
I whipped my gun arm up and shot the alien son-of-a-bitch that wanted to take my daughter away from me right between the eyes.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, May 20th, 2016
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