A lesson in fixing history
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A Tale from the House of Ashimbabbar
I’d scheduled my arrival for three a.m. local time on 11 January 1900 at what should be a hidden alleyway behind a church in Leonding, Austria, if the historical resources I consulted were correct. When I materialized, it seemed my calculations were right: the dark passageway was deserted and a bell was indeed tolling the proper hour. Along with the satisfaction there was, I admit, disappointment that all the skeptics who had disparaged my theories would never know how wrong they were.
With little time to spare – my mission must be completed and myself returned to this precise location in exactly seventy-three hours three minutes – I made my way cautiously to a less dark street and verified my clothing compared favorably to that of the sparse collection of late-nighters and should not be conspicuous.
The pair of weaving men who greeted me were fortunately too drunk to recognize that my ‘Grüß Gott’ had a slightly different accent than theirs. I corrected my pronunciation and greeted the next passersby without sounding like a stranger.
Having studied the ancient maps so long, by a couple of hours after sunrise I had made my way to the monster’s home with no difficulty. Despite my long years of preparation, I had not anticipated the emotion that overtook me as I stood outside the very house where lived the butcher who had been responsible for so many deaths – and the disgrace that caused my family to forfeit their heritage and change their name to conceal their relationship.
Trying to avoid notice, I walked back and forth on the street for only a few minutes before sitting on low wall ostensibly studying a paper with directions, all the while keeping the house in view.
I was prepared for a long wait, but after only ten or fifteen minutes more the front door opened and two small boys bounded out. As I walked slowly toward them, the shorter addressed the taller as ‘Adolf’ and confirmed my target.
Pushing away my visceral revulsion at harming a happy, seemingly innocent child, I concentrated on the horror he would become and, as the two boys passed, dropped the wallet at his feet. Like any well-brought-up child he picked it up and handed it to me, saying, “Irhe Brieftasche, Herr.”
“Danke schön, mein junger Herr,” I replied, grasping the wallet and squeezing it, dispelling the viral agent onto his hand. He looked at his hand, then shook it, but the virus had already seeped into his bloodstream by then. He was already dead, but no one would know for a couple of weeks. The disease was common and occasionally fatal, but this virus had been modified to ensure it was lethal and would not spread; however, the technology to detect that was a century away.
Despite the necessity of my action, I walked away a murderer of the worst variety – a child-killer. Until time to return to my own world, I roamed the city, trying in vain to find distraction from self-loathing. Although my pockets bulged with concentrated food packs sufficient for my entire stay, I could eat nothing.
Finally, as the seventy-three hours was about to expire, I returned to the dark alley and resumed my arrival position. The darkness blurred for an interval without measure and nausea again seized my stomach. Then the darkness turned to light and I was again within the field of my chronoport machine in my own time.
I spent a few moments in contemplation before turning off the machine, knowing that when the field collapsed, everything of my world would be changed. No one would ever know of my horrid crime, not even me: if I even existed, it would be with no memory of anything in my own former history or the mission to the past: the sin would be erased from my mind if not from my soul. Nobody would have murdered the child who would have become the monster Hitler, the egomaniac who damned his own family when he caused over a quarter million deaths – including that of the renowned artist and architect, his own brother Adolf – in his senseless rebellion against the Weimar republic. No one would ever know of the misery that was prevented when enhanced measles from the future killed young Edmund Hitler.