A short story, on a thought that crossed my mind recently:
It’s not supposed to be this way.
I was trying to save lives and make the world a better place, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Really, things weren’t all that bad to begin with. The Soviet Union was gone, and while the Russians were trying to stir things up here and there, especially in Iran and Syria, that was more them trying to regain lost glory than actually working against anything in particular the United States was doing. Terrorism was a dying force, after we had sent bin Ladin to the bottom of the sea, and while the world’s economy was still a bit shaky, things were looking up. But no…..that wasn’t good enough. I had to go and try to make things “better”. Me and my time machine. I should have taken the hint from those old classic movies, the Back to the Future series, and destroyed the thing before I started messing with the timeline. Doc Brown was right about time machines, they create nothing but pain. Pain for me, and for billions of others.
And it’s all my fault.
A common theme in science fiction time travel stories, and ethics classes, is the idea that if you could go back and kill Hitler, would you? Think of all the lives you could save, if he had never existed. Or you could go back and kill his mother or father, and prevent his birth. I always thought that was an odd way to look at it, and perhaps reflective of the violent nature of our culture. We always talked about going back and killing Hitler or one of his parents, but nobody seems to have considered that violence isn’t necessary. All that is required is to prevent conception of that particular egg and sperm. You don’t need to kill anyone, you just have to keep Mrs. Hitler from being impregnated. That only requires a window of about a week, where you have to stop her from engaging in sex. Keep Mr. Hitler (or the baby-daddy on the odd chance he’s not actually Adolf’s sperm donor) away from Mrs. Hitler during the correct week or two, or simply prevent them from having sex, and viola! No Adolf. It seemed like the perfect idea. And it worked. God, did it work…
Late July 1888. The time machine set me down outside a small town in Austria. I tracked down Maria, his mother, and kept a watchful eye on her. I learned her habits, who her friends were, and generally tried to figure out the best way to keep her from her moment of destiny. Since I had no way of knowing which “moment” would be the one that would lead the world into it’s Hitler nightmare, I had to figure out some way to keep them apart for at least a couple of weeks. More, if possible, since I had no way to know exactly when conception would happen. This is the first example of where some planning ahead of time might have been wise. I had left my time with only a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish, never considering how I might actually carry out the feat.
I did try to keep a low profile. While I was trying to change the future, I wanted to keep the interference limited to strictly interrupting that one particular ovulation and fertilization. I was hoping that my actions would simply remove Adolf from the picture, and the world could stumble through the problems of the 1930’s and 40’s without his being there to influence anything. That was my second mistake. I’m not a historian, and I should have talked to one. I don’t know how I would have broached the idea, however. How serious would anyone have taken a thought experiment to see what would happen if Hitler was not part of the tableau? It’s a moot point, since I did not consider it. I simply jumped at the chance to rid the world of the madman who created the Third Reich.
The details of how I accomplished my task aren’t very relevant, now. Suffice it to say that a few words here, some gossip among her friends there, flowers delivered at an inopportune moment, and a domestic squabble that lasted long enough to accomplish my goal worked. The Hitlers spent the months of August and September 1888 in separate houses, and Adolf never happened. Mission accomplished! Or so I thought.
What I neglected to take into consideration at the time I concocted this idiotic scheme was, what might happen without Hitler’s presence? The forces that were driving Germany after WW 1 were still present. The social movements of the times still happened, political and economic unrest still occurred, and now there was no Adolf to take advantage of events. That does not mean, however, that certain forces never expressed themselves. The men who surrounded him were still there, they still had their dreams and schemes, and there were still means to accomplish them. Removing Hitler from the scene did not stop the formation of the NAZI party, it just formed a bit differently. Different leaders, different steps leading to the rise of the party, but the forces were still there, pushing things along. Without Hitler, things actually went worse. Now, I’m not saying having Hitler was a good thing, but without him, things went far worse than with him, it just took a little longer.
As best as I can determine, here’s what happened. Without Hitler at the helm, Germany’s invasion of Europe was slower, and better thought out. While they invaded and conquered Poland just like before, there was no later headlong rush into Russia just before winter. France fell, and Germany focused on consolidating it’s gains in Europe, strengthening it’s hold. North Africa was no match for the NAZI machine, the UK was relentlessly pounded, and German diplomats kept the USA complacent and on the sidelines. When Japan attacked at Pearl Harbor, all of the attention of the US was focused on the Pacific. Germany worked behind the scenes to assist Japan, and promised a “super weapon” to destroy their enemies once and for all. All the while, they feverishly worked on their V2 program, and the A bomb. By 1945, Germany had the bomb and a rocket to deliver it. London was the first city to be bombed, Moscow the second. After that, Germany made quick work of the rest of the world. Since Von Braun and his team never came to the US, our country’s rocket program languished, with progress coming too slow to challenge the V2, and later versions that never happened in my timeline. With the A bomb, and their V series rockets to carry them, Germany conquered the world.
It turns out Hitler’s presence kept Germany from accomplishing the steps it would have needed to win the war. Without him, saner, cooler heads prevailed, and Germany won. By preventing his birth, I made it possible for the NAZIs to win the war. London, Moscow, Washington, D.C., Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney are all radioactive wastelands now. The swastika flies over every nation on the planet.
I’m going to use the machine, one more time. This time I’m taking a gun. It’s the only way I can think of to end this nightmare, and put the world back to rights. I’m not going to kill Hitler, I’m going to kill myself. I’m going to intercept myself just after I arrived in 1888, and stop the interference. It’s an insane twist on the grandfather paradox, but I don’t see any other way to prevent this terrible result. Adolf Hitler must live.