A Short Piece of Fiction Inspired by an Allegedly Authentic Photo of an Infantile Hitler that I Found On the Internet
I leaned over the edge of the crib and peered down at the sleeping child. He had a thick head of black hair but was otherwise unremarkable. I hadn't necessarily expected anything different.
I glanced at my watch. 2:08 AM. I had four minutes.
Next to the crib was an old rocking chair that winced as I eased my way into it. I rocked gently back and forth, thinking of nothing in particular. I pulled my gun out of my vest and turned it over in my hands, making sure it was loaded. I didn't have much experience with guns. I wouldn't need it for my purposes.
I idly pointed the gun at various objects around the room. First at the bookcase on the left wall, then towards the open window on the right. We were on the ground floor of the house and the back yard stretched out from the window, culminating in a forest three to four hundred yards behind the house. The world was silent and unmoving outside the window, save for a slight breeze that gently disturbed the curtains as it trickled into the bedroom.
My watch now read 2:11. I stood up from the chair and walked to the center of the room. I raised the gun to eye level, pointed it directly in front of me, and waited.
At 2:12, the air in front of my gun began to thicken and shake. At first it looked like the shimmering liquid of far off asphalt on a hot day, but eventually it began to smooth out and coalesce. The little bit of moonlight let in from the window began to reflect off of the amorphous forms of indiscriminate particulate matter slowly materializing out of the air. After what seemed like minutes, but was only a few seconds, the matter began to take shape, rounding itself in parts and elongating itself in others. As if I closed my eyes, rubbed them, and then opened them again, the matter began to fuzzily intersect together into a human form. And then, as soon as it began, the air was still and clear. In the center of the room stood a man of about 6 feet. My gun was poised inches from his face. I spoke.
"Hello. Please put your weapon on the ground."
The man's eyes widened at the sight of me and he stumbled backward into the wall behind him.
"Your weapon, please."
He straightened and met my gaze. I must admit that I was impressed by the speed with which he regained his composure.
He slowly and deliberately reached behind his back and removed a large knife, which he placed on the floor. He raised his hands and stood upright once more and regarded me curiously.
"You speak excellent English," he said.
"Thank you." I said as I moved toward him, holding my gun steady.
"Your accent . . you're American."
I was now within arm's length of him and began patting him down, holding my gun to his forehead.
"What is an armed American doing in a nursery room in the middle of rural Austria-Hungary at a quarter past two in the morning?" he said.
I brushed my hand on the outside of his left pocket and, finding nothing, moved over to the right. From it, I removed a small vial of clear liquid and held it in front his face.
"I could ask you the same question," I said as I pocketed the vial and backed away from him slowly. "But then, we both already know the answer to that."
"Who are you?" he said. "You are not supposed to be here."
I held the gun steady. I could almost hear his brain working to make sense of the situation, trying to discern which variables he had left unaccounted for. I broke the silence.
"Did you ever doubt whether you'd be able to do it?"
He was defiant. "If you knew what this infant would grow up to be, you would not hesitate to kill him yourself."
"I know of the child. I know he will one day be directly responsible for the murders of nearly 11 million innocent people."
The man's eyes narrowed and he looked at me knowingly.
"Who are you?" he said.
"Unimportant. But I know who you are. You're Hank Morgan, born March 15th, 2086 in Suffolk, Virginia. You alternately studied and taught physics from 2104 to 2118, splitting your time between Oxford and The City College of New York. In 2119, you became employed by the government of the United Kingdom. Ten years later, you travelled back in time to this moment in 1900 and poisoned the infant behind me."
Mr. Morgan said nothing. He regarded me intensely, thoughtfully. I kept the gun trained on his head and I began to perspire at the strain of it.
"It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Morgan. You are unknown to all but a handful of men in my time, but thought very highly of by those who are aware of your existence."
My body tensed as I tightened my grip on my weapon.
"Your time . . . I had not considered this." he said. "You mean to kill me, then?"
I began to press down the trigger.
"I would assume, in 'your' time, that you've discovered how to get back?"
I hesitated. He had his answer.
"I see," he said. "We thought it impossible in my time. Not everything has changed, then."
It was my turn to be silent. His hands remained raised.
"So you would murder me, then? Thus removing your last link to your own time?"
"You are neither more nor less of my time than anyone else here."
He considered this.
"So you style yourself of this time, now?"
"I am of this time now, as are you, there is no choice."
"Then you would spare the child and watch him grow to terrorize the world around you? Watch this time be plunged into war and despair, knowing that you could have prevented it? The blood will surely be on your hands as much as his."
"I know what happens if he dies! You can't imagine the horrors you visited upon my time with your ill-considered decision to murder him."
"Your time? Did you not say that we are of this time now? You will never know the fate of those who remain in your old time, if they do remain at all. What other decisions will you make as you live your life in this time that will alter the causality chain leading to your original time? You cannot possibly know, therefore, you must determine your actions and ethics as a man of this time and indeed of this very instant while the chain is still reasonably unadulterated. We must kill the infant now and save the people of this time! Rationally, that can be our only imperative. And then, together, we will focus on saving your time for the rest of our days."
"No. I am here to return the causality chain to its original state. There will be no further action on my part beyond that, I will disrupt nothing."
"Then you will kill yourself after you kill me."
"You're a madman! You can never know the long-term results of your actions! Your plan is --"
I moved swiftly towards him and in one motion, swung the butt of my gun into his temple, knocking him unconscious. I then put my arms around him and lowered him gently to the floor, cradling his head in my hand.
Mercifully, he did not bleed; there would be nothing to clean. I produced the vial of poison from my pocket and brought it to his lips, emptying the entire contents into his mouth and down his throat.
The poison acted quickly. I held him fast as his body convulsed once, twice, and then was still. He was dead.
I picked up his knife, which still laid on the floor where he had placed it, and secured it safely in my vest. I then hefted his lifeless body, slung him over my shoulder and moved toward the window. I gingerly placed him on the ground outside the window and then climbed out myself. I picked him up once again and carried him off into the woods behind the house.
I walked through the trees for three hours until the sun began to rise. I found a clearing and, with the help of Morgan's knife, dug a five foot grave into which I rolled the corpse, the knife and the vial of poison. I packed in dirt around the body, filled in the grave, and spread some leaves and pine straw over the top to conceal it. I was exhausted.
I staggered over to a nearby tree, slumped against it, and produced the gun from my vest. I raised the gun to my temple.
I held it there for hours, unable or perhaps just unwilling to pull the trigger. My eyelids grew heavy and I eventually drifted off to sleep. I awoke the next morning in an all-encompassing state of spatial and temporal disorientation. I looked down at my right hand to find it still clutching the gun, which I returned to its holster in my vest. I thought of my old time and wondered what changes my actions had wrought.
I stood up and looked around. The forest seemed to stretch forever in all directions.
Perhaps I could find a way out.