Third Time Lucky
by Gwydion M. Williams
Twice, I could have changed history. And hesitated.
In 2015, I got lost in a cave under a Welsh mountain. Emerged in Sweden 1915.
I had a laptop, mobile etc. Passed myself off as a Hyperborean to some convenient eccentrics who included a few English-speakers.
I could not stop the World War, and did not try.
I remembered Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising, but did nothing. I could have saved some lives, but maybe also prevented the Irish Republic that they’d been ready to die for. That existed and honoured them, in the world I’d come from. Had it been otherwise, would it have been a better world or a worse one? I was not sure enough to act.
In 1917, Lenin passed through Sweden. This surprised me: I’d suppose he could go straight up the Baltic after crossing Germany, but it seems not. He was going up through neutral Sweden and then down to Petrograd via Russian-ruled Finland. My friends, who had a few contacts in the government, asked if he should be locked up. Or even assassinated – they also knew criminals.
I thought about it and said no. Living in the 1910s even in neutral and well-governed Sweden had taught me how many of the conventional ideas of 2015 would seem dangerously radical back then. And how convenient it was to be a heterosexual white male when others were much worse treated. If I stopped the dangerous radicals of 1917 vintage getting their own state, what would that do to the world I grew up in?
But there were other sorts of dangerous radicalism that I didn’t care for. In 1926, my cranky friends hosted Herman Goering. I was going to avoid him. But then I had a bright idea.
We had a long and very private talk. I boosted my Hyperborean image by telling him of the 1929 crash, and the mass unemployment that would bring his party to power. I had no idea how I could prevent that, and at first it was no worse a government than Franco’s Spain or Pinochet’s Chile. But Hitler didn’t know when to stop. Blundered into a war he could have avoided easily. And I had a hazy notion that Goering had been much more cautious.
He took me seriously. And mentioned that just between ourselves, he as a member of the Red Baron’s elite air squadron had seen that arm of Germany’s War-Machine shattered, and the ‘Red Baron’ himself killed. He felt that Germany would not have lasted long even without the Social-Democrats taking power and then surrendering. Another war might be just as bad, and he would try to avoid it. Would stay in touch.
I agreed, but had worries when he did get in touch after the Wall Street crash happened. I knew enough about weapons and war to maybe let Nazism win, which I did not want. Among other things, I might have mentioned that the heavy Soviet tanks would prove superior and had Germany copy them long before they actually did. I would not intentionally say such things. But if I refused aid, I might be kidnapped and forced to Tell All. I had dropped my fancy electronics into a volcano on a trip to Hawaii, but I could not wipe out my dangerous knowledge.
By now, I was rich from various projects, including being the anonymous ‘inventor’ and marketer of Cluedo, Trivial Pursuits, and Dungeons and Dragons. I vanished, faking my own death and with most of my money placed under false names. I took up a new identity in an amiably corrupt part of Latin America. Sat back and waited to see what might happen.
Adolph Hitler was assassinated in 1938.
It is now 1943. Goering is a brutal thug, but has kept peace. Killed no Jews. There are even rumours that those who’ve not been driven out may get their citizenship restored. And with no war, a teenage girl called Anna Frank ought to grow up and become a novelist, though it may not be anything worth reading.
Third time lucky, I figure.