Author : Bob Newbell

It’s been a subjective month since we changed history. It feels like ten years. In reality, an infinitesimal fraction of a second has passed for us in the Stopwatch. That’s the unofficial and pathetically unoriginal name some smart aleck gave to the Temporal Exclusion Facility shortly before we started our experiment.

“Another report,” says a tired-looking undergrad to me as another anomaly dispatch pops up on the holodisplay.

Martin Luther tweets Ninety-Five Theses

Getting closer, I silently say to myself. I think back to how it all began. We were warned by both our fellow students and the faculty not to try this experiment. It would never work, they admonished us, but it might damage university equipment. They were wrong.

It had started as a late night, alcohol-fueled brainstorming session: What if the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had admitted Adolph Hitler? He had no artistic talent, of course. He had been rightly rejected by the Academy. But what if someone had persuaded the powers that be to admit him anyway? Perhaps through the inducement of a large donation to the Academy? Or maybe just a large donation to the ones who determine who got admitted? Could the nightmare of World War II and the cold and hot wars that resonated on from it be avoided? There was a way to find out.

“Report!” says the undergrad.

American and Confederate Presidents meet at the Mason-Dixon Wall

“So we’re back to just the USA and the CSA? The Pacific States of America is gone?” I ask. “What about Canada?”

“Canada is back,” says the undergrad. “It’s no longer part of the USA and its borders are more or less like they’re were originally.”

More progress. Maybe we’ll pull this off yet. I think back to the first night. World War II had been averted. Millions of lives had been saved. But then we’d discovered it had only been delayed, not eliminated. A Second World War had begun in 1951. And this one quickly escalated into a nuclear conflict. We went back and tried to undo our original intervention. The original World War II was restored, but this time the Third Reich didn’t try to invade Russia. Able to concentrate all its military effort on the western front, Nazi Germany survived the war intact.

July 20, 1969: Buzz Aldrin becomes first man to walk on the Moon

“Okay,” I say. “So Aldrin stepped out before Armstrong. That’s fine. Don’t try to correct that.”

“We’ve got a problem,” says another student from across the control room. “The Soviet Union didn’t fall in the late 20th Century. Looks like the USA and USSR have a limited nuclear exchange in 2003. But it doesn’t escalate into a full-scale global war.”

“We can’t let that stand,” I say. “We need an intervention that will weaken the Soviets so the USSR collapses in 1991 like it’s supposed to.”

For thirty days and nights we’ve been endlessly intervening in history, a nudge here, a great shove there, trying to restore the timeline.


“Have we succeeded?” I ask.

“Checking,” says one of my fellow students.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said you can never step twice into the same river. A complete restoration will never be possible. But maybe this time we’re close enough. Maybe this time…

A chorus of moans erupts among the others.

“What?!” I yell.

A new report pops up on my holodisplay:


I punch the display. The ephemeral words scintillate around my fist.

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