“I guess we should be happy for Germany. Britain is taken, Russia about to fall, with the help of the Japanese. All that is left is the Americans. We’ll win there too, by the end of the year. The Fuehrer, though a lunatic, has managed to do the unimagined,” said Hans in German, sipping his hot coffee in the local café.
“But at what cost? The psychopath already thinks he is above the world. All he does is give speeches and poison the minds of these dimwitted fools. I find it simply sick. Who gives the man the right to just eradicate a whole community of people? And what’s the reason that he gives? That they are inferior to the Aryans? That’s the most absurd thing I have heard in my all my life!” replied Klaus, his only friend in the world. Not because he was a social freak, but because he had lost all his friends in the war.
It was a usual day in the café, the year 1947. For about a year, all, the people of Paris and surrounding areas saw, were the Nazis. The Nazis were waiting to continue their assault on retreating American forces. After the capture of Europe and the fall of Britain, Germany was clearly going to be the victor in the war. The Nazi fleet was destroying American fleets as they retreated. Hans and Klaus were Nazi soldiers, part of the troops that would be sent to America. All the Nazis were waiting for, was the news of Moscow’s imminent fall and the change of focus to America.
“You know how many friends I lost?” continued Klaus. “Remember Hirsh and Joseph and Hermann and Peter. They fought on our side. They lost with us, they won with us, they served their country. And how do we repay them. By wiping out their kind?” said Klaus angrily.
“And this is isn’t the first time. Remember when the Europeans took out the Red Indians, or when they cleared out the native Australians. I hope we could go back and fix this insanity,” added Hans.
“You are not suggesting, what I think you are suggesting, right?”
“I am not suggesting anything. What I am saying is that we take action. We both know that this path the world is heading on is probably going to get worse. I say we change it,” Klaus added. Hans looked at him perplexed.
Hans got up, slamming the table, dropping his coffee on his uniform. “You are not doing anything that stupid. You know you can set the future on an even darker path if you change what has already happened. Reverting small things in our petty lives is fine, but changing the course of history is insane. Plus, there is no way you can do it alone,” said Hans loudly.
“Hey, quiet! No need to attract unnecessary attention. And, by the way, I won’t be alone. You will help me,” said Klaus.
“I am NOT helping you in any…”
“Is there a problem sir?” the waitress asked approaching the table, worried by the commotion Hans and Klaus created.
“No dear, everything is fine. My friend was just angry as he spilt his coffee. I apologize for the commotion.”
“Look, I understand that the last time we tried to go big with changing the past, we messed up. But you must realize that nothing can be worse than Hitler being on top,” Klaus said trying to calm Hans down. “Last time we tried to change the past in a big way, it did not go well. We are mentally not ready to make such huge changes,” replied Hans.
“Look, I realize that. But let us at least try, just this one last time. Help me out to save the world. Do it for all the Jews Hitler has killed. Do it for your friends. Do it for Frieda,” replied Klaus.
“Firstly, the “save the world” line was pretty cheesy. And secondly, you already had got me on ‘do it for the Jews’. And kindly do not bring Frieda up again,” answered Hans annoyed.
“It was Frieda that got you, isn’t it?” said Klaus taunting Hans. “Yes, ok, it was Frieda. Let’s do this!” replied Hans confidently. “Look, we both know that we won’t fully be able to save everyone, but we know that many more would die if we don’t do anything,” reminded Klaus. “Yeah I know. Let’s hope for the best and do this!”
Hans and Klaus sat in their chairs and closed their eyes. They seemed like they were meditating. They needed to concentrate. It wasn’t easy to change the past. But Hans and Klaus were used to it. After all, they used it for small little things all the time.
They opened their eyes to find that the café was being bombarded, half of it was demolished and the other half was on fire. “What on earth were you thinking of? Did you not focus on the drift?” questioned Hans, taking cover under the table.
“I think I was probably thinking of killing the Nazis. Sorry, couldn’t think anything else!” replied Klaus, ducking under the table himself.
Drift was basically a way for them to shift timelines. They would think of what they want to change in the present timeline and jump to a new one created by them. They would travel back and forth in time, but would shift timelines in doing so.
After the drift, they found themselves in July of 1946. Apparently, they were in the middle of the last hold of the Americans in Paris. The Nazis were bombing the city, where the Americans were held up. The change they made in their drift meant that the Americans were still holding the Nazis back for another six months than they did earlier.
“What do we do now?” asked Hans. “We have to drift again. Try to think of peace and tranquility this time. Maybe that way we can at least escape this battle. We will think of another way to solve the problem once we are in more peaceful time and there is no war,” replied Klaus.
A Nazi bomber was flying over the city and dropped bombs over the café. Hans and Klaus quickly closed their eyes and concentrated on their drift and found themselves on their chairs again.
“Why did you close your eyes, dear? Is the coffee too strong?” asked a sweet voice.
“Oh! Hi! Frieda. I didn’t know you were sitting there!” replied a surprised Hans.
“What do you mean you forgot? We have been drinking coffee, you suddenly close your eyes like something stung you, and now you are telling me you forgot I was here?” asked Frieda angrily.
“I didn’t mean that. And I think you are right. My head is aching a little. Frieda, can you please get some water for me,” said Hans in a shaky voice. Frieda nodded and got up to get the water.
“When I said peaceful, I did not mean resurrecting your dead wife,” said Klaus sternly.
“That was the most peaceful thought that came to my mind, don’t blame me,” replied Hans.
Frieda came back with a glass of water. She gave it to Hans. “Thank you, my dear,” Hans said taking the water from her.
“So Frieda, what do you think about the war?” asked Klaus, who wanted to know where they had ended up this time. “Well I am pretty happy with it, if you ask me. The stupid Americans have been chased all the way back from where they came. I hope Hitler and Churchill win and bring peace to Europe,” replied Frieda.
“What do you mean Hitler and Churchill?” asked a bewildered Klaus.
“What do you mean ‘Hitler and Churchill’? Did you start losing your memory too? They signed the pact,” replied Frieda annoyed.
“Well for Mister-he-who-lost-his-memory, it is 10am, 5th of January, 1946 and 2 years after the pact was signed that changed the course of war. How can you not know the pan European pact against America and Russia? Have you had too much coffee like your friend here?” asked Frieda.
“I might as well have,” replied Klaus. “Hey, I need to go to the restroom. Do you know where it is?” asked Hans. “Really? Did the mention of war make you too scared, dear?” asked Frieda jokingly.
Klaus jumped in “Oh, it must have. I don’t think you should go there alone. You may fall half way, with the over dose of coffee. I will take you.”
Klaus took Hans to the restroom. They stopped at the door. “So I think we should plan first, and then think about changing anything,” said Klaus.
“Do whatever you want to do. Let me do my job first,” replied Hans, looking very desperate now.
“Oh, you really do want to go. I thought that was just a way to discuss our next move. Move. Move. Move. I will think of something till then,” said Klaus, trying not to laugh. Hans made his way into the toilet. Klaus began to think about their next move.
“Ok. All I want you to think of is death and Hitler.”
“But why, what will you concentrate on?” asked Hans. “Don’t worry I have a good idea,” assured Klaus.
They returned to the table, did not say anything to Frieda, who was eagerly waiting for them. They sat down and closed their eyes.
“What is this synchronized closing of eyes you both have going on. You do know it is a stupid concept for tim…”
They opened their eyes. This time they were not greeted by familiar faces of friends, or that of the war. The café was empty and the streets cleared. Hans and Klaus were confused. All they heard was a kind of siren.
They made their way onto the street and heard the noise of a plane. They looked up and saw a Nazi plane in the sky. It was a huge plane, probably the biggest they had seen. As the plane made its way through the sky, it dropped what looked like a small ball.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Hans, who was frozen with fear. “Yes, it is exactly what you think it is! Quickly! Think of just about anything!” they both closed their eyes. This time they concentrated like they had never before. The imminent threat of the nuclear bomb exploding at anytime helped them with that. The bomb went off, but they were able to avoid it just in time.
They opened their eyes and were relieved to be alive. “What the hell were you thinking?” asked a breathless Klaus.
“Well the terms death and Hitler do not give you much to think about. So I probably may or may not have thought about, you know, Hitler dropping a bomb to destroy Paris. That makes sense,” replied Hans.
“No, that totally does not make sense. You probably thought that Hitler would drop a nuclear bomb on Nazi-occupied Europe? You know he has won, right? Why in the world would he drop a nuclear bomb on his own territory?” said Klaus sarcastically.
Hans and Klaus were speaking very loudly. Their conversation, this time, had attracted the attention of the soldiers on the surrounding tables raising many eyeballs. What had attracted their interest was the fact that Hans and Klaus were conversing in German. And that too on American territory.
The soldiers got up, holding their rifles, pointing them at Hans and Klaus. “Whoa! Hold on guys! We are interpreters, just brushing up our German!” Klaus said quickly, realizing that the soldiers were American. Klaus was pretty good at English, and had a convincing American accent.
“Is that so? Where are you from soldier?” asked an officer, who seemed to be in charge.
“Well I am John, err. Johnson and this is my brother Peter Johnson. We are from Ohio.” replied Klaus. “What about you?” asked the officer pointing at Hans. Hans knew English as much as the Americans knew German. All he knew was ‘hello’, ‘sorry’ and ‘desert’ of all things.
Hans opened his mouth and said just one word of the three “desert”. The Americans looked confused and impatient.
Klaus quickly said “He served in Africa for 2 years,” He had no knowledge about the African battles and just hoped against all hope that this would work. The officer came towards Hans took his hand, shook it and said “Good job soldier. I am glad you were one of the troops to take Africa.”
Every one sat back in their chairs. Hans, who was pretty confused at what had happened, just sat down without another word. He had exhausted his English vocabulary for the day. As for Klaus, he was just glad that they had dodged, quite literally, another bullet. “So, I guess the Americans are winning. I think that is good. Right?” said Klaus, reverting back to German.
A soldier hurriedly came in the café and shouted with great happiness “Hitler is dead. News came in from command that he committed suicide in his bunker”. The whole café erupted with joy and cheers of victory. “The war is now all but won,” the soldier continued.
“That’s your confirmation. So I guess ‘Death’, ‘Hitler’ did work. But what about the Jews?” asked Hans. “I guess with Hitler dead, at least some of them will survive.” said Hans with hope.
Unlike what Hans and Klaus had seen in their past in their many time drifts and escapades, the Jews had survived. The Americans and the Russians had joined forces and had won the war. The Russians were able to capture Berlin. Hitler was dead. The Japanese surrendered after the nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war.
Many Jews lost their lives in concentration camps. But many survived to start a new life. A life that they never had imagined they would get. Hans and Klaus were successful in setting the world on a better path, than what they had seen.
Hans and Klaus parted ways after the war, to settle down and for once not change time. All they had to do was close their eyes and concentrate.
by Faiz Ahmed, Amity Mayur Vihar
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