Tuesday Night Fiction – Fall of ’63

Here’s a short I did about time travel. I love the concept. I wanted to do something more original than people going back in time to kill Hitler as a child, or in this case, prevent the assassination of a beloved U.S. President. However, I attempted to blend the mundane and the fantastic in a way that set the trope on its ear a bit. I think it went pretty well but I’d love to hear what you think.

So, without further ado…

FALL OF ’63

by Joe Forrest

Dallas, Texas. November. 1963.

The art deco furnishing of the hotel room assaulted Dan’s senses. It was garish and made him a bit nauseous. He’d never understand the retrophreaks who ate this stuff up. It seemed like a lack of taste in his mind.

“Dan, are you even listening to me?” Abigail asked.

“Of course I am,” he said. He took another drink of the whiskey sour. It bit his taste buds and warmed his gullet.

“We have a chance here to change things dramatically,” said Abigail.

He looked at her, eyebrow raised. “You know we can’t. We’re just here to observe.”

“Who would stop us?”

He took another drink. “They would and you know it. Divergence is prohibited.”

Abigail stood up. He could tell by her posture that she was frustrated. Her shoulders were tense and her arms were crossed defiantly as she walked out of the room onto the patio.

He followed her out onto the patio. She had sat down to huff and pout in the chair. He shook his head and pulled a cigarette from his case. He lit it and inhaled the smoke. It was pure heaven for someone who came from a place where vices like alcohol, tobacco, and recreational sex were forbidden. He and Abigail had enjoyed themselves immensely on this assignment, which was the very reason he was getting frustrated.

“Look,” he said. “I don’t understand why you have a problem. He died. Can you imagine what would happen if we prevented that?”

“Do I look like an idiot to you, Dan?” she asked. “Of course I know what happens. We will either change our timeline or create a divergent one or erase existence.”

“Exactly,” he said. “That will earn us a death sentence, one way or another. I don’t particularly want to die. We are strictly here to observe and report.”

She looked off towards the horizon. She was beautiful but she sometimes let her emotions rule her. He’d been doing these missions for a long time. This was only her fifth assignment, her second with him. He’d grown fond of her but she tried his patience often. He was the senior operative. She questioned his orders far too often for his tastes.

“I just don’t understand why the Council wouldn’t want to stop the assassination,” she said. “He could have done so much to make the world a better place. He may have been able to prevent the everything that happened in the 21st century.”

He shook his head. “You answered your own question. Why the hell would the Council want to eliminate their power and control? Changing what happened would probably eliminate them altogether.”

She huffed again. “I know. I understand it doesn’t make logical sense for them to risk it. Still, he could have done so much good.”

“Well,” said Dan, “that’s a matter of opinion. He absolutely has the potential to do a lot of good, but he’s also the man that played chicken with nuclear war.”

She looked at him, eyes wide. She’d never considered that.

“Why don’t we save Gandhi? He was a man of peace. What about Martin Luther King, Jr.? He was a promoter of equality with no equal. Perhaps we could save Joan of Arc? Maybe she could have brought about a change for women’s rights much earlier. Where do we draw the line?”

She hung her head. She was still a rookie and hadn’t considered these possibilities.

“Here’s the big question: why not go back and save Jesus from crucifixion?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe because he was just a myth?”

Dan laughed and wiped sweat from his brow. “Really? He didn’t seem very mythical to me when we saw him hung on the cross.”

Her mouth dropped. “You saw Jesus Christ hang on the cross?”

“Not only saw him, met him, talked to him.”

“So, he was real?” Her amazement was obvious. “So that means God and the Christian religion are true?”

“I can’t attest to that. Classified. Religion is outlawed in our own time as you know. I can tell you that he was very convincing. So much so that he told us things from our his future, our present, in alarming detail. He definitely had something going on.”

The patio was quiet. Dan took another drink, lamenting the fact that the tumbler was almost dry.

“What convinced you to let him die?”

Dan’s brow furrowed. He shouldn’t even be telling her this. It was well beyond her classification rating, but he had to impress upon her the importance of non-interference.

“He told us that we mustn’t save him. He showed us what would happen to the world if we did. He explained that we should only observe. It’s where we came up with the law of Divergence and the penalty for ignoring it. In fact, every religious icon we met after that repeated the warning — Buddha, Mohammed, Ra — all of them.”

She was very quiet. It was sinking in finally.

“We are not God. We can’t change the natural order of things.”

Dan smiled. “Bingo, kid. If we do, it could spell the end of everything.”

Dan got up and finished his drink. He then retrieved his coat and fedora.

“Now, what say we go to the plaza and record history in real time? There’s nothing quite like being able to provide our classes with actual historical footage is there?”

“No,” she said smiling. “There really isn’t.”