The Doc Brown, for that is what I’ve named her, has successfully brought me back, and, after much consternation and about all the philosophical theorizing a human brain can handle, I’ve decided just to do it. I’m going to kill Baby Hitler.
In all my life I never imagined I’d murder a baby. There have been times, to be sure, where I considered what the precise repercussions might be to smacking a random and incorrigible supermarket child — how angry its mother, and, for that matter, local police, might be if I were to, say, mow the brat down with my metal cart — but nothing like this. If I’m being candid, killing arachnids gives me great pause. I find myself wondering if they can experience fear and, if so, how absolutely dreadful it must be to be squashed dead by a giant ballet flat.
The thought of strangling the life from an infant child makes me, well, it makes me extraordinarily nauseous. It is a new kind of nauseous I’ve never experienced before. It’s not the kind one feels during a bout with the flu, or after deboarding a particularly corkscrewy amusement ride, or even that overwhelming sickness that ignites, and then burns and burns and never seems to stop burning at the thought of your lover lying with another (especially another as dashing as Clint Ferris the accountant, but never mind all that); it is, rather, a newer, rarer kind of revulsion that manifests itself in a spot so deep and buried that you feel it mostly in your butthole.
As I’ve intonated, I’ve decided to use my hands only, rather than any device or implement of violence. I’m not planning on enjoying this, after all, and a weapon (why do I keep thinking about hammers?) would imply that at least some level of homicidal satisfaction was being wrought from the act. Hitler may be an anti-semitic mass murderer who, through means hard to fathom in their barbaric disregard for even the most basic level of humanity, instigated the worst world conflict in the history of mankind (or will instigate I should say), but he’s still a human. And a baby human at that. Logistically speaking, it poses a certain kind of challenge is all.
In my dreams, Baby Hitler still has the Groucho Marx mustache. It’s the damndest thing. He rocks a waste-filled diaper and rattles a blue beanie with despotic ferocity, but he still, somehow, has that awful ‘stache. This is probably just my subconscious mind trying to make this whole murdering a baby business a bit easier for me … for us … for it. By reminding me that this baby, this creature, has inside of him the biological tools necessary to sprout hair from his face, it reminds me that he’s also capable of much more and much worse.
Sometimes, in my most delirious dreams, Baby Hitler has a luger automatic pistol aimed at my nose, which makes my killing the little Nazi bastard a pure and simple case of self-defense. Other times the Baby Hitler of my dreams is just a baby, a sniffling, slobbering, leaking mass of fat and drool who does little more than shit and blink and yearn for his mother’s hard teet. It is during this latter version of the dream that I wake up, wet and wondering why I didn’t just become a school teacher, feeling like something valuable has been taken from me.
I must say: Aryans really are quite good looking, aren’t they? The blonde hair, the blue eyes. It sure would have been nice if, instead of attempting to exterminate all the Jews from the earth and implement a new world order in which they were seen as subhuman, Hitler had decided instead to open a modeling agency. Nice indeed. Then he could have put his raving obsession with people who look to be created in a lab where only folks with flawless genes work to good use. “Toss your hair, Ernst?” “Let us see those big beautiful blues, Mathilda?” “Mein kampf…is with your inability, Bruno, to give me a look that properly emotes sadness while also adequately capturing what I might call a boundless joy for the baser proclivities of human lust and desire.”
The Adolf Agency of Austria surely would have been a success. Hitler’s passion/charisma/zealotry aimed at pin-ups instead of Poles would have been a real life-saver, in the most literal sense of the term; that is, the sense in which the ovens are never turned on, the concentration camps never opened, the tanks never commissioned, the Luftwaffian bombs never dropped. But, so it goes. Baby Hitler must die.
Now that I’m here, in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, in the year One Thousand Eight-Hundred and Eighty-Nine, I’ll need an “in”. I don’t suppose Mr. and Mrs. Future Fuhrer are going to give me a tour of their home, and, once I’ve seen each nook and cranny, hand me some alone time with their infant son. However, I do aim to take full and very explicit advantage of the supposed and legendarily Bohemian attitudes of these parts.
I’ve decided to pose as: Efficient Housekeeper/ Trustworthy Babysitter. It will be a difficult ruse to sustain though, especially if the Hitlers ask me to clean any actual toilets or hand wash any dirty drawers. I haven’t washed my own jeans in over a year, and the thing, the blob, growing under my kitchen sink has taken to calling itself The Mayor.
Note to Time Traveling Self #1: If you have to clean a few commodes in order to save 40 million lives, you can do that. It’s called Sacrifice for the Greater Good, babe. Suck it up and remember why you’re there, uh, here.
The house, the setting of my dreams come true, is a sun-faded yellow that clashes wildly with its own red roof. Four crooked windows puncture its face. Large looming trees hover all around it. It’s quaint, but ugly; it’s the kind of place in which you’d expect a serial killer to have lived, if not the globally ambitious leader of a systematic human extinction movement.
Approaching the house I begin to feel ill. I’m here to murder a human being and my near-empty stomach doesn’t seem to like the idea. Could we at least do this after a decent meal, it seems to cry out with its bubbling gasses. The slicing pinch of the cramps reminds me of the time, it was the fall of 2189, when Avery Carracoza and I made a bet about who could eat the most Plonk Bars, and Ave, he just wouldn’t quit, like he was eating for his life even though we only wagered a measly 50 Ricanes and a pair of Wosh Barrel Dineclydes.
Note to Time Traveling Self #2: The leg o’ mutton sleeves might have been a poor choice. Not entirely conducive to scrubbing floors or changing dirty dipes, or, for that matter, standing entirely still in a stuffy Austrian home without the luxury of AC.
Note to Time Traveling Self #3: Go back, er, forward to 1901 should do it and invent the air conditioner. No no no, stay focused. “I didn’t invent the time machine to win at gambling,” I’ve come to save lives by murdering a baby. Thanks, Doc.
As I knock on the door, I can already hear his wailing through the walls, like my target knows why I’ve come and is trying to thwart my plot by warning his oblivious parents. Thankfully, they do not speak German-gibberish. Deaf ears only catch Hitler’s desperate sobs.
After three full minutes, and several more forceful knocks (one of which was delivered with an emphatic kick and has left me slightly hobbled), the door finally swings open. A stout man with a dense face stands square before me. The white whiskers of his thick mustache reach out to his ears. The hair on his head is buzzed short, barely there at all, revealing a round hard-looking skull, the skull of a man used to holding his head high. He wears a black frock coat with large gold buttons parading its front and a matching black vest and black ascot tie. The lumpy skin of the man’s formidable forehead sinks out over tiny brown eyes that seem to stare right through me to the gravel-road behind. There’s an unnerving emptiness to his face, an aura that denotes some kind of psychological despair that’s been neglected for far too long.
“Yes?” he says. The seed of a mass killer, I think, and try hard not to divert my gaze. “Hullo, sir,” I say. “My name is Magdalena Krause, and I’m looking for work. Might you need a housekeeper or a babysitter perhaps?” “How’d you know we had a child, Miss Krause?” he says. “Why, the screams, sir. I could hear them a hundred yards off.” “Oh right,” he says. “Forgive me. I’ve grown so accustomed to little Adolf’s incessant shrieking I don’t think my ears register it any longer.” “Who is it, Al?” a woman’s voice shouts from the back of the house. “My wife,” the man tells me and then shakes his head slightly. “Unfortunately for me, her shouting cannot be ignored.”
I’m beginning to sweat beneath this heavy tarp of Austrian heat. My floral walking dress glums to my butt cheeks like it’s been applied with some sort of illegally potent adhesive. I smile as best I can. “Well, come in. You can meet my Klara,” he says and I step over the threshold to Adolf Hitler’s childhood home.
Alois Hitler leads me to the back of the house, which is so empty it barely looks inhabited. But for a single painting, the taupe-colored walls are stark naked. It’s a poorly rendered landscape of an empty wheatfield, lush and golden and blurry in random little pocks throughout; a tall black tree stands menacingly in the background as if it’s been tasked as some sort of overseer to the growth.
We step out to the back porch. “Klara honey, this is, I’m sorry I’ve forgotten your name,” Alois says. “Magdalena Krause, sir.” “Yes of course. This is Magdalena. She’s come seeking housework.” A petite woman with a plain pink face sits in a wooden rocking chair, tilting back and forth gently as Adolf Hitler sleeps quietly in her lap. She looks barely old enough to have conceived the monster. Her light brown hair clings tight to her round head and curls in a roped mound across her hairline. Long ears, each punctured by a round black earring, sag down fair cheeks. Her face is not entirely unpretty. Pale blue eyes beam up at me. They seem to tremble in her face like two flickering lights about to go out.
For a brief moment I forget to breathe. Put simply, this woman looks like Adolf Hitler in drag. It makes my knees feel like cooked spaghetti and a cramp cuts over my hipbone with such dull force I nearly wince. Baby Hitler has a full head of crow-black hair. Prominent bangs drape his forehead like a curtain. His eyes: the same pale blue as his mother. Once again I’m fully conscious of all the spots on my body currently coated in sweat — my belly button, behind my ears, the tips of my fingers, my slightly (but only slightly!) hairy shins.
Note to Time Traveling Self #4: Do not, as so many Weimar Republican Germans were, be taken in by the cold blue ice of Hitler’s eyes.
Note to Time Traveling Self #5: I know for a fact that if I killed 11 million people through the most gruesome means possible my mother would still love me. Standing here now, in this weird and foreign place, I get the distinct feeling that my mother and Adolf Hitler’s mother have this in common. Love is the most powerful force on Earth. It transcends all, up to and including the worst things men get up to.
Addendum to Note to Time Traveling Self #5: Upon completion of important mission for humanity, try hand at poetry. Poetry could be yet another gift to humanity, though probably not.
“We’ve no use for a housekeeper, Alois, and no money to spare,” Hitler’s mother says. “But she’s offered to help look after Adolf,” he whines and then turns to me. “We’ve been contemplating a date night. I can’t recall the last time we had an afternoon to ourselves.”
“Well, does she speak?” Klara says, ripping me abruptly from my reverie about murdering her baby and making poetry out of it. “Oh yes, ma’am. I could work for cheap. Whatever you can pay. I’m great with children,” I sell myself. “Have you any of your own?” she asks. Splintering off her thin Hitlerian lips this sounds like an immense accusation. “No ma’am. But three nieces and a nephew. His name is actually Alois as well,” I lie, hoping to ingratiate myself with these Producers of Pure and Unadulterated Evil. “Isn’t that nice?” Alois says to his wife after a lull filled only by the slight whistle of Baby Hitler’s working nostrils. She stares at me still, unconsciously rubbing her thumb in a circular motion over Baby Hitler’s tiny wrist bone. “Name like that, he must be a real looker,” Alois attempts a joke. “He is a handsome young man,” I say. At this, Baby Hitler shifts atop his mother’s milk-white thighs and, as the three of us look on in horror (my brand of it being entirely different from the kind of desperate hope they exhibit as tired parents) he settles once again into sleep. “I must put Addy in his crib,” Klara says and gingerly rises from her seat and into the house.
“So. Are you new to the Inn?” Alois asks. You could say that. “Oh yes, sir,” I say. “Berlin before that.” He studies me, as a school teacher studies a troubled young student who has failed to realize her vast potential. “I don’t detect much of an accent on your tongue,” he says. This is harder than I thought it would be. Why didn’t I just bring a heavily loaded .44 Shrapsaw and take out all three of them in a quick hot flash? What was I thinking with this whole housekeeper business? I’m easily world’s dumbest time traveler. And not because I’m the world’s only time traveler. Thankfully, Klara Hitler returns to the back porch, saving me from the question of my shoddy accent.
Note to Time Traveling Self #6: Recall in classic basic color film, Inglorious Basterds, that the detection of a shaky accent got people killed. Then again, these folks are no Gestapo. It’s not the role they play. They’re much more chicken than egg.
“So what do you think, hon? Should we bring Magdalena back, say, tomorrow afternoon, and make our way to town for a beer or three?” Alois looks over to me as he says this, checking to see if I find him amusing. I force another smile, which isn’t exactly easy because I’m also holding in a wet (and potentially messy) fart and dying to pick my sweaty wedge.
“Can you handle a screaming baby?” Klara inquires. “My Addy can be quite animated, quite feisty. Does that scare you?” At this I have no trouble at all forming an ear-to-ear smile. “No ma’am,” I say quickly. “Babies cry. It comes with the territory.” Hitler’s parents look at me with scrunched, confused faces. “Isn’t her manner of speaking quite odd, dear?” Alois says. “Says the oddest man in Upper Austria,” Klara shoots back, saving me once again and unknowingly making the violent demise of her own child all the more likely. “Oh no you don’t. Erich Schmid is the oddest man in Austria. Everyone knows that,” Alois says. “Guy I work with at the Bureau. He thinks they’ll put people on the moon one day. I try to tell him it’ll never happen, moon’s too far away. Plus they’d never be able to –.” “Leave it be, Al,” Klara says. “The poor girl didn’t come to hear you talk about the moon.” She’s got that right. “So then, does tomorrow afternoon, say 12:30, work for you, Miss Krause?” Alois says. “Absolutely,” I say. Works even better for 7 million Jews, dick-cheese. “So it’s settled!” Alois shouts excitedly. “Ssshh,” Klara says. “If you wake that boy I’ll have your head.” Klara’s eyes no longer seem blue, but more black than anything. Once again, my legs feel gelatinous and my stomach churns like heavy machinery in need of grease.
Alois Hitler escorts me back to the front door and thanks me for coming. Just as he clamps it shut I hear the groggy raucous of Baby Hitler swell up once again.
I didn’t feel like waiting an entire day so I strapped Doc Brown to my head and wrapped the Chronos bracelets around my ankles and jumped back toward the future by about 12 hours. I was way wrong in assuming that because the leap was so short I wouldn’t need to take a full dose of Carbonoxiprone so when I came-to, I hurled about 6 gallons of neon-green bile onto an Austrian ant hill.
Note to Time Traveling Self #7: There’s a Butterfly Effect, but is there an Anthill Effect? Safe to say the future of humanity won’t be seriously altered by my disgusting destruction of this innocent colony of insects. Nonetheless, I feel terrible as I watch capsized ants struggle and then drown in my overwhelming pool of phlegm.
Today is the day. The Austrian skies have had a most severe mood swing. The bright and cloudless bloom of yesterday has been replaced by a thundering brimstone of black and gray. Yes, today is the day.
Once again I knock at the ugly yellow door of Adolf Hitler’s childhood home, only this time it opens almost instantly. “Hullo!” Alois says, his fence-post arms outstretched like he aimed to give me a hug. “Come in, come in.” “Thank you, sir,” I say and step in from the rain.
“Klara! She’s here!” he shouts and Klara Hitler ducks out of the back bedroom, a look on her face that was the exact opposite of her husband’s joviality, like she was hoping I wouldn’t make it due to rain, or that maybe she was so exhausted she had imagined me the day before. “Al, stop shouting,” she says. Alois looks to me. “I’m very thirsty,” he says. “Perhaps we shouldn’t with the rain, dear,” Klara says. “Nonsense. They still serve beer on rainy days,” he says and then turns again to me. “It would take a lot more than a few raindrops to keep Austria from its suds, am I right?” “I hear that,” I say. Alois glares at me with a look like he’s just found a pube in his sauerkraut. “Well I would hope you can hear me, dear, you’re only two feet away,” he says. “Everyone in the Inn can hear you, Al,” Klara says. Al smirks dumbly and then scratches at his wide smashed nose. His movements are simian and grotesque. “Now are you sure you’re okay with this?” Klara asks. “Absolutely,” I tell her, trying hard to conceal my pre-crime nervousness. “Okay well we’ll only be down the road. If anything should happen don’t hesitate to call. We’ll be at the Gugg Lounge on Salzburger. The number is by the phone,” she says and points to an odd cylindrical-shaped contraption on the table; it’s a long black cone wrapped in gold brass atop a wooden base, and I’m glad calling won’t be necessary because I’m not entirely sure I could operate such a monstrosity. I’m instantly thankful to come from where I come from. Some people claim to have old souls, desire to live in a time before their own. But not me. Mine is a young soul, and it is only with great reluctance that I leave my own place and time.
“You know, I’m not getting any less thirsty here,” Al says, finally spouting a joke even he doesn’t seem to find funny as he beads his eyes and aims them at the ceiling. “OK then!” Klara says. “I’ve bottled some milk if he gets hungry and his favorite blanket is here on the sofa. Best to wrap him up in it when he wakes. I’ve left your pay on the table and whatever you do don’t sing to him. Addy hates being sung to.” What baby doesn’t? “She gets it, hon. Shall we do this thing?” Alois says, smacking his stomach with both hands. Klara smirks at me and then instantly frowns at me. Nodding my head, and trying hard not to psychically reveal my nefarious intentions, I return the smile, keep the frown.
Alois ushers his reluctant wife out the door and the Producers are gone. The stage is now mine.
I breathe in the stiff air and twist my eyes, in a panorama, around the whole of the house. Here’s where it started. Here’s where nothing will have started. I pick the single dusty forint coin off the table, a fine souvenir it will make, and toss it down my pocket. I walk anxiously to the back bedroom, feeling the massive weight of history in every stride I take. A badly whiddled crib sits in the direct center of a drab-brown room.
I lean over a sleeping Baby Hitler.
Hello you little Nazi cunt. Today you’re gonna die. Yes you are. Ahh yes you are. And do you know whyy you’re gonna die, you little shit bird? Huh? Do you? Do you Baby Hitler? It’s because you’re the worst, that’s why. The absolute undisputed worst. And I’m not gonna let you throw my great great great great great great great great grandfather, Gerhard, into a hot box of poisonous gas. No I’m not. No I’m not, Baby Shitler.
Baby Hitler’s sticky eyes peel open. He veers up at me, trying to compute the unfamiliar face. He clicks his lips and twirls his wrists and his face begins to betray a fear and confusion that makes me proud.
I can see it all right there in his eyes. It’s unmistakable. His entire horrible destiny is right there, sitting tight in pale blue eyes. Human destruction and suffering on an other-worldly scale, a scale unthinkable but to the most evil souls to ever inhabit the earth, distilled into two fibrous bodies of muscle and inky pigmentation.
As I reach out and down into Baby Hitler’s crib he instantly begins to protest. He tries to roll, but can’t throw his weight. He coughs, then spits, then produces something unique and feral, a rumbling from deep in his chest. He’s loud and fierce and if he could I’m sure he’d strip me of all my dignity and character and toss me into the fiery pits of Hell itself. But he doesn’t have this power and he never will.
I reach down and wrap my cold hands around the baby’s warm moist neck. With both my thumbs I press into the slight protruding beginnings of an Adam’s apple, as to halt all outward growth. I think about making my thumbs touch my middle fingers, which, if I squeeze hard enough, might actually be possible because Baby Hitler’s neck is so frail and the small knots of his spine seem like they’re about to rupture beneath my determined death grip.
Shifting my stance above the crib I let up a little, allowing my fingers to flare and stretch. A brief but sharp yelp bolts from Hitler’s throat and mouth and makes me wince until I reconstrict my grip and Baby Hitler is utterly silent once again. I squeeze. Those pale blue eyes begin to bulge out at me, leaving his eyelids and then pushing over his cheek bones like they might be ejected entirely. I press in harder, with an evident grunt. Hitler’s trachea pops and I can feel a slight hiss of air release from his nose and ears. Spindley rivulets of blue capillaries suddenly fill Baby Hitler’s face, starting at his jawline and splaying upward through the hard pallor of his cheeks. I can feel his Life Energy protesting wildly, but quickly losing its will, dwindling and seizing under my palms until it’s barely a murmur.
I squeeze. I’m probably going to vomit, but still I squeeze.
Baby Hitler’s small feet kick at my elbows. Such utter futility. I feel his little undeveloped toenails scrape the back of my biceps and then drop back to the cushiony crib. Thick purple veins at his temples push through the skin and dance. His cheeks are fire red now and I can feel their heat billowing along my neck. I squeeze so hard the muscles in my forearms are like marble. Baby Hitler’s eyes cross and then the blue irises roll into his head and only blank white globes remain. His spine finally gives. I feel the snap more than I hear it, and now Baby Hitler’s head is cocked to a nearly 90 degree angle. His tongue, already turning black, dangles out and globs onto his tiny chin.
Finally I let up and wipe the train of sweat from my forehead. I am the Jews’ smirking revenge. There’s an instant odor to death. It’s metallic and sharp. They say the stench of Auschwitz could be detected for miles in every direction, like it burned through the hills and infected every object on its path. This stench is smaller in scale, but no less magnificent.
All my senses are being pummeled, like a fat man clubbing a drum. Colors are brighter, and kaleidoscopic. My ears feel like giant satellites. My nose burns and fumes. My skin feels ablaze. It’s like all the energy once inside this child has been evacuated and is now bouncing erratically around the room looking for a new host.
Baby Hitler’s eyes gorge with puss and blood and now the sour ferment of my sweat mixes with the acidic tinge of the dead body glowing under me. I poke him with one finger and he shifts like a rag doll would, like a leather sack filled with long hard sticks, but nothing more.
Suddenly there’s a rattle at the front door. I snap my body all the way around to face it. The Producers, have they returned already? It is time to go. I tuck Baby Hitler under his heavy wool blanket and push his wet swollen face down into the cushion.
I float through the house and, as I’m closing the back door behind me, I hear the front door swing fully open. “Babysitter, I’m home,” Alois Hitler shouts cheerily, and then says something more but I can’t make it out. I duck in and around thick tree trunks to where Doc Brown is buried. Just before I lose sight of the ugly yellow house I hear the deafening shriek of a now childless mother.
Eighth and Final Note to Time Traveling Self: The question now is whether to return home — it has been a good while since I’ve seen Elisa’s beautiful koala face — or jump to Gori, Georgia circa 1878 and meet the Stalins. These are the decisions we face.