‘One Bullet’ by Daniel Farkas
A kilometer away, the sniper found perfect rooftop camouflage. The Geheime Staatspolizei, the responsible body, ignored the area beyond that which they imagined any rifleman could master a target.
He assembled the parts hidden in his loose pants and blousy sleeves: muzzle, rail, grip, scope. The MI-6 lads had created a simple machine. The chamber held one round; no bulky magazine necessary. He would not have opportunity for a second shot. His quarry would be dispatched or frantically thrust away if the bullet missed.
He was ready. The moment was not. He rested before dawn broke, light sleep; one ear open.
The crowd thronged all morning. Music frenzied 100,000 stars-in-their-eyes Germans.
He steadied his weapon, adjusted the sight. No need to consider wind; it was still. He measured his heartbeat’s rhythm, memorizing its cadence. His ventricles contracted, then relaxed. He fired.
The bullet torpedoed into the Chancellor’s chest. The breastbone deflected its angle. The aorta was severed. The heart’s upper chambers collapsed, shards of vertebrae splintered, ruining the liver. Neurons hoarded their last bits of chemical energy and the brain followed the body in death. The corpse crumpled.
The crowd fell silent. Nazi elite on the platform ducked for cover. The obvious ricocheted over the grounds: Adolf Hitler had been assassinated mere days after assuming power in 1933.
Professor Tobias, chair of Vienna’s Hoffman-LaRoche University’s history department, was contemplating retirement in 2033. He was bored with life. Too infrequently was he surprised by the well-written essay he managed to coax from the rare extraordinary student.
He shuffled to class this sunny, spring morning, a history program playing on his ancient Apfel iPod. The decades-old device still worked; he was uninterested in new technology.
The history podcast reminded Tobias that today was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of a short-lived German Chancellor. He had forgotten that Hitler and he were born in the same town, Braunau-am-Inn. Hitler, after all, was a minor historical figure.
Inspired by an idea to yield an essay he might enjoy, he bounded in a chipper manner into class, belying his 73 years.
“Settle down,” he boomed at his students.
“Today…something different. Let’s have some fun: Counterfactual History. By next week, I want 2,000 words from each of you on a figure who’s become a footnote. Find his autobiography, Mein Kampf.”
“The assignment? What if Adolph Hitler had survived his 1933 assassination?”
Dr. Daniel H. Farkas is a molecular pathologist who has published and spoken on the topic extensively. Dan Farkas, on the other hand, is an itinerant New Yorker living in Cleveland. His joys in life come from creative writing, photography, his wife and kids, and sometimes the NY Rangers. Among his publications are “Summer’s End on Erie” (The Birdseed Magazine); “Ascension Song” (The Prompt Magazine); and “A Shot of Whiskey” (Anti-Heroin Chic).