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The Artist

A story of Time Travel

By Natasja RosePublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read
The Artist
Photo by Sandro Gonzalez on Unsplash

"If you can be anything at all in the world, be kind. Sow the seeds of compassion, and you may be surprised at what you harvest later."

Vienna, Austria, 1907...

Adolf dropped the last box of his possessions with a thump and gazed around the small apartment in Vienna.

It wasn't the grandiose surroundings he imagined himself living in one day, as a celebrated artist with the attention of the world on him, but for a future student of the Vienna School of Fine Arts, it was adequate for now.

A knock sounded on the door, and Adolf opened it to a man perhaps a decade older than him. Tall, fair and well-formed, the man smiled and held out a steaming bowl. "I saw you ferrying boxes, and thought you had probably not eaten yet."

The familiar smells reminded Adolf that it had, in fact, been a very long time since breakfast. "Thank you, will you join me? Forgive me, I did not hear your name...?"

The stranger smiled. "Stefan Mueller. I live across the hall, and try to keep an eye on the Fine Arts students. They have a tendency to get caught up in their passions and forget to eat."

The mark of an artist, his mother had often said. "I haven't been accepted yet. The entrance exams aren't for another month."

Stefan nodded sagely, "A word of advice, then? The Vienna School likes to see their new students well-rounded. Practice the things you wouldn't normally draw, as well as refining the things you would. You only have to let them think themselves superior until you recieve the acceptance letter.

If there was one thing Adolf hated, it was appearing inferior to anyone. But if it was only temporary, he supposed he could manage it for the duration of the two-day exam. They finished eating, and Stefan rose to his feet. "My door is always open if you have further questions about the school, lad."

By Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A month later, Adolf was celebrating with his new acquaintances, fellow new students of the fine arts.

He wanted Stefan to be there, but the kindly man had left to visit family a week earlier, citing some sort of emergency. It was a shame they could not raise a stein together, but Adolf would see little of Stefan in the coming months anyway, once his days were consumed with art lessons.

The future seemed bright.

By Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Stefan, free from his guise as Adolf Hitler's neighbour, opened a time portal to return home, musing on whether or not to call his mission a success.

Germany's political woes and rampant antisemitism certainly weren't going away in a hurry. The Great War would send the world reeling in less than a decade. The social and political beliefs and influences that would become the National Socialist German Workers Party still existed, as did the people who, in his own timeline, had formed the core of Hitler's right-hand men.

But with their figurehead and most inspiring speaker busy in Art School, surrounded by people who wanted to make the fine arts accessible to all, instead of an indulgence of the prodigious and privilaged, would the death toll be as high? Young Adolf showed little interest in politics, other than as an opportunity to be the object of admiration. They'd been talking about opening an art school for children of the working class the other day, and an art journal had published one of the lad's open letters critiquing an exhibit.

A far more stable young adulthood and future than Stefan's own timeline, where a disaffected youth rejected from Art school found his purpose in forming a gang, going to prison, and becoming a politician that no-one took seriously as a contender for the Chancellorship until it was too late to stop his mob of fanatics. Without his charisma, would the National Socialist Party rise so far and fast? Would they remain a party of fringe extremists?

Would some other rejection or failure set Adolf back on his original course, despeite Stefan's efforts? The lad was only eighteen, and much could happen in the thirty years between now and 1939. There was little chance that Adolf would not be conscripted for the Great War, even with a hereditary illness.

Was it even possible to stop the Second World War, an event all but set in stone when the Treaty of Versailles was signed? (Multiple Time Travellers had tried to prevent the signing or change the treaty, too, without success. There were simply too many contributing factors.)

Well, even if Stefan failed to prevent that, even if all he'd managed was to mitigate the death toll, that was still a success, and something to be proud of.

He stepped out of the portal, smiling at the pacing figure of his wife, her expression flooding with relief when she saw him. "Did it work?"

He held her tightly, and gave thanks again that Irena, exactly the sort of person who would have been targeted for eugenics and a concentration camp, hadn't been assigned to the mission. "I hope so. Either way, I don't relish having to do that again. Even knowing he was only a boy at the time, it was hard not to look at him and see the monster he became."

Irena hugged him back, just as tightly. "Let's order take-out and snuggle on the couch for the night. It'll take a day or two for any changes to the timeline to become evident, anyway."

I know that Hitler is a sensetive topic for a lot of people, especially now, and I want to make it explicitly clear that acknowledging that teenage Hitler had a shitty hand dealt to him by life does not in any way justify or evoke sympathy for the genocidal dictatior he became.

Everyone talks about time travel as if going back and killing Hitler would prevent WWII from ever happening. It wouldn't, that kind of conflict doesn't start or end with a single person, but it got me thinking.

I doubt the judges will like it any better than any of my other challenge entries over the past two-and-something years, but maybe this entry will be the exception.

If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.

Sci FiShort StoryHistorical

About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (5)

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  • Sean Byers3 months ago

    I see your submission also features a certain Austrian-born artist! Really appreciate the more innocent/innocuous mood you use to portray your version of Adolf. Works really well here. As it happens, your approach to this prompt hits on my second favorite minimally invasive way to alter modern history -- ensure Hitler goes to art school. As for my preferred minimally invasive way to alter modern history, I'm sure the title gives it away...

  • C. H. Richard3 months ago

    Extraordinary story. I was completely engaged throughout. I know it is difficult to write about but this was so well done. Left a heart.

  • C. H. Richard3 months ago

    This was exceptional Natasja. I agree talking about Hitler even as a young person is very difficult. But reality what if there was some intervention that would have changed the course of history. I do think we always have to look young people now who may be in need of help. We certainly don't want another like him.

  • suman mohan3 months ago

    Very simple and interesting story!Love it.

  • Gal Mux3 months ago

    There are many what-ifs in the story of Hitler... A very thought-provoking story you wrote!

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