Stalin is an asshole. I couldn’t believe it when Isis told me about this. It never came up in my High School World History class.
It’s March 1933 on a farm, or what’s left of one, in the Ukraine. Her parents, her baby brother are dead. They starved.
That sadistic bastard Josef Stalin wanted to convert large areas of land into collective farms, but he reasoned to do that, he’d have to kill off all of the existing farms run by the peasants. Not only did he destroy existing crops, but he slaughtered all the livestock, any stores of already harvested food, and even seeds kept in sheds for later planting.
Isis said that in 1932 and 33, up to 10 million people in the USSR would starve to death.
I’ve been here for just three days and I haven’t eaten a thing, but the hunger I feel is nothing compared to the suffering this eleven year old girl is going through.
My Temporal Jump Suit contains emergency rations of food and water, but I haven’t touched them myself. I just couldn’t stand the thought of my staying fed while millions were dying of starvation.
I’m giving her a little water to see if she can tolerate it. She should be in a hospital, and by that I mean a modern hospital. There’s one only two miles from where I live.
She seems to be perking up a bit. She’s talking but I don’t understand her. I have to speak to Isis about getting a universal translator or something.
I try to feed her part of a ration bar. She’s pushing it away, pointing into another room in the hovel she lives in. I think she wants me to give it her to mother or maybe the kid brother. Even if I spoke her language, I don’t have the heart to tell her they’re already dead.
“She’s not going to make it, is she?”
The girl thinks I’m talking to her. She can’t see Isis standing over us.
“No, Martin. She is near death.”
I’m crying, cradling the little girl in my arms, unable to save her. This is ridiculous. She died sixty years before I was born. When I woke up this morning, she’d been dead for over eighty years, and I’d never even heard of the Soviet famine.
I look up at Isis. “Why? Why did you send me here if I can’t help anybody?”
“Do you remember what I said about how you can sometimes make a profound difference in history just by showing up? Today, you learn that sometimes you can’t change anything, no matter what you do.”
“Can’t I at least save her? I don’t have to take her into the future, just to another country, to someplace where she can be taken care of.”
“I know you want to save someone, Martin. I also know you find it difficult to watch people suffer.”
“Of course it’s difficult!” I try not to raise my voice. The girl can’t see or hear Isis and I don’t want the poor kid to think I’m yelling at her. She’s drifting off again. I think this is it for her.
“You brought me here for an object lesson?”
“Sooner or later a mission will take you to a time and place where you will confront death. You will need to be prepared.”
I’m tempted to quit again, but the last time I tried that, I discovered I needed to be a time traveler to help anyone at all.
I hear her die. That last breath. Her body evacuates whatever was in her bladder and bowels. I gently lower her to the floor. I’ve stopped crying. I don’t know why. I feel numb.
“It’s time to go home, Martin.” Isis is speaking in a soft voice, like she cares. I’ve never heard her sound this way before, but it won’t hit me until hours later.
I stand up. The suit activates and I’m back home again, standing in my living room. Silently, I remove the temporal suit. Isis vanishes without a word. I feel dirty and take a shower, dress in something comfortable, and lay down on my bed.
It’s ten in the morning but I don’t get up. I stare at the ceiling, envisioning the girl’s face. I’ll never know her name.
An hour ago, she died in my arms. She’s been dead and buried for nearly eighty-four years. Which one is the truth? They both are.
I can’t bring myself to eat anything until noon the next day, and then it’s just a cheap can of chicken noodle soup.
On Monday, I decide to volunteer at the local food bank.
I do periodically volunteer at my local food bank.
The first story in this seven part series is On Wednesday the Time Traveler Got Wet.
The next story in the series is On Sunday the Time Traveler Stayed Home.