Mark Dark Destiny | By: Juda Attard | | Category: Short Story - Sci-Fi Bookmark and Share

Mark Dark Destiny


Mark Dark Destiny.
By, J.T  Attard.

There's a  Train speeding through the dark country night with only its carriage car lights beaming out  in to the black empty night. as we enter the train cabin.

We see a man of about fifty just sitting with his arms folded  on his chest looking out his cabin window in to the dark black void. with his own reflection staring back at him as if he was lost in his own deep thoughts not knowing where he is, partly lost in the never ending black void.


All of a sudden a strong man's voice boomed out breaking the silence that endured in that cabin for hours, coming from the other side of the cabin in front of him, that voice  seems to have jolted him back from where ever his mind was residing at that time.

                                                           MALE VOICE

(In the cabin in front of the man staring out the cabin window.)
Man opposite said, "Mark, you ok?"


(Still half  lost in the black void trying to figure out where he is.)
Said, "Huh?"
Man opposite, "I said are you ok?"


(Looking still a bit dazed and clearing his troth)
said, "Ah, yea sorry Bill, I was lost for a moment there."

(Bill looking slightly put out said) "A moment, you been staring out that window for hours." (Bill can get away with that comment, you see, Mark, & Bill, have been the best of  friends for many years.)


(Looking and sounding extremely surprised by Bills comment replied.) " hours? How is it possible.?"


(Looking and sounding insistent.)
"Yes for hours, what where you thinking about?."

(Mark, slowly turns his head to the right once more to look out the cabin window in to the black void, as if something out there in the black of the night keeps drawing him back. )  "you know bill, I remember a night just like this on another train trip in another part of the world."

 (Bill totally mystified by Marks behavior, that night. said.)

"What was so special about that trip, to keep you gazing out that window for so long?"


(Still looking out the cabin window towards the black void. and with a questioning voice said.)  "Bill, do you believe there could be other dimensions out there. that we do not comprehend or even conceive of, as yet?."

(Bill looking puzzled by the question from his friend.)
Yes why?

(Mark, now fully coherent and totally engaged in the conversation with Bill.)
said., "Because I can prove it."

(Bill, looking at Mark, wondering what his friend is coming up with next, also slightly  baffle by his statement. )  "How can you prove such a thing. "?


(feeling confident with his facts.) said, "With a dollar Bill."

BILL replied.  "I would say show me the dollar, Mark? has this got something to do with that other train trip, you where talking about earlier?"


BILL,  (is now extremely curious,  about the dollar, that Mark, keeps talking about.)
said, "Tell me about it."

So Mark, (started Explaining the story to Bill.))
Said, "About ten years ago, on another Train, similar to this one,  I left my cabin and went into the club car for a nightcap, as I entered the club car noticed five men, sitting together near the bar.


One was an Army officer, with the insignia and badges of a Staff Intelligence officer a colonel, from what I could tell. Next to him was a man of about my own age, with sandy hair and a bony face, Scottish looking, who sat staring silently into a highball which he held in both hands. Across the aisle, there was an elderly man, who could have been a lawyer or a banker, he was smoking a cigar over a glass of port, and beside him sat a plump and slightly too well groomed individuals who had a tall colorless drink, probably gin-and-tonic. The fifth man, separated from him by a vacant chair, seemed to be dividing his attention between a book on his lap and the conversation, I sat down beside the sandy-haired man; as I did so, I rang for the waiter, the colonel was saying:"

Colonel continuing, "No, that wouldn't work. I can think of a better one. Suppose you have Columbus getting his ships from Henry the Seventh of England, and have him sailing under the English flag, instead of the Spanish flag. You know the fact is that, he did try to get English backing, before he went to Spain, but King Henry turned him down flat. That could be changed."

Mark continuing his explanation to bill,, "As you can imagine when the colonel said that, I pricked up my ears. The period from 1492 to the Revolution is my special field of American history, and I knew, at once, the enormous difference that would have made. It  was a moment later that I realized how oddly the colonel had expressed the idea, and by that time the plump man was speaking."

Tv Man replying saying.  "Yes, that would work, those kings made decisions, most of the time, on whether or not they had a hangover, or what some court favorite, thought." ((He got out a notebook and pen and scribbled briefly.) "I'll hand it to the script  planning staff when I get to New York. That's Henry the Seventh, not Henry the Eight? Right. We'll fix it so that Columbus will catch him when he's in a good humor."

(That last comment from the Tv man was too much for me. I turned  to the man next to him.) and said,  "What goes on? Has somebody invented a time machine?"

The guy  looked up from the drink he was contemplating and gave me a grin saying.)
("Sounds like it, doesn't it?  our friend here is getting up a television program. why not Tell the gentleman about it. maybe he can contribute to this discussion with some new ideas for you" (He urged the TV man across the aisle.)
"Just then, the waiter arrived . The Tv Man, who seemed to need little prompting, waited until I had ordered my drink, as then began telling me what a positively sensational idea his new program was."

Tv Man "We're calling it Crossroads of Destiny, It'll be a series, one hour show a week; in each episode, we'll take some historic event and show how history could have been changed if something had happened slightly differently along the time line. We then dramatize the event up to that point just as it really happened, and then a commentary-voice comes over and announces your in the Crossroads of Destiny;


this is how history could have been completely changed to the way you know it today. The announcer say's 'moreover suppose so, and so, had done this and that, instead of such, and such.'

Then we pick up the dramatization at that point, only we show it the way it might have happened. Like this thing about Columbus; we'll show how it could have happened,
and end with Columbus wading ashore with his sword in one hand and a flag in the other, just like the painting, only it'll be the English flag, and Columbus will shout something like:


'I take possession of this new land in the name of His Majesty, Henry the Seventh of England." ((He brandished his drink, to the visible consternation of the elderly man beside him.)) "And then, the sailors all sing God Save the King."

I promptly replied to the Tv man  " Columbus discovers America in 1493, and wasn't intellectually documented till about 17-45 by prominent historians,"

The Tv Man replied,  "Huh?" ((The TV man looked startled.))

"Are you sure? O, Well, and then they can all ways shout, 'God Save King Henry, or St. George for England! or something. Then, at the end, we introduce the program guest, some history expert, a real name, as, he tells the viewing public how he thinks history would have been changed if it had happened this way."

The conservatively dressed gentleman beside him wanted to know how long he expected to keep the show running.

Tv Man said, "We have about twenty already written and ready to produce, and ideas for twice as many that the planning staff is working on now."

The elderly man accepted that, and took another sip of wine cautiously.

I questioned the TV man by saying " I wonder, though, if whether you can really say that history can be changed."

Tv Man "Well, of course-- Of course, we only know what really did happen, but it stands to reason if something had happened differently, the results would have been
different, doesn't it? But it seems to me that everything would work out the same in the long run. There'd be some differences at the time, but over the years wouldn't they all cancel out?"

The Odd Man that has been silent to this point said, "No, no, Monsieur" (The man with the book, who had been outside the conversation until now, told me earnestly.)  "Make no mistake; history can definitely be changed."

The Tv Man looked at me saying well?.  "What do you think, Professor?"

I replied by saying, "It would work out the other way. The differences wouldn't cancel out. they'd accumulate. Say something happened a century ago, to throw a presidential election the other way. You'd get different people at the head of the government, opposite lines of policy taken, and eventually we'd be getting into different wars with different enemies, at different times, and different batches of young men killed before they could marry and have families--different people being born or not being born. That would mean different ideas, good or bad, being advanced; different books written; different inventions, and different social and economic problems as a consequence."

To which the  Colonel interjected saying, "Look, he's only giving himself a century, Think of the changes if this thing we were discussing, like Columbus sailing under the English flag, had actually happened. Or suppose Leif Ericson had been able to plant a permanent colony in America in the Eleventh Century, or if the Saracens had won the Battle of Tours, Try to imagine the world today if any of those things really had happened. One thing you can be sure of-any errors you make in trying to imagine such a world will be on the side of over-conservatism."

The sandy-haired man beside me, who had been using his highball for a crystal ball, must have glimpsed in it what he was looking for. He finished the drink, set the empty glass on the stand-tray beside him, and reached back to push the button for the waiter. said, "I don't think you realize just how good an idea you have," he told the plump man abruptly. he went on to say. "If you did, you wouldn't ruin it with such timid and unimaginative treatment."

I thought he'd been staying out of the conversation because it was over his head. Instead, he had been taking the plump man's idea apart, examining all the pieces, and considering what was wrong with it and how it could be improved. The plump man looked startled, and then angry, unimaginative were the last things he'd expected his idea to be called. Then he became uneasy. Maybe this fellow was a typical representative of his lord and master, the faceless abstraction called the Public.

In which the Tv Man unsure by the sandy-haired man statement replied,  "What do you mean?"

Sandy-Haired Man, said, "You shouldn't emphasize the event that could have changed history; you should emphasize the changes that could have been made to history. You're going to end this show you were talking about with a shot of Columbus wading up to the beach with an English flag, aren't you?"

To which the Tv Man replied, "Well, that's the logical ending to the program.."

Sandy-Haired Man said, "That's the logical beginning, the sandy-haired man contradicted. And after that, your guest historian comes on; how much time will he be  allowed?"

Tv Man replied, "Well, maybe three or four minutes. We can't cut the dramatization, too short--"

The Sandy-Haired Man said,  "And he'll have to explain, a couple of times, and in words of one syllable, that what we have seen didn't really happen, because if he doesn't, the next morning half the twelve-year-old kids in the country will be rushing wild-eyed into school to slip the teacher, the real inside about the discovery of America. By the time
he gets that done, he'll be able to mumble a couple of generalities about vast and incalculable effects, and then it'll be time to tell the public about Widgets, the
really safe cigarettes, all filter and absolutely free from tobacco to please your sponsor"

"By this time, The waiter arrived, and the sandy-haired man ordered another rye highball. I decided to have another whiskey on the rocks, and the TV impresario said, "Gin-and-tonic," absently, and went into a reverie which lasted until the drinks arrived. Then he came awake again."

The Tv Man went on to say, "I see what you mean, Most of the audience would wonder what difference it would have made where Columbus, would have gotten his ships, as long as he got them and America got discovered. I can see it would have made a hell of a big difference. But how could it be handled any other way? How could you figure out just what the difference would have been?"

The Sandy-Haired Man replied, "Well, you need a man who'd know the historical background, and you'd need a man with a powerful creative imagination, who is used to using it inside rigorously defined limits. Don't try to get them both in one; a collaboration would really be better. Then you work from the known situation in Europe and in America in 1492, and decide on the immediate effects.


And from that, you have to carry it along, step by step, down to the present. It would be a lot of hard and very exacting work, but the result would be worth it." He took a sip from his glass and added: "Remember, you don't have to prove that the world today would be the way you set it up. All you have to do is make sure that nobody else would be able to prove that it wouldn't be."

The Tv Man looked puzzled by the sandy-haired man explanation, enquired. "Well, how could you present that?"

The Sandy-Haired Man said, "As a play. with fictional characters and  plot, time, the
present, under the changed conditions. The plot--the reason the coward conquers his fears and becomes a hero, the obstacle to the boy marrying the girl, the reason the innocent, man, is being persecuted--will have to grow out of this imaginary world you've constructed, and would be impossible in our real world. As long as you stick to that, you're all right."

The Tv Man answered, "Sure. I get that." (The TV man was excited again; he was about half sold on the idea.)  "But how will we get the audience to accept it? We're asking them to start with an assumption they know isn't true."

To which the Colonel replied, "Maybe it is, in another time-dimension," the colonel suggested. "You can't prove it isn't. For that matter, you can't prove there aren't other time-dimensions of different time lines."

The Sandy-Haired Man jumped in saying excitedly, "Hah, that's it! World of alternate probability, that takes care of that." (He drank about a third of his highball and sat gazing into the rest of it, in an almost yogic trance again.)

The TV man looked at the colonel in bafflement.

The Tv Man was totally lost as he, said, "Maybe this alternate-probability time-dimension stuff means something to you, be damned if it does to me."

The Colonel replied, "Well, as far as we know, we live in a multi-verse universe- with almost infinite dimensional possibilities,"

(The elderly man across from him groaned.) saying, " infinite dimensional possibilities,! Good God, are we going to talk about that, now?"


The Colonel reply, to the old man was, "It isn't anything to be scared of. You carry an instrument for measuring in the fourth dimension all the time, Your Watch. We know of three dimensions of space, gesturing to indicate them. We can use them for coordinates to locate things, but we also locate things in time. I wouldn't like to ride on a train or a plane if we didn't. Well, let's call the time we know, the time your watch registers, Time-A?. Now, suppose the entire, infinite extent of Time-A? is only an instant in another dimension of time, which we'll call Time-B. The next instant of Time-B is also the entire extent of Time-A?, and the next and the next. As in Time-A?, different things are happening at different instants. In one of these instants of Time-B, one of the things that's happening is that King Henry the Seventh of England is furnishing ships to Christopher Columbus."

(The man with the odd clothes was getting excited again.) saying "I see, your saying--this alternate probability, theory is generally accepted' in this country?"

The Sandy-Haired Man replied, "am afraid not, There's absolutely no evidence to support it, and scientists don't accept unsupported assumptions, unless they need them to explain something, and they don't need this assumption for anything. Well, it would come in
handy to make some of these reports of freak, phenomena, like mysterious appearances and disappearances, or flying-object sightings, or reported falls, of non-meteoric
matter, theoretically respectable. Reports like that usually get the ignored. "

"Then you believe in other worlds of alternate probability, exist?" said the Odd Man.

 "Well. I don't disbelieve it, either. I've no reason to, one way or another." replied the Sandy-Haired Man. (as He studied his drink for a moment, and lowered the level in
the glass slightly.) "I've said that once in a while things get reported that look as
though such other worlds, in another time-dimension, may exist. There have been whole books published by people who collect stories like that. I must say that academic science isn't very hospitable to them."

The Odd Man replied saying, "You mean, things sometimes, come in from one of these other dimensional worlds? Has that been known to happen?"

"Well, things have been said, to have happened that might, if true, it could be
more of a case of things leaking through, from another time in to our world," "Or leaking away to another time world." He mentioned a few of the more famous cases, of unexplained mysteries--like the English diplomat in Prussia, who vanished in plain sight of a number of people, and the ship found completely deserted by her crew, with all the lifeboats in place; stories like that. The Sandy-Haired Man Continued by saying. "And there's this rash of alleged sightings of unidentified flying objects. I'd sooner believe that they came from another dimension than from another planet. But, as far as I know, nobody's seriously, advanced this other-time-dimension theory to explain them."

The Tv Man said , "I think the idea's familiar enough, though, that we can use it as an explanation, or pseudo-explanation, for the program, Fact is, we aren't married to this Crossroads title, yet; we could just as easily call it Fifth Dimension. or What If, That would lead the public, to expect something out of the normal before the show started."

Well that got the conversation back onto the show, and we talked for some time about it, each of us suggesting possibilities. The stranger even suggested one--that the Civil War had started during the Jackson Administration. Fortunately, nobody else noticed that. Finally, a porter came through and inquired if any of us were getting off at Harrisburg, saying that we would be arriving in five minutes. The stranger finished his drink hastily and got up, saying that he would have to get his luggage. He told us how much he had enjoyed the conversation, and then followed the porter toward the rear of the train. After he had gone out, the TV man chuckled.

He looked at me saying "Man, That one, was a real  odd ball, where the hell do you suppose he got that suit?"

To which the colonel replied, " for your information, It was a tailored suit, and I must say, it's a very good one. And I can't think of any country in the world in which they cut suits just like that. And did you catch his accent?"

The Tv Man said,  "It's a Phony, a French accent of a Greek waiter in a fake French restaurant. In the Bronx, The pronunciation was all right for French accent, but the way the word-sounds were strung together, was German."

(The elderly man looked at the colonel keenly.)) "I see you're an Intelligence officer, do you think, he might be somebody up your alley, Colonel?"

The Colonel replied, "I doubt it. There are agents of unfriendly powers in this country, unfortunately a lot of them, I'm sorry to have to say. But they don't speak accented English, and they don't dress eccentrically. You can tell an enemy agent in a crowd, all you have to do is, pick out the most normal looking person, in sight and you usually won't have to look further."
At that time the train ground to a stop. A young couple with hand luggage came in and sat at one end of the car, waiting until other accommodations could be found for them. After a shot time the train started moving again. I dallied over my drink, and then got up and excused myself, saying that I wanted to turn in early. In the next car behind me, I met the porter, who had come in to the club car just before the train stopped. He looked worried, and after a moment's hesitation, he spoke to me.

He said." Pardon me, sir. The man in the club-car who got off at Harrisburg; did you know him?"

I said, "Never seen him before. Why?"

Porter replied,  "He tipped me with a dollar bill when he got off. Later, I looked
closely at it. I do not like it."


The porter, showed me, the dollar bill, and I didn't blame him for not liking it,. It was marked One Dollar, and United States of America, but outside that, there wasn't a thing right about it. One side was gray, all right, but the other side was green. The picture wasn't the right one. And there were a lot of other things about it that where storage, some of them absolutely ludicrous. It wasn't counterfeit--it wasn't even an imitation of a United States bill.

And then it hit me, like a bullet in the chest. Not a bill of our United States. No wonder he had been so interested in whether our scientists accepted the theory of other time
dimensions, and other worlds of alternate probability!

On an impulse, I got out, two ones, and gave them to the porter,-they where perfectly good United States Bank gold-certificates. "You'd better let me keep this,"

I tried to make it sound the way he'd think a Federal Agent  would say it. He took the bills, smiling, and I folded his bill and put it into my vest pocket.

The porter said, "Thank you, sir, I have no wish to keep it."

Present day train cabin.

"I still have the dollar bill." (He took it out of his vest pocket and handed it over to bill for his inspection.)

Bill siad,  "So what happened then?

(Once more Mark turned his head towards the window looking in to the dark void as he explained.)

Some part of my mind below the level of consciousness must have taken over and guided me back to the right car and compartment; I didn't realize where I was going till I put
on the light and recognized my own luggage. Then I sat down, as dizzy as though, the two drinks, I had had, have been a dozen. For a moment, I was tempted to rush back to the club-car and show the thing to the colonel and the sandy-haired man. On second thought, I decided against that. It seemed I had a brush with the paranormal and got given a piece of it, that will haunt me, for the rest of my days.



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