In the Marvel comic series titled “What If?”, a character named Uatu, known as a watcher, tells the reader about alternate realities, and describes to the reader a tale about What If their favourite superhero had done something different, or if something different had happened to them. What would happen? What, exactly, would Uatu say about this moment, before the bomb dropped? If there are alternate realities, as some interpretations of physics describe, what would happen in the universe where Drigsby didn’t drop the bomb? Or where the bomb was dud? What story would Uatu tell…
Uatu’s Tale: What If The Bomb Never Detonated?
I, Uatu, will relate to you, my avid reader, of another universe, a universe you are not a part of, but one in which I can see, since I am a watcher, observer to all that happens in the past, present and future of this universe and all others. In this universe, Tsu is still walking by the harbour on that fateful (to you) day, and Drigsby still drops the bomb, but the nuclear devise has a malfunction, and does not detonate. Indeed, the solid mass continued to fall passed its altitude mark in which it would have detonated had it not malfunctioned, and crashed through a bridge, created quite a pile up, and several casualties. Nowhere close, mind you, of the awesome destruction it would have had had it performed its duties. The people near the accident could not comprehend what had befallen them. Here was this solid mass, a few feet into the ground, through asphalt, surrounded by cars and bodies of varying damage. A few people approached the mini-crater, but no one investigated with much gusto. There was enough common sense among the bystanders to think that there may be a connection to the Deus Ex from the sky and the war that was currently going on. The local authorities were notified, who quickly re-directed traffic and set up an investigation team. The team quickly were able to correctly surmise that a bomb had hit, and a bomb squad was called in. Once it leaked to the general public that a nuclear bomb attack had been attempted on them, mass hysteria hit. The national government quickly spread the word and condemned the perpetrator, using this event as leverage to gain the allegiance of other nations who had yet to choose a side, playing the victim card. The attacking nation claimed it was an accident, that the pilot was on a mission to transport the warhead to another military base, and even had the gall to claim that the reason the missile fell from the plane was because the plane had been attacked, and that the bomb was released by accident. This only exacerbated the situation, and ultimately led to most nations siding with the victims. This, ultimately, was how the war ended.
As for pilot Drigsby, he interpreted the impotent explosion as a sign of divine intervention. On his flight home, he promised to live a peaceful, nonviolent life for as long as he lived. Once he arrived back at his military barracks, he was congratulated and awarded for his failed mission, and was ultimately discharged; an honour he was more proud of than any medal they may have wished to have pinned to his beating chest. That night, as he slept at the barracks, he thought about his luck, and he thought about Maggie. The thought of her dying in her old age, with thoughts of her newly born great-grand babe in her mind, that brought gracious tears to his eyes. When he got home, he immediately made love to his wife. Afterwards, he told her all about his top secret mission. When she discovered that he would have ultimately have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of souls, she couldn’t believe her ears. She didn’t want to believe him; that her husband could have the power to have done such a thing. “You pushed the button?”
“Y…yes. Yes, I had to. It was my job, it is what I was trained for, it is what I was commanded to do”
“But you could have chosen not to. You could have just flown the plane away from there, and when you landed, they would have arrested you, but at least you wouldn’t have been responsible for the killing of thousands. I don’t understand how you could have done that!”, becoming hysterical.
“Honey, calm down. Don’t you think I thought about all that? Don’t you think I cared?!”, yelling.
They stared at each other through tear stared corneas.
She began to sob. He moved closer to her and held her.
“Honey I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know it was a terrible thing, and I wish I had never done it. But look, don’t you see? God stopped it. God, or Allah, or whomever. Someone up there was looking out for me today. No, not me, for those people down there. God did this. Right?”
“Huh? I-I don’t know. Since when were you religious?”
“Since now. Holy fuck! I mean, I almost killed a fraction of a million people only a few weeks ago. How else do you explain it?”
“I-I don’t know. This is all so surreal. I’m happy you’re alright, and that those people are alright. I don’t know why this happened, but I’m happy it did”
“Let’s have a baby”
“A baby. A little thing that comes out of you, in 9 months. A girl! A boy! Hell, I don’t care. I’m so happy right now, I just want to bring more life into this world.”
“Well I don’t. This is a horrible world, Drigsby. The thought that I could be ignorant of the fact that my husband was put in charge of pushing the button that would have ended the lives of so many…it just…I can’t think. This is all too much to deal with right now”
“You’re right. We’ll talk about it later”
And talk about it later they did. They talked about babies, and about life, about responsibility, ethics, the state of the world, they joked, they yelled, they cried, they loved. Ultimately they decided it was a crazy world, that they wanted to do something to fix it, and to not bring any more children into the world. They traveled the world, helping out poor communities: building schools, teaching, helping out communities, volunteering at health centers, and so on. They grew old and never stopped loving each other. They made many friends, and brought joy to all the places they helped out. Bla bla bla, it was a nice life.
As for Tsu, life would have been much different. I won’t ruin for you what happened to him in your reality, after the bomb; you’ll find out about that soon enough. It is my hope that, in telling you how things could have been different for our Tsu, you will see that, althought terrible things may befall a person, good things may ultimately come about because of them. Beauty from tragedy. In this instance, Tsu went to work like he always did. He went through his miserable day like he had done every day before, for the last seven years, ever since he graduated from highschool and got a job straight away in his Dad’s advertising business. But this day was different, since he had met Kristi. Kristi continued to fill his thoughts, with not only lust, but of images of beauty and thoughts of joy and a life he could live; of a different life then the one he was living now. Perhaps, with her help, he could get out of his rut, turns things around. He had had some suicidal thoughts before this day, a fact to which he only begun to let himself acknowledge with the idea of something better just ahead. He was ashamed of this fact. Who was he? How could he be so selfish as to want to off himself? Didn’t he think about others? About the poor people who would have to clean up his gross dead body? He did think about those people, and it made him feel guilty. What about his poor mother, didn’t he feel bad about leaving her? Potentially forcing her into a state of despair and depression? He did think about her, and he felt guilty about his thoughts. What about his father? Did he think about how he would feel? No. He didn’t.
After work that day, he retraced the bus route, and found Kristi’s bookstore. It was open, and he believed that he caught a sight of her, standing on a ladder, putting away books, with her skirt lifting up oh so slightly. But he didn’t get a good look: he ducked down before she could see him. He memorized the address and went home. That night he felt and exhuberance he had never felt before. He began to make a plan, to find a way to meet this girl again, and convince her that he was the guy for her. But how was he ever going to do that, he thought. HE didn’t even like HIMSELF. Well, he thought, I guess I’ll have to start there. He walked to the mirror in the bathroom, and faced himself: a thing he seldom did, since he didn’t like to see the face looking back. He stared at it, and he said “hey, you’re handsome” even though he knew he wasn’t “you’re a cool guy” even though he wasn’t “you’re alright. Kristi’s going to love you” with that, he began to laugh. But it didn’t last. He though for a moment. Maybe it’s not so crazy. Maybe a girl like that could like a guy like me. She did talk to me after I was huddled like a turtle on the bus. She didn’t care what other people thought, just like I didn’t care what other people thought when I talked to the guy I thought was my future self. He shuddered at the memory of that encounter. He took off his shirt, and examined himself. He tried to flex. He tried to flex again. Nothing. Hmmm, I’ll have to work on that.
He went to the living room and laid down on the floor, on his stomach. Ok, people in prison do this sort of thing all the time. How hard can it be? He tried to do a push up. He failed. He tried again. This time, face red and sweat pouring out of his forehead, he lifted himself off the ground… then fell. Alright, one. Tomorrow I’ll try for two. Next he rolled himself over. He brought up his knees, and tried to do a sit up. He tried, and failed. My god, he thought, how did I ever get this out of shape? He let himself catch his breath, and visualized his sit up. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it, he thought. I’m going to do it. Then he did a sit up. Hey, that wasn’t so hard. Thinking about doing another one, he though otherwise, and decided that tomorrow he would do two push ups, and two sit ups. He then walked back to the mirror, astonished at how sweaty he had become. “You’re a good looking guy” he said, this time with more confidence “You’re a cool guy, and Kristi likes you, and you like her, and you’re going to be in love”. He had worked himself into a confidence frenzy.
The next day, on the bus, he looked for Kristi, but she never appeared. When he passed her bookstore, it hadn’t opened yet, and there was no cute girl running for it on the way there. At work, he continued the mirror mantra in his head, building up his confidence. He had decided that he was going to talk to her that day, after work, at the bookstore.
And so he did. On the way home, he got off at the same stop he had the day before, and approached the bookstore. There she was, reading, behind the counter. He opened the door and was welcomed with a ring by a bell from the door. She didn’t look up. His confidence was failing him. He began to look at the books immediately stacked near the door. He began to sweat. He calmed himself, and began reciting his mantra. Only, he was so nervous, he didn’t realize he was saying it outloud. When he finally realized, it was too late. She had heard him. She had heard him talking to himself, like a crazy man. Strike two, he thought. She was still seated when she said “Hey! You’re the guy from the bus.” She remembers me! His confidence soared. He looked over at her, casually, and said “Oh! It’s you! Is, is this your bookstore? The one you mentioned yesterday?” “Of course it is, didn’t you see me get off?” “It, it must have been a subconscious thing. I was coming home and just thought ‘hmm, I should get off here’, and I saw this bookstore…and…isn’t that crazy? That’s crazy right! What a coincidence.” She was smiling. She could read him like a —-. “Are you looking for something in particular?” Oh no, we’re talking business. She doesn’t care about you, she just wants you to grab a book and leave. No. Don’t think that way, you’re an attractive man, you’re a cool man, you two are going to fall in love. “Uh…” Don’t say you are, say something cool, something romantic…like you’re looking for lov-NO that’s stupid. Oh god, say something “no, no, just as I said, walking through.” Say something nice “But I’m happy to see you again. I felt like we were just starting to get to know each other, before you had to get off” “Awww, that’s sweet. I feel the same way, I’m happy you got off on a whim” “So, uh, do you go to school?” “OH yeah, but during the summer I work here.” “Oh, what are you taking in school?” “English” “Oh, an English major eh?, what ever made you want to take that?” “I love books…” God you’re an idiot. Say something clever. “I would never have guessed” … “Hahaha” She laughed! “But yeah, I uh, I never went to school” “Oh no? Why not?” “I don’t know. I had a good opportunity to work with my dad after school, and I just didn’t see much point in it” “Hmm” “Yeah, it kind of sucks. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of things that my peers have done” “Like what” “Oh you know, uh, partying, and drinking, and stuff” “Haha, yeah, I guess you’ve missed out on that…but you know, school is more than just that” “Oh yeah? What else have I missed out on” “Well, for me, my favourite part has been critically reading the great writers, like Melville and Joyce and Pynchon and McCarthy, OH, and Nabokov.” I had never heard of these names before, but I played smart. “OH yeah, of course.” Her face lit up “You like Nabokov?” OH GOD. Quick, think fast “No…I mean, no, don’t know him. Sorry, I was just trying to impress you” “Oh, I see. Why would you want to impress me?” “Are you kidding? You’re so smart and…well, you’re uh…you’re very pretty.” Tsu’s heart was beating a mile a minute. He thought he could detect a blush. “Thanks Tsu, you’re so sweet. Listen…would you want to hang out sometime? And I could bring you books and…I don’t know, I could teach you all the stuff I learn from English class?” Tsu almost fainted. It took him a whole minute, an excruciatingly long – awkward – minute to respond “Yeah. Yeah of course. No, I would love that!”
And so Tsu got Kristi’s number, and a relationship formed. For a couple months after that, Kristi would show up at Tsu’s place (which he kept spotlessly clean, an act that required one night of superhuman courage and perseverance to annihilate the scum that had infested his never-visited apartment), and she gave him books that he would read with insatiable gusto. He never really understood them, but she helped him, and she was astonished at his desire to read. In reality, he didn’t care for the books, thought them no better than the musings of some pretentious buggers, but these books were the reason that they kept getting together, and he loved that.
Over the months, their friendship blossomed, and they became closer. Instead of once a week, Kristi would start coming over almost everyday, sometimes with books to read, other times with homework of her own to do. Tsu loved this, but was beginning to grow impatient that they had yet to do anything romantic, or girlfriend/boyfriend type stuff. Kristi herself was growing tired of the absence of any initiation on Tsu’s part, for which she believed was his prerogative if he wanted anything to happen between them. She attempted all sort of tactics in order to light the fire beneath his loins, or to give him enough motivation to be a man and make a move. Sometimes, when they were working on her homework together, she would sit really close to him, thigh against thigh, and she would lean over, with some lame excuse, and brush past his face, with hers, feeling his breath on her cheek. Her leg, touching his, would move up and down, rubbing against his. Sometimes she would resort to dropping a pencil, and she would brush past his legs with her arm in her attempt to retrieve it. All of these moves, unfortunately, only seemed to push Tsu further into his shell. She then resorted to talking about other boys, in the hopes that he would become jealous and, for fear of losing her, make some drastic actions. She invent imaginary boys that would come into the book shop, and they would talk about stuff, and she was only telling the story because, wasn’t it interesting that he bought the very same book that she just finished reading several days ago? Or some such trivial business. Tsu would simply agree, or not react at all. She couldn’t understand what to do.
Tsu himself was feeling his heart expand beyond its limits, afraid that at any moment it would burst. During any of Kristis advances, he would concentrate on not getting an erection, and would become catatonic in attempting this Herculian task. When Kristi would mention boys, his mind would go into over-drive, imagining this and that, to the point where he would lose track of Kristi’s story, and when he found that she was waiting for a response from him, he would simply nod, or agree with what she was saying, afraid to give away that he was not listening.
Unfortunately, not much changed in the following months. Kristi would continue to bring him books and do homework at his house; she continued her advances and her guerilla warfare on his sense of jealous; and he in turn would find himself impotent with action due to a tangled mind. Eventually Kristi did meet a boy at the bookstore, a real one, and they began to hang out, at first against her better judgment, but unable to turn down all of his charming advances, she began to find herself enamored with him. She began to interpret Tsu’s shyness as the simple consequence of the fact that he probably didn’t like her in that way, that he may actually be gay, or perhaps asexual. Tsu, completely incompetent at expressing his feelings, eventually became complicit with Kristi’s relationship with the other boy, taking on the role of a harmless friend who was there for her: a crying shoulder, a listening ear, a giver of a much needed dose of reality (always in her favour, of course).
Tsu would never love again. He grew old and bitter, but maintained his friendship with Kristi for the rest of their lives. She would often try and set him up with a girlfriend of hers, much to his heart-break, and to the remnants of hers. These dates, however, would never go anywhere. He would never show that much interest, often killing the conversations with one word answers, or the shrug of his shoulder. None of Kristi’s friends could understand why she would set them up with such a boring guy. Kristi, deep down began to understand why, but by the time it was too late. Sometime after dating men post-Tsu, she found a man who would take her hand in marriage, and would father her children. Tsu became the god-father, by which time he succeeded in completely smothering his feelings for her, often times forgetting that she was the reason he never slept with a woman without paying her.
He eventually died, in his old age, happy with their friendship, but with the feeling that he had been cheated out of a life full of love and excitement.
What ‘actually’ happened (as you would understand it), however, on that morning that the bomb was dropped, was completely different.