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Christopher McGrane is an Australian author. He has written many pieces of fiction and has received politely worded rejection letters from some of the world's most prestigious publishers, literary competitions and dating agencies. Chris' short stories have appeared in a number of publications in Australia, the UK, and the US. When Chris isn't dreaming of literary fame, he has a perfectly sensible office job.

Burke looked less nervous than when he had first contacted her. Now that the whistle-blower had committed himself, he seemed calmer, almost jovial.
"Before I worked for the Government, I worked in advertising," he said, while she confirmed that the car-park in which they stood was deserted.
"40 years ago, I was the one who changed the Polar ice cream penguin's appearance. I changed his bowtie from green to red."
Alexa nodded patiently. She knew her contact had not summoned her here, in the middle of the night, to discuss an ice cream logo. She allowed Burke to ramble. He did not do so for long. Soon, he confirmed something that sent a chill up Alexa's spine.
"The US Government has been conducting time travel experiments for decades. All of the major powers have. We produced the first operational prototype two decades ago. Since then, we have been altering the history of the world to suit American interests and the whims of individual Presidents."
"Whenever agents of the Federal Bureau of Temporal Intervention travel back in time and alter history, they invariably leave traces of the timeline they erased. Despite our best efforts, certain people seem to be able to remember fragments of the erased timeline. The Bureau has a number of polysyllabic names for this phenomenon, but it is popularly known as 'The Mandela Effect."
Alexa stared at her contact in wonder. She hardly knew where to begin.
"How did Mandela come to be associated with this phenomenon?" She asked her contact.
Burke smiled "In the original timeline, Mandela died in prison, under suspicious circumstances. His death triggered a civil war in South Africa. A civil war that cost almost a million lives and destabilized Southern Africa for decades. Obama had the FBTI change things, they traveled back in time, prevented the death and created the history of modern South Africa as we know it today. However, despite our alteration to the timeline, certain people apparently still half-remember the original timeline, in which Mandela died in prison."
"So the Bureau's activities are benign?"
"Most of them were not. You should read about what we did to Lincoln."
"You are an FBTI agent?"
"No. I am just an administrator. I'm not involved in any of the field operations. But I have access to all of the records."
He handed her a USB.
Alexa placed the USB in her coat pocket, next to the gun her editor insisted she carry. If Burke's allegations were verifiable, then her newspaper would need to be extremely careful.
"What would the Government do if they knew you were talking to a journalist?"
"If I were lucky, they would kill me."
"And if you weren't lucky?"
"They would erase me from history." He whispered.
"Let me examine your evidence, speak to my editor. If we can verify what you are saying, we can help you apply for protection, as a whistleblower. With that protection and the publicity this story is bound to attract, the Government won't dare touch you."
45 minutes later, Alexa was on the top floor of the Washington Globe building. Alexa, her editor and a small team of experts were combing through the data on the USB.
"This makes Watergate look like a pledge-week prank," one researcher commented. "We weren't just illegally breaking into hotels; we were illegally altering the histories of entire continents."
The Globe's editor patted Alexa on the shoulder.
"I'm afraid you'll need to cancel your day off tomorrow. I will need you in the office--writing the expose that will earn you the Pulitzer Prize."
Alexa grinned.
The following day, Alexa and her son, Simon, walked through the park.
"Can I have an ice cream?" The four-year-old asked.
Alexa reluctantly agreed, not wanting to spoil the tranquility of her day off. They walked to the Polar ice cream stand. While Simon was waiting for his chocolate chip waffle cone, he stared at the logo on the ice cream stand.
"The penguin is supposed to wear a RED bowtie." The boy said, frowning. "I only like his bowtie when it is RED!" He shouted.
Alexa looked at the cartoon penguin. It wore a distinctive green bow tie. The same bow tie it had worn for as long as Alexa could remember. Alexa then looked at her son, worried that he would throw another of his public tantrums.
She needn't have worried.
A few minutes later, Simon was contentedly eating his ice cream and the matter was forgotten.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 28th, 2020
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