When you die, your life doesn’t flash before your eyes, but it does happen just before you are born. The path you’re meant to follow, in all its glory, is laid out before you. The one, true plan for a life that will bring you happiness, fulfillment, and love. The trick is to make the unborn child remember it.

But what if you could take it a step further?

What if you could make the baby remember other things too? Like which stocks or real estate to buy and when to sell them. Which horse, sports team, or boxer to bet on. How to not only embrace his or her true destiny, but to enhance and improve upon it.

My great-grandfather Hans Aldo Dietrich discovered this opportunity in the worst possible way. He was one of the World War II concentration camp prisoners subjected to medical experimentation. One of these research trials involved the Nazis trying to figure out how to bring the dead back to life. Of course, Hans was both the living and the dead in this atrocious act of barbarism. If his memory of the horrors he experienced is accurate, he was flatlined and brought back to life at least a dozen times over the course of several months before his captors moved on to other prisoners.

On two of these occasions, he found himself face-to-face with his unborn self. He explained it as a stream of consciousness in which he and the baby shared their thoughts. A sort of inner monologue between the two versions of himself. He could envision what was going on in the baby’s mind and saw his own life flashing before the baby’s eyes both times, but not exactly as he’d lived it. There were significant differences and all of them were for the better.

Hans never told the Nazis about these incidents and he spent the rest of his life trying to figure out how he’d done it. He tried to pinpoint the differences between those two death experiences and all the other times he’d died and been revived. He became obsessed with discovering how he could use it to his advantage to change his own destiny.

My great-grandfather’s theory became known within the family as the DNSZ which stands for ‘Dietrich nehmen Sie zwei’ in German and translates to the ‘Dietrich Take Two’ in English. It is a well-guarded secret; a family legacy that must be protected.

When he died, my great-grandfather left his three sons a letter summarizing the DNSZ, along with a timeline detailing the milestones of his life – all the good, bad, and truly terrible things he’d lived through. He made note of important dates and events in his sons’ lives too.

They were to compare his life, and their own, to the timeline. If any meaningful changes had occurred, they’d know he succeeded in proving his hypothesis.

He also left his sons detailed instructions on how to attempt it themselves and explained his only focus was on relaying one thing to his unborn self. Getting out of Germany before 1938. He included a photo showing the concentration camp serial number tattoo on his forearm in the hopes it wouldn’t exist in the world as they knew it.

As far as we can tell, my great-grandfather wasn’t successful in altering his own life. None of the major life events he documented for himself or his sons changed in any way.

We have records two of the three sons followed in their father’s footsteps and attempted to better their lives. One of them was my grandfather Fritz Hans Dietrich and we know, without a doubt, he succeeded in changing the course of his life.

In the timeline great-grandfather left him, along with the one he added to the documentation he left for my dad, my grandpa had been the foreman at a car manufacturing plant. In our reality, he’d been the chief financial officer of a large regional bank. The woman Fritz married, and the children he had in our world, were not the people listed in the two timelines my dad received.

We try not to think about the wife and children grandpa erased and replaced. He had included a picture of his family with the paperwork he left my dad. We burned it years ago. It was just too painful to look at those faces that existed and yet never existed.

Instead we focus on the fact we’re here and our lives have been as good as they are because grandpa had the courage to create a better life for himself.

When it comes to the family secret, we are certain of three things. The only person who can reach out to the unborn child is the person the baby becomes; you can only try to help yourself. If you attempt the DNSZ, you’ll never know if it worked. That’s because you have to die, travel back along your own timeline to your in utero self while retaining all the things you want yourself to know, and then figure out how to make the soon-to-be-born version of you remember it.

Did I mention we think it only works between the time the mother’s water breaks and the moment the child is born? And for less than five minutes after you die?

Some family members have raised their children with knowledge of the DNSZ. Others have kept it to themselves and revealed it to their heirs only after their deaths, just as great-grandfather did.

My cousin Fredrick grew up knowing about it. He made some terrible mistakes as a teenager. Things that couldn’t be undone, forgotten, or forgiven, and he was paying the price for it. He decided there was no point in continuing down the dreadful path he’d created for himself. Fredrick committed suicide shortly after his 21st birthday because he was banking on a clean slate with his take two.

Is it better to always know you may have an opportunity to start over or is it preferable to find out about it later in life? Would you make bolder choices and have less self-doubt if you thought you could do it all again? Or would you simply ride it out, without ever really trying, because of the possibility of a second chance?

Will multiple people attempting the DNSZ ultimately interfere with one another? There isn’t enough data at this point for serious evaluation, and while some family members share information, others keep everything private. Are we sabotaging the future of the entire Dietrich family?

My own moral compass has driven me mad.

Is it wrong to want to make things better for myself?

What if I end up making things worse?

Mine has been a rather good ride. But what if things can be better, much, much better than the life I’ve already led?

The very idea of orchestrating your own do-over is just so tempting. It’s impossible to ignore.

Have I wasted the precious little time I had to convince you, my unborn self, to remember all that I just shared with you? Is the family secret safe in your tiny little hands?

Should I have focused on ways to ensure vast riches in our life? Chanted buy Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook stock for the time allotted me? Encouraged you to purchase waterfront property and land along interstate highways? Remember this if you can and buy, buy, buy!

Knowing myself as I do, or did, since I’m now dead, I think this is exactly the right information to leave you with. It’s what I would have wanted to know and I am, after all, you. Just as you are me. Have we done this dance before?

So, listen up soon-to-be-me because we’re almost out of time!

Focus on the one true path our life should take and remember our destiny.

Focus on it and remember it.

Focus and remember and prove great-grandfa …

August 20, 2020 16:04

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Joshellyn Sim
00:19 Aug 27, 2020

I was just scrolling through other people's works at 5 in the morning when I found your little gem here, and holy heck was this the best ever story I read so far. The concept was so interesting and your execution was just phenomenal, I really loved the big reveal at the end there and the way you describe the character's thoughts in such detail. That's all I got to say, great read and good job.


PK Spice
01:08 Aug 27, 2020

So glad you liked it! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated.


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PK Spice
11:39 Aug 25, 2020

Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the support.


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Nandan Prasad
08:44 Aug 25, 2020

OMG, such a great story! I loved the concept and the flowing emotions. The ending was great, how you just faded off, revealing whom you were talking to; just great. Well-done and keep writing!


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