Pulse


By: Catherine Olaso

I jolt awake, naked and shivering.  That always happens whenever I Pulse.  I don’t fight the nausea or my fluctuating temperature, only huddle against the alley wall, gritting my teeth while the spasms recede and my body settles into stasis.  I am young, and handle the transition better than men.   

My head pounds as I struggle to get my bearing, trying to grasp the fuzzy instructions swarming my mind. 

Pulsing – projecting your pure life force into a different dimension, backward or forward in time, comes with restraints.  The most crucial?  I have sixty-three minutes to complete my task before the portal to that specific event closes, never to open again.  One shot to change history…that’s all I get. 

I roll to my feet, hugging my chest for warmth.  It’s mid spring in Amsterdam – 1944.  Europe is tangled in Hitler’s web of extermination.  Crisper images strengthen my clarity, driving me forward.  I stumble around wooden crates before noticing the black ink on the inside of my left wrist – an address inscribed on my skin.  263 Prinsengracht.

  My assignment becomes clear.  

Two German soldiers strut across the alley entrance, forcing me to duck.  A warning from a future dimension streams through my mind.  ‘Wait for the man in the blue tweed coat.’ 

I draw a deep breath, looking down in relief as the soldiers pass.  When I look up, I see the man in the blue tweed coat fidgeting beside a trashcan.  Shadows hide his face.  It’s too dangerous to speak.  He drops a burlap sack and hastens across the street, disappearing down another alley.  

The sack holds clothing, money, several forged travel documents and another address.  

I quickly shimmy into the brown cotton dress, then grab the stockings and shoes, stuffing the money and documents inside my pockets.  The air grows damper.  Sunset brings extra soldiers to enforce the looming curfew.  

Outside the alley, I catch a street sign.  Herenstraat.  Prinsengracht lies three blocks north. 

Pedestrians dwindle and shops are closing.  I try to hurry in a way that won’t call attention.  My heart hammers with anticipation.

I read her diary in school, watched movies about her life, felt the injustice of her death haunt me for years… and now Anne Frank was only a block away!

A soldier on the corner eyes me with suspicion.  I cross the street, focusing forward.  He loses interest when a woman drops her purse beside him.

263 Prinsengracht.  The office entrance looks dark and surreal.  My gaze drifts to the upper two floors and my pulse quickens.  I am so close.

The locked door doesn’t deter me, and within seconds I am moving silently through the private offices and staircases leading to the third floor.  The scent of cinnamon and cloves from the warehouse surround me.

My hands tremble as I push the bookcase aside, revealing the famous, “Secret Annex.”  At the top of the landing, frightened whispers seep beneath a gray door to my right.  I rap on the wood and call out in my best Dutch.  “Don’t be afraid.  I’m a friend.”

Gaunt, pale faces wear terrified expressions when I open the door.  “I’m a friend,” I repeat, raising my hands in reassurance.  Eight people cower in a huddle.  One of them, Mrs. Van Pel, is crying and clinging to her husband and son, Peter.

I feel as if I know them each so intimately.  My anxious gaze skims over every face until settling on Anne’s.  She is rail thin, and her dark eyes blink at me in wonder.

“How have you discovered us?”  Otto Frank steps forward, protecting his family behind him.

“Are the police coming?”  Mr. Pfeffer, the dentist, wrings his hands. 

“No.  You’re safe,” I say.  “For now.” 

Mrs. Frank clutches Margot and Anne together in relief.  She stiffens when I continue.  “But the burglar from a few weeks ago…he will report you.  Please come with me.”

“Leave the annex?”  Mrs. Van Pel turns paler.  “Impossible.”

“No, Mrs. Van Pel.  Staying here is impossible.”  I motion toward the door.  “We don’t have much time.  I have money and documents.  We’ll take the train to Volendam.”

“A fishing village?”  Mr. Van Pel and Mr. Pfeffer ask in unison.

“Let me see the documents.”  Mr. Frank puts on his glasses as I hand him the paperwork.

Silence eats at my nerves while he examines them.  “You must trust me, Mr. Frank.”

Anne nudges forward, studying me.  She is frail, but her spirit is strong.  Her lively soul touches mine.  “I believe her, Pim.”

“Me too,” says Peter.

“We’ll walk in scattered groups of twos and threes,” I say, herding them down the stairs.  Anne clutches her diary.  Mrs. Van Pel whimpers and clings to the banister, still reluctant. 

Most of the street lamps are broken, allowing cover as we straggle toward the train station, ever aware of lurking soldiers.  Warm fingers slip into mine, and I realize Anne is beside me.  I squeeze her hand, silently vowing I will not fail her. 

The station shimmers like a beacon in the distance.  We arrive safely and despite Mrs. Van Pel’s nervous tics, our documents pass inspection. 

But something isn’t right.  I glance over my shoulder and see four soldiers gesturing at Anne.  They move closer, spreading out to surround us.

The train whistle blows, doors are closing.

“Get on the train!  Find this address!”  I shove a paper scrap into Anne’s hand.

A soldier yells, “Halt!” 

I push Anne onto the train.  One last look seers her image on my heart.  The rest scramble in after her.

I plant myself on the platform, fighting soldiers as the train pulls away.  Just as a bullet grazes my shoulder, my body shifts dimensions. 

Sixty-three minutes is up.