Chapter One: In the Beginning
Sunday, early evening, 1943, inside Konzentrationslager Auschwitz II-Birkenau
I can hear him crying in his corner of the living quarters on Block 7. The agonizing strains of his violin tear at my heart, even when I’m inside this helmeted Nazi ogre. I have spirit-walked into the SS guard, who’s in charge of the barracks, and I detest the stench of his body. His fat, bloated stomach, and his bad breath, which stinks of cigars and beer, disgust me. But I must enter him, so I can take my quarry, Rubin Abel, age twenty-two, to meet the woman he married but was never able to make love to.
I am the Auschwitz Dancer, Francheska Mann, former ballerina, who was shot and killed by machine gun fire on October 23, in the women’s locker room outside the Zyklon B gas showers. I was twenty-six when I died. In this game, they all call me “Frankie.” The competition in this quantum dimension, which is frozen in the month of October 1943, is to redeem myself by joining lovers who were separated by fate. With every couple I can re-unite, I can come closer to my own love, my husband, Marek Rosenberg, who is being held by my nemesis of life and death, the Nazi’s supernatural ubermensch, Herr Soul Master.
I know the routine now like the back of my hand. Prisoners return to the camp under SS escort before nightfall. They often carry the corpses of those who die or were killed while laboring. The evening roll call begins at seven o’clock and, as in the morning, can be prolonged by discrepancies in the number of counted prisoners. After roll call, the prisoners receive their evening bread with its accompaniment of watery barley soup, with a blob of fat, if they’re fortunate. They have free time after the evening meal.
Rubin, who is in the camp orchestra, practices his violin, as he was once a concert virtuoso before being taken prisoner in Warsaw, in the middle of his wedding. Just before he was about to bring his foot down, to smash the napkin-wrapped wine glass at the Polski Hotel, the guards took him and his lovely bride, Sarah, prisoner, along with forty other Jews at the wedding.
Until the first gong, the signal for everyone to return to their quarters, prisoners wait their turn for the washrooms and toilets. They may also receive mail and parcels or visit acquaintances in other blocks. The second gong, at nine o’clock, announces the nighttime silence.
Prisoners do not have to labor at all on Sundays and holidays, which they spend tidying up their quarters, mending or washing their clothes, or shaving and having their hair cut. They can also attend concerts by the camp orchestra and, every other week, send official letters to their families. My human compatriot, Helena Datoń, is now bringing Rubin’s wife from the women’s section of the camp to meet up with Rubin inside the orchestra’s Green Room, in the back of the auditorium. We have outfitted it with a small bed and pillow, and two of Abel’s orchestra mates, Willy Siegel, and Martin Fogel, will serenade the lovers from the side room. We also have fresh flowers and chocolates.
“Ach tung!” I shout at Rubin, and he stands up, riveted at attention, never once looking me in the eyes, which means instant death. I grab him by his muscular forearm and point him toward the exit, my rifle trained on him as he slowly walks down the middle of the aisle. The other prisoners inside the barracks look on with some interest.
Outside, the air is cool, and the clouds are thick and billowy as the sun goes down, an orange ball in the west. I wish I could tell this poor young man who he will meet, but this might cause him to shout, or to dance wildly with passionate joy. At any moment, my adversary can send his evil henchmen to fight us to the death and end this game. I take a deep breath inside this SS guard’s body and push Rubin along with the point of my rifle barrel. There is a squad of four guards and one officer marching to take down the Nazi flag in the camp assembly area. I salute them with my sieg heil arm raised. Up ahead, just outside the auditorium door, we can see his wife, Sarah, being escorted by Helena. They aren’t meant to be here now! I need to get Rubin inside before she goes in.
Too late. Rubin has seen the love of his life. As he begins to run, I see the officer in charge of the flag detail look back, and he sees the sprinting young man. There is nothing else I can do. I bring my rifle up to my shoulder, take aim at the officer, who’s now pointing at Rubin, and fire! After this, I know what will happen, so I shoot myself in the head with the guard’s Luger pistol, and I enter Rubin.
He is in excellent shape, with rippling biceps and strong pectorals, and I can feel his strong legs as they pound the path like pistons toward the squad, who are standing, at ease, over their dead leader.
When they start to raise their rifles to fire at me, I begin my flashing pirouette of love’s vengeance. Leaping into the air, I strike the first rifle out of the guard’s arms and kick him in the back of the head. He hits the ground like a bag of potatoes, and then my speed increases, with my lightning-fast, spiritual zeal and force, and I knock the other unconscious with a spinning fouetté, clubbing him with my boot, and then turning, I do the same to all the others.
I now know I am free to enter the auditorium, but as I turn to run, I can see my worst nightmare. Up ahead, the rising full moon’s radiance captures the first challenge in my game. Three Nazi SS are standing, squatting over slightly, and I can see under the bright moon their hairy faces and their snouts. Their canines are flashing and ripping into the night air as they shuffle toward me. Herr Soul Master has sent his first wave of monsters to stop me from bringing Rubin to his loving bride.
In the beginning, I, Franceska Mann, am stuck up here, in the clouds, looking down on my hunting territory. It’s not Earth, in the sense you might imagine, dear reader. No, it was made exclusively for me, I suppose, in that I am now dead. As a matter of literary symbolism, my first life on your Earth was as a famous ballerina, in the country of Poland, and the year was 1943, as it is now, perhaps forever, in my frozen universe.
I need you to understand one thing: love freezes time. When you are with your lover, or your betrothed, it matters not what gender you are, or even species. This “love force” is the most potent goal in the quantum multiverse. Even if I’m stuck in one year, during one of the most horrible wars ever, I can still use my supernatural powers to bring lovers together and show them how to be this force for good. As I look down to survey the only world given to me by my master, who lies somewhere behind all reality, smiling at our grand drama, I must explain to you what will happen, so you can become accustomed to the adventures we will share together.
We will soon go down there. Me, in my spirit form, and you, in your mental form, to attempt to bring together two lovers, separated in the same prison, one of the most inhuman and formidably grotesque prisons ever devised: Auschwitz-Birkenau, in southern Poland. In your world, even during the historical year in question, this task may have been difficult. However, one of my main non-spirit helpers, Helena Datoń, a seventeen-year-old worker in the Auschwitz canteen, block 5, assists me in my challenge to bring together the two prison lovers. Another person who proves vital to my efforts is Edward Hałoń, twenty, Helena’s boyfriend, who is the leader of the local Polish Resistance, in the forests outside Krakow, the town an hour down the road from Auschwitz. They have other close friends who are also fighting the Nazi plague, so we are not alone, but there is one tremendous obstacle to our efforts bringing lovers together. He is the supernatural invention of the Third Reich, and they call him “Herr Soul Master,” for want of a less grandiose title, I presume.
Let me explain the rules of my universe, so you can be aware of what will happen during our romantic adventure together. I know. It can be a task learning the lay of a new land, and the strategies behind playing a new game of “love conquers all,” but somebody must do it. Right? I will first give you a bit of background about me, your host and heroine in this game of life and death. Then, I will explain how I must use my powers of spirit walk-in to control my subjects. This is related to the overall quest I am on, so it’s important. Finally, we shall cover the power of this supernatural villain in my life, Herr Soul Master.
My back story is simple. My existential truth is that I collaborated with the Nazis inside the Polski Hotel, in the Aryan side of Warsaw. I danced for them, slept with them, and lured the wealthy Jews, my people, into their plot to trick them with forged passports to fictional freedom in South America. My husband, Marek, was my guiding moral compass, and he disappeared, leaving me alone with my frightened, youthful ego. The German consulate in Poland promised me that if I cooperated with them, and I lured my rich brethren into their scheme, I would receive a legitimate passport.
Therefore, during my first confrontation inside the death chamber at Auschwitz, I fought back. I was so personally incensed that I had been tricked—me, the famous and beautiful Franceska Mann, ballerina of Poland—I took that risk, did my little strip tease for those drunk SS guards, and got the gun away from one of them and shot him dead. In my brain that day, I was thinking, and choreographing my heroic movements, just before they turned their machine guns on us: She pirouetted then did a quick passé, kneed him in the groin, topping it off with a grande battlement and a vicious ronde de jambe to his kneecap. That first time, it had to be about me.
Therefore, I am called the “Auschwitz Dancer” in this, my private universe. If I ever hope to redeem my soul for the act of treachery I performed on my own people, I must bring lovers together and teach them the lesson I was never able to finish learning. True. I have the experience of the flesh. I was a skillful and ravenous lover, what Dr. Freud in Vienna might call “prisoner of my own libido.” My main task, however, is to find my one true love, and husband, Marek Rosenberg, who is trapped inside one of these concentration camps on Earth or held prisoner by Herr Soul Master. Without Marek, my life has no real meaning, as I must continue to live vicariously through the bodies of these wretched beings down there.
All my friends down there call me Frankie. At first, it was because they thought I was Lady Wollstonecraft Shelley’s invention, Frankenstein, When I walk-in to a body, I can turn it into a raging, pirouetting attack machine, full of loving revenge and violence. At first, the people were fearful of me. Until they learned about my quest and my back-story. Of course, I must always be careful as to whom I enter and to whom I talk. Just like the real 1943 in Poland, the land is filled with political spies, treacherous monsters, and evil SS, with their death’s head insignias and their racist thoughts.
For those of you mortals who like to see a scene when I was still human, as you are, and before I learned that I had to perform my quest up here, I give you this peek into my past. Don’t tarry too long, dear readers, as we have monsters to grapple with and lovers to match!
October 22, 1943, On the train bound to Auschwitz-Birkenau
To elucidate as to how we souls can transmigrate into your world, I will now become the new soul of myself, as I will inject my Frankie into this “other” body of mine, who has a different, non-experienced soul at this “other moment” in history. For, you see, time in the infinite reality of parallel dimensions has no substance, as all is energy, which will be proved one day. I cannot say how, as my soul, until freed, must remain forever stuck in 1943. Although I can visit any place on your Earth in that single year, I know I must establish my truth once and for all, to stand any chance of moving on to other dimensions and realities. These realities are so vast, my mind boggles at the thought, the same way it did the first time.
You will be hearing from me as I speak for this young woman who is in the second row, in the window seat of this passenger train car, next to the other well dressed and chosen women. What will be quite surprising to them is that my voice contains the actual experiences of what happens, and not the reality of that day, which was that all these women, including me, are ignorant of what is going to happen to them in a just a few hours. Therefore, as I am on a mission of “truth,” you may find my dialogue with them amusing, but they will find it quite frightening.
Such is the world of parallel energies between the multiverses. Perhaps the next time a person comes up to you and begins to ramble about topics you may not connect with, you may pay more attention. For this is what I am doing here inside Fraulein Franceska Mann. I am making her an Oracle, straight out of the more distant past. However intellectual this conversation may seem to you, it is still coming from the soul of Frankie, the monster Golem of Aushwitz-Berkenau, who is modeled, not out of mud, but out of the bodies of the dead martyrs of my people.
When I slip into this poor woman’s body, I know she will awaken to her true future, and it is magnanimous and frightening. Perhaps Dr. Freud in Vienna might even term it a “martyr complex.” However, this soul who enters her consciousness is not a Jesus or other returning messiah. She is Frankie, from the underworld, who comes to chisel the authentic truth, from the pack of lies woven inside the deluded minds of the human survivors. My people must be avenged!
As my former self inhales me into her body, I feel very comfortable. After all, I inhabited it for all its time on Earth, beginning with my birth in 1917, in Warsaw, and ending on October 23, 1943, inside Konzentrationslager Auschwitz II-Birkenau. I wear my favorite travel attire, a gray suit coat, with a matching skirt, and white ruffled blouse. My Scottish Tam o’shanter plaid hat covers my short, curly-blonde hair. It is my only affectation, as we are all supposedly headed to different nations in South America, as everyone on our train is a wealthy Jew, who has supposedly been given a passport to freedom through the consulates located inside the Polski Hotel in the Aryan section of Warsaw.
It is also exhilarating to be back again with my dancer’s body, with its strong, tight, but shapely buttocks, taut thighs, and calves. I stretch my legs beneath the seat in front of me and spread my arms out wide. I yawn, knowing that it is I, the avenging Frankie Golem, and not the wealthy young woman who first experienced this trip to her death. It is time, so I stand, step out into the aisle, as the train gently rocks me, and I remember how we have all been rocked and lulled to sleep by these traitors. I am one of the few women in this car who wears nylons, as these have been appropriated for designing parachutes for the Germans fighting on the front lines. Most women wear socks, which are most incongruous with their city attire.
As I gaze outside at the passing scenery, I realize that these women still believe we are headed to southern Germany, and not to our true destination, southern Poland. I know we will soon stop to rest on a side rail, as another train is due to use the main rail. This will be my chance to make my speech. I can feel the train slow down, and we can hear the conductor’s call over the intercom. “Short stop for passing train!”
Our gracious host, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Third Reich, Franz Hössler, passes down the aisle and nods at me. He announces, “Ladies, this is our last stop before crossing the border with Switzerland, from where you shall travel to different countries of South America. Just a few formalities remain—disinfection, shower, and then—long-awaited freedom.” He smiles, his broad forehead saluting us with his blonde eyebrows, as he moves on to the next car to give the same message.
As I prepare myself to speak with anger and fury, I glance out the window. A squadron of butterflies is approaching from a field in the distance. They are red admirals (Vanessa atalanta), probably on their way to their winter hibernation. My husband, Marek Rosenberg, taught me about them, as I explained my childhood fascination with them. He not only gave the scientific names and the established routes of their migrations, but he informed me of their symbolic nature as well. I can hear his voice now, in my newly spirited body, and it fills me with a vast longing for his touch. We are on separate journeys, and mine is cut short so soon I never find out what his destiny is.
“My Franceska, darling. We must separate now to survive. Look outside at the swarming admirals, dearest! Don’t they astound you still? Their black wings, with white tips, and the orange pattern you adore. You said from above they look like little monsters with orange arms reaching out. That’s correct! It is their self-defense against predators, who are frightened away by their dangerous look. This is how we will escape as well, my liebling. We will float freely between our enemies, like these harbingers of spring. We will journey to a new land, where we cannot be persecuted for our strange and unique ways. You have the soul of a dancer, and an artist. I envy you, as I am but a lowly businessman.”
That is the last thing he says to me, as I leave for the Polski Hotel the next day, and he travels I know not where. Time is dwindling here on Earth. The clouds are dark and ominous. So, instead of making my long speech, in which I was going to talk of my rage and fury at the survivors who got my story wrong, I decide to plan a real revolt. A revolt that can possibly save thousands of them, and not get us slaughtered as in the former version of reality. We may not win the war, or turn our beloved Poland back to its leaders, but we can make the next few days a living hell for the Nazi SS inside this camp. Children are being murdered, along with their parents, and the smokestacks with the burning flesh of Jews are belching their unholy carnage almost around the clock. I need to inform them of my plan and leave my body and enter another one. One person I know can assist me to carry out my plan to save Jews tomorrow, when this train enters the compound of doom.
I met her in my real experience, not in the stories that came from camp survivor rumors, from patriotic myth, and later speculation. Her name is Helena Datoń, and it will be her connections to the PPP, the Polish Socialist Party, Brzeszcze Group, and its leader, Edward Hałoń, that best serve our effort tomorrow.
I have a fear that takes me back to myself in the clouds. I have no idea of the entity who oversees my power to slip into human forms. Is it a god, or a devil? I assume all this time that it is demonic, and that my own hatred is a product of my incarceration. Now, that I am here, smelling the new air, seeing the free butterflies, and living in my former human body, I have doubts that wonder about the infinite possibilities again. Will my effort change reality to the extent that I may harm future families and their progeny? If somebody important dies, and is not born, will the course of the future change for the worse, possibly into a future war much more horrible than this one? I cannot wait to find out. I must act now!
“Ladies! I must talk to you at once. I am from another dimension, which means a universe other than this one. It’s too complex to go into right now, so I ask for your attention, as we have only ten hours to carry out my plan. You have all been deceived by the Germans at the Polski Hotel or wherever you got your passport papers. It is all a ruse. We are headed to a death camp, and we will also be gassed and then incinerated.”
The screams begin slowly, at first, with gasps and coughs, and then they turn into the strangest cacophony of sounds I’ve ever heard. After their wailing and handwringing finally subside, they stare back at me like lost sheep. A few mutter, “Well?”
“Believe it or not, I can enter bodies and take-over their consciousness. I am now inside my original body just before I die. In addition, I can travel in space to enter another body, if I wish, although this is my first journey down here, so I am not certain how it will all work. I do, however, have an escape plan in mind, and want to share it with you all. It will take pin-point timing and superb coordination to achieve it. Are you all interested?”
A tall woman wearing a mink stole stands. “I am. The way I see it, we have nothing to lose at this point, do we women? Frankly, I have had suspicions about this trip all along. What about the others on the train, Miss? What is your name?”
“Franceska. Franceska Mann. You may call me Frankie. You must go through these cars and tell everyone the plan I will now relate to you. Then, I must leave to get the other pieces working in our trap.”
“Yes! Frankie! Tell us more?”
“In my first life in this woman’s body—my previous body before I was killed by the Nazis inside the Auschwitz gas chambers—I simply wanted to clear my historical record and then leave. Now that I have my awakened spirit, I want to save as many of you as I can. Even if I don’t quite know what will happen when we attempt it.”
“Go ahead,” the fur lady says.
“I am going to visit a young lady in the camp canteen and enter her to control her. She has the contacts I need to organize the effort we must begin tomorrow morning when we arrive in Auschwitz. All I want you ladies to do is to tell all the passengers, without arousing suspicion, that they must be ready to move when the signal is given. This signal will be the flight of red admiral butterflies in the sky above the compound when we first enter. Is this clear? Butterflies over the compound.”
“Yes!” They all sound enthusiastic enough.
“Now, ladies, if you’ll excuse the expression, I must fly. This body I now possess will return to her originally ignorant brain state, when I leave, so you must tell her everything I just told you. Goodbye, and may our Jewish people survive!”
“Shalom, and may God be with you!” The fur lady shouts, and the others chime in.
As you can see, the birth of Frankie, the Spirit Dancer, was an arduous chore. It gets better, but that first time plotting against the dark forces was inspiring and exhilarating to me and my helpers. I have made friends with so many families and supporters in the Polish community surrounding this hell. We must all remember this fact. Even in the center of a frozen universe of death and destruction, there is always a ray of hope.
Finally, and I purposely left him for last, is my main fiendish obstacle to bringing my lovers together: Herr Soul Master, Nietzsche’s wet dream, I like to call him. This is the way he runs his show:
This world is a frozen-in-time parallel dimension ruled by the Nazi’s uber mensch, Herr Soul Master, who can also perform spirit walk-ins, but instead of love, he brings hate, fear, and aggression, by inserting demons from hell to manipulate them. The humans are trapped inside the 76 kilometers between Krakow and Oświęcim, as Herr Soul Master has created an invisible electronic shield that prevents any human from leaving. I can, theoretically go beyond this barrier, but I have tried. Beyond this barrier there is nothing but uninhabited land. We are a parallel universe, and island unto ourselves. I also have a hell of my own back in the abandoned mental ward in Zofiówka Sanatorium, where I can be sent by Herr Soul Master if he can enter a lover before I can. I can be held insane there for quite some time until released by one of my helping characters.
This world is filled with concentration camps, and secret torture bunkers, where characters are taught how discipline is the only force to bring about the purity of the races and the society. Blind obedience is the law of the land, as it was during the war, but the added dimension in this universe is whenever I bring two lovers together—either by occupying a body with my spirit—or by arranging a romantic tryst, Herr Soul Master is allowed to bring in a special monster or demon to thwart my plan. They are, at first, in disguise, inside a character, but when released by the Soul Master, they can become their true monstrosities. These monsters can take the form of alien creatures from other planets, Brother’s Grimm villains, incubi and succubae, and many other monsters from folklore and legend. Therefore, the entire battle between these evil forces begins to apply pressure to stop the romantic goals of the Auschwitz Dancer and my cast of helping characters. The only restriction is that he can only bring three monsters at one time.
In extreme circumstances, Herr Soul Master can make an appearance as well and enter any character of his choice.
I can often teach these lovers how to love by occupying their bodies and showing them how it’s done. This can often lead to complications and jealousies unless I can do it correctly and diplomatically. All other characters help me accomplish these love trysts and meetings to assure no demons can interfere with the process. Of course, behind this quantum universe lie the actual historical dangers of living during the world at war, with the same intrigues, spies, and political dangers.
Welcome, dear reader, to my universe. Here’s our motto to embrace if you choose to do so: “Love conquers all!”
This story previously appeared on Bookfunnel.
Edited by Marie Ginga
James Musgrave has been in a Bram Stoker Finalist anthology, and he’s won the First Place Blue Ribbon for Best Historical Mystery, Forevermore, at the Chanticleer International Book Awards. His most recent publication, “Voices,” is in Madame Gray’s Poe-Pourri of Terror, third edition, Hellbound Books. “Bug Motel,” is the first story in the Toilet Zone 3 Horror Anthology, Hellbound Books. "Jasmine," is in the anthology Draw Down the Moon published by Propertius Press. His adult short fiction anthology Valley of the Dogs, Dark Stories, won the Silver Medal at the 2021 Reader's Favorite international contest. Two of his historical mystery series are published through and curated by the American Library Association's Biblioboard.com. He has an MFA from San Diego State. See more at EMRE Publishing