1944, September, I do not remember the date.
Fritz S. Johnsson
I shall try to recount what I remember of that day.
It had started to snow, and I, as always, was rather unhappy about that. I remember pulling up my collar and I buttoned one more hole up on my shirt. I remember stepping out onto the freshly salted steps and I made my way down to the walk. There he was. This is where it began. It did not begin in an amazing fashion. Doctor Schultz was startled and almost dropped his cigarette.
"Fritzy, don't do that to me! Why can't you be clumsy like the others? Why don't you make any noise when you walk, hmm?"
I laughed and went over to the old man. Why was he in between the barracks, like someone hanging out their laundry on a sunny day? Why was he skulking here like this, hat-less and pelted by the wet snow? Something wasn't right, I could tell, I could see it in the doctor's face, worry or pain, I wasn't sure.
"Unlike your clumsy assistants I have a legitimate father, one who taught me how to hunt!"
Most of them were Nazis. I hated them. They shouldn't have come here.
"Bastards? Well, I won't refute you, Fritz. Gutless… bastards."
"So, what has you by the tail today, Doctor Schultz?"
The doctor pointed out around the corner of the barracks with his cigarette as he exhaled.
"Our brave commandant has locked me out of the lab, locked all of us “undesirables” out. Our lazy Wehrmacht protectors guard the doors now, Fritz."
"Really? What is happening then?"
"The Reich. The glorious new Reich apparently will not happen, Fritz. It will only be weeks before they capitulate. The commandant has received orders from Berlin. All the way from Berlin. They are going to destroy everything! Cover their damned tracks!"
I was stunned. I remember begging a cigarette off of the doctor and stood quietly in thought while the man lit it for me. I just had to know. Maybe he would tell me now why all of the strange equipment. That strange blue liquid we constantly obsessed over.
"I didn't realize our project was so important. All the way out here in a forest in Norway."
The doctor laughed bitterly and flung down his cigarette into the hard snow.
"Why do you think it's out here, Fritzy? Because it is important!"
The old man wasn't going to give in. I knew he trusted me well enough, he had even began to rely upon me. But he still was not going to tell me what the hell I had been brought here for, even three years later, I was in the dark.
"Mien herr, why are you looking at me like that?"
I hated it when he had that look. I watched as Doctor Schultz mulled something over.
"Would you do me a favor, Fritz? Please? This is important to me!"
"I can see that I am not going to like this, whatever your request is."
"The commandant is awaiting the arrival of some men. SS men, I think. Fritz… They won't let me in to my own lab. But, you… You might just be able to get in."
"But, Doctor Schultz-"
"I am a Jew, Fritzy! They all know I'm a Jew! I'm famous for it, you know that! The famous Juden chemist brought in from Berlin, a favorite theorist of the Führer himself. But you, Fritz. The guards, they're just nervous, you see? You are an Aryan!"
"I am a Norwegian!"
He didn't understand. This was not the first time he had gently accused myself or one of my countrymen of such a thing. I don't think he ever understood the difference. We Norwegians wanted to be left alone, wanted to be free, just like our forebears.
"Oh, Fritz! It is the same thing to those country pigs over there at the door, believe me. To those guards you are a proper Ubermensch angel. They don't know or care about lineage and official paperwork, all they know is blond hair and blue eyes, all they understand is the simple propaganda. Farmer's boys, one and all. They only do what they're told, absorb what they have been told to absorb. Regurgitate… Fritzy? Please?”
I remember shaking my head in doubt and I can still recall, like it was yesterday, shutting an eye against the wet flakes as I stood there. We were two shivering men in an alley, in a Norwegian forest. It sounds as strange as it really was.
“I have my notes that I managed to get out of there last night. I just need a sample! A sample from the tank! Please Fritz. Look, they let in Otto, you and he look like brothers! I would ask him, but... You know how he dislikes me, being forced to work under me. Otto is a good racist now, he has always been such a spineless ass-sniffer. Come one, Fritzy, they might even think you are him, if they are telling their pointless stories and jokes when you come to the doorway! Please?"
He was right. Otto and I looked like brothers. But Otto was German.
"But, Doctor, how will I get close to the tanks? What will I put the sample in?"
Doctor Schultz pressed his schnapps flask into my then-young hands.
"You have to be kidding me! Doctor-"
"It's a new one, Fritz! No alcohol has ever been within it. I took the liberty of sterilizing it in our little hospital's autoclave. It is perfectly safe, Fritz, provided you do not get the sample on your skin, obviously. Here, take it, please. I will wait for you in your room. Then you can play your concertina and I'll make up a song about the commandant's daughter for you!"
Doctor Schultz smiled and I laughed. He had shielded me once, just on his own, unprompted, he just decided to do it one day. The commandant had come into the lab unannounced. His daughter, Sigrid had came in twenty minutes earlier to flirt with me. He redirected the commandant to the other end of the lab and I managed to get Sigrid out of there before she was seen.
"Be quiet, quiet like you always are. Do not keep me waiting, Fritz! I can only devise so many lyrics about her fine little breasts for you before I forget them! I'm an old man, Fritz, I shouldn't even be thinking about such things. But for your young mind and brave heart I will once again make an exception!"
I laughed and waved off the old man. I remember trudging around the corner, and pocketing the flask. I remember looking steadily at the Wehrmacht guards and I tried to look serious, to look bland. To look like I was working. I wish I had seen it. I wish I had some compulsion to turn around to see it. It must have been right then as I walked towards the lab. I will just tell you what I know happened, though I did not see it myself. Well, behind me, at some distance must have been four large blonde men in black, dour uniforms coming down the walk. As Doctor Schultz ducked into the barracks one of the men must have pointed at him. They must have converged there to speak with him.
Doctor Schultz was taken that day. I found out later that as the SS questioned him the old man was too arrogant, too defiant. He had been briefly sat in front of the operation's commandant while the SS smoothed out the details of his "transfer" back to Berlin. I never knew what had become of the doctor. I have always hoped that he survived the SS, survived the war.
I was told by one of the other scientists that Doctor Schultz had entrusted the notes to him. I found it easy to convince him to give up the books. The German didn't want anything to do with them any longer, Doctor Schultz had been his friend and the story of his sudden removal by the SS was a frightening thing to German and Norwegian alike.
Fritz S. Johnsson
I had found Sigrid again, and of all places, she too, was in Boston. Singing in a club, she had lied about her age, but one look at her and you would realize why they looked the other way. It was… a happy reunion. After a long, turgid session of pent-up sex, I had dared to ask softly about her father, the former commandant of the Keepsake Project. Gunnar had not survived the war. After his move to Berlin he had been killed in the street one night. Russian soldiers did not take kindly to his face and had followed him back to where Sigrid and her parents were living in rundown housing. It was only a month afterward that Sigrid had fled, smuggled out of that hellish place.
I felt bad about that. Gunnar was a good man, honorable. Do not believe everything you have heard about the Germans during that period. They were people, mostly.
Sigrid became pregnant in November. We were married as soon as we knew. She and I had no money for such a thing, and we were both newly off of the boats, the young and lucky refugees from that terrible war. The judge who presided over our wedding was easy to read for me: the little fat man was tired of marrying European immigrants, tired of their halting English and ill fitting clothes.
I could not believe my luck. It was as if Providence had smiled once again down on me. As Sigrid and I left the courthouse, giddy and tired from waiting in the long line, I spied a familiar face in the crowd. The scientist from Project Keepsake who had given Doctor Schultz' notes to me, Doctor Franz Ullman. I remember rushing to the man and veritably yanking him out of the crowd. Doctor Ullman was happy to see me and though quite stiff initially, was also happy to see Sigrid as well.
Fritz S. Johnsson
We opened a laboratory on the outskirts of Minneapolis. It was cheap property at the time, good, well-maintained buildings on the site of an old mining operation. The Ullman's daughter was only a year younger than our own Bernard. They played on the property every day, as Franz' wife, a very talented mathematician worked with Franz and I. Sigrid also pitched in, doing everything from typing, helping with analysis and chasing down the children.
I felt that we were very close to a breakthrough, very close to regaining the lost work from the lab in Norway. Soon, I felt, we would no longer be chasing Doctor Schultz' successes. Soon we might be charting our own course.
Fritz S. Johnsson
Bernard had left for school abroad this year. His intellect was formidable and I felt that soon he would have his PhD. There was a great deal of pride in that for myself, as a father. It will be nice to work with my own son in our laboratory. Our laboratory!
We are funded by a millionaire now. Franz deals with him and leaves me be.
Franz and I were very close to total transformation now. The experiments had a broad, controllable ratio of mass reduction. But the process was too quick, structure was destroyed, or really, structure was lost in the transformation. But the mass, it was stable across the transformation finally. I felt that soon Keepsake might actually reduce living creatures at a controllable ratio, no longer reducing living creatures to the same reductive mass of formless living cells.
Containment tanks had been built in a large arcade within the mine. Perhaps by the time Bernard was back, the returning academic hero, we might be ready to create and contain some more of the Keepsake material.
Jessica missed Bernard. Sigrid tried to keep her busy around the large lab. The two once-playmates remained inseparable, writing each other daily. I thought they might be in love, but much to my amusement Jessica would deny it just as strongly as would my own son.
1972 August 5.
Fritz S. Johnsson
You were born today. I am a happy grandfather. I had hoped that they would give you a better name than Linda. But Bernard wants you to be an American. You are. As am I. But, I understand what he means. I see Sigrid in you already. I wish she could have lived to have seen you!
1975 January 12
Fritz S. Johnsson
The rat, the one Jessica had dubbed, "Pokey" has been reduced. It is a success! We must give him some time, but from our perspective I can already say that it is a success. Food and water seem to pose no issues for his biology. Bernard has not slept for two days in his enthusiasm to see the results plotted.
I feel vindicated. Doctor Schultz, you too are vindicated. I drink a toast to you, I hope that you enjoyed it, wherever you are.
1976 June 2
Fritz S. Johnsson
Franz is upset. There is another project, another group which is trying to do the same. Apparently they are an almost mirror image. The project was started to counter Keepsake during the war. But, the government no longer funds them. Our millionaire benefactor has been sustaining them as well. The approach is much different. They are using light waves to trap and move the Keepsake material. I just realized as I write this, one of our two groups will eventually name this strange material. Perhaps their name is better, a scientific descriptive? But for now I shall call this frightening miracle, this wave-form with mass: Keepsake. It is not arrogance. It is simply what I have always called it.
Franz does not want to make friends. Surely, someone there must be interested in trading research, theory? We could collaborate! Consolidate! I shall give Franz time. He tells me their device fills up almost half a mile of space. They are in Utah. That is not such a long drive. I must make Franz understand that this Sizer Project is no threat to us. He can be so stubborn sometimes. The mark of a great scientist.
We are two old men now. Still trying to cheat Creation.