Germany – March 17, 1931
Anneliese Leupold couldn’t shake the fear that sent chills up her spine as she quickened her pace down the dark path to her home. She made a terrible, grave mistake – and she needed to be quick enough to try and see the last of her mission through.
She quickly burst through the door of her cheery and well lit home, the sound of the door opening forcefully scared the daylights of her nine-year-old daughter as it caused her to drop the teddy bear she was playing with onto the floor.
The little girl relaxed at the sight of her mother making her way in – unaware of the frantic despair that was written all over the breathless woman’s face.
“Mama!” piped up the little one as she jumped to her feet and ran forward. “Mama, papa had someone fix teddy! See?”
Anneliese took in the sight of the raggedy old bear – its balding head, limp limbs, and well loved and worn fur. A couple days prior, one of the bears arms had fallen off, resulting in a crying mess from her daughter.
Papa was the key to fixing everything.
Without acknowledging the now fixed bear, Anneliese’s eyes were narrowing in concern at the sight of what stood before her. The pair of innocent, curious blue eyes with hints of green that belonged to her daughter stared up at her – this miniature human with curly brown locks in a black dress sprinkled with flowers. It should have been a moment that eased the woman’s worry – what entered her view only furthered her concern.
Anneliese was the mistress of a very well-known man. One would say with his connections and knowledge, he was almost a dangerous man – and one of his connections had followed her home. Her daughter was not aware that both of their lives at this moment were in terrible danger.
Sucking in a deep breath, she knelt down to be face-to-face with the young girl. The woman smiled softly as she brushed a strand of hair behind the little girl’s ear, which was her preferred sign of affection.
“Bright one,” she softly began, her thick German accent trying its hardest to keep the worry out of her tone. “Listen to me – we are going to play a game tonight. Do you remember our game?”
The little girl, bright one – as her mother called her, nodded quickly with her eyes twinkling. “Yes, leise und ruhig.” she spoke the name of it in German. Translated, it meant quiet and calm. It was something they’ve practiced many times, instilling what society would believe to be a game teaching discipline and politeness into the young girl. No one ever thought that there would be a deeper, more sinister reason behind the game.
Anneliese knew that the man she fancied and the life she let herself into was one that could lead to danger – and she needed to protect what mattered most in the event something went wrong.
Anneliese nodded, forcing her smile to widen. “Good – you know the rules, bright one... Remain unseen, remain unheard, and remain calm.”
She carefully coaxed the young girl towards a closet, where she helped her to get settled in for their game. Once she was comfortably hidden in the closet, Anneliese gave her a brief, tight hug. She was concerned that this would be her last time holding her daughter – giving her a reassuring smile she shut her daughter behind the safety of the closet door.
Bright one found this game of sitting in the dark alone to be long and tiresome. Minutes going by had felt more like hours, leaving her to squirm from the discomfort of boredom. She knew if she was good, that they would play something else afterwards. This game typically resulted in a fun bedtime story or something sweet before bed.
The little girl was about to drift into sleep with her arms clinging tightly around her bear when the sound of two voices pierced through the closet door.
The tones of the two voices speaking were rough. The first voice being the one that was identifiable. The thick, deeply panicked voice of her mother met her ears, followed by another unfamiliar but angered voice.
The little girl wrinkled her nose in concern – surely the second voice couldn’t have been her Papa. From what she knew, her father was never gruff with her mother. Though hardly ever around, she knew him to be both kind and gentle.
She lifted her hand to crack open the closet door – curious to see what was taking place beyond the sanctity of the dark little room. She hesitated when her mother’s words rang through her head.
“Unseen, unheard, calm.”
There was a reason she wasn’t meant to be a part of this conversation – but this wasn’t always the reason they played this game. Something felt off about the situation, and guessing from the voices that were quickly raising themselves – the little girl knew that there was something frighteningly wrong.
She was about to sit herself back down and listen to what her mother told her to do – but the deafening sound of something shattering and breaking peeked both her curiosity and fear. Both loud voices suddenly stopped when the crash rang out, leaving the room in a heavy silence for a couple moments.
The silence was replaced shortly after with a strange sound – she could have sworn that it was her mother gasping. Whatever broke must have been important, if it warranted such a reaction.
The little girl’s curiosity got the better of her as she cracked the door slightly to get an idea of what broke.
What played out beyond the door was something she never anticipated seeing in her life.
The unfamiliar man with the loud, angry voice was the one who broke something – a teapot toppled off of a small table and was shattered into pieces on the floor.
The man was sharp – tall, dressed nicely in a suit. His clean shaven face was absolutely frightening – the anger his voice carried before was now all in his expression.
From her crack through the door, she could see that the well dressed figure had her mother pinned down in the middle of the floor, it only took the girl a moment to realize that his hands clasped tightly around her mother’s neck – causing her gasp for air and struggle against his grasp.
Fear welled up in the girl’s chest as gasped quietly at the sight – reminding herself of what her mother told her.
“Unseen, unheard, calm.”
Those words were a long distant memory that were forgotten – as the girl was already on her feet and out the door. She threw the strict orders her mother gave her aside with her teddy bear, which remained behind in the safe haven of the closet.
“Mama!” she cried out, racing straight towards the unfamiliar man.
Her fists made contact with the back of the man as she tried placing blows that would be hard enough to get a reaction from the stranger. She wanted to get his attention off of her struggling mother long enough for her mother to get to safety.
She couldn’t make out the sound of her mother gasping any longer – she figured it was lost over the sound of her yelling and wailing her small fists onto the man.
“Let go of her!” she screamed, finally kicking the man in his leg within force to distract him for a second. It was enough to get him to release the hold on her mother’s neck but she wasn’t anticipating that the man would lay a hand on her. He shoved her with enough force to knock her off her feet yet close enough for him to reach out to the child.
She let out a piercing scream, kicking the man in the face. She was pretty sure she felt her shoe connect with his nose – buying her some time to scramble off of the floor. She was almost to the front door of their house when it busted open with a swift movement.
The young girl screamed in response, trembling and turning away from the door as the horrifying sound of a couple loud bangs filled the air. The tall, frightening man that hurt her mother and was trying to hurt her – he stood frozen just before her.
It only took a second to register that the man was swaying, her hand flew to her mouth at the unfortunate sight of blood dripping from his lips as he fell forward onto the rug. She stared in horror at the sight of the man that was now crumpled heap on the floor – terrified that he might stand up and chase her again.
Her little heart pounding, she would have stood frozen in her place if she wasn’t quickly reminded of her injured mother.
Glancing up quickly from where the girl stood, she could have sworn her mother looked as if she just were sleeping – but she quickly grew concerned at the sight of another gentleman kneeling over her, his fingers pressed to her neck.
“Get away from her!” she wailed, racing forward to attack the figure – but a hand grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. The action drew another ear piercing scream from the young girl but the response was quickly hushed by a soft, familiar voice.
“Shush, my dear! Relax. It’s only me.”
Her anguish quickly melted into relief washing over her face as a man with tired, soft eyes, familiar round face and dark hair entered her vision.
“Papa,” she breathed a sigh, tears flooding into her eyes. “Papa, these men are hurting mama! I tried to help her-”
Papa placed a finger to his lips, his once soft eyes were now filling with the same fear that her mother carried just moments before everything went bad.
“My dear, the bad man is dead. This other man is with me. He’s a friend, named Tesla.”
The little girl carefully glanced up at the other man – despite looking grim and old, he gazed at her with soft, friendly eyes.
Once her papa was convinced that she believed him enough, he stood to his feet and began pulling her towards the door.
“You’re not safe here, my dear. If Rittenhouse sent one bad man, it’s only a matter of time...” he clamped his mouth shut, shaking his head quickly as he grasped firmly onto her little hand. “We need to leave now. We have to get you somewhere-”
“Papa!” the girl cried, planting her heels firmly into the floor. “We are not leaving mama! She’s hurt...”
The look that crossed her papa’s face stopped her from ever finishing her sentence as she watched him glance back grimly at the other man who was with him. She could tell looking between both of their expressions and by the way that the other man, Tesla, was standing to block her view of her mother that something was not right.
These next words coming from the unfamiliar friend were enough to pierce her heart.
“My dear, I’m afraid your mother is dead.” Tesla spoke softly.
A lump quickly formed in her throat, the tears that welled up before now poured out in streaks down her flushed cheeks as she clenched her free hand into a fist. The last thing she wanted to believe was that this was the truth coming from a total stranger who claimed to be a friend – but gathering from the way her mother remained limp and never moving, she knew that it had to be.
The young girl watched as the other man shifted uncomfortably from the sight of her crying, as he locked eyes with her papa.
“Wells, we must go before they discover that the key is not on their way to them.” Tesla spoke softly, nodding towards the doorway.
Without a word, her papa nodded in agreement and tried to remove his daughter from the devastating scene – but the young girl held her ground. She kept her heels planted, turning her head back towards the closet – her safe hiding spot from only a short few moments prior.
“Papa, wait. My bear! I can’t leave my teddy bear. M-mama gave him to me.” she sobbed, tugging on his hand pleadingly.
It was more than just seeing her broken, tear filled eyes that he knew he couldn’t bring himself to wreck her heart anymore – but the fact that after everything, that bear was going to be the only thing she had left. It was a key part of connecting to her mother and her past.
At this point, her father didn’t even have to say anything – Tesla was already making his way towards the little girl with her teddy bear in her hand.
Tesla knelt down carefully before the young girl, a weak smile crossing his face as he held out the worn bear.
“Is this your bear?” he questioned softly, taking in the sudden light that reflected in the girl’s broken eyes.
She took the bear without a single word of gratitude – but from the way she tightly grasped the bear in her arms and her sobs resorted to sniffles, he gathered that she was thankful for the attempt.
The three of them vanished quickly into the dark of the night. Along the way her papa and Tesla filled her in on the dangers that were lurking around the corner.
Her papa frightened some dangerous people. In fact, he had knowledge about something that would hurt many people. Those dangerous people sent a man to attack her mother in hopes for answers and would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. According to her papa, this included hurting her. After traveling what felt like an eternity through the dark, the trio finally made their stop in some strange place later on. The location was littered with strange shadows from peculiar figures – statues that appeared to be machines of some sort. A table was covered in various papers filled with drawings, prints, and words that were beyond the young girls comprehension.
At the end of it all stood a large, strange metal contraption – appeared to be some sort of spherical chamber with a door. To the right of it was where her papa’s friend stood at a rounded panel. He was flicking with different switches and as lights lit up on the top of the panel.
The young girl would have stared in awe if it wasn’t for the fact that her papa was helping her into the strange chamber, which only held enough room for one person.
“My dear, I am sending you someplace safe.” her papa promised her, giving her a weak smile.
The girl picked up on his tone and the lack of space in the chamber for him – confusion settling over her as to what was truly going on.
“You’re coming with me, right papa?” she questioned, a hint of hope in her tone.
Her papa stayed silent, his expression broken and his eyes glassy as he gathered the strength to answer her question honestly. “No, I’m afraid, my shining light, that I must stay behind to prepare for you a safer future. Where I’m sending you will live a happier life if I’m not with you.”
Tesla looked up from where he stood to see that the young girl was trying her best to hide a look of pain and fear on her face at the knowledge that she would be facing whatever lied ahead alone. He was impressed that with everything she faced this night, she was handling this so well – especially considering she had no clue what was about to lie ahead of her.
“Papa,” she started, her voice trembling. “Where am I going?”
Papa sucked in a breath, looking to Tesla for help. Neither one of them had a clue as to how they were going to answer or if their plan was going to even work. They were about to take a monumental risk on a nine year old girl – but truth be told, they knew that it was handling the matter this way or risk the young girl’s fate the same way as her mother’s.
“America,” Tesla spoke up, a warmth to his face as he smiled at the girl, “I have some friends who are going to take care of you, my dear. You’ll be safe and in good hands.”
The young girl was afraid to admit it, but she liked her papa’s friend. She understood why her papa trusted him so much.
Her papa turned back to face her with a soft smile as he handed her a piece of paper and playfully tugged on the hand of her bear.
“You’ll like it better there, my light. And I promise that even though I won’t be there, as long as you have teddy around, you’ll always have a key to your memories of me,” he whispered softly.
The young girl blinked quickly, attempting to hold back tears as she gave her papa one last, tight hug. The man wasn’t for sure if this moment was harder for her or for him but it took every ounce of strength he had to break himself from her gentle hold.
Once the door was secured on the chamber, her papa turned to look at Tesla – giving him a curt nod before he could change his mind.
Tesla’s once warm expression was now grim as he went through a series of switches before he pulled down on a lever that brought the machine roaring to life. The two stood in grave silence as the machine shook the ground around them before a slight burst of air caught them slightly off guard, the area around them growing silent.
The two approached the chamber. To their amazement where the little girl once stood just moments prior was now empty and void of any life. From as far as they could tell, the damn thing worked.
“The time machine worked,” Tesla remarked, excitement crossing his aged face, “I think we just sent your daughter to the future.”
“Remarkable,” the papa replied, staring blankly at the machine, “but how do we know she’s safe?”
Tesla pressed his lips into a tight line, trying his best to give the man reassurance with a simple nod towards the machine.
“Wells, you said it yourself: ‘time is only a kind space’. Believing in something as vast and unknown as space requires tremendous faith that it is out there. I have faith that she’s safe, just as I said she would be – somewhere in the right time, at the right place.”