A short story by Meg Sorick.

I tasted blood. I was on my knees, my eye was swelling shut but at least I was alone. Somehow –and the how was really fuzzy– I had managed to fight off my attacker. The block was quiet and dark except for the street lights at regular intervals. I had been in that dark space between two of them when I was struck from behind. Some preternatural sense had made me move at the last minute so that the blow didn’t find its mark, probably saving my life.

I pulled myself to my feet, abandoned my errand and hurried back to the apartment we’d rented for the month. “Let’s live abroad,” my husband had said. “We’ll never get this chance again,” he’d insisted. “You will love Budapest,” he’d promised. “I can work on my book and you can indulge yourself in history,” he’d tempted.

Julian had a way of convincing me that all his ideas were mine, too. So that when things didn’t go as planned I could share the blame. I kept looking over my shoulder as I ran, terrified that the attacker would return. I never should’ve gone out alone this late at night.

Julian had been tapping away at his keyboard all evening while I read quietly on the other end of the narrow sofa. Without looking up, he said, “Cara, I’m out of cigarettes. Get me some, would you?” It wasn’t really a request. The ‘would you’ was just a polite afterthought. He knew I would go. Most of the time it was just easier to acquiesce rather than bear his brooding if I refused his wishes. Tonight however, I had resisted.

“But Julian, it’s nearly midnight. Nothing will be open,” I reasoned.

“Try the Lado,” he suggested. “They’re open late.”

“You must be joking,” I laughed mirthlessly. “That’s seven blocks away.”

“But Cara,” he pouted. “I’m on a roll. The words are flowing effortlessly tonight. Please don’t make me beg you. You do care about me don’t you?”

Internally I rolled my eyes. I had fallen in love with the quintessential temperamental artist. Tall and gaunt, but roguishly handsome, a brilliant conversationalist, educated, cultured and absolutely the most frustrating and childish creature I’d ever known. He had enchanted me, romanced me, made me lose all sense and reason, and married me six weeks after we’d first met. Our days were certainly numbered. But tonight, I thought… tonight I would accede to his wishes once again and tomorrow I would make plans to leave.

I arrived at the door breathless, my heart thundering in my chest. Perhaps he would come to his senses when he saw my injuries. Surely he’d agree that Budapest was a mistake. With shaking hands, I inserted the key into the lock on the outer door of the apartment building. Tears of relief spilled over as I closed the door behind me and leaned back against it.

I climbed the three flights of stairs and stumbled, weeping, into the apartment. Julian stood and came over to me. I collapsed into his arms as he held them out to me. “There, there, Cara. There, there…”

“Julian,” I sobbed. “We have to get out of here. I can’t spend another night in this place.”

“Cara,” he said, holding my face between his hands. “We aren’t going anywhere.” He grasped me by the shoulders and spun me around. From the darkened bedroom a figure stepped forward. Julian shoved me toward him and snarled, “Now, be a good girl and let the man finish his work.”

The Heavy Water War

I love a drama that is set during times and circumstances that were pivotal in history. This past spring, while perusing the suggestions Netflix made for me based on previous programs I’d watched, I stumbled upon The Heavy Water War — a six episode miniseries produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. (It’s title in Norwegian is Kampen om tungtvannet and in the UK it was titled The Saboteurs.)

Directed by Per-Olav Sørensen, the series was filmed in Norway and the Czech Republic. The Heavy Water War tells the story of the German atomic weapons program during the Second World War. At the outset of the series we see the events unfold from two different perspectives.

On the German side we watch Werner Heisenberg struggle with his conscience as he realizes the potential devastation a weapon derived from a tiny amount of radioactive uranium could wreck on the world.

On the Allied side, we see the story focus on Norwegian Intelligence Officer, Lief Tronstad, as he oversees the planning and training for a mission by the British Army and Norwegian resistance fighters to sabotage the facility in Norway that produces heavy water (deuterium oxide – D2O, a necessary component in the production of a nuclear reaction).

The series begins with the invasion of Norway by Germany and Tronstad escaping to Britain to warn the Allies of his suspicions that the Germans are attempting to build an atomic bomb. As the Germans take over the country, production is doubled at the heavy water facility, Rjukan.

When Tronstad establishes contact with the War Ministry, a plan to destroy the Hydro facilities is drawn up. In Rjukan, new managing director Erik Henriksen is tasked with rooting out suspected saboteurs from the heavy water facility, after the first attempt, Operation Grouse, is a disastrous failure.

Even though the production facility is nearly impenetrable to bombs, the American Allies press the British and Norwegians for a bombing raid. Nevertheless,Tronstad persuades the Allies to send in a team of Norwegians instead. In Germany, Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg promises a breakthrough in the development of a Nazi atomic bomb. He is not entirely trusted by the German government and is under constant scrutiny.

Without revealing any spoilers, this story was as exciting and nerve wracking as any spy thriller a fiction writer could invent in the pages of a novel. I highly recommend this series not just to history buffs, but to anyone who enjoys an edge-of-your-seat adventure!



The Mysterious Arboretum

Last year, I started writing a story for the 10-year-old daughter of a friend. With one thing and another, I never got around to finishing it. I think it’s about time I did. It gives me a light-hearted break from The Great War, too! This is different from my usual fare, so I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter One

Sandy was so excited this last Friday of school. Today was the day her class was going on a field trip. She kept checking the clock on her bedside table to see if it was time to get up. Her cat Diamond stretched out a paw and swatted at her under the covers, thinking that this restlessness surely signaled a game.

Finally, Sandy could stand it no more. The sun was finally peeking through her window shade so she threw back the covers and bounced out of bed. She had picked out her outfit the night before and laid it out across the trunk at the foot of her bed. After quickly dressing, she went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth.

“Sandy, what are doing up so early?” her mother asked from the doorway.

“Today is the day we visit the Arboretum! I was too excited to sleep.” Sandy explained. Not many ten-year-old girls were as excited as Sandy to go look and plants and trees. But Sandy wanted to be a botanist when she grew up. Visiting the Arboretum was just as exciting as going to a theme park.

She ate a quick breakfast and walked to the bus stop a full fifteen minutes early. When the bus finally came, she practically ran up the steps. Her best friend Liam had saved her a seat. Sandy chattered excitedly and Liam listened patiently. He did not share her enthusiasm for today’s field trip, beyond the fact that they didn’t have to sit in the classroom on a beautiful sunny day.

“I can’t believe you’re so excited about a bunch of stupid plants.” he grumbled.

“Plants aren’t stupid!” she cried. “We need plants to survive, dummy. They give us oxygen so we can breathe.”

“Yeah, but they’re boring.” he said in reply.

Sandy shook her head. “You wait and see, Liam. I bet you’ll change your mind after today.”

For the rest of the bus trip they talked about their summer plans. Liam’s family was going to the beach for a week in July. Sandy’s family was going to visit her cousins in Florida. Soon they arrived at their school and made their way to Mr. Vogelsinger’s classroom.

Mr. Vogelsinger might have been just as excited as Sandy to go on this field trip. He grew award winning roses, raised enough vegetables to feed a small village and regularly brought in pies his wife had baked with berries from his huckleberry bushes. He quickly took attendance and herded his students back out to the waiting bus for the trip into the city. On the way there, Mr. Vogelsinger quizzed the students about photosynthesis. Sandy raised her hand to answer every question.

“Sandy,” Mr. Vogelsinger sighed, “give someone else a chance.”

“No, let her answer. Then we don’t have to,” muttered Liam and Sandy elbowed him.

“What was that, Liam? I didn’t hear you,” Mr. Vogelsinger said, giving him the eye.

“Nothing,” Liam answered.

Eventually, they left the highway and traveled the streets leading to the center of the city. The bus driver skillfully navigated the busy traffic. On one of the streets, Sandy could see the high stone wall running the length of several city blocks and turning the corner.

“We’re here!” she cried, pulling her backpack onto her shoulders.

The bus moved slowly past the massive stone wall until finally it reached a circular driveway that ended at a set of enormous iron gates. The driver honked the horn and the gates slowly swung open, allowing them entry. Just ahead was the Visitor’s Center where the bus would drop them off and pick them up again later.

Sandy grabbed Liam’s hand. “Come on, let’s go!”

In the Visitor’s Center, every student had their hand stamped with a green leaf-shaped stamp. Besides the class, the center was empty. Sandy whispered to Liam, “They must not have many visitors this time of day.” It was, after all, early in the morning. A plump older lady gave each of the children a little map.

“Now, listen. This map is only in case you get lost or left behind. I don’t want any of you thinking you can just wander off, understand?” Mr. Vogelsinger ordered.

Just then, their tour guide arrived. He was the funniest looking man Sandy had ever seen. The round, thick lenses of his glasses, his pointy nose, and his narrow mouth, gave him the appearance of an owl. “Hello, children!” he cried. “My name is Professor Noom and I will be your guide today! Follow me! Right this way.”

Professor Noom led them through a set of doors in the back of the Visitor’s Center. When they stepped through the doors, all the children gasped.