Gears and Grease – Chapter 5

Gears and Grease – Chapter 5

The time when they would know if the ionization corridor had dissipated was rapidly approaching. Over the past few months, everyone’s hair had been less static-y than a year ago. Even the number of thunderstorms in the nearby area had reduced to a more normal level. It was such a treat to be able to go outside and enjoy the sun without fearing a sudden lightning storm appearing.

Matt tiptoed across the living room, making sure to miss that one spot in front of the fireplace that always popped when you stepped on it, despite it being covered in carpet. He was on a mission. His goal? To infiltrate his father’s study and check on the small electrical circuit placed on the desk.

He paused at the corner of the hallway and stuck his head out just enough for his ear to pass the wall. There he stayed for a bit. Each sound he heard even vaguely approaching him had him flinching. A short hiss escaped his lips when he jerked his hand against the corner during one such flinch.

All the noises he heard were coming from the other side of the house. If the banging pots were anything to go by, Aunt Clara was in the kitchen, probably cooking lunch. There were no other sounds though. Maybe the others were outside or in the basement?

Taking a deep breath, Matt stepped around the corner and hustled to the study door. He winced with each gentle crunch the carpet made. The golden knob of the door beckoned him. The key he had snitched earlier from his uncle shook in his hand as he raised it to the lock.

As if it was the ringing of Big Ben, the clicking of the lock echoed down the hall. Matt froze. No sound of thundering feet coming his way could be heard. Taking a deep breath, trying to calm his racehorse of a heart, he twisted the knob and pushed the door open.

It was dark inside study. At the far end of the room the blinds had been closed and the curtains drawn. Only slices of light could be seen around the edges. But there, in the center of the desk, was a delicate yellow glow from a homemade light bulb.

Matt smiled at the memory of his father tinkering with the delicate filaments for several days in the living room. Everyone was forbidden to touch it or even go near it. His father had nearly thrown a fit when one of the dogs had gotten loose in the house and ran through and over everything. Light bulb parts flew everywhere. Matt and Grace were on their hands and knees for almost an hour picking up every miniscule piece. Granted, it was their fault the dog got into the house, but he still didn’t like doing it.

But now, the homemade light bulb was glowing. It didn’t matter how dim the light was. In a world devoid of electricity, that tiny spark was a beacon of hope. If the ion corridor had dissipated like everyone hoped, then the little bulb would be the start of an electrical revolution. 

No more candles. No more fearing every dark cloud in the sky. No more having to be holed up inside forever. Freedom would taste better than the sweetest of candies.

He crept closer to the antique wooden desk. What little light shone into the room reflected off the scroll work on the legs and along the edges. The shadows danced and played before him. Matt knew it was a trick of the eye, just an illusion, but he still thought he could see little shapes dancing along the desk in the corner of his vision.

When he stood right next to the desk, he instantly recognized the smell of boiled potato. Sure enough, sandwiched between a piece of zinc and a piece of copper was a slice of Aunt Clara’s boiled potato. He frowned for a moment, his eyebrows pulling low over his eyes, as he pondered why a piece of potato was part of an electric circuit.

“What are you doing? You know you’re not supposed to be in here.”

Matt whirled around at the sound of his father’s voice. The tall man stood in the doorway to the study, nothing but a dark silhouette against the light of the hallway.

“N-nothing, Sir. I j-just wanted to l-look.” Matt looked back and forth between the circuit and his father.

Edison Wallers walked over to the desk and stared down at the circuit. “It’s been glowing steady for the past few weeks. A small miracle in this darkened world.”

“Uh, why does it have a potato in it?”

His father looked down at him and smiled. The small light caught in his eyes and shown like a thousand stars. “That’s the battery. We can’t exactly just drive down the road to the store to get a new battery. And like the bulb, I made it myself. Boiling makes it work better, up to ten times better. This one piece of potato has been working for over three weeks.”

Matt looked back at the little piece of food then back at his father. “That piece is powering the light b-bulb? All on its own?”

“Not exactly.” His father chuckled, his shoulders shaking with the movement, and crouched down in front of the desk so his chin was just resting on the top. “The circuit is powered by the interaction between the zinc, copper, and potato. The three work together.”

“What is it going to do?” Matt sat down on the red leather chair at the desk, and just stared at the contraption.

“With luck, nothing. If the corridor is gone or weakened, nothing will happen to the light. If it remains, then the light will react in some way. I’m not sure exactly how it will react, but it should.”

“When will we know?”

“I don’t know. The particles have moved around in space and the edges of the corridor are most likely the weakest part, but we should know soon. Within the next two weeks at most I’d wager.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t sound too excited about it.”

Matt shook his head. “No. I just got used to not having my hair go everywhere all the time.”

His father laughed and Matt could hear him stand. “You and me both. Come on, we should go help your aunt with lunch.”

“Yeah.” Matt didn’t move, opting to gaze a little longer at the light bulb. It wasn’t until he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder than he stood from his chair and left the dark study.

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