January 31st – And completely by mistake, the switch was made
“What are you doing, Luigi?”
“What sort of thing?”
Luigi indicated the object on the workbench in front of him. A metal plate, slightly raised, with space underneath, and a hinged platform in the middle. Antonio came closer, and stood over Luigi’s shoulder, looking down at his work. Antonio’s shadow, cast by the rays of the evening sun sinking over his left shoulder, spilling through the small window that illuminated their shared space, fell across the bench.
“Turn the light on, Antonio. It’ll be dark soon. And you’re blocking all the light as it is.”
Electricity had been invented some time ago. It was used for all sorts of useful things now, like making frogs dance, spinning things, and making water dangerous. And now, somewhere in the middle of the century of discoveries, it was used for lighting.
Antonio crossed the room, and touched together the two wires that spread from either side of a Voltaic Pile, shipped in especially from the banks of Lake Como. A wire filament, enclosed in a goblet of sorts, began to glow, spreading its light. Antonio clipped the wires together, sending a small shock through his already blackened fingers.
He returned to the workbench, and stood over Luigi’s shoulder again, this time shadowless. Or, more precisely, shadow-in-another-direction-ing.
“So, what is it?”
“It’s a catapult. For ants. Watch.”
Luigi reached under the bench, and pulled out a small jar, which seemed to contain an unnecessary number of ants. It was science, though, so Antonio held his tongue.
Luigi carefully unscrewed the lid of the jar, and with a pair of long tweezers, extracted an ant. He placed it on the hinged platform in the middle of the object he was constructing, and pressed down on the other side. With a click, the ant took to the air, and performed a number of surprising aerobatic manoeuvres, before landing and scuttling off, seemingly unharmed.
Antonio was awestruck. Never before had he seen an ant take to the air, propelled by a force applied from elsewhere, transferred through a hinge mechanism.
“Luigi, you’re a genius!” exclaimed Antonio.
“Ah, it’s nothing,” replied Luigi, dismissively sweeping his hand in the air in front of him, as if to bat off the compliment.
Unfortunately, as he did so, he knocked over the jar of ants. In a bid to save his precious cargo, he jumped up from his stool, knocking into Antonio, who was still standing behind him. The force of the impact knocked Antonio backwards, dislodging the clip that held together the ends of the two wires emanating from the battery. As the clips separated, the filament in the glass goblet lost its glow, and the light was extinguished. Groping for the ants on the table, and finding the jar within reach of his left hand, Luigi knocked his ant catapult with his right elbow, sending it spinning towards Antonio. Dimly aware of something heading his way out of the gloom, Antonio reached out a hand to protect his face, and knocked it downwards, where it landed on the floor, pinning the two ends of the wires emanating from the battery on either side.
Ants safely stowed, Luigi groped his way across the room until he found the metal plate.
“My ant catapult,” he gasped, and pressed the hinged platform to test the mechanism. “I hope – ’
His sentence was cut off by a sudden illumination, and a gasp from Antonio.
And completely by mistake, the switch was made.
Inspired by a prompt from here