Secrets by Mike Taylor
© Mike Taylor 2021
‘What are you smiling about?’ asked Sam as he swayed on the tree swing and looked at his sister sitting on a tree stump next to it.
‘I have a secret!’ said Evelyn, grinning.
‘What is it? Tell me!’
‘If I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore!’ said Evelyn, grinning even more.
Sam leapt off the swing and ran to his sister, whose grin could not be any larger. He grabbed her blue check shirt and shook it vigorously. ‘What? What? What?’
Evelyn went silent as she considered her options, still grinning.
‘You can’t give me a crumb like that and take away the big cheese,’ he pleaded.
‘You have to pinky swear not to breathe a word of this, not even to Mum and Dad.’
‘I won’t, ever, I promise,’ he said quickly as he extended the pinky finger on his right hand.
‘You can let go of my shirt now,’ said Evelyn as they shook fingers.
‘Well, well, what is it?’ urged Sam, his blue eyes large.
Evelyn looked left then right, as if spies might be about. ‘You absolutely can’t tell anyone, no matter what,’ she whispered.
‘I know!’ shouted Sam. ‘I pinky swore. I won’t tell.’
‘Shhhh!’ In the hushed voice of big secrets, Evelyn said, ‘Okay. Follow me.’
The two children walked away from the house, which stood alone as the beating heart of the small family farm. They went over the first hill and stopped in the valley. Evelyn again looked about, and Sam copied. ‘All clear,’ she whispered.
Evelyn parted the grass at the base of a tree and pulled on a small, rusty ring. ‘What is that?’ whispered Sam.
Before Evelyn could answer, a rectangle of grass fell away, revealing stairs. Sam’s lips formed the beginning of a word, but nothing happened.
Evelyn beckoned, then started walking down the stairs, into the darkness. Sam followed, driven by a burning curiosity. Evelyn flicked a light switch at the bottom of the stairs. Sam gasped as fluorescent lights flickered into life, revealing a long tunnel.
‘What is this? How did you find it? Are you sure we are supposed to be here?’ he blurted.
‘Mum and Dad don’t know, and I didn’t discover it. I made it,’ said Evelyn calmly. ‘Please shut the trap door behind you.’
Sam stood motionless, his mouth wide. ‘Made it?’ he repeated.
Evelyn nodded as she squeezed past her spellbound brother and pulled the door closed.
‘Is this safe? What is this?’
‘Yes, it’s safe. Now stop blithering and follow me.’
Evelyn took her younger brother’s hand and led him twenty metres down the tunnel, until they came to a white steel door. She turned to her brother, putting her hands on his shoulders. ‘Do you want to know what is behind the door? We could just go back and forget about it.’
‘I need to know,’ he exclaimed. ‘Open the door.’
Evelyn nodded. She removed a small plastic rectangle from her shirt pocket and waved it over a panel on the wall beside the door. Three green lights appeared, and the door clicked. Evelyn pushed it open.
They stepped into a large white room. There were people in white coats walking around and benches with chemical mixing equipment around the sides. No one seemed to notice the visitors.
Sam steadied himself on Evelyn. ‘What is this?’ he asked slowly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
‘My laboratory,’ replied Evelyn, as if that were sufficient.
Sam spun his sister around, grabbing her with both arms, and said, ‘What?’
Evelyn sighed. ‘You know those lottery tickets Aunty Alice gives us for our birthdays? Well, I won lots, so I contracted people to build this laboratory in secret. They worked on stormy nights so no one would hear.’
‘What?’ said Sam again.
‘Wait until you see the secret!’ said Evelyn.
‘What?’ said Sam, on repeat. ‘All this isn’t the secret?’
‘No, this is just my lab!’
Evelyn walked over to one of the scientists, who greeted her like a work colleague. Sam followed like a shadow.
Evelyn and the scientist talked briefly, then Evelyn towed Sam into one of three square glass rooms at the far end of the laboratory. In the middle was a stainless-steel table.
Evelyn pulled out a chair and gently lowered the bewildered Sam onto it. He was busy pinching himself and repeatedly closing and opening his eyes, while muttering the word, ‘What?’ quietly.
Evelyn looked at Sam and smiled. ‘It’s okay. Everything’s cool and about to get way cooler. What do you have in your pockets?’
Sam slowly removed a silver coin, two rubber bands and a lolly wrapper. Evelyn took the coin from his hand.
‘I’ll give it back soon!’
Evelyn placed the coin on the table, then removed a small pot and a brush from a cabinet under the table. Placing a newspaper under the coin, she painted the coin with a green, luminescent paint, which seemed to fizz as she applied it. She blew to dry the coin as quickly as possible. Once dry, the paint disappeared, and the coin appeared normal.
‘I’ll be back,’ she said, quickly darting out of the glass room and returning moments later with a matchbox-sized container, tightly wrapped in copper wires, with large magnets at each end. There was one red and one green wire hanging off it.
‘Grab that car battery over there,’ she said, pointing to a cupboard on the wall behind Sam.
Sam lugged the battery over and placed it next to Evelyn.
She slid the coin into the box and carefully connected the positive and negative terminals. The copper wires glowed red.
‘Does that give off radiation?’ asked Sam.
‘Non-ionising. It’s okay.’
Sam nodded, but he wasn’t ready for what happened next.
After a short time, Evelyn detached the battery, retrieved the coin and handed it back to Sam.
‘Hold on to it firmly.’
Sam closed his sweating fingers around the coin. ‘Now what?’
‘Now open your hand slowly.’
Sam opened his hand and looked at the coin in his palm. Then he looked at his grinning sister with a confused expression.
Evelyn nodded. ‘Now, lift your hand a little.’
Sam raised his hand, stopping after a second. Then his eyes grew to their widest yet as the coin left his palm and kept rising into the air.
‘How are you doing that?’
‘Science and a tiny bit of magic,’ replied Evelyn.
‘Magic? Where from?’
‘I might know someone,’ replied Evelyn with another wide smile as the coin floated slowly around the room.
Sam pulled a face. ‘Who?’
‘One of the scientists I hired has a Nobel Prize. Cool, huh?’
‘Hundo per cent. How much money did you win, exactly?’
‘Watch this,’ said Evelyn, ignoring the question. She caught the floating coin and rubbed it quickly on her shirt sleeve, then released it. Both children watched as the coin sped to the roof, then rebounded to a wall and continued until Evelyn caught it again.
‘What happened? How does it do that?’
‘We have invented paint which reverses the normal gravitational effect, and when a little energy is added, then it creates enough electromagnetic energy to fly.’
‘That’s fantastic!’ exclaimed Sam. ‘What are you going to do with it?’
‘Nothing, for now. If the world gets itself calmed down, we might release it.’
‘Good point,’ said Sam, looking thoughtful. ‘Do you want to know my secret?’
After dinner that evening, he announced, ‘Evelyn is going to help me with my physics homework.’
‘That’s good,’ replied their mother and father in unison.
The children scuttled up the wooden stairs and into Sam’s bedroom.
‘Close the door,’ said Sam as he pulled his chair away from the small desk by the window. He stood on it and reached onto the top of the closet, pulling down a pile of papers.
‘You really are going to help me with my homework!’ he said with a cheeky grin. His sister wasn’t impressed.
‘I have a secret project too,’ he said as he laid the papers around them both. Evelyn became more interested.
‘You know how light is all around us, but you can’t actually see it until it hits something and then reflects?’ said Sam enthusiastically.
Evelyn nodded. ‘Yes, photons are the only things humans actually see.’
‘What if you could capture the photons?’
Evelyn was quiet for a moment.
‘Where are you going with this?’ she said, touching her mouth with her hand while she thought.
‘Just think about it,’ urged Sam.
Evelyn stared into space as her mind raced, then said, ‘Well, you wouldn’t be able to see whatever caught them.’
‘Exactly. But what would you see?’
‘A gap in the visual field, I guess,’ said Evelyn, ‘but it wouldn’t look normal.’
‘Right, but what if you could capture the field behind you as well and project that forwards?’
Evelyn gasped, and Sam grinned.
They both pored over Sam’s drawings and his calculations. ‘You would need to know the number of photons per second you captured and the distance to the background.’
Sam pointed to a page of scribbles. ‘Look. It all revolves around Planck’s constant, h over two pi.’
‘Of course!’ exclaimed Evelyn, getting excited. ‘The centre of all quantum mechanics.’
‘If we can calculate it, we can do it!’ shouted Sam.
‘Will you help me? Will you help me build an invisibility machine?’
‘We don’t need a machine!’ said Evelyn quickly.
Sam looked confused, but Evelyn grinned widely.
‘We can make a paint if we fuse this physics with my paint breakthrough!’
Sam’s mouth fell open. ‘Would you help me? Would you?’
‘Yes. Let’s take these drawings down to the lab tonight!’
‘Woohoo!’ shouted Sam.
‘Shhhh!’ responded Evelyn. ‘This has to stay secret, remember.’
‘Sorry. I’m just excited to get started. This is so unbelievably cool.’
‘I know, right?’
‘So how do we get down there without Mum and Dad knowing?’
‘Okay, Mum is kind of in on it. She had to sign for me to collect the lottery winnings, so she knows I have science projects I work on outside at night. Dad would freak out, but Mum is cool with it as long as I don’t get too tired and I carry a personal alarm.’
‘So, get into bed, and Dad will say goodnight. When he’s asleep, Mum wakes me up, and I’ll wake you up.’
‘No wonder you sleep in so much!’
‘I know, right? Dad just thinks I’m growing! So, we’ll go downstairs, say goodnight to Mum as usual, then I’ll wake you up.’
‘But remember, this only works as a secret project.’