Workshop of Wonders
Now, Leonora’s bedroom/totally-secret-laboratory/workshop (KEEP OUT!) was at the top of an old, disused lighthouse. The lighthouse was on Crabby Island and Crabby Island was slap bang in the middle of absolutely flipping nowhere.
To the north – there was sea. To the east – there was sea. To the south – there was jungle. Sorry, not jungle, more sea. To the west – well, you get the picture. It was a tiny, forgotten sort of place. But it had been home to Leonora, Uncle Luther, their housekeeper, Mildred, and Leonora’s pet otter, Twitchy Nibbles, for almost all her nine years.
Leonora watched her uncle’s boat finally disappear over the blank horizon. Her heart thudded in the silence. Pea brain? Silly little mess? I’ll show you, she thought.
She snapped the window shut and checked the homemade cuckoo clock on her bedside table. It read 7:23 a.m. and five tweets precisely. Thanks to Uncle Luther’s unexpected visit, the day already felt like it was bent out of shape. But he was gone. She had the next few hours, days – who knew how long before he’d come creeping back?
Warm morning sunshine flooded in, sparkling off bits of scrap metal, coiled wires, jars of silvery liquids, little mechanical gadgets and electric circuit boards strewn all around – making her workshop look like the most glorious treasure trove (or like a catastrophic explosion in a junkyard, depending on your point of view).
Leonora waded through the sea of cables to her desk and grabbed a bottle of special formula hair oil. She smoothed a few handfuls through her curls to repair some of the damage from her earlier experiment. Then she picked up a lump of chalk and began scribbling on the blackboard beside her:
• FLAMEPROOF SHAMPOO
• Musical socks
• Bee sting reverser
• Rocket pyjamas
• Magnetic cheese
• Original space/time disruptor
She paused, rubbed her forehead with her wrist. What to work on first today? Her brain often felt like a wonky Catherine wheel, ideas flying like sparks in all directions. And there was never enough time to build everything she wanted to. She also had chores to do – making her bed, washing up, re-engineering the lighthouse generator to run off electric eels. Just normal, everyday stuff. Stuff that could maybe wait until later...
Leonora reviewed the last item on the board. She smiled to herself and pulled a key on a string from around her neck. Then she unlocked the top drawer of her desk. Inside was a box containing two contraptions. She took out the larger one. There it was: her most secret, most astonishing invention yet – the Switcheroo! She carried this ingenious object to her workbench. Then she pulled on ultra-magnifying spectacles and set to work.
Inside the sleek metal case was a tiny but unbelievably powerful supercomputer. It could teleport a trillion, trillion, trillion (blinking loads of) molecules across time and space at the touch of a button. It could make objects swap places with one another! At least, that was the plan.
As Leonora tinkered with its microprocessors and single-handedly reinvented the laws of physics, she felt excitement bubbling inside her. She’d found a way to scan everyday items and turn them into data, then beam that data between two locations using satellites and quantum computing. Not so hopeless after all. One day she’d use it to leave the island and see the wide world beyond. That’s why Uncle Luther could never, ever know about it. Leonora had to ensure it was a total, utter, cast-iron secret.
But secrets are slippery things that have a way of being discovered. Unbeknownst to Leonora, Uncle Luther already knew about her extraordinary machine. He’d been spying on her and waiting for her to finish. And worse than that, he had plans for it. Terrible plans. The kind of plans that if Leonora had any inkling, she’d smash the Switcheroo to bits.
Just at that moment, a sound like weasels doing bad karaoke pierced the morning silence. It was Mildred calling her from far below.
‘LEEEEOOOOO – come and gets breakfast, me little sugarplum!’
Leonora’s stomach growled. She carefully returned her Switcheroo to its hiding place. Then she lifted a snoozing Twitchy off his cushion, grabbed her rucksack and leaped headlong out of the nearest window.