Scratch… scratch… scratch…
The sound of the quill pen dragging across the paper was like music to him, drowning out the mooing of the cows. The light rain throughout the day meant that he hadn’t needed to take them out of their sheds. He was thankful for that; he didn’t have to run after those cows and get feed for them. He had celebrated by spending his time in his room, thinking and writing.
Such days had been few and far between ever since the university had shut down a couple of months previously. As he dipped his pen into the ink bottle, he glanced out of the window. He had wanted a day when he could work uninterrupted, but now he yearned to go out into the yard. The day had been long, and he had not made much progress. The numbers shuffling around in his head just didn’t arrange themselves in a way that gave him any insight. He looked a little closer at the sky - maybe it did look a little brighter? It would need to clear soon if he wanted to take his walk outside, otherwise it would be dark and it wouldn’t be quite as refreshing.
He wrote a few more lines, but the glance out of the window had diverted his attention permanently. Stretching back in his chair, he looked at what he had written. He had slowly understood some of the principles that make the world run, walking further on the path indicated by Galileo than Galileo himself had. It had not been easy - he had found the math that he had at his disposal to be much too clunky to describe the beauty of nature’s inner workings, and he had developed his own ways to describe how nature itself moves. He often thought of the world around him as some kind of clockwork, much like the pendulum clock at the university, except that a few simple gears weren’t the only things he could explain - his ideas could do much more than that if they were true.
If they were true? Of course there were true! Three small ideas were enough to describe every motion around him. If the sheer elegance wasn’t enough, they were powerful too!
He was still not satisfied though. He had imagined the clockwork nature of the pendulum extending to many things around him and it had worked beautifully. Especially on a farm, he could see it in action everywhere - pebbles rolling, people and animals walking, someone raising water from the well - his ideas were everywhere!
He was itching to see if they extend even further. Could this clockwork structure extend further, to the moon, say? The sun? The stars?
He returned to what he was writing. His thoughts placed him among the stars - what chance did a measly yard stand against the universe?
There was no clock on the farm. It disappointed him, even though he had several sundials, all of which he had made himself, strewn all over the farm. They weren’t so useful on a cloudy, rainy day.
He liked looking at clocks. Especially the precise craftsmanship of the pendulum clocks, and how they were independent of the weather. He had thought of making one - but he had been keeping his craftsmanship to one side. The mathematics was too interesting at the moment.
A sudden brightening attracted his attention back to the yard - the rain had stopped, and the clouds were clearing a little! He quickly set aside his pen and rolled up his parchment and within a few moments was out of the door.
He could tell that the sun had just set even though the clouds hid almost everything. A few stars could be seen in the region of the sky that was devoid of clouds. He felt strangely close to the stars - he thought about them so much, after all. On second thoughts, though, one of them seemed to be a planet. It wasn’t twinkling. Venus, maybe? The evening star.
He felt the wet grass below his feet as he walked to the far corner of the farm. He would sit underneath the trees there and have a good hard think. That should open his mind up.
He reached his preferred spot. The branches of the tree seemed laden with fruit. He considered plucking one, but decided against it. It wasn’t time to eat yet.
He could feel becoming one with the nature he wished so dearly to understand. The plan was to stay there and wait for inspiration to come, the way it had come several times before. He shut his eyes, and just then…
A sudden sharp blow to the head broke the spell. As the apple fell to the ground with another thunk, he could almost feel his spirit drop like it had done. Why did it have to fall just then and spoil his thoughts?
Why did it have to fall?
Why did it fall?
He looked at the apple. And then back at the stars in the sky. The moon showed itself for a moment through a crack in the clouds. The clouds were clearing further… and not just in the sky. He could feel realisation and discovery send a shiver down every part of his body.
The numbers were in order now.
He couldn’t even be angry at the voice that came from far away.
“Isaac? Where are you, Isaac? Go right now and see whether the cows have enough food. You should have done that an hour back. Isaac?!”
He took one last look at the apple, before walking slowly towards the cowshed.
He had his answer. The clockwork did extend further.