When it is fully dark, Marie-Laure follows her great-uncle up the stairs, through the sixth-floor room, and up the ladder into the attic. Etienne raises the heavy telescoping antenna alongside the line of the chimney. He flips switches, and the attic fills with a delicate crackle.
‘Ready?’ He sounds like her father when he was about to say something silly. In her memory, Marie-Laure hears the two policemen: People have been arrested for less. And Madame Manec: Don’t you want to be alive before you die?
He clears his throat. He switches on the microphone and says, ‘567, 32, 3011, 50506, 110, 90, 146, 7751.’
Off go the numbers, winging out across rooftops, across the sea, flying to who knows what destinations. To England, to Paris, to the dead.
He switches to a second frequency and repeats the transmission. A third. Then he shuts the whole thing off. The machine ticks as it cools.
‘What do they mean, Uncle?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Do they translate into words?’
‘I suppose they must.’
They go down the ladder and clamber out through the wardrobe. No soldiers wait in the hall with guns drawn. Nothing seems different at all. A line comes back to Marie-Laure from Jules Verne: Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.
~ ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr
From the bays of Pearl Coast,
Fish a ton of oysters, strike a shiny pearl.