“Any truth is better than an infinite doubt,” – Sherlock Holmes.
A Sherlock Holmes fiction.
London 1890, One year before Sherlock Holmes plunged into the shadowy waters of the Reichenbach Falls.
The atmosphere was glum. There was no other way to put it. Not unlike any other day, Great Britain’s infamous blanket of grey settled once again. The vast stretch of gloominess obscuring traces of light. If one was lucky, one would land in a rare bright spot, where a stray burst of sun had found it’s way to meet it’s long lost Earth. But alas, the rain would not allow it. What started off to be a light drizzle, now, chased off unfortunate pedestrians back into their shelters… Except for one. A tall figure strolling casually along the street wearing nothing on his head – one would think he was a nutter, but he would merely state that rain would do more damage to a good hat than to your head. As he reached his destination, however, he produced his signature deerstalker and jovially placed it on his head as he rapped on the door of No221B Baker Street.
The rain drops pattered against the windows. The innocent noise suddenly sounding terrible loud and distracting in the mind of the weary John Watson.
John was sitting behind his desk, writing. And yet again he seemed to be at a loss for words. His index finger pressed firmly on his typewriter key for a whole minute, as he was lost in his thoughts. He watched as he formed two full rows of question marks. He lifted his finger and couldn’t help but feel those dozens of questions swirling in his mind.
He was merely the cheese in this endless chase between cat and mouse. A child’s game played by the most intelligent adults in the world – two geniuses – bound to one another by the forces of good and evil ,forever circling but never touching, like the same poles of a magnet.
One being Moriaty and the other being,
The baritone voice startled Watson out of his wits. He jumped and let out a cry of shock – his hand clutching at his chest as he was abruptly snapped out of his thoughts.
Speaking of the Devil!
“Oh, don’t look so surprised. You were thinking out loud. It really was distracting.”
Watson didn’t resist to openly glare at Sherlock from across the room, only then noticing that he was entirely soaked. From years of experience, Watson decided against asking.
Sherlock gaze remained cool and locked unblinkingly onto John’s. A pregnant silence followed. Both of them, at polar ends of the room- Holmes by the doorway and Watson on his seat. It only lasted a few moments until Watson let out a frustrated sigh of defeat. It was pointless anyway, Holmes had won even before the game had begun.
As he moved to light the fireplace, he didn’t fail to notice the slight curl on Sherlock’s lips. That, coming from a man who didn’t even smile on his birthday ( heaven knows whenever that is…) Watson fought the urge to roll his eyes.
He then made his way back behind his typewriter and tried to elimate the obvious fact that Sherlock Holmes was in the room. He cracked his knuckles and prepared to type. Nothing came to mind.
And much to his dismay, Watson’s patience failed him once again.
He sighed as the silence broadened.
“You look outright ridiculous. why are you here?” Watson asked without averting his eyes from his work.
And as expected, only silence responded.
Watson felt his blood temperature rise. He was, after all a medical man. He knew when his company was unhealthy for him.
“Fine. Don’t answer the bloody question. A stone wall would look like the world’s greatest human next to your pompous self.”
Holmes didn’t do as much as flinch at the thorough remark. He simply angled his head lazily towards Watson’s general direction and said his words slowly as if speaking with a toddler,
“Language, Watson, language.”
Having heard that, Watson felt his insides explode. Only then did he wonder how they didn’t explode sooner. He could feel hot steam bursting from either of his ears. Had there any end to this nonsense? He spent his entire adult life with this man. A man who had an ego that was bigger than the crimes he solved or rather, deduced.
And yet it never ceased to amaze Watson how he tolerated the detective’s outrageous responses – most of the time.
“Worry not. That immense vocabulary of yours will do us well when we visit the docks tomorrow. I am sure you will fit right in with those decent shipmates. I’m afraid I truly am lost in matters like such without my faithful, ever intelligent Boswell.” Sherlock finished wittily.
Watson, however did not acknowledge the dry sarcasm. He was too busy counting to ten. This man was going to be the death of him, he was sure of it!
“You do not wish my company,” Holmes said frankly, after a while.
“Now, Holmes, don’t be brash, I did not say that. In fact, I do not recall saying anything at all.”
“But you clearly implied it.”
Still unyielding, Watson ignored the mad man and looked back at his work, only to realize that his fingers were still hovering over the keyboard. Without a second thought in his mind, Watson began,
‘London 1980. The atmosphere was glum. Not unlike any other day, Great Britain’s infamous blanket of grey settled once again….’
Watson paused and observed his companion who was staring into the fire – a look so distant and yet so intense, as if extracting the very core that was fueling the fire’s blazing flames itself. When suddenly, his eyes shifted and stared directly into Watson’s. John looked away.
This consulting detective was merely an extrodinarily conflicted man destined to spend his life in eternal solitude – heartless and alone, refusing solace as it were a sin, Watson thought. He pondered on it and proceeded to type it down. As he did so, he felt Holmes’ gaze burning against his fingers. His ever watchful eyes scrutinizing him in impeccable silence.
After a good few minutes of continuous typing, the clicking of the keys seemed to slow – stopping hesitantly after every few clicks, an unsure writer pondering on his next few words.
He needed inspiration. He needed…. Holmes, as much as he hated to admit it. He needed that psychotic selfish delusional genius…
Then a thought struck him.
“Say, Holmes, there was a letter in the post. For you. An address from…” Watson bit his cheek, trying to recall.
“Professor James Moriarty.” Holmes’ said monotonously as he now lay sprawled on his favorite chair, puffing his pipe silently.
Watson was surprised that Sherlock even listened in the first place. “And…?” he encouraged cautiously.
It was then, that John noticed the pile of letters flying in his direction. Unlike Sherlock, John’s reflexes were only human, and so, naturally, it didn’t end well.
The letters scattered all over the floor but at that point, Holmes’ didn’t seem to notice. His cool demeanor was suddenly broken – like a coiled viper that was finally unleashed. His rose abruptly from his seat and strode to the corner of his study, revealing a network of webs entitled ‘ The Great Game.’
“And I am losing…” Holmes muttered softly to himself. Something he rarely never did.
Watson’s fingers scrambled to pick up the important letters – when one accidentally slipped out of its envelope. A simple blank sheet. Handwritten. A precaution that Watson was sure a private consulting criminal like Moriarty would put into consideration. Watson ran his fingers over the imprinted ink- so stationary and perfect – much like Sherlock’s own hand. Watson shook the disturbing thought off – the two them were so terribly alike that Watson sometimes could not tell the difference, even if he had not seen this mysterious Moriarty fellow before. He then wondered whether Sherlock ever had. Where had he been this morning anyway?
He studied the letter and then slowly read it. It was private. A letter only meant for Sherlock Holmes, and despite that, Watson thought to himself, when was the last time Sherlock had been honest with him or anybody else for that matter?
This game is coming to an end. An end that favors who, however , still remains in question. I know you feel it in your bones, I know it because I do too. Sometimes, I feel were are one. One step a head of each other and yet always one step behind. How does it feel to be you? The great Sherlock Holmes deducing crimes in a blink of a eye. What was it you used to say? Elementary?
Well, old boy. That line deserves a last laugh because in terms of recent circumstances, you have been beaten in your own game. Outwitted by an outstanding equal because I have something that you don’t or rather you have something that I don’t. Is it times like this when you just wish the tables were turned? That I was the one sitting in front of my fireplace with a bumbling quack stalking my every move in black and white. That I was the very man who wished to be the murderer – killing human lives in cold blood rather than pretending that they actually mean something. Do you, Holmes? Do you care? Because we both know that it is not true.
We are two sides of coin.
Penny in the air… Penny drops.
But which side faces up, if both are the same?
I know the dark secrets that delved in your past. I know because we are so alike in so many ways – we know things that normal beings can only begin to comprehend. The power of knowing is a strange thing isn’t it? It makes us lonely, bored, for we already know too much and there is nothing else to know. People like us, no, we were made for each other. We satisfy each other in ways that cannot be imagined. And when it all ends… there will be no satisfaction. Its either you or me or us. Without me there is no you, for we are the dark and the light that completes this world. And if one of us perishes, the chaos of imbalance will reign its terror onto the other. Or maybe, we ‘ll be the death of ourselves.
I will say no more for I already know you know the truth.
Too seek one’s desire, one must follow one’s heart , but what we if don’t have one to follow?
Watson felt something shift in the air. He looked up to find Holmes standing in front of him – his tall form towering over his. And before John could respond, the letter disappeared into the hands of Sherlock almost as swiftly as his friend made his way back to his perch by the fire. The pile of letters , now, lay neatly on his lap. That was when John noticed something.
He noticed the silence that seemed to hang in the air, like a permanent backdrop in a sad scene. He noticed the tension, the weariness, the sadness, the confusion. And finally, he noticed Sherlock Holmes – like a tinker in despair, sitting in his corner while mending his pond of broken things.
The letter was right. The game was finally at its finale. The Sherlock in Holmes was dying and now that Watson realised this, it never seemed so obvious. The past enthusiasm, the power of knowing was fading – inching away like a shadow nearing night. And Sherlock seemed to notice this too. His intellectual mind has finally met it’s match and it’s lost. The defeat threw everything off balance including the very man himself. For once in his life, Holmes felt insecure, afraid because… For once in his life, he didn’t know.
After a few long moments, John let out a deep breath and looked at Holmes.
Sherlock turned and smiled his crooked smile – a rare moment that Watson promised he would remember until the day he died.
“Deducing me, Doctor? My, my, you certainly are on a roll today, sir.”
There was no point lying, Watson thought sourly, so he prepared himself for humiliation.
“Yes,” was the curt reply.
What came next, however, was completely unexpected.
“What do see?” Holmes said with sudden curiosity as he stretched himself on his armchair, his midnight eyes never breaking contact with Watson’s.
There was yet another silence as Watson concentrated.
The middle aged doctor leaned forward and copied Holme’s usual thinking stance – his elbows resting on his knees and his palms pressed together, supporting his chin. All in all, he looked like a praying monk.
Holmes’ usually closed his eyes at this point, but Watson dared not to. A Sherlock out of character was dangerous. So he refused to let his guard down.
Watson took his time studying his companion – his sharp features, his black eyes, the haunting stare.
Watson suppressed a shudder. He knew this man for umpteenth years – he spent every living day of his working life documenting this legend. And yet, looking at him now, sitting in front of him with his barriers and shields all down, Watson felt an unexpected fear.
The fear of knowing.
Had Sherlock ever feared the solution? The missing key that unlocked the secret door?
Because as Watson sat there, no longer looking at his friend, he realized that Holmes was a million doors. He was a mystery within a mystery – an unsolved puzzle , an untamed riddle. And Watson was scared to know the truth. What was behind this man? This legend that was able to satisfy his readers and yet unable to satisfy himself? His insatiable hunger for challenge that lead him into this great game.
Only as he remembered the curious contents of Moriarty’s letter, he realized Sherlock was neither good nor evil. He was selfish, wanting things that only mattered to himself… Like the crimes he solved. The only addiction that was greater than that of his drugs.
A man who would someday in the distant future, succumb to the dark side, a place where he wouldn’t be too unfamiliar with. A moving shadow lurking in a lonely alleyway. A silent murderer waiting for his prey.
As soon as John realized Sherlock’s distant expression, he knew he was in his own world. This man. This man who tip toed on the very tip of insanity and yet, was completely and ever so wholly sane – maybe that was why he was brilliant.
So finally with his mind in complete rest, Watson closed his eyes.
And asked a question.
Sherlock didn’t move and Watson immediately regretted his query. But as he prepared to leave, a quiet voice stopped him.
He stopped in his tracks and looked at Sherlock Holmes – waiting, as his friend sat there, motionless in his chair, his face blank and his endless eyes looking nowhere in particular. Then, with the greatest ease and yet with the greatest care, he placed his words, looking dead centre into John Watson’s eyes, boring and never letting go – holding so much intensity and uncharacteristic emotion.
“The truth, or the kind lie?”
The words echoed in Watson’s mind. Seconds passed quickly and yet time began to slow down and halt at the same time.
Because Dr. John Hamish Watson was a very fickle fellow – his extreme indecisiveness frequently being one of his weaknesses when arguing with a man like Holmes. But as he watched his colleague, no, his friend’s watchful eyes, he realized an unfamiliar emotion in them- an unexplainable emotion. A brief emotion that flashed across his friend’s stoic face and disappeared within a blink of an eye.
“John, I have no friends.”
He turned slightly and looked at Watson with melancholy eyes.
“Except for one.”
John remembered that moment as clear as day. And it was that moment when he decided he was going to be there until the end. The end of everything, Watson will be there with Holmes standing side by side as colleagues, companions, and most importantly, as friends.
Watson stopped breathing and for a split second, he changed is mind. Let it be that this strange unbearable high functioning sociopath was the very murderer himself – that the trickster was solving his very own tricks. Because no matter what, Sherlock Holmes will always be the greatest person that John has ever known. Through his eyes, this man was a hero despite all his flaws and denials.
And whatever that may lie in the distant future shall take it’s own course for there was no Sherlock Holmes without his Watson to keep his feet rooted on the grounds of sanity.
It was too late for him to turn back now and for all that it was worth, not all doors are meant to be open.
And so Watson replied,
“The kind lie.”
And Sherlock Holmes smiled.
“For when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”