EDITOR'S NOTE: We continue to interrupt our regular blogging for a brief interlude of fan fiction from the world of Asylum "Sherlock Holmes," a.k.a. "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs." If it ever gets to an actual sex scene, I'll be sure to warn you.
"You Really Are An Automaton!"
A memoir of Anesidora Ivory
Chapter Four: "The man was either a lover or . . ."
Chapter Four: "The man was either a lover or . . ."
"During the days after Thorne's death, before you came to live with me, Miss Ivory, I met a man who would change my life," Robert Sherlock Holmes abruptly confided in me, one night as we sat opposite the autumn hearthfire at 221B Baker Street. "Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle."
"Ignatius, Robert?" I asked rhetorically as part of a subroutine to stimulate human conversation.
"Yes, unfortunately," Holmes replied. "Watson reported that some gossips of the London medico-naval community enjoyed calling him 'Iggsy.' To me, however, he was always 'the Doctor.' Watson would later refer to him with a more distant 'Conan Doyle,' but then, a touch of jealousy might have played a part in that."
"Jealousy?" Same subroutine running as always. I rose to walk slowly and methodically toward the hearth to tend to the fire, and along the way, higher functions kicked into gear, quite literally. "Are you about to go into a 'Gloria Scott' or 'Musgrave ritual' sort of storytelling?"
Sherlock Holmes pulled out his gently curved pipe, tamped some tobacco in it, and lit it with a match, a wordless answer to my question.
"Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was a three-tour ship's doctor. His first job was that of ship's surgeon on a Greenland Whaler. His second a trip to Africa that saw him down with fever, nearly eaten by a shark, with the ship catching fire on the way home. But none of that was as bad as what happened on his third job as a ship's doctor.
"Back from the Africa trip in January of 1882, he intended to get on a South American boat at first, but had a fine opportunity on a government treasury ship bound for the West Indies. That trip went perfectly, until that dark night in May when it was coming up the English channel, and the kracken took it."
"Your brother's kracken? Doyle was on the H.M.S. Coronet?" I asked. "But Midshipman Stiles was the only reported survivor."
"There was one other," Sherlock Holmes said grimly. "And he is another reason Watson will never write up that tale."
"After Thorne's mechanical kracken destroyed the Coronet and was killing everyone visible in my brother's periscope in that dark water, Doyle hid himself under some wreckage that contained enough space for him to still catch breath while not being seen. The kracken submersible eventually left the wrecked ship with its stolen gold, and the ship's doctor spent a long night trying to keep himself afloat on bits of wreckage and looking for the coast.
"Dawn came, and the desperate doctor saw the shores of Newhaven in the distance. He began swimming that way, fighting exhaustion every second of the way. By the time he reached the shore his limbs were so useless that he just let the waves push him to shore like driftwood. As he washed in, he saw a man halfway down the shore's cliff-face -- Dr. Watson, whom I had gotten to climb down and look for clues.
"'I see you,' he heard Watson cry out to him, 'I'll get help! I said I see you!'
"Doyle rolled over on to his belly to attempt to crawl up on the beach with what little strength he had left. Dr. Watson, deciding that he could better help Doyle from the top of the cliff, tried climbing back up, and was so distracted by a rope break during that climb that when asked what he saw, Watson gasped, 'Nothing! Nothing! It's an empty ship!'
"Doyle saw Watson look back out over the sea from atop the cliff, as Lees, the rope-man, and I walked away, but he was too weak to call out. He spend the better part of the day laying on that beach, before the man Lees, returning to get his own look at the wrecked ship, found Doyle there.
"After getting some brandy and water in him, Lees got Doyle on a late train for London and brought him to Baker Street to tell me his story. The trip had very well taken what spirit was left from the man, and after Lees, Mrs. Hudson, and I got Doyle up to our rooms, I installed him in my bedroom to recover . . . the place where Watson would discover him in the morning, having been out when the ship's doctor found his way to our door.
"Watson was very petulant at breakfast the next morning, never mentioning the half-naked stranger in my bedroom with a moustache so much more impressive than his own. He just stared at me in silent reproach. You could see it in his temperament the rest of the morning until we confronted the dinosaur, as if he was certain I had taken liberties with our houseguest."
"Had you taken such liberties?" I broke into his tale to ask. "That sort of hurt-comfort scenario has been known to lure lesser characters into its manly embrace."
"My blushes, Miss Ivory, my blushes," Sherlock Holmes replied.
"But you clearly said Watson was jealous," I told him.
"Jealous of Doyle's writing skills, surely," he answered back. "I'm certain that Doyle will be writing up a tale of dinosaurs long before Watson does."
"And that was the same day when Doctor Watson asked me to go to the opera with him . . . an obvious retaliation. No doubt if you had not called him away that night, I would have wound up in a bedroom in Baker Street as well, just to punish you."
"In the very room you now occupy," Sherlock Holmes laughed.
"Some nights," I replied. "On some nights."