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The Adventures of Holmes and the Amnesiac

My dear wife,
I am well aware of your great dislike for the danger that accompanies my friend Holmes. It is due to that that I regrained from writing of this incident earlier. I had rather hoped to keeo the whole of these facts secret, however, I find my mind unable to release the scene of late occurred, playing them back with continnuing intensity, similar to a broken phonograph. I therefore am setting to paper these latest events in the hopes of clearing my mind. I hope they do not upset your delicate nerves. I will remind you that all the excitement is now passed and you need no longer fear for my well being.

I was in Oxford, attending an assembly of the medical profession, as I said before I left. We were hearing a lecture on the effects of long term amnesia (loss of memory) when I heard a familiar voice interrupt the speaker. Looking in the directionfrom which it came, I found it was indeed my friend Sherlock Holmes who was so behemently attacking the theory in question (which was, that long term amnesia patients may adjust to a completely normal life, thus lessening the strain on their overworked brain and hastening recovery). I myself had had qualms concerning this very subject and Holmes proved me quite corredt, as you shall see.

"I beg to differ, my dear sir," said Holmes rather too loudly to be ignored.

The speaker, not to be outdone by this upstart replied with even more alacrity, "You beg to differ with me, Sir? And who are you?"

Never to lose an opporunity to preen himself, Holmes continued. "I, Sir, am Mr. Sherlock Holmes. And I would like to put a few questions to your theory."

The speaker could hardly refuse, as all his esteemed colleagues sat with eager eyes upon the two. He nodded.

"Suppose," argued Holmes. "Just suppose that our amnesia patient was from a remote corner of the earth. A part so different as to have no similarities with present-day England at all. Yet at each step an eerie sense of recollection seems to haunt him. Continually he is reminded by unfamiliar scenes that he is not where he should be, but for the life of him, he cannot remember where it is he came from. Spontaneous reactions for our hypothetical case are quite different. So different as to make everyday life dangerous, new things a hazard. Using your prescription for this patient, naught would occur but a continual feeling of ill ease, growing daily until either suicide or natural causes killed him."

I agreed with every word Holmes said, and in fact had been about to interrupt and ask a similar question. The Speaker, however, was not at all pleased. He appeared to be turning different shades of red, and when Holmes ended his speech, bowed out rather ungracefully by attacking Holmes' own question.

"Sir, I would not hesitate to ask, if I thought an answer could be forthcoming, where such a place is that is so totally different from England yet nostalgic to the patient. I certainly have never encountered such a case. I also doubt that any of my distinguished fellow workers would come across such a case." And with that, he retired.

I ran over to catch Holmes and congratulate him on his brilliant strategy as the group broke up for a short break. My old friend seemed delighted to see me and took my arm, propelling me outside.

"Ah, Watson. I should have known you'd be here. Well, what do you think?"

I quite agree with you, Holmes, but may I ask you where you came across such a case, for I know you must be speaking of a particular person," said I.

"Quite correct, Watson. Quite correct. Must you stay here?" I shook my head, glad of a chance to retreat from the odor and heat of 200 fellow doctors in so small a space."

ANd so we hopped on the nearest train, and returning to London, took the underground to Hyde Park. Ascertaining that no one was following us, he took me to a small corner near the serpentine, covered with trees. As the trees all looked so very natural, I cuahgt Holmes' arm, hacking away at them, asking if he knew the penalty of vandalism in a Royal Park. He assured me he did, so I let him continue.

It was not long before the undergrowth was cleared away when I saw what looked like an elaborately decorated chair. Disappointed, I asked Holmes what it was.

His eyes aglow in that familiar manner, he lowered his voice to a whisper. "This, Watson, is a time machine."

I laughed, then grew serious. If Holmes had been taking more of that cocaine again, it could well destroy him.

He perceived my thoughts and attempted to eliminate my doubts. "Watson, I give you my word of honour, I haven't taken a dose of cocaine in over three months. This is a machine which can travel through time and its owner is who I was speaking of."

I decided to play along with his game. "A time traveller with amnesia?" I asked. I, too had read H.G. Wells' novel on this subject.

"Yes, you see, he didn't know what the consequences of it would be, so he tried it out on himself. What did he say? Oh, yes. He called himself a human guinea pig." Holmes had really thought this joke out thoroughly before putting it to me.

"What was his name?" I asked, for lack of anything better.

"He had amnesia, you see, he never could tell me his real name. I called him Washington, after the first American President."

Holmes' logic was beginning to wear thin now. "If he had amnesia, how did you find this machine or figure it to be used in time travelling?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary. I observed him. In a matter of minutes, I knew where. In a day, I knew when he came from. His shoes were my first clue. They were not muddied, but rather discolored and then streaked with green. By examining the discoloration, I found it to be the work of water, firsti mmersed in it, then removed quickly. It could be any water, however, so I turned to the green for my final discovery. Obviously the streaks came from grass, but the grass happened to be a peculiar bluish color found only in this corner of Hyde Park, being planted here myself as an experiment on the similarity of London and Kentucky smog conditions. I found him wandering about Trafalgar Square, and returning with him here, found the time machine.

"I was at a loss to know what it was, and realized that Washington would be no help at all. I attempted to return it to my flat for observation. It was, however, too heavy for me to carry alone, and wishing it to remain undiscovered for the time being, at least, I covered it with these brnaches and took Washington to 221 B Baker Street.

"He almost got killed on the way there, apparently being ignorant of the fact that carriage maintain right of way even when pedestrians are crossing. This being my first clue, as to when he came from, I knew that it was nowhere where carriages were. This left Alaska--or sometimes in the distant past or future (of which I had not yet thought of). Settling him in your room for the night--I trust you do not mind, Watson?"

I assured him I did not.

"I began to play. No sooner had I finished the first few bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony than I heard the unconscious humming of my new acquaintance. It was then I began to think of this Washington's clothing, hairstyle and ignorance of carriages but knowledge of Beethoven. Through the night I played. And when I'd played everything I had music for, I made up my own. And where--when he was from--came to me in a flash."

"Awakening the next morning to the smell of Mrs. Hudson's biscuits, I was determined to use the time machine myself and prove my theory either right or wrong. It was not a difficult instrument to operate. I turned on what it said to turn on and set a date. Ten years in the future. A second of humming and I got out. There was nothing changed, and I felt my disappointment keenly. I decided to return home and see if I could get any help at all from Washington.

"I was walking up the steps when I heard a familiar voice. At first I thought it was yours, but the person coming out of the house, I recognized the real owner as myself. The time machine must have, in fact, worked. I hurried back to Hyde Park to return to my own time and advise Washington of who he was--hoping it would jar his memory.

"On returning home, however, I found Washington missing, and asking Mrs. Hudson heard a vague reference to going out for a bite to eat. There was very little chance of my ever seeing Washington alive again if I did not go to work quickly. I sent for the Baker Street Irregulars, giving them each a detailed description of Washington's clothes, by far his most outstanding feature.

"Then I set out on my own, trying to figure where I would go, were I Washington. My instincts led me back to Traflagar Square. But he was nowhere in the neighborhood. I returned home, discouraged after two hours, only to find Washington home again.

"I gave each of the Irregulars a bob in return for their excellent services, and proceeded to question Washington, breaking it to him gently that he was in the wrong time.

"He would not accept it, though, looking at me much the way you are now. I could tell he was a scientist, so I tried to prove it to him, but still he would not listen, and told me he would be obliged if he could retire. Feeling the discussion could go nowhere, I agreed.

"The next day a client came to see me and Washington asked to go with me. I was so involved in the case, that I hardly noticed his growing uneasiness. When we returned home at past midnight for a light tea, I noticed something of a madman's raving eyes in his face. He still would not hear of the future, however, and we both slept fitfully, if at all, that night. I woke him up the next mrorning and asked him to accompany me around London, hoping I could get some sort of revelation as to how far in the future he belonged, determinding to send him back whether or not he was willing.

"I waited too long. The next day I found his room empty and bed unslept in. Rushing outdoors, I--

Watson--The machine is gone. I destroyed it. Too dangerous.
Your friend, Holmes.

Lest the whole world agree to put me away, burn this letter on reading.
Your faithful husband,
John H. Watson.

 

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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2014 all rights reserved.
Last revised October 1, 2014.