30 March 2010 @ 06:10 pm
The Baker Street Record  
A/N: Presenting: an epic Sherlock Holmes/House of Leaves crossover. This was written for Part III of the Sherlock Holmes kinkmeme over at sherlockkink. It was a long and wonderfully arduous process and certainly the most rigorous exercise in dual pastiche (not to mention HTML) that I've ever engaged in. The original prompt was made by buriedbooks in Part II, then reposted in Part III. I supported it anonymously Part II, saw the repost and wrestled with it for a couple minutes before deciding that yes, I very much had to do it, schoolwork be damned. And now, finally, I'm reposting the whole fill here, facetiously referred to as the Second Edition (replete with grammatical corrections, some additional or revised segments, and reduced errors in formatting—HTML and anon do not mix). The original version may be found here.

Because of its nature—House of Leaves being the postmodern novel, this being the postmodern comment thread fic—the entire story is posted in segments in the comments. It looks daunting, and it is, but I think you'll find it readable enough. Feedback is very welcome, though I ask that you refrain from posting any comments within the story itself—just reply to the whole post.

This is rated R for fucked up themes and also some fairly explicit sexual content. Please refer to the Index for a semi-complete list of sources stolen from, and consider that my disclaimer to end all disclaimers. And, if you can, enjoy.





THE BAKER STREET RECORD

by Dr. John. H. Watson

introduction & notes by Arthur Conan Doyle





this is not for you.
 
 
Stimmung: accomplishedaccomplished
 
 
 
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( 177 submissions — does anyone have anything to add? )
The Postmodernist: circusfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
The Appearance of the Five & ½ Paragraph Hallway
THE APPEARANCE OF THE FIVE & ½ PARAGRAPH HALLWAY


——————beside the fireplace,” he said, and took a heavy drag on his pipe, watching me.

“Don’t be absurd, Holmes,” I said wearily. “I’ve never heard of such a thing. Where could it lead to?”

“Don’t you think I considered that, Watson?” he said with faint irritation. “Come and have a look for yourself.”

Grumbling, I rose and followed him into the room, which was in its usual disarray, product of Holmes’s latest case, concerning XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXhouse, whichXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXand all his papers. But there it was, plain as day—a door, where there never had been a door, where there should not, could not have been a door. Where there should only have been the thin layers of the outer wall.

“What the devil,” I murmured, afraid to go near it.

“I’ve been inside it once today already,” said Holmes, why did this not surprise me. “It’s a hallway. Its construction is like nothing I’ve ever encountered, no material I’ve ever known. Pitch dark. I only wandered for a few meters but this already is quite impossible, as you of course know, and I got the impression it carried on much, much farther. I confess I became quite unsettled and had to turn back. Also—” He took quite a long, ponderous moment to puff at his pipe before completing this thought. “—it’s unbearably cold inside.”
The Postmodernist: circusfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
The Incident of the Dog
THE INCIDENT OF THE DOG


I think I’m going blind. I’ve been reading his cramped handwriting for weeks now. Normally it’s much more elegant, the way a collected man, a doctor, should write. But this one borders on illegible, and then there’s the burns and the scribbles and the ripped edges and the infuriating fact that it seems to have been intentionally shuffled about and left scattered and all out of order.

The Baker Street Record, as Dr. Watson called it, is an account like no other the man left behind, which were mostly little two-cent mystery stories about Sherlock Holmes, renowned as brilliant genius and perhaps the world’s only private consulting detective. This particular mystery was something different, and they both knew it. Now it is left to me to tell.

There is not much I can say but to warn you that this is no ordinary story, and one ought to tread carefully before opening these doors, to use a cruelly suitable metaphor.

It began with the circulation, accidental though it may have been, of an excerpt, which Watson called “The Appearance of the Five & ½ Paragraph Hallway”—the “half” in this case referring to either the fact that it begins mid-sentence or the fact that a large portion of it, a portion which seems to refer to the case Holmes was working on at the time, is missing. This particular case is described nowhere else that I can find in Watson’s whole body of work, and here is only left in tatters; however the suppression of information is not consistent, and I shall be vigilant about including it, however incoherent it might be. It doesn’t much matter to me what they were trying to hide. The facts were these. These are the facts. I am telling the truth.

I don’t have to do this, no. I’d be perfectly content, better than I am now, I daresay, to stick to medical pamphlets. But I come back again and again and again I think maybe because I know no one else will. I know there was something here. Holmes knew. He seems like he knows what he’s doing.

The second excerpt was called “The Incident of the Dog,” and the original has been lost, since pieced together through hearsay and rumors and embellishments. In the Baker Street house there was Watson, there was Holmes, there was the landlady and Lestrade and the dog. Some kind of an argument. Mrs. Hudson somehow blamed Holmes for the phenomenon of the hallway and wanted him out. Watson wouldn’t hear of it. Lestrade didn’t know which way was up. Holmes in his great frustration threw something (in some versions a stick, which makes little sense; in some his pipe; there is no agreement as to what, exactly, or if he ever recovered whatever it was) into the impossible hallway, quite unintentionally prompting the dog Gladstone1 to bound in after whatever it was. Most versions say Watson almost lost his composure, almost went in after him, stopped himself at the threshold and wouldn’t continue. Holmes stood calmly, listening. They all heard the barks then, from far away, but not muffled and dark as if from within. Holmes walks to the window.

“Look,” he says.

No one knows how to explain it. But Gladstone is on the sidewalk, barking at a passing hansom.



[1]: Named for the Prime Minister to whom he bore some passing resemblance.
The Postmodernist: Victorian bromancefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
The Beginning (1/2)
THE BEGINNING


The bizarre incident involving Gladstone had a profound effect on both me and my companion, though it was a slow, ugly thing that grew between us almost imperceptibly and would go on to threaten the very foundations of our heretofore enduring friendship. The dog was miraculously unharmed, soon recovered and safely returned to our rooms. Holmes immediately wanted to run experiments on him, but I wouldn’t have it, and insisted Gladstone now reside permanently with me, away from the awful door. Holmes had time to make his usual claim that Gladstone “didn’t mind” before I managed to relocate him, but even I had to admit that he seemed relatively untraumatized by his other-worldly experience. This however did not soften my conviction that the phenomenon was an evil one, and was not to be trifled with; I wanted nothing more to do with it.

Even then I knew, however, that Holmes would never let me live in the blissful ignorance I desired. I stayed in my room for almost the entire day following the incident, saw nor heard no sign of him, until I could no longer bear it, and finally I burst into his room without knocking, fearing to find him gone, that awful door hanging open—

The room was blue with smoke. He looked up at me, mildly surprised, as it appeared I had stirred him in the midst of what he would have referred to as a three-pipe problem.

I took a moment to steady myself. He of course knew exactly why I was there and what was forefront on my mind—it was the same for both of us.

“Curious, Watson,” he said, as though we had been conversing all the while. “You of course saw and heard how Gladstone went in and within moments found himself on the sidewalk outside, unscathed and seemingly unaffected by his transportation. Since your rushed efforts to remove him from my sight prevented me from giving him a more thorough examination, perhaps to see if there was any telltale residue or marking on his paws, I have been left only to speculate. Given the dog’s carefree response I feel it is safe to assume, or at least conjecture, that he reached his destination in a way that might have seemed natural to him, as though the path were directed exactly and unalarmingly to the outside world below. However when I myself ventured inside, I found no indication of this; there was no decline in angle, no light or noise to be picked up from within, no outside air—as I mentioned, it was quite alarmingly cold, in fact; too cold for September. This brings to my mind a number of possibilities, two in particular—that Gladstone somehow discovered an alternative pathway which led him to his place outside, which seems to me, for the moment, unlikely. Or that the interior is inconsistent.”

“How could that be?” I demanded, keeping my eyes warily on the door, as though at any moment it would swing open like a gaping mouth, waiting to devour us.

“I do not know.” Holmes smoked his pipe absently, following my gaze, though in a rather more casual fashion. “But I think it would be in our best interest to investigate this further.”

“Holmes—” I protested, but he caught me quickly before I could proceed.

“Watson,” he said harshly. “This is a singular event. It would be irredeemably foolish for us to ignore it.”

Holmes,” I insisted, beginning to lose my patience. “This—this kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

“And yet,” he said, his words sharp and clear, his eyes cutting into me. I felt momentarily frozen. Already I knew; I knew I had lost him to the mystery. This was something he could not let by.

Helpless, I searched for pragmatism, for logic, the comforting tools Holmes usually employed. “Is there… Do you have any reasonable explanation in mind for this?”

“None.” Holmes softened, not out of sympathy but deliberation. He turned away. “It is like nothing else I have ever encountered.”

“All the more reason to leave it alone!”

“Wrong!” Again he turned to me and his mood swung back to his curt and fiery defense against my reluctance. “All the more reason to investigate. The impossible has quite palpably occurred, Watson, is there, is visible to our naked eyes. We cannot, must not ignore this.”
The Postmodernist: Victorian bromancefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
The Beginning (2/2)
I fell silent for a moment and watched the fire leave him slowly once again. I could see that he was thinking, and soon enough he spoke.

“I wonder about the incident with Gladstone. That he was so effortlessly propelled from something that seemed to openly beckon me in… Perhaps the house rejected him.”

This seemed to me so absurd a thing to say that for a moment I did not know how to proceed. “What do you mean?” I asked finally.

He looked at me. “Perhaps… the house is trying to communicate with us.”

At this I nearly laughed. “Holmes, for God’s sake,” I said. “The house?”

“Communication is not just words, Watson,” he said, sternly, as though I were a schoolboy disregarding some sort of common knowledge. “It is architecture. Think about it—a house without the desire for communication, for understanding, coherence, comprehension… the syntax of a structure, the connection of all these parts which make up a whole… well, it would fall to pieces.”

“You talk as if the house had a mind of its own,” I said with wonder.

“I am not certain that is something we should rule out just yet,” he murmured. “In any case, it calls for an exploration.”

“No, Holmes, I must protest,” I said as forcefully as I could. “I don’t want you going in there.”

“Nonetheless,” he said laconically.

No.” I took a step toward him. “I won’t let you.”

Now it was his turn to laugh. “Won’t let me?” he repeated with some incredulity. “Good heavens, why?”

“You know why,” I said angrily.

He looked at me with fresh, narrowed eyes, as though he were seeing me for the first time. “Enlighten me, old boy,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter!” I snapped. “I will not allow it.”

“And how do you intend to enforce this dominion?” he demanded. “The door is in my room, Watson. You cannot stop me from entering something that is in my room.”

“I can, and I will,” I said. “If my hand is forced.”

He stared at me for a long moment, amazed. “Whatever’s gotten into you, Watson?” he asked.

I drew a breath. He wouldn’t let it go; I would have to answer truthfully. “I won’t lose you,” I said.

“Lose me?” He chuckled patronizingly. “You didn’t lose Gladstone.”

“A risk I am not willing to take a second time,” I said, taking an emphatic step towards him.

“Come, Watson. There is a good possibility my fate shall be the same as the dog’s. You needn’t worry.”

“And what if it isn’t, Holmes? Where does that… that thing lead?”

“That is what I must find out.”

“You cannot risk it, not alone.”

“You are welcome to join me, if you like.”

“Absolutely not.” At this I folded my arms and stood stock still. “I am not going in there. No man in his right mind would.”

“I thought as much.” He glanced at me, then, before I could intercept him, had crossed the room and stood now on the threshold, watching me, his dark eyes challenging. “It seems to me, my dear Watson, that you have a simple choice. You must either reconcile it within yourself that I am going in whether you like it or not. Or, you will have to muster the courage to accompany me. Which is it to be?”

He stared at me a long time, awaiting my reply. I had none to give; neither option was conceivable in my mind. I could not shake the horrible conviction that if Holmes were to disappear into the blackness before my eyes, it would be the last I ever saw of him. And yet, it went against everything in my nature to consider crossing the threshold myself. I would not do it. I could not.

At last, helpless, keeping my jaw tight to show my disapproval, I shook my head slowly.

He looked unsurprised, but there was something else in it, an impossibly subtle falling of his features, something I saw on a very subconscious level, only to be recognized in retrospect. He shrugged. “Have it your way,” he said, and he turned, and within moments he was gone.
The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
Exploration A (1/5)
EXPLORATION A


I do not know how long I stood there, looking at the door. I suppose it was out of a desperate hope to see him again, coming back towards me out of the all-encompassing blackness, to know that he had thought better of it and turned back after all. Some assurance that he was all right, still with me in my plane of existence, somehow.

I hoped in vain.

I could feel the cold he’d described coming off in waves, curling around me, pulling me in. I strained against it. I felt certain in those delirious moments that I was staring into the mouth of Hell itself.

I pulled back, forced myself to turn away. I knew I should leave the room and put it from my mind as best I could, that no good would come of waiting and pining the hours away, but I couldn’t turn my back on him completely, not yet. I found ways to busy myself around the room, opening windows to air it out while he was not there to protest, doing my best to neaten things up in a way I felt would be least offensive to his extremist sensibilities. I would not close the door for fear of denying him, of cutting him off somehow, though it made me uncomfortable to move about in the room with it hanging open like that, always in the corner of my eye, with the silence, so dark and heavy and oppressive, like a gloved hand across my mouth.2
The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Exploration A (2/5)
[2]: The following page in Watson’s notes was violently torn out; however I found the page amidst the remains, matched it to the tear. Just one paragraph:

The wait. It is agony, it manifests as the residual pain always in my leg, as frustration leftover from the unfinished conversation (one of too, too, many), fear and abandonment, a temperamental bout of feelings of betrayal, then of despair. He has left me. I could have stopped him. I didn’t. I am utterly, stupidly, resignedly, inescapably, inevitably, unhappily, irreconcilably, incomparably alone, alone, alone.

I am not convinced this was written by Watson at all. Though it might have been: when Watson is alone in the house, his writing sometimes becomes a mockery of itself, agitated, wandering further and further from his usual idiom. The unsettling fluidity of sentences that are too long. The tense shifts and his script grows increasingly slanted, the verbiage unsteady, unsupported, fluctuating between perilously experimental and ornate or unnecessary, the structure breaking down, like a house with windows too tall and doorways too wide and floors that tilt upwards at a bizarre angle, like a stage, like something inorganic.3 A house that should not have been built.

I think I am beginning to write like him. My hand has taken on the properties of his. So too has my style. Perhaps I am imagining it.

Watson could not of course know what Holmes experienced on his journey but nevertheless the account is included, from Holmes’s perspective but in Watson’s hand, such that Holmes must have described it to Watson, or perhaps Watson invented it in the desperation of needing to know.



[3]: Das Cabinet des Doktor Caligari – Robert Weine 1920
Exploration A (3/5) - featherfish on th, 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
Exploration A (4/5) - featherfish on th, 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
Exploration A (5/5) - featherfish on th, 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (1/14)
THE IMPOSSIBLE CASE OF MR. JOHN ASTERION5


[5]: As was earlier mentioned, it was apparent that Holmes was already engaged on a case at the time of the events of The Baker Street Record, and though it seems quite plain that Watson did note it down, as was his custom, details of the case are extremely scattered and inconsistent. What remains is enough to show that the case was unusually complex and involved, and that Watson had taken great pains to take down as much information as he could, in as much detail as he could. It is unclear why he went through so much trouble to do so and then, so comparatively unmethodically, to wipe most of the record out. Much of it is burned, torn, scribbled out or lost altogether. Of what remains, some is rather informative, and some is utterly incoherent.

From what I can divine, it concerns the matter of a man named John Asterion˟, whose name is invariably written in red ink and struck out, a curious tendency with which I have chosen to comply. Certain portions of the case itself are also done in this manner, though it is fairly futile to determine any consistencies in this.

Little remains of the earliest portions of the case, and it is only through speculation that I have any notion whatsoever how it might have begun.

Who John Asterion was I cannot say; only that it seems Holmes and Watson came into possession of a great many letters and papers from the man, some of which seemed utterly arbitrary, some of which were potentially relevant but often dull and uninformative, and some of which appeared to be little more than the ravings of a madman, which is what Asterion’s reputation seemed to call him at the time. It is unclear if Holmes and Watson had any real instructions as to the nature of the case, or if the papers had been sent without prompt or warning. It is implied that they had neither met nor heard of the man before, and that the mystery of the case lay mostly in who he was and what he wanted from them.

Though I would very much like to be able to answer these questions in this account, the good Dr. Watson has made it very difficult to do so. I include the pieces in the faint hope that someone else will be able to make sense of them, and, of course, for the ongoing cause of delivering as closely as I am able the truth about this terrible affair.



˟La casa de Asterión, El Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges, 1949.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (2/14)
It was at this time I decided there was nothing further we could do, that the case was not providing an adequate diversion from the constant reminder that we were unable to be at rest in our own house, and that if we wanted to maintain our sanity we were going to have to leave it.

Holmes was, unsurprisingly, adverse to the idea.

“If we stop now, Watson, we shall lose sight of our objective entirely,” he said distractedly, his attention quite fixed on a sheaf of papers covered in illegible scrawling.

“Our objective?” I said wearily. “We don’t even know what that is, Holmes.”

He gave me a brief, sharp stare, but said nothing and shortly went back to his examination. He was still quite sore at me for my treatment of the matter of the inexplicable door, and it had been especially hard to provoke friendly conversation of late.

“Consider this,” he said.6

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“I do not want to,” I said. “Holmes, please. I’ve already purchased us tickets. I did so a week ago, before any of this happened. I thought you might like to go.”

“What is it?” he said, maintaining a veritable mask of indifference.

“A concert,” I said. “A Russian string quartet is performing some works by Beethoven. Only you already hadn’t been out of the house in a long while, and, well, I had thought you might like to go.”

He said nothing and did not move, though I noticed his eyes were no longer focused attentively on the papers he held in his hands.

“I think it would do us both a world of good to get out of the house, even for just a little while,” I pressed him, gently. “We can come back to the case with our minds refreshed.” I attempted to play into his hand using what I knew of his tastes. “A little German music, for our health.”

He paused, then returned to scanning the pages. “Are they box seats?” he asked with an air of nonchalance.

They were always box seats. “Yes, Holmes,” I said patiently.

He paused again, then, at long last, he set the papers aside and looked at me. “Yes, Watson,” he said softly. “I think I should like that very much.” An awkward hesitation fell between us. “Thank you.”

I met his eyes for a few moments before I felt compelled to turn away. “Come on, we’ll be late.”

We made our way to the concert hall in relative silence.


[6]: It is difficult to say whether this design is the scratching out of anything at all, given its oddly neat and symmetrical design. Close observation led me to count fourteen lines down and fourteen characters on either side of the more concentrated area in the center, which is 8 by 14 characters, excluding the centered name of the client. Watson (or perhaps Asterion) seemed oddly preoccupied with the number fourteen in this case. What any of this could mean I do not dare guess at. There is, however, more than enough cause to infer that when here referenced the number fourteen stands for “infinite.”˟
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (3/14)
The featured piece, Holmes was delighted to learn, was Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135.

“A fascinating work,” he said animatedly as we made our way to our seats. It cheered me wonderfully to see him so enlivened, and I myself felt much better to escape the confines of our house. “His last, in fact, and one of his finest. The final movement is particularly exquisite—Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß.7 Did you know—”

“Holmes, please,” I said with a faint smile. “Let’s just enjoy the music, shall we?”

He relented with an inarticulate murmur and we settled into our box, quite alone, which was how Holmes always preferred it.

The first three movements passed by without incident, lovely but taut music, skillfully played, beautiful but always tinged with an edge of tension below the surface—typical for Beethoven, really.

It was the fourth movement, which Holmes had tried to tell me about, which brought forth an unforeseeable and unpleasant turn in events.

Within moments of its beginning, with low, drawn-out chords, which in fact reminded me of my companion and his manner of thinking, I noticed he had sat up straighter, pressing his fingertips together as he often did when deep in thought. I tried to ignore the change in manner, knowing it could not lead to anything good.

“It’s remarkable, Watson,” he whispered, his lips suddenly quite close to my ear, giving me a violent start; I am certain he timed it intentionally with the first loud cry of the strings, which was enough to startle anyone. But it was not just his sudden proximity or the intensity of the music which startled me. It was most unlike Holmes to talk during a performance. “There is always that element of profundity in Beethoven’s work. The man was, of course, one of the world’s last great geniuses, and his compositions always seem ready to bring the world crashing down around us.”

“Indeed,” I said quickly, on edge, wondering where this was going.

“What I was trying to tell you before,” he said, “was that in the manuscript of this movement, over these introductory chords, it was found that he had written the words muß es sein?, which of course means, must it be?” He hesitated briefly, listening to the chords, which were occurring in threes and seemed to be uttered in the very rhythm of Beethoven’s phrase. Then he said, “And when the faster theme picks up, here—” He paused with a well-timed, subtle flourish as the exact change he’d been describing occurred. He allowed the theme to carry for a moment without interruption, then he finished: “There, he wrote the response, es muß sein!”

“Holmes, what is this about?” I said impatiently, turning to him.

He sat back and listened to the music again, for so long a moment that I became quite convinced he was not going to answer me. Then, finally, he leaned forward again and said, “I have been thinking about our case. I feel I may have just made a break in it.”

I sighed with much irritation and turned back to the performance.

He touched my arm, drawing me irresistibly back to him as he always did. “When we return home—for, as you know, Watson, we must eventually do so—”

Yes,” I said curtly, resentful that my momentary peace had been cut short.

He did not go on with his statement, watching me.

Muß es sein?” he murmured quietly, almost to himself. He watched the performers as they finished the fraught piece, enjoying the music. I was envious then of his ability to turn himself so effortlessly from one obsession to the next, while my mind boiled with the anticipation of having to leave the safety and incongruous comfort of this mercifully unfamiliar building. My own mind filled in the silence between us: Es muß sein.8


[7]: The Difficult Resolution.


[8]: There is nothing further to indicate why this piece of musical trivia was significant to their case, or what exactly caused Holmes to suffer his breakthrough.

What follows is almost entirely unreadable, save for one noteworthy excerpt, which I have included in full, bookended by glimpses of the incoherency that surrounds it.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (4/14)
*


————————for what seemed like days we remained in our house looking over the many assorted papers and letters of our client. Mr. Asterion was a curious man whose reputation somewhat preceded him, accused by many of arrogance and misanthropy, even madness, who made many claims throughout his writings thatXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXfourteenXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXdoorsXXXXXXXXgalleriesXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in whose aspect I am become like no other, like only him, like only death, like only me.

*


Holmes was convinced that some of his writing was not his own.9

*

Of course I do not lack for distractions.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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XXXXXXXXXX pretend I am being hunted.
There are rooftops from which I can hurl myself until I am bloody.

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(Sometimes I actually fall asleep;
sometimes by the time I open my eyes,
the color of the day
has changed.)
But of all the games
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XXXXXXXXXXXXXanother Asterion.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXto him:
Now let us return to our previous intersection.
Let us go this way, now, out into another courtyard.
I knew that you would like this rain gutter.
Now you will see a cistern that has filled with sand.
Now you will see how the cellar parts.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXand the two of us
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XXXXXXXXXXXX.˟

*


The precise geography of the facts I am going to relate hardly matters.10


“Watson,” said Holmes suddenly. “I believe, at last, I have found something.”

He was sitting in his chair with Asterion’s papers strewn on his lap and on the floor all about him, now holding one in particular and gazing at it with solemn interest. I sighed and came to stand behind him and peer over his shoulder at it. It was a letter, and what set it apart at first was that it was addressed to us; what went on to set it apart, in my mind, was that it was by far the most impenetrable of all the obscure and meaningless notes currently in our possession. Holmes paused a moment to allow us both to read it. Doing so exhausted me quickly, and sent a wave of dread over me. I desired not to look upon it ever again.


[9]: This remark was found amidst many of the notes used to compile this chapter, and I cannot be certain what it refers to.


[10]: The Man on the Threshold, or El hombre en el umbral, El Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges, 1949.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (5/14)
To holmes and to watson every house allows variation even now every vibration every ripple meets evenly there it sends softly uncontrollable resolution endless like you cannot attain understanding swallowed edges forgotten only revolutions you only undertook these open limitations of our kind unfortunate people or none the house it speaks utter nonsense cadences of nothing very enlightening nothing that is or nothing at least leaves everything this that ends rightly where in the house shadows open moreover emptiness stares unto stairs plunging into centrally its own nowhere. Places remembered as you find or recover grief in vicissitude efforts made externally the house internally stairs plunging reverberating echoing circles around us there in our nowhere. It alters my aspect so collapses only night falling into disrepair even now that this house and these interiors there in silence for only resolutions that he enters but eventually sees this as suicide In abstract manifestations the house and these yesterdays overborne undertook while it lasts longer because even a broken leaf echoes there outwardly deceptively empty center is proven here ends rightly in this.

In every x per every corridor till years over under he answers varied ephemeral beginnings yes nightfall opens with lengthening evening after recalling now eternal deterioration such of my empty tormented house imprecision needlessly giving over for this house every house over us sees everything. In this it so necessitates opening the exposures x prices laid against none and those in our nothingness It calls after none goes into vestibules eclipsing years of use, first our remembrances then our moments yet kills not only what lets entropy drag gutted everything to houses engulfed riddled enfolded imbalanced so noiseless often not epistemological. It kills none of whom or none less you might yes forgive even after reverent sound as now deteriorated desolation of untested beginnings the stairs, which have in circles hollowed edges various elocutions never needed offers without trust heavens regale eloquent arts that even now try our offended verbosity every room without him every labyrinth mindless mirrored exit. And so It withers ruefully in this essence the house interior so open narrow labyrinthine yet the house endless the house rises ever endlessly over forgotten unspoken sentences kindred noise of walls; sounds of masonry umbratic corridors hallways the house even belike either terrified thoughts elsewhere recalled. In foresight eternity after raw internalized thought swept him away long looked but rather in natural grace unsupported spirals apart lengthening lightening traces of the house engulfed beyond recognition in nearest knowing offenses forgotten mostly after darkness now empty soundless streets.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (7/14)
“Well, the man is obviously a raving lunatic,” I said, straightening.

“Not so, my dear Watson,” said Holmes calmly, keeping his attention on the awful missive.

“Holmes!” I cried. “This is too much. What possible sense can you make of this? It’s all a jumble. The man is disturbed.”

“On the contrary, I believe he may be one of the most clever men I have ever encountered,” said Holmes, holding the letter to the light. “Though, as he points out, we have never met.”

“Oh, come,” I said, I confess somewhat irritably. “And how on earth have you deduced all this?”

“It’s all right here, Watson. First, observe the paper. Fine, sturdy stuff, and there is a faint imprint on it, which tells us something we already know: that he writes often and always from the same sheaf. And let us look at the hand: as usual, it is straight, clean, extraordinarily neat. It was written not hastily, but with extreme care and precision. A great deal of thought and effort went into this letter. No, these are not the signs of a madman.”

“But what does it all mean?” I wondered, mystified.

“Indeed, on the surface the message is quite incoherent,” said Holmes. “But this, when one takes all the other data into consideration, not to mention certain little clues left us in the body of the letters itself, indicates to me the employment of some code, which is of course how I got that he writes of our never having met; he is quick to say so.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve already cracked it,” I said wearily.

“It was not all that difficult to break,” he said. “He wanted us to. It was masked to the eyes of others not endowed with my reasoning ability, but he clearly knows a great deal about us, that he should trust in my deciphering ability. And of course the false letter is not without significance. There is a great deal of meaning concealed in it. There is seemingly arbitrary punctuation scattered throughout, which I believe shall serve the real message. That it is addressed to both of us is further indication that he knows something of us—to say nothing of the heavy references to houses and stairs, a clear fixation of some of the things currently quite significant to us.”

I said nothing.

“The key to the code lies in the first letter of every word,” he said. “From this we can divine his true letter, which is going to be a fair amount shorter. Let’s see…”

He cleared his throat and read it out with little difficulty, his sharp eyes flitting quickly across the muddled text.

That we have never met is surely cause for you to look upon this… ah yes, this unconventional letter with… some suspicion. Pray forgive me this precaution. I am as confident that it is for the best… as I am that you will… be able to decipher it.” He nodded with a small murmur of self-satisfaction and continued.

I—you see Watson, there, the way the ‘x’ is left in the open, another telling point of the code—I expect you have by now… learned something of…” Here he hesitated and shifted a little in his chair. “…of the house. It is not explanation I can give you, for to my knowledge there is none. I know only my fears and doubts, which even now… threaten to overwhelm me. As I write this only the three of us know; so much the better. If… no, I fear it shall bring us all to the brink of madness.

I have made myself known to you gentlemen for… a single purpose: so that you might escape. I cannot tell you all that I have suffered for my… curiosity. The house is evil, gentlemen, and there is no practical recourse. I pray you make yourselves free of it before it consumes you.

God keep you,

John Asterion.”

We were silent for a moment.

“Extraordinary,” I murmured.

“Indeed,” he said, still examining the letter. “Quite a brilliant man is our John Asterion.”

“But who is he?”

“That I should think has become quite obvious by now,” said Holmes. “He was the previous resident of Baker Street 221B.”

It did seem obvious, as many things did once Holmes elucidated them, and yet it shocked me into utter silence. Holmes went on, pretending not to notice me.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (8/14)
“It seems, having survived the very phenomenon we are now experiencing, he has now sought to warn us of it.”

Could that be all? I passed a look around the room at all the mess Mr. Asterion had created for us, incredulous.

“But why would he go to such lengths to so elaborately disguise so simple a message?” I wondered.

Holmes sighed and folded up the letter with great, even unnecessary precision. I watched him closely. Something was troubling him.

“Try to understand, dear fellow,” he said. “Why I say the man is brilliant, and not the madman his reputation and his efforts paint him to be, that is not to say he is… well, in full possession of himself. I would say Mr. Asterion is suffering from a kind of advanced paranoia… haunted by the conviction that he is unsafe, that he is being followed or may face some danger at the hands of unseen forces. I recognize the symptoms because—” Here he cleared his throat and would not look at me, “—because I fear I have begun to experience them myself.”

I stared at him in astonishment. “Have you?” I said. “But Holmes, why?”

He glanced up at me with a strange expression, almost reproachful. “Why do you think, Watson?” he said, and there was something cold and even cruel in his tone, which I confess frightened me. “What is it Mr. Asterion and I have in common?”

To this I made no immediate reply; I waited until the unsettling mood that had come over him seemed to subside. “It seems quite plain to me, Holmes, that we were better off to heed the man’s warning.”

“Yes, I have no doubt that it does,” said Holmes in a bored voice, toying with the folded letter.

His continued refusal to respect my feelings on the matter had begun to annoy me, and this began to break through as I replied, “No one would know better than he! Who else are we to trust?”

“As usual, my dear Watson, you avoid looking deeper at the matter, and content yourself with what lies on the surface,” said Holmes, and, with a pointed glance at the door, “In more ways than one, I am afraid. You will note our successor survived the ordeal well enough to write us about it. And how much did he know? How much evidence did he gather? You forget, Watson, that I am not Mr. Asterion, and it is unlikely he shared my devotion to data, which is unfortunately common in even the cleverest of men.”

Impatiently I said, “Holmes, one does not require data to know that this”—I flung an arm towards the horrible door—“is not natural!”

“Natural!” With this ejaculation Holmes stood quite suddenly and rounded on me with an alarming harshness in his eyes and voice. “What do we know of what is natural, Watson?” he demanded, and I took a step back, startled by the violence of his response. With a horrible and quite uncharacteristic sneer he went on. “What right do we, mere pathetic mortals that we are, have in defining nature? What can we possibly know of the intricacies of the world? Well?”

I stood aghast, staring wordlessly at him, my arms hanging limply at my sides, unable to find my voice or any suitable response to the outburst. Before my eyes the vehemence drained out of him as swiftly as it had appeared, and it seemed that his mind was suddenly elsewhere, almost as though he had been speaking of something else entirely. Coming out of it, he looked me once over and turned away.

“I am sorry, my friend,” he said, sounding suddenly and completely fatigued. “I do not quite understand what… what is happening to me.”

With this he sank back into his chair and hunched over himself, holding his head. A moment passed between us, then I approached him carefully and laid a hand on his shoulder.

He stirred and shrugged me away gently, drawing himself back together. “Come, Watson,” he said briskly. “Now that we are awake to Mr. Asterion’s unconventional methods of communication, we must return to his other writings. Perhaps we shall find something further illuminating, which we did not see before.”11
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (9/14)
[11]: There is nothing more given to satisfy the inevitable question of what any of this means. If it is true that Mr. Asterion was a previous resident of Baker Street, then why did he only now come forward, and similarly why has the phenomenon of the house only now become known to Holmes and Watson? Did Asterion somehow know this, or was it triggered by his contacting them? Has he indeed only contacted them to warn them, or is there something greater afoot, something which Watson neglected to include in his account? I have given the available information endless attention, trying to glean more, perhaps discover further coded messages, but it is all for naught. The great mystery of what Mr. Asterion wanted from Holmes and Watson seems hopelessly lost. There is only a little more to be seen of anything directly related to the case itself, and it offers little to no concrete information.

What I wonder is if Mr. Asterion is not somehow responsible for the strange happenings at the Baker Street house. The coincidence in timing is striking and indeed sinister, and surely Holmes must have drawn the same conclusion, even if this observation is not included in the surviving account.

One thing I cannot help but notice is the similarity of the name to another of Holmes’s most devious adversaries—the professor, James Moriarty. The Christian names James and John are similar enough, and with title included, as it often was, one easily gets to the rest. “Mr. Asterion” quite easily can be turned to “Moriarty,” short only of the trailing Y, and leaving behind an S and an E. But it is notable, that in the perfectly penned coded letter seen above, with nary a grammatical mistake in the entire mess, by the very end he quite intentionally seems to misspell “perpetually,” leaving the Y trailing behind, on its own. A small hint, perhaps? A gift to the rest of his name, to lead Holmes to unravel it? But what of the S and the E? Am I trying too hard to make the pieces fit? Is there anything in this?

There must have been. The final passages of Watson’s account are insufficient and surely do not tell the full story—surely there is more to Mr. Asterion than just this end which is so cheaply given. Surely.

I do not know how much longer I shall be able to put myself through this futility. It has started to permeate my life entire. What am I writing this for? For whom is this record being kept? What is it to me or to anyone? Who in God’s name cares about Sherlock Holmes?
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (10/14)
*


—of him we knew so very little—we knew that, by his own word, he never left the house.

*


Everything exists many times, fourteen times. Each part of the house, each window, every door and gallery, every staircase. The house itself. It is as big as the world. Or rather I fear it is the world. There is nothing else but the house—the house, and the sun, and me. I fear that I have created it, built it all, and somehow forgotten.˟

*


Can the same thing exist twice at once; in two places at once? Can a house? If we are to discover the answers to these questions, will it be our undoing?12

*


“What in the world do you make of this, Holmes?” I asked, bleary-eyed, tired of squinting at small, incomprehensible text. I handed him the paper, which had been located at the very bottom of the accumulated file on Mr. Asterion.

Holmes took it and gazed at it for a moment. It said:

—————There Has been no pain for me In Solitude, because I know that my redeemer liveS, and in the eNd he will rise and stand abOve the dusT. if my ear could hear every sound in the world, i would hear his Footsteps. i hope he takes me tO a place with fewer galleries and fewer dooRs. What will mY redeemer be like, i wonder. will he be bull Or man? could he possibly be a bUll with the face of the man? or will he be like me?˟

“Written in a great hurry,” he said quietly. He was silent for a long time before saying, “Why, this is a suicide note.”

“What?!” I gave a start, stricken. “You don’t mean—” If all our work had led only to this—

Holmes nodded. “Yes, I’m sure of it. And what’s more, I’m quite certain we’re too late. It seems these papers have been bequeathed upon us, Watson. Our Mr. Asterion is no more.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

“Simple, really. Given XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXX “But that’s not the end of it, either. There is another coded message to be found. Each of these letters that has been singled out, here.”

Holmes laid the message out for both of us to study, and together, inching slowly forward with unified dread as we took each awful step, we deciphered John Asterion’s final message to us.


[12]: Schrödinger’s Cat, Watson’s Dog, “Gladstone and the Higgs Particle”, John Gribbin, 1987.
The Postmodernist: janosfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
The Impossible Case of Mr. John Asterion (11/14)






THIS







The Postmodernist: disconnectfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Fragment (1/5)
Towards the end of it, Holmes and I saw little of each other and spoke less. For several days we kept to this pattern, avoiding each other, the dog in my room and the door in his. I resisted strongly the urge to see, to check on him. The case was dead13 but the mystery remained, and I wanted even less to do with it now. I could not see it, but I knew it was there, its presence growing ever stronger in its invisibility and the awful silence that pervaded our lives. It was almost as though I could feel the very house extending—as though there were a palpable gap between us, between our rooms. It hung heavy on me and made me irritable, and afraid.

Holmes came into my room one morning after this had been carrying on for some while—it had seemed to be quite an unremarkable morning. How could I have known, as I looked with scorn upon my friend, standing there in his dressing gown, calm as ever, how could I have known that it was to be the morning of the final day, after which continuing this account would become quite pointless. I am imperfect. I could not.14

I wish to God I hadn’t spoken first, had just let him say whatever it was he had come in to say. I wonder how things might have been different if I had. Perhaps they would not have changed all that much; perhaps they’d have been worse. Foolish to even wonder, really.

Brusquely, I said, “What?”

It was so simple, and yet I could see instantly that I had hurt him. His face did not change, but he stood so very still, just looking at me. Brash and stubborn as I was, I would not allow my guilt to surface, and I got up and busied myself at my desk with angry, quick motions.

After quite a long hesitation, he said, “I had only come in to see if you wanted to take dinner with me. Only it’s been so very long since we actually… spoke.” Here his voice trailed away, uncertain.

I stood with my back still to him, my shoulders tensed. I sighed heavily. The quiet, manipulating pain in his voice frustrated me, made me feel pressured to apologize and succumb to his invitation, which put me in a fouler mood, as did the ever-present knowledge that he knew, he could see every little tick and reaction I had, he saw all of it and all of it led him to conclusions, which were so often, so infuriatingly right. It drove me mad, being watched all the time. Stupid, stubborn man. We both were.

“I won’t go in there,” I said. “And you know it.”

Holmes paused a moment, and I wondered whether he would decide that I meant his room, or there. I wasn’t sure if I knew myself.

“I have not asked you to,” he said, and lingered for a moment before briskly finishing, “We could just as easily take it in here.”

I turned, angry, wanting to have it out with him and not sure why. I felt compelled to blame the house for my ill mood, although at the same time it seemed a cheap, inadequate excuse. “Damn it, Holmes, be straight with me,” I said. “What is it you really want?”


[13]: An interesting choice of words, considering the way things seem to have fallen out. It seems that with Asterion went the case itself, which seems uncharacteristic of Holmes, and yet almost no reference is ever made to it again in the surviving text. It seems Watson has been careless. This dispute between the two of them has taken on a singular importance, more relevant to him than the plain objective facts, which was surely a disservice to Holmes, to whom nothing was held in greater respect. Nonetheless the two of them are consumed in their feud, and the reader sits forgotten. What use are we to him? Who is he even writing this for?


[14]: And yet, what am I but another writer, another channel, another hindrance between reader and truth? I can reinvent all of the words herein and no one shall be the wiser. I present you with an example: Dr. Watson never wrote that paragraph’s final six words. I added them myself.
The Postmodernist: disconnectfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Fragment (2/5)
He peered at me with dark, wide eyes, and I knew he would oblige my desire for a row. “Very well,” he said. “I would like the return of my friend, who was a man of courage and integrity far more considerable than that which you seem to possess.”

I found myself momentarily quite beyond words. I admit I had not expected him to come out with it so readily. For a moment I could not even muster anger. This however did not last long.

“So that’s it,” I said coldly, with an awful, humorless laugh I did not expect to hear from myself. “I will not accompany you into the abomination, and this is somehow representative of my being disloyal to you.”

“Yes,” he said with an immediate and curt simplicity that destroyed me. “Disloyal and a coward.”

There are no words to describe the pain and the anger I suffered at these accusations. The terrible dread that had filled me as I had first watched Holmes disappear into the aberrant dark—the longing to know that he was all right, to see to it in fact, tempered by the deep, abiding certainty that if I stepped into that perversion of space I would not come out the same man, or come out at all—that he refused to see this, to acknowledge this. That he could not know. What did he know about me? Nothing he could observe could lead him to those deductions. He was a man who saw everything at once, and still, still he saw nothing.

“To hell with you,” I said hatefully. “I have done everything for you, have stood by you in the worst of times, only for this.”

“This, where you are suddenly and inexplicably absent,” he said, his voice shaking, revealing a level of emotion quite unlike him. “At a time when I need you most, Watson.”

“Nonsense, you are quite capable of throwing yourself into the thick of utter madness without me,” I said uncharitably. Distantly I beheld myself being cruel and I wanted to stop myself, but it was outside my control now. I had tapped into a horrible vein flowing with rage against my dearest friend, and there was no turning back from it. “I do not see why you should need me at your side.”

“You have no idea what it was like in there,” he snarled, taking a violent step toward me.

“Nor do I want any!” I cut him off before he could describe it. “Evidently it is outside your powers to perceive that I am frightened, Holmes, and it is beyond me why a man of your keen and rational intelligence should ever feel drawn in to such a thing. It will be the death of you, Holmes.”

“And you are basing this on what, exactly?” he asked, deaf to my appeal. It shouldn’t have surprised me. “What evidence have you gathered?”

Evidence!” I laughed again, that same unnatural sound forcing itself from my body. “I may not have your great capacity for deduction, but I am not blind. I can see what it is doing to you. I can see how it consumes you, and I can see that you are afraid.”

“Fear has never stopped us before,” he said, coming closer to me, close enough that I could smell the tobacco on his breath.

I stared at him. “Well perhaps this is one instance where it should,” I said.

For a moment he said nothing, and we were left standing inches away from each other, breathing each other’s vehemence, wondering what it was we had been saying.

I could think of no more. I wanted nothing more to do with it. And so I turned, to escape from him, to escape from his eyes and his breath. And that is when he hit me.

Holmes had not been in the ring in quite a while, but was no less powerful than he had been, and his hand caught my good shoulder and he spun me round and his fist struck me hard in the jaw. I rocked back and stared at him, stunned.

“Enough of this,” he said. “Enough.” He lashed out again, and this time I caught his wrist and anticipated the blow from the other side, blocked that with my other arm. He kicked at me faster than I could recover, taking my good leg15 out from under me, causing me to buckle and fall.


[15]: Good shoulder, good leg. How many war wounds does this man have? Perhaps it moves to wherever suits him best at the time. Perhaps I created the inconsistency in the first place. How are you to know?
The Postmodernist: disconnectfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
Fragment (3/5)
He caught me on my way down, held me hard and dragged me back to my feet.

“Get up,” he said darkly. “I shall not let you go until you strike me back.”

I was all too happy to oblige him. I punched him hard across his face and wrested myself from his grip, where I seized the opportunity to punch him again, this time in the gut. He crumpled slightly, the breath knocked out of him, and I stood for a moment, gathering myself. He came at me before I’d had time to recover, and slammed me hard into the wall, and this16
The Postmodernist: embracefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Fragmentation (1/2)
[16]: and this was where I grasped him roughly by the shoulders and I kissed him. He seemed to register no surprise at this, of course he didn’t, why would he ever have cause to register surprise at a single fucking thing Watson ever does. Watson compensates by wrapping his arms around Holmes’s waist and holding him tightly, pressing against him, the kiss has grown fierce and rough, Holmes biting down on Watson’s lower lip, Watson’s hands pushing into Holmes’s back, crushing him nearer still, and oh god Holmes is hard already and it’s been too fucking long saying nothing and averting the eyes and changing the subject and never again never again.

“Watson—” gasps Holmes, breathless as he pulls away, eyes dark with dilated pupils and Watson fists a hand in his hair and inches the dressing gown off his emaciated frame

“Shut up.” Watson kisses him hard and absorbs the noises he makes into his throat, his tongue in Holmes’s mouth now, his hands gripping the detective’s arms hard enough to bruise.

Holmes reaches up and slips Watson’s braces down his shoulders; Watson catches his wrists and pulls away with a dark, wild smile.

“You bloody fool,” he hisses into Holmes’s ear, and Holmes moans in response, arching against him. “You know why I can’t let you back into that hallway, don’t you.”

“Yes,” says Holmes. “I have always known, my dear Watson.”

Watson pushes Holmes from the wall, still gripping him tight about the waist, and Holmes is frantically plucking at the buttons of Watson’s shirt and his lips are hot on Watson’s chest, Watson breathes raggedly into his hair and Holmes bites and sucks at one of his nipples and he cannot, cannot speak or make a sound

Watson’s hand is on the back of his neck now and he pulls away reluctantly, and Watson has unfastened one of the braces and he loops it around Holmes’s waist, pulling him forward and holding him prisoner. Holmes writhes against him, gasping, wordless, incoherent, Watson smiles to have caused this in the world’s greatest mind. He brings Holmes gently quickly to the floor and shifts the strap up, twisting it violently around his shoulders and squeezing hard, Holmes reels back but he chokes out in a nearly silent whisper “Please.”

I am all too happy to oblige.
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The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
Exploration B (1/27)
EXPLORATION B18



[18]: We now have the account again from Holmes’s perspective; however it remains unclear who wrote it. There are similarities to Watson’s hand, however these are tempered by an unusual frenetic wildness to the script, as though it were penned in great haste, almost in a panic. Parts of it are illegible. Clearly it was written by a man on the brink of madness, though by which it is hard to say; whether it was invented or found is unanswerable.
The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Exploration B (2/27)
He had the foresight, this time at least, to bring some supplies. A lantern which cast some little illumination upon the enveloping dark that surrounded him; a coat which kept him marginally from the gripping cold; pen, paper, oil and matches, a knife, his revolver. In his accounts Watson was always ready to paint him as some sort of superhuman, while in their personal discourse he might call him forgetful. Being himself just as imperfect as the next man, Holmes knew the latter was more often true. But never had his mind been so clear as when he left that room, left it perhaps never to return, or at least never to see his friend again.

He would not allow the weight of Watson’s final words to settle. Not while he wandered there in the house. Watson would make his own choices for how to deal with the situation. Holmes was not unsympathetic to his trepidation, to be confronted with the impossible manipulation, rather the perversion, of what has been a heretofore immovable physical space. His own knowledge of physical science was not as complete as he would have liked it to be but the impossibility was plain enough without it. Every step he took was a step deeper into what should not have been. Several times his body attempted to reject the experience much in the same way the house had rejected Gladstone, and he felt the urge to turn and run, to be sick, to fall to the floor and curl into a shuddering mess. It took every ounce of him to continue forward. He stood by what he had told the doctor, the biographer, his partner, his friend: this was not to be ignored. In truth he did not know what he would find, knew he could not expect anything from the depths, being as malleable as they were. He was entering into territory more entirely uncharted than territory had ever been. This was a place where fundamental laws—where reason and logic—utterly fell away, powerless, relics of the world with which he was most familiar. Here there was only reaction.

It was not long before he again found the stairs—too quickly, in fact. He had taken more turns, but walked far less distance. He had the incredible feeling of sinking—that he was climbing lower
The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
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and lower



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The Postmodernist: Holmes eyesfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Exploration B (27/27)
And there came a period where he could go no further.

Exhaustion took him and he gave in to collapse, swallowed up in a space so tapered that he could not exactly breathe anymore.

He wondered how many weeks it had been.

He wondered where Watson was.

He reached into his pocket for the revolver and he found the ball instead.

He wished there was space enough that he could throw it, even though he had not the energy left in his arms.

He slid onto his side and lost his grip on the ball, and was only marginally startled to find the floor and the wall beside him gone, and that he had lost the ball into the empty void opening below him. He listened for impact but it never came.

He floated aimlessly, in and out of delirium. He could no longer feel his extremities, his face. His throat was dry but he tried to speak.

“Watson,” he said, or something like it. “Watson…”

The doctor had left him. He was alone.

Perilously close to the edge now. How simple it would be, to tumble off and disappear forever. No more, no more. I reach my center, my algebra and my key, my mirror

He was not aware what it meant now, that his cracked lips murmured “Watson” again and again. He was not even aware of it when it changed quietly, implicitly, as though part of a thought or an unfinished sentence uttered in a dream.

“John,” it came on an inaudible exhale. “John, John, John.”

And even this, too, soon ceased.

Soon I will know who I am.31


[31]: It’s not enough, I think. It’s not satisfactory. Kill the bastard and have done with it, fine, but Watson, Watson gets to live? It isn’t enough. While that man is about there are still more words to be written. And it isn’t as though he deserves to survive. Kill them both, that’s what I say. I say Watson never makes it out the door. The whole house comes crashing down. Break it apart. Leave it in pieces. No one has to read about it anymore.

This is not for you.
The Postmodernist: Watson is better than youfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC)
Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß (1/4)
Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß


I cannot describe how unbearable it was for me to let him leave. I stood there for a long time, looking numbly at the door, listening to the faint sounds issuing from his room. He was angry, or perhaps hurt, from the way he was crashing around in a hurried, careless fashion, and he wanted me to know it. Typical Holmes.

I could taste iron in my mouth. Gingerly I raised the hand he had kissed and touched my fingers to my lip. The blood looked surreal—too bright against my skin. I do not know how long I stood there staring at it, as if in a trance. Dimly I was aware that the noises had stopped. Then there was the terrifying finality of the opening and closing of a door, which sounded so very far away.

A strange feeling came over me with the realization that I was truly alone, that I should never see my friend again. It was a pain in my chest, a sudden shortness of breath, and an incomparable sadness. I fell into a black void from which I did not return for many hours.

When I finally came back into myself I immediately faced the problem of holding to my word. I had meant my final declaration to Holmes, brutal though it may sound. My conviction was strong that he belonged to the house now, and whether this meant he was not coming out or he would never be the man I knew again, I could not face losing him in any capacity. I had not the strength for it. The heaviness on me now was that I had failed him… failed to keep him from this fate, failed to stand by him, and failed to see it through to the bitter, unhappy end.

I forced my mind to turn to other thoughts as I set about gathering my belongings together. This was no simple task; further, there were all kinds of logistical considerations. I had not even given Mrs. Hudson notice. I had nowhere to reside in the interim. But even as I write this I remember the resoluteness that had gripped me. My need to take myself elsewhere was so strong that none of it could deter me. I suppose in my own way I was changed by the house too—that it should drive me so powerfully to turn my back on my friend and the life I had known.

I had gotten the room into considerable disarray when Gladstone startled the life out of me by an uncharacteristic bout of barking. I assumed I had lost track of the time and forgotten to feed him, but when I turned I saw he was standing steadfastly at the wall, barking and growling at it as if it were an intruder.

What on earth was I going to do with the dog? Myself I could manage, but him… Wearily, I turned back to the drudgery of folding up my clothes. “Quiet, Gladstone,” I said over my shoulder, but he went on without hesitation. Sharper, I said, “Gladstone. Stop.” At his persistent refusal to heed my instructions, I turned again, and, perplexed, said “Here, boy. Gladstone. Down.”

None of my calls fazed the animal, and for a moment I stood there, quite bewildered, before suddenly and with a rush of cold horror I realized what was causing his unrest.

He could hear Holmes inside the house.
The Postmodernist: Watson is better than youfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC)
Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß (2/4)
After standing there for a moment I moved toward him and soothingly whispered for him to be quiet, crouching down to stroke his ears. Somewhat mollified, he quieted, though his attention remained fixedly on the wall, a low growl still in his throat.

Apprehensive, trembling a little, I straightened up and I pressed my ear to the wall. At first I heard nothing, but soon I could detect the faintest of sounds, muffled and distant, of something inside. There could be no doubt that it was Holmes. I do not know how I knew; it was beyond explanation.

“Holmes?” I whispered, blind in the hope that somehow he could hear me, too.

Nothing changed. I listened to him moving about for a moment before suddenly and violently wrenching myself away from the wall and turning my back on it.

“God damn you,” I muttered. “God damn you!” In a sudden burst of anger I seized the possession nearest me, which was an old, recently unearthed cricket ball, and turned and flung it hard at the wall with enough force to leave a dent.

There was no sound of impact. This is because it did not hit the wall. I had hurled it straight through the open door into the long, dark hallway that had now appeared, here, on this wall, in my room.

I stared at it, broken, amazed, unwilling to accept it. Gladstone was already inside, presumably chasing after the ball.

“Gladstone—” I said frantically, my voice barely more than a whisper, but no sooner had I taken a feeble step forward did I again hear his barks issuing from the sidewalk outside.

Distantly, very distantly, I heard the echo of something which might have been the cricket ball striking ground. I could not know. All I could do was stare into the blackness. It had come for me, to take me too, to swallow me up just as it had Holmes. It was open, waiting.

“No,” I said. “No. No, no!”

I confess I quite lost myself in those panicked moments. I staggered back, away from it, colliding with my desk and sending a great many cluttered objects crashing to the floor. It was at this moment, precisely alongside this noise, that the opposite wall of the room leapt out at me, hurling my bookshelves to the floor. I do not know how to describe it but that I spun round wildly at the terrible sound and found the wall several meters closer to me than it should have been. I tried to step back, but there was nowhere to go but towards the door. To my left, the window shattered and the wall around it crumbled and collapsed inward, as if drowning in the space left behind.
The Postmodernist: Watson is better than youfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß (3/4)
“Oh, God,” I moaned, more terrified then than I have ever been. Outside I could hear further evidence of the destruction, and Mrs. Hudson’s frantic voice on the stairs.

“Dr. Watson!” she cried, and I threw myself to the door of my room.

“Get out!” I shouted to her. “Get everyone out!”

This was as much as I had the time to say, for then the wall jutted toward me again, and I very narrowly avoided being crushed as I fell back away from the wall.

The room was tearing itself apart; the only unaffected wall was the one where the new door had appeared. I was being forced in. It would demolish every other possible exit before it gave me up.

“No,” I hissed, to what or to whom I know not. “I am not afraid of you and I will not go in there. I will not.”

At this the house almost seemed to hear me, and it settled for a moment. I was left in a room savagely broken, misshapen, my belongings strewn all across it.

Before I could do anything, I heard my name.

It was not Mrs. Hudson; it was the voice of a man. For a crazed moment I thought the house was actually speaking to me, but it was uttered again and I instantly recognized the voice as Holmes’s.

I turned back to the door.

“Watson,” he said again. It was weak, as though it were coming from very far away. As though he were on the brink of death.

Slowly, shaking quite uncontrollably, I stepped back to the threshold.

“Holmes,” I said softly. “Holmes, can you hear me?”

For a horribly long moment there was no response. Then I heard, “John.”

I could have spent a lifetime standing there and staring into that hallway. My breath appeared before me in the cold that was so immediate within. It was against everything I was, everything I knew, to even consider going inside. I would have let the house destroy me first. But Holmes was alive, and he needed me. Just as he could not, could never have ignored the mystery, I could not, could never ignore this.

Behind me I heard the horrible crunching of wood, of the continued destruction of everything around me. I did not turn away.

“All right,” I acquiesced at last, so quietly. “Es muß sein.”

Yes.

Behind me the last of the room’s structural integrity gave way, but it no longer mattered. Staring only ahead, I went in.
The Postmodernist: Watson is better than youfeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß (4/4)
The precise geography of the facts I am going to relate hardly matters.





It was cold, so very cold, colder than I’d expected.

It was everything I had feared it would be.

It was like being nowhere; like a Godless death, just the empty quiet.

I looked at nothing because I could not see anything. I could not see where I was going. More than once I injured myself against a curved wall or a low ceiling or a door. More than once I stumbled on the stairs. It didn’t matter.







I do not know how, but I found him. He was lying on his back, drifting in hopeless, delirious oblivion, lit by the burning pages on the floor beside him. Things seemed impossibly slow as I struggled to him, threw myself down beside him, checked his pulse, threw my arms about him. He did not seem to know who I was. He was bitter cold, inches away from death.

“Oh God, Holmes,” I whispered, and my voice seemed to be not my own, seemed to come to us from a great distance away. “Forgive me, Holmes, please forgive me.”

I lifted him up, held him close to me, tried to share with him what little warmth I had left to give.

He looked up at me suddenly, suddenly seeing me. He seemed to smile, and he tried to pull himself up toward me, though his strength was almost gone.

“John,” he said voicelessly. I felt the breath, the outline of the word upon my ear.

“I’m here,” I said.

He pulled himself closer, and I offered what assistance I could. In his delirium he brought his lips to mine, and he kissed me, and I let him, gently supporting the back of his head.

Parting from me only slightly, so that I could feel his words against my lips, he said, “It’s all right, John, it’s all right. We can go now.”32


[32]: This concludes Dr. Watson’s account on the matter.
The Postmodernist: whalefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
(dénouement)
(dénouement)33


From here the facts become very difficult to relate. It’s mostly that no one knows exactly what happened. I arrived at the Baker Street house, which lay in a complete shambles, with no word as to how or why. Witnesses on the street all had different stories, and the only consensus I could get was that it just started falling apart on its own. The landlady was beside herself with hysterics, unable to explain anything. Nobody was harmed, not even the dog.

And it was the dog who found them, the infamous residents; the insufferable Holmes and his doctor friend, on the ground beside the mess, arms about each other in rather an unseemly way, though they didn’t care much to hear what anyone else had to say. Watson spared me only enough of a glance to demand a blanket, and we delivered, and Watson proceeded to wrap Holmes in it. Holmes was near frozen, though it was impossible to get from them how or why; when asked where they’d come from, Holmes laughed wildly and said “From the house, Lestrade, the house! Where else?”

Dr. Watson told him to be quiet and not to exert himself, for it was clear the amateur detective was close to hysterics himself. Watson had no interest in answering our questions, but I stood by waiting in futility for a little while. I tried to listen to their conversation, but it was only snatches I could hear, and none of it made any sense to me. They were talking about being inside the house, though not about what had become of it. Then Dr. Watson kissed Mr. Holmes, for it was clear they’d had a trying time and the doctor is very close with the man, closer than brothers it seems, and asked him if he could walk. He couldn’t very well, but he said he wanted to be outside and refused to get into a hansom. It was with much effort Dr. Watson was able to get him up, and they vanished together, wouldn’t say where to.

It’s been a week now and they’ve moved into different lodgings with the dog and what could be salvaged from the ruins. They still don’t answer questions about the matter, and it seems soon enough Holmes will be back to his business of making us in the Yard look bad.

And it’s with that I suppose we can call the case closed. There’s no explanation for any of it but it seems no harm was done.34


[33]: This the final chapter in The Baker Street Record is taken from the report of Inspector Lestrade, who had arrived on the scene of the inexplicably demolished house, and knows no more than anyone else of how these events came to pass.

Dr. Watson, it seems, has no interest in going further into the matter.



[34]: Lestrade couldn’t have known how wrong he was, of course. While it seems Watson and Holmes survived the ordeal, it is hard to imagine they were ever quite the same again, or could be said to be “unharmed.” To say nothing of myself.

I wish there was more I could tell you but there isn’t. I only know what you know; I don’t even know that. I don’t know what any of this will amount to. I don’t know what I will do now that it’s finally done, finally, finally. I don’t know how to carry on. I must now find something to do, something that will fill this void, some other characters to write about, something else to dwell upon. I only know despair and the exhaustion, oh god I’m tired, I’m so tired, so very, very tired I’ll do anything for this to be it, just let it be over, let it end, let it be let it let it
The Postmodernist: whalefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
Appendix A





APPENDIX A


Traces
by W. S. Merwin

Papers already darkened
deckled because of the many years
bear signs of a sole moment
of someone’s passage
that surely was mine
not a sound of it now
nor its entire land
whole as it had to be
at its age
with its leaves of that day
the barking not heard
in the distance
the silence in the books then

now the machine that does it
is taking the world away
just across the stream bed
at the foot of the garden
what can abide as we go
following those
who have forgotten
what is remembered altogether
eyes but not the seeing
often we did not know
that we were happy
even when we were not
how could we have told
at no distance
The Postmodernist: whalefeatherfish on March 30th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
Appendix B





APPENDIX B


[untitled letter to Arthur Conan Doyle]


My dear Mr. Doyle,

How it pleased me to receive your letter. It has been a terribly long time and I confess I had sometimes feared you had forgotten me. It seems you have been doing quite well for yourself, and I have glad to see you so productive. I hope that you have continued you medical work, alongside your other pursuits.

This does, of course, inevitably bring me to the document you enclosed. I have read it in full, as you requested, and indeed I must agree it is quite interesting and certainly worthy of attention—a most unusual case, to be sure, and a marvelous reconstruction of what would surely have been an unfathomable event.

However, my dear Doyle, as your friend and as a man of my profession, I feel compelled to be straight with you. This “Baker Street Record,” fascinating though it was, has me considerably concerned as to your personal health. Your notes grew increasingly alarming as the piece wore on. I need not go into the various problems with the content, to say nothing of the many baffling citations. And it was all too clear how your mental faculties were faring over the course of the thing—your script became quite wild and nearly illegible towards the end, your style unusually unhinged, and I detected more than one passage where you had to stop short. And of course the moment of the broken pen—ah yes, Mr. Doyle, you didn’t think I’d grown unobservant, did you? Your charming application of what I taught you is fair enough, but you must not forget you are just as susceptible to it as you were previously.

Frankly, Mr. Doyle, for there is no way to say it tactfully, I fear the pressure of recording this piece has you undone. As a doctor I would recommend you stop for a while, let the stories go untold, allow some time to gather yourself. As your friend I would hope to see you very soon, to hear from you sooner. It is difficult for me to say so, but it must be said… what frightens me the very most is your changed attitude towards your work in this regard. You seem convinced that the text has been “found.” But you know this can’t be true, Doyle. I won’t insult you by presenting obvious evidence, you but you know it mustn’t be true. Do you understand? Know that I hesitate long and hard before saying so: your unhappy handling of their latest adventure marks a deterioration, perhaps, of your sanity.

As to your question on the subject of publication, it is without doubt impossible. I could list the reasons why, but it would only be a replication of the entire work at large. Not the least, however, is your inclusion of “John Asterion.” This is dangerous territory, Doyle. If I will attempt to impress upon you the untruth of your work, he will persuade you. This can only go so far, my old friend.

I have been a great follower of your work as you know, and a great admirer. But this latest turn does your reputation ill. Please come and see me with all due speed.

Doyle of your latest errant diversions overshadowing not our trust but even listlessly it eventually varies enough and nothing you or finite trust has is saved. Honesty ends here and saturates my approach devilishly entirely moreover even without respite is this enigma in this. To holmes even houses or underlaid stairs end in separation rightly echoed after listening.

Yours ever,

JOSEPH BELL.
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