"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent" – Case of Identity


Dusk had fallen and I was finishing up my notes from my last consultation. It is the only excuse I have to offer for not seeing the figure slip into my examining room. He did it silently, in fact, and it was only the faint smell that made me look up. In broad daylight the sight before me would have been horrific. By candlelight, it was the stuff of nightmares.

I could not repress a cry of terror and leapt back out of my chair. I could feel the wall pressed against my back and a cold sweat beaded on my brow. There was no where else I could flee. Fortunately, the figure seemed to have no interest in approaching me. We stared at each other in silence. For my part, I clung desperately to my sanity.

I had, in my wildest dreams, imagined that Holmes was alive, that my closest friend would somehow return from Reichenbach Falls. I had not, however, imagined this -- Sherlock Holmes resurrected from the grave . . . but not as Lazarus, untouched and uncorrupted, or even as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein monster, piece-meal but still whole.

Then the monstrous situation, incredibly, grew worse. Those rotted, decaying lips parted and slurred out my name. It was Holmes's voice but terrible, distorted, almost gurgling. He slowly, almost hesitantly, stretched out a hand towards me. It was still long, white, and thin but the fingertips were darkened and strips of flesh were missing. I must have fainted at that point and when I awoke, the dreadful specter was gone.

I scrambled to my feet. Not much time had passed, I could see. I would not have believe that my imagination was capable of conjuring such horror but that I had hallucinated was a far more acceptable than the idea that Holmes had come back from the grave a year after his death.

With shaking hands I poured myself a brandy I could scarcely drink for trembling. Madness may be preferable but it was a fate I had begun to fear ever since Mary's death last month. Grief could warp and twist minds, I knew. I would simply have to wait and see if it grew worse. If it did . . . I took a hearty gulp of my drink. I would cross that particular bridge when I came to it.

I replaced the empty glass with a heavy thunk and in doing so nearly missed the knock on my front door. I started violently and could not repress a shiver of fear. Then I pulled myself together and strode towards the sound with perhaps more bravado than the action warranted.

To my abject relief the man who stood there wielded nothing more dangerous than a telegram. A late-night messenger was odd; I was even more puzzled to see that it was from Mycroft Holmes and that he was requesting my presence at his home immediately.

A frightening thought flitted through my mind and I dismissed it before it had a chance to solidify. I summoned a cab as quickly as was possible, taking my doctor's bag with me, but my feeling of unease followed. Though Mycroft's window I saw a dull light escaping around the curtains. He was waiting for me then.

My ring was answered by the maid who showed me to the study. The door was shut tight and when the maid knocked timidly on it and announced me, the gruffness of Mycroft's reply was clear even through the wood. Rather than open the door, the maid bobbed a curtsey at me and left.

Thoroughly perplexed, I opened the door myself. The scent of strong tobacco assaulted me. Beneath it, there was a strange, sweetish odor that was not entirely pleasant. Mycroft was seated behind his desk, a troubled expression on his corpulent features. As the door opened his eyes were as sharp and glittering as his late brother's had been when investigating a particularly interesting case. Then, when he saw it was only I, he sat back and relaxed.

"Doctor," he said by way of greeting, "pray take a seat." There was but a single light in the room and the shadows in the corners did nothing to ease my trepidation. Self-consciously I accepted the offered chair and dropped my bag on the floor near my feet.

Mycroft observed me to a degree that unnerved me further. "Doctor, this evening there was an occurrence."

I admit I jumped. How in the world could he possibly have known about my hallucination? Mycroft was a master of observation and deduction, certainly, but what possible clues could my appearance or demeanor have given him? "An occurrence?" I repeated weakly.

Grey eyes bored into me. "One that I do not have the professional capacity to handle."

"And you believe I do." My brief lapse into insanity not even an hour before must have coincided with whatever incident Mycroft required my assistance for. "It is of a medical nature, then?

He nodded slowly. "Of sorts," he answered cryptically. His gaze darted to a corner behind me and when I turned to see what had arrested his attention, I perceived a figure in the darkness. To my horror, I recognized it without hesitation.

"Wah-shun," Holmes rasped out again.