London – 1891
There is a man sitting at a writing desk, a leather bound cream-paged journal open in front of him. A pen lies in his hand, the nib still dry and un-inked. He sits, his elbows resting on the green baize of the desk, his gaze anchored heavily upon the large glass weight of his inkwell.
His blue eyes are the colour of iolite, but any sparkle they ought to contain has been worn and washed away, the skin around them is grey-tinted and lined. He appears to be waiting. Should someone observe him from the doorway of his study, it would not be immediately apparent what he was waiting for.
The fire is lit, and a cup of tea which has been allowed to cool, forgotten, sits besides his papers - so he cannot be waiting for the maid. His coat and hat are hung in their proper place upon the rack, so he cannot be waiting to make an appointment. And a quality to the stillness and his pose suggests he doesn't expect a visitor. Yet still, he is waiting.
He is waiting for the world to right itself.
Change, he realizes, is insidious. It is an inconsequential drip that falls a drop at a time, forcing one to blink and shake one's head as if it is a raindrop fallen too close to the eye, or a tear perhaps. But those single drips of water, ignored as a minor irritation, all too soon have become a flood that seeks to drown one...
He is drowning now.
And as he waits for his heart to stop, he wonders why he never saw the signs. Saw but did not observe...
The hand that clasps the pen tightens in pained memory. Seventeen steps. Seventeen hundred moments where change happened and he did not take a stand – did not shout 'stop!' - and now the flood has come to drown him.
The world has been unstable before; but for the past six years, at the thirteenth hour, there has always been one who appeared to set it to rights once more. He should be here now – he is late, even by his slovenly idea of time-keeping. A shadow that appears in the doorway, unkempt and unannounced (although his reputation always proceeds him), wearing his own face (or someone else's) and some inane comment tumbling from his lips. (The one that comes to mind right now was when Lestrade was in tow, complaining bitterly. "Excuse me a moment," he told the inspector blithely, "whilst I pay attention to his complaint – I'll be attending to yours momentarily." Then the schoolboy smile and the expectant eyebrow awaiting Watson's displeasure whilst the inspector, temporarily dismissed, fumed.)
Watson looks to the doorway, allowing himself one final foolish hope, and his friend one final slender chance. The doorway remains empty, mockingly so, the hallway beyond it silent.
With a defeated look, John Watson wets his pen and at last begins to write.
It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished. In an incoherent and, as I deeply feel, an entirely inadequate fashion, I have endeavored to give some account of my strange experiences in his company from the chance which first brought us together at the period of the "Study in Scarlet," up to the time of his interference in the matter of the "Naval Treaty"-and interference which had the unquestionable effect of preventing a serious international complication. It was my intention to have stopped there, and to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my life which the lapse of time has done little to fill. My hand has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but to lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred. I alone know the absolute truth of the matter, and I am satisfied that the time has come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression. As far as I know, there have been only three accounts in the public press: that in the Journal de Geneve on May 6th, 1891, the Reuter's despatch in the English papers on May 7th, and finally the recent letter to which I have alluded. Of these the first and second were extremely condensed, while the last is, as I shall now show, an absolute perversion of the facts. It lies with me to tell for the first time what really took place between Professor Moriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes...
The title 'To perceive is to suffer' is a quote by Aristotle
"It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen..." - extract from 'The Adventure of the Final Problem' by ACD