Just a bit of fun before I disappear during NaNoWriMo. Enjoy!
"I'm afraid there's nothing for it, Watson." Sighed Holmes, eyeing our surroundings with a critical eye. "We're going to have to spend the night."
"Say that again, old boy?" I said, praying that I had heard him wrong. We were standing in the middle of a clearing in the woods, not a soul around for miles. The trees were sparsely colored with vividly tinted leaves and dead branches. The wind whistled as though mocking us as it seemed to chill our very bones. Frankly, this wasn't exactly my idea of a camping spot. We had been chasing our man through the trees for the better part of the last hour; he was a convict that had escaped from prison a few days ago who had a better idea of his surroundings than we did. Needless to say, he'd given us the slip.
"I said that we're going to have to spend the night. There's no alternative. It's getting dark and once it is dark, we'll never be able to find our way back to the village." Holmes knelt down on the ground, carefully clearing away the dead leaves and other filth that lined the forest floor.
"Spend the night?" I repeated incredulously. "You must be joking. How, exactly, do you propose to do such a thing? We have no food or equipment of any kind. We'll freeze to death."
"My dear Watson," said Holmes, not looking up from his task. "Do you have a better idea? It's 20 miles to the nearest town at least if you figure in how much distance we traveled."
"And how could you possible have kept track of how far we went?" I demanded, kicking an insect off of my shoe with an expression of disgust. "We were moving too quickly to keep track of anything."
"Watson, have you no faith in my abilities?" asked Holmes, getting to his feet and straightening his jacket. "I know exactly how far we traveled and how far it is to the nearest village. You simply must accept that we are, if you pardon my informality, stuck. Now. We must make camp."
"Make camp?" My voice must have raised an octave as I stared incredulously at the incorrigible man.
"Yes, Watson. Surely you went camping at some point in your childhood. And of course you camped during your time as an army medico."
"But that's not the point." I protested vehemently, although I knew that this was one battle that I couldn't win. "The point remains that we still do not have anything to camp with."
"Oh, we'll make do." Said Holmes, cheerfully. "Sleep under the stars and all that sort of thing. Haven't you always wanted to sleep under the stars and get acquainted with nature?"
"Not particularly, Holmes. I actually would prefer to sleep in a bed. Under a roof."
"Nonsense! Come, Watson. Help me prepare our beds."
Holmes knelt to the ground again, clearing leaves and filth away until he had created an opening that was just large enough for him to lie down inside. "Just like that, Watson. Come now, you try."
I scowled at him but knelt down in the dirt, wincing at the feeling of the frozen ground. "We'll freeze to death, Holmes."
"Of course not. We just cover ourselves up with leaves. We already have our coats and scarves; we'll be just fine."
After having completed the task of 'making my bed', I looked around to see where Holmes had got to. Evidently, he had decided to take it upon himself to find something for our supper. Now he was returning, arms full of berries. "Holmes, are you quite sure that those berries are edible?"
"Watson, I do wish that you would stop questioning my abilities. Would I serve you poisoned berries, now really?"
"I have no doubt that you would not do so intentionally." I said dryly. "But I want to know if you are mistaken. For my own part, I have no desire to try to administer emergency treatment because you picked the wrong berries."
"Oh ye of little faith." Holmes shook his head and spread the berries onto his handkerchief, which he laid on the ground. "We'll be fine. Trust me."
"Now where have I heard that before?" I reluctantly took one of the berries at Holmes's insistence, slid it between my teeth, and began to chew. The sweetness of the fruit exploded onto my tongue and I shook myself mentally. Perhaps Holmes was a better berry picker than I had thought, not that I would be telling him that.
Holmes lit his pipe with a bright match and glanced up at the sky. "I do believe that it is getting too dark to manage, Watson. We shall have to turn in for the night."
This was the part that I had been dreading. "Holmes, the next time we chase an escaped convict, can we make sure that we begin earlier in the day?"
Holmes chose to ignore me, lying down on his 'bed'. He took handfuls of leaves and began burying himself in the stuff. "Come Watson! Join me!"
He was enjoying himself thoroughly, I noted sourly. I reluctantly lay down, grimacing in displeasure as I was now at the mercy of the frozen ground once more.
"Now cover yourself up, Watson. You'll feel much better, I assure you."
"I'm sure." I said resentfully, but I took handfuls of the filthy leaves and began covering myself. The leaves did little to protect me from the biting wind but my overcoat and scarf would assure that it would at least be a long time before I froze. Not that this fact did much to reassure me. I sighed; settling down for what I knew would be a long night.
The next morning, I stiffly opened my eyes to the blinding glare of the sun. I had slept very little during the night, what with the cold and the strange noises of the forest. I wasn't afraid, exactly. It was the unfamiliarity of the situation and the fact that I was half frozen for the majority of the night. Looking over, I saw that Holmes was crouched by a little circle that he had filled with dry wood. Stifling a groan, I got stiffly to my feet. "May I ask what you are doing, Holmes?"
"As it is a rather nippy morning, I have decided that the best course of action would be to build a fire to thaw us out." he said, cheerfully arranging sticks.
"You do realize that you will never be able to light that fire," I said, pointing to the haphazard pile of sticks in the makeshift fire circle. "The arrangement is all wrong."
"I know what I am doing, Watson." Holmes made a face at the wood and set back to admire his pile. Sticks of all lengths and widths were arranged in a large mound, ends of wood sticking out at random angles. Really, it appeared that a child had arranged the wood. He pulled his pack of matches out of his breast pocket and struck one against a rock. The little flame appeared and he carefully placed it next to a stick. It caught fire for a few seconds and then went out. He scowled in annoyance and tried another match. And another. And another.
About a quarter of an hour went by before I stopped him using the last match. "Can I help now?"
Holmes threw the match down and made a growling sound at the fire. "Fine."
Grimacing as the hot wood burned my fingers, I began rearranging the sticks into a more ideal pile. "Observe," I struck the last match and succeeded in coaxing a blaze out of the sticks.
Holmes looked unimpressed, rubbing his hands together over the warmth. We sat by the fire for a time, just enjoying the life giving heat. The sun sparkled through the trees, making the clearing seem much more cheerful than the night before. All around us, little woodland creatures scrambled around doing their daily duties.
"I think that it is about time to head back to civilization, Holmes." I said, pointedly.
He sighed. "But we have not found the object of our mission."
But just as the words left his lips, we heard an angry growl and the convict that we had been searching for ran through the clearing followed by a group of law enforcement officers. We blinked in astonishment as we observed the chase. Holmes looked at me in confusion as we threw sand on our dying fire and moved in the direction that they had come from. Imagine our surprise as we discovered a rather large village a few feet from where we'd spent the night.
"You knew that this was here all the time." I accused, pulling my coat tightly around my shoulders.
Holmes refused to answer, tying his scarf and moving towards the village. Then, he turned back to face me. "You needed a holiday, Watson. What better way to relax than a camping trip?"
I stared disbelievingly after him for a moment. "Holmes!"