Beta'd and Brit picked by Chalcedony Rivers
Disclaimer: writing fanfiction. I think you know what that means.
If you walk down the road past the café, past the bakery, past the row of houses, you honestly have to keep walking. The place you are looking for is in a secluded area, off the beaten track.
Eventually you will reach your destination. It is not hard to miss. There is sea grass crawling up the walkway and the cobblestones have definitely seen better days. The paint is peeling off the door. The numbers, 221 are hanging precariously on it. One good slam of the door and they just might fall off.
Don't bother knocking. Just push the door gingerly open and find your way. The first word your mind will come to is clutter.
Stack of books are around the room. Thrown haphazardly on the floor, pages flapping in the wind. You can read some of the titles on the spines on the books that are turned spread eagle on the floor. Gray's Anatomy. How to Make Your Bees Happy. The Official Cluedo Rulebook. Carefully avoid not stepping on the half-drunk cups of tea scattered among the books. Dressing gowns litter one armchair. A violin is sitting on the coffee table with a string missing. Science equipment is overflowing in a box over in a corner.
Keep walking through this main room of clutter, past the kitchen of towering stacks of plates and cups and you will come to French doors that are open. They are the reason for the flapping of the pages of the books, letting the wind try to carry them away.
Walk out the doors and there in the distance, you will see the owner of this home. He is tall, ethereal almost, standing with his feet in the water. It must be freezing, but he doesn't seem to mind. He will eventually turn around and remove his feet now seeing a figure on his porch. As he approaches, you think yes, you can now add the word "old" to your words to describe this man. The curly brown hair has started to grey at the temples. Crinkles and crow's feet nestle around his sea colored eyes.
His eyes search your face hungrily for reaction, recognition. In his trouser pockets, you see his fingers twitching a mile a minute.
You've heard he gets angry, but he doesn't look angry. He looks thrilled. His mouth twitches and his eyes twinkle with delight. "John! We must talk to Lestrade about this murder. I'm convinced the twins did it."
He takes his hands out of his pockets and begins to frantically wave them about. For an old man, he moves quite nimbly on his bare cold soaked feet. His fingers and toes cannot contain their excitement, but you can.
You shake your head. You are not John he speaks of. The man will not hear it. He instead, groans and shoves you back into the house. "You really should make us a cuppa."
He places you in front of stove and walks away, rambling about where he placed his mobile.
You are alone now, staring at the stove. You haven't the faintest idea how this man likes his tea. You look around hoping for a sign. Desperately looking around, you see a note stuck on the counter.
It is old, splashed with tea and other questionable stains.
-2 cups hot water. Steep for five minutes. I take one scoop of sugar. John does not.
You follow the directions, still thinking about the crossed out line when the man returns.
"Moll-ly! What is taking so long?"
You are not Molly either. This time, you just apologize for taking so long. Not that you are not Molly. There is no point in explaining that. You just hand him the tea. He sips it, frowns, but still takes it begrudgingly and walks back outside.
As you follow behind, you notice a couple of pictures hanging crookedly on the wall. The old man is younger in this picture, captured in an earlier time, smiling awkwardly with a shorter man laughing. This must be John. In another picture this man and John are with a salt and peppered haired man. They are holding pints. You think this might be the Lestrade man he spoke briefly about. You search for pictures of this Molly, but for some odd reason you can't seem to find it.
You walk outside and find him, flopped on a chair, swishing the tea around. You sit across from him. His eyes lock on to yours and you aren't sure for a moment who he sees. It must be someone he trusts, because he speaks bluntly this time.
"My mind palace: it's crumbling." He swishes the tea, some slops over the side of the cup. "I try to fix it, but with each new wall, another collapses." He dumps the tea on the ground, watching the liquid seep into the cracks of the stone. "It's futile."
The frustration, the sadness disappears from his voice as his eyes shift on you and for the first time, you now know he sees you truly as a new face in the haze of his clouded, crumbling mind.
He throws his cup of the floor. It crashes and shatters. "Who are you? What are you doing in my house?"
This time you profusely apologize for real, apologizing for encroaching on his space. You leave the cup on the chair, backing away from it. The man proceeds to scowl at you and shoos you through the tall sea grass. He does not want you trespassing through his house or however you may have came through.
You turn around one more time, finally getting through the grass and finding the cobblestone path to see the peculiar man, pushing his way through the grass, walking away back toward the sea. You can hear him mumbling to himself, quiet loudly as though speaking to the man John again. "All of my bees have died. Isn't that curious? Research needs to be done. Definitely."
As you walk past the houses, the bakery and then into the café for a cup of coffee, you realize the rumor was true. The rumor you were dying to investigate on your own because you've heard stories about incidents with him, but unlike the other storytellers who laugh about their encounters with him, you find it quite sad.
There was an old man at the end of the row. His house is scattered and cluttered, just like his mind. His friends are all gone, but he doesn't seem to know it, not most of the time anyway.
All of my bees have died.
You hear this in your mind, watching the other patrons drink and chat and realize that maybe he wasn't so mad after all, just so unbearably lonely.