Not Yet Prepared

Not Yet Prepared

by Evadare Volney

I had tried to avoid coming to terms with the fact that my dear friend Sherlock Holmes had come back from his long hiatus (during which he never did me the courtesy of letting me know he was not dead) as something of a changed man.

There was a furtiveness about his movements and a dodginess in his answers, and a disconcerting tendency to nibble.

I filed this away in my metal box - not exactly a mind palace, but then, I don't have a royal sort of mind - and carried on like the stolid but reliable idealisation of the British Empire that I am.

But such things must always come to a head, and one moonlit night I went to visit Holmes in his rooms in Baker Street, to discuss a matter of a woman who might be a vampire. Well, she was a foreigner, which was certainly suspicious.

Nothing could have prepared me for the events that happened next.

When I entered the door, no one came to greet me. There was no light in Mrs. Hudson's chambers - nor, indeed, in Holmes's. But I heard a sound that made me nervous - a sort of rustling and occasionally, a hideous squeaking. As I crept up the stairs slowly, it only seemed to grow louder. Had Holmes's violin playing taken a turn for the avant-garde?

Nothing could have prepared the world for what I saw when I pushed upon the door.

221B was dark but the full moon cast its beams upon a horrifying sight.

Holmes's files and newspaper clippings lay strewn all over the floor, shredded. No, not shredded - chewed. And collected and piled in the corner as if for some kind of animal nest.

And there, in the shadows, was an enormous rat. The size of a gigantic hound! No, the size of a large bear the size of a small bear. It sat up on its haunches as I entered the room, its repulsive handlike paws clenched at its twitching nose.

I may have screamed - no, I am certain I did, like a little girl - but thankfully there was no human to hear it.

Backing away towards the door, I drew my pistol. Quickly did the furry horror launch itself at me, reaching out with its paw to knock the gun away, its long, mostly naked tail thrashing madly.

I only got one shot off, into the creature's shoulder, before it lunged upon me and knocked me down. My head hit the floor, and all went dark for a moment.

When I opened my eyes, I saw a sight that will haunt me for the rest of my days. The bleeding giant rat, resting half atop me, seemed to shudder and shiver, and then shrink. When this hideous process had finished, I found - Holmes, naked as the day he was born, a wound on his shoulder.

Before I could even finish pressing my hand there to staunch the blood, the wound seemed to seal itself. There was just my old friend in nothing but his skin (and since this will not be read until we have both left this life, I can say that was a sight I had often wished to see, though I would have preferred other circumstances).

Groaning, he sat up. "Well, my dear Watson," he finally said, shakily, "Now you know my secret. I am relieved you haven't taken to loading your trusty old Army piece with silver."

"As am I, Holmes," I gaped. "How--?"

"As you know, I traveled a good deal in the ... time that I was abroad. I stowed away upon the freighter Matilda Briggs to take me to the far islands, and spent some time in the tropical wonderlands of Bali and Jakarta and Sumatra. One evening, enraptured by the otherworldly sounds of the gamelan and the gordang samilan, and truth be told, a little bit under the influence of the potent betel leaf, I entered into a trance state so deep I hardly noticed the approach of the most-dreaded predator of Sumatra, a rodent of unusual size."

"I didn't think they existed!" I ejaculated incredulously.

"Nor did I," Holmes said, with the dry wit that had seemed to fluctuate with his return. He was shivering, and I reluctantly disentangled myself to retrieve what I had spotted lying on the floor, no doubt discarded in his transformation. I draped his mouse-coloured dressing gown about his now Holmes-coloured shoulders.

I still chose not to move a respectable gentleman's distance away from him. We had both had quite a fright, and I would need to be close at hand in case his supernaturally-healed wound should re-open.

"Thank you, Watson," he said. "Yes, I let my guard down, and I was bitten - and I became what you see now, this changed creature controlled by the full moon. It is an ancient and powerful magic that does not respect the boundaries between man and beast, living and dead. Under its influence, I fear even old dead Moriarty could become a rat again."

I shivered a little bit, even as I held him close. He was still Holmes in truth, all lapses aside. And despite the fact that he still had a tail.