I’m writing this as as I feel death slowly losing its fear of me and sniffing around the bedroom door. I’m writing this because it is a story that needs to be told and at my age it is difficult to care if one sounds ridiculous. In the end, I am writing this because it is an absurd tale that happened to one of, if not the most, logical and intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’m also writing it because I know it would annoy him to no end, and with him being dead for nearly a decade there is nothing he can do to stop it.
My dear friend Sherlock Holmes swore me to secrecy because he feared everything he believed, his science, his logic, his world, would come undone with the recitation of this story. I hope that by the time of this stories release, a hundred years after the death of our apprentice Jared, science will be able to explain what happened to us during that fateful adventure. Finally, I hope that he doesn’t spin his his grave at my breaking the faith with him this one time.
I Never Noticed.
A high pitched scream broke through the heavy pre-dawn darkness and I bolted upright with a start. With a heaviness in my chest I tossed my housecoat over my bedclothes and ignoring the lights darted for the stairs. Cursing the suddenly constricting laces on the upper half of my robe I stumbled down the darkened stairs, tripping over my own feet, as though I didn’t go up and down a half dozen times a day. I stopped in the doorway of the dining room, winded and breathing heavy, as a tall (exceedingly tall) and thin woman stared at me with a mixture of shock, amazement, and baffled anger.
“Watson,” said the woman “We seem to have a serious problem.” The woman gestured toward me, her hand waving to encompass everything about me. Confused I looked down at myself and felt my own jaw drop in confusion.
“Well, that explains why this damn housecoat doesn’t fit right,” I said quietly as the world went black.
“Holmes,” I heard myself saying in a much higher voice than I was used to “Tell me, when I open my eyes, I won't have figured that would be the envy of the women of Whitechapel.”
I heard Holmes sigh as he relied. “I don’t think you will be the envy of any of those women Watson. Now, stop being dramatic we seem to have a serious issue on our hands.”
“Holmes. We are women.” I knew well I was stating the obvious, but I strongly felt it needed to be stated aloud. The absurdity of it, the ridiculousness of the entire situation had to be state bare if we, or at least I , was going to attempt to make any sense of it. Knowing Sherlock’s normal response to such statements I braced for the response and yet, nothing came.
“Correct Watson. We appear to have been transformed into women sometime last night while we slept.” As he spoke he paced the room, as was his normal habit.The cuffs of his pants gathered around his ankles and with every step threatened to swallow his feet. He appeared nearly a head shorter than he had been 12 hours previously, and while his form seemed to have been rounded out to some extent he was still one of the thinnest gauntest women I’d seen in my life. He walked with his pipe poking between his lips, looking for all the world like a stretched out child wearing his father's clothes.
When I finally found my own nerve and dared look down at myself I must admit it was the single most disconcerting disconnects I have ever felt. To look down at your body and have certain expectations and then realize that each and every expectation is wrong leads to a level confusion I didn’t realize was possible. It did explain however, my tripping over my own feet trying to make it down the stairs, and my shortness of breath at the bottom.
“Watson I have two hypotheses that I will propose to you. One, in the last 24 hours we must have come into contact with a person or item with abilities that neither you nor I possess. This object had the effect on us that we are dealing with presently. Two, something we have both either ingested or inhaled is causing vivid hallucinations that we are experiencing. Through the power of suggestion we have picked up on the others hallucination and are now experiencing the same thing.” Holmes stopped his pacing and stared at me continuing, “normally, I wouldn’t be consulting your on this, but I must admit the situation has me at my limit and I would care for your reading of the situation. Plus, given you are a doctor, hallucinations and those items that cause such are well inside your purview as well as my own.
Holmes continued to talk about side effects, or the lack thereof. He mentioned my astonishment at seeing him downstairs in the sitting room before he could say a word to me. I tried to follow. I tried to focus on the last day and find any common thread or strange happening that could have occurred that we could look into. Part of my wished for some sort of accidental drug ingestion, but lack of other symptoms lead me to believe otherwise.
“Do you have an idea on what we should do about it Sherlock? We can’t exactly leave the house like this, we would be shipped off to Bedlam before we could blink.” I asked staring out the window. I had never noticed the color differences in the awnings across the street. ‘Strange,’ I thought to myself as I tried to remember if I had seen workers in the street in the past few days. Eventually Sherlock noticed my lack of response because moments later I was rapt on the head with the bowl end of a pipe.
“Have you found an item of more interest than our current situation out there?” Sherlock asked annoyed. Even after living with him for so long, I had never seen him in the state of agitation he was in. ‘Strange,’ I thought to myself again as I pointed to the awnings across the road.
“Do you remember anyone changing the awnings in the last few days. They aren’t the same color. If the haven’t been changed I’d never noticed they weren’t the same blue.” I said as Sherlock rolled his eyes.
“Of course they are the same blue.” He said without bothering to look.
I pointed again, insisting that he look. Finally, he glared out the window and froze. He stood stock still with the same look of amazement and near fear crossing his face that I had seen the night before. “I,” he stammered, “I,” I stood as I saw his hand go to grip the window frame. “I never noticed that.” He whispered as he crumpled into a heap of jagged bony limbs on the floor.
We agreed at that point to stay in the house for the rest of the day. Like a flu we hoped would pass with the night, we hoped whatever was afflicting us would be gone by morning.
We were wrong.
“Holmes, I believe female hysteria is greatly over reported,” I said as I took my customary seat near the fire.
Smiling slightly he simply replied, “Focus Watson. I have been thinking and the only conclusion I can come to is that it is time for us to seek outside help. I believe there is an old client in town that may have some answers we are looking for.” I’m sure he could read the surprise and confusion on my face. I could think of no client to that point would would been able to help us with this. “Perhaps it would be better stated if I said, an old target, is back in town.” He continues as he began to layer on number of long coats. He motioned for me to do the same, as we previously agreed the fewer people who knew about our affliction the better.
We dashed for a cab that he had called for by note earlier in the morning and it wasn’t until we were steadily underway that he continued with his idea.
“I have reason to believe Mrs. Irene Adler has returned to London having somehow recently lost her second husband.” he continued now and then flinching at some sound.
“Somehow?” I asked, watching London roll by in it’s perfectly normal grey rhythm. I couldn’t understand what was shrilling in my ears.
“Yes, she put out a post in the agonies yesterday. Apparently he disappeared from the train station while she waited for him and is now presumed missing.” Holmes spoke calmly though he still flinched at an unusual high pitched squeaking. “Would you stop with the whistle Watson!” He eventual snapped, glaring at me in the dark of the cab. I tried to hide my smile as I showed him both my empty hands.
“It must be the damn cab driver with the whistle. Tell me, you don’t hear that shrieking sound?” Holmes asked.
I nodded that I heard it, I just figured it was something to do with the cab. I explained how a girl I had courted once detested cabs for that very reason. “Apparently, it’s fairly common.” I finished.
Holmes blinked, looking around the cab dazedly. “I’ve never heard it before,” he said confusedly. He stared down at the floor for the remainder of the journey.
We arrived at the new home of Irene Adler and were shown into a lavishly decorated sitting room. In contrast with the delicate laces and light colors sat Sherlock and I in our heavy coats and scarves around our faces. I can say with some certainty we likely looked like villains from some horrible dime store novel.
It didn’t take long before Irene walked in, smiling her maid behind her with tea. “Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Watson, how wonderful you could join me this afternoon. You are more than welcome to remove your coats. It’ll be much more comfortable to discuss everything if I can see your faces.” She said cheerfully as her maid put the tea tray on the table and left, closing the door behind her. Irene waved her hands at us, like a mother admonishing her child to hurry on some task, and leaned back into her chair with a cup of tea.
Sherlock and I removed our layers of of coats and cloaks and various other pieces of clothing that we layered to conceal ourselves. Irene sat, for all the world just as enthralled as she would have been had she been at the opera. Eventually, Holmes and I are down to our normal clothing and before either of us can say anything, she beings to laugh. Peals of laughter, as we both feel our faces flooding with color.
“I’m sorry,” she managed to say between outbursts, “I’m sorry for laughing, but when he told me about this I didn’t honestly believe it would work. Oh, goodness, please, please sit. Here have some tea. I’m sure you have both been having the most miserable time and I know laughing at your misfortune seems unbearably callous, but you must admit there is a certain absurdity to this whole situation.”
Sherlock and I sat, trying to sink back into the couch.
“Excuse my outburst. I truly am sorry for that.” Irene said sedately. “I know who did this, and I know that he knows how to undo it. I’m not sure why he was so desperate to try this little experiment on you Mr., Mrs. um, Sherlock, but he believed that you would be the best subject to try it on. I’m sure when we go see him, he will explain it.”
“That is all well and good, but could you please explain why you needed us to come and see you. How have you managed to lose another husband?” Sherlock said shortly, tea sitting untouched on the table.
Irene nodded, “He went to find a porter to help with our luggage, and a cab to bring us home. I waited for nearly an hour, three days ago, for him to return and he never did. When I asked around only one person believed they saw him. He said that the man that was believed to be my husband was grabbed and pulled into a the back of a wagon.”
“You want us to find out what happened to him.” Sherlock stated.
“In a manner of speaking yes. I want to make sure that wherever he went he will not be returning from. It is much easier to lose a husband in the wilds of India to a man-eating tiger called Kali and her monstrous offspring than to lose one in London. Or rather, to lose one well enough that he doesn’t reappear,” she continued sipping her tea. She smiled sweetly at Holmes as I sat, staring at her aghast.
“You want us to kill him?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“Of course not,” she replied. “I just want you to make sure that he won’t be showing up here any time soon. I just redecorated and I would have to have to deal with redoing it.” Irene leaned forward and placed her cup on the table.
Sherlock stared at her for a moment, shaking his head. “It would be a great deal easier to investigate if I were in my proper shape.”
“I’m sorry my dear, I can not introduce you until this evening at least, and for my own peace of mind, I have no intention on taking you there until you have answered my little question. I would be happy to outfit you if are in need, though a skirt in the proper length for you will be difficult to find.” As she said this she clapped her hand and her maid rushed in, quickly diverting her eyes from the two women on the couch in scandalous clothing. The maid scurried out after her hurried conversation.
Irene chatted about the weather, India, her travels on the continent. Holmes and I sat, myself in a state of shock, Holmes from what I could see in a state of barely contained anger. I remember him saying on a number of occasions that emotion was grit, like sand in the well-oiled machine of his mind. All I could think was at this point the machine must not be running well at all.
After what felt like an eternity, though the clock showed only an hour had gone by, the maid returned with a few packages. Irene excused herself and Holmes and I were left to figure out the newly purchased clothing.
I cannot do justice to the difficulty we had with everything that needed to be put on. Irene returned twice to find that we had dressed ourselves incorrectly and needed to try again. I heard Holmes muttering under his breath about the impossibility of women's clothing, cursing its impracticality and the complete lack of practicality. I agreed with him wholeheartedly.
Properly clothed, Irene lead us to her personal carriage and we set off on what became one of the more ridiculous investigations we partook of. I will skip the particulars, as this story has plenty of absurdity without going into another, but a quick summary should prove enlightening.
I am unsure if I will ever be able to properly explain that case or the day that surrounded it. However, Sherlock managed to find out the the once Mr. Irene Adler was now deceased, having died in a gambling fight, stabbed. Irene blotting her tears with her handkerchief nodded and motioned for us to follow her once again.
“Thank you for helping me with that,” Irene said her voice thick with emotion “I said I would take you to the man who could undo this and so I shall.”
We climbed exhaustedly into her carriage. She said a name to the driver that neither Holmes nor I heard properly and away we went.
“The man is a doctor, much like yourself John,” she explained. “And much like yourself he has found other ways of spending his time outside of his medical practice. He is deeply interested in the mystical and the unseen, where it appears you’ve gravitated toward the completely logical. In fact, he doesn’t live far from you, though for all his searching he was unable to figure out exactly where you lived. That is why he asked for my help. After our last little meeting, I knew precisely what door was yours and was able to carry out the little process needed for his experiment.”
“Does this doctor have a name? Or shall I just call him the doctor when we arrive.” Sherlock asked acidly. It seemed throughout the day he became more like his old self, quick witted and sardonic and I was unsure whether this was a continuation of that or just exhaustion and annoyance at being so near to his restoration. As for myself, I was simply too tired to be of much use to anyone at the moment, and certainly not a doctor bent on understanding some experiment.
“Oh, yes.” Irene said as we pulled up to the house and climbed out of the carriage. “His name is Arthur Conan Doyle. No I’m sorry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he was knighted only a few years ago and I, having not been in London, am still getting used to that.” She lead them up to the door, and pulling the bell smiled at us while we waited.
As Sherlock and I walked into the house I was struck by the heaviness of the air. It was humid as summer inside the house, as though we’d walked into a greenhouse. A voice called down the stairs, inviting us up, and Sherlock and I followed after Irene.
“Welcome, welcome, please come in and sit down,” said heavy set man waving us into his sitting room. I saw Sherlock glanced around taking in every piece of furniture, every oddity on the shelves and tables. I wish I could say my eyes made it even part way around the room, however I was taken in immediately by what seemed to be a small dinosaur scampering around the room. “Are you interested in my baby Tyrannosaurus Dr. Watson? As quickly as they grow, I’m afraid she will not be around for long, but you are welcome to come and examine her at any time.” He extended a hand to shake and I took it gladly.
“I can tell by your eyes that you are all exhausted, and hardly surprising since it seems to be closer to sunrise than sunset. I’m sure you gentlemen have questions, and I would be happy to answer them at another time, however the one I’m sure you’d like the answer to is how to change this. It’s quite simple really. On your door frame, leading into your home you will find white chalk marks on white paint. You should be able to see them and erase them without difficulty. That being done, you should revert to your normal selves within a few hours.” Doyle said quickly and I nodded and made to stand up. Sherlock waved for me to sit down again.
“I do have one other question I would like answered before we leave. Why us? You could have tested this on any other person in the city, in fact unless I’m much mistaken you already have tested this. Why find us specifically for this treatment? What is it you wanted to prove?” Sherlock asked.
Doyle smiled. “I have tested this, you are quite correct. I’m sure you’ve heard about a few cases of it, given your predilection for unusual cases,” Doyle said nodding to Sherlock, “It was not a lack of test subjects, but a lack of anyone willing to speak to me about the results. I needed men of a scientific nature who could remember and analyze what happened to them. I am intensely curious, well about a great many things, but most recently about the difference in nature between men and women. By doing an experiment such as this, one which most scientist would say is completely impossible, I am able to examine those issues much more directly. Please understand, it was not my intention to cause you any sort of difficulty, that was entirely Mrs. Adler. I simply wanted understand the world, and the people in it better. I just do it though more unconventional means than you Mr. Holmes.”
I once again saw Sherlock nod and begrudgingly accept the reasoning. “I didn’t notice the chalk on the door when we left this morning. How strange.” Sherlock said as he stood up again and reached a hand out to Doyle. The two shook, and Sherlock and I left the room. We left the house to find Doyle’s personal coach waiting to take us back to Baker St. Sherlock and I, after wiping down the door frame with water from the washing basin, staggered upstair and promptly fell asleep in our clothes.
When we both awoke the next morning, in need of shaves, and unable to breath in our constricting dresses, we made quick eye contact. “Say nothing of this,” Holmes said to me as he unlaced the back of my.
I nodded vigorously as I unlaced Holmes from his dress.
I know he went and spoke to Doyle on a number of occasions. I went a few times to study his tyrannosaurus while she was there, and whatever other oddities he had imported from other areas of the world. I know that those days were never acknowledge again between the two of us.