By J.H. Watson
(~ 2,000 words)
John Watson stood alone on the edge of a tor gazing across the bleak, isolated sweep of Dartmoor. Dark clouds roiled overhead as a chill wind nipped his ears. The binoculars dangling from their strap weighed heavily upon John’s neck and occasionally thumped against his chest like a hanged man on a gibbet. John glanced briefly at the map in his hand and then again at the panorama before him, trying to orient himself in this empty land.
John looked up to see his best friend and partner, Sherlock Holmes, standing atop a rocky prominence soaring above. Sherlock stood in a typical Sherlock pose, stylish black tweed coat flaring about him, making him look taller, hipper, cooler than other people without looking like an obvious plea for attention. His arm jutted straight out commandingly pointed toward the distance. There was no one but John around to see this dapper act of dominance. It both exasperated and pleased John.
One the one hand, Sherlock’s attempt to place himself in a literal ascendency above, putting John in the subordinate position, was annoying. On the other hand, the fact that Sherlock felt the need to put on this civilized equivalent of beating his chest, even without other spectators, showed he recognized John as another alpha male Sherlock wanted to impress.
John smile ever so slightly to himself at his analysis. All those Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy sessions had not been entirely wasted.
John peered through his binoculars, consult the map, and replied, “It’s Moriarty. That’s an ancient name for the devil.”
Suddenly John was aware that he was not holding binoculars but a black mobile phone. From it came Sherlock’s voice, in a sepulcher whisper, saying, “Good-bye, John.”
John looked up as Sherlock spread his arms and took a step forward into the air. John yelled, “Sherlock!” and took his own step — into the Grimpen Mire. He struggled to pull himself out of clinging morass. He felt the cold, clammy, deadly grip of the bog as he struggled in the sucking muck, never taking his eyes off his friend plunging towards the black rocks below.
John stretched himself out across the ground, grasped a spindly thorn bush and heaved with all his strength. There was a stab of pain as he dislocated his left shoulder, but he was free from the mire. He stood up, and as he stood cradling his damaged arm against his body for support, he discovered he was no longer in civvies, but in his combat gear and there was blood spreading across his chest.
John took three steps towards his falling friend and as Sherlock hit the solid black ground, John heard a click beneath his boot and froze. A glance down confirmed that he’d stepped on a land mine. A slight reduction in pressure would detonate it, blowing him into a red rain that would soon be absorbed by the surrounding peat.
He looked at Sherlock lying on his back, still, pale eyes open to the sky, the haze of death already spreading across the corneas. John looked down once more, then at his friend where blood flowed from Sherlock’s head and streamed down the rocks, red on black, like a macabre parody of the black coat’s red button hole.
And lifted his boot —
He bolted awake, momentarily disoriented, his breath shallow and fast, matching the beating of his heart. A sheen of evaporating sweat cooled his face. John took several deep gulps of air, letting them out through his nose, but making a small mewing noise. Then he recognized where he was and lay back in his bed, draping his arm across his face to block the light, or possibly the tears leaking from the corners of his eyes.
Despite the fact that there was no one else there, John still felt ashamed at the tears. He’d thought he was past the tears.