A Visit With Sherlock Holmes

I was challenged by a friend with this prompt:

You walk into 221 B Baker Street. You see Sherlock Holmes intent upon something fizzing in his test tubes. Your quest is to obtain his autograph and bring it back to the present. He barely acknowledges your presence. “Not now, not now!”

What do you say? What do you do?

Here is my response. I hope you enjoy it.


Ignoring Holmes’s admonition, I maneuvered my way to the opposite side of his workbench and stooped slightly, just enough that my gaze passed through the bubbling test tubes and into the master sleuth’s eyes. The effervescing, multicolored liquids hissed in the space between us.

“Bubbles,” I said. 

He blinked but remained determined to ignore me.

“Bubbles,” I repeated. “Fascinating things, bubbles. Yes, indeed. Maybe even more than fascinating. Maybe more than meets the eye, or can even been seen by the eye.”

The detective, possibly more annoyed than intrigued, blinked again, this time meeting my eyes in the space above the tubes. Neither of us could ignore the tiny, popping elements of fizz forming a fine, cloudy mist.

I didn’t give him time to call me a daft git. “Think of it,” I said. “Think of how man is stuck in the middle between the impossibly small and the impossibly large. The earth, other planets, our sun, our universe, and all that lies beyond. We have no capability to grasp what that size implies. Those bubbles, the particles of liquid that form their walls, particles within those particles, and who knows what else, even smaller, exists farther and farther down into the infinitesimally small?”

Holmes touched his jaw and turned his eyes upward in thought. I had him interested. I didn’t dare let up.

“What if each of those bubbles is a universe unto itself,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t laugh me out of his office. “I mean, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Follow the clues. Use your intellect. Draw conclusions. Think of this, sir. Suppose there is a tiny mote of dust captured within each of those bubbles. Suppose further that it’s not a mote of dust, but rather a world, a solar system, a galaxy, or even a universe. Surely, the seemingly impossible becomes possible when you remove the restrictions of human perception.”

The detective looked as though he wanted to say something, but he held his tongue, obviously cueing me to continue my outrageous hypothesis.

I didn’t let him down. 

“Now let us consider the concept of time. What is time? As humans, we are bound to it, live within its constraints, and are slaves to its inexorable march. But what if time is different for our tiny friends living in the bubbles issuing forth from these test tubes? What if a second for us is billions of years to them? Before you answer that, deduce that if vision is limited by who and what we are, humans, and scale determines that limit, then who is to say that the limits of vision, and other perceptions, for our tiny bubble denizens is limited by the very nature of their being? How can we say and be sure?”

He finally spoke. “So, strange visitor, what you are saying is that these are entire worlds, nay, universes, springing into existence, potentially supporting billions of generations of life, and dying into oblivion by the thousands each and every second these solutions bubble away under the heat of my flame?”

“I’m not saying that at all,” I replied. “What I am saying is that logic and deduction lead us to the mere possibility. And possibility is everything.”

“Do tell,” Holmes said.

“My point of all of this, sir,” I continued, “is that nothing should be deemed impossible, or even improbable, in the light of reasonable, scientific thought. Not even things that seem so unlikely that only a fool would consider the possibility of them coming into the realm of perceptible reality.”

“Such as?” 

“Such as you, master detective, signing your name on the title page of this book by a certain Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” 

With that, I took the book from within my cloak, opened it to the title page, and presented Holmes with my rollerball pen. He looked at it for a few seconds before realizing it was a writing implement. He bent to the table to sign the book. Suddenly, he stopped, shocked at what he saw printed on the page.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles – Another Adventure of Sherlock Holmes”

He looked up at me. “How is this?”

Raising my eyebrows in a shared knowing moment, I replied with my own question. “How could it not be?”

He thought for a moment, but only a moment, before signing my book.

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