The Philosophy of the Empty Castle
By John Pirillo
"Mister Holmes," the Proctor said quite sternly. "I assure you with my uttermost belief that deduction is not enough to solve all problems."
Sherlock, swept his long hair from his eyes, his craggy face, youthful with a dry sort of enthusiasm, paced back and forth in front of a mesmerized classroom of sixth graders, who hadn't the slightest clue what was going on between him and the Proctor, whose name was Thomas Headley, a man about town who had settled down with a wife and four sons near to his father's town home.
He and Thomas Junior, a friend he had made through his father's visits to Mister Headley, often times spent hours at the dale nearby, examining the tiny lake with its flourish of small gray birds that landed on the logs that stuck up here and there, and called to each other in small bursts of language that both claimed to understand, but neither could admit they hadn't a clue.
Thomas Junior sat in the back of the classroom hiding his eyes with the palm of his hands, hoping no one would think he was friends with this young man challenging his father. His father shredded more young minds than any other Proctor in the school, even the son of his best friends.
"Indeed, I think you do believe that, Proctor, but I have another theory."
Sherlock paused for effect. It was something he had learned from watching Shakespeare, at that time a meager few years above his teens, as he performed in the Globe Theater, a beautiful establishment his father and his friends took them to for entertainment when they went into the city of London.
Breathing steadily, Sherlock went to the blackboard, where he picked up a piece of chalk and wrote the number one.
"Number One. If you cannot analyze the substance of a problem you seek to solve, then you miss the foundation of reason, which is based on that which is provable."
"But my dear Holmes." The Proctor said, a crafty look on his face.
He took a chalk and made his own number one. "Number One. Then how do you prove the improvable?"
"Number Two." Sherlock went on, as if nothing had altered a single thought on his mind at that time. "That which can be broken down into pieces, can therefore later on be pieced back together to come up with a greater amount...which is the whole picture."
"Number Two." The Proctor chalked on the board, his face filled with delight at the challenge this young sixth grader was providing him. He took a quick peek at the back of the class and saw his son hiding behind his hands. He almost laughed, but went on to say. "Number Two, the sum of the pieces does not always add up to the whole."
"Number Three." Sherlock added immediately. "Correct, they often times equal something greater than the whole, which gives the larger picture, and thereby makes the deduction no longer a shot at something perhaps dimly seen, but resolutely picture clear."
The Proctor stood stock still.
The class froze.
They were waiting for his characteristic explosion of anger for being talked back to.
Instead, he relaxed, put his chalk down on his desktop, then gave Sherlock a half bow. He signaled his son. "Come Thomas, I think it is time for me to retire and we to take a long vacation."
And he did so.
Sherlock may have triumphed in the classroom, but he broke his heart at the same time, for he would never be as close to another young man again, until later in his life when he room mated with a temptuous young medic named John Watson.
"Father." He asked at the dinner table that night as his father stoked his pipe with a fragrant tobacco from the India Isles.
"Is it true that all men have the same gift at birth, but some despoil it with lack of toil and earnest development?"
His father lit his pipe, which was a meerschaum pipe, then took several quick puffs. He rolled his eyes thoughtfully, his vision fixed on a point only he could see. "It is the fate of both great and small men, that many do not use what God has gifted them, Sherlock."
Sherlock dabbed at his mouth with his napkin, then pulled back from the dining table. He normally would have waited for his mother to leave first, but she was off in Chelsea with some friends, preparing to go to the Opera there. His father despised Opera, so she never attempted to suade him to go, knowing already what the outcome would be. A dismal night for both.
"Excuse me, father, but may I borrow the use of your library this evening?"
"You have finished your studies?"
"Before I left the school grounds."
His father's eyebrows raised. "I didn't realize you had such time."
"I don't. The work they give me is quite elementary. I can pretty much deduce the answer to any question they arrow in my direction."
His father's eyebrows rose further. "Even history?"
"Father." Sherlock said with a sardonic smile. "Everyone knows history repeats itself, and that no one learns from it."
"You may use my library."
Sherlock turned to leave their humble dining room, as Mrs. Molly Dandridge came in with a plate filled with scones and tea.
"No desert, young Sherlock?"
Sherlock put a hand on her arm and gave her a smile. "I would be most happy to sample your splendid gourmet gift before I retire for the evening."
She smiled and patted his hand. "I'll see to it."
He exited the room and laid the plate on the table, placing several scones on a small plate before Thomas and a cup of tea to his left. "That young man never fails to surprise me."
"Nor I, Mrs. Dandridge. Nor I."
Sherlock entered his father's den, and looked to the small library on the left. Two walls filled with shelves of ancient literature, mythology, poetry and more importantly scientific journals. But as he browed them, the one thing he saw that he hadn't before, perhaps because his interest was less elevated, was a small book titled " The Philosophy of the Empty Castle."
He took the aged tome from its place on the right shelf, and pulled a leather bound chair next to the bay window that overlooked their small garden of flowers. He eyed it a moment, admiring the grace and sweep of the small pond his father had personally designed, and the perfect symmetry of the stars, which formed a perfect pentagon about it.
That was when he realized that the book also had a pentagram on it.
He immediately began shifting pages rapidly. He never had to spend much time reading. He had trained himself at the age of three to rapid read with perfect retention. He never forgot anything. Not a thing.
His eidetic memory was flawless. As the sun was spoiled by sprays of gray clouds shifting through the sky to cover it up for the night, he had finished reading the book.
He closed his eyes.
He imagined a tiny path before him, with bright flowers to the left and right. The path ran into a forest with fresh green trees. Tall Spruce and Juniper Trees and Evergreens, which were completely out of place in London, but which he loved for their beauty. He stepped onto the path and began walking into the forest. The path narrowed, but he didn't lose it. He followed it over a rise of earth that had a tunnel with swift water babbling beneath it, the along a shorter path strewn with aging wood and large mushrooms.
Finally, he pushed his way through cobwebs of some extent draping a passage of trees, and emerged before an ancient castle. He could tell right away that it was empty. He approached it and as he did, the huge drawbridge ramp swung down noisily, making way for him. He entered the castle and rather than be frightened by the grotesque shadows and obscure pieces of artwork that resembled fairy tale monsters, he went deeper into the courtyard until he saw a fountain of pure water arcing into the air.
He sat beside it and closed his eyes again.
This time he allowed his mind to synchronize with the flow of the water and as he did he had this most peculiar vision.
He saw his father and Thomas walking through a field of pockmarked land, with great bursts of light exploding about them. They leaned on each other, as if with a great weight, but continued. When they reached half way, they became consumed by a huge explosion of light and vanished.
He was so shocked by the explosion that he was startled into falling from his chair. It was so loud when he landed on the floor, that his father came into the room, alarmed and fearful for his son's life. He looked around, but seeing no threat, immediately gathered Sherlock up into his arms and lifted him as gently as a baby.
Sherlock had lost consciousness.
His father sat with him for seven straight days. His mother didn't know about the accident. His father feared making her afraid, and had asked her to stay longer in the city with her relatives, which she had seen as his own needs to be more alone and had agreed to, as she seldom had that much freedom to wander about without his somewhat stern hand upon her actions.
Sherlock wandered through a maze of visions in his mind, stirred up from time to time by a voice that would shatter his visions and say, "Remember the Philosophy of the Empty Castle."
He would ask. "But there is no philosophy."
The voice would vanish and Sherlock would be lost in more visions and fantasies.
His father, meanwhile, lost much weight in his fear for Sherlock's life. His mother, her intuition much stronger than her husband realized, plunged back into the small town they lived in and found out what had happened. They had a horrible fight, but it all ended when Sherlock's eyes fluttered open and he sat up in his bed, smiling at Ms. Dandridge, his father and mother, who were still fighting.
"I have solved the mystery."
Everyone watched him, as if stunned by his sudden words. But what stunned them was that he looked no worse for his contusion and his face was alive with color and health. He rose from his bed and hugged his father and mother. "Thank you both."
He did the same with Mrs. Dandridge. "I could really enjoy one of those scones now."
She hugged him back and to his delight had a whole plate of them on a small lap table near the bed with a cloth over them. "I've baked them fresh for you every day."
That day Sherlock had solved his own question about deduction. "The Philosophy of the Empty Castle." To understand what you do not, you must empty your mind of all preconceptions and open it to the greater wonders of the universe. And so began a new chapter in the young life of Sherlock Holmes. For one of his visions at that time of his father and friend had come to pass in his later years. Both were sent off to war and both died in an explosion.
He had also seen something wonderful though. He had seen himself smoking his father's pipe and seated at a fire with a splendidly sharp young man with a bristly mustache and sharp eyes. Even though his vision did not give him any names or dates at that time, he knew he had something special to look forward to in the years ahead.