*Read description first or you’ll be confused*
Sherlock Holmes walked into the little science lab and put the stem of his pipe between his lips.
“Confound all this infernal rain,” he mumbled sullenly as he held a lighted match to the bowl of the pipe. He blew a thick cloud of musty smoke and the young university student in the corner coughed a little and looked up.
“I didn’t know you smoked, Sir,” he said pleasantly.
“What’s it to you?” Holmes retorted bitterly.
The young man flinched slightly and turned back to his work. “Nothing, Sir,” he said with a faint shrug.
Holmes glared and moved over to his half-finished experiment, taking his pale, chemical-stained hands out of his pockets and beginning to work.
“So what was it like then?” asked the student after a moment of silence.
“What was what like?” he replied without looking up.
“The Battle of the Somme. You were there, right? Mr. Albert said you were. Today’s the 18th of November, you know.”
Holmes looked up sharply but his expression did not change. “Yes, I was there,” he said slowly, his keen eyes narrowing.
“What was it like?” the young man asked eagerly.
Holmes looked back at his experiment. “You don’t what to know.”
“But I do, Sir.”
Holmes looked up again. His deep set eyes were like fire and his thin lips were pressed tight together. He opened his mouth, and then closed it again. Bitterness, despair, hatred, oh the overwhelming hatred – fear so strong it makes you quiver, death and shouting all around you, cold and hot at the same time, cold with terror but hot with anger. Loud, oh so loud even when there is no sound, you can still hear the guns cracking in your ears, the explosions, the cries from your comrades – it’s louder when you can’t actually hear it, for you become numb in the middle of the actual battle. And then those days and hours of silence, waiting for the next attack, not knowing if your friends and family are alive or dead – waiting, hour after hour, in that loud silence. Then you fight again. Body aching, mind going wild, confusion, panic, adrenaline coursing through your every limb – then at last, triumph, triumph! The Nazi’s are dead, dead all around you, blood, bodies, blank faces and hollow eyes. Pain, pain all over, all around you and in you, in your body, your mind, your heart, your soul - and you feel worse than you did in the heat of the battle.
All this passed through Holmes’ mind in a matter of seconds. He said not a word, but his eyes that seemed so much older than their owner spoke volumes. The university student quivered faintly and turned back to his experiment. Half a moment later Holmes did the same. His fingers worked like thin, spidery machines, steady and quick, but his mind was not on his employment. Visions of the many battles he’d fought in flashed before him, making his head ache. At last he looked up, giving way to his inability to concentrate.
“I lost someone,” he said hoarsely, to no one in particular, for the young student had left nearly an hour ago. “I lost someone I… loved… in that damnable war…”
He closed his chemistry book with a bang and walked out into the heavy rain. His pipe went out and he threw it shattering upon the stone.