"Seriously, you are not digging up a grave, Sherlock," said John. "I draw the line. We aren't going there." Even in the middle of the day Highgate Cemetery was creepy place, but on a moonless night at 3 am it was downright oppressively disturbing.
"Oh come," said Sherlock, waving his torch at the vine encrusted stonework and slanted stones buried in fall colour. "You aren't superstitious now."
"I'm not objecting because I'm superstitious. I'm objecting because it's illegal." He turned around and waved his torch back the way they came. It's light seemed dim and feeble, and served less to illuminate than to create disturbing shadows. Why, oh, why did they make angels with such dead expressions? Those blank faces and unseeing eyes looked rather more disdainful and forbidding when lit from beneath.
"Well," said Sherlock stopping in front of a grave topped with a slanted celtic cross, "You'll be happy to note that I'm not digging up a grave. I'm digging around a grave." He put his torch in his mouth and pulled out a GPS and the notes he was following. He then paced three strides out until he reached an area of bare soil. "Here we are."
As he tapped the ground with his foot, the tree behind him suddenly erupted in noise. John ducked instinctively thinking it was a massive invasion of bats. All around them dark shapes fluttered. John felt something cold and slimy touch his face. He batted it way with both hands, slapping himself quite thoroughly in the process. "Gah!"
The noise died down. When John dared open his eyes, Sherlock was pulling one of the black things from his shoulder. "They are just leaves. Apparently we've disturbed a family of badgers."
John felt a little foolish, but it brought home that they were very much where they shouldn't be. "If you are hellbent on doing this, please get on with it, Sherlock," he whispered. "I already have one ASBO. And as a doctor, it looks particularly bad for me to get caught like this."
"As a –" Sherlock levelled a strange look, "Why should digging around graves look particularly bad for doctors?"
"Never mind. Be quick."
Sherlock pulled off his rucksack and fished out a folding shovel. "It won't be deep." He jabbed the ground a few times. The noise seemed to echo back off the vaults. John crouched scanning for any sign of a night watchman.
"Here," said Sherlock some ten minutes later, pulling up a wooden box. He brushed dirt off of it then placed it in the rucksack. "All your fears are for nothing. We weren't caught."
"Then let's go," said John. His torch fluttered. The light dimmed. A dark shape slid around the bottom of a nearby angel. A small cat, or maybe a very large rat. It was difficult to tell.
"Ready," said Sherlock and he strode out of the graveyard with no fear whatsoever.
It took the better part of half an hour to flag down a late night cabbie to bring them to Barts. Sherlock let them into the lab using his own key. Hall outside was dimly lit and eerily quiet. John found the silence curiously heavy.
Sherlock studied the box. Donning a pair of surgical gloves he sifted through the musty contents. Inside was a small sack of rotted cheesecloth, and within that a mostly disintegrated piece of paper, some chips of wood and clods of clay, small scraps of decayed flesh and an assortment of delicate bones. John almost dismissed the last as being animal bones, they were so tiny, but then he did a double take. "Are those--?"
"Foetus bones, yes, twenty, twenty-two weeks. From the crystal formation in the cartilage it's been dead for five weeks."
"The Tesh murder," John said, nodding. "You think it was hers." That fit with the case. The body of Mrs. Amanda Tesh had been found five weeks prior left in a skip behind the Drury Lane Moat House. Five months pregnant at the time of her death, her abdomen had been opened and organs removed. An incorrectly drawn veve and several apparently made-up symbols had been painted on her skin with her blood. The case had thoroughly spooked the public and still made the news nearly nightly in one guise or another.
"What happened to the skull and the rest of the bones?"
"Used in other rituals, I'm sure," said Sherlock, he took some of the dirt from the tiny coffin. "Hmm. Modelling clay. Teenagers. Amateur Satanists." He took out his phone and began texting. "Lestrade should question the Laurence boy. Examine his room thoroughly with a particular eye towards loose floorboards either in the walk in wardrobe or under the bed. I'll wager his people will find the hidden compartment under something rather heavy. A box of books, or perhaps lifting weights. The rest of the bones will be there. Perhaps the murder weapon as well."
"The Laurence boy? But why would such a promising lad commit such a brutal murder!" John was aghast. "He's top of his class! He's from money! He's popular! I've met him, he was quite charming and articulate. What possible reason would he have for brutally murdering a woman he barely knew and who certainly had never wronged him?"
Sherlock looked somewhat disdainfully at him. "Entitlement. Boredom. Rebellion. The lure of being able to defy natural law with supernatural help. All the usual reasons rich teens do god-awful things. He didn't care about the woman – she was simply the help. Replaced within a day, I imagine."
"Did you tell Lestrade about the box?" John asked. He looked at the thing. It was creepy and smelled peculiarly foul. The sight of it reminded him of the bloody corpse of the woman. As murders had gone, it had been a particularly gruesome one, in part because of excessive number of cuts made in removing the foetus.
"No need, he'll find plenty enough evidence in the boy's room." Sherlock stood up and for the first time gave John a glance. "You are exhausted and pale. Let's go home."
John was exhausted, but for some reason sleep seemed to elude him. He'd never noticed how creaky the flat was. The boards seemed to pop and groan at odd times. The pipes let out odd moans and aches. John stared at the ceiling and for some reason the pattern of light through the warped glass of his window reminded him of the hash marks left on Mrs. Tesh's belly.
He tossed, holding his eyes closed. Downstairs Sherlock was pacing up a storm. His footsteps were rhythmic, like a dance, like the steady beat of drum. The stair outside his room let out an unexpected squeak.
John grabbed the pillow and pulled it over his head, trying to muffle out the sounds, but then it seemed that he could feel vibrations, sifting up through the bed. The springs were thrumming. Everything was just so subtly shifting, swaying, back and forth.
The stairs outside creaked again, this time it was Sherlock, climbing up to his room. Doubtless coming to bother him about some trivial thing that could very well have waited for morning.
The door eased open. John refused to open his eyes. Footsteps again, one, two, closer to his bedside. Go away he thought. I've barely gotten to sleep.
There was a pinch of a needle invading his flesh of his neck. The sting was sharp and then a sensation of cold seeping through his veins. John's heart suddenly raced and he tried to pull away, but it was too late. Whatever paralytic he'd been injected with was already working. He couldn't move a muscle.
With great effort he opened his eyes. He saw nothing but the mattress beneath him. It was the only voluntary movement he was capable of. Nothing he did would move his lips or arms. He was locked into his own flesh. Helpless.
Stop it! he tried to scream. This is not right!
Sherlock hadn't turned on the light, it was still dim in the room, though it was clearly twilight and growing close to dawn. Sherlock, turned him over onto his back then stood over him a silhouette of black against the slightly greyer ceiling. John pleaded with his eyes.
He watched as Sherlock took the tangled bedding and pulled it down to John's knees. With slow, deliberate movements he pulled John's pyjama shirt up to his chest, then tugged the bottoms down an inch or two to leave his belly open and exposed.
What are you doing? John tried to ask, but the drug was insidious. The most he could manage was a inarticulate hiss.
Sherlock leaned over to the side and seemed to rummage with something outside of John's view. A moment later he brought up a lump about the size of John's fist. It was dark and strangely shaped, like some misshapen egg.
"You're awake," Sherlock said in strange low tones. "It doesn't matter."
Stop it, Sherlock. Whatever you are doing, stop it. Stop it.
Sherlock placed the object against John's skin. It felt cold and smooth and slightly oily. He wanted to push it off, but nothing moved. He couldn't shift it at all.
"They call this a Spirit Child," said Sherlock. "It's a kind of golem made from bone of a foetus and hallowed dirt from the ground in which it was buried. It's just an unoccupied vessel at the moment." Sherlock knelt again. "Ah here." When he stood back up he held a vaccutainer. "We of course will need some blood from the host to tie the spirit to the vessel. It's not unlike conception that way. A bit from here, a bit from there, combined they make something completely new."
With the efficiency of a phlebotomist, Sherlock wrapped tubing tight around John's upper arm, then tapped the vein to the surface. The needle stung and the vial attached steadily filled. "Six ounces will do, I'm sure. It's a small child."
It was light enough to see Sherlock's face. John blinked his betrayal desperately at him. I thought you were my friend. Don't use me this way.
"You wonder why I, a man of science, would stoop to superstition. Consider: the afterlife is the one area that my deductive reasoning can't touch. To have a way to see beyond the physical world into the spiritual one I'd need a conduit. Beyond the sheer joy of having an entirely new area open to scientific inquiry and exploration, there is the practical matter of solving crime so much faster. Corpses already tell me so much, but imagine how much more I'd learn if I could actually communicate with their departed spirits!"
But you are already so good at that, you've no need…
"This child will be a spiritual seeing eye dog for me. You understand I have to try."
Sherlock took the final vial and removed the needle, pressing down on the site for a minute to staunch any blood flow. He then carefully opened the seals of the vials allowing the blood to drip onto the disgusting bundle on John's belly. John waited for the blood to overflow and drip down his sides, but it didn't happen, no matter how much Sherlock poured.
It seemed to John that the clay statuette grew warmer the more blood Sherlock fed it. By two vials most of the chill was off, by four it was room temperature, by six it felt feverish.
John fought the paralytic again. He had to move, had to do something to stop what was coming.
"Shhh," said Sherlock. "You'll be fine." And with one hard shove, he pushed the statuette. John grunted in pain, then felt as if something popped within him. An oozy, nauseating warmth spread across his skin, then deeper through the layers of fat and muscle. It seemed to coil about his intestines before solidifying into a hard coal-like lump.
John screamed. His voice sounded thin and hissy. He screamed again. And again. And finally the paralytic seemed to leave him and he let out a yell of pain and horror that rang throughout the flat.
"You are alright," Sherlock said. "Wake up. You are here!" Sherlock's hand roughly shoved John's shoulder.
John sat up, then scrambled away, down the bed and to the door. "Stay away from me!"
"You are still asleep, John. Calm down."
"Stay away. Why did you do that to me?"
"I'm trying to wake you up, you seem to be suffering from a hypnopomic hallucination."
John grabbed at the shirt of his pyjamas and pulled it up to stare at his stomach. There was no sign of blood or dirt, but there seemed to him to be a faint lingering pinkness in the shape of a large egg. He shuddered.
"Get it out of me!" He scratched at the skin, trying to dig into where he still felt that lump. "Oh god, please Sherlock, get it out of me."
“What are you talking about?" Sherlock asked. He threw his arms out and shifted on his feet as if trying to decide whether to tackle John to protect him from himself, or stay away so as not to provoke him further. "What do you think I put in you?"
John stopped scratching. Suddenly he didn't have the words for it. Nothing he could think of made sense. "Nothing. I guess it was sleep paralysis." He looked at his belly again. It was red with welts from his nails. "I'm sorry. I had a nightmare. I've never had a nightmare like that before. But it was absurd. Just a dream."
Sherlock relaxed. "Well, of course it was a dream. Good to see you rational again."
"Late night in graveyards. I guess that was my limit."
"I'll endeavour to leave you behind next time the need arises."
"I'll leave myself behind, thank you." He shuddered. "Just the same, I want that foetus out of our flat." He looked around his room half expecting to see the wooden box and it's revolting contents. "It gives me the willies."
"More than corpse heads in the fridge? You pick the oddest things to fear." Sherlock sounded positively disdainful. "In any case, done. After you went to sleep last night I took the box back to Barts and stored it there. I don't have the equipment here to do any further analysis, unlikely as that might be needed."
"Have you slept at all then?" John asked.
"Not yet. I was considering it when you began screaming. And now that you are awake, I'll consider it again."
John went to work at the surgery, feeling shaky. His stomach hurt and not just from the scratches. There was a kind of sick heaviness to it that was worse when he walked too fast. He paused between patients and bent over his desk, holding himself propped with his arms.
"You look awful," said Sarah, ducking her head in. "Pull another all-nighter with Sherlock?"
"Something like that," said John. "Actually, no, it's not that. I think I might be coming down with some intestinal something. Perhaps it would be best if I knocked off."
Sarah looked guarded. "Convenient. But all right. Can't have the patients getting the norovirus or whatever it is." She gave his arm a pat. "Off you go, get some sleep."
John nodded. It didn't feel like norovirus (he'd had that, it was far more miserable), but it did seem that some sort of viral gastroenteritis had it's ugly RNA in him. He definitely felt crampy and ill. He put his hand on his belly and nausea suddenly spiked. He barely made it to the toilet before releasing his stomach into the bowl. Sweating, he straightened up. He felt better.
Actually it did make sense. If he were coming down with the stomach flu, his highly symbolic sleeping mind could have interpreted the symptoms as being signs of pregnancy. Add that to the late night grave crawling, the foetus bones, and the horrific murder and he'd had all the ingredients for a first class nightmare. Relieved he gave Sarah a wave and headed back home to sleep it off.
Sherlock seemed attentive for a change. Solving a case always put him in a good mood. He seemed only a bit annoyed that John was too ill to celebrate with him.
Instead he made a kind of grassy tasting tea. "Chamomile," he said. "It's purported to be mildly medicinal for stomach upsets, but scientific data doesn't clearly support it. Still, it is fluids, and those are supposed to be helpful."
John nodded. He vaguely remembered having drinking it before, but that had been sweetened with honey. "It's lovely," he said and put it down at his bedside. He curled up and tried to sleep more.
"I've brought you some toast," said Sherlock later. "It's good for binding one up."
John accepted the dry, rather dark toast with a smile. After a bite, it joined the cold tea to the side. Diarrhoea didn't seem to be a problem anyway. His guts felt full and bloated. Gas was probably to blame. He'd probably feel better tomorrow.
But the next day he felt worse. He'd tried sodium bismuth and simethicone, but neither seemed to do a thing. He obsessively pressed his belly searching for blockages or infections, but found neither. The only outward symptom at all was that his belly had rounded out, which simply confirmed the presence of an abundance of gas. He refused to consider any other possibility.
Psychosomatic pregnancy was such an undignified mental illness. Especially in a man.
Nonetheless, he still searched for signs that anything from the dream were real. It had seemed real. He could still recall every minute of it. Horrible as it was to think that Sherlock would do such a thing, the real reason he didn't believe it was not the cruelty or coldness, but that he couldn't imagine Sherlock doing anything so inherently unscientific.
Besides, Sherlock was being entirely supportive, spending hours by his side trying to distract him from his misery with one thing or another. He even helped John down the stairs so that he could sit on the couch and watch telly.
"I wish you'd tell me what was wrong," Sherlock said. "You keep shying away from me. Do you still remember that dream? What did I do to you that was so frightening?"
John hadn't realised he was flinching. "I'm sorry. It was rediculous.”
"And I betrayed you somehow? Did I hurt you?"
"Crazier than that," said John. "You knocked me up with some voodoo statue. Called it a Spirit Child. Said it would allow you to communicate with the dead." He laughed. Saying it out load did make is seem a lot less real. Utter rubbish.
Sherlock's eyes seemed to narrow. "Ah. That would be impossible. On many levels."
"I know," John said. "I'm being irrational. I'm simply sick. God my belly feels like I've swallowed a melon. I feel huge.”
“You look completely normal to me," said Sherlock.
John frowned. He looked down – his belly was swollen, obviously so to his own eyes. Gas. Fluid retention possibly. He rubbed his hand over it and felt how tight the skin was. "Well, not pregnancy big, but I'm a bit bigger. It's normal. I'm just a bit swollen from this virus."
"No, John, you aren't," said Sherlock. He pushed up John's shirt. "Here." He pressed a hand against the taut flesh. "Utterly normal. Can't you see? You are a bit guarded -- I can feel you're tensing, but there's nothing to suggest that you are any bigger."
"I'm not crazy," John repeated. "I'm just sick."
"You don't have a fever." Sherlock stood up. "Could you be hallucinating still?"
John shook his head. "I'm awake, why would I be hallucinating?”
"I can think of a number of alkaloids that can cause this reaction." Sherlock stood up and walked away. A moment later he returned with a length of rubber tube, a swab and a large vaccutainer. "Roll up your sleeve. I'll need a sample."
John pushed away, finding his feet. He backed towards the door. "Where did you get that?" It was exactly like his dream.
Sherlock looked down at the phlebotomy equipment. "These? They came from my room. And before that they came from Bart's. Surely you recognise this, there's nothing to be alarmed at."
"Why would you have it?”
"To collect my blood, of course," said Sherlock. "It's the easiest source of haemoglobin, invaluable to many experiments. You're being paranoid, John. I need to test you for psychoactive substances." His eyes pleaded. "Please, be reasonable. Would you rather I took you to Barts and had it done by the emergency room?"
John slowly shook his head. "You have experience?"
"I've taken my own blood an average of three times a month for years. If anything it should be easier to take yours, being that I'll have use of both my hands."
It seemed so reasonable, and Sherlock's expression was so calm and sensible. John gave in. What if he were hallucinating this all up. It was crazy after all. He could see his belly pushing out like a round ball, could feel the skin stretched to its limit. But maybe that was just in his head.
"Okay," he said.
Sherlock ushered him to the couch and quickly drew the blood samples he needed. When he was done, he had six vials in his hand. John shuddered at the similarity between that and his dream. "So much?" he asked.
"There are many, many hallucinogens out there, John." He placed the vials into a black pouch. "Now I'm off to Barts. Promise you won't leave the flat. With you not in your right mind, you could end up anywhere. You'd be horribly vulnerable."
John nodded. That was reasonable, too. "I won't leave."
He watched telly until he fell asleep. He woke hours later to the evening news and the feeling like his belly was going to explode. The pain was vicious. He couldn't bear to bend at all. His arms and legs seemed oddly skinny, as if the very substance of his body were being drawn away from them to his middle. He was terribly thirsty, but it took almost his entire strength to wander to the sink. Making tea was out of the question. He settled for drinking glass after glass out of the tap.
Water helped. It helped a great deal. He drank until he sloshed, feeling the pain backing off to something more in the bearable region. He wished for the first time since moving in that he had a little oxycontin stashed away. With Sherlock's history of drug use, it was inadvisable to keep anything stronger than paracetamol. That he took, twice the normal dosage.
Exhausted from this minor labor he staggered back to the couch. His pyjama shirt was stretched tightly over his middle now. Peeling it up with trepidation, he saw his belly had grown full like that of a child with protein malnutrition. The skin was crossed with wide angry striea radiating out from his navel.
Fear punched him in the gut.
Nothing he knew would cause this. Something was very wrong. He needed to dress and get himself to Bart's right away. With effort he stood and dragged himself up the stairs, pausing half way up to breathe. When he got to his room he found clothes and began the awkward and cumbersome process of dressing. His arms stretched over his swollen middle. He had to pull on his socks using his fingertips.
He was forcing a jumper to stretch far beyond what naturally was willing to give when the door to his room flew open. "What are you doing?" Sherlock demanded.
"I need to get to Bart's." He paused. "When did you get back?"
"Just now. You weren't in the sitting room. You can't leave the flat. You promised. Did you forget?"
"God, Sherlock," John waved at his body. "Don't tell me you can't see this."
"See what? I can see plainly that you are strung out on something. Your pupils are enormous. Your skin is sallow and sweaty."
"My belly Sherlock." He grabbed Sherlock's hand and pressed it. "This is not an optical illusion. Look how far out it's sticking. Feel how hard it is! This is not normal. This is highly, highly abnormal. I need a doctor, not someone holding my hand. I need scans. There's something wrong with my insides. I need to get it out!"
"You need to come down off a very bad trip, John."
"I demand you take me to Bart's. We need to get an MRI. We have to see what's in me – it's growing Sherlock. It's growing so fast."
"Your belly is totally flat." Sherlock rubbed his hand over John's abdomen and John thought he saw a peculiarly fascinated look on his face. "What you need is to stay here and be monitored. I don't want your reputation to be hit by this. I know you didn't take this drug recreationally, but bureaucrats are often blind to other alternatives. It could effect your employment." He lifted his hand away. "Whatever it is in your system will burn itself out soon. You can't stay high indefinitely."
"Whatever's in my system?" John asked, stepping back. "Didn't you do the blood tests? What did they say?"
"They're with Molly. I felt it was too dangerous to leave you here alone for any longer. We should know by morning, but hopefully by then it won't matter anymore."
He smiled. It was only a flash of one, but it sent chills down John's spine. There was nothing at all amusing about the situation. The creepy sensation continued as the inevitable thought came to mind: He knows! He's the one who drugged me!
"Stay back," said John. He edged around Sherlock to the door. "I'm calling myself an ambulance. I want a second opinion." His phone was downstairs by the telly.
"I'm not your enemy, John." Sherlock positioned himself in the way.
"Then let me by!" John's legs were like rubber. It was like every ounce of his energy were draining into the parasite growing in him. A golem made of foetal bones and graveyard dirt. Inside him. Disgusting. Dirty. Wrong.
"You'll fall down the stairs in your state!" said Sherlock. "Go to your bed and lie down. I'll take care of it."
Just then, the thing inside moved. John let out a cry of horror and grabbed his middle, yanking his clothes up to see his flesh ripple as something long and sinuous undulated beneath it. "Oh Christ, Sherlock, get it OUT!" John screamed. "Get it out! Get it out!"
Sherlock stared fascinated for far too long a moment. "You need to lie down."
"I need it out!" John shouted. The thing squirmed and pressed. His skin itched and hurt as something hard and angular moved. His liver hurt. He could feel organs that normally he shouldn't as they were pressed and pounded. "It's kicking me. Oh god, it's going to burst me apart!"
"Calm down!" Sherlock said, grabbing his shoulders. "It's in your head. It's not real."
John remembered his old army med kit. It was under his desk. There was a scalpel in there. It was insane to contemplate doing surgery on himself, but the situation was desperate. He could do it. He longed to do it.
"Let me go," he said to Sherlock. "I'm going to cut it out of myself. It can't stay in any longer or it will kill me."
The creature, the golem, writhed again and John was overwhelmed with the urge to vomit and claw the thing out with his bare hands.
"No, you aren't cutting it out of yourself!" said Sherlock alarmed. His grip tightened and he began to wrestle John to the bed. John fought back, punching and grabbing Sherlock's hair. That only led to being twisted around and tripped to the ground. Pain from the impact of the floor against his belly made the world go momentarily white.
When he came to again, Sherlock had dragged him onto his mattress and was using the top sheet to tie his wrists to the headboard.
"Stop it, Sherlock!" John cried. "Let me go!"
"You aren't in your right mind," Sherlock said. "You are going to hurt yourself. I can't let that happen."
"Oh, God," John said. The child within him moved restlessly. He yanked his hand, but the sheet seemed solidly knotted. Sherlock separately tied the other wrist, so that his arms were spread wide above his head. John's attempts to fight back were hampered by his own weakness and the distraction of pain and pressure. "Oh God," he moaned, then continued like a litany: "Oh, God, oh, God, make it stop. Make it stop."
"Damn Lestrade for preventing me from keeping drugs in the flat, or I'd give you a valium," Sherlock said while scrounging a second sheet to tie John's ankles. "The best I can do is put you in four points until the crisis is over."
"You put this goddamn thing in me," John screamed. "You can take it out. Use whatever magic you did before. Do it."
"You are out of your mind," said Sherlock. "Nothing is coming out of you. You'll simply have to wait this out." He stood back, near the door, as if he were afraid to come closer.
Wait it out – impossible. This thing couldn't be sustained. He could feel it growing, pressing in on all his organs. His lungs felt squashed up in his chest. He couldn't get a full breath in. "Why, Sherlock? Why? What did I ever do to deserve this?"
"Nothing at all. You don't deserve this. No one does."
"Then help me." He panted shallowly. "I don't think I can take much more. I can't do this, my body isn't built for it." Who knew how the foetus was attached. Was there a womb? Did it float free in the greater sac of his abdomen? Or had it implanted in his organs like an ectopic pregnancy?
Sherlock simply shook his head. "There's nothing for me to do."
They waited, while it seemed to John he just grew huger. He couldn't see his feet past the rise of his belly. It was simply impossible for this to be all in his head. It was too consistent, to constant. At times when John looked over, he noticed Sherlock had an odd smile on his face, as if he found the whole thing interesting and satisfying. When he noticed John's attention he quickly changed his expression to concern.
John felt a seizure grip his middle, everything tightened painfully. Oh god, labor. He couldn't go through labor. He'd seen women wracked by contractions for hours, days, until they became too exhausted to cry and only medical intervention prevented death. John hadn't a canal to birth this child. No matter how his body pushed and squeezed, nothing would come of it. He'd be stuck in agony until someone cut the thing out.
John pulled desperately at his restraints. He had to get free. Sherlock seemed prepared to move, but held back when he realised that they weren't about to give.
"There's a knife in my kit," John said. "Cut it out of me. If ever you were my friend, please cut it out."
Sherlock's eyes seemed to glow with an odd intensity. "No, if childbirth is to happen it will be natural."
John stared. Sherlock had all but admitted that he knew. He'd been lying, making John believe that he was hallucinating. And now he was trapped here, forced to go through with this horrendous experiment while Sherlock watched with what? Excitement? Avarice? He wasn't even bothering to act concerned anymore. He was too fascinated with the process he'd started.
"I can't give birth, it's impossible."
"No more impossible than impregnation in the first place."
"It will kill me," John said. "I'm dying."
A contraction grabbed him again and took his breath with it. The world stayed suspended.
"Six minutes," said Sherlock.
"You did this to me," John shouted the accusation again. "You did all of it! From the very beginning it was you. You killed the woman and framed that boy. You buried the box and dug it up later. Those symbols – you claimed they were nonsense, they weren't! They were real. I've seen the books on voodoo and cabala and Gnostic magics. You claimed they were research. But not into the murder. Into this. Making this thing. Making me make this thing. This abomination!"
He fought. The sheet burned his wrists as he twisted them. And then he was seized again by another contraction. The intensity of pain drove out his thoughts.
"Five minutes," said Sherlock. "It won't be long. Not much more to suffer through."
Something inside of John broke. He was falling apart. His organs were being wrecked, intestines torn, kidneys shattered. This was slow death. And then again, everything went away in a clean sheet of pain.
"Three minutes that time. They are closer together."
John screamed. He screamed until he ran out of breath then did it again. Then he went quiet with the next contraction. His lungs too tight to do anything at all.
Sherlock turned around. "I'll be right back. I need to prepare for the birth." He left the door open behind him. John heard his feet pounding down the stairs.
John struggled harder. Ignoring all discomfort he managed to yank his left wrist free. The sheet immediately loosened. Gripping his painful belly he sat up and began working on the knots at his feet. One freed, he managed to kick the sheet loose from the footboard. He then moved quickly, who knew how little time he had left.
He collapsed off the bed and crawled to his med kit. As he pulled it out he happened to look back under his bed and noticed a vial rolled all the way to the footboards nearly lost amid the dust. Sherlock hadn't completely cleaned up after himself after all. There was the evidence. This was real.
He opened the kit with shaking hands. There was no time for prep. He'd be wracked by another contraction any second and then he'd be helpless to the pain until it passed. By that time Sherlock might be back.
Yanking up his shirt and jumper, he drew the blade across the taut expanse of his belly just bellow the jutting navel. Leaning back against the side of the desk, he pressed in, parting skin and fat and muscle in one clean swipe, eight inches long from side to side. Blood sheeted out of him. His hand shook too hard now to hold the blade and it fell, hitting the wood floor with a small click.
He was bleeding fast. His legs drenched already, but he pulled the two sides of the incision apart just as another contraction took him. He felt something start to emerge. Adrenaline kept him conscious long enough to reach inside his own body and close his fist around something slimy and hard and wrong.
He yanked the thing and pulled it out of him. A long boneless limb fell with a thwap against his thigh. Using both hands, he reached into himself grabbed and pulled and jerked, feeling something large push its way past his flesh. The torso, followed by other limbs, and finally a tiny, undersized head rolled out.
The anatomy was all wrong – out of proportion. The face was ghastly, squinched. It's fingers were fused, it's genitalia missing entirely. The skin was thick like leather and he saw it had seams. This wasn't a baby, it was a corpse pulled together like Frankenstein's monster, stitched roughly of mismatched parts, a grotesque mockery of a human that would never take a breath.
It was dead, motionless. A stillbirth.
Sherlock entered the room at that moment and stared at him and the disgusting thing he'd birthed and the blood seeping out across the floor.
"The baby died," said John accusatorially, his voice thick, his tongue slow. "It's dead."
"Of course, it's dead," Sherlock said with a sad smile. "It's been dead for five weeks."
John passed out.
He woke to a hospital room. He looked around blearily and saw the IV, the monitors, the florescent lights. God, not a dream. Real? Or hallucination? He didn't know.
"Hey there, little brother," came a soft voice. Harry leaned forward in her chair and reached for his hand. She looked sober in every way. She smiled with a tenderness he seldom saw in her. "Glad you are back. You almost left us for good, there."
John looked from her to the wrist of the hand she held. There was a ring of gauze where he remembered he'd rubbed his skin raw against the sheet. Cautiously, trepidatiously, he pulled the heavy warmed blankets down his body. Beneath the gown his abdomen was covered in a thick layer of gauze, stained with a line of browning blood.
He'd cut himself open. That hadn't been hallucination.
"How bad," he asked. His voice was thick and sore. He'd screamed himself hoarse without realising it.
"You got real lucky, it seems. You missed nicking your intestines, though not for lack of trying. It was a deep cut. They cleaned you out and stitched you up, but they'll have to monitor for infection. If the paramedics hadn't been right there, you'd have probably bled out."
"Paramedics?" John frowned.
"Sherlock said you'd gone into some sort of full on hallucinogenic fit. He'd tied you down to prevent you from hurting yourself, but you managed to get free during the moments he left the room to let the paramedics in. From the sound of it, you were completely off you head. Accusing him of murder and performing magical rites on you or something. Screaming and yelling. He said you tried to pull out your own guts."
John shuddered. He looked for signs of the pregnancy, but saw nothing other than the wreckage he'd caused himself. The stretch marks were gone, his belly, what he could see of it, was obviously flat.
"I tried to give myself a caesarian," he said, and let out a little laugh. "I was completely off my rocker, wasn't I?"
"Utterly mad." Harry tightened her hand on John's. "The doctors are wondering if you might be suicidal."
"Of course not," said John. "It was some drug – I don't even know how it got in me."
"Because, you know, that was an awfully serious attempt."
John nodded his head. It had been. Terribly serious.
"And they are thinking perhaps you might want to check yourself in for a while. Into the mental health side, once you've been released from here. It won't be for a few days though, you have to heal first. They think maybe you might need some medication. I'm supposed to encourage you to say yes."
Could this be insanity? John shook his head. "It was a drug. I'm sure of it. Now that it's out of me, I'm sure I'll be all right."
The door opened and Sherlock poked his head in. "Is it all right?" He asked.
John felt a thrill of fear. He did this to me. Nonsense, his reason spoke up. It was all just a hallucination.
"Sure. Come on in."
Sherlock entered, a bit shyly. "You don't still fear that I'm some necromancer out to get you."
"Of course not," John replied. "That was the drugs speaking. And the season perhaps. It's nearly Halloween."
Sherlock looked received. "That's good." He had his rucksack on. He set it on the floor and walked over to the bedside. "Very good. I hated seeing you like that. I tried to talk you down, but it was impossible. I just wish that you'd trusted me a bit more."
"I wish I had, too." John laughed a little, not a happy laugh, but one that let off a little stress. "I should have gone with natural childbirth after all."
"If you had," said Sherlock, "We'd be laughing over tea at home right now, instead of you in here contemplating a stint in a mental institution."
John's smile dropped. He didn't like Sherlock feeding in to his delusion. He wanted to put it behind him as soon as possible. Deny it any lingering reality. "I doubt I'd be laughing. Did you find the drug that did it?"
"Not yet. Whatever it was must be rare." He hesitated. "It's possible that it wasn't a drug at all."
"You mean, I might have had a real breakdown."
Sherlock looked away at Harry. "Possibly. The onset was suspiciously quick for that, though. If you'd gone psychotic, I'm pretty sure I would have noticed symptoms before it reached a crisis state. More likely that it was brought on by one of the rarer hallucinogens."
John felt a bit better. "The worst of it was, I couldn't tell. It was so damn real. It wasn't like a dream. I felt everything, I saw everything. Even now I can't honestly tell what happened from what didn't, what was reality and what was delusion."
"Perhaps it would be best then to think of other things, like maybe the case," said Sherlock. He reached back and lifted his rucksack. It bulged a bit. John dearly hoped there wasn't something morbid inside. "Mr. Tesh was grateful for our assistance. He gave us a memento as a thank you. His wife made this for her baby, before fate stepped in. I thought maybe it might give you a little comfort."
He pulled a brown object from the sack. It was made of soft leather, hand stitched. It's long arms and legs were floppy, hands mere rounded balls. The small head was squinched up in a smile. "I believe it's meant to be a troll, but it could be a monkey."
"It's cute," remarked Harry. "Looks a bit like John doesn't it."
"Yes, I thought so too," Sherlock remarked.
"It looks nothing like me," John said. Horror had made his voice break and it came out gravelly and stuttering. "It's hideous! Don't say it looks like me!"
It had been washed, but John could see the blood still grouted to the stitching. The disfigured face seemed to leer. It was too thin, too long, too wrong. The child!
"Get it away," said John turning his head away. "Throw it away. Burn it."
"What is wrong?" asked Sherlock.
"Get it away. Please. Just get it away."
"I'll get the doctor," Harry said. He heard her footsteps racing out the door.
"It's away," said Sherlock. "You don't have to see it again."
John cautiously opened his eyes. He thought he saw a little humour in Sherlock's expression but then it changed back to worry. "You scared your sister."
"I'm sorry – it's just it looked like – it look like."
"The child. The spirit child."
Sherlock lifted the rucksack with its hideous, awful burden inside. "Perhaps you should stay a bit in the hospital."
John nodded. Suddenly the idea of being away from Sherlock seemed pretty good.
"I'll visit, of course," Sherlock continued. "And your sister and maybe even Mycroft will come by. You know, I know the two of you don't get along, but Harry really does care about you."
"I know, I – didn't mean to –"
"For all the trouble they give us, it would be a lonely world without siblings. I've always felt sorry for only children."
John's voice was gone.
Sherlock caressed the side of his rucksack tenderly. "I think everyone should have a sibling." He smiled at John and winked. "Don't you?"