Copper Beaches

Mind Palace

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”
― Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

The Mind Palace is his sanctuary, his home from home, his safe haven; the one place where he is in control of everything. That is good, because he hates not being in control. Not being in control equals chaos and that is to be avoided under any circumstances.

There is room for everything and everyone he classifies as relevant in his life. John has once made fun of him because he calls it “palace” and not “bungalow”. But contra to the opinion of his best friend, it is not a palace because his ego demands it to be, but because filing away all the facts that he deems necessary for his work needs space. The information of the cases he has solved alone takes up an entire wing.

And it is a constant work in progress; a work that he enjoys. Being the architect of his mind is one of the most satisfying occupations for him. And his structure is not only helpful for his profession as a consulting detective, but it is also important for his salvation. No matter what the world throws at him, as long as he can come back to his Mind Palace, everything will turn out all right in the end. And that is why his current situation is so... confusing... so... daunting. Yes, the doctors have told him that mixing up minor details and periods of confusion or light-headedness were to be expected after a head trauma, but he has thought he would be past that stage now.

Since his head trauma, it seemed like not only the world around him did not make sense anymore, but his Mind Palace did not either. It is true what he said to Molly and John in the hospital that he does not miss any rooms, but some rooms have swapped places, there are dead ends where there have not been any before and rooms suddenly don’t have windows anymore or information is stored somewhere else. He gets lost on a regular basis. He has never been lost in there before. It is his Mind Palace. It should be impossible for him to get lost there.

Not only the locations of some rooms have swapped places (without his conscious doing), but the rooms themselves have changed. That itself is not out of the ordinary, because rooms get bigger or change their colour or furniture, depending on new gathered information. For instance, John’s room has undergone a dramatic change from the first time they have met until today. It has grown from a cabinet in the basement (someone to help pay the rent and learn to tolerate) to a cosy, wide sitting room on the first floor.

But what bothers him is the unusual amount of change Molly Hooper’s room has undergone. He cannot pinpoint how, when and why. It feels... wrong. Not the room per se. He likes Molly’s room, but it feels wrong that he does not remember redecorating it. He cannot recall how the change has happened and what exactly has changed. It has moved onto the same floor as John’s room (he remembers that happening about the same time as the fall), but it has become the biggest room in the whole palace, and he does not have the slightest clue when and how that has happened. Sure, she is his fiancée, thus it was only logical that her room would be the biggest, but... There is this nagging thought that the change of the room is the key to something crucial and important. But what that something is, is an impenetrably mystery to him. He is desperate to solve that mystery. So he goes through the corridors of his mind, from room to room in search of the clue that will tell him what is going on; why his Mind Palace seems to have developed a life of its own.

He starts in the duplicate of the lab of St Bart’s – reasoning that this is where his acquaintance with Molly has begun - but does not find anything. He goes on to the morgue, but ends up in Greg’s room. Obviously the morgue has swapped places with another room as well. Also the labelling of Greg’s room seems wrong. He is sure it has been named differently at some point.

He goes on in search for the morgue and after opening the next door, he stops dead in his tracks. He is in another room that has not been there before. It takes him a moment to recognize it, and when he does, he asks himself why that room exists in the first place.

He is standing in a room at the Yard, to be precise: In the room behind the one-way mirror next to the interrogation room. He sees familiar features out of the corners of his eyes and turns to look through the mirror. At once he knows which scene from his past he is witnessing and understands why his mind has created that room: He sees Molly giving her statement at the Yard after her abduction. He can see her lips moving, but he cannot hear what she is saying. Someone is sitting across the table from her, but the figure is blurred, so Sherlock can only guess it is probably Greg Lestrade. He has not stored that bit of information.

He stands there for a moment and looks at her. Her face is pale, her left eye and cheek are bruised and her eyes are red-rimmed. She looks like a frightened animal, small and vulnerable. He feels angry, protective of her and helpless. He wants to go into the interrogation room to comfort her, to give her strength, but he can’t. He realizes with horror that the room he is standing in has no doors anymore. He can’t go to her. Why not? He is not of any help for her in here. She does not even know that he is there. He wants her to know that he is here. That he has not left her, that she is not alone. His eyes and hands search for a door, an exit, a window, anything to get to her, on every wall. But still nothing. He is surrounded by three black concrete walls. He turns to look at her again. And suddenly she lifts her head and stares right at him through the mirror. He knows she cannot see him, but somehow he is sure that she knows that he is there. She gives him a faint smile and then his surroundings begin to blur.

He finds himself in the wing where his cases are stored – the solved cases. He wonders why his mind has brought him here. This is not where he will find the solution to the mystery of Molly’s room. But obviously his mind is playing tricks on him again.

He walks down the corridor lined with wooden doors. He glances at some doors in passing. He recognizes all of them, knows what’s behind The Sussex Vampire or The Devil’s Foot. He pauses a moment as he notes that John seems to have an even greater influence on him than he has thought so far, because the way his mind has labelled the cases sound a lot like his best friend would title them on his blog – way too sensational. At least the rooms in this part of his Mind Palace are still where they belong.

Sherlock quickens his pace. Why is he here? He gets faster, because he feels like time is running out. He knows he comes closer to the room. The one room he has not opened for some time now. The room he hopes will remain locked forever. But why is he running towards this room?

He stops. He is standing in front of the door. He knows the round padded cell that lies behind it all too well. He knows the smell, the way the panelling feels when he touches it, the coldness of the concrete floor. He knows its inhabitant; the good old-fashioned villain.

And all of a sudden there is another door next to it. Sherlock cannot remember that he has seen it before. It has not existed the last time he has been here. He knows that this is the room he has to get into. Now. Before it’s too late.

With urgent desperation he pushes the door open. He does not remember designing this room, but the moment he steps inside he knows exactly what memory is stored there. One that he will never forget: The day he rescued Molly Hooper.

He had been stupid. So stupid. The solution has been right under his nose the whole time – she has been. She has been held within a stone’s throw from 221B – too close to even consider this possibility. He wants to slap himself in hindsight for his myopia. When finally the penny drops he calls John and Greg, but only when he is already in front of the door. He knows the abductor wants him. This is personal. The man is already waiting for him and asking him what has taken the consulting detective so long. The man is tall and has a bandage over his nose. Sherlock remains calm and detached on the outside, but inside he is raging. He does not only want to kill the man who has taken her, he wants to torture him, make him suffer – as long as possible, in the cruellest way possible. That is why he has called the police – for self-preservation.

The captor is not dull, but he is too self-opinionated. He has not expected that Sherlock would call the Yard. Bad luck for him, because he is killed by a bullet.

The moment the man falls lifeless onto the floor, Sherlock storms through the door to the adjoining room where he has deduced Molly is held hostage. He hears John and the police enter the room behind him, but he does not pay attention. All that is on his mind is the well-being of the woman that huddles in the corner of the room.

When she hears someone enter, she looks up with a startled expression, her eyes wide with fear, but also with a bitter determination. She refuses to let her kidnapper break her. The left side of her face is swollen, her clothes are dirty – the bright cherry jumper doesn’t look bright anymore. But the moment she recognizes him, her face lights up.

She gets up – steadying herself with one hand against the wall while doing so – and takes a step towards him.

Without thinking, he closes the distance between them. With a few long strides he is in front of her and wraps her in his arms. He feels her go rigid for a second, before her small arms go around his torso under his coat. He presses her face close to his chest, for a moment not thinking that doing so might hurt her bruised cheek. But if so, she does not show it.

He closes his eyes and lets the feelings wash over him: anxiety, joy, nervousness, confusion, exhaustion, something he does not dare to name and most of all relief.

He feels his shirt become wet where her face touches it, and he realizes she must be crying. He gently touches her shoulders which makes her lift her head. Tears are streaming down her face.
“You found me,” she says as if she has doubted he would be looking for her.

“Of course,” he says, trying to convey that he would have gone to the ends of the earth to find her.
She gives him a faint smile and wipes her face with the back of her hand while she takes a step away from him, and he feels cold without her touch.

He looks closer at her: Her clothes are rumpled, her hair is greasy and her eyes puffy. But it does not matter. What matters is that he has her back and that she is safe now.
“You broke his nose,” he says with a hint of amusement in his voice, meaning her abductor.
“I defended myself.”
He is so proud of her.

Again he studies the bruises on her face and feels rage bubbling up inside him. If the police had not been there he would have... He has thought about not calling them, about dealing with the man that has taken her himself. But he has decided against it. His judgement has been clouded by emotions. His judgement is clouded by emotions. An uneasiness takes hold of him. He turns around towards the men behind him and barks, “Doctor Hooper is in shock. Get her a blanket!”
John gives him a funny look that he does not dare to interpret.

He turns his attention back to Molly who looks shy all of a sudden and bites her lip.
He wants to reach out to her, but something keeps him from doing so. He feels ... embarrassed.

Before he can decide how to proceed, a paramedic is at their side and lays a blanket over Molly’s shoulder. It is so big that it looks like she is drowning in it. She folds it around herself and that is when he sees it: The fourth finger on her left hand is empty. There is no engagement ring. His ring. Her ring. The band that tells the world that she is his.

His vision becomes blurry again. He tries to look at her face once more, but the image of Molly disappears. She slowly fades away. He reaches for her hand, but grabs into nothingness. His breathing becomes laboured and his chest feels tight. Why is there no ring on her finger? He knows that they have already been engaged when she was taken hostage. He knows it for a fact. His heart races.

He needs to find it. He needs to find the room. The room where the memory of him proposing is stored. It must be somewhere near Molly’s room. Somewhere between his and hers.

He runs down the staircase that leads to the wing where Molly’s room is. But he cannot find it. There is only an endless corridor, but there are no doors. He spins around. His head hurts, a pounding headache.

He hurries into the other direction. Nothing. Where is he? He is lost. He wants to scream. He opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. He feels hot and cold and sweat on his forehead. His head feels empty – just like Billy’s. Why is he thinking of Billy now? Because of Molly. But where is she? Where is her room? The memory of him proposing – he must find it. He needs assurance that it has happened, that he is not losing his mind. He needs proof. All he needs now is this memory, just this one.

With a sharp intake of breath he flashes back to reality and finds himself face to face with his fiancée, who is holding his face in both of her hands and stares at him wide-eyed. He instantly searches her fourth finger for the engagement ring, and when he finds it on its rightful place, his heart instantly grows lighter despite the darkness of his thoughts. She will be able to provide the proof he needs and bring some light into the darkness, for she would never forget how he proposed to her. She would have remembered for both of them.
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