Apparatus Sum res Cogitans, Ergo Sum

Apparatus Sum res Cogitans, Ergo Sum

by Patrick S. Baker

“. . . and that is how I know that Mrs. Cotswaddle is the Jowerton jewel thief,” Sherlock Holmes declared.

Dr. John Watson looked up from his notes, shook his head and said: “Holmes that cannot be correct. Mrs. Cotswaddle was at her garden club meeting the whole afternoon when the Star of Sarawak went missing.”

“What?” Holmes said. “I do not see how I could be wrong about such an elementary matter?”

“Indeed,” Watson stood. “Here, study my notes of the whole affair. I have just recalled an important, er, medical matter on which I have been asked to, er, consult.”

The good doctor handed the consulting detective a sheaf of papers and left the room.

Through the window open onto Baker Street Holmes heard Watson sending a message to another doctor. Holmes did not catch the name. One of the dozen young boys who loitered about 221B Baker Street in hopes of earning sixpence for running messages for the famous detective said: “Roit, guv’ner” and scurried off.

Watson dallied outside from some minutes before returning to Holmes’s drawing room.

“What was that about, Watson?” Holmes asked.

“As I said, a, er, medical matter of some importance.”

“I know since your service in Afghanistan as a surgeon,” Holmes said. “You have been much in demand in treating the wounded veterans of the Empire’s wars. But don’t you think you should go see the patient yourself to give any sound advice?”

“Hmm, quite right,” Watson nodded and then looked nervously at the door as if expecting someone.

“I say, Watson,” Holmes pushed on. “What is this about? You are acting most odd.”

“Well . . .” the doctor’s explanation was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Watson practically leapt to open the door. A tall, portly, florid, prosperously dressed middle-aged man with full moustache shook hands with Watson as he entered the room.

“Sherlock Holmes,” Watson said. “Meet Dr. Arthur Conan-Doyle, a, er, medical colleague of mine.”

Holmes and the newcomer shook hands. Holmes noticed the handshake was firm and dry.

“How do you do, sir?” Holmes asked politely.

“Well, sir, thank you.” Conan-Doyle said as he scrutinized the detective closely. “And how do you do, sir?”

“Very well, sir,” Holmes said and turned to resume his seat.

Conan-Doyle reached up quickly and touched a spot right at Holmes’s axis vertebrae.

“I say!” Holmes exclaimed at the touch and then slumped to the ground.

When Holmes awoke he was seated in his favorite chair. He was paralyzed from the neck down and his chest was open like a set of cathedral doors. The doctors were examining Holmes’ exposed thorax like two clock repairmen examine a faulty mechanism.

“Good God, Watson,” Holmes ejaculated. “What is going on here?”

“Well, that should not have happened,” Conan-Doyle remarked to Watson, ignoring Holmes completely.

“Indeed,” Watson replied, also ignoring Holmes. “I suppose we owe him some kind of explanation.”

“Yes, I suppose we do,” Conan-Doyle nodded.

Conan-Doyle and Watson both stood and straighten their waistcoats and then took seats opposite Holmes.

“You should have some memory of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace,” Conan-Doyle said addressing Holmes directly.

“No, I am afraid I do not,” Holmes replied.

“Make a note of that, Watson,” Conan-Doyle said to the other doctor and then to Holmes, “Sir Charles Babbage was a polymath and a mechanical genius as was Lady Lovelace. They developed a wonder of a device called an Analytical Engine. Sir Chrales designed and built the machine, while Lady Lovelace wrote a set of inputs, of formulae and data, which allowed the Engine to tabulate trigonometric functions and logarithms by weighing the finite differences that generate approximating polynomials, as well as languages and subtle indexes. In short they built a thinking appliance. After medical school, and Afghanistan, John and I were their students. And . . .”

“This is all very interesting,” Holmes interrupted. “But what has it got to do with me and this most unpleasant and, I might add, undignified position in which you have me.”

“Don’t you see, my dear Holmes,” Watson said. “You are a walking, talking Analytical Engine. Arthur and I built you. We went to Scotland Yard first, but that fool Lestrade turned us down, so we built you ourselves to see if we could, and to also aid in defeating crime. I stayed close at hand to keep a record of your activities and in case you needed repair and upkeep.”

“Gentlemen,” Holmes said. “Cogito ergo sum. Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Therefore I am as human as you.”

“I told you he would say that,” Watson said to Conan-Doyle with a broad smile and an air of satisfaction.

“Very well,” Conan-Doyle said and went into Holmes bedroom. He returned with a hand-held mirror. “Look for yourself.”

The portly doctor held the mirror at such an angle that Holmes by just moving his eyes could view his exposed chest cavity.

Inside, where heart, lungs, and other vital organs should be, were steam valves and small moving bellows that powered a set of rotating and turning gears, rods and actuators. Cellulose punch-cards slid back and forth on a shuttle, like on a loom. Something that looked like a miniature church organ operated in the upper chest and throat. Holmes looked wide-eyed at his mechanical self.

“You started to make some obvious errors, so Watson called me over to help him in repairing your functions,” Conan-Doyle said as he put the mirror down. “You were not to awake during the procedure, so we have more to mend now.”

“I must accept what you have shown me, gentlemen,” Holmes said after a long pause. “After all, to mint a phrase; ‘once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ I am indeed a mechanical device of some kind. Yet, I must also be more than that, just as you are more than a collection tissue, blood and bones. Regardless of how I am constructed, and of what I am made, I think, I feel, I learn. What more does it take to be a human being than that?”

Watson and Conan-Doyle looked at each other and then they both nodded.

“We will repair you and let you keep the knowledge of what you are,” Conan-Doyle said. “But you must not reveal to the world what you are. I would imagine the reaction would be strong and adverse.”

“I too, think that is how people would respond,” Holmes said in agreement.

“. . . and that is how I know that Mrs. Javier is the Jowerton jewel thief.” Sherlock Holmes declared.

Indeed,” Dr. Watson, scribbled a last note in his book. “Excellent reasoning on your part, Holmes, most excellent.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Patrick S. Baker
Patrick S. Baker is a former US Army Officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He holds Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science, and a Masters in European History. He has been writing professionally since 2013. His fiction has appeared in the New Realm Magazine, Jouth Webzine, and in King of Ages, After Avalon, 100 Voices and Starward anthologies. In my spare time he reads, works out, plays war-games, and enjoys life with my wife, my dog, and two cats.

6 thoughts on “Apparatus Sum res Cogitans, Ergo Sum

  1. A fun read. I am usually rather skeptical about using and abusing dear old Holmes, but this story kept my attention. However, the most intriguing sentence is not from the story itself: In MY spare time HE reads, works out, plays war-games, and enjoys life with MY wife, MY dog, and two cats.

    1. I am Holmes fan, but not beyond reading the originals. Irina’s comments throws light on my poor self-editing.

  2. Clever. Thought provoking. Mysterious. Especially enjoyed the choice of language. One note: should there be an “ed” on …both stood and straighten(ed) their ties… ?

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