When I start assisting The Great Detective, the first thing he impresses on me is the importance of never writing anything down.
We eat a lot of avocados. Avocados are rich in the kind of fats that help build bigger, brighter, firmer, more dependable dreamscapes. Every night when we go to sleep to dream, The Great Detective and I are able to record our latest findings in the sturdy environments we have constructed in our subconsciouses. There are side effects. My sleep becomes thinner, all night I sweat and shake, and wake with cramp and a thinly-veiled anger that I have to stomp out before I can do anything else.
The Great Detective himself has been gone for weeks – travelling back in time to work on an unsolved case in the past.
I am due to follow, but first I must shop for supplies. He needs me to bring more packets of the Greatest Ever Crisps and also some bottles of his favourite whiskey. He has left me some very specific instructions regarding what to purchase and from where. It is difficult to remain incognito when I venture to the little off-the-beaten-track shop, which I suspect has few customers, and even fewer customers who drink the exact same whiskey as The Great Detective.
Back at the house, I go in to The Great Detective’s room. It is high up in the house and has big windows that let in lots of light. I put the crisps and the whiskey in the travel case. I am all ready, all set.
Now I just need the time travel paraphenalia, which is kept in the cupboard.
I look in the cupboard, but there is no time travel paraphenalia in there.
No sign of it, not a trace. Nothing to suggest it ever existed.
I lie on the bed for as long as I can, hoping that something will magically change. After a while, the only solution I have is to sleep. I eat as many avocados as I can manage, then pass off in to a dreamless sleep.
I wake frantic, scared instead of angry. Something has gone terribly wrong.
No time travel paraphenalia. No dreams (despite all the avocados). There is only one explanation – The Great Detective has died. Already my memories of him are fading – he seems strangely, indescribably not-as-real as he once was. Already I begin to question whether he ever existed. It now seems to me like he was always oddly amorphous, illusory. The Great Magician, The Great Wizard. I get a hollow feeling as I substitute in one set of adjectives for another. The Great Charlatan.
I sit down at his desk and decide to break the first rule. I will write down everything I remember about him, everything I remember about our work together. I need to stitch together a reality in which to clothe his memory.
A sound, like someone else is in the house – but no one else lives with The Great Detective. It’s just him and me. I creep down the stairs, and the world feels soft to the touch.
The lady in the kitchen is someone I have never seen before. She looks at me like she knows me, is surprised to see me, does not understand why I don’t recognise her. I ask how she got in. She waves a key in my face like I’m stupid. Then she takes a bowl, fills it with food, puts it on the floor and a cat comes running. Where did the cat come from? This reality is not well constructed, does not hang together. The lady turns and leaves, locking the door behind her.
Next, members of my family call on the telephone, one after another or all at once, and they all ask when I am going to get another job. It’s been a long time since you worked, they say. I have to try and explain to them how busy I have been assisting The Great Detective, without actually mentioning that I have been assisting The Great Detective. The Great Whatever.
Distractions dealt with, I return to the desk. But now that I start to write down everything that has happened, it does all start to seem very unlikely.