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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #493
The Sherlock Holmes Principle
David Gunn

Jerome was traipsing absent-mindedly through the pasture that abutted his cottage one afternoon when he unexpectedly lost gravitational coherence and began to float up into the sky. It was a slow, dreamy feeling, and naturally he wondered if he was dreaming. Utilizing that tried and true method of reverie refutation, he pinched himself. Ow! Well, he sure felt that! Ergo, initial empirical data indicated that he was awake. And levitating. Before he had a chance to worry about the consequences of such an action, he stopped rising and commenced hovering. Glancing down, he estimated that he was about eighteen feet from the ground. He felt no force around him that might account for his newfound levitational prowess, and for another few seconds, he simply enjoyed the novelty of it all--until eight solid mahogany doors materialized in the air around him in the shape of a perfect parallelepiped. No noise at all accompanied their sudden appearance, but as they began to slowly circle him, an unsettling sound midway between a hum and a whoosh emanated from their hinges. It brought to mind the time Jerome's accordion was sucked into the Los Alamos wind tunnel. Times--Jerome recalled with chagrin that it had occurred on a ridiculously regular basis. One of the doors eased gently out of the geometric contour and approached Jerome. Its doorknob glistened beckoningly in the sunlight, and when it was within arm's reach, Jerome reached out and turned it. Directly the door opened, revealing a cupboard cluttered with quadratic equations. They, too, showed no signs of complying with the laws of gravity, as they just sort of revolved higgledy-piggledy around one another, occasionally swapping integers for mathematical symbols.

At that moment, the eighteen feet that separated Jerome from the ground began to twitch wildly, as if attempting to keep time to a pandemoniac hoedown. Several toenails flew off into space, where they took up geosynchronous orbits above and just to the right of him. Simultaneously, a small rift in space-time opened up under the circling doors and sucked their hums into it. Jerome had a brief glimpse of an out-of-phase accordion peering at him from the other side of the fissure before it winked back out of existence. Six of the feet then turned to clay, and Jerome abruptly slipped a comparable distance closer to the ground. Here, the whooshing was more of a smell than a sound. It smelled like--he sniffed again, to be sure he'd got it right the first time--bicuspids.

Although feeling rather far removed from reality, Jerome was managing to cope. "Tooth is stranger than friction," he mantraed, adopting his Japanese guru's prophetic drawl. However, when an immense white rabbit in a combustible smoking jacket suddenly began to clamber out of the cupboard, he finally threw in the proverbial tea-squared towel. From the back of his mind, he prized open an old battered lunchbox and withdrew an evanescent copy of the Sherlock Holmes Principle, which read: "Once you have discounted the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

In this instance, Jerome realized, Sherlock's truism presented a few difficulties. If he discounted all of the current impossibilities, he'd be left with--he did a quick count--zero improbabilities from which to choose. "Get a grip!," he thought to himself, however his homonymic default mechanism accidentally tripped and he soon was feeling the initial achy symptoms of influenza. Fortunately, this feeling passed as quickly as did the rabbit, which leapt free of the cupboard and thence onto one of the other doors. The door yawed precipitously, then cracked open just enough for the rabbit to disappear inside.

"Once you have discounted the impossible ..." Jerome reviewed his list anew: levitation, rabbit, feet, towel, accordion, lunchbox, the door that was even now drawing near and opening, revealing a slightly wizened but still recognizable Arthur Conan Doyle. Jerome identified him by the gaping hole in his chest that resulted when he played a minor role in a 1929 production of "Madame Butterfly" at La Scala and he inadvertently sang his heart out. Grasping the lintel, the mustachioed old man leaned close to Jerome and whooshed into his ear, "whatever remains, however improbable, must be ..."--at which point the lintel broke off of the door frame and Sir Arthur plunged unbidden towards the ground.

"But it's all of it impossible!" Jerome shouted down to Doyle as he fell. The erstwhile author fell much farther than the dozen feet to the ground would on average accommodate, which only added to Jerome's burgeoning list of impossibilities.

But the list wasn't yet complete. The equation a + bx² + cx = 1 slipped under the door he had first opened, made a beeline for and alighted upon Jerome's head. It tickled, and he reached down to scratch it. (While he was howling at Doyle, his head and pelvis had agreed to exchange positions.) Instead he grasped a handful of teeth. Bicuspids, if he wasn't mistaken.

In truth, Jerome had been mistaken since just before his feet had forsaken the ground eight hundred and twenty-some moments ago. All of the impossibilities, the unlikelihoods, the improbabilities, the toenails--they were mere mental errors on a much larger intellectual canvas.

That canvas even extends to today, for once the myriad impossibilities of Kalvos & Damian's 493rd New Music Bazaar are discounted, all that remains is the highly improbable truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Kalvos.