After the Matilda Briggs Went Down
by Michael D. Winkle
Read by Alethea Kontis
Listen to the audio version
Holmes and I rode back to Baker Street without a word between us, my thoughts at least
awhirl with the climax of our adventure. I saw again the monstrous Rat in the hold of the Matilda
Briggs, its eyes like agates, its teeth like chisels. I heard in my mind the charges set by Holmes
bursting one by one, sending the freighter and its demoniac stowaway to the bottom.
We climbed slowly to our chambers at 221B. Thankfully, Mrs. Hudson had built up a
cheery fire. Holmes set his Gladstone on his worktable, pushing aside several beakers and
"Watson, I think it best if you refrain from publishing any account of the Matilda Briggs
affair for the present," he said as I stirred the embers.
"Have no fear of that, Holmes," I replied, setting the poker back with a clatter. "I've
written the title 'Giant Rat of Sumatra' a dozen times, yet not one word have I penned beneath it.
Who would believe such an absurd tale?"
Holmes drew a small glass jar out of his bag. He flashed the merest line of a smile.
"Your reputation for honesty might well be called into question, Watson, but I fear more
that the whole of England would panic. Especially did the populace learn of these!"
He set the jar onto the table with a sharp clack. Some dark objects within bounced about,
pinging off the glass and lid with considerable force.
"What are those, Holmes? Crickets?"
Holmes hung up his greatcoat.
"No, Watson. I gathered those on the ship. They are fleas."
I stepped closer to examine the insects. The rotund, banded bodies of the energetic
arthropods were not at all like a cricket's or a locust's.
"But, Holmes! They're enormous!"
My friend returned to the table, his expression grim.
"They are monstrous, Watson. That a single anomaly like the Giant Rat of Sumatra could
exist, I can accept--it would be the sort of hereditary sport called for by Darwinism. But a rodent
colossus that provides its own Brobdingnagian parasites--"
He shook his head.
"Holmes!" I cried. "Are you suggesting that creature could pass its--peculiarity--on to
the meaner species of the sewer and forest? It could spell the end of the world!"
"I do suggest it, but I emphasize the word suggest. We must study the matter further."