Upon hearing the term ‘the Moriarty Principle’, one might assume that the idea’s origin lies in the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but they would be wrong. The first inkling of it appears in the writings of Plato, who believed that humans were originally born with twice as many limbs and faces, and Zeus, fearing their power, split them in two. The popular interpretation of this concept is that it speaks of the idea of soul mates: that each living person has a missing piece to them found in another human being. Once again, most would be wrong.
No, the beings described by Plato were only an elite few paragons of humanity. They were the only ones with the potential to dethrone the gods, and they were punished for it. But their separation wasn’t the end of it. In splitting them, Zeus ensured that each individual would have someone else on the planet their exact equal, someone who, if the moment called for, would be perfectly qualified to destroy them. The perfect defense, and not a single lightning bolt wasted.
Examples of the Moriarty Principle appear throughout fiction in every age, because people have always been subconsciously aware of its presence. Abraham Van Helsing to Count Dracula, the Joker to Batman, Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader, the list goes on. Professor James Moriarty, criminal mastermind and archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, remains one of the purest examples, with two souls cancelling each other out upon contact, both sparks being extinguished in the cold and unforgiving Reichenbach Falls.
I first became aware of the Moriarty Principle, coining the term myself, when attempting to solve what would be my final problem. While the majority of people remain unaware of the concept, if that were to change I imagine they would wish to never meet their counterpart, their nemesis. One might call me mad, and I freely admit a case for such an accusation could be made, when I say that I sought mine out with the utmost tenacity.
My mother and father were rather dim people; loving, but dim. My sister and I always chalked our objectively impressive intellects up to the miracle of mutation and nothing else. We were always provided for, were encouraged in our extracurricular activities (fencing for myself, painting for my sister) and every Sunday we attended Church with our parents. A weekly ritual for the entirety of my life, I never objected, merely learning how to go about the routine mechanically while my brain pondered other things. My sister once confided in me that she hung on every word in every sermon, seeing it as a spiritual exercise and an inspiration for her art. From that moment on we were never quite as close.
I competed in tournaments throughout my high school tenure, acquiring numerous awards and earning praise from my family. In my senior year, I was told by an instructor that going to nationals would be an easy and logical next step for me. For the first time in a long time, this prompted me to think about my future. Issues with my heart from when I had almost drowned as a child would no doubt cause my strength and form to deteriorate after a few years, and a natural weakness in my knees would no doubt do the same, effectively ending my fencing career by the time I’m twenty-six at the latest. From there my options would either be taking menial work or entering a post-secondary school in hopes of attaining a high-paying job. My years fencing would leave me somewhat rusty in my education, however, limiting my program options. This, in turn, would decrease the likelihood of my being able to find suitable income with my degree in the current job market, effectively rendering any post-secondary education a waste of time and money. Even if I were to forego my fencing career to enter a University straight out of high school, the chances of this would still be high. The sad realization I came to was that my life would no doubt be a monotonous progression from point A to point B, with no payoff other than survival. With no despair in my heart, I decided the most efficient thing I could do with my life was end it.
And here we reach my final problem. It is true that I rarely paid attention in church, but a lifetime of warnings against mortal sins and of God’s wrath left me with a frustrating mental tic: despite three attempts, I could not kill myself. After the second attempt I sought the aid of hypnosis, but this proved fruitless. I had never given God a second thought in my life, but it seemed his judgement still kept me from controlling it. During one of my many meditations in St. Barbara’s Cathedral, I realized fencing was the solution.
After graduating, I sought out every fencing competition I could, both national and abroad. By my first year in I had made something of a name for myself. As I went on, I made sure to collect names of every promising young athlete, every up-and-comer to watch out for, every gifted prodigy whose name was only spoken in hushed tones. I compiled their histories to the best of my ability, creating crude psychological profiles I could use to identify my Moriarty. After two months of searching, I found her.
Sissy Nemina, American, aged twenty. She made it onto my list when a reporter, known for covering fencing for almost thirty years and possessing a callous disregard for any athlete in any sport born since, identified her as “the one young fencer who might be worth a damn to keep an eye on next year.” Delving further into her background turned up a myriad of promising characteristics. Sissy Nemina, born to acclaimed physicist Walt Nemina in Hoboken, Jersey. The youngest of four, Sissy’s mother died in childbirth. The few photographs I was able to find of Sissy and her father together, mostly from recent competitions, showed Walt Nemina as a stern, joyless man and Sissy concealing a grave amount of unease behind a carefully practiced smile. I was convinced Sissy could be viable, however, when I read her only current interview, in which she stated she was morbidly obese until the start of high school, when an inspirational gym teacher helped her get in shape and pushed her towards fencing. I was lucky enough to speak to her grandmother offhand at one American tournament, who told me that Sissy’s father never approved of her going into the sport, as it had been a passion of her mother’s.
An esteemed academic father with pent-up aggression subconsciously directed at the child he sees as having killed his wife, and a child who grew up with a numerous self-esteem issues tied to her appearance entering a field her father associates with her dead mother. Sissy was more than a Moriarty to me; she was a piece of coal, which with enough pressure, would become a beautiful, horrible diamond.