“Of course it matters.”

“Of course it matters—”

“Statement!” He grins at you, all white teeth and triumph. A golden leaf catches in his hair. You want to reach up and brush it away.

“This isn’t a game,” you say, more softly. You have glimpsed something, like a shadow projected on the back of your mind. Not quite a memory; only the indistinct outline of a memory that’s come between you and the light.

Your companion pauses, too. He has the look of a hare who has sighted a hawk. His lips move briefly, but you have never learned the trick of reading them. “There was a messenger,” he says. “We were sent for.”

You hear a not-so-distant pounding, like the steady beat of a drum.

“A knocking at the shutters,” you agree. “Early in the morning, the two of us still half-asleep. And a voice: ‘Rosencrantz! Guildenstern!'”

One of those names is yours, by birth or by choice. The other is on the tip of your tongue. Your companion looks up at you, eyes golden-green in the dim light filtering through the trees. His lips part, but he says nothing. The moment feels as delicate as a skin of ice over a swift-moving stream. A breath might shatter it.

You fear you must speak or go mad.

“What’s that sound in the wood?”
“Who sent for us?”