Rehearsing the Conversation

“Hamlet’s transformation,” you decide. “To review: changed, inside and out. Melancholic, removed, impervious to entreaty. The cause unknown. But the king is dead.”

“We just spoke to him—”

“The late king, his father, is dead.” You begin pacing. You probably ought to know these halls, if the queen is right and you and your companion were boys with Hamlet, but you haven’t the first idea of where you are. You choose a corridor and start walking. “His mother has married the present king, Hamlet’s uncle.”

“Well.” Your companion strides after you, and soon the two of you are hurtling together toward god only knows where. “That puts things in a different light entirely.”

“Entirely,” you agree.

“Why, if my father were dead, I should be outraged. Distraught. Probably even melancholic and removed.”

“Impervious to entreaty?”

“As a lead box. As a coffin.”

“Grim,” you answer, but you find yourself nodding. “An encounter with mortality. A glimpse into the abyss.”

“Have you ever?”

“What? Poked my head into the abyss?”

“It’s only that I wonder—” and your companion pauses by an arrow-slit window. You can’t see light through it. It must overlook the sound, you think, because that’s better than imagining that there’s nothing beyond at all. “I wonder what you see, when you look over the edge. Whether anyone looks back at you, and into you.”

“Don’t be absurd. We’re speaking of plain ordinary mortality, not some damp gully teeming with ghosts like midges.”

“Not love-melancholy, then. That’s some relief.”

“I should hope not. We wouldn’t be much use in remedying that particular malady—”

You cut yourself off as the two of you reach what is unmistakably a dead end. Your companion glances to the left and right as though expecting the passageway to branch, but the walls hem you in on three sides.

The both of you turn around together and find yourselves face to face with a man familiar-strange, dressed head to toe in black. “Do go on,” he says. “I was so very much enjoying your conversation.”

Greet Prince Hamlet.